Quotable quotes (or why we lost)

I sure am glad that I was otherwise occupied enjoying my petit filet dinner at Wildfire Saturday night…it’s the only thing that made the unimaginable loss to the Wizards palatable.

In trolling all of my sources, I found a good number of quotable quotes from your Chicago Bulls players to help identify an explanation. In my estimation, the Wizards just cast a spell.

“This isn’t Pleasantville.” Nate

“I feel like we fought hard at the end, but I think we played tired basketball tonight.” Jo

“It’s just that you’ve got to kind of trick yourself sometimes to get up for these games – back-to-backs, get in late – you got to kind of trick yourself to get up for them.” Rip

“You have to get the job done. Whatever you’re being asked to do, it’s a five-man offense, five-man defense. When you start taking shortcuts, the results aren’t going to be good.” Coach Thibs

Spells, tricks, shortcuts.

Jo said they’ll have to go and look at the tape. That’s just not tape I want to watch. In fact, I’ve had to forego watching all Chicago area sportscasts until I recovered from the loss.

But tonight, as our Chicago Bulls face Michael Jordan’s Bobcats, the stars, or should I say, All Stars align. Luol is expected to start!

It’s payback time for what the Bobcats did to crash the Bulls’ New Year’s Eve party.

On another basketball note, although I may not be the biggest fan of the Boston Celtics, I do want to say I was saddened to see their man Rondo go down to an ACL injury. This is becoming an all too familiar theme.

However, I do relish the fact that OKC lost to the struggling Lakers. Only time you’re going to hear me say, “Go Kobe.” And the Heat fell to the Celtics. And, both games were on national TV. Jumping for joy.

So now it’s on to the Bobcats. Last game at the United Center for a long long time.

You may all get to enjoy the ramblings of a special guest blogger tomorrow, as my pal BP is onsite at the UC tonight. Even though he’s in a suite, I’ll let that part slide, and will gladly include his first-hand insights to add even more flair to this Bulls Banter.

Overachieving

It’s getting a bit over-the-top. Now, I’m listening to sports radio in the car. I just watched a Joakim Noah interview on NBA-TV. Overachieving? That’s one word that comes to mind. Obsession is the other.

But let’s get back to our Bulls.

Actually, it was one of the Chicago area sports reporters on the Score who mentioned this morning that the Bulls are overachieving. Now 10 games over .500. Third place in the Eastern Conference. Two Bulls on their way to Disneyland, I mean, Houston for the All-Star game in February.

This reporter also said he felt last night’s home game vs. the Golden State Warriors was the Bulls’ best all season. Jo said the same thing during his NBA-TV interview. Sigh. And I missed the first half because I was at a dinner with someone who asked how Derrick Rose was playing this season. Don’t get me started!

But I got to the TV in time to see our unlikely heroes, Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson in Q3 and 4. I think Thibs thought about sending in one of the ball boys at the end of the game for the final cleanup. Thibs – I’m available.

While the Bulls really have come into their own in 2013, slight reality check here. Their record would only place them as the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

Indeed, those Western Conference teams are going to cause our Bulls some angst. As Jo said, “There are going to be a lot more battles, a lot more adversity, but we’re excited.” And they’ll be facing the likes of OKC, the Jazz, the Spurs, Nuggets. Yikes – all on the road. DRose, hurry up already.

As the second half of the season starts, things really are looking up. And I am thrilled for Lu and Jo’s All-Star honors. Although I might be the ONLY one Jo forgot to thank in his tweets, where he expressed gratitude to half of North America.

Now tonight I’ll be at Wildfire enjoying petit filets with two of my BFFs, so I will not be watching the Bulls defeat the Wizards. Speaking that into existence.

When we next re-convene, middle of next week, the Bulls should have two more wins to add to the scoreboard. Lu will return for the Bobcats game, and tonight, versus the Wizards, it remains to be seen whose magical powers we’ll see. Not sure pulling a rabbit out of a hat will even be necessary.

At the halfway point, it’s lucky 17

How about those Bulls? They overcome a 17-point deficit against the oh-so-pesky Detroit Pistons to bring their record to 25-16 at the halfway point of the regular season.

This builds upon the December 2012 game, when the Bulls also overcame a similar 17-point deficit to beat said Pistons. So that’s a 17-game winning streak against the guys from Motor City.

I realize no one ever ever ever did I say ever could have predicted Your (and My) Chicago Bulls would have achieved this record, in this way in a DRose-less season.

So last night it looked like the fans would once again be lulled to sleep. It seemed like a repeat of any one of this season’s unfortunate losses to lesser teams (insert: Bobcats, Bucks, Hornets). I fell asleep during the third quarter, awoke as Q4 started, and like the fans, didn’t have much to cheer about.

Jo did reference the fan factor during his post-game interview (yes, he’s addressing the media again; he put his big boy pants back on. Kobe must have given him a talking to him Monday night). He said something to the effect that the crowd wasn’t into it for the first three quarters. “But we didn’t give them much to cheer about.”

But Mr. Excitement, Nate Robinson turned things around, and so, the Bulls’ domination of the Pistons continues.

Unexpected heroes are emerging, at unexpected times, and although there have been rough patches, ups and downs, inexplicable losses, there have been unprecedented wins (Knicks, Heat, Celtics…now the Bullys have to find a way to beat the West).

I dunno, was Jimmy Butler the leading scorer again? Did some guy named Marco get his second game-winning shot in one week?

So the guys on TNT, ESPN, and any other media outlet that doesn’t feature Neil and Stacey, and doubts my Bulls, and fails to even play Bulls highlights, but instead features five stories about how the Lakers are going to save their season (they’re not) – the Bulls are more than holding their own.

Maybe you’ll figure out who the players are by the time the Bulls are in the playoffs. And I’m pretty sure you remember how to pronounce DRose. IT’s D – Rose. Like the flower.

Forgot to mention three potential All Stars. If this is a “transition,” “re-building,” “stay the course” year, whatever will happen when the Bulls are just playing a regular old “real” season, with everyone giving them a chance?

The crowd comes alive, the Butler did it, but where’s Jo?

Luol Deng at Wildcats vs. Hoosiers b-ball game on January 20, 2013. Courtesy of BP.
Luol Deng at Wildcats vs. Hoosiers b-ball game on January 20, 2013. Courtesy of BP.
At last night’s Bulls vs. Grizzlies game, the Bulls gave the crowd a reason to wake up, and I was glad to see, at least from the home town call on WGN, that the Bulls fans emerged from their slumber. This is in stark contrast to last Saturday. I was the only one in my section standing during the introductions, and I should have dialed 911, because medics were needed to resuscitate the unenthusiastic spectators. By halftime, I think we lost most of them. Really, I think they were dead.

I intended to comment on the less-than-enthusiastic UC crowd from last Saturday, but it seemed like I was just a complainer so I let it go. The Bulls gave the attendees a lot more to cheer about last night, cutting the 17-point deficit and bringing the team into yet another overtime.

But it is interesting to consider to what extent the crowd’s enthusiasm affects the players. I’ll have to ask Jo or Lu to comment next time I interview them…in another life.

So how about Jimmy Butler? First NBA start, and I read his family was in town to see it. And he just kept asking himself, “What would Lu do?” Well, he certainly played minutes comparable to Lu, and with 18 points, umm, not too shabby. This is the silver lining of the night’s defeat, I would say.

But on the downside, I think Coach Thibs must not have gotten whatever was on his birthday wish list, because he was even crankier than usual.

And Jo never made it back into the game after leaving in Q3, and the pundits are abuzz about what this could all mean. Maybe Jo has an undisclosed injury. He was too tired? The flu-like symptoms have returned. He didn’t like the way his hair turned out for the game? In reality, they’re claiming that something’s awry between Mr. Bulls Heart and Soul (Jo) and Cranky Pants (Coach Thibs).

When questioned during the post-game press conference, this is what Thibs had to say “Coach’s decision.” What do you really mean, Thibs? “Coach’s decision.” Maybe Thibs hasn’t forgiven Jo for going on and on about Thibs screaming at them at practice following last Saturday’s literal meltdown to the Suns.

No Jo in the locker room afterwards for quotable quotes, and to showcase one of his eclectic outfits. He evidently just slithered away.

Talk about playing shorthanded? No DRose. No Lu. A discontented Jo.

And this unassuming NBA player you may or may not have heard of, Kobe is showing up for a late-night game tomorrow. At this point, I might have to thank my lucky stars that I can only watch half of the Lakers game. Have to be at the office for a client meeting at the crack of dawn on Tuesday; I’ll be in the cozy bed quite early Monday evening. I’m happy to entertain interested guest bloggers.

This just in: BP, my source on the ground at the Northwestern Wildcats vs. Indiana Hoosiers men’s b-ball game reports Luol Deng is in the house. BP says, “He’s tall.” Earth-shattering news! I guess the Bulls get the day off to enjoy some R&R, or to take in some additional basketball. Meantime, I’ll engage in some retail therapy. And we should all feel better by game time tomorrow.

Shorthanded Bulls continue road dominance

A few weeks ago, Coach Thibs admitted the Bulls were playing shorthanded. And by shorthanded, he means without DRose. But last night at the TD Garden in Boston, the Bulls were also without their new-found rock, this year’s go-to guy Luol Deng after he left in the third quarter due to his hamstring strain. And given my flu-like symptoms and 99-degree fever, add me to the injured list. So the Bulls were REALLY short-handed.

Luol’s buzzer-beater north of the border (vs. the Toronto Raptors) saved the day on Wednesday night. Side note: This Bulls fan was at the United Center to witness Luol’s buzzer-beater vs. Toronto last March, at the 2012 “birthday game.” Given Lu is British, I’m a bit surprised that he continues to mis-treat the Canadians like this. Oh Canada!

Back to the matter at hand. There’s oh so much for Bulls fans everywhere to be excited about coming out of last night’s game. First, the Bulls led for almost all of the game, and they out-played the poor old Celtics pretty consistently until the Cs seemed to come alive in the fourth quarter.

But even more importantly, we must consider two characteristics which set the Bulls apart: unselfishness and collective effort. It’s not about who’s getting the next double double or the most points. It’s about passing the ball to whoever has the best look at the basket. What a concept. And there’s been a lot written this week about stepping up by committee, combining collectively to win. When Luol left for the locker room in Q3, our UConn man Rip and second-year man Jimmy “The Butler” were on the case. And Los and Jo bolstered the team’s performance with what’s become their consistent play.

It’s unlikely that Doc Rivers could have ever predicted the big play-makers would be Kirk Hinrich and Marco Belinelli. Marco who? He probably wasn’t even on the scouting report, but as Stacey King likes to say, KYP (know your personnel).

From the start of the season, coach Thibs has said “We’ve got what it takes to win.” He never said, “Yikes, it’s gonna be rough without Derrick” or “We’ll just do what we can until Derrick’s back, but let me tell you, it’s not going to be pretty.” I admire him for instilling this belief in the team. And I guess, it’s a life lesson for the rest of us, who might not quite be NBA stars (yet), but could use the same kind of attitude in our daily lives, for work or whatever. We can do this thing!

Some of the commentators, who shall remain nameless, but there’s four of them, and they are on TNT, discounted the Bulls from the start. I guess other teams, aka the Heat would just fold if LeBron were out for most of the season. And I would love to see the Thunder’s record if KD were rehabbing all year. Perhaps said naysayers were assuming the Bulls would fare the same way these other teams would without their superstar.

But to demonstrate how far the Bulls have come, I read an article today where one of the sports reporters actually admitted he thinks the Bulls could end up first in the East. I’m not going to say it, but I told you so.

As it seems to be the week of unexpected Bulls happenings, I’ll close with the news that Coach Thibs actually went out to dinner; Doc Rivers took him out in Boston. Thibs turned 55 on January 17. This goes against reports by DRose a few years back where he claimed he’s never seen Coach in a restaurant, or out anywhere – only watching tape. I guess anyone, even Thibs can make an exception for his/her birfday.

Let’s hope that the swagger the Bulls have developed on the road stays with them as they make their way back to the United Center. So it’s the Bulls vs. the Bears (Grizzlies) tonight…Thibs, in case you need me, fever’s gone, I can go.

Midnight game on the roof

Bulls starters at the January 12, 2013 game vs. the Suns, from my ninth row seat.
Bulls starters at the January 12, 2013 game vs. the Suns, from my ninth row seat.
If they say we’re playing at midnight on the roof, you should be saying let’s get the ladders.”

That’s what Coach Thibodeau had to say during the post-game press conference on Saturday after yet another home defeat.

I had just made it to my car parked not-so-conveniently in the last row of the lot, trudging along through the wintry mix along with the rest of the dejected fans. And when I finally made it to the Cinjomobile, I turned on the radio to hear this quotable quote from Thibs.

Despite the presence of their biggest fan (yours truly), who spent most of her Christmas $$$ on a ninth row seat behind the Bulls bench for the Bulls vs. Suns game this past Saturday– my Bullys just didn’t come through for me.

Yet another demonstration of what’s become an inexplicable dichotomy.

The Bulls beat the Knicks one night, and lose (sorry Phoenix Suns) to a lowly team the next night.

They destroy the Miami Heat, and the next week, manage to fall to the Milwaukee Bucks…for the second time this season!

And their 10-10 home record defies understanding.

Jo said they’re average. It makes me happy that Jo, like me is a math whiz. Yup, 50% is pretty much average.

Somehow Thibs’ midnight game on the roof analogy made me feel better, and now, tonight, we find ourselves in another like situation.

Remember December 21 and the Friday Night Fight at Madison Square Garden and the unexpected Bulls victory?

The next night. Saturday, December 22, I had just arrived home for Christmas in Connecticut, and my Dad had kindly secured a month-long subscription to NBA League Pass so that we could watch the Bulls continue their dominance.

It didn’t quite happen that way, as Atlanta proceeded to destroy the Bulls in unprecedented fashion.

Tonight, the tables were turned and the Bulls repaid the favor and then some, with their dominant win over the Hawks – 97 to 58, a margin of victory approaching that of the UConn women.

While no one had to get out the ladders tonight, I’ll let those smarter than me figure out how to solve this Bulls yin and yang up and down mystery. But for the moment, at least we can all rejoice in a home victory!

You’ve gotta love a good old-fashioned blowout!

Friday Night Fight at MSG

I’m not a huge fan of boxing, but despite that, I’ll admit that I was looking forward to the Bulls vs. Knicks version of a knock-down drag-out at Madison Square Garden (MSG) last night. I wasn’t sure how these two teams could out-do their combined four-ejection performance of December 21. What if things didn’t go the Knicks’ way? Would Melo lurk in and around the Bulls’ team bus to confront Lu or Jo after the game? I’m not too great with math, so someone needs to remind me. How old are NBA players?

First of all, let’s get the booing out of the way. Booing is second only to my other pet peeve – spitting (for no reason, not when you’re brushing your teeth. When you’re just walking along the street and you spit). But booing tops the list. And the Knicks fans boo their own team! As my pal Nino would say, “CMO!” That translates to “C’mon,” not chief marketing officer.

I will say that we best not let on to the Knicks crowd that Jo actually claims the booing motivates him. And speaking of Jo…he unintentionally brought the pistols out again last night, saying afterwards that he just got too hyped. We’ll need to work on an equally impactful alternative, as I’m not sure the hand flailing he’s added to the celebration rotation is quite working.

I think the Knicks fans gave their beloved team until partway into the second half, and then they grew dis-satisfied with the results and began the booing. But it lacks class. It’s just not stand-up.

And I guess that’s what sets “my Bulls” apart from the Knicks and other less-than-classy teams like the Heat. Our players have got some class. They’re stand-up guys. They’re humble. They respect one another and their coach. They’re not showboats. In his usual unassuming, matter-of-fact fashion, Luol proceeded to take Melo out of his game and quietly scored 33 points, his season high.

What’s sadly becoming all too familiar, the Bulls did display a twinge of a fourth-quarter meltdown, which of course caused me to put the TV on mute and go and do the dishes and get the condo organized. Thankfully, in the end I was able to re-join, and celebrate another big win.

Neil (Funk) and Stacey (King) were talking about “pretenders” last night. Are the Heat and the Knicks just pretenders, while the Bulls are the true contenders? With six guys scoring double figures and DRose set to re-join the team in less than a month, I guess the truth will ultimately reveal itself. It seems as if the Bulls need to figure out why they can handily beat the top teams on the road and lose, by rather large margins, to some of the more challenged teams at home. Somebody? Anybody?

In the spirit of conducting first-hand research, and potentially a few interviews with players and/or coaches, your faithful Bulls blogger will be seated center court, ninth row at the United Center tonight. Hopefully the presence of their No. 1 fan will help the Bulls beat the Suns, who bring a 12-26 record.

On a personal note, the basketball lessons are progressing well. I need some work on my reverse layups. But I was at the gym this morning, practicing my moves, and of course, waiting for Saturday morning men’s open basketball to start…I’m not exactly doing this just for my health, and my love of the Bulls.

Mixed Feelings about Milwaukee

Tonight, it’s Chicago vs. Milwaukee.

There are a lot of reasons to like Milwaukee.

My good pal and partner in crime, Michelle, otherwise known as MOC lives there.

Summerfest.

The Brat Stop. Well, not quite in Milwaukee, but it warrants mentioning.

Many fine memories from all of the time spent attending Michael McDermott gigs in the Milwaukee area.

One of my college roommates, Katie Nelson’s Dad coached the Bucks for the first few years we attended Wheaton. You might have heard of him – Don Nelson. I’m proud to count Katie as a friend, and to have met Hall of Fame Coach Nelson.

But there’s one big reason not to like Milwaukee. The Bulls’ one-point loss to the Bucks earlier this year – following a 27-point Bulls lead! I had to spend a lot of $$ on therapy after that one.

When I attended a Bulls vs. Bucks game at the Bradley Center in Thrillwaukee last February, aka “United Center North,” for a minute, or maybe a second, I felt sorry for the Bucks – because there aren’t any fans. More than half of the attendees were rooting for my Bulls! I kinda sorta felt badly about that…

But I’m over it. The Bulls must redeem themselves tonight. And besides, who can like a team with such ugly uniforms?

The sun shines in Florida, and on the Bulls

Just in case anyone forgot where we are in the NBA season – this isn’t the playoffs. We’re about 40 percent through the 82-game regular season. But the way I was acting last night, with all of the jumping, yelling and screaming as I witnessed the Bulls’ domination of the evil Heat – you would have thought the Bulls made it to the Eastern Conference finals.

I was texting with my bro that I am growing concerned about my ability to survive the season, and the playoffs are becoming increasingly questionable. It’s too much for my heart. He said that I better get a paper bag to help deal with the hyperventilating.

Everything did seem to go our way down in Florida. Orlando I suppose wasn’t too much of a miracle. It was just magic. Sorry..couldn’t help that one. We all know the game was winnable from the outset. But as I’ve been saying lately every time the Bulls win – against anyone – “We needed that.”

And at one point during the Magic game, I think it was in the second quarter, I actually saw Coach Thibs smile. He seemed to be enjoying what he saw, with Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson leading the way. In the post-game interview, Taj talked about how they looked around during shootaround and thought – where is everybody? There’s nobody here. Not quite, but the “flu-like symptoms” seemed to bring them down one by one. The stellar team effort led to a Bulls victory, and they played the best with who they had.

Evidently, the most exciting part of the stay in Orlando occurred when DRose had to get off the team bus after the game to retrieve the “designer backpack” he had left in the locker room, and the fans went wild! Just wait until he’s doing more than retrieving forgotten personal items.

On to Miami and the evil Heat, where frankly, I was just hoping that my Bulls wouldn’t be embarrassed on national television. Given January 4, 2013 was not a national holiday (in any country, as far as I know), the likelihood of the Bulls playing like themselves increased immensely. If it’s Christmas, New Year’s, Veterans Day, or Easter and especially if it’s a matinee game – there’s trouble.

Jo said “this is probably the biggest win of the year.” Wait, hold on, Jo, I guess you must have forgotten about the December 21 win vs. the Knicks at MSG because you were showering during the fourth quarter and never checked on the final score? All right, now that I think about it, I suppose that fact that the Bulls rocked the defending NBA champs, who have the reigning MVP on their team, on their home court in front of a rowdy crowd, well, I guess that could signify the biggest win of the year.

“They” call the Bulls sleepers, and “they” can go ahead and keep doing so. But it’s going to become increasingly difficult to ignore this team. And while my basketball lessons are going pretty well, and I’ll be back on the practice floor today with my coach, it’s not my return to the court which the world awaits…that will be another year, in another lifetime, in another world.

Unstoppable? Remains to be seen. But after the back-to-back victories in the Sunshine State, the forecast sure is improving for Bulls fans. I hope the team enjoyed their well-deserved night out in South Beach last night, and what is sure to be an interesting charter flight home.

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