By Cody Westerlund–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Amid Rajon Rondo’s critical Instagram post late Thursday afternoon that called into question the leadership of Bulls teammates Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade was a basketball-focused revelation that has called into question another key element for the organization: coach Fred Hoiberg’s hold on the locker room.
In Rondo’s mind, Butler and Wade have at times wielded undue power on the coaching staff, perhaps even going rogue.
“My vets didn’t have an influence on the coaching staff,” Rondo wrote in a reference to his days in Boston, where he was a teammate with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. “They couldn’t change the plan because it didn’t work for them.”
Asked amid the fallout Friday if he had influence over the coaching staff, Butler responded “maybe” but added he didn’t think about it through that prism. Rondo stood firm behind his belief.
“What I said, you know,” Rondo said. “Whatever the coaches come in with that’s what it has to be, you know. Simple as that.’’
For his part, Hoiberg denied that Butler and Wade have any control over the coaching staff.
“No,” he responded.
The words and actions of others don’t make it sound nearly as black and white as Hoiberg makes it seem. As the Bulls’ season alternates between spiraling, upsetting better teams and treading water at 23-24, Hoiberg’s hold on the locker room is in question in his second season. An answer from the 13-year veteran Wade on Friday contributed to that uncertainty.
Wade was asked simply, how would you assess Hoiberg’s hold in the locker room right now?
“You’ve got to ask Fred that,” Wade said. “I’m not going to talk about coaches. I talk about players. It’s not my job to talk about what the coaches do. I hold my players accountable as a leader of the team. That’s a question of Fred.”
Lending credence to Rondo’s opinion and directly contradicting Hoiberg’s assertion of control over Butler was the final minute of the Bulls’ loss to the Hawks on Wednesday night, the collapse that set all this controversy off. With 58.6 seconds left, video clearly showed Hoiberg telling the Bulls to call timeout after Dwight Howard was done shooting free throws. Video also clearly showed Butler looking at Hoiberg and responding, “What? No.” After Paul Zipser grabbed the rebound off a Howard miss, he adhered to Butler’s call for the ball and passed it to him. No timeout followed.
Going hand in hand with control over a team is accountability, which Hoiberg addressed in general terms but didn’t provide any detail on.
“It’s something that we talked a lot about,” Hoiberg said. “It’s something that we’re going to continue to address, continue to get better in all areas. It starts with me. I got to get us prepared to play. I got to get us prepared to go out and play consistent basketball and then try to put a plan to get us to go out and win games and be consistent in all areas.”
Butler offered Hoiberg support Friday, saying he’s doing a “good job,” putting the needed preparation work in and that the players need to step up. Of course, it was Butler who in December 2015 first called Hoiberg’s approach into question, saying he needed to “coach harder.”
Now amid his second season of drama and underwhelming performance in Chicago, Hoiberg was asked if it’s all “worth it.”
“It’s a job that’s tough, all 30 of us that are in this position have tough jobs,” Hoiberg said. “There’s a lot of pressure. It’s a high stress. It’s tough on our families. It’s all those things. At the same time, being in this league, you know what you’re getting into. I was in the NBA for 15 years – 10 as a player and five in the front office. My dream was to get back in and coach. You’re in these situations – these things come up over the course of the year with pretty much every team, with maybe the exception of a few. You deal with it the best you can and try to move forward.”
Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for CBSChicago.com and covers the Bulls. He’s also the co-host of the @LockedOnBulls podcast, which you can subscribe to on iTunes and Stitcher. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.