The likes of Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson are tired of talking about last season’s dysfunction.
They really are.
But it’s hard for the Bulls veterans to escape, especially since the positive chemistry displayed over the last month of training camp, and now the start of the regular season, has shown them just how bad things were during the 2015-16 season, and more importantly, how to make sure that it never happens again.
“Everybody has a role, everybody knows some things are still going to happen, and the thing is we can motivate each other,’’ Gibson said. “No one is taking it personal. We’re having a lot of talking sessions and a lot of get-togethers. We’re really in sync.’’
They definitely were in the season opener on Thursday, beating a talented Boston Celtics team, 105-99, at the United Center.
They outrebounded Boston 55-36, and out-shot them from outside hitting 11-of-25 (44 percent) threes, while the Celtics were just 8-for-23 (34.8 percent).
According to Gibson, what is being seen on the court is because of what has taken place off the court with this group.
Whether it’s the additions of veterans like Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade, or Butler now understanding the responsibility that comes with leadership, Gibson isn’t about to overthink it. It’s working, and that’s good enough for him.
“Having team functions, having guys comes over,’’ Gibson said. “That stuff is so important because you’ve got to be able to talk to each other. You’ve got to be able to know that I can curse you out and you’re not going to take it the wrong way. That’s one thing we’ve been laying out. Rondo knows how to come at people a certain way, and who wants what and why, and it’s been working out good so far.’’
And the person that might benefit the most from all of this?
Coach Fred Hoiberg.
Privately, Hoiberg couldn’t believe the amount of babysitting he felt he had to do with last season’s group. Especially since the NBA experience that influenced him the most was back in his days in Minnesota. That wasn’t a locker room that needed the coach to say anything except what a coach needs to say.
Kevin Garnett was not only the Alpha, but the judge, jury and executioner. There were no clicks, there was no dissention.
So when Hoiberg took over a roster with veterans like Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol he figured the locker room would govern itself and he could just focus on Xs and Os.
What the front office didn’t anticipate was that the true leader of the team throughout most of the Rose Era was in fact former coach Tom Thibodeau. When Thibodeau was removed the warden was gone.
But with Butler a year older, as well as having full respect for the work ethic of teammates like Rondo and Wade, well, the product looks more enjoyable.
“To tell you the truth I think it all comes down to having fun,’’ Butler said. “I think everybody wants everybody to be successful, and when that’s happening you all come together through the good, through the bad, always going to have each other’s backs.
“We may get on one another, but that’s what we need because when it comes to the game everybody knows where everyone is supposed to be and what everyone is supposed to do.’’
NOTE: The Bulls announced on Friday that they exercised fourth-year options on forward Doug McDermott, and the third-year options on guard Jerian Grant and forward Bobby Portis. By exercising these options, they will be under contract with the Bulls for the 2017-18 season.