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!

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

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

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

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

POSITIVES COMING OUT OF THE BULLS DISNEY ON ICE ROAD TRIP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat somebody…anybody.

No need to reserve Grant Park for the June rally just yet

The Bulls had a rough go of it last night, as they FINALLY beat the hapless and deliberate tankers, the 76ers 118 to 115.

It was the same storyline on Wednesday night at United Center North, where the Bulls almost lost to their foes north of the border (Wisconsin, not Canada) — the Bucks.

How? What? Neither team is expected to make the playoffs, and in the case of the 76ers, they’re supposed to successfully secure the worst record in the NBA – in their attempt to get the #1 draft pick next year.

But kudos to both teams – they play hard, and they’re a bunch of young kids who seem to have good attitudes. Personally, I think the Bucks will make the playoffs this year, and they are going to give some teams scares.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune led with this headline to summarize last night’s game: “Bulls are settling in as an offensive force.” He opened with “This is still going to take some getting used to, this offensive juggernaut that is the Bulls these days.”

Remember last year when the Bulls could end a quarter with about 9, or if really lucky, 15 points? Games where they passed the ball around a lot, like for about 24 seconds, with a guaranteed shot clock violation ensuing. And this happened early and often. Late and often. It was a common occurrence.

Now, these Western Conference wannabes have got five or six guys in double figures every night. Versus the 76ers, it was “Dunlevee” with 27 points and The Butler with 23.

Jo said (I believe he was reminiscing about last season), “I remember when the score was 81-76, just fiending to get a basket. Now we’re scoring 100 every night. And I feel like it can get better.”

Western Conference, here we come. But not so fast. It sure sounds good that the Bulls are 5-1. And actually, they should be 6-0. Let’s just characterize the loss to the Cavs as an anomaly. Home opener jitters. No one could concentrate with Cinjo in the house. Plus, there were spotlights and everything. Too nervous!

It’s been reported that a lot of the players are still watching tape to figure out where they went astray. They could have won that one…

But face it, the wins have all come against Eastern Conference “bottom feeders” as Stacey King likes to call them – the Magic, Bucks, 76ers. Oops, am I allowed to include the Knicks in that group? And then there was the one lone Western Conference win vs. the Timberwolves.

But just you wait until early December. That’s when we’re all going to be crying in our Gatorade, as the Bulls face the Nuggets, Mavericks, Trailblazers and Warriors. Kind of like LBJ and the Cavs, who have discovered it’s not so easy out there in the land of high altitudes. Although you would think by now, LeBron would be used to the “Hollywood” of it all.

Since the Bulls are so used to finding a way to win without Mr. Rose, the fact that he had to sit out to continue recovering from the double ankle sprains, well, it doesn’t even faze them anymore.

Most concerning so far, I think, has been the fact that Thibs seems to have replaced his late-night game tape watching with some Dale Carnegie book reading. Pretty soon, he’s going to be teaching seminars and take his new-found positive mental attitude show on the road.

Despite giving up an 18-point lead to the 76ers, and having to put all the starters back in to scratch and claw their way back, Sam Smith reported that Thibs had this to say following the game:

“Offense is not a problem. We’re getting to the line; we’re shooting the three well. I think we have a good balance inside/out. Turnovers, we’ve got to get down. I like us offensively a lot. The rebounding is still a concern. But I am pleased we found a way to win. At the end of the day, that’s what we’ve got to do.”

Later in his blog, Sam Smith said the following, referring to Thibs: “Heck, he’s so jolly and understanding these days you’d think he’s auditioning for the Macy’s Santa job.”

I dunno, I think the world could be ending, with Thibs acting this way, and with the Bulls tied for first in the East with the Raptors…but for now, we’ll take the 5-1 record, bottom feeders or not. Now it’s on to the Celtics tonight (at home). This is a lot of basketball…the four games in five nights is making me pretty tired.

And not to brag, but I did get out a lot on the open floor during practice at EBC this morning. But that’s not hard to do when you’re the only one there.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Celtics.

 

 

It’s Showtime!

Bulls win! Bulls win! They beat the Lakers 92 to 86 at the Staples Center.

A Hollywood ending to not exactly a Hollywood story – the story being the six-game west coast road trip.

The Bulls escape with a 3-3 record, and that’s what the pundits (local media) were hoping for. “Best as can be expected.”

Not sure what’s most surprising. That the Bulls led for the entire contest. That they managed to do so on national TV. That they did so on national TV without wearing their Christmas pajamas. That they made all of their 17 of their free throws. Or, that they managed to win.

Well, that’s how you bring Showtime back to the Staples Center. 

But it’s not exactly the Show the Lakers fans were hoping for. Hey, at least you can count on the Bulls to provide some semblance of hope, as they managed to let a 19-point lead deteriorate to four.

There’s a lot of talk about the Lakers being down so many guys due to injury, but let’s remember that the Bulls only had 9 active players (Boozer out due to calf injury sustained while warming up in the locker room prior to the Warriors game on Thursday. The new guy, Toko Shengelia had to attend a funeral). And given Erik Murphy doesn’t play, that makes it 8 players.

I really don’t feel too badly for the Lakers at all.

Most importantly, and finally, at long last, the Bulls are coming home, and back at .500, with a 25-25 record.

I, for one, am happy this road trip is over. It’s killing me. All of the late starts and good teams. It’s exhausting. And I need to be rested and at the top of my game. I heard that Thibs is looking for a player. He’s not specific about what kind of player at all. I may have a chance: Bulls coach eager to add a player or two.

Quotable quotes:

Noah on his late jumper, reported by K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: “I’m happy it went down because my shot is so ugly, it’s demoralizing for the other team.”

Sam Smith, unofficial official Bulls blogger on D.J.’s steal: “Turns out the D.J. in Augustin stands for Defensive Jackal with perhaps late game saving steal.”

It’s the Hawks on Tuesday and those Brooklyn Nets on Thursday. It’s good to be back in the not-so-wild East.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Bulls vs. Hawks: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

THE GOOD

Bulls win! Bulls win! And that’s really all that matters, but there was actually a whole lot more good than bad with this one.

With last night’s 91-84 victory over Eastern Conference foe, the Atlanta Hawks (currently the #3 seed), the Bulls have moved up to #6.

Doing some quick calculations, that means that within three days, they advanced from #9 to #6. Where’s the Facbook “like” button when you need it?

Mike Dunleavy Jr. had a game-high 20 points, and was one of six Bulls in double figures – Luol with 17, Taj and Jo with 10 apiece, the Butler and DJ both with 11. It seems as if our Bulls have found the key to victory, don’t you think?

And what would a blog about the “good” be without a Taj Gibson commercial, courtesy of his protege and biggest fan, Thibs.

“You can’t say enough about Taj. He’s tough as nails. Whatever you ask him to do, he does,” Thibodeau said about his prized pupil. “You can start him, bring him off the bench, guard everybody, rebound, gives you great effort, pure heart, plays for the team, plays to win, disciplined. Practices every day, practices hard. Great practice player.”

And add this to the highlight reel – Lieutenant Deng with a half-court buzzer-beater to counteract Korver’s 3-pointer: Deng’s buzzer-beater.

THE UGLY

In the post-game interviews, a common theme emerged.

“It wasn’t pretty,” Noah said. “We just found a way. Some nights it’s going to be like that. When your shot isn’t going and it’s ugly offensively, you just have to dig down defensively and rebound and make it grimy. We did a good job of that.”

Dunleavy: “We’re going to defend, we’re going to rebound and I think we’re getting better offensively as the weeks go by. Tonight wasn’t great, but we’re getting there.”

It’s not west coast Hollywood (LA) or east cost Hollywood (Miami). This is CHI, where the weather is sometimes just as ugly as the Bulls’ play, but we get it done.

THE BAD

Not to be a downer, but here’s where it got a bit bad last night, other than Bulls’ somewhat lackluster scoring in Q3.

The Bulls’ #1 fan, yours truly, author of Bulls Banter was scheduled to have been at the game, third row, seat 18 etc.

But the ugly CHI weather caused a bit of trouble for my driver. OK, I’ll come clean, my driver is me, and my vehicle is a tin can (1999 Honda Civic), which pinballed it’s way west on Grand Avenue for a few blocks before I realized there was trouble.

As Jo said the other night when the guys were trying to get him the triple double (and failed) – it’s not a good look. Me digging my car out from the UC parking lot post-game, or worse, stuck in my car all night is definitely not a good look.

So, I headed home. Sigh. That’s life in the big city, and I’m just glad the Bulls pulled out the victory – in my honor, of course, despite not being there in person.

And to demonstrate just how excited the Bulls were with this unprecedented victory and two-game win streak – they were playing music in the locker room. You’ve heard of music before, right?

While Dunleavy didn’t want to admit that it was Lu’s play list, Jimmy did. But his country music, about love found then lost, and folks down on their luck, didn’t seem appropriate for this festive occasion. Word on the street is “Wonderwall” by Oasis was one of the songs of choice. Hey, whatever it takes.

I hope Thibs doesn’t find out. I’m guessing he doesn’t know how to spell MUSIC. After all, MUSIC does NOT spell VIDEOTAPE.

So far, 2014 is treating our Bulls quite well. On Tuesday one of those pesky Western Conference foes (Suns) show up…let’s not think about that quite yet.

Can we bask in the glow of last night’s victory, which leads to headlines like: Coming together, Bulls post 2nd straight victory. That’s K.C. Johnson’s (Chicago Tribune) game story. No, it’s not a typo. We’re excited about a 2-game win streak…not a 20-game win streak.

This is CHI, and these are our Chicago Bulls, and we still love them.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Championship season begins

There weren’t enough hotel rooms to accommodate all of the reporters covering the Bulls vs. Pacers preseason game.

I guess they all came to see Tony Snell and Erik Murphy.

Who? Or, it must have been to witness a guy from the south side of Chicago score the first five points. You may know him as Big Naz.

I wasn’t one of the faithful who made the trek to Indy to see the return. I knew it would be better for everyone, and for my pride, if I just stayed home and cried the tears of joy by myself in my condo.

While I didn’t hear Stacey make any comparisons to a Saturday afternoon senior men’s pickup game at the local YMCA, there were moments. But I guess the Return of Mr. “Hope Springs,” #1, far outweighed the 85 or so turnovers and low shooting %.

Why should Bulls fans everywhere rejoice, beyond the obvious?

Some amazing passing from newcomer Mike Dunleavy, one of the rookies (Tony Snell) and Captain Kirk.

Taj Gibson was the high scorer, with 18 points. He seems to have transformed himself over the summer, and must have gone to the Cindy Olsen school of bulking up because he’s definitely a bit heftier.

The bench is deep, there’s a much larger contingent of guys who can knock down some shots.

Despite the fact that everyone on the Pacers is seven feet tall, the Bulls still managed to pull out a win, and the like-minded defensive teams are going to be starch rivals this year, it seems.

Should we be concerned that Boozer got lost in the game, judging by last night, my shot might be better than Dunleavy’s, they had a few 24-second violations, and Thibs once again didn’t use everyone on the bench (he probably forgot their names…)?

Probably not. I’m sure Thibs made them watch the film on this morning’s flight to St. Louis for tomorrow’s “home” game vs. the Grizzlies. And given DRose already gave Thibs a “talking to” about his lack of minutes…Thibs may not ever have to go to to the bench again anyway.

One of the Chicago reporters/bloggers tweeted about the 1-1 side convos going on during the game (can’t remember if it was K.C. Johnson, Sam Smith, Nick Friedell, Aggrey Sam) DRose was talking to JB (that’s Jimmy Butler). Lu was giving Tony Snell some advice. Jo, in his ill-fitting suit coat was just generally enthusiastic, talking to anyone who would listen.

I think that’s why I love my Bullys so much. The guys seem to genuinely like one another. I even saw Thibs smile at rook Erik Murphy.

And with “The Return,” it looks more and more unlikely that Thibs will add me to the lineup. So I have decided to create another role for myself – “eating coach.” I read that Tony Snell has been told to eat as much as possible. And that, my friends, is one area in which I excel.

We’ll begin by going to the Portillo’s drive-through to order a salad, and depart with a chicken sandwich, onion rings and chocolate cake. Don’t worry, Tony – I’ve got this covered. You’ll put on 25 lbs. in no time!

Our Bulls are back. See Red!

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