Little by little, Hoiberg implementing his exhaustive offensive system


Little by little, Hoiberg implementing his exhaustive offensive system

LAS VEGAS — Hard to imagine how the Bulls’ offense will work judging by the pared-down and less-skilled version of summer league, but there are glimpses of what Fred Hoiberg’s system looks like.

When seeing Doug McDermott going through cross-action from the left block to the right free-throw extended to catch a pass in a triple-threat position (shoot, pass or drive), he won’t actually get opportunities like that if the Bulls are at full strength.

But Jimmy Butler will.

When Vander Blue goes from the wing behind a top-side screen on a back cut to the basket waiting on a lob pass, that won’t really be him come November — even if he finds a way to crack the Bulls’ roster.

[MORE: Bulls: McDermott seemingly starting from scratch in Summer League]

But Derrick Rose will certainly have those chances, assuming his athleticism doesn’t take some severe dip in one offseason.

The Hoiberg system — one based on movement, spacing and attacking — will look drastically different than what’s been seen over the past few seasons.

Multiple options, multiple reads, less rigidity.

By Hoiberg’s count, the Bulls had 39 uncontested shot attempts in their second summer league game, a 81-66 drubbing by the Toronto Raptors.

The Bulls will have more adept talent running Hoiberg’s sets while going against top-level defenses, to be fair. Missing all those open shots had to be a little disheartening for the new Bulls coach, considering a practice that was scheduled to run for less than an hour stretched near the two-hour range.

No, Hoiberg isn’t pulling off his best Tom Thibodeau impression.

[RELATED: New Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg has low-key opening in Summer League]

“A little cleanup session,” Hoiberg said. “Talked about a couple things we didn’t do defensively. Things we didn’t do well yesterday.”

“Our offense at times was very good. (Thirty-nine) uncontested shots. Got most when the ball was moving.”

The word that’s on the tip of Hoiberg’s tongue is “rhythm”, which the Bulls honestly displayed a lot of at times last season when en masse. But when it mattered most, the Bulls looked like their old selves in the playoffs, struggling to do anything in their decisive Game 6 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

And while Hoiberg has only put in a fraction of what he’ll truly deploy when training camp convenes in October, he’s trying to find a decent balance of what he can do with the few pieces he has to work with — mainly in the three-day minicamp the team had leading into Summer League.

“Not much. Not much,” said Hoiberg when asked how much of his sets have been used now. “You can’t really overwhelm it at this. I probably put in a little too much to be honest with you. Just try to get them to ‘flow’. Didn’t run many set plays in. We’ve run a couple things for Doug.”

McDermott will be more shooter than creator when the time comes, but he’s at least learning different positions. Rookie Bobby Portis is getting a bit of a crash course in offensive philosophy.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

He had a shaky Game 2 after a sterling open to summer league, but picking up concepts will be perhaps his biggest victory this week regardless of the numbers.

“They have picked it up well,” Hoiberg said. “It’s different concepts for Bobby, when to roll, when to pop. When he sets a ball screen, not to move up to bunch up the spacing. But as far as picking up what we’re trying to put in, those three have been very good.”

The third is Cameron Bairstow, who’s been a crash-test dummy on the floor, picking up fouls and absorbing them seemingly on every possession. Grabbing 10 rebounds as an undersized center in this setup can only be viewed optimistically — especially if he’s picking up the small nuances of what will be a complicated offense.

“I really like Cam. He makes winning plays,” Hoiberg said. “The first game he took four shots. The two guys who got all the points were Doug and Portis and Cam was out there doing the dirty work, a lot of things that don’t show up in a box score. That’s what Cam does. That’s the type of kid he is. He just goes out there and makes winning plays. He picks things up well.”

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night


Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

It's been a whirlwind of a summer for point guard Tyler Ulis, but he finally feels like he's found a home. Literally.

The 5-foot-9 point guard was cut by the Suns in late June, latched on with a training camp invite by the Warriors and was subsequently waived on Friday. It was then that Ulis, working out in California, received a call from his agent. He had been claimed on waivers by the Chicago Bulls. His hometown Bulls.

"I grew up watching (the Bulls)," he said after his first practice on Tuesday. "Growing up in this city, you always want to be a Bull and you’re always willing and hoping that you’ll be here one day...I'm home now. It's a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to it."

Ulis is back in Chicago for the first time since he was breaking records for Marian Catholic High School. Ulis became a five-star recruit for the Spartans and in 2014 signed on as the next point guard in the long line of successful floor generals under John Calipari and Kentucky.

Ulis backed up the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, as a freshman but saw his role increase as a sophomore. He blossomed, earning Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the SEC. Only Anthony Davis had ever earned both honors in a single season.

He declared for the 2016 NBA Draft with hopes of becoming a first-round pick. But unlike the Calipari point guards before him, Ulis slipped all the way down to the second round before the Phoenix Suns scooped him up with the 34th pick.

"Honestly I really did think (the Bulls) were going to draft me," Ulis said on Tuesday when recalling the 2016 NBA Draft. The Bulls took Denzel Valentine with the 14th pick. "But I'm here now so that's all that matters."

In 132 games, Ulis averaged 7.6 points and 4.1 assists in 21.1 minutes. He started 58 of those games, and while his shooting left plenty to be desired he handled the offense well and brought that same pesky defense he showed off at Kentucky. It wasn't enough, even for the guard-deprived Suns. They released Ulis before free agency this summer - which ruffled the feathers of franchise guard Devin Booker - in a rather unexpected move.

"My Mom always taught me (to) never expect anything," Ulis said of his release from the Suns. "When you're on a losing team like that anything can happen. I feel like I showed I could play at this level but they went a different way."

The Suns' loss - they may resort to starting 38-year-old Jamal Crawford at point guard this year - could be the Bulls' gain. Expectations should be harnessed for Ulis, especially with him joining the roster this late in the preseason, but the Bulls, like Phoenix, have question marks at the point.

Kris Dunn is entrenched as the starter, but Cameron Payne struggled mightily in the preseason and Ryan Arcidiacono doesn't project as a contributor. That leaves an opening for Ulis to potentially fill on the second unit, and apparently he's making a statement early in practice.

"Tyler had a real good practice," Fred Hoiberg said. "I think I think he changes the pace when he’s out there on the floor. He picks up full-court, he gets up underneath you. He can make a shot. He’s got good vision and can make a play with the ball in his hand. So I was very impressed with his first workout."

Ulis is working on a 45-day two-way contract, so it's unknown how much he'll contribute. He could be shuttled back and forth between Chicago and the Windy City Bulls, but there's certainly an opportunity for him to stick. He'll be playing catch-up and learning on the go, but doing so in his hometown wth friends and family around him for support will work to his advantage.

"Being a smaller guard growing up in a big man’s sport, you get looked over. So I’m the underdog," he said. "And I feel like this team is an underdog, so we should all be excited to get the season started and prove people wrong."