10 Reasons to Be Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving Bulls fans, and Bulls Banter readers!

We have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season.

1.) Cubs win the world series. I still haven’t recovered, and neither has my heart. I am happy to say I was in CHI during this historic event. I was privileged to have been gifted a ticket to the first playoff game, when the Cubs beat the Giants 1-0 thanks to Javy Baez’s homer in the eighth. It seems I will be spending a lot of quality time at Wrigley field next season, along with many many others.

2.) I’m writing this from Tampa. When it turned from 70 degrees to 30 degrees in Chicago sometime in mid-September, I booked an emergency Thanksgiving trip to FL. Even though it’s cloudy, I’ll take the 70-something-degree weather. And I even found the basketball hoop this morning, and got up around 100 shots. #notreadyfortheNBA

3.) Bulls’ final road trip has been successful so far. With one game left to play (76ers tonight), their record stands at 3-2, with wins versus Portland, Utah and the Lakers, and losses to the Clippers and Nuggets. And none of the games were runaway losses like they were in years past. They actually competed. In fact, they coulda shoulda won both games, particularly the Denver one – where it came down to one three-pointer. But baby steps, right?

4.) The Bulls seem to like each other. Yes, there are stories of team-building exercises and fancy lunches in LA, trips to DWade’s house, a movie afternoon in Utah. In fact, Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune reported in his article, Bulls learning plenty about themselves during lengthy trip, “…the Bulls visited the Denver Escape Room, where groups of people are locked in a room and must use brainpower and teamwork to determine a way out before time runs out and they are released.”

5.) Jimmy Butler is on fire. He’s living up to his own hype. “Yeah, if I go at the game with the same mentality, like Dwyane (Wade) told me, every time you step on the floor, you gotta have the mentality that you’re the best player out there,” Butler said. “You gotta be out there to prove that point every single night, every single day in practice. That’s what I’m working to be. I want to be the first guy in the gym, the last game to leave, studying film and having a killer mentality.” [Reported in Vincent Goodwill’s article, Jimmy Butler’s battle cry: I’m the best [bleep] player in the world.]

6.) The Bulls are fun to watch. In fact, you could say – they’re WatchaBulls. I don’t have to look away as much, resort to cleaning up the kitchen, organize cabinets or get a head start on my taxes. They have my attention, they play hard, keep it close.

7.) The Bulls are going to make the playoffs. Prior to signing DWade, there really hadn’t been any hope. To say that his signing was a game-changer could be the understatement of the year.

8.) No major injuries so far. If Dougie McBuckets would stop getting concussed, it could prove beneficial for all, and mostly him.

9.) Taji Woo. I had written prior to the start of the season that I was worried about my favorite player, Taj getting lost in the shuffle. I am thrilled he’s where he should be – in the starting lineup, and leading the way with his “hard hat lunch pail” approach.

10.) Health, family, friends, work, money enough to travel once in a while, and the promise of an exciting Bulls season, with the realistic hope of Bulls basketball at least until May…maybe June.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Sixers.

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In a Season of Life Lessons, Gonna Be Some Changes Made

Today is the last day of April.

Right about now, I’m typically in the Outer Banks with the folks, enjoying the beauty that is OBX, my family’s company, a lot of good food and sun. And most importantly – watching some Bulls playoff basketball.

OBX was where I arrived a few days after DRose suffered his first major knee injury vs. the 76ers…and I think I cried when I found out he, and then Jo, and the season were done.

It’s also where I watched the Nate Robinson triple OT game for the ages…for three hours, on a tiny TV, and had a hard time leaving for Mom’s birthday dinner when the game wasn’t over. But it was her birthday. And we had a rez at her favorite restaurant, the Colington Cafe.

There was no trip to OBX this year. But the way the season ended was as painful as ever – just without the trauma of a DRose injury.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than two weeks since the Bulls were finally put out of their misery at the UC on April 13 vs. the lowly 76ers. I’m not sure who won. It didn’t matter for either team. It was like the season couldn’t conclude fast enough.

And the takeaways from this season are more about life and life lessons than I hoped to ever have to report. While I had a hard time watching any of the games at the end of the season, I did tune in to the GarPax end-of-season press conference following the aforementioned 76ers game.

Pax said the team lacked collective fight. While I’m not a big GarPax fan – Pax really nailed it. That’s certainly what characterized the teams from the Thibs era. They fought. They played together. They showed determination and will to win when they should have given up. That’s all I want to see from my Bulls.

Instead of victories and playoffs and exciting, exhilarating, inspiring games, and a season ending on a high note, all we have to show for it this time is a big old list of life lessons.

I’m almost 50, and sometimes, I don’t feel like learning the lessons all over again…but I guess we can’t always get what we want.

And here are those life lessons, courtesy of your 2015-2016 Chicago Bulls:

Don’t lie (as in Fredberg lying about it being Jo’s idea to come off the bench).

Let’s all get along and play nice (something the Bulls didn’t do at all this year).

Give it your best (after the All-Star break, it seemed to be more like everyone’s worst).

Be humble (as in – Jimmy Butler, you’re way too big for your britches. Have you forgotten – you’re from Tomball, Texas).

There is no I in team (Jimmy – this one’s for you too).

Be enthusiastic (once Joakim was out for the season, the Bulls ship was sunk. There was no enthusiasm whatsoever. And Jo was deflated himself after being relegated to a secondary role. And, the Bulls could have used a little more Nate Robinson and little less Pau Gasol).

There are going to be disappointments in life…it’s how you deal with them that matters. Ah yes, I’m still trying to convince myself of this one. I know it’s true. So me, you, Derrick, Jimmy, Dougie McBuckets, Jo, Fredberg, and all the rest of the team need to use our summer vacation to figure out how to make things better – at work, and at life.

It was hard to cheer for the Bulls this year. They didn’t seem to like one another, and playing together was more like a chore than a joy. We all know how I feel about the dismissal of Tom Thibodeau, and the effect that had on the team. But no one could have predicted how lifeless, unenthusiastic and heartless our Bulls were to become this year.

While this is far from an enthusiastic blog…Bulls Banter still lives and breathes her Bulls. While in Miami last weekend, a hotel staff member asked her to “step back” so he could get a better view of her red Nike basketball kicks. She also proudly wore her Bulls tank tops for morning walks (due to the high temps – no Bulls sweatshirt was required).

The cab drivers all heard my Bulls sob story, and in a strange turn of events, Bulls Banter is endorsing the Miami Heat for Conference Champs. Any team with Luol Deng gets my vote. Said cab drivers were oh so pleased to hear about my new-found (albeit temporary) Heat endorsement.

And now, it’s on to the 2016-2017 season, when the Bulls will re-group, and hopefully come back as the team we all used to love. I know the Bulls can win us over again.

To become the NBA champs, one thing for certain in clear, in the words of Bruce Hornsby:

Gonna be some changes made

Can’t keep on doing what I’ve been doing these days

Look in the mirror I see a clown’s face

Gotta take it off, gotta get myself straight

Gonna be some changes, some changes made

Can’t keep on doing what I’ve been doing these days

Better figure out something

Things are looking grave

Gonna be some changes, changes, changes made

See Red! Go Bulls! See you next season.

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.

A masked man, a buzzer-beater, and a player’s coach

The Bulls played their final preseason game last night (Friday, October 23) – in Lincoln, Nebraska, of all places – versus the Dallas Mavericks. It was considered a Bulls “home” game, even though it was away from the United Center, and I heard tickets sold out in 20 minutes.

So a sold-out show for our Bulls in Nebraska, of all places. The enthusiastic fans were all there to see their favorite player, who received several standing ovations, and won the game with a buzzer-beater – Dougie McBuckets. (He went to school at Creighton, in Omaha, where his Dad is the basketball coach, and he is evidently a celebrity in NE).

Somewhat lost in the shuffle, with less of a spotlight shining on him than he might be used to, was none other than the masked man, DRose. While he might not say the brightest things, and seems to have taken a page from the PR playbook from the team’s owner, Jerry Reinsdorf (see below), he didn’t disappoint with his play.

In fact, with DRose in the game, it’s like watching a different team. A really good team. Like the Bulls team we’ve wanted to see for so long. His words might not be poetry, but his play on the court is.

“Whenever I see lanes I’m driving,” Rose said. “As soon as I step up, I’m hitting whoever is open and just trying to play basketball. I love the way the offense is. Coming down we’re not thinking about what we are running. Coming down, start with a pick and roll and then that pick and roll opens up everything else.”

And in other dramatic team news, it looks like the starting lineup is coming together – DRose, JB, Pow! Pow! Pow!, Nikola Mirotic and Tony Snell.

The drama about Joakim coming off the bench seems to have subsided, and with the Jo + Taj pairing, the energy level and defensive prowess will be through the rough. It really won’t be a second unit. It’s like a second starting five.

“We’ve talked,” Hoiberg said of discussing the possibilities with Noah. “We talk about everything that he’s done. He was great, he was excited about playing with Taj last game. I think those two have a very good chemistry out there together. And [Noah] was the one that talked to me about that, about how well he feels he and Taj play together out there on the floor.”

Taj was the Bulls’ leading scorer, with 16, and he kept Stacey King’s poster machine in business with a variety of dunks.

This new-look Bulls team, led by a coach some may describe as “a player’s coach” is anything but Thibs-like. Players getting rest days before the season starts, yoga in lieu of practice, or even better, no practice! Players shuffling in and out of the lineup for five-minute stints. No one playing 48 minutes, not even 40, or 30.

And the audacity of Coach to sit down an entire game, with no sideline stalking and flailing.

Has the world ended? Am I am living in another reality?

It’s our new reality. One in which the Bulls win! And not just regular season games. The playoffs and beyond.

I hope LeBron is available for the home opener on Tuesday, as 1.) We want to beat the Cavs at full strength 2.) It wouldn’t be the same if all of the UC fans didn’t get to boo him incessantly.

See Red! Go Bulls! Beat the Cavs.

On another note – while I love the Bulls, I don’t get Jerry Reinsdorf. He and DRose are stealing each other’s plays when it comes to saying the stupidest things!

“The impact on the community of winning a World Series was far greater than winning a basketball championship,” Reinsdorf said. “It was far greater than winning a Super Bowl. Baseball is the one sport that spans generations. Everybody remembers their first baseball game he or she went to and who they went with and who was playing. You ask people about basketball or football, they don’t really remember their first game. Everybody remembers their first baseball game.”

It’s my middle name, and it’s what the Bulls need

Posted May 30, 2015 by Cindy Joy “Cinjo” Olsen

Joy.

I will humbly credit the unofficial official Bulls blogger Sam Smith with the theme of this blog. But I will also venture to guess that his spin is different than mine, as I’m pretty sure his middle name isn’t Joy.

In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s been a bit quiet here at Bulls Banter. Some of us are having a difficult time coping with the loss. And it’s now not only the loss to the Cavs in the playoffs, leading to an early start of summer vacation, it’s also the loss of my favorite coach and yours, Thibs.

I drafted a blog last weekend, and tried to find a way to sound positive. It really wasn’t working out too well. Delete. Although we’ll have to get through some of the negative reality first, we’ll end more on a high note in this blog.

But let’s just say it like it is. Joy has been far from what I’ve been feeling this past month since the Bulls’ downfall.

It’s more like sadness, pain, angst, disappointment and woe. What’s so difficult about this year is the Bulls could have beat those Cavs. The series was there for the taking.

Why, why, oh why couldn’t they pull out a win? They were up 2 games to 1, and that pesky LeBron counters DRose’s game-winner with a game-winner of his own in game 4. It was kind of over then.

And that series, a microcosm of the entire season, seemed to be characterized by lack of joy.

Maybe too much Thibs? Too much stress from DRose going out with an injury yet again at the end of February? The effects of the dysfunction between Thibs and management?

We’ll always wonder, why, when everyone was as close to healthy as possible, did the Bulls seemingly lose their love for the game? We’ll never truly know the answer, and I’m heartbroken, and always will be, about how the season ended, about how management treated Thibs when they let him go, and about not making it to the Finals with our Bulls.

Moving to next season, it’s all about change, and about re-discovering the joy. The Bulls have been the little engine that could for all of those seasons Derrick was out. They exceeded everyone’s wildest expectations. This year, they ran out of steam.

And I will contend that Thibs (not unlike the author of Bulls Banter), finds joy in the work.

But that’s not necessarily the case with everyday folks, and even with superstar basketball players.

The players all evacuated Chicago and the Bulls practice facility for the summer just to get away from Thibs and his drills (DRose to Los Angeles area, JB holed up in a house in TX, working out three times/day in some sweaty gym, Joakim on a beach somewhere, or working out with surfer Laird Hamilton).

Let’s face it, Thibs is kind of an exception, not the rule. Most people like a little more fun and a little less structure, film-watching and Mikan drills. And maybe a bit of rest once in a while.

And you cannot entirely blame Thibs for what seemed to be a joyless Bulls season, especially at the end. Sam Smith wrote in his blog, The Thibodeau Story from Start to Finish, “In the playoffs, players often talk about that joy to the game enabling you to get through the difficult times. It seemed mostly a joyless Bulls group this season, less the issues between Thibodeau and his bosses and just that the inexorable and unforgiving nature of it all catching up to them.”

Looking back, there were definitely moments we’ll never forget from this season, and while I haven’t watched any basketball at all whatsoever since the second half of the Bulls’ game six loss to those other guys, when I’m ready, there are plenty of happy memories awaiting me on the DVR.

Here are just a few of my favorite highlights, for which I thank our Bulls.

Defeating the Warriors on their home court. The E’Twaun Moore game-winning shot against the Thunder. Derrick Rose returning – just returning. DRose returning again, and showing flashes of brilliance during the playoffs. His game-winner versus Cleveland in game 3 of the playoffs. Thibs for his fist pump following that shot. Aaron Brooks’ scoring deluges. Pau’s double doubles. Taj for being the bigger man…for putting on his tough Brooklyn game face when he became the sixth man again. Jo for trying the best he could, even though he was only a fraction of himself. (And for RockYourDrop.) Tony Snell’s three-pointers. Kirk for just trying. Thibs for smiling once. Big Naz – for always being ready. For the big win versus the Spurs. Mike Dunleavy for adding consistency and acting as a stabilizing force. For enabling me to attend my first playoff game. Nicola Mirotic for big scoring lifts at just the right times during the regular season. For the rooks, Cameron Bairstow and Doug McDermott, who were real pros. The emergence of Jimmy Butler. The pre-All-Star break win versus the Cavs at the UC, when LeBron’s hands “were too cold,” obviously leading to the loss (he he). My birthday game, with an expected win versus the Knicks, and the crowd + JB and Jo doing the wave. The December seven-game win streak (Knicks, Grizzlies, Raptors, Wizards, Lakers, Pelicans, Pacers). The game 6 playoff blowout of the Bucks. Thibs. Just Thibs.

So we all move on. The Bulls. Thibs. And yours truly. The difference is, I’ve already got Joy. Now, the Bulls and Thibs (wherever he may land) just need to re-discover it.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Championship #7 in 2015-2016!

We’re better than we are playing

This isn’t where the Bulls expected to be come December. They find themselves sitting at #5 in the Eastern Conference, behind (horrors) – Cleveland – with three straight losses at home, and a losing home record (2-5).

Even worse than the home losses are the loss of defensive identity, which has always distinguished Thibodeau-coached Bulls teams.

“Defensively, we are not at our best; we are not where we want to be. It’s been too up and down; teams have gotten their way too easily against us and that has to change.” Pau Gasol said.

Sure, the Bulls almost beat the Mavericks earlier this week, in a stunning double OT thriller, which some journalists called the best regular season game thus far this year.

I would have to agree with them – if our Bulls had come away with the win.

Maybe they’re all off kilter due to the unexpected (yet welcome) offensive prowess? Too much time stepping back and kissing themselves when they make baskets? Getting points on the board, we all know, was a statistically validated impossible task last season.

The past few years, pick an excuse, and it worked. DRose injured. Luol Deng traded. Five players injured. Three players injured. DRose injured again. Jo playing on one ankle. Flu bug. Pandemic game.

But last night, during the Warriors game (I had to turn it off in the fourth quarter, and thankfully, I forgot to DVR it, so I’ll never have to watch it again), everyone was healthy; the starting lineup was intact. And they still lost!

Oops, forgot. Dougie McBuckets, with is bad “old” knee was out. So there you have it. Blame it on the McBuckets injury.

And/or Benny the Bull. I didn’t check the injury report for his status. Maybe he was on the bench wearing one of his best suits?

Can they turn it around?

“Tough night,” said Noah. “Defensively, not great; we’ve got to step it up. I have to step it up…a lot of guys are frustrated now. We’re better than we are playing, but we believe in each other and we’ve got to stay positive and keep grinding. We have a ways to go and we all know it, but we definitely have to change our ways because defensively we know it’s not where it needs to be.

But the fans certainly aren’t helping the Bulls’ cause.

“We definitely have to turn it around (at home),” Gasol said. “It’s becoming an issue. It’s not good to lose at home; you have to protect your home court. Your home should be a fortress. A team should be afraid of coming to play here and know they are going to have a long night. But now there is a certain level of confidence they are coming with, so we are going to have to change that quickly.”

“When we play home, it’s tough,” Gibson added.

Were the fans in comas last night? Still recovering from the after-effects of last week’s gobble ‘til you wobble? It’s the UC folks, not a library.

Maybe we’re (CHI fans) just spoiled because we’re so used to great basketball, the unbelievable MJ feats, and past track record of winning ways.

Sure, I’m disappointed, but as much as I’d like to do something about it…other than working on my game in case Thibs decides to add a 5’ 10” inexperienced shooting guard to the roster, who brings a history of stress fractures in her left foot, and who takes a lot of water (and coffee breaks), I guess we’ll leave it up to the players.

“There is a lot of work we have to do,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We have to build those habits in practice and carry them into the game.”

We can’t make any more excuses. This was supposed to be THE year. We’ll let the mad scientist Thibs go back to the lab and figure it out. And quick.

And remember – we still have reasons to be thankful.

  • The Bulls are not the Knicks
  • The Bulls are not the Bears

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Nets.

Reasons to be thankful

Thanksgiving may be over, but there are many reasons to be thankful when it comes to our Bulls…who returned from the Circus trip with a winning (4-3) record…and we can count the injured on one hand…one finger actually, as Taj remains on the list still recovering from a sprained ankle…but Tajjjy Woo (evidently, I’ve been spelling his name incorrectly all this time) is set to return soon…and knock on wood, let’s hope the only injuries anyone sustains for the rest of the season are due to signing autographs…or, more likely, eye strain from watching Thibs’ game film on tiny computer screens…thankful for Jimmy G Buckets, the G stands for gets, greatness, godsend, gonna get paid, going to play in the All-Star game…thankful for the ugly grey jerseys, the Bulls’ latest good luck charms, as both Boston and Brooklyn wore those ugly get-ups when the Bulls beat them…thankful the Bulls are back in CHI, at the UC…for the Circus trip book-end wins, the Clippers at the start, and the Nets at the end…for sacrifice, all for one, one for all, and that Kevin Garnett didn’t bite Jo’s hand off during the Brooklyn game…for Stacey King’s numerous food-related exclamations, which bring a smile to my face, with the reservations for three, no soup for you, can I have some butter with that roll?…that Thibs smiled…for Benny the Bull…that the Bulls have a winning record….and they’re perfect (5-0) with the “official” starting lineup…I’ll leave it at that, and hope the streak continues as tonight, the Bulls face those (horrors) Western Conference Mark-Cuban-owned and Donn “Donnie” Nelson-operated Dallas Mavericks. Shout out to Donnie’s sister, and my friend Katie Nelson-Nagel.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Mavericks.

Uh oh. This just in – just saw a Tweet that Dougie McBuckets is out tonight. Bad knee. Looking forward to seeing what kind of suit he comes up with for his appearance on the bench.

Good-bye Portland, next stops…

Instead of celebrating having won the west, the Bulls cannot get out of Portland fast enough. And next stops – the men’s department at Nordstrom’s, as half the players need suits instead of uniforms – to take their respective places on the bench. And that’s after having spent some quality time in the orthopedic unit of the local hospital.

I’m not so upset any more, about these West coast losses. I’ve come to realize, after seeing K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune post some frightening stats, that unless MJ says, “I’m back” at age 51, the Bulls may never win the west again.

Here are the numbers: Bulls are 18-74 on Circus Trips since the dynasty (MJ, Scottie, etc.) ended.

The true test for these banged up Bulls will be when they’ve returned from the trip and are back on their usual schedule – a mix of Western and Eastern teams, home and away, at a more manageable pace and outside Hollywood and high altitudes.

To make myself feel better, I keep going back to the best game the Bulls have played thus far this year – November 13 vs. the Raptors. The Raps are #1 in the East, a big surprise to everyone, as that spot was to have been held by the Bulls, with the Cavs (not Wiz) following at #2.

[An aside: What do you want me to say? The Cavs didn’t realize they were hiring LeBron as their coach when they brought him on board, and he’s not very good. And evidently, the players don’t like taking direction from him.]

But back to the Bulls vs. Raps. That was ninth game of the season, and it marked the second game in a row the “official” starting lineup played together (DRose / Jo / Pow! / JB / Dun Dun). They beat Detroit on Nov. 10 with that lineup (not so hard to do, sorry Andre Drummond), and convincingly, albeit with much effort, beat the Raps the next game.

The performance vs. the Raps, a team against which the Bulls have struggled in the past – that’s the kind of basketball they’re capable of playing. But they just don’t get the chance.

Other than that, it’s been random lineups, mostly with starter-caliber players coming in and out (Taj, Captain Kirk). But now with DRose, Pow!, Kirk and Taji Woo all being injured – we’ve got backups to the backups playing again. Thibs rolled Big Naz in, and E’Twaun Moore (he backs up Aaron Brooks (AB) at point guard, and AB  backs up Captain Kirk, and Captain Kirk backs up DRose).

Right – we’ve got the fourth string PG playing in a game against one of the top teams in the West. How, pray tell, can you beat Damian Lillard that way?

I’m making excuses. Absolutely. “We have more than enough to win with.” But do we have to keep singing that same chorus every single year? Can the Bulls catch some kind of break (other than of a bone), at some point?

Recognizing that it’s most important to have as full an arsenal as possible in April, May and June, I’m fine with getting the injuries out of the way now. The starting lineup, once they re-unite (let’s hope for March) – will win.

And despite missing the Portland game on Friday due to attending a gig at the Vic Theatre, and seeing all the tweets about the loss, and Taj re-injuring his ankle (he was playing on a bad ankle all season…), I watched most of the game on Saturday. Most encouraging was the way the second/third unit combo competed.

Nikola Mirotic / E’Twaun / Doug McBuckets / Tony Snell / Big Naz.

They came in at the end of the second, and I think got the Bulls within four. This was after the Bulls were down by 15 or 17 or something like that. So that’s encouraging. And Nikola’s season-high 24 points, along with 11 rebounds (that’s a double double folks) was probably the brightest spot in this otherwise dismal night in Portland.

Nothing ever seems to go right there. DRose hurt his knee last year, ending his season on the exact same Friday in November that Taj sprained his ankle.

To make myself feel even better, I look at OKC, who lost two starters to injury (Westbrook, Durant), are at the BOTTOM of the Western Conference, at 3-11. What? They were supposed to have contended for the title and they’re giving the 76ers a run for their money with basement positioning?

There is NO way Thibs would ever let the Bulls sink that low, even if he had to play, along with the coaches, and Benny the Bull. No matter what, Thibs would find a way to get some wins, and get the Bulls into playoff positioning.

And with the caliber of a player like Cindy Joy “Cinjo” Olsen becoming available in the near future, after starting lessons with a new coach on November 29 – the sky’s the limit for these Bulls once they’re back in the UC and out of the wild wild west.

And then there are the Cavs. He he. I love to hate them, and their dysfunction. What, exactly, is your excuse, with the LeBron-constructed Big Three, and ESPN pre-game shows in the streets of Cleveland before every home game. The fact the Cavs are 5-7 gives me oh such satisfaction. I guess LBJ’s dual role of “best player on the planet” and Cavs coach is too much for him.

So now it’s on to Utah on Monday and Denver on Tuesday. A win, or two would be nice.

“You’ve got to keep moving forward because the games keep coming,” the Bulls’ Joakim Noah said. “Nobody feels sorry for you so you’ve got to keep going and getting better. Hopefully Taj will be all right.”

See Red! Go Bulls. Beat the Jazz.

Next man up, we have more than enough…again

We thought it would be different this season, but thus far, it’s not starting out that way.

Different in that the Bulls’ superstar, DRose would play, players would be healthy, and Thibs could find a new line instead of “We have more than enough to win with” every time a player went down.

I’ve mentioned before that I have friends, who shall remain nameless, and would never read, horrors, a Bulls blog anyway…who I know were just all too “I told you so” and all that when DRose sprained not just one but BOTH ankles at the home opener.

Yes, I was there. At that moment is about the only time the UC fell silent. Here we go again.

Well, when I entered the UC at 5:35 p.m., DRose was warming up, and I’m sure he’d been there for at least 30 minutes already. He finished up around 6:30, and then like the other players, he headed back through the tunnel to the locker room to shower, get changed into his uniform.

Listen, DRose’s warm up routine was more intense than my Monday and Friday morning basketball “workouts.” During those, I spend a lot of time doing Mikan drills, checking e-mail on my phone, drinking my Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. Ah, it’s probably about 45 minutes total of actual basketball, but don’t tell Thibs.

How can you fault a guy for spraining his ankle? DRose wants to play.

And Jo had the flu yesterday, and they didn’t get into details, but not sure I’ve seen that guy miss morning shootaround, and then not show up for the game. Yes, Jo stayed home in his cozy bed. It might be all about what I’m guessing is a dislike for the post-game bus ride to Thrill-waukee.

Evidently, if he’s better today (Wednesday), Thibs said the Bulls would send a car to pick him up and bring him up to United Center North (the Bradley Center in Milwaukee).

I dunno, but he’s got a bad flu. People get sick. “Oh, but that Joakim Noah, he’s always sick.”

So Thibs has had no other choice but to employ what’s becoming the Bulls’ calling card, the “next man up” approach. It’s worked relatively well in the past. And so far this year, other than reinvigorating the career of yet another backup to the backup point guard (Aaron Brooks), it’s also allowed Jimmy Gets Buckets to become a rising star.

“Aaron, his defense today was his best game, ball pressure, challenging shots, multiple effort, getting into the post,” said Thibodeau. “We want him to play both sides of the ball. He’s capable. He’s a tough guy. You can see it. He’s not afraid to get in there and mix it up with everybody; he’s capable of playing great defense. He’s a big shot maker, he’s clever, has all the tricks.”

“Jimmy Butler,” added Thibodeau, “is playing great basketball. He’s making big shots, guarding everyone, getting to the free throw line; game’s on the line making big plays for us. It was a really good team win.”

And to round out the team win, Pau played 41 minutes, had 16 points and 13 rebounds (that’s a double double folks).

Taji Woo had 16 points, as he started for Jo and got into foul trouble, but he also had two blocks.

Dougie McBuckets had 12 points and Mirotic had 8 points.

I think Thibs’ tie might have been too tight, adding to his already wound-up demeanor, and he wasn’t getting enough oxygen when he said this, because this is unusual:

“I keep saying it over and over about he and Doug; I love them both. You can’t do any more than they are doing. The thing that is great about them is they come in every day with a ton of energy and ready to concentrate and work and prepare themselves to play. When you couple that with their talent, good things will happen for them. They are still rookies with a lot to learn. If they have a good game, they’re eager to come in and do it again. If they have a tough game, they want to learn. Rarely do they make the same mistake twice; they are aggressive, they are attacking. I can’t say enough about them. It’s unusual to have rookies like that. They bring great energy to our practices. And they can play. Usually you like rookies a lot better when they can play.”

We’re beginning to believe next man up, although I guess we didn’t envision Thibs would employ the strategy so early in the season. But in the end, the Bulls defeat the Magic 98 to 90. Somehow, they get it done.

I saw a pic on my NBA stream on my phone the other day of the OKC walking wounded. It was Westbrook and Durant on the bench, in casts, with scooters to get around, looking more like residents of an old folks’ home than NBA stars. Last night, OKC ended a game with six players?

For once, I’m glad we’re not them.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Bucks.

Note: All quotes courtesy of Sam Smith’s blog, Bulls finish strong to deny Magic.

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