By DRAKE LOHSE
The Chicago Bulls’ season has come to an end. For the third time in four years, they’ve failed to make the playoffs.
The 2018-2019 season was downright gruesome. A fifty point home-blowout in December had the United Center vibrating with boo’s. The front office up and canned Fred Hoiberg without warning, granting his assistant Jim Boyle the reigns at the interim.
Boylen’s first couple of weeks did not go smoothly. LaVine, along with a few other Bulls, lodged a formal complaint with the NBA Player’s Association, condemning Boylen’s grueling practice regimens as both cruel and unusual.
But it wouldn’t be a Bull’s season until things got bad, worse, then downright interesting. Rumors of a Lonzo Ball trade were swirled and confirmed. Boylen won a couple of games, and this week, GM Gar Forman granted him a nice little extension. And out of nowhere, in February, Chicago got fun to watch, before collapsing all over again.
If the entire 2018-2019 Bulls’ season could be summed up in a word: what? There’s no use in deciphering all the ups and downs. Season’s gone, done and over with. But I’d hate to leave you with a cynical message, so why don’t we take a look at the five best moments from this doomed Bulls’ campaign?
THE FIVE BEST MOMENTS OF THE SEASON
1. THE OTTO PORTER TRADE: It remains to be seen just what kind of plans Chicago’s front office has for Otto Porter. The bolt-out-of-the-blue came a day prior to February’s trade deadline. Porter got to work early, and gave Chicago’s downtrodden faithful a reason to look back at the television screen. Otto-Matic scored 37 points in his third game as a Bull, shooting an absolutely bonkers 16-for-20 from the floor. Should Porter depart after this season, Bulls fans are forever indebted to the Georgetown product for the brief solar flare he provided to illuminate a dismal season.
2. LAURI AND LAVINE MAKE MAGIC IN ORLANDO: Back in December, the Bulls season hit rock bottom. They didn’t just lose a home game to the Celtics, their children and their children’s children lost a home game to the Boston Celtics. 133-77. 56 points. So when Lauri Markkannen and Zach LaVine combined for 77 points by themselves in February’s rematch? Yeah, felt pretty good. The win marked the first time two Bulls’ players have score 35 or more since Pippen and Jordan did it back in 1996.
3. THE BULLS REMIND JIMMY BUTLER WHO BOUGHT HIM INTO THIS WORLD: It was March 6th. The Bulls had just acquired Otto and were looking fun, fast, and healthy. So why not invite Jimmy Butler back to Chicago? It felt like just the right time. Zach LaVine scored 39, and carried the Bulls all the way down to the final possesion, where he scored drove in the go-ahead lay-in for the and-one with 1.4 seconds remaining. He would go on to deflect the inbounds pass on the ensuing 76er’s possession, sealing the Bulls’ 108-107 victory.
4. THE RISE OF WALTER LEMON JR: When the Bulls signed Walter Lemon Jr. and Jakkar Sampson at the end of March, the move hardly turned any heads. In his debut the very next day, the Chicago native notched 19 points. Lemon quickly became the reason many Bulls fans stuck it out to the very end. It’s hard not to love him. He spent his entire first post-game interview talking about how much he loves Derrick Rose and his mom. Lemon ended the season with a 20 point performance against the 76ers. Over all six games he appeared in for the Bulls, he averaged 14.5 points, four rebounds, and five assists.
5. A BLAST FROM THE PAST: Speaking of Derrick Rose, if you haven’t seen the excerpt from the soon-to-be-released documentary chronicling his rise and fall in the NBA, don’t, unless you feel like weeping. The video shows Rose learning of the Bulls plans to trade him to the Knicks, in what has got to be the most heartbreaking thing captured on film since Josh told AirBud to ‘please just go.’ Rose’s emotion is raw and most certainly genuine. This is definitely a sad moment, but reinforces how much love for Chicago Rose has, which makes rumors of a summer 2019 reunion all the more heartwarming.
NEXT SEASON, THE BULLS WILL…
1. Ditch Robin Lopez: Lopez’s veteran presence has been an anchor throughout his tenure as a Bull. It was Lopez, according to reports, that convinced LaVine and the young Bulls to withdraw their complaint against Coach Boylen, and mediated a sit down between the two sides. But if the Bulls want to compete against the speedier, more modern lineups of the Pacers and the Bucks, they’re going to have to get longer and faster down low, and Lopez’s style doesn’t fit the bill.
2. Acquire Anthony Davis: I had suspicions when the Bulls traded for Otto Porter. Why him? Why now? Not saying Porter’s playmaking abilities weren’t welcomed. But the timing felt strategic. Could the Bulls be aligning the pieces for a shot at the Chicago-born Davis, who has requested a trade from the Pelicans? With a package that included both Porter and another high caliber player, the Bulls may be able to pull off the deal without dealing their first round pick.
3. Be in play for the eight seed: A lot of this prediction relies on the previous one. But let’s say that Chicago doesn’t land Anthony Davis. That still leaves them with LaVine, Markkanen, Lemon, and Otto Porter, along with a top-five lottery pick. Towards the end of this season, the Bulls looked to be finding a rhythm on the offensive side of the Bull that could compete with the sturdier defenses of the league.
4. Trade away Lauri or LaVine: The Bulls are likely going to make some move this season. Davis just happens to make the most sense. But the Bulls are just as much in play for the likes of Kawhi Leonard or Klay Thompson. There’s help available across the league, and dealing either LaVine or Lauri would ensure the Bulls a choice of whoever they wanted to compliment Otto Porter on offense.
5. Use their lottery pick on a big man: If Chicago takes my advice, and parts ways with Robin Lopez, they will have a massive hole to fill. Lauri Markkanen has the length and scoring ability, but the Bulls need someone they can make their bully, in the same vein as Andre Drummond. Could it be Kenny Wooten, the seven-foot, Oregon Duck shot-blocking aficionado?
Grandma Marlene’s (Final) Gamebreak:
It’s finally here. The end of the season has come and gone. And what a terrific season to watch! Not because any of the games, but just because of the fun little stories. Otto Porter, man where did that guy come from? And Walter Lemon? I just love him. No, Drakey Poo, we couldn’t get it done this year, but I have a darn good feeling, pardon my language, about next year. Did you hear Derrick Rose might becoming back?
We had an easy last week. On Tuesday we played the Knicks at home, and we lost 96-86. The next night we traveled to Philly to play the 76ers. The 76ers got off to a quick start, and the game was lopsided from start to finish. We shot well from the field at 47.5%, but our three point shooting was still just crap. 37.5%. That’s not going to get it done next year.
My new favorite player, Walter Lemon Jr., led the team with 20 points, and got to start again. He sure looks like he is having a lot of fun and making a lot of friends! I don’t know for certain, but I bet we’ll see him back in a Bulls’ jersey next year.
Thank you for tuning in this year everyone! We’ll see you next season!