The Chicago Bulls haven’t even gotten to their 4th preseason game yet (they play tomorrow at home against the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers at 8 pm ET/7 pm CT), and I already feel better about the direction of this team than I did all of last season.
And it’s not, truthfully, because they look like legitimate NBA title contenders this season. Rather, it’s because someone in the Bulls organization finally has the good sense to recognize that that’s precisely what this team is not, nor should be worried about being.
That person happens to be the newly acquired Dwyane Wade, who spoke very candidly—some might say pessimistically—about the Bulls’ chances for competing for a championship this season when questioned on the subject Tuesday.
Wade said Bulls' focus has to be on improving day-to-day to point they're playoff team again. Called goal of winning title "unrealistic."
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) October 11, 2016
Wade scoffed at “championship” expectations: “Coming off where you don’t make the playoffs, your goal can’t be winning a championship"
— Vincent Goodwill (@vgoodwill) October 11, 2016
Talk about giving it to you straight up…here’s a more complete transcript of his quotes, via Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com:
“When you’re coming off a season where as an organization you don’t make the playoffs, your goal can’t be winning a championship. It would be unrealistic to say, ‘Oh we want to win a championship.’ Of course we do. But it’s so many steps before you get to that. Your goal has to be day-to-day making steps to improve yourself so you can get to a point where you’re a playoff team. And then you go from there. Our goal is to get better. I’m not going to put a ceiling on our goal. We’re not thinking long term right now.”
To die-hard fans Bulls who have been hoping every year since 1998 for an NBA title banner to hang from the rafters of the United Center, Wade’s brutal honesty might seem discouraging and even off-putting. But can you really dispute the fact that he’s got the right approach?
After a year of John Paxson and Gar Foreman peddling the idea that the Bulls were still in it to win it with an aging core of players that couldn’t knock off a less than 100% Cavs team just the year before only to see an irritatingly mediocre 2016 season end without so much as an 8th-seed playoff berth, don’t we need a little realism around here?
Or were we really going to go into this season expecting the arrival of Wade and Rajon Rondo—two aging stars whose best days are behind them at this point—to help Jimmy Butler to lead this motley crew of unproven young players (i.e., Denzel Valentine, Bobby Portis, and Jerian Grant), still unproven veterans (i.e., Nikola Mirotic, Doug McDermott, and Tony Snell), and…Robin Lopez to the promised land?
I’ve heard some people suggest the Bulls could make the Eastern Conference Finals this year and can’t help but think that LeBron James, Paul George, Kyle Lowry, and the entire Boston Celtics roster would have to just quit midseason for something like that to happen.
As much as we wouldn’t like to see it, it’s time to face an unpleasant truth: the championship window we had grown so accustomed to when Derrick Rose was at the height of his powers, the Bench Mob was slaughtering people in second quarters, and Joakim Noah could stay on the court was shut before last year even began.
Now, it’s time for the Bulls to fight their way out of mediocrity.
If the Bulls subscribe to Wade’s approach and just work on improving to the point that they can make the playoffs again, that’ll be a start. Unfortunately, that’s about as much as the Bulls can reasonably hope for at this time, and it will be up to this front office (or whoever comes in next…) to build a team that can do something more, which has been precisely the problem for the Bulls much of this past decade.
But right now is not the time to get caught up in chasing rings, and the fact that we have someone in this organization willing to come out and say that could be a small sign that the Bulls are headed slowly toward better days.