The Chicago Bulls are in full meltdown mode. The team sits a game under .500, which isn't too far off from what many people thought it would be (I had them winning 40 games this season), but everything else has gone absolutely mad. Following Dwyane Wade questioning the team's future to the media this week -- just a day after LeBron James said he needed help in Cleveland -- Jimmy Butler went in on the team following a bad loss to Atlanta, saying he wanted to "play with guys who care."
That was all followed up by guard Rajon Rondo launching an Instagram war against Wade (and presumably Jimmy Butler), saying his "vets" on the Celtics would have never gone to the media.
Things are bad in Chicago, and they don't appear to be getting better. Besides buying out Rondo -- which I imagine the Bulls will do shortly -- this team is more or less what it is.
The funny thing is, a lot of us saw this coming. This team was always set up to be a disaster. We might not have thought it would be this public a spectacle, but if you know how NBA teams work, this shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.
The team was built to fail
Modern NBA teams are built in several different ways, some emphasize more size, others more shooting, but the basic building blocks are the same. Most teams have a ballhandler, maybe a secondary scoring option/playmaker type, complimentary shooters who should defend, a rim protector/rebounder or two, maybe a scorer off the bench, and then role guys.
The Bulls have three ball-dominant playmakers who presumably should be in their starting five. Rondo, Wade and Butler are all guards who like the ball in their hands, and none of them are great pure shooters. There's a reason not many teams in the NBA are set up like this -- because it doesn't work.
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There's only one basketball
The big problem with the way the Bulls are set up is that there is only one basketball. Butler is a rising star who likes to beat guys off the dribble, and you could sort of maybe see Wade filling in as a complimentary scorer to Butler, much like he learned to do with LeBron when the two played together in Miami.
But throw Rondo into the mix? A guy who loves to dictate play, run an offense, take his time, pick out the perfect pass, have everyone run off him and let him make every play happen? That was never, ever going to work with Butler and Wade. With those Celtics teams of the late aughts, they needed a guy like Rondo because Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen weren't the type of players who needed the ball in their hands constantly. Wade and Butler do.
Three ballhandlers won't work ... especially when they're proud
The other big issue is that all three of these players are at various stages of being stars. All three have been the leader of a team before -- Wade was a title-winning star for years in Miami, Butler is a star now, and Rondo was the Celtics' go-to player in 2013-14 when the Big 3 had all left town.
So even before the season it was really hard to imagine that any of these three would be happy sliding to the bench and being a complimentary guy with the second unit. Wade is a Finals MVP and 12-time All Star. Rondo is a title winner and 4-time All Star. Butler is one of the premier young talents in the game. None of these players was going to idly sit back and chip in off the bench. It's not in them.
Rondo is not an easy guy to get along with
This was the other issue people should have seen coming -- Rondo is famously difficult to work with. Yes, he's brilliant. By all accounts he's one of the smartest people in the NBA, and has a knowledge of offense that's hard to match.
He's also known to be temperamental and, if he doesn't think you're smart enough, dismissive. (Read about him and the early days of feeling out Celtics coach Brad Stevens, or the total breakdown of his relationship with Mavs coach Rick Carlisle.)
Rondo has succeeded in one situation in his NBA career -- when he had a group of highly demanding veterans who didn't need the ball a lot and knew they needed him to succeed. That's not the situation in Chicago. We should have seen this coming.