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.

The latest from the Bulls: A haircut, a mask, and foaming at the mouth

So, when the Bulls were enduring their three-game losing streak, I was doing everything I could to come up to the solution to all of their problems.

And prior to the more recent resurgence with a HUGE two-game win streak, I had come up with the answer. I was going to call up NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and petition him to change the Bulls schedule.

Whereas in the past, as Silver was taking on his new role, and prior, with David Stern, the ask would have been for the Bulls to only play Eastern Conference teams on non-holidays, and not wearing alternate (i.e. pajama top jerseys) uniforms, the request has changed.

Now, for the Bulls to be successful and have a chance of defeating Golden State in the NBA Finals, the Bulls need to play at the UC, against teams with winning records, and also only on national TV. Actually, to achieve their true potential, the Bulls can only play games televised on TNT (not ESPN or ABC).

Naturally, I didn’t come up with this new-found strategy on my own. It came to me after reading a riveting expose by Jay Patt titled The Bulls don’t lose regular-season home games on TNT. In the article, he uncovered the fact that the Bulls have won 14 straight home games televised on TNT.

If I had been forced to reach out to Adam Silver to plead my case, there would have been trouble in Bulls Banter paradise. That is, I can’t even have the volume on when watching the TNT games. If there’s no hometown call on television, I will have to invest in a new radio so I can listen to the radio hometown call with Chuck Swirsky and Bill Wennington.

Thankfully, the Bulls managed to pull themselves together before it was necessary for me to take these extreme measures.

They beat the partially Blake Griffin-less Clippers (at home, on TNT), when Derrick played without his mask in the second half.

Then, on Saturday, even though the surprisingly hapless New Orleans Pelicans showed up (with a losing record, despite counting Anthony Davis as their star), the Bulls managed to beat them too.

A lot of time was spent during the game, and post game analyzing how Derrick’s haircut affected the Bulls’ play. Additionally, he once again was maskless, and this added to the cause and effect discussion.

But it seems to be coming down to pace and energy. The second unit, led by Joakim sets the tone and pace, and then contributions by AB (Aaron Brooks), Dougie McBuckets, Captain Kirk, and the mask-free DRose all contributed to the win vs. the Pelicans.

Here is what Coach Fred has to say about Jo: “The play he drove around [Anthony] Davis and dunked it, I thought he was going to run in the crowd and start chest bumping people. That’s what you need. That’s what you need when you’re going through the type of game that we had is you need a guy to pick up the overall energy of the team. He was coming over to the bench, he was yelling and screaming and foaming at the mouth. It was awesome. It’s exactly what we needed at that time in the game.”

“They were having fun out there,” said Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg of the closing group that had the ball moving. “It was such a grind out, ugly slow motion type game coming out of the gate (28-20 New Orleans after one quarter). And finally we got a little energy injected out there and those guys were moving it. It was fun, fun to watch, to sit there and see it as opposed to going down and moseying into our offense. A lot of times we couldn’t get the ball reversed because we were coming down so slow. It’s one we hopefully can build on.”**

Let’s hope the Bulls can continue the momentum tonight. It is, however, necessary to throw out a few cautionary notes now: The Bulls will face the poor 76ers, with their 1-24 record, and the game is definitely not on TNT.

Let’s hope the Bulls continue to foam at the mouth, leave the masks and home, and all get their hair did. Whatever it takes…as the Bulls do NOT want to be the second team to lose to the 76ers, even though I do feel badly for them…they sure do try, and I like the coach and all of the players. But I’ll put that all aside when I root for our Bulls and a convincing victory.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the 76ers.

**Source: Sam Smith, Offense clicks in fourth quarter to carry Bulls past Pelicans

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.”

And so the road to championship #7 begins

“There are plenty of teams in every sport that have great players and never win titles. Most of the time, those players aren’t willing to sacrifice for the greater good of the team. The funny thing is, in the end, their unwillingness to sacrifice only makes individual goals more difficult to achieve. One thing I believe to the fullest is that if you think and achieve as a team, the individual accolades will take care of themselves. Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” — Michael Jordan

A lot of talk about sacrifice around CHI since Bulls training camp began on Tuesday, featuring the beloved two practices per day, under the watchful eye of Lieutenant, I mean, Coach Thibodeau.

Here are some of the sacrifices which have already been made, or are soon likely to be made: Coming off the bench versus starting (Taj), being paid less than you’re worth (Pau aka “Pow” Gasol, Captain Kirk), sharing time with the rooks (Mike Dunleavy Jr. aka Dunlevee per Thibs), less impressive individual stats (Jo), and giving the guys a day off (Thibs).

But take a look at this year’s starting lineup: DRose / Jimmy Gets Buckets Butler / Mike Dunleavy Jr. / Pow! Gasol / Jo

And the reserves aint’t too shabby either: Captain Kirk / Aaron Brooks / Dougie McBuckets / Taj Gibson / Nicola Mirotic

Thibs, as per always, is holding the information on the starting five close to the vest, or in his case, the designer suit jacket, but I’d be a bit surprised if I made any mistakes with the starters.

It’s the reserves, and how Thibs uses them, which has got everyone abuzz here in CHI. Let the mad scientist get into his lab, with the beakers and Bunsen burners, and concoct a winning formula to ensure the Bulls are playing in June, when you’ll be able to find me in the front row of the Bulls rally crowd.

The Bears just lost. The Cubs managed to escape the season with more home wins (41) than losses (40), but they’re still “rebuilding.” The White Sox haven’t figured out how to win, or how to get anyone to show up at the games. I think they had a good crowd on White Sox Dog Day and Bark in the Park, when dog owners can bring their doggies to the game.

Meanwhile, the Bulls (and their UC neighbors, the Blackhawks) both tops their leagues in three cateogries this past season: total attendance, average attendance and percentage of seats filled.

I’ve already contributed to the 2014-2015 campaign with my purchase of an 11th row seat to the home opener versus the now hated and despised, and sure to be booed Cavs.

Getting back to sacrifice – Thibs actually gave the guys a day off already – on Friday. Miracle? Baby steps? We’ll take it. And its reported that he’s trying to speed up the practice scrimmages, getting the guys to run versus the slow, methodical Bulls-style basketball we’re used to seeing.

The season hasn’t even started, and a fight has already broken out. I’m warning you – do not say the following words to me, “But that DRose, he’s ALWAYS injured.”

Excuse you? So I guess DRose was running down the court in the opening round of the 2012 playoffs vs. the lowly 76ers, (when the Bulls should have made it to the Finals) with these thoughts running through his mind, “I don’t know about this, I really think I’d rather start my summer vacation now, and then rehab for a year, than win this game, and go on in the playoffs, and to the Eastern Conference Finals and the NBA Finals, so best bet is to tear my ACL now, by the 76ers bench. No worries, I’m just sabotaging our road to the NBA Finals.”

Or last year, after playing 10 games, having rehabbed for an entire year and a half, the Bulls’ annual circus road trip put him over the edge, and he thought, “I know this is the game I love, but all of the fans cheering, plus the joy of playing with my teammates, it’s too much. And besides, I miss being in the weight room by myself, and walking on the treadmill, because that’s so inspiring, and my other knee deserves some attention, so even though we could go to the Eastern Conference Finals, let me just go ahead and injure my right knee now during this random game vs. the Trail Blazers.”

Yup, that DRose. He really likes his injuries. He’s ALWAYS injured and is deliberately trying to prevent the Bulls from winning their 7th NBA title, so he tries to have lots of surgeries and rehab for as many years as possible.

Small-minded thinking causes Cinjo to get into nothing short of a big-time argument. You’ve been warned!

But back to the exciting matter at hand, of the pursuit of Championship #7 by our Chicago Bulls. DRose is back, Jo is Jo. Pow! chose to endure the Polar Vortex to join a winning team on the verge of becoming champions. Jimmy is going to get Buckets this year, to add to his defensive prowess. Mike Dunleavy. Well he’s tried and true.

While waiting since April 29, 2014, to be exact, for the Bulls to play their first preseason game against those pesky Wizards tomorrow (Monday, October 6) night, I’ve spent a lot of time watching USA Men’s basketball, training camp, replays of training camp, and some Bulls Hardwood Classics. The start of the season, with Neil and Stacey’s hometown call, and the introductions, and a win, well, it seems like it’s taken forever to arrive, but it will sure be great to see the new-look Bulls in action.

Don’t be alarmed, but Bulls Banter won’t be reporting again until later this week. We’ve got an intimate 100-person event happening at work on Tuesday, and I won’t even make it home until 8:30 p.m. Good thing I also spent my summer vacation getting DVR installed.

“…Knowing what your job is and then having the ability to go out there and DO YOUR JOB so that the team can function well when you’re on the floor. It’s really about the team. We’re asking everyone to make sacrifices and to put winning first.” — Tom Thibodeau

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Wizards.

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