Season 1 – Episode 3

Guest: Siera Santos

NBC Sports Chicago’s Sports Broadcaster & White Sox Reporter, Siera Santos, joined me on “The All Day SJ Show” this past weekend.

We discuss Year One of the White Sox rebuild, the development of Yoan Moncada and other young players and the futures of Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia.

Also, what should you expect on the South Side in 2018? How will the pitching staff look and where does Carson Fulmer fit into their plans? And finally… how did the Jose Quintana deal between the White Sox and Cubs come about?



Season 1 – Episode 2

Guest: Tony Andracki

NBC Sports Chicago’s Web Producer, Writer and Cubs Reporter, Tony Andracki, joins “The All Day SJ Show.”

We recap the Cubs 2017 season and what went wrong this postseason. We also discuss the futures of Jake Arrieta, John Lackey and Wade Davis. Also, will the Cubs part with one of their young players to land an elite starting pitcher? And finally… Bryce Harper to the Cubs in 2019? Not so fast…

The All Day SJ Show (S1, EP1)


Season 1 – Episode 1

Guest: Mark Schanowski

On the debut episode of “The All Day SJ Show,” NBC Sports Chicago’s Bulls Pre & Postgame Host, Mark Schanowski, talks the Bulls current rebuild & goals for 2018 free agency and the NBA Draft. Schanowski also touches on the Nikola Mirotic & Bobby Portis situation and whether or not it is the right time to trade Robin Lopez.

Sustained Success

A Cubs 2017 Season Review

By Steven Johnson

  • 2017: Another season, another postseason berth for the Chicago Cubs.
  • 2017: Another season, another NL Central Division title for the Chicago Cubs.
  • 2017: Another season, another 90+ win season for the Chicago Cubs.

It is “sustained success,” indeed.

When Theo Epstein came aboard as the Cubs President of Baseball Operations, building for “sustained success” is what he preached when asking Cubs fans to be patient with the upcoming rebuild.

Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod have all delivered, whether that has been in terms of on-field product, the farm system or positioning the Cubs to not just “win now” but also on a yearly basis.

After three rebuilding seasons (2012-14), the sustained success model was initiated. The Cubs hired Joe Maddon in 2014, won 97 games in 2015 and finished 3rd in the NL Central.

After winning the NL Wild Card Game vs the Pittsburgh Pirates, they beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series and advanced to the National League Championship Series. The Cinderella season ended in a 4-0 sweep to the New York Mets.

In 2016, the Cubs went on a tear throughout the entire MLB. Their 103-58 record was the best in all of baseball.

They won the NL Central Division title for the first time since 2008. They made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2008 (2007-08). They also got back to the NLCS… and won it.

The Cubs advanced to the World Series for the first time since 1945. After an intense 7-game series with the Cleveland Indians, the Cubs were once again World Series Champions. It was their first World Series Championship in 108 years and the last great story in sports was finally told.

Entering the 2017 season, the Cubs had accomplished everything they set out to do beginning in 2012. An NL Wild Card berth, Two Division titles, a National League Pennant, a World Series Championship… all were now in the possession of the Cubs over a five-year period.

While the rebuild was now an undisputed success, the goal now simply was to do it again.

The Cubs struggled the first half of the season. Entering the All-Star Break, they posted a disappointing 43-45 record. The struggles were so alarming that the team considered entering the trade deadline as sellers.

However, instead of taking that route, Epstein and Co. decided the defending World Series Champions should take another shot at it.

Jose Quintana

In an unexpected move, the Cubs traded for White Sox Ace: Jose Quintana. The deal was unprecedented at the time considering the Cubs and White Sox were thought to never do business together of this magnitude. The Cubs sent back four prospects in the deal, including five-tool prospect Eloy Jimenez.

After deciding to stay the course, the Cubs caught fire during the second half of the season. They returned from the All-Star Break to win six games in a row. They finished the month of July with a 16-8 record. Most importantly, they only lost three games during that stretch entering August.

After going 17-12 in August and 19-10 in September/October, the Cubs wrapped up their second consecutive NL Central Division title. They were now primed for an NLDS match-up with former Manager Dusty Baker and the Washington Nationals.

Even with the early season slump, the Cubs still had enough to finish as one of the best teams in baseball.

The World Series hangover was real, but the team did not let that deter them. Instead, they rallied around each other and charged back to win a division title.

Again, “sustained success” was the model. Even though there were times where the team struggled, they had enough youth, energy, familiarity and experience to rebound and still compete.

Their talent level was also head and shoulders above any team in the division and the first half struggles should be considered an aberration.

Now, the season starts over at 0-0. Can the Cubs repeat the magic once again?

Before the Cubs begin the postseason, it is time to review the 2017 regular season. A lot of success happened on the field as well as several players standing out for the defending World Series Champions.

2017 Most Valuable Player: Kris Bryant

MLB: OCT 04 Cubs at Brewers

You could have easily gone with Anthony Rizzo or Javy Baez or even Wade Davis here. However, the numbers do not lie and when it came to all-around game; there was one choice for this distinction.

Kris Bryant is one of the best players in baseball. The 2016 National League MVP had another “MVP-like” season in 2017.

Bryant hit .295 with 162 Hits, 29 Home Runs, 73 RBI, 95 Walks and .946 OPS. He also led the team in Batting Average (minimum 400 at-bats), On-Base %, Hits, Total Bases, Doubles (38), OPS and Runs scored (141).

Bryant is a generational talent. Possessing all the tools to be a Hall of Famer, he is versatile enough to be great wherever the team needs or puts him. A third baseman by trade, Bryant is capable of also playing first base as well as both corner outfield positions.

He is a mark of consistency and will be the central piece if the Cubs are to repeat as World Series Champions. Bryant, at only 25-years-old, has already had the career most Major League players dream about.

Bryant is only going to get better, which is a scary thought for the future of the league.

2017 Most Improved Player: Jason Heyward

Jason Heyward

After a tough campaign in 2016, Heyward actually bounced back in most offensive statistical categories this season. In fact, the numbers would not pass the eye test at first glance:

Heyward’s 2017 Season

In 126 Games, Heyward hit .259 with 59 Runs, 112 Hits, 15 Doubles, 4 Triples, 11 Home Runs, 59 RBI, 41 Walks and .715 OPS this season.

Heyward’s 2016 Season

In 142 Games, Heyward hit .230 with 61 Runs, 122 Hits, 27 Doubles, 1 Triple, 7 Home Runs, 49 RBI, 54 Walks and .631 OPS.

While Heyward actually did not match certain totals from his 2016 season, he also played in 16 fewer games. Even though he played in fewer games, he increased his Batting Average by 29 points, hit 4 more Home Runs, hit 3 more Triples, drove in 10 more RBI and increased his OPS by 84 points.

Heyward’s most valuable asset is his defensive ability in right field; however, he proved that he is capable strong showings at the plate. Coupled with his defensive ability, Heyward has the ability to be a game changer if he can find consistency as a hitter.

Hopefully, Heyward can stay healthy and continue to improve and perform each season. He will be a critical component to another deep Cubs playoff run.

Pitcher of the Year: Wade Davis

Wade Davis

This was an easy one. Davis, whom the Cubs acquired in a trade for Jorge Soler, was lights out for the team this season.

In 59 Games, the All-Star closer threw 58.2 Innings, allowed 39 Hits, finished with a 4-2 Record and recorded 32 Saves in 33 Save Opportunities. Davis totaled an ERA of 2.30 to go along with 79 Strikeouts and a 1.14 WHIP.

In addition to the sparkling numbers, Davis was selected as the lone Cubs representative for the 2017 All-Star Game. Perhaps the most impressive achievement of his 2017 season: Davis set the Cubs franchise record with his 27th consecutive save on August 29th.

Davis will be critical to another long playoff run for the Cubs. With the way Maddon used closer Aroldis Chapman last season in the playoffs, do not be surprised to see Davis on the mound in the 8th… or even 7th Innings.

It is all hands on deck in the quest to repeat as World Series Champions and Davis is as good as it gets when it comes to holding a lead.

What to Watch For:  How will the Cubs look next season?

While the Cubs gear up for another run at a World Series title, there are several questions that will be answered come the offseason.

Kyle Schwarber

Schwarber is an interesting case study. When it comes to talent as a hitter, Schwarber has it. When it comes to being able to play multiple positions (LF, 1B and yes, Catcher), Schwarber is capable. When it comes to clutch plays, Schwarber comes through.

In his first full season, Schwarber hit .211 with 30 Home Runs, 59 RBI and .782 OPS. The power hitter also struck out 150 times. Adversity followed for the Cubs World Series hero as he was demoted to Triple-A Iowa.

For the first half of the season, Schwarber hit only .178 with 13 Home Runs, 29 RBI, 78 Strikeouts and .694 OPS. However, after the demotion, the pure hitter in Schwarber awakened. He went on to hit .253 with 17 Home Runs, 30 RBI and .894 OPS.

Even though Schwarber has the potential to play multiple positions and is a guaranteed potential 30-35+ Home Runs in your lineup, the general consensus is he is more valuable as a designated hitter.

American League teams know that too, so the Cubs could be enticed to trade the young slugger for a cost-controlled young pitcher or another young piece with star potential. Perhaps the Tampa Bay Rays can interest the Cubs by offering Chris Archer in a deal packaged around or including Schwarber.

Schwarber’s situation is an interesting one to watch during the offseason. Expect the trade rumors and uncertainty around the Cubs slugger to continue.

  • Two spots open in the rotation?

Jake Arrieta

When the Cubs enter the off-season, two of their starting pitchers will be on the market. Jake Arrieta and John Lackey will be unrestricted free agents.

Arrieta, a former NL Cy Young Award winner and All-Star, led the MLB in Wins in 2015. He also has pitched two no-hitters for the Cubs.

Arrieta is also noted for his “big game” ability with the Cubs. “Jake the Snake” notched two of the Cubs wins in the 2016 World Series.

In five seasons with the Cubs, Arrieta is 68-31 (a .687 Win %). He has an ERA of 2.73 over 128 starts with Chicago. Arrieta has thrown 6 complete games and 5 shutouts (including 2 no-hitters), in 803.0 Innings. He also has 793 Strikeouts to his credit along with a 1.03 WHIP.

When Arrieta is on, he is damn-near unhittable. This was showcased over the course of the 2015 season, where Arrieta’s performance was frequently compared to legend Bob Gibson.

Arrieta has been everything the Cubs envisioned when they traded for him and Pedro Strop in 2013. However, with all of his accomplishments and age (31) considered, will Arrieta price himself out of the Cubs range?

Reportedly, Arrieta is seeking a new deal in the $200+ million range. Arrieta’s body of work is certainly worth the price tag.  However; the Cubs, with several assets to trade for a replacement or simply just sign a replacement at a cheaper rate, might not want to throw that much coin at Arrieta who is on the wrong side of 30.

Lackey is a different story. After signing in a two-year deal with the Cubs, Lackey came here and got his jewelry. The soon-to-be 39-year-old pitcher is likely not in the Cubs plans for next season, especially considering in-house candidates like Mike Montgomery are more than capable of filling his role as the 5th starter.

Overall Grade: A

Even though there were some early struggles for the Cubs, they still managed to win 92 games and win the NL Central Division for the second consecutive season.

The Cubs last three seasons are any teams’, organizations’ and fan’s dream. 292 wins over the last three seasons. Three consecutive postseason berths, two Division titles and a Wild Card win. An NL Pennant and World Series Championship are also a part of the trophy case.

Simply put, the Cubs are in a great position not only for now, but also for the future. Most of the Cubs veterans are still young and are only going to get better. There is also that rumor that another one of the best players in baseball can join Bryant, Rizzo and the Cubs in the not so distant future.

Right now, it is the ‘in’ thing to be a Cubs fan and the team, organization and fan base deserves it all.

Follow Me on Twitter: @lAmStevenJohnson

Something Building on the South Side

A 2017 Chicago White Sox Season Review

By Steven Johnson

The 2017 season for the Chicago White Sox was a success in many ways, although it was not reflected in the club’s record or the division standings.

That is exactly what the organization had planned for. Going into the season, the White Sox were officially engaging in a full-scale rebuild. It started with the trade of Chris Sale on December 6, 2016.

Sale, the longtime Ace of the White Sox, was acquired by the Boston Red Sox to anchor a rotation contending for a World Series championship. In return, Chicago acquired four prospects, including Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech.

Yoan Moncada

Entering the 2016 season, Moncada was ranked as the fifth best prospect in baseball. He was also the recipient of the Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year Award in 2016.

Kopech, one of Boston’s first round draft picks in 2014, had a fastball that topped out at around 98 MPH and was consistently rated amongst the top 40 prospects in baseball.

Michael Kopech

With the face of the franchise now shipped off to Boston, the White Sox were not done dealing. A day later, their spark plug centerfielder, Adam Eaton, was traded. Acquired by the Washington Nationals, Eaton brought back a significant haul for the White Sox. Chicago acquired three pitching prospects: Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning.

With two separate deals, the White Sox instantly replenished what was an underwhelming farm system.

With Moncada, they had their stud position player, capable of being one of the best players in baseball for a long time. With Kopech, Giolito, Lopez and Dunning, the White Sox continued to do what they did well, and that was developing pitching for the future.

After the resignation of Manager Robin Ventura, the club hired Rick Renteria.

Renteria, a one-time Manager of the Chicago Cubs, was tasked with developing a young roster while also assuring the club would continue to compete and play hard. #RickysBoysDontQuit served as a rallying cry for the young team throughout the course of the season.

Rick Hahn did a tremendous job of building for the future in such a short time. What was even more impressive is the fact that after the separate deals for Sale and Eaton, Hahn still had valuable trade chips in Jose Quintana, David Robertson, Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera to work with.

With Hahn’s offseason work done, buyers during the season would call for the players listed and Hahn and the White Sox were ready to cash in.

On May 27, the White Sox signed Luis Robert to a deal. Robert, considered a Cuban phenom, was yet another piece added to an already bright future for the team. Robert, who played for Cuba’s Serie Nacional Ciego de Avila team from 2013-15, hit .401 with 12 HR, 40 RBI, and 1.213 OPS last season.

Luis Robert

With the 11th overall pick in the 2017 Draft, the White Sox selected third baseman Jake Burger from Missouri State. Burger was considered one of the top prospects in the draft.

On July 13, the White Sox made a stunning deal. The team traded Quintana to the crosstown rival Cubs.

While a Quintana deal was inevitable, nobody pegged the Cubs as being the team to acquire him. In fact, a deal of this magnitude was thought to be unimaginable between the local but rival franchises.

The White Sox again made a smart deal, acquiring four prospects from the Cubs including Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease.

Jiménez was considered the top international free agent in 2013. Considered a five-tool player, the outfielder was added as another dynamic piece to the future of the White Sox to be paired with Moncada.

Eloy Jimenez

Cease, a pitcher with a fastball that topped off at 97 MPH, had been recovered from Tommy John Surgery for his UCL. Baseball America rated him as the second best prospect in the Arizona Fall League at the end of 2015.

With their most valuable piece in Quintana now moved, Hahn still had Frazier, Robertson and Cabrera to work with. He also had smaller pieces in Anthony Swarzak, Dan Jennings, Tommy Kahnle and Miguel Gonzalez to work with.

Indeed, on July 18, the White Sox traded Frazier, Robertson and Kahnle to the New York Yankees. The White Sox acquired four players which included veteran Tyler Clippard. The headliners of the deal were three prospects: Blake Rutherford, Ian Clarkin and Tito Polo.

Rutherford was considered one of the top prospects for the 2016 MLB Draft. Clarkin was one of the Yankees first round draft picks in 2013.

Polo, signed as an international free agent in 2012 by the Pirates, was acquired the Yankees in 2016. He also played for the Colombian National Team in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Hahn was wheeling and dealing, and in a few short months, the White Sox farm system was the strongest it had been in a long time. In fact, it was now considered the top farm system in all of baseball. Entering the season, it was considered the third best. Hahn’s rebuild of the team already was off to a successful start.

More deals followed, as the White Sox were able to flip Clippard to the Houston Astros for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

Gonzalez, the lone constant of the rotation that season, was traded to the Texas Rangers for Ti’Quan Forbes. Forbes was drafted by the Rangers in the second round of the 2014 MLB draft.

While the rebuild was the story for the White Sox for the 2017 season, their on-field product offered glimpses of the future as well. Led by Jose Abreu, pieces on already on the big league roster showed that they had a place in the future of the White Sox.

2017 Season MVP: Jose Abreu

Cleveland Indians v Chicago White Sox

Abreu, one of the better hitters in baseball, takes home my season MVP award for the team. In 156 Games, the consistent First Baseman hit .304 with 33 HR, 102 RBI and .906 OPS. He also chipped in 189 hits, 95 runs, 43 doubles, 6 triples and 35 walks. In other words, it was just another expected season for the Silver Slugger.

Abreu, who joined the White Sox in 2014, has been a mark of consistency for the organization. In all four of his big league seasons, Abreu has scored 65+ runs, collected 175+ hits, 30+ doubles, 25+ HR, 100+ RBI, 35+ walks, .820+ OPS and a .290+ Batting Average. He has also played at least 145 games in each season.

Abreu is the perfect veteran for the young White Sox. At 30-years-old, if he is still a member of the team, he figures to still be in prime when the White Sox are ready to compete for a World Series. A former AL Rookie of the Year, All-Star and Silver Slugger, Abreu figures to be a hot commodity this upcoming offseason. Stay tuned.

2017 Most Improved Player: Avisail Garcia

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Chicago White Sox

Garcia, whom the White Sox acquired from Detroit in the Jake Peavy deal in 2013, finally showed his potential during the 2017 season. Garcia posted career-highs in Batting Average (.330), Runs (75), Hits (171), Doubles (27), Triples (5), Home Runs (18), RBI (80), OPS (.885) and Total Bases (262).

He also was selected to the AL All-Star Team – the first selection of his career. He was the White Sox’s lone representative.

Garcia is an intriguing case. While he took a huge step forward this season, the White Sox could feel that this is the highest his value will ever be and include him as part of a deal.

At 26-years-old, he is young enough to be considered as a part of the future but one has to wonder if he is guaranteed to be a part of the roster for the 2018 season. The White Sox definitely should considering moving the All-Star if a favorable deal is offered to them.

2017 Pitcher of the Year: Miguel Gonzalez and Michael Kopech


This one was hard to settle on with so many moving parts and deals during the season. At the MLB level, Gonzalez gets the nod here. He was the most consistent starter this season for the rotation with the Quintana deal and failed Holland experiment.

Gonzalez was second on the team in Games Started (22), first in Quality Starts (13), tied for first in Wins (7), second in Innings (133.2) and fourth in Strikeouts (85). He also finished with a 4.31 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP.

While not the “name” or the “best” pitcher on the staff, he was the most consistent. He turned in several nice starts for the team and was always ready when his name was called.

Kopech, despite not being on the Major League roster, was stellar in 2017.

In 25 starts in the minors, Kopech finished with a 2.88 ERA, 134.1 IP, 172 Strikeouts, 1.17 WHIP, .193 Opponent BA and a 9-8 record. He was also selected to the Southern League’s end-of-season All-Star team. The future is bright for the MLB’s ninth ranked prospect.

What to Watch For: The Young Bucks

Several players on the White Sox this season took steps towards development.

  • Tim Anderson: 146 Games, 72 Runs, 151 Hits, 26 Doubles, 4 Triples, 17 Home Runs, 56 RBI, 15 Stolen Bases and .679 OPS.
  • In his second MLB season, Anderson struggled during the first half of the season. However, he bounced back to hit .276 during the second half and while increasing his power totals.
  • Plate discipline continues to be an issue, but Anderson should continue to steadily improve.


  • Matt Davidson: 118 Games, 43 Runs, 91 Hits, 16 Doubles, 26 Home Runs, 68 RBI and .711 OPS
  • Davidson is counted on to provide power and he did not disappoint this season, going yard 26 times and nearly driving in 70
  • With Frazier traded away and Moncada slotted in at second, expect Davidson to have at least one more opportunity at third to open next season.


  • Nicky Delmonico: 43 Games, 25 Runs, 37 Hits, 4 Doubles, 9 Home Runs, 23 RBI, 23 Walks and .856 OPS
  • One of the more fun stories of the season, Delmonico worked hard all season and earned a promotion from the Charlotte Knights.
  • He began his MLB career with a seven-game on-base streak and played the majority of his games in left field.


  • Yoan Moncada: 54 Games, 31 Runs, 46 Hits, 8 Doubles, 2 Triples, 8 Home Runs, 22 RBI, 29 Walks and .750 OPS
  • Simply put, this is the guy to build around. He will be one of the best players in baseball and this was only a small sample size.
  • He debuted to much fanfare and rightfully so. Expect to see him here for a long time.


  • Lucas Giolito: 7 Games Started, 3-3 Record, 1 Innings, 2.38 ERA, 34 Strikeouts, 12 Walks, 8 Home Runs Allowed, 0.95 WHIP, .190 Opponent BA, 31 Hits Allowed.
  • Giolito was impressive in seven starts this season for the White Sox.
  • Projected to be in the rotation next season, Giolito’s expected improvement will be crucial for a rebuilding team.
  • He is a solid third or fourth starter in the rotation.


  • Reynaldo Lopez: 8 Games Started, 3-3 Record, 2 Innings, 4.72 ERA, 30 Strikeouts, 14 Walks, 7 Home Runs Allowed, 1.32 WHIP, .258 Opponent BA, 49 Hits Allowed.
  • Lopez had an up & down season with the White Sox. Although he posted five quality starts, his ERA was a little bloated.
  • While the numbers are not as important for a rebuilding team, Lopez will continue to improve and should be considered a constant for the rotation.

Other pieces, such as Carlos Rodon and Carson Fulmer, are expected to continually improve as members of the White Sox.

Rodon, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder, is reportedly expected to miss 6-8 months while recovering from the injury.

While injury issues are a concern for Rodon, he has the potential to be dominant if he can put everything together. He struck out nine or more hitters in five starts this season and struck out 76 hitters in only 69.1 innings this season.

Fulmer is a bit more of a project. While originally projected to be a starter, a bullpen role is also an option for him. He went 3-1 with a 3.86 ERA in 7 games this season, 5 of which were starts. In 23.1 innings, he struck out 19 hitters and opponents only hit .188 against him.

Overall Grade: B

All things considered, the 2017 season for the White Sox was a success. The rebuild has gotten off to a great start and slowly, but surely, the critical pieces to the future have begun to showcase themselves.

Hahn and the rest of the organization deserve a ton of credit for picking a direction and setting the White Sox up for success in the future.

Renteria also deserves a lot of credit, as he was able to not only get the most out of all his players but also avoid the cellar of the AL Central Division. He displayed this ability with the Cubs in 2014 and has all the makings of a Manager who can lead a team to… and win a World Series.

Follow Me on Twitter: @lAmSteveJohnson

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

Follow me on Twitter: @lAmSteveJohnson

This is My Story

David DeJesus – In His Own Words

By Steven Johnson (@SteveJohnson_12)

Follow David on Twitter (@David_DeJesus3)

Baseball is an awesome game. The sport does so much for those who choose to play it, and if blessed enough, make a career out of it. Countless stories have been told over the course of Baseball’s history. The sport is a unique game that has attracted players from all over the world. For some, it is the only opportunity to create a better life for the individual as well as their families.

It was his faith in God, the love of his family and Baseball that gave David DeJesus that opportunity. 13 seasons at the highest professional level of the sport opened the door for him to become the Cubs Pre & Postgame Analyst at CSN Chicago.

“It’s going great,” DeJesus said.  “I’m fortunate that CSN gave me the opportunity to take on this role. David Kaplan was instrumental in getting me here, and now I love it each and every day more and more. My wife (Kim) and son (seven-year-old “Spidey“) recently arrived from California, where my son goes to school, so having family here adds even more to the whole experience.”

Currently, he resides in Wheaton with his family and DeJesus also has strong “bench support” as his in-laws live nearby, allowing David and Kim to excel at their careers. DeJesus’ remarkable journey has allowed him to be in this position. The veteran outfielder spent two seasons with the Cubs and was an integral part to the rebuilding of their product on the field.

Over the course of his 13-year MLB career, DeJesus was a productive player. The veteran outfielder hit a solid .275 with 99 career Home Runs, 573 RBI, and a .761 OPS. DeJesus made quite the name for himself in Kansas City, sharing the field with legendary players such as Carlos Beltran, Mike Sweeney, Billy Butler and Zack Greinke.

In fact, when Beltran was traded to the Houston Astros in 2004, DeJesus stepped up to become one of the faces of the organization

. david dejesus

During the 2004 season, He became the Royals everyday center fielder and finished top-10 in AL Rookie of the Year voting that season. In 2006, the Royals rewarded the pro with a five-year contract extension. In 2008 with the Royals, he finished top-10 in the American League in hitting with a .308 Batting Average. He also had an all-around productive campaign with 159 hits, 25 doubles, seven triples, 70 runs, 12 HR, 73 RBI and a .818 OPS.

However, like most professional athletes, there were bumps along the road on the way to success. During the 2010 season, DeJesus tore the right tendon in his thumb during a game against the New York Yankees. It was horrible timing for the veteran as he was hitting .318 and was on pace for a 200-hit season.

DeJesus was forced to have season-ending surgery and just like that: he was shut down. Later, after spending eight seasons in Kansas City, DeJesus was traded to the Oakland Athletics. The deal came a season before he was eligible for free agency. DeJesus, at that point in his career, found himself at a crossroads.

That was a crazy time,” DeJesus said. “I had the worst year of my career in 2011 at Oakland. Up to that point, I was a .290 hitter and then all of a sudden I’m hitting .240. I was ashamed of walking around town.  I felt like I was wearing a .240 sign on my forehead — at least that’s what I thought people saw on me…

“I didn’t see the blessings that I had.  I was still a Major League baseball player with a wife and son — so many blessings surrounding me, but I couldn’t see them because I was wrapped up in my numbers.”

However, after that tumultuous season in Oakland, DeJesus changed his approach to the game — and to life itself.

“I was still nervous,” he said. “What’s going to happen? I’ve finally made my way to free agency, but I’m coming off the worst year of my career. Will anybody want my services? My agent called me around Thanksgiving and told me that the Giants and Cubs were both interested. San Francisco was offering more money, but Chicago was now home.”

“After my difficult year in Oakland, I wasn’t too keen on going back to the West Coast, so I took less money to stay near our adopted home.  With Kim’s family so close, it was the best situation for my family. Talking to Theo [Epstein], he let me know right away: ‘Dave, these are going to be two tough years, but we’re building something here.’”

Esptein joined the Cubs as their new President of Baseball Operations in 2011. The much sought-after executive left Boston after winning two World Series titles with the Red Sox. DeJesus signed with the Cubs knowing a full rebuild was taking place. DeJesus was expected to fill the role of being a veteran leader, while also showing the younger Cubs the ropes, and being a productive player on the field.

“He [Theo] wanted me back in 2010 before I got injured with the Royals,” DeJesus said. “I had Tommy John surgery on my thumb, so he was going to pick me up right before the deadline during that time but didn’t because I got injured. It came around at another time and he picked me up and I’m super thankful for that.”

DeJesus served as a mentor for several young players, such as Anthony Rizzo & Starlin Castro, and also endeared himself to Cubs fans because of his hustle, work ethic & leadership. The team struggled during his two seasons with Chicago. In 2012, the Cubs lost 101 games.


DeJesus, however, knew it was what he signed up for. Epstein made it a point to caution him of the difficult seasons that lied ahead for the Cubs organization. In 2013, he was traded from the Cubs to the Nationals (more on that later).

“It’s a funny story,” DeJesus said. “I played with the Cubs on ‘Family Day’ on a Sunday afternoon, and then on Monday morning, Kim and I are about to go to a juice bar when I get a call from Theo. That was a bit out of the ordinary, and when I answered it, Theo says, ‘David, we appreciate everything that you’ve done for us, BUT…’  And when he said that “But” word, I knew something was up.”

BUT, you just got traded to the Washington Nationals.’ And what’s really weird is that the Nationals were coming to Wrigley to play the Cubs that very day! So I was cleaning out my locker in the Cubs’ clubhouse and walking down to the visiting clubhouse!”

DeJesus played just four games for the Nationals before he was then traded to the Tampa Bay Rays. Interestingly enough, while DeJesus originally signed up to help the Cubs rebuilding project, at Tampa Bay, he would experience what it was like to play for one of the central figures in the Cubs renaissance — Rays manager: Joe Maddon.

The Rays, at the time of the deal, were in the middle of an AL Pennant Race. DeJesus was counted on to bring veteran leadership, in addition to being another option for ‘Maddon & Co.’

It was a vastly different situation than the one he grew accustomed to in Chicago.

“So, I went to Joe’s office and he’s like: ‘Hey man’ and I sat down in front of him. He said: ‘I got two rules here: run the ball out and play sexy.’”

  • Run the ball out.
  • Play Sexy.

Two rules by Maddon that set the tone for the Rays. The two rules also served as somewhat of a foreshadowing to what the Cubs organization, their players & fans would become accustomed to: the future & popular Maddon catchphrases: #Respect90 and If you look hot, wear it.”

So David, ‘Play sexy?’

“This guy came and said ‘Play Sexy,’ and I was like: ‘It’s something about that.’ It gave me that freedom to go out there and be myself.”

DeJesus instantly bought in to what Maddon was preaching. Actually, he did more than just ‘buy in,’ … he adjusted his style. As an outfielder for roughly 97 percent of his career, DeJesus served as a Designated Hitter for the Rays during his tenure there. DeJesus was serviceable in the role. In 85 career games at the position, he hit .268 with 18 doubles, two triples, eight Home Runs, 23 RBI, 32 Walks and a .795 OPS.

DeJesus credited Maddon with allowing him to be himself again, which made doing whatever the team needed to win a championship a breeze.

“That’s the thing that’s special about Joe,” DeJesus said. “He lets you take your skills and your personality, and let it play out on the field.  He doesn’t restrict that.  He gives you that freedom to go out and play just ‘free’. When I was with the Royals, whenever we played the Rays, we noted that their bench was always having fun.  He brought ‘fun’ back into the game, and it was special. To me, as a player, I appreciated that.”


 The Rays finished the 2013 season with a 92-71 record. They finished second in the AL East and beat the Cleveland Indians 4-0 in the 2013 AL Wild Card Game. They then ran into the eventual 2013 World Series Champions: the Boston Red Sox and bowed out in four games to them in the 2013 American League Division Series.

 DeJesus would spend three seasons with the Rays before finishing his 13-year MLB career with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. A critical goal for DeJesus’ career was that he wanted to be the quintessential professional and teammate. He always wanted to be the person that teammates could come to for advice and guidance… whether it’d be their approach or just life in general.

 “I just tried to be the best player and best teammate I could be,” he said. “I wanted to be a guy who could pick up teammates if they wanted to bounce something off me and an encourager to anyone who might be going through a rough time. I’ve been through highs and lows in baseball and in life, so I can share my experiences and how I handled them.”

 “My time in Tampa Bay was really a cool time because I got close friendships with people like Chris Archer and have a good relationship with him. Steven Souza’s one of my good friends still, right now, Brandon Guyer and others. Baseball and life in general, is about relationships. Yes, winning is a goal, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the relationships that you establish.”

 That’s what makes the sport of Baseball special. It is about the relationships you develop with those blessed to be a part of the same fraternity that so few are in. It is about the blessings and success that you get from the game after you work hard and sacrifice so much to get to that level. It is even about finding something outside of the game… something DeJesus is very proud to declare.

 “Can I tell my story?” DeJesus asked me before concluding our interview.

 It is a story that needs to be told.

 “Throughout my career, I attended Baseball Chapel pretty regularly. I thought it was the right thing to do. But during the 2011 season in Oakland, when I was struggling with my game, I realized that I couldn’t do this game of baseball and more importantly, this game of life, by myself. I realized I needed a Savior.”

“I was in Toronto on a Friday night. I just… I just broke down in my hotel room. The pressure of being a husband… a new Dad… hitting in the low .200’s… It broke me to a point where I prayed, ‘Lord, I cannot do this myself. Lord, I want you to take these burdens off me…because you said you would.”

 “At that point, I knew that Jesus Christ was behind me! Christ was in my heart and I knew that I didn’t have to ‘perform’ any more to experience ‘worth.’ Everything has already been done for me through Christ’s death and resurrection!”

 “I thought being a Christian meant ‘doing things’ — ‘earning’ my salvation.  But once you accept Christ into your life, you receive His free gift! Now it’s living in that grace and that love that God has for me! And that has been my motivation every day since that night in Toronto! I’m so thankful for everything — including my new role with CSN — and trying to raise my son to know Jesus Christ.”

 David’s test in life was his testimony. Because he gave his life to God, he is being blessed in abundance. His test was indeed his testimony. He is not only living his life for his family and his love and passion for the game of Baseball, but because of his love, passion and appreciation of our Lord and Savior. It is an important lesson in life that has always stood the test of time.

Now, DeJesus is at peace with where God has brought him. He is enjoying his role as the Cubs Pre & Postgame analyst for CSN. He acknowledges that there are differences in being a player and an analyst, but welcomes the challenge of walking that line between player and analyst.


 “The hardest thing is calling it out because we’re so engrained in us when it comes to picking each other up. That’s the toughest thing to do, because it’s hard to get away from the ‘Big League Mentality’ when I’ve been in there for so long.”

 It has been an interesting transition for DeJesus thus far, but he has been helped by numerous people along the way. In addition to his faith in God, the DeJesus family and other colleagues have been instrumental in his shift to television analyst.

 Dave Kaplan has been a great help for me,” he said. “This guy has helped me out. We’ve watched tape together. We’re always talking and he’s giving me little tips. He’s patient with me and I’m so thankful that he’s opened himself up to help me out. I never would have thought if you said three years ago that I would I be an analyst for a baseball team or a baseball game. I’d say ‘No way,’ because I never really thought I was comfortable behind the camera. You never really know.”

 DeJesus treats every show just like he treated every game in his career. He gives 100% in his preparation and is always eager to improve and learn more about the business but there’s one thing he absolutely does before every show. It is his current ‘Pregame ritual.’

 “I pray each and every day before I get on that TV,” he said. “Because I know that I can’t do this by myself. The Lord is always there behind me.”

 Whether it is baseball, working in television or living his everyday life, DeJesus has an outlook on life that can be applied to any facet of it:

 “Let me be a guy that can walk alongside of somebody, put my arm around them and be like: ‘Hey man, it’s OK, we’ll get them tomorrow,’ he said. “That’s the cool thing about Baseball, both in watching it and playing it.”

His testimony truly is the story of a lifetime…