by Yusuf Gadlin
Can this year for the Chicago Bulls get any worse. First the players lose a second round series to the Cleveland Cavaliers, a series in which they should have won. Now the Bulls front office has added salt to the wound by firing its best coach since Phil Jackson. Tom Thibodeau deserved better than this. This man made Bulls basketball relevant again by establishing a hard working identity. The key word here is “identity,” seeing how the Bulls hadn’t had one since the Michael Jordan era ended in 1998. When Mike retired and Phil Jackson was forced out, I knew rough times were ahead as the following year Bulls reserve Randy Brown was the leader of the team. I was 10-years-old then, praying for better days. As the years went by, I was forced to root for guys like Marcus Fizer and Eddie Robinson. Fizer was drafted Number 4 in 2000 and never scored more than 12pts a game, Robinson was paid 32 million dollars and averaged 9pts for four years with the Bulls.
From 1999 to 2004 was the worst years in Bulls history.
Now in 2004 former General manager Jerry Krause had to be replaced for these atrocious signings post the Michael Jordan era. Insert current and former Bulls player John Paxon as the new general manager of the franchise, and I was a happy 15-year-old kid. I was excited about the Paxson signing because I knew he played with Michael Jordan and I figured he knew how to recognize championship players. I was only five years old when Paxson hit his famous jump shot In the 1993 NBA finals, too young to remember Paxon’s worth to those Bulls team, all I had was stories from my parents to understand who John Paxson was.
Enter the baby Bulls here.
In the early 2000s, I was briefly happy with a young Tyson Chandler, a skinny guard named Jamal Crawford, and a stocky built Eddie Curry. Those young Bulls were exciting to watch, and we as fans were promised that they would grow into adult Bulls and lead us out of that dark age of losing. It never happened, and the irrelevant seasons continued. Again, a slight rebuild happen in 2004 and we drafted some kids named Loul Deng, Ben Gordon, and Chris Duhon. Deng was supposed to be the savior of the Chicago Bulls but he could not create a shot for himself and later proved to be a above average role player. As for Gordon and Duhon they were nothing more than bench players, however Ben Gordon played out of his mind three years later in 2008.
Still, in 2004 Paxson sold us on the Baby Bulls part 2. The second bunch were better than the first, but losing and irrelevancy was still strong inside the bulls organization. It wasn’t until the 2008 NBA draft that the Chicago Bulls lucked up with the number one pick, and selected Derrick Rose with hopes that their savior had arrived again. I was 19-years-old and I finally had reason to believe Chicago had its best player since Michael Jordan. Derrick Rose proved to be just that as he took the basketball world by storm. All Chicago needed were a few more quality pieces(Joakim Noah), (Taj Gibson) and a championship coach. The Bulls were out of irrelevancy with Rose and Noah but needed a coach to guide them to greatness. Two years later in 2010, I was 21-years-old watching as the Bulls introduced Tom Thibodeau as their new head coach. Thibodeau was regarded as a defensive wizard, and was supposed to incorporate a winning culture I hadn’t seen since I was 10-years-old. Thibodeau did just that as he was the fastest coach to 100 hundred wins in NBA history and the Bulls were tougher than ever before, but joy wouldn’t last long.
Derrick Rose suffered a horrendous ACL tear; two years later in the 2012 NBA playoffs. At 22 years old, I was devastated beyond belief. The Bulls were finally expected to compete for a championship after 14 years of being a losing franchise. I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing with the Chicago Bulls as Derrick Rose would miss the next three years due to reoccurring injuries. Fortunately, the Bulls had Tom Thibodeau and he refused to let the franchise slip into a losing coma again. Tom Thibodeau made the remaining players on his team better, Thibodeau starless teams were always fighting tooth and nail to the very end and it was respectable. The hope was that Rose would return and join his new and improved teammates that had evolved with out him and finally win a NBA championship. Rose finally returned , and I was 25 years old starving for a Bulls championship that the Bulls flirted with capturing the three years prior. John Paxson added a former champion to the Bulls roster in Pau Gasol, and a overseas sensation named Nikola Miortic. Chicago had a great bench similar to the ones in the Michael Jordan era, It was if Paxson sublimely told Bulls fans “if this championship roster don’t win soon, I will be forced to rebuild”.
I could smell the rebuilding in the air, but I just knew the Bulls would get the job done and bring the proud city of Chicago a championship it had been deprived of the past 17 years. The Bulls path was clear to win it all then ever before, The face of the NBA, Lebron James team was badly crippled. Now was the time to strike. All of those years of losing were about to be over because the Bulls were hungry and tired of only having Michael Jordan to talk about. But in the mist of this year second round battle with the injury depleted Cleveland cavaliers, These Bulls players did something unforgivable.
They quit because things got tuff and they embarrassingly succumbed to LeBron James’ greatness.
Not only did they quit, but they blamed the very coach that produced a MVP, a defensive player of the year, multiple All stars, and a most improved player. The very coach that eliminated the franchises losing ways, was now being turned on by not only the front office but the very players he worked with day and night to improve there level of play. Somewhere along the line, Paxson forgot how hard you had to work to be champions in the NBA. His problem shouldn’t have been with the coach that has the sixth best win percentage in NBA history, but with the players that cried and complained because Tom Thibodeau worked them too hard. It cost blood, sweat, and tears to win it all in this league, and ultimately that price was too steep for this current bulls roster to pay. So I sit here at age 26 wondering if the Bulls will ever be relevant again.