A month has passed since the new NBA season started and the Chicago Bulls are not where fans thought they maybe and more importantly, keen observers who cover the team.
Through 18 games, the Bulls are just 6-12 and there has been some internal pressure from the top. Joe Cowley of the Sun-Times reported on Tuesday that team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf is extremely upset and is focusing on team GM Gar Forman. Team senior advisor Doug Collins is adding some credibility to this report as he has never been a fan of Forman. When Jerry Reinsdorf starts turning on the front office management, that is a pretty good clue that change of philosophy needs to happen because Reinsdorf has been pretty loyal to the front office over the years.
Cowley said that it is time to accept the reality that this ‘rebuild’ has not worked. “The front office is under the misguided belief that a roster made up of good role players and a couple of potential All-Stars is playoff-worthy, as it insisted at the start of training camp in September,” Cowley wrote last week. He goes on to say that the team has failed to close out games and depending on Zach Lavine and Lauri Markkanen to close out games is not a recipe to win games. The first 18 games have had some tough games and some games that were very winnable that haven’t turned out that way.
‘‘I’m still developing two young guys,’’ coach Jim Boylen said. ‘‘Zach missed a year and a half [with a torn anterior cruciate ligament]. Lauri was hurt last year; he’s basically played two years. I’m going to keep trying to develop them to come in and win games. I believe in both of them. I believe they are important to what we’re doing.’’
Cowley’s point is that the offensive strategy revolves around shooting three-pointers despite not having the makeup to make those shots between 35-38% of the time. You live by the three and you die by the three and the team has pressed their luck way too many times. Cowley predicts that the Bulls will go on a hot stretch in February and March but the question will be where was this three months ago? Winning games are much easier when the pressure is off and that is what played out last season, despite 22 wins, the team showed fans they could be turning the corner only to be a head fake 7 months later.
The talk before the season was how many wins will the Bulls have and how many more will they win this season vs. last? The season doesn’t start when spring training in MLB does, it starts in October and the team has been too late to the party. If what happened last season in February and March transpires again, fans will be even more skeptical about what the team has been selling as “the turnaround.”
The lack of focus on key elements of the game such as knowing your personnel and preventing second chance opportunities continues to dog the team. Winning in an extremely competitive sport is not easy but there have been too many games especially against the upper echelon teams where the team loses by double-digits. Do I expect the Bulls to beat many teams such as the Houston Rockets? No, but at the very least, bring the competitive spirit that fans have been craving for but have not seen on a consistent basis.