On September 30th, it’ll officially be one year since the following comment: “Our goals for the season are to make the playoffs and every day to prepare like we’re a playoff team.”
Jim Boylen sat alongside John Paxson and Gar Forman as he uttered those words about a playoff-caliber season from the Chicago Bulls. Now, Boylen and Forman are out of a job, while Paxson sits stowed away in the Reinsdorf’s closet (which arguably feels better than a playoff appearance, if you ask me).
The decision to throw this team into the playoff conversation when they were hot off a 13th-place finish in the Eastern Conference and possessed one of the youngest rosters in the league felt irresponsible. Not only did it give fans a sense of false hope, but it put an added level of pressure on the players, practically all of whom haven’t been taught winning basketball.
From the moment the season started that quote felt pretty damn embarrassing, and it appears the Bulls organization isn’t about to make the same mistake in 2020. In a conversation with reporters on Wednesday morning, Coby White opened up about the team’s perception of the upcoming season. More specifically, White said that the team isn’t going to “put a label” on next season’s playoff probability, and the focus is simply on winning more games.
“Yeah, I think we’re just going to take it game by game, and we’re just going to focus on winning games,” White told reporters. “We’re not going to put a label on the season, like, that we’re going to make the playoffs. I think we’re just going to try and win more games than we did last season and try to build. This isn’t something that I feel like is going to happen overnight. We all have to keep growing. We all have to keep grinding, and just try to win games. At the end of that, that’s all you really can do.”
Damn, you got to respect White’s candor and maturity.
While many of us would love to see this team squeak into the playoffs, the reality is that no one quite knows how next season will play out. Setting some kind of expectation for this roster means possibly setting them up for failure. The best thing the Bulls can do is exactly what White said – try to win more games. Young teams need low pressure. The more they’re encouraged to play their game and have fun, the better they tend to do. And if Coby White has this game-by-game mindset of continued growth, I like his potential as one of the team leaders.
To be clear, I don’t think the lack of a playoff expectation means it isn’t a goal. Let’s not make that mistake. I’m sure all of these players have a postseason berth somewhere near the top of their to-do list. The point is that it shouldn’t be an added stressor that gets in the way of the here and now. For a team that needs massive player development to find true success, players need to have short memories and take things one game at a time (as cliche as it may sound). The last thing we want is for any of these guys to spiral because they’re looking further down the schedule or having to awkwardly comment on grabbing a playoff spot (something they all found themselves doing at times this season).
White’s level-headed approach likely demonstrates the immediate impact of Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley. The Bulls aren’t here to trick their fan base or set unrealistic goals. The focus is just to get better, and that’s all Bulls fans have wanted for years.
Check out White’s full interview from today below: