Facing the reality of your team not being any good is a process. Each fan is unique and special in their own way. A loyal supporter will try and convince themselves that their team will exceed well beyond expectations, or the cynical fan will persuade their brain to jump to the worst possible conclusions.
In regards to Bulls fans, I have seen both sides of the internal struggle of deciding this team's fate. The truth is that no one will really know how good or bad this team is until they're all together on the court. However, the expectations for this squad have varied. Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook recently released their 2016-2017 NBA season win projections, placing the Bulls right at 38.5 wins. Coming off of a very lackluster campaign last season, it's understandable why they would come to this prognosis. The Bulls were troubled last season and it's difficult to see why the dysfunction would stop even with new additions.
Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf recently was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He is definitely deserving of the honor considering he brought six championships to Chicago, but Reinsdorf has always had one monkey on his back -- being cheap.
Since the Bulls last won a championship, Chicago has only one Conference Final appearance. During the Hall of Fame festivities, the Chairman predicted that the Bulls will be competitive this season.
“We’re going to be competitive. I’m not predicting anything. But remember, as bad as we were last year, we beat Cleveland three out of four and Toronto four out of four,” Reinsdorf said. The Bulls owner then proceeded to defend the offseason moves, stating all players acquired during the off season were "high character" guys.
As if he were repeating an often used retort, Reinsdorf referring to Bulls' record against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors is, well, interesting. The makeup of this years squad is completely different. The Eastern conference has changed. Past deeds are meaningless at this point, as Reinsdorf’s general manager and head coach should know.
Hoiberg’s adjustment to the NBA was shaky. Touted as an excellent manager of men, the rookie coach failed to show that during his first season. Jimmy Butler infamously called out Hoiberg for not coaching hard enough, and there was a dispute between himself and Joakim Noah in regards to how the center's demotion came about.
The struggles showed themselves early and Hoiberg had a difficult time recovering. Entering his second season, Hoiberg will have to find a way to get the Three Alpha’s to cooperate as one cohesive unit. Hoiberg spoke to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune and said the following about his new three-headed monster.
"Great players always figure it out," Hoiberg said. "It has to be about one thing, and that's winning. Based on who has the hot hand on any given night, you play through that guy, and the rest of the team plays off him."
“Figuring it out” on the fly might not be the best plan. Some form of hierarchy needs to be established and Hoiberg must enforce that when necessary.
Bulls general manager Gar Forman also has high hopes for this team. “Going into the draft and into free agency I talked a little bit about how we’re going to retool this roster,” Forman said. “We studied the options and we didn’t want to go into an absolute rebuild, but we did want to get younger.”
Acquiring some young talent in the offseason and developing the existing youth on the roster such as Bobby Portis, Cristiano Felicio, Doug McDermott, is enough to keep Forman hopeful of steady blend of youth and veterans. Management is attempting to instill hope within the fan base, and being just competitive enough might do it. Unfortunately being average doesn’t produce championships.
So who's right, Vegas or the Bulls brass?
Vegas isn't high on the Bulls. 38.5 wins is a reduction on last season's 42 wins, and it's also generally not enough to make the postseason. With a steadily improving Eastern Conference and a roster that doesn't logically fit, the reality is that the this team will not be competing for a championship this season. That we no for sure.
No matter how management wants to frame this retooling, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. No matter, the same old questions remain the same: Who will be a consistent three point threat? Can the crowded back court coexist? Will Fred Hoiberg make it through the season?
Reinsdorf, Forman, and Hoiberg are doing just enough to keep the casual fan interested. Bringing in hometown star Dwyane Wade, promoting the continuing development of Jimmy Butler, and being reasonable enough to win some games will keep the Bulls interesting. It will sell tickets and drive revenue, no question.
Sports is a gamble. We can never be sure on how it will exactly play out, but thus far, it appears the odds are against the Bulls.