By Cody Westerlund
CHICAGO (CBS) — Before training camp opened, Bulls management emphasized that this season wouldn’t be judged on wins and losses. What would be important was the culture that was set, player development and giving a quality effort every night to instill winning habits well before the influx of winning talent arrived.
It’s with that as context that coach Fred Hoiberg expressed anger after a 101-69 loss to the Thunder at the United Center on Saturday night. Beyond the ugly basketball that featured the Bulls shooting 28.2 percent and committing 20 turnovers in dropping to 1-4, Hoiberg was frustrated by what he thought was a lackadaisical approach all evening.
“We took a huge step in the wrong direction tonight,” Hoiberg said. “We didn’t compete. We didn’t stay together. We didn’t fight through adversity as a team.”
Hoiberg was just getting started.
“We were careless,” he said. “We were stagnant. They got the loose balls. That can’t happen. That can not happen with this group. It’s very disappointing coming off the encouraging win against Atlanta by doing all the little things, by winning the 50-50 battle, by dominating the glass. We had none of that tonight, and our body language sucked. Things weren’t going well. We just dropped our heads and just kind of gave in. You can’t do that as a young team.”
Hoiberg spoke sternly in his postgame comments. He’d been more forceful with his team at halftime. As the Bulls trailed 50-31 after an abysmal eight-point second quarter in which they shot 2-of-16 and had eight turnovers, Hoiberg “let them have it.” He liked the initial response for a minute or two of game action, then nothing else.
“They went on a run, and we folded again,” he said.
Hoiberg was perplexed by the root of the Bulls’ lack of effort Saturday. It was the Thunder who were playing on the second of a back-to-back, not the Bulls. Hoiberg had praised his team’s competitiveness in their first four games of the season even when the scoreboard didn’t reflect it. And save for Bobby Portis punching Nikola Mirotic in an Oct. 17 practice and casting doubt over both players’ futures with the team, he’d liked his team’s day-to-day approach in practice.
As he’s wont to do, Hoiberg referenced shootaround, calling Saturday’s session “the best of the year.” The Bulls were energetic in it. Then nothing translated to the evening, Hoiberg lamented. He appeared disgusted.
The Bulls have Sunday off after six straight days of work. Hoiberg promised that Monday will bring “our hardest practice of the year.”
“We’re disappointed with ourselves too,” said rookie Lauri Markkanen, who led the Bulls with 15 points and eight rebounds. “It’s not just about the blowout win for them. But it’s how we lost. We didn’t compete.”
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.