WARR contributor Josh Hicks offers his thoughts on the Chicago Bulls and the NBA
The Chicago Bulls entered the 2017-18 season looking as hapless as any team in the NBA and they opened up the season the way we all expected: with a lot of reconstruction pains manifesting themselves with a 3-20 record to begin the season, including a 10-game losing streak and the team sitting second to last in the East.
In the past two weeks however, the weirdest thing has happened — a six-game winning streak for the Bulls, which has shown the most unexpected signs of life with one of the league’s youngest and least refined rosters.
Even though we do not expect the Bulls to make huge advances in regards to the playoffs this season, signs of a bright future under the direction of the coach Fred Hoiberg are being shown for the first time in Hoiberg’s now 3 seasons at the helm.
Many advocates, including myself, have long called for the Bulls to get rid of Hoiberg as the team’s head coach. In spite of the arguable belief that Hoiberg hadn’t had a real chance to show his coaching abilities with a team of his liking, most who follow the Bulls weren’t interested in seeing what a true Hoiberg team was made of in the first place.
Entering his first NBA coaching job, the former “Mayor” of Ames came into a stressed situation in the big city with a rising Jimmy Butler asserting himself and unpredictable former hometown hero Derrick Rose on the decline.
After jettisoning the former MVP Rose, the next season the Bulls brought two alpha males in Rajon Rondo and Chicago-native Dwyane Wade to join forces with Butler to try to compete with the best in the East, even though management made it seem like it was time for a rebuild after the trading of Rose and losing Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah in free agency.
With all the drama coming in Hoiberg’s first two seasons as head coach, it is hard to judge his performance when management cannot provide you the players to efficiently coach in his system. Now that the Bulls have made a decision to start an official rebuild, Hoiberg is now getting his chance to officially show us what he can do, and it is starting to pay off.
One of the most important things Hoiberg has going for him is his young team plays hard pretty much always. The players are also trusting his system and showing signs of growth and development in games even against superior competition. Nikola Mirotic missed most of the beginning of the season due to injuries from the practice brawl incident with teammate Bobby Portis, but came back as a man on a mission, currently averaging 20 points a game while shooting 55 percent from the field and 50 percent from behind the arc.
Portis’s comeback has been helpful as well, averaging 13 points with 49 percent from the field and 40 percent from three. Their growth in taking leadership after their fist- fight have been displayed, especially in the defensive end, keeping the young guys engaged and the team in tight game situations.
The emergence of Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen have been essential to the teams’ winning streak, both men making the draft night trade with Minnesota looking much less like the fleecing everyone thought it was for the Bulls, and this with Chicago’s in-coming centerpiece, Zach LaVine, still yet to have played a minute on his new team.
While we get closer to LaVine entering the mix, Dunn has elevated his game tremendously, averaging 13 points while shooting 44 percent from the field and five assists a game. Markkanen is currently making a strong case for Rookie of the Year, being top five among league rookies in scoring with 15 points a game and second in rebounds with eight a game.
With more consistency with role players Robin Lopez, Justin Holiday and Denzel Valentine, the Bulls can continue to show the fight to keep games interesting as they are continuing to progress through the growing pains.
The Bulls are 9-20 for a reason, and we should not get our hopes up for a high level of success this season. However, we should learn a thing or two about patience from the Timberwolves and Sixers and trust the process. It is clearly working for them, certainly it can work for us.
Joshua M. Hicks is a sports writer and broadcaster and a recent graduate of Roosevelt University, follow him on Twitter @jhicks042; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio