AsI watched the Warriors run the Cavaliers into triple knots Sunday, I asked myself: ‘‘What psychedelic substance are the Bulls taking that makes them think they can bring back the core of their team and compete against this?’’
Maybe that was the wrong question. Maybe I should have been asking: ‘‘Is there another way to torture myself besides watching this game? Something less painful, like setting my nose hairs on fire?’’
It looks more and more as though Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo will be in Bulls uniforms next season, which comes as no surprise to those of us who think the franchise always will take the path not traveled, the path with the signs that say: ‘‘Danger! Don’t Take This Path!’’
Has anyone in the organization been watching the NBA Finals? The Bulls’ talent level is far below that of the Warriors’, and, OK, you’re right, that’s not unique to the team from Chicago. Nobody has that kind of talent. But the Bulls are miles away from the Cavaliers’ talent level, too, despite what their 4-0 regular-season record against them this season said.
Is there anything that would lead one to think an elite free agent will want to come to Chicago in the next few years, the way Kevin Durant bolted the Thunder for the Warriors? No, there isn’t, because there never is. That’s the story of the Bulls since Michael Jordan left.
The Bulls held their annual end-of-season news conference in early May, not long after the Celtics had dismissed them 4-2 in a first-round playoff series. Much was made of vice president John Paxson’s assertion that the Bulls needed to keep all their options open. Everybody looked for meaning in that, for what wasn’t said underneath what was. And what some people heard in Paxson’s comments was that Butler was on the trading block.
All I heard was that the mediocre Bulls weren’t going to do a damn thing. Because they never do.
And that’s all I’m still hearing. Recent reports suggest Butler isn’t going anywhere, and I believe them. He reportedly wants to be in Chicago, and the Bulls as an organization crave the star power he brings to the gate every home date.
‘‘They took a chance on me in 2011 with the 30th pick,’’ Butler told TV host Jimmy Kimmel last week. ‘‘I’m forever grateful for that. I love it there.’’
Even if the Bulls had an excellent offer involving draft picks for Butler, I don’t think they’d be willing to pull the trigger on a rebuild. And a rebuild looks like the only way the Bulls are going to get themselves out of the wheel-spinning they’re doing now. One rebuilding Jerry Reinsdorf team, the White Sox, is tough enough for the chairman to swallow. But two? No way.
Can we agree that the Bulls were so-so last season, that so-so appears to be what they will be and that so-so shouldn’t be anybody’s goal?
The Bulls seem to think they have enough talent to make some noise in the Eastern Conference next season, provided everything goes right. That includes good health, players and coaches getting along and the 35-year-old Wade diving into the fountain of youth and coming up with his 27-year-old self. The whole thing sounds like another ruse to get fans to think three recognizable names equals excellence. We learned this past season that it doesn’t.
Big-time free agents historically haven’t wanted to come to Chicago — and please don’t offer Wade as proof to the contrary. He’s well past his prime. The Bulls, looking for something that would give fans more reason to come to games, signed the hometown player last year, and now they’re stuck with him for 2017-18. He has a player option for next season at $23.8 million. That’s on the Bulls, not on Wade for taking the money over a chance to win elsewhere.
There’s nothing outright terrible about having Butler, Wade and Rondo on the floor at the same time, but it can’t lead to anything meaningful. I’m assuming fans want more than what the Bulls appear to be offering. Then again, the team led the league in attendance this past season, averaging 21,680. That’s a lot of people who were really interested in a 41-41 team.
Maybe the Bulls will surprise me for once, but I doubt it. I’ll open my eyes on the first day of next season and see Butler, Wade and Rondo together again. Then I’ll close them and go back to sleep.
Follow me on Twitter @MorrisseyCST.