CHICAGO – If you had January 25th in the pool, you’re a winner.
Admit it, a few of you had some bets out there. Vegas didn’t take it but a few ambitious Bulls fans probably did.
The wager? When this risky Bulls combination of a roster would have a season-rocking explosion. If you had January 25th, pat yourself on the back
Too bad the fan base as a whole ends up a loser. But wait, maybe they’re not. Are you not entertained?
Let me say that again: ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?
Seriously, that’s kinda what this was all about. The Bulls were either going to be better than expected or a beautiful disaster.
We got the latter. Fans figured this was coming at some point and the question was when. Now we have that answer, too, and so far its pure entertainment.
So how did this happen and why?
In the offseason the Bulls had a chance to go “young and more athletic.” They had a shot to remake the franchise and build from the bottom up. The went a half-measure with a trade of Derrick Rose and letting Joakim Noah join him in New York.
In the end, however, the hesitated with a full-out reconstruction. Balked at it, more or less.
A pre-July 4th stunner brought Rajon Rondo to the team in free agency. A few days later, it was Dwyane Wade who returned home in an equally surprising move.
Gar Forman explained the change of heart as a fear of falling too far into the lottery and being stuck in rebuilding for half a decade. This new direction – coined the “Three Alphas” by Rondo – was meant to keep the Bulls competitive and give fans a reason to hope for some success as a young group of players under them learned the ropes of the association.
But really, staying in the Chicago sports conversation. Nothing says disinterest like rebuilding.
Rondo came with his own baggage, Wade was not far removed from four-straight NBA Finals appearances with the Heat and Butler himself was an outspoken critic of head coach Fred Hoiberg in his first years.
If it all worked in a perfect world, the Bulls could have been at the top of the line behind the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference. At its worst, it would be a juicy, gossip filled roller coaster that would keep the team stuck in NBA purgatory.
Either way, the Bulls would continue to be a subject of entertainment and debate whether they win or lose.
The strategy worked. Early on the Bulls played some decent basketball and finished over .500 on what turned out to be the last “Circus Trip.”
Then came inconsistent play, rumblings from the locker room, a Rondo benching, lineup changes and then Wednesday. A ten-point lead with three minutes to go was gone with a minute left, Paul Zipzer and Nikola Mirotic took shots meant for the “Two Alphas.” Don’t forget, Rondo was benched.
A sure victory that became a defeat produced a call out by Butler and Wade to teammates who they felt weren’t all in for the cause. Jerian Grant and then Rondo issued strong social media rebuttals in response, and then it exploded.
A team a game under-.500 clinging to the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race was at the top of national sports broadcasts, websites and publications. Their morning shootaround was must attend for media who normally wouldn’t be terribly interested before a game against slumping Miami.
Each of those who spoke out took their time on the pulpit to explain themselves. Forman did too, but took no questions. Then Butler and Wade were promptly yanked from the starting lineup and the Bulls were promptly routed by a Heat team that with a win improved to 13-games under .500.
Now the Bulls are two games under-.500, clinging to an eighth playoff spot in the middle of NBA purgatory. Normally this wouldn’t be much news, but this Bulls team forces you to pay attention with enough drama to produce a soap opera.
“As The Rondo Turns,” “The Wades of Our Lives,” “The Butler and the Beautiful,” you pick a name that fits.
Either way, you’re entertained, right?