Fred Hoiberg was the Bulls’ market correction to Tom Thibodeau.
The annoying emphasis on defense would give way to what man was meant to do – hunt, gather and run the floor.
But it has gone all wrong, and that prodigious wrongness reached critical mass Tuesday in a brutal 129-111 loss to the Heat. The Bulls played the kind of defense that, centuries ago, would have reduced a tribe to women and children. The Heat, no offensive juggernaut, shot 67.5 percent from the floor. You almost have to try to be that bad on defense. The Bulls followed that Wednesday with another poor effort in a 102-89 loss to the Magic.
The Bulls are such a mess that you find yourself running from one fire to another. If it’s not Derrick Rose’s unreliability, it’s a Hoiberg offense that has never taken off. If it’s not Jimmy Butler questioning Hoiberg’s leadership, it’s a plague of injuries.
Now the raging fire is the lack of defense, which has been an issue all season. The Bulls are giving up 102.8 points a game, and somewhere Thibodeau is laughing through his tears – laughing because he knew the Bulls made a mistake by firing him after last season and crying because he cries for every defensive lapse in every game anywhere. It’s quite a burden he carries.
At one point Tuesday night, the Bulls had Cristiano Felicio and Justin Holiday on the floor, and I was thinking, “Who?’’ But the bench actually led a comeback, cutting the Miami lead from 19 points to six with about five minutes left.
But then defense was required, and by the end, the Bulls had that shell-shocked look again. Derrick Rose finished with a plus/minus of minus-19, and Pau Gasol had a minus-16.
“We play harder defensively in practice,’’ Hoiberg said.
I’m not convinced that Hoiberg knows what good defense looks like, but I wouldn’t doubt that it looks like the Bulls play better defense in practice. They don’t have many healthy players who play well offensively either.
Hoiberg was not brought in for his defensive genius. He was brought in to make everyone forget Thibodeau. He has managed to do the exact opposite.