Failing at failing takes a special kind of talent.
It’s doing whatever you can to get axed from your supremely tedious job, including setting the office bathroom ablaze, only to get promoted for exposing the ineffectiveness of the fire sprinkler system.
It’s filling in the boxes of the ACT exam in the shape of a clown to spite your overbearing parents, who want you to go to Harvard, and then getting a perfect score.
You can’t teach failing at failing. You either have the gift or you don’t, and Bulls management seems to have it. Vice president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman can’t lose for winning. A team built to tank this season is accumulating too many victories, and Gar/Pax is standing around watching the team’s lottery chances blow away.
There is no other aim, goal or task than getting a top pick in the June draft. The Bulls are 18-29 after their double-overtime loss Monday night to the Pelicans. They are closer to a playoff spot than they are to having the most Ping-Pong balls in the lottery. Boy, oh, boy.
No one is blaming Bulls players for being more competitive than is good for the franchise’s long-term health. Their job is to try to win.
It’s Gar/Pax’s job to stop the players from winning games and negatively affecting the team’s draft chances.
It’s president Michael Reinsdorf’s job to smack Paxson and Forman on the back of their heads when they stray from the master plan. Right now, they’re about 50 miles from the master plan and loath to ask for directions.
It’s chairman Jerry Reinsdorf’s job to tell his son to snap out of it and get down to the business of losing games.
And it’s special adviser Doug Collins’ job … well, I don’t know what his job is. But please, Doug, for the love of all that is good in the world, make them stop this madness.
Stopping the madness means drastically fewer minutes for leading scorer Nikola Mirotic, who should have been traded a week ago, and more minutes for the bench. If this were a slogan, it would be, “There’s No Such Thing as Too Much Quincy Pondexter.’’
Justin Holiday recently talked to the Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley about the strange dichotomy between the fan base wanting the Bulls to tank and the fans at home games cheering madly for them to win. I don’t think it’s all that strange. It’s like eating a whole chocolate cake by yourself. You know it’s bad for you, but you enjoy the hell out of it anyway. Then remorse and a stomachache set in.
The players want to win. Coach Fred Hoiberg wants to win. And Paxson, a former player, probably can’t turn off his competitive spigot. But that’s not his job right now. And it’s not his job to worry about sending the wrong message about competitiveness to Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine. It’s to add what could be a great, young player to that young core for next season.
There’s no law that says winning games is the only way for Markkanen and the others to improve. And surely these players are smart enough to understand that. I’m not sure management is.
If beating the Hawks in a meaningless game in January was the moment when Markkanen, Dunn and LaVine morphed into Curry-Durant-Thompson, then Gar/Pax will have been right. But short of any definitive proof of that, I’d rather have the best chance possible of putting Arizona’s Deandre Ayton into a Bulls uniform next season.
Paxson and Forman have been waiting around for someone to make the perfect offer for Mirotic when the right thing, the only thing, was to get him and his jump shot out of town as quickly as possible. That was Jan. 15, when he was first eligible to be dealt. The goal is not to get as good a first-round pick for Niko as possible. The goal is to get one of the top four or five picks in the 2018 draft, which could be Ayton, Duke’s Marvin Bagley, Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr., Texas’ Mohamed Bamba or Luka Doncic of Slovenia.
Is there time left, or is the damage done? If the Bulls were to trade Mirotic on Tuesday and Gar/Pax were to tell Hoiberg something along the lines of “Enough with the winning!’’ they could lose enough games to make this work. There will be 35 games remaining after Monday’s meeting with the Pelicans. More than enough for some enthusiastic losing.
Why is this so hard?