Coach Fred Hoiberg still seething; Bulls, NBA discuss resting players
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A night of sleep and 12 hours away from the team obviously didn’t do any good.
Coach Fred Hoiberg was still angry Tuesday about the Bulls’ effort in their 105-89 loss Monday to the Celtics and demanded more from his players in the 19 games left in the regular season.
And he wasn’t in any mood to hear about the ever-changing lineup being used as an excuse.
‘‘It can’t affect your effort,’’ Hoiberg said before the start of practice. ‘‘I don’t care who’s on the floor, it can’t affect your effort. I talked about this [Monday] night. I thought our second unit at least kept playing — Denzel [Valentine], specifically. Without him, we score 50 points. He was the one guy who kept playing and was talking in the huddles. That’s what you guys don’t see, guys in the huddle trying to keep the team going. Everybody else had a deer-in-the-headlights look.’’
Specifically, the new-look starting unit of Bobby Portis, David Nwaba, Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. Falling behind 26-5 in the first quarter was evidence of that.
‘‘It was painful to watch that game,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘Usually, you go back and watch [the film] and say, ‘You know, it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it was.’ Or if you play really well, you say, ‘It wasn’t as good as I thought it was.’ But [Monday] night was every bit as bad as I thought it was in watching it the first time.’’
The latest challenge Hoiberg issued to his players was about leadership. Before All-Star Weekend, the front office told veterans Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday — the Bulls’ two best leaders — that their minutes would be cut so that the team could take a longer look at the young players. Lopez and Holiday opted to sit out completely rather than come off the bench.
There was a report Tuesday from Yahoo Sports that the NBA had warned the Bulls about not playing Lopez and Holiday, but a team source said that wasn’t the case, especially because Lopez and Holiday made the decision.
The Bulls’ plan was always to go back to Lopez and Holiday — possibly as starters — at some point, but not because of some nonexistent warning.
‘‘After the All-Star break, we had communication with the league office about Robin and Justin’s roles,’’ vice president John Paxson said in a statement. ‘‘After healthy dialogue, the league determined that their situations fall into the ‘player rest’ policy. We respect the communication and cooperative dialogue with the league and will adhere to their recommendations going forward.’’
In the meantime, ‘‘You need somebody to step up,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘You can use the excuse that our two best guys [in terms of leadership] are not in the lineup and that we’ve gotten off to horrendous starts without those guys in there, but somebody has got to take the ownership and be the leader and pull guys together when things aren’t going well. We completely shut down [Monday] night and got embarrassed.’’
Enter Dunn, who at least sounded like someone who was willing to try to take on that leadership role.
‘‘Yeah, after [Monday] night’s game, I realized that,’’ Dunn said when he was asked if the point guard naturally should grab the reins in that department. ‘‘I’ve got to be the leader of the group because I play the point-guard position. It’s my job to get everybody in the right position. It’s my job to make sure everybody’s competing and playing hard each and every minute on the floor. These next  games, I’m definitely going to pick it up from there.’’
Someone has to.
‘‘Who is going to emerge as a leader and get us through these tough times?’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘We’re still searching for that.’’
Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.