By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) The worst part about the Chicago Bulls since the whimper that was the end of their 2015-’16 season wasn’t missing the playoffs. It wasn’t that pre-draft feeling of limbo they left us in not knowing the direction in which executives Gar Forman and John Paxson would point the franchise.READ MORE: Skydeck Chicago At Willis Tower Reopens Friday
Nah. What was the greatest downer was that this team going forward was going to itself be such a downer.
After Game 82, there was this spectre of utter death that had permeated the team. There was no glass-half-full aspect to what the future held.
“Well, at least …” Nope.
“Maybe if they …” Nuh uh.
Then came the safe, responsible, dull draft pick of Denzel Valentine, followed by trading Derrick Rose and waving goodbye to Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah. What was left was Jimmy Butler and a pile of meh and years of purgatory in “retooling” and not rebuilding, according to Forman. And there was the mantra of “getting younger and more athletic,” which translates to “bad, fast, drunk table tennis basketball.”
I was resigned to a season of nothing to be motivated about, and I feared for you and the worse-than-usual grasping columns I’d have to write about a tapioca team made worse by my bad jokes. Let’s just say 2016-’17 could not come slow enough.
But then, when all seemed doomed, the front office and its beautiful lies kicked down that door of ennui and saved the damned day. Thank you, GarPax.
With the Bulls’ signings of Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade this week, we now have chaos, John and Jane Q. Bullsfan. And oh do I love chaos when confronted with boring otherwise.
Don’t get me wrong: This team is going to be mediocre. Don’t have delusions about these Kenny Williams-esque moves. The team’s record will be nothing special, and it’s probably a first-round playoff exit for them.
But it’s going to be interesting, folks, compelling theater. There will be building tension between players, staff, and front office that will reach various boiling points. Thank you, Bulls.
Forman lied about not trying to trade Butler on draft night, and he definitely clearly lied about wanting to get young and more athletic by dropping big cash on two players who are on the wrong side of 30. Or he at least panicked after failing to trade Butler and decided to dig up instead.
Forman lies just to lie, and he’s made it so that we can never trust him again. And that’s fine. Tell me I’m pretty. Make me feel good right now. Give me this bag of mystery meat on sale because it’s expiration date is, like, a week into the season. Thank you, Gar.
Your team can’t hit threes with a coach whose offense needs threes. Power forward Bobby Portis hit more than twice as many threes as Wade last season and at double the percentage. Jose Calderon was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers to help clear space, and he made more threes last season than Wade and Rondo combined. So you have to put Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott out there to have a semblance of a threat to shoot beyond the arc. Haha. (And poor McDermott immediately gave up jersey No. 3 to Wade. Irony, yay!)
Otherwise, it’s Wade’s step-slower bad knees and Rondo best trying to penetrate the lane against scouting reports that tell opponents to cut off the rim. Meanwhile, your team will be giving up triple-digit points every game. But that’s just the tactical, box-score stuff.
Wade, Rondo, and Butler don’t give a damn about what coach Fred Hoiberg says, and why should they? He was already publicly emasculated by Butler last year and did nothing when players refused to run his offense. So you bring in a Hall of Famer who isn’t answering to a sophomore coach and a point guard whose talent is never mentioned before his penchant for sandpapering coaches.
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Rondo on Hoiberg: "He's not a dominant coach. He likes giving his players input."
Rondo on Hoiberg: "He's not a dominant coach. He likes giving his players input."— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) July 7, 2016
Rondo on clashing with coaches: "A lot of it is perceptive." Admits he's still stubborn.
Rondo on clashing with coaches: "A lot of it is perceptive." Admits he's still stubborn.— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) July 7, 2016
“When you have good basketball players, they figure it out,” Forman said on the perception that the recent signings seem at odds with Hoiberg’s offense. Forman did so with a straight face.
What’s the over/under on Rondo really telling Hoiberg where he can stick his gameplan? How about how many games until any of Wade, Rondo and Butler start undermining one of the others on the court, in the locker room or in the press?
Who knows, but we’ll be paying attention to find out, won’t we? That’s a hell of a lot better than “Bulls are on? Do I want to watch this?”
Rondo mentioned at his intro press conference the trio is comprised of “three alphas.” Because that historically in sports and life in general ends up cohesive, right? He also said between he, Wade, and Butler, it’s “Jimmy’s team.” As in “When this thing goes from slow burn to pet store fire, talk to Jimmy.”
Gosh, this is going to be fun for all the wrong reasons.
By the way, what did Fred do to you to deserve this, Gar? He’s supposedly your guy, yet you keep increasing opportunities for him to be insubordinated publicly. I feel bad for the guy, but it’s not going to stop me from watching in anticipation for him to crack.
For an organization that schedules press conferences around times most inconvenient for print and talk media, you sure do give them a lot of fodder while pissing them off. Great PR strategy there.
You get to milk that Wade hometown hero thing with a splash of prodigal son added in. Maybe that’s a move in the long chess game of GarPax saving their own keisters of landing a superstar who will help change the whispers about the Bulls franchise that go on in NBA circles.
670 The Score’s Jason Goff talked on the Spiegel and Goff Show on Thursday about his understanding that just prior to Wade agreeing to this deal that one of the phone calls he received was from Michael Jordan, who kindly asked Wade if he was really sure about the choice he was making. Goff also told Chris Rongey’s show Wednesday night that the man with the statue in front of the United Center is no stranger to making similar calls to potential Bulls signees. Fine, but long-term sales pitch possibilities are outweighed by the immediate based on these moves.
Cool. I’m a greedy impulse buyer, too.
You gave us a really interesting team — as in like the “drunk neighbor going to pick up and examine the firework that didn’t blow up (yet)” interesting — but not a good one. Which in the immediate and for my selfish ink-spilling purposes is just dandy. The pre-Rondo and pre-Wade Bulls were a slog doomed to lose our collective attention. But 2016-’17 is now a year in which the Bulls chose a facade of competitiveness in the now over structural issues for the long term.
Maybe Forman saying this is a retool and not a rebuild was the only honest comment we’ve received from him, in that he and Paxson will keep slapping coats of paint on this rickety toolshed and telling everyone what an admirable toolshed it is, what with its number of playoff appearances and winning percentage vs. that of the rest of the league over X number of years with zero Finals appearances.
But hey, instead of what was a slowly chugging train headed for nowhere certain in the gloomy night, GarPax is giving us a moonshine smuggling stock car that will flip over at at any moment. What’s not to be interested in?
And after the heaviness away from the sports world so far of this week, I appreciate you giving us this refreshing absurdity, Bulls. Thank you.Mass Vaccination Site In Gary, Indiana Available For Appointments; Site Is Open To Illinois Residents
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.