In the end, everyone just wanted the end to hurry up and get here. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball ] The Chicago Bulls sulked through a purgatorial season in 2014-15, never quite catching fire or establishing themselves as a true contender. The hoped-for roadblock in the way of LeBron James’ narrative chasing in Cleveland never materialized, as Chicago plugged its way toward 50 wins but achieved little in the way of consistency or rhythm. This mostly had to do with the inability of its mainstays — stars Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, alongside former coach Tom Thibodeau — to find solid footing. Thibodeau, in his mind, was cursed with needless minutes restrictions for both his former All-Stars, put in place by the team’s front office (to its discredit, two years too late), and he chirped about the handicap all season. Noah did not recover from the “minor” surgical procedure Chicago’s medical staff credited him for undergoing the previous May, and was an absolute liability offensively for most of the season. [ Yahoo Fantasy Basketball: Sign up for a league today ] Rose, meanwhile, missed 31 games due to two sprained ankles and yet another surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee. The 2011 NBA MVP had his moments, but too often he seemed passive offensively, relying on his terrible 3-point shot to keep the attempts from the field up. Why Thibodeau, who barked at the most obvious of calls and innocuous of missteps, never confronted his point guard over his shot selection is anyone’s guess. This was the bed that the Chicago front office made, however, in backing off of Thibodeau for so long. By the time he was fired following a desultory second-round loss to LeBron’s Cavaliers, a parting seemed like the best move for two sides that were clearly sick of each other. The season wasn’t without its surprises, however. In spite of (and not “as a result of,” mind you) Thibodeau’s rather basic and obvious offensive sets, newly acquired center Pau Gasol enjoyed a renaissance season. The 7-footer made the All-Star team and carried the Bulls to several wins. Meanwhile, swingman Jimmy Butler worked tirelessly to prove that his early-season scoring outburst was no fluke, sustaining fantastic play on both ends on his way toward an All-Star berth of his own and max contract. The Bulls were never bigger than the sum of their parts, however, and this is where the coaching makeover comes in. Former Bull Fred Hoiberg was plucked from Iowa State to give this team a bit of a spark as head coach. He’ll be charged with propping up a lifeless offense that, while improved due to Gasol and Butler’s ascensions last season, was easy for opponents to map out. With a roster full of heady players who can’t help but give all on the other end, it is assumed that the defense will take care of itself, as Hoiberg (who is not far removed from working in the Minnesota Timberwolves’ front office) seems like the rare NCAA-to-pros coach who should make a seamless transition. Quite a bit has to go right, however. Chicago still hasn’t settled on a starting lineup. Noah hopes to get one more shot to work alongside Gasol in a starting unit that seems straight out of every coach’s wildest dream, but that wild dream was an absolute nightmare for Thibodeau last season; in spite of their versatile gifts, Noah and Gasol just did not play well together. Rose, meanwhile, has already missed a few weeks of practice after fracturing his orbital bone, and Mike Dunleavy could be out for the better part of the season following back surgery. Potential starter Taj Gibson is weeks, if not months, away from being fully healthy following ankle surgery, and Noah hasn’t exactly performed like the 2013-14 model during the exhibition season. Then there is the matter of Rose, and how well a guy who can’t hit 3-pointers and isn’t a comfortable passer (not to say he’s selfish, just that it never came naturally to him) can thrive in an offense that seems more triangle than top-heavy. In a lot of ways, playing off the ball and darting along the baseline should seem right up Rose’s alley, but he’s always had the rock in his hands and the green light to do as he pleases. This isn’t to presume that Rose will pout as the play develops elsewhere, it’s just to assume that he’ll just … disappear. Chicago can’t have that. With Noah and Gasol potential free agents in 2016, and with the clock ticking, they need all hands on deck in 2015-16. Whether Rose and his teammates want to believe it or not is up to their own level of martyrdom, but this is a championship-worthy roster. Perhaps all the team needs is a coach who cares as much about April and May as he does December and January. 2014-15 in 140 characters or less: yeah flight leaves at 2 getting out as soon my locker’s clean wait sry supposed to be a dm Did the summer help at all? It couldn’t help but, um, help. This team was so sick of itself by the time the second-round series with Cleveland hit that the respite seemed almost court-ordered. The team did little-to-no tinkering with its roster, only adding the typical Ebullient Chicago Draft Pick From a Good Program in Bobby Portis. The Arkansas forward, selected 22nd overall by the Bulls in the draft, was born one month before Michael Jordan returned to play for Chicago partway through the 1994-95 season. Beyond that, Chicago just bet on its incumbents. An offseason of rest had to help Noah and Rose, righto? Gibson submitted to surgery on an ankle that he clearly should not have been playing on, while Dunleavy and the Bulls appeared to exhaust every option before giving in on that back surgery. Over the cap and not far from the luxury tax, the Bulls just worked around the fringes in potentially adding scorer Jordan Crawford while signing Butler to a well-earned five-year, $94 million contract. The Bulls had little choice but to move forward with what it already had in house, and in spite of all the caveats it’s hard not to blame the front office. Go-to offseason acquisition: Partially by choice but mostly because of its salary structure, the Bulls stayed quiet on the transaction front during the offseason, which makes the addition of Hoiberg not only the most significant addition of the offseason, but one of the league’s most compelling personnel moves. Hoiberg has never coached at this level, but the same applied prior to his time running Iowa State and that hardly seemed to stop him. A basketball lifer who, unlike his predecessor as Bulls coach, achieved some level of fame all the way back in his teens, Hoiberg brings a read and react offense to Chicago, bent on aligning itself with similar success stories in San Antonio, Golden State and Atlanta. The new coach’s designs should fall into place rather quickly, but one has to wonder if that isn’t soon enough.
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