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Thursday, March 16, 2017

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Eyes On NBA: The Struggles of The Chicago Bulls

By @TrueGodImmortal 

Good afternoon. My name is True. I'm a Chicago Bulls fan and I have a problem. What is my problem? I'm a Chicago Bulls fan. It's a sickness almost. Since the days of Jordan and Pippen, watching the Bulls games with my uncle, I've been invested in the Bulls (it also helps that my favorite colors have always been red and black). I watched the NBA during the dark days of the Bulls, where the playoffs became a distant thought. I watched the Bulls lose out on a possible 4th straight championship because their organization is trash. That's right, before Jordan retired in the beginning of 1999, he had pondered another season to outdo himself and go for a 4-peat. What stopped him? At the time, the battle between Jordan and the upper management of the Bulls silently raged on and almost forced Michael to give the game up. Now, imagine that. The Bulls were never a great team after the Jordan era, and as a fan, I sat in pain watching a number of losing seasons with uneven rosters and lack of real depth.

That changed when Derrick Rose got drafted.

Granted, I knew minimal info about Derrick Rose (wasn't a big fan of Memphis in the NCAA, though I did watch that epic NCAA Championship Game in 2008), besides the fact that he was a good player. I was unsure if Rose could lead the Bulls back to prominence, but I was definitely hopeful that he could. Over the years after Rose arrived, the Bulls seemingly got better, as they would return to what seemed like past prominence. After barely scraping the playoffs in his first two seasons with the Bulls, Rose would step up and lead the Bulls to the no. 1 seed in  the East two years in a row (2011 and 2012) in an East that featured the super team Miami Heat. Alongside Joakim Noah, who once upon a time was a defensive powerhouse, the Bulls seemed like they were on the path to possibly contending for a title. Had the Miami Heat NOT been together, the delusional fan in me says the Bulls would have made the NBA Finals in 2011. Now, they probably wouldn't have won, but I still can dream. Derrick Rose won MVP in 2011 and it seemed like we finally had another star in Chicago for years to come. That was 2011. This is 2017. Derrick Rose is no longer with the Chicago Bulls.

I can explain. I think.

It's not completely the Bulls' fault that Rose is gone, but let's not focus on that aspect for a moment. After the arrival of Jimmy Butler in Chicago, things looked like business could pick up. Then, a fatal blow: Rose got injured. Then Rose got injured again. He couldn't stay healthy. This would spell doom for a Chicago team that needed their MVP right? Well yes, and no. Surprisingly, even with the Derrick Rose struggles, the Bulls would step up and become a regular playoffs team for the last 5 or 6 seasons. This could be due in part to the team banding together, Thibs being a good coach (not a great coach), the depth of the bench at the time, and more importantly, the improvement of Jimmy Butler. After a 50 win season that saw Derrick Rose come back healthy, it looked like the Bulls were headed in the right direction. They fought hard in the playoffs and lost in 6 games to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but they gave the Cavs their biggest challenge of that postseason. So, we expected them to come back next season and compete. But as usual, something happened. It always does. ALWAYS.

This time around, it was injuries again. In the 2015-2016 season, it seemed as if the Bulls just couldn't get it done and they would miss the playoffs after injuries to Jimmy Buckets and Rose had the team beyond uneven. Okay, 2016-2017 would be our chance to get back. Get Rose healthy, Butler focused, and add a piece or two in free agency. Then IT happened. The "it" here being Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, two players beyond their prime being moved to the New York Knicks. On paper, this seemed like a good move in a way. Both players weren't going to be as good as they used to be, and the Bulls could try to add some pieces. Dwyane Wade was a free agent, as were some other top tier players, so why not add him and a solid role player or two and a PG to make up for Rose's absence. They could also build around the clear future of the team, Jimmy Butler, and work their way up to being a winning franchise yet again after the stumble in the previous season. That didn't happen. No. No it didn't.

The Bulls went into the 2016-2017 with Dwyane Wade, which on the surface was great. They also added Rajon Rondo, and a few other players that wouldn't make much of a difference. Still, I held out hope like many Bulls fans always do these days. Things started off well. Chicago early on in the season seemed to be competing heavily for a playoff spot and with the duo of Wade and Butler together, there was definitely an opportunity to gain a 4th or 5th seed in this Eastern Conference. But something happened. It always does. I've avoided talking about Gar and Pax here because they aren't deserving of any mention. They've ruined this team and they're complete idiots. They don't know how to run this organization and they have a very weird way of pushing out star players. That much is evident just by looking at the consistent Jimmy Butler trade rumors that have been rampant since the free agency period. Most people expect Butler to leave Chicago this off season in a trade to Boston and it is sadly not that far fetched. So, that will make a team that's lost Rose, Butler, and also Doug McDermott and veteran Taj Gibson in a season (I will NOT address the Taj and Doug to OKC trade, because it's quite possibly one of the weirdest trades I've ever witnessed in recent memory. It makes no sense and it never will. But Gar and Pax wanted Cameron Payne and Anthony Morrow. Why? I don't fucking know. I still don't know why they wanted Rondo or Michael Carter Williams. I still don't know why Wade signed with them because there's no way he believed in the vision of Gar and Pax. No way. Look, playing for home is one thing, but not everyone has the pull of LeBron and Wade going back home wasn't a huge welcome back for a veteran, it was merely one of the greatest shooting guards ever going to a team that's all about two things: selling tickets and keeping Gar and Pax happy. Fuck them.

Am I mad? You damn right I am. I've watched this team waste their potential for a while now and ruin themselves from the inside out because the talent isn't lacking. Currently, the Bulls sit one game behind the 8th seed in the East. Considering how weird that 8th seed race is, they could end up making it if they play better for the final stretch. But can they? Will they? The pursuit for a possible playoff berth just got a bit tougher right at the worst time. Dwyane Wade, who hasn't been the All Star Wade we've loved in the past, just went down for the remaining games of the regular season. This surely means the Bulls are done for right this year right?


Not so fast. Jimmy Butler hasn't played so well since the All Star Break, and that could be in part to a number of things. However, if Buckets can get back to form, it is very possible that the Bulls can walk away with enough victories to steal that 8th seed. With Wade out, it's possible that we see Butler get back to form and lead this team on a run. If we see Mirotic and Rondo actually get a consistent bit of play going, we might witness something special with this Bulls team. Is it likely? Hell no. But a fan can dare dream. I just think the Bulls biggest struggle isn't on the court and with their lack of chemistry (they're hit or miss on the court together), but rather all the other nonsense that's gone on. The Rondo/Wade/Butler issues that caused a media stir, Wade criticizing guys for playing with no heart or no drive, Butler getting his toenails painted (no All Star should ever do this... fuck you Wade) to the issues behind the scene with management and the lingering Butler trade rumors, there's so much more going on with this Bulls team than just basketball. Egos, selfishness, and most of all, idiocy from none other than who? Gar. And. Pax.

The biggest struggle with the Bulls is trying to be a good team and organization with Gar and Pax at the forefront. This is what we always be the issue with the team. Long after Rose is gone. Long after Butler is gone. Long after Fred Hoiberg, the head coach is gone. Long after Rondo and Wade are gone. The more Gar and Pax continue to have power, the worse it is for the Bulls overall. And the Bulls fans.



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