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When it comes to the Bulls, the joke’s on us once again

Bulls vice president John Paxson (left) and general manager Gar Forman don't seem to have a plan. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

It’s hard to shake the feeling that we’re the victim of an ongoing prank, that somebody has an iPhone and the mailing address for “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” A hidden trapdoor, an unsuspecting us and a narrator whispering, “Let’s see what happens this time.’’ And then, for the 100th time, we plummet toward rock bottom accompanied by a Looney Tunes descending whistle.

At least cruelty makes sense. What the Bulls are doing these days doesn’t.

On Thursday, they traded Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to Oklahoma City for Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne and Anthony Morrow. A show of hands from those of you who had heard of any two of those three Thunder players before the trade. That’s what I thought.

This isn’t a bad trade, as some have suggested. It’s just a nothing trade. It accomplishes nothing. It does nothing for the present. It does nothing for the future. It has the nutritional value of lint.

Bulls vice president John Paxson hinted that just because he didn’t pull the trigger this time on a trade involving Jimmy Butler doesn’t mean he won’t later.

Always the stick and the carrot with these guys. We’ll get LeBron James to come here when he becomes a free agent. Remember that one? Or Kobe Bryant. Or Carmelo Anthony.

Stick with us a little longer, the carrot says. Keep buying those tickets. Step right up, step right up.

You’ll see, it says.

I can’t see a thing, and I’ve been staring at this trade for hours now. If there’s a plan or a map or a process involving the Bulls, it’s written in invisible ink.

Here’s what we do know, unfortunately:

— The Bulls don’t seem to want to rebuild, even though they’re a perfect candidate for starting from scratch. They’re a middling team that isn’t going to get better like this. They have one asset, Butler, who could bring them draft picks and youth. But, no.

— Paxson and general manager Gar Forman aren’t going anywhere, despite compelling evidence that their desks should be cleaned out. The most recent reminder is that they gave up two first-round picks to acquire McDermott in a draft-day trade in 2014.

— Paxson and Forman aren’t ultimately to blame for this mess, though. Who is? Pick a Reinsdorf, any Reinsdorf.

— A discerning owner, an owner who wants to succeed, would have gagged at the prospect of a nucleus of Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo for this season. But president Michael Reinsdorf, son of chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, looked at what Gar-Pax was selling him and said, “I’m in!’’ What happened was predictable. Some turmoil. Lots of uninspired basketball.

— Owners don’t want to fire their front offices. It means work for them. It means opening themselves up to the possibility of being exposed as out of touch with their industry (see the McCaskeys). It’s so much easier to have the general manager fire the coach in the name of change than it is to fire the GM. That way, the owner doesn’t have to get involved.

— Because this team is run by a Reinsdorf, take the previous sentence and multiply by 10. Things move at the approximate pace of a tortoise 10K with this franchise, things don’t change and the Bulls doesn’t really care what you think about it, as long as you keep going to games. So, goodbye Tom Thibodeau, hello Fred Hoiberg and now Chicago has an epidemic of glazed eyes. Why season-ticket holders aren’t up in arms, I don’t know.

— Michael Reinsdorf allegedly is calling the shots, but he seems to be following the modus operandi that Jerry Reinsdorf has brought to the Bulls and the White Sox (also his baby): Don’t aim high but don’t do anything drastic the other way that might scare fans away. So far, the rebuild the Sox are going through looks more like two trades that brought in prospects rather than a wholesale razing. Have we been snookered again?

The Bulls are quite content with a 2.5 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale. Everything they do is predicated on the minimum being done to keep fans in seats at the United Center. They would tell you the Wade signing was a success because the team leads the NBA in attendance. Their .500 record says fans really should consider spending more time at home with their families.

It’s frustrating to watch the same thing happen again and again with this franchise. It’s frustrating to write it again and again. Maybe the Bulls indeed are cackling behind the scenes at another successful practical joke. It’s starting to look like the only explanation that makes any sense.