I've punched exactly one person in the face -- so far.
In April 2004, I took a stray ground ball to the face that required surgery for my broken nose. At our twice-weekly poker game a few days later, a friend's older brother sitting to my right thought it would be funny to give my newly splinted nose a love tap. My instantaneous reaction involved the back of my clenched fist connecting to the face of a man much larger than I was.
Karl was fine, and he somehow withheld a rage filled response our buddies were gleefully awaiting. My retaliatory backhand might not even qualify as a punch, and if it doesn't, it's as close as I've come to doing so. But I think about drilling someone directly between the eyes every time I get bumped while exiting an elevator. The memory of Karl's merciful restraint is the only thing that holds me back.
The West Loop office I work in is home to roughly 25 small businesses sprawling seven floors. The building has two passenger elevators, but the secondary one is only used when the main lift is malfunctioning because it's brutally slow, crushingly small, and rides like the cables are mere moments away from snapping. The main elevator does just fine by itself, but the moment the doors open after I ride down to leave for the day is when all hell breaks loose.
Control is something the Chicago Bulls don't have a lot of right now.
The future of the franchise rests on whether Derrick Rose can be elite again, some draft lottery ping pong balls in May and how the Charlotte Bobcats and Sacramento Kings perform.
The one thing Chicago had complete control over of was Luol Deng's future in a Bulls uniform. After years of living on the trading block, the Bulls front office seemed to finally value Deng's worth to the point where I truly wondered if they would be foolish enough to try and re-sign him in the offseason.
Luckily, they thought about the future and moved him to Cleveland, saved some major money in the process and added a few draft picks.
This story was practically already written in my head. You know, the one where I was going to commend the Chicago Bulls for doing all the right things (save winning) since Derrick Rose went down with a season-ending meniscus tear in his right knee.
Bulls management immediately ruled Rose out for the season, which would have been appropriate a year ago when the speculation of a potential comeback overshadowed a decent basketball team. Then general manager Gar Foreman made the media rounds with Bulls beat writers by providing some level of transparency as to what the state of the franchise is.
This crisis communication plan had my seal of approval until Rose spoke to the media on Thursday by giving his teammates and fans a glimmer of hope that they don't need right now.
"We want to step away from that shadow as the 'little brothers' of this division. Their success is the Michael Jordan era. This is a new age, this is a new team. It's ours till they take it." - Paul George to NBA.com after defeating the Chicago Bulls 97-80 on Wednesday night.
Paul George had the right to spit some fire after he and the Indiana Pacers spit a ton of game all over the Chicago Bulls to move to 5-0 on the season.
The quote matched the Pacers' confidence on the court, but the Central Division has been the Pacers' for exactly one season. That came in a year when the Bulls were playing without Derrick Rose. In the two years prior, the Bulls held the league's best regular season record.
The combination of Derrick Rose's prodigious talent and 18-month recovery from a torn ACL has made some of us something we're likely not. Just because we've all logged a night at a Holiday Inn Express doesn't give us the expertise of a doctor, the experience of being an NBA player or for that matter, walking a day in DRose's signature shoes.
With that being said, now is a good time to let go of any beefs and discard any complaints that you've logged over the last year and a half.
With Tom Thibodeau calling the shots and Derrick Rose running the floor, the Chicago Bulls are the two-time Eastern Conference regular season champions.
Yes, there's technically no such thing as the Eastern Conference regular season championship -- it's commonly called the top seed, and conquering that sometimes torturous 82-game stretch has been the Bulls' calling card two of the last three seasons.
The Bulls want and need a better reputation: to be the team that takes down the big, bad (but so good) Miami Heat in the postseason.
But first, they need to again be the regular season beast in the East.
For a year and a half, basketball fans waited for Derrick Rose to return to the NBA.
While Chicagoans are no doubt looking forward to seeing him back on the court, perhaps no one is more excited for his comeback than Adidas. To make good of Rose's lucrative endorsement contract, Adidas launched #thereturn last October, to keep him (and implicitly, his signature shoe line) in the spotlight while demonstrating his commitment to rehabilitation and reclaiming his potential.
Last Monday, Rose appeared in Chicago for the launch of his newest shoe, the D Rose 4. Along with the event, Adidias released a video called "all in for Chicago" reaffirming Rose's dedication to the game, his city and his team, and serving as a PR counterattack to anyone who criticized him for not returning to play sooner.
With the 2013-2014 NBA season on the horizon, and reports of a confident, healthy Rose ready to reclaim his mantle as the best basketball player in the game, the timing of his shoe launch could not have been more perfect.
...that is, until a certain pop star came along to rep the shoes of the only other Chicago Bulls player legendary enough to make Derrick Rose irrelevant.
While college basketball fans are still waiting on word from many of the 2014 class to choose their schools (cough, cough, Cliff Alexander), the class of 2015 recruitment mania has began. Charles Matthews, guard at St. Rita High School and ESPN's #9 recruit for 2015 tweeted us his prospect list over the weekend.
As you can probably observe, Matthews tweets his list alphabetically, but since I'm (full disclosure) an Illini fan, I'm dreaming that Matthews will want to stay close to home and join Coach Groce in Champaign.
Chicago native and Whitney Young alum, Ahmad Starks, announced last May he was transferring to Illinois from Oregon State to be closer to his ailing grandmother here in Chicago.
Starks submitted a family hardship waiver to the NCAA for eligibility to play in the 2013-14 year. Without the family hardship waiver, he'll have to follow NCAA rules to sit out a year before donning an Illini uniform. We've been waiting almost four months to hear of Starks' fate, and the Champaign Room reports that Starks expects to hear something within the next 10 days.
Basketball season is creeping upon us and Tom Fornelli of the Champaign Room makes this point:
If Starks doesn't get the waiver and is forced to sit out this season, the Illini are oversigned for the 2014-15 season. Which means somebody will have to go -- and maybe two if Cliff Alexander makes dreams come true.
Let's pray the NCAA gods/judgement makers are on Starks' and the Illini's side.
Just last night, top point guard Quentin Snider announced in a press conference he would be joining Coach Groce and the Illini in Champaign. This is a big gain for the Illini, and one of the top Chicago recruits, Cliff Alexander, may follow suit.
Alexander will be taking the trip down I-57 next month for Illinois Homecoming Weekend for his official Illini visit. This is big for Coach Groce's future team now including Quentin Snider and Leron Black. Cliff Alexander could definitely round out a serious 2015 team and put a Chicago Public League alum in Champaign, which is important for the future of the Illinois and CPL recruiting relationship.
Alexander is the #2 recruit in the nation, according the ESPN top 100. Alexander is from Curie High School in the Archer Heights neighborhood. He's made official visits at DePaul, Arizona, Kansas, and Memphis.
The Chicago sports landscape is a vast space, reaching as far as the Quad Cities to Nashville, with legions of fans who stick with their teams through thick and thin. And much like that landscape in the middle of February, it is often dark and cold for what seems like an eternity, with no hope in sight. But once every so often, a beam of light shines through, melting away the ice and once again restoring hope for athletics in the Second City.
With so much drama and so many teams in the country's third-largest market, it became necessary for news outlets to canvas the city's north, south and west sides with sports writers, just as they crammed the courts and morgues with beat writers as early as they dawn of the newspaper.
I wasn't sure what to expect from Phil Jackson's Tribune Nation event last Thursday evening at Palmer House Hilton. I knew that the "Zen Master" would display his usual charisma, tell a few close-to-off-color stories, and undercut his humble nature with the occasional overestimation of his coaching ability. What the crowd would bring to the event, in both size and enthusiasm, I was less sure of. Upon my early arrival, though, I was greeted by a lot of people -- people in Bulls gear, people with Bulls tattoos, people who looked like they came straight from the 1998 championship parade.
Though Jackson had the crowd in the palm of his hand before he sat down with Tribune Bulls Beat Writer K.C. Johnson to discuss his new book Eleven Rings, he deserves credit for delighting his fans with candid stories about his championship runs as head coach of the Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers. Jackson and Johnson covered a range of issues over the course of the too-brisk interview, including Jackson's future plans (he has no "intention" of coaching), his near-deal to coach the 2012-2013 Lakers (he was rejected, though we knew that), and his opinion on Tom Thibodeau and Derrick Rose (admires them both).
There's no need to wait for next year to get your basketball fix; there's another underdog-team in this city with championship aspiration perhaps even more legitimate than those of the Chicago Bulls, it's the Chicago Sky. The Sky have never had a winning record in their seven years of existence (let alone a playoff appearance), but with the addition of rookie scoring machine Elena Delle Donne, the Sky could become Eastern Conference champions overnight (although returning champions, the Indiana Fever, might have something to say about that). They've just singed a new five-year television deal, and have earned two nationally televised games on ESPN2, including today's season opener against the Phoenix Mercury. The Sky and the All-State Arena will abuzz all Summer long (you can take the Blue Line to the Rosemont stop and hop on the Pace Bus Route 222 to any home game).
Back in December I compared each Bulls player to a Chicago neighborhood. To help introduce a lot of Chicago sports fans unfamiliar with Chicago's professional woman's basketball team, I'm going compare the ladies of the Sky to neighborhoods in this city.
Swin Cash = Bucktown
Go ahead, think of this savvy veteran as too old. Sure she's not as electric and as young as Wicker Park as she once was, but she can still hang. Age is just a number, and this 33-year-old can still put up numbers on any given night (10 points, five rebounds a game averages in 2012). Bucktown is filled with urban professionals who enjoy eating inspired but unpretentious food and will still go out drinking on a Tuesday night out, Cash's play is no different -- inspired, unpretentious, and getting it done even at her age.
Setting aside the myriad issues with the planned arena's funding, it's worth asking if another cavernous off-campus arena in an inaccessible part of the city is the best thing for DePaul basketball. Does the proposed arena solve the main issue with Rosemont? That is, an arena far from campus that students don't have any incentive to visit.
Bulls fans are desperate for the return of their starting point guard -- no not whats-his-face -- the one who's been playing while not being 100 percent healthy: captain Kirk Hinrich. This perpetually tough team proved to be too vulnerable sans Hinrich's presence in game five and could be further exploited to the point they'll lose this series. Well, the Bulls season-long good luck had to end sometime.
Sarcasm aside, without Hinrich, the offense is more makeshift than maintained from point guard play. Nate Robinson, who gave what he could after his game four heroics (20 points, eight assists, only three turnovers in 43 minutes), was overextended, which cost the Bulls in the fourth quarter with some fatigue-induced poor decisions and bad shots. In game five, Marco Belinelli dribbled around the half court like a gadabout with no purpose or direction. Even Marquis Teague got a terse run at point, but like the aforementioned combo-guards, he had similar results of ineffectiveness. Hinrich's absence hurts the team equally on defense. Deron Williams dished 10 assists, got to the free throw line 10 times, making nine of them, and in total scored 23 points. He wasn't bothered or taken out of rhythm in game five. The Nets could run their offense and they did just that. Turns out they can score.
While it looks like Hinrich will be out game six and seven, the Bulls are going to have to rely on their wings to create offense, which is something Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng are going to have to get used to posthaste.
For a guy who just earned Simeon its fourth state championship in four tries, won the Morgan Wootten award for best high school basketball player in the country, and signed to play for Coach K and Duke, Jabari Parker played like he had something to prove in the McDonald's All-American Game. Though he finished with just 10 points in his West team's 110-99 win, Parker played with energy and went right at the nation's other top player, Andrew Wiggins. It was an inspired performance, and one worthy of his boisterous pre-game ovation. Wiggins, to his credit, looked lightning-fast and finished with 19 points.
The rest of the boys' game, which featured 20 of the best high school seniors in the country, was not so pretty. Though dunks were prominent -- game MVP Aaron Gordon had nine -- so were badly missed jumpers and sloppy passes. Poor play in an exhibition is to be expected -- but these high schoolers, having not played in true all-star settings, seemed to lack the understanding of when to make plays and when to let plays happen. When to let your opponent finish the dunk and when to clip his wrist and send him to the line.
For the third consecutive year, the famed McDonald's All-American Game will be played at the United Center. The nation's top boys and girls will take the floor Wednesday night in a doubleheader. Whitney Young's Linnae Harper and Simeon's Jabari Parker will both represent Chicago and suit up for the West teams.
The games usually change sites each year, but a combination of fan interest and high revenue (which goes to charity!) has kept the games in Chicago since 2011. It probably didn't hurt that the McDonald's people knew a high-profile star like Jabari Parker would attract a hometown crowd.
Major college basketball coaching searches often reveal a significant perception gap between fans and coaches in the industry. Fans think: Who wouldn't want to come coach my team to a national championship? Coaches think: Why should I quit my job and move my family to pick up the pieces of a broken program?
Collins has already interviewed (it went well!) for the job and could be introduced as head coach before the NCAA Final Four in early April. While there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of Collins -- he has never been a head coach, his recruiting ability and connections in the actual city of Chicago aren't proven, and the Duke coaching tree is not a fine specimen -- there's no reason to believe anyone else can take the program to new heights. Northwestern is not an easy job. The Wildcats play in the best conference in America, their facilities are old, and they have never been able to recruit the Chicago Public League.
But a new staff can bring a new culture. If Collins becomes the NU head coach, surrounds himself with the right people, makes the right calls, and forges solid relationships with Tyrone Slaughter, Nick Irvin, and the top players on the AAU scene, he can take Northwestern to the desired level.
It wasn't as easy as the first three. Still, Simeon pulled out their fourth straight Class 4A title with a 58-40 victory over Stevenson. After a tumultuous season that featured off-the-court issues, injuries, and suspensions, it was the proper send-off.
But what's next for the four-time state champions? The seniors are off to do big things. Jabari Parker is headed to Duke. Kendall Pollard to Dayton. Jaylon Tate and Kendrick Nunn to Illinois. Quron Davis to Chicago State. And there's plenty left in the cupboard -- Ben Coupet, D.J. Williams -- for Simeon to make a deep run in any of the next three years. And unless the IHSA or CPS make some actual changes to a sloppy transfer system, expect some of the city's stars to end up at Simeon.
Who will coach? No one knows. Robert Smith's been positioning himself for a college job for some time and, like any good coach, wants to prove himself at the next level. Whether or not a high-major staff would bring on Smith is another issue. For one, it isn't common for high school coaches to make that leap -- excepting special circumstances, of course -- because college basketball coaches are exceedingly loyal. When a job opens up on a staff, chances are the head coach has a dozen friends and former colleagues (at least) blowing up his phone.
Though all level-headed people agree the Illinois High School Association made a serious blunder in moving to a four-class system (four classes meaning four "state champions") in boys' and girls' basketball, people in Chicago shouldn't complain. The post-two class era has been a boon for area schools -- in five years, six titles have gone to Chicago schools. After this weekend, that number should hit eight.
Morgan Park and Simeon are overwhelming favorites to capture hardware in the 3A and 4A classes, respectively, this weekend in Peoria. If Simeon can get past Proviso East -- last year's runner-up to the Wolverines -- in tonight's semifinal game, they should cruise to their fourth consecutive state championship.
Morgan Park, much too good for 3A, should walk to their first title since 1976. Orr is also in the semifinals of 3A, but some morally questionable decision-making on the part of the IHSA leave them vulnerable without solid senior Marquise Pryor.
Though I'm a bit biased about these things, having gone to the state tournament in Peoria my entire childhood, I can't help but think that the IHSA's horribly short-sighted decision to award four state championships robs basketball fans -- and players -- of a truly great (hypothetical) state championship. Can you imagine a third Morgan Park-Simeon game? Unfortunately, the IHSA can't -- Simeon, with 38 more students than Morgan Park, is placed in a class for "larger" schools. Morgan Park simply couldn't compete!
It's fitting that Whitney Young, fresh off a 62-58 victory over Curie, must now face three-time defending state champion Simeon in tonight's sectional final at Argo High School in Summit. Led by juniors Jahlil Okafor and L.J. Peak, Young has the opportunity to send home senior-laden Simeon and begin the post-Jabari Parker era on their terms.
Last night's surprisingly competitive game against Curie offered a preview of that post-Parker, post-Kendrick Nunn and perhaps post-Robert Smith Chicago high school basketball landscape. In short, the city won't suffer. College coaches packed Argo High's gym to watch Okafor square up against the city's other all-American big man Cliff Alexander.
My wife and I just celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary last week on Valentine's Day (no, I'm not that hopeless of a romantic. It was cheaper and it scored points with my in-laws so that they didn't have to make plans). And overall, we have been together for nearly six wonderful, glorious, fun-filled years, where I feel we have both learned so much, not just about our favorite music and foods, but about what makes us tick as individuals.
Early on in the relationship, my wife got an inside look at my love for the Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs, Bears and, sadly, one of my favorite pastimes, fantasy sports. While dating, I would come over on Sundays and take over her front room by snagging her laptop to monitor football scores, while flipping between the Fox and CBS games.
Needless to say, she had the patience of a Saint while I marched my way through the playoffs to eventually capture my first ever fantasy sports championship. I had my good luck charm in her, and she got a nice dinner out of the winnings.
It might seem pointless after a fantastic Chicago Public Schools boys' basketball tournament, won by Whitney Young, but there's still quite a bit of season left. And now the city's finest have to prove themselves against the rest of Illinois.
For Simeon--who was knocked out by a fired up Morgan Park team in the city semifinals--the mission is simple: win state for the fourth time and cement legacies for those on their way out the door: Kendrick Nunn, Kendall Pollard, Jabari Parker, and potentially head coach Robert Smith, who has made it clearrecently that he wouldn't mind a position on a college staff. (I'm sure Northwestern or DePaul would oblige.) But it won't be easy with Whitney Young also in 4A, not to mention Proviso East, Belleville East, and even Curie. The state of Illinois is, as usual, stacked.
One team Simeon won't have to worry about this season is Morgan Park. The Mustangs are the overwhelming favorites for the 3A title, though they might run into trouble against fellow city power Orr.
Since the Illinois High School Association expanded from two to four classes in 2007, a Chicago Public School has captured either the 3A or 4A title every single season. Simeon's run of three in a row has helped, but Young and Marshall have chipped in. With the talent in Chicago in 2013, two state champions is a distinct possibility.
You weren't seeing things as you looked at the weather forecast this morning. It really was five degrees as you walked out the door for your Friday-morning commute. And just when it seems that it possibly can't get any colder, just know that the Rite of Spring known as March Madness is right around the corner.
Chicago is a hub for Big Ten graduates. You can't swing a life-sized cutout of Calbert Cheaney, that once occupied your dorm freshman year, without hitting a college-themed bar in Lincoln Park, Lakeview, and other surrounding neighborhoods. Flags bearing the likeness of Sparty, Purdue Pete, or a Buckeye are proudly displayed out front of each watering hole, acting as a beacon of light to attract the most loyal of fan base.
According to the Big Ten's website , there's a "gapers block" jamming four teams at the top. They include (overall, conference record):
#1 Michigan (20-1, 7-1)
#3 Indiana (19-2, 7-1)
#13 Michigan State (18-4, 7-2)
#11 Ohio State (16-4, 6-2)
At a game well over .500, Bulls fans are drinking the squads' Kool-Aid that's enriched with vitamin-D(efense). However, the glass was half empty in the beginning of the season. The consensus among sports writers, before this season tipped off, was that the Derrick Rose-less Bulls would finish the season anywhere as low as the eighth and as high as a fifth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff seeding. Instead the Bulls are a pinch past the halfway mark of the campaign and just two and a half games out of first place. The battle for post-season positioning will become less oppressive with the Bulls gaining an offensive All-Star during the All-Star break.
Though at first he will be in the unfamiliar guise of a pass-first, jump-shoot second point guard, Rose will return with Bulls sometime in February. It would be almost condescending to reflect and praise the Bulls for what they accomplished in the first half of the year without their superstar, instead, as I'm sure is the teams mantra, it's best to focus on how the team can get better. There's room for each player on this hard-capped roster to augment their game positively.
Nate Robinson: Would it be too much to ask to get you to commit at least one less turnover and/or shoot one less fast-break-pull-up three pointer a game?
Time to make dinner reservations at some expensive West Loop restaurant fellas, Valentine's Day is approaching. In the spirt of the holiday, I'll use a dating analogy to explain Robinson. Robinson is the person you think you can change. You make excuses about why he's good for you, but only because he's so much fun to be around. Robinson's been committed to five different relationships in eight years. He's a great "in the moment" guy, but you certainly can't build your future around him. He is who you thought he is. Though he may not be "the one," he'll be an important part in all Bulls fans lives when Rose is back running the point, allowing the Bulls to play Robinson at shooting guard -- where you can forgive his mistakes.
Tal Brody has come a long way since his time as a child in 1940s Trenton, NJ. Considered to be Israel's first modern-day sports hero, the former University of Illinois star point guard will have his jersey number (12) raised to the rafters at Assembly Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 13, when the Fighting Illini host the Purdue Boilermakers. The game is set to tip off at 8pm (CST).
Brody will also be honored during the NBA's All-Star weekend in Houston, TX, as he will be inducted into the league's Hall of Fame for international play. Brody was selected 13th overall in the 1965 NBA draft (the old Baltimore Bullets, for those playing at home), but instead decided to stay at U of I to get his master's degree. Brody eventually flew overseas to play for Israel's Maccabi-Tel Aviv, which he led to a second place finish in the European Cup Basketball Championships.
After his basketball career, which included a gold medal in the Maccabiah Games, and officially being named a citizen of Israel, Brody focused his attention on youth basketball programs, including his "Let's Play Basketball" clinic. Brody is also involved philanthropically with Spirit of Israel, which is geared at helping underprivileged children.
You can bet the 6-foot, 1-1/2-inch Brody will be standing even taller with pride on the night of the thirteenth in Champaign. He's still ranked 33rd on Illinois' all-time scoring list, and still lends a hand with outreach programs. Not a bad résumé.
Things got heated between Simeon coach Robert Smith and Morgan Park coach Nick Irvin following last week's 53-51 Wolverine victory. For Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, two grown men, two figures of authority in a profane shouting match following a mid-season high school basketball game was just not acceptable.
And now Irvin and Smith must sit out their next four games, Byrd-Bennett announced in a memo. The two coaches must attend their next four games in a "non-coaching capacity." Simeon defeated Bogan 67-48 last night -- and early reports indicated that Smith wasn't in the stands.
It's a strong move by Byrd-Bennett that won't be lacking publicity. Smith won't be able to coach on Saturday night when Simeon travels to Chicago State University -- scene of the shouting match with Irvin and an unrelated murder outside the gymnasium immediately after -- to play Whitney Young. The game begins at 8 pm and will be televised on ESPNU.
While the nation scratches its head over the Manti Te'o saga, and debates whether or not to watch Lance Armstrong confess to Oprah Winfrey what we already know, a family on Chicago's southwest side struggles for an answer as they prepare to bury their 17-year-old son.
Morgan Park student Tyrone Lawson II was pronounced dead at 9:51 pm (CST) this past Wednesday, after being shot during an altercation that occurred after a basketball game. Fighting ain't what it used to be.
The brawl took place after Simeon, which is ranked in the top-10 nationally in most polls, and alma mater to Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose, beat Morgan Park, 53-51, at Chicago State University. According to police reports, the fight began after the game and carried out to the parking lot, which is where the shooting took place. No word yet from officials as to whether or not the shooting was in relation to the fight.
On February 19, 2011, Simeon lost 58-54 to Benet Academy. It was the Wolverines' last loss to an in-state team. In the last 23 months, they've lost three games -- all to out of state, nationally ranked opponents.
Everyone knows about Simeon's run of dominance. It's not like it's become tired or boring; it's that it's been constant. Jabari Parker's been the state's best player since he left middle school. Robert Smith's been a coaching genius since Derrick Rose and Tim Flowers.
So on Wednesday night when Simeon faces off against Morgan Park at Chicago State, it's not strange that the story won't be the Wolverines. It makes sense for people to look for something more interesting, something new. But this isn't the case. Morgan Park has made themselves the story. They're the team that's surprised people with their dominance; they're the city team that -- for the first time since February 19, 2011 -- might actually be the favorite against Simeon.
Every perpetually perturbed Bulls fanatics' worst nightmare has come true. No, Derrick Rose hasn't suffered a set back in his recovery by tripping over the unstable point guard play of Nate Robinson in "predictable contact drills." And fear not, the Bulls aren't going to bring in the recently pink-slipped former Milwaukee Bucks head coach Scott Skiles as coach Tom Thibodeau's new director of "let's further neglect the offensive side of the ball" assistant coaching position. Nope. The worst possible scenario for the ever critical message-board-trolling Bulls fan is that Carlos Boozer is contributing to the Bulls recent success. #SMDH
Carlos Boozer is the latest Bull to rise to the occasion and play well. Over his last five games Boozer is averaging 23 points and 12 rebounds. His big games haven't been against stellar competition (Orlando, Cleveland, Charlotte, and Washington), save for the Miami Heat, but it's been in games where the team has needed him. The term "streaky shooter" isn't applied to front court players often, but Boozer can attribute this quality to his game. He's feeling it right now. He's a career 53% shooter from the field, and during this five game double-double streak he's stayed close to his average (52%), but he's starting to take it to the rim more. I've stated before that Boozer brings his "A" game when playing against softer and/or inexperienced power forwards, and his recent competition falls into said categories (although Miami's Chris Bosh isn't weak or a neophyte, Boozer plays inspired against Bosh, because Boozer doesn't like Bosh because he took his spot on the team in the town where Boozer calls home, during the free agency bonanza of 2010.)
Before the season, the Simeon boys' basketball team set their sights much higher than a four-peat in the 4A class of Illinois high school basketball -- a "mythical national title." Just over a month into the season, after two bad losses on ESPN, it's clear that there won't be any national title for Jabari Parker and company. And that state title? Not even close to a sure thing.
Though coach Robert Smith feels comfortable enough saying the previously injured and slowed Parker is "back" to his normal all-American self, no one knows what's up with the rest of the team after an 82-53 nationally televised beat-down at the hands of national number one Monteverde (Fla.) this weekend. Kendrick Nunn is banged up and not shooting well. Jaylon Tate is giving the ball away. And counting those three, what other scoring opportunities even exist for Simeon's other top-tier players like Kendall Pollard and D.J. Williams?
Just going to go ahead and throw this out there: Maybe Simeon is traveling too much. The Monteverde loss came in Wheeling, West Virginia at a national showcase. A previous loss in Dallas. A decent win in Memphis. And they aren't done! They'll be back down in Memphis on Saturday, in Springfield, Massachusetts on MLK Day, and in Las Vegas in early February.
It's the cost of being an elite program with an elite player in Parker. Nobody's going to turn down a national promoter who wants to give the school, the coach, and the players more exposure. But in a city loaded with talent, Simeon's travels may take time and energy away from more close-to-home challenges: finding a way to take down the city's two best teams, Morgan Park and Whitney Young.
As you may have heard, Simeon senior Jabari Parker announced his college choice last Thursday: Duke. The choice was no surprise -- many prognosticators thought it would be Michigan State or Duke -- and makes plenty of sense. Parker's the sort of squeaky-clean, team-first guy that excels at Duke, not unlike former Chicago-area Duke star Jon Scheyer, who might just be our generation's hated-by-everyone-else folk hero for the Blue Devils. Additionally, Parker's heading somewhere with quite a few connections to the area. Duke coach Mike Kryzewski is from Chicago and attended the now-defunct Archbishop Weber High School. Current Bulls star Luol Deng spent his lone college season at Duke. Former Bulls Jay Williams and Elton Brand are also Blue Devils.
Recent Chicago products to play at Duke, however, haven't done so well. (Save Scheyer, who is probably this generation's hated-by-everyone-else Duke folk hero, ala Christian Laettner.)
Heading into conference play, the area's three best college basketball teams -- Northwestern, UIC, and DePaul -- are mediocre, and don't stand much of a chance of making the NCAA tournament in March. Though the three are a combined 25-8, they've played soft schedules. Owing to that, the three are all ranked 87 and 99 nationally in stat guru Ken Pomeroy's rankings. Still, there's plenty of intrigue surrounding each program.
Northwestern is off to an 8-3 start -- though their best win came against Illinois State. The Wildcats have never made the NCAA tournament and probably won't in 2012-2013 in a loaded Big Ten. Bill Carmody, in his 13th season in Evanston, might not keep his job. If Carmody were to go, what kind of coach could NU lure in? Craig Robinson, perhaps? Does proximity to Chicago's talent pool mean as much as one would think? Or will concerns about academic standards keep coaches away?
So Parker's recruitment will end next week, according to Simeon coach Robert Smith. He's down to a final five of Brigham Young, Florida, Michigan State, Duke, and Stanford. Though his father Sonny hinted it could be down to the blue bloods from Duke and MSU, some think Florida's very much in consideration. I think he'll pick Duke, but, you know, prove me wrong, Jabari!
Wherever Parker spends his one or two years in college, his legacy in the city will be complicated. He's had more hype than any Chicago high school player before him -- and has the hardware to back it up: he'll have a chance in March to take Simeon to its fourth state title in as many years (in a diluted four-class system, of course), led USA Basketball to FIBA gold last summer, and was the first junior to ever win the Illinois Mr. Basketball Award.
Though no one expected Curie to take down Oak Hill (72-39) or was too surprised by a one-point loss against Benet (37-36) less than 48 hours later, the team's offensive numbers don't inspire. Alexander is considered one of the top ten players in the 2014 -- locally overshadowed by dominant junior Jahlil Okafor, of course -- and boasts offers from Ohio State, Kentucky, Indiana, and a host of other basketball powers. So scoring more than 40 points a game shouldn't be such a challenge for Curie, one would think.
Since Illinois high school basketball doesn't require a shot clock -- which speaks to how antiquated the Illinois High School Association is, more than anything else -- scoring totals tend to be deflated. Derrick Rose's first state title at Simeon came in a 31-29 overtime (!) victory against Richwoods, who used a slowed-down game plan to keep it close and put the arena to sleep. Curie, armed with an all-everything big man in the post, is facing defenses who will gladly allow the other four Condors on the floor to do their thing on offense. High school guards have a hard enough time making solid, fundamentally sound entry passes from the perimeter, and much more so when defenses collapse those passing lanes.
After the first session of Saturday's Chicago Elite Classic -- billed as "Chicago vs. The Nation" -- things seemed lopsided in favor of the visitors. Then Whitney Young and Simeon took the floor for the night games and all was well.
The city's two top-ranked teams dominated the final session in front of a big crowd at UIC Pavilion. Whitney Young's 72-58 beat-down of DeMatha Catholic (Md.) in the first game wasn't expected. Junior Jahlil Okafor -- a unanimous top-five player nationally -- had his way with DeMatha senior and North Carolina State commit BeeJay Anya, notching 34 points and 9 rebounds. Simeon had no trouble with defending Georgia state champion Milton, downing them 56-35. Though the big story was the unexpected return of senior Jabari Parker, who looked understandably sluggish and rusty in just 10 minutes of play, senior Illinois commits Jaylon Tate and Kendrick Nunn filled the highlight reel for Simeon.
But Chicago-area teams did not fare so well earlier in the day. Proviso East, playing without suspended senior Sterling Brown, was crushed 84-46 by Utah power Lone Peak, whose trio of Brigham Young commits put on a show, nailing deep threes and throwing alley-oops at will. The other two "Chicago vs. The Nation" match-ups were much closer. St. Joseph struggled to establish a rhythm, but still kept it close in their 65-55 loss to national powerhouse Mater Dei (Ca.). And Normal U-High -- a bit of a stretch to call them Chicago-area, yes -- had a chance to tie their game against St. Vincent-St. Mary (Oh.) at the end of regulation, but Keita Bates-Diop's three missed off the front rim.
For some, DePaul men's basketball brings to mind a storied history -- legendary graduates like George Mikan and Mark Agguire, the notable father-and-son coaching duo of Ray and Joey Meyer, and a streak of success in the 1970s and 1980s. But for those born after 1985, the name DePaul is more synonymous with futility. Since 1991, the Blue Demons have just one NCAA tournament victory in only four appearances. Their mid-aught move to the Big East brought them all the notoriety afforded to major-conference doormats, and their coaching hires have been uninspired, unsuccessful, and uncreative. And though it's only year three of Oliver Purnell's tenure, things aren't exactly looking up.
Though on-court issues are certainly to blame for DePaul's continued failure, the program has recently been dogged by a major logistical issue: their home court. Rosemont's Allstate Arena has been the team's home since 1980, but the upcoming expiration of their lease (after 2015) has raised a fairly obvious question. Does it make sense for DePaul to play their games outside the city of Chicago, 25-30 minutes from their Lincoln Park campus? According to recent reports, it seems the school is anxious to move back into Chicago.
Though no official announcement has been made, it doesn't seem likely that Simeon's star senior Jabari Parker, the second-ranked player in the country, will play at Saturday's Chicago Elite Classic at the UIC Pavilion. But despite his absence, it's hard to imagine any fans complaining about a lack of star power on Saturday's six-game slate. Here are five big-time players who will suit up.
Nick Emery - Lone Peak
This is a name you might want to file away for a few years, as Emery is going on a post-graduation mission before playing for Brigham Young. The lefty point guard has a funky jump-shot -- it works, obviously -- and will lead nationally ranked Lone Peak against Proviso East Saturday afternoon.
Few Chicago-area boys basketball programs have had the sustained success of Maywood's Proviso East. The Pirates have won four state titles and produced NBA talents like Shannon Brown, Michael Finley, and current Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. But while Proviso East's excellence is recognized throughout the state, they're also known for something else: their sleeved jerseys. Goofy, ill-fitting, and not really old or new school, the t-shirt jersey has long confounded Chicago hoops fans.
If the 2012-2013 Pirates are as good as most expect them to be, no one -- myself included -- will be reminiscing about old jerseys for very long. They went 32-1 last year, finished second in the state in 4A, and bring back star seniors Sterling Brown (headed to Southern Methodist) and Paris Lee (Illinois State). The Pirates beat down Metea 74-45 in their sleeveless debut.
For a city with arguably the most talented high school basketball scene in America, Chicago has some pathetic college teams. Last season, Chicago State, UIC, DePaul, and Loyola had a combined record of 31-89. And expectations for this season, at each school, aren't exactly high. One would suppose then that an influx of talent, say, from a deep 2013 Chicago-area class could go a long way in shifting the paradigm, perhaps keeping a few coaches employed. After all, what high school kid wouldn't want to play college basketball close to home?
Yet on Wednesday, when the NCAA's early signing period started, talented prospects from the area signed letters of intent to play at far-away places like Southern Methodist, Rice, Santa Clara, and Stetson. Of the seven players who signed with city colleges--two at UICand Loyola, three at DePaul, and zero at Chicago State--only three are from the area: Quinten Payne (Loyola), Lance Whitaker (UIC), Billy Garrett, Jr. (DePaul).
So who's raiding the pantry? Lots of teams. Coaching staffs around the country have recognized the city's deep pool of basketball talent and have prioritized recruiting in the area, often hiring coaches with connections to Chicago. And it doesn't hurt that these coaches can come in with an easy-to-sell message: why stick around and play for the crap programs in Chicago?
A funny thing happened when Huntington Prep's Andrew Wiggins reclassified from the class of 2014 to 2013. Though this move knocked Simeon's Jabari Parker down from number one on most lists of top seniors, it boosted another local player in the class of 2014: Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor.
Now the number one, two, and three in the Rivals, ESPN, and Scout rankings respectively, Okafor has a chance to make his mark on a city that hasn't seen too many quality big men in recent years. Using the RSCI aggregation system, only five post players from Chicago have landed in the top 100 nationally, going back to 2003: Mac Koshwal (Boys to Men Academy; 2007), Brandon McGee (Crane; 2007), Anthony Davis (Perspectives; 2011), Mike Shaw (De La Salle; 2011), Nnanna Egwu (St. Ignatius; 2011). Davis obviously stands out, but part of what makes him so special is that he is so nontraditional, so skilled on the perimeter--you know, that whole late growth spurt thing may have played a role in that. And the others? Koshwal's working to make it in the D-League, McGee bounced around and finished an unremarkable career at Georgia State, while Shaw and Egwu still have three years left at Illinois.
After averaging 22 points and 12 rebounds as a sophomore at Whitney Young, Okafor had a huge summer, securing the MVP at the FIBA U17 World Championships while leading Team USA to a gold medal. He's also shown an improved back-to-the-basket game, along with incredible composure and maturity. Most big men his age, for whatever reason, just don't like mixing it up down low, but Okafor does. Of course, his national profile has risen, and he's now coveted by everyone from Duke to Arizona. And now that Parker may miss the Chicago Elite Classic, Okafor may be the season opener's big draw.
Jabari Parker's brilliance has been so consistent that the lead-up to his final season at Simeon has been rather subdued. What's even left for him to accomplish? Run down the list: three-for-three in state championships, a Sports Illustrated cover story, the first junior to win Mr. Basketball in Illinois, the first freshman to play varsity at Simeon ever. There's really nothing left for Parker but picking a college and winning a fourth state championship to match Peoria Manual's record run from the mid-90s.
But he may have to wait a little longer to start the victory lap. Jabari's father, Sonny Parker, revealed in an interview yesterday that his son is still recovering from a foot injury that's held him out of action for four months. He has an MRI scheduled for November 19 and likely won't be ready for Simeon's much-hyped season opener against Georgia's Milton High at the Chicago Elite Classic on December 1.
Parker will have plenty to occupy his mind while he's still recovering though, since he still hasn't made a college choice. He recently narrowed his list to five: BYU, Stanford, Michigan State, Florida, and Duke. And Simeon, much as they'll miss the city's best player, has the depth to weather Parker's absence. One of the Wolverines' other Division I prospects like Kendall Pollard, Jaylon Tate, or Kendrick Nunn will likely pick up the slack.
Tim Hardaway, Derrick Rose, Isiah Thomas, and Ronnie Fields are some of the names that resonate with basketball fans in Chicago.
Before there was someone named "Air Jordan," there was "Benji."
At 7pm Central time this Tuesday, Oct. 23, ESPN Films' "30 for 30" documentary series will focus on the life and death of Chicago basketball prep star Ben "Benji" Wilson, the Simeon High School forward who was murdered on the eve of his senior season in 1984. Wilson was first the local high school basketball player to be named the number one recruit in the country.
Fair weather fans from Elk Grove Village to East Lakeview livin' SynergySports subscribing hoopster, take a knee, I'll watch all of the Bulls games this pre-season so you don't have to pretend you do. Unless you are into dissonant, rhythmless basketball, in which case by all means ask the bartender if she'll change the playoff stickball contest to the Bulls-Cavs televised live from from beautiful, live-a-bull Champaign, Illinois. Training camp in the NBA isn't as "do or die" for that many guys as it is in the NFL or MLB. There's not much upside to watching these games; your favorite player could get injured, if rookies impress it's while playing against other the D-leaguer's of Ordinary Gentlemen, and or worst of all you'll fall in love with Kyrylo Fesenko's split-ended flop-top.
More exciting than an Adidas-produced Derrick Rose #TheReturn video series featuring 68% montaged images of calisthenics and core building movements, more tantalizing than the 146 Derrick Rose YouTube mash-up vids, and even more electrifying than Derrick Rose emo tweets about the CTU strike/Giordano's Pizza is the Bulls training camp sans Derrick Rose! To keep your physical and mental health at peak performance, here are some exercises to help you wake up and smell the Rose-less Bulls outlook.
Former Chicago Bulls forward Brian Scalabrine has retired from the NBA to take a broadcasting job with the Boston Celtics.
It is hard to believe that he lasted in the NBA for 11 seasons. Scalabrine averaged 3.1 PPG and 2 RPG. He should have never been anywhere near an NBA roster. Somehow he managed to stick around while developing a cult following along the way.
Scalabrine's last stop was in Chicago with the Bulls for two seasons. Fans cheered every time he checked into a Bulls game that was already well out of hand. Some even bought that stupid "White Mamba" t-shirt.
There is not much to say about Brian Scalabrine's playing career. Having said that, I leave you with this question: If anyone out there can provide some evidence of a time Brian Scalabrine positively affected the outcome of a professional basketball game, I will buy you a beer. I'll wait.
Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star forward Kevin Love wants to win.
So much so that the Chicago Bulls might be a potential landing destination.
It is no secret that Kevin Love wants to play for a playoff team. Love averages 25 points and 13 rebounds per game. The Timberwolves haven't made the playoffs in eight seasons. The two-time all-star made his frustrations known in article by Yahoo! Sports. "My patience is not high," Love said. "Would yours be, especially when I'm a big proponent of greatness surrounding itself with greatness? All these [Team USA] guys seem to have great players around them.
Like all Bulls fans, I too would love to have a power forward that can drop 51 and 14 at a moment's notice. Love would be a serious upgrade from Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah.
At this point, any talk is purely speculation, but as a Bulls fan you cannot blame me for thinking of having Kevin Love and Derrick Rose on the same team. That would be on par with the "Super Friends" era that is the new trend in the NBA. Two or three star players can take a team pretty far in today's NBA.
Love seems to be chomping at the bit to play for a winner. "It's tough seeing all these guys that are young and older who have all played in the playoffs," he told Yahoo. "When they start talking about that, I have nothing to talk about. If I don't make the playoffs next year I don't know what will happen."
Maybe Gar/Pax can right some recent wrongs by bringing K-Love to the Windy City.
Chicagoland basketball players have a unique opportunity to prove to everyone that they are the king of hoops in the Windy City. Friday, August 24th, the Red Bull King of the Rock one-on-one streetball competition will be held at Jackson Park Courts on Lake Shore Drive and 63rd Street, with registration starting at 4pm, and the competition getting underway at 5pm.
Why is it dubbed King of the Rock? Not only does the winner of each qualifier receive $1,000, the two finalists from Chicago will join 62 other qualifiers from 25 nations across the globe to play for the world title on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco, CA.
The rules are simple: Five minute games, 15-second shot clock, alternating possessions, and you play by twos and threes. Winner moves one step closer to playing on 'The Rock,' loser goes home.
The Red Bull King of the Rock competition is in its third year, with both previous championships also taking place under the lights on the inmates' prison yard that once was home to famed Chicago gangster, Al Capone.
Since Derrick Rose tore his ACL, Bulls fans have watched the team collectively wet the bed against a team (Philadelphia 76ers) they should have beaten, sign Kirk Hinrich (whose best days are behind him), and draft a point guard (Marquis Teague) even though the likes of Vanderbilt shooting guard Will Barton was theirs for the taking. Also don't forget the earth-shattering signings of Marco Belinelli, Nate Robinson, Nazr Mohammed, and Vladimir Radmanovic.
Meanwhile, most of the teams in the Eastern Conference got better through free agency, the draft, and trades. You know? The old-fashioned way.
At this point I am resigned to the fact that the Derrick Rose should sit out the upcoming 2012-2013 season. What's the point of having Rose come back halfway through the season? Having Rose sit out will further expose the ineptitude of Gar Forman and John Paxson.
Before reading any further, I highly recommend dousing yourself in cologne or perfume, and strapping on a fresh hazmat suit if one is handy. You're going to feel dirty when you're done either way, so be thankful I'm giving you the heads up before it gets real.
When Gar Forman proclaimed, "Our decisions this summer will be basketball decisions, not financial decisions," you might be thinking he flat-out lied to everyone. The Bulls parted ways with talented players like Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, and Omer Asik mainly because of the amount of money they were owed. He didn't lie, there's just no such thing as making basketball-related decisions without taking into account the financial implications (unless you're David Kahn).
Before the final WNBA game before a month-long Olympic break, the Chicago Sky took time Friday night to honor its two London-bound stars.
Forward Swin Cash and center Sylvia Fowles received roses and a standing ovation from their teammates, coaches and fans. The cheers and whistles of the crowd reverberated through Allstate Arena so loudly that the announcer could barely be heard as he presented Chicago's newest Olympians.
Cash is a recent addition to the Sky lineup, having been traded from Seattle in January. She first competed in the Olympic Games in 2004 in Athens, where she claimed 44 points and her first gold medal. After helping lead Detroit and Seattle to championships (and winning big at UConn as well), she has been a great addition this season.
Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot described Cash as a leader and source of encouragement. "Swin's always the one to bring us together when times are bad, and when times are good," Vandersloot said after Friday's game.
Dave Zirin is not your typical sportswriter. He is a regular contributor to The Nation, the host of the Sirius XM Radio show, Edge of Sports Radio, and has written six books and numerous articles about the intersection between sports and politics. I spoke with Zirin after a talk he gave at the Socialism 2012 conference about the levels of violence in pro sports. We discussed a range of topics including Howard Zinn, his new book, and his candid thoughts about sports team owners (and one prominent Chicago owner in particular).
When did you start thinking about politics and sports and the relationship between the two?
I was a sports-freak growing up in New York City. I played basketball, baseball. I only really started to think about politics and sports in 1991. It was during the first Gulf War and the halftime show at a game I was at at Madison Square Garden involved one of the mascots beating up somebody in an Arab costume. Everybody was chanting "USA! USA!" and my best friend in high school just happened to be Iranian. He was on the basketball team and he was strongly against this war that I didn't know or understand or even care about what was happening.
Seeing that at a game rocked my world a little bit, and had me thinking more about the politics of sports. It's been something I sort of nursed for years and paid attention when athletes spoke out politically.
When asked what the Bulls would do in regards to free agency after last week's NBA Draft, Bulls GM Gar Forman said, "Our decisions this summer will be basketball decisions, not financial decisions."
He'll soon get a chance to put Jerry Reinsdorf's money where his mouth is.
The Houston Rockets made the first move on the NBA free agent chessboard by verbally agreeing to a three-year, $25.1 million offer sheet with Bulls restricted free agent Omer Asik on Sunday. The deal can't be officially signed until July 11, and the Bulls will then have three days to match.
Forman told anyone who would listen before the start of free agency that the team intended to match whatever offer the Turkish center accepted. But after seeing the details of the contract the Rockets negotiated, I think the Bulls should let him go and come up with a Plan B.
With the NBA Finals in the rearview mirror, Bulls fans can now stop praying the entire Heat organization comes down with food poisoning and get back to worrying about their own team. And despite the season seeming like an unmitigated disaster, there were some positives that can be pulled from it - most of which coming from the front line.
Carlos Boozer's Improvement
Before you puke, Google my name, and hunt me down to beat me senseless, hear me out. Sure, his points, rebounds, and assists per game fell slightly along with his minutes being trimmed (mainly in the fourth quarter), but if you watched the Bulls every night, you could notice two things. First, Boozer played in every game for the first time in his career. Second, he actually made some strides defensively.
There's no doubt you threw a beer bottle at the television every time Booz fouled a guy taking it to the rack because his feet were stuck in concrete, but it happened far less than it did last year. Also remember that he still hasn't had a full training camp with the Bulls (duffel bag injury first year, lockout this year). Oh - and his player efficiency rating was nearly a point higher than last year. But his improvement was at times overshadowed by ...
We learned Wednesday that the New Orleans Hornets will have the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft, which means that's where Anthony Davis, the young prince of Chicago basketball, will begin his professional career.
SLAM magazine gives us a taste of things to come for a 19-year-old it calls "one of the most exciting players to enter the NBA in a long time."
Leading Game 6 by a point with 12 seconds left, Watson took the inbounds pass from underneath the Bulls basket, streaked up court (blowing through an uncalled intentional foul by Philadelphia) and passed to quite possibly the WORST FREE THROW SHOOTER IN THE NBA!
Sure, Omer Asik was 4-of-5 from the stripe before missing two free throws (on a blatant, but also uncalled, flagrant foul) with seven seconds remaining, but don't blame him. It should've never gotten to that point. An NBA point guard should be able to read a scoreboard without the assistance of coach explaining the situation during a timeout. It's utterly inexcusable!
You know the story from there: Bulls announcer Stacey King explicitly tells the world that, "Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Watson have to watch the runout," followed by Andre Iguodala grabbing the rebound, running down the court uncontested, and being fouled by an exhausted Asik.
Iguodala hit both free throws with 2 seconds left, and the Sixers had a 79-78 win and a date with Boston in the East semifinals.
It was ugly. It was appalling. It was (insert repulsive adjective here). But despite playing a game that would have driven James Naismith to drink, the Bulls limped away with a 77-69 win in Tuesday's Game 5, sending the series back to Philadelphia down 3-2.
Limped, unfortunately, wasn't a figurative use of language.
With 2:06 remaining in the third quarter, Taj Gibson rolled his right ankle badly when he stepped on Lavoy Allen and was forced back to the locker room to be evaluated. He returned to a resounding ovation usually saved for Derrick Rose, but was relatively ineffective late in the game while favoring his right leg. Even though Gibson was able to finish, you have to think his ankle will swell and limit motion, perhaps making him questionable for Thursday's Game 6.
Already down from Derrick Rose's season-ending injury, the Chicago Bulls faced another setback Sunday afternoon as starting center Joakim Noah was benched with a sprained ankle sustained in Friday's loss. The absence was glaring, allowing Philly center Spencer Hawes to have his second great game in a row, leading the 76ers to an 89-82 win.
The victory gives Philly a 3-1 series lead heading back to Chicago, where the No. 8 seed will try to close out the Bulls on Tuesday night.
Not just Joakim Noah's ankle roll in the third quarter that made his foot bend like a flexi-straw, but the improbable collapse Friday night that saw Chicago lose a 14-point lead in the final few minutes to fall to the 76ers, 79-74.
It was a gut punch of a loss, the kind that makes you wonder, with no exaggeration, if there's any chance this team can come back.
Not even Derrick Rose could've saved the Bulls last night.
In the first game without their superstar point guard, the Bulls fell apart after halftime in a 109-92 drubbing at the hands of the visiting 76ers to even the series 1-1.
The culprit in defeat was something nobody saw coming. Sure, everyone knew the Bulls would have a tough time scoring during stretches of games without Rose's run-stopping abilities. Yes, the offense would get stagnant and more prone to turnovers because they were missing their primary ball-handler. But nobody could predict the lax defensive effort the Bulls showed, especially in the second half.
Left to fend for themselves without Derrick Rose, the Bulls go back into the fray tonight with Game 2 against the 76ers. Jake Kaplan offers a message of resolve and inspiration to a demoralized fanbase:
"It's not a death sentence for him, it's not a death sentence for our team."
Those are the words of Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau less than 24 hours after learning that reigning MVP Derrick Rose would miss the remainder of the postseason (Olympics, and the start of next season) with a torn ACL.
He's absolutely right about Rose. There's little doubt in anyone's mind that he'll make a speedy recovery and come back next season stronger than ever. In fact, the extended immobility may be a blessing in disguise.
By being unable to play in the Olympics, Rose will get time to fully recover from every single back and lower body injury he suffered during the lockout shortened season. After getting little time to rest last summer during his MVP tour, he'll get sufficient time to prepare his body for the beating he'll take in the years to come.
But in a sport where the importance of a single player with the rare skill set Rose possesses is undeniable, in a league dominated by its stars, in a playoffs where you need to have confidence in that singular player to take the big shot, it's hard to believe the second half of Thibs' statement.
Sure, the Bulls should still be able to beat the 16th best team in the NBA. But could they beat the Celtics (or even the Hawks) in the conference semis? Could they win four games against a focused Heat team in the East finals?
It was one of the rare instances when the final score is the least important part of a playoff game.
With 1:22 left, Saturday's NBA playoff opener was heading toward its expected conclusion, Chicago leading Philadelphia by 12, when Derrick Rose drove into the lane, jumped to a stop and leaped in pain. He came down clutching his left knee and crumpled to the floor.
As an unsettling silence fell over the United Center crowd, Rose was helped up and shuffled off to the locker room. The Bulls finished off a 103-91 victory, and within a few hours of the final horn, word came down that Rose had torn the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee. He will miss the rest of the playoffs and several months beyond that.
Sixers guard and Chicago native Evan Turner was asked this week what it would mean to face the Bulls in the first round. He responded, "It means we're dodging the tougher team. That's what I think. I think we'll be able to compete well against Chicago, and have an opportunity to win the series."
Two things happened at that moment. First, NBA scribes did a collective fist pump by being handed two guaranteed stories: one for the original quote with reactions from Bulls players, and a second story on Turner's eventual clarification. Secondly, scores of fans blew the comments completely out of proportion and sought vengeance against a "cocky player."
Let's get one thing straight here. Evan Turner isn't wrong.
By playing in Chicago in the first round (beginning on Saturday at 12pm), the Sixers dodge the star-studded Miami Heat, a team that throttled them by a combined 53 points in their four meetings during the regular season. Can you blame Turner for saying they'd rather face the Bulls? I sure can't.
Derrick Rose's jersey is the most popular jersey in the nation, according to the NBA, with rookie phenom Jeremy Lin taking the number two spot. Here's the full list of the top 15:
Top 15 Most Popular NBA Jerseys:
1. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
2. Jeremy Lin, New York Knicks*
3. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
4. LeBron James, Miami Heat
5. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
6. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
7. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks*
8. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
9. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
10. Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
11. Amar'e Stoudemire, New York Knicks
12. Ray Allen, Boston Celtics
13. Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics
14. Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
15. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers*
* New to the top 15 this year.
Bulls team merchandise was also tops overall, followed unsurprisingly by the Knicks, Lakers, Heat and Mavericks.
Episode 8 of Bulls Hittin' is taken over by the "Miami Heater Hottie" and his show "Heat Shitting." But don't worry, your faithful host, the "BULLS hitman," steps to defend you all of you Bulls hitfans.
Last year, we watched Anthony Davis explode on the Chicago basketball scene, dominating opponents at Perspectives, a small charter school in the South Loop. Recently sprouted to 6 feet 10, he casually asserted his will, when the spirit moved him, against players much smaller and less skilled.
He was a hometown hero at the McDonald's All-American Game, then became the best player in college basketball.
Last night, Davis led the University of Kentucky to a national championship in his first and soon-to-be only college season, winning Most Outstanding Player honors. In three months, he'll be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft.
Even with all eyes on him, Shabazz Muhammad put on an absolute show Wednesday night.
Muhammad scored a game-high 21 points and took home the MVP in a West 106-102 win in the 2012 McDonald's All American Game at the United Center. Yet, he just missed putting the final touch on a fantastic evening.
With 13:21 remaining in the second half, Muhammad had the ball on a breakaway and went up for an electric windmill jam. He was a little too strong on it and drew back iron, and the ball sailed away. If he would have converted, it would have been the play of the night; the audience at the UC let out a collective disappointed "Awwwwwww" after Muhammad missed.
"I think the reaction would have been wild in there," Muhammad said with a smile. "I was really mad I missed that, I haven't missed one of those in awhile. But I got it back and got another dunk and it was fine."
As everyone who has ever seen a minute of an all-star basketball game knows, the quality of play never really matches the quality of talent. Defense is non-existent, and the players create non-stop fast breaks on the offensive end, leading to inflated scores and stats. It doesn't matter if you win or lose, and it doesn't matter how you play the game.
Yet the boys in town for Wednesday's McDonald's All-American Games say they plan to compete.
"I'm gonna play to win the game," said T.J. Warren, a guard/forward for the East All-Stars who will be attending North Carolina State. "I'm competing, I'm gonna try to get after it."
Other players acknowledged that the game will have the stereotypical all-star qualities, but when it comes down to the wire, competition will rise.
East forward Amile Jefferson said the first 10 to 12 minutes of the game will be light and fun, with the chance to "get the jitters out," but the game will settle down. "We're all competitors," Jefferson said at Tuesday's media luncheon. "I think everyone wants to win. I know the East wants to win."
This week on Bulls Hittin': Think you have what it takes to coach in the NBA? This week our host talks to a buzzed and drugged Tom Thibodeau, who walks the BullsHit Man through the Thibodos and Thibodonts of becoming coach of one of the NBA's most successful franchises.
Think you're Derrick Rose's biggest fan? The title might have to go to a 15-year-old from Omaha who got a big surprise last weekend during NBA All-Star Weekend.
The folks at adidas explain:
To reward their most passionate and active fans of the adidas Basketball Facebook page, adidas and Derrick Rose surprised Adam Turner, 15, of Omaha, Nebraska, during his review of the adizero Rose 2.5 during NBA All-Star Weekend.
Adam is an avid reviewer of Rose's signature shoes and adidas flew him to Orlando under the guise that he would be the first person to review the NBA All-Star edition of the adizero Rose 2.5. Adam got a big surprise when Derrick popped on the video set to help him finish his review and he also enjoyed access to all NBA All-Star events courtesy of adidas.
Bulls Hittin' is a new bi-weekly video series about your friendly neighborhood basketball team, produced by comedy troupe Wood Sugars and sponsored by Gapers Block. Each episode will fill you in on team news, offer predictions for upcoming match-ups, and introduce you to some of the colorful characters surrounding the Bulls.
Here's the Wood Sugars' synopsis of the first episode: "So You Think They Can't Dance? You might be right. Our host, the BullsHit Man gives these two, six-time 'Luv-a-Bulls' auditioners, a seventh and final chance to prove they can cheerlead to the beat of their own drum."
First things first, BIG ups to Chicago's Luol Deng. First timer at the ASG and Deng's not sweating about getting to Magic Kingdom, he's rockin the threads for his continent and his home nation (Sudan, duh!). Astute observer of things/writer on the Internet, Ricky O'Donnell, deftly points out that Deng may face a fine from Kommisar Stern's office, but, you gotta believe that'll be the happiest [X amount of money] Deng writes a check out for.
Speaking of fines, will we be seeing a fine doled out to Chicago's own Dwyane Wade for breaking the Mamba's nose? I'm not a seer (that's not what I went to school for), but I would be sorta surprised if Wade isn't fined (but not suspended).
Big ups to Joakim Noah who notched his first career triple-double last night in the win against Milwaukee. The pogo-legged one had been simmering like a volcano recently with 11 double-doubles in his last 17 games, and there it was: the boundless joy of #airgunz and a triple-double eruption for Mount St. JoNo. Dismiss the fact that Milwaukee was without the services of both Andrew Bogut and Drew Gooden (Noah would've likely nabbed double digit rebounds regardless) and stare slack jawed at his 10 assists and 13 points in a mere 29:49 of game time. Impressive work.
This isn't CJ Watson's first polka, but to say the reserve point has been getting a hard education this week would be wholly accurate. After a remedial course against Charlotte's rookie point guard, Kemba Walker, CJ has faced Rajon Rondo ("The Cassowary Game"), Tyreke Evans ("Utterly blanketed CJ Watson. Gripping." -Roger Ebert), Rondo again (Hey, "only" 17, 8 and 7 for Rondo this time), and the brutal education continued yesterday as Deron Williams did his best Deron Williams impression. Scorching CJ (or any of Chicago's guards since we're being honest) for 29 points (five 3s, 6-7 from the charity stripe) while dishing out eight dimes, Williams was on point all game long. The Nets in general were on point all game long, which the Bulls, as it should be very clear, were not. And you know what? Bulls fans should've seen a game like this on the horizon. No Derrick Rose, two big games against the Celtics in five days, the Nets at the flukish time of 3:00 pm on a Saturday afternoon? Yeah, this had the makings of a "Toronto Raptors Sunday matinee" letdown game written all over it.
After missing two games in a row due to back spasms, Derrick Rose made a visit to a back specialist who says his problems are muscular, not structural. Ultimately, that's good news, but it doesn't mean Rose is back in the game just yet.
General manager Gar Forman says Rose will play when he feels he's ready, but that isn't looking likely for Tuesday's game against Sacramento. Rose suffered back spasms in high school as well which would go as suddenly as they had come. In the meantime, he will continue with therapy and rest and hope the spasms will pass.
Rose is a competitive player, and of course will always want to be on that court, which is one of the things we all love about him. However, we also love his ability to score and keep the Bulls in tough games, which won't be the case if he plays before he's ready. Forman seems confident that for now at least, Rose understands that he needs to be 100 percent before he jumps back in.
Despite Sunday's Rose-less loss against the Celtics, we must remember that Derrick Rose is not the only scorer, and not the only talented player the Bulls have. While he is of course an important player and a huge asset, the team should be able to balance the responsibility, which the Bulls have proven capable of this season throughout most of his seven missed games - more than in his first three seasons combined.
The addition of Rip Hamilton makes the Bulls a better team. I come not to dispute that. I simply seek, as always, a bit of perspective.
First, let us please, for the love of Tex Winter, stop comparing Hamilton immediately and exclusively to Keith Bogans.
Yes, Bogans is the man who lost his starting job and indeed his gainful employment altogether to Hamilton, but far and away the better comparison is to Kyle Korver. In crunch time, if the Bulls last season needed offense, needed a wing threat to draw defensive attention from Derrick Rose, they turned never to Bogans but to Korver.
If Rip Hamilton is to offer the Bulls, in "winning time," more than what they had, he has to be better than Kyle Korver, not Keith Bogans.
Does he offer this? Well, yes, he probably does.
Hamilton is faster in the open court, savvier with his passes, and even more nimble in that which he and Korver do best: curling around screens to pop open on the wing.
Most notably, Hamilton is a better combination of offense and defense than Bogans, Korver or Ronnie Brewer. And if Tuesday's preseason finale is any indication, he fits seamlessly into this offense.
I just can't understand why Chicago fans and media are uniformly acting like the addition of a wing shooter who curls around screens is going to carry the Bulls to another level. They had a hugely successful one for 82 games last season! (And a slightly less successful version in the playoffs.)
Derrick Rose will wear a special edition of his AdiZero Rose 2 shoes in the Bulls' Christmas day season opener against the Lakers. The "Windy City" edition features the CTA's "L" line map on the sock liner, "The L" on the heel and a blue pinstripe in honor of the Blue Line. According to a press release, "The upper is anodized to give the brushed metal look of train cars with a fire red finish to look like a holiday gift on the court."
CounterKicks.com reports that Adidas will hold a special flash sale of the AdiZero Rose 2 "Windy City" shoe on its Facebook page next week. Another special colorway, the blue-yellow-grey "Wolverine edition" in honor of Rose's high school alma mater, Simeon, went on sale Dec. 1.
You might have seen it this week. You definitely saw it if you watched any NFL football this weekend: Derrick Rose joins Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and UFC fighter B.J. Penn in a new teaser commercial for the next Assassin's Creed video game.
Stripping down for a desert photo shoot was a new experience for Fowles, but she told ESPN she's eager to show the sports world that women's basketball has sex appeal. "It's not just about the baggy shorts."
Check out this little piece from Josh Cohen of the Orlando Magic: an illustration of the evolution of every NBA team's logo from the team's inception to present. Some pretty good reminiscing is sure to occur, but yet, Bulls' fans might feel a bit left out: despite 45 years of play in the Windy City, the Chicago Bulls have never changed their iconic, forward-facing Bull head logo. The only other team to still be on its first logo is the three-year old Oklahoma City Thunder, and really, you could argue that was just a drastic change in logo from their Seattle Supersonics uniforms.
What could possibly explain this, especially over the past twenty years? Superstition, once they became national icons in the Jordan era? Did they just forget to hire a graphic designer full-time? Or is this some brilliant marketing scheme to always be able to sell Jordan #23 jerseys, which would obviously look a bit far-fetched if stitched onto some new design?
Maybe the Bulls have always just felt they got it right straight out of the gate. And when you look at some of the originals (say hey, '76-'81 Denver Nuggets dude!), you have to admit that maybe they're right. At the very least, it could be so much worse.
What do you think, Chicago? Do the Bulls need a modern update? Or are some designs, like log cabins, colonial mansions and Benny the Bull always in style?
Dennis Rodman was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame today. Though he wasn't a Bull for his entire career, he's remembered best for his time in Chicago at the end of the Jordan Era. What Chicagoan in the 1990s doesn't remember the gapers blocks (heh) caused by the Bigsby & Kruthers Bulls mural next to the Kennedy, on which Rodman's hair was updated to match his ever-changing coif?
He was easily one of the most entertaining athletes in Chicago, and still one of the most loved. But importantly, he was also a brilliant basketball player.
Rodman wasn't the only Bull to enter the Hall today. Former Bulls center Artis Gilmore and former Bulls assistant coach Tex Winter were also inducted. Gilmore was the Bulls' first-round draft pick in the 1976 ABA dispersal draft when that league folded into the NBA. Winter invented the triangle offense and brought it to Chicago under Jackson -- directly contributing to six national titles.
"Guns up, Bulls fans!" Sure, your team lost in a stunning fashion to the Miami Heat in five games ... Cough. 18-3 Miami run to close the cinching game, at the United Center. Cough. But, at least you can hang your hats upon the fact your point guard, Derrick Rose/youngest MVP in NBA history, was the best he could be against the league's best defenses during the regular season and the playoffs. Who says? Well, I saw this reported by the indomitable Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don't Lie and the story was first dropped by the --and stat heads/Bulls fans (a rare breed, I know) will mirthfully recall these kids-- big brained, number crunching squad at Basketball Reference [dot] com.
There wasn't much reason to get really excited about the Chicago Bulls heading into the 2011 NBA Draft last night:
• They didn't have any high picks: After posting the league's best regular-season record, they owned the 28th pick (from Miami), their own 30th pick and the 43rd pick (from Utah).
• The talent pool was universally regarded as shallow.
• Nearly all their roster spots and probably all the spots in their regular rotation are already taken for next season (whenever that happens).
• They didn't need two more guaranteed, first-round contracts, with nine guaranteed deals and $65 million already on the books for next season.
Given that background, the Bulls actually did quite well last night.
They used the 30th pick to draft Marquette's Jimmy Butler, a 6-foot-8 defender with decent all-around skills who could be especially useful defending wing scorers (e.g., LeBron James, Dwyane Wade). He's another good guy and hard worker who will fit right in with Tom Thibodeau's current group.
The bottom line is these Bulls will go as far as Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah and Luol Deng can take them. The latter three are all already making $12 million or more per season, and Rose will join them after next year.
Adding a playoff-caliber shooting guard would be nice, but it's far less important than Noah playing with more consistency and Boozer earning most of his $75 million contract. And of course, there was no such shooting guard in this 2011 draft, much less near the end of the first round.
There are losses, and then there are losses that stick around for awhile. You'd think overtime in Game 4 would be one of the latter, one of the games that Bulls fans would remember as a heartbreaker for a long time to come. But somehow, Thursday's epic Game 5 collapse surpassed it with incredible ferocity.
I approached this game thinking Miami wouldn't try too hard. They're a glittery team -- tough at times, but still flashy. Furthermore, they looked confident, and I expected that would manifest as overconfidence and a halfhearted effort that might send the series back to Miami for Game 6.
For 45 minutes, that's exactly what the Heat looked like. You could suggest it was the Bulls' defense that was making Miami look mortal again, but not for long.
Not after Miami closed the game with an 18-3 run, erasing a 77-65 deficit with 3:10 left. The Heat earned a return date with Dallas in the Finals with a combination of smothering defense (LeBron James again took on Derrick Rose for the final minutes of the fourth quarter, and promptly shut him down save for one fantastic shot) and an explosion of offense (including the previously comatose Dwyane Wade erupting for eight points in the final three minutes, including a four-point play).
There aren't a lot of lessons to be learned from this game, just one very harsh one. For 45 minutes, the Bulls did almost everything right. Before the fourth quarter, Wade had made two shots from the field all night. James started the game well; in fact he was the only player on the Heat able to make shots in the first quarter. But he eventually went cold too, letting the Bulls take command of the game.
This was, dare I say, a boring game for large parts of it: the Bulls led by four or eight points, Miami lacked focus and routinely turned the ball over through mistakes and turnovers, and all looked good for a return flight to South Beach.
But then, with just a few minutes left, the bill came due for Chicago.
Well, that one was quite a dagger, as far as basketball games go.
The Bulls played their best defense since Game 1, had the opportunity to take advantage of their deep bench with the game going into overtime, and yet threw away Game 4 with three turnovers in the extra period as Miami won their third straight, 101-93.
Trailing the Eastern Conference finals 3-1, Chicago now needs to win three straight, starting Thursday back at home, to keep its season alive. Only one team in NBA playoff history, the 1995 Rockets, has pulled off that kind of a comeback.
Nobody had a pretty game Tuesday night; while there were certainly a few stellar dunks and acrobatic finger-rolls, the marquee attraction was the all-out intensity of both teams, particularly on defense. Any preseason worries about whether the Heat's stars would be willing to put in the dirty work defensively have been decisively put to rest in this series, while Tom Thibodeau's men had a return to the defensive form that got them this far in the first place.
While Chicago's dominance in Game 1 is starting to look like a fluke, Game 4 at least was a return to some normalcy, as the Bulls shot 40 percent but held Miami to 42 percent. Yet despite their offensive troubles, Chicago still had the chance (two of them, really) to win the game in regulation -- but Derrick Rose was unable to get anywhere close to the basket due to the intense defense of LeBron James. The new MVP wound up attempting two long, step-back jumpers, and with that lack of creativity and conviction, it's not so surprising the Bulls wilted in overtime.
This game was a prizefight, with both teams landing good combinations before the other would bounce off the ropes and return the favor to even it up. With the defense each team was playing, it never felt crazy to say "it's only a four-possession game."
But after a frustrating, potentially decisive loss for the Bulls and their fans, these were my biggest takeaways:
1. LeBron James is better than Derrick Rose.
The traditional stats tell only part of the story: James scored 35 points on 11-of-26 shooting, hitting all 13 of his free throws, while Rose had 23 on 8-of-27 shooting. But James' ability to finish off the Bulls this series almost single-handedly has been the biggest reason they've won.
The Heat were in charge most of the night, but Chicago hung around, trailing 68-66 with 11 minutes left, before Miami's Big Three took over and engineered a closing surge similar to Game 2.
Now with their first back-to-back losses since February, the Bulls are looking for the defensive strength that helped them romp in Game 1. Miami shot 50 percent from the field, their best mark of the series. The Bulls limited the scoring of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but instead saw James and others dish the ball off to Chris Bosh all night, giving the Heat power forward ample opportunities for easy buckets.
Bosh had a game-high 34 points on 13-of-18 shooting -- possibly the best big-game performance of his mercurial career -- while James added 22 points on 6-of-13 shooting with six rebounds, 10 assists, two steals and two blocks, and Wade had 17 points (6-of-17), nine rebounds and three assists.
Carlos Boozer played a great game for Chicago, despite missing his first five shots, mostly around the rim. But after he stepped back a few feet, he seemed to heat up with jumpers from 15 to 18 feet, and ended up with 26 points and 17 rebounds.
If you ever wondered what the adage "defense wins championships" means, I present this stat from Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals: The Bulls missed 14 of their first 16 shots, and yet led by seven points after a first quarter capped by Luol Deng's 60-foot buzzer-beater.
The philosophy of a coach like Tom Thibodeau is that sometimes, no matter how many good looks you get (and there were quite a few open shots), the shots just won't fall. But you can control how well your opponent shoots, and as long as your defense keeps it close, you're still in the game.
And yet, the other part of the adage is "offense wins games." Keeping the Heat under 90 points yet again is certainly an accomplishment and one of the keys for Chicago in this series, but when the Bulls themselves can't crack 80, defense won't be enough to win the night. With players like LeBron James, a scoring run is always right around the corner, and you need to find the points to respond.
This game was an ugly but determined effort by the Bulls. Ugly because they couldn't hit their shots (they shot 34 percent from the field), yet inspiring because of how many offensive rebounds they grabbed (a 17-10 advantage) only to miss the put-backs. Still, those offensive boards limited the Heat's number of possessions, and that's what kept it close until the end.
Two hallmarks of the Chicago Bulls combined in the second half Sunday to take down the Miami Heat 103-82 in Game One of the Eastern Conference finals. A deep bench along with Tom Thibodeau's trademark defense (executed almost flawlessly by Luol Deng & Co. ) held LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to a combined 33 points on 12-of-32 shooting.
Derrick Rose played well, but not out of his mind, finishing with 28 points and six rebounds on 10-22 shooting. The game's high scorer was Miami forward Chris Bosh, who netted 30 points, but wasn't able to do much else in the way of damage as Chicago owned the glass with 45 rebounds to the Heat's 33.
Through two quarters, this game was largely as everyone expected it--tough defenses controlling the pace, with both teams prone to turnovers and shaky shooting. But in the second half, with both Miami starters tiring and a Chicago bench surging, the Bulls pulled away.
Miami led 58-57 with 7:30 left in the third before the Bulls took a 17-point lead with a 26-8 run.
The Bulls are back in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in 13 years, set to open a best-of-seven series against the surging Miami Heat on Sunday night at the United Center.
As good as Derrick Rose & Co. have been this season -- most recently in Thursday's decisive Game 6 in Atlanta -- it's hard not to give the Heat a slight edge initially after seeing them handle Boston in five games. Twelve of 14 ESPN experts picked Miami to win the series -- which is not to suggest, oversensitive Bulls fans, that Chicago cannot win this series, but simply that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are probably the best two players in the league, with all due respect to Rose's achievements this season.
There is a strong possibility this will not be the most beautiful team basketball we've ever seen, given the ability and propensity of Rose, James and Wade to simply explode to the basket seemingly at will. You won't, on balance, see the five-man ball played by Boston or Dallas at their best. But with both teams closing out the semifinals in peak form, every game should be a must-see event.
Nine more scattered thoughts:
1. Yes, the Bulls won all three of their meetings with Miami this season. No, that doesn't really mean anything. Both teams are different now, especially a Heat team that is using vastly different lineups these days.
2. Very few teams have anyone who can stay in front of Rose, but Miami point guards Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers will get positively torched if they try to guard him. There's little chance Dwyane Wade won't draw the assignment during the biggest moments of the game, if not throughout.
3. This should settle the 2011 MVP debate once and for all. LeBron still is the game's most dominant player, but if Rose can carry the Bulls into the NBA Finals, it'll be hard to deny him every last shred of glory.
4. Carlos Boozer vs. Chris Bosh is a delightful matchup of perhaps the two most frustrating power forwards in the league. It's not entirely fair to call them underachievers, but it would certainly be nice to see one or both of them step up in this series. Boozer took a big step in that direction last night.
5. I'm excited to see what Luol Deng, one of the game's most underrated players, can do defensively against LeBron. He's got as good a chance as anyone to slow him down a bit.
6. The Bulls' 10-man rotation worked wonders at times against the Hawks' much shorter bench, and it's hard to see that not being a significant edge for Chicago again in this series. Taj Gibson, Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver have all had big moments in the playoffs.
7. The center matchup between Joakim Noah and Joel Anthony should be a nice battle between two of the league's most active big men. (Boy, I'm fond of superlatives today.) Neither is especially skilled -- though Noah continues to distinguish himself as a passer -- but they make up for it with indefatigable hard work.
9. Reasonable minds can disagree on the distastefulness (or awesomeness?) of LeBron, Wade and Bosh joining forces to chase championships, but please, don't let them tell you it's no different than what Boston did in assembling the triumvirate of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
Miami's three were free agents in the prime of their careers; Boston's were potential (or sure-fire) Hall of Famers, to be sure, but all closer to the end of the line than the beginning. The Celtics took on significantly more risk. They did it "the right way" by building up a cache of young talent and trading multiple pieces for two singular stars, instead of simply using the sun, sand and nightlife of Miami as a lure. And of course, they kicked things off with a team-bonding trip, not a grotesque exercise in premature coronation.
Whatever hopes the NBA nation had for a thrilling Game 6 last night in Atlanta were dashed quickly by the Bulls, who put together one of their best wire-to-wire performances of the season, beating the Hawks 93-73 to win the series and a date with Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Chicago was led by Carlos Boozer(!), who owned his jump shot to the tune of 23 points and 10 rebounds. He even handed out five assists.
Derrick Rose took on the role of setup man, tossing out 12 assists, while scoring 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting -- a big drop from the usual 23-28 shots per game he's been taking all series.
The 4-2 series win puts Chicago in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time the since final Jordan championship in 1998. Awaiting them are the Heat, who struggled for a time with gigantic preseason expectations -- including going 0-3 against the Bulls in the regular season -- but are looking great as they come down from the high of eliminating the Celtics in six games.
Beyond winning the series, the Thursday's biggest story undoubtedly was Boozer. I'm not even sure what I can say about him, as so many weeks of mediocre contributions have me in disbelief that he really just played that game. But by grabbing the first rebound of the game and scoring seven of the Bulls' first 11 points, he made it clear to all on the court that this would be his game to lose.
The way Boozer had been playing, with 10 points and 5-10 rebounds per game, made the Bulls a very good team, as long as Rose plays up to his potential. But what we saw Thursday is the difference between a very good team and a championship team. It was a giant reminder of how good Chicago can be if everything falls into place, and I'd truly forgotten what that looked like.
Toppled in Game 4 by a late Atlanta surge, the Bulls put together an explosive finish of their own in Tuesday's Game 5, turning a one-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter into a 95-83 win at the United Center.
The mercurial Hawks submitted their second straight determined effort, but Derrick Rose set game-highs with 33 points and nine assists, Luol Deng added 23 points and Taj Gibson came up big down the stretch, scoring all 11 of his points in the fourth.
The win gives the Bulls a 3-2 lead as the seven-game series shifts back to Atlanta for Thursday's Game Six, putting them one win away from their first Eastern Conference Finals appearance since the final Jordan championship 13 years ago.
Chicago started the game on a 10-2 run, eventually stretching its lead to 15. Atlanta hung around, though, and managed to whittle down the margin with strong defense and fast-break points, eventually taking its first lead at 64-63 late in the third.
But in the fourth, the Bulls came out firing, and in a show of confidence in his bench, coach Tom Thibodeau trusted three of them down the stretch. Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer came out for a rest late in the third and stayed out, as Thibodeau closed with Rose, Deng, Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer and Omer Asik. The three reserves played the whole fourth quarter, sparking Chicago to a 26-15 quarter.
"I definitely believe that the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step," the Zenmaster said. "My first step was being hired by the Bulls, and it all happened in the strangest way. My birthday [Sept. 17] just happened to fall on the day [in 1987] when the Bulls had lost assistant coach Gene Littles, who left to accept a job coaching the Charlotte Hornets.
"My telephone number just happened to be on Jerry Krause's desk when somebody called him asking for it because they said they wanted to wish me a happy birthday. So since the Bulls had to pick up another coach at the last minute, those circumstances all came together to put me in the right spot at the right time. So Jerry called and offered me the job. I took my first step when I accepted the job, and the rest is history."
As the two-time defending champion Lakers fell apart in Dallas, the Atlanta Hawks came out Sunday night determined to right their own ship. They did so with a fantastic final push, beating the Bulls 100-88 in Game 4 by closing the game with an 18-6 run in the final five minutes. The win evens the series at 2, with Game Five scheduled for Tuesday night at the United Center.
Despite a surprise eight-rebound performance from Omer Asik and 11 rebounds from Joakim Noah, it was the Hawks that owned the boards, particularly Josh Smith. Making his first real statement in the series, Smith amassed 23 points, 16 rebounds, eight assists, two blocks and a steal.
Atlanta's Al Horford and Joe Johnson also combined for 44 points on 18-of-25 shooting, including 3-of-5 on 3-pointers by Johnson. Many looks went uncontested for the Hawks, leaving Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau with the task once again of instilling in his team the desire to play each defensive series like it's the last of the game. The Hawks hit 40 of 81 field goals, no doubt boosted by their 56-40 point advantage in the paint.
If last night was the first Bulls game you've seen this year, you might be surprised to hear they struggled a bit on the road this year. You also might be surprised to hear Carlos Boozer is their highest-paid player. But if you're surprised at all at the performance Derrick Rose turned in, you clearly haven't been paying attention at all.
The league MVP went off against a porous Atlanta Hawks' defense, scoring a career-high 44 points to lead Chicago to a 99-82 win and a 2-1 lead in this second-round series.
Rose's scoring coupled with a suffocating defense meant the Hawks were doomed from the start. The Bulls scored the game's first six points and pulled ahead by 13 at halftime before cruising through the second half.
Seemingly shaking off the ankle injury he suffered at the end of Monday's Game 1 loss, Rose continued to improve his play this series by really nailing down his jumper. It was hardly necessary, given the wide open lanes in Atlanta's defense, but he could clearly step back and hit his shots as well, going 4-for-7 from 3-point range. Rose also dished out seven assists, grabbed five rebounds, grabbed a steal and blocked a shot--all while committing only two turnovers and one personal foul.
After losing the first game of their second-round series with Atlanta, the Bulls and the defense that carried them to an NBA-best 62 wins this season finally arrived Wednesday in Game 2. Chicago won 86-73 by holding the fifth-seeded Hawks to 33.8 percent from the field, including 3-of-13 on 3-pointers, and earning 44 of their 58 rebounds on the defensive glass.
And of course, newly-minted NBA MVP Derrick Rose led the way with 25 points (though on 10-of-27 shooting), six rebounds, 10 assists and two blocks.
In true (Coach of the Year) Tom Thibodeau fashion, the Bulls came out committed on the defensive end. Joe Johnson, dominant in Game 1, was held to 16 points, while Jamal Crawford shot 2-for-10 and Josh Smith was 4-for-14.
As Chicago focused its attention elsewhere, second-year point guard Jeff Teague went to town, scoring a team-high 21 points while committing zero turnovers -- an impressive stat for a talented but inexperienced 22-year-old playing major minutes only because of Kirk Hinrich's hamstring injury.
"Why not?" Derrick Rose asked before his third NBA season.
"Why can't I be the MVP of the league? Why can't I be the best player in the league?"
It was a surprisingly bold public statement for one of the game's least talkative stars, but Rose backed it up every night on the court. Tuesday afternoon the 22-year-old Bulls point guard was introduced as the 2010-11 NBA MVP, becoming the youngest player to win the award.
We'd been building to this day for some time, as Rose earned plaudits from players, coaches and media throughout the league, but the moment was no less special for the lack of suspense.
Typically stoic in his public appearances, the Englewood native choked up during his acceptance speech when he thanked his mother, Brenda, calling her "my heart. The reason that I play the way that I play. Just everything."
Rose said whenever he needs motivation to work harder, he thinks of what she sacrificed as a single mother raising four sons.
"Those are hard days. My days shouldn't be hard because I love doing what I'm doing, and that's playing basketball.
"You keep me going every day and I love you."
Rose's speech begins above at the 2:20 mark, with the sappy mom stuff at 4:40.
It was, to say the least, a wake-up call for the top-seeded Bulls, as the fifth-seeded Hawks showed a determination to win it from the start. With Atlanta racing off to a 9-0 lead, the first quarter was a demonstration of masonry by soon-to-be-named-MVP Derrick Rose, who missed his first seven shots before finally getting a layup deep into the second quarter. Unfortunately for Chicago, his poor shooting was the least of their troubles.
Against a Bulls team known for its defensive prowess, the Hawks shot 51 percent from the field, including 53 percent from behind the arc. They shot 58 percent in the first half, and it was only with a second quarter run by the reserves that the Bulls were able to pull within one point at halftime.
But the Hawks reasserted themselves in the second half, taking control for good with a 15-2 run across the third and fourth quarters. And then, with five inconsequential seconds remaining, Rose rolled his troublesome left ankle. He needed assistance to get back to the locker room.
With the first round done and dusted, albeit with more difficulty than most people expected, the Bulls begin the Eastern Conference semifinals tonight at home against fifth-seeded Atlanta. The athletic Hawks knocked off Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic to get here, so they're eminently capable of challenging a top seed like Chicago. But if anyone can take apart an opponent, it's NBA coach of the year Tom Thibodeau.
This is the point at which earning that No. 1 seed pays off, as the Bulls get to watch the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat face off in what will almost certainly end up being seven games of tough, competitive, high-pressure basketball. That's not to say the Bulls can take it easy, however, as the Hawks will definitely present a few challenges along the way.
1. Battle on the boards
Carlos Boozer has a painful toe injury, but he said this morning he plans to play in Game 1. The bigger question is, healthy or not, how effective will he be? The Bulls power forward averaged 10 points and 10.2 rebounds in the first round, shooting 35.8 percent from the field -- not quite what the Bulls expected they'd get when they signed him for $75 million last summer.
Joakim Noah, the other banged-up big man, has seemed to regain the form that abandoned him near the end of the regular season, as he had a couple great games against Indiana and averaged 12 points and 10.6 rebounds in the series -- and of course, played far better defense than Boozer. His energy in particular will be a huge asset against an Atlanta team that's known to take entire quarters off.
Frank Kaminsky and Farragut's DJ Tolliver shined brightest among a cast of all-stars at the inaugural Chicago United Hoops Classic at DePaul's Sullivan Athletic Center. Kaminsky, the 6-11 Benet Academy product --and University of Wisconsin-bound center-- led an at times dominating display as the West Side all-stars took down South Siders by a not as close as it appears margin of 114-102. The final score mattered little to the high schoolers on the hardwood though, as the game served more as a showcase for the best and brightest of Chicago's youth basketballers and was a fundraiser for the Norm Van Lier Scholarship Fund.
After three games under 40 percent, the Bulls shot a series-high 48 percent Tuesday, eliminating the pesky Pacers with a 116-89 home win in Game 5 of their best-of-seven first-round series.
Behind 49 combined points from Luol Deng and Derrick Rose, Chicago took off from the opening tip and never looked back. Fears about the health of Rose's ankle were clearly unfounded, as the point guard displayed his usual athleticism, one of several factors that sent the Pacers packing.
The win gave the Bulls their first playoff series victory since 2007, and sets them up for an Eastern Conference semifinal matchup against either No. 4 seed Orlando or No. 5 seed Atlanta. The Magic crushed the Hawks in their own Game 5 on Tuesday, pulling within 3-2 in the series.
One of the biggest reasons the Bulls took off was their 14-of-31 shooting (45 percent) from behind the 3-point arc. Keith Bogans in particular found his range, going 5-for-7, while Deng hit 3 of 5 and Rose 3 of 8 -- all three of them coming late in the third quarter after the visitors had pulled within four.
Despite a furious Chicago charge in the final minutes, the Indiana Pacers finally held on to a lead to beat the visiting Bulls 89-84 on Saturday and take Game Four of this seven-game series. The win keeps Indiana alive for at least one more game, with Chicago still holding a commanding 3-1 series lead as the series moves back to the United Center on Tuesday.
Indiana won this game with the tough defense they've shown all series (except in the fourth quarters), and for the second game in a row Derrick Rose was largely ineffective. Though he did roll his ankle late in the first quarter, he soon returned (in trademark tough fashion) and still ended up playing 43 minutes but only managed 15 points. Rose shot 6-of-22, with an awful 1-of-9 from behind the 3-point line, as the Pacers forced him to turn to his teammates to the tune of 10 assists. Unfortunately for Chicago, most of them weren't shooting much better, with Carlos Boozer scoring 15 and Luol Deng going 5-14 for 16 points.
The brightest player in red today was Joakim Noah, who played his first great game of the playoffs, and maybe his best since he returned from his thumb injury in February. Noah finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds, including a key three-point play in the dying seconds that pulled the Bulls to within one point, after being down 13 just a couple of minutes earlier.
In front of a mixed crowd at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis (it's nice having a playoff series within easy driving distance of Chicago), the Bulls kept the Indiana Pacers at bay for a third time last night with a physical, hard fought, 88-84 victory.
A lot will be written about Derrick Rose once again, as the young point guard came through with a fantastic (and yet so very common for him) drive to the hoop with 17 seconds left to give the Bulls their final lead. But apart from that play, Rose actually had a rough night, certainly by his high standards.
Rose scored 23 points, but shot 4-of-18 from the field. He did draw plenty of hard fouls and hit 13 of 15 free throws. He had a team-high five turnovers, one-third of Chicago's 15, another stat that he certainly won't be pleased with.
If this series was supposed to be easy, as some people (like me) thought, I guess we forgot to let the Pacers know. Behind 19 points from Danny Granger and contributions from everyone else, Indiana hung with the Bulls through all 48 minutes of Monday's Game Two before Chicago escaped again, winning 96-90 at the United Center.
Derrick Rose once again poured it on with 36 points, eight rebounds, six assists and two steals. He got more help this time from Carlos Boozer (17 points, 16 rebounds), but Luol Deng needed 13 shots to score 14 points.
Unlike Saturday's opener, controlled by Indiana before a big Chicago comeback, neither team was able to get much of a stranglehold on their opponent throughout the entire game. Modest leads by both teams were never able to stick, and it wasn't until another wide-open Kyle Korver three in the final minute that Chicago had the chance to finish off the game. Their fantastic foul shooting contributed to the win as well, as the Bulls made their last 16 shots from the line.
It wasn't just that the Bulls trailed by 10 points with 3 1/2 minutes remaining. It was how they'd gotten there, getting outplayed all over the court by the eighth-seeded Pacers, the worst team in the 2011 playoffs.
Derrick Rose had 30-some points, but few if any of his teammates were playing the type of basketball that had earned Chicago the league's best regular-season record. Their vaunted defense had been diced up time and again by Indiana's compendium of solid but unspectacular young players.
So it was easy to abandon hope when Tyler Hansbrough stripped Carlos Boozer at the top of the key and took it in for a fast-break dunk plus the foul. The three-point play epitomized Hansbrough's game-long dominance of Boozer and gave the visitors a 98-88 lead that seemed awfully decisive.
A few minutes later, the Bulls and the capacity crowd were roaring with excitement, celebrating a 104-99 win. They had scored on their final seven possessions and shut down the Pacers almost entirely, ending the game on a 16-1 run.
Well, that certainly wasn't easy. But despite not leading the game once until the final minute, the Bulls overcame the physical play and hot shooting of No. 8 seed Indiana to escape with a 104-99 win this afternoon at the United Center.
If the young Bulls had any doubt what playoff basketball really means, they should know now.
Let's take a look at what caused a supposedly easy opponent to beat up on the Bulls so much, and what the team (read: Derrick Rose) did to power them over the top for another fourth quarter come-from-behind victory, their 12th of the year.
For those of you who may have just turned into the Bulls for the first time today, Rose put on a show. The point guard scored 39 points, including 19-of-21 on free throws -- two more points than Indiana had from the stripe and the most any NBA player has had in a playoff game since Allen Iverson in 2002.
He was fearless going to the basket, despite getting fouled hard every time he did. The young player who missed critical free throws at the end of the 2008 NCAA national championship game has clearly disappeared, and who remains is a calm, collected shooter who steps up to the line with confidence. The only real disappointment in his game today was his outside shooting; despite showing all year his increased ability to hit the three, Rose went 0-for-9 today behind the arc.
Fortunately, the grand tradition of Chicago basketball means Derrick Rose isn't our only native son taking the stage this spring. (Heck, he's not even the only one on the Bulls roster; Jannero Pargo is a Robeson graduate, though he's only been on the team for a month and won't be on the playoff roster.) Trying rooting for these guys too:
Dwyane Wade, Heat (Harold L. Richards H.S.)
Our relationship with Wade was totally different a year ago, before the Super Friends became the greatest villains in sports and the primary obstacle to the Bulls' steadily growing title hopes. He was our basketball boyfriend before D-Rose, and still deserves some love. Just root for LeBron to fall apart; we'll get rid of the Heat that way.
Not just easily winning the Central Division, not just overtaking the Celtics (the East beast for the past three years) and the Heat (the most talented team on paper) for the Eastern Conference title, but the best team in the entire league. They've won their past nine games and 21 of the past 23, surpassing San Antonio on the final day of the season for home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
But they'll need a Finals run to take full advantage of this opportunity, and the first step comes Saturday at noon against the visiting Indiana Pacers.
Simply put, the 62-win Bulls are far and away a much better team than eighth-seeded Indiana (37-45). Sure, there are small factors that will make the going a little easier or harder, but as long as the Bulls play four solid games, they should win the series.
With that in mind, here are a few things to keep an eye on:
As a whole, Indiana is less skilled and forced to use physicality to slow down the Bulls. While this shouldn't be enough to take the series, it can screw up Chicago's chances in the second or third round against much better teams.
2. Keep the machine well oiled
With one or even two off days between games, NBA playoff teams can play their starters extended minutes, but Chicago will want to make sure its key bench contributors, especially Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer (if he's healthy) don't go a whole week and half without taking any pressure shots. Korver especially is streaky, and I don't want his first important shots to come against Orlando in the second round. The reserves got plenty of run in Wednesday's finale, but that's not quite the same thing.
Having locked up the No. 1 seed and home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs with Friday's win in Cleveland, the Bulls headed to Orlando for a potential playoff preview Sunday against the fourth-seeded Magic.
Except it wasn't Dwight Howard and the Magic, the Brobdingnagian big man having been suspended one game for whining way too much about calls and non-calls that didn't go his way. And on the other side, Joakim Noah played only 18 minutes, sitting out most of the second half because he just hasn't been playing that well since spraining his ankle.
So we can expect the matchups will look a little different if these teams meet in the second round of the playoffs. But even in defeat, the Magic showed me enough to rethink my previous position that they'll roll over and play dead against the contenders.
But if nothing else, the Bulls learned in Sunday's 102-99 win that they won't sally past the Magic later this month unless they're firing on all cylinders. For predictive purposes, the game was a wash; tied in the final minutes, it turned on the relative randomness of a few plays -- including a bizarre possession wherein Jason Richardson panicked and passed the ball to no one, jump-starting an easy Chicago fast break. I'm not sure something like that will happen again.
The Statistical MVP and his supporting cast can make life difficult for six games, even if neither is good enough to recapture the glory of their 2009 run to the NBA Finals. (Or more precisely, they're about as good as they were then, on balance; the competition just got way tougher.)
It's the Super Friends down in Miami that should worry the Bulls the most, as they bathe in the blood of the 2008 champions and close in on the No. 2 seed. [UPDATE: And now they've clinched it.] If they haven't yet reached a shark-like level of lethal efficiency, the Heat are at least at the level of a cave troll, misshapen and flawed but terrifyingly powerful and hard to stop.
As for Bulls fans -- a defensive bunch forever seeking out "haters" even as NBA Nation swoons over prospective MVP Derrick Rose -- the more objective among them are getting worried about LeBron and Wade. As Matt McHale of By the Horns and Basketbawfulargues persuasively:
I know Chicago is a popular pick right now, and, as picks go, the Bulls are a good one. They've been a better team, play better defense, have a better bench. They bring it every night. But the playoffs usually are about the best players. The bench becomes less important. Tom Thibodeau's defense has slowed down Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James...but can it slow down LeBron and D-Wade every night in a long playoff series? Could anybody's defense?
The Bulls have had an amazing season, all things considered. I mean, 60 wins despite a combined 60 games missed by Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah? This is a detemined, dedicated group of players. Unfortunately, I think their flaws are going to be exposed in the postseason. That's what tends to happen when the schedules even out and teams can devise new schemes on a game-by-game basis. Chicago's D is fantastic but their offense relies so heavily on Derrick Rose that slowing him down becomes the key to beating the Bulls (much like slowing down James was the key to beating the Cavaliers the last few seasons). They're going to throw constant double-teams at Rose and dare Luol Deng, Boozer, Noah and, yes, Keith Bogans to beat them. I predict a Heat-Bulls Eastern Conference Finals in which the scores will be hard-on-the-eyes low and the LeBron-Wade duo will trump the Rose uno. As a Bulls blogger, this pains me.
Here's all you need to know about how well the Bulls handled the visiting Celtics last night, in one paragraph of the AP recap:
"Paul Pierce led Boston with 15 points. Kevin Garnett scored all 10 of his points in the second half and [Rajon] Rondo finished with seven. Jeff Green scored 10 and Ray Allen had seven points."
Anytime the phrase "all 10 of his points" appears next to Kevin Garnett's name, your team has done well.
The game was close for long stretches, but Derrick Rose and the Bulls were too much in the second half, pulling away for a 97-81 win that put them on the brink of clinching the Eastern Conference No. 1 seed. Leading by four games with four games left, Chicago needs only one more win or one more Boston loss to officially clinch.
The Celtics led early in the third quarter, but -- and perhaps this is overconfidence -- the Bulls always seemed in control. Sure, Rondo or Pierce would occasionally make an impressive play, but Rose or Luol Deng were always able to match it. Never once did it seem like the C's could surpass the Bulls in skill or effort.
Rose led the way with 30 points, five rebounds, eight assists and two steals, even hitting all 10 of his free throws for good measure, while Deng added 23 points and Carlos Boozer had 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer played together last night for the 24th time / Tribune photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo
After resting a sprained ankle the past three games, Joakim Noah returned last night to help the Bulls earn a 97-94 victory against the Phoenix Suns. The 6-11 center played just over 28 minutes, looking healthy and quite able-bodied with several fast break baskets off Phoenix turnovers. He finished with 12 points, same as Carlos Boozer, while Derrick Rose led Chicago with 19 points. Luol Deng wasn't far behind with 18 of his own.
With Boston and Miami winning, the victory keeps Chicago three games ahead of them for first place in the Eastern Conference, with five games left -- including Thursday's marquee matchup with the Celtics at the United Center.
Boozer and Noah have played 24 games together this season because of injuries -- less than one-third of the team's 77 games. But is a lack of chemistry truly affecting their performance? Or is each player's perceived drop in points when they both play simply a result of them sharing the wealth?
The David v. Goliath storyline doesn't work as well as you might think. Butler, the national runner-up last year, ceded the Cinderella role to VCU this time, and UConn wasn't much of a contender before winning the Big East tournament with five wins in five nights.
It seems fitting that on Chicago baseball's Opening Day, I'm thinking about how long the NBA season feels. It shouldn't seem that way, and in fact, with the Bulls leading Boston by only two games for first in the Eastern Conference, this should feel like the closing weeks of a September pennant race.
Well, maybe it would if there weren't 16 teams in the playoffs. As it stands, the Bulls aren't putting too much emphasis on this final push for the No. 1 seed. They've been through a LOT of challenges this year, and maybe they feel they've seen about all that can be thrown at them. At this point, there's nothing left to surprise them, so they want to just get to the games that matter and see where they stand.
But if Tom Thibodeau heard that, he'd probably slap you. So let's put on our coachin' hat and take a look at the big questions facing the Bulls over the final week and a half.
Can Derrick Rose reduce his turnovers?
Call it blasphemy, but Derrick Rose has one sizable flaw in his game and he knows it. He tends to turn the ball over either late in the game, or occasionally, throughout the entire game. Very occasionally. He typically holds himself publicly accountable for his mistakes, but he was back at it again Monday night, losing the ball 10 times in the loss to Philadelphia.
Thibodeau came to his defense after that, saying "when you handle the ball as much as he does there's going to be [some turnovers]. ... I thought he was trying to make the right plays."
It didn't mean anything. You don't care -- no one cared -- that the East won both the boys' and girls' games, both by fairly sizable margins. That's not what the McDonald's All-American Games are about.
They're about showcasing the nation's best high school basketball players, the next generation of stars who will be taking over the college game in the next year or two and will soon ascend triumphant to an NBA arena near you. (Or a WNBA arena, as the case may be, but with less triumph and bombast.)
They're about providing four dozen teenagers -- athletically precocious, increasingly pampered teenagers, but kids all the same -- with a first-class, all-expenses-paid vacation in a new city, where they can hang out and play ball, reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. It's a coed basketball field trip (though I can't speak to the chaperone situation).
And at a basic level, the Games are about making money for McDonald's and the United Center and a slew of other corporate sponsors. Only a portion of the proceeds are going to Ronald McDonald House Charities.
So it was in that spirit, embracing their inconsequential but fundamentally delightful nature, that we headed over to the United Center last night. We watched from the press box, way up in the rafters, as Chicago's Anthony Davis, Wayne Blackshear and Ariel Massengale performed for an ESPN audience and visiting luminaries such as Alonzo Mourning and Doc Rivers and William "World Wide Wes" Wesley.
Tough night for the Bulls as they fell to Philadelphia 97-85. But with the playoffs approaching, I'm here to tell you once again: don't worry. But not because of Derrick Rose or Joakim Noah, or even because of Luol Deng's burgeoning scoring prowess. No, today it's time to share with casual Bulls fans the secret weapon passionate NBA fans have known about for years: little-used forward Brian Scalabrine, the luckiest player in the league.
It's a secret that stretches back to the beginning of the decade, when he was drafted in the second round in 2001 by the New Jersey Nets. He fell into luxury, as the Nets acquired Jason Kidd the day after the draft. Some of you youngsters might not know this, but the 2001 model Kidd was one heck of a point guard. He was an all-star for five straight years from 2000-2004, tacking on an NBA Skills Challenge title in 2003 for the illustrious All-Star Weekend Double.
The net result (oh you better believe that's intended) was two appearances in the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003 for Scalabrine.. All this, despite being in the league only two seasons and contributing an average of 10-12 minutes per game with 2.1 and 3.1 points per game each season. STELLAR numbers.
A handful of solid playoff games in the spotlight of the Finals earned Scalabrine a big free-agent contract with Boston in 2005. They were awful for two seasons (partly because they were spending lots of their money on Brian Scalabrine), but the Celtics retooled in 2007 much like the Nets had in 2001, making major trades to bring in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Scal's first (but not last?) NBA championship came in 2008 -- this again with 10 minutes per game and barely more than a point per game scoring average -- a stat line he mirrored again last season as the Celtics went to another NBA Finals. (That's four appearances now, for those keeping score at home.)
And now, yet again, he's traded to a team stacked for a run to the Finals. OR IS CHICAGO STACKED BECAUSE OF SCALABRINE?!
An Oklahoma State recruit creatively named LeBryan Nash (a terrifying hybrid of LeBron and Steve Nash?) won the McDonald's All-American dunk contest last night at Chicago State, but the Chicago media is buzzing about one young man who wasn't able to compete.
Morgan Park guard/forward Wayne Blackshear, one of three locals picked for the nation's premier high school all-star games, dislocated his left shoulder during Monday's practice session, knocking him out of the dunk contest and Wednesday's game. He's got a sling on his arm, but the Louisville recruit shouldn't be out too long.
Boozer and Noah have had a lot of fun watching the Bulls reserves / Tribune photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo
With an even dozen games left in the NBA regular season, the Bulls lead the Eastern Conference by one game after Boston's last-minute loss to Memphis on Wednesday. With one more meeting between the two contenders (two weeks from now in Chicago), there's precious little breathing room in the race for the No. 1 playoff seed.
Stars like Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo get all the attention, but both teams also have good depth. With the mentally and physically exhausting playoff routine approaching, it's a good time to see who they'll be relying on to give their starters much needed rest in the middle of a tough seven-game series.
I had planned to scold the Bulls for missing a golden opportunity Friday night, as they lost to the Indiana Pacers in overtime, 115-108. (Yes, the same Pacers who trail Chicago by 20 games in the Central Division.) Boston's win Saturday in New Orleans means the East's top two teams are once again tied in the standings.
And perhaps the Bulls still deserve a scolding, but Derrick Rose can leave the room. Because right now, all I want to say to him is this:
Notre Dame's Ben Hansbrough (right) drives against DePaul's Moses Morgan / Tribune photo: Chris Sweda
With four games in the books from the opening round or first round or whatever marketing term they're using this year, the NCAA men's basketball tournament begins in earnest today with a glorious smorgasbord of 16 games.
Tomorrow, Chicago gets in on the action, with four games at the United Center (and another two on Sunday). You'll have to check the secondary market for tickets -- or if you just want a taste, stop by the UC today to see the teams practice for free.
Each team gets 40 minutes on the court, starting with Akron at noon. They're followed, in order, by Florida State, Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Purdue, Georgetown, St. Peter's and VCU, which is scheduled to wrap things up at 7:20 p.m.
Ronnie Brewer passes around JaVale McGee to Omer Asik / Tribune photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo
Looking better in green than their Boston brethren with snazzy St. Patrick's Day uniforms, the Chicago Bulls took sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference last night by beating the visiting Wizards. Playing without Joakim Noah (illness) and Carlos Boozer (ankle), the Bulls relied on 23 points from Derrick Rose, 20 from Luol Deng and 17 from Keith Bogans to reach seven wins in a row for the second time this season.
They're now half a game ahead of the Celtics and 2.5 games ahead of Miami in the race for the East No. 1 seed, which carries with it the opportunity to avoid the other two contenders until at least the conference finals.
Boston still has 17 games to play, Chicago only 16, but the two teams face each other in the United Center on Thursday, April 7. Miami has even fewer chances to make up ground, with only 15 regular-season games left.
But best of all for the Bulls, they have the easiest slate of opponents remaining. Let's go to the tape!
Given how dominant he's been this season, it's no surprise that Bulls MVP candidate Derrick Rose made the cover of this month's ESPN The Magazine. But more than that, the magazine's theme this month -- they always have a theme -- is athletes and fashion, so Rose is decked out in Calvin Klein and Louis Vuitton and Tom Ford throughout his five-page spread.
Ric Bucher's cover story and the full Style Issue feature -- which also includes Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh, Texas Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson, New York Rangers left wing Sean Avery and golfer Ian Poulter -- are available online to ESPN Insider subscribers. Or check it out on your local newsstand.
From left: Scott Williams, assistant coach Johnny Bach, Dennis Hopson, John Paxson, Horace Grant, Craig Hodges, Stacey King, Michael Jordan, Will Perdue (obscured), Scottie Pippen, Cliff Levingston. Tribune photo: Chris Sweda
Twenty years ago this June, the Chicago Bulls won their first NBA championship, the first of six they would win with Hall of Famers Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson. Saturday night, most of the members of that 1990-91 team reunited to be honored at halftime of the Bulls-Jazz game.
After the jump, we've got all the best tweets and photos from the historic night, but you might want to start with this CSN video of the ceremony:
Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer sprained his ankle in Wednesday's win in Charlotte, but nothing's broken and he's now listed as day-to-day. Taj Gibson will again step in as Boozer's replacement, and coach Tom Thibodeau has few worries about how he'll perform.
"Taj started a majority of the season last year and played great," Thibodeau said. "We had the (hand) injury to Carlos early on in the season and he started (15 games) then. He's very comfortable starting. Whenever he has gotten extended minutes, he has played extremely well."
Little to say here, because we've already been down this road a few times this year. Rest up, big guy, the biggest games are yet to come.
Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf pulled a half-hearted Rex Ryan impression, telling the Sun-Times that with the nucleus the team has now, "at least four championships" are possible.
"We have an outstanding coach, an outstanding bunch of players, the team is deep, and if we stay healthy we have an awfully good chance of winning at least four championships."
Ugh. OK, folks. I suppose it was inevitable, and perhaps we deserve a pat on the back for doing a very good job of not getting ahead of ourselves. A six-game win streak here, seven there, a legitimate MVP contender -- yet even still, most Bulls fans and observers kept their cool. "They've got no shooting guard," we said. "There are too many injuries", we said. "Good lord, why is Keith Bogans starting?!" we said.
We faithfully doubted, excited by the Bulls' precocious accomplishments but nervous about their youth and potential vulnerabilities. But with 19 games left, 1 1/2 games out of first place in the East, the Central Division title assured and a sweep of the Heat completed, I suppose it's time to go over the falls, for better or for worse.
But four? Let's focus on one for now, Jerry. A lot can happen over four years, as former Bulls No. 2 overall pick Jason/Jay Williams knows all too sadly.
The Bulls are in fine shape with 20 regular-season games remaining, sitting second only to Boston in the Eastern playoff race, but there's still plenty of work to be done, even after winning six of their past seven games. That's why they are so fortunate to have the calming presence of coach Tom Thibodeau.
After Sunday's one-point win in Miami, the biggest story nationally wasn't Chicago's three-game season sweep of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade & Co., but Heat coach Erik Spoelstra's curious decision to tell the media that some of his players took the loss so hard they were crying in the locker room.
I'm not going to comment on the crying itself; there are plenty of others willing to do that. But Deadspin's Barry Petchesky wrote a short piece yesterday related to the sob story, and it's gone a long way towards increasing my appreciation for Thibodeau.
The Bulls have only been around for 44 years, but it's still impressive that their first star, Jerry Sloan, and their latest, Derrick Rose, can be connected through only five degrees of NBA separation.
Sloan, an all-star with the 1966-67 expansion Bulls, played the year before in Baltimore with:
It's been a bit of a crazy week for the Chicago Bulls, and they're about to head into one of their toughest weekends all season with games against the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat. Let's get our head right, as I'm sure some of you are probably still clearing the cobwebs away from that shocking collapse Wednesday night in Atlanta.
You didn't see much evidence of it last night in Atlanta, but the Bulls have been pretty good this season. That means plenty of MVP buzz for Derrick Rose, but it also means Tom Thibodeau is a top candidate for the NBA's Coach of the Year award.
Under their first-year head coach, the Bulls have already reached last year's win total at 41-18, currently good for third in the Eastern Conference, three games behind first-place Boston.
That record should certainly get you invited to the dance as far as COY. But this year certainly brings some good competition, such as San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, whose blend of new and old Spurs have the league's best record, and Scott Brooks, another coach who has taken a young cast in the form of the Oklahoma City Thunder and steered them into fourth in the West.
The Bulls were good defensively last year in Vinny Del Negro's final season, allowing 105.3 points per 100 possessions, which ranked 11th in the NBA. But this year, under Thibodeau, that defensive rating is 100.2, second only to the Celtics. Opponents are shooting 42.9 percent this year against Chicago, compared to 44.5 last year.
Busy week for the Bulls, if you haven't noticed yet. Joakim Noah returned in his first action since mid-December (a span of 30 games), the Bulls lost to a lowly Toronto team, 118-113, and then returned to Chicago to defeat the Miami Heat last night, 93-89.
Noah was able to stay in shape while rehabbing his hand injury, but he still faces an uphill conditioning battle. In Wednesday's return at Toronto, coach Tom Thibodeau paced him through 24 minutes. Noah finished with only seven points, but he grabbed 16 rebounds, re-establishing his presence in the post. He'll need time to get his offensive touch back as well as regain his chemistry with teammates on the court, but those things will definitely sort themselves out in plenty of time for the playoffs.
Against the Heat last night, Noah had another seven points with eight rebounds in 27 minutes. Chris Bosh, Miami's mobile power forward, had the worst shooting night of his career, hitting 1 of 17 shots from the field. A lot of that is due to the physical play and big reach of Noah and Carlos Boozer, who made him fight for every shot. Making life hard for an opponent isn't often so clearly shown on the box score, but the Bulls' big men did it to Bosh and it showed in the numbers.
So what to make of drastically different games for Chicago two nights apart? Frankly, it all comes down to defense. Once again the Bulls were reminded on Wednesday night that if they don't put in the effort defensively, they can and will lose to anyone.
It looks for all the world that Dave Duerson, the former Bears safety who killed himself Thursday, might have been among the growing number of American football players bludgeoned into brain damage. At the very least, he worried he might be, telling his family to donate his brain to ongoing research about football players and chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Joakim Noah will be back in the lineup when the Bulls return from the all-star break Wednesday at Toronto, coach Tom Thibodeau said today. If you had any doubt how important that is, ESPN.com had a great piece over the weekend about Chicago's team defense, as explained by Taj Gibson:
Derrick Rose's all-star adventure in Los Angeles this weekend included his first all-star start; a quick exit from the skills challenge; and an MVP vote from Celtics coach Doc Rivers. But last night's main event was a reminder that as great as Rose has been this season, he's still a third-year player. He's still a little brother in the NBA pecking order.
Rose played nearly 30 minutes, second only to LeBron James and Kevin Durant, but he was a bystander for most of the time, robbed of his central offensive role by the presence of LeBron and Dwyane Wade. Final line: 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting with three rebounds, five assists and one steal -- and a C-minus from ESPN NBA writer Kevin Arnovitz, who graded all the all-stars:
Judging from Rose's comments this week, there was a sense he might defer to his more veteran teammates -- and that's precisely what happened early on. Rose became more assertive after intermission, but finished with only 11 points on 13 shots.
For all the scoring that gets done in an NBA All-Star Game -- the West won 148-143 this time -- the circumstances weren't especially conducive to Rose showcasing his talents.
Derrick Rose draws a foul on DeJuan Blair. Tribune photo: Scott Strazzante.
Apparently Derrick Rose reads GQ.
On the day that Free Darko's Bethlehem Shoals published a humble confession explaining why he's one of the few basketball writers in the country not enamored of Derrick Rose, the Bulls' point guard put up a career-high 42 points against the visiting San Antonio Spurs. Defeating the NBA's best team 109-99, even in the dog days right before the all-star break, Chicago has thrown down the gauntlet to the rest of the league, declaring that they're afraid of no one -- while the rest of the league knows they'll only get stronger with Joakim Noah set to return next week. Rose, meanwhile, heads off to L.A. this weekend as the Eastern Conference's starting point guard.
Apparently, meeting Derrick Rose (above) is one of the perks of being a McDonald's All-American. Anthony Davis, Wayne Blackshear and Branden Dawson had the honor before last night's Bulls-Bobcats game, five days after they were announced as the latest Chicagoland stars to earn spots in the nation's most prestigious high school basketball all-star game.
Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen enjoy an ovation. Tribune photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo
Nice win for the Bulls last night, handling a Charlotte Bobcats team that beat them twice this season and trounced the Lakers by 20 points the night before. Chicago has won three straight since stumbling briefly on the West Coast and will be looking to head into the all-star break on a real roll by beating the NBA's top team, the San Antonio Spurs, at home on Thursday.
With the annual McDonald's All-American Games -- the biggest national high school basketball all-star games in the country -- set for the United Center on March 30, the media rollout began today with the announcement of the four head coaches for the boys' and girls' squads.
Two local coaching legends will coach the West teams: boys' coach Gene Pingatore of St. Joseph's in Westchester and girls' coach Dorothy Gaters of Marshall in Chicago.
Coaches are only allowed to coach the McDonald's All-American game once, so this is the first honor for Pingatore and Gaters, two of the most successful coaches in the history of Illinois high school basketball. They spoke about the honors at a lunchtime media event at the Westin, which we joined via conference call.
Both coaches said they're excited and grateful to be selected. They've never coached teams with so much overall talent.
"We don't want to ruin it with coaching," Pingatore said.
"There won't be any pressure," Gaters said. "It'll just be a fun time for us."
John Lucas left Chicago to pursue his dream of playing professional basketball, chasing it as far as Billings, Montana. But these days he is back home. Back where he belongs, coaching the boys' basketball team at his alma mater, Wells Community Academy High School.
Given a choice, he says, he would be "no other place but Wells."
The Raiders have been glad to have him. After going 12-13 last year in Lucas' first season as head coach, the team is 13-4 and fighting near the top of the Chicago Public League's Blue-West Division.
Throughout the constant chatter about how to keep the Bulls on top with Joakim Noah sidelined has been a familiar refrain about why Keith Bogans continues to start every game. While a few weeks ago it was arguable who should replace him, Bulls fans across the city agreed that somebody had to.
Enter Ronnie Brewer. The shooting guard has taken his role as a super-sub and run with it, often alongside Derrick Rose on fast-break baskets. The past few games in particular have seen a great effort on the defensive end from him, illustrated most clearly in the fourth quarter Saturday against the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics.
Even after a close loss at New Jersey snapped their five-game win streak, the Bulls sit in third place in the Eastern Conference, just ahead of Orlando and Atlanta and a few games behind Miami and Boston. Truth be told, that's how the top half of the conference should shake out, as after Miami and Boston, everyone else would seem to be playing for bronze.
On paper, the Celtics and Heat are head and shoulders above everyone else. The Bulls have a pretty good top four with Joakim Noah healthy, but individually, you'd still find it hard to argue anywhere outside the Midwest that any of those four are clearly better than their Boston and Miami counterparts.
Down low, Carlos Boozer, Kevin Garnett and Chris Bosh are matched fairly evenly; same for Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade. But does Chicago have a second perimeter player to match the aging but still accurate Ray Allen or the Cleveland Judas, LeBron James? Not to mention Boston also has Paul Pierce.
We're officially one day and counting 'til the return of the NBA season. With a new season well-nigh upon us, new shoes and new commercials are flooding the markets. Last week saw the debut of Derrick Rose's new kicks. This week? The polarizing Mr. LeBron James. James, who before ever touching NBA hardwood, was awarded one of the most lucrative shoe deals in history; is still with Nike and still trying to repair his image and move past this summer's dizzying and insane high stakes game of human poker known as "free agency." James, who famously spurned his home state's Cleveland Cavaliers and flirted aggressively with teams ranging from the Bulls to the New Jersey Nets to the New York Knicks before "taking his talents to South Beach" on the one-hour train wreck known as "The Decision."
Being a pro athlete is so weird. Free candy machines to the people with huge contracts who could definitely afford to buy Skittles at Target or whatever magic and hidden store pro athletes get their candy from. Nope, life ain't fair.
Part of the World Basketball Festival going down in New York City last week was an incredibly cool exhibit entitled the "Ball Room" (pun!) that emphasized the evolution of the sneakers, basketballs and jerseys that have changed Doctor Naismith's game from the hardwood gym to the universal game it is today. Prominently featured amongst the displays was none other than a certain, famous "23" sported by the G.O.A.T. himself. Looking at Jordan's rookie jersey is sorta like looking into a worm hole; honestly, I was only 3 when MJ came into the league; the jersey is made my Rawlings (who, I believe, at this point makes baseball gloves and that's it) and it's made out of that heavy cotton/poly mesh blend with the holes for ventilation. Sooooo, 20th Century.
In any case, looking at it the jersey forces one to think of the murdersome domination Jordan was only beginning to show the league as the Rookie of the Year in 1984. Really, it's a lot like looking at the Shroud of Turin had Jesus been incredibly focused on winning, scoring, gambling, dominating and sticking his tongue out as he dunked over everybody. After the jump, peep the original Air Jordans and the very first basketball shoes. Ever.
Tailgate editor, Brian Lauvray, was in New York City last week for the World Basketball Festival, a Nike sponsored celebration of basketball (seriously, Jay-Z performed) and round robin international friendly wrapped into one. Brian will be dropping various reports throughout the week. Here's his take on Team USA's only game on American soil.
Since their first match up in 2006, the Chicago Sky have never beaten the Phoenix Mercury. Until now. Despite the latter team's superior record (they were the 2009 WNBA Champions), and following Chicago's positively dismal 87-22 loss to Minnesota, the Sky were able to pull ahead of the Mercury to win 91-82 in a thrilling and contentious game tonight at the Allstate Arena.
In the words of the basketball sages, it was a tale of two halves. After a patchy first quarter, the Chicago Sky let the Mercury get into a second quarter rhythm that brought the Mercury to a 44-35 lead. Some theatrics on the Sky's part couldn't compete with the Mercury's consistency and superior ball movement.
Then, late in the third quarter, all hell broke loose. Sky center Sylvia Fowles suddenly couldn't miss, and a flustered Mercury entered the fourth quarter devoid of all previous precision. A newly hopeful Sky pulled ahead by as much as 16, when, with three minutes left in the game, Fowles was hit with a double technical after overreacting to a series of questionable fouls. Her ejection only served to invigorate the rest of the Chicago squad, and the visibly frustrated Mercury could do little more than trade fouls with the Sky. Adding insult to injury, Mercury star player Diana Taurasi, already carrying a technical foul from earlier in the game, was ejected after a charge and then a hard shove to the Sky's Mistie Bass earned both players a technical foul, Taurasi's second. All this drama, which effectively stopped play for over a minute as the teams regrouped, occurred with only 29.1 seconds left in the game.
This win marked the end of a five-game losing streak for the Sky, whose record is now 13 and 17. A decent crowd of 4,089 was on hand to witness the win.
Okay, Chicago basketball fans. We're past the LeBron madness, Redick is staying in Orlando, and you've reacquainted yourself with Kyle Korver. Meanwhile, across town, the Chicago Sky have been inching ever closer to a .500 season. This is more significant than it might sound; right now, the WNBA is an open field, and the Sky are on target to earn a playoff spot in the challenging Eastern Conference. Especially if they keep playing like they did last night at the Allstate Arena against the L.A. Sparks.
The only lead for L.A. came early in the game; after Chicago pulled away in the final minutes of the first quarter, L.A. just couldn't catch up. The Sky outscored the Sparks 22-14 in the first, and nearly repeated the feat in the second quarter, scoring 21 points to L.A.'s 16. Despite more even scoring throughout the second half, the Sparks couldn't close the gap. The sky scored an impressive 80 points to L.A.'s 68.
While it is not official, all signs point to the Bulls signing Boston Celtics and long-time NBA assistant coach Tom Thibodeau. After the NBA Finals come to a close the announcement will become official and Thibodeau will become the replacement for ousted former Bulls head man Vinny Del Negro.
Much has been speculated regarding what this impending hire means for the other storylines surrounding the Bulls: How does this affect the LeBron James to the Bulls scenarios? Did Thibodeau's signing with CAA Sports influence the decision? Will the Bulls ever look at a candidate with real NBA head coaching experience?
These stories will be covered ad naseam in the next few weeks and months. Instead of speculating about the back page news, why not look at how the Thibodeau Era might play out on the court?
Ever since LeBron James signed his last contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, all eyes began to focus on July 1st, 2010. This will be the first day that the biggest star in all of the NBA will be available for courtship. Teams will surely be at the James residence at 12:01 AM that day, but before official moves can be made, fans and cities can make their voices heard.
Chicago has vaulted itself into the LeBron James sweepstakes through various moves throughout the past season. The team is positioned to make a legitimate run at signing the modern day Michael Jordan. With this said, it will take more than a mega contract to make this fan-dream come true.
AJ Barthold, for one, is not going to sit back and let the fate of his beloved Bulls be left to management deals. He has started a campaign to organize the fans and communities in Chicago behind this effort. Gapers Block spoke with the man behind the movement, "Send LeBron to Chicago."
Was there a specific moment or event that led you to starting the "Send LeBron to Chicago" campaign?
AJ Barthold: I was always a Bulls fan, I have always been a LeBron fan. I wished for him to play on the Bulls for a long time. This is the first realistic shot the Bulls have had in making that happen. I was aware of his free agency status for a few years now, but I would say the campaign idea became detailed in my thoughts 2 months ago.
Until recently, as in the Game 5 loss (LeBron's Cleveland Cavaliers went down to the Boston Celtics in their Best-of-Seven series 3-2), did you actually think there was a realistic chance for the Bulls to land LeBron?
Yes. I always thought there was a chance. We have it all here! Tradition, big market, international brand, great fans who sell out every game and the young talent of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. Also, LeBron grew up a Bulls fan.
Can't argue with that logic. Now there are a lot of conspiracy theories floating around about LeBron's performance in Game 5. Do you think the free agent situation is playing into LeBron's play on the court?
I won't buy into conspiracies that suggest LeBron would purposely lose. I think he is quite the competitor and he has been playing through pain from his elbow injury that may require surgery. He won't make excuses and you can not give your opponent any ideas by suggesting you are in pain, especially against a physical team like the Boston Celtics.
The Chicago Sky took on the Indiana Fever last night at Allstate Arena, in the final preseason game for both teams. Neck-in-neck for much of the first quarter, the Sky was able to break away in the final minute of the quarter, creating an eight-point lead that the Fever was never able to fully recover. The final score was 84-71.
One big statistic of the night was the Fever's 25 turnovers to the Sky's 16. This can be chalked up in part to tough, scrappy defense and determined blocking attempts by the Sky, but perhaps the Sky's biggest asset was the absence of most of the Fever's starting lineup.
Four of Indiana's five projected starters -Tamika Catchings, Katie Douglas, Ebony Hoffman, and Tamara Sutton-Brown - are currently playing each other's teams in Turkey's championship series. The return of the players in time for the start of the regular season this weekend will be determined by the continued dominance of Hoffman and Sutton-Brown's team (Fenerbahçe), who currently lead Catching's and Douglas's team (Galatasaray) 2-0 in the best-of-five series. Regardless of the outcome, the Sky won't be able to take advantage of the typically dominant Fever's missing starters for long; even if Sutton-Brown et al aren't in play when the Sky next meet the Fever at the Sky home opener on May 22nd, the four are looking certain for the Fever home opener on May 23rd...against the Sky.
2009 wasn't a banner year for Chicago's professional sports teams, and that goes for the ladies as well. Last year was the Chicago Sky's best season yet, but the WNBA's second-youngest team still couldn't extend their average to .500. Now, as the Sky and the rest of the WNBA gear up for the league's fourteenth season, a host of free agents, trades, and a guard-heavy draft are poised to change things up. Today saw some big moves for the Sky, as a three-way trade with the New York Liberty and the Phoenix Mercury netted them two new star players.
WNBA All-Star forward Shameka Christon is the cornerstone of this trade from the Sky's perspective. Christon, who scored an average of 16.1 points per game last year (11.6 is her career average), is ranked #2 in the league for three-point field goals made. She also has an impressive .81 career field goal percentage. She's played with the Liberty for her entire professional career, since 2004. Her addition to the team boosts the Sky's WNBA All-Star count to three, along with center Sylvia Fowles and guard Jia Perkins.
The 2010 national championship game between Butler and Duke was truly a match-up of David versus Goliath. Both teams gave 110 percent and took it one game at a time. Unfortunately, one team just wanted it more. Tired of overused sports clichés? Thought so.
Chicago is city of alums and regional emigres who, for whatever reason, are in the Second City. With the Final Four this weekend and with teams from across the country matching up, Tailgate decided to provide a guide to where one can wet their whistle and root on the ol' alma mater (except for Duke, natch).
Chicago is home to the most Butler alum outside of the Hoosier State and according to Butler Alumni President, Jenna Daugherty, all Butler fans flock to the "official home of Butler basketball the Brownstone Tavern."
The Least You Should Know
Aside from hosting Butler Bulldogs, Brownstone's website claims to host Texas fans as well. Also, there's a Kobe Meatloaf, which sounds baffling and dubious. Also, the menu has a Turkey Burger, so, cool. Tailgate tried calling about beer specials but the bar was not open yet.
Should I Show Up In Opposition's Colors?
Basketball is the unofficial religion of the entire state of Indiana. It is strongly recommended that you do not wear Michicagn State colors to Brownstone, unless you have a death wish in which case, by all means!
WGN Radio has decided to drop its nightly sports talk show. Sports Central will cease to be on April 12. Host David Kaplan will remain on-air and continue doing sports. Kaplan will now work on the expanded "10th inning" show after Cubs games.
Upon first hearing this news I was taken aback. How do you honestly cancel a show about sports in one of the greatest sports towns in America? Whoever made this decision needs to have their head examined. If it wasn't for Cubs baseball on WGN I really wouldn't have a reason to tune in.
If you chose No.14 Ohio to rout No.3 Georgetown in the opening round of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament, nice pick. If you selected No.10 Saint Mary's to subdue No.2 Villanova in the following round, good for you. And if you picked No.9 Northern Iowa to overwhelm No.1 Kansas last Saturday, give yourself a big pat on the back.
I, on the other hand, wasn't as fortunate and am now left with a busted bracket. But then again, they don't call it "March Madness" for nothing.
Thanks to this years's tournament being one of the weakest in terms of skill, it's more difficult than ever to choose an indisputable winner. With the sudden (and shocking) depart of Kansas, Kentucky and Syracuse are the two teams left with the most talent. That's not to say, however, that they can't be beat. If the first two rounds have taught us anything, it's that the Davids' aren't backing down to the Goliaths' anytime soon.
Are you a huge hoopshead? Planning on skipping every day of work during the NCAA tournament? Willing to work with college-aged men on a "unique" fixer-upper? Than you, my friend, are exactly the right candidate for DePaul's next head men's basketball coach.
Chicago sports blog Tremendous Upside Potential found this juicy nugget (whilst looking for gainful employment, we're not sure) on the university's HR website. Tailgate proposes a reality gameshow "America's Next Top Head Coach for a Middling Team in a Juggernaut Conference" or something like that...
Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan has purchased the Charlotte Bobcats. Jordan has had part ownership since 2006. The deal was completed late Friday; the financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. His "Airness" was inducted into the basketball hall-of-fame last year, and he received a lot of criticism for his induction speech.
Snuh? As in the Bulls' Derrick Rose, he of the Rookie of the Year from last season? His red and black #1 jersey is #4 in jersey sales according to NBA.com behind the likes of mega-stars Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and (quasi) mega star (but very tall) Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic. Rose's sales beat out such luminaries from the NBA galaxy as Chicago's very own Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat, Denver's Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett of Boston. If Tailgate wore jerseys we'd have to go with Joakim Noah's number 13 or Kevin Durant's number 35 for Oklahoma City. Let us know what jersey you really wanna wear in the comments.
Assistant coach Tracy Webster will fill in as head coach for the remainder of the season. It wasn't hard to see this one coming after an abysmal year last season. The Blue Demons went 0-18 in conference and were off to another bad start at 0-3 this year.
Oh, well, time to start another seven-game winning streak. After seeing their victorious run snapped by Detroit, the Loyola men's team (11-3) will try to get things back on track when they begin a three-game road trip tonight at Cleveland State (5-10). It's the Ramblers first road trip since December 20 and not only takes them to CSU, but also Youngstown State Saturday) and UIC on January 15 (OK, it's sort of a road trip).
The Lady Ramblers, meanwhile, host their Cleveland State (6-7) counterparts here at the Gentile Center tonight at 7 p.m., still looking for their first Horizon League win of the season. Loyola (6-7) has lost three of their last four, including a 48-39 defeat at the hands of Valparaiso on Monday, a game in which they show only 26 percent. Loyola next meets Youngstown State at the Gentile Center on Saturday and travel to Ohio on January 14 to meet Wright State.
If you forgot to get Vinny Del Negro something for Christmas, you might want to think about wrapping up a new set of luggage.
Seems the ax is about to fall at the United Center where the Bulls are reportedly set to part ways with the rookie head coach. On the heels of their embarassing loss to the Sacramento Kings, as well a a few more losses in the aftermath, canning Del Negro is reportedly a done deal, with just the little matter of finding his replacement.
Guard Geoff McCammon dropped 18 points and two other players also scored in doule figures as the Ramblers downed Milwaukee 69-64 this past Saturday to improve to 5-2 overall and 2-2 on the road. The win made Loyola the first team to post a Horizon League road win this season. The Ramblers will next face San Francisco this Saturday at the Gentile Center on Sheridan Road, a game which will feature a salute to the 1980s All-Decade Team as well as the 1985 team that reached the NCAA Sweet 16.
The Loyola women's team, meanwhile, were pummeled by DePaul 73-30 this past Sunday in a battle of crosstown rivals that included 28 turnovers by the Ramblers. The loss dropped Loyola to 4-3. They'll take a week off for exams before hosting Northern Illinois at the Gentile Center in a game to be broadcast live on Lakeshore Public Television.
First there was LeBron James dancing and goofing around during the Cleveland Cavaliers 101-87 blowout victory over the Bulls this past Friday, a little impromptu performance that seemed to dismiss the Bulls as a mere distraction on the court. Now it's this hand to the face.
During Saturday night's blowout victory over the Bulls (sensing a pattern here?), Toronto Raptors point guard Jarrett Jack brough the ball up court, stopped at the top of the key, stuck the ball under the crook of his arm and began tying his shoes while the Bulls on the floor, apparently dumbstruck by the move, simply stood and watched. I mean, we're talking Jarrett Jack, a guy who's only been in the league three seasons and has already played on three different teams.
Now this may seem like a slight, quirky gesture on Jack's part, but given the James performance a couple of nights earlier, it seems as if the rest of the league isn't feeling too threatened by the Bulls. After all, not one player rushed up to attempt to knock the ball out of Jack's arm while he bent over, face down and tied his shoes. So perhaps they're right to take an Alfred E. Newman attitude toward the Bulls.
To his credit, Joakim Noah wasn't sitting still for the slights, reacting strongly to James' antics during the game (he earned a tech for yelling toward the Cavalier bench to tell James to knock it off). But the rest of the squad, head coach Vinny Del Negro included, seems to be willing to sit back and take it.
The Bulls aren't the Washington Generals (yet), but if this keeps up, don't be surprised if the Harlem Globetrotters are added to their schedule.
Currently focusing on the "student" part of student-athlete, the Northwestern men's team (6-1) is taking a break from action for exams before returning to the court on Dec. 13 to face North Carolina A&T. But not before knocking off NC State on Tuesday night, 65-53, in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge behind 22 points by Michael Thompson.
The Wildcat women (5-1), meanwhile, host Clemson tonight in Evanson in their version of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. NU is hoping to stay sharp after 61-39 drubbing of Penn this past Saturday. On Sunday, Dec. 6, they face their first Big Ten opponent, Purdue, in Evanston, which is also Autism Awareness Day.
When he was a member of the Bulls, Ron Artest was something of an...well, let's say eccentric. His play and behavior on the court was inconsistent and there were stories of fights with teammates and others in practice. Now, we might have a clue as to why.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated (via Deadspin), Artest said he used to drink Hennessy during halftime of games, particularly during home games.
"I used to drink Hennessy ... at halftime," Artist said. "I (kept it) in my locker. I'd just walk to the liquor store (near the stadium) and get it."
Artest admits he was a "head case" during his tenure with the Bulls (1999-2002), which probably didn't help the rebuilding efforts of former GM Jerry Krause and head coach Tim Floyd, whose tenure began and ended the same time as Artests' (coincidence?).
Other teammates from that era downplay Artest's comments, calling them untrue and made for "shock value."
OK, fine. Now if we could only explain Dennis Rodman...
And Chicago's Sexiest Athlete is...no, not Orlando Pace (although, hey, some may go for that Barry White-build). It's the Bulls' Derrick Rose, who topped voting conducted by Victoria's Secret. Rose beat out (among others) the Bears' Brian Urlacher. Which may explain his sudden outburst concerning the team's play this season. There's always next year, Brian.
For the average Chicagoan, things are starting to turn cold, grey and miserable. For the college hoops heads among us, things are just starting to heat up.
College basketball revs its engine this week as the season gets underway and Chicago has no shortage of teams to keep an eye on. Sure, the flags of Michigan State, Ohio State, Indiana may obliterate the local landscape, but hometown fans have a few teams they may want to keep an eye on. So, to get you caught up...
Northwestern Chicago's Big Ten connection kicks off a four-game homestand tonight with a game against 11th-ranked Butler in Evanston. The Wildcats are coming off a 77-55 win over Northern Illinois, impressive considering their two senior stars, forwards Kevin Coble and Jeff Ryan, are out for the season with injuries. NU leads the series with Butler 16-7.
The Northwestern women also won their first game of the season 73-64 over Toledo. They now play eight games in a row at home (starting with SIU Evansville on Friday), including the Doubletree White Tournament Nov. 27 and 28.
As Sox fans (and yes, I place myself in that camp), we have a lot of chips balancing on our shoulders with respect to respect (and/or the lack thereof). From the perceived amount of local media coverage heaped on the Cubs to the way certain players openly snub the team when talk of trade or free agency crop up (like Jake Peavy before he realized no one wanted him BUT the Sox), we have a sense, not always openly expressed, of getting the short end of the stick no matter what happens with our team.
So, yeah, you can call us bitter if you like. But we've got 2005, so, you know, suck on it.
But Gordon Beckham? Fifth in AL Rookie of the Year voting? We figured first might be a longshot, even after he picked up two similar awards voted on by the players. But fifth?
If we had a handkerchief and were wearing a tie, we'd be Rodney Dangerfield-ing all over the place right now. No respect indeed.
I don't want to lay out all of the arguments as to why this seems to be a slight to Beckham and White Sox fans. The Sun-Times' Chris DeLuca does a good enough job of it here. And if you're of the camp that Beckham is where he belongs in the voting, ESPN.com's Rob Neyer goes point/counterpoint with DeLuca here.
Beckham, for his part is playing it cool, saying only that he's a little surprised at how he finished but it won't ruin his day. He seems to be learning to accept being shortchanged. He's one of us.
He was an integral part of the Bulls championship dynasty but doesn't get nearly the acclaim of Michal Jordan, Scottie Pippen or even Dennis Rodman. Yet, their legendary run might have been a lot harder without B.J. Armstrong bringing the ball upcourt.
You can meet the Chicago sports legend when he helps HP computers promoter their new product line featuring Windows 7 this Saturday, 1-3 p.m., at the Best Buy at 1000 W. North Ave. Armstrong will be available to sign autographs and take photos.
Oh, and while you there, you may also want to ask him about what it's like to work with Derrick Rose, since Armstrong is representing Rose in his role as an agent with the Wasserman Media Group.
OK, Chicago has admittedly had its troubles in Europe lately (The Blackhawks lost something called the Victoria Cup to Zurich in Switzerland and the first game of their two-game series to the Florida Panthers, although they managed to salvage some dignity for our town with their 4-0 win over the Florida Panthers Sunday). But that hasn't stopped the Bulls from trying to save face for the Windy City on the other side of the pond.
The Bulls are the next Chicago sports entity to try and flaunt their muscle in Europe, in their case taking on the Utah Jazz in London's O2 Arena Tuesday night. The game will be the first live NBA game televised on the UK's version of ESPN.
Artist Shepard Fairey has teamed up with Upper Deck, the trading card company, to produce three prints depicting Michael Jordan, in honor of the Bulls superstar's induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame. While all three are pretty spectacular, one should really appeal to Bulls fans:
The Cubs' Milton Bradley is not happy. So what else is new? Besides, he's now the Ricketts family's problem.
The White Sox have lost four in a row and five of their last six. The Bleacher Reporter ask if they're heading in the wrong direction. Hmmm...let me think about that one.
Don't let Jay Cutler's cool demeanor fool you. According to ESPN he's a little jittery about returning to Denver as a member of the Bears this Sunday. Elsewhere on the Bear beat, Matt Forte is looking for balance and Dusty Dvoracek is looking at a doctor this Friday.
As if running a triathlon (like the Chicago Triathlon this weekend) wasn't difficult, try throwing cold, rainy weather into the mix. Here at some tips for coping with that.
While the state debates video poker, the real thing is going on in a tournament in Arlington Heights tonight. Wanna play? Ante up here.
The Chicago Sky host a benefit this Friday to promote breast cancer awareness.
It's going to take a little more effort for local Chicago Sky fans to see their favorite WNBA team. They announced today that the team will move to the Allstate Arena in Rosemont for the 2010 season. The front office and President and CEO Margaret Stender trumpeted the decision, saying, "The Allstate Arena is a great choice for our team and our fans as we enter our next stage of growth. The central location and benefits of our new home will help our Sky family continue to expand." The move is a fan-friendly one in that the Sky will not raise tickets prices for their new digs. In addition, the team will host a couple of "housewarming" parties for fans to welcome them to their new home.
Is the Bulls' Joakim Noah the most photographed NBA player working today? It seems not a week goes by without someone slapping up a quickly-snapped cellphone shot of the 6-11 center/forward saunting through some party, occasionally with drink (or, ahem, something else) in hand or mugging for the camera with a co-ed or two under his substantial wingspan.
Deadspin has the latest documentation of Noah's Journeys, this time as he was hanging out at the recent Lollapalooza. At least this time he was smart enough to be seen with only a can of Pepis in his hand (at least we THINK that was only Pepsi in that can). Look, why don't we just get started on the Joakim Noah reality show and get it over with? (Photo from Deadspin.com)
Like to shout, wear stupid hats, throw things at people and wear the color red? Have you longed to be the center of attention during NBA timeouts? Your time has come.
The Chicago Bulls will hold tryouts today for 2009-10 IncrediBulls squad. You know, those guys and gals who try to keep your attention focused on the court when the Bulls are down by 12 to the Cavaliers with 1:20 left in the third? If you're interested, bring your lungs and enthusiasm to the McDonald's at 3200 W. Roosevelt Rd. between 2 and 4 p.m. TODAY. You have to be at least 18, live in Chicago, be in decent physical shape and be "a BULLS fan." Cause nothing puts a damper on a TV time out than a guy dressed in Bulls warm-ups shouting "Let's go Knicks!"
There's no way of verifying it (unless someone makes an admission), but an anonymous text message to a website claims that Bulls' forward Joakim Noah was spied once again enjoying a little... um... herbal therapy, as reported on Deadspin (via "Texts From Last Night"). It's not the first time the Noah has been allegedly imbibed. And depending on your views on marijuana, this is either a major problem for the Bulls to deal with or a whole lot of nothing.
The Taste of Chicago is an odd place to spy a jointly run NBA/Kia Motors "NBA FunLand" loaded with hardwood-themed booths like: "Test Your Wing Span Against Yao Ming's" and "How Do You Measure Up With Chris Paul?"; while Chicago Luv-a-Bulls shower the throngs of sweaty youths with NBA tchotchkes, like T-Mobile sponsored sweat bands and Kia Motors (of course!) tote bags; next to the Luv-a-Bulls are interactive video displays allowing you to see how Kobe drains his impossible fade-aways; and next to that is a display of star NBAer's shoes to see you measure up -- Me: size 12, LeBron James: size 16.
Along with all of this bluster and hoopla, an emcee reigns over all with his swaggering voice: "Man, this jersey is a double XL, you gonna where it as a set of pajamas or what? You don't even look like a Lakers fan." (The crowd boos at the mere mention of the purple and gold of the Lakers.) As misplaced as it may have seemed with the sickly, blended odor of garbage and Indian food, tucked behind stacks of discarded produce boxes, and amidst the fried funnel cakes of Harry Caray's booth and the gator-on-a-stick of Blue Bayou, there sat the NBA's testament to corporate synergy.
Posting the best home start of their short existance, the Chicago Sky will try to push their UIC Pavilion record to a perfect 5-0 when they take on the Sacramento Monarchs tonight at the arena, Harrison and Racine.
The Sky are 5-3 and in second place in the Eastern Conference of the WNBA. The Monarchs, with a 1-7 record, look to be an easy mark for the Sky, but have a 4-2 record against the hometown team and won two games at the Pavilion.
Below are highlights from the Sky's 68-63 victory over the Washington Mystics Saturday.
The Chicago chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America is meeting tomorrow to figure out once and for all how they should regard players of the Steroid Era in their future Hall of Fame voting. One Delaware sports writer is urging them to "do the right thing."
When the dust clears after tonight's NBA draft, will Kirk Hinrich end up wearing a new uniform?
The NBA draft is tomorrow, so get ready for an onslaught of analysis, suggestions and predictions about the possibilities that lay before the promising Bulls. The local pundits are having their say, while the national media is weighing in as well. And yes, there are trade rumors as always. But no words carry more weight than new Bulls GM Gar Foreman. So if you have a favorite as their No. 1 pick (No. 16 overall), place your bets now.
Finally, meet the man who motivated Michael Jordan to greatness (by beating him out for the last spot on their high school basketball team): Leroy Smith. (If he looks a little like Charlie Murphy, that's purely coincidental, we're sure.)
So when Tony Dungy said signing Jay Cutler was risky for the Bears, did he stop to consider who the previous three or four Bears quarterbacks were?
Author Sarah Paretsky takes time off from documenting the exploits to private investigator V.I. Warshawski to discuss another dark subject: the Cubs. She compared Cubs fans to "tired women living with alcoholic men." Ouch.
(Editor's Note: The Sky's game against the E-League was held Tuesday night, and will not be held on Saturday as indicated. The Sky will open their regular WNBA season on Saturday at Minnesota and host their first home contest on June 12. We apologize for the error.)
While it does have its staunch supporters, the WNBA hasn't really become the must-see sporting event it hoped to be when it was launched in 1997 under the catchy slogan "We Got Next". Individual franchises like the New York Liberty or Los Angeles Sparks may pull in decent sized crowds, but for the most part the rest of the league has audiences on a par with the old CBA in their best days. According to one website, Women's Basketball Online, seven of the league's 14 franchises saw a drop in attendance in 2008. Since its inception, the league has seen five franchises fold and two relocate (though there is still talk of expansion to places like Nashville and Toronto).
Those lackluster attendance numbers are not for lack of quality talent. While the initial crop of WNBA stars boasted such talent as Rebecca Lobo, Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes, the current list of league stars might just be the best female basketball stars ever, with former Naperville Central star Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks but out on maternity leave) getting Michael Jordan-like praise as the possible savior of the league.
But there are still those sparse arenas, those gimmicky attempts to get butts into the seat. Which is why the Chicago Sky will be playing actor Michael Clarke Duncan in a basketball game tonight at 7pm at the UIC Pavilion.
Wipe your tears, Hawks fans. According to USA Today, the young team's gotta wear shades ('80s music reference).
Not only are Derrick Rose's academic endeavors at Memphis under scrutiny, but it looks like the grade hanky-panky extends back to high school.
So does this SAT probe mean anything for the next batch of NBA hopefuls, many of whom will be here in Chicago for the annual pre-draft camp?
Answering the cries of many Cubs fans, GM Jim Hendry says the trading of Mark De Rosa isn't the problem. Meanwhile, The Bleacher Reports thinks moving Alfonso Soriano to second is one of the answers. And if the sale of the team to the Ricketts family doesn't go through, Sam Zell says "don't worry".
So who's the most important Bear on the team right now? If you think the answer is obvious, think again.
Even with deep dish pizza and Italian beef sandwiches all over the place, Chicago is pretty average when it comes to fitness. We're 25th out of 50.
The Trib says the Bulls may be entertaining offers to deal guard Kirk Hinrich to the Los Angeles Clippers, possibly getting either Marcus Camby or Chris Kamen in the deal. The perennially losing Clippers have the first pick in the upcoming NBA draft and are reportedly leanding toward drafting Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin. He's be one more big man in their coffers, meaning they'd be willing to part with one or two. Stay tuned.
Final observations on the Bulls surprising, but ultimately disappointing season...Seven overtimes. Margins of victory as big as 21 points and as small as one point. A young, inexperienced team (albeit one with the reigning Rookie of the Year) taking on the defending NBA champions (albeit it one missing their star player).
They're already calling the Bulls/Boston Celtics Eastern Conference quarterfinal series the "greatest first-round NBA series of all time", a title that at once is both awe-inspiring and overblown at the same time. Granted, it had more than its share of thrilling moments. But greatest? Well, that's going to take some research. In the meantime, Bulls fans can take some solace in that early assessment and dream of better things next season.
Montana may officialy be known as "Big Sky Country" but Chicago's getting close with the addition of another towering presence in the lineup of the Chicago Sky of the WNBA. The Sky announced Tuesday the signing of Chinese National Team center Chen Nan. The 6'5" Chen will join 6'6" fellow center Sylvia Fowles to present a formidable obstacle for opponents in the middle. The Sky also have another big center in 6'5" Tye'sha Fluker. Having Chen on their side just might help the Sky over the hump. They went 12-22 last season and just missed the playoffs. (Photo from Sky website)
Rose averaged at least 17 points per game, along with six assists and shot 45 percent from the floor during the year. He joins exclusive company in that regard. Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson all had similar numbers in their rookie seasons
Rose is coming off an impressive game one performance against the Celtics in which he scored 36 points and had 11 assists. The Chicago Bulls have scheduled a press conference for 2 p.m. to make the announcement.
Michael Jordan is officially a hall-of-famer. Jordan has been elected to the basketball hall of fame. It goes without question that MJ would one day be in the basketball hall of fame. It was only a matter of time before he would become enshrined.
He led a storied career and left little doubt that he would be a first ballot hall-of-famer. He lead the Chicago Bulls to six NBA Championships while snagging five MVP awards. Hall of fame inductions will occur Sept 10-12 at Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. Jordan along with four others including former Chicago Bull and current Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan will be inducted.
An easy question to answer really, Derrick Rose of your Chicago Bulls will more than likely be hoisting the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy come the off-season awards extravaganza. Rose has the Bulls competing for a playoff spot a year after Chicago won the draft lotto and, thus, selected Rose with the #1 pick and has provided a great boost to Chicago's heretofore sluggish and uninspiring offense.
However, should Rose's inspired play and emergence as a point guard of the future be the only factors? The media hands out the ROY award and, honestly, I don't have the faith in them to not simply skim the candidates list, spy "Rose, Derrick," and auto vote him or have their intern/lackey vote for him. Rose --to most media types-- is probably the most household of rookies this season; yet, Russell Westbrook has been steadily and silently dominating teams all season long in the forgotten NBA outpost of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
All season long, Chicago State University's sharp shooting guard David Holston has been putting the school on the national map with his high-scoring ways (he dropped 31 against Mercer which had itself beaten Auburn and Alabama). His nearly 26 ppg average was tops in the nation and had people on both coasts asking "CSU Who?"
Now, after leading to Cougars to a 19-13 record, one of their best in years (decades?), Holston himself is gaining some honors, being named the Independent (college) Player of the Year. Watch him in action and you can see why.
The Fighting Illini' lost to the Hilltoppers 76-72 in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday night. Many predicted that the Illini would succumb to Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers made good on those predictions by upsetting fifth-seeded Illinois.
Western Kentucky went on an 18-5 run in the first half. They were scoring threes at will, scoring 15 points via the three point shot. They out-rebounded Illinois 19-11 in the first half. Illinois trailed by nine points at the half.
Potentially huge weekend for Chicago/U of Illinois bball fans this weekend, here's the breakdown:
Thursday: U of Illinois v Western Kentucky in some sort of minor tournament that the NCAA has organized.
Friday: Most of you will probably be calling in sick to watch the continuing coverage of that minor tourney betwixt the colleges of the USA.
Saturday: LA Lakers v Bulls, live from the United Center. Kobe only comes to Chi-town but once a year, and it's not for jury duty. Meanwhile, the Bulls will be looking to push their home winning streak to nine straight and keep a leg up in the race for the final playoff spot.
Sunday: The winner of Illinois versus WKU faces off with the winner of Gonzaga vs Akron [Go Zips!-ed.] in lovely Portland Oregon.
While the Fighting illini and 64 other teams gear up for The Big Dance (kudos to anyone who can come up with another nickname for the NCAA Tournament) and the also-rans lick their wounds on the way to the NIT, DePaul... well, let's just say they're probably turning their focus on the women's softball season.
It wasn't the best season for the Blue Demons. They finished 8-22 overall and 0-17 in the Big East. Not exactly the type of record that causes a buzz on campus and fosters big dreams for the next season. So with that in mind, the Blue Demon's fan site, We Are DePaul, looks elsewhere when it comes to recapping the year in Chicago collegiate hoops with its all-city collegiate team. Sure a Blue Demon makes the first team, but surprisingly two players form little-hearalded Chicago State University make the grade.
To be fair, DePaul's basketball season isn't a complete wash yet. The women's team learns today whether they get their ticket punched for... ugh... The Big Dance with a selection party slated for 5 p.m. at McGrath Arena. The lady Blue Demons had a better time of it this season than their male counterparts, finishing with a 23-9 record.
The Fighting Illini are going back to the big dance after sitting at home with a dismal 16-19 record last year. Illinois tied for second in the Big Ten conference with Purdue; a team they beat two times during the regular season and unfortunately a third win was not in the cards. The Boilermakers beat the Illini Saturday 66-56 in the semifinals of the Big Ten conference tournament.
Despite losing to Purdue in the semifinals, the Illini got an invite to the NCAA tournament.They posted a 23-8 record with an 11-7 record in the Big Ten conference; that earned them a 5th seed in the South region.They will face 12th seed Western Kentucky in the first round. Should the Illini make it to the Regionals, they have a chance to face North Carolina and they could avenge their loss to the Tar Heels in the 2005 National Championship.
Speaking of Bears quarterbacks, a Sporting News blog says that Rex Grossman's eminent departure is bad news for Chicago. And while he is visiting Cincinnati, Dallas seems more than eager to welcome him there.
Sure Blackhawks defenseman James Wisniewski was as fan favorite, but Daily Herald sports blogger Tim Sassone says give his replacement, Sami Pahlsson, a chance.
As their professional counterparts return to the grind of the regular season following the All-Star break, the Chicago Public League kicks their basketball season in high gear with two semifinal playoff games Wednesday evening at DePaul University's Alumni Hall.
Forman (17-4, 8-1) will take on Hyde Park (20-3, 8-1) in a battle of Red North vs. Red Central while North Lawndale (19-5, 7-1) takes on national powerhouse Whitney Young (18-7, 9-0) in a clash of Red West rivals. Young beat North Lawndale 75-71 on January 16 and includes Marcus Jordan, son of some guy named Jordan who used to play a little ball here in Chicago, in its lineup.
Here's a little clip of Young in action in a tournament in New Jersey earlier this season.
First, there was Barack Obama in the White House. Now there's Pat Quinn in the State House. Politically speaking, White Sox Nation just keeps getting bigger.
Speaking of the Sox, as SoxFest kicks off this weekend, Ozzie Guillen says the team will try "small ball"... again. And will Joe Crede join former Sox teammate Juan Uribe in Frisco? His potential replacement, Josh Fields, is wasting no time just in case he does.
But don't forget to show some love to the city's other roller derby queens, The Outfit, as they host a benefit party tonight.
You'd think getting punched in the face and crotch, sometimes at the same time, would be high on the pain scale for a UFC star. But for one Hammond, Ind., there's something more painful: being a Cubs fan.
Yes, the Bulls managed to pull off that dubious feat, at home no less, Sunday night adding to a woeful stretch that included losing three of their last five and gettign booed by their own home crowd.
To be fair, the Oklahoma City Thunder aren't THAT bad. They do have Kevin Durant, sixth in the league in scoring. And they are in the middle of the pack in rebounding in the league, averaging 42 boards a game.
But this was a Bulls team that was supposed to be improving this season, thanks to the addition of Derrick Rose and veterans like Drew Gooden, to round out a roster that included Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon.
They've looked like anything BUT an improved team in the past month. Granted a lot of that lackluster play can be attributed to injuries (to Deng and Hinrich) but injuried have had nothing to do with a lack of aggression under the boards (anyone seen Joakim Noah lately?) and selfish play. The cry now is that the team lacks leadership. Really? A team with three assigned captains is lacking leadership.
Hopefully the loss will be a wakeup call for the Bulls and neophyte coach Vinny Del Negro. They'll find out tonight when they take on the Portland Trail Blazers 22-14) tonight at the United Center.
Joining Chicago State University's David Holston as one of a growing crop of local college hoop stars getting national attention, UIC's Josh Mayo get the Q&A treatment from The Sporting News. Below, a clip of Mayo spreading it on thick (sorry).
The Sporting News' reaction to the Wrigley Field hockey spectacular: meh.
Meanwhile, the Hawks' Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are first and sixth, respectively, among forwards in NHL All-Star Western Conference balloting. Brian "Soup" Campbell is third in balloting for defensemen.
So now it's quite obvious what Barack Obama is doing with regards to assembling a Cabinet. Arne Duncan for education secretary? Gen. James Jones for national security advisor? Eric Holder for attorney general? Susan Rice for UN ambassador?
So far so good for Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro. While other NBA coaches have been falling like teenage girls at a Jonas Brothers concert (the latest was former Bull Reggie Theus who was fired by Sacramento Monday, the sixth firing of the season), Del Negro not only has managed to survive but thrive.
In his first season of head coaching... EVER! ... Del Negro has the Bulls a mere one game under .500, a situation that could improve tonight when they take on the Charlotte Bobcats in North Carolina. That complete lack of experience was big question mark hanging over his head, placed there by nearly every writer and fan in town. Granted, it's only basketball, but even there, experience has to count for something. Were he Vinny Del Negro the cardiac surgeon or Vinny Del Negro the periodontist, he'd be eating soup for dinner and probably still waiting for his first patient.
The reputation of Chicago State University's David Holsten continues to grow. The 5-8 guard, who leads the nation in scoring with a 26 ppg average, now has the University of Hawaii rethinking its strategy when the two teams meet tonight in Hawaii. Pretty high praise when you consider that the CSU athletic department was pretty much in shambles a few years ago.
Never one to shy away from bombastic proclamations, I declared that the NBA's MVP award was LeBron James' to lose and thus far he's not disappointed, spec the vid!:
At moments it is almost hard to forget that the players on the other team, seriously, represent the world's most upper-echelon of basketball talent, yet, LeBron makes the whole Raptors squad look like a collective of deer meeting headlights.
Michael Jordan had "The Shot". Now Derrick Rose has "The Move",which is already in heavy rotation on ESPN. Our Brian Lauvray has already sang his praises, but as good as his words may be, there's still something magical about actually seeing Rose make a fool out of Andre Miller. Enjoy.
The startling quick emergence of Derrick Rose as one of the Association's best young point guards, has thus far not been a provincial affair by any means, however, most casual NBA fans across the country probably would still struggle to point him out in a lineup. However that's all about to change after 1) the Bulls managed to pull off three victories in their annual Circus Trip -that time-honored nightmare of drugged animals, terrifying clowns and far, FAR too much noise that fills up the United Center for two weeks every November* also happens to displace the Bulls; and hey! three road wins out of seven games, ain't bad. Besides, the four losses were all to quality squads (LA Lakers, Denver, Portland and San Antonio) that will likely be making the playoffs in the burly Western Conference. Rose, for his part, delivered and is, seemingly, hitting a stride that only a few rookie point guards have hit in this (admittedly) young century --Chris Paul and Deron Williams. On the recent 12 day road trip that concluded Sunday night with a victory in Philly, Rose averaged 17.7 ppg and 6.5 apg while also dropping the first double-double (18 points and 10 dimes against the 76ers) of his blossoming career.
And the Cubs post-season post-mortem examination continues, with Lou Pinella blaming that old standby, the media, while Ryan Dempster says the team flatout wasn't ready. Hey guys, sorry, no do-overs.
Meanwhile, the White Sox, who seems to have come to grips with their playoff loss, work on keeping Bobby Jenks around. But did Nick Swisher phone it in for much of the season?
Four area college soccer teams have made it to the NCAA tournament.
It was bound to happen after that embarrassing loss to the Packers: The "Fire Lovie" talks are heating up. Here is one blogs' 10 reasons why he deserves the ax. Meanwhile, Fanhouse questions Lovie's assessment that the Bears receivers are "pretty good".
The Bulls' Derrick Rose sits atop most Sports Illustrated NBA writers' list of early top rookies. Naturally.
It's not the major draw it used to be, but prep football is still a big deal in Chicago. The Catholic League is gearing up for its title game, pitting Loyola Academy against De La Salle.
A disabled cyclist bikes 1,064 miles from Jacksonville, Fla. to Chicago. His final destination? Where else: Oprah.
The Chicagoland Bicycle Federation gets a new name.
The Chicago Outfit wants YOU... well, that is, if you're a female and don't mind getting knocked around a little. There's a recruitment Q&A tonight at 9:30
In 1994, the lives of two pretty ordinary kids from the innercity of Chicago became the subject of one of the most talked-about documentaries of all time. The story of Arthur Agee and Williams Gates, the stars of "Hoop Dreams" was "reality TV" without the gimmicks of manufactured island intrigue or the chance to date Flava Flav. This was real life stuff, an unflinching look at two 14 year olds forced to look at basketball as their only way out of poverty. And like real life, their lives didn't end in a nice, neat package when the camers were finally turned off.
Flash forward to 2008, and those two hopeful kids are now in their mid-30s, long past their dreams of professional basketball fame and glory. The Tribune's Sara Olken caught up with Agee and Gates and them at two very different positions in life, but still bound together by the experiences of making the ground-breaking documentary.
Yeah, they still have dreams, but facing the real world, hoops aren't a part of them.
Everyone knows that the loud, gaudy NFL is King of the American Sportscape and that MLB, with its seven month season is the stately, elder-gentleman of Americana and yesteryear; that even the most jaded observer can appreciate for its mere stubborn refusal to alter its entity. The NHL is a forgotten quantity that struggles in vain with hokey promotions and rule-changes to try and grasp some small corner of America's sports-consciousness.
When the Bulls tip off tonight in their 2008 season opener, it will mark the beginning of the Derrick Rose/Vinny Del Negro Era.
Not to be confused with the Jerry Krause Era (also known as the Post-Jordan-Organizations-Win-What? Era), the Tim Floyd Era, the Tyson Chandler/Eddie Curry Era, the Scott Skiles Era or the Ben Wallace Era.
Yeah, there's been enough "eras" in the Bulls recent history to require a team of archeologists, but for all their digging and excavating, they wouldn't come up with much.
Three playoff appearances in the last 10 years. Five season of 50 losses or more. Only one second place finish and one third place finish during that time. Five different head coaches (not including Bill Berry and Pete Myers coached for a total of five games during that span). Two GMs. Not. One. All-Star.
It's been a dismal decade for the franchise that once defined the modern NBA in terms of talent and organization. The word "rebuilding" has been used more times in relation to the Bulls than in San Francisco in 1906, and often involved a mashup of overwhelmed-and-unfocused rookies and sullen veterans who instantly became unmotivated when they slipped on the red, white and black jersey.
The Minnesota Vikings' Bernard Berrianexpects boos when he returns to this old stomping grounds at Soldier Field this Sunday. C'mon Bears fans, don't let him down.
If his contract doesn't discourage the White Sox from resigning him, Ken Griffey Jr.'s recent knee surgery might.
Evanston remembers one of his favorite sons, former MLB pitcher Kevin Foster.
Speaking of favorite sons, new Wolves head coach Don Granato is happy to be back home as he prepared for the team's home opener Saturday night.
Remember the Cubs' "fan" who tried to auction off his loyalty on eBay? He may have found a buyer and a kindred spirit in the Boston Red Sox.
In the battle of sports radio on Chicago (well, it's actually just a two-horse race), WSCR-AM has taken the lead.
De La Salle's Mike Shaw is being touted by ESPN as the "next big thing" in Chicago high school basketball.
Even if you're not entered in this weekend Urbanathlon, you can still go down and enjoy the party.
The Windy City Rollers are holding tryouts. If you think you have what it takes (and can come up with a clever alias like "Val Capone" or "Lucy Furr"), come to a scrimmage preview on Monday. Incidentially, the WCR All-Stars made it to the national finals in Portland, Oregon.
It's not a stretch to say that Nike probably owes their corporate life to Michael Jordan. True, the Oregon-based company was around long before Jordan was JORDAN. But they didn't become the No. 1 selling brand of athletic shoe in the world thanks to the silhouette of Steve Prefontaine or Bo Jackson on the side of their footwear.
And while there have been other athletic shoes named after famous ballplayers, did anyone really buy Converse All-Stars because Chuck Taylor endorsed them? Heck, wearing a pair of Joe Lapchick's was considered a good excuse for a beat down in my neighborhood. He might have been a great player in his day, but as a shoe pitchman he lacked the cachet of the kid from North Carolina.
Even though MJ left the court for good in 2003, his departure hasn't affected the popularity of the shoes, which continue to be produced and sold in as many variations as possible. How enduring in the Cult of Air Jordan? Consider that a movie is currently being filmed, not about Jordan the Man, but Jordan the Shoe.
Cook County Commissioner Mike Quinn got a lot of Detroit Red Wings fans ticked off when he managed to skewer the team in his resolution celebrating the outdoor game against the Blackhawks at Wrigley Field...
...But here’s guessing he’ll have an easier time getting tickets to the game than you do.
A half-game lead (as of Thursday afternoon)? Are the Cubs done for? One writer seems to think so (though he admits he’s a Sox fan but insists that has nothing to do with it… right.)...
...But never fear Cubs fans, there are enough pro-Cubby blogs to ease the pain. In fact, there’s a whole army.
Chicago Sky fans will breath a sigh of relief tonight when star rookie center Sylvia Fowles returns to the lineup against the Indiana Fever tonight at the UIC Pavilion, 7 p.m. She blogs about her return here. Fowles isn't expected to start, but will see action. Fowles missed 17 games after injuring her left knee while blockiing a shot in a game against the Los Angeles Sparks on June 3. Small consolation for Fowles, but the play marked the first goaltending call in WNBA history. The Sky went 6-11 in her absence
Steve Stone joining Hawk Harrelson in the White Sox TV booth? According to the Tribune, it could happen, though the dominos have to fall in just the right way.
ESPN’s Scoop Jackson says the Bulls’ drafting of former Simeon High School star Derrick Rose evokes the memory another Simeon hoopster tabbed for greatness, Ben Wilson, whose murder 24 years ago stunned the city.
Deposed WSCR morning man Mike North says he has four deals on the table. No word on whether any of them involve dishing out extra relish.
A new online marketplace offers fans the chance to put in a bid for playoff and World Series tickets for the Cubs (provided they make it) from season ticket owners looking to dump them. Presumably the website will offer the same deal for (ahem) the White Sox.
The Chicago Rush take on the Grand Rapids Rampage (don’t you love those Arena Footbal League names?) in an AFL Divisional Round playoff game this Sunday, 2 p.m., at Allstate Arena. In other Rush news, wide receiver Donovan Morgan was named AFL Rookie of the Year
The Sky’s Sylvia Fowles is getting a bit antsy since being sidelined with a knee injury, as she reports on her WNBA blog.
White Sox catcher A.J. Piersynzki needs your help in selecting his at-bat music. Though the website lists suggestions (“Panama” by Van Halen?) , I’m sure there are more appropriate songs...right?
Also, the White Sox host the first Double Duty Classic, featuring the top high school baseball players from across the Midwest, on Monday, July 7, 2:30 p.m. The game will honor the legacy of the Negro Leagues and is named for legend Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe.
Finally! After a coaching search that seemed to last longer than an explanation of the infield fly rule, the Bulls have reportedly made an offer to Phoenix Suns Assistant General Manager Vinny Del Negro to lead the team on the floor.
...maybe you can too. Will Farrell's portrayal of the aforementioned '70s American Basketball Association star in the recent film "Semi-Pro" no doubt gave a boost in notoriety to the upstart basketball league, known for its groundbreaking three-point arc, red, white and blue ball and a plethora of gravity-defying afros (not necessarily in that order).
But if you've always wished for ABA stardom, you now have a chance to make it a reality. A new version of the league is up and running and tryouts for the Chicago chapter will take place this Sunday, June 8, 9-11am at the Broadway Armory, 5917 N. Broadway. According to owner/coach Ron Hicks, the team is slated to begin play this November. "The competition is going to be very strong this year," Hicks said. "We have some great teams in our division. We need great players."
There is a tryout fee of $100. For more info, contact HIcks at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 773 254 9640. You can also visit the ABA website.
Oh, the team apparently doesn't have a name yet. Maybe you can suggest one if you're there.
The Sun-Times is reporting that "a source" says Doug Collins will be the next coach of the Bulls. Collins was the Bulls' coach from 1986-89, and took them to the Eastern Conference championship before being fired by Reinsdorf. He went on to coach the Pistons and then the Wizards when Michael Jordon was on the team.
It’ll be somewhat of a minor achievement, but the Chicago Sky will try to move above .500 for only the third time in their existence when they take on the Minnesota Lynx Thursday night, 7 p.m., at the UIC Pavilion.
The Sky (1-1) won the first home opener in their three-year history this past Thursday when they defeated Sacramento 87-77. In that game, Sky guard Armintie Price, who picked up her WNBA Rookie of the Year award before the game, scored a career-high 22 points, along with four steals and four assists. Forward Candice Dupree added 22 while rookie center Sylvia Fowles chipped in with 11 point and seven rebounds. (Fowles blogs about her first year in the WNBA along with other top league rookies here.)
Pals since the old "Mars Blackman/Air Jordan" days, director Spike Lee and The-Greatest-Chicago-Bull-Ever Michael Jordan have teamed up for a documentary on Jordan, aka The Man Who Put Nike On The Map. The documentary, set to debut at Cannes next year, will reportedly feature exclusive footage from Jordan's later playing career with the (yawn) Washington Wizards. Not to question Spike's film rebel nature, but since the flick is being financed by the NBA, should we expect a PR job free of the stickier issues such as his gambling forays, among other things?
However improbable it may seem (given the Bulls' lottery odds - 98.3 percent improbable to be precise), the hoop deities have seen the devotion of Bulls fans through thick and thin. They even forced them to acknowledge as much in the ad campaign for the '04-'05 season. What followed were two years of tremendous overachievement follow by two years of chronic underachievement (it was too painful to revisit this until a a couple hours ago), but these were merely Herculean labors to deliver us our much-need superstar.
If being a suspected pedophile weren’t enough, we now learn that R. Kelly is a ball hog and a sore loser.
An Southtown Star newspaper article reports that Kelly hurled a basketball at a suburban reporter who had come to the Harold Murphy Recreational Center in Markham to watch the R&B singer play basketball. Kelly, we learn, is crazy about hoops and rents out the center on a regular basis for private games with friends through an “unusual arrangement” with the Markham Park District. When the reporter and a photographer entered uninvited, the “I Believe I Can Fly” crooner whipped the ball at them and ordered a body guard to show them the door.
Kelly’s reputation takes a further hit when an “insider” says the singer takes control of the game despite his limited skills.
“(He) hogs the ball and shoots all the time,” they said, conjuring images of Kobe Bryant, Gilbert Arenas or even early Michael Jordan. And when Kelly loses? “His team wins every night or he gets upset.”
Let his legal team take note of that last bit of info.
The lauded auteur behind the critically acclaimed 2005-2007 Phoenix Suns, Coach Mike D’Antoni, seems to favor bringing his frenetic brand of basketball to the United Center rather than spending another season in the desert. The former Euroleague Champion advises his teams to put up a shot within “seven seconds or less” leading to copious amounts of scoring. Since D’Antoini’s Suns started lighting up scoreboards around the league, many teams (the Raptors, Hornets, and pre-Jason Kidd trade Nets to name a few) have copied his up-tempo approach and line-ups filled with smaller, more athletic players who can out run the opposition.
Sporting an impressive 232-96 record during his Suns tenure, why is this savant all the sudden willing to trade the 80˚ winters of Phoenix for our lovely December climes? Blame it on ex-Bulls sharpshooter and current Suns GM Steve Kerr who apparently ticked off D’Antoni with the meddlesome suggestion that he should devote some more practice time to defense. It seems Coach D feels that management no longer supports him, but with the Suns giving up an average of 104 points per game during his régime its tough to argue with Steve. Nevertheless, D'Antoni is so ideologically committed to his style that he would rather move on than try to grind it out defensively in the über-talented Western Conference while having to trot out the rapidly-aging Steve Nash and Shaquille O'Neal as starters.
Why Bulls GM John Paxon (Steve Kerr’s predecessor as the Bulls token white three-point specialist) would be interested in bringing D'Antoni aboard is a bit perplexing, though. The Bulls he built have been pretty vanilla with their focus on defense, fundamentals, and toughness, not unlike the defending champs the San Antonio Spurs (who happen to have won four championships in the last decade, and coincidentally eliminated D’Antoni’s Suns three times). For Paxon to pull a full 180 means either A) he's doubting himself (after all, last season’s 33-49 record can’t be put on Scott Skiles or Tyrus Thomas’ antics alone) or B) Jerry Reinstorf’s worried the Bulls need some more sizzle to justify $6000 a season for the choicest spots at the UC. The Bulls have the athletic personnel necessary to run and gun in D’Antoni’s system but the question remains whether they should if they wish to excise the ghosts of champions past?
Another day, another play on words. Using "bullish" to describe the NBA playoffs refers both to my excitement surrounding the competition level and also the chance to watch some former Chicago Bulls in action. Four of the more prominent ex-Bulls still playing are Tyson Chandler, Ben Wallace, Joe Smith, and Darius Songaila. Please join me on this pathetic journey of what could have been in Chicago Bulls history.
1. Tyson Chandler. Bulls fans remember Chandler as half of the high school phenom front-court Jerry Krause promised would resurrect the struggling franchise. Chandler now routinely records double-doubles for the surprising New Orleans Hornets. Along with Chris Paul and David West, Chandler anchors a young, talented team capable of long playoff runs for the foreseeable future (I desperately want to say the same about the Bulls).
Although Chandler would be a nice component of the current Bulls nucleus, I struggle to criticize Paxson's decision to ship him to New Orleans. As a Bull, Chandler suffered from chronic back pain, inept offense, foul trouble, and other typical ailments of inexperienced athletes. Wonder if Chandler's stint with the Bulls would have faired differently with two years of college prior to the NBA? Support Chandler and the New Orleans playoff effort on his well-designed web portal.
As recognized in Ken's recent epiphany, the Chicago Bulls are still playing basketball! The 2008 season officially ends this Wednesday versus the playoff bound Toronto Raptors. Regardless of the vacation some players might enjoy after Wednesday's game, the off-season work has already commenced. A team of mathematicians and analysts are graphing simulations on the team's future as you are reading. Below are some of the perplexing mathematical models facing fans, management, and players.
#1: Linear regression plotting recent seasons against Jim Boylan's NBA experience. After three consecutive winning seasons fueled by balanced scoring and defense, the 2008 Bulls allowed an average of 100 points per contest. If Eastern Conference success is connected to defensive strength, Boylan's brief assistant stints with sub par Phoenix, Vancouver, and Atlanta squads are probably not sufficient for head coaching duties.
To some, it’s probably akin to spray-painting your name on The Vatican. That’s the high regard that some baseball purists, and even casual fans, have regarding Wrigley Field. Words like “shrine” and “temple” are often bandied about when talk about Wrigley in the context of ballpark esthetics comes up. Even when Cubs teams throughout the years stank up the joint something fierce, there was always those appealing bricks and ivy to make stench palatable. Even quite a few White Sox fans have had to admit that in the era of whiz-bang, high-tech, Corporate-Name-Of-The-Month ballparks, Wrigley is a gem. Well, except for Ozzie.
So it’s not without a little bit of consternation that Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin questions the latest addition to the ballpark: the letters “CBOE” painted on in bright yellow letters on a new section of ground-level seats that the Chicago Board Options Exchange is sponsoring this year.
The lettering, located on the wall between the Cubs’ dugout and the left field bullpen, raises the question of whether this bit of advertising violates City of Chicago landmark ordinance.
You want it to mean something more. You want it to be some sort of signal that things are changing, that there is hope, that we have reached a turning point and people will see that things can be different.
You know it probably won’t change things, cynic that you are. That it will take something other than a basketball game, even an NCAA title game, to stem the tide of violence and murder. Still, you kinda hope.
When former Crane star Sherron Collins met former Simeon star Derrick Rose on the court in the NCAA finals Monday night, it was possibly the only bright spot for the Chicago Public Schools in quite some time, a bright spot that they sorely needed. Suffice to say, it’s been a rough year.