Bulls Playoff Post: Right said Fred – or wrong?

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Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg.

CHICAGO – For better or worse, you know what you are going to get.

It won’t be too controversial. It may not even be that interesting. Some might describe it as bland. That’s just how Fred Hoiberg interacts with the media.

Not everyone can be a soundbite machine and that’s not what the second-year Bulls coach has been since taking over the job in 2015. His answers are usually not going to kick up much fuss before or after a game at any point the last few years.

Sunday was an exception. Isaiah Thomas made it that way.

“Let me say this: Isaiah Thomas is a helluva player. An unbelievable competitor. He’s a warrior — everything he’s going through right now, he had a helluva game tonight,” said Hoiberg on Sunday, when Thomas ripped the Bulls for 33 points in a Game 4 win. “But when you’re allowed to discontinue your dribble on every possession, he is impossible to guard. He’s impossible to guard.

“When you’re able to put your hand underneath the ball, and take two or three steps and put it back down, it’s impossible to guard him in those situations.”

Shock might be a good way to describe it. Outbursts are not Hoiberg’s thing – not by a long shot. Perhaps he realized the potential power of what he said because he refused to address it later in the news conference then again on Monday.

The NBA was so surprised that, uncharacteristically, they chose not to fine him for criticism of officiating.

Two days later, Thomas himself still doesn’t know what to think of it.

“I was very surprised,” Thomas told The Boston Globe. “Everything else I do on the floor, you want to bring that up. I’m going to continue to dribble the ball the way I know how. I don’t know what he’s trying to get at.”

Does anyone?

Maybe it was an attempt at motivation. Could you blame him? After all the Bulls’ momentum from two wins in Boston against the top-seeded Celtics was flushed after Rajon Rondo’s injury led to a pair of forgettable losses at the United Center.

Hasn’t seemed to work as well as it did for the Grizzlies’ David Fizdale, who fired up his team with a rant about the officiating in a postgame news conference following Game 2 of their first round series with the Spurs.

Not only did the Memphis players offer to pay his fine, but they won two-straight against San Antonio at home to make it a series.

Most of the Bulls refused to comment after the game and have been mum, intentionally or unintentionally, in the last two days of practice.

Could it have been just frustration after the aforementioned defeats that have made a winnable series back down to a best-of-three? Perhaps, considering the up-and-down nature of the season once again playing out in the playoffs. The mind-boggling inconsistencies caused by a roster with a number of holes would be enough to drive anyone mad.

Whatever motivated Hoiberg to say that – inspiration or frustration – he is hoping that it works. While disappoiting, a critical stretch is ahead for the young coach still looking to make his impact as an NBA leader. Two more wins and he pulls off a rare feat – beating a No. 1 seed as a No. 8 seed. Lose and there is only more doubt about a franchise that’s heading down the dreaded road of mediocrity.

Either way, this Thomas comments will either be something right said by Fred or something wrong.



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