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Deconstructing the Chicago Bulls Implosion – Part 5: Summing It Up

Looking at the Bulls over the course of the week (Ownership, Coach Search, Frontcourt, Backcourt) I’m seeing a lot of chaos. The Bulls have a leadership problem in ownership, management and players. They’re not likely to improve the ownership anytime soon, no matter how much Reinsdorf publicly states his preference for his White Sox. Management is the first thing we’ll see being addressed, if things are being done right.

GM John Paxson seems like a good guy stuck in a bagman’s job (do you really think the Eddy Curry situation was his doing? No, he was just the messenger from the higher-ups). He has two tasks to do in the off-season: hire the right coach, and prune the malcontents from the Bulls’ family tree. If Paxson’s lucky, Reinsdorf will pry open the purse and let him spend the money he needs to, otherwise, we’ll have to see if Paxson can pull a rabbit out of his hat with somebody making their first jump to head coach.

The Bulls desperately need a leader in the coach, something Paxson has acknowledged in recent interviews. They need a teaching coach, unless Paxson is dumping half the roster for veterans. They need someone who can win the players’ respect immediately after a year of what looked like contempt for their coaches. I’m not so sure it wasn’t really a year and a half of contempt for their coaches.

More importantly, the coach needs to set a direction for the team and work with Paxson to shape the roster to fit his anticipated style. Fortunately for the new coach, Paxson seems like he’s eager to collaborate on personnel issues.

The personnel issues loom heavily. Two very promising players, Luol Deng and Ben Gordon, are said to be disgruntled after unsatisfactory contract talks and persistent trade rumors. Both are worth keeping, but only if they’re not going to be stewing in the locker room. If not, there are two big slots to fill.

Chris Duhon looks like he’s walking away, after a massive suspension-related falling out with the team. Paxson could send another 2-3 players away, too. He’ll have some thinking to do on this one, but unfortunately, this squad needs to be shaken up.

As it stands, the Bulls roster is best suited to a running game, with the exception of Aaron Gray. If the incoming coach wants to play half-court, Paxson will need to get some more post scoring in hurry. Either way, he needs to get a pure point guard and thin the ranks of the small-ish combo guards he’s been collecting.

For as much of an emotional mess and soap opera the Bulls have been in the last season, they’re really not that far out of the play-offs. Their half-court sets were awful and the spacing was worse, especially when you consider the number of shooters that were normally on the floor. A more talent-based approach the offensive schemes and some careful player movement should get the Bulls back in the play-offs.

On the other hand, the wrong coaching hire will exacerbate the locker room drama and if it’s too apparent Paxson is cleaning house, he might not be getting equal value for players who need a change of scenery and maybe some better coaching.

Ultimately, this is the off-season were we see what Paxson’s made of.

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