Basketball Purgatory and Dysfunction: Reinsdorf, Paxson, and the Demise of a Once Proud Bulls Organization5 min read

Basketball Purgatory and Dysfunction: Reinsdorf, Paxson, and the Demise of a Once Proud Bulls Organization<span class="wtr-time-wrap after-title"><span class="wtr-time-number">5</span> min read</span>

I have no other way to say it: I am a lifelong Bulls fan, and it’s very frustrating because the Bulls are in what I like to call basketball purgatory.

At this current juncture, the Bulls are currently the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. They have a great player being wasted in the form of Jimmy Butler on a team with a striking lack of a supporting cast. As a fan of any team, of course you want to make the playoffs. But it’s incredible to see how obtuse the front office has been in managing the team’s roster in the modern NBA. If you are an eighth seed, you have no chance to advance to the next round and will draft in the middle of the pack upon exiting the playoffs. This is a superstar-driven league. Sure, the Bulls have one, but that’s all they have. Jimmy Butler is their team. Chicago missed the playoffs last season by one spot. In the draft lottery, the Bulls wound up with the last pick in the draft lottery – the final non-playoff team draft slot – and took Denzel Valentine at number 14 . Purgatory.

Sitting in the middle isn’t a formula for success moving forward in the NBA. The Bulls aren’t getting impact talent early in the draft, and they will be neither talented nor seeded well enough to thrive in the playoffs. What this means is the Bulls’ front office of  VP of basketball operations John Paxson, a member of the Bulls’ management in some capacity since 2003, and general manager Gar Foreman need to be aggressive in retooling or rebuilding the roster so it is not caught going deep in the playoffs or stocking up to become a powerhouse.

However, the idea of aggressiveness isn’t always a good thing with the Bulls. Paxson and Forman were aggressive in letting their feud with former coach Tom Thibodeau go public. Owner Jerry Reinsdorf made sure that these front office puppets were aggressive in free agency in an effort to shortcut their way back into some playoff revenue by signing failed stopgap point guard experiment Rajon Rondo who has been his own personal soap opera and aging star Dwyane Wade. In fairness to the Wade signing, he could be a major tool in recruiting talent to the Bulls, but the team isn’t exactly the most sexy destination at the moment.

But even now Wade is faced with his own recruiting battle: selling himself on if Chicago is where he should finish his career knowing he only has a couple swings left at the O’Brien Trophy.

That quote is courtesy of a post-game interview Wade conducted with the media where he ripped his teammates’ effort after the team blew a double-digit lead to Atlanta in the final quarter last evening.

Butler also jumped aboard the criticism train later on.

Point guard Jerian Grant defended himself on his Twitter account, saying that he plays hard, hinting that at least his work ethic and effort on the court should not be questioned.

What a soap opera this team is, but it’s no surprise. When even the faces of your front office are too immature and egotistical to not let their personal feelings and relationship with a previous head coach lead to a rather classless firing of the man that brought the organization its only win in the conference finals since Michael Jordan left after the team’s sixth and final title in 1998, it’s no surprise the only thing your team is consistent in is being a soap opera.

Fred Hoiberg is the fourth head coaching hire Paxson has overseen. He was the guy the front office hired when they canned Thibodeau. As I have made clear, the front office hasn’t created an environment or roster conducive to winning, but much of the criticism thrown in Hoiberg’s direction is fair. It has not been the most glamorous start for The Mayor.

This team needs change. I think Butler deserves better, but I do not trust the current regime to get proper trade value for him. I also don’t trust Paxson to oversee a fifth coaching hire. Being allowed to hire four and maybe five different coaches is as ridiculous as it sounds. And most of all, I will never trust Reinsdorf to hold the front office accountable. What gives fans any confidence this could happen? Jerry doesn’t seem dedicated to consistently going deep into the playoffs. The Bulls are the third-largest market in the NBA with generous fan support near the top of the league every year, even including now, but they have an owner that refuses to spend into the luxury tax.

Maybe – just maybe – Reinsdorf getting hit in the wallet for the second straight year changes things. If the Bulls just miss the playoffs again when they thought they could shortcut their way to a return and gain additional revenue, it could inspire change. But it’s doubtful.

The Chicago Bulls are a mess, and I’m afraid that as long as the chain of command is a Paxson/Forman-constructed roster playing under a Paxson coaching hire all under an owner such as Reinsdorf’s watch, a once proud Bulls organization will continue to falter until something changes. For now, they are stuck in purgatory as a dysfunctional franchise for the foreseeable future.

UPDATE: Rondo just grilled the leadership on his Instagram page.


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