In case you were busy making a new nonalcoholic mixed drink that's half soda water, half tonic water called the Van de Velde, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Playing without Luol Deng, Derrick Rose, and Kirk Hinrich was too much for the Bulls, who fell 95-92 to the Brooklyn Nets. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau regrettably informed his team of their depleted forces before the game, adding, "I didn't know the games were optional." He then proceeded to drink straight from a bottle of Gilbey's gin, tell Taj Gibson that he wanted to sleep with his sister, and unleash a barrage of awkwardly profuse "real talk about love and pain" upon the injured Hinrich. Bulls forward Carlos Boozer then yelled out his signature catchphrase, "Can you smell the booze stank in the room?!" before being told by Bulls assistant coach Adrian Griffin that games are not optional. A visibly intoxicated Boozer fouled out of his team's defeat in the fourth quarter.
Even though he had another solid outing, Atlanta starter Kris Medlen fell to 1-4 as his Braves lost to the Washington Nationals, 3-1. Medlen, snacking on biscuits after the game, blamed his spotty start to the season on fatigue based on his home life. "I've got young boys, and they're up at all hours," he said. "I've only been a little off, which just makes me think I could be 5-0 if it weren't for those Medlen kids!"
A survey of the players and coaches making moves last night in Brooklyn.
1. Joakim Noah
There will be a lot said about grit and heart and all that today, and while a good portion of the praise heaped on Noah this morning will really be subtweets about Derrick Rose, Noah really does deserve every key punched and bit of ink spilled. His plantar fasciitis kept him out for a majority of the last month of the season, and for anyone who’s watched the Bulls this year, it’s not hard to imagine what sort of injury it takes to earn a minutes limit.
Luol Deng should get some credit for again quietly leading the league in playing time, but it’s Noah who’s provided the life for this Bulls team all year. It’s no coincidence that Chicago got blown out with him playing only 13 minutes in Game 1, and it’s no coincidence that the Bulls were lifted by his presence last night. When Noah game came back in the fourth quarter, a 14-point Bulls lead had shrunk to five, and all he did, on consecutive possessions, was follow up a dunk with a diving-out-of-bounds save to Nate Robinson for the game-sealing 3. And let’s not talk about his reaction after sending back a Brook Lopez hook in the final minute. I might get too emotional.
This was Robert Mays's reaction to seeing this picture: "Eleven months later, Derrick, and you're not even dunking off your left foot. RG3 is throwing passes to elephants, which, according to the Ringling Bros. dude who throws passes to elephants, is really hard." Reggie Rose was not available to comment at press time.
With 2:15 left in the third quarter at the United Center last night, the Bulls and Sixers made their ways to the proper benches for a TV timeout. It was that time in the night when a footrace between animated breakfast food comes on the video board, and as the racers were announced (Dashing Donut, Cuppy Coffee, and Biggie Bagel), people in the crowd reached for their cards to find out in which Dunkin’ Donuts product they had a rooting interest. My friend made a joke about how Larry Bird must hate all this, but aside from that, I see little problem in providing fans with interstitial bits of entertainment. Plus, Dunkin’ Donuts coffee is delicious.
The troubling part came when we noticed that joining the viewing public was the majority of the 76ers bench. Down 11, two days after a double-digit loss to D-League Orlando followed by a public chastising by its coach, most of the Philly roster was more invested in Dashing Donut’s triumph than in whatever Doug Collins had to say.
Chicago and Philadelphia, it would seem, are in similar situations. Both are in their third year of playing for a demanding head coach who occasionally sounds like he ate a pack of Marlboro Reds for lunch. Both have spent this season without the star that was supposed to define their rosters. And both came into last night’s game mired in their worst stretch of the season. It was something, then, to watch how each responded at their lowest point. It’s not that the Sixers’ starters shared their apathy of their bench-dwelling teammates in their 93-82 loss; it’s that none of them were Joakim Noah.
In case you were busy winding down all of your Italian business interests, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
Trevor Mbakwe and the Minnesota Golden Gophers upset top-ranked Indiana, 77-73 in Minneapolis. Mbakwe, who started his college career playing for Indiana head coach Tom Crean at Marquette, said, "Something about Crean brings out the best in me. Maybe it's his smile that says at once, 'I care,' and 'I know this isn't forever.' Maybe it's that 'come-hither' stare, in which worlds are created and destroyed in his irises every time he blinks behind his wire-framed glasses. Maybe it's his lyrical name, 'Tom Crean.' All I know is, when I see his face, I'm compelled to be at once my best and worst self."
A survey of the players and teams making moves in last night's NBA action.
1. Reggie Rose
In the land of the boring trade deadline day, the brother of an injured superstar making loud noises in the shadows may not be king, but he's at least going to get our attention. At the end of a day where names like Fab Melo and Ish Smith became trending topics, Derrick Rose's brother Reggie came out and made some pretty provocative statements regarding the Chicago Bulls' front office and the club's personnel. The short version? Jimmy Butler ain't it, man. Here are some of the greatest hits from Reggie's chat with ESPN Chicago: "What have you pieced together? Have you made any moves? ... Joakim Noah is a great player. Luol Deng is a great player. But you need more than that. You have to put together pieces to your main piece. The players can only do so much ... Everyone is expecting Derrick to come back," Reggie Rose said. "If Derrick comes back, they're going to sell more tickets. Is the reason for Derrick to come back to win a championship or make money? Right now, I don't believe a championship. Everything in the NBA is financial."
The past 10 months of Chicago Bulls basketball have been an exercise in expectations. When the 2012 regular season ended, those expectations were that the no. 1-seeded Bulls — one year older, one year wiser — would give Miami all it could stand come the Eastern Conference Finals. When Derrick Rose crumbled to the court in the first game of the first round of the playoffs, those expectations changed.
This season — without Rose and without much of a bench to allow them to survive for stretches in his absence — came with its own expectations. When the Bulls were threatening to overtake the Knicks for the no. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, and with Rose’s return supposedly on the horizon, those expectations changed again.
The reaction to Rose’s comments yesterday is a consequence of those changing expectations. The thought became that if this team can win without Rose, imagine what it could be with him. After a year spent reconciling being jettisoned from the contender ranks, Bulls fans immediately wanted back in. This is the disconnect between expectations and reality. In October, there was willingness for patience. That’s now gone, and it’s without reason.
Over the last three seasons, the Bulls have cycled through a bundle of shooting guards, or reasonable facsimiles of shooting guards, in trying to find just one that combines “B”-level shooting, defense, passing, and good health. They’ve tried John Salmons, Keith Bogans, Kirk Hinrich, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, Richard Hamilton, and Marco Belinelli, and none have quite provided the ideal combination. Chicago, when whole, has a legit top-10 player in Derrick Rose, a very good all-around wing in Luol Deng, and a prized collection of skilled big men. They don’t need a star at shooting guard; they just need someone who can do everything at a decent level without compromising the team in any one area.
The Dunkin' Donuts Turkey Sausage Wake-Up Wraps are tasting a little bitter in Boston this week. Rajon Rondo’s out for the season, and out with him, in no particular order: all gorgeous, mind-boggling passes whose lanes could have only been spotted by no. 9, having briefly entered the fourth dimension; all team outings to the Roller World in Saugus; and, of course, all rational hopes for another Celtics title run.
Now usually, in this kind of general “elite player out” situation, there’s a silver lining. With the hobbled fellow a totem, the team rallies — all grit and heart and Michael Jordan’s secret stuff — and becomes a scruffy lovable underdog. (You know, like Varsity Blues). And on paper, there’s no reason why that can’t happen. Imagine: Pierce, pumped to still be in Boston despite trade talks, and KG, pumped to be anywhere at any time always ever, lock into a newly spirited level of basketball. Leandro Barbosa, enjoying newfound playing time, does it big for São Paulo. Jason Terry sells his soul to Satan and regains the ability to play basketball. The Celts squeeze into the playoffs, give someone a scare, maybe even win a series.
But this being Rajon Rondo we’re talking about, things can’t be quite that simple.
In case you were busy celebrating National Croissant Day by gorging yourself on refrigerated crescent rolls to spite the French, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
Brooklyn Nets forward Reggie Evans raised some eyebrows before his team's game against the Miami Heat by saying he was "unimpressed" with Miami forward LeBron James. "He's no different than Joe Johnson or Andray Blatche," said Evans, who suffers from a rare illness where he mixes up names and faces within professional organizations. Evans went on to say, "I saw that white kid play at Florida, and he's a good shooter, but people talk about him like he's the best in the world, when obviously their real superstar is small forward Joel Anthony. That guy's a triple-double threat every night, like the reincarnation of Byron Scott and Toni Kukoc in a single body. Where's the Joel Anthony MVP talk? That's what I, Mikhail Prokhorov, want to know." The Heat went on to blow out the Nets, 105-85, in Brooklyn, as Evans missed every last one of his defensive assignments.
Jimmy Butler had plenty of good stretches last night in the Bulls' 95-83 win over the Lakers, but the best came with about nine minutes left in the fourth quarter. After stealing an errant Antawn Jamison pass and throwing it down on the other end, Butler, as he seemed to be all game, was draped over Kobe Bryant outside the 3-point line. The shot clock was ticking down, and as it hit :01, Bryant flung the ball toward the rim, but hit nothing. The horn sounded, and the ball was back to the Bulls.
Bryant finished the game 7-of-22 from the field, and everyone from Steve Kerr to the rest of the Bulls locker room had the same theory why. Kobe’s 42 minutes were topped only by Butler’s 43, and for the second straight game, Butler showed he had no trouble playing the part of Luol Deng, who’s joined Derrick Rose on the list of injured Bulls.
This year was supposed to be a lost one for Chicago. With Rose’s torn ACL keeping him out until at least the All-Star break, a team ravaged in the offseason by financial constraints seemed more destined for the lottery than the conference finals. But with last night’s win, the Bulls are now 24-16, good for fifth in the East and just a game and a half back of the Knicks for the no. 2 seed. With Rose’s return no more than a few weeks away, the question has shifted from how the Bulls will tread water without him to just how good they can be with him.
With his team nursing a 94-86 lead in the waning moments of last night’s game against Philadelphia, Chicago center Joakim Noah crouched low on the left block as Evan Turner attempted the second of two free throws. As the ball arced toward the rim, Philly’s backup center, the lumbering Spencer Hawes, took one step toward the baseline, spun off his left foot, and put Noah onto his back.
It was an odd sight considering the state of unrelenting fervor Noah brings to the court, but it’s hard to find Noah at fault for the momentary letdown. The play came as Noah was putting the finishing touches on his sixth outing in the past 12 days in which he’s played at least 41 minutes. In fact, in back-to-back games against the Clippers and Sixers, Noah played a staggering 87 minutes, raising his season average to a mind-boggling 40.1 — a number that no big man has put up since Tim Duncan averaged 40.6 during the 2001-02 season.
With the absence of Derrick Rose, this type of usage has been born out of desperation. Last year, a deep Bulls bench featuring Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, Omer Asik, and C.J. Watson went a long way toward picking up the slack as Rose missed 27 games with an assortment of injuries. This year, those four all have new addresses, a product of the Bulls’ offseason effort to cut costs. They’ve been replaced by an assortment of bargain-priced veterans and unproven young players. Though there have been some surprising developments — most notably the steady play of second-year wing Jimmy Butler and Warriors castoff Nate Robinson — the bench is still significantly lacking compared to a year ago.
Derrick Rose doesn't even know how to talk about pizza without being super intense and almost uncomfortably sincere. The Thibs joke is pretty great, though. What's happening here? Is Thibs calling him in the middle of the night while standing in front of Lake Michigan, staring into the void, and rasping, "Maybe if you didn't eat so much pizza you'd be playing by now. But you are a weak little pizza person." Is that happening? Can it?
By the way, since this involves Derrick Rose, Robert Mays needs to weigh in: "I'm sticking with Lou Malnati's, but I respect Derrick's right to his opinion." God, Chicago is weird. Have fun with your ridiculous dough-y monstrosity, you heathens.
The first time I saw Derrick Rose try to tear down the United Center was in February 2006. I was a senior at a high school in suburban Chicago, and Simeon was playing Washington for the city’s public league championship. By then, anyone who cared about basketball in Chicago had heard about Rose. When a friend saw the game was to be broadcast on local station WCIU, a few of us ordered pizza and settled in front of the TV.
Growing up where we did when we did, we’d already become familiar with high school basketball greatness. Before he was making faces at Duke, Jon Scheyer spent four years becoming a living legend in Illinois. Everyone who followed basketball in the area had a Scheyer story, and mine was from his 2004-05 junior season. Scheyer and eventual state champs Glenbrook North traveled to Loyola University in Chicago to face Waukegan for a trip to the state quarterfinals. The same group that would watch Rose on TV made the drive to the packed gym, and while in line for soda, we heard an opposing fan say in a mocking tone that he was sure Scheyer would score 50. Technically, the crack was justified. Scheyer only had 48.
Early in his senior year, the local paper printed GBN’s schedule next to a story that implored people to go see Scheyer play while they had a chance. Everyone assumed that Scheyer, who averaged more than 32 points a game as a senior, would head downstate to make it two in a row. And he might have, if not for Derrick Rose.