The Bulls traded away Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks earlier this offseason. The move netted them Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon and second-year point guard Jerian Grant. It was a sign of hitting the reset button around star player Jimmy Butler, even though trade rumors around Butler persisted. The Bulls still needed to find an addition this offseason to sell fans on in order to at least pretend they were trying to make progress with this roster. Sometimes that kind of move just means finding a name casual fans recognize.
Apparently, that name is Rajon Rondo. Multiple outlets are reporting that the Bulls have agreed to a two-year deal with Rondo, who led the league in assists this season at 11.7 per game. The second year of the contract is only partially guaranteed. You have to wonder if this can get Butler on board with what’s happening in this franchise.The Bulls and Butler agreed to a five-year deal last summer that pays him lot of money. At the same time, Butler has locked himself into a deal with a franchise that doesn’t resemble anything close to the team he re-signed with during that negotiation process. Rose being gone makes sense. There were issues with personalities on the team, he doesn’t look anything close to the player who won the MVP in 2011, and you had to avoid getting trapped by the possibility of re-signing the hometown name to a big deal if he couldn’t justify it with his play.
The Bulls are also losing Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah this summer, but the acquisition of Lopez on a cheaper deal at least lessens the blow of those veteran departures. But the addition of Rondo and not being able to make progress with more expensive, better options in the free agent market will be a tough sell to Butler. The move is likely all about the Bulls maintaining cap flexibility moving forward. They aren’t over-committing to future deals and can possibly make a run later. But a wasted year is a wasted year for Butler no matter how you slice it.
That’s what this next season is shaping up to be in Chicago; Rondo putting up cool individual stats for a bad team. He averaged a double-double with points and assists last year. He gets steals but he doesn’t play a lick of defense. And he’s not the veteran voice you need in a locker room that was so contentious this past season under Fred Hoiberg.
It may be unfair to compare the two situations, but the Bulls were frustrated with Hoiberg and each other last season while the Sacramento Kings were frustrated with George Karl and their own locker room issues. Rondo didn’t solve those problems in Sacramento. Maybe it’ll be less of an issue with a more mild-mannered coach in Hoiberg and star in Butler than the Karl-DeMarcus Cousins combination.
But you’re still adding potential lighter fluid to what’s quickly becoming a dumpster fire. Rondo is a familiar name and he’ll get assists. Management will sell it as helping the team in the short-term while maintaining flexibility. That can work with fans buying tickets, but will that work for Butler when the entire defense is focusing in on him and daring his inferior teammates to beat them? Will Butler feel like he’s wasted two seasons since his new contract began and start looking for a way out?
Should the Bulls just blow up the whole thing and do what they probably should’ve accomplished around the draft, which is to say move Butler for a bunch of assets that can accelerate the rebuilding process? Rondo is not the player to save the Bulls, not by a long shot. Getting him is not the move to assure Butler that the future is in good hands either.