2016 For The Bulls: Goodbye, hello, then more of the same
CHICAGO – The hopes and dreams for an era of a franchise came officially to an end on June 22, 2016.
If you were to mention that date to someone five years earlier, some might have envisioned a trek from the United Center to Grant Park for a celebration brought on by Chicago’s newest basketball icon.
That was the intended path for Derrick Rose, the road he was expected to travel after such a bright start to his career.
Instead his road headed East on this June day. Very, very East in fact.
Instead of a mile or two trip down the road for a NBA title celebration, Rose’s run in his hometown came to an unceremonious end as he was traded 793 miles to Manhattan. The Knicks would be the next team for Rose – the 2010-2011 NBA MVP who was derailed by a handful of injuries that stopped the Bulls ascension to the top of the league.
“Derrick obviously has meant quite a bit to this team, to this organization and to this city and we’re very thankful for everything Derrick brought to the table,” said Bulls general manager Gar Forman after the deal.“We talked about where we are at, where we want to head and our process moving forward.”
The goal was simple, according to Forman: Get younger, get more athletic. Two months later, Bulls fans wondered if that was a flat out lie.
A pre-July 4th shocker brought 30-year old guard Rajon Rondo to the Bulls on a two-year contract. Shortly after, Dwyane Wade surprised many when he decided to return home on a two-year deal after spending his entire career in Miami.
Instead of a rebuilt young core, the Bulls had a new group leading them into the future.
“The main thing is that we have three alphas. There will be three alphas on the team,” said Rondo famously in his first meeting with the Chicago media.
Below this group was, indeed, a younger group as Forman initially hoped when dealing Rose. Ten of the team’s players outside “The Three Alphas” are at or under 25 years old and mostly unproven. Leading them is Fred Hoiberg, the handpicked coach of Forman and VP of operations John Paxson who endured a rough, playoff-less debut in 2015-2016.
The result of this overhaul? Much of the same.
In almost a trademark of the early Hoiberg era, the Bulls have been madly inconsistent. Three-straight wins to open the season were followed by three-straight losses. A 4-2 Circus Trip was followed by three losses in four games.
Oh, that win in that stretch came against the East-leading Cavaliers. A win over the west leading Spurs was followed five days later by an inexplicable loss to Tom Thibodeau’s six-win Timberwolves in which the Bulls dropped a 21-point lead.
As of Tuesday the Bulls sit with a 15-16 record, fitting of their inconsistency not just for 2016 but 2015 as well. At the moment it’s good enough for a seventh seed in the Eastern Conference but not good enough for a team trying to carve out a new era of the franchise.
Trading the symbol of an era from the past, it turns out, isn’t quite enough to turn the page.