The 1999 Chicago Bulls will always be remembered for what they weren't. This was, of course, the first Bulls team of the post-dynasty era, one either forced into existence by the stubbornness of Jerry Krause and Jerry Reinsdorf, father time or the moment Michael Jordan sliced open his finger with a cigar cutter on the golf course. It was a lockout-shortened campaign, only 50 games, and the fourth worst season in team history, all of which happened consecutively (1999-2002). The Bulls would win 26 percent of their games, finishing 13-37 before winning the draft lottery and selecting Elton Brand. This was the last season before the dawn of the Baby Bulls, the unremarkable era in franchise history that seemingly lasted until Derrick Rose got his feet under him.
Why bring up the 1999 Bulls? Because, you know, the 2013 Bulls were so bad in Game 4 against the Miami Heat on Wednesday night that the only historic precedent for their collective misery happened the season after MJ bolted town, when the team was left with a group of former dynasty-era favorites, busted draft picks and people you certainly do not remember.
The Bulls finished Game 4 19-of-74 from the field, good for a 25.7 percent shooting percentage. It was just the fourth time a team had been held under 20 field goals in a playoff game since 1986. It was the worst offensive performance for the Bulls since April 10, 1999. That night, the Bulls lost to the Heat (symmetry!) 82-49. Chicago finished 18-of-77 from the field.
What did the old box score look like that night? The immortal Kornel David came off the bench to lead the way with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Toni Kukoc finished with 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting, Randy Brown went 1-for-8, Bill Wennington went 3-for-10 and Keith Booth finished 0-of-6. Somebody named Mark Bryant started for the Bulls at center and I do not remember who he is.
(That Miami team was fun, by the way. A starting lineup of Alonzo Mourning, Dan Majerle, Tim Hardaway, P.J. Brown and Jamal Mashburn? Not bad.)
What's really astounding is that, per Matt Moore, the Bulls collected 39 percent of their misses and still only managed to finish with 12 second-chance points. Indeed, Chicago held a 46-36 rebounding edge overall and a 19-7 advantage on the offensive glass. Isn't that supposed to be one of the Bulls' main keys to victory? Sure, but doesn't hold when the entire team can't make a jumpshot, layup or anything in between.
That really isn't much of an exaggeration: not a single player shot better than 40 percent from the field, that player being Jimmy Butler who went 4-for-10 to finish with 12 points and whopping minus-23 in +/- on the night. Boozer was 3-for-14 and routinely killed the Bulls when it looked like they could somehow chop away the deficit by missing very makeable jumpers. Noah was 1-for-6, Marco Belinelli was 3-for-8, Richard Hamilton made his return to the lineup and finished 4-for-11.
And then there's Nate. Robinson finished 0-of-12 from the field for zero points, four assists, three rebounds and four turnovers. Only Chick Reiser (1948) and Dennis Johnson (1978) missed more shots in a playoff 0-for. In games when a player finished with 12 or more misses from the field without a make since 1986, Robinson joined Paul Pressey (Bucks, 1986) and Ray Allen (Celtics 2008). Many quickly point to Nate's offensive outbursts as outlier games, but this type of ineptitude was probably the biggest outlier of all. At Buzzfeed, you can watch all of his misses.
We'll remember this game for the NEXT MAN UP signs, the night Hamilton was mercifully dusted off and mostly for the historically bad shooting. After the game, LeBron declared the Bulls dead:
RT @bryancraw4d LeBron just declared the Bulls dead. One of the coaches: "We coming back to Chicago?" LeBron: "Nope, that's it. That's it."— Tim Baffoe (@TimBaffoe) May 14, 2013
And the Bulls are dead. We all know it and we can't be mad about it. There's one game left, on Wednesday, a game everyone expects the Bulls to get smoked in. Of course, that probably means it will be a one-possession game with under two minutes left, knowing the fight in this team. I'd make a final plea to appreciate them one last time, for all the good and valiant things they accomplished, but it feels misplaced at the moment.
There was nothing worth celebrating last night. This post is about the 1999 Bulls.