A season that once looked like it was primed to revolve around the front office building more “equity”, the Bobby Portis v. Nikola Mirotic fight and its resounding ramifications, Mirotic’s no-trade clause, the question surrounding Zach LaVine’s knee and his upcoming contract and the tank, has gone from another disaster to something pretty damn fun.
I’m as shocked as you are.
This season is infinitely more enjoyable than any part of last year’s experiment with the “Three Alphas” (and that’s including the Rajon Rondo playoff games). Just one year ago we were talking about Rondo’s “detrimental conduct”, Hoiberg’s future as an NBA coach, the Bulls future with Jimmy Butler and if GarPax should build around him or deal him.
Here's Rajon Rondo's Instagram post basically calling out D-Wade & Jimmy Butler, a day after Wade/Butler questioned their teammates' drive. pic.twitter.com/dsjXQYr3uR
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) January 27, 2017
We were watching a middling Bulls team (28-29 at the break) with an MVP candidate and a former superstar that drew lines in the locker room against every coach, front office representative and player.
Despite JUST making the playoffs, the Bulls were a shit show; and it looked like it wasn’t going to leave town any time soon.
Then John Paxson did something we didn’t think he’d have the balls to do. He traded Jimmy Butler to his biggest nemesis for an injured Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the seventh pick in the draft (Lauri Markkanen), released Rajon Rondo (despite how badly many of us wanted him to return) and paid Dwyane Wade to go the hell away. He seemingly took over every aspect of the day-to-day with the organization from Gar Forman and brought on Doug Collins as a senior adviser.
He made himself available to anyone that wanted to talk. He took responsibility for the Bulls problems since Derrick Rose’s knees changed the outlook of the franchise. He preached patience. He preached athleticism and youth. He preached flexibility. He embraced the tank, even if he wouldn’t call it by its name.
He took on the onslaught of bullets and then asked for us to believe in him again.
Most of us laughed or scoffed; and for good reason.
But since then, Markkanen turned himself into a future All-Star candidate (thanks Bobby!). The Finnish big man has been such a revelation that if Adam Silver decided to host the 2017 NBA Re-Draft during All-Star weekend, he’d probably go third overall. Dunn, under the tutelage of Hoiberg (who has become revitalized this season), looks like he can be the straw that stirs the drink (HE WANTS TO BE CP3!). LaVine has come back from his injury and has shown us all that we can finally take off our Rose blinders. Portis looks like a piece on a championship bench. Denzel Valentine has become a serviceable pro. And somehow, Pax found a way to deal Mirotic for a first round draft pick that could end up in the lottery.
Heck, I’m not even mad anymore…. that’s amazing!
I know there is still a TON of work left to do (especially when it comes to the tank) and Paxson deserves your skepticism. But if you take a look at the forest through the trees, the Bulls are in a better position than any of us anticipated. There is an excitement around this organization that went missing when Jimmy Butler “went Hollywood” and Rose and Joakim Noah drew their own lines in the sand.
The future is young and bright, Bulls fans. All you have to do is take a look.