Very little could be gained from this season at this point, even if the Bulls were to miraculously reach the play-in game. But a whole lot can be lost. This new front office needs to buck the trend of selling false hope to a fan base that seems to drink it up for well over two decades.
The street show was always spectacular.
The fast-talking mountebank would show up in the depressed dusty town with a flashy wagon, a box full of his magical elixir, and two sickly-looking members of the audience, planted days earlier.
Within hours, the elixir was allegedly making hair grow, curing dysentery, and fixing marriages all with one swig, while the marks freely tossed what money they had at the feet of the swindler.
Hope sells, and they were all in on buying it, hook, line and sinker.
And by the time they realized it was actually false hope, the flashy wagon was long gone … until the next flashy wagon pulled in months later and promised even more from their batch of snake oil.
Bulls fans know what that’s like.
Year after year they drank the elixir. Sure, they had to fight Bears fans over it, but a sprinkle of a safe No. 7 overall pick here, a trade Jimmy Butler-and-rebuild sip there. Heck, why not a dash of out-of-shape and mopey hometown kid Jabari Parker?
And every April when the wagon pulled away, the lost townspeople promised themselves “That’s the last time!’’
Until it wasn’t.
That’s basically been the relationship between Bulls fan and front office the last two-plus decades.
Does it feel like the new regime of executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley are using the same operating handbook? Absolutely not.
All indications are that Karnisovas has a plan and it is an aggressive one.
Flashes of it have already been shown at the trade deadline, as young potential – and a certain amount of softness – was sent out for a proven All-Star in Nikola Vucevic, a tough-minded big who resembles a bad guy out of a Jason Statham movie in Daniel Theis, and couple of interesting wing defenders in Troy Brown Jr. and Javonte Green.
On paper, all solid moves, and even more importantly, a powerful message sent to the rest of the league that these were not the same old Bulls, spinning in the mud of survival mode.
The problem with big swings? Sometimes they miss. While the jury is still out on the long-term effect Karnisovas’ first major roster moves will have, the immediate payoff as far as this season has to be considered a fail.
Even if the Bulls somehow win their last five games, and the Pacers or Wizards have an historic collapse, opening the door for a play-in game, what can this Bulls roster really accomplish?
One or two meaningful games for Zach LaVine and Vucevic to play together before the roster gets yet another facelift this offseason?
No thanks. Save bonding time for the two this summer with less health and safety protocols expected from the league, and then next fall training camp. LaVine will be entering his eighth season and Vucevic his 11th. If they can’t figure it out quickly by then, well, maybe that says something about the players.
The best way to handle these last five games? Sit both of them. Play the Greens, Browns and Coby Whites. Play the lottery percentages and pray.
This roster is a generational point guard away from becoming something special. The price for possibly a Chris Paul or Michael Conley will be huge. Meanwhile, this 2021 draft – one in which the Bulls will not participate in unless they land in the top four of the lottery – has two such players in Cade Cunningham and Jalen Suggs.
Marching out LaVine and Vucevic for some sort of development/meaningful-game showcase down the stretch is the wrong play.
It’s bad medicine.
Unfortunately for far too many Bulls fans, they’ll drink it up. They don’t know anything different.
It’s yet another flashy wagon coming through town.