Finally, the Bulls have run out of excuses.
That doesn’t mean they’re going to stop making them over the next few months, but thanks to Indiana’s 129-105 decimation of the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday, what the Bulls say these upcoming days has very little staying power.
All that matters is the Pacers’ win put the final nail in the coffin, ending a streak of seven consecutive years in which the Bulls have been a playoff team.
And this was hyped by the front office as a championship roster?
“Is it a wasted season? You don’t win a championship, when only one team wins a championship, so at the end of the day, this season has not gone well for us in many ways,’’ veteran Pau Gasol of the stumbling that went on far too often this year. “I wish we were in a different position right now, but we’re not.
“There’s been times where we’ve dropped games, lost games that we should never have lost, especially at home against certain teams. Those are the times that guys don’t realize how big of a price you can pay at the end of the year and how much of a different position you’re going to be in because of those games in November, December, January that, ‘Ah, there’s still 40 games to play, there’s still 50 games to play.
“That’s just a lack of sense of urgency, a lack of awareness, a lack of maturity that we have dealt with.’’
So where do the fingers point?
Sure, rookie coach Fred Hoiberg had to learn under fire and admittedly would have done things differently. Absolutely the roster looked like a collection of pick-up players, as agendas hampered relationships, while too many one-dimensional players hampered consistency on the court.
But the reason the Bulls are on the outside looking in with two games left, and now back in the lottery for the first time since Derrick Rose was selected? That all started in the training camp leading into Tom Thibodeau’s final season as coach.
If there was an instruction manual on how a front office can mess up a situation, John Paxson and Gar Forman just spent the last two seasons writing the outline.
It was in training camp 2014 that the front office told several core players like Rose and Joakim Noah that it was OK to tune Thibodeau out. That was verified by several sources, including current players.
Gar/Pax sold the players on the idea that Thibodeau’s perceived heavy workload was leading to injury problems.
Once a roster is empowered like that and given the stamp to ignore coaching it’s hard to get them back in line. Hoiberg found that out far too often this season, as sound game plans were forgotten or ignored by this group in far too many key moments.
The fact that Gar/Pax have brought in too many offensive-minded players, as well as several swings and misses in the draft over the last four years all falls on their resume, but cutting the legs off the coaching seat is what’s unforgivable at this point.
Now it will fall on Hoiberg to try and clean up this mess. Yes, there will be personnel changes this summer, but Forman and Paxson aren’t expected to be included in that.
“It’s just having that overall consistency,’’ Hoiberg said of what he wants to focus on this summer with his team. “And I need to do a better job with that.’’
At least someone’s being accountable.