Boy, the bottom of the ocean can’t be too much further.
In an Eastern Conference where the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets have taken turns being equal parts dysfunctional and incompetent, the Chicago Bulls have firmly taken the lead in the category for saddest team in the NBA.
No, not saddest in terms of being the worst team in the NBA. Just the most depressing. In fact, off the top of my head, I can’t think of another team in recent memory that has sent its fans to these dark levels of doldrums.
Another year lost for the well-liked face of the franchise.
Watching passionate players like Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, who play their rear ends off, slog through another all-for-naught season.
The Bulls’ recent string of games has taken many Bulls fans to a point of disbelief;
many just laugh at the incredible cliff this team has fallen off as they struggle to comprehend how it all could go this wrong.
The Bulls have lost 10 of their last 13. Now, many teams go through a rough spell like that. But in that stretch, the Bulls have failed to even score ninety points 7 times. Even worse, they have failed to crack eighty points 4 times.
Eighty! In an era of wide-open, spread out, fast-paced basketball with 3-point shooters galore, the Bulls are struggling to make it to what most Western Conference teams easily reach in 3 quarters.
And yet again, the main culprit has been injuries. The Bulls’ projected starting lineup at the beginning of the year was the formidable fivesome of Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, and Joakim Noah.
Against the Milwaukee Bucks on December 10, the Bulls started Kirk Hinrich, Tony Snell, Mike Dunleavy, Boozer, and Nazr Mohammed.
Read those names again.
So, not only are the Bulls losing, they are doing it in ugly, hard to watch fashion, and with a completely decimated roster.
On top of that, things like John Henson of the Bucks hitting a last-second turnaround 20-foot fadeaway to win the game in Chicago are happening.
(Sure, Mike Dunleavy got the Bucks back a few nights later with a banked-in 3 in the final seconds to win in Milwaukee, but even that is sad in its own way.)
In clutch situations, instead of Rose attacking the basket or pulling up for a potential game-winner, we have things like Kirk Hinrich dribbling in circles and losing the ball, or Luol Deng trying to thread ill-advised passes to Joakim Noah and turning it over.
And here is the reason, I think, that this season is so darn sad:
They’re finally succumbing.
Not in terms of effort. The Bulls continue, praise their hearts, to play hard. But over the last few seasons, Bulls fans got used to seeing their squad persevere through injuries and still get wins.
Derrick Rose didn’t play the majority of the lockout season, but the Bulls still finished with the top record in the league, and even beat Miami a couple of times without him. Luol Deng was in the hospital with a spinal tap and Derrick Rose was in a suit last year, but they still won a playoff series over Brooklyn.
Since Tom Thibodeau took over, effort, hustle, determination, defense, and rebounding have been enough to still get results. And it was fantastic to watch. Now, though, it looks like the toll of constantly fighting uphill has finally become too great.
It’s like seeing Batman get his back broken by Bane. You think to yourself, “It’s Batman. He will find a way to turn this fight around and win! He always does!”
And then he finally gets beaten down, and you’re watching your favorite superhero go down fighting right before your eyes, and it just…paralyzes you. You’re watching him, seeing him fight valiantly, but you know in your mind, his fate in this fight has already been predetermined.
Maybe that’s overdramatic. A year from now, maybe Rose will be running beautiful fast breaks with Jimmy Butler and dishing assists to Joakim Noah again, and everything will be peachy keen.
Right now, though, it shocks me to think of how far the mighty have fallen.