Hoiberg teaching veteran Bulls basics on Day 1


Hoiberg teaching veteran Bulls basics on Day 1

The start of an eight-month march began with simple installations of basic offensive and defensive concepts from Fred Hoiberg on the first day of Bulls’ training camp.

Aside from a hard elbow Derrick Rose took midway through practice that kept him out for the remainder of it, Hoiberg and the players said all the things one would expect after the first go-round, as the Bulls are a week away from their exhibition opener against the Milwaukee Bucks at the United Center.

“I thought it was really good. Guys picked things up very quickly,” Hoiberg said. “It was very competitive once we started getting up and down. There was a lot of teaching in this early part of the season, trying to implement some of the new things we’re trying to do and get everyone on the same page. But it was a good competitive hard practice.”

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Coming from Iowa State but having NBA roots, he didn’t cite much difference between the college practices and ones in the NBA. He’ll have assistant coach Jim Boylen be more hands-on with the defense, but as a whole, he wasn’t trying to flood them with information on Day 1.

“Not a lot of differences. You still gotta go out there and teach them. We just had a basic one-on-one spacing talk before we got rolling this morning,” Hoiberg said. “The biggest difference is you’re preparing for an 82-game schedule as opposed to a 30-game schedule. You got less time before you start playing with a preseason game just a week away. So it’s getting ready with less time. So you have to put a lot of things in and we’ll get that accomplished in the non-contact part in the mornings.”

Considering the Bulls are an established team with not much roster turnover, it’s not like Hoiberg has to start from scratch when putting in his system. Aside from watching the workload of Pau Gasol, who just returned from the European Championships and is 35 years old, it’s not like he had to do a lot of teaching.

He also has to monitor Taj Gibson, who went through a full practice without any issues after undergoing left ankle surgery in June, but this camp is clearly about laying the foundation for a modified identity.

“That’s the great thing about this group. They’ve been around the NBA a long time,” Hoiberg said. “With our thinking, we have to be a little careful with the load we put on this group, especially some of the guys and their summer like Pau. We have to be careful and make sure he’s fresh for the opener on the 27th.

“But for the most part, they pick things up very quickly. We had a little pre-practice to get some of the guys caught up that haven’t been around. But I was very pleased with the flow of the practice. Now it’s about building and getting better every day.”

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Jimmy Butler was singled out, among others, as one of those who had a good first day, which Hoiberg credited to Butler’s offseason regimen. Butler said he knows the preseason will be full of adjustments, experimenting and learning.

“There has to be. A lot of things are different on offense and defense,” Butler said. “I like to play defense, but even things are new to me, the way we’re going to do things. I think that’s OK, but everyone has to buy into it as a team.”

Of course Butler was asked — and this will be a running storyline at every turn this season — how the first practice compared to the ones run by Tom Thibodeau, Hoiberg’s predecessor.

“He’s very hands on, like he’ll stop practice and tell you what it’s supposed to be — you got to make this pass, you got to cut this way,” Butler said. “And then at the same time, he gives you the freedom to play offense. And then at the same time, he’s like you got to get out there and guard, so it’s fun.”

We've officially found the biggest Michael Jordan fan ever

We've officially found the biggest Michael Jordan fan ever

There are diehard Michael Jordan fans.

And then there's this guy.

Forget anybody getting a tattoo of their favorite team's championship trophy. Forget the people who wait for hours in terrible weather just to catch a glimpse of their favorite player.

This dude has a constant, 24/7 reminder of "His Airness":

Yep, that is a full tattoo of a Jordan "23" jersey on his back, complete with a Michael Jordan "autograph" in the middle of the "2." 

Dedication at its finest.

Couple questions: 

A) Does it carry over to the front at all? And if not, is that a plan for the future?

2) Will one of his buddies get a "45" Jordan jersey tattoo or are we just gonna continue to pretend that era never happened?

D) What will that tat look like in a few years? That guy better stay away from the Doritos...

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career


Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

Don't tell Wendell Carter Jr. the center position is a dying breed.

The 19-year-old rookie hasn't exactly been able to ease into the NBA, finding himself up against a handful of All-Stars and powerful frontcourts just five days into his career.

It culminated Monday night with a date against Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan, and once again the seventh overall pick held his own. It was much of the same as it was against Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Detroit's Andre Drummond last week (and Nikola Jokic in the preseason finale): some good, some bad, plenty of poise and zero backing down. The NBA is unforgiving, but this could very well be the toughest stretch Carter faces all season.

"He’s playing against top level centers now," Fred Hoiberg said before Monday's game. "It’s a great experience for him. He’s going to learn and get better and he plays within himself, we will continue to look for him to be more aggressive."

He was as aggressive as the Bulls have seen him against Jordan and the Mavericks. He blew by the 20 and 18 minutes he played in the first two games of the year, totalling 32 minutes. His final line won't tell the story - 4 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a block - of a Carter who defended well at the rim, picking and choosing his spots on when to attack shots and when to simply use his verticality.

He wasn't credited for a block but he contested a Jordan dunk that turned into a Bobby Portis dunk on the other end. Plus-minus isn't always a good indicator of a player's worth, but Carter was a +5 in a 14-point Bulls loss. He even attempted a corner 3-pointer early in the shot clock, showing no hesitation. Carter's had his moments, but it's also apparent he's got a 19-year-old body going up against veterans each night. That'll come with time in the weight room. For now the experience is 

"I appreciate the fact I’m able to play against these very talented bigs early in my career," Carter said after the loss to the Pistons. "What I need to work on is I have to get stronger; that’s the first thing I recognize; just being up against the best. I love the competition. It’s always a great feeling going against the best."

What the Bulls are finding out is they have a player mature beyond his years. As he progresses he'll continue to get more difficult assignments. He had his rookie moment late in Monday's loss, committing a turnover in the backcourt after the Bulls had cut the deficit to five with 35 seconds left. The fouls are also an issue, as Carter has committed 10 in three games (after committing 17 in five preseason games).

That doesn't necessarily seem important for a Lottery-bound team, but considering the continued struggles of Robin Lopez (and Cristiano Felicio is entirely out of the rotation) it is. Lopez had 2 points and 1 rebound in 10 minutes while committing five personal fouls. In three games he has 11 personal fouls and 11 points, and also has more turnovers (five) than rebounds (four). If the Bulls are going to compete until Lauri Markkanen returns, Carter will need to hover around the 32 minutes he played Monday.

He'll get a much easier test on Wednesday when the Charlotte Hornets arrive in town. Cody Zeller doesn't exactly have the credentials of a Jokic or Embiid, meaning Carter may have a little more room to work. 

The Bulls know they have something in Carter. It'll be abother month until they can deploy him alongside Markkanen, but if the first three games are any indication, Carter won't have any problems matching up with some of the league's best.