In a Game 6 loss with their season on the line against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Chicago Bulls seemingly quit.
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The Bulls lost to a Cavalier team that had an injury report a mile long. Kevin Love was out for the playoffs due to shoulder surgery and Kyrie Irving was seriously hampered with an injured ankle and knee tendinitis.
Could the Bulls finally get past long-time foe, LeBron James? No!
What seemed to happen was a Bulls team that literally gave up and accepted defeat in front of the home faithful. The once-vaunted Chicago defense was as leaky as an kitchen sink pipe, and players suddenly appeared to forget how to score.
Did Tom Thibodeau fail to make the needed adjustments for victory?
Former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was the subject of a season long feud with Bulls general manager Gar Forman and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson. Thibodeau was undermined in front of his team from the start of the season, establishing him as a lame-duck coach.
To be fair, Thibodeau was accused constantly by players and management of overworking his players (possibly contributing to key injuries) and perhaps suffering from a lack of offensive creativity in his play-calling, along with adjustments not being made on the offensive side of the ball.
But, there is a flip side.
What if the Cavalier game was lost in January when a players mini mutiny almost cost Thibodeau his Job? Bulls players were harping on each other for not working hard enough, while simultaneously complaining that that the coach was working them too hard.
What if Thibodeau lost his team at that point in January when, after calling for a team practice, he was overruled by Paxson, who suggested instead that the team have a meeting where players could voice their concerns.
What if struggles for team leadership began during this time, and possibly led to the rumored tension between Rose and Butler during Game 6?
These were indeed uncharted waters for the Bulls; an organization that always seemed to avoid the type of coach killing players that always popped up on mediocre teams. Bulls management has always suffered through acrimonious relationships with their coaches, but players rarely, if ever, got themselves involved.
One thing is certain: when a coach loses his platform as the leader, it doesn’t matter much which offensive and defensive schemes he employs.
What if the Bulls lacked the personnel to compete against the Clevelands of the world? Gasol is 34, Noah, Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson are getting old and unlike elite-level teams like Cleveland and Golden State, the Bulls possessed only one player who could create for himself and others (Rose).
The NBA is a players league that is changing as we speak. Teams are trending towards three-point shooting, speed, length and athleticism.
Maybe, just maybe the Bulls were running the sets best suited for their personnel?
What if any moves need to be made by the Bulls to rebound (pun intended)?
The team has rights to the 22nd pick in this year’s draft, so don’t expect much help there. The team has immediate needs in rebounding and shot blocking (for those of us who caught Tristan Thompson‘s one-man destruction of the Bulls up front last month).
Basically, more playing time has too be allotted for young players like Tony Snell, Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott. Picking up a taller, scoring backup point guard would also be a step in the right direction and as hard as it may seem, tough decisions have to be made regarding Hinrich, Noah and Gibson.
Somebody might also want to take Rose and Butler out for a couple cold ones.
This all leads us to the question…
Is the championship window for this current Bulls version closed?
Answer: Ask me again after LeBron turns 40.
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