Associated Press

Celtics hand Bulls franchise worst loss, win by 56

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CHICAGO (AP) — Jaylen Brown scored 23 points off the bench, Daniel Theis added a career-high 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and the Boston Celtics routed the Chicago Bulls 133-77 on Saturday night for their fifth straight win.

The 56-point margin of victory was the largest in franchise history, surpassing a 51-point win (153-102) over the Philadelphia Warriors on March 7, 1962.

The 56-point loss was the worst in Bulls’ history, eclipsing a 53-point (127-74) defeat at Minnesota on Nov. 8, 2001. Frustrated fans at the United Center booed the Bulls off the court.

Jayson Tatum had 18 points and Terry Rozier added 15 as the Celtics used a 17-0 start and a balanced attack to roll their second straight lopsided win after beating New York 128-100 on Thursday. The Celtics (15-10) have outscored opponents an average of 126.2 to 97.6 during their five-game run.

Shaquille Harrison came off the bench to score a career-high 20 points for the Chicago, which has lost eight of nine. Zach LaVine had 11 for the Bulls (6-21), whose previous worst loss this season was by 39 points (122-83) to Toronto on Nov. 17.

The Celtics took charge early, racing ahead 17-0 as they shot 8 for 11 from the floor at the start.

Boston led 35-17 after one quarter as it shot 60.9 percent, and led 64-43 at the half thanks to 52.4-percent shooting.

For the game, the Celtics outshot Chicago 53.8 percent to 38.3 percent.

The scoring in Boston’ first-half outburst was evenly distributed. Morris led with 12 points, while Tatum, Theis and Terry Rozier each had 10.

The Celtics’ biggest lead in the first half was 22 points and Chicago never got closer than 13.

Chicago missed its first 12 field goal attempts, prompting coach Jim Boylen to pull all five starters 4:45 in. The Bulls didn’t score until Jabari Parker hit a pair of free throws 6:18 in – raising a derisive cheer from the United Center crowd. Chicago didn’t get its first basket until Robin Lopez sank a turnaround hook 36 seconds later.

The Celtics kept the pressure on, outscoring Chicago 69-34 in the second half.

The Bulls fell flat after beating Oklahoma City 114-112 on Friday night on Lauri Markkanen‘s layup in the closing seconds, giving Boylen his first win as an NBA head coach.

A longtime NBA assistant, Boylen took over Monday when Fred Hoiberg was fired following a 5-19 start. The Bulls lost at Indiana the following night in Boylen’s debut.

 

Report: Fred Hoiberg lost control of Bulls, including Zach LaVine, who could do whatever he wanted

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Early in his tenure as Bulls coach, Fred Hoiberg had problems with Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah. But Butler and Noah were stubborn veterans entrenched in their ways. The thinking was Hoiberg would connect better with less-proven, more-impressionable players.

Yet, it seems Hoiberg – whom Chicago fired this week – had interpersonal problems with this younger roster, too.

Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic:

Multiple league sources said Hoiberg had lost the team, saying players no longer believed in his system and became increasingly emboldened in undermining Hoiberg’s authority.

what could Zach LaVine pull?

The answer is anything he wanted, according to a team source who said LaVine was given carte blanche by Hoiberg. Internally, there was concern players would revolt more as the season marched on

Most publicly, LaVine waved off Hoiberg’s play call in the final moments of a loss last week. Mayberry also detailed instances of Jabari Parker and Antonio Blakeney showing up Hoiberg.

Did Hoiberg have control of the locker room? Lauri Markkanen‘s response seems telling.

Rick Tarsitano‏ of WGN

There is no one right temperament for coaching in the NBA. Coaches have succeeded and failed with varying styles.

But it seems Hoiberg never found his footing. By most accounts, he’s a nice guy. But it also seemed he tried too hard to bend his personality to what he thought an NBA coach should be – and that came across as fake.

His biggest issue: He didn’t win. Players want coaches who help them flourish on the court (which comes with more money, etc.). Hoiberg never demonstrated he could be that coach.

Add his mild-mannered nature, and it was hard for him to command respect.

Repot: Lack of ‘vision’ and ‘leadership’ why Bulls fired Fred Hoiberg

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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.

ESPN’s Malika Andrews was more direct:

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.

Bulls’ Lauri Markkanen to make season debut vs. Rockets

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Lauri Markkanen, who suffered a sprained elbow early in training camp and has been out for the first month of the season, is set to come back Tuesday night.

Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the story and it has since been confirmed by NBC Sports Chicago.

Markkanen practiced on Tuesday with the team, but coach Fred Hoiberg had said he was still about a week away, which is why Saturday’s announcement was a surprise.

Markkanen averaged 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds a game last season as a rookie, and he made the NBA All-Rookie First Team. More than just points, Markkanen can stretch the floor and provide spacing for the attacks of Zach LaVine and others.

It will take some time to adjust with Markkanen back in the lineup, but in a building season for the Bulls it’s just about their star young big developing some chemistry with their other young players through the rest of this season.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg doesn’t sound pleased with Zach LaVine’s final-shot selection

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Zach LaVine has been good for the Bulls this season, including in the clutch.

Not last night, though.

LaVine missed his last five shots – including the game-winning attempt with just a few seconds remaining – in Chicago’s 108-107 loss to the Spurs. On that final shot, LaVine waved off a Wendell Carter Jr. screen to isolate then jacked a deep jumper.

LaVine is talented enough to make that shot. He’ll receive a ton of credit when he does. But he can generate more efficient looks – for himself or teammates – rather than settling for a long contested jumper. He’s a Most Improved Player candidate, maybe even the frontrunner, because he has done a much better job attacking the rim.

The Bulls are 5-16. LaVine can work through these issues out of the spotlight with only minimal scrutiny. But Chicago envisions eventually playing pivotal games with the ball in his hands in crunch time, and it’d help if he handled that better.