Columns and Features

Chicago Bulls missing playoffs is appropriate end to disappointing season

Editor Ashley Wijangco explains why she’s relieved the Bulls missed the playoffs

What I’m about to write makes me feel like somewhat guilty because I identify as a die-hard Bulls fan. But it’s the truth, and I won’t deny it.
Sunday night, after I got out of a meeting, I checked the notifications on my phone as per usual. One of them was a tweet from the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson:

I read those words, and I didn’t feel even slightly disappointed because I expected it. A part of me is actually glad their season ends Wednesday because it’ll be a relief: I won’t be sitting on my couch, staring at the TV, wondering if the Bulls are going to get themselves together.
The Bulls were such a disappointment during the season that I became accustomed to their underachieving ways. I stopped expecting much out of them. I stopped wondering when they were finally going to turn their season around. I stopped hoping they would make the playoffs because it became an unlikely event.
But not long ago, I felt the Bulls, for some reason, still had a chance.
A little over a month ago, my favorite teacher told me that the Bulls are awful, and I, of course, didn’t argue about that. Yet we still agreed the Bulls could make the playoffs. At the time, the Bulls were 30-30, coming off a 102-89 loss to the Orlando Magic, so, looking back, it’s strange — and a little amusing — to think we still reserved some optimism for the Bulls.
Maybe I felt that way because I like to think of the Bulls as a team who gets things done when they need to. Maybe I was too accustomed to seeing the Bulls constantly overcome adversity when Tom Thibodeau was still head coach, thinking they still had that mentality somewhere inside of them. Maybe I had too much faith in the Bulls.
But there came a point where it was time to be reasonable and accept the Bulls’ failure.
I don’t know when it was exactly — it’s hard to pinpoint since the Bulls have just been consistently bad — but, at that same point, I suddenly cared a lot less about the Bulls.
That’s not to say I stopped watching their games and didn’t want them to win, though. And that’s not to say I didn’t want them to somehow turn their season around and make the playoffs — because, as contradictory as I may seem, I did.
I kept rooting for them, cheering them on, yelling at them — or rather, the TV —from my couch. I wanted the Bulls to prove me wrong and show that they were what I thought they were: a talented team that cared.
I wasn’t happy about them losing, but I learned to be content about it because I expected it. I’d be lying if I say part of me isn’t glad the Bulls are done, though. They didn’t deserve to make the playoffs with how they had performed this season, so I would have been a little angry if they snuck in.
A playoff spot is a privilege that must be earned, and the Bulls didn’t do that. It’d be rewarding underachievement.
Yes, the Bulls had many problems. It wasn’t just that they played poorly despite their talent, but that was a big problem, a problem they should have overcome.
Saturday’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers was weird, though. I felt they could win because the Cavaliers are an elite team led by LeBron James, and that seems to always motivate the Bulls. But I also felt they could lose just as easily for obvious reasons.
The Bulls’ bench managed to pull off the win, though, and the bench’s performance was admirable. For the first time in a while, I felt a bit of joy watching the Bulls play, but that joy was also a tease, a bit of a false hope.
There the Bulls were, led by Cristiano Felicio of all people, beating the East’s top seed in the Cavaliers. Usually, that would be fantastic, but it wasn’t the same. That sense of urgency that the Bulls typically exuded in matchups like this was nowhere to be found in the Bulls’ starters, in the overall tone of the game.
It just didn’t seem like a “do or die” situation.
That lack of urgency fed the small part of me that wanted the Bulls to lose just so the pain could end, just so no one had to deal with a talented Bulls waste its potential any longer. It would have seemed rather fitting, too — LeBron James ending the Bulls’ season has become a common trend.
The 2015-16 Bulls’ end wasn’t realized that Saturday night, though. Instead, it came a day later thanks to the Indiana Pacers’ win. So the Bulls can’t even say, “At least it was LeBron and the Cavaliers who took away our playoff chances.”
But at least the suffering’s over.

Ashley is the owner/editor of The Bulls Charge. Follow her on Twitter at @wijangco12.