We’ve nearly reached the quarter mark of the NBA season and there is a distinct note of unrest buzzing through the Bulls fan base. As of the publishing of this post, the Bulls are 6-12, hovering between tanking for a draft pick and contending for the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference. The problem is, if you’ve seen them play this season, then you know they are much closer to tanking then they are reaching the playoffs.
During the annual Front Office Press Conference at the end of last season, John Paxson, Executive Vice-President of Basketball Operations, suggested that the goal for the Bulls in this current season was to be “in the hunt for the playoffs.” As the summer played out, the contract of Jim “The Great Communicator” Boylen was extended, Coby White and Daniel Gafford were drafted, Thaddeus Young, Tomas Satoransky, and Luke Kornet were all acquired, players met up for volunteer workouts in Chicago at the Bulls facilities, it was the Perfect Offseason; The offseason the Front Office has always wanted. After a very challenging article in the Athletic by media hero Darnell Mayberry, and still flush from the Perfect Offseason, the Front Office revised the Bulls goal for this season; No longer were the Bulls just trying to be “in the hunt” for the playoffs, this season they were aiming for “the promised land,” they were going to make the playoffs. It was a “go big, or go home” moment.
GarPax, the Great Communicator, the players themselves, everyone in the Bulls organization made it a point at Media Day 2019 to say that making the playoffs was the goal for this season.
For fans, the issue with being a quarter of the way through a basketball season is that you’re pretty sure you know what your team is. We’ve seen the Bulls struggle to beat some of the worst teams in the NBA. We’ve seen the injuries mount, the poor personnel decisions made by the coaching staff, the inexplicable drop in production from Lauri Markkanen, and the failure of complicated offensive and defensive schemes; We know the Bulls are bad. But, there is still so much time left in the season that a little change now could alter the destiny of this team.
Otto Porter Jr returning from injury, Lauri Markkanen regaining his form, the firing of Jim Boylen, the trade of any number of players, the dumbing down of the defense, the solidifying of roles on offense, we fans know any change could ignite the talent on this team and improve the current outlook of the season.
Enter Chairman of the Board, Jerry Reinsdorf.
Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, reported yesterday that Chairman of the Board Jerry Reinsdorf is not pleased with the Bulls rebuild and may be looking to make a change.
Under the category of believe it or not, sources have indicated that board chairman Jerry Reinsdorf is obviously pissed about Year 3 of the rebuild, and is set to turn up the heat on Gar Forman’s GM seat.
— Sun-Times Basketball (@suntimes_hoops) November 26, 2019
If the Bulls were an Ancient Greek tragedy, Chairman of the Board Jerry Reinsdorf would by the Deus Ex Machina.
I’m not sure if replacing General Manager Gar Forman would be the change that completely turns this season around, but it is definitely a change that needs to happen. The Bulls have been in a downward spiral for nearly a decade now, some of that has been by design as part of the rebuild, but mostly it’s been the result of diminishing returns in talent from poor trades and constant cash grabs. How can you justify trading away draft picks, even second round draft picks, for cash in the middle of a rebuild? How do you give away Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott for Cameron Payne and two other players no longer in the league?
Also, the trust issues between Gar Forman and NBA players are well documented. Whether it’s Jimmy Butler’s trainer letting the world know that drug dealers are more trust worthy than Forman, or the confusion of Bobby Portis when he found himself traded after being reassured by Forman that it would take a player of Kevin Durant’s stature to replace him, players around the league do not have a good opinion of the Bulls Front Office and how they treat their team.
Hiring coaches without extensive searches (Hoiberg and Boylen), signing players that don’t fit the style of the team (Dwayne Wade, Rajon Rondo, Jabari Parker, etc.), the sluggish adaptation of contemporary basketball operational norms (i.e. an analytics department, an extensive scouting department, a premier training staff), these all fall at the feet of Gar Forman. He deserves to be fired.
And yet, I can’t help but feel like Forman has been set up to be the patsy in all of this. He’s the perfect scapegoat. Forman has long been disliked by fans, players, and members of the media. It’s terrifyingly easy to point at the most derided person in the room and yell “He’s the one you want! He’s the man to blame for all your sorrow!” and let the angry mob do the dirty work. And that’s what it feels like Chairman of the Board Jerry Reinsdorf is doing.
Never mind the man behind the curtain.
I keep using the phrase “Chairman of the Board” to remind you, dear reader, that the pinnacle of the Bulls organization is Jerry Reinsdorf himself. He is ultimately to blame for the degradation of a once great franchise. It has been 21 years since the Bulls won a championship. It has been 8 years since they made the Eastern Conference Finals, and 4 years since they advanced out of the 1st round of the playoffs. Chairman of the Board Jerry Reinsdorf owns the Bulls, he’s the man who hired the Front Office. He has quietly presided over the long and slow collapse of this Usher-ian franchise, rarely thundering from his aerie-esque suite high above the United Center’s court, but now he rumbles?
Too little, too late.
It’s hard to trust the intentions of a man who was rumored to have told a fellow sports exec that you should constantly strive to be the 2nd best team, because it keeps the fan base hungry and coming back for more.
Advice Jerry Reinsdorf gave Former Marlins President David Sampson:
“Finish in second place every single year. Because your fans will say ‘wow we’ve got a shot we’re in it.’ But there’s always the carrot left. There’s always one step left to take.”
From Mystery Crate Ep 18 pic.twitter.com/Ck69hXrBUR
— Bennett Karoll (@TheBennettK) October 5, 2019
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m oiling my pitchfork and sharpening my torch.
As we near the quarter mark of this season, I know what this team is right now: Bad.
The players on the court aren’t living up to expectations. The coach and his staff are failing to put the players in the best position to succeed. The Front Office has consistently made promises they cannot fulfill, and then blame anyone and anything other than themselves for that failure. And the Chairman of the Board, much like a certain Nero before him, has done nothing but fiddle, watching his kingdom burn around him.
I’m angry, dear reader, and I’m sure you are too. The Bulls should be better. The Bulls can be better. If Gar Forman is the first domino to fall, so be it. But it can’t stop with Gar, the entire organization needs an overhaul. This is not a mom-and-pop franchise. The Bulls should not be run like a small market team. This is Chicago’s team. The Bulls play in one of the top five media markets in the United States. They are one of the most universally loved franchises across the entire world. The Chicago Bulls are worth billions of dollars, they make multiple millions of dollars annually. Let’s stop pretending like they are slaves to the salary cap. I’m sick of the empty threats from ownership and the Front Office. It’s long past time for real change to happen.
“But we’re only a quarter of the way through the season, so maybe it will.” He derisively muttered.
Until it does, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!