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Bulls: NBA Becoming a Stumbling Block in Race to the Bottom

The Chicago Bulls have one obligation and that is to do everything they can in order to win a championship, and Adam Silver and the NBA shouldn't be getting in the way of that by dictating playing time.

Out of the four major sports in this country I am of the opinion that the National Basketball Association currently employs the most superior commissioner. If these men were in a fun house, it’s likely that Adam Silver would be seen as the “fairest of them all”.

Before reaching the highest levels of his profession, Silver helped in developing the WNBA, created NBA China, and partnered with Turner Broadcasting to manage the league’s digital properties. The commish has done a ton of work to develop and enhance the NBA Developmental League now called The G-League and even ousted hate-monger Donald Sterling in his short tenure.

The league is thriving and he’s also debating and discussing practical ways to enhance draft lottery reform. Silver is the epitome of what the modern day head of a sports league should be. Adam is even in favor of legalized and regulated sports betting. He has said that sports gambling “should be brought out of the underground and into the sunlight where it can be appropriately monitored and regulated”. The 55-year-old has generally been a breath of fresh air. Lately however, Silver appears to be more like the reincarnation of Bowie Kuhn.

On Tuesday, it was reported that the NBA was looking into the newly established “player rest policy” in regards to what the Bulls are doing with Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday.

The Chicago Tribune’s K.C Johnson soon weighed in as well.

The idea of teams tanking or losing purposefully has been the buzz-worthy topic in the NBA and sports in general in recent vintage. It’s not some new phenomenon though. Former 76ers General Manager Sam Hinkie gets ridiculed for his rebuild in Philadelphia that has seemingly taken quite a bit longer than anyone anticipated. Especially since Hinkie isn’t even around to gain any of the fruits from his labor. Hinkie’s plan to “trust the process” has been mimicked and replicated in some fashion across the league’s changing landscape. Tanking has been very prevalent of late with almost one-third of the league prioritizing ping pong balls over winning basketball games. The nature of basketball as a sport is as much to blame as anything though.

We have seen wildcard teams and non-division winners sneak into the playoffs in other major sports leagues with the culmination of a banner raising ceremony for an unexpected champion. It happens in baseball, football and even in hockey. It does not happen in the NBA though. The NBA is a superstar driven league and it always has been. Some teams have superstar players. The other teams are trying to find a way to get superstar players. In a league made up have’s and have not’s, it’s beneficial for some to race to the bottom.

Franchise changing stars that can transcend a city or operation are generally found with very early selections in the annual June draft. They can be found later as well but it’s definitely the exception to the rule. In order to eventually win a championship or at least frequently compete for one, it’s often necessary for teams to lose a lot of games. Sometimes you just have to be really bad before you can get really good.

Prior to the 2017-2018 season, the NBA Board of Governors approved rules to stop teams from sitting their star players as frequently as was becoming the norm. Most of this issue stems from teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs resting their players on the road when playing on national television. While this rule wasn’t put into place with the intention to stop tanking, it seems as if the Bulls are being targeted for that very reason.

Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday have been put on ice per say since the All-Star break. This is a two-pronged plan for the Bulls. It allows them to see some of their younger players in action more often, while simultaneously losing more games in the process. John Paxson has clarified the Bulls plan ad nauseum and re-affirmed that the message was relayed to the league as well. Paxson said, “After the All-Star Break, we had communication with the league office about Robin’s and Justin’s role. After healthy dialogue, the league determined that their situations fall into the ‘player rest’ policy. We respect the communication and cooperative dialogue with the league and will adhere to their recommendations”.

The Bulls front office is being very diplomatic about this situation. The public response is also likely quite a bit different from how this all actually went down. Personally, I can think of some euphemisms for Adam Silver in response to this. In speaking for most fans, Silver can “pound sand”, “kick rocks”, “get bent”, or “whistle dixie”. The Bulls don’t owe anything to the league or the other 29 teams in this regard.

The Chicago Bulls have one obligation and that is to do everything they can in order to win a championship. Every move that an organization makes should be done with that standard and franchises should be held to that edict. The Bulls are once again leading the league in attendance and most of those fans aren’t filling the United Center to see Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday participate in derailing the tanking efforts. The Bulls aren’t sitting star players. They aren’t losing on purpose either. Athletes and coaches just aren’t wired that way.

The Bulls are trying to develop young assets while losing enough to land a potential star player in the strong 2018 NBA Draft. The league office should not be admonishing them for it. The Memphis Grizzlies and Sacramento Kings have been sitting veteran players religiously throughout the season. They have similar plans. The Dallas Mavericks have an analytical team of number crunchers that put together inferior lineups.

A large segment of the league is taking part in a similar strategy because it’s truly the best way to get back to the top in their mind. Lopez and Holiday have opted to sit out games as opposed to playing limited minutes. It appears that they will soon start playing those limited minutes due to the dog and pony show that the NBA League Office craves. This entire thing is micro-management at its finest. Instead of continuing to delve into the important issues that have earned Adam Silver his lofty executive status, he’d rather act as the middle management wonk that passive-aggressively chided you as a teenager. And it’s a real shame.


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