The process of learning the concepts and terminology behind Fred Hoiberg's up-tempo offense will be ongoing, something the first year head coach understands.
But regardless of scheme, terminology or personnel, there's no substitute or excuse for a veteran team like the Bulls not to show effort each time they step on the court.
And for the few bumps in the road the Bulls have had early in the season, none of those have stemmed from a lack of effort, Hoiberg said Thanksgiving Day at the Advocate Center.
The head coach singled out the Bulls' last six games as a barometer. Since going scoreless in overtime against the Timberwolves at home on Nov. 7, the Bulls have won five of their last six, with three of those victories coming on the road. The Bulls returned home from their West Coast trip that included stops in Phoenix, Golden State and Portland, and will head out tomorrow for a Friday showdown in Indiana, with an ongoing sense of confidence after taking two of three.
"The biggest thing is the effort. I think the consistent thing, especially these last six, the only loss coming at GOlden State and we had a chance at the end of that one. So the effort's been terrific, and if we can keep that going we're going to have a chance most nights," Hoiberg said.
"To get two out of 3 on that trip was very important I felt. With that Phoenix win, that's another team that had won several in a row, very powerful, explosive backcourt. That's what we played on this trip; you had three of the top backcourts in the league with Pheonix (Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe), Golden State (Steph Curry and Klay Thompson) and Portland (Damian Lilard and C.J. McCollum) and to get two out of those three was big for us. Just got to keep our focus."
[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]
Earning two wins out west was made more impressive in that they played two of those games without Derrick Rose, who returned Tuesday after missing a pair with an ankle sprain. Rose wasted no time making his presence felt, scoring 17 points, handing out six assists and limiting counterpart Damian Lillard to 4-for-22 shooting as the Bulls picked up a 93-88 win.
It was yet another solid effort from the Bulls defense - the Blazers shot 35 percent from the field and committed 14 turnovers - that has been perhaps better than expected in Hoiberg's early tenure. Entering Thanksgiving Day, the Bulls ranked sixth in defensive efficiency, second in opponent field-goal percentage and were allowing a league-best 1.07 points per shot. It's a stark contrast from the offense, which ranks 20th in effective field goal percentage and 26th in efficiency.
Those offensive lulls have put the Bulls in difficult positions attempting to put teams away. Tuesday night the Bulls led by 13 early in the fourth quarter before missing 10 straight shots, a scoreless drought more than 5 minutes that allowed the Blazers to eventually tie the game. Rose, who shot 2-for-6 in the fourth quarter, put the onus on himself
"Only thing you can do is just learn from your experiences, learn from the previous game. (Tuesday) we had a lead numerous times," Rose said. "I think it's on me where I have to put guys in the right position when we go up big leads to do something positive for the team instead of letting go of the ropes."
They'll next chance Friday against the Pacers, a team they fended off two weeks ago at the United Center thanks to Jimmy Butler's defensive heroics on Paul George. It pits two of the top three teams in the East against each other, and features a Pacers team that has won three straight, and nine of 11 since an 0-3 start. And as much as Hoiberg has liked his team's effort of late, he knows they'll need to continue it on the road to pick up win No. 10.
"It's a team that's playing with a ton of confidence right now," Hoiberg said. "We're going to have to come out with great effort if we want to have a chance at the end."