Fred Hoiberg will have large shoes to fill both defensively and offensively

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Tom Thibodeau didn’t need the ovation he reportedly received from fellow customers while walking out of a Chicago restaurant Friday to know he did a good job of coaching the Bulls for the last five seasons, but it was a nice gesture.

Not only was Thibodeau one of the most successful regular-season coaches in franchise history, as seen by his 255-139 record, but there are a few other numbers Bulls management has been trying to discount.

One of the narratives the front office tried to paint the last few seasons was that Thibodeau’s defense-first mentality ignored the offensive side of the ball. But a look at two offensive categories many NBA teams focus on — offensive efficiency and points per possession — tells a different story.

Twice during Thibodeau’s five seasons, the Bulls finished among the top four in the Eastern Conference in offensive efficiency. They were second-best in 2011-12 and fourth-best this season. In between, of course, Derrick Rose missed nearly two seasons with knee injuries.

The Bulls also ranked 10th in the league in points per possession this season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, at 1.077. Not bad for a team that played its anticipated starting five only 21 times during the regular season, thanks to injuries and minutes restrictions.

After Fred Hoiberg — who signed a five-year, $25 million contract Monday — is introduced as the Bulls’ new coach at a news conference Tuesday, he will be asked to improve on what was an efficientoffense at times and to maintain a defense that always ranked near the top of the league under Thibodeau.

And there will be another issue Hoiberg will have to deal with because the minutes restrictions seem to be a new way of life for the Bulls. Just because Rose and Joakim Noah might be healthier than they were this season, both likely will be under close scrutiny again in terms of their workload.

The Bulls still weren’t backing down from that, even though the lack of continuity come playoff time played a major role in the Milwaukee Bucks taking them to six games before the Cleveland Cavaliers eliminated them.

‘‘Derrick had not played in a couple of years, and Jo had surgery in the early part of [last] summer and had not played any basketball,’’ vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said last week. ‘‘So we went and listened to all the medical stuff, and we came up with the belief in the idea that we needed to kind of get them into the season the right way physically. In our mind, it was absolutely the responsible thing to do.

‘‘The minutes thing was to give our players the best chance to succeed this year, and in a lot of ways they did. There’s never any guarantee, but I think we did — I know we did — the right thing for our guys. And, for the most part, they stayed healthy and were ready for the playoffs.’’

Healthy? Yes, relatively. Ready? In the end, theresults said differently.


Twitter: @suntimes_hoops

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