By Tim Baffoe–
(670 The Score) Something with the Chicago Bulls made a lot of sense. Then it was too good to be true. Then that thing still made a different sort of Bulls sense.
On Tuesday, it seemed like the Bulls were going to get a first-round pick and rickety piece of nostalgia, Omer Asik, from the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for mercurial forward Nikola Mirotic. It was everything that is the giddy Chris Pratt gif if you’re a Bulls fan. To think, someone was going to give up a first-rounder to Chicago for a player who prior to this season fans had largely written off and maybe embodied everything that was the underachievement of the last few years of whatever that Bulls era was.
“I said to myself: ‘It’s happening. It’s happening. It could happen.’ That’s the only thing that popped into my head,” Mirotic said Wednesday, seemingly speaking for Bulls fans everywhere. “I said: ‘OK, be calm. Wait. Do what they told you to do. Step off the (practice) court.’ I was doing some calls to my agent and my family.
“The thing I want is the best for me and my future in the NBA. And I’m sure the Bulls are doing what’s the best for them too.”
Then the trade fell through, according to Joe Cowley of the Sun-Times, “because Mirotic and his representation didn’t like the idea of walking away from a possible guaranteed $12.5 million next season, which would have been the case if they would have waived the no-trade clause and accepted the deal.”
If the Bulls overrode Mirotic, that extra money would kick in, and the Pelicans weren’t about to invest in Mirotic that much.
Mirotic isn’t stupid and can’t be blamed for his desire to get the hell out of here not being worth $12.5 million, even if his “best teammate ever” is down there. And the Bulls can’t exactly convince the Pelicans that the good that Mirotic has shown this season is indicative of his future when the receipts on his past are more glaring.
Still, this is very Bulls and makes a lot of sense. Meaning not necessarily that it’s the Bulls’ fault but somehow feeling typical of a franchise that has caused a lot of throwing up of hands from fans the last few years saying, “Really?” Maybe we were all just expecting in the back of our minds that something had to slip up at some point while the first year of the rebuild was going so well.
For all the low expectations of this season and the jaw-dropping face-breaking of the Mirotic/Bobby Portis fight that seemed to be a harbinger of some absurd comedy of the year to come, the Bulls have been refreshingly entertaining and hardly dysfunctional. It was almost weird to have the franchise be just about basketball and no bickering or using social media or the press to stir stuff up. Yes, the Bulls weren’t all that great up until now, but they were playing for coach Fred Hoiberg and going on spurts of actual impressive hoops and showing that the franchise wasn’t actually fleeced in the Jimmy Butler trade last offseason.
The desire to trade Mirotic and the mutual feeling on his end was no secret, but it didn’t cast much of a shadow over the basketball the last month. Then it happened, then didn’t happen and then the thing everyone just assumed was going to happen was suddenly this uncomfortable sitcom situation in which characters have to lie to one another that things are fine even though they both just inadvertently saw each other naked.
Then it got more awkward, as K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune wrote:
By Wednesday afternoon, the Bulls said Mirotic will sit most likely until the Feb. 8 trade deadline as they continue trying to accommodate Mirotic’s desire to be dealt. They are seeking a first-round pick in return.
This isn’t dumb. Risking an injury in meaningless games to someone potentially worth a first-rounder that you desperately need for whatever the plan is would be dumb. Yet doing the smart thing right now still feels laughably silly. Silly like the thumping the Mirotic-less (and Markkanen-less and Dunn-less and Zipser-abundant) Bulls took at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night that really wasn’t as close as the 124-108 score would indicate.
Mirotic is going to sit out, decreasing the Bulls’ chances of winning (which is sort of gravy anyway), and he just becomes the elephant in the team hotel, not even allowed on the bench, that’s bigger than he was when he was riding a stationary bike above practice while healing in November like Bart Simpson and his broken leg overlooking his family’s pool while “becoming isolated and weird.”
Instead, he’s in some strange purgatory, which — again — isn’t exactly the Bulls’ fault but still somehow very Bulls. The uncomfortable grimaces of years past have returned. Like when veterans were dissing Hoiberg, there was blatant tension between coaches and front office, players weren’t trusting certain assistant coaches to not snitch to higher-ups. You remember all that. That’s what is very Bulls.
Mirotic will presumably be dealt by Feb. 8, and hopefully all this hasn’t diluted the value of his return. Meanwhile — for now — what fans were used to about the Bulls in recent history has returned.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for 670TheScore.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not Entercom or our affiliated radio stations.