Fred Hoiberg was Bulls’ GM Gar Forman’s guy, a coach with a modern pace-and-space offensive philosophy who Forman thought would lift the Bulls — of Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol, and Joakim Noah — to contending status.
That, obviously, never happened. In part because Hoiberg was never given a roster to fit his style of play. The Butler/Rose Bulls were a bunch of isolation ball stoppers not buying what Hoiberg was selling. After that came the Dwyane Wade/Rajon Rondo Bulls (even more isolation ball stopping) and then a rebuild. It’s fair to say Hoiberg was never given a roster where we could see what he could do with this offense.
But from that first Bulls team — where Butler essentially walked all over the timid Hoiberg — the coach never seemed to command the team or have the ability to get the players pulling the rope in the same direction. This year’s team was spinning its wheels, and there was just a lack of cohesion. All of those things led to Hoiberg being let go. From Mark Strotman at NBC Sports Chicago:
The happy marriage [of Hoiberg and the Bulls] lasted all of 25 games. Butler, in the wake of a 16-point loss to the New York Knicks, told reporters that players “probably have to be coached harder” by Hoiberg. At that point the Bulls were 15-10, but the season never fully recovered from there…
But once the Butler drama began – and perhaps there was no way he could have stopped that – and it was clear the Bulls were going in a different direction, it marked the beginning of the end. The Bulls were on a crash course for a full-scale rebuild, and after three-plus seasons of 115-155 basketball that same voice couldn’t continue to lead that next charge.
Lack of leadership, more than wins and losses, is the reason Bulls management felt a coaching change couldn’t wait…
“I think as a head coach you have to demand excellence in your players,” Bulls president of basketball operations John Paxson said Monday. “They will respond to that.”
Hoiberg just never connected with veteran players and got buy-in from them. A lot of college coaches struggle with that (Brad Stevens in Boston is the exception, not the rule). While some individual players such as Zach LaVine took steps forward under him, every year there was some distraction — for example, a player punching another and fracturing an orbital bone in a preseason practice — or other sign of the team lacking unity. The 5-19 start was just the final straw.
Hoiberg was not a fit in Chicago. Given a roster that better fits his style could he coach an NBA team up to being a threat come the playoffs? Maybe. We don’t know. And we may never find out because you know some tempting college offers will come Hoiberg’s way after the season.
PBT Podcast: Zion Williamson and the rest, an early NBA Draft breakdown
Zion Williamson is a force of nature, an athletic freak that has become must-watch television and silenced the doubters about his game.
Before the season, scouts questioned his shot and fit, but his play for Duke so far has moved him past teammate R.J. Barrett on everybody’s draft board into the consensus No. 1 pick. The shine has really come off Barrett early this season for a guy averaging 24 points a game, Cam Reddish may be the second Blue Devil taken in next June’s draft.
Rob Dauster of NBC Sports joins me to talk Duke’s trio of superstars, plus other names to watch in this coming draft, such as Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura, Oregon’s 7’2″ Bol Bol (maybe the most divisive player in the draft), Kevin Porter out of USC and many others.
Gregg Popovich is one of the greatest coaches in NBA history.
His resume can stack up next to anyone’s: the sustained excellence of 20 seasons of 50+ wins which has given him a .686 win percentage, the five NBA titles, and maybe most impressive of all is small-market San Antonio into an NBA franchise that was feared on the court and modeled off it.
And, of course, there are all the wins — 1,211 of them to be exact after the Spurs knocked off the struggling Suns Tuesday night.
That win moved Popovich past Pat Riley into fourth on the all-time coaching wins list.
Popovich needs just 10 more wins to tie Utah legend Jerry Sloan for third on the list, something that will happen well before the All-Star break.
Will he coach long enough to catch Don Nelson or Lenny Wilkins at the top of the coaching-wins leaderboard (it would take more than 100 additional wins)? Only Popovich knows that, although the speculation around the NBA is probably not (many expect him to retire after the 2019-20 season, although nobody knows for sure).
Whatever happens, Popovich’s place on the all-time wins list just adds to a Hall of Fame legacy.
Three Things to Know: If the Clippers were trying to impress Kawhi Leonard it went poorly
LOS ANGELES —Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA. Today we come straight from Staples Center.
1) If the Clippers were trying to impress Kawhi Leonard Tuesday, it went poorly. When the discussion turns to speculation about where Kawhi Leonard could be playing next season, the Los Angeles Clippers are high on the list. He grew up in Southern California and wants to return there, sources say he doesn’t want to play with LeBron on the Lakers, and the Clippers have been surprisingly impressive this season but are a team without a true superstar that is looking to add one (or two, the Clippers reportedly want to add both Leonard and Kevin Durant).
Not that the notoriously media-shy Leonard cares about the speculation.
“I don’t buy into reading media, don’t have no social media, so just focus on what’s in front of me,” Leonard said before his Raptors took on the Clippers Tuesday night without him (due to a tweaked hip). “At that time it’s either my family or playing basketball.”
If the Clippers — or any team — is going to impress and entice Leonard, it’s not going to be with a well-crafted marketing plan to grow his brand (the people advising Leonard on the other hand…). Leonard presents the image of being focused only on what happens on the court.
That’s where the Clippers fell short Tuesday.
Actually, “fell short” is putting it kindly. The Clippers got thumped by 24 on their home court, their worst loss of the season. Playing without its superstar, Toronto looked like a team much closer to the NBA’s elite in terms of talent and execution than Los Angeles. The Raptors won 123-99 in a game that was not in doubt from early in the third quarter on.
“I think we just played bad,” Clippers’ guard Tyrone Wallace said, summing it up well. “We just had a rough night, we didn’t play well defensively.”
That was the starkest contrast: While the Clippers looked like a dazed team on the second night of a back-to-back (and without Lou Williams, who will miss a couple of weeks with a tweaked hamstring), the Raptors’ defenders were on a string — they switched, they rotated, they even threw in a zone for a few plays and the Clippers could not adapt fast enough.
Toronto turned the stops into shots in transition and the Clippers were not getting back or handling their scrambling defense well. Serge Ibaka feasted on the Clippers with 25 points.
However, the best news for the Raptors was the “return” of the real Kyle Lowry, who had 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting to break out of his slump (he had shot 8-of-42 over his previous five games).
Whatever Leonard decides to do this summer — stay in Toronto, come to Los Angeles, or choose from the 28 other teams that will be knocking on his door — the decision will not be based on the outcome of one December game. However, if the Clippers were trying to show off an impressive young core Leonard could join and elevate, this was not the effort that they needed.
Toronto, on the other hand, looked exactly like a team with an impressive young core. One Leonard is already elevating to the top of the East.
2) The good Rockets show up — especially the bench players — and Houston knocks off Portland. About once every week or so I watch a Rockets game and think, “they can get it together and turn this around.” Not turn around to the level they expected entering the season — they are not going to be a threat to the Warriors with this current roster — but there are nights they look like a playoff team and better than their sub-.500 record.
Tuesday was one of those nights, mostly thanks to hot play off the bench. Houston’s second unit outscored Portland’s 37-13, and they were the group that blew the game open at the end of the third and into the fourth. Danuel House and Gerald Green combined for 25 points, shooing 4-of-7 from three and 64.3 percent overall, and they had nine rebounds. Houston was +22 when they were on the court together.
While the Rockets looked better, Portland struggled. There was too much isolation, not enough ball movement, and Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum took 53 percent of the team’s shots. The Trail Blazers were predictable, and that made the struggling Rockets defense look good.
I’ve seen too many good games followed by bad ones from Houston to suggest the Rockets have turned the corner, so let’s just say the good Rockets showed up for one night. We’ll see who shows up Thursday night against the Lakers.
3) Gregg Popovich passes Pat Riley, moves into fourth on the all-time coaching wins list. When it is all said and done, Gregg Popovich will go down as one of the best coaches in NBA history. The sustained excellence, the five rings, turning small-market San Antonio into an NBA franchise to be feared on the court and modeled off it, all will be part of his legacy.
So will all the wins he’s racked up — 1,211 of them after the Spurs win over the struggling Suns Tuesday night. That moved Popovich past Pat Riley into fourth on the all-time coaching wins list.
Popovich is just 10 wins shy of tying Jerry Sloan for third, something that will happen in the coming months. I don’t know if he’s going to coach long enough to catch Don Nelson or Lenny Wilkins at the top of that leaderboard (it would take more than 100 additional wins), but Popovich’s win total just adds to his legacy and place in history.
Was Stephen Curry just using his moon landing comments to promo his new shoe?
The current social media marketing landscape is sort of a gross place to be. People will do anything for clicks, views, and the idea of “all PR being good PR” is taken to the extreme by many parties.
We live in a world where Kanye West, who made a couple of good albums a decade ago, says something patently crazy in advance of any new marketing campaign as a way to keep his name in the news (and in search engines) prior to the release of a shoe or a new song. It’s not very subtle.
Steph, let me tell you buddy. This is not the way to sell a shoe. Well, it is one way to sell a shoe in 2018, but as the two-time NBA MVP and a three-time NBA champion, it’s definitely not the right look for a guy of your stature. This is gross, and inappropriate, and honestly damages the legacy of how people will write about you and view you in the future.
Say it was a bad joke and move on. It’s not worth it to look like you’d sell your soul just to huck some rip-off Kobe 10 All-Stars anyway.
The UA Curry 6 drops soon but I’m not telling you where.