New Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg has low-key opening in Summer League


New Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg has low-key opening in Summer League

He wasn’t jumping around, instead keeping his behind glued to his seat for most of the game, all while Fred Hoiberg gave firm direction in the Bulls’ Summer League opener.

The comparisons to Tom Thibodeau’s hoarse-voiced barking from start to finish, be it Summer League or the playoffs, will always come to mind. It’s easy and convenient.

But he seemed pretty comfortable in his own skin in coaching for the first time in the NBA, albeit an exhibition setting without the traditional NBA rules. Heck, he knew he wasn’t at Iowa State anymore before tip off.

“What are you trying to get at? It was fun,” said Hoiberg playfully while being asked about the differences in coaching pros from college kids. “In college you have a pregame meal with your team. Here you’re on your own.”

[MORE SUMMER LEAGUE: Portis impresses in Summer League opener]

So he went with a couple of the Bulls assistants and went over some things, a subtle alteration but one he’ll get used to before long, as he was more delegator than dictator in his first experience.

“A lot. I’ve got a guy in Jim Boylan who’s got so much experience,” Hoiberg said. “He’s great. Mike Wilhelm, Randy Brown, Pete Myers, they’ve been phenomenal.”

Once the game started, things like defensive three seconds, the handchecking rules and how teams can advance the ball after timeouts are a few of the things he’s had to re-familiarize himself with, having spent the last five years in the college ranks.

Players have spent plenty of time in the Advocate Center since Hoiberg’s hiring, as Jimmy Butler said he anticipates getting some film from Hoiberg on how he’ll be maximized early next month.

[SHOP: Buy a Bobby Portis jersey]

And for the players who are on the Summer League roster, he’s run them through a quick camp in preparation. Tony Snell and E’Twaun Moore aren’t on the roster, but went through the 3-day camp to establish some continuity and get familiar with the man who’ll be coaching them this season and beyond.

“It’s a great opportunity to get them familiar with what we’re trying to do and hopefully we can get better,” Hoiberg said.

Hoiberg got the early start on re-establishing Doug McDermott’s confidence in Year 2, and putting rookie Bobby Portis in positions where Portis wouldn’t take his foot off the gas by placing him on No. 1 pick Karl-Anthony Towns in the opener.

Portis scored 23 while McDermott scored 20 with five rebounds in 31 minutes, moving without the ball and having his share of offense run through him.

“I think it’s huge,” Hoiberg said. “He was great in our minicamp, I think he hit 10 of 15 threes. When he’s open out there, you’re surprised it doesn’t go in. I think that’s who the kid’s always been and coming out here and re-establishing that is huge.”

As for his team’s performance, Hoiberg was pleased with the defense and overall concentration.

“I thought we came out with great effort,” Hoiberg said. “I thought in the second half we came out with great ball pressure. I liked our pace.”

But like just about every coach at every level, he’ll find something to harp on before Sunday’s game.

“There’s a lot of improvements to be made,” Hoiberg said. “We’re gonna watch the film with these guys tomorrow and hopefully play better.”

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

The door has officially been closed on the 2017-18 season for the Chicago Bulls, and the word that most comes to mind is “unfulfilling.”

Or maybe even “indistinguishable.”

Draft night was supposed to be a culmination of a painful seven-month stretch that only had occasional yet costly moments of light.

Death lineup? Meet Death March. And Death April, while we’re at it.

The Bulls brass sold everyone on a full rebuild after trading Jimmy Butler one year ago, with an unspoken promise that this draft would bear franchise-changing fruit—hence the general feeling of angst or even indifference with the solid selection of Wendell Carter Jr. and their not-so-secret affection of Chandler Hutchison.

It was why fans believe the Bulls got cold feet about trading to move up, and why they believe the Bulls weren’t being pragmatic in staying away from Michael Porter Jr.

Porter, some believe, has star written all over him given his prep ranking this time last year and the Bulls were in position to speed up this process without having to go into a painful Process.

They were desperate for a star, believing the tankathon had produced so much suffering it had to be something on the back end.

There was the fight (or the punch).

The aftermath.

The miserable 3-20 start.

The 14-7 streak that produced the audacity of hope.

The reality that 14-7 was damaging enough to the lottery chances that a 3-11 finish couldn’t rectify.

And finally, the coin flip that cost them five spots in the lottery one month ago.

So that empty feeling has less to do with Carter and Hutchison, who’ve done nothing to earn the “blah” reaction from the fan base and some media. It has everything to do with the unanswered questions over the last 82 games and lack of clarity over the three hauls from draft night last year.

It’s not that Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn underperformed individually last season, but the lack of cohesiveness due to injuries and circumstances has led to the varying thoughts.

LaVine is approaching restricted free agency and by all accounts is taking his continuing rehab in Washington very seriously.  Markkanen has added plenty of muscle since the offseason began, appearing as if he can play Michael B. Jordan’s in-ring foil in the next installation of “Creed” as Ivan Drago’s long lost son.

And despite the report about Dunn not working as hard on the floor this offseason, that would be more of a concern if this were late August, not June.

The last time they were seen together on the floor, they looked no closer to a pecking order than the day they arrived.

What we know is that they’re productive NBA players, capable of putting an individual tattoo on a game at a moment’s notice, skillful enough to take your breath away.

And for whatever reason, the expectations changed once the three displayed they could be dynamic on their own—a star needed to be anointed and groomed to go with the star they believed was coming their way after the season.

Management is fully behind Markkanen, but Paxson’s strong words about LaVine at the season-ending news conference illustrated how much it feels LaVine has to prove next season.

With his restricted free agency status looming, the Bulls’ initial offer will show how much they value him until and if he gets a better deal on the market.

And the fact the Bulls weren’t afraid to draft Trae Young while having a healthy debate about Collin Sexton on draft night has to show they have at least some skepticism about the future at point guard.

But stars—developing stars, acquired stars, drafted stars—have to do it on their own. No amount of promotion or prodding from management will validate their faith, if that’s the route the Bulls choose to go.

This has to be a meritocracy or it won’t work and, honestly, it’s time for a reality check.

All the worry about the Bulls getting back to title contention sooner rather than later seems like folks getting ahead of themselves.

The front office has taken its share of shots from media and fans, so some questioning is earned but they’re right about one thing. Rebuilds aren’t completed in a day or 12 months.

Expecting some magic potion to arrive in the form of a top draft pick isn’t going to cure what ills this roster, and it doesn’t seem likely all the cap space will result in a free agent choosing the Bulls over the usual suspects.

However, methodical building can look like complacency if not done with a sense of urgency.

And with urgency in mind, this past season was unsatisfying to say the least—heading into the next phase with two more young pieces to develop while the first three are still in the evaluation stage.

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Donte Ingram's 2018 keeps getting better and better.

The March Madness hero, who buried a game-winning 3-pointer in the first round of Loyola's win over Miami, will play on the Bulls' Summer League team.

Ingram, a Simeon Academy graduate, had himself an incredible senior season with the Ramblers, who advanced all the way to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.

In five NCAA Tournament games Ingram averaged 7.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Ramblers. He also had 18 points in the MVC Conference Championship Game to secure the Ramblers' March Madness berth.

He'll join first-round draft picks Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison on the Las Vegas Summer League team, which will begin play early next month.