Bulls

Hoiberg's personal touch will bring smiles back to Bulls

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Hoiberg's personal touch will bring smiles back to Bulls

It’s interesting to see recent history repeat itself when it comes to Bulls coaching hires. Back in 1998 during the Bulls championship run, reports surfaced about Jerry Krause’s fascination with the NBA potential of Iowa State head coach Tim Floyd. And, sure enough, Floyd was hired the following season to preside over Krause’s failed attempt to rebuild the dynasty Bulls on the fly.

Fast forward to this season, and all the reports of the Bulls potential interest in Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg if the damaged relationship with Tom Thibodeau eventually led to a break-up. Tuesday, Hoiberg was introduced as the 19th head coach in Bulls franchise history after an extremely brief search with Hoiberg seemingly the only candidate. One thing we can say for sure, Hoiberg is a lot better prepared for his first experience on an NBA bench than Floyd.

[MORE BULLS: Who is Fred Hoiberg? A timeline of The Mayor's career]

After covering Hoiberg as a player during his Bulls stint from 1999 to 2003, I can tell you he is an extremely bright, hard-working person who truly enjoyed competing on the highest level and welcomed his interactions with the media. During his introductory news conference, Hoiberg told the story of wanting to make a comeback as an NBA player during his time as a Minnesota Timberwolves executive, even after having a pace-maker implanted following heart surgery. Of course, he knew that would be impossible, but he missed the competition that much.

Hoiberg joked about being a bench player with the Indiana Pacers in the late 90’s, watching his teams lose some classic battles to the Michael Jordan-led Bulls. And, he even fondly remembered his days on those historically bad Bulls’ teams under Floyd and Bill Cartwright. Hoiberg was an excellent three-point shooter, leading the NBA in 2004-05 by knocking down 48 percent of his attempts beyond the arc. All in all, he played 10 seasons before his heart condition forced an early retirement, making his mark as a competitor, shooter and teammate.

[MORE BULLS: Bulls announce Fred Hoiberg as new head coach]

Spending four seasons in the Timberwolves front office gave Hoiberg the chance to appreciate the long hours and hard work it takes to construct an NBA roster, but he always felt that at some point he wanted to get back to the front lines as part of a coaching staff. When Iowa State’s Greg McDermott (the father of Bulls forward Doug McDermott), decided to accept a job offer at Creighton, Hoiberg was given the opportunity to coach his alma mater. Over his five seasons on the Cyclones’ bench, Hoiberg produced some of the NCAA’s most efficient offensive teams, taking Iowa State to the big dance four times.

Now, Hoiberg brings that fast paced offense to the NBA level in Chicago. He’ll ask Derrick Rose and the other Bulls guards to push the pace at every opportunity, looking for early offense and open three-point shots. Hoiberg says he will use analytic research to help devise the best way to attack opposing defenses and get the most out of the talent on the Bulls' roster.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Today’s NBA has become a shooter’s league with all four of the Conference Finalists in this year’s playoffs ranking among the Top 5 in three-point shooting. The Bulls have some underused players on the bench in McDermott and Tony Snell, and to a lesser extent, Nikola Mirotic, who should get consistent playing time in Hoiberg’s offensive system.

Will that be enough to carry the Bulls past LeBron James and the Cavs in next year’s playoffs? Only time will tell. But in hiring a trusted friend like Hoiberg, Gar Forman pretty much ensured harmony between the front office and coaching staff. And, for all the players who chafed under Thibodeau’s relentless, demanding approach in recent years, Hoiberg’s arrival should bring some much needed smiles to the Advocate Center.

Hoiberg, Bulls already facing touch decisions on Opening Night

Hoiberg, Bulls already facing touch decisions on Opening Night

The Bulls’ starting point guard missing the team’s season opener is less than ideal, but that is the dilemma Fred Hoiberg and company are faced with.
 
Hoiberg made the announcement during shoot around that Kris Dunn would miss the first game of his third NBA season for personal reasons, but noted that his absence is “excused.” 
 
The Bulls will turn to Cameron Payne as they get set to play the Sixers in Philadelphia Thursday night. The 24-year-old guard out of Murray State will be tasked with running the offense against one of the better defensive teams in the league.
 
Because of injuries and the numbers game at guard, Payne hasn’t had a chance to show Bulls fans much since he came over from Oklahoma City in a trade that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Thunder.
 
“I feel like I can be way better,” Payne said when asked about the opportunity to show what he can do. “I know I didn’t make a lot of shots but it’s really not about that. It’s about getting my team involved and make sure everyone gets the ball in their spots to contribute.”
 
Payne showed flashes over the last 22 games of the 2017-18 season (14 starts), shooting 42 percent from three and averaging 4.6 assists per game in that stretch. The shooting stroke didn’t show up early in the preseason for Payne. 
 
He was better in the team’s final exhibition against Denver and has shown enough to Hoiberg to earn the starting nod. He’ll have his work cut out for him tonight.
 
“Obviously we’ve been working on different coverages based on having a full roster, but things like this happen,” Hoiberg said when asked what this does to his game prep. “It’s going to be electric in here. They’re going to come out and play extremely hard and extremely physical. That’s who they are and we have to be ready for that. It’s a little bit of shock and awe with (the Sixers). You have to weather that first storm and hopefully give ourselves a chance with great effort.”
 
After Payne, the Bulls will have Ryan Arcidiacono as the first point guard off the bench. They’ll also have the services of newcomer Tyler Ulis, who will be in uniform tonight. Hoiberg mentioned that he feels comfortable with Zach Lavine bringing the ball up as well. He also mentioned that Jabari Parker will have his hands on the ball an awful lot with the team’s second unit.
 
The season hasn’t even started yet and the Bulls are already missing several key players. After an impressive rookie season, Lauri Markkanen will start the season on the shelf with a high grade lateral elbow sprain. Denzel Valentine will also miss tonight’s game with an ankle injury. The team may have Cristiano Felicio, also dealing with an ankle injury, depending on his pregame workout goes.
 
“It’s not ideal but it is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “It happens at this level. You just have to go out and do the best job you can. It’s an opportunity for our guys to step up with two of our better players out of the lineup – really three with Denzel as a guy that can make plays in that second unit.”   

Bulls will open against Sixers without Kris Dunn

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USA TODAY

Bulls will open against Sixers without Kris Dunn

The Bulls faced a steep test opening their 2018-19 campaign against the Philadelphia 76ers.

That task won't become any easier with Kris Dunn missing the game for personal reasons, head coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters at shootaround on Thursday.

Dunn's exlusion opens up an opportunity for Cameron Payne, who will enter the starting lineup. Payne started 14 games for the Bulls last season, averaging 9.4 points and 5.6 assists in 26.5 minutes.

It also moves up Ryan Arcidiacono and Tyler Ulis, both of whom will be active, in the rotation. Expect both to see at least some playing time, especially with Denzel Valentine also out while recovering from a sprained ankle suffered in training camp.

It could mean an even bigger evening for Sixers point guard Ben Simmons. The reigning Rookie of the Year posted 19 points, 15 rebounds and 8 assists in Philly's season-opening loss to the Celtics on Tuesday.