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Hoiberg, Bulls ready for Summer League play
The Bulls open their 2015 NBA summer league in Las Vegas against the Minnesota Timberwolves
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By Sam Smith | 7.11.2015 | 10:27 a.m. CT
Will they give him the ball if he wins his first game? Will he play for the win? Does he know how many seconds is in a 20?
The Bulls open their 2015 NBA summer league at 5:30 p.m. (Central) Saturday (NBA-TV) in Las Vegas against the Minnesota Timberwolves and No. 1 overall draft pick Karl-Anthony Towns. There'll be Bulls interest in the development of second year 2014 lottery pick Doug McDermott and first round pick from last month Bobby Portis.
But perhaps the biggest question for the Bulls going into the 2015-16 season and certainly the biggest change/addition is the coaching of Fred Hoiberg. The former Bulls player and Iowa State coach will coach his first NBA game, albeit exhibition, when Hoiberg coaches the Bulls summer league entry.
"I'm not looking at it as (people looking over my shoulder to see if I can coach)," said Hoiberg. "I'm excited to get it going. This is the first step after getting hired and getting the house ready to sell in Ames and buying a house here, getting a chance to talk to all the players who will be here next year and this is the first opportunity to coach. I'm really looking forward to that, to see what we can do and to really try to put guys in the system we are going to run and what we can do with them."
It's unusual for NBA head coaches to direct the summer league team on the floor. That's because the summer league team is comprised of primarily rookies and free agents trying to catch on with various NBA and European teams, the latter who scout the summer league to stock their teams. The Bulls' team features three players under contract, McDermott, Portis and Cameron Bairstow. The Bulls once they conclude their veteran signings in free agency with Jimmy Butler signed last week will have 14 players on the roster. Given they will be in the luxury tax it's unlikely they add another player. But if someone from the summer league team excels he could be part of the training camp roster. And there still is that one open spot on the Bulls roster.
But as much as the attention will be on the players, as it always is, one of the biggest questions for the Bulls coming into the season without any major personnel changes is the coaching of Hoiberg, his first time as an NBA coach.
Will he be a screamer?
Is he a sideline pacer?
Will he sit like Phil Jackson or stand 48 minutes like Tom Thibodeau?
Will he be laid back like in real life? Or uptight like in the NBA coaching manual?
"I'm looking forward to it," Hoiberg said. "I'm going to coach the team at least the first few games and see how it goes from there. Tony (Snell) is going to practice with us. We'll have Doug, Cameron, Bobby. E'twaun (Moore) is going to meet us out there. So we may walk through some things (to get a head start on the regular season). We'll have a good group of guys to go out with and (assistant general manager) Brian Hagen put together a team that can play pretty well if I don't screw it up.
"It will be a relaxed setting," added Hoiberg, "a good opportunity to get rolling. Some of the guys who will play a key role will have a head start in picking up some things we are going to put in."
Although there will be many eyes on Hoiberg and his thus far much discussed free flowing offensive system, Hoiberg is looking at all this with much less trepidation. After all, he has been coaching a major college program the last five years and had NBA experience as a player and team executive for more than a decade. This isn't his first summer league rodeo.
"There's differences from level to level," Hoiberg acknowledged. "The other thing important is to get our staff together and (continue) figuring out what role I want each coach to play during a game. Maybe going in I think I might like some things I want changed."
It also will be an opportunity for Hoiberg to work in game conditions, albeit with lesser competition, with players like McDermott and Portis. Both should have roles during the season, especially McDermott.
"It's important for Doug," Hoiberg agreed. "The biggest thing is from a confidence standpoint to get in there and get that going. We will obviously run a lot of things through Doug and give those guys a chance to show what they can do. We'll throw Bobby the ball down there (in the post) and see what he can do with it. We'll run a lot of pick and roll with him. The same thing with Cameron and see what he can give us as well.
"It's also a great opportunity (to perhaps get a line on another player)," Hoiberg said. "I remember when I was in the front office (with Minnesota), going out there scouting, seeing who is out there really trying to make this league. We'll have guys competing for spots on our team and other teams. We'll see if we can find somebody, if they're worthy of bringing to camp and fight for a spot.
"The big thing I compare (summer league) a little to college where every four years you get a foreign trip," said Hoiberg. "We took our team to Italy my second year when we had four transfers and it gave me a chance to experiment with some different lineups and different sets that we were able to put in. That's when I found out Royce White at 6-8 and 270 would be my point guard. So it gives you an opportunity to throw some things around and see if they can work."
And to open the Bulls will see the promising Towns. He had a comfortable, if not special, first game in the feature match of summer league with the Nos. 1 and 2 draft picks facing one another. The NBA already has summer leagues under way in Orlando and Salt Lake City. The main one in Las Vegas began Friday.
Towns' Timberwolves beat the Los Angeles Lakers and No. 2 pick D'Angelo Russell in the anticipated opener. Dunk champion Zach LaVine was the lead scorer for Minnesota. Russell was impressive with the ball and passed well, getting eight points and six assists. Towns had 12 points mostly with short jump hooks and with plenty of fouls. The Lakers constantly double teamed him and Towns generally responded with good passing for a rookie big man. So it also will give Hoiberg an opportunity to try some defensive gymnastics.
It will perhaps be for the Bulls an intriguing first public look at the way the Bulls may be playing this season and a peek at Hoiberg's basketball coaching philosophies in the pro game.
And who knows. Maybe it's the kind of head start that can make some difference that also emboldens a rookie coach.
"Steve Kerr coached the Warriors last year (in summer league)," Hoiberg noted with a smile. "David Blatt coached the Cavs. They obviously had pretty good years. I can try to follow their lead."