Bulls Bad in 2018

pexels-photo-752036~22018 Bulls are Bad

Bottoming out

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 Mirotic trade. 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.

Greater Expectations

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 Butler trade – 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.

Looking Ahead

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.

NBA Weekend Eventful

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NBA Weekend Eventful to Start

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.

Full Friday

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.

Friday Files

Adobe_Post_20181214_144101NBA:
James Harden goes 50-10-10; has 19 free throws as Rockets topple Lakers 126 – 111
• Spurs find defense; blow out Clips 125 – 87
• Bulls lose to Orlando 97 – 91; reportedly bench Parker
• T.J. Warren’s 30 points vs Mavs help Suns snap skid; overshadow Dirk’s return

NFL:
• Philip Rivers, Chargers exorcise demons on TNF; stun Chiefs at Arrowhead
• Keenan Allen goes down with hip injury
• OBJ out again with quad injury vs Titans
Carson Wentz to possibly be shut down for rest of season

Bulls Sink Further in Lost Season

We can't forget MJ on the wall of our bedroom (we were eleven in 1992), french paper Le Monde's director said one day (was it in 2001?)
Photo by: Steven Largouet

MEXICO CITY – Let the good times roll. It can be difficult to detect sarcasm in writing, but hopefully it was clear in this case. It wound take extraordinary circumstances for even casual basketball fans to not see what is going on with the Chicago Bulls. Yet somehow, the front office and head coach continue to say things like “change is difficult”. Or that they “did have some distraction“. There is no way they are watching the same things as everyone else.

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.

Bulls Brooding Over Boylen

Chicago Bulls head coach Jim Boylen questions a call during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, in Indianapolis.

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.

Trubisky Awful on SNF

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 09: Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (10) hands the football to Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard (24) in action during an NFL game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Chicago Bears on December 09, 2018 at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL.

(Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

CHICAGO — Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky returned to action Sunday night after missing the previous two contests with a shoulder injury. He finished 16 of 30 for 110 yards and three interceptions. Bad interceptions.

Whether the injury or rust was the cause of his erratic play last night remains to be seen. To clarify: Trubisky has been perhaps the most erratic quarterback in the NFL this year. It goes deeper than game-to-game or even series-to-series. Trubisky will look like two completely different quarterbacks from one play to the next. It is a major flaw, but is something he had done better with before getting injured.

Prior to Sunday night, Trubisky had not completed less than 60 percent of his passes since week eight against the hapless Jets; a game he finished with two touchdowns and zero intercepts. In fact, this was only the third game of the season with a completion percentage in the 50s.

Look, Mitch still makes too many bad throws, period. His reads are usually correct however. He has also shown the ability to make every throw, and we know about his running ability. Where he lacks is consistency, but that will come as he continues building chemistry with his surrounding cast.

The Green Bay Packers come to the lakefront next week. They just embarrassed Matt Ryan and the Falcons for a 34-20 victory. It was not nearly as close as the final score suggests.

Surely they would love nothing more than to hang a loss on the Bears in defiance of any changing-of-the-guard narrative. A Bears win not only locks up the first playoff appearance since 2010, it would also put a nice little bow on what has been fascinating season to follow.

Bears Put Clamps On Rams

Bears defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris (95) and Chicago Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks (96) sack Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) in action during an NFL game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Chicago Bears on December 09, 2018 at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL

(Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

CHICAGO — Well then. There are a number of superlatives that could be thrown out to describe what happened. ‘Lockdown’ seems to be the most fitting for a game the Bears won 16-5. That was the Chicago Bears defense on a night when quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was…awful.

Missing high and long all night, Trubisky showed every bit of a two week layoff; finishing 16 of 30 for 110 yards one touchdown and three bad interceptions. It is not a new issue, but it is one he had done better with before getting injured against Minnesota. He will need to be better, but not much if the Bears defense manhandles opponents like it did Los Angeles.

The running game was a different story. Jordan Howard (19 runs for yards) and Tarik Cohen (9-69) gave the Bears what they had been missing for weeks: consistent positive yardage on the ground. It was especially nice to see Howard, a focal point the past two years, get rolling. With the playoffs drawing nearer, having a 230 pound sledgehammer to wear down defenses is going to pay dividends.

If Trubisky was awful, Goff can only be described as putrid. Yes he finished with more yardage — going 20 of 44 for 180 yards — but he threw four interceptions of his own and absorbed three sacks, one of which was a safety. Some will say that two of the picks were “fluky”, but the Chicago front seven had Goff under duress the entire night.

His supporting cast did not fair much better. One of Jukes & Jumpers keys to victory, the Bears took the NFLs leading rusher completely out of the game. Todd Gurley finished with 11 carries for 28 yards; tacking on 30 yards by way of three receptions. Every time Gurley touched the ball, there was a defender hot in pursuit. Typically one of the most explosive runners in the game, Gurley was repeatedly kept to two- and three-yard carries; with a long of 12 yards.

With Goff being off his game, his receivers were not able to do much. Robert Woods was the only one to have an impact; catching seven passes for 61 yards. Brandin Cooks and Josh Reynolds combined for six catches and 58 yards. Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara are playing great football right now; while Bryce Callahan is also having an under-the-radar good year, though he did leave the game with an injury.

The Bears defense came in to the night in the discussion for best defense in the League. They made their claim in front of a raucous crowd Sunday night. Perhaps the most satisfying part was the sound tackling and pressure late in the game. Both issues have haunted the Bears most of the season

Next up, an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot and avenge a tough loss next week; when the Packers (5-7-1) come to Soldier Field. The latest meeting in a long and storied rivalry, the circumstances are quite different this time around.

Keys to a Bears Victory on SNF

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 18: A detailed view of the jumbotron at Soldier Field displaying a Bears Win sign is seen after game action during a NFL game between the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings on November 18, 2018 at Soldier Field, in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Robin Alam/
(Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

CHICAGO — As the Bears prepare for their toughest test to date, here are the keys to a Bears Victory:

Offense

1) Get Mitch, offense in a rhythm early: There should be a LOT of points scored in this one, so Matt Nagy needs to get Mitch Trubisky going quickly. Mitch will undoubtedly be rusty, having missed two weeks with an injury to his throwing shoulder. Why not call some quick hitting plays? Get the ball out of Mitch’s hands and into one of those playmakers; let them do the heavy lifting.

2) Control the clock: It has been an issue all season, but against the League’s second ranked offense, it would behoove the Bears to establish a consistent ground game. The Rams are actually middle of the pack against the run. The issue is teams typically do not get the chance to stack carries. The Bears need run it early and often, and not abandon it if unsuccessful early.

Defense

3) Stop Todd Gurley: Perhaps this should say ‘slow Gurley’ but the idea is the same. Make the Rams one dimensional, something the Bears have done all season. It should be mentioned that Gurley is also a threat in the passing game. Which brings us to the final key…

4) Get after the quarterback: Jared Goff is having a wonderful season. He has even been mentioned in MVP discussions. But the Bears have a player who specializes in terrorizing his position. Vic Fangio needs to get Khalil Mack back in early season form. Not that his impact has not been felt recently, but he was sacking quarterbacks and taking the ball away at a blistering pace to start the campaign. The Bears hope to see that version tonight on the lakefront.

***Bonus Key***

Show up in the fourth quarter defensively: For all the well-deserved praise the Bears defense has gotten, this is one thing that certainly sticks in players, coaches and fans craw. The Bears have given up far too many points and yards in the final frame. The biggest reason has been poor tackling allowing insane amounts of yards after catch. The Bears must be technically sound and bring down the Rams explosive weapons when they have the chance.

Bulls in Familiar Territory with Youth Movement

Wallpaper of Derrick Rose with Michael Jordan in the background
Photo by: RyanHurstDesigns

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.

Bulls Out of Luck Against Celtics

Bulls || Image Source: cdn.fansided.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/24/files/2016/06/nb...
Photo by: David Berkowitz Chicago

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.

You Know What Time It Is