The Unbeara-Bulls

Taj Gibson of the Chicago Bulls
Photo Credit: USA Today

I’ve been a Chicago Bulls fan since 1993.  My first Bulls memory and consequently the memory that made me fall in love with basketball was John Paxson sinking the three to down the Phoenix Suns and secure the Bulls’ third championship.  I suffered through the Tim Floyd era, the up and down play of the baby Bulls, Vinny Del Negro, and most recently, the horrific ACL injury of Derrick Rose and the bitter divorce of the Bulls and the best coach they’ve had since Phil Jackson.

But I noticed something last season: I didn’t enjoy watching the Bulls anymore.  I became frustrated, angry, and apathetic towards the team that I have loved for over 20 years. Ultimately, it led to my departure from “The Bulls Charge” and my semi-retirement as a blogger.  Mostly, I blamed Thibs and the “grit and grind” style that he brought to this team and assumed that Hoiball would re-ignite the flame.  It hasn’t.  I’ve been a League Pass subscriber since the 2011-2012 season and it was a no-brainer every year. I live in Kentucky, my favorite team is the Bulls, and I want to watch them.  This year, I went back and forth on whether I’d even purchase League Pass.  Did I really want to pay $120 just to watch the Bulls?  Somehow, it didn’t seem worth it.
Maybe I’ve just grown tired of it all.  I grew tired of the D-Rose shtick a while back once he started talking about future meetings and his kid’s graduation as rationale for his lazy play.  Maybe I don’t want to see the deterioration of one of the most passionate and beloved Chicago bulls ever in Joakim Noah.  His decline has been heartbreaking and painful to watch at times – though he is showing some flashes.  Maybe I’m sick of hoping that Mirotic puts it all together or that Tony Snell can find consistency.  Maybe it’s Kirk Hinrich and all his grit that’s wearing me down.  Maybe it’s Pau Gasol’s facial expressions after every single call or the way Taj Gibson complains about calls every…single…possession.  Or maybe it’s Taj Gibson never passing the ball.  Maybe it’s all the mid-range jumpshots. Maybe it’s the lazy defense and the lack of passion.  Maybe it’s Derrick Rose forcing shots down the stretch when he’s not the best player on the team anymore and he should be deferring to Jimmy Butler.  Maybe it’s Gar/Pax and their refusal to make any meaningful moves to improve this team and chase a championship.  Maybe it’s their refusal to cut ties with role players that aren’t bringing this team close to a title.

One of my friends owns a successful business and we were talking about retaining staff.  He was telling me of a concept of healthy turnover, where instead of trying to retain staff, you want them to leave and replace them with someone who is new and hungry.  The general idea is that when someone is somewhere for too long, they grow content.  Maybe that’s these Chicago Bulls. Hinrich has been a Bull (mostly) since 2003.  Noah  was drafted in 2007, Rose in 2008, Gibson in 2009, Butler in 2011.  Maybe these Bulls need new faces with similar skillsets to make that leap. Maybe this team is just in a rut.  Maybe these players really only succeeded because of Tom Thibodeau.

We were all so optimistic that the Bulls would make a leap.  The offense has been brutal and there really hasn’t been a significant difference in this team other than their great three-point shooting.  Yes, there’s more space, less yelling, more responsible minutes distribution, probably less brutal practices, and so far, less injuries.  But I still don’t enjoy this team. I don’t feel like this team has the passion and the desire to win a championship and a change is needed.  If you watch other NBA teams on League Pass on any given night, you’ll see much better offenses that are modern and much quicker paced.  You’ll see guys making crazy athletic moves and playing their hearts out.  The Bulls haven’t had that since maybe Vinny Del Negro’s stint with the franchise.  A change is needed and as much as I love and appreciate what most of these guys have brought to this organization, it has to happen or the Bulls will go another 17 years without a championship or even the hope of one.  For the NBA’s third biggest market, that’s simply unacceptable. The East will never be more vulnerable.  The Bulls’ time is now and they need to embrace it and go for broke one last time.

Brandon Pence is the founder and former editor of the Chicago Bulls blog “The Bulls Charge.”  Follow him on Twitter

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