Tag Archives: Chicago Bulls

Around the Clock: So Chicago

For the first-ever Clocker Sports roundtable, the guys keep it local and talk the state of the four major sports in Chicago. From the Cubs and Sox hot start, the Bulls and Bears at crossroads, and the Blackhawks making one last push. Be sure to join us every Thursday @ 9p CST to be a part of the show!

It’s All in the Name

In sports, your team name is (or at least should be) a source of pride, the symbol that brings people together to lift a team on its shoulders. It starts when we’re as young as five and lasts through the rest of our lives; cheering for pee-wee leagues, our schools, and professional teams. Some names even resonate with an entire nation and around the world, whether they’re beloved or despised. Some of the names that come to mind right away are the Cowboys, Yankees, and Bulls. Maybe you’ve always wondered how did these team names come about and if they will ever change. We know now at least one team had to.

All In the Name: Why So Long?

Redskins No More

On Monday, the Washington football team have retired their name and logo after 87 years. This after a decades-long fight over the offensive nature of the name to the Native American community. The issue even went to the Supreme Court in 2009 and it was ruled that Washington could keep the name. Owner Daniel Snyder recently doubled down on insisting the name wouldn’t be changed.  When sponsors FedEx, Nike, and PepsiCo threatened to pull their support, Mr. Snyder made a change.

If you’re curious, the term is offensive because it’s associated with the scalping of native Americans as a bounty.  In their culture, being called that is derogatory. It was only right to change the name with an unprecedented focus on social justice right now.

Will This Be A Trend?

It’s long been said that a lot of Native Americans find having sports teams and mascots named after and imitating them demeaning. In 2007, the University of Illinois dropped Native American mascot Chief Illiniwek after 81 years.  That fight that started in 1989.  Yet we have a few teams professionally that have those cultural monikers.

We have the Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, and reigning Super Bowl champ Kansas City Chiefs; two baseball teams and a football team respectively.  The Chiefs at least seem to be more of a name of endearment but we’ll just have to see what changes are made moving forward.

Let’s Play the Name Game

Here’s a fun fact, the football team was not the city’s first professional sports team to change its name because of social consciousness.  23 years ago, the Washington Bullets changed their name to ‘Wizards’.  Rising gun violence in the nation’s capital brought about the change.  Their approach to the name change was unique as well, an 800-number was set up for the community to call in and vote on a list of names.  

What will the new name for the Washington football franchise be? Here is a list of suitable names that would fit.  Since both the NBA and WNBA teams have magical themed names, Wizards and Mystics, that’s where we’ll start.  The Washington Warlocks with there logo being a warlock character holding a football-shaped crystal ball (a personal favorite).  Next, the Washington Wave, crashing through the NFC East. Sounds like a fun start.  Lastly the Washington Wasps (that’s stings!).  That may be a reach but hey, there’s a pro team called the Pelicans.

What would your name be for the franchise?

The Final Dance of the Last Dance

 

Well, good people, we had our final dance of the 10-part documentary “The Last Dance” last night and what a dance it was.  It lived up and surpassed the hype leading up to its early release.  For the last five Sunday evenings, we’ve been treated to an intimate inside look into Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the ’90s.  Did it leave you wanting more?  I know it did for me, it could’ve been 10-20 more and I’m here for it.

The timing of this documentary also added to the aura of Jordan.  In typical MJ fashion the light is shining brightest on him like there are 1.1 seconds left in the game, he has the final shot, and the entire world is holding its breath.  Same as his first retirement announcement in ‘93 on a Wednesday morning or his first game back in ‘95.  What better time to have this series air than during a global pandemic with sports halted and the world salivating for any sports content? Enter Michael Jordan.

Final Dance of The Last Dance

Supporting Cast

We know the documentaries main focus was Jordan but it’s about the team as well.  Chicago definitely had the supporting cast that helped with the six championships Mike led them to.  The show did a great job highlighting the diverse characters of the team.  It revealed things about some players even die-hard fans didn’t even know.  We knew about the star power of arguably the greatest number-two player in history Scottie Pippen and the best rebounder in league history Dennis Rodman aka the Worm.  Pippen was also the only other Bull that was with the organization for all six championships so his role was vitally important to the team’s success.

Their backstories were the intriguing part, Scottie coming from very humble beginnings and his fractured relationship with the general manager the late Jerry Krause.  The biggest takeaway was that Pip also is probably the most grossly underpaid superstar ever.  Rodman was that wild card, the rockstar of the team.  His off the court life was legendary within itself!  He leaves the team during the season for a 72-hour whirlwind weekend in Las Vegas with Carmen Electra and gets back to play with no problem. If that’s not crazy enough how about right after a finals game getting on a private plane to appear on WCW Nitro and missing practice the next day. Things that NBA players wouldn’t think about doing today.

Steve Kerr was another player that played a key role, hitting big shots (see Game 7 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers).  His career-defining shot though came in the ‘97 Finals Game 6 when he hit the game-winner to give the Bulls their fifth title, this one over the Utah Jazz.  Besides these great moments, Kerr surprisingly was the teammate that could most relate to Jordan with tragedy.   Both men’s fathers were murdered.  Per Kerr’s account they never spoke about it. But that was their silent connection.

Global Icon

The Jordan brand was birthed back in 1985 when Nike first introduced the Air Jordan.  At the time nobody knew it but a trail was blazed.  Countless other endorsements derived from MJ’s game. Gatorade, Chevrolet, Hanes.  Just like the NBA, anything that was associated with the Jordan name turned to gold.  Pre-Jordan, the NBA was in 80 countries. When he retired it was over 200.  Not to mention the Chicago Bulls 90’s teams are considered the creme de la creme of NBA franchises.

The success of Jordan has allowed the players of today to be some of the highest-paid athletes in sports.  Even guys that sit at the end of the bench averaging about seven minutes a game got it made.  It’s also allowed the likes of Lebron James and Steph Curry to be their own brand.  There’s no doubt Jordan was the force that started the power change from the owners to the players.

Last Impression of the Dance

Going into the Last Dance docuseries, most people considered Michael Jordan as the greatest basketball player of all time.  A recent AP poll has him ranked as the most popular athlete in America, even after being retired for 17 years.  After watching it I think it proved he’s head above shoulders of his NBA peers.  That’s no knock on the other greats, it’s just that MJ carved out a section in history where only he can stand.

He’s the epitome of taking your skill and sculpting greatness from it.  There also was the example of sacrifice.  To be successful in any endeavor it takes sacrifice and putting your all into that you wish to succeed in.  One of the most profound things that I heard Mike say was at the end of the last episode. That all you need is “hope” to spark that fire within you.

It’s Time for ‘The Last Dance’

We’re only 3 days away from the start of what will be the GOAT of all sports documentaries, (the ESPN 30 for 30 ’85 Chicago Bears’ currently holds that title).  The highly anticipated 10 part  “The Last Dance,” which documents the extraordinary career of Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls; specifically his final season, ‘97-98.

The program will air on ESPN starting Sunday, April 19th and will run every Sunday, through May 17th.   If there are any bright sides to this pandemic this is definitely one for the sports world.  This documentary was not slated to be released until early June but ESPN heard our wish and it was granted.

Time for the Last Dance

Nostalgia…

Oh, the 90s. Hard to believe that decade started over 30 years ago and basketball during that time was some of the best you would ever see, especially if you were from Chicago.  It was the decade where Jordan cemented himself as the greatest basketball player of all time, or the GOAT if you will.  The decade whereby the turn of it the run of the Los Angeles LakersBoston Celtics and Detroit Pistons comes to an end.  Thus, the Chicago Bulls dynasty was born.

Just like the 90s was the golden era of rap, (now the genre is classified as hip hop), it was also the golden age of basketball with the Chicago leading the way.  The Bulls six championships  (via two three-peats) and the sheer dominance of MJ, his Airness, gave the sport a meteoric rise in popularity worldwide.

This was also the time a teammate, Scottie Pippen, developed into a bonafide superstar.  If you need a reference, see his player card and the 1993-94 season…you’re welcome.  In the 1996 campaign, we saw them break the single-season wins record going 72-10, a record that stood pat for 20 years until 2016 when the 73-9 Golden State Warriors broke it.  Some, especially Chicagoans, may say the Warriors really didn’t surpass that Bulls team because the deal wasn’t sealed, no championship!

Who can ever forget one of the greatest shots in not only NBA Finals history but NBA history period!  Michael Jordan’s final career shot over Bryon Russell to defeat the Utah Jazz in the 1997 Finals giving Chicago their sixth NBA championship.  Well, we thought it was his last shot but you’ll have to tune into ‘The Last Dance’ to see.

Reminisce Over You!

Let’s flashback to that 90’s time, think about what you were doing then, (at least those of us that can).  For myself, it was the start of those crucial teenage years we all go through.  My formidable high school and college years as well.  To my fellow Gen X’ers and millennials, who were definitely raised on it, think about the music you were listening to.  My goodness, the music! Personally, it was R&B (it’s final hoorah) and rap (it’s golden era as mentioned before).

The artist that laid their foundations during this time, Jodeci, Mary J Blige, NWA, 2PAC, Jay-Z, Diddy and a host of others.  Just blow the dust off that CD collection and look through it and watch how those memories flow through your mind.  Yes, I said CDs, before the luxury of modern technology that was our Spotify and Pandora.  Who else put their phones to the stereo speaker to record your answering machine greeting?  We can’t reminisce about the 90s without mentioning the fashion, just google the styles for that decade.  You’ll probably see the most popular footwear were Jordans,  which is still true to this day. They debuted 35 years ago; yes 35!

What To Know Before the Big Dance

For those that need to brush up on some history of Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, here are a few points you want to know:

  • Michael Jordan was drafted 3rd overall in the 1984 NBA draft.
  •  Phil Jackson and Tex Winter were the head coach and assistant coach, respectively.  Winter was the architect of the iconic triangle offense that Jackson implemented to perfection.
  • Jerry Reinsdorf is the owner and the late Jerry Krause was the GM.
  • Jordan retired after ‘93 season to play baseball for the Chicago White Sox and returned in the middle of ‘95 season.

Now that we have some info to reference it’s time to dance, I’m sure we’re all in for a great one.  Those who know the history and those who may be just novice, this will give even more insight into Michael Jordan the man and it will be breathtaking.

March A Different Kind of Madness for Bulls, Fans

Season of Woe Winding Down

The 21-54 Chicago Bulls are on pace for their worst season since the 2003-04 campaign. They have all but locked themselves in to have the fourth-best odds to get the top pick in the NBA Draft in June. Fans have witnessed key members of the core have good stretches in the slew of games that have followed the All-Star break. And the trade for Otto Porter has worked out for all parties involved. Zach Lavine even went so far as to offer to pay the fine for Head Coach Jim Boylen getting ejected against the Los Angeles Clippers.

That is all well and good. Except you have all been hoodwinked, bamboozled…you get the point. The Bulls, as predicted here, somewhat abandoned their tanking efforts and strung together a respectable run after the All-Star break. That was followed by a five-game skid that reminded everyone of what the goal was supposed to be. Then there is the question of personnel with regards to who is really part of the plan long-term for this team.

Flip Flop

‘Tank’ was the word for the Bulls entering the season and at the outset, things seemed to be trending that way. Fred Hoiberg was replaced with Boylen. Then the front office committed to Boylen in the midst of what was being reported at the time as a mutiny of sorts. Through half of their games, the Bulls had only 10 wins and seemed destined for a top-3 pick. That is significant with the new NBA Draft Lottery rules. With a mere 14 wins at the break, it seemed intentional intervention was the only way Chicago would fall out of the bottom three.

Flash forward and they have won seven out of 16 games since All-Star weekend. That is not world-beating by any stretch, but it is emblematic of the front office’s reputation in this space. Their unwillingness to bottom-out is and will be their Achilles-heel. It is not apples to apples, but researchers at MIT say that the Oakland Raiders trade of Khalil Mack was the best move of the year. The big takeaway is that unless you gut the operation, those lingering pieces are more likely to hold you back than propel you.
In a time when year-to-year turnarounds are the norm, it may seem counter-intuitive to zero out. But the duo of John Paxson and Gar Forman have always been able to hang their hats on finding and developing talent. It would have made sense for them to tear it down to the frame. But a combination of their own history, and perhaps the growing animosity towards their perception locally had the Bulls powers that be scuffling. They ended up holding on to assets they should have released (Robin Lopez) and winning games they needed to find ways to lose.

False Advertisement

Kris Dunn will not be a Chicago Bull next season. That much has become painfully clear. Not only have Bulls execs openly challenged and questioned the third-year pro, but reports have also surfaced about the team’s scouting of Murray State sophomore standout, Ja Morant. On top of all of that, Dunn’s best games all come with Lavine sidelined; just like his 26-13-6 game against the Washington Wizards. However you look at it, Dunn seems to be the odd man out of the young core.

Coach Boylen has grown on this team. Going from being reported for excessively tough practices to players volunteering to square your debts has to be an all-time boss move. But the team is abysmal in the very areas that Boylen was brought in to strengthen. They are 20th in points allowed per game, 25th in defensive efficiency, 26th in opponent effective field goal percentage, and 25th in opponent true shooting percentage. Those numbers are…ungood. And Boylen consistently referring to players playing with “fear” as opposed to actual strategy is unsettling, all things considered.

Injuries have struck this team all year so some of their statistical shortcomings are to be expected. It does not explain it all away and that is where Dunn and Boylen come into under scrutiny. Both are touted for what they bring defensively, but neither has lived up to that billing. Players have turned in favor of the embattled coach and teammates have voiced support for Dunn. Neither is a lock to return, but the Bulls have at least told us that the coach will. Meanwhile, Dunn, who was part of the Jimmy Butler trade, has seemingly been showed the door since he arrived.

D Is For…

‘Disappointment’ is the word of the 2018-19 season for the Bulls. A year filled with injury, coaching change, player unrest, and a war of semantics with the media can only be described as such. Even if being as bad as possible was the goal, as it should have been, the organization fell short. But anyone who has followed this group already knew what to expect. The rub is that knowledge does little to quell the disappointment (there’s that word again) of knowing that, in a year where they wanted to be bad, the team is likely to fall just short.

Bulls Balling, Bailing on Rebuild

Bulls Balling, Bail on Bombing

The Chicago Bulls beat the Philadelphia 76ers 108-107 behind 39 points from Zach Lavine. He also had five rebounds and four assists. Most importantly, he ended the game by blocking a lob attempt by the Sixers. Robin Lopez added 19 while Otto Porter and Lauri Markkanen had 15 and 11, respectively.

Late Season Surge

Chicago is 5-3 since the All-Star break. It is a modest total, but the team is gelling and can hang their hats on beating two of the top-five teams in the East. The Boston Celtics were at the start of their current slide, but Philly came in on a heater, having won four of six coming into their matchup at the United Center.

Zach is averaging 27-5-5 post-break and Lauri averaged 26 points and 12 boards for the month of February. The Bulls are also 7-3 with Porter (18-5-2) in the lineup. His efficiency (49.6% from the floor, 49% from three) and off-ball prowess fit so well with Lavine and Markkanen’s more ball-dominant styles. Lauri’s ball handling has been on display of late as well.

The Rub

These are all good things, undoubtedly. But there is still a bitter aftertaste from every win knowing it pushes them closer to locked in for the fourth slot in the lottery. They will still have a shot at the number one pick, but drop in probability is not insignificant. They also run the risk of a farther fall when the ping pong balls drop.

Of course, that depends on who the Bulls have their eyes on. There has been speculation that Murray State point guard Ja Morant would be the target, but Chicago won’t be able to get him after three (and possibly even number two). It was thought to be a foregone conclusion at the start of the year they would be selecting from the trio of Duke players Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, or Cam Reddish. Nbadraft.net, however, has them linked to Gonzaga‘s Rui Hachimura.

Silver Lining

At any rate, whomever they pick, they will have put an intriguing young nucleus together. Their ceiling is a complete mystery, but we know GarPax can put together competitive rosters. That Chicago has semi-pivoted on the tank is not a surprise. It is surprising that they held on to vets, namely RoLo. He is averaging 16 points, almost seven boards, two assists, and two blocks per game since All-Star weekend.

This space was used to lament the current status of the Bulls front office and their tendency to abandon rebuilds ahead of schedule. And how their press conferences and interviews are often standoffish. But the fact is they can identify and develop talent. The hope for Bulls fans has to be that that latter set of skills is what is most prominent going forward.