And Now it Sounds Like Even the Bulls Don’t Believe They Have a Chance

Tie a bow on it. Throw in the towel. Stick a fork in them. Waive the white flag. Admit defeat. Etc.

The Chicago Bulls may have officially passed the point of no return on Sunday afternoon. And, no, it’s not because they fell into 12-place and lost the tiebreaker advantage with the Indiana Pacers (though that did happen and has further complicated their chances of putting together a successful run to the postseason). It’s what happened after the game that may have been the final straw.

Let’s not beat around the bush. Here’s what Nikola Vucevic told The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry when asked about the Bulls’ chances of “turning the corner.”

“Maybe 30 games ago. But now it’s hard to look at it that way,” Vucevic told Mayberry.

He continued …

“It doesn’t really depend on us anymore,” Vucevic said. “I mean, it does. We have to win. But we’re depending on the people in front of us, on how they do. So it’s hard to say after 65 games we didn’t figure it out. It’s tough to believe that something’s just going to (click) like that. We’ll see. We’re going to keep fighting, keep hoping something happens. But it’s obvious we’ve put ourselves in a very difficult spot now.”

First things first, you can read more postgame commentary from Mayberry here. I’m strictly going to provide some thoughts on these words from Vucevic because … well … OOF.

On the one hand, I almost respect Vucevic for being a realist. The Bulls do not control their own destiny, and it’s a bit silly for us to pretend that the players don’t recognize that. On the other hand … YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO SAY THAT!

I truly can’t believe that Vucevic uttered these words with 17 games left to go in the regular season. Sure, it came with the caveat that he and his teammates will continue to fight to put themselves in a position to take advantage of another team’s possible misfortune. But that doesn’t make this any less alarming. The players are supposed to voice borderline delusional beliefs in what their team is capable of, especially those players considered to be part of the “core.”

In other words, Vucevic is supposed to be one of the folks keeping locker room morale high. What does he do instead? Publicly accept that the Bulls likely aren’t going to figure things out in time, hoping “something happens” to save their season. And, if this is actually how he feels, it’s hard to believe he can simultaneously put his most competitive foot forward.

Leadership has been a major problem for this team all year long, and I guess a moment like this perfectly sums up why. I commend Vucevic for putting together a really strong bounce-back campaign. I also have to imagine the lack of team results is particularly frustrating to him since he has carried his weight on the court. However, a leader isn’t supposed to openly doubt his team’s ability to put it all together. Speak that into existence, and it’s practically a death sentence.

It’s one thing to lose games. It’s entirely another to lose faith.

Also, if Vucevic feels comfortable enough talking like this with the media, how are the Bulls players talking behind the scenes? Are they pumping each other up to attack adversity head-on or are they simply discussing their summer vacation plans?

The front office’s philosophy now only looks that much more embarrassing, too! Not only did they express belief in a roster that has gone 3-8 since the trade deadline, but they expressed belief in a roster that may not even fully believe in itself.

Let’s also not forget Vucevic is an unrestricted free agent this summer. They decided not to pursue a deadline deal for him, thus setting up a situation where they must re-sign him this summer to avoid losing his talents for nothing. I don’t know about you, but this just doesn’t sound to me like a player who’s very interested in returning. This feels especially true when we factor in his direct comments on exploring free agency AND the recent report about Vucevic being irritated with “finger-pointing” behind the scenes.

I guess only time will tell if Vucevic’s mentality has infiltrated the rest of the roster. With the second-worst record in the East over the last 10 games, though, I certainly fear it already has.

written by

Elias Schuster is the Lead Chicago Bulls writer at Bleacher Nation. He started with BN full-time in 2019 immediately after graduating from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign with a degree in Journalism (yes, he started with the Jim Boylen Era). Since joining, Elias has been the driving force behind Bulls and NBA content for both the site and social accounts. You can follow him on Twitter/X @Schuster_Elias.

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