This isn’t who we thought the Chicago Bulls would be

JAMES GILMORE

The Chicago Bulls have stumbled to a disappointing 6-12 start, what exactly is happening in the Windy City?

Raise your hands if you thought the 2019-20 Chicago Bulls would kick off the season losing 12 of 18 contests. Okay, there’s a decent chance that there are a few pessimists among us – but the general buzz was that this was a team destined for playoff contention in the spring.

Not only were the playoffs the spoken expectation, but there were also high hopes for multiple All-Star berths coming from this roster, likely Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen representing the host city of Chicago in the February spectacle.

Now? Oh boy, where to begin? A few weeks ago, I wrote about the slow start when it was in its infancy after seven games. My concern was primarily with LaVine, Markkanen and of course, Jim Boylen.

LaVine has had his moments, including a legendary performance against the Charlotte Hornets one night after Boylen benched his star guard three minutes into a disastrous loss to Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat. Not to dump cold water on LaVine’s ridiculous night, which included his 13 3-pointers on 17 attempts and a career-high 49 points, but it took a historic comeback in the final minute to beat – the Charlotte Hornets.

Chicago followed up that potentially momentum-building win by being trashed at home against Carmelo Anthony and the Portland Trail Blazers.

At least Wendell Carter Jr. and Coby White have shown some strong signs early in the campaign.

So is Lauri Markkanen hurt, regressing or not who we thought he was?

Markkanen has been the biggest mystery so far this season. He’s been a tentative shell of himself, connecting on only 35.6 percent of his shot attempts – including a paltry 28.3 percent from long range. He’s easily having the worst season of his short career.

it’s mystifying.

But what’s the cause? Markkanen’s statistics have decreased across the board. There have been reports suggesting the 7-footer has been playing hurt since the start of the season. If that’s the case, it could be time to let him heal because playing hurt hasn’t helped the team much. He has a -5.6 net rating through 18 games and his 42.4 eFG percentage is worst among Chicago Bulls starters.

It’s clear that Markkanen isn’t progressing as many expected in this, his third season. It’s still early and if the Bulls big man is actually playing through an injury, a fully-healed Markkanen would seemingly return to his normal production expectancy.

Currently averaging a career-worst 13.6 points per game – a full 5.1 points per game less than last season – the former Arizona Wildcat could simply be slumping and struggling to find his rhythm early in the campaign. We’ve seen enough from Markkanen to recognize his ceiling remains high. Here’s hope that he regains that touch soon.

For the Bulls to have any success this season, they’re going to need it.

Is Gar really to blame after all for the Chicago Bulls’ failures?

To some, that’s an obvious question with an obvious answer. Now, Joe Crowley of the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf is actually “livid” about the team’s poor start is directing his ire at general manager Gar Forman. Could it be that we finally might see a shake-up in the Bulls front office?

It’s not exactly breaking news that Forman isn’t quite a fan favorite in the Windy City. He apparently also hasn’t won over Doug Collins, the former coach turned senior advisor who has a strong voice within the front office. Collins is apparently using that voice to express his displeasure with the GM who pushed for Fred Hoiberg‘s hiring.

We all know how that turned out. It appears that John Paxson is safely entrenched in his role running basketball operations, but we might see Pax without his Gar soon enough. Maybe Jim Boylen will draw also Reinsdorf’s anger soon enough, maybe in time for a Christmas miracle!?

The obligatory – it’s still early – statement

Okay, there are still 64 games remaining so technically there is plenty of basketball to play. Perhaps it’s within the realm of possibility that the Bulls ranking 28th in offensive rating, 29th in field goal percentage, 26th in eFG percentage and  24th in defensive rebounding is all just due to nearly everyone on the roster having a sluggish start adapting to a new offensive scheme.

Perhaps.

It’s also possible that this team isn’t buying into the elementary motivational tactics Boylen tries to employ at the professional level. It’s possible that Boylen’s consistent habit of throwing his own players under the bus after each frustrating loss is causing an irreparable ripple effect in the locker room.

Maybe Jim Boylen simply isn’t the head coach Paxson and company tried to sell to the fans.

Yes, it’s still early. However, at some point, a team is simply just who they are. We aren’t there yet with this edition of the Chicago Bulls, not quite. The statistics though are daunting. Sure, the offense looks better than last season, but with Markkanen shooting blanks and Otto Porter Jr. missing time with a foot injury, improvement isn’t likely to be on the horizon.

It’s still only November, but as long as Boylen is playing mind games with his players and testing the limits of trust between his best players, we’re in for a bumpy ride.

 

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