When the news broke back in July that the Chicago Bulls and Jabari Parker reached an agreement to join forces, I was one of the many Bulls fans that were cautiously optimistic. Were there questions about the type of player he could be on the wing after two ACL injuries, where he fits on the roster, and his general attitude?
Yes, of course.
But, as Bulls fans usually do, it was easy to overlook those red flags because for the first time in a long time, the Bulls were able to attract a young free agent (even if it was a middle tier one at best) and sign him to a team friendly deal that, on paper, didn’t effect the growth of the young nucleus of Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine. It also didn’t sacrifice the “equity” that Gar Forman and John Paxson
hold on to so dearly have built over their nearly ten years together at the helm of the franchise.
Plus, if Parker could somehow figure out a way to consistently be the elite scorer we saw in brief flashes over his first few years with the Milwaukee Bucks, it’s easy to picture him becoming another long term piece in the Bulls rebuild. This was a former second overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft that the Bulls were bringing on board after all. Perhaps a new location and a more fast paced, uptempo system could do wonders for him.
That delusion of grandeur ended the minute Fred Hoiberg decided in the preseason that he wasn’t about to hitch his ride to a dude that shrugged off defense and general effort when the ball wasn’t in his hands (or even when it was).
After all, “they don’t pay players to play defense,” but Hoiberg doesn’t play players that don’t at least try.
Since Hoiberg (smartly) benched Parker in the fourth preseason game in favor of having him become the point forward on a second unit that desperately needed an offensive punch, Parker has been, at best, a petulant ball stopper that doesn’t care for his coach, teammates, the fans in the city he was born in, or the media.
At worst, he’s been the source of a growing sickness that is taking over every part of whatever this lifeless organism that we call a basketball team is.
Look at the example he’s set for the young players since October: he refused to speak to the media, sulked on the end of the bench against the Sixers on opening night after being the ninth man off the bench (I was there for that game and he was iced out of huddles on multiple occasions), called out Hoiberg for not having the correct scheme to stop a double-drag (something the coach basically perfected at Iowa State), subtweeted LaVine on his defensive tactics against Ish Smith (even though he let Smith run right by him), got subtweeted by Stacey King for his effort, has meandered around defensively showing little knowledge or care about that side of the ball, was called out by Pax for being out of shape, and delivered this gem of a post game interview after the Bulls got their “asses kicked” by the Golden State Warriors:
What was it like to be on the other end of a score like that?
I mean, we lost.
What do you think went wrong defensively?
They scored more points than us.
When they’re deliberately feeding a guy to get the record, does that make it more personal at that point?
What was it?
Deliberately feeding him to get him his 14th 3-pointer, which is a record, does that make it more personal? They’re not playing, just trying to feed a guy.
Personal? Next question.
When Klay got going, how do you describe how he got into that rhythm?
He was in the zone.
When a guy gets into a zone like that, what can you do to stop him or slow him down?
Try your best.
Is there anything you can take from a game like this, see how the champs do it?
We got another one Wednesday.
Jabari, how do you feel this team right now, when they get to a point where they’re facing adversity, how do you feel like you can be better with the response?
We’ll get better.
Perhaps I’m looking too much into the ancillary stuff. I have been known to be somewhat of a body language doctor from time to time. But this was supposed to be a fun homecoming for a beloved Chicagoan who many have followed throughout his career from Simeon to the trials and tribulations he faced 100 miles north in Milwaukee.
Just another return gone wrong.
The player that many believed we were getting looks nothing more than another “me first” guy that doesn’t care for anything as long as the ball is out of his hands, and his name isn’t being called by Tommy Edwards as the sweet musings of the Alan Parsons Project blares in the background.
Does that mean it will remain that way? No. But am I betting on Parker to turn his mentality around after he’s done nothing but show that this is just who he is?
Lest we forget, this was a guy that leaked a locker room dispute (and got benched for it) and had this to say about why he was benched during last years playoffs:
As the team worked out Thursday ahead of Game 3, Parker was asked what he needed to do to get more time on the floor.
“Be on my coach’s good side,” Parker said. “Whatever that is, just try to be on the good side.”
When asked to elaborate, Parker deferred.
“You all aren’t naive,” he said. “You all watch the game, so I’ll let you answer that.”
It’s funny how Parker viewed that situation compared to how Joe Prunty viewed it:
“A guy like Jabari, when he comes into the game, be ready to defend, be ready to rebound, know the schemes, know the systems, know your assignments,” Prunty said. “Again, everybody has to help on the boards. That’s not just him. But we are giving them multiple opportunities to get points and they’re cashing in on it because we’re not securing those boards. There are a lot of things he can do to help us.”
I wonder if he thinks he’s not on Hoiberg’s good side right now, too?
That’s why despite the 15.9 points (on 13.6 shots per game), Jabari Parker is NOT who we thought he was. He’s what he’s always been. A guy that wants to play a slightly more competitive version of the dude that never passes at your local LA Fitness. Should we just deem him the fourth member of the Three Alphas now or should we wait a little longer?
In a season that looks to be filled with disappointing moments (again), it’s a shame that after seven games Bulls fans might be forced to look back on the “Jabari Parker Era” just as they did with the “Dwyane Wade Era”; a failed marriage that produced some chaotic basketball, irritating headlines, and a few more season ticket holders.
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