You Miss a Lot in Six Months

You Miss a Lot in Six Months
Chicago Bulls' Lauri Markkanen (24), of Finland, dunks during the final minutes of the second half of an NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks, Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

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Would you consider six months a long amount of time? This ran through my mind as I sat down to write my first post since the end of June and I think it simply depends on the prism you are looking through (I apologize for the unannounced sabbatical) . On one hand, in six months, I will still be 28, still be renting the same apartment, belong to the same gym, and work the same job (unless the rise of Bitcoin allows me to retire to a private island sooner than expected). On the other hand, in just six months, we will have already viewed Super Bowl LII,  watched Golden State Warriors repeat as NBA champions, witness the Stanley Cup being hoisted by the newest NHL champions, watched both the NFL and NBA drafts, and experienced Donald Trump being brought up for impeachment (how dope would that be). In that case, 6 months is a long time.

So, to recap:

Real World- 6 months is not a long time

Sports World- 6 months is a long time

With that Good Will Hunting chalkboard level question answered, I thought it would be appropriate to cover five of the top stories I missed during the last 6 months. Now to be fair, “top” is a fluid term here. Think of “top” more along the lines of the stories that would create the most conversation with your buddies in your local tavern. So basically, the most interesting stories. So actually, let’s just replace “top” with “most interesting”

Here are the top five “most interesting” stories of the past 6 months and what we learned as a result of them:

Lauri  Markkanen can ball and I was wrong about everything

I am not going to sugar coat this; when the Bulls pushed the detonator at the NBA Draft in June, blowing up the team by trading Jimmy Butler and our #16 pick in the draft to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and the #7 pick, one would say I had a minor mental breakdown. Besides the fact that we traded a top 15 player in Jimmy Buckets for pennies on the dollar (litecoins on the bitcoins for you cryptocurrency nerds), I couldn’t get over we had swapped picks as well. I understand Jimmy is the bigger deal here, but the swapping picks part just seemed unnecessary and an insult to injury. But I am not going to go into the dynamics of the trade here. That is not the point of this story. This is about Lauri Markkanen. Lauri can ball.

After the news of the trade had set in and I had regained some sort of mental conscious, I began to run through what we were going to do with the #7 overall pick. In one of the most loaded drafts in recent history, there were a number of franchise altering players I knew would be available at the #7 spot and I was trying to create some fake excitement within myself to help extinguish my meltdown. After the Orlando Magic grabbed Jonathan Issac with the #6 pick, the Bulls went on the clock with some serious names still left in the green room.

My mind began racing; would we select Kentucky star Malik Monk, who dropped 47 points on North Carolina and looked like the a bona fide all-star? Or do we go with Dennis Smith Jr. out of North Carolina State, who has Steve Francis 2.0 written all over him (Steve “Franchise” Francis is one of my top 5 “we forgot about him until now, but when he peaked it was incredible list”). Both were intriguing prospects and as I imagined them in Bulls red, I slight calm came over me.

Well, we all know what happened next; Lauri was selected and I proceeded to leave my apartment,  head to the street and throw myself into oncoming traffic. The first part is true and the second part is a mild exaggeration (I did leave my couch and began pacing back and forth in my hallway, which is basically the same thing as the whole traffic story), but Lauri was selected and I was upset. However, as I sit here today, I now realize my tears of sadness should have been tears of joy.

Lauri has been a pleasant surprise and has exceeded every expectation I had. Besides being from Finland, the only thing I really knew about Lauri heading into the draft is that he could shoot and boy can he. His stroke is pure joy to watch and the fact he is a legit 7-footer should scare the opposition. However, what gets me most excited about this kid is everything else he brings to the table. He has shown the ability to rebound (7.4 per game), is an able passer, tries on defense (sounds pathetic to be excited about that, but he looks like he develop into someone who isn’t a liability on defense. He won’t be a Kyle Schwarber out there), has already shown he can show up in the 4th quarter of games and play meaningful minutes, and above all, he is aggressive inside. That is rare to see in an European big man, especially one that can shoot as well as Lauri.

With both an inside and outside game, Lauri is a rare find. Everyone has been looking for the next Dirk Nowitzki since 1998 and its easy, but lazy, to compare all tall European prospects to him, which is completely unfair. Dirk is a top 20 player in NBA history and Lauri will almost certainly not be Dirk. However, he shows a willingness to learn and a drive to develop his offensive game beyond hanging out on the 3-point line and that is something to be excited by. He is currently scoring just over 14 points per game and I see no reason why he can’t develop into a 20/8 guy over time. He gives me a reason to watch the Bulls and that in itself is a statement I thought would be classified as a ludicrous concept just six months ago. Lauri proved me wrong in every imaginable way and I for one am excited to watch his game develop in 2018.

Mitchell Trubisky isn’t the second coming of Cade McNown

Cade McNown holds a special place in my heart because he was the first draft bust I can vividly remember any Chicago organization drafting. I was a youthful 9 year old when the UCLA quarterback was selected by the Bears with the #12 pick in the 1999 NFL Draft and I remember how excited my dad was that we finally were “addressing” the quarterback situation. For those suffering amnesia, McNown made Rex Grossman look like Tom Brady. He only lasted two years in the windy city, failing to ever complete over 55% of his passes and never achieving over 2,000 yards passing in a season. It was bad. And when we drafted Mitchell with the #2 pick in the draft earlier this year, I can’t say some McNown PTSD didn’t surface.

With just one game to go Sunday, Mitchell looks like something and provides some optimism f0r Bears fans going into the off-season. We have seen improvement each week and as his leash was loosened throughout the year by the soon to be unemployed John Fox (using unemployed over fired definitely softens the blow. Take notes corporate America HR departments), we got a better idea of what Mitchell can become.

He has shown the athleticism Ryan Pace fell in love with and has a strong arm. His accuracy has wavered at times, which is a cause for concern, but he seems to have really locked it down over the last several games (71% completion percentage over his last four games). His leadership skills are excellent and his teammates seem to like him (what us in the business like to call “intangibles”. As in, Jay Cutler had no intangibles”.). His overall energy is quite refreshing and may seem almost over the top due to the doldrums we experienced during the Cutler era.

When it comes down to it, the fact that I am excited about next season and will still watch the Bears play a meaningless game this Sunday says a lot about Trubisky. We aren’t quite sure what we got yet, but we sure as hell know it is’t McNown and watching Trubisky develop makes games watchable. Sadly, as a Bears fan, simply having a watchable game is a big deal and I will leave it at that (actually no I won’t. I am going to blindly say that the Chicago Bears have to have the worst quarterback history out of all 32 NFL teams. No pro bowlers since Jim McMahon in 1985 and before that, Ed Brown in 1952. Our best quarterback in our 97 year old history is Sid Luckman, who started in the 1940s. It is pathetic and we need Trubisky to be the guy. He has to be).

There were a lot of bandwagon Cubs fans and they revealed themselves this summer

The Chicago Cubs postseason run in 2016 was one of the best times of my life. Too many malort shots were taken, several mini-strokes occurred, Chase called several times to make sure no one had stolen my credit card due to my reckless spending in Wrigleyville, but best of all, I got to celebrate a Chicago Cubs World Series Game 7 victory with my dad on the streets of Chicago. The experience of chugging Jack Daniels on the streets with your dad who experienced 56 years of heartbreak while you are surrounded by thousands of other Cubs fans is a personal happiness that I may never achieve again. Walking down the middle of Clark street for two miles and high-fiving every drunk car passenger is an intoxicating high I wish everyone could feel. I may have hugged more strangers that night than in my lifetime. Everyone that night was the biggest Chicago Cubs fan in the world. Unsurprisingly, I found out that most of them were full of shit this summer.

The bandwagon was so full last summer that if this wagon was in fact a tangible wagon, it would have collapsed before the playoffs even started (to be crystal clear, I am implying this wagon collapsed due to the sheer volume of bandwagon jumpers and not due to the fact that Chicago fans are massively overweight) . The Cubs were good, ticket prices were skyrocketing, and everyone wanted in on the action. Everyone I talked to seemed to be waiting their whole lives for this to happen. People I had never seen take an interest in baseball now were telling me where Kris Bryant should hit in the batting order. I knew fair weather fans were everywhere, as their fresh white, never beer-stained jerseys brushed against me on the corner of Addison and Sheffield as I tried to scalp a bleacher ticket that two years ago would have only cost me $20, but today cost me $100. However, I was too excited about what was going on to care. Who cares that half of these people didn’t know who Andre Dawson is? Who cares 70% of the people probably think Sammy Sosa is the greatest Cub of all time. The Cubs were winning and I that is all that mattered.

This summer, these bandwagon fans i was celebrating with on the streets were exposed and it was pretty hilarious/painful to hear their complaints. The Chicago Cubs experienced a World Series hangover that we all expected and the new fans were rattled. Losing a meaningless 3-game series in May seemed to be the end of the world. People were losing their minds when a losing streak popped up. The ridiculous winning habits of the 2016 team hadn’t carried over into this year and people abandoned the team faster than Dwayne Wade left the Bulls. This “losing thing didn’t happen last year” they said. Well, it did. That’s baseball. During a 162-game season, you can usually stand to lose around 72 games and still vie for a playoff spot. But that wasn’t satisfactory for this new era Cubs fan. They hadn’t experienced years of winning 72 games or less. They hadn’t experienced rooting for nobodys like Jeff Blauser, Bryan LaHair, Steve Swisher, Clyde McCullough, and Henry Rowengartner (what kind of person retires at 12 years old?). They excepted to win every series, every game and that is just not possible.

Over the summer, ticket prices dropped and Cubs fatigue set in. Winning the division, a feat just a year ago would be cause for celebration, was met with little fanfare. We made it to the National League Championship, where we lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers and I was listening to Rajon Rando’s telling me how much the Cubs sucked. Let me tell you something; the Cubs do not suck. Making it to three consecutive National League Championships was unheard of until the last few years. Any true Cubs fan would have given a year’s salary in a heart beat to experience this type of success in any other decade dating back to the early 20th century. We have a number of superstars on friendly team contracts for the next several years and saint Theo Epstein at the helm. We will most likely make it back to the World Series before this decade is over and I for one will personally slide tackle anyone who tries to jump back on nearly complete wagon that Theo is currently building as we speak.

Bobby Portis broke Nikola Mirotic’s face before the season started

On October 17th, backup power forward Bobby Portis punched starting power forward Nikola Mirotic in the face during practice (that is one hell of a way to regain your starting spot). This single event triggered two Bulls seasons to transpire; let’s just call them season 1 and season 2 for scientific purposes. Below, you will find the highlights from each season:

Season 1: October 17th- December 7th

  1. Portis was suspended 8 games for his role in re-arranging Mirotic’s face.
  2. Mirotic was out until December 8th due to a disfigured face (showed up as DNP-DF on the injury report).
  3. Rookie Lauri Markkanen was thrust into the starting lineup, where he will remain for the next 100 years because as I stated above, Lauri is god.
  4. The Bulls started the season 3-20, establishing themselves as front-runners to the tank for Marvin Bagley III sweepstakes.
  5. The Bulls were not fun to watch.

Season 2: December 8th-Present day

  1. Mirotic arrived back on the scene and started a revolution. Since his return, the Bulls have become the top team in the East, going 9-2. He has averaged 17 points per game and 8 rebounds, while shooting 50% from the floor and an astounding 48% from 3-point land. Apparently, being punched in the face by Portis has unleashed untapped talent and ability in Mirotic. Should Mirotic thank Portis for his sudden all-star caliber basketball skills? Should he punch more teammates? Will punching injured Zach LaVine actually increase LaVine’s athleticism and recovery time? I am not a doctor, but who knows if a prescription of Portis Punch can’t help other struggling teammates?
  2. Kris Dunn, who just 6 months ago was left for dead in Tom Thibodeau’s Minnesota dog house, has emerged as a legitimate NBA starter, averaging 15 points, 8 assists, and over 2 steals per game over his last 10 contestants.
  3. Bobby Portis has been playing the best basketball of his career and his fist bumps with Mirotic are must-watch tv.
  4. The Bulls are gunning for the 8th seed in the East and really fucking up this rebuilding thing.
  5. The Bulls are fun to watch.

Season 1 is what we all expected. Season 2 is what we now have and it puts us in a weird spot. Even with the 9-2 record in our last 11 games, the Bulls are still in 11th place in the Eastern conference. However, if Mirotic and Dunn are able to maintain their resurgence, Lauri continues to develop, and Zach LaVine come back healthy, it is plausible that the Bulls could fight for the 8th seed. This is actually a bad thing though. In a top heavy draft, finishing 10th in the East hurts us significantly. We need a top a top pick. Should Portis punch Mirotic again? He survived it once, so who says he can’t survive it again?

Carlos Boozer retired from the NBA

It’s a safe bet that two weeks ago more people believed that Donald Trump was still going to build a wall than believed Carlos Boozer was still in the NBA. This is most likely because Carlos Boozer, a member of the Chicago Bulls for 4 years, last played in the NBA for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2015. In three days it will be 2018.

However, Carlos Boozer felt the need to formally announce his retirement on December 18th. Maybe he is feeling lonely and underappreciated? Maybe Coach K won’t let him sit on the bench and be an assistant couch? Perhaps he just wanted to get his name out there with the hope someone would call him for one last go around (they won’t)? Whatever the case may be, Boozer thought people cared about where he had been and what he was up to (we didn’t), so I thought I would mention him one last time here so you did know. And now, we can never mention him again (unless I need to compare a players lackluster defense or limited athletic ability to a former pro, which will then prompt be to bring him up).

So there you have it; two mental breakdowns, a bandwagon blowup, teammate on teammate violence, and the last semi-relevant news you will ever here about Carlos Boozer made up the top five most interesting things I missed during the second half of the year.

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