What is the endgame? That has to be the question on the minds of all Chicago Bulls fans following Wednesday’s loss to the Brooklyn Nets that dropped their record to 7-25. This is shaping up to be the worst season since the 1998-99 season; following Michael Jordan‘s retirement. The issue here, however, is this Bulls team did not lose an MJ. They are not coming off of a single championship, let alone a second three-peat. In fact, this Bulls team only won 27 games all last season; 13th in the East.
Building Through The Draft
The thought going into last season was the Bulls would be rebuilding. That is code in 2018 for tanking. Chicago won more games than they should have, ending up taking Wendell Carter Jr with the seventh pick and Chandler Hutchison with the pick acquired in the Nikola Mirotictrade. Carter has been compared to Al Horford; a technician that can fill a variety of roles on offense and anchor a defense. Hutchison was a player the team fell in love with during the pre-draft process; going so far as to guarantee they would select him. Both may become really good players, but the NBA is a superstar driven league.
Top to bottom, this roster is just a collection of secondary and tertiary options playing out of position (Jabari Parker) or in the wrong role (Justin Holiday). The hole at small forward – created by the Jimmy Butlertrade – is glaring. Drafting the right prospect is not necessarily the problem for this front office. The Bulls have largely done well on that front, but that is relative. They were a middling playoff team, so they could get by with getting the most out of under-the-radar players. When teams are bad, they must get immediate, high-impact players. Last year’s first-round pick, Lauri Markkanen forms a talented and dynamic duo with Carter Jr in the frontcourt, but that is where the hype ends.
Rumors swirled over the summer that, behind closed doors, the Bulls are not completely sold on Kris Dunn. Zach LaVine began the season as a candidate for Most Improved Player. That praise has since given way to criticism over LaVine’s late-game shot selection. To make matters worse, he is now dealing with an ankle sprain that will sideline him up to a month. It is just another injury added to the list in a season that saw Chicago start the season without Dunn, Markkanen or Bobby Portis – who is also dealing with an ankle injury. While no one likes to see injuries, it would be foolish to overlook the proverbial silver lining.
2018 Bulls Bad; 2019 Better?
The aforementioned issues have the Bulls with the worst record in the league; a dubious honor with the kicker being a shot at the number one pick. This assumes – already a risk with this team – that Chicago doesn’t get in its’ own way and win games unnecessarily. Discussion on the overall confidence in this front office is warranted. Questioning the tactics of Head Coach Jim Boylan, also fair. The 2018 Bulls are bad. Getting the first pick in the collective hands of Vice President John Paxon and General Manager Gar Forman, however, has proven beneficial in the past. Perhaps they can deliver again.
Is anybody else’s head spinning? Not that the Association can really ever be boring, but Friday and Saturday showcased what makes it so compelling.
From a failed trade reminding us of 2011 to Russell Westbrook not mincing words. Spencer Dinwiddie and Allonzo Trier continued to earn their new money; Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid both dropped 40, albeit with different end results. Kawhi had 28, but it was Lillard time in TO, and Golden State and Miami both won close games with late runs. By the way, all this was just Friday.
Saturday Night Fever
Saturday night brought its own brand of drama. Orlando stayed undefeated in Mexico. Washington and Phoenix completed a simplified version of the nixed deal, minus Memphis. Speaking of, the Grizzlies fell to 3-5 in December after losing to Houston. James Harden had 32-12-10 while leading the game in points and rebounds – his 10 assists tied Chris Paul. LeBron and Lonzo used triple-doubles of their own to take out the Hornets; while the Thunder downed the Clippers behind Paul George’s game-high 33 points. Chicago, Detroit, and Phoenix upset San Antonio, Boston, and Minnesota respectively. On to Sunday.
As if the 97-91 loss to Orlando was not enough, a report came out that not only would prized free-agent Jabari Parker – he of the 2-year $40M contract – not see regular minutes going forward, he might not even remain with the team through the season. Since that is not enough, the Brooklyn Nets and Spencer Dinwiddie agreed to a 3-year $34M extension. How does this impact the Bulls, you ask? Dinwiddie was cut by Chicago, for someone named R.J. Hunter. All of this and there is still the matter of the media firestorm over the developments this season. A season that, although clearly not set up for a playoff run, has been embarrassing nonetheless.
So what next? Well since we can likely rule out a change in management, the best hope is that the Bulls young guys continue to develop – perhaps in spite of the organization – while the Bulls continue to lose games. Then the could use what will assuredly be a top-4 pick to draft their superstar wing; that being the clearest position of need. The hot name is Zion Williamson, the 6’7” 285 pound forward from Duke. Interestingly enough Williamson’s own teammates, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish have also been linked to the Bulls. You will probably get a different answer on who the pick should be depending on who you ask.
The true question remains, will it matter? Can this front office – that actually has drafted well – attract the seemingly elusive superstar free agent? The recent failures with Parker and Dwyane Wade last year will not do much to help. There were already stories of players avoiding the Bulls, can GarPax change that if they are the ones causing it? Is Jim Boylen really the coach that is going to get this team on track and back to the playoffs? There are more questions and fewer answers every single day with this team.
The Chicago Bulls have had zero players report their head coach the past two days. That might be more because of the team being in Mexico City ahead of tonight’s tilt against the 12-15 Orlando Magic. The game, the Bulls fifth under Jim Boylen, pits two teams with more drama and uncertainty than promise at this point, against each other. In the Bulls case, it has become like a dramedy with basketball as a backdrop.
Chicago Bulls Try to Turn it Around in Mexico City
A Sad Song
There have been numerous stories written on the turmoil the Bulls have put themselves through, including this one. It has become untenable and there are still 54 games left, including tonight. Will Boylen last the entire season with the team in such disarray? According to him, he was prepared for the “mutiny” from the players. If this has been what preparedness looks like, we need to redefine the word. His drill sergeant coaching style is rarely a popular one among professional athletes; not that it should be a popularity contest. The players still need to be willing to listen to the coach. That is not the case here.
Boylen says he views the San Antonio Spurs as the gold standard for how a team should operate. Not a bad organization to emulate. The issue is that this Bulls organization – run by John Paxson and Gar Forman – is not the Spurs. Boylen is not Pop. San Antonio built their well-respected image through years of being relevant. They won championships, drafted well and you always felt that they had a chance. Meanwhile, the thought of the Bulls organizationally incites thoughts of old Vince McMahon entrance music.
They might be able to argue they gave drafted well, a tenuous argument, but that will not be enough for a fanbase growing more fed up by the day. The problem is, as obvious as it may seem to those on the outside, there is almost no chance the embattled pairing of GarPax does not return next year. We have seen time and again from ownership, they are loyal to management to a fault. White Sox fans can attest to that. Perhaps the one change glimmer of hope is that the Sox might be about to return to relevance. In other words, even this owner wants to make changes after a while. When it will be is anyone’s guess.
If Fred Hoiberg and the Bulls seemed ill-fated, Boylen and the Bulls is D.O.A. It is a shame for any franchise with the history of the Bulls. They are taking advantage of a passionate and rabid fanbase, and have been for 15 years. Sure there have been ups – the Derrick Rose and short-lived Jimmy Butler era – but there has been a lot of mediocrity. After the last game, Kings players were overheard in the tunnels of the United Center, mocking the Bulls. Let that sink in. Chicago fans are left to hope their favorite team can be like the Kings. Ouch.
DEERFIELD, IL — Not even two weeks. Newly minted head coach Jim Boylen has not been in the position for two full weeks and he may have already worn out his welcome the players. According to this report on Yahoo.com, players contacted the NBPA to complain about their new leader’s “extreme tactics”.
Those tactics included three two-and-a-half hour practices that included extra conditioning drills, military-style pushups, film session immediately after games and calling for practices after back-to-backs. Calling for a practice Sunday was reportedly the final straw.
Following a 9-15 start to the season, Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson fired Fred Hoiberg and named Boylen to the post; omitting ‘interim’ from his title. Both he and General Manager Gar Forman have since come to the defense of Boylen.
The choice to go with Boylen is looking like the wrong one. Concerning when looking back on Paxson’s presser where he spoke on the team lacking “energy and spirit”.
Boylen has since refuted the initial reports; saying it was only a couple of players. It is an ominous development, nonetheless, and one Boylen is said to have been notified of. His response? Proceed as planned. This likely gets worse before it gets better. So who is really to blame?
On their umpteenth coaching hire — two this season alone — and poised to select another, it would be fair to wonder how much longer the front office duo known as ‘GarPax’ will get to besmudge the legacy the Bulls built.
Seemingly capable of building teams that compete but never seriously threaten — asterisk on the Derrick Rose era — GarPax are wearing thin on a passionate and increasingly vocal fanbase. Looking at the past tendencies of ownership, however, suggests a divorce is not soon to come.
CHICAGO — In all fairness, it was time to trade Derrick Rose, and it is clear who won the first Jimmy Butler trade.
This group also has intrigue. Lauri Markkanen looks like a special player, Lavine can go off on any night and Wendell Carter’s play has made his seventh overall draft cost seem like a bargain. The jury is still out on Kris Dunn, but when on his game he is a tough defender with a knack for closing games.
The elephant in the lineup is at the small forward position. The hope was that Parker would be a case of talent overcoming fit. Now the hope is likely that Jabari is elsewhere next season with an incoming rookie manning that spot.
It is not all on Parker, though he has not exactly put his best for forward. Although undersized, Jabari is a natural power forward and is a square peg in a defensive hole on the wing. Not that his post defense is great but you live with it because he is such a mismatch for most bigs in the Association.
That is another issue. The average power forward is closer to Parker’s profile than when he came in to the NBA. His advantage is diminished with each new class. Make no mistake, Jabari Parker has All-Star ability. Just not at small forward, and probably not in Chicago.
Part of the the thinking behind Jabari at the three is Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr both look like solid blocks to build on. The failed experiment has resulted in Parker coming off the bench; something I’m sure neither side foresaw.
With the team drafting guys like Denzel Valentine and this year’s second first round selection, Chandler Hutchison, signs point to the Bulls selecting a wing player in the upcoming draft. Duke forward Cam Reddish perhaps?
Whoever the Bulls choose, it will likely be Gar Forman and John Paxon making the pick. Whether that is a positive or negative remains to be seen. Hopefully the Bulls get it right, regardless of who is calling the shots.
CHICAGO — History was made at the United Center Saturday night. 133-77 was the final, but the Bulls came out on the destroyed end.
Coming off a thrilling victory versus the Thunder, the Bulls suffered the worst home-loss in franchise history; a 56-point dismantling by the Boston Celtics, who earned their fifth straight win.
Frigid from all over the floor, Chicago’s starters were held scoreless the first 9 minutes. Head Coach Jim Bolyan rightfully benched them. It appears firing Fred Hoiberg has fixed all that is wrong with the Bulls. Go figure.
Perhaps a roster thin on talent and depth is more of an issue. Maybe it was the first month plus that saw three members of a young core out with injury? How is Jabari Parker’s homecoming going? Amazing how firing one guy did nothing for 90 percent of those things. If only there were more people to fire.
Seemingly gifted infallible job security, John Paxon and Gar Forman have spent their tenure building up to disappointment. The gift that was the Derrick Rose era coming closest to a championship run. The Jimmy Butler era helped spur the current rebuild.
This iteration of the “baby” Bulls is long on youth, and a quick look at the standings suggests Chicago will be picking high in the lottery yet again. Another youth movement. When you never finish you’re never done. GarPax will live forever.