The Chicago Bulls just wrapped up another disappointing season, one mired in the highest level of mediocrity and dysfunction in fact. A season that began with tapered expectations that quickly evolved into optimism before plummeting into the depths of bland and dysfunctional that we haven’t seen in quite some time.
There was the social media battle of the “Alpha’s” which was really a struggle of egos between two aging veterans failing to meet expectations and the team’s best talent who has yet been able to assert himself as the unparalleled leader of the franchise, a role many thought to be a given after the departure of Derrick Rose last summer. All of that highlighted by an even more dysfunctional and directionless front office and an overwhelmed second-year head coach amounted to one of the more agonizing and disappointing Chicago Bulls campaigns in recent history.
But was it really that bad? In terms of the expectations of the fan-base and the ticket holders as consumers of the franchises lackluster product, yes, it was indeed every bit as bad as it could have been. But what did we really expect from a franchise of a league that is wrapping up one of the most mediocre and predictable campaigns that I’ve ever witnessed in professional sports in my 27-years of existence.
The Bulls were most definitely accessories to the crime, but the culprit of this consumer robbery was none other than the National Basketball Association. Saying that the NBA is mediocre in the current era would be a compliment, it’s quite bad actually. It has been 1,087 days since we saw an NBA Finals match-up that didn’t consist of the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers squaring off. Two years, eleven months, and twenty-two days folks. 26,088 hours, 155 weeks and two days, you get the point.
Now I’m sure that Dub Nation and the fans of The Land have zero gripes about the last three NBA seasons, rightfully so, and kudos to those franchises for taking their fans on this journey, the problem with that journey is that in describing it I was halfway through typing “exciting journey” before I began tapping away at the backspace key. Then I was halfway through typing “wild ride” before once again tapping away at the backspace key. You see, while those two particular franchises have experienced a trio of joyous June’s, the experience has been just that in large, an experience.
When two teams are landslide favorites to win their respective conferences before the offseason prior even concludes, for a period of years, and those predictions seemingly automatically come to fruition, it’s bad news for the league. It’s bad news for the sport and worst of all it’s bad news for the consumers of the game. As I rattle this away, the Warriors are wiping the Cavaliers out in the third installment of the match-up, up two games to zero, and the overwhelming obvious in all of this is that the Warriors will win their second NBA Finals Championship in the last three seasons. The problem is not the feat accomplished, it’s the road traveled to that feat, one of incredible predictability and mediocrity.
It’s not just the NBA Finals that suck, it’s all of the events that basketball fans used to mark on their calendars. The playoffs were predictable and boring, the All-Star weekend was an absolute snooze fest, and the regular season almost seems like an unnecessary prerequisite to the annual battle of the super teams in June.
I mean seriously, when was the last time you legitimately enjoyed the staple of the best that the league has to offer, All-Star weekend?! I play more exciting games of NBA 2K against my seven year old than the NBA showcases in February.
This isn’t the fault of the Warriors, this isn’t the fault of the Cavaliers, this is the fault of the NBA. A league that as it stands is split into three levels. The “Super Team” level, the “Talented, but no where near as talented enough to seriously challenge the “Super Teams” level,” and the “Tank” level. In the last several years, at any given moment you could group every organization into one of these three tiers, and that is the apparent flaw with the NBA at this point.
But it goes so much deeper than the obvious. For instance, the Philadelphia 76ers have caught grief in recent years because they are constantly in the “Tank” tier. Well folks, if I’m the owner of the 76ers, a team that doesn’t have the existing star power to attract the elites of the game to form a super team, I have two realistic options, and only one really makes sense. They could make it rain on mid-level, overpriced free-agents in a saturated marked, and be in the middle tier, otherwise known as the “Talented, but no where near as talented enough to seriously challenge the “Super Teams” level.”
Or they could accept that they have zero chance at buying their way into the upper echelon of the league, one that consists of about three or four legitimate Finals contenders, and attempt to draft their way into legitimacy and hopefully line their rebuilding or “Tanking” efforts up with the end of the LeBron James reign in the Eastern Conference.
The Bulls, they’re worse off than the teams in either of the two latter tiers, because they can’t figure out what the hell they are in this heaping mediocrity sandwich. They can’t figure out of they’re the meat or the mayo, they miss the playoffs in 2016, sell off Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah to the Knicks and begin to head down the rebuild road, and then abruptly whip a screeching two-wheeling U-Turn back to middle-ground avenue by throwing money at two aging veterans in Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo, simply to ensure that there are no empty seats at the United Center.
They flounder in that afformentioned mediocrity for half of the 2016-2017 season, and then trade away more assets for players that really have no business even being in town. They traded Doug McDermott, a guy they spent numerous draft picks on just three years ago, to acquire a pair of players that won’t be around next season, and a point guard in Cameron Payne, who may very well be destined for a permanent D-League assignment.
Just weeks away from the 2017 NBA Draft, and the Bulls still remain on the fence as far as what they will be in this diluted league that is the NBA. But the Bulls, like the 76ers, really don’t have a viable road to the upper echelon regardless of which side of the fence they end up on, partly because their front office is seemingly hell-bent on selling tickets regardless of the results, but mostly because they’re a byproduct of a poor brand of NBA basketball. A league lacking parity, a league lacking luster, and in most cases even lacking excitement.
But make no mistake, the Bulls are not the victims here, they’re casualties of the NBA’s current landscape. The only victims to speak of here are the fans, the consumers of the product. The NBA is in trouble, and there’s no light at the end of the tunnel to this point, and the fans are being robbed of the product they so heavily invest in, and it’s a damn shame. Adam Silver, you sir, you and your owners should be ashamed of your selves.
Commissioner Silver and the owner’s product is robbing hard-working fans of their investment in the NBA product. The fan’s financial investment, their emotional investment, and their time and energy. If the NBA stays on the current path, there will be a massive crash and fallout, because the fans are going to grow tired of your product, if you can even call it that.