CHICAGO — This was supposed to be an amazing weekend for the Chicago Bulls.
For the first time since 1988, the NBA All-Star Game is back in Chicago. This weekend was supposed to be a celebration of the city’s basketball tradition and an escape from the current reality of what Chicago Bulls basketball has become, even if it is only for a few days.
But All-Star Weekend 2020 has gone about as poorly as possible for the Chicago Bulls so far.
First, star player Zach LaVine found himself on the outside looking in for making his first All-Star team. Then, he chose to participate in the 3-Point Contest instead of the Slam Dunk Contest to the disappointment of many fans. While a viral video of him attempting some huge dunks at the Advocate Center teased a potential surprise appearance, LaVine shot those rumors down during his All-Star Saturday media session.
With Wendell Carter Jr. unable to participate in the Rising Stars Challenge as he continues to recover from injury, the only Bulls player taking part in any festivity during the first All-Star Weekend in Chicago in over 30 years is LaVine in the 3-Point Contest. (Horace Grant and Nate Robinson made cameos in the celebrity game which was pretty cool.)
The Bulls have a glaring lack of representation in their own All-Star Weekend, and that isn’t near the most embarrassing part of the event so far. The Bulls have somehow become the punchline of the weekend as the host city.
The most glaring example so far happened Friday morning. ESPN’s “First Take” was live from Navy Pier, and Zach LaVine was a guest. He was asked by ESPN’s Max Kellerman if he believes in the front office.
Before LaVine had a chance to answer the question, the large contingent of Chicago fans in the crowd started booing loudly before erupting into a “Fire GarPax chant.” It was so bad that they had to be shushed on live television by Molly Qerim Rose:
LaVine addressed the viral moment at Saturday’s All-Star media session at Wintrust Arena.
“I don’t speak for the fans. Obviously, I think some fans in Chicago are frustrated, “LaVine admitted. “But you guys know me personally, I’m with the team. I’m the want that puts on the uniform and stays in front of the fans. I do my job. It wasn’t tough, you know it gets rowdy. I know how Chicago gets rowdy. It is what it is.
“I appreciate the fans that stay loyal. Me personally I appreciate all the fans that come out and support me and come each and every game. I feel like I’m somebody they can trust. I’m someone that puts the work in. I don’t care if we’re down 100 or up 100, you guys are going to get the same type of reaction from me, the same determination and the ability to try to go out there and win. We’re trying to win, you guys know me personally, I want to do nothing but win. So I want to say thank you to them.”
LaVine did a good job handling these questions and there were no mishaps during his media session, but that initial viral moment will be a lasting memory from this weekend. Of course, it’s far from the only instance of negativity surrounding the franchise.
NBA legends have also come down hard on the current state and direction of the franchise.
During a segment on ESPN’s “The Jump”, Bulls legend Scottie Pippen said “I don’t even know half the players on the Chicago Bulls” and “the Bulls’ starting lineup are not true starters in this league.”
Mind you, Pippen is a Special Advisor to Michael Reinsdorf. Literally part of his job is probably to know the guys on the roster. Not great, Bob!
In the same segment, Michael Wilbon actually defended the Bulls with the injury excuse. On the other hand, Tracy McGrady mocked Jim Boylen’s punch clock in a mostly negative segment.
The criticism of the Bulls didn’t stop there. Charles Barkley didn’t hold back in throwing the host team under the bus. Per USA TODAY Sports, here he is talking about the state of the Bulls:
“I have no idea. I’m not going to lie in you. I’ve been very disappointed in the Bulls. I have no idea what they’re doing. I have no idea what has happened to Lauri Markkanen. I thought he was going to be the next big thing, and he has regressed.”
He also said that LaVine didn’t deserve to make the All-Star Game, and when pressed to offer an explanation Chuck just said he didn’t deserve it.
Barkley also had this to say about Boylen:
“Jim Boylen is a good friend of mine, and I’ll leave it that. Jim Boylen is a good friend of mine. But I don’t know what the Bulls are doing.”
Chicago’s own Chance the Rapper had a similarly bleak outlook:
"What do you think of the Chicago Bulls right now, Chance? The state of the Bulls?"— Dime (@DimeUPROXX) February 15, 2020
Chance: ............... pic.twitter.com/PWQ8DohlP3
On a weekend that was supposed to celebrate and commemorate the role of The Windy City and the Chicago Bulls in shaping the NBA, it has instead become a painful reminder of how disheveled the franchise is at the present as the host team has quickly become the weekend’s punching bag.
If you want to read a total evisceration of the Bulls, check out Ricky O’Donnell’s piece over at the mothership.
But let’s end on a good note. Did somebody really spot Jim Boylen skating in Millennium Park? Let’s just say it definitely is: