Fred Hoiberg

Bulls’ Paxson Talks Roster, Hoiberg, Lopez, Draft

With the Bulls’ 2017/18 season officially over, executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson spoke today to reporters about a handful of topics in his end-of-season press conference. Notably, while Paxson called the coming offseason “as important a summer as we’ve had in a long time,” he said he expects the majority of the current roster to be back, since the team is “headed in the right direction” (Twitter link via K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune).

The Bulls don’t have any unrestricted free agents on the roster, and none of their players have the ability to opt out this summer, so Paxson’s comments about roster continuity don’t come as a surprise. The most important free agent decisions for the Bulls figure to come in restricted free agency — Zach LaVine, David Nwaba, and Noah Vonleh can all become RFAs.

Let’s round up a few more of Paxson’s noteworthy comments from today’s presser:

  • Head coach Fred Hoiberg will “absolutely” be back with the Bulls next season, per Paxson (Twitter link via Johnson). Unlike fellow Eastern lottery coaches Frank Vogel and Jeff Hornacek, Hoiberg was always considered very likely to return, but Paxson’s public confirmation makes it official.
  • Although Robin Lopez doesn’t necessarily fit the development timeline of core pieces like Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, and LaVine, the Bulls continue to talk about him as a potential fixture. Paxson said today that the veteran center is “an important part of our future” (Twitter link via Johnson). Lopez is under contract for one more year at a cost of about $14.36MM, so it’s not clear if Chicago envisions keeping him beyond the summer of 2019.
  • After finishing in a tie for the sixth spot in the lottery standings, the Bulls are assured of a top-10 pick in the 2018 draft. Paxson said today that the club may target a wing with that lottery selection. “That would be an ideal spot,” Paxson said, per Johnson (Twitter link). “Size and length and a shooting and defensive component at the wing.” Villanova’s Mikal Bridges is one potential option who would fit that description.

Central Notes: Booker, Green, Kilpatrick, Hoiberg, LeBron

Despite playing a limited role – only 16.0 minutes per game – the Pacers believe that recently-acquired forward Trevor Booker is an important piece of Indiana’s chances come playoff time, reports Mark Montieth of Pacers.com, especially with big man Domantas Sabonis missing six of the team’s last seven games with an ankle injury.

Booker was brought in to back-up Thaddeus Young at power forward, but has filled in admirably for the Pacers while Sabonis has been out.

“He brings a physicality to the floor,” Pacers head coach Nate McMillan said. “With these injuries and teams playing smaller fives, we’ve had to play him there some, and he’s done a good job for us. It allows us to make adjustments. He’s a power forward, but he plays bigger than that.”

“He’s a hard-nosed guy who’s going to go out and rebound the basketball,” says Young, the Pacers’ starting power forward who Booker backs up. “He has the ability to score on the block. To make a few jumpers here and there — not consistently, but he gives us the energy and the poise and the passion that we need. When he’s stepping out there with that second unit he does a really good job of carving out space and putting guys in the right place.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Jeff Green has been starting for the Cavaliers lately while the team has been dealing with injuries to Kevin LoveLarry Nance Jr., and Tristan Thompson, but Joe Vardon of The Plain Dealer wonders whether he has a place in the lineup once playoff time comes and the bench shortens.
  • Despite recently receiving a three-year, $6.2MM contract from the Bulls, guard Sean Kilpatrick still views every game in the NBA as an audition, writes Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “That’s how I looked at things, and that’s how I viewed things since I got into this league, and that’s why I think I’ve had some type of success in that area.” Kilpatrick said.
  • It appears as though the Bulls plan on keeping head coach Fred Hoiberg around for a fourth season, Cowley opines in another pieceI’ve gotten unbelievable support from everybody throughout the year, going back to what I thought was a great offseason and training camp,” Hoiberg said.
  • The Rockets’ James Harden is far and away the favorite to win MVP this season, but he wouldn’t get a vote from Cavaliers‘ superstar LeBron James, reports Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Asked who he’d vote for, James unabashedly said himself. “I would vote for me. The body of work, how I’m doing it, what’s been happening with our team all year long, how we’ve got so many injuries and things of that nature, guys in and out, to be able to still keep this thing afloat, I definitely would vote me.”

Bulls Notes: Payne, McDermott, Mirotic, Hoiberg

Doug McDermott‘s return to Chicago tonight as a member of the Knicks gave Bulls fans an unpleasant reminder of the Cameron Payne trade, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Payne appeared in just 11 games after being acquired from the Thunder in that five-player deal and hasn’t played at all this season as he recovers from offseason foot surgery.

Coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters tonight that an X-ray on Payne last week showed improvement, but he still isn’t able to run or cut and probably can’t play full-court games for at least six weeks. Cowley suggests it will take Payne at least a couple of weeks to get in shape after that, which pushes his return date back to sometime in mid-February.

“He came at a very difficult time last year with a veteran team, and just had his struggles,” Hoiberg said. “At the same time we’re competing for a playoff spot and it’s a tough time to come in and make an impact. For Cam, the big thing is to stay positive through this stretch, and to get him back and have some positive moments for us when we’re going down the stretch.’’

There’s more tonight from Chicago:

  • McDermott was surprised by the trade that sent him to Oklahoma City at last season’s deadline, tweets K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. He was in the middle of his most productive season, averaging 10.2 points and 3.0 rebounds per game, when the deal occurred. “It was hard leaving because of all the people I liked here,” he said. “But I wish them the best. It was a great organization to play for.”
  • Now that Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis have put aside hard feelings over their preseason altercation, they should expect to remain teammates for the rest the season, Johnson writes in a mailbag column. The Bulls found a “non-existent” trade market for both players after Mirotic threatened not to return to the team unless Portis was dealt. The Bulls also found no interest in Mirotic when they shopped him prior to last year’s deadline, and no other organization offered him a significant deal as a restricted free agent this summer.
  • Rumors about Hoiberg’s firing have persisted almost from the time he became the Bulls’ head coach, but he is safe for this season, Johnson adds in the same piece. The front office likes how he has handled a collection of young talent, and he has done better with assigning roles and holding players accountable for their performance. Hoiberg has two more seasons left on his contract.

Bulls Notes: Mirotic, Portis, Butler, LaVine

The lingering tension between Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis continues to loom over the Bulls, with the team finding it harder than ever to support both players. As K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune details, Mirotic remains upset about the situation, particularly since he’s still recovering from the injuries he sustained when he was punched by Portis, who has returned to the court following his eight-game suspension. Mirotic’s camp has made it clear to the Bulls that he doesn’t feel like he and Portis can coexist going forward, Johnson notes.

Portis seems more willing to bury the hatchet, suggesting on Tuesday that he wants to “let bygones be bygones.” Although Portis is aware of the reported ultimatum from Mirotic’s camp, he recognizes that the team’s decision on whether to trade one player or the other is out of his control, as Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times details.

“I want to rekindle our relationship, try as best as possible, but I don’t control that right now,” Portis said. “I’m here to play basketball.”

In a separate report, Cowley suggests that the Bulls’ locker room seems to favor Portis over Mirotic, citing two players on the team who say that the ultimatum from Mirotic’s side is carrying “zero weight.” Reports out of Chicago since the incident last month have indicated that members of the Bulls believe Mirotic is partially to blame for the altercation with Portis, and it sounds as if at least a couple of his teammates believe Mirotic needs to move past it. “This is Niko’s problem now,” one Bull told Cowley.

As we wait to see how the Bulls handle the situation, let’s round up a few more notes out of Chicago…

  • Jimmy Butler admitted to Sam Alipour of ESPN The Magazine that he felt like the Bulls would eventually move on from either him or Fred Hoiberg, and wasn’t surprised by their decision. “I said from the beginning it was either gonna be me or the Fred Hoiberg route,” Butler said. “And rightfully so, they took Fred. Good for them.”
  • While he’s happy with how things turned out, Butler is also looking forward to his first game against the Bulls, as he tells Alipour: “I got that game marked on my calendar. February 9, baby — I’m back. Oh, man, they better hope I go 0-for-30, ’cause every basket I score, I’m looking over at the bench and I got something to say.”
  • Barring any setbacks, Bulls guard Zach LaVine is on track to begin taking contact in about two weeks, Cowley writes for The Sun-Times. LaVine, who continues to recover from last year’s ACL injury, hopes to return to action within the next month or two.

Bulls Notes: Wade, Hoiberg, Forman, Dunn

Dwyane Wade hasn’t contacted the Bulls’ front office about his desire for a buyout and is hoping the team makes the first move, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Wade made his feelings clear that he doesn’t want to be part of a rebuilding project after Chicago traded Jimmy Butler to Minnesota in June. However, he is reluctant to give up much of the $23.8MM salary for the upcoming season that he opted into and apparently believes he can get a better deal if Bulls management takes the initiative on buyout talks.

A recent report said Wade hasn’t been in contact with anyone from the front office since the Butler deal and that he felt misled because he was given assurances that the Bulls would try to remain competitive before he opted in. At 35, Wade is by far the oldest and most expensive player on Chicago’s roster and he clearly doesn’t fit the team’s youth movement. How far each side is willing to continue before buyout talks begin will be among the most interesting storylines of the new season.

Cowley shares more information out of Chicago:

  • Expectations will be different for coach Fred Hoiberg with the revamped roster, but he still has to show progress to keep his job. Hoiberg has been under fire from fans and the media since coming to Chicago two years ago and was publicly criticized by Butler early in his first season. Cowley calls it “sink-or-swim time” for Hoiberg, who has to turn a young roster into the type of team he envisioned when he was hired.
  • GM Gar Forman’s fate is probably tied to Hoiberg’s, Cowley adds. Forman, who made the decision to bring Hoiberg out of the college ranks, is already unpopular with Bulls’ fans, some of whom paid to put up a billboard in July calling for the firing of him and president of basketball operations John Paxson.
  • Kris Dunn, part of the package acquired in exchange for Butler, has an open path toward being the starting point guard. The fifth pick of the 2016 draft, Dunn had a disappointing rookie season in Minnesota, but the Bulls have no obvious successor to Rajon Rondo.
  • The Bulls are happy with what they have seen from first-round pick Lauri Markkanen during summer league and EuroBasket. The seventh overall selection will be “a key foundation piece” of the rebuild.
  • Robin Lopez is the team’s most valuable trade commodity and seems likely to be moved during the season. The 29-year-old center averaged 10.4 points and 6.4 rebounds in his first season with the Bulls after being acquired in a deal with the Knicks.

Northwest Notes: Butler, Hernangomez, Lillard

A comprehensive feature on Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler has shed some light on how the 30th overall draft pick has changed over the course of his ascent to stardom. Michael Pina of Vice Sports spent a day with the swingman, who describes himself as a difficult person to be around.

This season Butler has been reunited with former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, the man at the helm in Chicago when Butler evolved from a fringe roster player to a key rotation piece into a star. For the last two years, however, Butler played under a different coach.

I’m confrontational. I feed off of confrontation. It makes me go,” Butler said. “Not everybody’s like that. [Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg] is not that coach, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There are different coaching styles and people are gonna say—which is what they did say—’It’s gonna be Jimmy’s team or it’s gonna be Fred’s team.’ Two total opposite ends of the spectrum.

Be sure to check out the long-read for fresh perspective on the Timberwolves guard’s backstory and mentality heading forward.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division tonight:

Lowe’s Latest: Butler, Nuggets, Wolves, Ibaka

Before they accepted the Timberwolves‘ offer for Jimmy Butler, the Bulls canvassed the league in search of a more appealing offer, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN.com.

Lowe writes in his latest piece for ESPN that the Bulls spoke to the Suns about a package centered around Eric Bledsoe and the No. 4 overall pick, but the two sides never really got close. Chicago also had discussions with the Nuggets and Celtics, but Denver drew the line at including Jamal Murray in any potential deal, and Boston wouldn’t include the No. 3 pick, according to Lowe.

As Lowe notes, teams like the Suns and Nuggets had to consider the fact that Butler may not have re-signed with them in free agency in 2019 if they acquired him. Although Butler’s contract would give teams an extra year of control over someone like Paul George, the star forward might still have ultimately been a rental if he didn’t love where he ended up. That cooled the market somewhat, as the Bulls explored potential trade scenarios.

Here’s more from Lowe’s latest piece:

  • The Bulls were never entirely comfortable with the idea of Butler as their foundational player, says Lowe. A source tells ESPN that Butler’s bristling at Fred Hoiberg‘s instructions made some people on the team uncomfortable. Lowe suggests that Hoiberg’s calm personality wasn’t a good match for Butler, who requires a coach more like Tom Thibodeau.
  • At one point, the Timberwolves were intrigued by the possibility of pursuing Serge Ibaka in free agency, but their interest “has faded a bit,” according to Lowe, who adds that most teams expect Ibaka to re-sign with the Raptors.
  • The Lakers were dangling a future unprotected first-round pick to teams with cap room recently in an effort to move the Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng contracts, per Lowe. The earliest first-round pick the Lakers could trade at this point is 2020’s selection, so it’s understandable that D’Angelo Russell appealed more to the Nets than a pick that far down the road.

Bulls Becoming More Open To Jimmy Butler Trade

8:32pm: Butler’s preference to remain in Chicago has been made clear to the Bulls’ front office in addition to the Cavs, per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today adds (via Twitter) that a trade between Chicago and Cleveland appears unlikely at this point. Still, Johnson tweets that the Bulls remain active in Butler talks.

7:28pm: The Cavaliers have been notified that Butler would like to stay with the Bulls and would be reluctant to commit to a long-term future in Cleveland, sources tell Marc Stein of ESPN.com. If the Cavs are able to complete a deal for Butler, I imagine they’d do so without a long-term commitment from the forward, but his desire to remain in Chicago is still a factor they’ll have to consider.

4:33pm: Just one day after Bulls sources suggested that the team likely wouldn’t move Jimmy Butler this week, the odds of a trade appear to be increasing. The Bulls have typically just been willing to listen on Butler inquiries to gauge his value, but they’re now making outgoing calls to teams about the star forward, according to Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com.

According to Goodwill, the Celtics and Cavaliers are the frontrunners to land Butler if a deal gets done this week. The Suns have been “doing due diligence,” league sources tell Goodwill. The Nuggets were somewhat involved on Butler at the trade deadline, per CSN’s report, though it’s not clear if they’re jumping into the fray this time around. The Timberwolves were also mentioned on Monday as a possible trade partner for Chicago.

Butler has publicly expressed a desire to remain in Chicago, but Goodwill writes that the relationship between the All-NBA forward and head coach Fred Hoiberg hasn’t been “fruitful,” which is one reason the Bulls appear to be legitimately considering moving Butler. Goodwill also suggests that the club may be reluctant to pay Butler a super-max Designated Veteran Extension if he becomes eligible for one next summer.

According to Goodwill, the Bulls were “rebuffed” on an offer to the Celtics for the No. 3 overall pick, straight up. I would expect Chicago to be seeking more than just that one pick in return for Butler, so if that’s true, it’s a surprise. Goodwill adds that bringing the Cavs to the negotiating table figures to increase the quality of the offers for Butler.

An earlier report indicated that the Cavs were attempting earlier this week to work out a three-team Butler trade that would see a third team receive Kevin Love, with a high lottery pick going from that club to the Bulls.

Although the Suns were believed to be the third team in that scenario, and John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 confirms (via Twitter) that the Cavs had interest in Phoenix’s No. 4 pick, Gambadoro says those discussions didn’t involve Love (Twitter link). While that may be true, it would be virtually impossible for the Cavs to pry away a top-five pick for the Bulls without using Love, so I have to think he’d be involved somehow.

Those Butler discussions with the Cavs took place before GM David Griffin departed from the franchise. However, according to Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com, Griffin left behind the framework for possible deals involving Butler or Paul George, so owner Dan Gilbert and assistant GM Koby Altman – essentially the Cavs’ acting GM – could continue to work on those deals.

Fred Hoiberg Has “No Interest” In Ohio State Job

Fred Hoiberg was linked to the recently vacated Ohio State heading coach job, but sources tell Vincent Goodwill of Comcast Sportsnet that the coach has “no interest” in the position.

Hoiberg previously spent five seasons as the head coach at Iowa State and it would seem natural to connect the dots between him and a major opening, such as the one at Ohio State. However, it appears he wants to remain with the Bulls, a franchise with which he’s under contract for the next three seasons.

Bulls executive John Paxson said that the team wants Hoiberg back during an end-of-season press conference. Hoiberg wasn’t able to take Chicago past the first-round of this year’s playoffs, but Paxson believes that has more to do with a lack of shooting than it does with the coach.

Fred Hoiberg Emerging As Serious Candidate For Ohio State Job

Ohio State recently let go longtime coach Thad Matta and Gary Parrish of CBS Sports tweets that Fred Hoiberg is emerging as a serious candidate for the opening.

Hoiberg joined the Bulls’ sideline on a five-year deal during the 2015 offseason and the results have varied. He owns a record of 83-81 with the club, making the playoffs for the first time during this past season.

Earlier in the season, it appeared Hoiberg was losing the team. He clashed with Rajon Rondo, and other veterans, such as Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade, were reportedly tuning him out. However, after Chicago lost the final four games of its series with Boston, the veterans appeared to support their coach with Wade publicly standing up for his coach.

I definitely believe [Hoiberg] got better throughout this year,” Wade said in response to fans calling for Hoiberg to be fired. “And I think you have more a grasp moving forward with what he wants to do with this team. You have to give people a chance.’’

Hoiberg coached in the college ranks from 2010 until 2015 at Iowa State University. He compiled a record of 115-56 during his time at the program.