Warning: Watching Bulls will not make you or anyone around you smarter
Devoting time to a collection of average, unentertaining players who haven’t improved this season is almost inexplicable.
I’ve watched a decent amount of Bulls basketball this season. I wish I hadn’t.
I could have been watching ‘‘Masterpiece,’’ ‘‘Nova’’ or ‘‘Three’s Company’’ reruns. I could have grown as a person. Thanks to the Bulls, however, I have not become the best version of myself. I’ve become the
best version of a potted plant sitting in front of a TV.
Watching Zach LaVine take on the other team by himself is like watching a one-man Broadway play. Once in a while, you want to see a stagehand walk a mop across the boards to liven things up. LaVine is good, but the storyline of whether he’ll be chosen to play in the All-Star Game next month in Chicago is about as interesting as a presidential-poll discussion. Watching Kris Dunn play defense is a treat, but it’s not going to make you jump out of your seat.
After those two players, you tell me why anyone would watch the Bulls for any reason other than loyalty to the local team. Rookie Coby White? Maybe someday. Wendell Carter Jr.? Maybe when he’s healthy.
Coach Jim Boylen recently told reporters he’d like the current roster to be intact after the trade deadline Feb. 6.
He’s talking about a Bulls team that is 17-29 after its victory Wednesday against the Timberwolves. He’s talking about a Bulls team that is 1-18 against teams with a .500 record or better this season. If Boylen really meant that, he’s crazy. If he didn’t mean it and said it anyway, he really misread his audience, which knows exactly what the Bulls are: a collection of average, unentertaining players who haven’t improved.
Boylen’s inability to get more out of big man Lauri Markkanen is a basketball sin. Some of that falls on Markkanen, whose tendency to disappear for long stretches of games is a personal failing, but it’s Boylen’s job to pull him out of his shell. You could make the argument it’s his only job right now.
To focus on Markkanen’s backslide, however, is to miss the bigger picture. It’s only a symptom. Under vice president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman, the Bulls too often have drafted the wrong player, hired the wrong coach and missed out on the right free agent. I had no problem with them trading Jimmy Butler for LaVine, Dunn and the opportunity to draft Markkanen in 2017. But it is so like the Bulls that the momentum LaVine and Markkanen initially provided has turned into a car that refuses to start.
There have been rumblings this is the year ownership finally does something about the front-office catatonia. I take that to mean Forman will go and Paxson, a made man for making a championship-winning three-pointer for the Bulls 27 years ago, will stay. There seems to be something genetic in the Reinsdorfs that prevents them from firing anyone who has been in their family home, petted their dog or taken out their trash. When workers raze the Bulls’ offices in 50 years, they’ll have to wheel out Paxson’s petrified remains. He’ll be holding on to a speech that starts, ‘‘If it wasn’t for Derrick Rose’s knee injuries . . . ’’
I’ve had people ask me why I’ve spent so much energy hammering the Bears and Cubs recently while mostly ignoring the Bulls. It’s because the Bulls have become a big shrug. It’s hard to get worked up about a bowl of cold cereal. Many of us have agitated for years for change in the front office. In return, we’ve been given helping after helping of nothing and told to like it. You eventually grow numb to it, even though you know it’s your civic duty to remain angry. What’s the point of expending emotion when you’re fairly certain change won’t be coming to the United Center?
So I sit at home and watch the Bulls on TV, though I have been known to switch channels. I’m not sure I can articulate why I watch. Out of habit? Because it’s my job? Because life hates me? I don’t know.
I do know one thing: No matter what was happening in their game Wednesday, the Bulls were a rumor around 8:30 p.m. Their game against the Timberwolves tipped off at 7 p.m., and Zion Williamson’s NBA debut with the Pelicans started about 90 minutes later. See you later, Thaddeus Young.
Williamson is the ridiculously strong, ridiculously talented player whom the Bulls lost out on during the game that is the NBA Draft lottery. You don’t need to be reminded of that miss, in the way you wouldn’t need to be reminded of a screwdriver that has been jammed into your eye.
Might I make a suggestion to Bulls fans? Stop watching the games. With your good eye, take up stamp collecting.