John Paxson and Gar Forman were handed a get out of jail free card and will be ruining the Bulls for one more year. This is the group who ran Tom Thibodeau out of town and Derrick Rose out of town and don’t have much to show for it. Anything Dwyane Wade does the Bulls get no credit for; Wade dropped himself in the Bulls apathetic, no plan lap. And so here they are, a .500 team. Not bad enough for the top of the lottery and Lonzo Ball or Markelle Fultz and not good enough for the Eastern Conference Finals. In other words, welcome to hell.
This would all be so funny if it wasn’t funny. Not even a year ago, the Bulls were being their messy selves. It was the summer of 2016. They traded beloved star and local product Derrick Rose. They severed ties with Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol. They “claimed” they wanted to get younger and quicker but didn’t pursue anyone on the free agent market to meet those goals. On the passive-aggressive side, they didn’t trade Jimmy Butler which kept the only star caliber player in a Bulls uniform in house. They then signed Rajon Rondo whose last two years have been forgettable. He was a disaster in Dallas. He was the good citizen in Sacramento playing for George Karl and not getting into fights with DeMarcus Cousins. The rest of the Chicago roster? Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic, Robin Lopez, Doug McDermott were low hanging fruit.
In the Bulls division, the Pacers upped their game and passed the Bulls in the dust with their acquisition of Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young. The Cavaliers are the defending champs. The Bucks unloaded their whatever player on the Bulls in the form of Michael Carter-Williams. Plus they adding Matthew Dellavedova to match their young talent ofJabari Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Greg Monroe, who, the Bulls cannot beat. The Bulls are the most dysfunctional team in the division five years removed from being the best team in the division.
A few weeks ago, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that assistant coaches were snitching on the Bulls players, heading back to Gar Forman’s office so he can complete dossier’s to smear them when they are cut loose. It is the Bulls m.o. They did it with Thibs. They did it with Rose. The did it with Noah. They want people to believe they have no accountability and the players are always wrong when it is the Bulls themselves that took a sledgehammer to this ship.
The Bulls believed they got a gift they hadn’t planned on or prepared for when Pat Riley went Pat Riley-bully on the Heat’s most beloved player, first offering him $10 million which is what Matthew Dellavedova received from the Bucks in a sign-and-trade, and then doubling it to $20 million while at the same time not speaking to said beloved player for a month and pursuing Kevin Durant and showing allegiance to Hassan Whiteside.
Dwyane Wade had enough of the Pat Riley rhetoric and called his bluff, doing something Riley never, ever thought he would. It sent Chicago native Wade into the Bulls orbit.
How has it worked out? Wade is shooting a career low 43.4% and is at a career low in assists, 3.9. He can still perform on the NBA stage, his 19 points isn’t shabby but he isn’t Wade of before. In fact that Wade hasn’t been seen since he played with LeBron James. Even though Wade and Butler are two peas in a pod, they are a bad mix teammates wise because Wade doesn’t compliment Butler. He isn’t consistently quick and his defense is average. The lack of perimeter shot making from Wade only makes the Bulls worse. His knees being what they are, his not practicing because of said knees, the gripes of young players who, let’s face it, want to complain about everything, has circled this very boiling to the extreme pot of pieces that are broken.
If you can’t be good, just don’t be boring. The Bulls may actually believe that. But what they are doing is damaging their brand because at some point they have to convince talent to come here. Why would they want to when they have in-house informants? The Bulls tried to rebuild and be relevant at the same time. But if you want to have a shot at a conference final you have to start over. Getting young isn’t the issue. It is getting young with elite talent. That only happens by being in the lottery.
This Bulls team isn’t boring. With Wade, they added spice and intrigue and drama and leadership and bickering. Wade has been on bad teams before. He has been on championship teams before. Even as he is not the best player on the Bulls, he is the most accomplished and experienced and he may even be the toughest. His injury history and constant comebacks were only possibly because Wade doesn’t accept adversity or limitations. But he is no one’s savior anymore.
Rondo is what many predicted. The irony of him calling out Butler and Wade for letting the media in on their criticism and then he does the same exact thing is textbook Rondo. Rondo could have made things worse in the locker room but he is seen as a rational mind. Go figure.
As for the Bulls, only this tag team crew of Paxson and Forman can make former Bulls GM Jerry Krause look good. They are anemic as ever. Wade saved them last summer. Nothing, not even a trade, can save them now. This Bulls team is the worst 3-point shooting team in the NBA. Every opponent is going to pack the paint and force the Bulls wing players to take shots they cannot make.
It’s hard to understand how Paxson and Forman are being evaluated. Clearly it is not on wins. Or chemistry. Or playoffs. Or coaching. Or free agent signings. You know, the regular things. Or put it another way. What have they done that was successful the past two years?
Before last week, it was trending towards a dull Bulls season with the lottery being the only upside. Since letting go of Tom Thibodeau, the Bulls have been a comedy of errors, miscalculations and arrogance. Accountability isn’t an organizational virtue
But Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo rescued the city of Chicago and on those tediously dull, snowy nights of winter there will be something to look forward to; chaos. The clueless front office and three star players needing to pull the Bulls from misery’s heavy cloak are on a collision course to nowhere.
photo via llananba