It seems like just a season or two ago that Derrick Rose, the Prodigal Son of Chicago, was leading a gritty, defensive beast of a team straight towards a maybe mortal LeBron James. Then we all know what happened with Rose’s health, and the team understandably fell out of contention in his absence. But even as recently as May of 2015, the Bulls were seconds away from taking a 3-1 lead on LeBron’s Cavaliers in the playoffs.
Now it’s 2016; 3-1 leads can be blown, and the preseason Bulls are in basketball purgatory.
The 2016 Chicago Bulls are an enigma. Fred Hoiberg replaced Tom Thibodeau, in a move that was poised to usher in an era of competent offensive play predicated on floor spacing. It hasn’t worked so far, and Chicago fans are right to be vexed with the Bulls offseason moves. Instead of a max contract, game-changing caliber player, the Bulls welcomed the aging Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo. The two guard’s style of play is a rejection of what the modern NBA has become. Rondo and Wade are horrible for floor spacing. Their presence will stunt the team’s ability to ruin a fluid offense. Against the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday, the starting lineup connected on two shots from beyond the arc.
When Thibodeau was the Head Coach of the Bulls, teams feared the we-aren’t-better-than-you-but-we’re-gonna-out-work-you Bulls. Now Hoiberg deals with this in the wake of a preseason defeat:
We’ve dug ourselves a hole, early on in the first quarters of the last several games. I’ve been the one who had to call the timeout to try to get us going, you know we talked about it after the game, in the postgame, locker room, that’s what we talked about… It would be nice to go out and play a complete 48 minute game.”
More newsworthy than the game on Monday however, was the trade the Bulls made with the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bulls traded Tony Snell for Michael Carter-Williams. Carter-Williams might be the one player in the NBA that would make dealing Tony Snell not an occasion worth celebrating. Once a Rookie of the Year, Carter-Williams couldn’t get traction in an organization built on length and athleticism: the attributes he can allegedly display. In fact, Jimmy Butler’s best memory of playing against Carter-Williams in the first round of the 2015 Playoffs is indicative of his overwhelmingly mediocre upside.
I remember he fouled me on an and-one in the play-offs. I’ll put him in a group chat. I’m gonna make fun of him as soon as I get his phone number.”
Butler himself is even a cause of consternation for Bulls fans. He carries the swagger of a man who can drop 50 in any given game, while shutting down any man he’s asked to guard. Rightfully so, because he can do that. But he also failed to keep this team in the playoff picture last year, and is often the loser of the match-up with other superstars around the league.
So on one hand, the team is clearly Jimmy Butler’s: the incumbent star in his prime. However, on the other hand, the team just brought in four NBA titles in the form of Rondo and Wade. Naturally there’s a rift in the chain of command, and the deserved prompting of an NBA fan’s most coveted discussion topic: “Who gets the last shot?”
According to young bright spot, Doug McDermott, the veterans are even causing some confusion regarding whose leading practices:
They set the tone in practice along with Jimmy [Butler.] Coach Hoiberg lets them help coach and we’ll stop practice and those guys will lead us in certain ways. It’s great to have.”
With LeBron operating at full killing capacity, and the Mega-Death-Warriors waiting for anyone from the East who happens to get past LeBron, this season is pretty much a wash. It just seems odd that the Bulls have tucked themselves into this nether-region of “Not even close to making a title run,” and “Out of the star sweepstakes.” Teams avoid this region with the precision of a politician avoiding discussing sexual assault, but somehow the Bulls find themselves bracing for dominion over the realm of average. If I was a Bulls fan, I would be confused.
Its a new season in Chicago, and with it comes some new faces, Rajon Rondo has replaced Derrick Rose, Robin Lopez has replaced Joakim Noah, and of course, Dwayne Wade signed a 2 year $47.5 million with the Bulls to be their new starting shooting guard.
Yes, I am not used to him in this uniform yet either.
Fred Hoiberg enters his second season as Bulls head coach with over 50% of his startng lineup from last season gone? So the question now becomes of course, is this team better?
It seemed pretty clear last season that after Joakim Noah went down that the Bulls were lacking in effort. After Noah was lost for the season with a dislocated shoulder on January 15, the Bulls season completely changed. After defeating the Pistons to move to 24-16 on the season, the Bulls went 18-24 to finish the season 42-40, 2 games behind Detroit for the 8th spot in the East.
The Bulls clearly lacked leadership in the locker room, amid reports of Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler reported feud. Now with him and Rose in New York, Butler now assumes his role as the leader of this team.
With the additions of Rondo and Wade, reports are that there has already been a change in the culture at practice this season. Rondo and Wade bring accountability and a winning culture to the team that has Jimmy Butler excited to start the season, “I’m excited because there is so much growth that I can handle in that aspect of the game.”
“When you look at what Wade has done for his career, a future Hall of Famer, I think that I can model the way I do things around him.”
Fred Hoiberg has been taking a step back in practice and allowing Wade, Rondo, and Butler to call out guys in practice, cussing guys out when they miss assignments.
While not the scorer Rose was, with the addition of Rondo, the Bulls add the NBA’s assist leader from last season, a stat no Bulls player has lead the NBA in since Guy Rodgers in the Bulls inaugural 1966-67 season.
See how short that Good Portion was? Where to begin, well first, the Bulls have no three-point shooting, or at the very least not a whole lot. After losing Pau Gasol in Free Agency and trading Mike Dunleavy to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Bulls enter the season with only one player (Doug McDermott) who shot over 40% from three last season. Though the Bulls were able to draft Denzel Valentine who shot 44.4 percent last season at Michigan St., outside of Valentine and McDermott, the only other consistent three point shooter the Bulls have is Nikola Mirotic, but there is more to be concerned with at the moment with Mirotic.
After winning Rookie of the Month averaging 20.1 PPG and 7.0 RPG in the month of March under Tom Thibodeau, Mirotic has struggled to find a role in Hoiberg’s system and has proven to be extremely inconsistent, and during the preseason so far this year, Mirotic’s consistency issues have continued, shooting just 2-14 in his first two games.
There is also the question of defense, after losing Joakim Noah last season, the Bulls went from 4th in the NBA in defensive rating to 15th by season’s end. There is also the question of how will the players fit into a system that Hoiberg has made famous through design as a 3-point shooting offense as that concern was shown last season with the Bulls finishing with an offensive rating of 102.1, which ranked 25th in the NBA.
While this team does have some talented players, the pieces just don’t really fit together. While I do think Wade and Butler will have good chemistry together, the lack of 3-point shooting and defensive problems this team has remain a major problem.
Given how weak the Eastern Conference is, I could still see this team making the playoffs, but I do not see them going anywhere other than a first round exit.
Record: 43-39, 7th Place in the East
on the Weekend Sports Report with Packer Dave and Steve Leventhal
…Jeff Rich joins us to dissect the top NFL draft picks for the Cleveland Browns. He also talks football, and NBA hoops with us. John Poulter gives his take on the NHL playoffs, the Major League Baseball season to date, and the top stories in international soccer.
Hear interview audio from Packers coach Mike McCarthy and Chicago Bears All-Pro Offensive Lineman Kyle Long.
along with a Bears – Bucs preview….on the Weekend Sports Report with Packer Dave and Steve Leventhal
Les Grobstein of the Score 670 Sports Radio in Chicago joins us to looks at the 2015 Bears season and discuss the weekend slate of NFL games. Steve and Dave debate who the NFL MVP should be. Fred Wallin of SportsByline checks in from Los Angeles with his thoughts on the NFL likely coming to the LA area, and Kobe Bryant’s final season of his storied career.
Hear audio from Aaron Rogers, Mike McCarthy, John Fox, Jay Cutler, rookie RB David Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals, Chip Kelly, and Jay Gruden.
Don’t miss a cameo from Packer broadcaster Wayne Laravee.
on the Weekend Sports Report with Packer Dave and Steve Leventhal
….with both teams on bye weeks, this was a good time for our hosts along with regular contributor Jeff Rich to give listeners a Bears Packers 2015 season review. What’s gone right for Green Bay? Have the Bears exceeded expectations at 2-4? Also some thoughts on the upcoming NBA regular season.
We also dig into the SRN archives for some classic interviews with football Hall of Famers Jim Taylor, Bart Starr, and Dick Butkus.