WINDY CITY RESURGENCE BY SCOTT LEWIS
Scott Lewis breaks down the Chicago Bulls resurgence.
WINDY CITY RESURGENCE BY SCOTT LEWIS
April 13th, 2020 after years of irrelevance the Chicago Bulls finally turned the page on mediocrity when they announced the hiring of new Executive Vice President of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas. Arturas job was to bring an iconic franchise back from the dead and he came into this new gig highly respected in NBA circles as the former General Manager of the Denver Nuggets. Arturas was assistant GM in 2014 and had a hand in drafting the reigning league MVP Nikola Jokic. AK (as Bulls fans so affectionately call him) made his first official act as EVP by firing Gar Forman from his position as General Manager. Gar was John Paxson’s right-hand man and one of the guys who Bulls fans hated the most in his 11 years on the job.
Gar was replaced by Marc Eversley who is now the franchise’s first black General Manager. Marc also came in highly respected in the league and was mostly known for his great relationships with players during his time at Nike. Marc also had an extensive history in front offices in his time as Assistant GM in Toronto and being VP of player personnel in both Washington and Philadelphia. Bulls fans had been waiting for about half a decade for a front office who were smart, qualified, and familiar with how the current NBA moves and now they finally got it.
The Bulls in their franchise history have never hired an experienced head coach and that seems funny since arguably the greatest coach in league history coached there for 9 seasons. People forget that Phil Jackson was not always Phil Jackson, he was an inexperienced coach who was hired from Doug Collins staff and the rest was history. Since Phil left Chicago in 1998 the Bulls went on to be coached by Tim Floyd, Bill Cartwright, Scott Skiles, Vinny Del Negro, Tom Thibodeau, Fred Hoiberg, and Jim Boylen. Outside of the Thibs era, the Bulls did not get that much success from that long list of coaches and for the first time in team history, they decided to hire a coach with an impressive resume.
Billy Donovan was hired as the franchise’s 24th head coach right before the beginning of the 2020-2021 NBA season. Billy Donovan is hands down the most decorated Bulls coach at the time of accepting the job with winning back-to-back National Championships at Florida and leading the OKC Thunder to 5 playoff appearances in his 5 seasons there and a Western Conference Finals appearance in his first season as coach. Billy and the Thunder agreed to mutually part ways after the Thunder’s season ended in the 2020 bubble and AK was the first one on his line as soon as he was free and now the road to being a respectable team had officially begun.
Despite trading for All-Star Nikola Vucevic at the trade deadline the Bulls would finish 31-41 and miss the playoffs for the 4th consecutive season. Karnisovas and Eversley would immediately get to work and kick the rebuild into high gear as they would begin a full teardown of the previous regime’s roster. Only three players who were on the 2020-2021 roster would be returning to this current season and the team announced their first official signing of the new era by doing a sign and trade for former Laker and Pelican, Lonzo Ball. This signing had the league on notice literally because of tampering accusations which eventually would cost the Bulls some future picks but no real harm.
The Bulls new front office would have to use some tricks to get past the teams' difficult salary cap situation and had to execute another sign and trade to bring home their next piece. That next move would be bringing in four-time NBA All-Star DeMar DeRozan. DeMar was brought over in a sign and trade with the Spurs that sent Thaddeus Young to San Antonio. A LOT of national media killed this signing calling it a waste of money and that it would never work with Zach LaVine and it was graded as “the worst offseason signing” by Bleacher Report and The Athletic. The Bulls would go on to add NBA Champion Alex Caruso and send failed draft pick Lauri Markkanen to the Cavaliers in a 3 team deal that landed the Bulls former Slam Dunk champion Derrick Jones Jr. and a 1st round draft pick. Ayo Donsumu became the steal of the draft when the Bulls got him in the 2nd round and the 2021-2022 Chicago Bulls roster was now set.
Despite the Bulls impressive offseason a lot of media pundits had this team finishing 11th in the East and possibly missing the Play In tournament. The Bulls showed flashes of what they would become in the preseason and led that right into the regular season where they started 4-0 to begin the year. As December started the Bulls would find themselves in the top 3 of the Eastern Conference with the Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan pair fitting like a glove, Alex Caruso anchoring the defense, and Lonzo Ball looking like the point guard the Bulls have been looking for since Derrick Rose left the building. In today’s world, anything can be interrupted by covid and the Bulls were ravaged by it as it ran through to team after impressive road wins against the Knicks and the Nets.
The Bulls would be forced to take a week's pause on the season because of the lack of players available but that did not stop this big red train. A 10 game win streak would begin on December 19th with a win over LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers and the Bulls would find themselves at #1 in the Eastern Conference, something that even the most optimistic fans did not see coming this season. We are now at the halfway mark of the season and the Bulls season has now changed from just trying to get into the playoffs to a legit shot at bringing home the franchise’s 7th NBA Championship. The Brooklyn Nets showed them a couple of nights ago that when healthy they will be a force to deal with and of course, we all know that Giannis and the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks will also be in the cut waiting for the Bulls. Despite all of that AKME(Karnisovas and Eversley) have brought the Bulls from a failing franchise back to being one of the league’s brightest where they belong. The sky is the limit for this team and no matter if this season ends in a party in Grant Park or not the new winning era of Chicago Bulls basketball is finally upon us.