On the eve of the 2003/04 season, Chicago Bulls fans hoped to make the playoffs for the first time since 1998. Their optimism was fueled by the return of one of the club’s greatest legends Scottie Pippen who wanted to finish his career with a good result on the team that marked his career. In addition to Pippen, the Bulls selected Kirk Hinrich with the 7th pick in the 2003 draft to fill the point-guard spot gap. Shortly before that, playmaker Jay Williams was lost for the season due to a motorcycle accident.
But Scottie and Hinrich weren’t the only reasons for optimism in Chicago. Tyson Chandler, Jamal Crawford, Eddy Curry, and Jalen Rose were also on the team. Legendary Bill Cartwright was the head coach, and the Bulls thought they were ready for clinching the playoffs. However, the Bulls’ ambitions soon cooled, and after a 4-10 start to the season, the club fired Cartwright and appointed Scott Skiles as the new head coach.
In the middle of the season, Lonny Baxter, Donyell Marshall, and Jalen Rose were traded to Toronto for Antonio Davis, Chris Jefferies, and Jerome Williams. However, the coach and player changes didn’t meet the locker room’s approval, and another former member of that team, Paul Shirley, talked about it.
“That was a really poisonous locker room. I don’t want to speak too out of turn because when I was in Chicago, that was also the time that I had my kidney and spleen rupture 12 days into my time with the Bulls and finished out the year with the team but spent some of that time in a hospital bed and was afraid I might die. However, I do remember that there was even like a pamphlet, like a weekly pamphlet, that would circulate in the locker room written by an anonymous sort of rabble-rouser basically saying Scott Skiles doesn’t know what he’s doing and other guys should be playing and all this sh * t. It was real bad.”Paul Shirley, Hoops Hype
At the end of that season, the Bulls showed some progress in their game under Skiles, but in the end, with a 23-59 record, they didn’t make the playoffs for the sixth year in a row. Pippen retired, and Jamal Crawford was traded to the New York Knicks. For a moment, Bulls fans placed their hopes in the no.3 pick they landed in the 2004 Draft, but Ben Gordon didn’t turn out to be the star they hoped he would be.