When the offseason first got started, it was the Chicago Bulls that looked like surprising tankers: dumping Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah to the Knicks in favor of a young group of assets, and then openly shopping Jimmy Butler on NBA Draft night.
The Bulls looked like a clear rebuilding team, with a second-year head coach, a youthful roster, and nothing much to look up to. But as the offseason persisted, the Bulls shifted course; they doubled down on Jimmy Butler and signed veteran players in Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade to kickstart the offense.
And just like that, the Bulls were supposedly back to competing.
Wade left Miami to be benched by the Bulls along with Butler for “disciplinary reasons” after speaking the truth about their team ♂️ pic.twitter.com/lGYmp5tlfP
— Allan Fegley (@AllanFegley23) January 28, 2017
The roster looked alright, with some nice pieces at each position, but the bulk of the expectation coming from the new Wade-Butler backcourt. And of course there were questions: namely the poor shooting by the starting guards.
But even those questions went away when Wade came out of the gate shooting the three like never before. The Bulls started winning, as they always did, and things just went back into place.
Rondo: “When you express yourself and get everything out, it makes relationships better. When you communicate, you understand each other.”
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 27, 2017
That is, until the wheels came off the bus in the last few weeks. The Bulls are showing every sign of a team on the brink. And all the holes that everyone was worried about before the season are rearing their ugly head. The slump culminated with this week’s embarrassing display from their starters.
To start with, Rajon Rondo has been just bad. He’s putting up some average numbers after leading the NBA in assists a year ago, and has been benched repeatedly in the last few weeks for disputes with the coaching staff and his poor play. Rondo is a fire all on his own.
Rondo responding to Wade’s criticism of the Bulls pic.twitter.com/YW9puVwMIW
— Around the NBA™ (@Around_the_NBA) January 26, 2017
But the powder-keg ignited over the course of the last week as the losses began to mount. Butler and Wade went directly to the media to criticize the team and their direction, openly questioning the rest of the team’s work ethic and desire to win.
That went over as well as you’d expect, with Rondo upping the stakes and going to social media to chide Wade and Butler, calling out their lack of professionalism for the world to see.
According to Nick Friedell, (ESPN Bulls Insider.) Chicago Bulls front office has doubts Jimmy Butler can carry franchise as the star player. pic.twitter.com/jWxSeSAwwH
— Bulls Nation (@BullsNationNet) January 30, 2017
But that was only the start of the internal problems, with the team quickly turning their attention on Butler and Wade as well, with reports that teammates were frustrated with Wade’s lack of participation in practice. Namely, according to the Chicago Tribune, Wade had not practiced with the team in over three weeks.
And in response to the internal struggles, the Bulls benched both Butler and Wade, and things just got better. And now, the Bulls find themselves in a rough position: the roster hate each other, their stars don’t play well together, and the team is just good enough to not have a good pick in the Draft – and just bad enough to not matter at all in the post-season picture.
Gar Forman addresses the Bulls players speaking out to the media, all players have been fined. RT if you think Gar should be fired. pic.twitter.com/rEjWB5OZkw
— Bulls Nation (@BullsNationNet) January 27, 2017
And the Bulls’ front office, who have also been the subject of big reports of disorganization and mistrust, they now face an uphill climb toward anything that resembles winning. The contracts of Rondo and Wade are untradeable without taking something equally toxic back, and the lack of assets outside of Butler on the roster leaves them with little else than him to trade.
GM Gar Forman started this process of a rebuild on his disdain for former head coach Tom Thibodeau. It’s what brought in the new head coach, and what got Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah shipped out of town.
— Ramblin Grimace (@RamblinGrimace) January 27, 2017
But with the horrific showing by the Bulls, on the court and off, it’s quickly becoming apparent that the issues weren’t on the bench, or even on the sideline: it’s the ones in the luxury box.