Every statement with this Bulls team requires a simple preface to align expectations and set the record straight: the Bulls suck and should fire everyone.
Everyone. Fred Hoiberg, gone. Gar Forman, later. John Paxson? Sure, why not.
From the very start, this Bulls season has been a testament to low expectations and a lack of foresight. In that way, winning a slap fight for the No. 8 seed in the East feels perfect: here come the Bulls, roaring into the playoffs with a 41-41 record and a point differential of +0.4.
It’s an objectively mediocre team, but that doesn’t quite capture it. More than anything, the Bulls were uninspiring, the type of team that felt like an obligation to watch and follow all year instead of one that added anything of substance to our lives.
The front office is probably feeling a sweeping sense of satisfaction for getting back to the playoffs right now, but they shouldn’t be. They built a bad team that was only dragged up to mediocrity by the superhuman performance of Jimmy Butler. The future remains uncertain and there is no reason to believe Forman and Paxson will pull off whatever they’re going for. It’s reasonable to think the Bulls won’t be actually good for a long time.
This is the context with which the Bulls enter the postseason, looking to redeem every bad decision that led them to this point. At the moment, replacing Tom Thibodeau with Fred Hoiberg looks like a disaster, Dwyane Wade appears to be the “Pau Gasol: Robbins Redux” I predicted in November and the signing of Rajon Rondo will mostly be remembered for an adversarial Instagram post.
These are the 2016-17 Bulls and this is how they will be remembered. Unless, of course, they can make things interesting in the first round of the playoffs against the Boston Celtics.
There was a popular school of thought that the Bulls would be better off missing the postseason entirely, that perhaps it would finally bring management the shame they always should have felt and triggered more prudent long-term planning. If you have followed this team over the last three decades or so, you should know that was never going to happen. The mom and pop shop wasn’t going to fire the children, because in the end, there’s always money in the banana stand.
Instead we’re left with a 1-vs-8 matchup that should feel like a death sentence. The Bulls — who suck and should fire everyone — against a Celtics team that deserves to be the envy of the league. Boston actually pulled off the on-the-fly rebuild, hired a great coach and did it while accumulating assets that could turn them into a dynasty. They are everything the Bulls are not, and that’s only part of the reason this matchup is so much fun.
There are no two fanbases in the NBA that differ as much as Chicago and Boston. On one side we have Bulls fans, a group that actively roots for the team to fail just so the front office looks dumb. Every decision is met with extreme skepticism and the long-term outlook is rightfully tinted with pessimism. We don’t fall for the bullshit because we’ve seen the same mistakes repeated for decades.
On the other side: a Celtics fanbase that buys everything the franchise is selling. There is no skepticism here, only a renewed assurance that this Great Franchise will find their way back to their rightful spot at the NBA’s mountaintop.
I say this with love, but: fuck ‘em. Go hug your Curt Schilling memorabilia and convince yourself that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick aren’t complete sellouts. We don’t respect you. Two goals in 17 seconds, dog. Don’t make me call El Duque to work us out of a bases-juiced-no-outs jam.
What kills me about Celtics fans is there should be skepticism. Any other fanbase in the league would be questioning Boston’s decisions this season, but nooo, not Celtics fans. They just eat it up.
Look: the Celtics aren’t that good. Their 53 wins are the fewest for a No. 1 seed in the decade. Their point differential of +2.7 is the lowest for a No. 1 seed since the 1978-79 Seattle SuperSonics. All of this while the Celtics were loaded with two Nets draft picks that could have put this team over the top during a year when the Cavs look totally lifeless and every other team in the conference is deeply flawed.
Boston could have tried to deal one of those picks for Jimmy Butler. They could have tried to deal one for Paul George. Instead they stayed the course, betting big on the lottery even at the risk of pissing off Isaiah Thomas.
I’m not saying the Celtics should have traded one of their Nets draft picks. I just think it’s incredible that no one even questioned the decision. It’s amazing Boston fans even have time to tweet while washing Danny Ainge’s feet all day.
And so: the Bulls have to win this series. I need Jimmy Butler to stuff Isaiah Thomas in the front pocket of his gingham Bonobos button down. I need Rondo to ignore literally everything Hoiberg says and go rogue for a throwback performance of the ages. I need Wade to start trying for the first time all season and remind us he’s one of the greatest playoff players of all-time. I need Niko to give two giant middle fingers to the front office before signing an offer sheet with Brooklyn. I need Felicio to hip check Marcus Smart and Robin Lopez demand another high five in his face.
The high-five in Marcus Smart's face is the new highlight of the season pic.twitter.com/tjpUEbl3qf— Ricky O'Donnell (@SBN_Ricky) February 17, 2017
Screw the Celtics and their smart team, overachieving roster and treasure chest of assets. The Bulls — who suck and should fire everyone — in six.