Wondering what the future holds for the Bulls

On Saturday, the Bulls open their first round playoff series against the Cavaliers in Cleveland.

Think about that. Say those words out loud. The Bulls are in the playoffs.

Feels kind of weird, doesn’t it? There were so many times early in the season and especally over the last month when a postseason berth seemed improbable…even nearly impossible. Especially when you consider all the things that went wrong — injuries, tantrums, trades, more injuries, infighting, etc. — as detailed in yesterday’s post.

But the team stuck together through all that adversity. And yet, going into these playoffs, Bulls fans have very few certainties. Those certainties, or semi-certainties, include:

1. Unless something miraculous happens, the Cavaliers — led by MVP-to-be LeBron James, who yesterday said, “It’s a different monster they’re going to be playing on Saturday” — will most likely make very short work of the Bulls. Cleveland is the best team in the league (based on wins and losses). Chicago is the worst team in the playoffs (again based on wins and losses). I probably don’t need to tell you how those situations usually end.

2. Unless something even more miraculous happens, Vinny Del Negro probably won’t be coaching the Bulls next season. Whatever the truth is — Vinny dismissed the report that he initiated physical contact with team VP John Paxson as “100 percent false” — Del Negro and Paxson seem to have irreconcilable differences. Those usually lead to a divorce of some kind. And let’s be honest, Vinny has been on shaky ground practically since Day 1.

In some ways, it’s a little unfair. As Jeff Van Gundy pointed out, the Bulls have overachieved under Del Negro. And as John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times noted, Vinny deserves a lot of credit for that. But although Del Negro hasn’t been as terrible as some of his critics have made him out to be, he’s a long way from being able to coach a potential contender. My guess is that Chicago management sees this team as a contender-in-waiting, assuming they pull off a major free agent acquisition this summer.

And if that’s the case, it’s hard to imagine Vinny returning. Even if whatever did or didn’t happen between him and Paxson never, uhm, happened.

3. This is the end of the Bulls as we know them.

I’m not trying to be dramatic. It’s just a fact. The only players under contract for next season are Derrick Rose, James Johnson, Joakim Noah, Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng and Taj Gibson. And if the Bulls could dump, say, Hinrich’s contract to improve their cap situation going into this summer’s free agent market, they’d probably do it.

Rose and Noah are the foundation of the team. Beyond that, anything is possible. The Bulls are going to be rebuilt over the summer. In the end, this season has been about developing Derrick, Joakim, and even Taj.

To that extent, the season was a success. Rose blossomed into an All-Star, Noah wasn’t far behind, and Gibson showed enough promise to convince the team to ditch Tyrus Thomas. And now those three players get to add some playoff experience to their growing resumes.

But where the team goes from here — after their playoff run ends — is anybody’s guess. But I’m done guessing for now. I just want to enjoy the playoffs…however long they last.

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9 Responses to Wondering what the future holds for the Bulls

  1. jth95@cornell.edu'
    Jeremy April 16, 2010 at 6:11 pm #

    You keep on saying this team is to be built around Rose Noah and Gibson, but what about Deng? I mean first off let’s give the guy some credit. After countless assaults on his manhood (he plays too soft, he sucks, etc.) the guy came out and played a great season, half of which he played through a broken finger. Try calling that soft. If the Bulls are going to do anything in this playoff series it will be because of Luol’s defense on LeBron. In past games against the cavs where the bulls have found success Deng has played shutdown D on Lebron, plus his perimeter jumper is above average and he moves off the ball with intense action towards the basket (all of which would be amplified if we got Wade). I think Luol is a very above average 3, and a starting lineup of Rose, Wade, Deng, Gibson, and Noah sounds pretty deadly to me.

  2. chad April 16, 2010 at 6:18 pm #

    this series will be even, every game will come down to the final couple minutes. what i am most afraid of is vinny’s bad coaching at the end of games. lebron will probably be shooting some end of the game shots that decide games. we better be ready and stop him from doing what ray allen did to us last year. we also better make free throws and learn how to hold leads, doesn’t seem like our guys can handle the pressure of having a small lead at the end of the game. no gordon to hit the big shot and free throws. turnovers and missed free throws late almost cost us the last cleveland game and cost us the new jersey game. taj was a good draft pick, just wish we could have gotten someone better than james johnson, someone who can make 3’s or atleast defend, because we lack 3 point shooting without gordon and salmons and we lack defense aside from noah and gibson and hinrich.

  3. reggiemcglory@yahoo.com'
    reginald April 16, 2010 at 6:59 pm #

    here it is vinny has done a great job the players have done a good job but there is still alot of work to do to be a champion yet lets not get all caught up in what they do not have yet nor may they get but focuse on what they do even if we get a max free agent still doee not mean team will be better ala ben wallace, yes I said it I hope we do not spend money on a player who will not help make us better but break us down finacially and mentally lets work with what we got mabe even build from the draft not sure if any of the free agents will work here with the players we have one thing is for sure we got young special team forming and is on the rise lets keep our eyes on the prize and the goal is to win not just to get a big name free agent get players who will help us to get the ring not just fill a roster spot and big name I hope the front office is listening to this vinny may not have coach a championship team b4 but sitll does not mean he cannot I give him he props he has done well mabe not great but well enough to get us to playoffs two yrs in a row that deserves some praise it takes more than luck to do that twice n a row if the players did not like him or thought he was good coach they would not play for him but they do why fire vinny coaches can only coach its the players that play focus on who is gonna do most of the work, I am backing my bulls and vinny he may not always make right choice n coaching but then again who does we are human I say keep vinny ppl fight so what it happens no harm no foul lets move on together we need peace to come to our team to come together one for all and all for one one cause one goal, till then the free egents can wait lets see if we can at least handle the cavs if not like noah said shock the world and win it against them Game on I am gone peace.

  4. Ryan April 16, 2010 at 7:02 pm #

    I have been a big Del Negro supporter since last year, but you really hit a string when you said, “he’s a long way from being able to coach a potential contender.” It is the truth… I can’t see Del Negro coaching an honest contender and doing a great job. I think he is the type of coach that can get effort out of players and gel them together – like his quotes when he says, “all of the credit go to the guys on the floor,” and this is when his job is on the line!! He still didn’t take any credit, and what better time to take the credit deserved when he just jumped over every hurdle, avoided every pothole, gets slapped around by management, and still makes the Playoffs. That shows the players that they have a coach, not a politician (Van Gundy, Rivers, Popovich, and even Jackson?).

  5. bullsbythehorns@gmail.com'
    Matt McHale April 16, 2010 at 7:12 pm #

    “You keep on saying this team is to be built around Rose Noah and Gibson, but what about Deng?”

    Jeremy, it’s no offense to Luol. He worked hard all year and had a solid season. But there are some problems with the notion of Deng as a foundation player. First, he once again proved incapable of remaining healthy. Players get hurt, it’s understandable, but with Deng it’s a yearly thing.

    Second, Deng isn’t a leader. He doesn’t drive the team the way Noah and Rose do. He never has, and it’s unlikely he ever will. It’s just not in his personality. But that’s a problem when he’s the team’s highest paid player (well, after Brad Miller’s expiring contract) and will be making $14+ million as late as 2013-14. What he actually gives the team, unfortunately, does not match his contract. The same could be said of Kirk — although his contract is worth less than Deng’s and runs only two more seasons — you’ll notice other teams inquire about Hinrich every year, but there are rarely trade talks involving Deng. So he’s both a cap killer and (partly because of that) virtually untradeable.

    I like Luol. I do. And I suppose he’s part of the core by default, since there’s no getting rid of his contract at this point. But he still has never regained his 2006-07 form, whereas Rose, Noah and Gibson appear to be getting better.

  6. m_nazabal@yahoo.com'
    Max April 16, 2010 at 8:55 pm #

    I may just be dreaming but “if” and I know it is a big if. If the Bulls were to take the Cavs to 7 or even were able to pull off the biggest upset in years and beat the Cavs in 7. Does anyone think Lebron might jump ship and come play with Rose and Noah?

  7. doubleaccord@gmail.com'
    Tony C. April 17, 2010 at 12:51 am #

    reginald _

    I just want to thank you for that comma – it really made your comment sing.

  8. J. P. April 17, 2010 at 6:04 pm #

    I have thought that Vinny would make a great coach one day, that day probably won’t be next season. Vinny honestly needs time on the bench learning from a nuts and bolts master of the game like Jerry Sloan. Get him that experience and some team will be very lucky to sign Vinny 2 or 3 years from now, assuming they drafted a franchise saving rookie who will have an immediate impact.

  9. inkybreath@gmail.com'
    inkybreath April 17, 2010 at 7:00 pm #

    I don’t think every player on the team has to be a leader. As for Deng, the right A-list complements would allow him to be the strong, silent-type, which is obviously his best role. It will be interesting to see who is going to end up coming off the bench next year. Between he and Taj, it is hard to tell …

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