Tuesday, December 19, 2017


The Chicago Bulls, a collection of castoffs, incompetents, and basketball players recruited from postapocalyptic mutant wastelands, have won six games in a row.  They are undefeated since the return of Niko Mirotic, that maddening Montenegrin pump fake maestro who was sidelined for the opening months of the season because Bobby Portis did the exact thing that it always looks like Bobby Portis is about to do.  They are winning because Kris Dunn has become a viable NBA player after a disastrous rookie season, because scrap-heap bench find David Nwaba has quickly become a Bulls folk hero through his defense and his thunderous dunks, and because Fred Hoiberg appears to actually run some sort of an offense sometimes.  In a season where the Bulls had managed to win three entire games while spending most of their time on the court running into stanchions and suffering crises of confidence wrought by jaunty, canned organ music, this should be a minor miracle.  Instead, it is a goddamn disaster.

The NBA bloggerati have spent the past decade sifting through the Great NBA Tanking Question in the three modes of NBA blogging: analysis of where draft position means relative to success Per Synergy Sports, describing Sam Hinkie as a Reflection on Late Capitalism, and performative JR Smith fandom by quoting tweets.  There is no doubt that any rational person can see that the Bulls as presently constructed have no chance at winning anything and their best chance at a championship is to gather up lottery ping pong balls and hope that one of the numerous strapping teens available at the top can be good enough to convince actual good players to join the Bulls, but it is equally true that the Bulls play on bleak winter Tuesdays and is it so much to ask that them somehow beating NBA teams because Niko Mirotic is dominating everyone and then flexing and beard screaming except when he's in the general radius of Portis, whom he sort of gingerly avoids not be fucking poisoned by draft talk?

Of course the Bulls' win streak is not sustainable, but that's what makes it miraculous.  Of course they aren't going to keep barely beating other crap teams and of course Nikola Mirotic isn't some bizarre talisman who will rally them to the Eastern Conference playoffs although let's be honest it would be incredibly funny if he did. 

The Bulls are a listing team run by delusional incompetents and phrenology textbook cover models.  They are bad and confounding and the only joy we've gotten from the Bulls recently has been their occasional refusal to go away and keep inflicting themselves upon basketball fans.  This is now their identity.  Forget about Jordan and Pippen; the Bulls should be represented by their greatest achievement of the twenty-first century, a forgettable playoff series victory led by a vomiting Nate Robinson.  Of course the Bulls should lose as many games as possible, but let me ask you what is more entertaining-- watching Gar Forman's lizard eyes staring hungrily at lottery balls as the remnants of his weirdo Fifth Element hair undulate against his scabrous scalp so he can draft a prospect who will immediately become felled by nineteenth-century illness that was thought to be eradicated or to watch Robin Lopez completely humiliate a team filled with NBA players who can't figure out why they're down by five to a team that features Denzel Valentine forever driving in the lane like he is trying to find his footing across a river on slippery rocks?  Do you want to watch Fred Hoiberg attempt to develop a raw, superathletic wing into a competent NBA player or watch David Nwaba dive across four rows of seats on a Wednesday night against the Suns? 

These Bulls were built by maniacs and for the past six games we have had the pleasure of living in their fever dreams: a world where Kris Dunn hits pullup jumpers after spending a season throwing basketballs at the hoop like he's trying to knock someone into a dunk tank, a world where Fred Hoiberg's team actually does pace and space and where somehow Shot Doctor Hoiberg has taught Dunn how to shoot after unleashing the brickiest basketball team on the NBA for the past several seasons, a world where draft picks pan out and Mirotic looks like the star he was in Europe and Markkanen looks like an offensive force, and Bobby Portis does things on the basketball court other than look like he is bursting into rooms in the Overlook Hotel, that somehow this slapdash, improvised, panic-traded version of the Bulls makes sense instead of sinking to the bottom of the NBA standings for years and years while Paxson and Forman pretend they have their own version of the Process.

Yes, this win streak is bad for the Bulls' draft, especially in this year's hyped draft and with lottery reform coming next year to make it slightly harder for a team like them to secure a top pick by being profoundly shitty.  Everyone knows that.  Fine.  But what kind of insane, ludicrous sport are we watching when it is literally bad for the team to rally behind a man who has been resurrected after having his face broken by his own teammate who is still on the team and they sometimes fist bump each other have we talked about how completely odd this is when for me watching a team as dumb and weird as the 2017-18 Bulls somehow pull off a seemingly-impossible win streak is the entire point of watching sports? 

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