Has T-Time Run Out in Chicago?


Has T-Time Run Out in Chicago?

Monday, Feb. 8, 2010
7:32 PM

By Mark Schanowski

Let me take you back to the weeks leading up to the 2006 NBA Draft. After the draft lottery, the Bulls wound up with the second overall pick, courtesy of the Eddy Curry trade with New York, and were looking seriously at three players: Texas centerpower forward LaMarcus Aldridge, Washington shooting guard Brandon Roy and LSU forward Tyrus Thomas. The Bulls also had their own first-round pick, No. 16 overall, and they were hoping to walk away from the draft with an explosive inside player and a tall shooting guard with defensive skills.

Toronto held the No. 1 overall pick, and their general manager, Bryan Colangelo, was especially interested in Italian big man Andrea Bargnani, known more for his 3-point shooting touch than his back-to-the-basket skills. That meant the Bulls would have their choice of the top three options.

John Paxson really liked Roy and knew he was the most NBA-ready player after four seasons of college ball. Aldridge also was considered a safe choice after a couple of productive seasons at Texas. There were concerns about Aldridge being too thin, but he had the back-to-the-basket skills the Bulls were looking for. Thomas was the high riskhigh reward option after playing only one year at LSU. He was coming off a strong showing in the NCAA tournament, drawing comparisons to Phoenix Suns All-Star Shawn Marion. Sure, he didn't have an outside shot and his basketball I.Q. was low, but he could jump out of the gym and NBA scouts drooled over his potential to run the court and block shots.

So, you know what happened. Paxson passed on Aldridge and Roy and wound up with Thomas and Thabo Sefolosha, who was dumped at last year's trade deadline after failing to find a consistent role with the Bulls.

The purpose of the history lesson is to show you how desperately the Bulls wanted Thomas to succeed. They missed a chance to draft one of the NBA's best young shooting guards in Roy and a quality power foward in Aldridge. And, Sefolosha turned out to be a disappointment, even though he's now a starter in Oklahoma City.

So, all they have left from that '06 Draft is Thomas, and he still hasn't figured out what it means to be a professional 3 12 years into his NBA career. Scott Skiles, Jim Boylan and now Vinny Del Negro all had problems with Tyrus' immaturity. Tyrus thinks he should be a jump-shooting small forward taking 15 shots a night instead of a guy who does the dirty work inside like rebound and block shots. He doesn't bother following the game plans and routinely is in the wrong place on both ends of the floor. And, when his constant mistakes lead to a seat on the bench, he complains about unfair treatment from the coaching staff.

When you go through three different coaches, and the same problems keep coming up, maybe it's time to look in the mirror. Tyrus needs to realize he has to change his approach on the court and off. He's been hard to work with for those of us in the news media and has put his teammates in a bad situation with his pouting and selfish play. Maybe a change of scenery will help Tyrus grow up, but that's hardly a guarantee. And right now, Paxson and Gar Forman are having a tough time drumming up serious trade interest. There aren't many teams interested in taking on an underachieving player with a bad attitude.

The Bulls' best hope might be to include Thomas in a deal for Houston's Tracy McGrady or possibly ship him to a dysfunctional Golden State team. Any way you look at it, Thomas' time in Chicago is coming to an end. If the Bulls don't find him a new home by the Feb. 18 deadline, they'll almost certainly renounce his rights to avoid a salary cap hold which would impact their ability to bid for the top free agents this summer.

Richard impressive in Bulls debut

From the disappointment of a failed high lottery pick to the successful debut of undrafted free agent Chris Richard, who was toiling in the NBA's Developmental League in Tulsa when the Bulls called. Richard was with the Bulls during training camp and played pretty well, including a double-figure points and rebounds preseason game at Minnesota. But with the Bulls wanting to avoid the luxury tax and keep roster flexibility they decided to cut Richard at the end of camp. He kept himself in shape playing in the D-League and was more than ready when his opportunity came.

Unlike Tyrus, Richard understands defensive rotations and knows his biggest job as a power forward is rebounding and being physical on the defensive end. Richard played 20 productive minutes in the win over Miami on Saturday, pulling down seven rebounds, blocking a couple of shots and playing good post defense against Jermaine O'Neal and Udonis Haslem. With Thomas and Joakim Noah out of the lineup, Richard's contributions played a key part in the Bulls' important win over a Miami team they'll be battling for playoff positioning the rest of the way.

Richard only signed a 10-day contract, but the Bulls would be well-served to keep him around for the rest of the season. He played with Noah at Florida and knows what winning basketball is all about. Given the Bulls' injury situation, it would be nice to have an extra big man around for the stretch run.

I'll see you Wednesday from the United Center during SportsNite at 6:30. We'll have the Bulls-Magic game for you on Comcast SportsNet at 7 p.m.

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNite, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10.

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

The door has officially been closed on the 2017-18 season for the Chicago Bulls, and the word that most comes to mind is “unfulfilling.”

Or maybe even “indistinguishable.”

Draft night was supposed to be a culmination of a painful seven-month stretch that only had occasional yet costly moments of light.

Death lineup? Meet Death March. And Death April, while we’re at it.

The Bulls brass sold everyone on a full rebuild after trading Jimmy Butler one year ago, with an unspoken promise that this draft would bear franchise-changing fruit—hence the general feeling of angst or even indifference with the solid selection of Wendell Carter Jr. and their not-so-secret affection of Chandler Hutchison.

It was why fans believe the Bulls got cold feet about trading to move up, and why they believe the Bulls weren’t being pragmatic in staying away from Michael Porter Jr.

Porter, some believe, has star written all over him given his prep ranking this time last year and the Bulls were in position to speed up this process without having to go into a painful Process.

They were desperate for a star, believing the tankathon had produced so much suffering it had to be something on the back end.

There was the fight (or the punch).

The aftermath.

The miserable 3-20 start.

The 14-7 streak that produced the audacity of hope.

The reality that 14-7 was damaging enough to the lottery chances that a 3-11 finish couldn’t rectify.

And finally, the coin flip that cost them five spots in the lottery one month ago.

So that empty feeling has less to do with Carter and Hutchison, who’ve done nothing to earn the “blah” reaction from the fan base and some media. It has everything to do with the unanswered questions over the last 82 games and lack of clarity over the three hauls from draft night last year.

It’s not that Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn underperformed individually last season, but the lack of cohesiveness due to injuries and circumstances has led to the varying thoughts.

LaVine is approaching restricted free agency and by all accounts is taking his continuing rehab in Washington very seriously.  Markkanen has added plenty of muscle since the offseason began, appearing as if he can play Michael B. Jordan’s in-ring foil in the next installation of “Creed” as Ivan Drago’s long lost son.

And despite the report about Dunn not working as hard on the floor this offseason, that would be more of a concern if this were late August, not June.

The last time they were seen together on the floor, they looked no closer to a pecking order than the day they arrived.

What we know is that they’re productive NBA players, capable of putting an individual tattoo on a game at a moment’s notice, skillful enough to take your breath away.

And for whatever reason, the expectations changed once the three displayed they could be dynamic on their own—a star needed to be anointed and groomed to go with the star they believed was coming their way after the season.

Management is fully behind Markkanen, but Paxson’s strong words about LaVine at the season-ending news conference illustrated how much it feels LaVine has to prove next season.

With his restricted free agency status looming, the Bulls’ initial offer will show how much they value him until and if he gets a better deal on the market.

And the fact the Bulls weren’t afraid to draft Trae Young while having a healthy debate about Collin Sexton on draft night has to show they have at least some skepticism about the future at point guard.

But stars—developing stars, acquired stars, drafted stars—have to do it on their own. No amount of promotion or prodding from management will validate their faith, if that’s the route the Bulls choose to go.

This has to be a meritocracy or it won’t work and, honestly, it’s time for a reality check.

All the worry about the Bulls getting back to title contention sooner rather than later seems like folks getting ahead of themselves.

The front office has taken its share of shots from media and fans, so some questioning is earned but they’re right about one thing. Rebuilds aren’t completed in a day or 12 months.

Expecting some magic potion to arrive in the form of a top draft pick isn’t going to cure what ills this roster, and it doesn’t seem likely all the cap space will result in a free agent choosing the Bulls over the usual suspects.

However, methodical building can look like complacency if not done with a sense of urgency.

And with urgency in mind, this past season was unsatisfying to say the least—heading into the next phase with two more young pieces to develop while the first three are still in the evaluation stage.

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Donte Ingram's 2018 keeps getting better and better.

The March Madness hero, who buried a game-winning 3-pointer in the first round of Loyola's win over Miami, will play on the Bulls' Summer League team.

Ingram, a Simeon Academy graduate, had himself an incredible senior season with the Ramblers, who advanced all the way to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.

In five NCAA Tournament games Ingram averaged 7.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Ramblers. He also had 18 points in the MVC Conference Championship Game to secure the Ramblers' March Madness berth.

He'll join first-round draft picks Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison on the Las Vegas Summer League team, which will begin play early next month.