2014-15 was a disappointing year for the Chicago Bulls. They were assumed to be the best or second best in the East, and with Derrick Rose back (again) and coming off a tune-up stint with Team USA, many of us Bulls fans were thinking the Finals were well within reach.
Instead, Rose never found his pre-injury form and missed 31 games, the defense slipped, and Tom Thibodeau was fired after the Bulls bowed out in the second round to the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was an ignominious end to an era defined by its magnificent start and the what-ifs that dogged it in the final three years.
To be clear, I was not entirely against Thibodeau’s firing. By no means did he ever lose the locker room, but it was time for a change nonetheless. And bringing in GM Gar Forman’s old buddy Fred Hoiberg to replace him was a solid choice, by and large. The problem is what’s happened since: effectively nothing.
Bringing Jimmy Butler back had to be done. After a breakout year, the Bulls paid through the nose to keep him and rightly so. Retaining Mike Dunleavy after yet another solid season — the team’s most significant downturn in January just happened to coincide with Dunleavy’s absence due to injury — was also something of a no-brainer. Picking Bobby Portis 22nd overall was fine, even though he plays a position where the Bulls are already stacked, since he was excellent value at 22. But that’s been it.
Think about what Gar Forman and John Paxson (or GarPax, as we Bulls fans have come to call them) are signaling by bringing back literally the same roster plus Portis, but with Hoiberg in charge: That there was exactly one problem with the 2014-15 team, and it sure wasn’t the roster GarPax assembled. Apparently, with Thibs exiled, everything will be sunshine and rainbows in 2015-16.
I’ve written about GarPax before, and I stand by all of it. GarPax have basically carte blanche from owner Jerry Reinsdorf, a free pass from the media (or pretty damn close to it) and what has at times appeared to be a pathological need for credit. It makes perfect sense to me that they would look at a flawed roster (four bigs who deserve close to 30 minutes a night, not enough wing depth, Aaron Brooks and Kirk Hinrich as backup point guards) that they assembled and come to the conclusion that the roster is excellent, the coach just didn’t use it right.
Even for GarPax, this could be construed as blinding arrogance.
There’s still time to make some kind of move. We’ve been assuming one of Taj Gibson, Pau Gasol, or Joakim Noah (most likely Taj) will be traded some time this summer, something that would alleviate at least a couple of significant issues with the roster. But if that doesn’t happen, and we hit training camp and the regular season with this same roster, then this truly was The Summer of Extreme Arrogance.