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!




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!

Un-watch-a-Bulls need to channel their inner Kristaps Porzingis

It’s been a rough few weeks for our Chicago Bulls, or as I like to call them as of late, the “Un-watch-a-Bulls.” The loss to Tom Thibodeau’s Timberwolves I’ll let slide. Deep down, I kind of wanted Thibs to get the W, after the way things ended between him and Bulls’ management.

But two losses to the Milwaukee Bucks, including one at the United Center, where the Bulls only scored 69 to the Bucks’ 95? What? Am I living in some alternate universe now? And you know the world is about to end when the New York Knicks are ahead of the Bulls in the Eastern Conference standings.

Since watching these awful games is not on my festive Christmas agenda, and leads to me acting more like Scrooge than Santa, I didn’t actually hear any of the UC fans booing, or season ticket holders screaming for refunds at Friday night’s Bucks game. I had to look away. Turn off the games – they’re impossible to watch.

But the booing was widely reported by all of the Chicago media.

Now you know how I feel about booing. There are really no exceptions, except for LeBron and those Cavs. So I suggest our Bulls figure out how to do exactly what Kristaps has done.

You remember during the NBA draft, he was booed by New York Knicks fans (classy), and of course, I think I might have cried. I was so upset. (Note: I’m the one who should be crying now given how Kristaps now dismantles the Bulls…another blog on that later).

But I gave the kid credit for the way he handled the NYC reaction immediately following the draft. And I suggest the Bulls do the same, and fast.

They need to turn the boos into cheers. Or the Bulls risk having the UC as empty as Soldier Field.

Here is what Kristaps had to say:

“I’m a young guy coming into the league, I don’t need motivation. I’m gonna be doing my thing and working as hard as I can,” Porzingis said. “But of course, I would love those booing fans who didn’t know me to (become) fans who know me and cheer for me. New York is a basketball city. The fans, they express the emotions, they boo you or they cheer for you, and I think that’s the best thing you can have. You have fans who really love the game and have passion for the game.”

In the spirit of Christmas, and like the New York fans have done for Kristaps, I hope to start cheering again – for our Bulls. It can all happen tomorrow night when the Bulls face the Pistons at the United Center.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Pistons.

In a Season of Life Lessons, Gonna Be Some Changes Made

Today is the last day of April.

Right about now, I’m typically in the Outer Banks with the folks, enjoying the beauty that is OBX, my family’s company, a lot of good food and sun. And most importantly – watching some Bulls playoff basketball.

OBX was where I arrived a few days after DRose suffered his first major knee injury vs. the 76ers…and I think I cried when I found out he, and then Jo, and the season were done.

It’s also where I watched the Nate Robinson triple OT game for the ages…for three hours, on a tiny TV, and had a hard time leaving for Mom’s birthday dinner when the game wasn’t over. But it was her birthday. And we had a rez at her favorite restaurant, the Colington Cafe.

There was no trip to OBX this year. But the way the season ended was as painful as ever – just without the trauma of a DRose injury.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than two weeks since the Bulls were finally put out of their misery at the UC on April 13 vs. the lowly 76ers. I’m not sure who won. It didn’t matter for either team. It was like the season couldn’t conclude fast enough.

And the takeaways from this season are more about life and life lessons than I hoped to ever have to report. While I had a hard time watching any of the games at the end of the season, I did tune in to the GarPax end-of-season press conference following the aforementioned 76ers game.

Pax said the team lacked collective fight. While I’m not a big GarPax fan – Pax really nailed it. That’s certainly what characterized the teams from the Thibs era. They fought. They played together. They showed determination and will to win when they should have given up. That’s all I want to see from my Bulls.

Instead of victories and playoffs and exciting, exhilarating, inspiring games, and a season ending on a high note, all we have to show for it this time is a big old list of life lessons.

I’m almost 50, and sometimes, I don’t feel like learning the lessons all over again…but I guess we can’t always get what we want.

And here are those life lessons, courtesy of your 2015-2016 Chicago Bulls:

Don’t lie (as in Fredberg lying about it being Jo’s idea to come off the bench).

Let’s all get along and play nice (something the Bulls didn’t do at all this year).

Give it your best (after the All-Star break, it seemed to be more like everyone’s worst).

Be humble (as in – Jimmy Butler, you’re way too big for your britches. Have you forgotten – you’re from Tomball, Texas).

There is no I in team (Jimmy – this one’s for you too).

Be enthusiastic (once Joakim was out for the season, the Bulls ship was sunk. There was no enthusiasm whatsoever. And Jo was deflated himself after being relegated to a secondary role. And, the Bulls could have used a little more Nate Robinson and little less Pau Gasol).

There are going to be disappointments in life…it’s how you deal with them that matters. Ah yes, I’m still trying to convince myself of this one. I know it’s true. So me, you, Derrick, Jimmy, Dougie McBuckets, Jo, Fredberg, and all the rest of the team need to use our summer vacation to figure out how to make things better – at work, and at life.

It was hard to cheer for the Bulls this year. They didn’t seem to like one another, and playing together was more like a chore than a joy. We all know how I feel about the dismissal of Tom Thibodeau, and the effect that had on the team. But no one could have predicted how lifeless, unenthusiastic and heartless our Bulls were to become this year.

While this is far from an enthusiastic blog…Bulls Banter still lives and breathes her Bulls. While in Miami last weekend, a hotel staff member asked her to “step back” so he could get a better view of her red Nike basketball kicks. She also proudly wore her Bulls tank tops for morning walks (due to the high temps – no Bulls sweatshirt was required).

The cab drivers all heard my Bulls sob story, and in a strange turn of events, Bulls Banter is endorsing the Miami Heat for Conference Champs. Any team with Luol Deng gets my vote. Said cab drivers were oh so pleased to hear about my new-found (albeit temporary) Heat endorsement.

And now, it’s on to the 2016-2017 season, when the Bulls will re-group, and hopefully come back as the team we all used to love. I know the Bulls can win us over again.

To become the NBA champs, one thing for certain in clear, in the words of Bruce Hornsby:

Gonna be some changes made

Can’t keep on doing what I’ve been doing these days

Look in the mirror I see a clown’s face

Gotta take it off, gotta get myself straight

Gonna be some changes, some changes made

Can’t keep on doing what I’ve been doing these days

Better figure out something

Things are looking grave

Gonna be some changes, changes, changes made

See Red! Go Bulls! See you next season.

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.


Your biggest fan, Cindy Joy “Cinjo” Olsen

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Hawks

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.

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.

A Christmas miracle in OKC, followed by a disappearing act in Dallas

All I wanted for Christmas was for the Bulls to win games.

I sure got my wish on December 25, when the Bulls convincingly beat OKC. The proper terminology, when one team leads the entire game, is – wire to wire. I’m getting so fancy now that I’m coming up on three years writing soon-to-be-award-winning Bulls Banter.

So not only did the Bulls manage to win an away game on national TV, on a holiday, with an odd start time (1:30 p.m. CST) and wearing alternate (Christmas) uniforms, it was a wire-to-wire victory.

Everyone seemed to contribute in that game. The Bulls remembered how to play together, and the offense and defense both seemed to click (for the most part)…I’ll let the turnovers and bad passes slide given the significance of this win.

It sure is good to be on the victorious side of a contest, for once, and especially on a national stage.

Whereas I would typically feature a few quotes from our beloved Bulls players, in this case, I find it oh so satisfying to showcase the opponent trying to figure it out.

Kevin Durant: “”Man, we didn’t have any energy to start the game or to start the third quarter. And they got us.” When asked why, he replied, “I have no clue, man.”

Durant then said: “We just made dumb plays all night.”

Russell Westbrook: “Just didn’t play hard enough. We’ve got to play harder if we want to win games.” [Author’s note: He is sounding like a rocket scientist.]

One of my favorite moments of the game took place at the viewing party at my folks’ place in Orange, CT. When it got close at the end, and the Bulls really needed to score, I was screaming, “Somebody, anybody, get me a basket.”

My Mom rushed in from the kitchen to the den carrying a bread basket.

Whatever it takes.

The fact that the Bulls seemed to have forgotten how to play defense en flight from OKC to Dallas is a mystery to me. Poof! It was a disappearing act.

But I sure felt a lot better when I got up this morning and saw that those other guys (Cavs) got blown out by Portland 105 to 76. This warms my heart.

And Indiana lost too. He he ha ha ho ho ho.

In other basketball news, I was thrilled to see that the 76ers got their second win by beating the Suns, although it looks like their coach might be on his way out. Could Phoenix be Thibs’ next stop? He could do with a little sun anyway.

Looking ahead, we’ve got lots of Bulls basketball this week, three games at the UC, and one is sure to be a Bulls victory with their #1 fan, Cinjo in attendance (Bulls vs. Knicks on New Year’s Day). That game is preceded by Oh Canada! (Toronto Raptors) on Monday night and those pesky Pacers on Wednesday.

To end on a high note, I’ll leave you with JB’s post-game assessment following the Bulls’ loss to the Dallas Mavericks: “Lots of positives. We competed from start to finish. We’ll learn from this. It’s tough after playing like we did [against OKC], but that’s why we’ve got 82 of them. We’ll be all right.”

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Pacers!

Is This What You Call Fun?

I’ve recently had one of those “ah ha” moments.

I realized why I’ve felt such a strong to connection to the Bulls these past few years – they’re exactly like me, at least, when it comes to work ethic and approach to their jobs.

The Thibs-coached teams were all business. They always came to practice to work hard. They showed up at games and played hard. There wasn’t a lot of funny business. And there definitely didn’t seem to be a lot of fun. As Thibs often liked to say, “DO YOUR JOB.”

Similarly, I have always approached my work in marketing kind of the same way. I’m all business. Conference calls, meetings, deliverables, PowerPoints (in 55 versions), spreadsheets, process documents, more calls.

Lunch? There’s no time for lunch.

Starbucks break? Have you lost your mind? I’ve got to jump on a call and discuss the process before planning the deliverable to submit by the deadline and gain buy-in for the revisions, and then of course, I’ll pivot (and I’m not talking about my pivot foot).

Now does any of that sound fun?

When Bulls management made a coaching change this season, I was hopeful that the Bulls might enjoy their jobs more, and that enjoyment might manifest itself on the court. In last season’s final Bulls Banter, titled “It’s my middle name, and it’s what the Bulls need,” I made the case for Joy.

Coach Fred must have read the blog, as we’ve seen some joy in small doses. Beating the Cavs during the home opener. Joy. Same with the nationally broadcasted Thursday night game versus OKC. Big-time victory, and again, joy.

But OT losses to the Charlotte Hornets and the Minnesota Timberwolves?

The Bulls looked like they were working on one of my PowerPoints, just in super slow motion, and dreading staying all night to work on version 55. They seemed to be sleepwalking, or daydreaming about being anywhere else but engaged in the game.

Everyone is talking about the Bulls and “finding an identity” and Jo mentioned “character” and “intensity” during the post-game interview following last night’s “redemption” victory over those Hornets.

When asked about identity, Pau Gasol said, “Identity: Good question. We’re a team that has a lot of talent. When we play well and play hard and play together we are tough to beat. We try to play up tempo, with pace, flow offensively. But I don’t know if we have any identity, per se, where you can label it. I don’t know if anyone has. I’d be interested in hearing it.”

Jo responded, “Just got to keep working. The only way we are going to find a true identity is to give 100 percent effort and then we’ll see.”

So it seems as if the Bulls, and their faithful fan and blogger, Cinjo all need to find the joy.

One can find the joy in doing the work. However, we could likely benefit from having some fun along the way – kind of the Nate Robinson effect. After all, if we have to spend all of this time “at the office,” we might as well be enthusiastic – whether playing on the floor of the UC, or PowerPointing in a cubicle.

See Red! Go Bulls! Beat the Pacers.

[Credit for the Pau and Jo quotes: Sam Smith, from his blog, “Bulls get even with Hornets in 102-97 victory”]

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