#17 – The Chicago Bulls

I kinda hate the Chicago Bulls.

Not on any kind of Brooklyn Nets, pre-meditated arson level (god forbid), but this is a team that regularly beats the living shit out of the Knicks and makes me feel all kinds of terrible. I think I’d have voodoo dolls of all of these guys buried somewhere in my closet if they weren’t so damn injury prone already. And, again, one of my favorite basketball memories of all time was watching a matinee game on Easter Sunday (and also my birthday!!) when the Knicks smacked the Bulls in OT and Melo went absolutely HAM!!!

I do have to give Chicago a little bit of begrudging respect though. Last year, the Bulls were MUCH more fun to watch than past Chicago teams that limped their way to 69 points in a playoff game. A lot of that had to do with the absolute emergence of Jimmy Butler as an All-Star, Most Improved type player and someone who gave scoring anemic Chicago a pretty easy 20 points a night (and now, google searching him, I see that he can somehow jump an absolutely ludicrous 50 inches off the ground!! And also this.) However, the Bulls also benefited big-time by prying Pau Gasol away from competing OKC (turns out there’s more cultural landmarks in Chicago than in Oklahoma City, whaaaa??) and by rolling the dice in the 2011 draft and trading two picks to move up and grab the rights to Real Madrid star Nikola Mirotic and Nikola Mirotic’s beard. And goddamn, when you think that they got Nikola Mirotic at pick #23 AND Jimmy Butler at pick #30 in the same goddamn draft. These guys are doing something right.

The Bulls made the playoffs last year as the 3rd seed because this is the East and even a small amount of talent is pretty much guaranteed a homecourt advantage in the postseason. Still, even with a deep roster going against a significantly depleted Cleveland team, and a 2-1 series advantage, they folded big time and provided that straw breaking the camel’s back in firing Tom Thibodeau and transitioning to the Fred Hoiberg era.

It’s an interesting time for the Bulls. I’m not from Chicago, granted, but it certainly seemed to me like Thibs embodied the gritty, all-out playing style that connected this team to the city in the vein of other defensive greats, like the ’85 Bears. Joakim Noah was of course the perfect embodiment of that hard-work ethos and it was basically impossible to find a single person in this city who had an unkind word for Derrick Rose after he hit NBA superstardom, winning MVP honors for the youngest in NBA history season at age 22 (Derrick Rose has the same birthday as my mom!) And now, with Thibs gone, both of these players have a very tenuous grip on the Bulls’ future.

The Thibs loss is obviously huge, but you also have to worry that Noah was basically a shell of himself last season, after winning the league’s DPOY just two years before. Derrick Rose has been much-maligned recently for his absolute inability to stay on the court (eyeball fracture anyone?), though the sexual misconduct allegations don’t help all that much either. Before we make too much of his descent from an All-Star caliber type player, it’s important to note that the Bulls’ offense dropped a toaster into their bathtub every time Rose left the court in the postseason, though this could also could be due to management’s reluctance to spend money on a decent backup point guard. Still, even with that playoff performance removed it’s not very encouraging (is very encouraging?) that Jimmy Butler has already spoken on his recent practice spent playing the point AND coupled with his shade over Rose’s work ethic.

I guess the question I’m trying to get at, is which Bulls team are we going to see? Obviously Hoiberg was hired to give Chicago a more complex offensive scheme and to give more playing time to the Mirotics and Doug McDermotts on this roster. But are we going to absolutely throw out the nose-to-the-grindstone, defense-as-a-calling-card Bulls teams of the last four years for a team that is going to whip the ball around the court and shoot a bunch of threes? Is Derrick Rose still the face of the lock-down Chicago Bulls or are we transitioning to an era where Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic take on the mantle of a supercharged offense contending in the Eastern Conference?

Honestly, as I write this the Bulls question is kind of fascinating. And I haven’t spoken to enough true fans of the team to see if they’re excited for this potential transformation or are pissed at the team’s handling of the whole Thibodeau situation. Also, it’s very compelling that this may be one of two or three teams that should look completely different next year while still keeping pretty much the entire roster intact (more on those other teams later). So yes, the subjective thing is coming out big time here. Because as much as the whole situation intrigues me, there is only one team in the NBA I will be rooting against more actively than Chicago. I am beyond curious to see what happens with this team next year, as well as secretly hoping Mirotic takes the next step, but I cannot back them as more than an average League Pass team on this site.

See you in the playoffs Chi town.

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