The Chicago Bulls are still trying to figure out who they are under new coach Fred Hoiberg. After years of playing under a coach who held the reins tight, in came Fred Hoiberg to give the players offensive freedom — and the result is a bottom five NBA offense. The Bulls have beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, Oklahoma City Thunder, and San Antonio Spurs this season, but have had ugly losses as well, such as to the Suns, Hornets, and Saturday to the Knicks (Chicago was worn down for that one after playing four overtimes the night before, to be fair).
Hoiberg was brought to be a different kind of coach than Tom Thibodeau (and to get along with the Bulls front office of Gar Forman and John Paxson). But after that loss to the Knicks Sunday, the Bulls outspoken leader Jimmy Butler said he needs to see a little more Thibodeau in Hoiberg, as reported by Josh Newman at CSNChicago.com.
“I believe in the guys in this locker room, yeah, but I also believe that we probably have to be coached a lot harder at times,” Jimmy Butler said after scoring just 12 points on 4-for-11 shooting one night after he played 56 minutes against the Pistons. “I know Fred is a laidback guy and I respect him for that, but when guys aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do, you gotta get on guys, myself included. You gotta do what you’re supposed to do when you’re out there playing basketball.
“We weren’t doing what we’re supposed to be doing, what we wrote on that board before the game. Nobody spoke up. I did, but probably not enough times. I think he has to hold everybody accountable, from the No. 1 player, all the way down. Everyone has to do their job.”
The Bulls are transitioning. Derrick Rose isn’t the player he once was (he’s shooting 37.5 percent this season and can’t finish inside like he once did0, and all the miles on Joakim Noah seem to have caught up with him. This is becoming Jimmy Butler’s team, but the transition has been awkward at times. Hoiberg is part of that transition, but as should be expected he is struggling with his transition from coaching college to being back in the NBA.
All of that has led to an inconsistent Bulls team.
The Bulls are in the logjam that is the second tier of the Eastern Conference — just three games separate second seed Indiana and 11th seed New York. Chicago has the talent to break out of that pack and be a clear second best team in the East, but they need to be a lot better on offense to make that happen (the defense is top five, despite no Thibodeau).
Hoiberg’s former-player nature is not to be a yeller; everyone describes him as “laid back.” And yelling may not be the answer, but among the things that needs to change for the Bulls is for Hoiberg to assert himself.