It’s finally over.
After limping to the finish following a once-promising start to the NBA Playoffs, the Chicago Bulls season has finally come to an end. Though folks around here are already frothing at the mouth to see what the next move is for the franchise, I thought I’d put the 2016/17 Chicago Bulls to bed for good by taking a look back at each month of the past season. There were plenty of good times, there were numerous bad times, but if you missed any of it over the last six-ish months, you’ll find it below:
HIGHLIGHT: Bulls sweep the month of October (ft. Dwyane Wade throat slash)
The regular season started off about as well as it possibly could have for the Bulls. They won their regular season opener against the team that would ultimately capture the top seed in the East, smacked their division rival Indiana Pacers by 17 points, and then ran the Nets off their own floor in a 30 point victory that saw seven Bulls score in double figures. The best moment of these games came in the opener, when with just under thirty seconds remaining, Dwyane Wade buried a game-clinching three that he promptly followed up with a throat-slash and mean-mug:
Heh. Rewatching the regular season games between Bulls-Celtics. I had forgotten about the Wade throat slash/mean mug pic.twitter.com/gZj45N2eJb— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) April 13, 2017
LOWLIGHT: Doug McDermott a disappointment in his return to Omaha
Kind of grasping at straws here, but there was some expectation in the Bulls’ final preseason game that Doug McDermott would go bananas in his first return to his college stomping grounds since being drafted into the NBA. The fans predictably went nuts every time McBuckets touched the ball, but he shot only 5-15 from the field and scored 16 points in a game the Bulls ultimately lost by the same amount. Somewhat sad considering McDermott established himself as one of the greatest college basketball players ever on the same court.
There was a silver lining for BaB, however, as we got a nice first-hand piece from a credentialed Tyler Pleiss!
HIGHLIGHT: Bulls pull out a winning record on their final Circus Road Trip ever
The Circus Road Trip had long been an annually-dreaded inevitability of the Bulls’ early season schedule, and this year was no different. Six straight road games over the span of ten days featuring stops in Portland, Utah, Los Angeles, and Denver is a tall order for any team. Fortunately, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey did not have their United Center contract renewed for 2017, so the Bulls will no longer have to endure the late-November road trip starting next season.
Surprisingly, the Bulls fought through the adversity and emerged from the road trip with a 4-2 record. Although they blew a massive 2nd half lead against the Clippers and dropped a close game to the Nuggets, the Bulls performed admirally in the games that they did win. Jerian Grant played perhaps the best game of his career against the Blazers. Jimmy Butler completely bottled up Gordon Heyward in Salt Lake City and then scored 40 points against the Lakers on the second night of a back-to-back. Dwyane Wade and Butler closed out the trip with a combined 52 point effort to top the Sixers.
LOWLIGHT: Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah embarrass Bulls in return to Chicago
This one hurt. What was easily the most anticipated game on the Bulls’ schedule during the opening slate of the season proved to be a dramatic twist-of-the-knife for numerous recent Bulls fans, as Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah returned to the United Center and slapped Chicago in the face. Rose played an extremely impressive game with 15 points (albeit on poor shooting), 11 assists, and seven rebounds; while Noah had a vintage-Joakim performance with 16 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and three steals. The silver lining for the Bulls was this beautiful tribute they did to their former franchise icons during the game, though it was a bit ironic that they paid such tribute to players on the other team before getting ran over by them on the court:
HIGHLIGHT: Jimmy Butler hits a game-winner at home versus the Brooklyn Nets
Yeah, it was against the Nets, but in a month that saw the Bulls pull off three separate three-game losing streaks and a national TV embarrassment on Christmas, you have to take what you can get:
LOWLIGHT: Bulls drop back-to-back games versus Bucks in the span of two days
This was probably the point in the season when my anger peaked as a Bulls fan (at least to that point). The first of these two losses to the Milwaukee Bucks saw Nikola Mirotic receive the first DNP-CD of his career because he forgot about the team shootaround, and Fred Hoiberg decided it would be a good idea to play Bobby Portis for the entire 4th quarter after a string of DNPs. Hoiberg also gave the notoriously unathletic Denzel Valentine an extended burn against a Bucks team that promptly ran the Bulls out of the game in transition.
THE VERY NEXT NIGHT, the Bulls played the Bucks again at home, and lost in somehow even more disgraceful fashion. The team scored a season-low 69 points as Hoiberg opted to try having Taj Gibson guard Giannis Antetokounmpo in the first half instead of Jimmy Butler, and the Greek Freak responded by nearly dropping a triple-double. It was the second time in the same calendar year that the Bulls had miraculously lost two games to the same team in as many days after losing back-to-back games to the Knicks in March 2016.
But the worst part of all of this? The Bulls were so bad it actually made Tony Snell visibly happy:
Bulls gotta cancel the rest of their season now. https://t.co/CqeUeMpasr— Nillz (@TheBullsShow) December 16, 2016
HIGHLIGHT(s): Jimmy Butler drops 52 points on the Hornets and leads all players in points, rebounds, and assists:
LOWLIGHT: The Rajon Rondo & Bench Buddies vs. Jimmy Butler & Dwyane Wade Instagram Beef
My vets would never go to the media. They would come to the team. My vets didn't pick and choose when they wanted to bring it. They brought it every time they stepped in the gym whether it was practice or a game. They didn't take days off. My vets didn't care about their numbers. My vets played for the team. When we lost, they wouldn't blame us. They took responsibility and got in the gym. They showed the young guys what it meant to work. Even in Boston when we had the best record in the league, if we lost a game, you could hear a pin drop on the bus. They showed us the seriousness of the game. My vets didn't have an influence on the coaching staff. They couldn't change the plan because it didn't work for them. I played under one of the greatest coaches, and he held everyone accountable. It takes 1-15 to win. When you isolate everyone, you can't win consistently. I may be a lot of things, but I'm not a bad teammate. My goal is to pass what I learned along. The young guys work. They show up. They don't deserve blame. If anything is questionable, it's the leadership.
HIGHLIGHT: Dwyane Wade absolutely posters the holy hell out of Alex Len
This was pretty easily the Chicago Bulls Dunk of the Year. Wade totally turned back the clock on this slam to put the exclamation point on what was a dominant overtime period for the Bulls against the Suns:
Dwayne Wade dunk on Alex Len!! pic.twitter.com/3p7JLA9bbd— ⓂarcusD2.0 (@_MarcusD2_) February 25, 2017
LOWLIGHT: The trades that did and didn’t happen
Arguably the lowlight of the entire Chicago Bulls season, the trade deadline featured two pretty embarrassing instances of both action and inaction from Gar Forman and John Paxson. First, their inability to get a Butler-to-Boston deal done because of their desire to get more players back despite the Nets picks reportedly being on the table. It’s possible both sides of this deal that didn’t happen were both just too stubborn with their assets to budge, but several big faces at multiple media outlets (Woj, Zach Lowe, Kevin O’Connor, etc.) all led credence to the idea that the Bulls front office was going after the wrong things.
But even worse than this was the deal that actually did happen. In the final hour before the deadline, the Bulls made a hilariously lopsided trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder that sent Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott, and a second round pick to OKC in exchance for Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne, and Anthony Morrow. The Bulls gave up their best big man and one of their only passable 3-PT shooters (that they invested five picks in when they drafted him) for three below-replacement-level bench players. Lauvergne went on to play himself out of the rotation come playoff time, Morrow did nothing before Hoiberg desperately threw him out on the court searching for any offensive answers in the playoffs, and Cameron Payne is just flat-out bad (and will sadly be around for at least the near future).
The trade was also an unceremonious end to the Chicago career of Taj Gibson, one of the most beloved Bulls of the new millennium.
HIGHLIGHT: Bulls miraculously extend the Thursday TNT Home Streak™... twice!
Some things never change, but thankfully, this might be one of them. The Bulls appeared to be on pace for doom as their Thursday night date with the Golden State Warriors loomed to open the month of March, but a stunning injury to Kevin Durant a few days prior suddenly turned the game into a toss-up. Big games from Bobby Portis and Paul Zipser helped power the Bulls to a 94-87 victory that marked nineteen wins in a row on TNT and also proved to be Golden State’s first back-to-back loss in 146 contests.
Then, at the end of March, lightning struck twice. Even as the NBA schedule makers did everything within their power to ensure the end of the Chicago’s home TNT streak, the Bulls refused to go gently into that good night against the Cleveland Cavaliers. March Mirotic was on full display with 28 points and #NationalTVRondo made an appearance with 15 assists to give the Bulls enough of a scoring punch to win what proved to be an ugly contest for both teams. The victory represented a season sweep of the defending NBA champions and also boosted the #TNTstreak to twenty straight games. It will certainly be interesting to see if the Bulls can keep up their Thursday night home prowess next season, especially considering TNT is now fully aware that the Bulls are on a tear in such games over the last four years.
LOWLIGHT: Bulls’ winning streaks against Trashtors and Sixers snapped
As one streak rolled on, another two came to a sad end. It’s no secret that BaB had fun giving the Toronto Raptors the business over the past few years with them dropping eleven straight games to the Bulls in a variety of hilarious fashions, but the Trashtors came back and won in OT back in March to bring our fun to a finish. However, it was pure joy while it lasted, and featured some pretty ridiculous games such as Jimmy Butler dropping 40 points in a second half in 2016. THIS game also featured one of the most horrifying sequences of basketball you will ever watch with your own eyes:
The Bulls also got punked at home by a Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia Sixers team that ended their longest active win streak against any opponent in the NBA. Chicago allowed Dario Saric to score a career-high 32 points and the Bulls got outscored 70-30 in the paint. It was truly one of the most disgusting losses in recent Bulls memory.
Another lowlight worth noting from the month of March was the passing of former Bulls GM and Jordan Era architect Jerry Krause.
HIGHLIGHT: Bulls kick Celtics’ butt in the first two games of the NBA Playoffs...
Nobody saw this coming, not even me, the guy that wrote the blissfully ignorant optimist’s take on why the Bulls could win the series! But there we all were: two games into this series with the Bulls up 2-0 on the Boston Celtics and heading back to Chicago with everything clicking in favor of the Bulls. Jimmy Butler was the best player in the series, Bobby Portis was terrorizing the Celtics off the bench, Rajon Rondo was blitzing his former team on both ends of the floor, Robin Lopez was on an absolute rampage, Paul Zipser was blooming, and Isaiah Thomas couldn’t do anything about it. Bulls fans were laughing their asses off, Celtics fans were in full meltdown mode, and it was truly the best of times.
LOWLIGHT: ... and lose the next four games after Rajon Rondo gets injured
Then it was the worst of times. All it took was one thumb injury to Rajon Rondo, and then everything went up in smoke. With no floor general to help take some of the scoring load off of Jimmy Butler’s shoulders, the Bulls failed to score 100 points in any of their next four contests and ended up dropping the series. It didn’t help that Dwyane Wade devolved into a total dinosaur on both ends of the court, or that Nikola Mirotic predictably laid an egg after the month of March ended, or that the Bulls’ point guards behind Rondo were so bad that Hoiberg had to start Isaiah Canaan for Game 5, or that... well, you get the idea. The Bulls sucked and folded in disappointing fashion after forseeably getting fans’ hopes up early on.
And so, we come to the end of yet another Chicago Bulls season. Many expected the Bulls to finish somewhere around the bottom two seeds of the Eastern Conference prior to their first game against the Celtics back in October, but given the narratives in play, it’s hard not to come away from the conclusion without a bad taste in your mouth. It should be interesting to see how much of what has transpired over the past six months winds up in the forthcoming GarPax end-of-season press conference.
Anyway, thanks for spending another Bulls season with BlogaBull, and we hope to see you throughout the offseason and for another run of Bulls basketball next year!