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.

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)

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.

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.

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.

10, oops, 16 reasons to be excited about the Chicago Bulls

Since we last convened here on Bulls Banter, our beloved team has been on a tear. In fact, following the Christmas miracle OKC victory, other than one inexplicable loss to the Mavericks, the Bulls have gone on to win every game since then.

Yes, that’s six games in a row. It looks like our Championship team is finally coming together, and there are oh so many reasons to be excited.

1.) The Bulls have beat legitimate, contending teams in the past three weeks, including one of them (the Raps) twice. The others, in addition to OKC, are the Pacers and Celtics.

2.) The Bulls did not disappoint during my first appearance at the UC this season, with a convincing 108 to 81 victory over the Knicks on New Year’s Day. Evidently, the Knicks’ record-setting (in the wrong way) 8 points in the fourth quarter, which in part caused the game to be described as “The Great Chicago Fire” by NYC media, helped to ignite the Knicks’ recent resurgence. Happy to help the Knicks…I guess. All I care about is the Bulls got the W. Read more here: How Knicks’ rebound was ignited by a feisty 1-hour film session.

3.) Jimmy G Buckets (the G stands for Gets) is not only doing the laundry now, he’s also sewing the clothes and manufacturing the washing machines. His 40 points in one half, breaking Michael Jordan’s record—was nothing short of magnificent.

4.) In this video, I’ve labeled simly as Squad, you can see how the team came together following the win in Toronto and JB’s performance. “I think we all got a lot of love for each other,” Butler said. “Everybody wants to see everybody be successful. That’s why we’re winning games. We’re buying into any given night. It could be anybody that’s scoring. It could be anybody that’s got it going. You get the ball to them and they’ll take us where we need to go. But that’s special just showing how much everybody wants everybody else to be successful.”

5.) The Bulls are finally following my lead with their fast breaks. What I’ve been practicing with my coach at the East Bank Club this past year closely resembles what the Bulls were FINALLY able to pull off versus the Celtics the other night: Watch the Chicago Bulls run a full-court fast break without taking a single dribble. (Bulls management – you can pay me later.)

6.) With Placido Domingo (one of the Three Tenors) in the Bulls’ court, how can they lose? He was at the UC for the Celtics game this week, and in an interview with Chuck Garfien of CSN, had this to say about his friend, Pau Gasol, “He is playing beautifully for the Bulls. There’s a lot of possibilities to make the playoffs and something happening.” Article and Interview with Placido Domingo.

7.) The emergence of Bobby “Crazy Eyes” Portis, who has stepped in for Jo since he’s been sidelined due to a shoulder injury.

8.) It looks like DRose and JB have figured out how to play nice. And it’s the only way the Bulls can beat those other guys (the Cavs), or the likes of the Splash Brothers. Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler: Rising together, debunking myths.

9.) Staying ready. Tony Snell, who had been taken out of the starting lineup got sent back in for the December 28 home game versus the Raps. He scored 22 (tying with Pau for leading scorer), including 19 in the final 18 minutes. “I’m staying ready every day,” Snell said. “I make sure I’m staying ready at all times.”

10.) The bench. For a few games there, it was the Aaron Brooks show. Add E’Twaun Moore and the rook (Bobby Portis), and you’ve sure got a lot of weapons. “We have a bunch of looks,” Brooks said with a laugh. “We have a bunch of looks on this team, and you never know on any given day…there’s a lot of talent of this team. Guys just got to step up when their name is called.”

11.) Hey, wait, what about us? Remember, we haven’t even seen Mike Dunleavy Jr. play yet this season. And Jo is set to return sometime this week. Wonder how Coach Fred is going to find minutes for me once I get added to the roster…

12.) Games, games and more games. If you were hoping to watch some Bulls basketball, you’re in luck. You best renew your NBA League Pass subscription straight-away. Today, there’s a “matinee” versus the Hawks at 4 p.m. CST. And then, it’s “4 in 5.” Yes, we get to enjoy Bulls games Monday (Wizards), Tuesday (Bucks), Thursday (76ers…I’m scared, now that they have Ish Smith + Elton Brand), Friday (Mavs). Around Friday, we’ll certainly be calling for baskets…oh Betty.

13.) Fredberg is finally taking off. Here in CHI, the sportscasters have taken to calling the new coach “Fredberg.” After all, they need something to jazz up the morning programs, and it’s complementary to GarPax and all. While things seem to have gotten off to a slow start, it looks like the Bulls have turned a corner. I guess JB’s tirade, then John Paxon’s speech during the subsequent team meeting have helped steer the Bulls ship.

14.) We’ll never forget you, Thibs. Following the Celtics win, a reporter asked DRose, “What’s been the key to the offense?” Derrick’s response: “I think it all starts with our defense. Because without defense, you can’t get out on the open floor or play that up-tempo type pace we want to.” Following the Bulls first defeat of the Raps on December 28, their coach, Dwane Casey said, “They’re still a defensive team. They still have remnants. The core is still there. The DNA is still there. It’s been beat in them, so to speak, which is a good thing.”

15.) Taj Gibson finally gets the starting spot he deserves, and the Bulls are 8-5 since he entered the starting lineup. “He has been really solid,” Fredberg said. “He’s a very versatile defender and you can switch him out onto perimeter guys. He has great length, contests shots, he’s a very good offensive rebounder — he’s just solid.”

16.) Second in the East. DRose is healthy. JB is on fire. Pau is a double double machine. The bench can beat most starting lineups.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Hawks.

Me at Bulls vs. Knicks on January 1, 2016. Bulls win 108 to 81.
Me at Bulls vs. Knicks on January 1, 2016. Bulls win 108 to 81.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See Red! Go Bulls! Beat the Cavs.

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

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

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

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

Joy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Championship #7 in 2015-2016!

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