The 2015-16 proved to be a year of transition for the Chicago Bulls. The team missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-08 season and just the second time since the 2004-05 season. Injuries played a major role in the team’s step backward as their total number of games lost surpassed 200 for the first time since the league adopted the game-to-game inactive list. A variety of ailments resulted in the higher than normal total, including Mike Dunleavy’s surgically repaired back, Joakim Noah’s twice dislocated shoulder, and Derrick Rose’s problematic right leg.
Drastic changes were made in the offseason with all three of these players now playing elsewhere. The medical team was also given a makeover as Jen Swanson was dismissed as the team’s director of sports performance. Swanson was brought in prior to the 2013-14 season to oversee Chicago’s training staff after previously working with Rose. Her rocky relationship with former head coach Tom Thibodeau was well documented and she ultimately was let go as the Bulls wanted to “shake things up” following another season marred by injury.
The Bulls turned to a familiar face to replace Swanson, bringing back Chip Schaefer to fill the role of director of sports performance. Schaefer was Chicago’s head athletic trainer from 1990-98 when the Jordan Era collected six NBA championships. He has since added five additional titles working with the Lakers and provides instant credibility to the medical team. Still Schaefer, along with athletic trainer Jeff Tanaka, will have their work cut out for them with the new look Bulls. Like Schaefer, new additions Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo have championship pedigrees but they also carry multiple red flags in their injury history. Managing the minutes of Wade and Rondo will be important to the Bulls success and could ultimately be the difference between a return to relevancy or another injury-riddled campaign.