TELANDER: Bulls’ plan: Lose lots of games with eye toward lottery
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Well, at least there’s this: Injured Bulls power forward Nikola Mirotic has decided not to have surgery to fix his broken face.
Let that stuff heal naturally, Niko! (As long as there are no permanent dents, of course. And your vision is fine.)
After getting coldcocked by fellow power forward Bobby Portis in a preseason practice, Mirotic disappeared from the scene for a while, nursing several broken bones around his cheek and eye and clearing the haze from the accompanying concussion.
Of course, Mirotic said early on after the punch that he would never play on the same team with Portis again. Problem there.
Both players are under contract, and a trade of some sorts would start another ball of mess rolling for the Bulls. Maybe Mirotic has changed his mind.
But what are the Bulls but a mess. Whether rolling or stopped cold.
Rebuilding, they call it, but I’m not even sure who the Bulls are.
Could you name the starting lineup? Me neither.
I do know center Robin Lopez, the tall fellow with the curly hair. He’s Robin, not twin brother Brook. I’m sure coach Fred Hoiberg knows that by now.
Then you’ve got Lauri Markkanen, Justin Holiday, Jerian Grant and Paul Zipser.
Fine fellows all. Will anyone remember them as the nucleus of this team, say, a year from now? Not a chance.
Think about last year’s opening- day starting lineup. Good ol’ Lopez was there, like an anchor in a seaweed harbor. Then there were Taj Gibson, Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo and Jimmy Butler. First guy off the bench was Doug McDermott. Or Mirotic.
Let’s just say one thing about all of them but Lopez and Mirotic. They are no longer Bulls.
In 2015-16, the starting lineup was Butler, Pau Gasol, Derrick Rose, Tony Snell and Mirotic. All gone but Mirotic.
The problem, among many others, is that Mirotic is not really here. Nor is Portis, who’s serving a team-imposed eight-game suspension.
The Bulls are a patched-together team with no real focus, philosophy or identity.
It seems most players are hurt or upset or rehabbing an injury or maybe just collecting a paycheck until better players come along.
The 101-69 loss Saturday to the Thunder was about as embarrassing as it gets. Hoiberg put it best: ‘‘We took a huge step in the wrong direction.’’
There really has been no step in the right direction because a brutal punching of a teammate is not the kind of thing that leads to the yellow brick road. It leads to bad stuff. Bad feelings. Bad chemistry. Bad mojo.
If you want to dream a bit, think of this lineup for the Bulls: Portis, Mirotic, Kris Dunn (who was out until recently with an injured finger), Zach LaVine and Cameron Payne.
Not a bad team, maybe. But who knows? They’re all hanging around, sort of, but except for Dunn, they’re out of commission.
Slowly, these players will rejoin the team and contribute to whatever plan general manager Gar Forman and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson have hatched. All I can figure is it goes like this: Let’s be as bad as we can be, while dangling unknown faces, and hope the draft saves us in three years.
Maybe the 1-4 Bulls will take a step forward Wednesday night in Miami against the Heat. But I wonder if it might not be better for them to walk right out past Dinner Key into the deep Atlantic.
Sleeping with the fishes is a guaranteed way to hide from criticism.
These Bulls are a pickup team of shirts and skins on their way to one of the worst records in the NBA. Maybe the worst.
I guess we’re rooting for Ping-Pong balls now. Kind of early for that. But so was Portis’ love tap.
Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.