MORE THAN ENOUGH TO WIN (Reflections on the Chicago Bulls 2012-13 Season)

Left In Front – 15 May 2013 – CHICAGO Hard not to exaggerate my affection for this year’s team.

They were a feel good sports movie from start to finish. During the year as every single member of the starting lineup went down, Nate the Skate, Marco, Nazr, Taj, Marquise the Rook and skyrocketing up the Butler rocketed his way into the shining Bulls starting shooting guard until further notice.

“Captain” Kirk revitalized a career, being the steady hand guiding the Bulls to far better offense and defense when he was playing. He dominated the top guard on the other team defensively then prudently distributed the ball on the other hand, particularly working well with Mr. Boozer and giving him his best year in Chicago.

The breakthrough year culminated Wednesday night as Boozer shined the brightest when the Bulls needed him most, giving Miami more than they wanted or imagined and forcing them to fucking earn their birth to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Similarly the Masked Man had his best moment in the Bulls final game, a bright spot on otherwise frustrating second year as a Bull.

Deng quietly, workmanlike and consistently defending the other team’s top wing, hitting big shots, creating offense on his own late in the clock, rebounding and helping on D on his way to a second straight NBA All-Star berth.

Noah moved into the upper echelon of NBA Centers, offering the most unique skillset of any, able to dribble the fast break, find the open man anywhere from the floor, back his man down, hit his ugly jumper and play the craziest whirling dervish defense bouncing around the court (all under his control at this point remarkably) of any 7 foot man the NBA’s ever seen.

After taking a while to adjust in the pre-season and early months Marco really hit his groove filling in for an injured Rip Hamilton in the winter. Multiple 20 point games later and he was reliable scorer all year. He could create his own shot hit 3′s and wasn’t afraid to hit game winners, which he did more than once. A year with Thibs also got him playing poor-man’s-Hinrich-D sticking not quite like glue to his opponent but duct tape.

Nate and Jimmy Butler were the only 2 to play every game and both went to levels nobody imagined. Butler becoming a legitimate stopper troubling LeBron + scoring + rebound and Nate winning player of the week for the Eastern Conference during the regular season then hitting shot after big shot leading the Bulls back from 14 points down with what shouldn’t of been enough time left imposing his will on the triple overtime thriller.

Taj was his typical defensive rebounding machine with a couple of the most thunderous dunks the NBA season saw aside from DeAndre Jordan.

This team was the realization of what Thibs has preached since he arrived on the third coast 3 seasons ago. Learn your job in the system, be ready. One guy goes down, next guy steps up. Despite everyone complaining about losing the “Bench Mob” members Ronnie Brewer, Omer Asik, CJ Watson, Kyle Korver and Jimmy Butler, Thibs developed Macro, Jimmy, Nate, Nazr and returing Taj into a better collection of spices to mix into his lineup that led the Bulls further in the playoffs than they went the year before.

I put this sportswriting in verse together to describe Thibs:

Toughness
Pereserverence
Discipline
Bad losses
Consistently responding
System
System
System
Ending the Heat’s Streak without Noah
No Excuses
System
More than Enough to Win
Believing in Nate -> Beating Brooklyn
Honor

Prediction: Marquise Teague will be next year’s Jimmy Butler. He played a much bigger role on the Bulls than Butler did as a rook’.

15 May 2013 Update: Stacey King whose been cheering and analyzing this team all year kept it real after their loss tonight in his (delayed) post game show noting the Bulls had control of the game down the stretch they just made mental mistakes. No injury excuses about Kirk, #1 or Luol not playing, just frustration at the guys on the floor not winning like we expect.

This team is a testament to the value of high expectations and what they can (consistently applied) lead to: honor and success despite season threatening adversity.

16 May 2013 Update: Watch Tom Thibodeau’s post-game press conference for a better reflection on the game and season.

Copyright (C) 2013 by Charlie Danoff (contact@mr.danoff.org). Follow me @danoff and like my Teaching Lab.

Foreshadowing Basketball’s Future

“Single? 10$”
“I’ll take that.”
“Here you go I’ll even throw in a free hot dog [voucher].”
“…” as I shuffled, getting money.
“Give me another dollar” he said, seeing my wallet.
I acquiesced rather than debate how he’d previously mentioned the hot doge would be free, only checking “Are they real tickets?”

After scalping a ticket and ‘dog I entered the stadium excited to finally see Jabari Parker play in person. I’d been jonesing to watch him after viewing the ESPN 30 for 30 on Benjamin Wilson, the last Chicago high school player to be the number 1 overall prospect in the country prior to Jabari. Both went to Simeon, as did Derrick Rose, Parker had a short piece in Wilson’s documentary as a current Chicago high school basketball superstar attending the same school.

As I worked my way up to the $10 300 level players introductions were being broadcast on closed circuit TV throughout the UC so I saw as Parker was introduced to the (obviously as the only Chicago kid) loudest applause. I had high expectations about Mr. Parker having read all about him, I was eager to watch him defend Chicago’s pride matched up against the continent’s other top prep players including his opposing starting small forward also wearing #22: Andrew Wiggins.

Drama was properly set for my first McD’s All-American game.

FIRST HALF

Parker started the game legendarily blocking the other team’s first 2 shots and prompting me to yell, “That’s what happens when you come to Chicago!” to mild snickers around me. Parker was all over the floor early on accumulating points, blocks rebounds and assists. With around 9:46 left he gave a SportsCenter highlight (literally I watched it on SC later the Wednesday night) shaking his man off a cross over then slamming a baseline monster dunk.

Game itself was weird, as all star games tend to be, not a lot of defense (nonwithstanding Mr. Parker’s blocks) and lots of early shot clock 3′s and dunk-contest-worthy slams. Eric Gordon, the game’s eventual top scorer, drew a lot of attention to himself with aggressive-poor-man’s-Blake-Griffin-esque dunks not including a breakaway where he miffed a between the legs windmill jam, direclt into and then off rim.

Chicago basketball hero Antoine Walker found his way to the big screen fan cam, next to a beautiful lady, showing respect for his roots. Other off the court event of note was when the McDonanld’s dance/fun team brought out a human size tic-tac-toe game during a time out to entertain the crowd, and it was so captivating some players chose to give it attenton instead of their team’s huddle.

Choosing to watch X’s and O’s instead of their coach’s X’s and O’s.

2nd HALF

The second half began with Kanye West’s “Homecoming” blaring over the United Center sound system, a welcome change from the random music of the first. How could they not show more respect to Chicago’s proudest (living) musical son in a game showcasing the city to the nation? First half started with Puff Daddy’s lame Led Zeppelin cover from the Godzilla track … yuck. Didn’t even get a young Chicago kid to perform in half time, instead choosing some post-Disney channel lame version of Drake, hello McDonald’s, haven’t heard of Rockie Fresh?

Parker started the second on the bench, his coach was judicious with his minutes throughout the contest. Typically he would give him a 3 to 5 minute stretch, then give others some burn before brining Jabari back. Given he was coaching the best high-school kids alive right now it makes sense he spread the minutes around … nevertheless I wanted to see Jabari more.

Once Parker came in Wiggins immediately attacked him with a slick 1 handed spinning jumper delivered straight from the Great White North. Unfazed, Parker took the ball end to end scoring right back and then scoring the next trip down the floor again. I know it was only an all star game with weak defense, but Parker seemed like he could do everthing on the floor.

He brought the ball up the court, found his teammates with crisp passes for buckets, created his own shot to score, blocked, stole balls, set screens, and led his team in rebounding. Makes sense he won the “Player of the Year” award, during his acceptance speech played on the jumbo tron during the game he shared a picture of him as a self-described “fat” 2nd grader with a high school aged LeBron (foreshadowing!) and talked with pride about he wanted to win the game for his city playing on Derrick Rose’s floor. Nothing like talented, humble Chicago kids showing respect to The Greatest City in the World.

The 15,818 in attendance didn’t see much of a contest as the West dominated pretty much the entire time, but we did get 1 last special chance to watch Mr. Parker before he goes off to seeming collegiate dominance followed by the NBA lottery. Thank you Sir for giving us a wonderful show.

Kick @$$ and keep making us all proud.

p.s. I’d be remiss as a pseudo-journalist if I didn’t give my Chicago bias a quick break to acknowledge Wiggins was also very impressive, but the game’s best player was Monsieur Eric Gordon. Yes he clanked the dunk above I mentioned (and another one), but he was the game’s leading scorer and beyond his impressive array of dunks & ‘oops he displayed a handle and a head for the game.

p.s.s. I know what you’re thinking “Was a single hot dog really enough for dinner for him?” the answer is no. Thankfully my McDonald’s lunch (which reminded me of the game) tided me over till after the game where I found my way to the oasis know as Billy Goat where a “Double Cheez” was waiting for me. Tomorrow I think I’ll indulge after my discipline and healthy eating today.

Please respect the Coypright & Terms of the video and all links.

Text & Jordan McDonald’s Game Statue Image Copyright (C) 2013 by Charlie Danoff. Rights given a Creative Commons Zero 1.0 Public Domain Dedication.

An Uninspiring & Meta NBA Dunk Contest

This year’s 2013 NBA Dunk Contest was slightly disappointing relative to the past. That’s an inevitable problem with this competition and why there was previously a two-year layoff from the event. Thankfully it returned so we got to see Vince Carter’s 2000 heroics and Steve Nash kick-flip-alley-oop and header-alley-oop to Amare in ’05.

Anyway, this year featured an homage to Carter from current Raptor Terence Ross who went on to win:

But the only meaningful dunk from a historic-dunk-as-art-medium perspective that interested me was the runner-up Jeremy Evans dunking over a picture of himself dunking. David Foster Wallace, author of The Pale King where he put himself as writer into the story he wrote, is smiling down from a better place right now:

Video courtesy of NBA.com.

Rondo leads Celtics to 101-95 win over Bulls – Yahoo! Sports

Left in Front – 13 Nov. 2012 – CHICAGO Teague is already playing good enough D to slow Rondo? “Rookie Marquis Teague replaced Robinson in the fourth and helped curb Rondo’s scoring.” Granted if Hinrich or Rose were healthy they’d be playing but it says something Teague closed the game over Nate Rob. Also, noteworthy that a year after playing for a serious coach in John Calipari he’s now playing for another in Mr. Thibodeau. Both years he’s also playing minutes in games that matter (i.e. postseason expectations) those 2 factors make his learning speed increase exponentially (assuming he’s actually willing to listen, we shall see). Positive early signs of him maybe realizing his potential as the top PG coming out of High School in 2011, nothing more IMHO

Source Yahoo! Sports http://sports.yahoo.com/news/rondo-leads-celtics-101-95-033922510–nba.html

2 things from watching TV tonight

CHICAGO (189 Sep. 2012) -

The most avant garde basketball mix tape ever:

And how far we have come in the future (i.e. now, 2012) compared just to 1997 when The Fifth Element (IMDB / Wikipedia) portrayed a fantastic vision of days to come, yet they still had a character getting blow up in a phone booth. Light-speed-esque space travel across the galaxies, but the 2nd in command bad guy still killed a subordinate by exploding the telephone booth occupied by said subordinate.

The fact that blowing up a telephone booth from a remote location to kill a henchman whose failed you is novel, pales in interesting-ness compared to the fact in 1997 a hollywood movie portrayed a vision of life in the future 23rd Century,

without cell phones.

 

Sources

The Fifth Element. (2012, September 16). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 03:05, September 20, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=The_Fifth_Element&oldid=512855069

IMDB http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119116/

Image http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Fifth_element_poster_%281997%29.jpg&oldid=410508756

Video: “DAVE CHAPPELLE AND 1″ Uploaded by SolDzzza on Nov 4, 2011 http://youtu.be/J7AiAVuad5s

Corrections

An earlier version of this post had the incorrect date. On a related note, the blog itself is set to GMT+8 Beijing Time, because I started this version of the blog (wordpress.org on my own dreamhost) following the first wordpress.com version … which is why the “Left in Front” weblog time is saying September 20th. Chicago[where I now live]‘s currently UTC/GMT -6 hours CDT – Central Daylight Time.

Glad the Bulls Got Teague

Tonight is a night of celebration for Bulls fans: we landed Marquis Teague with the 29th pick. Teague started at point on NCAA Champion Kentucky Wildcats. I have a soft spot for

We took very little risk, 29th overall picks are inexpensive and rarely pan out … on a guy who has a legitimate shot developing not at all or into a legit NBA starter.

But my analysis here is purely anecdotal on gut, kinda like the old scouts in Moneyball who disagree with Beane based on ideas in their head of what someone young has that’ll lead them into greatness later instead of data … here’s a more analytical analysis courtesy of Hoops Analyst’s draft expert Ed Weiland:

There have been several college PGs who posted 9+ A40 over the years. The majority of them were never drafted. While it isn’t the most important thing for a PG prospect to do, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Since it would be way too cumbersome to compare every last college PG who finished with an A40 over 9.0, I put up a sampling of all-stars, journeymen and busts for a look at how their numbers compare …

We’ll start with a graph of his 2 and 3 point percentage, which place him about middle of the pack.

 

Teague is par for the course with th other pass-first point guards on this list, so data doesn’t tell us much save that he has a chance to grow into a dependable guy you can get 20+ minutes a night of good basketball from.

Disclaimer: None of this is to suggest the Bulls are “OK”; they’re not: best player out until january may never be MVP caliber again esp. b/c his game depended a lot on athleticism; remainder of the team couldn’t beat the Philly 76ers who lost to the Celtics who lost to the Heat AND the Heat will be awesome next year plus the next 2 or 3 (probably) so … the bulls are staring mediocrity right in the face; and you don’t play sports professionally to be mediocre … so they’re not OK, BUT tonight is a time to celebrate because they got a steal IMHO at the 29th pick: someone who’ll contribut this year and has a chance to grow into s respected NBA starter, which would be an amazing thing to have backing-up Derrick Rose going forward … championship teams NEED reserves of the highest caliber (Toni Kukoc, Udonis Haslem, Robert Horry, etc …)