Tag Archives: Fred Hoiberg

Year in Review: Bulls stuck in crossroads, face difficult decisions moving forward

If there is one thing I will take away from this season, it is that this team is not ready to accept defeat and start over. Given the acquisition of Rondo, Wade, and Lopez, Gar Forman and John Paxson made it clear they want to remain a competitive team, despite prior indicating that they want to get younger as a team.

Being a franchise with one of the most prestigious histories in the league, these past few seasons have been strange for the Chicago Bulls. While their reemergence atop the East is in the rearview mirror, the Bulls have still been able to limp into the playoff race these past few years.

Now, however, the direction of their franchise is unclear. With Rondo, Wade, and Lopez’s best days likely gone, the front office has to decide whether to replace them with young players on the rise, players who could make the team instantly competitive, or to rid themselves of their large financial obligations (Butler, Wade, etc.) and start from a clean slate. The first question though, is whether or not Fred Hoiberg will continue to lead next year’s team.

Between having to start backup PG’s, splitting starting minutes between Mirotic and Zipser, and defensive struggles, there is a lot of growing room for Fred Hoiberg as a coach moving forward. If the front office’s biggest inclination is to remain competitive, I believe that Hoiberg should be given another year to grow this team, as he showed flashes of success with the personnel he was given.

Looking forward to next year, keeping Fred Hoiberg could offer promising improvements from many players on this team. For one thing, we saw guys like Bobby Portis and Paul Zipser show the ability to be competitive players, maybe not immediate starters albeit, but competitive nonetheless. Additionally, Hoiberg’s offensive wisdom may help Portis or Denzel Valentine develop into the scoring threat the Bulls need.

That being said, it would be foolish to expect significant improvement from the aging veteran starters that snuck this team into the postseason. It is only fair to Fred Hoiberg, or whoever else coaches this team next year, that the front office gives them more rising talent. As of right now, Rondo and Wade are on the wrong side of 30 and Lopez is approaching there as well. The Bulls, and their fans, are in dire need of players who can improve and thrive alongside Jimmy Butler. While improvements from their younger players may help keep the Bulls in the playoff picture for another year or two, this team does not have a foundation that is built to succeed in the Eastern Conference as is. Moving forward, I would expect and hope that the Bulls front office makes a bit of a splash this offseason in order to shake things up. Given the relatively low ceiling this current group has, it is probably also in Forman and Paxson’s best interest to make some significant changes.

Hoiberg’s worst enemy? Time

Last year, Fred Hoiberg became one of the less experienced college basketball coaches to ever be hired as an NBA coach. If history is any indication, that may not be a bad thing. This season though, the question is whether or not the Bulls will be as generous as other franchises have been in affording adjustment time for coaches who are new to the NBA.

For those unfamiliar with the fate of Hoiberg’s college predecessors moving to the NBA, the history is rather bleak. Here’s a rundown of the history since 1993, when hiring college coaches into the NBA started to increase, up until 2015 when he was hired.

From 1993-2005, college coaches hired to the NBA:

  • Have gone a combined 624-999 as head coaches
  • Are a combined 3-16 in the playoffs
  • Six of nine coaches never made the playoffs
  • Average less than 2.5 seasons before being fired

If not for Brad Stevens’ success in Boston, those numbers would be even worse.

Many Bulls fans have blamed Hoiberg’s relative inexperience as a reason for his struggles both on the court and with player relationships. However, with seven Final Fours between the nine college-turned-NBA coaches since 1993, college experience hasn’t been that indicative of NBA success, as shown by guys like Rick Pitino (192-220), John Calipari (72-112), or Mike Montgomery (68-96).

If any Final Four coach has exceeded expectations in the NBA, it would be Brad Stevens, who had just seven years of college head coaching experience before being hired by the Boston Celtics in 2013. Young and well regarded like Stevens, Fred Hoiberg was hired with just six years of college coaching experience. It goes without saying that the Bulls would be happy if Hoiberg progresses as well as Stevens has thus far. However, before getting carried away with comparisons, it should be noted that Hoiberg actually started off his NBA coaching career doing something Stevens and other predecessors couldn’t do: finish a season above .500.

Now, 20-21 at the halfway mark, most couldn’t have expected Hoiberg to adjust any smoother given the odds history says he’s up against. Also given that Stevens’ second season win percentage was the same as Hoiberg’s thus far, the numbers give hope that Hoiberg could be the next in a line of coaches who have changed the stigma of hiring college coaches in the NBA.

But while Hoiberg may be meeting reasonable goals for a second-year coach, patience will be hard to come by until growth is imminent. After going above .500 last year and acquiring Dwyane Wade, many question how the Bulls can be an effective if Hoiberg can’t lead a successful offense. For Gar Forman and the front office, the belief may be that Hoiberg needs a change of personnel for the Bulls to be effective. Others may look at Hoiberg’s 5-1 record against the Cavaliers and believe that he has everything he needs to succeed. And yet despite the reasonable expectation that things would take time, very few seem content with chalking up Hoiberg’s struggles to growing pains. 

Amidst rumors of shopping the team’s best scorer, it’s clear that the standard Hoiberg will be held to is increasingly shaped by his team’s present standing. With pressure mounting as Dwyane Wade celebrates his 35th birthday on Tuesday, the Bulls have thrust Fred Hoiberg into a “win now,” scenario. If he can’t adapt to the urgency of the situation, the Chicago Bulls may not have more patience, even if Hoiberg deserves more time.

Note-A-Bulls: Bulls lose another head-scratcher to the Mavericks 99-98 at the UC

Well I wish I could say I’m surprised. Coming off back-to-back wins including an impressive W on the road in Memphis, the Bulls (21-22) did what they do best, confuse the hell out of you. While Taj Gibson was out of the lineup tonight with a minor injury, there is no excuse for losing to the Dallas Mavericks (14-27) at home. One month after blitzing the Bulls in Big D by a score of 107-82, the Mavs squeaked by the Bulls 99-98 (no Big Mac sorry) on Tuesday night. Let’s take a look at how one of the more disappointing losses of the season unfolded.

  • Let’s start with the ending. The Bulls tied the game up on a nice runner in the lane from Doug McDermott following a great cut to the basket that sprung him loose. After a big defensive stop the Bulls turned to Jimmy to once again be their closer, and once again he delivered on a long, contested jumper that put the Bulls up 98-96 and all was right with the world.
  • However, the Bulls got caught celebrating the make as they were anticipating Dallas to call timeout, only one never came. With the Bulls out of position, Nikola Mirotic got switched on to Deron Williams. D-Will proceeded to easily guide past Niko before dishing a beautiful pass over to Wesley Matthews who hit the clutch go-ahead 3.
  • Niko should have given Deron more cushion knowing that he is quicker and was only 1/5 from deep in the game. But after trying to face guard him, it forced Wade to come help leaving Matthews wide open, it’s the little things that get magnified late in games and end up turning W’s into L’s.
  • Fortunately, there was still 11 seconds left. Unfortunately, Hoiberg forgot to draw up a play, or so it seemed. Jimmy got the ball and was stuffed from going anywhere but luckily had the ball knocked out of his hands right to Wade. Unluckily, Wade missed the tough fadeaway as time expired to seal the Bulls fate.
  • Why no pick and roll? Why not let Rondo start with it and get it to Jimmy deeper in the paint? Anything would have been better than letting Jimmy try and beat Matthews 1-on-1 after Matthews had done a good job on him all night. Going pick and roll and giving Jimmy even a little space or ability to play make disappeared with this stand still offensive set and set the Bulls up for inevitable failure.
  • Obviously I just took a lot of time there breaking down what amounts to about 2% of the actual game But it is precisely these small mistake throughout the game that makes a good team mediocre. Not knowing scouting reports, not adjusting to in-game flow, not hustling back on defense after a make. All of these things turn wins in to losses and could mean the difference between facing the Cavs or Raptors in the first round, or missing the playoffs altogether! Alright, I’m done ranting now.
  • Let’s talk about some good things the Bulls did against the Mavs. Jimmy had a Jimmy game going for 24 points, 12 assists, and nine boards just missing out on a triple-double. He also got to the line an impressive 16 times making 14 of them, something he’s gotten exponentially better at these last couple of seasons.
  • Robin Lopez had a stellar offensive night for his standards as well. RoLo scored 21 points on 10/15 shooting and did it every which way. Put backs, jumpers, post moves, crazy “and-1s”, you name it Lopez executed it tonight and gave the Bulls a nice inside presence with Gibson out for the night.
  • The Mavs had a balanced scoring attack all night with six players in double-figured getting a game high 20 from Harrison Barnes. The MVP of the night though goes to Wesley Matthews who dueled with his Marquette brethren Butler all game long. He finished with only 11 points and four rebounds but played terrific defense on Jimmy all night holding him to only 12 field goal attempts and five makes forcing him to pass up shots he usually takes. Matthews was also the man to hit the biggest shot of the game to send a dagger into Bulls fans hearts.
  • Up Next: The Bulls travel to the ATL on Friday night to take on Dwight Howard and the Hawks.

Note-A-Bulls: Rondo benched but Bulls fail to climb out of early hole against Pacers

After two narrow wins preceded by three consecutive losses, the Bulls entered Friday afternoon at 16-16, a record that simply undermines the inconsistency and streakiness of this team so far. Facing the Pacers, a team they beat just four days ago, the Bulls once again showed some struggles from both the players and coach Fred Hoiberg.

While things would unfold unusually, the Bulls started off with their usual five (Rondo, Wade, Butler, Gibson, Lopez). In the 1st quarter, the Pacers came out prepared and jumped out to a 15-4 lead. The Pacers would extend that lead to 24-10 with less than 4 minutes remaining in the quarter. Despite their slow offensive start, the Bulls managed to respond with a 12-4 run to finish of the quarter down just 28-22.    

In the 2nd quarter, the Pacers continually fought off the Bulls to keep their lead near or at the double-digit marker. After pulling within four points of Indianapolis, the Bulls would eventually go back down by 12, and headed into the locker room losing 62-50. Call me a broken record but once again, the script seemed to flip at halftime, as the Bulls would no longer be outplayed by the Pacers coming out of the break.

As earlier mentioned, the starting lineup would not hold its form for the majority of the game. After an unproductive 1st half and early foul trouble, Michael-Carter Williams would get the call to run the offense for the 2nd half. Throughout the 3rd quarter, the Bulls managed to go shot for shot with the Pacers, outscoring them 23-22. While the lead was still a tough one to overcome with one quarter left, the Bulls did look much better defensively.   

Unfortunately, in the 4th quarter, the Bulls once again could only outscore the Pacers by a single point, however, the defense looked less impressive against a Pacers team that didn’t really need to thrive offensively. After being asked about his status as head coach of the Bulls before the game started, Hoiberg’s decision to sit Rondo in the 2nd half was one that will draw judgment, both good and bad, from Bulls supporters. Once again, shooting efficiency was an issue as the Bulls hovered around 40% from the field and just over 25% from 3-point range.

  • The good: Wade and Butler combined for 45 points, both shooting in the upper 40’s percentage-wise, from the field. McDermott and Felicio were both 4-5 from the field coming off the bench. Felicio continued being productive on the boards grabbing 12 rebounds (six being offensive) in just 22 minutes of action.
  • The bad: Gibson struggled from the field while Lopez only had two field goal attempts and Rondo had none. Mirotic also struggled mightily going 3-14 from the field, 11 of those attempts being 3 pointers.
  • With continued offensive struggles, something the Bulls hoped Hoiberg would excel at as an NBA coach, the Bulls need to quickly figure out how to get more efficient minutes out of both the starters and bench players. 
  • Up Next: the Bulls must quickly recover for a New Year’s Eve matchup against the .500 Milwaukee Bucks. The Bulls lost back to back games to Milwaukee earlier in the year, and look to get back to .500 at home.

Note-A-Bulls: Bucks curb stomp Bulls for second straight night in 95-69 route

The weather outside was indeed frightful outside the United Center on Friday night. On the second night of a back-to-back, the Bulls looked to rebound after a bad loss to their rivals up north, the Milwaukee Bucks. As the white snow continued to increase on the streets of Chicago, twenty-thousand strong packed into the United Center.  One of the bigger headlines heading into the game was whether or not Stacey King would finally pronounce Giannis Antetokounmpo’s name correctly.

As the entire world celebrated the opening of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the Bulls celebrated in their own way, with Star Wars night. Benny the Bull disguised as Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the team at CSN creating their own twist on The Empire Strikes Back. Robin Lopez and Greg Monroe squared at center court, with Lopez winning the tip and with that, Bulls basketball was on the air. The Bucks supported their all green road jerseys while the Bulls wore their usual white home jerseys. Not to anyone’s surprise, the UC did not have its usual attendance at the game, given the poor conditions in the Chicago area. The Bucks got off to a strong start, leading 9-4 at the nine-minute mark.  Nearing the halfway mark of the first, Giannis was already getting into his groove. The “Greek Freak” had eight points, two assists, and two rebounds at the 6:24 mark as the Bulls took a timeout with Milwaukee leading 18-11. The Bulls did a nice job of keeping the Bucks’ lead in striking distance, as Rajon Rondo created separation on Malcolm Brogdon and scooped home a layup to cut the lead to five. However, Milwaukee just continued to push on the gas. After excellent ball movement and unselfish offense, Mirza Teletovic hit a three to put the Bucks’ lead to eleven, and once again it looked like the Bulls were going to be in for a long night against a bad team. The Bucks were shooting nearly 70% from the field while the Bulls were shooting just under 40%. While the field goal percentage for Chicago was by no means atrocious, you just simply can’t allow your opponent to shoot so well from the floor. The defensive struggles continued for the Bulls, along with the domination by Giannis. In addition to the struggles on defense, the Bulls finished the quarter missing their last eight shots. The team was shooting twenty-three percent after one. Milwaukee led 34-15, and Giannis led all scorers with ten points.

The second quarter began similar to how the first went. The Bucks moved the ball perfectly, and as a result, Teletovic hit another three off an unselfish pass by Malcolm Brogdon. As the clock continued to run, the Bucks continued to make their shots, and with ease. As Jimmy Butler picked up his third foul, Milwaukee led by twenty with just under nine minutes to play in the half. The minutes in the half continued to drop, and so did the Bulls play. Poor movement on offense, not hustling on defense, and just a general lack of effort and sloppy play by the Bulls. At the halfway mark of the second, Milwaukee continued to enforce its will with a twenty-one-point lead, and showing no signs of slowing down. The Bulls hoped that they could just find some sort of spark to close out the half. However, that spark was just never ignited. The same issues continued to hinder any offense with the Bulls, with poor ball movement and wasting possessions. The Bucks’ main point of emphasis was to protect the Bulls from getting to the rim, and it certainly worked.  They were giving all kinds of space to the Bulls guards, and players like Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo (not to my surprise) just could not answer. Simply put, this may have been the worst half of basketball the Bulls have played this season. It was just a hot mess, and the poor play translated into a massive deficit at the half. While the Bulls made a little surge in the final minute, Milwaukee still led nineteen after the first half.

The Bucks began the third with possession of the basketball, as they hoped to continue to put their offense in cruise control. The quarter started rather slow, as Milwaukee only scored eight points in the first five and a half minutes of the quarter. However, the Bulls did not take advantage of the Bucks finally slowing down, as they only made one basket within that span of time. Things just simply were not clicking for the Bulls, as they continued to struggle offensively and miss shots that usually fall. Sensing that a run seemed unlikely, Fred Hoiberg seemed to almost be waving the white flag at the halfway point of the third quarter. Milwaukee led by as much as twenty-eight, and just did not break. As the third quarter ended, Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade sat on the Bulls bench with grim looks on their face, draped in their warmups, knowing another loss was headed the Bulls way.

Down twenty-two at the start of the fourth, the Bulls opened the scoring of the quarter as Bobby Portis hit a three from the corner. All five players on the court for the Bulls were off the bench, while Milwaukee still had the likes of Greg Monroe, Giannis, and other role players on the court. The Bucks just continued to enforce their will, and rightfully so. They just played so much better than the Bulls in every light of the game. As the few fans that remained at the UC grew restless, so did yours truly. This game was just an absolute eyesore, and while these kinds of games will happen every once in a while, the panic button may have to start coming out for the Bulls. While they have found ways to beat some of the best teams in basketball, they can’t seem to figure it out against the NBA’s “lower class”. However, after watching this mockery, we have to start thinking how and why the Bulls play like they do. One game you’re looking at a team that seriously might fight with the eastern conference’s elite, and another night you seem a team that belongs in the lottery.

I’m not the biggest fan of pointing fingers, but this has to relate back to Fred Hoiberg. Now one and a quarter seasons in, this team continues to struggle finding its identity. The Bulls do not play till Monday, and I think it’s safe to say that this weekend will serve of massive importance for the Bulls’ success in the immediate AND foreseeable future. Drive home extra safe Chicago, not only because of the weather, but for these Bulls. The final score of the game, Milwaukee ninety-five, the Bulls sixty-nine.

Up Next: The Bulls play host to yet another Central division rival as the Pistons come to town on Monday night.