The other day a video of Thaddeus Young pumping up kids at his basketball camp went viral. The former Chicago Bull emphasized the continued grind that has gone into his 16-year-long career – one that has now featured stops in seven different NBA cities.
When writing up a post about that very video, I started to reflect on his brief Bulls tenure. The guy played some extremely solid basketball for this franchise, especially during his second and final season with the team when he coined the nickname “Thadgic Johnson.”
Unfortunately, however, that extremely solid basketball likely isn’t going to be remembered for long. Not only was he nothing more than a role player on a bad Bulls team, but he also wasn’t in town long enough to leave a lasting impression.
We can say that about a lot of NBA players, though, particularly for Chicago since the end of the Jordan era. And, with that in mind, I thought I’d put together my own teams to remember those random Bulls that made an impression in one way or another.
Let’s go ahead and call this exercise the “All-Forgotten Teams” of the 21st century. We’ll split things up into a First Team, Second Team, Practice Squad, and Staff. The only real criteria here is that the player must have been in Chicago for less than two seasons. Other than that, I’m basing their placement on the impression they left on me– whether it be on or off the floor – to decide which category they fall into. I also tried to keep things as close to an actual lineup as I could. In other words, we’re not just throwing four guards on the floor at once.
Ok, I’ll explain more of my reasoning when we get to each team below. Let’s do it.
I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but I think this is a pretty excellent First Team.
Nate “The Bulls Great” Robinson was arguably the easiest addition to this lineup. His 2012-13 season in Chicago was one of the most memorable one-and-done campaigns this city has ever seen. He appeared in all 82 games of the regular season before helping lead the team into the second round of the playoffs against the Miami Heat. Robinson’s 34-point performance in Game 4’s four-OT bout against the Nets (which included 23 points in the 4th quarter alone) is also one of the better Bulls games of the last 20 years.
A case could be made that Korver and Brewer should be featured further down, but the success the organization experienced with both on the roster is worth greater recognition. Korver’s 3-point excellence hit a new level over his two seasons in Chicago, as he drained an absurd 42.5 percent of his shots from downtown. The league had yet to fully embrace the 3-point era we know today, so having someone like him at the time felt like quite the significant advantage.
Brewer also played for that Bulls squad that went on to the Eastern Conference Finals, and his dirty work mentality was probably underappreciated at the time. He was one of those rare players who impacted the game across the box score, and his defensive intensity was an absolute privilege to have coming off the bench. As far as hard-nosed defenders and utility players go, Brewer was the ideal fit.
Elton Brand played for two incredibly horrible Bulls teams. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t play some incredibly good basketball! Averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds over his first two seasons with the team, Brand was easily the best player in Chicago for two-straight years. It’s easy to forget that he is one of the franchise’s few No. 1-overall picks and Rookie of the Year award winners. He also made the Bulls look decently silly by going on to make two All-Star games over a pretty solid 17-year-long career.
Pau Gasol had one of the most underrated careers in franchise history. While signing the 34-year-old big man may not have felt like the sexiest choice at the time, Gasol more than held up his side of the deal during his two seasons in red. He made two-straight All-Star appearances after a three-year drought, and his 18.5 points with 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game in the 2014-15 season helped Chicago win 50 games and reach the 2nd round of the playoffs.
Gasol is one of just 13 Bulls players to register a triple-double, and he also has the 7th-most total rebounds and 10th-most total blocks in a single season in franchise history.
While the First Team is about recognizing effective short-term role players, the Second Team is mainly about pointing out some freakin’ odd signings.
As someone who’s best known for his days at Michigan and with the Pacers, I’m always quick to forget Jalen Rose put on a Bulls uniform. He’s another player who accomplished a whole lot of nothing while with the organization, but he did average a sneaky 21.4 points with 4.8 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game. Not to mention, Rose shot 37.6 percent from downtown on 4.0 attempts a night, which I think we can all agree is pretty impressive for the early-2000s.
Note: Technically, Rose appeared in three seasons for Chicago, but I decided to include him since he was only on the team for one full campaign.
I’m sure when kids look at Dwyane Wade’s Basketball-Reference page in 15 years, they will assume “CHI” is a computer glitch. He can tout the hometown connections all he wants, but the only reason Wade came to Chicago is because of the bag a desperate front office decided to give him. This is one of the weirdest moves the franchise has ever made. I’ll leave it at that.
The Chicago Bulls used John Salmons like a sparkler. The team acquired him in February of 2009 and immediately read the fuse. Salmons averaged 18.3 points while shooting 47.3 percent from the field and 41.5 percent from downtown over 26 regular season games. Then, he averaged an absurd 44.7 minutes per game during the Bulls’ iconic seven-game first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics. Despite that strong start in his new home, though, the Bulls let him go the following season in a trade with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Thaddeus Young is the most normal name on this list. He felt like a good free-agent signing at the time, and he proved to be exactly that once the Bulls finally chose to hire a competent head coach. The only reason Young didn’t end up on the First Team is because Elton Brand’s role and pedigree felt that much more noteworthy.
As for Ben Wallace, I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that he played for the Chicago Bulls. Even more dumbfounding, the Bulls gave the aging big man a four-year, $60 million contract before trading him one season later. To his credit, though, he did help lead the Bulls into the second round of the playoffs during his one full season with the team, which is something Chicago couldn’t do again until Derrick Rose came to town.
Metta World Peace (Ron Artest)
I don’t have a whole lot to say here. Rondo, Mercer, and Gooden are all guys who just played better basketball than expected during their short stints with the team. Metta World Peace, on the other hand, is just someone I always forget started his career in Chicago.
Head Coach: Brian Scalabrine
The White Mamba was the GOAT benchwarmer and we should keep it that way.
General Manager: Scottie Pippen
You said 21st century!
Indeed, let’s not forget Pippen rejoined the Bulls in the 2003-04 season. And I think it’s fair to say the legend deserves a high-ranking position in this imaginary world, so GM it is!
Head Athletic Trainer: James Johnson
James Johnson – a blackbelt in karate who played his full rookie season in Chicago – feels like the perfect trainer for these teams.
Shooting Coach: Marco Belinelli
Let’s just forget the fact that Belinelli’s second-least efficient shooting season from long range came in Chicago.
Team Security: Charles Oakley
If you know, you know.
Benny’s Assistant: John Lucas III
He needs someone to dunk over!
Water Boy: Jimmer Fredette
Before he was dropping 73 points for the Shanghai Sharks, he was keeping Carlos Boozer company during timeouts.