I was listening to Bill Simmons' podcast interview with former Bull and current world champion Tyson Chandler from last week, and near the end Chandler's asked about the start of his career. Here's his take on his time with the Bulls, faithfully paraphrased by yours truly:
From top to bottom we were terrible. When you're picked high you go to the worst team. I was around a bunch of young players...wasn't a good thing. Nobody to look to, there would be 1 or 2 vets (Charles Oakley, Antonio Davis) but the rest of the guys were young. That experience made me treasure this experience [winning the title with the Mavs]. Makes you understand how far the line is from winning and losing.
The league is tough enough as it is, the pressure to succeed [from everywhere], it can either make or break you. I wanted to accomplish my goals when I came into this league.
I was very impatient because I had so much success so young. The difference was that some rookies came into situations where the organizations nurtured them, helped them grow. I came into a situation with no teaching, I almost had to teach myself, and take my lumps. I wanted everything now, I was the #2 pick and thought I should dominate, and that's not how it goes. You have to put your time and work in, and eventually it starts clicking. Because I was impatient, I'd get frustrated. I'd put in the work and wonder why it wasn't paying off. But it's not just one summer of work, or a few times staying late after practices...it's a lifestyle that you have to create in order to be successful.
Some of Tyson's words are an indictment of himself as a relatively immature player coming into the league (though he clearly handled himself better than draft-mate Eddy Curry, who he talks about later in this interview), but also a poor reflection of Bulls coaching and management at the time.
Like Chandler, the Bulls have come a long way since 2001: No longer rebuilding by stockpiling young players, and one of Tom Thibodeau's most heralded traits is his dedication towards teaching the game. As an organization their reputation of cultivating projects still isn't very good (James Johnson being the latest example, though a bit of a flimsy one), but it's nice that they don't exactly have to worry about such things anymore.