I used to love watching “The A-Team.” Every episode, the bad guys would inevitably get the upper hand and the A-Team would be trapped and Mr. T would ask, “What’s the plan, Hannibal?” Hannibal Smith would think of something on the fly, the team would create a ridiculous contraption made out of spare parts just lying around, and overcome the bad guys. It was great television.
The NBA doesn’t work that way. Teams seldom come up with plans on the fly and teams that do that usually are catastrophic failures (see: Brooklyn Nets). Franchises generally come up with a plan and execute it. As I watch this Chicago Bulls team struggle amidst all of the injuries and I watch this team struggle with effort and pieces that don’t quite fit Fred Hoiberg’s system or philosophy and as I watched management stand pat at the trade deadline and hope that healing players would be enough to get this team over the hump, I have to ask, “What’s the plan, Hannibal?” Because there doesn’t seem like Bulls management has a plan. Instead of being active at the trade deadline, Gar Forman insinuated that he received, but didn’t make calls. Your team is struggling, you clearly don’t have a championship roster or a roster that gives your new coach a chance to succeed, but you’re fine standing pat? They are and they’ve said as much multiple times this season. It made no sense. Hinrich for Justin Holiday may be a decent move (he seems like he could be a three-and-D guy), but it’s not going to help this team get into and succeed in the Playoffs. Teams reportedly called about Gasol, the Bulls had an astronomical asking price for Taj Gibson, and they deflected them away because….actually, I’m not really sure why.
What’s the plan, Gar/Pax? What are you going to do to get the Bulls back into championship contention? Healing players isn’t going to fix the gaping holes that are plaguing this roster. I’ve tweeted this before, but it just seems like this team has too many guys that need the ball to be successful: Rose, Butler both need the ball to dominate, Mirotic plays better off the dribble it seems, Gasol is a better post player than pick and pop in my opinion, Noah was effective with the ball in his hands. Are there enough touches? Obviously not and Hoiberg wants to have the ball move side to side quickly. This roster doesn’t seem capable, so how are you going to give him a roster that plays the way he wants, Gar/Pax? It’s a valid question. Through the draft? Then you might start nailing draft picks or find another star college scout. With two potential lottery picks this season, this could be critical for this team.
Through free agency? Stars aren’t exactly lining up to play here and frankly, the Bulls don’t have enormous amounts of cap space. They have publicly stated they want to re-sign Gasol and Noah. From what I can tell, the Bulls might have around $20-$25 million with the rising cap this summer. How are you going to sign Gasol, Noah, and fill in the many gaps needed to make this a title team? And are either of them worth spending that money on?
Are you going to “blow it up?” If so, how? Nobody was beating down the door for what you were selling and apparently, you have delusions that these players are worth way more than they are. So, who are you trading? Reportedly, the Celtics made a play for Jimmy Butler. Maybe that’s the best possible play. Maybe the Bulls should trade their best player to get one that gets along with Fred Hoiberg. Maybe a trade like this would appeal to both teams: The Knicks because they want Thibodeau and why not give him his guy and the Bulls because they’re desperate to remain relevant. If Jimmy Butler really is becoming a problem in the locker room, then maybe that’s best for the franchise. If not and he’s simply not adjusting to Hoiberg, then maybe they should consider a coaching change.
Speaking of a coaching change, maybe it’s firing Fred Hoiberg, but will the Bulls actually pay 3 head coaches? Yeah right. This team has only paid the luxury tax like once in its existence. I said this multiple times, but you don’t fire a top 5 coach in this league unless you have a clear upgrade. The Bulls did it anyways and now they’re reaping the benefits from it. My new favorite conspiracy theory I’ve made up (narrowly replacing my conspiracy theory that Rip Hamilton had an affair with Thibs’ sister and was subsequently benched in the 2013 Playoffs) is that Reinsdorf and Thibodeau have a wink-wink deal that they’d wait to see how this season went and if the Bulls stumbled, Reinsdorf would clean house and bring back Thibodeau. Of course that’s not going to happen, but if I were Reinsdorf, I would clean house and then come groveling back to Thibodeau and surround him with a competent front office. I’d rather have an elite coach than Hoiberg and Gar/Pax personally – and that’s even factoring in all of Thibodeau’s faults about minutes, etc.
So, what’s the plan? Is there one? It’s unclear, but until the Bulls stop believing they’re a contender and realize they need to do more than retool the roster or change the guy on the bench, they’re stuck in basketball purgatory. It’s a miserable place to be and there just isn’t a clear path out. So, what’s the plan Hannibal – or should I say Gar and Pax?
Brandon Pence is the founder and former editor of the Chicago Bulls blog “The Bulls Charge.” He currently contributes to ChiBullsZone.com and writes independently. You can follow him on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook