The transition from Tom Thibodeau to Fred Hoiberg as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls has not been a good one. In each year that Thibodeau was the head coach of the Bulls, he got them to the playoffs. But since Thibodeau was unable to get along with Bulls general manager Gar Forman, he was asked to leave in 2015. In Hoiberg’s first season with the Bulls they posted a record of 42-40 but failed to make the playoffs, and things have gotten worse during this campaign.
The Bulls won their first three games of the season, but they have struggled ever since. Chicago’s record of 31-32 has them tied with the Detroit Pistons for third place in the Central Division and seventh overall in the Eastern Conference.
When the NBA season began, the Bulls were expected to be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. However with the regular season set to finish in about a month, there is a possibility that the Bulls could be watching the playoffs from home for a second consecutive year.
There was optimism last summer for the Bulls when Gorman was busy making moves. The Bulls traded longtime point guard Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks, while they also allowed center Joakim Noah to leave in free agency as he joined Rose in the Big Apple. The Bulls would also sign shooting guard Dwyane Wade who is a native of Chicago whose career has been highlighted by helping the Miami Heat win three NBA Championships. Along with Wade, point guard Rajon Rondo would join the Bulls as these two were expected team with small forward Jimmy Butler to give Chicago a solid trio.
Wade has had a solid season for the Bulls as he is averaging 18.9 points, while Butler is leading the way with 23.9 points per contest. Rondo’s reputation as being a malcontent has followed him to Chicago as he’s been benched, while also clashing with Wade. Rondo is only averaging 6.9 points and 6.5 assists after he led the NBA in assists last season with 11.7 as a member of the Sacramento Kings. And even when you take Rondo out of the equation, the Bulls have individual talent, but that alone won’t win as the issues with the team fall right into the lap of Forman who has put this team together.
In nearly two seasons with Hoiberg as the Bulls head coach, Chicago has yet to find an identity. Under Thibodeau you knew that the Bulls were going to grind out games due to their defense which was one of the best in the NBA. The Bulls were up and down last season primarily because Hoiberg attempted to open things up on offense, while concentrating less at the defensive end of the floor which has been Chicago’s bread and butter. But Hoiberg tried to do this with Thibodeau’s players and there was never any middle ground.
This season those struggles have been magnified as everyone on the Bulls appears to be playing for himself as there isn’t a concept of team basketball; especially when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter. Wade has criticized some of the younger players on the Bulls for “not wanting it enough”, while Rondo became the spokesperson for the team’s young talent as he went to social media to criticize the leadership of Wade. And although that Wade and Butler are big names, neither former Marquette Golden Eagle has provided the Bulls with the leadership that is needed. And as the Bulls are languishing through this NBA season, the term “starting over” is not that far-fetched for them as it might be time for team owner Jerry Reinsdorf to pull the switch on this team.
A house cleaning would make sense for the Bulls as the team parted with the wrong guy in Thibodeau instead of Forman. The Bulls need a new voice that will provide this team with structure and the emphasis of once again providing this organization with an identity. Hoiberg is not the man to lead the Bulls on the sideline as in spite of the fact that he played in the NBA for a decade, he can’t get his message across in the same manner that he did collegiately at Iowa State University where he was the head basketball coach for five years. Each roster spot for the Bulls needs to be evaluated; including Butler who in spite of being Chicago’s best player is not expendable.
It’s not as if we haven’t seen Reinsdorf start from scratch before as after the Bulls won the NBA Championship in 1998 for their sixth title of the decade, this team was quickly dismantled. And it was seven years before the Bulls made it back to playoffs, while they’ve never won another NBA Championship. It might appear to be insane, but the Bulls are no closer to an NBA Championship now than they were the day that Forman hired Hoiberg as the past two seasons are clear evidence that the Bulls at best are nothing more than first-round cannon fodder for the Cleveland Cavaliers.