By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) In this season of giving thanks, I’m in a strange way grateful to this Chicago Bulls organization. Going into this first year of what’s finally a rebuild, I knew this was going to be 82 games of pure, uncut suck. Getting motivated game to game from one’s couch in such a situation is a little more than arduous.
And suck the Bulls have. They haven’t just been bad, but they’ve been clearly the worst team in the NBA. The Dallas Mavericks have three more losses, but that’s only because they’ve played three more games. And I can actually name players on the Mavs, unlike the Bulls.
Chicago is the worst-shooting team in the NBA at a 40.5-percent clip from the field and is last in the Eastern Conference in 3-point percentage at 32.2 yet run a Fred Hoiberg offense that prizes the long ball. They have a 92.9 offensive rating, which is dead last in the NBA.
I’m not thankful for any of that. But what the Bulls at least give is an ability to be garbage in a way that at least make you pay attention to them. Even if it’s only for reasons absurd.
Take Wednesday’s loss in Oklahoma City. The Bulls scored seven points in the first quarter. Seven. If most NBA teams took only shots from half-court for an entire quarter, they’d make at least three of them. But I kept watching that game because of that jaw-dropping ineptitude. Like, I wanted to see how bad it could keep getting. It was like watching a mouse try to impossibly swim out of a toilet bowl. And this was a game in which the Thunder visibly tried to fail in, and still it took a late fourth-quarter run by the Bulls to only lose by 13 points. This scrappy bunch of the Finnish kid and the son of one of Horace and/or Harvey Grant and the others just doesn’t quit.
Such a stupid game then gets me to try to put myself inside the stupidity that is the Bulls talking about themselves, so finishing the game with more than 70 points had me half-thinking of how the team would spin such a game.
Cuz ya know how the Bulls are known for talking about themselves in ways that make a lot of sense if you have a massive head wound. Oh, those old hits like “younger and more athletic” equaling Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo and trading Jordan Bell on draft night for cash in order to “build equity” with the owners. Classic hits.
So lo and behold…
Yes. Wine me, dine me, and 69 me with that double-speak all damn season. Please. Get the kids indoctrinated even.
“The previous game, we didn’t compete at all,” Lauri Markkanen said afterward. “Today, it was a little bit better, especially in the second half. We came back a little bit.”
Spoken like a model member of the Hoiberg Youth. How else can we polish this turd of a team? What’s that? Something about Wednesday’s team co-leading scorer Antonio Blakeney?
“The thing Antonio gives you is he’s a guy who can get into the paint,” Hoiberg said. “He can go get a basket when you need one. He can drive, get downhill, create his own shot. We need that on the floor as a team struggling to score.”
Heart that? The Bulls need Antonio Blakeney. Said by the cartoon dog smiling amid the room on fire.
So, yeah, the whole basketball part is a wreck, and it’s not really clear that anyone is developing out there like a rebuild is supposed to involve. Jerian Grant shows nothing out there. Kris Dunn is proving that management sold too late and too low on Jimmy Butler. Paul Zipser has an offensive rating of 69, and a player gets a minimum 65 if the name on his jersey is spelled correctly. What exactly does Denzel Valentine do?
But the true stupidity of the Bulls that makes you keep looking in their direction like they’re a fat kid hitting a yellow jacket nest with a stick while holding a freeze pop is never really about the basketball itself. Nikola Mirotic is back doing stuff at the Bulls’ practice facility after having his face broken by Bobby Portis. The two haven’t spoken to one another since the Oct. 17 incident, even while in the same building as Portis practices and Mirotic rides a stationary bike.
The Bulls re-signed Mirotic in the offseason presumably because both realized they can’t do better than each other, and since the altercation, he has told his bosses that he doesn’t want to play with Portis again. Delicious drama in a season that could have just been monotonous losing.
Stupider still about the whole situation — besides probably having to trade Mirotic but unable to do so until Jan. 15 — is that nobody in the Bulls front office or on the coaching staff seems to be pressing to kill the awkwardness that lingers around the team from the feud.
“Niko has had interaction with the other players and we’ll continue to work on getting (Portis and Mirotic) together. Hopefully, that will happen soon,” Hoiberg said earlier this week. “Niko is going to continue to come in here and get his work in, continue to ramp up his workload and hopefully be cleared for more on-court activity soon. But to this point, no, there’s been no communication with Bobby and Niko.”
Thanks, stepdad. Anything else on the future Yalta Conference between the two players and team brass?
“We’re working on it,” Hoiberg said. “Right now, our main focus is getting things fixed on the floor with the players we have available and hopefully get our guys to play with great effort to give ourselves a chance.”
So just wait until the basketball part gets unwrinkled, and then the soap opera part of the Bulls will be smoothed over, too. Simple enough.
At least the their disfunction on the court and off keeps them relevant for the wrongest of reasons. I’ll be watching for more on Friday night against Charlotte.
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.