The Bulls won 50 games last season, won a playoff series and gave the Cavaliers a better postseason challenge than any other Eastern Conference team. While that sounds like a pretty successful year, I also found it to be a mostly unenjoyable campaign given all the drama surrounding it. The Thibs/FO beef hung over the team like a dark cloud, and the play on the court often wasn't all that inspiring, even despite the stellar record and playoff "success."
Never did I imagine that it could get way, way, way worse.
I didn't have the highest expectations for this year's squad. I figured they'd reach a win total in the high 40s and perhaps find an extra gear in the postseason that could allow them to make a run. I was completely on board with firing Tom Thibodeau, and I was excited to see what this supposed offensive savant Fred Hoiberg would bring to the table, even if it was hilariously with basically the same exact roster as last year (just laughable bravado from this front office).
The Bulls got off to a strong start and racked up some impressive wins. But I never found myself actually enjoying these games, because the offense usually sucked and it felt like the defense was getting by on smoke and mirrors. I tried to get excited about the team, but I just couldn't do it.
And now I just find it hard to care at all.
I'll willingly admit that I barely watch the Bulls these days. Now that I have a full-time job that requires me to keep closer attention to the entire league, I'd much rather watch numerous other squads in the Association than the mess that calls the United Center home. Sure I keep tabs on every game, but I just don't care enough to watch, and I don't think I've ever felt like that in my 20-plus years as a Bulls fan. I just don't like this team.
The newly christened star player, who I've defended a lot, has become a corny diva who's trying to figure out how to lead. The former star player (and my former favorite player) is unreliable. I'm just sick of watching Pau Gasol. The new coach is currently a lost puppy (though I'm not done with Fred quite yet, FWIW), and the rest of the roster is a flawed, inconsistent, unathletic jumble. I wouldn't call the roster "bad," because there's talent here, but the mix is rotten.
Here's where I go off on a tangent about Joakim Noah. It's been painfully obvious that Noah is a shell of his former self. Even with his impressive facilitating skills for a big man, his offense has reached liability levels and his defense isn't at the peak levels of recent years.
But the more and more I think about it, the more and more I want to give him credit for helping keep this thing together in recent years, and even to a point this year. Throughout all those Derrick Rose injuries, Joakim Noah was there to give the team it's hard-nosed identity that helped them stay relatively successful. He brought it every single night, and the rest of the team followed suit (guys like Taj Gibson and Luol Deng probably deserve a lot of love here, too).
So is it really that big of a surprise that this Bulls defense has been an absolute dumpster fire since Noah went out for the rest of the season? While I do think the defense was in line to get worse even with Noah around, I have a hard time believing that it'd get to the level of pure fuckery it's at now. Seriously, this team just got destroyed by the Knicks two games in a row and has gotten destroyed time and time again over the last few months.
We hear the same excuses over and over again about why they suck, but I just don't care to hear it. Because I just don't care about this team that doesn't seem to care about playing hard.
The Bulls currently sit two games behind the eighth-seeded Pistons. Chicago could certainly still sneak in the playoffs for a first-round series against the bizarre Cavaliers or Toronto Trashtors, but I'm at the point where I'd rather them just miss the playoffs and get a lottery pick (even if it's not that great a pick) instead of prolonging the inevitable. I'd be fine shutting Jimmy Butler down, and if they wanted to shut down other veterans as well (outside of Rose, who I'd just let run wild), I'd be fine with it.
Of course, this won't happen, as the Bulls will likely continue to push for the postseason to keep that precious playoff streak alive. And hey, perhaps a miracle happens and this team actually does get "healthy" and comes together and makes a run. If that were to somehow come to fruition, I'd be right there cheering with everybody else.
But that's not a world based in reality at this point. The reality right now is the Chicago Bulls are a mediocre mess that's primed for change. I'm skeptical that major change would actually come even if the Bulls missed the playoffs, but perhaps it'd at least light a fire under somebody's ass to do something, because right now apathy has set in.