How Game 4 Against Cleveland Changed The Entire Chicago Bulls Organization


When LeBron James hit a buzzer-beating contested fadeaway from the corner to tie the Chicago Bulls’ series with Cleveland this past May at two games apiece, it set in motion one of the most crucial times in the history of the Chicago Bulls organization.

As a Chicago Bulls fan, you probably remember the dejection and heartbreak from the end of Game 4 between the Bulls and the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers just under four months ago.

Not only did the Bulls lose a crucial game where a win would have gave them a 3-1 series lead, a Game 4 victory would have put them one win from finally slaying the dragon that is LeBron James in the postseason. But, James hit one of the best shots of the entire postseason, and the series was all tied at two games going back to Cleveland.

You know how the story ends: The Bulls would lose the next two and the once-promising season was over.

Every time the Bulls have lost to LeBron James in the playoffs, there’s been a sense of frustration and emptiness. But, this past season brought a new meaning to the past heartbreaks. This was supposed to be “the year” for the Bulls. Not only was Derrick Rose back, he hit the biggest shot of his career in Game 3 to give the Bulls a 2-1 series lead. When the shot fell, you could sense that this indeed could be the year that Bulls do it.

Then, with one fell swoop, it was all gone.

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When James’ shot fell in Game 4, the air was completely sucked out of the United Center, out of the city of Chicago, and out of everyone on the Chicago Bulls roster. The sense of deja-vu crept in and never left. Taj Gibson‘s frustration with Matthew Dellavedova, along with getting flat-out embarrassed at home in Game 6 of the series was just the icing on the cake.

To make matters worse for the Bulls, their two backcourt stars were apparently at each other’s throats during Game 6. Throw in over a year-long soap opera with Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls front office, and you got quite a “big drama show” as undefeated boxer Gennady Golovkin would say.

A few weeks later, the transition began for the Bulls. Thibodeau was fired, and the front office got “their man”: Iowa State head coach and former Chicago Bulls guard Fred Hoiberg.

Along with the questions surrounding Hoiberg’s ability to coach at the pro level, rumors were circulating about Jimmy Butler wanting more money than the Bulls were willing to pay him, despite a year where he became the first Bull to win the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award.

So, let’s see: A rookie head coach with no NBA coaching experience, a backcourt that apparently can’t stand the sight of each other, two dynamic bigs who can’t play together on the floor (with one of them not fully healthy), and a city that’s impatient to see the Bulls reach their former glory.

Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? Well, believe it or not, it’s turned out great when you look the situation completely over.

The Bulls were able to comes to terms with Butler on a max contract (along with Butler squashing any Rose tension rumors), veteran Mike Dunleavy re-signed, Bobby Portis was selected to give the Bulls more frontcourt depth and potential trade flexibility, and Hoiberg appears to be planting seeds of getting a head-start on building chemistry with his new roster before training camp begins later in the month.

So maybe, just maybe, James’ game-winning shot set in motion not only a new day for the Chicago Bulls, but a transition that many not only wanted to happen, but many felt needed to happen.

Of course, not everything’s all teddy bears and rainbows in the Bulls’ world at the moment. There’s also the dark cloud that is Derrick Rose’s potential sexual assault case. Last week, a woman filed a legal complaint that mentioned Rose and two associates rugged and “gang-raped” her in a California apartment two years ago.

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The details are rather limited at the current junction, but the victim’s story seems rather fuzzy and contains some details that need further explanation. Nonetheless, it’s not something Rose, his legal team, and the Bulls organization should take lightly. If Rose can fully clear his name, it will continue what has been a frightful, yet overall successful transition into a new era of Chicago Bulls basketball.