By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) “Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results” is a line attributed sketchily to Albert Einstein. Some claim it was Ben Franklin or Mark Twain who said it or that it’s an old Chinese proverb.
Another argument could be made that it was a joint effort from Chicago Bulls general manager Gar Forman and executive vice president John Paxson.
Because they built a bridge from last season to this one that involved next to no roster changes, for a team that wasn’t superior in the Eastern Conference then and certainly is no better today. And now those angry chickens have come home to roost.
“I believe in the guys in this locker room, yeah,’’ Bulls star wing Jimmy Butler told reporters after Saturday’s listless loss to the New York Knicks that followed a four-overtime disappointment against the Detroit Pistons.
“But I also believe that we probably have to be coached a lot harder at times’.”
Butler went on, very aware of the dynamite in his words he had in talking about rookie coach Fred Hoiberg.
“I’m sorry, I know that (Fred’s) a laid-back guy, and I really respect him for that. But when guys aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do, you got to get on guys, myself included. You got to do what you’re supposed to do when you’re out there playing basketball.’’
On Monday, Butler and Hoiberg each addressed those comments.
Jimmy Butler says he doesn't regret comments about Hoiberg but says he was frustrated and needs to lead better.— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) December 21, 2015
Butler on attitude: "Money has nothing to do with it."— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) December 21, 2015
Butler: "I took the easy way out with my frustrations."— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) December 21, 2015
So, it appears Butler wants a hardass at the helm. He had one last year in former coach Tom Thibodeau, but Forman and Paxson determined Thibodeau was too hard in with his game management and stubborn philosophy. So they fired that hardass.
Now Hoiberg’s damned if he does, and Monday he had to respond to Butler’s words while also working damage control and downplaying the soap opera.
Fred Hoiberg says he understands emotions poured over for Jimmy Butler in a losing weekend.— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) December 21, 2015
Hoiberg says there's things he and players can do better.— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) December 21, 2015
The guard and coach met Sunday and had “a good talk,” according to the Tribune, but neither can unring that bell Butler put out in the media this past weekend. And now we play the waiting game of “Ooooo, Fred’s yelling at a player now” or “Ooooo, Fred still isn’t getting on guys,” with the former signifying a player has more authority than a coach or the latter potentially further frustrating the team’s star.
Butler is the star on this team, by the way. Derrick Rose is no longer the alpha bull, nor does he necessarily want to be. But where Rose and the vocal Joakim Noah have had their coach’s back despite both of their roles on this team being manipulated by Hoiberg, Butler isn’t having that. He’s not about to sit around and score his 25 points a game and shuffle out of the playoffs after a round or two.
Don’t think Butler doesn’t notice that Doug McDermott is playing poorly and is doing so at the cost of two first-round picks and a second-rounder spent by Forman and Paxson to acquire him and Anthony Randolph (who would later cost the Bulls two more second round picks just to dump him on the Orlando Magic).
Perhaps Butler hasn’t seen the metrics, but don’t think he can’t see that 2013 first-round pick Tony Snell is playing up to his career negative VORP and BPM and that the hype we all bought into regarding Nikola Mirotic has us all looking foolish right now.
These are all Forman/Paxson moves and decisions. Call out Hoiberg all you want, but at the end of the day are his game choices the reason the Bulls are an inconsistent 15-10 team or the inferior ingredients identical to last year that he has to work with?
Rose and Noah aren’t about to call those guys out — and would really have no place to, as both with their respective banged-up bodies have underperformed themselves this year — but Butler might be getting close to it. Especially in the environment cultivated by management at the Advocate Center and United Center.
Butler says he addressed some teammates individually about his opinions.— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) December 21, 2015
This is an environment where Pau Gasol has already suggested openly that he will opt out of his deal after this season. It’s one in which fans are clamoring for more playing time for nearly invisible rookie Bobby Portis, the only bright spot in the loss to the Knicks, pushing the hashtag #FreeBobbyPortis.
Brief "Bob-by Port-is" chant in Chicago. One guy has a #FreeBobbyPortis sign. People are excited for Bobby Portis, is what I'm trying to say— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) December 15, 2015
Bulls management has expressed the belief that it has a championship-caliber roster. When management shows its team that it believes the problem wasn’t with the roster that management constructed but instead with the coach who was insubordinate in the face of management, you get this contemptuous familiarity with each other while being wary of a perceived softness of the new coach.
Maybe Bulls players were expecting something different going into this season, a team ready to contend for the East title. Considering what Forman and Paxson have provided, though, that’s now seems a bit insane.
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.