Fight moves from NYC to CHI

The Knicks didn’t put up much of a fight at all during the opener at MSG on Wednesday night. It is certainly not what I expected at all, but i’ll take a W any which way. In this case, the Bulls put on a passing, defensive and teamwork clinic, while the Knicks did everything they could to stray from Phil Jackson’s triangle offense.

Bulls win 104 to 80.

And now, it’s back to CHI for the Halloween home opener, featuring none other than the Wanted Man (LeBron) and his pesky sidekicks – Sideshow Bob, a kid name Kyrie and Kevin Loveless.

Here are a few random thoughts summing up the Bulls vs. Knicks game, and looking toward tonight’s Bulls vs. Cavs:

POW POW POW POW POW – I was growing a little nervous there for a while during the preseason that Pau Gasol might have been regretting his decision to join our Bulls. Coming off the FIBA World Cup, where he was undoubtedly Spain’s leader and named a Tournament All-Star, I thought he’d be lighting it up for the Bulls. None of his performances were particularly noteworthy…could this have all been a mistake?

Not so fast, as Pau, one of the oldest guys on the squad (ah, to be an old 34) played the second-most minutes of all Bulls (29:10) vs. the Knicks. Right, and the other “old” guy (except for Big Nazr) – Mike Dunleavy, Jr. topped Pau with 31:01 minutes. Pau scored 21 points and added 11 rebounds. The new double double machine? Anyway, my confidence about Pow Pow Pow Pow Pow is now through the roof.

STAR POWER DOESN’T NECESSARILY LEAD TO A WIN – Chris Rock, Lorne Michaels, Ben Stiller, Jesse Jackson, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, oh, and Spike Lee were all in the house, but sorry Knicks, it didn’t help your cause. Since the Knicks didn’t give fans much to cheer about, it was eerily quiet, at least when viewing on TV.

“Never. Nah,” Rose said, when asked if he had been at Madison Square Garden when it was so lifeless. “But I don’t want to talk too much about that.” And yes, true to form, the fans even booed their own team toward the end…

But if it’s true, as I heard, that not surprisingly, they booed all of the Bulls players but cheered for DRose during the intros, I’ll give them two thumbs up. They realize returning star power when they see it, and I’m glad they at least showed Derrick some respect.

TAJI WOO! FOR SIXTH MAN – Is it too early to start the campaign? For part of the summer, before Pau was signed, Taj could see himself in the starting lineup, but once again, it’s back to sixth man. Umm, Taj was the leading scorer vs. the Knicks, with 22 points. And Carmelo chipped in a paltry 14. Slacker! Here’s Thibs re: Taj “He was the best player in training camp, the best player in the preseason games. He just goes out there and does his job. He lets his performance speak for itself, and that’s the way it should be.”

DUN DUN KNOWS HOW TO DEFEND – Joakim calls Mike Dunleavy, Jr. Dun, and I call him Dun Dun. But either way, with Jimmy Buckets out, Dun had to defend the zillion dollar man, Melo. Dun didn’t score one point, but guess what – it didn’t matter, as the Bulls had six guys in double figures. Is that music to the ears of Bulls fans everywhere, or what? Dunleavy had to sacrifice scoring and stats for the greater good of the team. I thought I saw a quote somewhere where Thibs said that despite scoring zilch, Dunlevee “Had a great game.” You’ll just have to believe me.

BULLS TAKE SOLE POSSESSION OF #1 IN THE EASTERN CONFERENCE – NBA.com lists the Bulls as #1 in the East, and let’s hope they start the season there, finish the season there, and are #1 in mid-June when it really matters.

“WHAT’S SO GOOD ABOUT CLEVELAND?” [Joakim Noah] Oh boy oh boy, the UC is going to be out of control tonight. Joakim’s hatred for Cleveland goes back to LeBron’s first stint there, and this Nick Friedell (ESPN Chicago) article, Noah Doesn’t Care about Booing,  which looks in depth at the the “Jo hates Cleveland story,” well it’s priceless. So the hatred for LeBron goes back, way back. And LeBron and his Miami Heat crew (and DRose’s injuries) put a halt to the Bulls’ pursuit of Championship #7, not once, not twice, but was it three times? Mathematician I am not. Today, I’m a physic.  The boos for LeBron, K Loveless, a kid named Kyrie and Sideshow Bob will only be out-done by the cheers for our Bulls!

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Cavs.

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When a Loss Is Really a Win

So this worked out, at least for me, with the Bulls losing their final two preseason games: Monday to the Cavs, and last night (Friday) to the Timberwolves.

The headline for both games is the same – the Bulls lose, but DRose’s 30- and 27-point performances, respectively – are a big win. And let’s hope, that as DRose goes, so go the Bulls. But it hasn’t happened quite yet, with Derrick being the sole shining star thus far.

I got to thinking last night, with the now Kevin Love-less Timberwolves running up and down the court for fastbreaks, darting around stealing the ball – that it could already be time for a call to the Commissioner. We need to have the Bulls’ schedule adjusted so they only play Eastern Conference teams + the Lakers.

Then, good things are sure to happen. Why, oh why, do the Western Conference teams have to run so much, and so fast? Is it because they wouldn’t know a defensive scheme if it came up and bit them? I dunno, but give me boring, slow, lots of passing, and please no Lob City!

“Too many fastbreaks,” noted Rose about the fourth quarter close. “Turnovers first off, and they got to the open court. With the guys they had out there, they had a faster group with LaVine and the other guys. They played well, knocking down shots, having confidence to take the shots and easy baskets. We put them at the line, too. It didn’t fall in our favor.”

Notice I haven’t yet begun to rant and rave. No one is in season form yet – not the Bulls, and not me either. Confession – I fell asleep during most of the second half, and woke up to see the Bulls trying to win in the last few minutes. That didn’t work out so well. Just five days until the Wednesday night fight in Madison Square Garden (season opener vs. Melo and the Knicks), so let’s get it together everybody.

Joakim had this to say: “This is a team game. You win together, you lose together. I think the mindset is good. If our edge isn’t where it needs to be…Hopefully, (it’s) because it’s preseason. There’s definitely a lot of things worth noting.”

Since this game was not at the United Center, but rather, the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, where the St. Louis Blues hockey team plays, the TV angle was horrible (at least for my tired, poor old eyes), and I could hardly see the guys. It’s like the camera was all the way up in section 300, and the players were miniatures. But I could sure still hear Thibs yelling.

If I were the Bulls, I would stay in St. Louis, and try to blend in with the Blackhawks the next time they’re there to play the Blues (that would be Saturday night…). The idea of a plane ride home with Thibs after that game. Well, a root canal is preferred.

“We’ve obviously got a lot of work to do,” Thibodeau said when asked in general about what he saw. “Give up 30, score 21 (in the fourth quarter). Blow a 13-point lead. Turn the ball over like crazy.”

There’s a lot of film to look at. A lot. Could the mad scientist (Thibs) be up to something, with this 4-4 preseason record? Is he trying to fool everybody, by using wacky lineups, resulting in hapless plays, disarray and generally bad basketball? I would put nothing past that guy.

So come Wednesday, “We’ll see.”

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Do Your Job!

Beat the Knicks.

What’s the opposite of unacceptable?

So Bulls Banter is taking a different direction today, and leading with the Bears.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m just not a football fan. And when 80% of the sports stories – online, radio, TV – leading up to a Bears game, following a Bears game, during a Bears game – are all about football, well, it irks me.

Ah, it’s a football town. It’s a Bears town. And I would like them to win (it would be easier to bear [ha ha] post-game analysis about wins).

But yesterday, yowza. I kind of got the gist that they lost a game (versus Miami) that they were supposed to win. And boy, it was UNACCEPTABLE.

The coach says it’s unacceptable. The players (namely Brandon Marshall) says it’s unacceptable. Over and over and over. Another player says the fans booing is unacceptable (and I will agree with him there).

I’m sorry for their loss, but you know what IS acceptable, and is downright BETTER than acceptable?

That our Bulls won again, this time they beat those new-look, new-name Charlotte Hornets. Even more acceptable was the fact that DRose, Jo and Pau closed the game. And, another unlikely hero emerged – Captain Kirk, with 26 points. Yes. Kirk was on fire. And that’s not an everyday occurrence.

Although the fact that the Bulls once again let double-digit leads disappear faster than I can devour mint chip ice cream, well, that’s unacceptable.

Only downside was Jimmy Gets Buckets had to leave early because he tried to steal the ball from a Hornet in the passing lane (I’m fancy now…I know what a passing lane is, thank you, Neil and Stacey), and diagnosis is sprained thumb.

Losing JB to an injury on the eve of the WWE fight with Cavs — unfortunate. Who is going to guard LeBron now? Stupid question.

They’ll do it collectively (thanks Thibs). And in other news, Jo thinks that it would serve Thibs well if they did some yoga together. I think we best apply Thibs rule #1. Do your job. Yoga is NOT in Thibs’ job description for darn sure.

From a recent interview with Jo in the Daily Beast.

Interviewer: Coach Thibodeau always looks like he’s on the verge of an aneurism. What, if anything, could you do to calm him down?

Jo: “He looks like that whether he’s happy or sad. But I’d have him do yoga with me. He could use that.”

In all seriousness, this is not a laughing matter. It’s the first look at the team we now love to hate – those Cleveland Cavaliers. Booing: acceptable. Winning: more than acceptable.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Cavs.

Bulls Win NBA Championship #7!!!!

The Bulls defeat the Atlanta Hawks 85 to 84, erasing a 19-point Hawks lead behind Jimmy Butler’s 20-point fourth quarter. Bulls win! They win Championship #7!!!! By the way the crowd reacted, you would have thought the parade and rally were scheduled for this Monday.

In all reality, it was just another preseason win, bringing our Bulls to a record of 3-2. And once again, the offense was non-existent, there were sloppy Bad News Bears type plays, a lot of sleepwalking, and most horrifying – even a lack of defense.

But Jimmy Butler to the rescue, with his 29 total points, 20 in the final quarter. As Thibs likes to say – he did it all, even the laundry.

Jimmy G Buckets (the G stands for Gets)…Jimmy Jordan…the Butler Did It…JB. In case you want to watch it…Jimmy Butler’s game-winning shot.

United Center crowd and JB react after his three-pointer to lead the Bulls to victory versus the Hawks.
United Center crowd and JB react after his three-pointer to lead the Bulls to victory versus the Hawks.

During the game, I was tweeting about the basket covers appearing again, the offensive woes continuing, but as is always the case, the Bulls found a way.

In other basketball news, I had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon watching an NBA Hardwood Classic today — the Bulls vs. the Celtics in the 2009 playoffs, a triple OT thriller.

Is it wrong that I got such great satisfaction from seeing Rajon Rondo get booed every time he touched the ball? It really does make the LeBron booing thing seem like child’s play. And Thibs sitting (or mostly standing) at the Celtics bench indeed felt weird.

Even then, the Bulls were scrappy. Does anyone know who Brad Miller, John Salmons or Ben Gordon are? Well, maybe Ben…he went to UConn. Jo was far from an All-Star then, and Luol must have been injured because he was on the bench. DRose was the reigning Rookie of the Year, but other than him, we’re not talking a Championship-looking team, at least on paper.

The scrappy guys from CHI gave the Celtics, and all their finesse, and three-pointers, and Paul Pierce, Big Baby Davis, and Kendrick Perkins (who Jo still hates to this day – they scuffled in the OKC locker room last season), well, the Bulls gave them a run for their money.

They did it with heart back in 2009, and were derailed after that by those other guys (Miami Heat), and several unfortunate injuries for their superstar. But they never lost heart, and never will.

For now, it’s practice, preparation and do your job. That’s what goes into winning, a wise man named Thibs once said. And even though he needs a tranquilizer (or five), I prefer him stalking the sidelines of our Chicago Bulls bench than that of the opponent.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Bobcats, I mean, Hornets (from Charlotte).

Great Expectations

My draft blog, “The World Must Be Ending,” which was penned, or typewritten when the Bulls were all tied up with the Heat in the basement of the Eastern Conference has thankfully been replaced and rewritten.

I watched a replay (I have DVR now) of the Bulls vs. Bucks game, and despite the fact that Thibs starting a rookie, Doug McDermott does support the world must be ending theory, I was more excited about the great expectations.

Thibs was not going to let them lose that game, and sink even further in a hole, with a 0-3 preseason record. No, there would be none of that. He started Dougie McBuckets in place of Mike Dunleavy, Jr., who had some knee soreness.

And with that starting group – DRose, Pow!, Jo, Jimmy Butler and McDermott – you could see that this Bulls team can go places.

It was a night filled with Stacey King-isms, with “free cheese,” which is fitting given Wisconsin’s cheese tradition and history. With Dougie McBuckets passing to Jimmy Gets Buckets, it’s just lots of buckets, and there was “no soup for you,” and “let me step back and kiss myself.” Ah, it’s good to be back.

In other basketball news, who didn’t get injured this weekend? Knocking on wood…it wasn’t Derrick. But in addition to Paul George being out, KD has a broken ankle, Bradley Beal has a wrist inury, Raymond Felton sprained his ankle. A little bad luck sure can derail a season.

And with Thibs, we all know it’s about knowing your job and doing your job. And this year, a theme of putting in the work. “I am very concerned whether we’re putting the work in that’s necessary to win,” Thibodeau said. “Who plays will be based on performance. If your game isn’t sharp, I’m going to the next guy.”

I don’t think I’d survive too long with Thibs as my coach, but at least there’s video evidence he’s laughed at least once in his life: Tom Thibodeau’s Laugh is Downright Demonic.

And despite the fact that there seemed to be more applause for the Bulls than the Bucks at United Center North, I was at least happy to see that Jabari Parker was widely applauded, and Jo even got booed. The poor Bucks – they just need to get out of the midwest. If there’s ever a Bulls vs. Bucks playoff series, they won’t even have home court advantage at home.

Ah, it’s not for me to worry about I guess, as we’ve got to get ready for the Denver Nuggets tonight, and our pal Nate Robinson, who I sure liked a lot more when he was wearing a Bulls uniform.

Hopefully, the Bulls will make it to the middle of the pack with a win tonight, and a 2-2 preseason record. Then again, what award did the Bulls get for their league-leading 8-0 preseason record last year. Right. Zippo.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Nuggets.

 

And so the road to championship #7 begins

“There are plenty of teams in every sport that have great players and never win titles. Most of the time, those players aren’t willing to sacrifice for the greater good of the team. The funny thing is, in the end, their unwillingness to sacrifice only makes individual goals more difficult to achieve. One thing I believe to the fullest is that if you think and achieve as a team, the individual accolades will take care of themselves. Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” — Michael Jordan

A lot of talk about sacrifice around CHI since Bulls training camp began on Tuesday, featuring the beloved two practices per day, under the watchful eye of Lieutenant, I mean, Coach Thibodeau.

Here are some of the sacrifices which have already been made, or are soon likely to be made: Coming off the bench versus starting (Taj), being paid less than you’re worth (Pau aka “Pow” Gasol, Captain Kirk), sharing time with the rooks (Mike Dunleavy Jr. aka Dunlevee per Thibs), less impressive individual stats (Jo), and giving the guys a day off (Thibs).

But take a look at this year’s starting lineup: DRose / Jimmy Gets Buckets Butler / Mike Dunleavy Jr. / Pow! Gasol / Jo

And the reserves aint’t too shabby either: Captain Kirk / Aaron Brooks / Dougie McBuckets / Taj Gibson / Nicola Mirotic

Thibs, as per always, is holding the information on the starting five close to the vest, or in his case, the designer suit jacket, but I’d be a bit surprised if I made any mistakes with the starters.

It’s the reserves, and how Thibs uses them, which has got everyone abuzz here in CHI. Let the mad scientist get into his lab, with the beakers and Bunsen burners, and concoct a winning formula to ensure the Bulls are playing in June, when you’ll be able to find me in the front row of the Bulls rally crowd.

The Bears just lost. The Cubs managed to escape the season with more home wins (41) than losses (40), but they’re still “rebuilding.” The White Sox haven’t figured out how to win, or how to get anyone to show up at the games. I think they had a good crowd on White Sox Dog Day and Bark in the Park, when dog owners can bring their doggies to the game.

Meanwhile, the Bulls (and their UC neighbors, the Blackhawks) both tops their leagues in three cateogries this past season: total attendance, average attendance and percentage of seats filled.

I’ve already contributed to the 2014-2015 campaign with my purchase of an 11th row seat to the home opener versus the now hated and despised, and sure to be booed Cavs.

Getting back to sacrifice – Thibs actually gave the guys a day off already – on Friday. Miracle? Baby steps? We’ll take it. And its reported that he’s trying to speed up the practice scrimmages, getting the guys to run versus the slow, methodical Bulls-style basketball we’re used to seeing.

The season hasn’t even started, and a fight has already broken out. I’m warning you – do not say the following words to me, “But that DRose, he’s ALWAYS injured.”

Excuse you? So I guess DRose was running down the court in the opening round of the 2012 playoffs vs. the lowly 76ers, (when the Bulls should have made it to the Finals) with these thoughts running through his mind, “I don’t know about this, I really think I’d rather start my summer vacation now, and then rehab for a year, than win this game, and go on in the playoffs, and to the Eastern Conference Finals and the NBA Finals, so best bet is to tear my ACL now, by the 76ers bench. No worries, I’m just sabotaging our road to the NBA Finals.”

Or last year, after playing 10 games, having rehabbed for an entire year and a half, the Bulls’ annual circus road trip put him over the edge, and he thought, “I know this is the game I love, but all of the fans cheering, plus the joy of playing with my teammates, it’s too much. And besides, I miss being in the weight room by myself, and walking on the treadmill, because that’s so inspiring, and my other knee deserves some attention, so even though we could go to the Eastern Conference Finals, let me just go ahead and injure my right knee now during this random game vs. the Trail Blazers.”

Yup, that DRose. He really likes his injuries. He’s ALWAYS injured and is deliberately trying to prevent the Bulls from winning their 7th NBA title, so he tries to have lots of surgeries and rehab for as many years as possible.

Small-minded thinking causes Cinjo to get into nothing short of a big-time argument. You’ve been warned!

But back to the exciting matter at hand, of the pursuit of Championship #7 by our Chicago Bulls. DRose is back, Jo is Jo. Pow! chose to endure the Polar Vortex to join a winning team on the verge of becoming champions. Jimmy is going to get Buckets this year, to add to his defensive prowess. Mike Dunleavy. Well he’s tried and true.

While waiting since April 29, 2014, to be exact, for the Bulls to play their first preseason game against those pesky Wizards tomorrow (Monday, October 6) night, I’ve spent a lot of time watching USA Men’s basketball, training camp, replays of training camp, and some Bulls Hardwood Classics. The start of the season, with Neil and Stacey’s hometown call, and the introductions, and a win, well, it seems like it’s taken forever to arrive, but it will sure be great to see the new-look Bulls in action.

Don’t be alarmed, but Bulls Banter won’t be reporting again until later this week. We’ve got an intimate 100-person event happening at work on Tuesday, and I won’t even make it home until 8:30 p.m. Good thing I also spent my summer vacation getting DVR installed.

“…Knowing what your job is and then having the ability to go out there and DO YOUR JOB so that the team can function well when you’re on the floor. It’s really about the team. We’re asking everyone to make sacrifices and to put winning first.” — Tom Thibodeau

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Wizards.

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