The Chicago Bulls season ended in Cleveland as the Cavaliers pasted the Bulls handily to win their 2nd round playoff series in 6 games.
In the second game of the season, the Bulls dropped their first home game to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and their personal nemesis, LeBron James scored 36 points in that one.
The Bulls had an inconsistent season where they could best the better teams in the strong Western Conference like the Houston Rockets or the Golden State Warriors and lose to the below .500 teams like the Utah Jazz or the Detroit Pistons. Some games the Bulls looked very strong and on other nights, not so good.
There where some very good moments and not so good moments.
Jimmy Butler stepped it up offensively to become a real threat. He still played shutdown defense, but now he was sinking treys at key moments. He could score inside or from 20 feet out and at the end of the year, received the Most Improved Player Award in the NBA.
Nikola Mirotic, a rookie F from Real Madrid, came on the scene and proved to be a fan favorite. He showed his offensive skills and played a big role on the team when Rose was out after his knee procedure.
Pau Gasol, the free agent from the LA Lakers came to the Bulls and looked revived. He led the league in double-doubles, and had an explosive game vs. Milwaukee when he scored 46 points.
Gasol was later named to the 2nd All NBA team after the season.
Derrick Rose came back from two surgically repaired knee operations only to have another procedure on one of his knees knocking him out of action for 6 weeks. He came back from the meniscus repair and had strong games against the Bucks and the Cavs. His 3 pointer beat Cleveland in game 3 and briefly gave Bulls fans hope that maybe this could be the year they beat LeBron.
James, however, had the last word, hitting his own buzzer-beater in Game 4 to stun Chicago on their home court. The series was tied 2-2, but momentum had switched to the Cavs. Pau Gasol who was injury free for most of the season pulled a hamstring muscle and he missed some time. He came back for Game 6 but the Bulls ran out of gas and lost in an ugly game.
When the season ended, speculation increased that Coach Tom Thibodeau was rumored to be on his way out. He did take the Bulls to the post-season for five straight years and proved he could win despite the absence of Rose. He had one of the top win percentages as a coach in Franchise history. He was let go because the front office had tired of his style and desire to control who plays and when. The bloom had definitely come off the Rose, so to speak.
This parting of the ways seemed a bit silly when Chicago had a 50-32 record and finished the 3rd seed in the Conference. But the gap was evidently too great and Thibs was out. In his five years with Chicago, Thibodeau proved to be an innovator on defense and always had the team ready to compete.
It didn’t take long, but Fred Hoiberg, a successful coach at Iowa State was in. Hoiberg had known Bulls GM Gar Forman when Forman coached under Tim Floyd. Hoiberg played at Iows State and later became a winning coach, getting his Cyclones into the Big Dance two years in a row.
Even though Hoiberg had heart surgery to correct congenital defects a few months earlier, he was the man the Bulls wanted. They apparently didn’t have option B. He played for the Bulls and had front office experience with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The big question is to what extent can Hoiberg make changes to the offense without weakening the emphasis that Thibodeau had placed on defense. We will find out the answers to that dilemma when next season begins.