Cuts have been made, the initial playbook has been installed, but admittedly there’s still some left over business for Fred Hoiberg leading into the start of the regular season this week.
Specifically, naming his starting four with the exhibition games now in the books.
“As soon as I know, I’ll let you know,’’ Hoiberg said on Saturday, when asked about the training camp battle between Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic.
On the surface, it wasn’t much of a battle.
Gibson led the Bulls in scoring with 13.8 points (64.3 field goal percentage) in the six games he played, while he also nabbed 7.7 rebounds. Mirotic, who has been battling back spasms the last few days, also played in six games, averaging 7.5 points (34.1 field goal percentage) and 4.7 rebounds.
Defensively, it’s not much of a contest, either.
But the reason that Mirotic is even being considered is the fact that he’s a three-point shooting threat, which the Bulls don’t have a whole lot of, especially in the starting lineup.
“I think again it’s about looking at all the different scenarios and situations we’ve gone over in the games and practices and putting all the data together and making the decision off that,’’ Hoiberg said of finalizing the starting group. “Taj and Niko both had very good practices [Saturday]. Hopefully [Sunday] we’ll come out with great energy again and get another opportunity to put these guys on different sides and see who fits the best together.’’
What will make Hoiberg’s decision easier is the fact that both players are willing to play the good soldier. That wasn’t necessarily the case last season, when Hoiberg had to deal with the aftermath of moving Joakim Noah to the second unit, and also players like Pau Gasol unhappy when they weren’t on the floor late in games.
This is a group that seemed ready to sacrifice for their second-year coach, but more importantly for each other.
“We have talked a lot about [sacrifice],’’ Hoiberg said. “On Opening Day before we went out to training camp, we talked a lot about sacrifice and how that has to be a big thing for us all season. It doesn’t matter who gets the numbers. I could care less who leads this team in scoring, rebounds or assists. As long as we’re out there playing together, that’s what matters.
“If we win the game, that’s all these guys should care about it. They’ve bought into it. I think we’ve played for the most part pretty unselfishly. I think we’ve done a little better job as we’ve gone on in terms of turnovers. We got a little sloppy [in the Saturday practice], not uncommon after a day off. We’ll try to clean some of that up and the days leading up to the game on Thursday.’’
Hoiberg’s hope is that he will do it with a healthy roster, as well. With Mirotic back, only first-round pick Denzel Valentine (left ankle) is on the shelf, but did participate in the practice until they went into live scrimmaging.