Posts Tagged ‘Tom Thibodeau’

The Value of Ice

VIDEO: GameTime: The top training camp questions around the league.

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — If you watched any Chicago Bulls game over the last five years with the TV volume on, you heard Tom Thibodeau screaming his favorite word over and over again.

“Ice! Ice! Ice!” was the call whenever the Bulls’ opponent ran a pick-and-roll on the side of the floor, instructing the ball-handler’s defender to keep his man from dribbling toward the middle by almost defending him sideways.

Here’s Derrick Rose “icing” a Dallas side pick-and-roll, trying to direct Devin Harris toward the baseline. Other teams call this “downing” a pick-and-roll.


Thibodeau believed that, if his defense could keep the ball on the side of the floor, it was more likely to get a stop. And the numbers back him up.

SportVU tracks every pick-and-roll, no matter when it happens in a possession. It knows where the pick-and-roll happened, what direction the ball-handler went, and what happened afterward.

Data from last season tells us that pick-and-rolls that start on the side of the floor and go toward the middle yield more points per possession than those that stay on the side or those that start in the middle.


So the value of “Ice” is more than 2 1/2 points per 100 possessions, the difference between being an elite defense and being an average one.

A pick-and-roll is generally not designed to get the ball-handler a shot. No matter where a pick-and-roll occurs or in what direction it goes, the ball-handler passes the ball about 2/3 of the time and scores about 1/4 of his team’s points on those possessions.

But he’s a little more likely to hold on to the ball when he stays on the side of the floor than when he goes to the middle. If he gets to the middle of the floor, all four teammates are one pass away. If he stays on the side, some passes are more difficult (or impossible) to make.

And when the ball-handler does shoot the ball off a side pick-and-roll, he shoots worse and shoots fewer 3-pointers when he goes toward the middle of the floor.


Those shooting numbers are pretty bad – Dion Waiters territory – either way. Good shooting on pick-and-roll possessions comes after a pass. And there are more passes available from the middle of the floor than from the side.

Fairly simple stuff, but it’s the basis for the way a lot of teams defend the floor.

Not surprisingly, the Bulls were the best team in the league at keeping side pick-and-rolls on the side last season. Those “Ice! Ice! Ice!” calls are hard to ignore, apparently.


The five teams above were all above-average defensive teams. There is a correlation between defensive efficiency and keeping pick-and-rolls on the side of the floor in last season’s numbers.

Thibodeau was fired by the Bulls in May, of course. New coach Fred Hoiberg is expected to bring more offensive creativity to the Bulls, but changes on defense could be just as important. Those “Ice! Ice! Ice!” calls might not be missed by those of us watching Bulls games, but the lack of them could make Chicago a worse defensive team.

The anti-Bulls were the Toronto Raptors, who allowed side pick-and-rolls to get to the middle more than twice as often as Chicago did last season.


All of the five teams above were below-average defensive teams. Four of the five (all except the Heat) ranked in the bottom 10 in defensive efficiency.

Here’s DeMar DeRozan squaring up on Monta Ellis as Dirk Nowitzki comes over to set the screen…


Patrick Patterson is hedging the screen to keep Ellis from getting into the paint on a straight line, but isn’t necessarily directing Ellis toward the side like downing a screen does.

The Raptors didn’t down screen two seasons ago, when they ranked ninth in defensive efficiency. But their defense fell apart last season, they went from top 10 to bottom 10, and they couldn’t stop John Wall and the Wizards in the playoffs.

Here’s Wall getting into the middle of the floor on a side pick-and-roll and finding Marcin Gortat for a layup. He also had the option of hitting Bradley Beal in the opposite corner.

The additions of DeMarre Carroll and Cory Joseph will certainly help the Raptors’ defense this season, no matter how coach Dwane Casey wants them to defend side pick-and-rolls. But a change in scheme could also be in order.

Of course, keeping the ball on the side of the floor is a lot easier said than done. First, the big defender has to let his teammate know that the screen is coming.

The real work starts with the guy guarding the ball, who has to put himself between his man and the screener. If he’s just a little late in doing that, his man will get to the middle of the floor, he’ll get caught up in the screen, and the screener’s defender won’t be in position to cut off the paint.

If the ball-handler’s defender is successful in downing the screen, there’s still pressure on the big defender to cut off the paint. According to SportVU, side pick-and-rolls that stay on the side result in a drive by the ball-handler more often (19 percent of the time) than those that go toward the middle (15 percent).

And once he does, he has some work to do to get back and challenge a pick-and-pop jumper if the screener was Dirk Nowitzki or Chris Bosh.

Here’s Dennis Schroder downing a screen and Mike Muscala cutting off the paint, leaving Nikola Mirotic (who never set much of a screen) wide open.




That’s why offenses that can put four shooters on the floor are generally better than those that can’t. But the only pass that E’Twaun Moore could have made on that play was to Mirotic, and the Hawks could have been quicker with help from the weak side, preventing such a wide open shot.

Defending the whole floor for 24 seconds is hard work, no matter what scheme you employ. But the numbers say that it’s better to push that screen toward the baseline, which is what most good defenses do.

Morning shootaround — Sept. 27

VIDEO: Boston Celtics media day


Jared Sullinger gets fitness tips from Lucas | John Wall won’t be shy about approaching Kevin Durant | Hassan Whiteside doesn’t want to be a one hit wonder | David Lee has a ring, now wants respect in Boston

No. 1: Jared Sullinger gets fitness tips from John Lucas — The one theme you hear every year around this time is “so and so has lost x-amount of weight.” It’s usually met with a ho-hum, although in certain situations, a drastic fitness shakeup is a rather big deal. Al Jefferson of the Hornets recently revealed he has given up fried chicken which allowed him to drop pounds, and now here comes Jared Sullinger and his weight-loss pledge. Although, in this case, it comes with a twist: He was whipped into shape by John Lucas. Sullinger is at a crossroads in his young NBA career; better fitness could make him see a breakthrough season. Here is Chris Mason of the Boston Herald with the details …

Sullinger’s weight has been a talking point since the Celtics drafted him three years ago, and it came to a head last season when he was reportedly tipping the scales at 300 pounds. The C’s want to see their 6-foot-9 forward around 260. For Sullinger to stay in green, something had to change. His family and Lucas saw that.

“(Lucas) personally came down and he told me ‘ you’ve got all the talent in the world, but you’ve forgotten what working hard is,'” Sullinger said. “For somebody to come all the way from Houston to Colombus Ohio, to stop whatever he was doing, he was there for me, and that’s what made me go and workout for John.”

Lucas is no stranger to interventions. The former Houston Rocket almost lost his entire career to drugs.

While he was in the NBA, Lucas was an alcoholic and a drug addict. In 1986, the guard tested positive for cocaine, and was released by the Rockets after a decade in the league. Lucas volunteered to go to rehab, straightened his life out, and now helps other basketball players do the same.

Sullinger doesn’t have a problem with drugs, but he’s had his career threatened by his weight.

“I think John’s biggest thing, with everything he went through – being the first NBA player to be kicked out of the NBA (for) drugs – I think John’s biggest focus was to not let me make the mistake. Sometimes, it’s not always drugs, it can be other things,” Sullinger said. “And he wanted to just clear my mind and understand that I could be whoever I want to be, I’ve just got to make the right choices.”

Sullinger was sold.

He went to Houston to workout with Lucas four different times in the offseason, for a total of eleven weeks. Sullinger was put through a series of unorthodox basketball workouts, and his exercising was coupled with a strict diet.

“I went from boxing, to swimming, to on the court basketball, to running track. I did so many other sports – other than basketball – there was one point where I was down in August for two weeks and I didn’t touch a basketball. He wouldn’t let me be on the basketball court and we just got in shape other ways,” Sullinger said.


No. 2: John Wall won’t be shy about approaching Kevin Durant — OK, take a wild guess about who will be subject to a Free-Agent Watch this season? Yes, it’s Kevin Durant and the obvious choice, besides OKC, competing for his services is the hometown Wizards. Durant learned the game in the DC suburbs and makes no secret of his love for his home base. Besides, the Wizards will have enough cap room next summer and they have John Wall, who’d be a capable replacement for Russell Westbrook should Durant bolt OKC. The odds have Durant staying put, but if so, it won’t be because Wall didn’t try to convince him. CSN spoke with Wall on a video story; here’s a snippet …

“There’s gonna be an opportunity to throw a pitch at him to try and get him to come back home,” Wall said. “But knowing him he’s really going to be focused on taking care of Oklahoma City this season, and I’m going to be focused on taking care of the Washington Wizards.

“When the time is right and he can get away from all that, we’ll probably have some conversation and throw a pitch.”


Rather than reveal the rest, take a few seconds and listen for yourself.


No. 3: Hassan Whiteside doesn’t want to be a one-hit wonder — What can a surprise performer do for an encore? We’ll all be watching and wondering about Hassan Whiteside, the journeyman big man who came out of nowhere to bolster the Heat in the wake of LeBron James‘ departure. There will be lots on the line for Whiteside, most notably money; he can cash in big time next summer, when he’ll be a free agent and the salary cap will rise. Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel spoke with him…

By now, we all know the story. Last year Whiteside rose from D-League reject to the talk of the NBA. After being out of the league, he captivated the media by sharing tales of growing tired of eating rice while playing in China and witnessing car-bombings in Lebanon.

He endured these sometimes-uncomfortable experiences abroad, and spent time in Sioux Falls, S.D., and Des Moines, Iowa, before earning another shot in the NBA. And Whiteside took advantage of the Heat’s gamble by averaging 11.8 points and 10 rebounds in 48 games.

As he prepares for an encore performance, Whiteside will no longer have the surprise element. No more playful stories about his unlikely path here. No more candid talk about his rating on the NBA 2K video game.

All everyone is focused on is whether he can produce All-Star numbers, a situation Whiteside is comfortable with.

“There’s never any pressure on me,” Whiteside said. “There were people who never believed in me anyway, so I don’t expect you to start believing in me now.”

The 7-foot Whiteside sounds as if he’s spent the summer listening to uplifting Journey songs on repeat. He expects the success “goes on and on, and on, and on.” A year older, his boyish attributes evident when he arrived last December are long gone. His shoulders are less like a clothes hanger and more like Dwight Howard.

Most days, he’s worked out twice daily at AmericanAirlines Arena. Some of it is fine-tuning. Some of it is adding new dimensions he hopes will surprise competitors.


No. 4: David Lee has a ring, now wants respect in Boston — After grabbing a championship ring in Golden State, where his role was reduced with the emergence of Draymond Green, David Lee is looking for a recharge in Boston. It wasn’t too long ago when Lee was a double-double guy who could get 25 points or 15 rebounds on any given night. He still believes he’s that type of player, and recently spoke with Chris Forsberg of

The Celtics believe that Lee, acquired this offseason in a swap with the Golden State Warriors, can help a young and impressionable team take a step forward in large part because of his NBA experiences, particularly after winning a title last season.

“I don’t think David wants to think of himself as old, because he’s not — he’s still a young guy in a lot of ways,” said Stevens. “But I think that, any time you have guys that have seen it and been there, I think what they can share is important. And the challenge is being able to share that within what you’re doing because he’s got a transition to make with regard to learning me and learning how we’re trying to play and learning our guys that he’s playing with and everything else. I think he’ll make that transition smoothly. He’s a really bright guy. And I will encourage him to be open in communicating to all those younger guys because I think that’s important.”

The Celtics are hopeful that Lee, a two-time All-Star who was averaging nearly a double-double at 18.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game just two seasons ago, can not only provide leadership but get back to being an impactful player a season after he accepted a reduced role to aid Golden State’s title hunt.

Lee moved to the Boston area a month ago to get acclimated and joined many of the team’s younger players for what he playfully called the “preseason to the preseason” with daily workouts. While Boston brought back 10 total players from last season’s squad that utilized a second-half surge to earn the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, Lee has begun trying to establish himself as a veteran leader despite learning a new system.

“I think, for me, it’s just about being myself,” said Lee. “I’ve been in the league a long time and I’ve seen a lot of things, both good and bad. And I think that I’m a guy that, a lot of times, leads by example. I’m a hard-working guy and I think that’s something that’s good for the young guys to see, when their veterans are hard-workers, because at that point they have no choice but to fall in line and do the same. For the veteran guys, it sets the tone, both in training camp and preseason as the season goes along.

“I’m just going to be myself. I think I’m a pretty likable guy and a guy that can set a good tone by my work ethic.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Hawks’ Mike Budenholzer sat for a Q&A and addressed Al Horford’s free agency next summer … Gerald Wallace waived by the Sixers … Tom Thibodeau is sitting in on Bobcats practices … the Sixers thought about chasing Jimmy Butler last summer, but didn’t.


Morning shootaround — August 3

VIDEO: Steve Smith shines a light on the offseason winners and losers


Noah active, energized this summer | Thunder coach Donovan tough as they come | Okafor has great expectations for Sixers

No. 1: Noah active, energized this summer — Change has been good for Joakim Noah. The Chicago Bulls’ All-Star big man has been active this summer and energized this summer, both in the community and where basketball is concerned. Noah feels good. His mind is clear and his focus is sharp. And as far as his new coach, Fred Hoiberg, is concerned, the vibes are good. K.C. Johnson from the Chicago Tribune has more on Noah’s big summer:

Given that Joakim Noah spoke Saturday at an anti-violence community event his foundation organized, the Bulls’ big man placed last season’s personal struggles in perspective.

“Last year was a tough year for me. I feel it was very humbling,” Noah said. “We went through a lot. Right now, I’m feeling healthy both physically and mentally. I’m really excited about our upcoming opportunity. I never take anything for granted.”

Noah, who attended Saturday’s ONE CITY youth basketball tournament at the Major Adams Community Center near the United Center with his mother and sister, has been working out this offseason in California. Recently, new coach Fred Hoiberg visited.

He’s confident his summer at a sports science academy has put the health issues he experienced last season after May 2014 left knee surgery behind him.

“I feel great,” Noah said. “This is the first time I’ve taken a lot of time for myself to just focus on what I need to get done. Sometimes when you go through humbling experiences, (you) hungrier than ever. And I feel ready to prove I can help this team win big.”

Noah said he enjoyed “vibing” with Hoiberg.

“We got to break bread together,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed talking to the coaching staff, spending time with Fred. I think it’s going to be very different.”

Asked to elaborate, Noah smiled.

“Time will tell,” he said. “But it will definitely be different. We had a lot great times with Tom Thibodeau. He’s a great coach. I learned a lot from him. I’ve experienced a lot with him. I only have good things to say about him. I’m looking forward to this new chapter in my career.”

Before the tournament, Noah and his mother, Cecilia Rodhe, unveiled his Noah’s Arc Foundation’s latest public service announcement centered on its “Rock Your Drop” movement. It’s centered on peace, unity and positive change in the face of Chicago’s rampant gun violence.

Spike Lee, Bears running back Matt Forte, “Chicago Fire” actor David Eichenberg and St. Sabina’s Rev. Michael Pfleger are some of the spot’s prominent cameos.

“‘Rock Your Drop’ is a movement that started with my mother. It has been part of my vision as a basketball player since I was a kid,” Noah said. “For it to be finally here and feel this love really means so much to me and to my family. To launch this PSA is huge. To be able to play for the Chicago Bulls is something other than just basketball. When I see people wearing their drops, it means the world to me and my mom.”

Rodhe, an artist, chiseled the small drop out of stone 18 years ago. Noah wore one on a necklace.

“We’re all one. We’ve all been given life,” Rodhe said. “It doesn’t matter where we’re from. I’m from Sweden. You may say, ‘What are you doing here, blonde lady, on the South Side of Chicago? This isn’t your problem.’ I say no. When something is as strong as gun violence and you see the pain of moms, that’s all of ours problem.”

Noah is very hands-on with his foundation. He joked about converting now-teenage kids who razzed him about Kevin Durant fans five or six years ago.

“This will be my ninth season here and I don’t take that for granted,” Noah said. “Guys move around in my profession. They get traded. To be with a team for that long is special.

“I’m working as hard as I can on the court and this is a part of what I wanted to do since I started playing basketball. This is like home. We’ve been putting in a lot of work here. This is not a gimmick. It’s for the right reasons. To be able to do all this work makes me happy.”


No. 2: Thunder coach Donovan tough as they come — Anybody wondering what kind of transition Billy Donovan will make to the NBA after years as one of the nation’s elite college coaches need only peek into his past. Donovan is as tough as they come, having honed his game and his basketball sensibilities in Queens and, later, the Big East. If Donovan’s pedigree is any indication, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and the Co. are in good hands. Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman explains:

After the Big East formed in 1979, basketball interest in the northeast spiked. The early ‘80s produced a golden age for high school point guards in NYC, meaning the 1983 Wheelchair event, the 10th annual, was a must-see edition.

That graduating class had Dwayne “Pearl” Washington, the playground legend and soon-to-be Syracuse star, and future NBA starters Kenny Smith and Mark Jackson.

But it was a sub 6-foot white kid from an affluent area of Long Island who stole the show in that showcase game. His name was Billy Donovan.

“Oh, Billy went off,” said his high school teammate, Frank Williams.

Donovan’s Queens team faced the Brooklyn squad led by Pearl Washington, the game’s headliner. Months earlier, Donovan battled Washington’s in a six-quarter high school scrimmage. Pearl had 82 points.

“We pressed the whole game and he just weaved in and out,” Donovan said. “I learned a lot.”

Donovan was a game-control point guard. Slick ball-handling was his greatest strength. Pearl was a wizard with the ball, his moves legendary. At the Wheelchair Classic, Donovan put his mental notes from the scrimmage to use.

“I don’t think Pearl was ready for it,” Williams laughed.

In the highlight play of his highlight day, Donovan sent Pearl sprawling on a left-handed, inside-out crossover dribble, cruising past him for a layup.

“Pearl nearly fell down,” said Billy’s childhood best friend Kevin Quigley. “The crowd went nuts. Just hooting and hollering. The little white boy just juked Pearl out of his shoes.”

Billy Donovan made a career out of willing himself to success. Too small and athletically limited to compete against premiere athletes? He molded himself into a player and led Providence to an unlikely Final Four run. Florida is a second-tier hoops program at a football school? He quickly turned them into a national powerhouse. Too inexperienced to coach in the NBA? Sam Presti just handed him the keys to the most important season in the Thunder’s brief franchise history.

But before there was Billy Donovan the iconic coach or Billy The Kid bombing 3s at Providence College there was Billy the kid, a Long Island youth addicted to basketball.

“It was almost an obsession,” Quigley said.


No. 3: Okafor has great expectations for Sixers — Philadelphia 76ers rookie Jahlil Okafor is well aware of the struggles that have gone on prior to his arrival in the City of Brotherly Love. But that has not soured him on what could be. He has great expectations for what he and the Sixers will get done in his rookie season. Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer has the details:

Okafor averaged 18.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in two Las Vegas Summer League games. Before that, he averaged 14.0 points and 8.3 rebounds in three summer league games in Utah.

“I was satisfied,” Okafor said of his summer performance. “I got better every game and worked on everything.”

Covington said Okafor has already made an impact.

“He has brought a whole lot of excitement to this team,” Covington said. “He is a big man who has made his presence known already.”

Another big man, Joel Embiid, will miss a second straight season because of another procedure on his foot.

“It is hard to do, but he is doing well, and he is keeping his head high,” Covington said.

Just as the focus last season was on Nerlens Noel, this season it will be on Okafor. He said he can’t wait to get settled in the Philadelphia area and is looking for a place to live.

Okafor won’t lack confidence. He expects a lot from a Sixers team coming off an 18-64 season. He knows the expectations will again be low, but he doesn’t care.

“Everybody knows we have expectations, and the fans have expectations, and that is all that matters,” he said.

Okafor will be a trendy choice for rookie of the year because he is expected to play major minutes.

“It’s definitely a possible goal,” he said about earning the award. “Definitely.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Michael Jordan is still the G.O.A.T., just ask Jimmy ButlerNancy Lieberman called Muhammad Ali after joining the Sacramento Kings as an assistant coach … Got cash? You’ll need plenty of it to buy the New York penthouse of former Brooklyn star Deron Williams

McDermott finds way around NBA campus

VIDEO: Doug McDermott gets 16 points in Bulls’ victory.

LAS VEGAS – Welcome to the NBA, the old saying goes, and it’s not meant as hospitably as it sounds. There’s a smirk inherent, in that life-in-the-big-city, better-it-happened-to-you-than-to-me way.

That’s the way Doug McDermott‘s introduction to the league went last season, a rude welcome to the kid from Omaha in his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls. From college basketball’s player of the year and a Sports Illustrated cover guy to a lost and struggling newbie, all in a few months time. McDermott dealt with rattled confidence, a sore knee and bench splinters for the first time in his basketball life.

“I think maybe when I was 14 years old,” McDermott said Wednesday after the Bulls’ shootaround at the Cox Pavilion, one of the Las Vegas Summer League’s two venues. “I wasn’t a top guy on my AAU team, so I wasn’t playing a lot back then.”

Going through it at 23, after arriving as the No. 11 pick in the NBA Draft, that hit harder.

“But it’s a mental thing where you’ve got to stay positive,” McDermott said. “Your time is coming. Obviously, it was the first time I’d ever been hurt, too. That was hard to get through.”

McDermott got through it – 36 appearances, a mere 8.9 minutes per, and a whole lot of sitting that included 24 games lost to surgery on a meniscus tear in his right knee – but doesn’t intend to go back there. The Bulls can’t afford him to, either, with a familiar roster relying mostly on improvement from within this season.

Already this summer, McDermott has logged long hours at Chicago’s practice facility. He has been the Bulls’ leading scorer in Vegas, averaging 16.5 points through four games, while doing so in uncharacteristic ways: McDermott’s offensive repertoire has featured a variety of floaters, step-backs and layups, coming from isolation and in transition. He walked out Wednesday night with an ice pack taped to his right wrist, the price paid for an open-court dunk in the third quarter against Cleveland’s entry.

But he missed his only 3-point attempt, leaving him – whoa! – just 1-for-11 from the arc here.

“And I saw him make 30 in row in practice,” new Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said, “so I’m not worried.”

Hoiberg plays a central role in McDermott’s most significant source of inspiration for his second NBA season. If predecessor Tom Thibodeau was tough on the rookie because, well, he was a rookie – and because of McDermott’s surgery layoff, defensive lapses, blown plays, missed shots and passed-up shots – Hoiberg represents a clean slate and a more McBuckets-friendly style of play.

An accomplished 3-point shooter himself (he led the NBA in three-point percentage in his last season, before a heart ailment ended his career), Hoiberg shares the shooter’s mentality, too. He’ll be sensitive to quick hooks that can mess with a guy’s confidence.

“That’s the big things for Doug, to know that he has the confidence to go out there and be a basketball player,” Hoiberg said. “He’s one of the most successful college players in the history of the game, as far as scoring the ball. It’s just a matter of getting that confidence back. If he misses a few, keep shooting. That’s what the great shooters do, that’s what the great players do.”

McDermott’s frame of reference is his time at Creighton. He was a good player when he got there but he blew up as a sophomore, his feet fully wet, his body and mind acclimated to the level of play. His scoring average jumped from 14.9 ppg to 22.9, his accuracy from 52.5 percent to 60.1 percent, his 3-point success from 40.5 to 48.6.

Nobody in the NBA thinks much of college imagery, but in McDermott’s mind at least, he’s physically and mentally ready for his sophomore year.

“Everyone is so much more athletic, everyone is so much stronger than you’re used to,” McDermott said of last year’s transition. “Everyone that’s on the floor is essentially, probably, the best player on his college team. So there’s a reason everyone’s here. It’s just a matter of being able to prove yourself.”

Going from 26.7 ppg as a senior to 3.0 as a rookie wouldn’t be anyone’s idea of fun. McDermott just hopes it’s his idea of done.

“Being a rookie with my rep, everyone wanted to come at me. It’s part of the deal,” he said. “But I’m a competitor – I like that stuff. So I’m not going to back down.”

Take that, MJ and LeBron: Bulls’ Butler earns $46 million in single season

CHICAGO – All this talk about LeBron James, master strategist, working his contract levers, pulleys and buttons to become, in a few years, the NBA’s first player to earn $40 million in a season is fascinating.

But it’s already false.

Chicago’s Jimmy Butler already has done it. He did it in the 2014-15 season, actually. It’s just up to Butler now whether he wants to scoop up that enormous payday from the table sooner or later.

Follow along: The Chicago Bulls tried back in October to sign Butler, their diligent, developing shooting guard, to a reported four-year, $44 million contract extension. Butler, rather daringly, turned it down. He looked at that massive chunk of change – while still locked in to the rookie contract he signed as the No. 30 pick in 2011, worth just over $2 million last season – and shook his head no.

Butler believed in himself, in his skills, in the Bulls’ Tom Thibodeau and the rest of the coaching staff and, most of all, in the work ethic that has returned significant improvement with every passing season. And sure enough, the 6-foot-7 product of Tomball, Texas, via Marquette had a breakout season: NBA All-Star, Most Improved Player award, a 20.0 scoring average, another All-Defense Second Team berth and a top-six ranking in win shares (11.2).

So on Tuesday, with Butler about to test restricted free agency, word got out that the Bulls were about to offer him a maximum-salary deal to blow away the competition. In fact, reported that Butler postponed or cancelled the typical wine-and-dine meetings with the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and Dallas Mavericks.

There likely was going to be some wiggle room, eventually, in what Butler chose to do. Would he opt to sign a shorter contract to hit free agency again sooner, unrestricted and on the market with the heftier TV revenues in play? Sure, why not – Butler had gambled before and won.

But the size of Chicago’s alleged max offer made clear both how much the Bulls value Butler (any chafing with backcourt ‘mate Derrick Rose reportedly is overstated) and how gutsy and lucrative his risk-taking was: Five years, $90 million.

To put it another way, that is $46 million more than Butler’s signing opportunity eight months ago. For one extra year on the previous deal, yes, but really for the production he already turned in and the potential he solidified this past season.

That is how Jimmy Butler became a $40 million-a-year man.

Morning shootaround — June 6

VIDEO: The Starters discuss Kyrie Irving’s injury

Kyrie Irving has fractured kneecap, out for Finals | LeBron: I’m not ‘discouraged‘| Tom Thibodeau has ‘no regrets

No. 1: Kyrie Irving has fractured kneecap, out for Finals — When Kyrie Irving limped off the floor during overtime of Game 1, he did his best to mask the pain he was clearly experiencing. One day later, after an MRI, it’s worst fears realized for Irving and the Cavaliers. The Cavs announced yesterday that Irving suffered a fractured kneecap and will miss the remainder of the postseason. Irving’s injury will require surgery, which typically has a 3-4 month recovery period. While Irving missed several playoff games dealing with tendinitis in his left knee, the Cavaliers say this injury is unrelated. As Irving himself posted on Instagram

I want to thank everyone for the well wishes. Saddened by the way I had to go out but it doesn’t take away from being apart of a special playoff run with my brothers. Truly means a lot for all the support and love. I Gave it everything I had and have no regrets. I love this game no matter what and I’ll be back soon. To my brothers: You already know what the deal is. And to Delly: “ICE it down del” *Big Perk voice *


No. 2: LeBron: I’m not ‘discouraged‘ — With Irving out, along with Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao, the Cavs may not be able to get things to go their way. But LeBron James has been around long enough to have seen plenty before, and according to’s Joe Vardon, LeBron isn’t discouraged by being down a game in the Finals …

In his storied career with 12 seasons nearly complete, James can say he has and has not been in this situation before. The odds were already long for a Finals triumph and now they’re longer, but if there is a player with the skills and experience to navigate this situation, it’s James.

He’s 1-5 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, and his Cavs lost Game 1 (and Game 3) of the conference semifinals to the Bulls.

In Miami, where James won two titles and played in four Finals, both championships followed defeats in Game 1. He battled through playoffs at times with a hobbled Dwyane Wade (who missed one playoff game with James) and an injured (as in, out for nine games) Chris Bosh.

But James never lost Wade and Bosh at the same time, like he has here with Irving and Kevin Love. And yet, when the Cavs lace them up for Game 2 Sunday, it will not be the first time James takes the floor in a playoff game without his two Cleveland wingmen.

Irving, of course, has been battling foot and left knee issues for weeks. When the Cavs trailed the Bulls 2-1 in the conference semis and Irving was clearly hurting, James talked about “not being shattered” around teammates in what appeared to be a bleak moment.

Then James went out and won Game 4 with a turnaround jumper at the buzzer, not dissimilar from the shot he missed against the Warriors.

Irving missed two full games in the conference finals against Atlanta. Cleveland won both of those games and James nearly averaged a triple-double in the series.

“There are a few things that you would love to have going late in the season,” James explained. “That’s being healthy, having a great rhythm, and then you need a little luck as well. We’ve had a great rhythm. We haven’t had much luck, and we haven’t been healthy.

“But I haven’t gotten discouraged.”


No. 3: Tom Thibodeau has ‘no regrets‘ — It’s been a few days since the Chicago Bulls fired coach Tom Thibodeau, ending a five-year run where the Bulls experienced plenty of success, but also plenty of bad luck. Speaking for the first time since then, Thibs said despite any issues he had with Bulls management, he wants to move forward, writes Nick Friedell…

“Obviously, there were some issues, and I don’t want to get into all that,” Thibodeau said. “I’m very proud of what the team did. … I think any time when you have a pro franchise, there’s going to be some carping that goes on along the way.”

During a news conference to announce Thibodeau’s firing, Forman and Paxson stressed the need for a better communicator and painted a picture that Thibodeau wasn’t listening to much of the input from the front office.

Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf also issued a statement hinting that there were communication issues.

“While the head of each department of the organization must be free to make final decisions regarding his department, there must be free and open interdepartmental discussion and consideration of everyone’s ideas and opinions,” the statement said. “These internal discussions must not be considered an invasion of turf, and must remain private. Teams that consistently perform at the highest levels are able to come together and be unified across the organization — staff, players, coaches, management and ownership. When everyone is on the same page, trust develops and teams can grow and succeed together. Unfortunately, there has been a departure from this culture.”

Thibodeau said Friday that he wasn’t worried about comments from the Bulls’ front office in the immediate aftermath after the decision was made.

“I don’t worry about stuff like that,” Thibodeau said. “I know for me, I put everything I have into each and every day. So I have no regrets. I’m going to let the record speak for itself.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is donating $5 million to his alma mater, Indiana University, for a technology center … Royce White is closing in on a return in time for Summer League … The Knicks will work out draft prospect Emmanuel Mudiay next week … Why Arn Tellem is giving up being a sports agent and joining the front office of the Detroit Pistons …

Morning shootaround — June 2

VIDEO: Relive Stephen Curry’s top 10 assists from 2014-15


Reports: Hoiberg headed to Bulls| All-time great shooters marvel at Curry’s shooting skill | LeBron says he’s playing at his best ever

No. 1: Reports: Hoiberg headed to Bulls; Has reached 5-year deal with Chicago — The worst kept secret in the NBA regarding who will replace Tom Thibodeau as coach of the Chicago Bulls will likely be fully out in the open today. According to multiple reports, the Bulls are set to formally introduce Iowa State coach (and former Bulls player) Fred Hoiberg as their next coach. has more on the move, which isn’t a done deal yet, but is close enough that Hoiberg is telling some at Iowa State he won’t be back for 2015-16:

Fred Hoiberg has informed several Iowa State players and staff members that he is leaving, a source told’s Jeff Goodman.

Hoiberg is in negotiations with the Chicago Bulls for a five-year contract to become their new coach and was en route to Chicago to finalize the agreement, according to the source.

Although contract language is still being hammered out, multiple sources said the feeling from many within the Bulls organization is that the deal is all but complete.

On Monday night, the Bulls informed media that the team will make a “major announcement” Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET.

Hoiberg has been mentioned as a successor to Tom Thibodeau for months, due to Hoiberg’s close friendship with Bulls general manager Gar Forman and several others in the team’s front office.

Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reports Hoiberg has in fact already signed with the Bulls and has a five-year, $25 million deal with them:

Fred Hoiberg has signed a five-year contract worth nearly $25 million to coach the Chicago Bulls, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Chicago has a news conference set for Tuesday afternoon to introduce Hoiberg as coach.

Hoiberg’s contract is comparable to deals that Golden State’s Steve Kerr and New York Knicks’ Derek Fisher signed a year ago.

Hoiberg had been making $2.6 million a year at Iowa State.

Bulls management considered the partnership that Celtics general manager Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens had developed as a model for the Hoiberg hiring, league sources said. Stevens made the leap to the NBA from Butler University three years ago.

The Oklahoma City Thunder hired Florida coach Billy Donovan, agreeing to what sources say is a five-year, $30 million contract.

VIDEO: K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune analyzes the Thibodeau firing

*** (more…)

Hoiberg will have his hands full

GameTime crew discusses Bulls’ dismissal of Tom Thibodeau

It was a private jet that delivered “The Mayor” from Ames, Iowa to the Windy City on Monday evening, evidently to wrap up the negotiations to make Fred Hoiberg the next coach of the Bulls.

In the end, what had been categorized as an extensive, perhaps worldwide, search to find the best man available, delivered the one that everybody figures has been waiting in the wings for nearly a year.

Before boarding the plane, Hoiberg made amends for the way the entire situation had been handled.

“I want to apologize to everybody just for the way that it’s all gone down and everything that’s been reported out there and all the rumors and the speculation that’s been thrown around. It’s been very difficult to deal with that,” Hoiberg said.

“When this opportunity came about, this was something that interested me greatly. One of my life goals is to coach in that league.”

Now comes the really hard part — replacing what his predecessor Tom Thibodeau delivered to the Bulls’ offense.

Yes, offense.

As Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times points out, the reputation of Thibodeau, who had a 255-139 (.647) record in five seasons, as a one-dimensional grinder who only cares about down-and-dirty defense is belied by the numbers:

One of the narratives the front office tried to paint the past few seasons was that Thibodeau’s defense-first mentality ignored the offensive side of the ball.

The two offensive categories that many NBA teams focus on, however, are not only offensive efficiency, but also points per possession.

Twice over the last five years, Thibodeau’s offensive efficiency finished in the top four in the Eastern Conference, with the 2011-12 team second best in the conference and this year’s team fourth best.

This year’s team was also 10th overall throughout the entire league in points per possession, according to Elias Sports Bureau, at 1.077.

Not bad for a starting core that played only 21 regular-season games together, handcuffed by injuries, minutes restrictions and practice limitations.

Morning shootaround — May 31

VIDEO: Steve Kerr talks about Klay Thompson’s concussion


Gentry to unleash Unibrow | Klay expected to be cleared | Drafting Curry not just Nellie’s revenge | Bulls like Hoiberg’s Kerr appeal

No. 1: Gentry to unleash Unibrow — There apparently was a good reason the New Orleans Pelicans never reached out to Tom Thibodeau as a candidate to fill their head coaching vacancy, even though chronologically the fired Chicago Bulls’ bench boss was available. And even if the disinterest had anything to do with Thibodeau’s good friendship with the man who most recently held the job, Monty Williams, that probably wasn’t the biggest reason. Thibodeau is known for coaching transformative defense. New Orleans is more eager to goose its offense. That’s why Alvin Gentry, Steve Kerr‘s right-hand man in Golden State and a contributor to Phoenix’s blistering attacks a few years back, has the job today. With one big mandate to match the Pelicans’ one big budding star, per

…[One] of the league’s slowest teams in recent years plans to significantly pick up the tempo. That’s a frightening proposition for opponents, who now must contemplate Anthony Davis like they’ve never seen him before, in a fast and loose system that should utilize his obscene athleticism and above-the-rim finishing ability.

That wasn’t necessarily the guiding principle in New Orleans under Williams. Despite the presence of Davis and the attack-minded Tyreke Evans, the Pelicans ranked No. 27 in pace this season. During Williams’s tenure, the Pelicans were the league’s slowest team twice, and they never ranked higher than 22nd in pace. This wasn’t a fluke: before being hired by New Orleans, Williams was an assistant in Portland under former coach Nate McMillan, who oversaw the league’s slowest team in 2009-10 and 2010-11

[Gentry’s] arrival promises a new era in which New Orleans’ guards are encouraged to push the pace and Davis is called on to open and close transition opportunities by running the court. Look for the Pelicans to regularly use him as a center, structuring spread lineups around him to create space for pick-and-roll after pick-and-roll. When New Orleans does play big, Davis will likely be given free reign to create from the elbow, and it wouldn’t be that shocking if he started to work the corner three into his offensive repertoire either.

The statistical ramifications for Davis here are mouth-watering. Last season, at age 21, he averaged 24.4 points and 10.2 rebounds while posting a 30.8 PER despite playing at a snail’s pace. By comparison, a 22-year-old Amar’e Stoudemire averaged 26 points and 8.9 rebounds while posting a 26.6 PER in 2004-05 under Mike D’Antoni, with Gentry as an assistant. “Young Amar’e” was a phenom in his own right, but he was no Davis. If things fall into place and Davis continues to blossom, it’s not outlandish to envision the two-time All-Star making a run at averaging 28/12, a threshold achieved by only Shaquille O’Neal over the last 30 years.


No. 2: Klay expected to be cleared — As antsy as NBA fans are for the 2015 Finals to begin – we must be entertained! – there is yet another silver lining to the eight-day gap between the end of the conference championship round and Game 1 Thursday in Oakland. Concussion protocols often take time, as do concussion recoveries. So this layoff is helpful to Golden State’s Klay Thompson, who took that nasty knee-to-the-head from Houston’s Trevor Ariza, and to the Warriors, but also to the integrity of the Finals. Golden State coach Steve Kerr, as noted by the Bay Area News Group, said he expects his shooting guard to be ready when the series against Cleveland begins at Oracle Arena.

Thompson has been “progressing well,” according to Kerr, since being kneed in the head as the Warriors won in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals Wednesday.

Kerr said he hasn’t thought about how Thompson might be replaced if he isn’t ready for the NBA Finals. Kerr did note that Leandro Barbosa has played a major role in the playoffs and that Justin Holiday could see some minutes as well.

The Warriors won’t have to play for another five days, which gives them time to possibly have Thompson practice before returning to action.

“It’s good that we have this break because he has the time to go through what he’s going through,” Kerr said.


No. 3: Drafting Curry not just Nellie’s revenge — If the conspiracy nuts are to be believed, there never were any lunar landings and—wait, wrong conspiracy. The one we care about here at Hang Time HQ is the one about Golden State drafting NBA MVP Steph Curry at No. 7 in 2009 simply because the Warriors’ powerful coach, Don Nelson, wanted to screw the New York Knicks for firing him 13 years earlier. But Nelson denied that Saturday in an interview with the New York Post and it seems reasonable; if the Knicks’ brain trust of Donnie Walsh and coach Mike D’Antoni could love Curry’s game and potential, so could the similarly offensive-minded Nelson. Besides, none of them would have been in position to pick Curry if David Kahn, Minnesota’s overmatched basketball boss at the time, hadn’t botched his consecutive picks at Nos. 5 and 6. Here’s part of the report by the Post’s Marc Berman:

Knicks brass always has believed their much-publicized interest in Curry, the 2014-15 MVP, in the lead-up to the draft swayed Nelson away from Arizona power forward Jordan Hill and onto the scent of Dell Curry’s son out of tiny Davidson College. Nelson had final say on the Warriors’ personnel decisions.

One conspiracy theory charges Nelson with taking Curry over Hill to spite the Knicks, who unceremoniously fired him midseason at disgruntled Patrick Ewing’s request.

Nelson, who retired four years ago, will watch proudly from his Hawaii homestead as Curry’s Warriors battle Cleveland in the NBA Finals starting Thursday.

The Hall of Fame coach roundly denied Donnie Walsh’s and Mike D’Antoni’s love affair with Curry influenced his opinion. Nelson told The Post on Saturday from Maui he would have taken Curry second in the draft that year, after Blake Griffin. James Harden was third.

“The guy’s a 10 as a human being, 10 as a player,’’ Nelson said. “We would’ve taken him No. 2. I saw him in the NCAA Tournament vs. St. Mary’s and fell in love with him. People were saying he didn’t have a handle to be a point guard. I saw a point guard the whole way. He had a handle, could shoot and be creative. In Davidson he wasn’t asked to make plays for others. I thought he was going to be terrific. I saw him as an All-Star. Not an MVP this soon but certainly All-Star caliber.’’

Whether revisionist history or not, the Knicks lost hope in the final two days entering the draft as it became clear Nelson, from Bay Area reports, was serious about Curry. Nelson said he worried Minnesota would use one of its two top-six picks for Curry, and he tried to trade up. Instead, the Timberwolves selected point guards Ricky Rubio (No. 5) and Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn (6), who no longer is in the league.

“I didn’t think he’d be there,’’ Nelson said. “Minnesota bailed us out. I didn’t care for the Syracuse kid and Rubio couldn’t shoot it.”

Some within the Knicks believe had Curry, and not Hill, fallen to them, as it once seemed, their franchise fortunes would have been drastically different. Hill was traded during his rookie year to open more cap space for 2010. Nevertheless, Walsh had a chance at All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Jeff Teague, Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson or Jrue Holiday at No. 8.

“Whoever would’ve drafted [Curry] would’ve turned their franchise around,’’ Nelson said. “We were lucky to get him. You build a franchise around those guys. Point guard nowadays is more important than centers.’’


No. 3: Bulls like Hoiberg’s Kerr appealFred Hoiberg played for the Chicago Bulls, one small, natural connection when it came time for Bulls management to cast about for someone to replace Tom Thibodeau as head coach. Hoiberg also has a pre-existing relationship with Chicago GM Gar Forman – Forman was an assistant coach at Iowa State when Hoiberg played there, the school he has been coaching to solid NCAA success. And then there’s the Steve Kerr thing – Hoiberg became something of a 3-point specialist in his 10 NBA seasons with the Bulls, the Pacers and the Timberwolves and shares that slender, blond-haired look. And next season he’ll be a rookie NBA head coach seeking something approximating the first-year success Kerr has enjoyed at Golden State. The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson provided some details on the man who will take over for Mr. Thibs:

All that’s left is the official announcement that Hoiberg, 42, will replace Tom Thibodeau as the 19th coach in franchise history, which two sources said is expected no later than Wednesday. The day for Hoiberg’s official introduction is unknown as the two youngest of his four children are finishing school on Monday and he’s recovering from open heart surgery on April 17.

The New York Daily News first reported Hoiberg’s deal is “believed to be for five years and $25 million.” The Tribune couldn’t confirm that independently, but one source said Hoiberg would receive more than the $20 million extension he signed with Iowa State in March 2013, which contains a $500,000 buyout for an NBA job. …

That’s the going rate for recent hires. Both the Knicks’ Derek Fisher and the Warriors’ Steve Kerr have similar deals, while the Thunder gave Billy Donovan $30 million over five years.

Speaking of Kerr, [former Bulls GM Jerry] Krause, who also signed [Kerr] as a free agent in 1993, sees similarities in both their personalities and offensive philosophies. Kerr took over for a popular and successful coach in Mark Jackson and used levity and an upbeat temperament while guiding a team that had won 51 games the previous season to 67 victories and a trip to the NBA Finals.

The Bulls are hoping for a similar injection.

“Iowa State’s offensive is aggressive,” Krause said. “They go after you. Personality-wise, Hoiberg is very straight with you. I don’t think Freddie knows what the word “con” means.”

“He’d earn respect of players right away,” Krause said. “If you don’t respect Fred Hoiberg, you don’t respect people. He’s an outstanding individual and student of the game. He has been in the league. He knows what the league is. He has been an executive. He has been around a bunch of good coaches.

“He improved the team’s character wherever he went because he’s so much a character guy.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The day LeBron James paid an unscheduled visit to watch NCAA Steph Curry. … Allen Iverson is turning 40 years old? Man, where did that time go? A look back. … Go on, you know you want to ask it: Would Golden State be in the Finals if Mark Jackson still were coaching there? … Much-traveled former NBA big man Chris Gatling is in trouble in a credit card scam, and it’s not his first brush with the law. … Basketball shifts to business swiftly as Patrick Beverley and the Houston Rockets head into offseason.

Reports: Bulls, Hoiberg nearing deal

UPDATE, 11:07 a.m., June 1: The Chicago Bulls are closing in a deal with Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg and could name him as the successor to Tom Thibodeau as soon as today.’s Gary Parrish says Hoiberg is expected to travel to Chicago sometime today to put pen to paper:

Fred Hoiberg is expected to travel to Chicago later Monday and finalize a deal to become the next head coach of the Chicago Bulls, a source has told

A formal announcement could come as early as Monday night.

An NBA source said the Bulls would like to hold a press conference Tuesday. reported last Friday, a day after Chicago fired Tom Thibodeau, that Hoiberg and the Bulls already had what amounted to a “gentleman’s agreement” in place.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reports a deal will be done no later than Wednesday and that star forward Pau Gasol addressed the firing of Thibodeau on his website:

Pau Gasol, who earned his first starting All-Star berth in the first season of his three-year deal with the Bulls, used his blog on his website ( to thank Tom Thibodeau.

“Coach Thibodeau, (I) want to thank your trust and support this season,” Gasol wrote. “I am sure that his departure was a very difficult decision for the organization of the Bulls, but I am convinced that they have a solid plan for the success of the franchise. We all have high expectations for the coming season and will do anything to bring the ring to Chicago. Go Bulls!”

The Bulls are expected to announce Hoiberg’s hiring no later than Wednesday, according to sources.

That will shift at least partial focus to Hoiberg’s staff.

Speaking last week, Forman said the new coach — and Hoiberg obviously has college head coaching experience — will pick his staff.

“Our coaches have the ability to hire who they want to hire, with approval from the front office,” Forman said. “But more times than not, we’re going to be very supportive of who they want on their staff.”

Still, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for management to suggest a veteran coach