Michael Walton II writes about the Chicago Bulls and the NBA for We Are Regal Radio.
Michael is a student, freelance writer and high school basketball scout based in Chicago. He’s previously been published in TrueStar Magazine, the Redeye Chicago and thelyricallab.com.
ed. note — The Bulls are planning to introduce Fred Hoiberg to Chicago this afternoon at 2 p.m., a live stream can be viewed on csnchicago.com.
This piece originally started as an idea similar to an entry I did awhile back for Truestaris.com. The link takes you to my story about the Chicago Bulls getting rid of Luol Deng for the purpose of freeing cap-space and minutes for younger players, yet the whole situation maintained a distinct level of sadness.
That move back in January 2014 did show that the Bulls front-office was capable of preparing for the future and that in spite of all the Bulls camaraderie in recent years they were dealing in a business above all.
Is it sad to see Tom Thibodeau go, but this is a business, and the Bulls and Thibs had too many differences to maintain a successful partnership.
But after everything that Thibodeau has done for the Chicago Bulls franchise, his sendoff was extremely unflattering. I feel that going through Thibodeau’s telenovela-esque tenure with the Bulls could take awhile, so please graciously accept this brief “Ode to Thibs:”
Thibs, oh Thibs so short and round,
Your defense was so great and sound,
But you ran our players into the ground,
and now your new job can’t be found,
Sorry, sorry for the low blow,
But are you sorry for what you did to Jo’?
A Plea to Fred
I’ll admit, I was initially a little worried when I heard that notorious swagmaster Fred Hoiberg was the front-runner for the Bulls head coaching vacancy. He is no doubt an excellent coach, but the college to pro transition can be extremely difficult.
Thankfully, Hoiberg has NBA experience as both an executive and a player, the latter of which will help him succeed in the specific areas where Thibodeau failed. Hoiberg is in every way possible the “anti-Thibs” — he is a “players’ coach” who can be relaxed and media friendly. He is also an offensive specialist whose teams score at will and struggle with the basketball dirty work.
But running a loose ship can be a bad idea when grown men with their own agendas and egos are involved. And the main thing that worries me about the start of the Hoiberg-era is a perceived tension building between Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler.
NBA rumors spread like wildfire, and there is a possibility that the Bulls will have a disgruntled and highly-paid back-court, a combination that doesn’t equate to peak performance.
But winning cures everything, and Hoiberg has a great situation on his hands, much like the one Steve Kerr stepped into this year with Golden State Warriors. Like the Dubs, the Bulls have a successful team with a nice mix of young talent and veterans who are looking to make the leap from good team to great team.
The Chicago Bulls originally hired Tom Thibodeau because he was a tireless worker whose defensive schemes literally changed the league. Thibs loved to load up the defense on the strong side of the floor. He also drilled his “ICE” pick-and-roll defense into his players. The problem was that while having the man behind the schemes was nice, it became a lot less necessary when every team around the league started jackin’ Thibodeau’s swag (Translation: All NBA teams now use Thibs’ concepts to some degree).
So with Thibodeau’s defense becoming the standard these days, you would expect him to have some crazy new offensive wrinkles for emerging star Jimmy Butler and re-emerging star Derrick Rose to combat the strategy he already knows, right? Wrong.
Thibs continued to show a sometimes excruciating lack of care for the offensive side of the game, and this did the Bulls in when he ultimately couldn’t find a workable balance for Rose and Butler. I think the only way for this burgeoning feud to be quelled is for a coach with a more modern style to show the two that not only are there enough shots to go around, but their individual success will be connected.
And that is where Hoiberg comes in as the perfect fit in my opinion. This Bulls squad already carries a toughness and defense-first attitude from the Thibodeau-era and now they just need an offensive-minded leader.
This, again, is eerily similar to the Warriors, who had the defense-first Mark Jackson as their coach up until he was let go last offseason. Jackson instilled a defense-first attitude in his squad when he took control in the bay, but when they couldn’t get over the championship hump, Warriors management turned to Steve Kerr, who instilled ideas sparking offensive brilliance and continuity that mesh well with the still-in-place defensive concepts. Now the Warriors are a juggernaut.
The Bulls could definitely make this type of leap with Hoiberg at the helm. For those Bulls fans in the dark about the playing style of Hoiberg’s teams, read this little excerpt from an excellent piece about Iowa State’s play on Deadspin:
“But it’s not just that the Cyclones play a smart brand of basketball, it’s that they play an exciting brand of basketball. They run like hell in the open court, and their halfcourt sets brim with fast-paced action. They initiate offense early in the clock, run a ton screens, and swing the ball all over the floor. The Cyclones bend defenses to their will with the kinds of actions and sets that would be perfectly at home in an NBA game, creating lanes to drive to the basket and space for spot-up shooters to turn kick-out passes into points.”
Hoiberg will come into Chicago with a clear idea of what he wants. It will be interesting to see what players and staffer movement will happen to suit him, but regardless of who stays and goes the Bulls will have an increased offensive continuity next year.
Even the most casual of Bulls fans should realize what a coup that is. The Bulls lost to the Cavs in the playoffs, but they also lost to themselves. Their scoring droughts are what sealed their fate, but now they have a forward-thinking mind running the show.
The only question left now is… can Hoiberg beat LeBron James?
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