One summer after the Chicago Bulls signed Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo to a team that already featured Jimmy Butler, only Wade remains, as a dysfunctional 2016-17 campaign — save for a two-game flicker of hope of in the playoffs — gave way to what could be one of the worst rosters in the NBA.
“We knew the second practice [after he was acquired] that he couldn’t play at [an NBA] level,” the source said. “The only reason it took two practices was because we thought maybe it was nerves in the first one.
“Any [Bulls] coach who says differently is lying. … We got ‘Garred’ on that one.”
Any time the name of your general manager, Gar Forman, is being used within the organization as a verb to describe making terrible decisions, you know your franchise is in trouble. Sorry, Bulls fans.
Forman, of course, acquired Payne along with Anthony Morrow and Joffrey Lauvergne at the trade deadline in February for beloved longtime Bulls forward Taj Gibson’s expiring contract, Chicago’s 2014 lottery pick Doug McDermott and a 2018 second-round pick. Lauvergne left for the San Antonio Spurs in free agency, Morrow remains unsigned on the open market, and Payne just broke his foot again.
Just for fun: Do you want to know how Forman moved up to take McDermott at No. 11 three years ago? He traded the rights to the Nos. 16 and 19 picks. Those two players: Gary Harris and Jusuf Nurkic.
Payne played all of 11 games for the Bulls after the All-Star break. When Chicago was desperate for a point guard after Rondo’s season-ending thumb injury in Game 2 against the Boston Celtics, they couldn’t turn to Payne. The former lottery pick played all of four minutes in the playoffs, as coach Fred Hoiberg turned to the likes of Isaiah Canaan, Michael Carter-Williams and Jerian Grant instead.
In 88 appearances over his first two injury-plagued NBA seasons, Payne has averaged five points, 1.9 assists and 1.5 rebounds in 13.2 minutes per game, while shooting 37.8 percent from the field. His player efficiency rating was a robust 5.5 last season. And this wasn’t Forman’s worst trade of 2017.
On draft day, the Bulls GM dealt Butler, a three-All-Star with two years left on his contract, for two-time slam dunk champ Zach LaVine, who is still recovering from knee surgery, as well as underproducing 2016 No. 5 overall pick Kris Dunn, a No. 7 pick in 2017 that he used on underwhelming forward Lauri Markkanen. The trade was widely considered a steal for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Soon after making that deal, Forman sold the draft rights to the No. 38 pick for $3.8 million to the Golden State Warriors, who proceeded to draft Oregon’s Jordan Bell, who the defending champions saw as someone primed to learn under fellow versatile forward Draymond Green. Selling off a draft pick for cash isn’t the best look when your team is entering what expects to be a long rebuild.
It is precisely these circumstances that led Bulls fans to crowdfund a #FireGarPax billboard in Chicago — blending the names of the GM and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson.
— Madeline Kenney (@madkenney) July 19, 2017
Those two helped build a 62-win team that reached the Eastern Conference finals in 2011, when Forman even earned Executive of the Year honors, and granted the Derrick Rose-led Bulls were plagued by injuries in the years afterward, but they have made few deft moves ever since.
Things got so bad last season that Bulls players openly suspected the front office of employing assistant coach Randy Brown as a “spy” inside the locker room, fracturing an already fractured team. Now, before 2017-18 training camp even begins, anonymous sources are blasting Forman in the media.
It should be another interesting season in Chicago, only with fewer reasons to watch actually watch the team play, especially if the Bulls reach a buyout with Wade as expected. You will remember Forman signed a 34-year-old past-his-prime Wade to a two-year, $47 million contract last summer.
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