Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg doesn’t get much help from players in another blowout

 

Coach Fred Hoiberg has spoken his mind to the media more often this season, whether it’s calling out his players or simply stating the obvious after a poor showing.

But Wednesday proved there were still some guarded topics.

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“I know what you’re asking me,’’ Hoiberg said when asked if he was scoreboard-watching these days to see how far the Bulls could fall from a tanking standpoint. “I look at the scores. I follow the box scores very closely, as all coaches do at this time of year.’’

When asked if it felt weird watching the scoreboard for losing purposes, he repeated, “Like all coaches, I look at the box scores after every game.’’

He’s not nicknamed the ‘‘Mayor’’ for nothing.

Plus, there wasn’t a whole lot of love found in the box scores.

The Bulls’ 135-102 loss to the Nuggets at the United Center was atrocious to look at — even from a tanking standpoint — because of how non-competitive Hoiberg’s shorthanded bunch was from tip-off to final buzzer.

With Lauri Markkanen (back), Zach LaVine (tendinitis in left knee) and Kris Dunn (turf toe) sidelined and Robin Lopez inactive, the Nuggets weren’t about to feel sorry for the Bulls, outscoring them 39-25 in the first quarter and taking a 31-point lead at the half.

The same lingering problems stood out for the Bulls (24-47): The defense was nonexistent on far too many possessions, and, offensively, it was again living and mostly dying with the three-pointer (13-for-38).

“We jumped their butt at halftime and challenged them,’’ Hoiberg said.

Obviously, it was a challenge that wasn’t really fulfilled.

“We’re not coming out with any type of edge,’’ Hoiberg said. “No edge defensively whatsoever, and we’re allowing teams to gain confidence early in games, and it just goes downhill from there.’’

There was no explanation from the players.

“I really don’t know the answer to that,’’ big man Bobby Portis said of yet another slow start. “We’re down a couple of guys, three big pieces to our ballclub, guys that can put the ball in the hole, get stops on the other end, but at the same time, we’ve got guys that have to step up and have a bigger role now.’’

Maybe that’s what’s most disappointing to Hoiberg. All these back-ups and rotation players are getting a chance to show the organization that they belong, and far too often they’re blowing that opportunity.

“These guys are getting an unbelievable opportunity to come out and prove they belong in this league, prove that they belong in the rotation and prove that they belong long-term with the organization,’’ Hoiberg said. “We’re just way too inconsistent with it. We’ll have good moments, but when you come out and dig that type of hole — which has been pretty consistent with our first-quarter starts — it’s demoralizing.’’

That wasn’t even the bad news for the Bulls, however.

They could have at least received some help for the upcoming May lottery, as Brooklyn held a 23-point lead over Charlotte only to watch it disintegrate late in an eventual Hornets win. If the Nets could’ve held on, the Bulls would’ve only been a half-game out of jumping from eighth-worst in the league to seventh-worst and still have two games left against Brooklyn this season.

The Knicks and Grizzlies also lost, so it was tanking teams at their finest around the league again.

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.
Email: jcowley@suntimes.com