Brand something the right way, and you’ll convince people it’s true. The Chicago Bulls have a big three heading into this season, with Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo filling in the 3 slots. Is it really a good thing for the Bulls to have such a combination? The season, and the job of quite a few people, relies on it working.
The Bulls had an opportunity to start from scratch, but John Paxson and Gar Forman wouldn’t still be holding on to their jobs if that was the case. They put them in this position, and they’re swinging for the fences in order to get it out. If it doesn’t work? In my opinion, Fred Hoiberg won’t last the clearance, and neither will the very unlikable duo, one of them a three-time champion with the Bulls, hitting the game winning shot in game 6 of the 1993 NBA finals.
With Derrick Rose traded, and the strength of the team that made the 2011 conference finals, followed by finishing with the best record in the NBA for a second straight season, eroded into almost nothing, it was time for a change. And so, the Paxson-Forman duo chose to keep on aiming for the playoffs, and maybe slightly higher. Wade is still an All-Star, with some superstar moments, as long as someone manages his minutes and knees. Rondo can be a positive presence in the locker room and the court, but he’s always a shouting match and social breakdown waiting to happen.
Both Rondo and Wade have said that this is Butler’s team. Does the Bulls organization feel the same way? Yes and no. Butler was given the max deal a year ago, which seemed to confirm they believe in him, with or without Rose by his side. But last year’s problems with other players, problems with Hoiberg himself, and the missing of the playoffs, caused the Bulls to ask around and see what kind of trade value he has. That’s not something you do with a franchise player.
That’s in the past, it seems. Butler has openly criticized the Bulls for this, but not in slandering kind of way. He seems to be focused on taking this team on his back, and both Wade and Rondo seem determined to help him do so, without getting in the way. But egos act in funny way. There’s always a little bit of narcissism (sometimes a lot more than a little), unless you’re playing for the San Antonio Spurs, where Gregg Popovich forces his players to swallow their ego and never let it show until they retire or leave the team. And that narcissism can tear the Bulls down, even if things are going well to a point.
There’s more to this team than just the triangle of personalities consisting of Butler, Wade and Rondo. It’ll be about finding a way to make up for the loss of Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah, while getting more out of guys like Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott. Denzel Valentine might have a big influence if he adapts quickly to life after Tom Izzo. But even if everything works well on the floor, the biggest risk to the Bulls season falling apart, and from there the team moving into rebuild mode, will be keeping Butler happy, Wade and Rondo satisfied, and Hoiberg not losing control of this weird team assembled under his nose.