Bulls

Rose, Bulls continuing to show solid effort under Fred Hoiberg

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Rose, Bulls continuing to show solid effort under Fred Hoiberg

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."

How Michael Jordan reacted to Robert Parish taunting him at Bulls practice

How Michael Jordan reacted to Robert Parish taunting him at Bulls practice

Don’t mess with The Chief. Michael Jordan learned that lesson at a practice during Robert Parish’s lone season with the Bulls in 1996-97 — the last of his 21-year career.

Appearing on CLNS Media’s Cedric Maxwell Podcast, Parish told the story of him taunting Jordan (a rare sight at a Bulls practice in the ’90s), and the shock Jordan responded with. 

“We were scrimmaging, we played like six games going to five points. And so after the first two games, Phil (Jackson) put me with the second unit who I always played with. You know, my boys,” Parish told Maxwell. “We proceeded to kick their (the first unit’s) butts like four straight games. And Michael took offense to it, so I asked him, ‘How did he like that butt whooping?’

“He took offense to it because clearly no one ever manned up to him, you know, challenged him. So he said if I wasn’t careful, he was going to kick my ass. And I told him, ‘I’m not in awe of you. I’ve played with some of the baddest fellas there walking the court … And I’m supposed to be in awe of you?' You know, he’s looking at me like I had slapped his mug (laughs).”

Parish ended his career a four-time NBA champion — thrice with the Celtics (1981, 1984, 1986) and once with the Bulls (1997). He cited his experience playing with all-time greats from Larry Bird to Kevin McHale to Bill Walton to Maxwell as reason for not being intimidated by Jordan. 

Still, his gumption apparently sent shockwaves down the roster. 

“Derrick Dickey couldn’t believe that I talked to Michael like that,” Parish told Maxwell on the podcast. “Clearly, Michael was the alpha, you know, it was his team. He ran the ballclub and everybody kind of like got out of his way and let him do his thing.”

Parish added that he respected Jordan’s brazen leadership style, but that he preferred the manner in which Bird operated.

“Everybody got their own style, and the way they lead. Michael was in your face, he challenged his teammates,” Parish said. “Larry was our leader (with the Celtics), and he led by example. You know, he wasn’t a vocal leader, he let his play dictate how we should play. I think Larry’s style and philosophy makes the best leaders, because if you are a yeller and a screamer, after a while your voice fall on deaf ears and players just kinda tune you out, don’t hear what you got to say.

“I respect both leadership styles, but I prefer Larry’s style the best. Cause you know, some nights you don’t want to hear what he got to say, speaking of Michael. He all up in your face talking trash, you know, he might get a short right, man (laughs).”

Fair enough. Jordan’s abrasive ways weren’t for everyone. Surely, he’s content to let his six rings speak for themselves.

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Michael Jordan: 'I won't play' if Isiah Thomas is on Dream Team in new audio

Michael Jordan: 'I won't play' if Isiah Thomas is on Dream Team in new audio

The plot continues to thicken on the revived Michael Jordan-Isiah Thomas feud that has bubbled during and in the wake of “The Last Dance.” Tuesday, audio surfaced of Jordan admitting that he wouldn’t play for the 1992 Dream Team if Thomas was included on the roster.

The clip comes by way of the Dream Team Tapes podcast with renowned sports journalist Jack McCallum, who authored “Dream Team,” a book that chronicled the construction of the 1992 USA Olympics squad that took the world by storm.

 

Though a bit warbled, Jordan’s ultimatum is clear: "Rod Thorn called me. I said, ‘Rod, I won’t play if Isiah Thomas is on the team.' He assured me. He said, 'You know what? Chuck (Charles Barkley) doesn’t want Isiah. So, Isiah is not going to be part of the team.'"

That audio, according to the podcast, is from an interview McCallum conducted with Jordan for the book in 2011. McCallum reported the fruits of this conversation in “Dream Team,” which came out in 2012:

Rod Thorn, who as general manager of the Bulls in 1984 had drafted Jordan, was assigned the most important task: pulling the prize catch into the boat. Thorn called Jordan directly sometime during the summer, after the Bulls had won their first championship. (In fact, all of the invitations were extended directly to the athletes, not through agents…) So let’s be clear right now about what Jordan said in that first phone call.

‘Rod, I don’t want to play if Isiah Thomas is on the team,’ Jordan said.

I wrote that in Sports Illustrated at the time, not because Jordan confirmed it, which he didn’t, but because at least two reliable sources did. At the time, Jordan more or less denied that he would stand in Isiah’s way.

But he did confirm it to me in the summer of 2011. ‘I told Rod I don’t want to play if Isiah Thomas is on the team.’ That’s what he said.

Still, controversy framed as rumor continued to surround Thomas’ exclusion from the team, including in “The Last Dance.” In a present-day interview in the documentary, Jordan denied requesting Thomas be left on the roster. 

“It was insinuated that I was asking about him. But I never threw his name in there,” Jordan said. “Based on the environment and camaraderie that happened on that team, it was the best harmony. Would Isiah have made a different feeling on that team? Yes. You want to attribute it to me? Go ahead, be my guest. But it wasn’t me.”

In an interview on ESPN’s Golic & Wingo, Thorn, who chaired the USA Basketball Men's National Team Selection Committee in 1992, echoed Jordan’s version of events.

“When I called Jordan, his first inclination was he didn’t know if he wanted to play or not because, as he said, ‘I played on an Olympic team before (in 1988),’” Thorn said. “'It’s for the younger guys as far as I’m concerned.' 

“So we continued the conversation, and at the end of the conversation, he said, ‘You know something, I’ll do it.’ There was never anything in my conversation with him that had to do with Isiah Thomas. Period.”

But now we have audio that directly contradicts those accounts, and corroborates decades-old speculation (and McCallum's reporting) that Jordan played a specific party to Thomas being left off the team. Jordan's invoking Barkley also confirms that there was Dream Team-wide anti-Thomas sentiment. And funny enough, all of this comes from Jordan himself.

Thomas said in “The Last Dance” he didn’t know what went into the decision-making process for the Dream Team, but that he wasn’t selected in spite of, in his estimation, meeting the desired criteria.

If we didn’t know already, we now know for sure what led to his exclusion.

RELATED: David Robinson: Isiah Thomas shouldn’t be surprised about Dream Team snub 

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