After losing the Indiana Pacers defeated the Brooklyn Nets last night, the Chicago Bulls were eliminated from the NBA Playoffs, which means that they’ll miss the postseason for the first time since the 07-08 season, when they were led by Ben Gordon and a 22-year-old Luol Deng.
This season, Fred Hoiberg’s first as head coach, was supposed to be a resurgent one for the Bulls, who had struggled with injuries, conflict between coaching and management and players, and more injuries for the past several seasons, which culminated in the firing of Tom Thibodeau, whose coaching style was also blamed for all of those injuries. This season, the Bulls would get Derrick Rose back, Jimmy Butler would continue his evolution, and the team would kick into high gear behind a new coach who got the new NBA and also wouldn’t force his best players to play 42 minutes a game.
It didn’t happen! Not even close. Instead, the Bulls still struggled with injury, Rose never returned to form, Butler didn’t progress and struggled with his new his new leadership role, and Hoiberg struggled to get his best players—like veteran Joakim Noah, who he moved to the bench—to buy in. But that’s not all. The Chicago Tribune has a great postmortem about what went wrong, which was everything—new (Hoiberg’s learning curve, Butler’s leadership struggles) and old, namely that the team’s management is both trifling and more than a little cheap. (The unceremonious release of Kirk Hinrich, a player as hated by fans as he is beloved by teammates, is cited as a major cause of the strife.) For the Bulls, there’s always next year, which is something they’ve been saying since Michael Jordan hung up his sneakers in 1998—they’ll still have Butler and Nikola Mirotic, but Noah will be somewhere else and Rose will still be a shell of his former self and the rest of the roster is a series of question marks.