2013-14 Chicago #Bulls: Derrick Rose is back, Boozer will yell, Thibs is a machine. #NBA

Easy.

Easy.

If you or anyone else you know was excited when Derrick Rose was set to play his first NBA preseason game since before the 2011-12 season, then I’ll just go out on a limb and assume that you and those people are probably currently breathing into a brown paper bag. It’s okay; I’ve gone through six already. In the last hour.

Today marks the beginning of the 2013-14 NBA season, which means at least 82 games of Chicago Bulls basketball. Last year’s team played the entire regular season and postseason without Rose. They won 45 games during the regular season and even managed to eliminate the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs, in seven games. After stealing Game 1 from the Miami Heat in the second round, the Heat regrouped and swept the rest of the series.

Outgoing Bulls: PF Louis Amundson, SG Marco Belinelli, SG Daequan Cook, SG Richard Hamilton, PF Vladimir Radmanovic, PG Nate Robinson, PF Malcom Thomas

Amundson, Cook, Radmanovic and Thomas simply filled the roster last year, but the losses of Belinelli, Robinson and even Hamilton will hurt the Bulls a little bit. Belinelli improved as the year went on, especially on the defensive end, and the Bulls will miss having an offensively competent, 6’5″ 2-guard who can handle the ball effectively. Nate Robinson was seemingly every Bulls fan’s most and least favorite Bull, but I think he ultimately won a lot of folks over with his postseason heroics. While Hamilton played in only 50 games, he was still a serviceable player, but one who could never seem to avoid injury.

Incoming Bulls: SG Mike Dunleavy, PG Mike James, PF Erik Murphy (Rookie, Florida), Tony Snell (Rookie, New Mexico)

For whatever reason, there are still some Bulls fans who continue to lament the loss of sharpshooter 2-guard Kyle Korver, but I’ve been over it since the day he was officially no longer a Bull. Belinelli was looked at as a replacement for Korver by many, and wrongfully so. I don’t think Dunleavy is as high caliber of a player as those two, but his shot is close to Korver’s, and he can make a play every once in a while, a la Marco. Good enough for me. James will be an emergency/garbage time player, and being 38 years young, that’s suitable for him. Snell, the Bulls’ 2013 first-round pick, probably won’t play much at all in 2013-14, but he’ll turn just 22 in less than 2 weeks and comes from a solid basketball program. Murphy will play even less than Snell, but with the NBA essentially wiping out prototypical power forwards and replacing them with “stretch 4s” who can shoot the long ball, Murphy will certainly have a role on this team going forward.

Good times...

Good times…

The Backcourt: DERRICK ROSE IS BACK! Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, it’s time to look at what’s in the Bulls’ guard stable. Obviously, things start with Rose. He looked great throughout the preseason and appears to be the most confident he’s ever been during his pro career. I truly hope that along with working out and shooting during his idle time, that Rose was watching the game and attempting to learn as much as he possibly could. Rose is the Bulls’ clear-cut floor general, and if he can become more of a point guard who’s a scorer rather than a scorer who’s a point guard, things could get very ugly, very quickly for the rest of the NBA. Kirk Hinrich is back for another dance and really, the Bulls just need him to be average. Hinrich is still a capable ballhandler, distributor and defender (let’s not foray into his shooting woes), so as long as too much isn’t heaped on his plate, he should do just fine. Jimmy Butler will be the starting shooting guard this season, and everyone and their grandmother is predicting that Butler will be one of the NBA’s breakout stars this season. I doubt he’ll come remotely close to All-Star recognition, but he will easily be the best 2-guard the Bulls have had in several years. I’m still not a fan of the Marquis Teague pick in 2012, but I suppose that if he can push Hinrich for playing time this season, the pick was at least somewhat worth it. The world would be a better place if Teague were 2 inches shorter, but then again, the world would be a better place if Krause and Co. hadn’t screwed the Bulls’ dynasty out of potentially another title or two.

The Frontcourt: Yeah, so Omer Asik is a Houston Rocket, and has been since the beginning of the 2012-13 season. The Houston Rockets made him an offer the Bulls probably never intended to match, and the most promising (in my opinion) big the Bulls had was as good as gone. Center Nazr Mohammed is back and should get quality minutes as a a valuable frontcourt reserve the Bulls so desperately need. Power forward Taj Gibson will be playing under his new contract for the first time this year, a 4-year, $33 million extension he signed last Halloween, and the pressure is on Taj to not only produce, but produce at a level high enough that would make the Bulls’ brass feel comfortable in amnestying Carlos

Scream on, 'Los.

Scream on, ‘Los.

 Boozer over the summer of 2014. Gibson’s production dropped in 12-13 slightly, but I believe that he’ll be relied on more in 13-14 than any other time since his rookie year, and that reliance will utlimately pay off. Boozer, on the other hand, will probably end up averaging close to 16, 17 points and 8, 9 rebounds per game and most fans will still do everything in their power to obliterate him. I get it; he’s become the Bulls’ convenient whipping boy. He frustrates the hell out of me plenty (How about instead of screaming for Jo to give a little help D, you provide the help yourself, Carlos?!), but I’m objective enough to admit that with a healthy Boozer, the Bulls are a better team than they are without Boozer at all. There was a time when I couldn’t stand the sight of Joakim Noah. It was bad enough that I felt he was an unbridled idiot at the University of Florida. Hearing NBA commissioner announce that the Bulls were selecting him with the ninth pick of the 2007 NBA Draft about damn near sent me over the edge, figuratively. The feelings didn’t get any better during his tumultous beginning with the Bulls, either. But now, he’s my favorite Bull, with all due apologies to fellow Chicagoan, Derrick Rose. Simple and plain, Noah is the Bulls’ engine. He was the best all-around center in the NBA last year, and those who weren’t already aware got to see the greatness that is Noah’s passing ability on a nightly basis. Granted, Noah did miss 16 games and was plagued by that damn plantar fascitis in the playoffs, but I’d still take him over any other center in the NBA, no bias involved. I don’t hate Luol Deng. I just don’t think he’s an elite NBA player, or has ever been one. I’ll readily admit that he is one of the better small forwards in the NBA, but one of the best? That, would be a stretch. Deng is in the last year of his ridiculous contract, and if he wants a new deal that also includes a hefty amount of dollars, he’ll perform like the good all-around hooper that he is in 13-14. I believe that Deng is capable of so much more than he produces, and has all too often faded into the background when there’s a play to be made. With Rose back and on a mission, Deng won’t hit that 20/8/4 line that I’ve been waiting for, for years. But if he can stay healthy, and not tail off on the defensive end where he is most highly valued, he’ll help the Bulls rack up Ws and himself rack up dollars in free agency.

Too much swank, Tom, Too much damn swank.

Too much swank, Tom, Too much damn swank.

The Coach: Tom Thibodeau enters the 2013-14 season with a regular season winning percentage of .683, which obviously includes a mere .549 percentage from the 12-13 season. In their first two seasons under “Thibs,” the Bulls finished with the NBA’s best regular season record before being eliminated in the playoffs. It’s true that injuries played a part in those premature exits, but Thibs didn’t help matters as much as he could, especially on the offensive end. Since 2010-11, the Bulls have been a top-five team, defensively, but just mediocre when it comes to the other side of the game. When you’re a stout defensive team, there isn’t the impetus to score 115 points a game. This is clear. However, the Bulls aren’t without some talented, versatile weapons. Fortunately, Rose will lead a new Bulls’ offense that will hopefully be able to score more points, more efficiently. Some will be quick to opine that a new offense will be the difference between another early playoff exit and a NBA title, but I would disagree on the grounds that regardless of scheme, missing players or being forced to suit up ailing ones takes an expert offensive scheme and marginalizes it. Besides X’s and O’s, Thibs could probably not seemingly drive Deng into the ground in terms of minutes played, which would benefit both parties. Other than that, I really don’t see any glaring flaws in Thibodeau’s coaching abilities. The Bulls will come out and play 48 minutes just about every night, and that goes double for the defensive side of things. Hopefully, the controversy surrounding the departure of one of his top former assistants is nothing to acknowledge, and Thibs does his (semi) madman thing and guides this team to even greater things.

In Summation: DERRICK ROSE IS BACK! Yes, you were made aware of this earlier, and I felt I should remind you again. No NBA team had a better offseason than the Bulls, because Rose’s return could basically be viewed as an offseason acquisition. The Houston Rockets acquired a new, top-5 player in center Dwight Howard, but I’d still argue that the Bulls had a better offseason because I feel the Bulls are closer to a title than the Rockets, even with Howard and shooting guard James Harden. Supposedly, Deng feels disrespected because he hasn’t been re-signed, or even offered an extension. Touch cookies. I’m sure we’ll get the customary “walk year” play from him, which means we could see an elevated Deng or deflated one. Hinrich will likely be okay and won’t make me pull my hair out, but I’m sensing some epically frustrating play from Boozer this year. It’s okay, ‘Los. Nikola will relieve you, starting with the 2014-15 NBA season. Noah is over the plantar fascitis, and sore groin that plagued him this preseason, and I believe he’ll come close to matching his per36 numbers from last year. The first person to tweet “The Butler Did It” will be blocked, without prejudice. Dunleavy won’t draw my ire as much as fellow Dookies, Deng and Boozer, but that’s because he wasn’t an overhyped media creation in college that benefitted from playing for a diminutive bully. Hit a freakin’ jump shot, Mr. Teague. For the love of everything that is good, hit a freakin’ jump shot. I think Snell will ditch the  cornrows in favor of a Gumby fade, and show Thibs late in the season that 14-15 will be his coming-out party. Murphy will connect on at least 35% from 3 and be confused for Kyle Korver about 1,273 times even though the two don’t really favor each other all that much. Nazr Mohammed will cement his status as the greatest Kenwood Academy alum to ever play in the NBA. We’re just going to ignore the fact that Mohammed is the only Kenwood Academy alum to ever play in the NBA, okay? Thibodeau will become the spokesman for Ricola, and, during testy negotiations with the company, leave them for Hall before realizing that both just wanted to objectify his damaged vocal chords. It will finally be recognized that no fanbase in all of professional sports is greater than the Bulls’ fanbase. Now… SEE. RED.

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Marquis Teague, the Cubs in the second half and Jabari Parker in green and white.

Marquis Teague.

I am not a University of Kentucky fan, regardless of sport. However, that has nothing to do with my displeasure regarding the Bulls’ selection of 6’2″, 180-lb point guard Marquis Teague with the 29th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. I know the 19 year-old who helped lead the Wildcats to a national title in April is extremely talented and if not for a certain fellow by the name of Derrick Rose, would be a lock to be the Bulls’ starting point guard for years to come. In spite of Teague’s ability, I just don’t feel it was the right pick.

Of course, everyone and that one sports-hating friend they have knows that Rose could possibly miss the entire 2012-13 NBA season because of a torn ACL. Anyone familiar with the Bulls roster knows that neither CJ Watson or John Lucas III are barely capable replacements for Rose, if that. Clearly, the point guard position is a very important one, and it certainly needs to at the very least be stabilized if a team wants to have any sort of success.

Still, ignoring that, the Teague pick nearly infuriated me. Again, I acknowledge that Teague is talented. I’d even go as far as to call Teague “a steal”, mainly because many mocks and “experts” had him being drafted well before 29th. In a deep draft, though, you can afford to go for need late, and unfortunately, the Bulls didn’t do this.

Basically, the Bulls need help at every position. I briefly discussed the point guard spot. At the 2, Rip is not the answer and it appears that Kyle Korver may be on his way out. Luol Deng is merely an above-average small forward and his backup, Jimmy Butler, showed glimpses during his rookie 11-12 campaign that he may be more than a bit useful if he can manage to get more minutes in the rotation. Power forward Carlos Boozer‘s lack of production and care to play defense have been well-documented, and while backup Taj Gibson is a crowd favorite, he is yet another Bull who most likely won’t get much better than he is right now, already at the age of 27 and only 3 seasons into his NBA career. Joakim Noah has definitely grown on me, but the center provides more based on his competitiveness, energy and general attitude than his talent. He’s also, like Deng and Gibson, a not-exactly-young 27. Defensive specialist and backup center Omer Asik has reportedly been offered a 3-year, $25 million contract by the Houston Rockets, with a whopping $15 mil to come in the third year of the deal. The Bulls plan to match, from what I’ve read, but would probably be better off not risking having to pay a 26 year-old $15 mil when he’s still literally a one-way player.

More than anything, the Bulls need a player who can handle the ball and create his own shot, preferably at the wing position. At 29, there were a few players who fit this description; Draymond Green, Will Barton and Doron Lamb, to name a few. Even if the Bulls were hellbent on selecting a guard, combo guard Tyshawn Taylor was available.

When Rose is healthy, Teague will be his backup. Rose will not become a shooting guard and anyone who suggests as much is not bright. It would keep some of the wear and tear from affecting Rose, but Andy Reid would be a moron to move Mike Vick to the H-back position and name Vince Young the starting QB. Vick would be a more healthy and possibly effective player, but not as productive, and opposing teams would have an easier job defending him. Teague will not play the off-guard spot, mainly because of his size, or lack thereof. If he’s not big enough to play the 2 at the NBA level, there’s no need to examine his chances of manning a frontcourt position.

So essentially, GarPax used the team’s only draft pick in a rather deep draft to select a backup point guard. Perhaps Teague will become a highly productive sixth man and great second-unit floor general. In my opinion, the point guard position was not one that needed to be addressed in the draft. Alas, this is the Bulls way.

Starlin in front, LaHair in the back.

The second half of the ’12 Cubs season.

A 33-52 record at the All-Star break is more than enough reason to cause a fanbase to want to fast forward to the next season, but unfortunately, that type of technology doesn’t exist. (Blame Steve Jobs?) Anyway, the Chicago Cubs stink. Disregard their 8-4 record since first baseman Anthony Rizzo‘s promotion on June 26, and the sudden bit of enthusiasm surrounding the team going into the break. This is still a team that has holes that no patch can fix easily.

Shortstop Starlin Castro and outfielder Bryan LaHair were named All-Stars, but it’s hard to get too excited about that when the Cubs are one of the worst teams in baseball. Starter Ryan Dempster has a miniscule ERA of 1.99, but again, the Cubs have the third-worst record in the majors. Theoyerleod plan to move as many big contracts as they can in order to help build for the future and Dempster is definitely a candidate, along with left fielder Alfonso Soriano.

Prospects like outfielder Brett Jackson and third baseman Josh Vitters continue to develop, as does pitcher Alberto Cabrera. Fans will undoubtedly grow more impatient as the losses continue to pile up, and will probably clamor for the first two to be called up well before the date MLB rosters can expand to 40 men. Starter Jeff Samardzija is nowhere near as awful as he was in June, but we shall see if he continues to improve as he racks up the innings in his first season as a full-time starter. The Cubs will play 42 home games compared to 35 on the road, so I guess that’s a plus? If the Cubs can put more smiles on my face than looks of utter disappointment in the second half, I will consider their 2012 season a huge success.

I predicted that this would be a lost, craptastic season for the Cubs and so far, I have been proven right. Nevertheless, there are still 77 games left on the calendar and I will see it to the dreadful end.

Jabari Parker, on the banks of the Red Cedar?


My ties to South Side Little League and the Kenwood Academy baseball program practically prohibit me from cheering for Simeon Vocational in any way, shape or form. However, I am a huge Jabari Parker fan. The 6’8″, 215-lb small forward is widely regarded as the nation’s best high school basketball player in the class of 2013 and I have been lucky enough to see him play a few times already.

You can believe the soon-to-be senior has been recruited by every major college program in the country. Yesterday, Parker created a bit of chaos on the Twitters, tweeting the ten schools that he hopes to narrow down to a final selection before November. One of them is my alma mater, Michigan State University.

Early reports are that Sparty is the leader at this point, and I most definitely hope those reports are accurate. MSU head coach Tom Izzo has been in Chicago earlier this year, and I’m guessing that he wasn’t there just for the great food. Obviously, Parker to MSU isn’t a lock. Parker, a devout Mormon, listed BYU among his final 10 and it’s totally viable that he end up a Cougar. I doubt that will happen, but he appears to be cut from a different cloth.

More important than MSU being among Parker’s final 10 is that no other Big Ten school made the list, not even UofI at Champaign-Urbana. How hilarious is it that Big East cellar-dweller DePaul, and not Illinois, made Parker’s list? Very. Regardless, Jabari Parker is one ridiculously talented individual and would, by himself, make any basketball program an immediate national title contender. Put him in a green and white jersey with “State” on the front of it, and I will jump for joy…while celebrating their 2014 national title victory.