In what is the last installment of a three part series on the comparison of what has happened by moves of management and the effects of the organization in two eras. The first installment was what has happened recently with the Luol Deng trade and the effect that it has had on players and coaches alike. The second installment was what happened back in the Bulls dynasty era when the Bulls went into rebuilding mode and blew up the squad. The third and final installment will be the aftermath of what happened and compare and speculate to the reported moves that may happen in the future of the Bulls.
After the “Last Dance” that produced the sixth Bulls title in eight years, management chose to unload the veterans and rebuild. This was done primarily through the draft. While that plan was coming into fruition, the team that was put out on the floor, well let me put it this way. The team struggled to compete in a level of consistent NBA play. In more direct terms they stunk. They struggled to score (Does this sound familiar?) Plus for anyone that likes numbers…30-102 in two years. It would have been worse but one of those years was a strike shortened year. Ah, but the organization asked for patience, because in 2000 there would be enough room under the salary cap for a big free agent signing. The free agent that year was supposed to be Tracy McGrady aka T-Mac. He was a budding superstar in Toronto that was supposedly tired of being in Vince Carter’s shadow. Only one problem, T-Mac said no and signed with the Orlando Magic. With no free agent but with all that cap space, the Bulls finished 15-67 during the 2000-01 season. Now during this time with the draft picks assembled with the trades of the veterans from the championship squad brought Elton Brand, Ron Artest (now Metta World Peace), Marcus Fizer, Jamal Crawford and Jay Williams. With all of the youth on the floor naturally they were in over their heads. Krause then traded Brand to the Clippers for their lottery pick Tyson Chandler and drafted Eddy Curry. BOTH HIGH SCHOOLERS. By 2003, the team imploded and Jerry Krause retired. Reason was health-related. All of his acquisitions were either traded or out of the league in three years.
If I were the Bulls I would pay close attention to this cautionary tale. Money under the salary cap does not matter if no one wants to come to play for the franchise. Players talk and they pay attention. Why would any player want to come to Chicago to play when the greatest player of the era was not treated right and the most successful coach since Red Auerbach was not getting along with management? Understand all of this was going on while the Bulls were running NBA teams off the court every night. Scottie Pippen’s contract situation was no secret to anyone. With all that chaos, the Bulls simply could not get any big name free agents to come to Chicago. Does anyone think that this is the first time the Chicago Bulls have been accused of tanking? How about in 85-86 when Michael Jordan broke his foot. The Bulls wanted to hold him out for the year. Jordan accused Krause of trying not to make the playoffs so the Bulls can get a high draft pick. Jordan forced his way back anyway and the Bulls made the playoffs. You might remember that series in Boston. He scored like 63 points in that historic game. Still a record that stands to this day.
Fast forward to the 2013-14 season. Bulls management is as they call it “retooling” the roster stockpiling high draft picks and going after a high profile free agent. Now with the new collective bargaining agreement with a salary cap that is as constricting as ever these days, what makes anyone think that things will be different? Let’s recap the similarities. Luol Deng gets traded away and angers one of your best players Joakim Noah. Just like back in 1988 when Charles Oakley was traded and it angered Michael Jordan. The players are different but the effects are the same. The distrust seed has already been planted. Coach Thibodeau is doing his job in SPITE of management instead of WORKING WITH management. Just like Phil Jackson. The players and coaching staff may be using the us versus them mentality for energy and motivation. Just like the championship team.
Are these teams the same? Of course not, this team right now is not a championship team, even with a healthy Derrick Rose. But the principles are. The disconnect between management and the players and coaches is so obvious. Derrick Rose can opt out of his contract eventually, Do you think he’s going to stick around for rebuilding? Uh, I may be wrong in saying no, but I doubt it. I’m not even discussing Noah when he gets a chance to opt out. He’ll probably be gone quicker than Pippen was. All of this is going on under Jerry Reinsdorf who did little to stop the resentment then and is doing little now. A little history, it took six years to get out from under the mess Krause left. The Bulls were awful until they got a couple of players before they lucked out and got the number one pick and got Derrick Rose. Those players were Ben Gordon and…..