5 Things to Know about the 2017-2018 Bulls

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

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

ONE: Lauri Markkanen (The Finnisher)

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

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

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

TWO: It’s gonna be interesting

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

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

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

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

THREE: Introducing Robin Lopez

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

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

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

FOUR: The team and lineups are a moving target

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Players said Hoiberg gave them an earful at halftime.

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

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Heat!

 

 

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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!

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.

Things you don’t hear much in Chicago sports

Two things you don’t hear too often when it comes to sports in Chicago:

1.) The Bulls remain undefeated.

2.) The Cubs are in the World Series.

First, the Bulls. They’ve played two games, and won both of them! They beat the Celtics on Thursday (which I missed as one of my friends scheduled a get-together conflicting with the Bulls’ ever-important home opener). I do wonder why I keep some of these friends around.

The second game was last night (Saturday), when the Bulls handily defeated the Pacers, but there was another conflict…brought about by rarely heard fact #2.

Yes, the Cubs are in the World Series, and played last night, but looked more like the Bad News Bears than the future World Series Champions. With this most recent loss, the Cubs are now up against the wall, facing elimination. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this is going to be more “Cubs Chat” than “Bulls Banter.”

The Cubs have only managed 1 win, and the Cleveland Indians have got 3. To win the World Series – you need 4 wins.

As we all know, there’s no crying in baseball. But I sure did feel like crying Friday night, and Saturday night…

Joe Maddon, the Cubs’ manager is fond of saying, “Don’t ever permit the pressure exceed the pleasure.” And during his post-game presser, speaking of today’s (Sunday’s) game – “We have to have a one-game winning streak.”

It sounds all well and good, and let’s hope these young Cubs can get the one-game streak going tonight. Then, it would be back to Joakim Noah’s favorite vacation spot, Cleveland for 1-2 more games.

No matter what happens, this fan, and Chicago, and Cubs followers of all ages are better for having witnessed the excitement, teamwork, attitude and spirit the Cubs have brought to the city this season. And importantly, we can all learn a lot from this wacky, smart, charismatic yet unorthodox Cubs manager Joe Maddon.

If we all employed a little more of his philosophies in baseball games and in life, we could potentially be more successful, and have lots of fun along the way.

For instance, “Do simple better.”

And, “In our world, for me, every day is Friday night.”

While many predicted the Cubs would win the World Series this year, that’s a lot to live up to for this group of mostly young 20-year olds, and in my view, they have far exceeded expectations already. Win or lose, the Cubs have captured our hearts and imaginations.

There’s still a lot more baseball to play. Joe Maddon talks about “moments.” In keeping with his philosophy to approach every game the same way, it’s no surprise that in speaking of game five, he said, “We just need that one moment.”

And it’s been reported that the video screens in the Cubs’ new clubhouse provided instructions on how to approach Sunday’s pivotal game 5:

SCHEDULE FOR SUNDAY

DRESS AT 5:30 p.m.

Game at 7:15 p.m.

They’ve got the “Do simple better” covered. Now it’s time for the one-game win streak.

Go Cubs! Beat the Indians! #FlytheW #WorldSeriesChamps

PS – See Red! Go Bulls! Remain undefeated

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)

You’re breakin’ my heart Chicago Bulls, but I’ll always love you

Dear Chicago Bulls,

Today’s my birthday, and I was supposed to be at the UC in row B behind your bench to see you defeat the Atlanta Hawks.

When I saw the recent unraveling, my plans changed.

I knew I could no longer spend my birthday evening with you when you not only managed to lose twice in a home and home to the Knicks. (Yes, the Knicks, those Knicks, the lowly ones.) But then you managed to top it off with a loss to the Magic, who were playing with about five guys. That’s when I decided to save the $$$, buy myself a pair of Jimmy Choo sandals and watch the game from my couch.

The issues of this season have been analyzed, assessed, talked over, talked out and re-evaluated. And I likely am not saying anything anyone else hasn’t said.

It was the beginning of the end when GarPax fired Thibs, and the Bulls’ fate was sealed when Joakim’s leadership role was pulled out from under him like an old rug.

If you had told me the Bulls were at risk of MAKING the playoffs, I would have asked if you were from Mars.

If you had told me the Celtics AND the Hornets and even the Pacers would be ahead of the Bulls in the Eastern Conference, I would have no response.

The only challenge I would have foreseen was how avoid playing the Milwaukee Bucks again in round one. Well, they’re irrelevant this season, so something has worked in the Bulls’ favor.

Unfortunately, the Bulls find themselves in the same category.

While I cannot find it in my heart to forgive GarPax, I forgive you Bulls. You’re lost, mad disappointed, heartless, sad, injured, and lifeless all at the same time. And it pains me to no end. Despite all that, as stated in the headline — I’ll always love you.

But it would be just a magnificent birthday present if you found a way to beat those Atlanta Hawks tonight, on my 49th.

XOXOXO,

Your biggest fan, Cindy Joy “Cinjo” Olsen

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Hawks

An assessment of the Bulls from someone younger and wiser

So I was none too happy that the Bulls lost to the Heat on Monday, and my displeasure was compounded by the fact that two days later, another player was added to the injured list. (Note that IF the Bulls have to lose to anybody, I’ll take the Heat given I love Luol Deng, and that other guy has since left to run the show elsewhere.)

When I found out the Niko Mirotic had an emergency appendectomy, it was like the sky had fallen.

Adding up the injured Bulls requires someone with math skills beyond my elementary level: Jo, Dun Dun, Hinrich, Moore, DRose. I mean, I realize the 76ers of the west (the Lakers) were the next opponent, but still.

The only thing to do when such upsetting news hits social media is obviously to text your bro. Kevbro, eight years my junior is younger and wiser than me. He texted back:

“As long as they can make the playoffs and be healthy then and have some luck there is always a chance they can go pretty far.”

I told him that’s what I love about him – he always sees the bright side.

And things are beginning to look up on the health front. Dunleavy had his own bright idea to get some practice in while the Bulls are on their Disney on Ice road trip away from the UC. He’s adding himself to the Warriors’ D-League team.

“My brain works in thoughtful ways. They were trying to figure out, looking at the schedule and realizing I’m not getting much practice time and we got some guys hurt, limited on bodies; we started to think outside the box and I threw that out there as just a good opportunity.”

And E’Twaun Moore not only returned to the lineup vs. the Lakers, he got his first start as a Bull! Chalk one up for Fredberg, and being willing to switch up the starting lineup – with three guards, and for giving ET a chance.

I love this kid. And like others on this Bulls teams, and other NBA teams, it hasn’t been a walk in the park for him.

“I definitely fell from a high end in the draft, but that did nothing but motivate me,” said Moore. “The things that are disheartening that upset you, that’s fuel to keep you going and getting better. I grew up in a project, assisted government housing, tough neighborhood. Things weren’t always good. So adversity was something you always had to overcome. That prepared me for when things get hard I fight right through it. I always remember those times; those times drive me and motivate me to go forward.”

“Starting, that’s crazy,” smiled Moore. “I just stay in the gym, just stay ready; if it’s two minutes or 20 minutes I try to stay ready and keep working. My name is called I’m ready. I wouldn’t be surprised if the coach went back to it (vs. the Clippers) because it worked tonight (vs. 76ers West); it works, keep doing it. I was pleased, definitely happy; been a while since I started. So it was pretty cool.”

And finally, our optimist, Kevbro is going to be really excited about this one: it looks like DRose and JB have turned a corner. Some of the sports commentators have recently been reporting that the two stars had a meeting, leading to an “ah ha moment.”

I guess they’ve realized that maybe if they join forces, they can actually be better than best.

“This is new for me as it’s new for him, playing with an elite guard,” said Rose after Thursday’s win. “We’re young. The way he’s been playing has been great. I want him to shoot more. But I love his shot selection, the way he’s driving into the lane, getting fouls; it helps our team all the way around.”

“We were talking about that, laughing about it before the game, saying how the more games we get under our belt the more comfortable each other is going to be,” Butler said after the game about he and Rose. “It’s crazy because I love playing with him; he’s super aggressive and taking some great shots. That’s what we need. As long as I follow his lead on that style of play we are going to be really good.”

So now I’m feeling a lot better about our Bulls, and it’s all thanks to my not so little, but oh so smart bro.

So let’s get this done. This afternoon, the Bulls face new-look Lob City, as they take on the Clippers sans Blake Griffin, who is busy looking for other staff members to beat up.

They’re on the path to improved health.

And, they bring a fierce, fully (sorta) aligned backcourt with DRose and JB.

Things are looking much brighter for the future NBA champs.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Clippers.

Note: All quotes sourced from Sam Smith, the unofficial official Bulls blogger.

It’s not the size of the dog in the fight…

…it’s the size of the fight in the dog.

Evidently, the Bulls are not in the mood to fight this season. Although I will say, I thought they started out with some energy during the first quarter of last night’s loss to the Celtics.

We’ve come to this. We’re just re-posting the same old “any excuse will do” commentary from last season.

But it’s different this year. Maybe because when the Bulls were struggling last year (and the year before that, etc.), with various members of the team on life support, you still knew they would try.

And there was always Thibs to fall back on. I mean, half the reason I ever watched the games was to see his sideline trolling, ranting and raving.

Fredberg. I mean, he’s so well, vanilla, so uninspiring. I already fell asleep just typing his name. As the coach so goes the team? If that’s the case, no wonder the Bulls are sleepwalking through games. There’s really no personality. No intensity.

Oh, and it’s sure to get easier for the Bulls in the next few games before the All-Star break (not). Tonight, they face the Cavs, led by their new coach, “that other guy,” (LebBron). Yes, they have something to prove. And so should the Bulls, given they recently got trounced by GSW, and then lost to the likes of a not-so-great Boston squad.

I look at the schedule and wonder – will the Bulls ever win again? When’s the next 76ers game? Oooh – it looks like the Jazz are coming up on Monday. I think they’re pretty bad. Maybe the Bulls can win one.

Yes, I’ve got my cranky pants on. I need to put my chipper hat back on. I’ll do that when the Bulls win.

I long for the days when the Bulls really didn’t have more than enough, yet they found ways to win. Days of old when “Do your job” meant something, and without flair, through sheer will and desire, and definitely far from pretty – the Bulls found a way to win games.

This year, they have more talent, more guys who can make shots, and an offensive system that was supposed to produce. Yet so far, it hasn’t proven to be a winning formula.

All we can count on is the fact that Cinjo’s got new kicks, she’s practicing, getting her shots up, and she’s ready to go. Let’s hope the rest of the team follows in kind behind her. We want to see more red!

Go Bulls!

Beat those other guys (Cavs)!

I'm ready to go, Fredberg.  I've got new kicks, and I always play defense.
I’m ready to go, Fredberg. I’ve got new kicks, and I always play defense.

It’s devastating…it hits you in the heart

Today, we were supposed to be assessing Jimmy Butler’s other-worldly, Jordanesque 53-point performance, where he led the Bulls to a victory against the league’s worst (by record) 76ers on Thursday night.

Instead, we are forced to evaluate Joakim Noah’s likely season-ending shoulder injury in the words of his teammates.

“It hurt, it hurt, just knowing how hard he worked, how hard he wants to be on the court, how much he means to this team, it’s devastating,” DRose said.

And probably his best friend on the team – Taj Gibson, “Seeing him on the table like that, kinda got a flashback to when Derrick got hurt. You don’t want to see your man go down like that. It is frustrating. You see a guy in all different kind of circumstances in eight years, guy you pride yourself with, especially in practice on a daily basis, he’s one of the emotional leaders of this team. It hits you in the heart.”

Over the past four years, as members of the team suffered their various injuries and ailments – ACL, torn meniscus, after-effects of a spinal tap, ankle sprains, back surgeries, you heard nothing from Jo but how the Bulls would fight through the adversity.

During his 2014 All-Star interview, Jo said: “We’re definitely the team that’s gone through the most in terms of adversity. And we’re showing a lot of fight and I’m really proud of being able to be a group that plays with heart.”

It does seem like the Bulls have suffered more than their fair share. Yet, what we love about them, is that (for the most part), they play with heart.

That Joakim, the “heart and soul” of the Bulls might be out for the season, or even worse, have played his last game as a Chicago Bull is heartbreaking.

To make myself feel better, I started thinking back to my fondest memories of Jo, and I would have to say the 2013 playoffs versus the Nets was my favorite. He single-handedly willed the Bulls to victory in that series – playing the entire time with plantar fasciitis. Remember the Bulls were without DRose, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich.

Hoops Rumors has been reporting for weeks that the Bulls were “quietly shopping” their bigs – Jo, Pau and Taj – as the front court is crowded, with the rookie, Bobby Portis, plus Mirotic, and seldom-used Cameron Bairstow.

Then there’s poor Cristiano Felicio. You’ve probably never heard of him. The Bulls sent him to the D-League, specifically, the Canton Charge, then recalled him. He seems to spend all of his time on planes. He was dispatched to the Charge for what seems like the zillionth time on Friday, and now, he’s been recalled to join the Bulls again as of this morning.

No, there is no joy in Mudville.

It had been hitting me in the heart that the Bulls lost three games. And even worse, they almost lost to Philly. Then, hope springs, as they seemed to be faring well versus the Mavs last night, but after Jo went down, it was like the west coast trip when DRose got injured again in Portland – game over.

I was tweeting with some other Bulls fans before the Mavs game started about how you don’t hear much about Dunleavy, and yet, he’s critical to the Bulls success. He had back surgery this summer, and is still out. There’s talk of him being out the rest of the season. Now I guess Jo may be added to the list.

And yet there were bright spots recently, with Jimmy G Buckets and his record-setting performances, and E’Twaun Moore coming up big in Q4 and OT versus the 76ers. Speaking of ET earlier in the season, Drose said, “He’s in the right place. He knows the game, a great teammate, a great dude. I’m just glad he has the opportunity he has now.”

I had planned to voice my frustrations after the recent losses. But now, it’s all irrelevant. As we’ve said before, when DRose was the victim to the untimely injuries – this is bigger than basketball.

After another Bulls setback, in January 2014, when Luol Deng was unexpectedly traded Jo wouldn’t speak to the media for a while. When he finally did speak, Jo said:

“I feel when I come to the game and see the guys selling newspapers on the street; it’s cold outside. He sees me driving and he’s excited. He’s like, ‘Let’s go Bulls. Get it done tonight.’ I feel I play for that guy.”

“I look in the arena when the team calls a timeout and see this guy who looks this big jump up and down (in the upper deck, 300 level). That’s the guy I play for.”

The author of the article from which I pulled the two quotes above summed it up perfectly: “Deng or no Deng, Derrick Rose or no Derrick Rose, healthy roster or injury-plagued docket, Noah won’t ever stop fighting.”

We know that Jo will always fight. And your teammates will fight for you, Jo. They’ve got your back. And so does Bulls Banter.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Get well Jo.

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