Nets Work Worth Noting
The Chicago Bulls most recent loss came at the hands of the Brooklyn Nets. The lesson to be learned is not from the loss itself. After all, the Bulls have lost plenty this season as injuries and general dysfunction have not meshed well. A midseason coaching change is also never a goal, yet here Chicago sits at 11-40 (4th worst in the NBA) as rudderless as ever and the butt of jokes around the league.
Brooklyn has gone from perennial punchline to being linked to names like Jimmy Butler and Kyrie Irving in the past two campaigns. No big signings have come as of yet but not long ago they were, as the Bulls are now, an afterthought for big names seeking new digs. They focused on improving their culture despite their shortcomings on the court.
They have re-entered the ‘destination’ side of the ledger, at least in discussions. That is due to the job started by the hiring of GM Sean Marks and Head Coach Kenny Atkinson in 2016. They dealt with a depleted roster and few viable options for improvement. A year later the Nets acquired an embattled D’Angelo Russell from the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Brook Lopez and the rights to Kyle Kuzma.
Brooklyn has already tied their win total from last season with 28 and sit sixth in the East. On pace for their first winning season since 2013, it is what Brooklyn has done off the court that bears replicating. The Nets committed to their rebuild. They let players play to their strengths and incorporated a faster-paced system with heavier emphasis on the three-ball.
Bull Market Markedly Bad
If that sounds familiar to Bulls fans that is because it was the logic given for hiring the since-fired Fred Hoiberg. Jim Boylen was installed to instill toughness, simply repeating the cycle that saw Tom Thibodeau replaced by Hoiberg. Chicago has long been perceived as a non-destination for prime free agents. The proper coaching hire could go a long way toward changing that.
Acquiring Russell may have been the most important development in the Nets resurrection and is the most relevant to the Bulls. Reports are Chicago is one of current-Laker Lonzo Ball‘s preferred destinations should he be moved in a trade for Anthony Davis. It has also been reported the New Orleans Pelicans are enamored with Ball but that just adds to the intrigue of him landing in Chicago.
More changes are needed even if the Bulls were to acquire Ball. Not necessarily an entire organizational overhaul; the current regime has done well identifying and developing talent. They struggle to attract outside talent and the dysfunction of this season will certainly not help. They have gotten worse as the season has gone on but the chaos has made it hard to judge the actual talent of this team.
Forward Jabari Parker‘s contract helps make everything work. His play since rejoining the Bulls rotation adds to his appeal. It also helps Chicago save face and preserve their efforts to shed their label of hometown talent not wanting to play here. Now Chicago sits in position to flip what was a questionable contract into a better situation at point guard.
More of the Same
It remains to be seen if the duo of John Paxson and Gar Forman can actually complete a rebuild. The business of sports is “what have you done for me lately” and any remaining goodwill GarPax had evaporated a weeks ago. They admittedly need to hit on this rebuild to remain, but anything short of a mass exodus of fans and players likely means they’ll remain.