With Dwyane Wade done, another reminder that we’ve been had
What was your favorite moment of the Dwyane Wade Era?
Was it when he questioned his teammates’ desire in January, hoping to light a fire under a squad that was 23-24 and in eighth place in the Eastern Conference?
Or was it when the Bulls went 10-13 after that, falling to 10th in the playoff race?
The charade of a Wade-Jimmy Butler-Rajon Rondo symphony was a joke from the start, and the only thing sadder is the realization that Wade, one of the NBA’s all-time greats, couldn’t see this discordant mess coming. Breaking an elbow, as he did the other day, is never a good thing, but at least it rescues him from having to play out the string. He’s done for the regular season. As for the postseason, please put the Bulls out of our misery.
It’s possible Wade could be back with the team next season, though you’d have to question his sanity if he wanted to return. And you’d question the Bulls’ sincerity about wanting to build a winner if they wanted him back, but you’re probably tired of asking about their sincerity anyway.
At a 1978 Sex Pistols concert, a tired and bitter Johnny Rotten sneered at the audience, ‘‘Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?’’ If you can put aside the incongruity of the Sex Pistols and sports mentioned in the same breath — and I’m not sure you can — it fits the Bulls perfectly.
It’s not hard to picture a team official standing at center court after another bad loss and asking the United Center crowd the same question.
Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated, Bulls fans? I’ll take that as a ‘‘yes.’’ One of the brutal teases in the NBA is the competition for the eighth and final playoff spot in each conference. It’s concocted suspense. It’s a marketing scam. It’s mediocrity aimed at tricking fans into staying on the edges of their seats.
Local TV sports anchors bring up the playoff race every time they mention the Bulls, as though viewers are waiting breathlessly for an update on the team’s playoff status. Only a half-game out of the final playoff spot, folks! This plays right into the Bulls’ strategy of getting people to flock to the United Center, never mind the quality of the basketball. By the way, it’s working. Fans keep coming in droves to see whatever this is.
That was the whole idea of signing Wade and Rondo: to put butts of paying customers in seats. The Bulls weren’t going to win with this group of players, and team executives had to know it. Rather than charting a path that would lead to success later, even if it hurt for a while, they offered a product that would resonate with those people who remembered what Wade used to be and where he came from, the Chicago area.
The rest of us, the people with decent eyesight, saw this wasn’t going to be good basketball.
And that’s how the Bulls find themselves where they are now. At 35, Wade still thinks he’s a decent percentage of the player he used to be. It’s nice to have that inner belief. It’s not so nice when that inner belief is shooting 43.4 percent from the field and averaging the same number of shots per game (16) as Butler, the Bulls’ star.
This isn’t Wade’s fault; this is management’s fault. The idea of signing a fading star was a bad one, as was the idea of pairing him with Rondo, who is idiosyncratic at best and difficult at worst. Wade should be the third or fourth scoring option on a good team. He shouldn’t be the second option on any team.
What was almost unwatchable before Wade was hurt now officially will be basketball most foul. If your idea of a good time was watching the past (Wade) and the future (Butler) take turns shooting jump shots on the way to a .500 record, well, the dream is over. What’s left is a team that is lacking talent and the time needed to pile up enough losses to get a high pick in the draft.
The Bulls are stuck in the middle. Getting out of that rut looks like it will take considerable strength. That’s asking a lot from a team that is, by any measure, dead. It’s asking even more from fans who can’t shake the feeling they’ve been cheated.
Follow me on Twitter @MorrisseyCST.