It’s been 22 long years for the Chicago Bulls. More than just a stiff, uncomfortable breeze, life in the Windy City has been bitter and uncomfortable since Gar Forman joined the team in 1998 – aside from a handful of hopeful years when players like Derrick Rose, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah found magic for a frustrating but excellent run.
The Last Dance of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Phil Jackson called the curtain on an incredible show, but it also began a new era. Long-time common enemy for the Bulls Jerry Krause set about rebuilding the roster, removing any trace of Jordan’s cronies, but retaining the only player he truly fell in love with: Toni Kukoc. He also hired a new scout: Forman entered stage right.
As a scout, the early returns seemed positive. In the first two years, the Bulls drafted the likes of Jamal Crawford, Elton Brand and Ron Artest, though you have to wonder how much Krause listened to a young Forman in the early stages of his career. The team wasn’t allowed long to grow before a change in direction saw them flip good players for bad, and a miscast Tyson Chandler. And when Krause retired due to ill health, Forman took over as Director of Player Personnel, then General Manager in 2009.
Alongside Chicago favorite John Paxson, Forman drafted Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, Chris Duhon and signed Andres Nocioni. The ‘Baby Bulls’ enjoyed a nice run and between 2004 and 2007 they went 137-109, but a bad start the following season saw GarPax make their first GarPax move and get rid of Scott Skiles as coach.
Sub-par years pushed the Bulls up in the draft to select Derrick Rose with the number one pick, and while a dose of bad luck might have put a ceiling on the team’s ultimate success, GarPax couldn’t recreate the success of the 2010-11 62-win season. Perhaps it was the failed tinkering around the edges, maybe it was Tom Thibodeau running his best players into the ground, or possibly bad luck with health, but things just kept getting worse and GarPax drifted between doing nothing and over-meddling.
This year marks the team’s third consecutive season with fewer than 30 wins. Nothing but frustration. But even at its highest points, Chicago never had the best show in town. When the Bulls reached the lowest rung on the ladder, their foot went through the bottom of it. It’s been unfair, frustrating and cold at times, and maybe Forman isn’t entirely to blame, but after 22 years, a lack of championships speaks volumes for the greatest franchise of the 1990s.
Chicago might want to forget all about this period. Let’s just go back to 1998, let’s remember the greatest Bulls teams in history. Let’s relive The Last Dance together and start this whole thing again.