One complaint about last year’s Chicago Bulls team under Tom Thibodeau is that the players were coached too hard. So Thibodeau was fired in the offseason, and Fred Hoilberg was brought in as the new coach. And according to star shooting guard jimmy Butler, the Bulls aren’t being pushed hard enough right now.
“We probably have to be coached a lot harder at times,” Butler told Chicago Tribune writer Chris Kuc. “I believe in the guys in this locker room but I also believe we probably have to be coached harder at times. I’m sorry, I know Fred is a laidback guy and I really respect him for that, but when guys aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do, you have to get on guys – myself included.”
Chicago currently sits in fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings with a 15-10 record. Once again the Bulls feature a talented roster that’s capable of winning the Eastern Conference. But once again, they’re also a struggling unit, and much of this has to do with the fact that they haven’t mastered their new system under Hoilberg.
“We’re searching, but I think we’re growing,” said forward Joakim Noah. “Guys’ roles are changing. Just got to get used to it and come with the right attitude. It’s tough sometimes to get out of yourself for the team and I think that’s where we’re at right now.”
Aside from struggling with changing roles, the team’s point guard, Derrick Rose, just can’t seem to get back to his peak in 2011, when he become the league’s youngest-ever MVP. Last season was the first time that Rose finished a season healthy since the 2010-11 campaign, and he even showed flashes of his old self. But 2015 has seen his shooting (37.5%) and points per game (13.7) drop to career lows.
After multiple knee injuries in 2012 and 2013, Rose has worked on regaining his explosiveness. But during training camp this season, he broke an orbital bone and hasn’t fully recovered his vision yet. However, despite yet another injury setback, Rose says that his poor start has more to do with a new system and some new teammates.
“It’s just that you’re playing with new guys,” Rose explained. “On top of that, I’m a point guard, I can’t just come down and shoot 25 times on this team. We have a great team. All the teams that we’ve had in the past – don’t get me wrong, no disrespect to my old teammates – but this team is a little bit more talented as far as scoring, so it’s a little bit different.”
Given Rose’s continued struggles, Butler has taken on more of a leadership role. And he’s taking this opportunity to call out the team, and coach, for how they can improve. So far, Butler is backing up his demands with another fine season, one in which he’s averaging 21.2 PPG, 5.0 RBP and 1.8 SPG. But while he might be calling for tougher coaching, another teammate welcomes Hoilberg’s relaxed approach.
Noah spent several demanding seasons under Thibodeau, who was not big on resting key players. And even after being relegated to a reserve by Hoilberg – because he and Pau Gasol weren’t gelling well in the frontcourt together – Noah is supportive of his new coach.
“There’s new philosophies out here, we’re all learning each other – even though the group is similar we have a different leader,” explained Noah. “We have a different general. I think our new coach is very open-minded, listening to the players. I think there is still room for improvement but I think there is a lot of firepower on this team.”
This could very well be the last ride for the Bulls’ current core, which has been together for several seasons. But if they can master their new system and agree on the new coaching philosophy, then maybe they can make one last serious run at the NBA title.