After brief hiatus, Griffin returns to Bulls' staff

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After brief hiatus, Griffin returns to Bulls' staff

At 37 years old, Adrian Griffin walked away from a plum position as an NBA assistant coach with the Chicago Bulls, the team with the NBA's best regular-season record last season, in early July, citing responsibilities to his family and an interest in pursuing a career in the ministry.

Only a few months later, Griffin, known for his determination, toughness and defensive acumen during his playing career, is back on the Bulls coaching staff.

"I just needed a little time to take care of what's really important and that's family and getting everybody on the same page," Griffin told CSNChicago.com Wednesday at Herbert Elementary School on the West Side, where he joined other Bulls employees in a pep rally, in which the organization donated school supplies to an auditorium full of appreciative students.

"The Bulls were great about giving me some time to attend to my family and everything worked out, and I'm back to work and it's like I never left, so I'm just excited. I know things will work out for the better."

Griffin admitted that stepping down was a difficult decision, but the religious Wichita, Kan., native never questioned his thought process.

"It was, but at the end of the day, you have to put your priorities in line," Griffin explained. "It worked out where I'm able to be back at work and do the thing that I do love, and that's to coach. I do have aspirations of eventually being a head coach, but at the end of the day, your family's important and you just have to make sure that everything's OK on that end."

Griffin said the organization welcomed him back with open arms.

"Oh yeah, they were great. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, general manager Gar Forman and the entire coaching staff, they were very supportive," said Griffin, who played a key role in the successful season of one-time teammate, small forward Luol Deng. "We're a close-knit group and it was just good to have their support."

The transition was perhaps eased by the ongoing NBA lockout, as the Bulls didn't have any pressure to immediately hire a replacement or promote from within, although Griffin couldn't himself comment on the work stoppage, per league rules.

"I went right back to work," said Griffin, in a nod to Thibodeau, the reigning NBA Coach of the Year's relentless work ethic. "It was fun and I was looking forward to it after being off so long."

Griffin was joined at Wednesday's Kia Motors-sponsored event by fellow former Bulls players Scottie Pippen, Bob Love, Sidney Green and Randy Brown, as well as play-by-play announcer Chuck Swirsky and mascot Benny the Bull.

"It really puts things in perspective. This is what life is all about," reflected Griffin. "We were all here at one point, little kids wondering what we wanted to do with our lives."

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott wasn’t exactly hunting for his first shot, but the first time he touched the ball in an NBA game in nearly a month wasn’t the optimal situation for him to let one fly.

It wasn’t in transition where he runs to an opening behind the 3-point line, nor was it a drive-and-kick situation where the help defense collapsed and left him open. It was a regular, simple, pass to the perimeter and McDermott’s defender was in reasonable proximity with 3:23 left in the first quarter.

He launched and the crowd soon roared its approval as his sweet jumper was sorely missed by the Bulls bench brigade—and moments later when he ran the floor for a fearless layup that caused Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to call a timeout, McDermott showed he missed the United Center crowd too, calling for more noise on his way to the bench.

“Anytime you have a guy like Doug, he comes back and makes his first 3, that’s hard to do,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He stepped up with confidence on that first shot. I’m sure he had a lot of nerves getting back out there.”

Missing 12 games and suffering two concussions, McDermott looked right at home in 25 minutes of run Thursday as the Bulls were able to rely on their reserves in some form in their 95-91 win over the previously perfect road warriors known as the Spurs.

“We defended and kept them off the foul line,” McDermott said. “Coach (Jim) Boylen was with them, so we feel we know them and I think all this time they were missing my defense.”

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The last statement was certainly tongue-in-cheek, but the Bulls’ bench production was certainly missing in action while he was out with the concussion protocol. So much so that his return prompted the Bulls’ coaching staff to call out the reserves in the morning shootaround, demanding more.

“It’s definitely Dwyane (Wade) and Jimmy (Butler) and (Rajon) Rondo (but) the coaching staff kinda called out our bench like, we gotta have you tonight, bench,” McDermott said. “We took that to heart, we were really locked in.”

Seemingly his presence aided the Bulls’ spirits and production, as the Bulls’ bench had the least effective scoring bench in the NBA since Nov. 13, the day after McDermott hit the unforgiving floor against the Wizards for his second concussion this season.

Their net rating ranks ahead of only the Wizards, Mavericks and Nets, who are a combined 17-45 this season. Their effective field goal percentage, which takes into account 3-pointers, is worst in the league in that span (42.3 percent).

When McDermott was healthy for that smaller sample size, the Bulls’ bench ranked fifth in offensive efficiency, seventh in net rating, and fifth in efficient field goal percentage. Whether McDermott – and his absence – was directly related to those numbers, it’s clear the Bulls are better when they have their best reserve – and only true floor spacers on the second unit – on the court.

“We’re all professionals and we want to help the guys who are busting their butts in the first unit to get us the leads,” McDermott said. “Tonight we did a great job of sustaining it. We take it personal when teams come back on us.”

[MORE: Pau Gasol relishes consistency with Spurs he couldn't find with Bulls]

Nikola Mirotic was four of eight from the field, and Cristiano Felicio seems to be back in Fred Hoiberg’s good graces as he’s carved out a rotation spot for himself with nine points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes.

It seems as if Hoiberg will stick with this rotation of players, at least for a little while until Michael Carter-Williams returns from his injuries. If McDermott is the mark of the Bulls’ bench going from bottom feeder to adequate, it should show this month.

“When he’s out there on the floor and we get him coming off screens, it forces the defense to shift as another person they need to be aware of,” Hoiberg said. “It opens up driving lanes for our guys. It was great to have Doug back with us.”

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

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