By Grant Gierhahn ‘20
“I’m not mad; I’m just disappointed.”
No child takes pleasure from his/her parents uttering the aforementioned phrase. Likewise, as this pithy saying reverberates constantly throughout the Chicago Bulls’ loyal fanbase, the Bulls’ front office shouldn’t interpret fans’ concerns lightly.
Going into the 2020 campaign, the majority of fans were optimistic, holding a firm belief that Chicago’s sole NBA squad could, at the very least, play competitively and contend for a back-end playoff seed. However, through their first eight games, the Bulls have only two victories, a .250 win percentage. Not to mention, half of the Bulls demoralizing defeats have come against the lowly Charlotte Hornets, New York Knicks, and Cleveland Cavaliers, teams projected to finish in the dungeon of the NBA standings.
At this point, though, who is genuinely surprised? In terms of their boneheaded personnel maneuvers, The Bulls’ brass has repeatedly pressed the self-destruct button over the last several seasons.
The downward spiral was incited roughly 4.5 years ago in late May 2015, when President of Basketball Operations John Paxson and General Manager Gar Forman elected to fire tremendously successful Head Coach Tom Thibodeau for philosophical differences. Thibodeau’s ill-advised ouster ensuingly ignited a chain reaction of poor managerial decisions that have relapsed this once esteemed organization into an NBA laughingstock.
The Bulls have had two head coaches in the subsequent five seasons alone. The team has never had a winning percentage above .500 in the last three seasons, and correspondingly has just one measly playoff appearance since Thibodeau’s premature axe.
The Bulls hired supposed “savior,” Fred Hoiberg, as head coach in 2016, but failed miserably to provide him with the proper personnel necessary to enact his unique offensive scheme. Be that as it may, Hoiberg was swiftly fired after roughly 2.5 seasons at the helm, never given a viable chance by the front office to truly prove his worth.
Further obstructing the team’s success, Paxson and Forman have whiffed on a plethora of offseason transactions through signing players, such as Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, and Christiano Felicio, to absurdly steep contracts. Worst of all, in an obvious marketing ploy, the Bulls inked hometown forward Jabari Parker to a colossal deal, despite his defensive liabilities, arrogant attitude, and extensive injury history. Predictably, Parker’s tenure in Chicago was an utter fiasco- ending in less than one season.
Yes, it is still early in the 2020 season. I’m certain many will promote this argument, including the Bulls’ franchise themselves.
But the Bulls’ glaring inefficiencies on both ends of the court cannot be ignored. The Bulls’ atrocious defense not only surrendered a Hornets’ team record for made three pointers (23) in their first game, but also blew a 19 point lead to the Los Angeles Lakers during their eighth contest. In spite of Jim Boylen, the Bulls’ current head coach, priding himself on the defensive side of the hardwood, the Bulls are 18th overall in team defense, putting them in the bottom 40 percent of the NBA.
The offense, somehow, is even worse. Ranked 23rd overall in offensive efficiency, the Bulls shoot an abysmal 42% from the field. To put this into perspective, the Bulls’ average field goal percentage places within the bottom 7% of the league, good enough for 28th “best” mark in the NBA.
Bulls’ fans’ preseason optimism is shot down year after year because of the organization’s countless self-inflicted wounds. A consistent strongpoint for decades, ticket sales justifiably continue to steadily fall: a compelling signal of fans’ growing frustration with the team’s direction.
Something must change for this storied franchise. Immediately.
At what level(s)? That’s for ownership to decide. They clearly have plenty of shortcomings to choose from.