Bulls

Hoiberg unhappy with defense, slippage shows in loss to Pistons

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Hoiberg unhappy with defense, slippage shows in loss to Pistons

The Bulls’ abundance of bigs prompted Fred Hoiberg testing his team’s versatility against Detroit, where they went to a jumbo set.

Well, being a step slow defensively with a frontline of Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic caused Hoiberg to abandon that lineup after halftime, as he went with a more conventional group.

But as much as it appeared to help early in the second half, the Pistons made a decisive push early in the fourth to pull away, winning 114-91 at the United Center.

The Pistons went on a 15-0 run, literally. They got out on the break against the Bulls reserves, taking advantage of their disjointed offense as Pistons reserve Reggie Bullock made transition triple after transition triple to close things out.

“Disappointed in not getting back, is the big thing,” said Hoiberg of the 38-point Pistons fourth quarter. “We had a couple turnovers that were home runs on the other end. Just went right down for layups. Then consistently beat us down the floor in the fourth quarter. You can’t do that, especially in your home building.”

[MORE BULLS: Derrick Rose return for opening night in jeopardy]

By then, though, Hoiberg likely saw everything he needed to see from his regular rotation players, starting with the jumbo lineup, a unit he didn’t start in the second half, bringing Noah off the bench. They had trouble keeping the mammoth Andre Drummond away from the offensive glass, and couldn’t contain versatile forward Marcus Morris, who made his first five shots from the field.

“They were more energetic from the gate and jumped to a 10-point lead on us,” Hoiberg said.

There aren’t many rebounders or athletes in the mold of Drummond (14 points, 10 rebounds), but the Bulls can’t afford to be this complacent on the glass. And their defense clearly leaves plenty to be desired from their head coach, who gave a short, yet succinct, answer when asked if he was satisfied with the defense at this stage of training camp.

“No,” the usually elaborative Hoiberg said, then looked away in disgust at the thought of where the defense is.

Later, though, he opened up, telling everyone what they’d already seen from the first five games of the preseason.

“Pick and roll defense, especially in the middle of the floor,” Hoiberg said. “We’re giving too many blow by’s, where there’s nothing you can do for it. We gotta guard the ball better.”

Not guarding up top opens things up for Drummond, who’s a load even when the perimeter is contained. He tallied 10 and six against the big frontline, manhandling Gasol and Noah, as Noah made his return from missing the last preseason game as a precautionary measure after bumping knees with Denver’s Kenneth Faried.

“We had good stretches and terrible stretches,” Gasol said.

The good stretches came courtesy of Bobby Portis and Aaron Brooks offensively in the second quarter, as they slowly chipped at an early Pistons lead, with Portis matching the athleticism of the Pistons’ frontline and Brooks scoring in bunches, as he usually does.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Noah actually didn’t look bad, scoring eight points with nine rebounds, with Taj Gibson making his preseason debut after offseason ankle surgery, scoring four points in 10 minutes.

“Taj was good his first time out,” Hoiberg said.

E’Twaun Moore led the Bulls with 16 points and four assists on 8-of-15 shooting, starting at point guard as Hoiberg continues to juggle lineups and evaluate personnel.

Reggie Jackson led the Pistons with 20 points and Bullock, battling for a spot on Stan Van Gundy’s team, made seven of eight shots to score 17. He led late blitz that made the competitive game look like a laugher in the end.

“The thing we were doing, the guards who were supposed to get back were crashing (the boards),” Hoiberg said. “You can’t do that. It just can’t happen.”

Doug McDermott scored in double figures again, with 12 points in 34 minutes, along with Portis’ 11 and Brooks’ 13.

But scoring wasn’t the problem, as the Bulls allowed the Pistons to shoot 54 percent and sent them to the foul line 21 times, giving Hoiberg something to harp on with a handful of days before their next preseason game, Monday in Charlotte.

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

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USA TODAY

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

The theme of the 2018-19 NBA season will be: “old faces in new places”. Like a season-long game of the NBA on TNT crew’s “Who he play for?” game, this year will be about fans trying to get used to the idea of LeBron James in purple (I won’t call it ‘Forum Blue’)-and-gold, DeMarcus Cousins being on a championship-contending franchise and Kawhi Leonard being the new face of Toronto.

The Warriors are still the easy favorite to make it four NBA championships in five years, but they will be tested perhaps more than any year before in a loaded Western Conference, where even the lowliest of teams (here’s to you Phoenix and Memphis!) made solid offseason moves geared towards winning games.

Over in the now-LeBron-less East, there is hope amongst at least four-to-five teams that they could actually have a shot to win the conference. The Pacers still have budding superstar Victor Oladipo, the Sixers still have Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and the Raptors and Bucks made head coaching changes that could lead to deep playoff runs. But with the rest of the Eastern conference being stuck between lottery contention and middle of the pack, expect the half-experienced, half-youthful Celtics to takeover as East juggernaut.

But whether or not your favorite franchise is aiming for a high draft pick or a postseason berth, there is tons to be excited in a 2018-19 NBA season that will surely be an intriguing one. Check out Week 1 of our NBA Power Rankings right here.

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

The Bulls and Bobby Portis were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension by today’s deadline, which will make the power forward a restricted free agent next offseason.

According to The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson, Portis’ agent Mark Bartelstein and Gar Forman had “lengthy face-to-face negotiations” on Monday prior to the deadline. The two sides weren’t able to come to an agreement.

The negotiations – and lack of a deal – come after a summer and training camp in which Portis continued to show progression. After beginning the preseason coming off the bench Portis quickly played his way into the starting lineup alongside rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Portis finished five preseason games averaging 17.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals in just 22.4 minutes.

Portis, the 22nd pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, has seen his role increase each of his three seasons. He made a jump last season in Year 3, averaging 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in 22.5 minutes. He was one of three players, including DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love, to average 21 points, 10 rebounds and 1.5 3-pointers per 36 minutes.

Though the Bulls certainly had the room to sign Portis to an extension, there were obvious reasons on both sides to wait on a deal. For starters, the Bulls will still be able to match any deal Portis receives in free agency next July, much like what happened with Zach LaVine and the Sacramento Kings. The Bulls maintain their abundance of cap space for the 2019 offseason, when they’ll be able to offer a max contract to the top-tier free agents, and they get to see if Portis makes another jump.

For Portis, it’s a case of him betting on himself. If the Bulls came in with a number he wasn’t satisfied with – to help keep their max cap space – he now finds himself on a contract year playing for his next contract. Still only 23 years old, Portis should cash in in July.

Two players from Portis’ draft class were able to cash in. Pacers center Myles Turner signed a reported four-year, $80 million extension and Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. agreed to a four-year, $45 million deal. Portis likely would have fallen somewhere in between those two deals had an agreement occurred.

The Bulls are hardly in an easy situation with Portis. Though they value the versatile power forward, Lauri Markkanen is entrenched at the position for the foreseeable future and the team just spent last year’s No. 7 overall pick on center Wendell Carter Jr. Portis realistically is stuck behind both those players, though he certainly has starting level NBA talent.