An assessment of the Bulls from someone younger and wiser

So I was none too happy that the Bulls lost to the Heat on Monday, and my displeasure was compounded by the fact that two days later, another player was added to the injured list. (Note that IF the Bulls have to lose to anybody, I’ll take the Heat given I love Luol Deng, and that other guy has since left to run the show elsewhere.)

When I found out the Niko Mirotic had an emergency appendectomy, it was like the sky had fallen.

Adding up the injured Bulls requires someone with math skills beyond my elementary level: Jo, Dun Dun, Hinrich, Moore, DRose. I mean, I realize the 76ers of the west (the Lakers) were the next opponent, but still.

The only thing to do when such upsetting news hits social media is obviously to text your bro. Kevbro, eight years my junior is younger and wiser than me. He texted back:

“As long as they can make the playoffs and be healthy then and have some luck there is always a chance they can go pretty far.”

I told him that’s what I love about him – he always sees the bright side.

And things are beginning to look up on the health front. Dunleavy had his own bright idea to get some practice in while the Bulls are on their Disney on Ice road trip away from the UC. He’s adding himself to the Warriors’ D-League team.

“My brain works in thoughtful ways. They were trying to figure out, looking at the schedule and realizing I’m not getting much practice time and we got some guys hurt, limited on bodies; we started to think outside the box and I threw that out there as just a good opportunity.”

And E’Twaun Moore not only returned to the lineup vs. the Lakers, he got his first start as a Bull! Chalk one up for Fredberg, and being willing to switch up the starting lineup – with three guards, and for giving ET a chance.

I love this kid. And like others on this Bulls teams, and other NBA teams, it hasn’t been a walk in the park for him.

“I definitely fell from a high end in the draft, but that did nothing but motivate me,” said Moore. “The things that are disheartening that upset you, that’s fuel to keep you going and getting better. I grew up in a project, assisted government housing, tough neighborhood. Things weren’t always good. So adversity was something you always had to overcome. That prepared me for when things get hard I fight right through it. I always remember those times; those times drive me and motivate me to go forward.”

“Starting, that’s crazy,” smiled Moore. “I just stay in the gym, just stay ready; if it’s two minutes or 20 minutes I try to stay ready and keep working. My name is called I’m ready. I wouldn’t be surprised if the coach went back to it (vs. the Clippers) because it worked tonight (vs. 76ers West); it works, keep doing it. I was pleased, definitely happy; been a while since I started. So it was pretty cool.”

And finally, our optimist, Kevbro is going to be really excited about this one: it looks like DRose and JB have turned a corner. Some of the sports commentators have recently been reporting that the two stars had a meeting, leading to an “ah ha moment.”

I guess they’ve realized that maybe if they join forces, they can actually be better than best.

“This is new for me as it’s new for him, playing with an elite guard,” said Rose after Thursday’s win. “We’re young. The way he’s been playing has been great. I want him to shoot more. But I love his shot selection, the way he’s driving into the lane, getting fouls; it helps our team all the way around.”

“We were talking about that, laughing about it before the game, saying how the more games we get under our belt the more comfortable each other is going to be,” Butler said after the game about he and Rose. “It’s crazy because I love playing with him; he’s super aggressive and taking some great shots. That’s what we need. As long as I follow his lead on that style of play we are going to be really good.”

So now I’m feeling a lot better about our Bulls, and it’s all thanks to my not so little, but oh so smart bro.

So let’s get this done. This afternoon, the Bulls face new-look Lob City, as they take on the Clippers sans Blake Griffin, who is busy looking for other staff members to beat up.

They’re on the path to improved health.

And, they bring a fierce, fully (sorta) aligned backcourt with DRose and JB.

Things are looking much brighter for the future NBA champs.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Clippers.

Note: All quotes sourced from Sam Smith, the unofficial official Bulls blogger.

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It’s not the size of the dog in the fight…

…it’s the size of the fight in the dog.

Evidently, the Bulls are not in the mood to fight this season. Although I will say, I thought they started out with some energy during the first quarter of last night’s loss to the Celtics.

We’ve come to this. We’re just re-posting the same old “any excuse will do” commentary from last season.

But it’s different this year. Maybe because when the Bulls were struggling last year (and the year before that, etc.), with various members of the team on life support, you still knew they would try.

And there was always Thibs to fall back on. I mean, half the reason I ever watched the games was to see his sideline trolling, ranting and raving.

Fredberg. I mean, he’s so well, vanilla, so uninspiring. I already fell asleep just typing his name. As the coach so goes the team? If that’s the case, no wonder the Bulls are sleepwalking through games. There’s really no personality. No intensity.

Oh, and it’s sure to get easier for the Bulls in the next few games before the All-Star break (not). Tonight, they face the Cavs, led by their new coach, “that other guy,” (LebBron). Yes, they have something to prove. And so should the Bulls, given they recently got trounced by GSW, and then lost to the likes of a not-so-great Boston squad.

I look at the schedule and wonder – will the Bulls ever win again? When’s the next 76ers game? Oooh – it looks like the Jazz are coming up on Monday. I think they’re pretty bad. Maybe the Bulls can win one.

Yes, I’ve got my cranky pants on. I need to put my chipper hat back on. I’ll do that when the Bulls win.

I long for the days when the Bulls really didn’t have more than enough, yet they found ways to win. Days of old when “Do your job” meant something, and without flair, through sheer will and desire, and definitely far from pretty – the Bulls found a way to win games.

This year, they have more talent, more guys who can make shots, and an offensive system that was supposed to produce. Yet so far, it hasn’t proven to be a winning formula.

All we can count on is the fact that Cinjo’s got new kicks, she’s practicing, getting her shots up, and she’s ready to go. Let’s hope the rest of the team follows in kind behind her. We want to see more red!

Go Bulls!

Beat those other guys (Cavs)!

I'm ready to go, Fredberg.  I've got new kicks, and I always play defense.
I’m ready to go, Fredberg. I’ve got new kicks, and I always play defense.

It’s devastating…it hits you in the heart

Today, we were supposed to be assessing Jimmy Butler’s other-worldly, Jordanesque 53-point performance, where he led the Bulls to a victory against the league’s worst (by record) 76ers on Thursday night.

Instead, we are forced to evaluate Joakim Noah’s likely season-ending shoulder injury in the words of his teammates.

“It hurt, it hurt, just knowing how hard he worked, how hard he wants to be on the court, how much he means to this team, it’s devastating,” DRose said.

And probably his best friend on the team – Taj Gibson, “Seeing him on the table like that, kinda got a flashback to when Derrick got hurt. You don’t want to see your man go down like that. It is frustrating. You see a guy in all different kind of circumstances in eight years, guy you pride yourself with, especially in practice on a daily basis, he’s one of the emotional leaders of this team. It hits you in the heart.”

Over the past four years, as members of the team suffered their various injuries and ailments – ACL, torn meniscus, after-effects of a spinal tap, ankle sprains, back surgeries, you heard nothing from Jo but how the Bulls would fight through the adversity.

During his 2014 All-Star interview, Jo said: “We’re definitely the team that’s gone through the most in terms of adversity. And we’re showing a lot of fight and I’m really proud of being able to be a group that plays with heart.”

It does seem like the Bulls have suffered more than their fair share. Yet, what we love about them, is that (for the most part), they play with heart.

That Joakim, the “heart and soul” of the Bulls might be out for the season, or even worse, have played his last game as a Chicago Bull is heartbreaking.

To make myself feel better, I started thinking back to my fondest memories of Jo, and I would have to say the 2013 playoffs versus the Nets was my favorite. He single-handedly willed the Bulls to victory in that series – playing the entire time with plantar fasciitis. Remember the Bulls were without DRose, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich.

Hoops Rumors has been reporting for weeks that the Bulls were “quietly shopping” their bigs – Jo, Pau and Taj – as the front court is crowded, with the rookie, Bobby Portis, plus Mirotic, and seldom-used Cameron Bairstow.

Then there’s poor Cristiano Felicio. You’ve probably never heard of him. The Bulls sent him to the D-League, specifically, the Canton Charge, then recalled him. He seems to spend all of his time on planes. He was dispatched to the Charge for what seems like the zillionth time on Friday, and now, he’s been recalled to join the Bulls again as of this morning.

No, there is no joy in Mudville.

It had been hitting me in the heart that the Bulls lost three games. And even worse, they almost lost to Philly. Then, hope springs, as they seemed to be faring well versus the Mavs last night, but after Jo went down, it was like the west coast trip when DRose got injured again in Portland – game over.

I was tweeting with some other Bulls fans before the Mavs game started about how you don’t hear much about Dunleavy, and yet, he’s critical to the Bulls success. He had back surgery this summer, and is still out. There’s talk of him being out the rest of the season. Now I guess Jo may be added to the list.

And yet there were bright spots recently, with Jimmy G Buckets and his record-setting performances, and E’Twaun Moore coming up big in Q4 and OT versus the 76ers. Speaking of ET earlier in the season, Drose said, “He’s in the right place. He knows the game, a great teammate, a great dude. I’m just glad he has the opportunity he has now.”

I had planned to voice my frustrations after the recent losses. But now, it’s all irrelevant. As we’ve said before, when DRose was the victim to the untimely injuries – this is bigger than basketball.

After another Bulls setback, in January 2014, when Luol Deng was unexpectedly traded Jo wouldn’t speak to the media for a while. When he finally did speak, Jo said:

“I feel when I come to the game and see the guys selling newspapers on the street; it’s cold outside. He sees me driving and he’s excited. He’s like, ‘Let’s go Bulls. Get it done tonight.’ I feel I play for that guy.”

“I look in the arena when the team calls a timeout and see this guy who looks this big jump up and down (in the upper deck, 300 level). That’s the guy I play for.”

The author of the article from which I pulled the two quotes above summed it up perfectly: “Deng or no Deng, Derrick Rose or no Derrick Rose, healthy roster or injury-plagued docket, Noah won’t ever stop fighting.”

We know that Jo will always fight. And your teammates will fight for you, Jo. They’ve got your back. And so does Bulls Banter.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Get well Jo.

10, oops, 16 reasons to be excited about the Chicago Bulls

Since we last convened here on Bulls Banter, our beloved team has been on a tear. In fact, following the Christmas miracle OKC victory, other than one inexplicable loss to the Mavericks, the Bulls have gone on to win every game since then.

Yes, that’s six games in a row. It looks like our Championship team is finally coming together, and there are oh so many reasons to be excited.

1.) The Bulls have beat legitimate, contending teams in the past three weeks, including one of them (the Raps) twice. The others, in addition to OKC, are the Pacers and Celtics.

2.) The Bulls did not disappoint during my first appearance at the UC this season, with a convincing 108 to 81 victory over the Knicks on New Year’s Day. Evidently, the Knicks’ record-setting (in the wrong way) 8 points in the fourth quarter, which in part caused the game to be described as “The Great Chicago Fire” by NYC media, helped to ignite the Knicks’ recent resurgence. Happy to help the Knicks…I guess. All I care about is the Bulls got the W. Read more here: How Knicks’ rebound was ignited by a feisty 1-hour film session.

3.) Jimmy G Buckets (the G stands for Gets) is not only doing the laundry now, he’s also sewing the clothes and manufacturing the washing machines. His 40 points in one half, breaking Michael Jordan’s record—was nothing short of magnificent.

4.) In this video, I’ve labeled simly as Squad, you can see how the team came together following the win in Toronto and JB’s performance. “I think we all got a lot of love for each other,” Butler said. “Everybody wants to see everybody be successful. That’s why we’re winning games. We’re buying into any given night. It could be anybody that’s scoring. It could be anybody that’s got it going. You get the ball to them and they’ll take us where we need to go. But that’s special just showing how much everybody wants everybody else to be successful.”

5.) The Bulls are finally following my lead with their fast breaks. What I’ve been practicing with my coach at the East Bank Club this past year closely resembles what the Bulls were FINALLY able to pull off versus the Celtics the other night: Watch the Chicago Bulls run a full-court fast break without taking a single dribble. (Bulls management – you can pay me later.)

6.) With Placido Domingo (one of the Three Tenors) in the Bulls’ court, how can they lose? He was at the UC for the Celtics game this week, and in an interview with Chuck Garfien of CSN, had this to say about his friend, Pau Gasol, “He is playing beautifully for the Bulls. There’s a lot of possibilities to make the playoffs and something happening.” Article and Interview with Placido Domingo.

7.) The emergence of Bobby “Crazy Eyes” Portis, who has stepped in for Jo since he’s been sidelined due to a shoulder injury.

8.) It looks like DRose and JB have figured out how to play nice. And it’s the only way the Bulls can beat those other guys (the Cavs), or the likes of the Splash Brothers. Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler: Rising together, debunking myths.

9.) Staying ready. Tony Snell, who had been taken out of the starting lineup got sent back in for the December 28 home game versus the Raps. He scored 22 (tying with Pau for leading scorer), including 19 in the final 18 minutes. “I’m staying ready every day,” Snell said. “I make sure I’m staying ready at all times.”

10.) The bench. For a few games there, it was the Aaron Brooks show. Add E’Twaun Moore and the rook (Bobby Portis), and you’ve sure got a lot of weapons. “We have a bunch of looks,” Brooks said with a laugh. “We have a bunch of looks on this team, and you never know on any given day…there’s a lot of talent of this team. Guys just got to step up when their name is called.”

11.) Hey, wait, what about us? Remember, we haven’t even seen Mike Dunleavy Jr. play yet this season. And Jo is set to return sometime this week. Wonder how Coach Fred is going to find minutes for me once I get added to the roster…

12.) Games, games and more games. If you were hoping to watch some Bulls basketball, you’re in luck. You best renew your NBA League Pass subscription straight-away. Today, there’s a “matinee” versus the Hawks at 4 p.m. CST. And then, it’s “4 in 5.” Yes, we get to enjoy Bulls games Monday (Wizards), Tuesday (Bucks), Thursday (76ers…I’m scared, now that they have Ish Smith + Elton Brand), Friday (Mavs). Around Friday, we’ll certainly be calling for baskets…oh Betty.

13.) Fredberg is finally taking off. Here in CHI, the sportscasters have taken to calling the new coach “Fredberg.” After all, they need something to jazz up the morning programs, and it’s complementary to GarPax and all. While things seem to have gotten off to a slow start, it looks like the Bulls have turned a corner. I guess JB’s tirade, then John Paxon’s speech during the subsequent team meeting have helped steer the Bulls ship.

14.) We’ll never forget you, Thibs. Following the Celtics win, a reporter asked DRose, “What’s been the key to the offense?” Derrick’s response: “I think it all starts with our defense. Because without defense, you can’t get out on the open floor or play that up-tempo type pace we want to.” Following the Bulls first defeat of the Raps on December 28, their coach, Dwane Casey said, “They’re still a defensive team. They still have remnants. The core is still there. The DNA is still there. It’s been beat in them, so to speak, which is a good thing.”

15.) Taj Gibson finally gets the starting spot he deserves, and the Bulls are 8-5 since he entered the starting lineup. “He has been really solid,” Fredberg said. “He’s a very versatile defender and you can switch him out onto perimeter guys. He has great length, contests shots, he’s a very good offensive rebounder — he’s just solid.”

16.) Second in the East. DRose is healthy. JB is on fire. Pau is a double double machine. The bench can beat most starting lineups.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Hawks.

Me at Bulls vs. Knicks on January 1, 2016. Bulls win 108 to 81.
Me at Bulls vs. Knicks on January 1, 2016. Bulls win 108 to 81.

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