The Chicago Bulls internal tension is palpable up and down I-90.
On the morning of the NBA Trade Deadline, the Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley hopped on The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight show. During his radio hit, the long-time beat reporter provided a glimpse of what things might look like behind the scenes. And, as many of us have come to expect, it’s not very pretty.
According to Cowley, not only does Lauri Markkanen feel lost in the Bulls new “offensive system,” but he’s also so fed up with the team’s structure that he’s ready to be on the next plane out of Chicago.
Here’s what Cowley had to say:
The internal culture is not good. If everything stands like it is right now, I’m telling you right now, Lauri Markkanen doesn’t want to stay here. Doesn’t want to play here. Doesn’t want this structure that he has right now. So he is gone. If they don’t want to make any moves, he’s gone. When he can go, he’s gonna go. And that was one of your foundation pieces, so you’re flawed here.
Oof. One of the Bulls core foundation pieces has appeared out-of-sorts and disinterested during the entirety of this season. Markkanen, not one to over-show emotion, finally expressed a bit of annoyance with the Bulls game plan toward the end of January. And while it’s easy to believe he’s fed-up with this organization, I also think it’s fair to remember he wanted to play through his most recent pelvis injury.
Not to mention, when host Dan Bernstein asked Cowley whether Markkanen has shared these feelings directly, Cowley had this to say: “No, he hasn’t said anything like that publicly. You just hear things … if you talk to the right people you kind of hear what’s going on.”
Let me be clear, I’m not contradicting anything being said here, in fact, I strongly believe there are plenty of thoughts racing through Markkanen’s head. With the injury trouble he’s experienced and the unstable coaching thus far during his Bulls tenure, debating his future with the team feels natural. Unfortunate, but natural.
The even more concerning message from Cowley, however, came next:
I had a player the other day telling me “there is nobody coming here.” So they even know that this plan, they put all these chips on the table for 21, was flawed.
MAKE IT STOP! HAVE MERCY ON CHICAGO BASKETBALL!
The Bulls front office has shown nothing but ineptitude when it comes to signing free agents. And now, a member of their own roster has said they don’t believe anyone would want to put on a Chicago Bulls uniform. Of course, we don’t know the context of that conversation, but let that sink in. And consider how tough it might be to *ever* finish a rebuild, when you can’t put the finishing touches on a roster through free agency. Yuck.
The Bulls have reached the pivotal point in their complete organizational collapse where players not only refuse to come to Chicago but also want to leave. With that being the case, under this current leadership, coming out the other end of this feels nearly impossible.
Successful change from here on out starts with rebuilding the front office, not the players.