There’s something about the Chicago Bulls that makes it uncomfortably easy to bash them. It pains me as a fan to do it.
Perhaps bash is a harsh word. Hypercritical may be more suitable, seeing as I constantly expect more out of them. Chicago’s storied NBA franchise hasn’t won an NBA title, let alone an Eastern Conference title, in the past 17 years. Consistently, the more-than-talented team stalls, and the sense of restlessness only grows with every passing year.
In the past seven years (otherwise known as the Derrick Rose era), it’s become fashionable to blame whichever scapegoat the media decides to focus their bullshit-laced agenda on.
Those names have included Tyson Chandler, Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer, Vinny del Negro, and most recently, Tom Thibodeau.
Forget Jay Cutler. Whoever is supposedly the problem with the Bulls take turns as goat No. 1 across the Chicago sporting lexicon.
Whether you’re OK with how the Chicago Bulls have operated the past 17 years or absolutely sick to your stomach over it, there’s really only been one constant.
The front office.
Gar Forman and John Paxson, the men in charge of it all, have pulled so many strings over the years that it’s been woefully difficult to keep up.
The picture painted for the 2015 offseason should show the Chicago Bulls front office with their backs squarely against a wall. Like any proud franchise, though, you would think the next scene portrays them coming out swinging, trying to get over the proverbial hump.
We’ve seen this around the NBA a lot in recent years.
The Los Angeles Clippers completely retooled and went from bottom-feeder to an annual contender after drafting Blake Griffin and trading for Chris Paul (with an assist from David Stern). The Miami Heat packaged two in-house assets—Dwyane Wade and Pat Riley—with free agents LeBron James and Chris Bosh and won two championships.
But not the Bulls. Carlos Boozer was “the big free agent” the first time around, while Pau Gasol was the “big free agent” this past year. The latter was a home run compared to the former, but he was still a consolation prize.
Everything Gar Forman and John Paxson seem to do is reactive, rather than proactive. There’s never a sense of urgency.
It hasn’t even been a month since the NBA Finals and we’ve already seen two prime examples.
First, there’s the Fred Hoiberg hire. I’ll be transparent – I couldn’t be more pissed about that situation.
But don’t mistake my displeasure as an indictment on Fred Hoiberg. After all, he’s not the reason for the Bulls’ long list of problems.
We can’t just sit idly by and act as if Gar Forman didn’t know exactly what he was getting—his prototypical “Yes” man.
Tom Thibodeau is the exact opposite of Fred Hoiberg. If the new Chicago Bulls head coach was going to be anything, he was going to be someone the front office could control. Not surprising, but probably not the best way to win an NBA title.
And then there was last Thursday’s NBA Draft, when the Chicago Bulls front office went with talented Arkansas forward, Bobby Portis.
Portis, a 6′ 11″ player with skill on both sides of the ball and a high motor, (think the inverse of Joakim Noah) translates well to the NBA level.
But the Chicago Bulls already have a strong stable of forwards. In fact, maybe even too many. Any fan with a brain could see that power forward was not one of the team’s major needs.
The Bulls still lack consistent outside scoring, their backup point guard situation still includes the corpse of Kirk Hinrich, and there’s uncertainty surrounding both Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy.
Bobby Portis is a good basketball player, but he isn’t what the Bulls’ actively needed.
I want Bobby Portis to succeed. I want Fred Hoiberg to succeed.
But I won’t hide behind the fact that Hoiberg’s success gives Gar Forman and John Paxson a positive addition to their resumes. And herein lies the true problem.
What the Chicago Bulls organization needed most wasn’t the witch-hunt that resulted in the termination of Tom Thibodeau. It needed a transparent expose of the two men pulling all of the strings.
Fred Hoiberg and Bobby Portis were safe moves for a franchise that’s reached a plateau by making safe moves. So what’s the correct course of action? The Chicago Bulls front office will tell you it’s to keep digging deeper down the rabbit hole.
Yes, Derrick Rose has been injured. Yes, Tom Thibodeau’s offense stalled during key moments in multiple playoff series. But the Chicago Bulls aren’t the underachieving franchise they are right now because of those reasons.
It’s because the two men making the big basketball decisions are too timid to make a splash in a birdbath.
And until they do, the Chicago Bulls aren’t going anywhere they haven’t been in the last 17 years.