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Bulls Finally See Change After Continual Disappointment

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What started out as a hopeful season has (potentially) ended as yet another season of disappointment for the Chicago Bulls.

With an improved and more experienced roster, playoff hopes for the Bulls didn’t seem absurd. But as the season progressed, Chicago stuck to their annual pattern of being among the league’s worst.

Technically, the Bulls were better than they were last season — or at least they were on track to be better. When the NBA suspended its season on March 11, Chicago had a 22-43 record. They had already matched last season’s win total, only needing one more win to surpass it. Despite a poor record, the Bulls were starting to show hints of promise.

If the season had continued, though, it probably wouldn’t have been enough for the Bulls to sneak into a playoff spot. Every team left on their schedule, with the exception of the New York Knicks, had a better record. In addition to the Knicks, only two other upcoming opponents had records below .500. Knowing this, most of the Bulls’ matchups likely would have been on trend with their previous games — ending as blowouts.

The mounting losses would have only strengthened the strong feelings Chicago has for change in the front office. Whether the Bulls’ season ends now or continues later on, all that matters now is that change is finally here.

The Long-Awaited Bulls Front Office Change

Change has finally come in Chicago, as the Bulls recently announced the hiring of Arturas Karnisovas as vice president of basketball operations. Karnisovas comes to the Bulls from the Denver Nuggets, where he has served as their general manager since 2017.

The hiring removes John Paxson from the role but not from the organization. Paxson remains with the franchise as senior advisor of basketball operations.

Gar Forman, however, is out as general manager. No replacement has been chosen yet but potential hires have been selected.

In choosing a new general manager, Karnisovas said, “I have to hire a person who will complement and not have the same skill set that I do.”

Chicago is also expected to hire assistant general managers. J.J. Polk has joined the Bulls as one assistant. Polk was previously with the New Orleans Pelicans for the past 10 years, most recently serving as executive director of basketball administration.

A Coach’s Contentment

With the hiring of Karnisovas and the firing of Forman, Bulls fans are left wondering whether head coach Jim Boylen will be the next one to go.

Despite an improved roster, Boylen has failed to lead the Bulls to success. This losing model hasn’t sat well with the city of Chicago. 

As the season progressed, the United Center, once known as an arena filled with loyal Bulls fans, started to become emptier and emptier. Fans simply didn’t want to pay for a losing product. They didn’t want to support a questionable coach and unqualified management.

Boylen has garnered a plethora of complaints all season long for his coaching, decision making, and his interviews with the media. He often remained optimistic even after incredibly poor performances.

While optimism can often be seen as a good thing, Boylen’s relentless optimism, even after the worst losses, was frustrating. It gave fans the impression that he didn’t really care about winning at all.

All season long, the Bulls proved their dysfunction on the hardwood. Oftentimes they would gain a lead and go into halftime in a comfortable position, only to fall apart in the third quarter, ruining their chances at victory. Leads could not be trusted because of these habits and were safe only when the final buzzer sounded.

Whether a coaching change will happen, though, remains to be seen.

Adrian Griffin, former Bulls assistant under Tom Thibodeau, has been mentioned as a potential head coach replacement.

Griffin is currently the lead assistant coach for the Toronto Raptors, having won a championship with them in 2019. His ties to the Bulls also exist as a former player and as a former teammate of Karnisovas at Seton Hall.

Zach LaVine Leads Injury-Plagued Bulls

Otto Porter Jr. suffered a left foot fracture just several games into the season, ridding the Bulls of one of their top options for a majority of the season. This left Chicago with Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen as the go-to guys.

But, in reality, most games became the Zach LaVine show. As the Bulls struggled to play efficient basketball, the outcome was often dependent on how big of a scoring night LaVine would have. This was even more true once the injuries started to pile up.

In addition to Porter, Kris Dunn, Cristiano Felicio, Daniel Gafford, Chandler Hutchison, Luke Kornet, Markkanen, and Thaddeus Young have all missed an extended period of the season due to injuries.

The Bulls needed a healthy roster to be competitive. With the influx of injuries, though, they needed LaVine to be his best self just to avoid being the league’s worst. At the time the league suspended the season, LaVine was the team’s definite star player, holding averages of 25.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.5 steals in 34.8 minutes per game.

If not for what has been LaVine’s best season, who knows if the Bulls would have even reached 20 wins?

Knowing LaVine is capable of taking on such a role is a good sign for the future. However, while the Bulls need LaVine to be elite in order to be the best team they can be, he cannot be the only one saving the day on a regular basis. 

The Emergence of Coby White

Perhaps the 7th pick in this year’s draft can be the perfect sidekick moving forward.

In the last couple of games, Coby White had become a key scorer off the bench, earning February’s Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month Award, and eventually got his first start due to numerous teammates’ injuries. But he was limited to just that one start before the NBA suspended the season. Though the suspension was — and remains — necessary, it couldn’t have come at a worse time for Bulls fans.

With incessant losing, there hadn’t been much to be excited about. LaVine’s play had made watching Bulls games tolerable, but he suffered a quad injury at the start of March. Without him, White emerged to show off the scoring talent he had to offer.

The rookie had shown flashes of potential throughout the season, but it wasn’t until after the All-Star break that White played consistently, also getting consistent and meaningful minutes. He even became the first rookie ever to have three consecutive 30-point games.

White flourished at a great time and has put himself in a good position to play a key role next season.

Follow us on Twitter @BullsLead for the latest Bulls news and insight.

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About Ashley Wijangco

Ashley is a Illinois graduate and writer based in the Chicago suburbs who has eight years of sports writing experience. She writes about the Bulls and general NBA content for TLSM. Twitter: @wijangco12

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