Out with February, in with a much better March

Seems like we all want February to end. The Bulls lost 8 and won 4. It doesn’t take a math wiz like me to assess those results. It’s awful.

I had just settled in on the couch, and planned to partake of a delicious frozen pizza while I watched the Bulls vs. the Hawks game on Friday. Then, at 7:10, just after Neil Funk and Stacey King had given their game preview – the cable went out. Not only that, no Internet.

No team stream on my phone, tablet, or on either laptop. Kevbro jumped in once again to save the day, providing game updates via text. But I figured I would throw in the towel (evidently, kinda like the Bulls did), and just go to bed early and I’m glad I did.

Another loss to the Hawks, and another delete from the DVR. I used to feel badly for the Hawks. They had about six fans in the arena, and I’m pretty sure management was piping in fake noise or something. Watching those games was difficult enough…when the Bulls were winning. Now, it’s painful, and I don’t feel too badly for the Hawks now.

However, we have seen bright spots during this downturn. In the games they’ve won, the Bulls are racking up a lot of assists. So the ball is moving, not staying in anyone’s hands, and that’s a good thing.

The problem seems to happen following all of the ball movement, when no one can make a basket.

E’Twaun Moore has become a reliable starter, and is scrappy and a good defender. Dougie McBuckets has been nothing short of a revelation. And I like the way Taj has become a more vocal leader. Pau got a triple double. I read that Bobby Portis grabbed 16 rebounds and scored 10 points versus the Trailblazers last night, but I was in Greektown for dinner (Opa!) and when I got home and saw the results…well.

Like the Bulls, my month wasn’t the best either. I don’t want to be Debbie Downer, but let’s just say, my Puerto Rico trip was postponed, and the car and the fridge both broke. While I want to play like Drose, I don’t want to duplicate his medical history. Sprained ACL + torn medial meniscus…meant travel would have to wait.I definitely feel his pain.

So we all want out of February 2016. And our wish is coming true. The Bulls march into March on Tuesday at the Miami Heat. Any game where I get to see one of my favorite players, and classiest guy ever – Luol Deng is must see Bulls TV.

In March, sometime, the Bulls should Jimmy back, and Niko. DRose has to get over this hamstring issue one of these days…but that’s another story.

The Bulls have got 17 games in March. One is on my birthday, versus the Hawks at the UC. I’m planning to grace the Bulls with my presence, which is sure to finally help them break their losing streak versus Atlanta.

To end on a high note, here are a few quotes from the new team leader, Taji Woo!, courtesy of Sam Smith (unofficial official Bulls blogger) and K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.

Once again, Taj, channeling his best Thibs, provides hope that the Bulls are not giving up yet.

Taj:  “I feel we have a strong shot; playing with a short deck now. Keep playing and maturing and scrapping out wins until everyone gets back healthy. The whole Eastern Conference is junked up now. Everybody one or two loses out of home court advantage. So every game is coming to the wire; as I said, I like our chances. We just have to bounce back.”

Continuing, Taj said: “We know what we’ve got. We just know that we have to play harder and can’t mess up. We have a small window for mistakes now and that’s the biggest thing. But we’ve got a lot of good guys in here preaching the right things and wanting to win for the right reasons.”

And recognizing who’s running the show now, I appreciate what Taj says here: “It’s frustrating because we have so many injuries and you know the character of the guys. Everybody wants to win. Everybody means well. We’re trying to win for Fred (Hoiberg). He’s a good coach. But we have a small window for mistakes now.”

February was the month for mistakes and mishaps. It’s a new month now. So a winning record in March, lots of victories, no more injuries, and a playoff spot (except for #8).

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Heat.

Turning boos into cheers

Last time we met, I was spinning the woeful tale about the Bulls’ unexpected and unfortunate losing streak.

Things have turned around a bit since then, and today’s headline, courtesy of another younger and wiser kid, is from none other than Knicks player Kristaps Porzingis.

I don’t cry too much, and when I do, it’s usually about my Bulls losing in the playoffs. (But lets not get ahead of ourselves.)

This past year, I cried when the fans at the NBA draft booed Porzingis when the Knicks drafted him at #4. I felt so so badly for the poor Latvian kid.

And yet, the success he’s achieved in his rookie year has become a feel-good story of the NBA.

The Bulls, on the other hand, have been living the opposite of the feel-good story. It’s been more like a fan’s worst nightmare. A train wreck if you will.

But on Friday night, when the Bulls returned to the UC after having lost to the Cavs on the road, they looked like the Bulls we knew they could be. And yes, the fans began to cheer again. They defeated the Raps for the third time this season. And yes, the Raptors are # 2 in the East.

And last night, as Kobe made his final appearance at the UC (at least, as a Lakers player), it wasn’t too hard to find cheers. Yes, it seemed like it was all about him.

But thankfully, the fans also cheered for our surging Bulls, and their two-game win streak. And players are stepping up. McBuckets with 30 vs. the Raps. E’Twaun Moore with 24 vs. the Lakers. Derrick is just being Derrick. Yes, that Derrick. MVP Derrick.

“I’m encouraged with what we’re doing offensively,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “The ball is moving so much better than it was earlier in the season. As far as the other end of the floor, we never had the toughness you need to pull away.”

And even Kobe got to experience what it’s like to hear the cheers instead of boos.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reported:

He (Kobe) clearly enjoyed the night, including the repeated “Kobe! Kobe!” chants from the sellout crowd.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling to have that kind of reaction,” Bryant said. “It was a little strange at first because I’m so used to being booed. But I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

Let’s hope the Bulls’ win streak continues, and it’s cheers from here on out.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Wizards.

Heart

On the day before Valentine’s Day, the topic sure is appropriate. But this story is more about heartbreak than anything else.

I’ve been heartbroken these past few weeks, just utterly saddened to see the Bulls in such a tailspin. Of course, I was unable to watch the second half of the Bulls vs. Hawks game this week (too upset), and I saw a bunch of tweets about fans booing the Bulls at the UC. And booing at heightened volume levels.

Leave it to Taj Gibson, born and bred in Brooklyn, to pick up where Joakim left off a few years ago with the post-Luol departure speech for the ages. Don’t let our East coast “cold” facade fool you. Brooklynites really are sensitive.

Taj tried to assess the state of the Bulls following their implosion versus Atlanta (oh, did I mention Taj had to leave the game with a foot injury as well…sigh.)

“It’s frustrating,” Gibson said. “It’s very frustrating because we have more than enough to win. We used to win games with less than this. I think it’s our mental [approach]. It’s extremely frustrating and it hurts my heart.”

“I don’t think it’s quit,” Gibson said. “I just think at times we have a little doubt. That’s where the talking and leadership — we’re out there, we’re talking a lot, but I can’t seem to put a finger on it. It’s frustrating. I try and tell guys, we’ve got to get back to playing for each other. Just got to go out there and play, leave your heart out there and just lay it on the line. We got more than enough to win games. It’s just frustrating.”

First of all, he’s channeling his inner Thibs. And second of all, I know why the heart isn’t there. It’s because the Bulls let their heart (and soul), Joakim go when they signed Pau Gasol.

I know, I know – but Pau is a double double machine. Pau gets you 25 points / 10 rebounds / 2 blocks / night. He’s a two-time NBA champion.

Bulls management thought the two centers could somehow play together and be complementary. But I feel like Jo’s spirit was broken – that his leadership and abilities were called into question as soon as Pau entered the fold.

And Fredberg sending Jo to the bench before the season even began signified the start of what’s become the Bulls’ downward spiral.

I’m not sure why everyone has been questioning the Bulls’ leadership and identity. It was centered around Jo, his work ethic, enthusiasm, do whatever it takes, lead by example, defense-first mindset, which grounded the team.

The games weren’t pretty. The score was usually low. But you knew the Bulls, following Jo’s lead would play with heart. You were always inspired by their scrappy play and seemingly incomprehensible wins, when on paper, they should have lost.

Now that identity and heart are missing. And so are the wins.

Signing Pau was a defining moment. Trading Luol Deng was another milestone, which demonstrated the short-sighted mentality of Bulls management (GarPax). But the Bulls’ season may have been over before it began when the Bulls’ most important and dedicated player, the team leader (Jo) was relegated to sixth or seventh man.

I long for the days when the Bulls willed themselves to victories against better, healthy teams despite having half the roster on life support and the other half playing on crutches.

No, I won’t abandon my Bulls, but their seeming lack of joy for the game, for one another, and for winning sure does hurt me in the heart too.

On a more inspiring note, lest this blog conclude in the same way most of the Bulls’ recent games have, I take hope in some of the facts. CSN Chicago showed a graphic the other day – trying to cheer us all up, where they compared the records over the past five or so years as the Bulls entered the All-Star break.

Evidently, the Bulls had the same record just a few years ago, and turned it around in the final 30 games, winning more than half in the stretch run, and making it to the playoffs. With #s being far from my strong suit, I can’t exactly remember just how many games they won post-break record, and exactly what season it was is a bit fuzzy too. I want to say it was the 2012-2013 season.

No matter the stats, I heart the notion of a resurgence, and want to be the Bulls #1 fan again, really I do.

I want to believe Fredberg, and what he told the team going into the break: “And as a team we’ve got to find ourselves. I challenged them to whatever they’ve got to do over the break, look themselves in the mirror, find a way to get committed to this thing and go on a run. And that’s all we can do right now, is look forward.”

They best start running. And fast. Because next up, it’s those other guys (Cavs).

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Cavs.

The All-Star break can’t get here soon enough

Remember that saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all?” Well, in that case, we’re done here. Blog over.

This has been quite a road trip for our Bulls. They’re 2-4, and keep finding a way to fall apart in the fourth quarter. It happened versus Denver, and evidently, again last night versus the Timberwolves. Good thing I was enjoying some delicious BBQ at Chicago Q restaurant, and missed the back-to-back Q4 meltdown.

In keeping with the theme of Bulls Banter’s last blog, where the younger and wiser Kevbro found a way to keep it positive…I’ll give it a whirl. Here it goes.

POSITIVES COMING OUT OF THE BULLS DISNEY ON ICE ROAD TRIP

1.) E’Twaun Moore. Inserting him into the starting lineup may have been the only brilliant move Fredberg has made all season. It’s a total revelation. And most importantly, his career-high 24 points vs. the Kings (one of the games the Bulls DID win) caused Stacey King to declare, “It’s E’Twaun’s world and we’re all just living in it.”

2.) Mike Dunleavy’s return: Since I was too busy choosing between cornbread and cheddar and bacon hush puppies at Chicago Q when Dun Dun made his return, I didn’t get to see it. Per the box score, he only had five points. We’ll give him a minute to get back up to speed. His presence can only help, and the Chicago media have been eagerly awaiting his quotes and dry sense of humor.

In this case, Dun Dun took a serious tone, as noted by Chicago Tribune Bulls beat writer K.C. Johnson in his article, Timberwolves spoil Mike Dunleavy’s season debut with 112-105 victory.

Dunleavy said, “This team — we talked about it a little bit — we have to have a bigger team ego. To the point where it’s like, ‘Look, man, we go into games like we’re winning this game. And down the stretch, we’re going to handle business.’

“There’s like this doubt that seems to be creeping in. We’re too good for that. We have good players. We’re well-coached. We have to execute better. But more importantly, we have to have that feeling like we’re going to get this done.”

3.) DRose: One of my friends, who really doesn’t even follow any kind of basketball that much, and the Bulls, not so much, but likes to enlighten us with her opinion nonetheless is fond of saying, “DRose is ALWAYS hurt. He’s ALWAYS hurt.” The extent to which this annoys me is off the charts. It would take some new math to calculate my dissatisfaction. Along with Pau, DRose has recently become one of the Bulls most consistent players. As others, DRose enthusiasts like to say, “He’s doing DRose things,” and “He looks like DRose again.”

4.) Fredberg has found one winning strategy: Inserting bench players like Cameron Bairstow (who?) in the starting lineup and Cristiano Felício as one of the first subs has proven pretty effective in confusing the opponent – both players and coaches. It’s doubtful Cam or Cris were on the scouting report, certainly advantageous for the Bulls.

5.) Time-saving: With the late west coast starts + the Bulls losses, I’ve been able to save a lot of time. When I get up the next morning and find out the Bulls collapsed and lost the night prior, I just delete the game from the recorded programs on my DVR and get back two hours to do something productive (watch reruns of The Closer, etc.).

The All-Star break can’t get here soon enough. A few days off can only help our Bulls – in mind and body. And since the coaches didn’t add me as an Eastern Conference reserve, I’ll spend the break in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Don’t worry Bulls fans, we’ll all be rested and healthy in a few week’s time.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat somebody…anybody.

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