From NBA.com staff reports
The Chicago Bulls are picking up the pieces from a 2015-16 season that saw them miss the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons. Before last season began, the Bulls changed coaches, bringing in Fred Hoiberg in an effort pump up the team’s offensive output in hopes of furthering Chicago’s championship hopes.
That didn’t exactly happen, though, as the Bulls’ offensive rating actually fell from 104.7 to 102.1 last season. Aside from those scoring woes, a problem that crept into the mix around Christmas was when star swingman Jimmy Butler called Hoiberg’s coaching into question, saying Hoiberg needed to “coach better.”
As the Bulls introduced their new rookie, Denzel Valentine, to the media yesterday, Hoiberg said he and Butler are not on shaky ground and that he is confident in his relationship with the All-Star. K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune has more:
Fred Hoiberg didn’t need to fly four hours to come up with his three-word answer to the question of whether he can coach Jimmy Butler.
“Absolutely I can,” Hoiberg said Monday.
But Hoiberg’s trip two weeks ago to meet with Butler and other players using Los Angeles as their offseason base — Tony Snell and Taj Gibson — continued to develop a relationship that was called into question last season. That’s when Butler claimed Hoiberg needed to “coach harder.”
At last month’s draft lottery, Butler said his relationship with Hoiberg had grown.
“Jimmy and I have pretty much been in constant communication since the season’s been over,” Hoiberg said. “He’s in a great frame of mind right now.”
“The biggest thing with our group is we need to play more consistent basketball next year,” Hoiberg said. “You go 7-1 against Toronto and Cleveland and 17-13 against the West and find ourselves out of the playoffs. That can’t happen. That’s what I talked about to Jimmy and all of our players.”
Hoiberg said Butler plans to visit with the Bulls’ summer-league team in Las Vegas when he’s there to train with Team USA, which officially named Butler an Olympian on Monday.
For his part, first-round pick Denzel Valentine said he is excited to play with Butler. Valentine said Butler texted him congratulations after the draft.
“He’s tough,” Valentine said. “He’s not afraid to compete and get after that. I really like that. He’s really developed his offensive game. If you pass him the ball, he’s going to get a bucket. Playing with players like that, I get more assists.”