The Chicago Bulls' poor season was compounded on Sunday night as they were officially eliminated from playoff contention following the Indiana Pacers' huge 129-105 win over the Brooklyn Nets.
It will be the first time since 2008 that the Bulls will not feature in the playoffs and the finger pointing for what has been a dreadful campaign for the franchise, will now take place.
From the outside looking in, the organisation's decision to fire Tom Thibodeau last summer after the team lost in the Eastern Conference semi-finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers, was the catalyst for their downfall.
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Thibodeau's problems with the Bulls front office was well documented and their parting of ways was a matter of when and not if, but if the Bulls thought that firing Thibodeau was going to make things better, they have been proven wrong.
Under the reign of Thibs, the Bulls were 255-139 (a .647 winning percentage) in the regular season and made the playoffs all five years. A lack of success in the playoffs, where he had a 23-28 record, contributed to his downfall and gave the team's executives Gar Forman and John Paxson the reason they wanted to bring his tenure to an end.
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In 2011, Thibodeau was named Coach of the Year after leading the Bulls to a 62-win season, and in 2012, he became the fastest coach in NBA history to reach 100 wins. When rookie coach Fred Hoiberg was hired to take over the head coaching duties, whether fairly or unfairly, he was always going to be judged in comparison to what Thibodeau managed to achieve with the team.
With Hoiberg's failure to reach the playoffs in his first year in charge, the decision to fire Thibodeau is now being scrutinised even more.
Hoiberg has had to deal with injuries, with Joakim Noah out for most of the season and top scorer Jimmy Butler missing a large chunk of games. But Thibodeau had injuries while he was the coach too, losing his MVP Derrick Rose for two consecutive seasons due to knee problems, but injuries were never an excuse he used and still always managed to lead them to the postseason.
It's unfair to judge Hoiberg in comparison to the former Bulls coach in just his first year coaching in the league, but that would've happened to whoever took over and he must've accepted that.
A campaign that started out with championship aspirations has turned into an inconsistent one that has left fans scratching their heads as they've seen the team go from the sublime to the ridiculous from one night to the next.
With their win against the Cavaliers on Saturday night, the Bulls are now 7-1 versus the Cavs and the Toronto Raptors, the east's top two teams. These wins prove that they have the talent and the application to challenge the best teams, but it is their lack of effort against the so-called weaker sides that has cost them dear this year.
“There’s been times where we’ve dropped games, lost games that we should never have lost, especially at home against certain teams," Pau Gasol said, per the Chicago Sun Times.
"Those are the times that guys don’t realize how big of a price you can pay at the end of the year and how much of a different position you’re going to be in because of those games in November, December, January that, ‘Ah, there’s still 40 games to play, there’s still 50 games to play.
“That’s just a lack of sense of urgency, a lack of awareness, a lack of maturity that we have dealt with.’’
Speaking about the possibility of missing out on the playoffs after the team's loss to the Miami Heat last Thursday, point guard Rose, per the Chicago Tribune, admitted: “It’s kind of unreal when you think about it. Probably won’t hit me until the season is over.”
With two meaningless games to go before the season is over, it should hit the entire Chicago Bulls franchise and force them to learn from their mistakes.