When Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley took over the Chicago Bulls, the first thing they had going for them was that they weren’t John Paxson and Gar Forman. For a fan base drowning in toxicity, that’s all it took.
And then came the best first date imaginable.
The Bulls’ front office said all the right things. They didn’t just want a bright future; they wanted it now. They didn’t see Chicago as some mid-market franchise worthy only of first-round playoff series; they saw a team (and fanbase) deserving of championship-caliber play.
The emotions flooded over us quickly. Was this really the one? Was this the front office that would make us finally believe in
love winning again!?
The next few dates got better. Old became new, and words became actions. A slow-to-develop big man turned into a two-time All-Star. A failed lottery pick was replaced with one of the most beautiful mid-range scorers in the game. Before you knew it, everything around you felt lively and fun. You may not have known exactly where things were going, but you believed they were going somewhere good.
A year flies by. The respect is still there, but the toilet seat is up. You told them countless times they needed to add 3-point shooting, and they forgot. They kept hinting that a big trip was coming this spring, but have the plans even been made? And that willingness to throw caution to the wind? Maybe it used to be sexy, but now it feels borderline reckless. You still don’t know exactly where things are going, but now you’re not quite sure if it’s anywhere good.
Put simply, the honeymoon phase is over.
What once felt like the beginning of a new era has quickly started to feel frustratingly familiar. The Chicago Bulls front office has built a team that is 11-16 and outside the playoff picture. Even more concerning, it doesn’t quite feel like there are plans to do anything about it.
As the vultures circle in hopes that the front office declares this team dead, recent reports have suggested they will do anything but. Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan are reportedly “untouchable” in the eyes of the Bulls brass, and Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer recently shared that Chicago still believes this core can make a playoff run.
“Chicago officials have told inquiring teams they believe they can make the playoffs when healthy,” Fischer wrote. “There was early optimism around the organization that point guard Lonzo Ball, who helped the offense flourish a year ago, would return from knee surgery in January, but there have not been further signs of Ball’s clear progression toward game play.”
Everything we’ve seen so far this season has indicated that this roster isn’t built to be truly competitive. And holding out hope that Lonzo Ball fixes everything is like thinking a baby will save a marriage. The mere fact that this team relies so heavily on a player like Ball speaks to how poorly it has been constructed, and it’s time the front office comes to terms with that.
To be clear, I’m not implying that they need to blow it up like every opposing team hopes. While that’s surely one option at this point, all I want to see is a definitive decision. What was so attractive about this front office from the jump was the fact that they picked a lane. Arturas Karnisovas and Co. decided to prioritize winning and make immediate moves that put the Bulls in a position to succeed. The problem with being that aggressive, however, is that you can’t simply stop.
Instead of continuing to build out this roster after a swift five-game exit in the postseason, the front office chose to sit on its hands. Sure, Andre Drummond and Goran Dragic were fine veteran signings, but neither fixed the glaring weakness in the shooting and rim protection departments. The NBA is an ever-changing sport, and the moment you stop being aggressive is the moment you fall behind.
*motions toward the Bulls’ 5th-worst record in the East*
This is what made the previous regime so darn frustrating. They were too loyal and too satisfied with marginal team-building. Again, what made Karnisovas and Eversley so much better is that they came in with an iron first. And, look, maybe the possible rusting over of that fist isn’t entirely their fault. We all know that the owner’s heart is a safe full of money and mediocrity. But it’s still up to the front office to establish an organizational identity and level of consistency. Something still has to be done.
So that brings me back to this final point: You can’t come to a stop and hope to arrive at your destination. Now is the time to either go full steam ahead or admit that you made a wrong turn. I can’t tell you which choice is the right one (I’m not in the driver’s seat), but I can say with confidence that one needs to be made. Do something.