Trust The Process by Scott Lewis
It’s been a long time since the Chicago Bulls have been in the Eastern Conference Finals and an even longer time since the Bulls have been atop the NBA’s Mount Olympus as NBA Champions.
It’s been a long time since the Chicago Bulls have been in the Eastern Conference Finals and an even longer time since the Bulls have been atop the NBA’s Mount Olympus as NBA Champions. 9 years and 23 years respectively since both of those things have happened. Bulls fans are starting to get impatient. In 2003 just five years after Michael Jordan retired from the Bulls and capped it off with a repeat threepeat, the architect of that dynasty stepped down and was replaced by one of the key contributors of that dynasty, John Paxson, the new general manager. I remember sitting in the United Center that day and everyone giving Pax a round of applause for being back in the organization and hoping that a new day had arrived at 1901 W. Madison.
The Paxson reign started with the 2003 NBA Draft which is considered a top-three draft in the history of the league and gave birth to the careers of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, and the generational talented LeBron James. The Bulls had the 7th pick that year coming off a terrible 30-52 season. The Bulls selected Kansas point guard Kirk Hinrich but little did we know that the first bad move of the Paxson regime had already been made. No offense to Hinrich because he had a solid career and is no doubt one of the best post-Jordan era Bulls players, but none of this matters when you know Paxson tricked an opportunity to trade up to the 5th pick to draft Marquette guard and the hometown kid D-Wade because he didn’t want to part with Donyell Marshall.
This was the beginning of a long list of failures for Paxson and eventually, the Gar Forman regime, infamously known by Bulls fans as “GarPax”. GarPax would get another chance to save the franchise in 2006 with the #2 overall pick, and they made yet another boneheaded move when they traded future Hall of Famer, LaMarcus Aldridge, and sent him to the Portland Trailblazers for Tyrus Thomas.
Two years later, they got the luckiest gift, when the 1.9% chance of winning the 2008 NBA lottery went their way, and they drafted future MVP, Derrick Rose. D-Rose would lead the Bulls to their first Eastern Conference Finals appearance in 12 years and eventually losing to the Miami Heat. A loss that could’ve been avoided if GarPax fed into LeBron’s demands and brought him over to Chicago, but that is a whole other article for a different day
April 28th, 2012 is a day that will live in infamy, not just in the history of the Bulls but the history of Chicago sports in general. That was the day that the #1 seed Bulls would lose their MVP D-Rose to a catastrophic ACL tear that he never really bounced back on, and the Bulls would never be the same.
Now as much as I hate GarPax I’m not going to blame an injury on them. I will blame how they handled the injury and left D-Rose for dead by telling the media he was cleared to play in 2013 when he wasn’t ready. D-Rose would be traded from the Bulls in 2016, and the franchise was now in the hands of All-Star Jimmy Butler. Butler, the self-made star, was a late first-round pick in 2011, and he had grown into an All-Star during D-Rose’s rehab and was ready to lead the franchise into a new era, at least that’s what we all thought.
GarPax had other plans, trading him a year later to the Minnesota Timberwolves after a first-round exit to the Boston Celtics in a season where they claimed the team would be “younger and more athletic.”
They instead surrounded Butler with a washed D-Wade, Rajon Rondo, a team with no shooting ability whatsoever.
Fast forward three years later, and the nightmare was finally over as Paxson was gracefully let go and Forman was fired. They were both replaced by former Denver Nuggets general manager Artūras Karnišova as the president of basketball operations and former Philadelphia 76ers vice president Marc Eversley to be the new GM.
AKME (what Bulls fans now affectionately call the new regime) had a big mess to clean up for their first season after the years of wasted draft picks and substandard free agents by GarPax. The first significant move was firing Jim Boylan and bringing in Billy Donovan. This year’s past trade deadline paired first-time All-Star Zach LaVine with two-time All-Star Nikola Vučević for a monster trade that sent off the underwhelming Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr., and Daniel Gafford. Bulls fans rejoiced and had high hopes for an exciting 2nd half of the season.
Things have not gone according to schedule since the trade as the Bulls are 4-9 since the trade and are sitting in the final play-in-game spot with a tiebreaker over the Washington Wizards, and Bulls fans are not happy. Bulls Twitter has been filled with questions on how good this team can be and was the trade worth it. If there’s one thing Chicago sports fans can do, it’s panic, and considering the recent history of this franchise, I understand why, but I don’t feel the hysteria is warranted in this particular case.
It took 17 years of constant mess-ups by GarPax to put the franchise in the position it’s in right now, and to expect it to be fixed in one calendar year is very unrealistic to me. I get the impatience, but the Bulls are in a perfect spot with having not one but two All-Star players in the prime of their careers and a nice amount of cap space to fill the holes left on this roster.
Even if the Bulls miss the postseason due to their horrible defense and LaVine missing two weeks because of COVID, the Bulls chances of getting a top-four pick and a game-changing player to add with LaVine and Vučević grow dramatically. Thanks to AKME putting trade protections on the pick sent to the Orlando Magic in the Vučević trade.
The Bulls have suffered from cultural problems and players not wanting to play there. But AKME has turned things around in the culture and how the team is viewed around the league.
Even Kevin Durant has noticed the change and said the Bulls have one of the brightest futures in the league. It may not be clear right now, but Bulls fans need to practice patience and trust the process because the glory days of Chicago Bulls basketball are not far away.