Things haven't been going so well for the Chicago Bulls this season, to put things lightly. Locker room feuds, rampant Zach LaVine trade rumors, coaching problems, and a horrid 5-14 record now plague the narrative surrounding this team as they appear destined for imminent collapse. The NBA's inaugural In-Season Tournament was intended to be an entertaining break from such things, but instead has only emphasized just how dysfunctional this franchise has become.
In the group stage of the In-Season Tournament, the Bulls were scheduled to play the Magic, Nets, Raptors, and Celtics. Should they win the group or perform well enough to earn wild card status, they would have then advanced to the bracket rounds with seven other teams racing to win some hardware and cold hard cash, Instead, the Bulls would promptly lose each of their four games against the competition and sulk their way to the bottom of the standings in the process.
As a result of the Bulls' 0-4 record through the group stage of this event, they have (obviously) failed to advance to the quarter-finals of the In-Season Tournament. Rather than competing for the tournament's first-ever championship and a cash prize of $500,000 per player, the Bulls will instead now play a pair of consolation games against the Charlotte Hornets and San Antonio Spurs.
Although these are consolation games and do not allow the Bulls to advance through the tourney, they do still count as regular season games. The box scores of these games will count toward each player's season average, and more importantly, will impact the win/loss column in the end-of-year standings. There may not be a prize at the end of the tunnel for the Bulls, but winning these games is still an important stepping stone toward potentially salvaging this season.
The Bulls will battle the similarly disappointing Hornets and Spurs in the consolation rounds of the NBA's In-Season Tournament.
This news will come as a massive sigh of relief for Bulls fans, as the Hornets and Spurs are two of the only teams in the league who have been just as bad, if not even worse than the Bulls themselves. These two teams have combined for an 8-25 record on the year so far, meaning they might just be Chicago's best (and last) chance to get this season back on track.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski released the full schedule for the consolation rounds of the tournament earlier today. These games will take place on Wednesday, December 6, and Friday, December 8 next week. The entire event will conclude on December 9, when the NBA crowns its first-ever In-Season Tournament champion.
Although 21 other teams have already joined the Bulls in witnessing their In-Season Tournament hopes come crashing to a close, 8 of the league's best remain in pursuit of this year's lucrative cash prize. Wojnarowski shared the tournament bracket earlier today, with some very interesting matchups in store.
These upcoming games against the Hornets and Spurs will offer the Bulls a brief reprieve from their upcoming difficult schedule, but like it or not, they will have to resume the gauntlet eventually. Whether or not they can remain afloat during this stretch might just determine their fate for the rest of the season and beyond.