Nothing can collapse without having first been built.
Nine days ago, after a thorough dismantling of the then undefeated Indiana Pacers, the Chicago Bulls seemed to have progressed to the point where the first inklings of that most dangerous feeling, hope, were starting to spring eternal into the hearts of even the most pessimistic sectors of the fanbase. Perhaps this team was good enough to legitimately challenge for a title where the 2011 team had failed. The Heat are stronger now than they were then, but maybe things could be different. Sure, Tom Thibodeau’s playoff record against the Heat is 2-8, but he didn’t have Derrick Rose for half those games. Despite the inherent delusional quality of most pre-season predictions, the win over the Pacers was a sign that maybe, just maybe, this was it. One last, final shot at the champs. Five days later, another eternal feeling wrapped its icy fingers around our hearts: the familiar grip of disappointment. Conventional wisdom dictates that the Bulls should now blow up this core, this core that never got a fair shot at a real run. Conventional wisdom is wrong. There’s no way this team pulls the plug and attempts to tank. It’s not in their nature. The methodical nature of the Bulls decision-making process is a known commodity, but I’m not sure that many people on the outside understand just how methodical they really are. As of this writing, the Bulls have not made an in-season trade during Tom Thibodeau’s tenure as coach. The notion that Jerry Reinsdorf would pay anyone to not play basketball is ridiculous to the point of farce. On a practical front, how bad would a team have to be to finish last in the Eastern Conference this season? Even more importantly, how bad a roster do you have to assemble that Tom Thibodeau isn’t able to coach into respectability? It’s not in his nature. It’s not in Deng’s nature. It’s not in Noah’s nature. Most importantly, it’s not in Rose’s nature. Even if management tried, there are very few scenarios in which this Bulls roster doesn’t make the playoffs this season.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer.
On paper, it makes sense. Luol Deng is a free agent, Carlos Boozer an amnesty candidate, Joakim Noah possibly at his peak, the rest of the roster just bits and pieces with little value on their own. Jimmy Butler should be an incredibly attractive piece on the market if the Bulls are willing to dangle him, but Jimmy Butler alone will not bring a superstar to Chicago. Joakim Noah’s plantar fasciitis is always going to be an issue. For all the talk of a 2014 Plan, there is no plan to follow.
Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
That brings me back to the ultimate tragedy of this personal apocalypse: it’s all entirely Derrick Rose’s fault. It’s all entirely Tom Thibodeau’s fault. They were the perfect self-destructive storm of calamity. If Rose wasn’t from Chicago, would he put so much of a burden upon himself to fulfill the expectations Michael Jordan left behind? He took it upon himself to live and bleed for his city, through the extension of his city’s most famous sports export. Rose wanted to do it alone, spurning LeBron and taking it upon himself to deliver greatness to the city he loves, and in so, ensured that it would never come to pass. Even if he manages to defy probability and return at full strength next year, returning to his MVP level as if nothing ever happened, what guarantees are there that the team that steps out there with him is good enough? Apathy at the highest levels of management has doomed this team in the past. Rose said he’d die out on the court if he had to, a prospect which seems frighteningly close to fruition.
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
And what of Thibodeau, whose relentless desire to compete never allowed him to rest his best guys like Gregg Popovich or Erik Spoelstra. 100% effort all the time. It’s what we admire about him, and about his team, but it ultimately seems to be what’s going to drown them. It’s what we wanted all along. This coach and this roster “do things the right way,” and in so, have ruined everything they hoped to build. There is no way for the Bulls to engineer a full rebuild with Thibodeau at the helm. This front office will, understandably, need a scapegoat, and the framework is already in place to hang Thibs from the rafters, right next to the championship banners he’ll never get to equal. It’s not enough to give up entirely, instead it’s just more of the same. This time the Bulls pre-empted all the talk and announced that he’d be out for the season from the very beginning, which, while refreshing, has a sense of finality to it that seems to extinguish everything that’s happened since the impossible happened in June 2008, and the hometown kid came home. Now, while I’m sure he’d never think it, it almost seems as though he would have been better off not being drafted here in the first place. Would he be better off in Russell Westbrook’s position? I suppose there’s no answer. Already, there’s chatter that the Bulls should try to go after Jabari Parker in the draft. For his sake, I hope it doesn’t happen.
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passoniate intensity.