Grab the Bulls by Their Horns: Part II

Why the Bulls should have committed to the “retool”

By Steven Johnson

It is July 2016. The Chicago Bulls are yet again in a state of purgatory. A month prior, they traded Derrick Rose, the most important and popular Bull since Michael Jordan, to the New York Knicks.

The move firmly entrenched Jimmy Butler into the role as the franchise centerpiece, even though the front office never explicitly stated they were building around him. Gone were other core pieces in veteran and champion Pau Gasol, as well as the heart & soul of the Bulls franchise: Joakim Noah.

Rose, Gasol & Noah: three of the Bulls four star players along with their head coach Tom Thibodeau, who helped lead the team to 50 wins during the 2014-15 season, were all out.

A true changing of the guard was taking place. Management preferred the younger Jimmy Butler & a “pace and space” approach on offense, which is why they brought in Fred Hoiberg.

The Three Idiots

After a mediocre 2015-16 season where the Bulls finished 42-40, a change of direction was needed. Either hit reset and commit to a rebuild or try and reshape the roster in Hoiberg’s image with accomplished players. The Bulls, by sheer luck and circumstance, committed to a “retool” of the roster.

Out was Derrick Rose, in was Rajon Rondo. Rondo, coming off a season in Sacramento where he led the NBA in Assists (11.7/gm), brought the “pure Point Guard” skill set to a team who wanted to emphasize pace and shooting.

An NBA Champion, multi-time All-Star and All-NBA Team member, Rondo could fill two roles: “name recognition” and “player development.” Rondo was well-known enough to the casual fan, but also brought the reputation of being a “team cancer,” even though his teammates always raved about him.

With Rondo in the fold, Butler now had a PG on his team that never looked to score and also preferred to distribute and create shots for everyone. Most importantly, Rondo would not take away touches from Butler, who wanted to prove that he could be the player a team could build around and contend for a championship with.

It is July 2016: The Bulls are still in a state of purgatory. The signing of Rondo has received mixed reviews from the fan base, as well as media analysts throughout Chicago and the NBA. Why sign an older, but accomplished, veteran when the goal was to become “younger and more athletic?”

It was quite simple: stay relevant and compete. The Bulls, still scarred by the seven-year rebuild starting in 1999, were still not ready to commit to a major overhaul. Management still felt they could compete and sell out the United Center. The fact of the matter is, as much as most would disagree, they were not wrong.

While still trying to figure out how Rondo fit into the Bulls future, one of the biggest moments in franchise history was in place to occur.

No, this was not 1984, where the greatness and dominance began. No, this was not 1991-1998, where six NBA Championships happened. And no, this was not 2011, where D-Rose became the youngest Most Valuable Player in NBA history.

It is July 2016: Dwyane Wade comes home. The Prodigal Son returned. Wade, a three-time NBA Champion, 12-time All-Star, multi-time All-NBA Team member, a Finals MVP, a Scoring Champion and most importantly: a Chicago native, decided it was time to play for the franchise he grew up watching.

Wade, coming off a season where he almost single-handedly carried the Miami Heat to an Eastern Conference Finals berth, grew tired of the lowballing and perceived disrespect Heat management had been showing him.

The Bulls finally did it. They finally signed a big-time free agent, albeit at 34-years-old. The Bulls, spurned by Wade in free agency twice before, finally convinced a big name free agent commit to the team.

Wade Comes Home

No, this is not a slight towards the likes of Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver or Gasol. While all great players in their own right, they were simply complimentary pieces that could help your team win a lot of games. They were not in the class of a LeBron James, a Wade, a Carmelo Anthony, a Tim Duncan or a Tracy McGrady.

They were not franchising changing talents, meaning that if you added them to your roster, you were not a championship contender right away and to be honest, at this point, neither was Wade.

However, that is not why Wade was signed. As mentioned previously: the Bulls plan was to stay relevant and compete. By signing Wade and Rondo, not only would you be able to compete… you would definitely be relevant.

Again, reception to the decision to sign Wade was mixed, albeit not among the majority of Bulls fans. Wade was welcomed back with open arms by the city of Chicago, a fact that he himself acknowledged.

“Flash” was looking forward to being a Chicago Bull and bringing the organization back to prominence.

Questions arose about the shooting fit between Rondo, Wade and Butler. Rightfully so, as all three would admit to you that three-point shooting is not their strong suit. It also did not help that Hoiberg’s plans for the Bulls offense were to place a heavy emphasis on three-point shooting.

But Wade and Rondo are veterans; they were expected to make it work and they did throughout several times during the season – Rondo shot a career-high percentage from 3 & Wade shot his second highest career percentage last season).

We all know how the 2016-17 season worked out for the Bulls. On paper, it was mediocre. The team finished with a 41-41 record and lost 4-2 in the first round of the playoffs to the Boston Celtics. All the preseason expectations for the team went about as expected, right?

I tell people all the time, it is about “perspective.” Let’s put the Bulls 2016-17 season into perspective:

  • Remain Relevant and Competitive

The Bulls accomplished this. While finishing .500 for the season, they pulled off several big wins vs the Warriors, Cavaliers (who they swept), Spurs, Celtics, Raptors, Grizzlies, Bucks, Thunder, Jazz, Trail Blazers, Wizards and Hawks (all playoff teams). Out of the 15 other playoff teams that season, the only two the Bulls did not beat were the Clippers and Rockets.

The Bulls also led the league in attendance. The team averaged 21,680 fans a game. Another indication that eyes were still on the product.

  • Jimmy Butler’s Willingness to Recruit

The Bulls best player wanted even better players to join him in Chicago.

Butler was very open about his willingness to recruit star players to Chicago. Butler, a member of Team USA and also an associate of the “Banana Boat” crew, was the popular kid in school who also happened to hang out with the nerds (Bulls).

Butler openly told the media he would love to have Carmelo Anthony in Chicago. He chopped it up with DeMarcus Cousins during the Olympics. He was the main reason Dwyane Wade decided to sign with Chicago (… well, that and almost a $50 million payday).

There’s also one huge NBA Champion that would have joined Chicago if Butler was still in the fold… more on that later.


  • The Bulls were now ‘Cool’ again

As stated, the Bulls were no longer the redhead stepchild when it came to free agency or star players around the league. That all changed when Wade decided to commit to them and Butler took on the role as lead recruiter.

Several times, the Bulls had been spurned by big-time, franchise changing free agents. Several times, they were left at the altar and had to settle for the bridesmaid.

By taking care of an accomplished vet and powerful voice in the NBA in Wade, other star players’ eyes were now on Chicago.

cp3 congratulates wade

The Bulls, although you would not know it, were in a great position.

They were not tied down to any of the horrible deals that occurred during the cap boom in the NBA. The deals with Rondo and Wade were virtually ‘1 & 1s,’ meaning two-year deals tops. They would have maintained their “financial flexibility” for the 2018 off-season had they kept both Rondo and Wade.

Not only were they in a great position financially, they were in a great position competitively.

Let’s be honest. The Bulls were a Rondo injury away from beating the Celtics in the playoffs. They probably would have swept them. The Bulls have had notoriously bad luck when it comes to their star PGs getting injured in the playoffs.


Wade himself acknowledged that if Rondo does not get injured, this past off-season would have been different.

There would be no Jimmy Butler trade. The Bulls would be coming off a season where they shocked a lot of people in the playoffs. The young players would have received even more playoff experience.

In fact, with the trades of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony and the departure of Paul Millsap, an even more watered down Eastern Conference would have allowed the Bulls to compete for a 3rd or 4th seed for the 2017-18 season.

However, as the old adage goes: “You never know what you have until it’s gone.”

  • Gone is the lead recruiter and one of the best two-way players in the league in Butler.
  • Gone is one of the most powerful voices in the NBA in Wade. He’s rejoining LeBron as a teammate in Cleveland.
  • Gone is one of the best teammates the younger Bulls ever had in Rondo, he’s in New Orleans with the two best big men in the game.

The ‘Three Alphas’ era was over before it got a chance to start. What is even more frustrating is between Butler, Wade and Rondo, each individual saw the potential in this group to do something special down the line.

Rondo specifically said “Yeah, I like where I’m at. I think we have a really good team.” He continued, “Everyone is not going to be San Antonio. Always keep your guys together as long as possible so they can develop chemistry and make deep runs in the playoffs and go through things together and grow. If that’s the case here, that’d be great. If not, it’s up to those guys.”

Butler and Wade had even bigger plans for the Bulls, however. Wade reportedly even was taking the younger Bulls to task, telling them before the off-season to be “ready to work” for the upcoming season. Something was definitely brewing when it came to recruiting players to Chicago.

After the trade of Jimmy Butler, reports started to leak that Kyrie Irving wanted out of Cleveland. Irving, a friend and teammate of Butler with Team USA, wanted to be more of a focal point on offense and also prove he could be the player that could lead a team to a championship.

butler irving

The main place Irving wanted to do that? Chicago.

That’s right. The Bulls were Kyrie’s #1 option to play for if he was dealt by Cleveland. The notion came together because of his relationship and familiarity with Butler. Another NBA Champion and multi-time All-Star wanted to join the Chicago Bulls.

butler irving bulls


Simply stated, the Chicago Bulls missed their chance.

Here they were, finally at the table with the cool kids. Butler and Wade were talking with several players and those players’ eyes were on Chicago.

A two-way star in his prime already in the fold, a powerful NBA voice already in the fold, a boat load of cap room in 2018 and one of the biggest markets and brands in the league.

Bulls’ management was sitting on a gold mine and quit digging just before the discovery.

The commitment to the retool should have been sustained. While fans are appreciative that a direction has been chosen, it is hard to pinpoint when the Bulls will be ready to compete again. They have to hit big in the draft, which is not as easy as it sounds anymore.

They have to again go through the process of signing a big-time free agent, one that has historically been difficult for the organization. They have to bank on younger players, such as Lauri Markkanen, Denzel Valentine, Bobby Portis, Nikola Mirotic, Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine panning out. They have to bank on their current head coach finding his way and panning out.


Bulls’ management is preaching patience with this current rebuild. True Bulls fans will be patient; it is not like they have a choice. But one has to wonder about all the possibilities if they decided to run it back with Butler, Wade and to a lesser degree: Rondo.

Instead of committing to the “retool,” the Bulls committed to the rebuild. Now, it’s time to wait and see if it was the right move… no matter how long it will be.

Follow me on Twitter: @lAmSteveJohnson


What these Cubs mean to me…

By Steven Johnson

“We Are Good.”

Three simple words by Miguel Montero that became the rallying cry for the Chicago Cubs in 2015. It has been not only the rallying cry, but a factual statement for the last three seasons. The Chicago Cubs are good at baseball.

No, like actually… well, good. Good as in you expect them to make the postseason every year. Good as in you expect them to win their division every year. Good as in you expect them to contend for a World Series every year. Good as in you no longer have to watch games thinking about how the curse is going to burn us this time.

“We Are Good,” indeed. As a die-hard Cubs fan, this team means the world to me. At only 25-years-old, I have already seen my fair share of heartbreak as a Cubs fan. It started in 1998. I was only six-years-old, but my Dad had me following along much like he did during the Bulls’ dominance in the 90s.

I had all the gear. Sammy Sosa was the greatest player ever to me. I thought Henry Rodriguez was a legend. Mark Grace was that dude. The Cubs were the greatest show on Earth. I remember Michael Jordan throwing out the first pitch in a Cubs jersey. My childhood was pretty awesome.


In 1998, we won Game 163 vs the Giants. We then proceeded to get swept three straight by the Atlanta Braves. I was devastated. Even after the Bulls had clinched another three-peat and Michael Jordan hit “The Shot,” I was still devastated that my Cubs had lost.

There is nothing like the sport of baseball. The excitement I felt whenever my Cubs were kicking ass trumped the excitement I had watching my Chicago Bulls and Chicago Bears kick ass. This was something special.

As I got older, I got smarter. My love and knowledge of the game increased. Sammy was still the man to me, but I discovered Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds and Jeff Bagwell.

I learned to root against the Cardinals. I learned how pesky those Houston Astros were. I always wondered why there were six teams in the NL Central.

I was used to the losing as well. The 1999 and 2000 seasons were very trying. I remember in 2001 when they got off to a great start and “swooned” throughout the remainder of the season. We won 88 games but didn’t make the playoffs. We struggled hardcore in 2002. Don Baylor was relieved of his managerial duties and we were back to square one.

“In Dusty We Trusty.”

dusty baker1


When the Cubs hired Dusty Baker, I was excited. Here was a man who led the Giants to the World Series. He was the man who was going to do the same with the Cubs. That team was stacked from top to bottom.

The lineup was insane, including the likes of Sosa, Moises Alou, Alex S. Gonzalez, Mark Grudzielanek, Eric Karros and Damian Miller. We also boasted one of the most dominant pitching staffs in recent memory. Five arms, five studs: Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano, Matt Clement & Shawn Estes.

In-season trades made by Jim Hendry were beneficial too.

The Cubs acquired a pure leadoff hitter in Kenny Lofton and the best third baseman in Cubs history at the time behind Ron Santo in Aramis Ramirez (Yes, I’ve heard about Kris Bryant and Yes, he will undoubtedly supersede Ramirez and Santo when it is all said and done). Other veterans acquired: Doug Glanville, Randall Simon and Tony Womack helped lead the charge.

Every move hit and everything was going the Cubs way. We won the NL Central with 88 wins and we got past the obstacle that was the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS. We were up 3-1 on the Marlins in the NLCS. And then…


Yea, that happened. The Cubs blew a 3-1 lead before it became fashionable.

Sorry, we had to relive it for storytelling purposes. I never blamed Steve Bartman. I instead concentrated on this play. Not enough attention is paid to the potential double play that could’ve preserved the lead and gotten out of the inning.

No, fans like narratives and the narrative was Steve Bartman cost the Cubs Game 6.

The narrative was that “The Curse of the Billy Goat” was indeed real. The narrative was this was exactly what the Cubs were destined for and nobody should really be surprised. The Cubs bowed out in Game 7 and the Marlins went on to win the World Series.

The devastation for the Cubs and the city of Chicago was real. They were so close, yet so far away. It was another season where they caught lightning in a bottle and had a chance to go all the way. It was 1998 all over again. The Cubs choked down the line in 2004 (Much like 2001) and missed out on the playoffs.

Not even acquiring Nomar Garciaparra could get the Cubs over the top in 2004 (I had to bring it up). Did I also mention the Cubs brought back Greg Maddux? So much wasted potential and talent on that 2004 team.

In 2005 and 2006, the Cubs were back in the cellar. 2005 was awesome for me because of the breakthrough of Derrek Lee. Competing for the Triple Crown throughout the season with Albert Pujols was a treat to watch as a Cubs fan.

2005 was also the year the Cubs traded Sammy Sosa and the Chicago White Sox won the World Series (Yes… they actually won the World Series). In a single year, part of my childhood was gone and the crosstown rival had just won the damn World Series.

I was not a hater. I was congratulatory. I was happy for the White Sox and their fans and they were happy to pour salt into the wounds of myself and other Cubs fans.

Privately, I always held out hope that our time was coming sooner rather than later. Until then, it was time to take all the jokes that were about to fly… for 11 more years.

“From Worst to First.”


For the 2007 season, Baker was relieved of his managerial duties. The Cubs brought in Lou Piniella. They then proceeded to go on a spending spree, completely retooling the roster.

They signed Alfonso Soriano for $136 million over eight years hit leadoff and (originally) play center field, even though he had just converted to the outfield one season prior.

They brought in Ted Lilly, Mark DeRosa and Jason Marquis. They selected Josh Hamilton in the Rule 5 Draft too, but he eventually was purchased by the Reds from them.

The Cubs won 85 games and the NL Central. They got swept three straight games by the Diamondbacks. “It’s Gonna Happen” did not happen, but hey, just wait until next year.

In 2008, the Cubs won 97 games and the NL Central again. They got swept three straight games by the Dodgers. That was just cruel and unusual punishment. That just hurt.

“The Lost Seasons.”


For the 2009 season, the Cubs signed Milton Bradley. The Cubs won 83 games and missed the playoffs. It was their third straight winning season, however. This was the first time the Cubs accomplished that mark since 1972.

The 2009 season was not a complete loss at the time as Tom Ricketts and his family purchased the team. You take what you can get, because a World Series was not an option at the time.


In 2010, the Cubs regressed… winning only 75 games. The 2011 season was even worse, as the Cubs only won 71 games. Here we go again… lost seasons and a high payroll with high-priced aging veterans and a farm system that was in rough shape.

No entertaining baseball in sight. It was the same old status quo that Cubs fans had become accustomed to, unfortunately. Change needed to happen, change was on the way.

“The Plan.”


In late 2011, Theo Epstein arrived in Chicago. He was the Cubs new President of Baseball Operations. Jed Hoyer joined him as the Cubs new General Manager. A plan was set in place to completely rebuild the Chicago Cubs as a franchise and organization.

The Cubs were able to ship off high-priced, aging veterans. Soriano and Zambrano were both traded. Epstein and Co. made several astute signings and deals:

  • They traded for Anthony Rizzo in 2012 and signed him to a seven-year deal in 2013.
  • They also acquired Kyle Hendricks in 2012 in a deal involving Ryan Dempster.
  • In 2013, they acquired Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop in a deal for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger.
  • In 2014, they acquired Addison Russell in a deal with the Athletics for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel (who they signed back for the 2015 season).
  • They hired Joe Maddon as Manager.
  • They drafted Kris Bryant in 2013, Kyle Schwarber in 2014 and Ian Happ in 2015. All three are currently producing at the Major League level.
  • They developed Javier Baez, Willson Contreras and Albert Almora Jr.
  • They signed Jon Lester, traded for Dexter Fowler and Miguel Montero and then signed John Lackey.

“The Plan” indeed was something worthy of a book one day. Ricketts, Epstein, Hoyer and Jason McLeod rebuilt this team and organization from the ground up. It was something the Cubs and their fans were not used to. A healthy farm system, a consistent big league product and a front office that was all-in when it came to winning a World Series.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Chicago Cubs

“We Are Good.”

For the 2015 season, the Cubs blew away everyone’s expectations. In a total surprise, the team won 97 games. Arrieta won the NL Cy Young Award and led the MLB in Wins. Bryant won the NL Rookie of the Year Award and made the All-Star Team. Rizzo made his second All-Star Team. The Cubs went 42-18 from August-October to finish the season.

They beat the Pirates in the NL Wild Card Game. They took out the Cardinals, our arch rivals, in 4 games during the NLDS where Schwarber gave us a moment. What a time to be alive as a Cubs fan.

cubs cardinals

Then another match-up with another rival presented itself. We faced the Mets in the National League Championship Series. We were swept four straight.

It was, in my eyes, a rite of passage. This young team had to experience heartbreak before they experienced doing the unthinkable. They had to know what failure felt like so they did not have to be afraid of it anymore.

“It happened… I saw it.”

For the 2016 season, our Cubs were all in. It was World Series or bust for this team.

They brought back Fowler on a 1-year deal (“You go, we go.”). They signed Jason Heyward and John Lackey away from the Cardinals.

They traded longtime Cub Starlin Castro to the Yankees and signed World Series Champion and All-Star Ben Zobrist.

Throughout the season, slowly but surely, the Cubs added the right pieces to compliment the squad:

  • They reacquired Chris Coghlan.
  • They acquired superstar closer Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees.
  • They acquired a pitcher in Mike Montgomery who would go on to be a part of possibly the greatest footnote in Cubs history.

The Cubs won 103 games (if only they could have won 108), the NL Central and finished with the best record in baseball for that season. This was too good to be true… it felt real, it felt genuine. It just felt right.

We were matched up with the Giants in the NLDS: a stiff test in its own right. It was the even-year dynasty. The Giants had won World Series Championships in 2010, 2012 and 2014. It was 2016… get those narratives and curse stories ready.

We passed the test with flying colors. Javy was “Must-See TV” when we absolutely needed him to be. KB wouldn’t let us go out like that in Game 3. In Game 4, the magic was just beginning. We took out the even-year dynasty in 4 games. One series down, two to go…

cubs giants

Bring on the Dodgers. It was time for payback for that 2008 postseason fail. In Game 1, Miggy, who coined the rallying cry “We Are Good,” went and backed it up… the Game 1 Hero. Games 2 and 3 were tough… we did not score a run and were down 2-1 in the series. It was go-time. The city knew it, the fans knew it… they knew it.

We came out swinging in Game 4. We tied the series at 2. Addison Russell and Jon Lester stepped up in Game 5… We took a 3-2 series lead. In Game 6, it was time to enjoy it together. We won the pennant. The Chicago Cubs were heading to the World Series for the first time since 1945.

cubs dodgers

The passion and celebration in Wrigley Field would only be second to one thing: Winning. The. Whole. F*cking. Thing.

We were finally there. The Cubs were in the World Series, man. I could not believe it. I was most happy for my Father.

My Dad literally had seen it all, from Muhammad Ali to the 1985 Bears to six NBA Championships to the Fire’s MLS Cup victory and three Stanley Cups. But the one thing he had never seen, his favorite team winning the World Series in his favorite sport.

It was time for the Cubs to do it. I don’t care what anyone said. It was time to nut up or shut up. Bring on the Cleveland Indians. This World Series was too perfect. Someone’s curse had to go, whether that’d be the damn Billy Goat or Ricky Colavito’s.


Schwarber, who had been out all season with a serious knee injury, made it back to join the World Series roster. He was there to DH and do whatever he could with the bat to help the Cubs make history. He became a Cubs folk hero.

And so we began… getting shutout in Game 1. Corey Kluber had got us and we knew we had to get him back at some point.

Jake the Snake picked us up in Game 2 and we tied the series at 1. We were heading back to Wrigley with a chance to make history in front of everyone. The Indians had other plans… they took Games 3 and 4 from us on our field. It was a 3-1 lead.

It couldn’t end this way… not like this. This season felt too good, too perfect. Everything was in place for us to end this damn “curse.”

We were not going to give up that easily though. We were going to get that Game 5 win, no matter what it took. KB delivered again and Chapman carried the team to the finish line. We’re heading to Game 6.

In Game 6, Jake the Snake came through for us again. KB, Rizzo and Russell put an exclamation point on it. The World Series was going to a Game 7 and we knew we were going to pull it off.

Every setback (108 years’ worth of them) was to culminate in a major comeback.

Game 7 was here, and yes, the beginning of it was something that you could predict. “You go, we go” happened one last time. We got to Kluber, payback for Game 1. We took a 6-3 lead into the 8th Inning… and then:

“You got to be f*cking kidding me.”


Not again… no, seriously?! It really sucks being a Cubs fan…


We just saw it with our own two eyes.

This was some sick joke… we’re literally at a loss for words. Those guys in the dugout have to be feeling the same way we’re feeling right now. If they tell you they don’t, they’re full of it.

“What the f*ck just happened? Why did that happen? Is this real life?”

“Are the Cubs really cursed to the point where their fans have to consistently live through sh*t like this?”

Then, you can’t make this up, it’s like God himself heard the prayers and saw the devastation within every Cub fan on his green Earth.

Heaven opened up.

We had a rain delay in Game 7 of the World Series. It was time for the players in the Cubs dugout to collect themselves. We still had a ballgame to win.

Jason Heyward gave the greatest pep talk in sports history. The Cubs refocused on the task at hand: it was time to go win a World Series. Let’s go do it, fellas.

Extra-inning magic: ‘Zo came through for us. Miggy added some insurance. We were now 3 outs away. Just because we had a flare for the dramatic, we did not want to make this easy.

Michael Martinez was at the plate and Mike Montgomery was on the mound. A slow roller was hit to a smiling Kris Bryant.

Bryant to Rizzo; the Cubs were the World Series Champions.

Say it with me now: “The Chicago Cubs were World Series Champions!”

I saw it. My fellow Cubs fans saw it. My family saw it. My Father saw it. Since 1985, every major Chicago Sports franchise in the NFL, NBA, MLS, MLB and NHL had won championships. The Cubs were finally initiated into the fraternity.

We did it for Ronnie, Ernie, Billy, Fergie and Ryno. We exercised the demons of the Billy Goat, Leon Durham’s error and Steve Bartman.

Look at us, we were the captains now. We ran the league. It was our championship to defend. I still can’t believe I can put these emotions into words right now. It’s still so surreal.

I came home from work at 2:30am that night. Me and my brother stayed up and watched continuing coverage. I couldn’t sleep. I was too excited at what I just saw, what I was just a part of covering. I finally saw a team that I rooted for passionately win a championship.

cubs world series champions

This was such an awesome feeling… a feeling that I was not used to. I did not want to let it go.

After I finally got to bed and woke up later, I saw my Dad sitting in the kitchen. I told him: “We finally did it, man. We finally did it.” I remember my Dad’s eyes were a little watery. It was a moment that I would never forget.

We bonded over our favorite team going all the way in our favorite sport. Seeing my Dad happy made me happy all over again.

The Cubs were World Series Champions… and I immediately said to myself: “Let’s do it again.” I don’t care how hard it is, I want more.

Chicago is spoiled, anyway. The Bulls had two separate three-peats. The Blackhawks won three Stanley Cups in eight seasons. Why can’t we be a little greedy when it comes to rings?

It’s 2017 and the Cubs are going back to the postseason to defend their World Series Championship.

Another NL Central Division title clinched and another postseason run awaiting. Why not win another one? I know it’s tough, but nothing worth having is easy. The best thing about all this: we can watch Cubs postseason baseball without the weight of the world on our shoulders. We can just enjoy the ride.

This is what these Cubs mean to me: moments with my Dad, feelings you cannot describe, watching every pitch and every at-bat and being able to say: “My team did it.”


“The Cubs are World Series Champions!” Damn right, they are. #ThatsCub, baby.

Grab the Bulls by Their Horns: Part I

A 2017-18 Season Preview for Chicago’s latest rebuild

By Steven Johnson

And here we are… another attempt at rebuilding by the Chicago Bulls. No, it is not 1999.

Elton Brand, Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry, Ron Mercer, Brad Miller, Marcus Fizer, Jamal Crawford, Jay Williams and Kirk Hinrich are not the targets or the ‘Plan As’ of the draft lottery and free agency.

It is 2017 and this is a full-fledged rebuild. We are talking about young talent in-house, a head coach still trying to find his way and a front office who finally decided it was time. The 2017-18 Chicago Bulls are officially “tanking.”

While “tanking” is the popular buzz word for any rebuild, the fact of the matter is the Bulls are not going to be very good this season. The wheels were set in motion with the trade of Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves in June.

JB Timberwolves

The deal, which occurred after Dwyane Wade picked up his $23-million player option, signified the end of an era in Chicago. Butler, Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott were now on other teams with Nikola Mirotic being the sole player left from the Tom Thibodeau-era.

Butler was dealt for several young assets from Minnesota. The Bulls acquired point guard Kris Dunn, a high-flying and athletic scorer in Zach LaVine and the #7 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. In addition to giving up Butler, the Bulls also gave up their own 2017 first round pick.

Reaction to the trade was mixed. Fans and the media were split on confusion as to why the Bulls decided to unload one of the best two-way players in the game for what was perceived to be unequal value.

travelle gaines

There was also the segment of fans and media who felt the option of a rebuild was put off for far too long and that the Bulls were fortunate to get back what they did for Butler.

Either way, a decision was made. The Bulls front office picked a direction for the franchise and the wheels were set in motion for the future. The Bulls drafted Lauri Markkanen with the 7th overall pick.

Markkanen, a legit 7-footer, offers an intriguing skill set. A big who can shoot from inside and out, the Bulls hope he can be their version of Kristaps Porzingis.


Dunn, who the Bulls were intrigued by during the 2016 Draft, brings a ton of potential with him as he prepares for more playing time (something that was not afforded to him under Thibodeau in Minnesota).


LaVine, a proven athletic monster and Slam Dunk Champion, will take over the starting shooting guard spot when he is cleared to play. LaVine suffered a torn-ACL last season. It was horrible timing considering he was averaging 18.9 PPG and shooting nearly 39% from three.

Adam Silver

LaVine’s situation is an interesting one to watch. He will be a restricted free agent in 2018 and one has to wonder how the Bulls will play this situation when the time has come.

With LaVine coming off a serious knee injury, the Bulls might take a “wait and see” approach when it comes to discussing a contract extension or a new deal.

Regardless, the Bulls added three new young pieces to their core of young players. That is ideal for a rebuild as it allows the young players to grow with one another. It also allows Hoiberg to finally implement the style of play he has been craving on offense.

There is definitely more shooting ability with this group as LaVine, Valentine, Portis, Markkanen and Zipser have all proven they can shoot from beyond the arc. In what will surely be a difficult season, it is important to continue to develop as well as grow the games of each individual young piece.

The potential distractions are all out of the way.

Lopez is an intriguing case. He is a productive big on a cheap contract and brings a lot to the table in terms of rim protection, energy and post/midrange game. If the Bulls can flip him for a late first-round pick or a young player with upside, that would be ideal for the front office and team.

robin lopez

While rebuilding is not something Bulls fans have been used to for quite a while, the fact remains that it should have been done after the 2014-15 season.

The Bulls were in the best position to win an NBA Championship since Derrick Rose’s injury in 2012. However, the team could not get past LeBron James yet again… even with several breaks going their way.

With the decision made to fire Tom Thibodeau, the team should have committed to a major overhaul. The team built in Thibs’ image could not compete, so a new blueprint was needed. Instead, the front office brought back the same team and put Hoiberg in an undesirable position.

While the front office definitely deserves the majority of the blame for several lost seasons, they deserve credit for finally committing to a rebuild and picking a direction for a franchise which has been directionless since the 2015-16 season.

Whether the timing of the rebuild is appropriate is up to debate. There are analysts and fans on the side of both opinions. While appreciative of knowing what the direction of the Bulls will be going forward, I was in the camp of committing to the retool…

Grab the Bulls by Their Horns: Part II… Coming Soon.

new bulls jersey

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