The best play for the Bulls’ front office? No more snake oil
Very little can be gained from this season at this point, even if the Bulls were to reach the play-in game, but a whole lot can be lost. This front office needs to buck the trend of selling false hope to a fan base that has drunk it up for more than two decades.
The street show was always spectacular.
The fast-talking mountebank would show up in town with a flashy wagon, a box full of his magical elixir and two sick-looking members of the audience, planted days earlier.
Within hours, the elixir allegedly was making hair grow, curing dysentery and fixing marriages with one swig. The marks, meanwhile, freely tossed what money they had at the feet of the swindler. Hope sells, and they were buying it hook, line and sinker.
By the time they realized it was false hope, the flashy wagon was long gone — until the next charlatan and his flashy wagon pulled in months later, promising even more from their snake oil.
Bulls fans know what that’s like. Year after year, they drank the elixir — a sprinkle of a safe No. 7 overall draft pick here, a trade-Jimmy Butler-and-rebuild sip there and a dash of out-of-shape and mopey hometown kid Jabari Parker.
And every April, when the season ended, the fans promised themselves, ‘‘That’s the last time!’’
Until it wasn’t.
That basically has been the relationship between Bulls fans and the front office for the last two-plus decades.
But it doesn’t feel as though executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley are using the same operating handbook.
All indications are that Karnisovas has a plan and that it is an aggressive one. Flashes of it already have been seen at the trade deadline, as young potential was dealt for a proven All-Star in center Nikola Vucevic, a tough-minded big man in Daniel Theis and a couple of interesting wing defenders in Troy Brown Jr. and Javonte Green.
On paper, all were solid moves. Even more important, they were a powerful message to the rest of the league that these aren’t the same old Bulls, spinning in the mud of survival mode.
The problem with big swings is that sometimes they miss. While the jury is still out on the long-term effect Karnisovas’ first major roster moves will have, the impact on this season has to be considered a failure.
Even if the Bulls somehow win their last five games and the Pacers or Wizards have a historic collapse, opening the door for a play-in game, what can they really accomplish? One or two meaningful games for guard Zach LaVine and Vucevic to play together before the roster is remade again this offseason?
No, thanks. Save bonding time for the summer — with fewer health-and-safety protocols expected from the league — and training camp in the fall.
LaVine will be entering his eighth season and Vucevic his 11th. If they can’t figure it out by then, well, maybe that says something about the players.
The best way to handle these last five games would be to sit both of them. Play Green, Brown and guard Coby White. Play the lottery percentages and pray.
The Bulls are a generational point guard away from becoming something special. The price tag for Chris Paul or Michael Conley will be huge. Meanwhile, the 2021 draft — one in which the Bulls won’t participate unless they land among the top four of the lottery — has two such players in Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham and Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs.
Marching out LaVine and Vucevic for some sort of development/meaningful-game showcase down the stretch is the wrong play. It’s bad medicine.
Unfortunately for far too many Bulls fans, they’ll drink it up. They don’t know anything different.
It’s yet another flashy wagon coming through town.