5 Things to Know about the 2017-2018 Bulls

It’s the 2017-2018 season, and the Bulls  are right where we expected them to be. Five games in, they’ve lost four and won one. So, they’re on track to win about 20 and lose the other 62.

With five games to assess, I thought it was a good time to reveal five things you should know about our Bulls.

ONE: Lauri Markkanen (The Finnisher)

The Finnisher is gonna be good. He gave the Cavs a scare in the first half earlier this week. I guess there’s no time to read the scouting report when you’re “that other guy,” or his supporting cast. Basically, the Cavs players forgot to guard Markkanen.

He got about a zillion threes (OK, he actually made five three-pointers), and for a minute, it seemed like the Bulls could actually win the game. Silly me. I guess that’s what halftime is for. To adjust the game plan. The Cavs knew who Markkanen was by Q3 and Q4, found a way to contain him, and the Bulls lost in the end.

But there is reason to be encouraged about the rook, aka the Finnisher, the Finnish Mamba, the Markksman. Now all the Bulls need to do is to add Cinjo – the Norwegian Ninja – and they could really set themselves apart. What other NBA team do you know with two star Nordic players? Think about it.

TWO: It’s gonna be interesting

Not sure if the major Bulls story of the season made its way beyond Chicago yet, but the Bobby Portis vs. Nikola Mirotic UFC fight from a few weeks ago is adding a lot of interest to this otherwise dull start.

Portis punched Niko, sending him to the ER. Niko was concussed, and has facial fractures which require surgery. And all of this at a Fred Hoiberg practice? “Crazy Eyes” Portis is living up to his name.

And on the other side of the ring, Niko has given the Bulls an ultimatum – “Him or me.” Bulls fans around the world I’m sure are up at night worrying about this predicament, distraught about how the season can progress without either Bobby or Niko.

I’ll confess that assessing the who, what, when and where of the fight has been a lot more interesting than watching any of the games so far. So stay tuned for the next episode of Days of our Bulls’ Lives.

THREE: Introducing Robin Lopez

Robin Lopez has emerged as a leader and face of the Bulls as of late. This is quite an evolution since last June, when Fredberg said he was “looking forward to coaching Brook Lopez.” Ummm, Fred – Brook is Robin’s twin brother. The Bulls acquired Robin. Robin Lopez, aka Robez or RoLo.

Robez is a center, and a Thibs throwback. He does his job. There’s not tons of flair, but he’s consistent, does the dirty work, plays great defense, and makes baskets in the paint. And he’s totally wacky. Most well-known for getting into altercations with mascots from around the NBA, he’s most recently become a Bulls front man.

And he’s now introduced in the MJ/DRose/JB spot during player introductions – last. And most importantly, I believe Robez has already made his second appearance one of the sports world’s finest programs – Late Night Snack with Henry: Robin Lopez and Zach LaVine.

FOUR: The team and lineups are a moving target

So, I dare you to name more than five players currently on the Bulls. I already gave you Markkanen, Portis, Mirotic, Lopez and LaVine in the course of this award-winning, informative blog.

If you said Quincy Pondexter, David Nwaba, Jerian Grant, Justin Holiday or Paul Zipser, you’d be right. And there’s about eight more, whose names escape me.

Cinjo, the Norwegian Ninja has a greater chance of making it onto the team, and playing until the end of the season than some of the guys currently on the roster. In case you need a little refresher – Chicago Bulls Roster.

FIVE: This isn’t going to be a season of rainbows and butterflies

I’ll ‘fess up – I haven’t watched an entire game yet this season, and I’m wondering if anyone else really has either. The first few games, and especially that Cavs game – they played hard.

But evidently, during last night’s fiasco with OKC, when the Bulls were “Westbrooked,” they lost by 30 or 40 points, and did anything but play hard.

And even the mild-mannered Fredberg was none too pleased.

As reported by KC Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, Hoiberg had this to say after huge loss.

“We took a huge step in the wrong direction. We didn’t compete. We didn’t stay together. We didn’t fight through adversity as a team. We were careless. We were stagnant. They got to loose balls. That can’t happen with this group.”

“It’s very disappointing coming off the encouraging win against Atlanta by doing all the little things — winning the 50-50 balls, dominating the glass. We had none of that. Things weren’t going well and we just dropped our heads and gave in. You can’t do that as a young team.”

Players said Hoiberg gave them an earful at halftime.

Well, well, well – I like that sound of that. A little more Thibs-like and a little less Fred-like. After all, I never really was all that into rainbows or butterflies.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Heat!

 

 

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A little more basketball with my baseball

 

Cubs vs. Giants – 2016 NLDS game 1, and my first ever baseball playoff game. Cubs win 1-0.

I’m going to come clean and ‘fess up.

It’s been such a busy summer watching the Cubs, and then tracking the young White Sox and all of their prospects that there’s not too much time left to keep up with our Bulls.

When it comes to the Bulls, important questions do warrant discussion –

1.) Who exactly is on the team?

2.) Will the Bulls be able to win more than the 20 games Chicago sports pundits are predicting?

3.) Which Christmas game will I watch given the Bulls didn’t make the schedule — for the first time since 2009?

4.) Has Fredberg figured out how to coach?

5.) Does anyone care about the above questions, or about anything to do with the Bulls anyway?

With the Bulls in disarray, I’ve been busy working on my baseball game. There’s a lot to learn – about WAR, OPS, upcoming starting pitcher schedule, four-man outfield, player nicknames (Tony, KB, Q, Snake, Stropy, El del Pinonal, Yoyo, Los, Avi).

There’s pitch count, steals, the leadoff man, Statcast, wind velocity, the warning track, setup man, closer.

It can be overwhelming.

Needless to say – with games almost every night, the teams traveling to the west and east coast, plus two teams to follow, my Bulls have fallen by the wayside with the baseball madness.

But not to worry – the home opener is on a Saturday in mid-October. I’ll “do my job” and get smart on these Bulls in September. Pre-season starts on October 3 at the NOLA Pelicans.

Meantime, I would hope that my soon-to-be-refound Bulls and basketball knowledge, bolstered by a growing love and knowledge of baseball would be “more than enough” to help me impress a gentleman suitor out there.

We’ll address this topic in another blog on another day. And the answer could take longer to uncover than it will for the Bulls to win championship #7.

I guess all of us need to work on our game!

Go Cubs! Go White Sox!

 

Bringing the band back together

This is supposed to be a blog about the Bulls, but given today’s news that Taj Gibson is joining Jimmy Butler and my main man Thibs in Minnesota, seems I might need to launch “Wolves Words” soon.

So excited to hear about Taj – a quality, stand-up guy, great teammate and player, and of course – he’s from Brooklyn.

On a related Bulls Brooklyn note – I learned the other day that Michael Jordan was born in Brooklyn. This fact I gleaned while watching a program about Jerry Reinsdorf (owner of the Bulls and the White Sox) – who is also from Brooklyn. Important to me, but probably not to anyone else.

What is important? The Bulls have picked a lane, and they’re headed down a path. Whether or not they’re going to win any races (aka championships), and just how fast they’ll travel remains to be seen.

We asked for some kind of direction, and we got it.

I, for one am happy about the addition of the Finnish player Lauri Markkanen. We need more Scandinavians in the NBA, and on the Bulls. I feel like now this Norwegian has more of a fighting chance.

Around the time of the NBA draft, when Jimmy was traded, and the Bulls acquired Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine, I watched an inspiring profile of Wisconsin wrestler Zack Anglin, who overcame his disabilities to achieve greatness as a wrestler.

All I could think about was – now that’s winning. I highly recommend you try to catch the ESPN E:60 program where he was featured, or check out this article.

I spend a lot of the season kidding around about our beloved Bulls. Will they ever win again? Can they make it to the playoffs, and/or past the first round? How about winning more than two games in a row? Is it possible to ever beat that other guy (LeBron) in the playoffs?

These questions remain, and will be answered in due time. But I guess there are different definitions of winning. We’ll see where the Bulls’ season leads, and how the team measures up against the likes of  a true winner – Zack Anglin. Although he didn’t win his state championship – he’s a winner.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Timberwolves! (assuming this will be the home opener…and I’ll be there.)

 

Bulls lead the way in Chicago sports

You won’t see these records too often in Chicago sports, so I thought it was significant to bring it to the world’s attention.

The regular season record for your World Champion Cubs: 6-7. And the Chicago White Sox are at 6-6.

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators, Playoffs Round 1. Blackhawks 0 – Predators 3

Chicago Bulls vs. Boston Celtics, Playoffs Round 1. Bulls 1 – Celtics 0

And then there’s the UConn women, who don’t even have a win.

At this moment, it’s pretty good to be a Bulls fan. Let’s hope our Bulls can sustain it and make it to round 2, where the author of Bulls Banter will set up shop at the UC to conduct onsite research during at least one game.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Celtics.

Summing up the Bulls’ season in one word

You’ve got a cranky Bulls fan here. If you visited Bulls Banter intending to read about hearts and flowers – you’ve come to the wrong place.

Trying to sum up the Bulls’ 2016-2017 season in one word is impossible.

Why? Because it’ll take an entire dictionary to describe it. Here’s a start:

Un-watch-a-Bull. Disheartening. Uninspired. Uninspiring. Inconsistent. Sad. Disappointing. Infuriating. Unexpected. Blah. Maddening. Forget-a-Bull. Schizophrenic. Dismal. Unimaginable. Mediocre. Sub-par. Unimpressive.

Despite this unfavorable picture, there is hope. Specifically, when the Bulls fail to make the playoffs for the second season in a row, we can only hope that Fredberg and/or GarPax will be sent packing.

In other basketball news – best thing I heard all day: my man Thibs’ Timberwolves beat the Golden State Warriors last night. I’m so proud!

And for those who are keeping score – it’s UConn Women 107. Bulls -4. Seems it’s time to re-purpose this site from Bulls Banter to “How ’bout those Huskies?” or “Winning with the UConn Women.”

As the Bulls head to Boston for a Sunday game, not sure the luck of the Irish will be on their side – seems more likely that luck is reserved for the Celtics. However, if the Watch-a-Bulls show up, they could have a fighting chance.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Celtics (she wrote with some slight glimmer of hope).

Do Your Job – A Fond Look Back at Thibs

Thibs at USA Basketball Game summer 2015.
Thibs at USA Basketball game at the United Center summer 2014.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what is wrong with our Bulls. While there are way more questions than answers (Why hasn’t Jimmy Butler been traded? How can GarPax still have jobs? When will we ever see 48 minutes of intensity, a la Norm Van Lier? Why is Fredberg coaching, when he belongs at the YMCA Saturday men’s league – back in Iowa?) — one thing for certain is clear.

If Thibs were still coaching our Bulls, they wouldn’t find themselves mired in mediocrity.

And we, their loyal fans wouldn’t be deleting the 9:30 p.m. CST start time games from our DVRs because we can’t bear the pain of watching yet another blowout loss resulting from a lethargic performance.

What do I miss about Thibs?

With Thibs, you knew what to expect. You had to work hard – bring it every day. He’s kind of old school – my kind of guy. No exceptions or “I don’t feel good” or “I don’t wanna play defense today.” I’ll admit, he’s a taskmaster, and far from the most chipper guy on the block. But down deep, I think he really did care about the guys. And he wanted to win. That desire trickled down to the team.

It seemed that he inspired confidence (and maybe some fear) in members of the team. There was no questioning him – or, like JB did this season refusing to take a time-out that Fredberg called. If you had indicated to Thibs that you didn’t want to take the time-out that he ordered, you could enjoy your life-long stint with the Maine Red Claws or the Fort Wayne Mad Ants (D-League teams), or maybe Yao Ming’s Chinese team would be your new home.

What probably set Thibs apart more than anything is he knew how to lead and motivate. He showed up at the office kind of like me – FILO. It’s First In, Last Out – like in accounting. In essence, he led by example – first at the office, last to leave. He would work harder for you than you.

And most of all, he knew basketball. No one ever questioned his competence. He figured out ways to win when there was only half a team, and teams with far less talent than the Bulls have now. The guys listened to him, didn’t question him. They knew he’d always come up with a plan.

Sure, with Thibs there were bad circus trips and blowouts, and more than a few meltdowns. No matter what, he worked hard, the guys played hard, and you could count on him stalking the sidelines, yelling and flailing. Oh how I miss that. I found comfort in the Thibs rants. I enjoyed seeing his latest custom suit and I relished waiting and waiting to see if he’d ever smile.

I did find one laughing Thibs video. Oh the joy this brings: Tom Thibodeau’s laugh is downright demonic.

And even more than that, with Thibs, you knew the Bulls would always be in the playoffs, and they’d make a run for it before “that other guy” LeBron put an end to the season and all of our hopes, yet again.

While I’ll never ever ever give up on our Bulls, I do question who is running this Bulls show. At least this little trip down memory lane has helped me remember happier days. The games weren’t always pretty, but we could always count on a good fight.

And we all lived by Thibs’ motto – “Know your job. Do your job.”

As the Bulls face the Timberwolves Sunday afternoon, we can look forward to several hours of sideline stalking. I, for one, can’t wait.

And we can hope Thibs will reprise some of his better lines, bringing a smile to all of our faces. I guess that’s about the best we can do at this point. And thank our lucky stars we’re not the Knicks.

PS: Fredberg – I hope you’re listening/reading.

OUT OF THE MOUTH OF THIBS

“People always talk about going on offensive runs. But you can go on defensive runs too.”

“There are no short cuts. If you want to do something special, there’s a serious price to pay. There’s no way around it.”

“You have to have core values. What do you believe in? Do you believe in hard work? Do you believe in discipline? Do you believe in conditioning? Because those are the things I know that do work.”

“You’re a sum of all your experiences.”

Credit for quotes:  AZ Quotes

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Timberwolves (sorry Thibs).

Bulls are on a win streak!

In sports news this week, the Bulls won two games in a row, versus the Pelicans on Saturday and surprisingly, they beat the Grizzlies on Sunday.

It’s come to that – having to applaud two wins, and their latest record of 21-21. They’re at .500! Let’s celebrate.

And in more significant sports news, the UConn women won their 91st straight game. It’s almost inconceivable to think that it’s possible, let alone doable.

And to Cubs fans in Chicago and around the world, most significant was their ascent to become World Series Champions this year, celebrated by President Obama at the White House yesterday.

So the now Un-Stop-A-Bulls won two, and the UConn women won 91, and the Cubs won the World Series. All seemingly impossible accomplishments.

But it’s about more than win streaks and breaking curses and winning the flu game when it comes to the significance of sports. POTUS described it profoundly with his remarks during the Cubs’ celebration at the White House yesterday.

“And to being able to come together and work together in one spirit … ,” Obama said. “I was in my hometown of Chicago on Tuesday, and in my farewell address I said sometimes it’s not enough just to change laws. You’ve got to change hearts. And sports has a way sometimes of changing hearts in a way that politics or business doesn’t.

“Sometimes it’s just a matter of us being able to escape and relax from the difficulties of our day, but sometimes it also speaks to something better in us. And when you see this group of folks of different shades and different backgrounds, and coming from different communities and neighborhoods all across the country, and then playing as one team and playing the right way, and celebrating each other and being joyous in that, that tells us a little something about what America is and what America can be.”

That about sums it up, except to point out that it was critical to get this blog posted before one of the aforementioned win streaks ended. And it’s unlikely to be the win streak of a team coached by a guy name Geno.

Let’s get three, when the Bulls face the Dallas Mavericks tonight. After all, in sports, anything is possible.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Mavs

Notes:

1.) Thanks to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune for the transcript of President Obama’s remarks.

2.) Check this out – UConn’s record win streak by the numbers

 

Five glimmers of Bulls hope on this New Year’s Eve

Happy New Year Bulls fans! Always wanting to see the glass half full, here is Bulls Banter’s attempt to put a positive spin on what many may characterize as a disappointing end to 2016 for our Bulls. After all, 2017 is only hours away, and with the New Year, there is new opportunity.

Here are five glimmers of hope.

1.) Jimmy Butler. Gets the game-winning shot against the Brooklyn Nets the other night. Scores 40 in that game. He had a big old 20 points/game streak going for 12 games, which ended on that fateful Christmas Day game versus the Spurs. As in the Thibs days of old, he still does it all – even the laundry. Without Jimmy, the Bulls could be giving the Nets and the 76ers a run for their money for the worst record in the East. He’s been a revelation. It’s not by chance he continues to get better. The kid works. It will be great to see him in the All-Star game again!

2.) Fredberg (Fred Hoiberg) could be on the way out. ESPN’s Marc Stein caused a big media hub bub on Friday in his article, How Bulls’ Hoiberg ended up in the NBA’s hottest seat. Finally! What we’ve all be crying out for this past year and a half! No more Fredberg. Although subsequently, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reported differently in his article, Expect Bulls management to stay the course with coach Fred Hoiberg. As K.C. points out, if the Bulls got rid of Fred, they’d lose millions – $19M or more. So, we best get used to seeing him around, even though watching paint dry is more exciting. A girl can at least dream of his departure, can’t she?

3.) Fredberg benched Rondo during the Pacers game. Yay! He made the right basketball decision. Herein is progress. So I have nothing against Rondo, except he sometimes doesn’t really score too many points (note: the end game in basketball is to score points, and the winning team scores more points than the losing team). And he seems to move a bit slowly. So Fredberg put in MCW (Michael Carter-Williams). The kid might not score 40 either, but he’s a good defender, and the Bulls seemed to really have some energy with him on the floor. So score one for Fredberg for mixing it up – even though we can all look forward to a Rondo tantrum at any moment.

4.) It’s almost a new year. Turn the page. On to 2017. Anything has to be better than the Bulls’ 2016.

5.) The Bulls have got everyone healthy. So that’s a bonus, and hopefully, at full strength, they can propel themselves up into the top 5 in the East. After all, there’s still a lot more basketball to play!

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Bucks.

Happy New Year everyone!

Un-watch-a-Bulls need to channel their inner Kristaps Porzingis

It’s been a rough few weeks for our Chicago Bulls, or as I like to call them as of late, the “Un-watch-a-Bulls.” The loss to Tom Thibodeau’s Timberwolves I’ll let slide. Deep down, I kind of wanted Thibs to get the W, after the way things ended between him and Bulls’ management.

But two losses to the Milwaukee Bucks, including one at the United Center, where the Bulls only scored 69 to the Bucks’ 95? What? Am I living in some alternate universe now? And you know the world is about to end when the New York Knicks are ahead of the Bulls in the Eastern Conference standings.

Since watching these awful games is not on my festive Christmas agenda, and leads to me acting more like Scrooge than Santa, I didn’t actually hear any of the UC fans booing, or season ticket holders screaming for refunds at Friday night’s Bucks game. I had to look away. Turn off the games – they’re impossible to watch.

But the booing was widely reported by all of the Chicago media.

Now you know how I feel about booing. There are really no exceptions, except for LeBron and those Cavs. So I suggest our Bulls figure out how to do exactly what Kristaps has done.

You remember during the NBA draft, he was booed by New York Knicks fans (classy), and of course, I think I might have cried. I was so upset. (Note: I’m the one who should be crying now given how Kristaps now dismantles the Bulls…another blog on that later).

But I gave the kid credit for the way he handled the NYC reaction immediately following the draft. And I suggest the Bulls do the same, and fast.

They need to turn the boos into cheers. Or the Bulls risk having the UC as empty as Soldier Field.

Here is what Kristaps had to say:

“I’m a young guy coming into the league, I don’t need motivation. I’m gonna be doing my thing and working as hard as I can,” Porzingis said. “But of course, I would love those booing fans who didn’t know me to (become) fans who know me and cheer for me. New York is a basketball city. The fans, they express the emotions, they boo you or they cheer for you, and I think that’s the best thing you can have. You have fans who really love the game and have passion for the game.”

In the spirit of Christmas, and like the New York fans have done for Kristaps, I hope to start cheering again – for our Bulls. It can all happen tomorrow night when the Bulls face the Pistons at the United Center.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Pistons.

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