For the love of the game

A week ago today, I attended my first ever NBA playoff game. I wrote about hope and joy in my last blog. Here is where the love comes in. And it was also a night of firsts.

I LOVED being at the UC for the Bulls’ first playoff game of the season, where they took on (and defeated) the Milwaukee Bucks.

It was the first playoff game for me — ever.

And it was the first playoff game for DRose since April 28, 2012, when he suffered the ACL injury that caused the world, at least the Bulls basketball world – to stop.

It’s three years later.

It’s also hours, weeks and months of excruciating (and boring) rehab later. During that time, Derrick had to overcome doubters, deal with haters and naysayers, and survive countless work outs. He also worked on his game, and along the way, became a better leader.

That’s the Derrick I got to see last Saturday night.

“I love this player,” said Rose, who rarely refers to himself in the third person. “This player is better.”

Following the game 1 win, Joakim said this, in reference to having DRose back: “I think it was special to all of us. Derrick played really well, and I could just tell before the game he was just — it was like more for the love of the game, you know? It was just good to see him out there competing the way he was competing. It felt really good.”

The Bucks haven’t been a pushover. In fact, they’ve actually lived up to their slogan – “Fear the Deer.” In game three, when the Bulls had only managed to score 11 points by the end of the first quarter, and then were down by 18 in the second…I began to really fear the deer. A lot.

But this team is not all about Derrick. Jimmy scored a career playoff best 25 in game one, then bested that with 31 in game two.

Dun Dun had some huge three-pointers in game three, as did The Snelly Cat. Jo might not be putting up a lot of points, but the “Windex Man” is cleaning the boards, and Pow Pow Pow Pow Pow seems to be strolling through the park on a Sunday afternoon with double doubles.

The fights previously reserved for the “tougher” teams like the Knicks and Nets have moved here to the Midwest, with the unlikely opponents located right in the Bulls’ own backyards up I-94. That it’s WWF on a Monday night at the UC vs. the Thrill-Waukee Bucks – well, I didn’t see that one coming.

What I do see coming is round two in Cleveland, but we’re not supposed to think about the Cavs yet, as we get ready for game four versus the Bucks.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Bucks, and fear the deer, at least a little bit.

Arrived in time for warm ups at Bulls vs. Bucks playoff game 1, but hardly anyone warmed up.
Arrived in time for warm ups at Bulls vs. Bucks playoff game 1, but hardly anyone warmed up.
Pau warmed up, and Taj and McBuckets joined him, but someone is not a great photographer it seems.
Pau warmed up, and Taj and McBuckets joined him, but someone is not a great photographer it seems.
Not to brag, but that's me and Yannick Noah.
Not to brag, but that’s me and Yannick Noah.
The guys and Thibs. View from my seat.
The guys and Thibs. View from my seat.
JB, Taj and Thibs: three of my favorites.
JB, Taj and Thibs: three of my favorites.
Jo!
Jo!
Classic Thibs. Love it.
Classic Thibs. Love it.
See Red!
See Red!
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Hope and joy

Just two games left in the regular season, and it’s anybody’s guess as to whether or not the Bulls will play the Bucks or the Wizards in round one of the playoffs.

Whether nor or not they have home court advantage may still be up for grabs as well. I think it needs to be 75 degrees and sunny on Wednesday at noon in order for them to clinch home court. Or maybe the Bulls just need to win both of their final games and somebody else needs to lose one of theirs.

I dunno.

What I do know is that hope has returned for Bulls fans. It’s an upward trajectory, this march into the post season.

Last year, and the year before, around this time, it was a downward spiral. Knowing DRose would not play. One by one, injuries mounted up. Jo was hobbling around on one leg. Someone was banged up or had the flu or something. There were hospital visits and rehab.

Now, there’s a full complement of players-almost (captain Kirk re-injured his knee during the 76ers game Saturday though). There’s Pau and Jo, and JB, AB, Three-kola, Dun Dun. And how could I forget Taji Woo?

And other than joy being my middle name, the joy also comes in because 1.) DRose is playing again and 2.) he’s feeling it.

He had this to say following the Bulls’ defeat of the bottom-of-the-heap but still spirited, hard-working 76ers: ”It’s still going to take time. I’m just happy I have the teammates I have. When a guy’s missed so many games and comes back … they’re sticking with me, so I’m grateful, excited and filled with joy that I’m back playing.”

The Bulls are not going to have it easy, during these next two games, nor when the playoffs start on Saturday. Tonight, they are in my hometown, Brooklyn to face a Nets team that was demolished last night by the Bucks, coached by none other than Jason Kidd.

Wednesday, the Bulls close out the regular season back in CHI with the Eastern Conference leading Atlanta Hawks.

No matter who the Bulls end up playing in the first round on Saturday, and beyond, compared to the last two seasons, if they all remain healthy, play like we know they can, and are the recipients of a little bit of luck, we can all feel more hope and joy for the Bulls’ second season than we have in a long time.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Nets!

Footnote: This blog was originally going to be called “Just what kind of Bulls fan am I?” until I realized it’s more important to report on the positives, the joy and the hope. And I was feeling neither on Thursday, when the Bulls were trounced by Luol Deng and the Heat in the second quarter…only to return the favor by destroying Miami in Q3 by a score of 33 to 8, and eventually winning the game.

Yours truly took to twitter to voice concerns about said game and the Bulls overall. She regrets these tweets, but still finds them amusing. You can read them here: https://twitter.com/TheChicagoNinja

 

If the playoffs started today

If the playoffs started today, as predicted, the Bulls would face their opponents from I-94 North, the Milwaukee Bucks.

This positioning is thanks to the fact that the Raptors evidently lost in OT last night to none other than the Boston Celtics.

So is this better positioning for them than the number four spot, which would mean they would face the Wizards in the first round again? I’m not so sure. But no matter who they face, what a different “second season” it is going to be. This, of course, assumes no more injuries!

I just looked back to last year’s award-winning editions of Bulls Banter, and the first game of the Bulls’ playoff series versus the Wizards was on Easter – April 20, 2014. The Bulls lost that game. And it’s no wonder, with Derrick out for the year, Jo hobbling on one leg. They had nothing left to give.

Flash forward to this year, when stars seem to be aligning at the right time. There’s hope of DRose returning. Joakim is catching his stride. JB and Taj had some time off to recover from unfortunate and unforeseen injuries, but looks like that was a blessing.

Maybe the one guy I worry most about is Pau. Seems like he could use a little rest, and I feel a veterans week off approaching. Although whether Thibs would ever do that remains to be seen.

Well, I’m getting ahead of myself. Today, it’s Easter 2015, and the Bulls face the new-look Cavs. Yes, the Bulls handily defeated them on the single Thursday night NBA game preceding the All-Star break. This was at the UC, and I watched the game in Maui. It was one of the last times Derrick put on a true DRose show.

And since then, sigh, the Cavs have won 30 games and only lost 7. The Bulls. Well, do we want to go there? OK, it’s 20 and 16.

But take away Derrick, and Captain Kirk’s recent knee injury (he should be back soon), and I can’t remember the last time the Bulls seemed so ready for the playoffs.

And with a coach like Thibs, your readiness level certainly increases.

Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald reported the following on March 31:

Taj Gibson: “Thibs is telling us, around this time, we have to shut everybody out. We have to even probably, possibly change our (phone) numbers because right now it’s all about team and nobody else.”

“That’s basically what he’s preaching, to put yourself in a box. Just you and your teammates. If you’ve got distractions, tell them to call him and he’ll tell them no for you. Because it’s that time of the year. He doesn’t want any distractions.”

And as Gibson stated later in the article, “”We have one of the best scouts in the game in Tom Thibodeau,” Gibson said. “He knows the team from top to bottom. He understands everything.”

Let’s just hope Thibs’ can handle his new-found responsibilities answering the calls of all of the Bulls’ players wives, girlfriends, cousins, distant cousins, friends, enemies and impostors looking for tickets.

But in the immediate future, today on Easter, as the Bulls face the Cavs, here’s hoping no one ate too much ham, LeBron has an off day, and please, oh please, no pajama top jerseys!

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Cavs.

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