Bulls on the brink, Bryce ain’t nice (and the squares hate it), and Luol Deng’s vanishing act.

Oy vey.

Well, haven’t things for the Bulls certainly gotten…ugly? After losing PG Derrick Rose to a torn ACL near the end of a Game 1 win and Joakim Noah  to a sprained ankle in the second half of a Game 3 loss, the Bulls find themselves facing elimination at the hands of the 8th-seeded Philadelphia 76ers, who now lead the series 3 games to 1 after yesterday’s Whoopi Goldberg-horrific 89-82 “victory”.

Once Rose went down, many fans, pundits and senile great grandparents completely wrote the Bulls off, in regards to their chances to win it all, or to even beat the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. (Let’s just ignore the fact that at the time, the Heat hadn’t yet eliminated their first round opponent, the New York Knicks.) Immediately after Noah grotesquely rolled his ankle, the same folk opined that the Bulls most likely wouldn’t even be able to advance past the first round. Maybe they’ll be proven right?

Despite PF Carlos Boozer’s 23-11-4 yesterday, the Bulls still couldn’t scrape out a victory. A Game 4 win would’ve most certainly given them the momentum heading into Game 5, especially after they lost another starter, Noah. But, Philly did just enough to win, including Spencer Hawes, who did his own little rendition of Moses Malone as he paced the 76ers to a W.

I believe the Bulls will win Game 5. I have absolutely no clue who will lead the way, but I will stick to that belief. I can’t see this team, even without Rose and Noah, losing four games in a row to a 76ers team that is still inferior, despite those injuries. Then again, I didn’t see this team, even without Rose, losing Game 2. Or 3. Or, without Noah, Game 4. Prove me wrong, Bulls. Please?

Bryce takes his base…and makes Hamels pay.

Young Washington Nationals phenom (and outfielder) Bryce Harper’s promotion to the bigs on April 28 was the talk of baseball. Some naysayers have said the move was stupid; that the Nats risk being able to protect Harper from achieving “Super Two” status (making him a free agent a year earlier) and that Harper wasn’t quite ready. Publicity stunt? Possibly. An attempt to win ballgames? More likely than an attempted publicity stunt.

Understandably, hardly anyone expected Harper to be called up so soon, but the 19 year-old has made a bit of a splash during his 8-game drink of coffee. Albeit a small sample size, he has so far hit .308 with an OPS of .924. He’s also driven in 3 runs and stolen a base. And, that theft was of home plate.

If you’re not aware of the circumstances surrounding that steal of home, allow me to hip you, ladies and gents. The Philadelphia Phillies, trying to avoid being swept by the Nationals, had lefty Cole Hamels on the bump. 0-0, bottom of the first, two outs, and Harper steps to the plate. Hamels intentionally drills him with a fastball in the small of his back. Harper takes his base and advances to third on a Jayson Werth single. On an attempted pickoff of Werth at first base, Harper steals home, rather easily.

Oh, Lordy, I wish Harper would’ve blown a kiss at Hamels as he went back to the Nats’ dugout.          Or better yet, approached Hamels and given him a bear hug. Don’t get me wrong. I understand that pitchers hit batters intentionally and unfortunately, it’s a part of baseball. It’s “self-policing”, which is another way of saying, “We won’t wait for the proper authorities to give their ruling on the matter because we’re too impatient and full of testosterone”. To an extent, self-policing is slightly acceptable…as long as there’s somewhat decent reasoning behind it.

“I remember when I was a rookie the strike zone was really, really small and you didn’t say anything because that’s the way baseball is. But I think unfortunately the league’s protecting certain players and making it not that old-school, prestigious way of baseball.” – Cole Hamels, attempting to explain the reasoning behind his actions

Really, Mr. Hamels?! Exactly who do you think you are? The savior of the prestige of baseball? (The fact that Hamels feels there is a “prestigious way of baseball” is utterly hilarious. Baseball is a sport, not an institution of higher learning or long-standing, prosperous corporation.) Are you going all Republican on us, Cole, attempting to return the sport of baseball to the way it once was? Do you honestly think MLB umpires are looking out for Harper? You are a two-time All-Star and former World Series MVP. Attack Harper with your arsenal of pitches and attempt to retire him. Don’t take the “fake tough guy” way out and hit him. That’s just weak. Weak as all hell. I would’ve respected you a lot more if you just openly admitted, “Look, the kid–and he’s still a kid, for Christ’s sake–is an arrogant asshole, and I wanted to let him know that shit’s not going to come easy as long as I’m 60 feet, 6 inches away.” Don’t bullshit us, Cole. Be a man. Be straight up.

Hamels should be suspended for admitting to intentionally hitting Harper. In addition, any fan who supported Hamels wayward ways shouldn’t be allowed to watch baseball in any capacity for a month. Yes, maybe Harper is arrogant and overhyped. He’s not responsible for the latter, however. Instead of blindly showing your envy, put your energy behind getting the guy out, or cheering for as much. We should be lucky that Harper was hit in the small of his back, and not chest, neck, head, or even hand. Ask Jeff Bagwell how getting hit by a pitch on the hand can negatively affect you for a substantial period of time.

It’s sad that the squares want Harper to play the game the way everyone else does, but then again, that’s why they’re the squares. Admittedly, it’s much easier to fall in line than be an individual, even if being an individual means retaining what you feel isyour dignity and going about achieving success the best way you know how within the legal constraints of your profession. As a diehard baseball fan, I’m appalled that Hamels would basically admit to bullying, and even more appalled that anyone besides a diehard Phils fan would get behind him. Guess we can’t all be square enough to sit at the square kids’ table, huh?

Lu, where the *@&# are you?

Anyone who has followed my tweets over the last two NBA seasons knows that I am not exactly Bulls SF Luol Deng’s biggest fan. No, I do not dislike the guy. He plays for my favorite team, so by default, I want him to be insanely successful. However, I am pretty knowledgeable when it comes to basketball and also very objective, regardless of the team or sport.

LUOL DENG IS AN ABOVE-AVERAGE PLAYER. HE IS NOT ELITE AT ANYTHING, SO PLEASE, DO YOURSELF A FAVOR AND REMOVE THAT LABEL FROM THE VICINITY OF HIS NAME.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way…

Forget Deng’s Game 1, in which he scored 17 points on 8-14 shooting and pulled down 6 rebounds in a 103-91 Bulls win. He had the benefit of playing alongside a then-healthy Rose, who almost notched a triple-double himself.

In the last 3 games, all Bulls losses, Deng has averaged 8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game while shooting 30% from the floor. Do those sound like the numbers of an All-Star? Elite player? Very good, or even good player? I’m fully aware that during the regular season, the 76ers were one of the league’s best defensive teams. In fact, without that stout defense, the 76ers would more than likely be watching the playoffs from their homes right now. Still, Deng can’t give the Bulls more than that? Without Rose, and for all of Game 4, without Noah?

I’ve been saying for the longest that while Deng has the potential to be a very good basketball player, he sure hasn’t maximized that potential. He’s been in the NBA for 8 seasons and still can’t create his own shot, which is pertinent to being an All-Star wing player in the NBA. The homers don’t want to hear that. He’s not an elite on-ball defender; he plays in a system that preaches team defense. Again, the homers don’t want to hear that.

Deng has a propensity to disappear as if he were David Copperfield’s beautiful assistant at the worst possible times. He shows flashes of being the all-around, All-Star caliber player that so many think he is, only to revert to his “I’ll stand in the corner and hope I’m not called on” strategy that he so often employs nowadays. Bulls fans whine and bitch about the lack of production from the highly-paid Boozer, and mostly, rightfully so. Booz hasn’t been the steady 20-and-10 guy that fans, and the Bulls, expected. Yet, those same fans fail to remember that Deng was rewarded with a 6-year, $78 million contract at one point and time, even though he didn’t have near the track record that Booz did before he signed with the Bulls as a free agent in the summer of 2010.

As I stated earlier, I believe the Bulls will win Game 5. I’d like to think that Deng will play a factor, but I’ve learned that you can’t count on a guy who seemingly is afraid to get dirty and make plays. Perhaps he’ll be reminded that the Bulls are one loss away from watching the rest of the postseason at home and he’ll step up and make the necessary plays to contribute to a Bulls win, extending their season.

Meh. Who the hell am I kidding. Luol Deng and his built-in excuse of a bum left wrist probably won’t show up for Game 5, either. It doesn’t help his cause that he’s being guarded by one of the best one-on-one defenders in the league, 76ers SF Andre Iguodala. Even if he weren’t, he’d assumably still put up 6th man numbers. Enjoy your glue guy, Bulls fans. Hopefully, he won’t be here for much longer.

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