[Welcome to new BaB contributor Jacob Bikshorn, who’s joining us this season at BaB after being at DRosesAndThorns the past few years -yfbb]
The biggest omission from our Bingo card was a reminder that the 2015-16 Chicago Bulls went 7-1 against the top two teams in the conference last season. It was uttered by Fred Hoiberg, unprompted, when he met with reporters Monday afternoon as a part of the Bulls 2016 Media Day. The point was made to as part of a larger overall message from both the coach and front office: that the team must play with consistent intensity night in and night out.
“Professionalism and accountability, that’s the theme” said Bulls Vice President of Operations John Paxson as he sat alongside Gar Forman to kick off the festivities. The two front office bosses harped on the importance of “culture” several times during their time, and made their case that the huge roster overhaul this summer would yield a healthier locker room.
Fred Hoiberg took some responsibility for the up and down effort displayed last season. The second year head coach acknowledged that, like the youngsters on the roster, he must improve as he settles into his second season of NBA coaching. “The biggest thing I have to improve upon is to get our team to play more consistently” the coach said when asked about his development as head coach.
Hoiberg specifically sited a need to communicate better on defense, get back in transition, and clean up the defensive glass.
The tone of most teams is set by the veterans, and the Bulls believe they have a group of experienced players who can show the young core what it takes to succeed at the highest level. Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol have been replaced by Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo and Robin Lopez, veterans who have had immense success in their careers and understand the importance of knowing your role. After a year of questions about who the leader of the team was, Jimmy Butler finally has sole possession of top dog.
In perhaps the most honest moment of the day, Jimmy Butler admitted he was excited about all the new faces in the locker room. After fighting rumors that he had changed after receiving a contract extension, the Tomball native is relieved to lead a roster of players who only know Butler as the All-Star performer he’s worked himself into. More importantly, Butler sees himself as someone who will inspire his younger teammates to work as hard as they possibly can.
While much of the attention of the offseason has been on the new veteran additions, this team will only succeed if the young core takes big steps throughout the season. The overlapping skill sets of the #ThreeAlphas will allow Doug McDermott, Denzel Valentine and Nikola Mirotic plenty of opportunities to spot up for threes. Whether or not those players can make progress in the other facets of their game will determine the fate of the Bulls this season.
There is reason to be optimistic about the future of the organization. Those young players will hopefully soak up as much as they can from Wade and Rondo. And while both big free agent acquisitions could leave after a year, Gar Forman and John Paxson are banking on the wisdom they impart this season having an impact that creates a winning culture for years to come.