Fred Hoiberg, Bulls players aren’t about to apologize for ruining tank job
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NEW ORLEANS — Bulls coaches and players realize they’re in a strange situation.
The front office built the team to fail this year. It wanted the players to play hard and develop but inevitably do what many in the NBA have become accustomed to today — tank.
It was never supposed to be about 18-28 and moving closer to mediocrity than a top-five pick. It was about losses and lottery balls.
And Sunday was further evidence that they apologize for nothing.
“It is strange,” Justin Holiday said. “I’ve never been a part of a fan base where some of them get angry when you win. But at the same time, as angry as the fan base may seem, the ones that come to that game want us to win. I’ll continue to say that.
“If that was the case, than what’s the point of supporting us? What’s the point of cheering for us to do well? Like I said, they enjoy winning. Every person in this world enjoys winning, regardless of how bad they want a draft pick or something like that. When it comes to that game, us having a chance to win, they want that. You can hear it.”
There’s no arguing that.
The United Center faithful — especially in the last home game against the Warriors — were pulling for the victory.
But the players know that talk shows and social media constantly rip them and coach Fred Hoiberg for blowing the tank job with each victory.
“I think that’s more for the fans and for the people above us to deal with,” guard Zach LaVine said. “As players, we’re competitors. We come out here to win.
“We can’t deal with [angry fans] or worry about that. It’s almost out of our control. Once we step inside these lines, its competition. You know, it’s our livelihood, so we go out there to compete.”
As strange as it has been for the players, imagine being Hoiberg.
He was booed in the playoffs last year for blowing a 2-0 series lead against the Celtics, and he was even greeted with “Fire Hoiberg’’ chants in the home finale. Now he’s overachieving with this group, and he still can’t make a majority of Bulls fans happy.
“I’ve talked about this a lot,” Hoiberg said. “A big part of this process is learning how to win. So every time we step on the floor, we’re going to compete to try and win a basketball game, and that’s our job.”
That’s one point that can’t be overlooked.
It’s easy to gather young talent. Winning games is a big hurdle for most rebuilds.
There’s a reason Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau added Jimmy Butler when he already had young, talented players such as LaVine, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Heck, ask Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons how hard it is to win. The 76ers’ dynamic duo is still trying to figure that out consistently.
“It is a team that right now is playing with a lot of confidence, and that’s a good thing to be able to close out close games,” Hoiberg said. “I do think a very important part is to learn how to win. We feel good about the guys we have right now. We hopefully will keep the confidence high because that’s as important as anything in this league.”
NOTE: Fred Hoiberg said that Kris Dunn (concussion) hasn’t improved and that he’s in danger of missing the last two games of this three-game road trip. Dunn suffered the concussion Wednesday.
Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.