But they didn’t, and now they’re heading into an offseason with the franchise at a crossroads – one it hasn’t faced since Michael Jordan’s second retirement.
The team has a coach who has appeared beyond his depth, a front-office who sabotaged the old coach to hand-pick the new one, and a roster that is stuck between two eras.
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Oh, and if they can figure all that stuff out, this is a team that still relies on Derrick Rose to be an All-Star-level player.
For the umpteenth time, mediocrity doesn’t pay in the NBA, and the Bulls are going to finish the season as a decidedly mediocre team.
Most medicore teams can cite age as a factor – they’re either too young or too old. The Bulls are hardly age challenged. They’re conflicted. For every great thing they do, a dour counterbalance is struck. Because every ebb and flow of a season is dissected and analyzed, the Bulls are perceived as mercurial, but if you step back and look at it, they’re just plain average.
How can the Bulls get out of the gully of mediocrity? It’s not as easy as waiting for next year.
The Bulls have begun to take on the air of the New York Knicks, who went from average to dreadful behind a wave of inaction.
There need to be changes – big ones – if the Bulls plan on contending again any time soon.
As it stands now, if the front office, head coach, and player core all remain in place, the Bulls will be mediocre again next season.
The Bulls’ front office entered this season with an astounding amount of cognitive dissonance. They hired a coach for his pace-and-space tenets, and he implemented them – but he had to do it with a roster that could, for the most part, neither pace nor space.
Who was Fred Hoiberg to betray, his bosses, who wanted a certain style of play, or his players, who couldn’t run that system?
When you present a guy in his first NBA head coaching job with that kind of a no-win scenario, discord is sure to follow.
Furthering the franchise’s dysfunction – Hoiberg and the Bulls’ front-office braintrust of Gar Forman and John Paxson are now tied together at the hip. Both are staked to the other’s fortunes, yet they haven’t shown they can effectively work together.
The Bulls roster might see some turnover this offseason with Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol likely leaving town, but the Bulls lack an in-house replacement for both players and are unlikely to find a viable replacement for the squad unless they sign Dwight Howard, which is a really, really bad idea, but is on par with starting Cameron Bairstow.
It only took one year to see that the Bulls’ three major pieces don’t fit together, so what’s the big change going to be? Will the Bulls move Jimmy Butler or Derrick Rose? Will Hoiberg be fired after an underperforming season, or will the Bulls part ways with their front-office duo?
Right now, all three options look equally unlikely, much like the Bulls’ chances at serious contention next season.