Zombie Basketball


After watching the last couple weeks of Bulls basketball, I have to admit, I’m confused: Are they tanking, or nah? Otto Porter seems to be sitting out every other game. Zach LaVine is out every game that Porter is in. Lauri is getting less shots up. Robin Lopez is the focal point of the offense. Cristiano Felicio and Antonio Blakeney are back in the rotation. This feels a lot like tanking. But then the Bulls go and beat the Phoenix Suns yesterday and I’m left sitting here like, “Da Fuq?”

Am I supposed to cheer the win? Do I cry because they didn’t lose? Am I supposed to curse Felicio and his near double-double (10 points, 8 rebounds)? Do I get angry that Lauri is in a slump? What the hell am I supposed to feel???!!!

It really does seem like the team was in active tank mode for the past couple weeks. The Bulls were on a 5 game losing streak. There were rumors that Zach LaVine might shut it down for the rest of the season to give his ankle a break. Boylen was experimenting with lineup combinations. Everything made sense, why blow it all on a win against Phoenix?

I guess they’re not tanking.

I guess we have to assume that this is the team’s best effort. In which case, uh-oh!

The Bulls are bad. And not just “the team is young and still developing” bad, but full on “these guys are running around like headless chickens” bad.

Jim Boylen got kicked out of last weeks game against the Clippers, after yelling about a couple “dirty” picks that Montrezl Harrell set. One of these picks knocked Ryan Arcidiacono into next week…

Boylen thought it was a dirty play, but what it really was was a lack of defensive communication. Someone has to let Arch know that the pick is there. It’s defense 101, and that simple communication didn’t happen. Arch spent the second half in the locker room not playing basketball.

Fire and passion. Boylen’s got those in spades, though he might call it “spirit” and “pride.” Sometimes you can see some of that pride and spirit, fire and passion, infecting his players. Every now and then LaVine drops 30+ on an opponent. Sometimes Lauri double-doubles. Once in a while Shaquille Harrison grabs his weight in steals. And the Bulls win, and it’s beautiful. But that doesn’t happen enough. It doesn’t happen with any consistency.

With 10 games left in this season, the Bulls have a record of 20-52, that’s 4 wins off their pace from last season. In that one metric, wins, the Bulls have not improved over last season. For all the toughness that’s been espoused, for all the roster changes that have been made, the Bulls are worse this year than they were last year. The fact that the Bulls missed Arcidiacono in the 2nd half of the Clippers game tells you just how talent starved this team is.

This team has got to wake up this summer. This organization has got to want to win. From the front office down to the guys on 2-way G-League contracts, the Chicago Bulls need an attitude adjustment.

This iteration of the Chicago Bulls has suffered some of the worst defeats in franchise history: November 17th, 2018, a 122-83 Toronto Raptors win. December 8th, 2018, the Boston Celtics trounce the Bulls 133-77. January 11th, 2019, the Golden State Warriors hand the Bulls their jock straps with a 146-109 victory. The 56 point margin of defeat against the Celtics is the worst in Bulls history. The 39 against Toronto, and 37 against the Warriors, both rank within the top eleven worst margins of defeat in franchise history.

Besides from the three historically bad losses above, the Bulls dropped a 30 point loss (135-105) to the Denver Nuggets on January 17th of this year, along with 9 other defeats of 20 points or more over the course of this season. This Bulls team is not playing for the name on their chests. They don’t even seem to be playing for themselves.

It’s a nice thought that Zach LaVine would be willing to pay Coach Boylen’s fine after getting kicked out of the Clippers game, but will he take a charge during a game? Will he (and the rest of his schlub teammates) hustle back on defense? Will someone on this team box out and grab a rebound, or two, or ten? The Bulls are not doing enough of the “little things” (i.e. running, contesting shots, moving without the ball, boxing out, rebounding, helping on defense, rotating quickly to cover open opponents, passing, offensive rebounding, taking 3 pointers, making 3 pointers, making smart cuts, coming up with loose balls, COMMUNICATING ON DEFENSE, etc.) that make up 90% of the game. When you don’t do 90% of the basketball things you’re supposed to do, you aren’t going to be good at basketball.

…And they played so well in February…

It’s as if March rolled around and the team saw the writing on the wall. They just packed it in and sent their minds to a sunny beach on a whimsical south pacific island. Bali Hai, Bali Hai…

Meanwhile, we fans are stuck watching bad basketball.

There is no development happening at this stage of the season. The Bulls have all caught a severe case of senior-itis. They just want the summer break to show up already. And I do to. This is zombie basketball. A spiritless husk of a team going through the motions on a nightly basis. It’s sad, ugly, and bad.

The worst part is, that if you watch enough of it, you slowly turn into a zombie too. You forget what good basketball looks like. Your shoulders slump. Your jaw falls slack. You turn bitter and cynical. You lash out at the front office with a slightly crazed look in your eyes. Your favorite player is Wayne Selden Jr, or Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, or Ryan Arcidiacono. You no longer have any sense of what a win should feel like. You sputter through each day mumbling “Tank… Tank… Tank…” Your eyes glaze over as the monotony of the mantra takes over your life “Tank… Tank… Tank…” You bellow in rage when the inexplicable win occurs. “TANK!!!!”



The Bulls are bad, and they’ve turned us bad too.