off season

With a heavy heart (and a secret sigh of relief) the Bulls 2015-2016 season is officially over after Chicago beat the 76ers at home on Wednesday. I guess it’s better to end on a win, but the Bulls failure to find a lack of urgency was painful to watch this season and it was all too little too late.

Yes you read that right. The Chicago Bulls failed to make the NBA Playoffs for the first time since drafting Derrick Rose. Also, I’d like to note that the Bulls are in the Eastern Conference, which is by far the weaker of the two and they STILL couldn’t seem to drum up enough wins to snag that 8th seed in the playoffs. If I seem bitter, I am. The Bulls 42-40 record on the season hurt my feelings as a fan. I can’t pin-point just one problem that lead to the Bulls’ demise, it was more like a slew of issues that ended up just blowing the season out of proportion.

We’ll start with the injuries that always seem to hamper the Bulls and ruin my dreams of strutting around town in Chicago Bulls NBA championship swag from this decade. First, Joakim Noah went down in January with a season ending shoulder injury. Then Nikola Mirotic had to have an emergency surgery to remove his appendix which kept him off the floor for some weeks. In early February, star Jimmy Butler sustained a knee injury that kept him out of the game for about a month and some seriously crucial games. Not to mention Mike Dunleavy did not return from off-season back surgery until February. For the majority of the season, the Bulls were kind of a band of misfits and rarely had their starting lineup in tact.

Problem number two, coaching. Fred Hoiberg assumed the role of Head Coach in the wake of Tom Thibodeau’s dismissal in 2015. Here’s the thing, I definitely loved me some Thibs basketball. He wasn’t perfect, but he empowered his players to play passionately and effectively. He was a defensive stone-wall and this year was proof that defense matters a whole hell of a lot more than people like to admit. I hate to say it, but Hoiberg came off as a soft pretty-boy this first season behind the reins. Coming into the season Hoiberg was praised for his work at Iowa State and his offensive focus. Well my handsome friend, that sissy stuff may have worked in the farm fields, but it sure didn’t work in the big leagues. Hoiberg’s lack of command seemed most obvious from veteran players who had played under more, we’ll say ‘aggressive’ coaches. Jimmy Butler first stirred the waters when he spoke out after a tough loss that Hoiberg needed to be tougher on the guys. Umm, I agree. Most recently, Pau Gasol spoke out about how difficult this season has been for him. Players took games for granted, lacked a sense of urgency and maturity. Oh, you mean like your head coach playing a dumb and dumber clip when your season is on the line?

Despite the criticism, from haters like myself, Hoiberg has argued that he has a stronger relationship with his players than it seems through the medias eyes. Prove it buddy.

Problem number three, we have Jimmy Butler in his prime and Derrick Rose still tough, but a little washed up, trying to play on the same team. The two “super-stars” never gelled. Which SUCKS because we’ve seen what happens when you get two super-stars to gel, just google some old highlights of MJ and Scottie Pippen.

So what happens when you don’t make the playoffs? The rumor mill begins a churnin’. Some people think the Bulls should blow up the roster and start with fresh young talent. Others question if the team should keep both Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. Some people are lobbying to axe Hoiberg and the whole front office. We’ve got a lot of emotional fans on our hands here.

Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol have been the free agent talks of the town this year. After Pau Gasol openly expressed his frustrations with the season, we’re all guessing the dude will opt out of his contract, but now focuses have been shifting to Noah. This season proves more than ever that Noah was the leader of this Bulls team and the player who could look at Butler and Rose and tell them to step it up. Now stories have surfaced that the front office may be looking to sign Noah to a short term deal. The question is, would Noah even want to take it after Hoiberg falsely said Jo-No volunteered to come off the bench earlier this season? The front office also believes Gasol is part of the “core” of the team So who stays and who goes?

My most favorite rumor of late is the Jimmy Butler trade. Butler’s quick rise to stardom and hefty pay raise has led to a bit of an ego issue and preferential treatment. Lets just say Jimmy’s rubbed some teammates the wrong way and some have gone to infer that his attitude is toxic to the locker room.  With his level of play this season, it was clear that Butler was the star of the roster, but leadership is earned and not determined by who gets paid the most (Rose has proven that to us). Jimmy has shown his work ethic is top notch, but he may not yet be mature enough to lead or motivate veteran players. Now, he’s put himself in a predicament as the best player on an extremely dysfunctional team with a very high trade value as one of the most sought after two-way players in the league. If these issues are true, we can’t be surprised if Butler is wheeled and dealed this off season.

When your team doesn’t make the playoffs there are always serious repercussions, especially if you’re the so-called leader of that train wreck of the a team. Put your seat belts on Bulls fans, I’m predicting a wild ride for this off season.

Until next time my friends 🙂

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With his contract up at the end of the 2013 season, unhealthy it was a make it or break it year for Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, prostate  and despite Cutler’s injuries and inability to take the team to the post season, the Bears front office has made it clear that #6 isn’t going anywhere this offseason.

The Bears announced yesterday that they had inked the controversial Chicago QB to a new 7-year contract that will keep Cutler a Bear until 2020. Although financial terms to the deal were not specifically released, it is being said that his contract includes $50 million in guaranteed money…not bad for a sub-par QB who hasn’t led the Bears to a Super Bowl in his five seasons, is 39-28 in 67 starts, and ended this season with a measly 8-8 record.

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty of the deal and also take a look at how teammates, fans and the press are responding to this generous deal.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

  • Cutler ended the season with 2,621 yards passing, a 63.1 completion percentage, 19 touchdowns and an 89.2 passer rating. Those stats are a definite improvement from years prior but, in my opinion, they aren’t deserving of a 7-year contract extension. With a new head coach, who seems to work well with Cutler, and weapons like Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall, I knew upper management would decide to give Cutty more time in Chicago but as I touched on earlier, I didn’t foresee such a lucrative deal being put on the table. However, the decision is very important to their salary cap, so it makes sense that they made it so quickly.

    Kyle Long responds to Cutler Skeptic

  • Caption read: “BOOM…JAY 7 for 126…Congrats now let’s go Win”

    Twitter is abuzz with reactions to this big decision. Cutler’s teammates seem to be pleased with the contract extension, namely Brandon Marshall, who’s been playing with No. 6 since college. Right after the deal was announced, Marshall took to social media to express his excitement. Even rookie Kyle Long defended his QB. I can’t say that I’ve seen the same reaction from fans though. Many share my belief that the deal is too generous, others have said it’s ridiculous that he’s even coming back and there’s even a few who think backup QB Josh McCown, should have snagged Cutty’s spot. However, the impression I have gotten from the press, is that they agree with keeping the QB around, some citing that it’s just easier than searching for a new franchise QB, and others saying he is just too talented to let go. Bulls reporter Nick Friedell poses an important question below…what’s your response, ladies?

WHAT’S NEXT:

Marc Trestman and Phil Emery, Photo Credit- Jose M. Osorio/ Chicago Tribune

With new Cutler’s contract, the offense is pretty much set but you should expect GM Phil Emery and Coach Marc Trestman to be making a whole lot of changes on Chicago’s defense. So far this off season CB Tim Jennings (4-year deal) and OL Matt Slauson (4-year deal) are the only other Bears’ who have received contraction extensions – both were announced yesterday with Cutler’s extension. There are 25 more players on the Bears’ roster who have contracts scheduled to expire on March 11, including seven first-stringers on a defense that finished last place in the NFL in yards allowed per play (sigh). Veteran guys like Devin Hester and Charles Tillman are on that long list. Going into the 2014 NFL Draft, Chicago will have the 14th overall pick and from Emery’s quote below, you can see that their goal is clear.

“I will just tell you we’re going to be a younger defense. The draft will be focused in that area…Defensively, it was not about, is it D-line, linebacker, safety…it’s about finding the best playmakers, the guys that can make a dynamic difference to our defense.”

Love or hate the Bears decision, one thing is for sure – this team will look much different next season when the Bears take the field. We can expect many changes to the roster this offseason, let’s just hope they are all for the best.

It has been a pleasure chatting about the Bears with all of you this season and hopefully by this time next year, Chicago will still be fighting their way through playoffs. And as always, Bear down, sports divas!

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