A timeout to give the often criticized Fred Hoiberg a pat on the back

SHARE A timeout to give the often criticized Fred Hoiberg a pat on the back

Kris Dunn will be a starter soon.

The coaching staff knows that. Heck, most of the locker room knows that.

Dunn can help speed that process along by cutting down on the careless turnovers.

Meanwhile, Zach LaVine will be back from his knee rehab soon.

The high-flying guard could start taking full contact in practice by next week, putting him on schedule for a potential early December return.


Jimmy Butler says Bulls took Fred Hoiberg over ‘me’

Nikola Mirotic has to go; Bulls players side with Bobby Portis

Imagine the possibilities with LaVine and Lauri Markkanen playing the pick-and-roll game at the top of the arc.

The rebuild is obviously still a work in progress, but it’s moving forward.

And just like that the hot seat that Fred Hoiberg had been sitting on since the middle of last season is suddenly not even simmering.

Need evidence? Just start checking the boxes.

Once the front office made the decision to trade Jimmy Butler and stroll down rebuild lane, the main focus for Hoiberg was effort and fight from his team on a nightly basis.

“Effort hasn’t even been a concern,’’ veteran big man Robin Lopez said. “That’s one thing I can say with confidence.’’

Besides three quarters against Oklahoma City and the first half in Toronto on Tuesday, Hoiberg has his young team playing hard, playing with effort, and making the opposing team work for 48 minutes.

They wanted that established in the new culture and they’re getting it.

So, check that box.

And when they don’t?

Hoiberg is continuing to change the inaccurate persona he has as the sheriff’s son from ‘‘Mayberry R.F.D.’’ to a guy that admittedly will now “rip their [butts]’’ like he has done during two halftimes already in the first nine games.

“Well, that’s not the only two times I’ve done that just so you know,’’ Hoiberg said Thursday.

More importantly, he’s not being tuned out when he does raise his voice.

“They’ve responded well to it,’’ Hoiberg said. “They’ve responded well when we jump them in practice or it’s a timeout and we have to get on them. We do. If it’s a situation like Toronto, at halftime where we were playing with very low energy at the defensive end, you handle it and they respond to it. Our guys for the most part have done that this year.

“It’s a group that takes coaching well. The big thing with this team is when you have a learning opportunity, you grow. And I think our guys have responded well to that.’’

The other box to check for the third-year coach is handling adversity. It hasn’t gotten more adverse than Bobby Portis putting Nikola Mirotic in the hospital with a punch.

While it could be debated on why those two were allowed to go at each other so often in practice, Hoiberg has handled the aftermath like a veteran coach. He’s vague with the details to the media, but making sure his players don’t get caught up on the details.

“We try not to worry about it,’’ Denzel Valentine said. “We let everybody else handle it. [The coaching staff is] doing a really good job. Staying focused, stayed on us about working hard every day and that’s what we’re here to do.’’

So as much criticism as Hoiberg has taken for his first two years, what’s been asked of him this season is being delivered.

Does that mean he’s going to finish out his five-year contract? No, but he’s definitely on his way to making it through Year 3.

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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