What the hell happened to the Chicago Bulls?

first_imgChicago Bulls Support The Guardian Read more Eighteen months later, and the Bulls aren’t so much a team as they are a chaos vessel composed of men in their twenties who, at least in theory, are good basketball players.Earlier this month, Chicago endured an embarrassing 133-77 loss at home to the Boston Celtics. The Bulls struggled on both sides of the ball, shooting an abysmal 38% from the field while allowing the Celtics to rain down 22 three-pointers. The losing margin of 56 points was the worst in the franchise’s 52-year history. Sadly for Bulls players and coaches – as well as basketball fans, generally – the game wasn’t an outlier. Through the season’s first 31 games, the team is an NBA-worst 7-24, with six of those losses decided by more than 25 points.This was supposed to be year the team started to take shape. Instead, it’s on track to be the Bulls’ worst since the 1999-00 season, a team that happened to include the recently dismissed Hoiberg as a player. After winning just 27 games last season, which included play so bad that the league suspected they were trying to tank in hopes of landing a top draft pick, the team’s front office made a series of surprisingly aggressive off-season moves. In June, they used the seventh and 22nd picks in the draft to land Duke’s Wendell Carter Jr and Boise State’s Chandler Hutchison. The following month they signed Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker to a two-year, $40m deal and matched the four-year, $78m offer sheet LaVine signed with the Sacramento Kings.The Parker signing was peculiar. After all, making a play for a big-name free agent is the type of thing teams looking to win now are supposed to do. At 23 years old, it’s certainly possible to picture a team in a Bulls-like position using him as the foundation for its rebuild. He is a solidly above-average forward who, when healthy, is a solid inside shooter you can count on for a handful of rebounds and the occasional three-pointer.Unfortunately, his health has been a major issue. Two of Parker’s first four seasons in the league were cut short by devastating ACL injuries, limiting him to play in just 56% of possible games. He’s also arguably one of the worst defenders in the league, but seemingly comfortable with this, telling Chicago’s 670 The Score, “They don’t pay players to play defense.” Mix in his reputation as a bit of a coaching challenge, having made headlines for airing frustration with coaches over playing time last season with the Bucks, and there’s a very solid case to be made that he’s a player best suited for a reserve role on a team with a commanding coaching staff and a deep bench. The Bulls are not that team. Share on Pinterest Share on Facebook Share via Email … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay. Whether we are up close or further away, the Guardian brings our readers a global perspective on the most critical issues of our lifetimes – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. We believe complex stories need context in order for us to truly understand them. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We hope you will consider supporting us today. We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. “What we’ve done tonight is set a direction,” said Chicago Bulls executive vice president John Paxson on 22 June 2017, the night of the NBA draft, after the team had just traded three-time All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves. “We’ve decided to make the change and rebuild this roster. We’re going to do it with young players we believe can play a system [head coach] Fred [Hoiberg] is comfortable with.”In exchange for Butler, the Bulls acquired guards Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine, as well as Lauri Markkanen, whom the Timberwolves had just selected with the No 7 overall pick. In a sense, the trade provided some much-needed closure to the Tom Thibodeau era, though the coach had moved on from the club a season earlier. At a point, just before Butler’s arrival in Chicago, the Bulls saw themselves on the verge of returning to the NBA finals for the first time since the 1990s with a team, loaded with potential and helmed by hometown talisman Derrick Rose, that would be undone by in-fighting and injuries. It was time to move on to bigger and better things. A new rebuild had begun. Since you’re here… Share on WhatsApp Basketball Craig Hodges: ‘Jordan didn’t speak out because he didn’t know what to say’ Share on Messengercenter_img Twitter Topics NBA features Pinterest Michael Jordan’s six-time NBA champions were the NBA’s model franchise during their 1990s heyday. Photograph: Peter Pawinski/AFP/Getty Images In fact, aside from the possibility of a feel-good story about a former Chicago high-school superstar returning to lead his hometown team to greatness – a narrative Bulls fans know all-too-well in the context of Rose, another injury-prone local star – it wasn’t clear what made Parker a good fit on this Bulls squad.Some players bring out the best in each other when they take the court together. In the case of Parker and LaVine, however, it’s the polar opposite. Like Parker, LaVine finds himself frequently hobbled by injuries (he’s currently out two to four weeks with an ankle ailment), including a torn ACL. Also like Parker, LaVine is a disaster on defense. When the two take the court together, the team feels slower and the defense takes on a swiss-cheese-like quality. In years past, the twosome has counted on teammates to pick up the slack for their defensive lapses, but it’s just too much to overcome when both are on the floor . The “city of big shoulders” seems to have a very limited amount of room for busted knees, and just two months after taking the court as a Bull, the team appears to already be shopping Parker around.The injury woes don’t stop there: Markkanen missed the first 23 games of the season with a sprained elbow, Dunn’s been sidelined for 26 with an MCL sprain, and Bobby Portis has missed 23 games, also with a sprained MCL. Denzel Valentine, the team’s first round pick in the 2016 draft, was officially ruled out for the season after having surgery on his left ankle. Dunn also missed 30 games last season as the result of an assortment of injuries including tendinitis, a sprained big toe, a concussion, and a dislocated finger. For as young as this Bulls team is, their durability tells an entirely different story.Hoiberg, whose record in each of his first three seasons as Bulls head coach had gotten worse, was fired following a 121-105 loss to the Houston Rockets on 1 December. Somehow, things only went downhill from there. New head coach Jim Boylen reportedly held a series of three two-and-a-half hour practices loaded with push-ups and sprints during his first week on the job, leading players to what Yahoo Sports’ Jason Owens described as a “near mutiny,” and contacting the players’ union. This led to the creation of a “leadership committee”, fronted by LaVine, to act as a liaison between the players and the coaching staff.And then Monday happened. During the third quarter of a 25-point loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Dunn shoved Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook, leading to a benches-clearing scuffle between the two teams. Boylen ended up in the middle of the fray, putting his arm around Thunder forward Jerami Grant’s neck, pulling him away. During the post-game press conference, however, Boylen sounded pretty pleased with how the situation was handled, even a bit excited.“That’s all we’ve been talking about is fighting for each other,” he said. “We talk about being a pack of wolves, man. I thought we had some of that. I liked the look in our guys’ eyes when that happened. It bonded them a little bit.”Needless to say, this probably isn’t what Paxson had in mind those 18 months ago. It may be time to set yet another direction before Boylen’s “pack of wolves” tear themselves to shreds. Share on LinkedIn Facebook Share on Twitter US sports Reuse this contentlast_img

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