The recent controversy over Kyrie Irving, star point guard for the Brooklyn Nets, and his stance on vaccination has not only the basketball world talking but also the wider community. So where does it leave Patty Mills?
For Bulls fans, the past 12 months has been an endless cycle of questions.
Are we building around our youth? We are pushing for the playoffs? Demar Derozan is worth $85 million?
A fan-base once accustomed to guaranteed success in the form of Michael Jordan, now has to come to grips with mediocrity and bad decisions. Nothing has shown that more than the 2020-2021 season.
The new season signalled a massive changing of guard in Chicago. Arturas Karnisovas, previously of the Denver Nuggets, brought in Billy Donovan to coach a young Bulls team with expectations of a mediocre season. The team was headlined by now fan favourite Zach LaVinem who had blossomed into a consistent 25ppg scorer but couldn’t translate that production into wins. This was mainly due to the talent surrounding him.
Players like Tomas Satoransky, Thaddeus Young, Otto Porter Jr, while being good role players, are not the sort of names you want to see in your starting five as a fan. The glimmer of hope heading into the season was that the Bulls had the fourth pick in the 2020 draft.
This was a chance to take a new franchise cornerstone after multiple years of less than exiting pickings.
On draft night, the Bulls stunned the world by taking a huge gamble on project piece Patrick Williams. It was a move that was scrutinised by all. Come the end of the season he would gain all-rookie honours, so maybe not a bad move after all, however it signalled to Chicago fans everywhere, “Hey, we’re going to take this slow.”
Bulls fans were okay with that. After the success that teams like the Bucks, the Hawks and Nuggets had seen from building slowly, maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea. Patience was and remains key.
The season came, the Bulls were mediocre and sat just below playoff contention. The Baby Bulls of White, Lavine, Markennen, Carter and Williams, were a long way from success, but at least there was something to look forward to.
Then, on March 21st 2021, the Bulls made a move for Orlando big man Nikola Vucevic. Trading away future capital, prospect Wendell Carter and other pieces, in an obvious move to push for the playoffs and win now.
Wait a second, what?
Patience was thrown out the window. Building slowly was forgotten. Karnisovas wanted wins and he needed them this year. But they never came.
Adding Vucevic didn’t help the struggling Bulls at all. Chicago stagnated, finishing in 11th, outside of the play-in tournament and five games below a .500 season.
Not the bright side, they now surely had a chance at good pick in the coming 2021 draft, a draft which for years has been lauded for being deep and full of potential starters. Except they didn’t, that was included in the Vucevic trade.
So on draft night, Bulls fans were forced to watch Orlando pick eighth in the draft with what should have been their pick. A pick that looking back could’ve given them a real contributor on the floor.
With no huge young star arriving in the draft, fans turned to free agency.
There weren’t too many big names sitting there but perhaps some stray starters may be able to turn the fortunes of this storied franchise. And at first it seemed as if maybe that was the case.
A sign and trade for Lonzo Ball seemed perfect. The Bulls needed a point guard who could distribute the ball while also playing defence. Amazing start.
Then they signed Alex Caruso. A fun player who is highlight worthy and brings depth at the guard position. Nice. But.. they decided that he was worth $37 million. This left fans to think that that’s a lot of money for mediocre play.
And the bad decisions kept coming. The Bulls needed depth at the centre position, so what did they do? Traded away their only decent back up centre in Daniel Theis.
The bulls needed to keep their draft capital in the hopes of building for the future, so what do they do? Trade it away in exchange for Demar Derozan, in turn paying him $85 million over four years.
Derozan is an excellent mid range scorer, however in a league where three point shooting is becoming a requirement, his skills are slowly becoming redundant. To tack onto that he will be 36 by the time he finishes his contract in Chicago. It gives the Chicago Bulls a seemingly untraceable contract on their payroll
Giving up young pieces and throwing large sums of money at players in free agency is the curse of any franchise on the brink of playoff success. Big markets especially.
The pressure for the Chicago Bulls to reach is the top grows and grows each year, and each year fans grow tiresome of the middle round product they receive. While these moves may put the bulls back into the playoffs it certainly doesn’t set them up long term.
Teams like the Knicks, the Hawks, and I can’t believe it, even the Hornets have positioned themselves around their young pieces and look too finally be on the up. Or at least produce exciting basketball.
The Bulls have made it clear they are done waiting around for things to come right with their young pieces. And although it may translate to a couple more wins in the 2021-2022 season, come two or three years form now fans will look back on this season as the one that sent their franchise back into the cellar.