The Chicago Bulls didn’t become a rabble of an organisation because of the actions of one man.
When a team wins a title, the collective is heralded for playing their part in the team’s success, no matter how big or small. When situations sour, however, we’re programmed to hunt down one cause, when in fact, it’s entirely plausible there are multiple factors causing a downfall.
That is the state of the Bulls today. Not one person is culpable, even if for simplicity’s sake, we’d like it to be. The truth is, many have raked their dirty hands through this mess.
The players, including superstar Jimmy Butler, need to be held accountable for the lackadaisical product that has taken the floor over the last three seasons.
The decision to fire former coach Tom Thibodeau, only to replace him with an inexperienced Fred Hoiberg, was a bold decision that carried significant risk. It hasn’t gone to plan. Hoiberg’s much-hyped offensive philosophy and basketball acumen has failed to transfer to the NBA, and as time progresses, the more his hiring looks like a mistake.
The architect of this eyesore, General Manager Gar Forman, doesn’t deserve to be back next season (even if he likely will). His boss, Executive V.P. of Basketball Operations John Paxson, must also be held accountable for how events have transpired — and not just regurgitate such words at post-season press conferences.
Owner and Chairman of the Bulls, Jerry Reinsdorf, team President Michael Reinsdorf, and anyone else advising ownership, are not without their own faults. They have failed the fans of a once great franchise for allowing insubordination to occur at all levels without any repercussions.
All segments of the franchise have displayed some form of incompetence (some more than others). Our willingness to blame one person or party is a neat and clean solution, but it is not fact. By choosing to funnel frustration to a singular source, we overlook the real issues. That very reason is why the Bulls find themselves in their current predicament: no one is prepared to own their place in the collapse, instead diverting as much criticism to the closest fall guy.
First, it was Thibodeau’s unrelenting approach that was deemed the root cause of all problems. His exit was sold as temporary complication that could be solved with change, and many bought the story (myself included).
When the franchise continued to stall long after Thibodeau’s axing, former players past their prime cast in roles too large were victimised for their waning skill-sets, so they were exiled. New players came in, but the same old cultural issues prevailed.
Weeding out the bad seeds and pointing the finger entirely at certain culprits was the Bulls’ way of showing the world that all the negativity had been eradicated, and only the good remained.
Ironically, it’s done the opposite. Now, we truly see what the Bulls have become: a rudderless organisation making rash choices, falling victim to its own indecision and uncertainty.
It’s time to change that. A mass cleanup is required. Dare I use their own words against them, but it’s time to become accountable, starting with a top-down approach.
Ideally, the Reinsdorf’s would sell off the team to a party interested in something more than revenue generated from first-round playoff exits. Of course, this won’t be happening anytime soon. But maybe, just maybe, Jerry Reinsdorf — or son Michael — could finally wield some power and pretend like he cares about the direction the franchise is headed, both internally with the personnel dynamics, as well as the product that takes the floor.
For too long, the Reinsdorf’s have blurred the lines between loyalty and nepotism. Past allegiances need to be put aside. A fresh perspective is needed in the management ranks, therefore Forman and Paxson must be influenced to walk, or be pushed by ownership, for the betterment of the the franchise.
Hoiberg and his staff shouldn’t be too far behind, either. His presence in Chicago formed part of Forman’s vision, and for that, his should be on the outer. A poorly constructed roster that was destined to fail may make Hoiberg an unfair victim of circumstance, but he is owed little goodwill, particularly as his coaching performance, to date, has been below-average.
As team officials and coaches exit, so too should players who no longer fit the direction of the team. Signing Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade was a mistake. Keeping them longer than one season would be too. Young players failing to live up to expectations need to be on the trading block. Everyone not named Jimmy Butler needs to be made available — and even he shouldn’t be considered untouchable.
Ultimately, only ownership has the power to revitalise a wayward franchise. Fortunately, it can be salvaged; the Bulls brand is too strong for it not to bounce back. All it takes is some competence and common sense, and a willingness challenge the status quo.
Who knows if any of these changes will ever happen, even if they should. Until it happens, don’t shoot all your shots at one person. Take aim at everyone. They all deserve it.