Bulls players did all they could to avoid using the “soft’’ label throughout the disappointment that was the 2015-16 season.
They used buzzwords like “unaggressive,’’ and descriptions like “lack of communication in key moments.’’
Even VP of basketball John Paxson tap-danced all around that term last week, questioning the “lack of fight’’ far too often. One of the major reasons that roster changes were made over the summer.
The days of worrying about your brand more than the team had to end.
So while questions about how this new dynamic will work offensively are alive and well heading into Monday’s preseason opener, what isn’t being questioned is if this latest version of the Bulls will play with a bit more of an edge.
“Yeah, man,’’ veteran Dwyane Wade responded, when asked if he was seeing a team with some attitude out there in the scrimmages. “We’ve got some very aggressive guys in here. [Friday] was a heck of a practice. We really got out there. It’s great to see that, but what you want to see is it translate to getting after the guys you’re playing against.
“Too many times in training camp you see guys go after each other hard in training camp, but in a game they don’t do the same thing. So we’ve got to learn how to translate that. But we’ve got some aggressive guys in here. We have a good mix. We have a lot of young guys in the gym and we’ve got a good mix of veteran guys that help lead the way and try to show and bring guys along the way.’’
Not that Wade wasn’t confident that the Bulls would be able to make that jump once they start playing against players in different uniforms.
After all, when the roster takes on players like Rajon Rondo and Robin Lopez to go along with an in-house no-nonsense personality like Jimmy Butler, well, it doesn’t exactly sing of choir boys gathering.
Heck, even Wade isn’t opposed to stopping practice to lay the law down on some of his younger teammates.
“The coaching staff really doesn’t need to say much because before you know it, every time I turn around D-Wade is stopping the play and cursing guys out as well,’’ veteran big man Taj Gibson said. “And it’s great. The young guys understand it.’’
And the coach appreciates it.
Yes, Fred Hoiberg has been more vocal and willing to dress a player down than he was last season, but having players that can police each other also allows him to focus on making sure his playbook is being carried out.
“Well, it is a group that has done an excellent job of that, of being able to talk to each and hold each other accountable, and you have to have that,’’ Hoiberg said. “All the successful teams that I played on certainly you had that voice in the locker room that can control each other, and this group has done a nice job of that. They talk to each other, they can have constructive criticism for each other, and they’re taking it well. That has to continue to happen.
“You gotta have that communication, and got to be able to carry it over to the floor. I’ve been really impressed with this group. And again, we’ve got some good vets that are leading the young guys in that area, and if you have that with your veteran players than the young guys fall in line.’’