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).

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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).

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!

From likability to winnability

Your No. 1 Bulls fan has been remiss this summer. She has been so busy watching the Cubs dominate major league baseball, that she neglected to blog about the new-look Bulls.

But all of this Cubs-watching has given her something to talk about. And that is: likability.

I think part of the reason I started following the Bulls back in 2012 was because the guys were so likable. How you could help but love Luol Deng or Taj Gibson? Joakim has always been a fan favorite – when he’s playing on your team. (It’s not going to go well for me this year with him on the Knicks).

Derrick, pre-playoff ACL injury was actually likable.

The Bulls back then were the equivalent of today’s Cubs. Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, all-smiles Dexter Fowler, Grandpa Rossi, the wacky coach (Joe Maddon). They’re a team you can’t help but love.

But after too many years of disappointments, it’s “No More Mr. Nice Guy” for our Bulls. In acquiring players we all used to love to hate – Rajon Rondo, and DWade (former enemy No. 1 given his Heat championships and affiliation to “that other guy” (LeBron)) – the Bulls are evidently going to try to win.

Before they got DWade, let’s face it, the idea of watching the Bulls this season wasn’t even that interesting – even to their No. 1 fan.

But now, it seems as if people will tune in, if only to see how Fredberg (Coach Fred Hoiberg) can make this all work.

The talk here in CHI has focused a lot about leadership, or lack thereof. Derrick was a reluctant leader. Joakim – bombastic (to quote the Bulls’ unofficial official Bulls blogger). JB evidently caused a lot of dissension last year by anointing himself the leader – when evidently his actions didn’t back up his leadership position.

It’s a new chapter this year – with these savvy vets, who have done something, and won something – won NBA Championships.

“I expected him to come in and have great leadership qualities,” Hoiberg noted about Wade. “He’s gone above and beyond what any of us have expected. He’s just another smart basketball player. “*

“When you have guys who talk, especially at the defensive end, that organizes your defense,” said Hoiberg. “He and Rondo are great at that. Jimmy is great at that. Taj (Gibson) is a talker. Robin (Lopez) is a talker. Wade makes players better. That’s the sign of great players, when you can make the guys around you better.”*

Hopefully, we’re all open to sacrificing a few points on the likability scale if it means the Bulls return to their rightful place atop the Eastern Conference. If only those pesky Cavs, and Raps, and Celtics would just go away.

My only concern with the season, other than the fact that I can’t afford a Row B ticket behind the Bulls bench for the Bulls/Knicks game – is Taj. He’s the forgotten Bull. Yet is often reported that he’s one of the best teammates, and hardest workers – aka “hard hat, lunch pail.”

A September 30 Chicago Sun-Times article titled Taj Gibson ready for any role needed except finger pointer had an interesting quote about Taj from Fredberg:

“Taj has been great,’’ Hoiberg said. “He’s one of those guys that goes out and does everything that you ask of him. He’s in great spirits, he’s a positive force. Always trying to do what you tell him to do. And again, when you have a veteran guy that’s been around the league as long as he has, played a great role especially in his position, then he can teach guys like Bobby [Portis] and Cris [Felicio] and also Paul Zipser. They see your vets working hard, and Taj is one of the hardest workers on this team and he always does what’s asked of him.’’

Not wanting Taj to be the forgotten man, I sent him a tweet the other night. I’m sure receiving a tweet from the author of Bulls Banter, a fellow Brooklynite really lifted his spirits. (And so we begin Bulls Banter, 2016-2017 with the first in a series of sarcastic remarks which are meant to add levity to what sometimes can become a heart-wrenching season.)

For what it’s worth, here’s my tweet:

taj

Here’s hoping that Taj, and JB, and DWade and Rondo and Robin Lopez, and the many other players steal our hearts with their wins, although I wouldn’t mind liking them along the way.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Bucks.

(*) – From Sam Smith’s blog, Bulls veterans taking the lead

IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING – BULLS 2016-2017 ROSTER

J.J. Avila

Jimmy Butler

Isaiah Canaan

Spencer Dinwiddie

Cristiano Felicio

Taj Gibson

Jerian Grant

Vince Hunter

Robin Lopez

Doug McDermott

Nikola Mirotic

Bobby Portis

Rajon Rondo

D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera

Tony Snell

Denzel Valentine

Dwyane Wade

Thomas Walkup

Paul Zipser

(Wait, they forgot Cinjo)

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.

What the Bulls need: A little more Irish luck, much less of the injury bug, and a whole lot of hope

So that’s what it’s going to take for the Bulls to even make the playoffs this year.

Thankfully, the luck of the Irish was on our Bulls’ side on St. Patrick’s Day. Although it seems entirely unlucky to me for the Bulls to take the court in those green Celtics-like jerseys, they still got the W. We can also credit their opponent, the lackluster and hapless Brooklyn Nets. Compared to them, the Bulls actually look competent.

I recently saw an analysis of the Bulls games lost to injuries this season. While I can’t seem to find the article at the moment, I want to say the Bulls lead the league.

And yes, I’m making excuses. By why not, when the first day of practice starts with DRose getting elbowed in the face. Add to that Joakim dislocating his shoulder, Niko Mirotic out for a “routine” appendectomy that ends up costing him months, and Mike Dunleavy with back surgery which meant he didn’t even play until February.

And we haven’t even gotten to Cinjo’s torn medial meniscus or JB’s strained knee.

During one game, a Chicago beat writer claimed our beloved Bulls won because the other team was confounded trying to read the names on the backs of the the Bulls’ jerseys to figure out who was even playing. Felicio? Moore? Holiday? Jrue Holiday is with the Bulls now? No, it’s his bro Justin. Finally, the Bulls have found a winning formula! Confuse opponent by sending in players no one has heard of.

But I’m starting to gain some hope that our Bulls can make a final push to reach the playoffs. And the hope stems from none other than fellow Brooklynite Taj Gibson.

In past years, I’ve written a lot about Jo, who energized his teammates, and appointed himself the dedicated team spokesman. He was also the self-proclaimed resident expert on the adversity the Bulls seemed to endure year after year. But importantly, he played through his injuries, often on one leg or foot.

In his own less animated, nonetheless effective way, Taj seems to recently have taken on that role. He set the example on Thursday playing with an injured hamstring.

As reported by Sam Smith in his blog, Bulls scorch the nets in defeating Brooklyn 118-102, Taj had this to say following the game: “You think about it, but you think about your teammates, really. I’m an unselfish player and I am trying to set a good example for the young guys and go out there and play for each other, especially now with the playoff push. It’s real important now helping each other. So I don’t want them to see any doubt. I told them whatever it takes to win. I told Fred whatever it takes to win I’ll go out and play as hard as I can and when I need a blow just get me. I’m excited we were able to get a win.”

In another article, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times quoted Mike Dunleavy, where he really sums up the Taj effect: “Taj is on a different level. His commitment to the team, the organization, our cause is as big as anyone we have. He lays it all on the line every night. Does whatever it takes, never complains. He’s just a phenomenal teammate. As good as I’ve ever had. I don’t want to say I expect him to do things like that, but it definitely doesn’t surprise me.”

So I feel more hopeful now, with Taj stepping to the forefront. He’s always been a constant and enthusiastic positive presence, but his can-do Brooklyn attitude is needed more than ever now, along with a lot more Irish luck. And good riddance to the injury bug, once and for all.

See Red!

Go Bulls.

Beat the Jazz.

Behind their starting lineup (and JB’s return), Bulls defeat Rockets 108 to 100

JB, DRose, Pau, Taji Woo! and Dunleavy. That was meant to be the Bulls’ starting lineup.

And last night, in the 61st game of the season, the group made its first appearance together. Prior to that, the most we saw the group together was on the bench, most of them in expensive tailored suits (except maybe in the case of Dun Dun).

And it was not too shabby of a performance at that. The Bulls exhibited the characteristics we used to take for granted in the Thibodeau era – energy, togetherness, enthusiasm, resilience, heart, love for the game, and even some swagger. And it seemed like they might actually be having some fun.

While the 1-2 record so far in March (with losses on the FL trip – to the Heat and Magic) is still not up to par, if they can build on the momentum from the Rockets game, and stay at full strength, let’s hope they’re playoff bound.

Rose even said, “Every game for us is a playoff game.” The Bulls are 1/2 game ahead of the Pistons for the final (eighth) spot.

Before this win, I was besides myself about the Bulls. The next blog was to have been titled, “Broken Bulls.” Thankfully, no one has to experience that tome.

When it’s a case of having less talent than other teams, the players keep saying there’s not a lot of room for error. Were they overachieving all of those years under Thibs, simply out of fear? Why has this season been so difficult, with losses to teams the Bulls no doubt should have beaten.

I guess there’s a life lesson here somewhere…although sometimes, one doesn’t want to apply these learnings to one’s own situation. When you realize you’re not the smartest, nor the most talented, not the best player or anywhere near the most likely to succeed…how do you respond? How do you overcome and achieve success? As the Avis commercial used to say, “We try harder.”

Nothing’s changed for our Bulls. They have to try harder, and work harder, but now, at least they have all the pieces to help increase their chances of success.

While I was trying to beat JB back onto the court, he made it first. I will continue rehabbing this old knee, with the torn meniscus and strained ACL. At least my therapist is a fan too, and was at the UC, section 205 to enjoy the win vs. the Rockets.

Everyone’s likely a bit more excited to see Jimmy back than the likes of old Cinjo. He had 24 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.

“He gives everybody else confidence,” Mike Dunleavy said.

“You see the impact Jimmy has just because of his ability to make life difficult for the elite wing players in this league,” Hoiberg said. “When he got in foul trouble, you saw James Harden go off. He just gives you that great physical presence out there that can stay in front of guys.”

He’s back…

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Bucks.

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.

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