The Bulls’ soap opera arrived at its logical destination Thursday: the gossip page.
Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed wrote that Bulls center Joakim Noah, who reportedly wants out of Chicago, is clashing with guard Jimmy Butler.
“Jimmy Butler may be talented, but he is being tagged as acting like this is his team; being arrogant and quite frankly, like having a very big head,” according to a Sneed source. “And, quite frankly, there are a whole bunch of guys on the team who are equally frustrated.”
In other news, Johnny Depp and his wife are calling it quits. They ask that you respect their privacy during this difficult time.
I thought the NBA was supposed to be an adult league. But judging by the behind-the-scenes carping, backstabbing and espionage sniffed out by the Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley, you’d think we were dealing with a bunch of schoolgirls. And I’d like to apologize to schoolgirls everywhere for likening them to a bunch of caterwauling professional basketball players, coaches and executives.
We have Noah telling teammates he’s done with the Bulls. We reportedly have at least one assistant coach acting as an informant on the players for general manager Gar Forman. We have two players, Butler and Derrick Rose, battling over leadership, if not ownership, of the team. We have Forman’s wife and the wife of Bulls president Michael Reinsdorf closely leading the team’s charity efforts, the implication being that even if Reinsdorf wanted to get rid of his ingratiating GM, he’d have to go through Mrs. Reinsdorf to do it.
We have an organization that hired Rose’s personal trainer to be its director of sports performance, a move begging for trouble. We have the team firing that same director of sports performance after the inevitable friction, resistance and resentment ensued.
What is this, “Desperate Housewives’’?
I’ve never seen anything quite like what we’re seeing with the Bulls. I certainly haven’t witnessed it in the places I’ve worked at in a 34-year career. Nothing even remotely close to this. And I’ll bet you haven’t either.
The dynamics of an NBA team are obviously different than at most places of employment. There are 15 employees, among the best at their craft in the world, who have large egos. Fifteen separate corporations, 15 separate CEOs, 15 divas, 15 disciples who think they’re Jesus.
But this is ridiculous, even by NBA standards. I called it dysfunction in an earlier column, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s worse than that. There’s a cattiness involved that would make Hollywood agents feel at home. I picture Butler walking past teammates and someone whispering, “Do you see what he’s wearing? I mean, hello, this isn’t Texas, cowboy!”
It’s not good when players look at the general manager as if he were a Kremlin insider, nor is it good when they ask out loud in newspaper stories, though without giving their names, which assistant coach is the GM’s lapdog.
There is something very unbecoming about all of this. We shouldn’t know more about the team’s off-court spats than we do about its on-court struggles, though we do. The only thing we’ve been spared is who is sleeping with whom. I couldn’t tell you why that is.
I also can’t tell you how to fix this mess. You can’t change human nature, and for some reason, this gathering of humans has brought out the worst in each of them. There are some good people involved here, Noah being one of them, but they have been stirred together until everyone resembles the same backbiting head case.
Whenever people have agendas that have nothing to do with winning, you have trouble. And there are agendas at Bulls headquarters that are driven by pride, money and prodigious ass-saving. It’s the biggest reason the team is in trouble. Vice president John Paxson wants to know why the team lacked toughness during games? He’s still watching the answer play out, more than a month after the season ended.
Chicago is stuck with this product, unless the Reinsdorfs, son or father, decide something needs to be done. But we know that Jerry Reinsdorf, the dad and the chairman of the organization, likes change about as much as he likes wet cigars. So expect nothing, except more of the same.
We’re stuck with them, the entire lot, from the player who likes hanging out with movie stars to the executive conniving behind the scenes. How did we get so lucky?