Can the Bulls salvage success from their disastrous rebuild?

The Chicago Bulls have won six championships along with amassing decades of success, yet in the past few years, the franchise’s issues have gotten progressively worse.

In recent years, Chicago’s front office has made some questionable decisions such as signing guards Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade in the latter stages of their careers or overpaying forward Jabari Parker to only place him on the trade block after 29 games.

To put it more simply: The Bulls’ front office needs a change, unless the latest coaching change makes a massive difference.

Head coach Fred Hoiberg was fired on December 3, and associate head coach Jim Boylen was hired immediately. In four seasons with the Bulls, Hoiberg finished with a 115-155 record and one playoff appearance. He failed to progress as he led the 2018-2019 Bulls to a 5-19 start, which led him to be fired. Boylen stepped in with only four years of experience as a head coach, but he has been an assistant or associate for teams since 1987. The newly named head coach has won an NBA Title in 2014 as an assistant coach under head coach Gregg Popovich.       

It only took five days for the organization to shatter once again. The Boston Celtics annihilated the Chicago Bulls at home 133-77, the worst loss in Chicago’s history. During the game, Boylen subbed the entire starting lineup out on two separate occasions. None of the starters played more than 20 minutes, and each of them sat for the final 21 minutes of the contest. Twitter erupted with laughter, memes, and anger at the Bulls’ 56-point loss.   

Meanwhile, the players took offense to Boylen’s erratic decision mid game. Following the loss, players debated skipping Sunday’s practice to protest the decisions made during the game. Despite threats of cutting practice, the team showed up and held one meeting with coaches and one without. Guard Zach LaVine and center Wendell Carter Jr. said that the meetings were successful and helped get the players and coaches on the same page.

Despite leaving practice on a good note, the Bulls were crushed at home again. This time the Sacramento Kings were the culprit in a 108-89 onslaught on Monday December 10. All five starters played normal minutes, but none came ready to play. Not practicing on Sunday could have played a role in this but adjusting to Boylen’s system could also be the reason for the poor performance. It’ll take time for Boylen to get fully acclimated with the roster, however, salvaging anything from this season other than a top draft pick is far-fetched.

Despite the ugly season, the Bulls’ new head coach has shown promise to bring back the intensity that former Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau enforced during his tenure in Chicago. Pulling the entire starting lineup twice is a bold move for a newly named head coach, but Boylen has shown that he isn’t afraid to punish his players for poor play. If the players can step up and show effort, the team may begin to take steps forward.

However, as soon as Boylen began to enforce his intensity and system, former No. 2 overall pick Jabari Parker was removed from the Bulls’ rotation completely. The decision was quite a surprise to the world, especially since Parker received a two-year, $40 million contract this past summer.

The process to remove Parker from the rotation began Thursday night prior to the Bulls’ matchup against the Magic in Orlando. Parker was not starting and only played four minutes of action. Boylen commented on the situation following the game.

“Going forward, he’s part of our team, and it’s not about the individual, it’s about the team,” Boylen said. “It’s about playing minutes the best you can. We’ll see what his minutes are going forward.”

Parker’s situation only got worse with time. Within 24 hours of the loss to the Magic, the forward was placed on the trade block. Chicago is currently engaged in trade discussions to ship him elsewhere. The former Duke Blue Devil is still only 23 years old, so the market for him is present, but his $20 million contract may scare teams off. In addition, teams may be worried about Parker’s injury-riddled past. The forward has shown some promise as a player but has yet to consistently stay on the court. He’s only played 70 or more games once and only 50 or more games twice.

Despite an expensive price tag and injuries written all over him, teams may be more worried about his work ethic and attitude. After signing his contract with the Bulls, Parker was asked whether he could defend as well as he could score.

“I don’t know, I just stick to my strengths,” Parker said. “Look at everybody in the league — they don’t pay players to play defense. I’m not gonna say that I won’t, but to say that’s a weakness is like saying that’s everybody’s weakness.”

Just a couple years ago, people raved about Parker’s potential when he was drafted No. 2 overall in the 2014 NBA Draft. It’s almost 2019, he’s almost 24, and he admitted that defense is merely useless. His work ethic is pathetic, and it makes sense as to why the Bulls want to move on. The signing was a mistake, and the Bulls are trying to get something in return for Parker rather than letting him walk after declining his option.

Along with his work ethic, Chicago may have discovered that Parker caused locker room problems. During his stint in Milwaukee, Parker was benched due to leaking locker room issues to reporters. His immaturity and work ethic may have spilled over into Chicago. The Bulls have one of the youngest and inexperienced rosters in the league, so Parker, having four years of experience (tied for third most on the team), is a major influence on his peers. It would not surprise me if Parker was the root of the turmoil in the locker room, and if he was one of the players pushing to skip practice.

In the coming weeks, Parker should find a new home. A lucrative return is unlikely, but only time will tell. The Bulls will continue to grow as a team this year, even though the ultimate goal seems to be tanking. With a top pick, and potential free agent signings, Boylen will get a fresh start atop the 2019-2020 season to rid the Bulls’ turmoil and playoff basketball back to the Windy City.