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What was learned from Fred Hoiberg on opening night?

The return of second-chance points: You only get one chance to make a first impression, and Fred Hoiberg made his a likable one.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

In last night's 97-95 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, Fred Hoiberg's head coaching debut for the Chicago Bulls was a smashing success. Let's just get that out of the way from the start. Aside from some periphery noise here-and-there, the national and local media focus this offseason pretty much all drew back to Hoiberg-centric storylines. And for good reason, right? The Bulls brought back a nearly identical roster this season. And in doing so, they've implied that Hoiberg's touch can lift the team to new heights. After one game, obviously the jury still needs a lot more time to deliberate. But hey, it's a solid step in the right direction.

But, let's be real for a second: last night meant nothing to Cleveland in the grand scheme of things. We'll talk more directly about Cleveland down the road, I'm sure.

At this point in time, though, I realize reactions can be prone to coming off fairly rash if they're wrapped up in the present. Basically, I'm operating under the assumption that a lot can change between now and May in the NBA calendar because a lot does change from October to May for NBA teams. After all, there's still 81 more games to go! But with that being said and implicitly understood, there's still value in documenting some of the major takeaways from last night.

1. Fred Hoiberg's rotations, substitutions and minutes management

This, to me, was perhaps the most noticeable aspect of Hoiberg's debut. Hoiberg wasn't shy to dig into his bench early and often. Only three starters -- Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler and Pau Gasol -- played 30 or more minutes. All five bench players used saw between 14 (on the low end) and 22 (on the high end) minutes. With little idea as to what Hoiberg's rotation will actually look like, I thought the minutes allocation was handled evenly.

Hoiberg mixed-and-matched frontcourt pairings all night. As expected, we saw Gasol and Nikola Mirotic to start. The historically good tandem of Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson were used as reserves. Last year's starting duo of Noah and Gasol made an appearance. Hoiberg even attempted to close with Gibson and Mirotic, and that pairing would've closed had Gibson not fouled out.

I especially liked Hoiberg showing an early trust in E'Twaun Moore, too. To be sure, Moore's strong preseason showing didn't go for naught. And hell, Kirk Hinrich being on the receiving end of a Did Not Play, Coach's Decision is reason enough to celebrate.

But all in all, I left last night's game encouraged by Hoiberg's in-game decision making. Hopefully it continues.

2. The offense wasn't ground-breaking, but it sure was refreshing

To be honest, I wasn't blown away by the ball movement last night. The team finished with just 13 assists, and that probably won't cut it on most nights. I did, however, think the Bulls did an excellent job getting the ball up the court quickly. Initiating the offense with 20 seconds still on the shot clock can make a world of difference, and it seems Hoiberg's keen on utilizing pace as a weapon.

Sure, there were plenty of moments where the Bulls looked like a team trying to figure out a new offense on the fly. For example, getting Gasol involved seemed more like a chore than a necessary action. Gasol's offensive impact was virtually nonexistent last night. And Rose -- while he played ultra aggressive, which was excellent -- could probably stand to do a little more setting up his teammates, but I'll sure as hell live with 2 of his 22 shots being 3s.

In general, mistakes were expected. But giving the players more freedom on offense means they're going to have to learn through their mistakes. At least, I hope that's how Hoiberg views it.

At any rate, the offense definitely had its moments. This secondary break / delayed fast break ignited by a ball-handling Niko Mirotic was a thing of beauty:

Man, Derrick Rose sure can make basketball look pretty sometimes.

And then there was this second half possession coming off Cleveland free throws. I'm going to assume this play was preordained, which doesn't make it any less wonderful. Disregard the result, though. Obviously a Gasol runner halfway up the free throw lane isn't an ideal shot. The important thing to note is how the Bulls took advantage of a cheating Kevin Love with this crisp backdoor action:

3. Defensively, give it some time and don't panic yet

Yes, Gasol's block on LeBron James on the game's final possession was awesome. But it doesn't really mask the bad / strange game he had. To me, Pau often appeared to be winded. He gave up far too many offensive rebounds by simply not engaging a body, and he was his usual self in pick-and-roll defense, which is to be expected at this point. I can't really get mad at Pau for being old and slow. It's who he is.

The good news is that Butler, when he wants to be, is still one of the best defenders in the world. He's one of about three players who can matchup with LeBron.

The less good news is that this happened:

Why, yes, that is all five Bulls defenders standing within a foot of Richard Jefferson. To be fair, this was a bit of a broken play, but there should be more discipline here. Bottom line. E'Twaun Moore guarded no one in particular basically this entire possession. Brooks is leaving Mo Williams for no apparent reason. McDermott, well, his man is the 35-year-old Jefferson -- who blew right by Dougie. This was an ugly, ugly possession.

4. Hey, LeBron's still pretty good

I know what website I'm writing for here, but dammit, effortless-yet-ridiculously-hard plays like this from LeBron will not go under-appreciated on my watch. I mean, this is so freaking good. I've said plenty of times in the past that Derrick Rose is one of maybe a handful of guys who can make a pass like this. But yet, folks get upset when Rose will jump pass because they notice the turnovers, but passes like this get overlooked. In reality, this pass doesn't get made by most ball handlers. It's that unique blend of athleticism and vision which only few players are blessed with:

5. The youngins looked good!

Nikola Mirotic led the team in scoring and was efficient in doing so. Mirotic, quite clearly, is a devastating offensive playmaker when his shot is falling like it was last night. Tony Snell shot the ball without reservation, even after having two or three of his jumpers go about halfway down before rimming out. In fact, in the second quarter Snell had missed two straight 3s in about a 30-second window, but he didn't hesitate to shoot another wide open look on the following possession, which he drained. Then there's McDermott who had a sweet step-back corner 3, and overall played within the flow of the game, which is significant for Doug. If the Bulls plan on going places this season, they'll need to see these three continue to grow.