By Josh Newman
NEW YORK – Tom Thibodeau was a no-nonsense type of coach for the Bulls, but Fred Hoiberg, as expected, comes off as more of an easygoing personality.
Even with the same core that Thibodeau had still in place, the Bulls were sure to take on a different makeup, but the team has still played well, getting into the mix in both the Central Division and Eastern Conference races despite Saturday night’s 107-91 loss to the New York Knicks.
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The Bulls are 15-10 overall, but have lost five of their last nine, including a quadruple-overtime decision to the Detroit Pistons on Friday night at the United Center. With this amount of losing going on, at least one core piece isn’t happy with what is going on, specifically the level of coaching Hoiberg is providing.
“I believe in the guys in this locker room, yeah, but I also believe that we probably have to be coached a lot harder at times,” Jimmy Butler said after scoring just 12 points on 4-for-11 shooting one night after he played 56 minutes against the Pistons. “I know Fred is a laidback guy and I respect him for that, but when guys aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do, you gotta get on guys, myself included. You gotta do what you’re supposed to do when you’re out there playing basketball.
“We weren’t doing what were supposed to be doing, what we wrote on that board before the game. Nobody spoke up. I did, but probably not enough times. I think he has to hold everybody accountable, from the No. 1 player, all the way down. Everyone has to do their job.”
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The Bulls are not a young team that is building towards something, but instead a veteran team with pieces in place to potentially make a playoff run if everyone is healthy. That latter part has proven difficult, specifically with the oft-injured Derrick Rose, but the fact remains this is a veteran roster that could do damage come springtime if everything falls into place.
With that, will Butler’s comments carry any weight moving forward? The Bulls are currently 2.5 games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Central Division and tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference, which is a logjam. The Bulls are just one-half game out of second, while the Cavs lead the East by two full games at this early juncture.
“If we would’ve won, we wouldn’t be saying this, but since we lost the way that we did, maybe it had something to do with it,” Butler said. “No matter if you’re a veteran team or a young team, you still have to go out and do your job. We have to lead since we are the veterans, we have to lead by example and talk everything out here.”
The Bulls will remain in New York through Monday when they visit the Brooklyn Nets, before playing at the Oklahoma City Thunder on Christmas Day and the Dallas Mavericks on Dec. 26.