Baffoe: Even For A Tanking Team, The Bulls Are Embarrassing

By Tim Baffoe–

(CBS) The longest-tenured Chicago Bull is out indefinitely with a broken face after getting smoked by the fist of a bust 2015 first-round draft pick in practice Tuesday.

What may be sadder than the injury in the former part of that sentence is that Nikola Mirotić is the most veteran of Bulls. And I’m aware that merely calling a Bulls pick a bust without giving an exact name might leave the puncher’s identity open to speculation. It’s Bobby Portis, by the way, he of the .089 win shares per 48 minutes in his two NBA seasons.

The team posted Tuesday evening on its website:

Chicago Bulls forwards Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotić had a physical altercation during today’s practice. As a result of the incident, Mirotić suffered a concussion and maxillary fractures. Surgery is likely required. Mirotić is out indefinitely. 

The Bulls are evaluating disciplinary action. An update will be provided when applicable.

It was “an alleged surprise punch from Portis to Mirotić’s face,” in the initial from Yahoo Sports.

This was supposed to be a tanking full of inconspicuousness, one in which the Bulls are intentionally bad and fans around the country just sort of forget the team exists except on nights the Bulls play a favorite team. The kind where you play “Is This a Real Person?” when going over the roster. (Note: Kay Felder is an experimental hologram.)

But the Bulls have chosen not to go gentle into that good tank. They haven’t played a game yet and are already the laughingstock of a league in which they were already going to finish with likely the worst record.

Bulls executives John Paxson and Gar Forman signed Mirotić to a two-year, $27-million deal in late September to return to a team in which his play has been wishy-washy at best, and he’s often visibly dejected over his existence. Waiting for his mug to re-jigsaw should help that smile. Whenever doctors tell him he may smile again.

So now the third-highest earner still in a Bulls uniform this season (Dwyane Wade is being paid the most money by the Bulls in 2017-’18 because of course, followed by Robin Lopez) can’t play basketball for at least a few weeks because of something that didn’t happen because of actual basketball. It did happen by a draftee of Paxson and Forman, though. Management now has to figure out how to properly suspend Portis for assault while Paxson hopes few people remember this chestnut from 2010:

After a loss to the Phoenix Suns on March 30, an irate Paxson walked into the coach’s office at the United Center and confronted (then-head coach Vinny) Del Negro over a narrow breach of a management-imposed minutes limit on injured forward Joakim Noah. Sources said Paxson first grabbed a hold of Del Negro’s tie and seemingly tried to provoke him with two successive jabs into his chest. Paxson was even heard to angrily challenge Del Negro to a fight.

This isn’t Michael Jordan punching someone.

When you let someone without bona fides in his current role keep his job after (allegedly) assaulting a subordinate (with “several staff members present”), your organization sort of sets a precedent for how the ship is run. Following the Bulls since then has been nothing short of feeling as though you’ve watched a series of misdemeanors committed without repercussion, and that’s mostly just the roster constructions. But there’s also the handling of player injuries, the icing out of Tom Thibodeau, bus-tossing of “problem players” like Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler and setting the latest head coach up to fail by going from stars who didn’t care for much that Fred Hoiberg had to say to now unintentionally losing on purpose.

It’s a shame what one of the league’s — nay, sports’ — formerly great franchises has devolved into. I get being terrible at basketball. Many of us asked for that when it was evident that management was cool doing just enough to be a borderline playoff team in a weak Eastern Conference.

But the Bulls can’t even tank right. In being a planned bottom feeder, you’re not supposed to appear at the surface. But the Bulls spent the offseason bringing Doug Collins into the front office for no good reason, which was confusing because he represented more of the old guard.

Hey, how’s Jordan Bell, whom Forman traded on draft night to the foolish Warriors for sweet, sweet money, doing?

Now a player just reportedly committed a literal crime against a teammate and will be punished by being spared his name in some terrible box scores for a bit. Hey, that means Lauri Markkanen gets more tick, though.

The reflex is to laugh but only to keep from screaming into a pillow. This isn’t a professional operation. The good-natured goofiness that goes along with a good ol’ NBA bottoming out was going to be a saving grace this season. But now the Bulls have managed to sour that before it’s even begun. Every few months, this franchise invents new ways to disappoint.

And everyone keeps their jobs. Hell, let’s throw around new paper to people who at their best are still bad at those jobs, be they on the court or upstairs. And then the puncher and punchee will have to co-exist while the head coach gets another gooey ball of drama slopped on his plate when he never asked for seconds five helpings ago. Meanwhile, your lottery pick foreign rookie can learn to be terrified of the asylum he’s now part of, and Cameron Payne gets to still be.

“I’m excited for this season,” Mirotić said just this past Friday. “I’ve put a lot of work in and think I will do great things.”

Four days later, his face became an incredible metaphor.

Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.

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