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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tuesday(?) Hoopyball Recap

 photo bulls.jpg

-It was a long weekend for me, so the recap will span from two Fridays past to last night! The Bulls went 5-2 since Friday, January 11:

The Bulls kicked off this stretch by shellacking the Knicks. They won 108-101 but were up comfortably halfway through the fourth before they let the Knicks score a bunch of garbage time points. The game said equal things about how over their own heads the Knicks were playing to start the year and how good the Bulls can be.

Of course, the Bulls followed that up by losing by 16 points, at home, to the worst team in the West, Phoenix. I wrote about this last Monday, but it bears repeating: the Bulls simply can't take nights off. Before they could turn in lackluster efforts and be bailed out by D. Rose. Without him they need to work hard night in and night out. Luckily, it does seem like this loss kicked the Bulls into gear.

The next game came Monday against Atlanta, and you may not see a better defensive performance from a team all season. The Bulls won 97-58, broke several defensive records, and made Atlanta look like an AAU team. It certainly seemed like the beating administered by the Suns started something in this team that had been lacking for much of the season.

Next came an OT game against the Raptors in Toronto. The Bulls managed a 2 point win, but it wouldn't have ever been that close, and certainly would not have gone to overtime in the first place, if Marco Belinelli would not have taken 7 ill-advised shots down the stretch. Despite Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer both being on the floor, the Bulls ran their entire offense through Belinelli for the last 4 minutes of regulation and almost the entirety of overtime (before they got smart and gave it to Deng to finish it off). I like Belinelli, but he was out of control on this night and he didn't have his shot. I can't be sure if this was Thibs' idea or the team's, but it shouldn't have happened. Deng should have been the go-to guy.

On Friday the Bulls played their second straight overtime game, this one in Boston versus the Celtics. Deng and Boozer had great games, but Deng went down in the fourth (and hasn't played since, he's day to day) and things looked bleak. Luckily, as time was running out Marco Belinelli charged the hoop and lost the ball (there was much rage, this is not the lucky part), but it bounced straight to Kirk Hinrich who nailed a jumper with 3 seconds left to send this one into OT. Belinelli would redeem himself in OT when he hit the game winner with under 10 seconds to go as he was falling down and fading away. It was an impressive shot, and it gave the Bulls the 100-99 win.

Sadly, the Bull's three game win streak would come to an end in their third straight overtime game on Saturday against Memphis. You know it's a defensive battle when a game ends in OT and the score is 85-82. The big story out of this one, aside from another Bull home loss, was that Tom Thibodeau sat Joakim Noah for nearly the entire second half. When asked why, all he would say is that Jo knew why. Whatever happened, it seems to be over, as Jo played full minutes against Los Angeles last night, and it seemed to work, because...

The Bulls beat the Lakers last night at the UC, 95-83. The Lakers may not be a great team overall, but they do have a great offense, and holding them to 83 points is a great accomplishment, not to mention getting home wins for this team seems to be like pulling teeth. This brought the Bulls to 24-16.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

For the Record: Blame Canada Edition


Alright, well, let me start this off by saying this could be a good hire. There's no way of knowing until it plays out. But here's why I think Arians was the better choice:


The last time Trestman was in the NFL was 2004. He was the assistant head coach and QB coach of the Dolphins. That team went 4-12.

The last time Bruce Arians was in the NFL was last year. He took a Colts team that earned the #1 draft pick the year before and had just seen their real head coach diagnosed with cancer and led them to the playoffs at 11-5.


The popular thumbs up to Trestman is the QBs he worked with. He worked with Steve Young!... for two years. What happened those two years? They lost to the Packers in the divisional playoffs. Both years. You know who else he QB coached? Jake Plummer! From 1998 to 2000. From 2001-2003 he was the OC for the Raiders! Who made the Super Bowl in 2002! So why only until 2003 then? Surely he got a better job! Well... no. See, the Raiders dropped straight into the shitter, to 4-12, he got canned, did the Dolphins thing for one year, and then went to NC State. NOT TO BE THE HEAD COACH! Nope. He was their offensive coordinator!

A popular argument for Arians is the QBs he worked with. He worked with Ben Roethlisberger! What happened between 2007 and 2011 for the Steelers? They won the Super Bowl in 2008 and went back in 2010. In his last season they went 12-4 but lost in the divisional round. Roethlisberger's numbers spike considerably in 2007, coinciding nicely with Arians' arrival. Roethlisberger continues to be a very good QB. What happened with Trestman's QBs? Well, aside from Steve Young, who had ALREADY WON A SUPER BOWL WHEN TRESTMAN GOT THERE, he was the QB coach AND the OC for Jake Plummer's worst two seasons, his second and third. He was the QB coach and OC for the Raiders with Rich Gannon... and Gannon's numbers stayed exactly the same as they were before he got there, until his third and final season in Oakland when they went 4-12. Then he was the offensive coordinator for NC State. What did NC State do in the two years he was there? 7-5 the first year, 3-9 the second year. The second season NC State did not score more than 24 points in a game. In the first season they did it once. Against Eastern Kentucky.


The big thing today was that Emery chose Trestman because he wanted a disciplinarian for Jay. Someone who would hold Jay accountable. Is Phil Emery out of his GODDAMNED MIND?

A) Why would Jay listen to this CFL guy? He... commands respect? I just outlined Trestman's whole NFL career (leaving out his stints as the Lions QB coach in 1997 and his activities in the 1980s because... well, why pile on?) and it is not impressive. So Jay was being coached by Lovie Smith... who had made as many Super Bowls as a head coach as Trestman has at any position... and who has been an NFL head coach for exactly nine more years than Trestman (who has NEVER been an NFL head coach)... but yeah, Jay will surely listen to him more. Because look what Trestman did! He coached Steve Young for two years after Steve Young was already amazing! He coached Rich Gannon two years after Rich Gannon had already become great... then in his third year drove Rich into the ground! He coached Jake Plummer, who... well, Red, you understand that part. He coached Scott Mitchell! Jesus I'm depressing myself. I need you to realize I am not leaving anything out here except his CFL stint. This guy's entire NFL body of work is incredibly underwhelming.

B) So we're building around Cutler. Fine! Actually, I'm on board with that, because Emery has made his decision and he's sticking to it. That's all I wanted him to do, and it looks like Jay is here for the long haul. So, instead of getting a guy who, just LAST FUCKING YEAR, coached Andrew Luck into the rookie of the year (probably) and the Colts to 11-5... and before that turned Rapelisberger into the QB he is today... we grabbed a guy who has literally never developed a starting QB to be better than he already is. And this is because... I guess Arians wasn't going to yell at Jay? This sounds like the worst idea. This sounds like the absolute worst idea I have ever heard.

Look, I'm not jumping off a bridge here. Yet. But we just passed on the coach of the year in the NFL, a guy who has proven he can develop QBs, a guy who has proven he understands offense in today's NFL... for a guy whose resume looks like this? Because he will "hold Jay accountable"? Alright, nevermind. I'm jumping off the bridge.

This was definitely the bold hire. It’s not a stupid one, but it will definitely either make Phil Emery a genius or an all-time Bears goat. He’s either going to be the bold visionary who took a chance on a brilliant offensive mind, or “dat guy who hired da CFL cooch.”

Personally, I’m okay with this. It’s less about the QBs he’s worked for (he’s had great success and some failures, and that logic can always be dodgy) and more about the fact that he’s successfully adapted his offense pretty much every where he’s gone. He’s run a base West Coast with Gannon, a mobile West Coast with Young, and a spread in Canada. At the very least, he’ll be creative and adaptable, something the Bears just haven’t been on offense.

The Cutler stuff has more to do with Trestman working with Jay as his personal QB coach before the 2006 draft. He’s done that with several QBs lately. His reputation as an offensive mind is well-deserved, and I’m excited to see how his willingness to adapt the west coast offense to a 12 man spread translates into molding a new NFL offense in Chicago.

My concern comes from how well he handles the daily grind of the NFL head coaching job. He’s been an offensive coordinator, so he’s not unfamiliar with the workload and the hours, but it’s still a different scenario to handle it each day of the year. In Canada the practice hours are nowhere near as long, the film sessions are far less grueling…I think he’s capable of doing all of this, but it’s a matter of how quickly he gets up to speed.

My final verdict: not a stupid hire, but we’ll definitely have to simply see how this plays out. Arians would definitely have been the safe pick. Emery sees more potential in Trestman. Let’s see if he’s hanged himself.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Weekend Hoops Update and also Iggins! Eating Crows

This will be unpleasant

- Yeah, so when Kaepernick threw that interception to start the game on Saturday I sent the following text message to Red:

"Oh, Kaepernick is failing? Whoda thunk?"

Then, as if he somehow knew I had pulled an Erik and claimed victory WAY too early, he went bonkers, destroyed Green Bay, and shoved a murder of crows down my throat. So, random 49ers fan who wandered in here weeks ago, I apologize to you and your fan base. Though I still don't think the Niners win the Super Bowl, I will admit that Alex Smith does not beat Green Bay in that game, so my point is invalidated. Switching to Kaepernick was clearly the right call. How dare I ever question Jim Harbaugh, my favorite Bear QB ever (This is not sarcasm, it is disturbingly very true). That is all.

- After the Bulls beat the hell out of the Knicks (the box score says they won by 7, but they were up by more than 20 half way through the fourth quarter), then returned home to AGAIN be beat to hell by a very bad team, this time the Phoenix Suns, the majority of Bulls players were saying their issue was that they get too comfortable at home because they think the UC is going to win them games by itself there, so they get complacent and get their ass kicked. They are missing the obvious here. It isn't the UC that won them games while they were sleepwalking the last two years. It was Derrick... freaking... Rose. Somehow they have all forgotten that Rose goes into Golden Sonic mode whenever he sees his team down by 7+, takes over the game, wakes up his team, and pulls out wins at home even though the team seems less than motivated. The Bulls without Rose don't have the luxury of being able to half-ass anything. If they play to their full capabilities they can play with anyone in the NBA, but that isn't because they have overwhelming talent. Quite the contrary. The current Bulls are loaded with hard workers and coached by an amazing gameplanner. Their strength comes from effort. Without that you get what we saw Saturday night: 79 points against a terrible defense, and an allowed 97 points to a terrible offense. Derrick Rose is so talented that he can lift the Bulls to victory when they slack: without Derrick Rose the Bulls need to realize they can't slack at all.

-I'll digest half a crow for Wisconsin, but I'm reserving full judgment until they play at Indiana on Tuesday and Iowa at Carver on Saturday. The 74-51 win over the Illini was very impressive, but the Illini have been flagging of late, and it's hard to tell how much credence to give this Wisconsin W. The Illini reverted to last year's group on Saturday. Brandon Paul went 1/11 from the field, the Illini were 2/14 from three, and any time that happens they are going to go down hard. Whether Wisconsin really is good or they just caught the Illini on a very Illini night will be determined by how they fare in their next two games. It cannot be reasonably expected of Wisconsin to beat Indiana at Assembly Hall on Tuesday, but keeping the game close will go a long way in maintaining a good public perception. The game at Iowa on Saturday is huge for both squads. If Wisconsin wants to prove they're a contender, they need some B1G road wins, and getting one against the team most likely to take their bubble spot would be great. Iowa grabbed a 20 point win at Northwestern on Saturday and needs to hold their home court to get to the hypothetical 9-9 in conference that will get any B1G team into the NCAA tournament. Added to that is that Fran has owned Wisconsin recently: not only did Iowa sweep them last year, the Hawks also stole Jared Uthoff from them this offseason. That will be a big game.

Friday, January 11, 2013


As the dust settles over the post-Lovie-Smith Chicago landscape, the new coaching situation is still very much in the air. As we said in last week’s For the Record, our pick would be either McCoy or Arians. I’d also be okay with Trestman, who Jimmy Johnson apparently thinks already got the job. How do you know that? Hey, I’m asking you a question. Answer me, thing in the mouth-face.

But despite the fact that they interviewed Mike Singletary (which I’m choosing to believe was only because this city can’t wipe its ass without first asking the opinion of an ’85 Bear instead of the horrifying alternative that they actually might hire Mike Singletary to be their head coach) and a handful of Special Teams guys, including Toub, I think it’s obvious that an offense-minded, decidedly not-Lovie-Smith Chicago coaching staff is on its way in.

Now, despite what Iggins! would have you believe, I was the only one of our merry band whose surety that Lovie would get the axe never wavered. Red called me that Sunday night and explained for like a half hour all the reasons he was certain Lovie was safe, a sentiment that was echoed around the Internet by people who like Lovie Smith. We’ve always been pretty firmly in Lovie’s camp, and I still don’t think he necessarily deserved to get fired, but I understand why he did.

That needlessly long introduction aside, what I wanted to do here was break down a couple of the arguments people had for keeping Lovie around and why, sadly, they weren’t enough to save his job. Because I hate things that are different, the arguments will be in italics and my responses will be in regular ol’ Times.

Friday Hoopyball Recap, 01-11-2013


-The Bulls went 2-1 since last Friday.

First, Friday night, they put on a show, in Miami, and beat the Heat by 7. Big kudos to Carlos Boozer (!?), boy do I hate typing that, who put up 27 and 12. The Heat got dominated inside, which is a great sign for the Bulls. The Heat have been on a slide of their own, but that shouldn't take away from this win. Beating the Heat will eventually pay dividends, especially doing it without Derrick Rose.

Then, Monday night, the Bulls came back home and waxed the Cavaliers, 118-92. Hard to single out a specific performance that really won this game, but Boozer did dominate again. His turn-around jumper has been going in, and when it does he becomes the most dangerous weapon the Bulls have on offense. Beating the Cavs at home should be a given, so no big deal here, but it was good to get to 19-13.

Unfortunately, Wednesday night the Bulls dropped to 19-14 by losing to the Milwaukee Bucks, who apparently have their number in Chicago. Last time, and the only other time these two have played this year, the Bulls went up by 27 and lost. This time the Bulls went up big again in the first, but Brandon Jennings, again, started shooting lights out, and the Bulls went down, 104-96. The comedy of errors that is Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings playing together brings me joy, and it was working exactly as one might think early on. Ellis shot every time he touched the ball, Jennings had to do the same to get his own shots in, and the Bulls just sat and rebounded. Unfortunately, Ellis got into foul trouble, sat down, and Brandon Jennings started to dominate. The Bulls had trouble deciding how to shift a few times down the stretch, which is unforgivable at this point in the season, but the biggest reason they took this loss is Brandon Jennings, When he's on, he's unstoppable. When he's off, the Bucks are awful.



Purdue 61 - #18 Michigan State 84

Purdue couldn't quite capitalize on the momentum they gained from their surprising season-opening win over Illinois. Winning on the road at Sparty is always tough, but the bottom line is that Purdue isn't a great team this year. Bad teams can sneak up on people, and that was surely the case against an Illinois team not yet used to success. MSU may not be contending for a B1G title this year, but they can handle the Boilers at home.

#8 Ohio State 55 - #11 Illinois 74

This was a disaster nearly from the start. I covered it earlier in the week. Suffice it to say, Illinois is pretty good.


Iowa 67 - #2 Michigan 95

Iowa was in control for about 15 minutes of this game. They had the Wolverines out of rhythm, had led the entire first half, and were knocking down open looks. But after that, Michigan asserted itself in a big way. The Hawks clearly aren't up to Michigan's level, but really, there may be 4 other teams in the nation who are.

Wisconsin 47 - Nebraska 41

Covered this already as well. Two mediocre-to-bad teams going at it here.

Northwestern 51 - #9 Minnesota 69

Nevermind about the Tubby Smith crack I made last week. Minnesota is very good, and they don't seem to know it yet, which is great. The game against Indiana tonight will be huge.


#5 Indiana 74 - Penn State 51

Nothing to see here.


#15 Ohio State 74 - Purdue 64

You know, Ohio State may not be as good as once thought. Illinois and Minnesota seem to be the top 10 team OSU was supposed to be.


Nebraska 47 - #2 Michigan 62


#8 Minnesota 84 - #12 Illinois 67

This was in Illinois, by the way. Total Gopher domination. Tubby Smith really has this team working on all cylinders. Trevor Mbakwe coming back is making more sense every day. Don't take this as meaning Illinois isn't as good as they seem, either. Minnesota may just be a top 5 team nationally.


Northwestern 70 - Penn State 54


#22 Michigan State 62 - Iowa 59

Iowa's best player, Roy Devyn Marble, was revealed to be out for this game about an hour before tip. Despite this, Iowa led for the entire game until 8 minutes were left in the second half. They were even up 4 with a minute to go! But a foolish turnover from Mike Gesell doomed them, a final 3 fell short, and the clock ran out on the Hawks again. This game and the 4 point loss at home to Indiana really sting. If those two had just fallen the other way, iowa would be 2-1 with two huge quality wins. Instead, Iowa is 0-3 in the B1G, though they now enter a much easier stretch. Though their next nine games do include trips to Ohio State and Minnesota, the other seven are against Wisconsin twice, Penn State twice, Northwestern twice, and at Purdue. Iowa needs to go 7-2, at the very least, to stay in the bubble conversation, and a win at OSU or Minnesota would certainly help.


This week the Bulls play four games. Tonight they're at the Knicks, then they're home Saturday to play Phoenix, home Monday for the Hawks, and get back on the road Wednesday to play the Raptors. Hopefully they can go 3-1 there and maybe we hear more good Rose news? The B1G slate is highlighted by #8 Minnesota at #5 Indiana tomorrow, #12 Illinois at Wisconsin tomorrow, #2 Michigan at #15 OSU on Sunday, and #2 Michigan at #8 Minnesota on Thursday. See you back here in a week!

For the Record: Man We Hate The Life of Pi Edition


So, nobody gets into the baseball HoF. One of a myriad reasons that I hate baseball, I swear that article will happen eventually, is the old, meathead curmudgeons that vote for their stuff. Ron Santo couldn't get in alive. But dead? GET THAT CORPSE IN HERE. I hate these people. And now they won't put in Barry Bonds because he did roids, or Clemens because he did roids. What do y'all think of it? I'll save my full opinion because I want to hear what the both of you think first.

You cheated. Yes, you could argue that it's negated by the fact that everyone else was cheating, too, but you still cheated. The "steroid era" thing just encourages more people to do it.

Barry Bonds is a great hitter, there can be no doubt there. He still hit the baseball better than anyone else who was using steroids at the time. But he cheated. If Pete Rose can't get in for gambling on his own team to win, you should not be able to get in despite actual cheating.

The Pete Rose thing is a different conversation, but suffice it to say I think he needs to be in the Hall. I have two streams of thought here:

1) I don't think steroids should be illegal. Much as I don't think you deserve to be babied or that the rules of football need to be changed just because you could get concussions, I don't think steroids are cheating. Everyone who does them knows the risks. You get ragey, your testes shrink, you get gross acne, potentially you grow boobs, and you shorten your life. If you do them you accept this. These guys are sacrificing a lot to get even a tiny edge. I just don't have an issue with that. If you're willing to accept the consequences, more power to you. HOWEVAH...

2) It is against the rules. Whether steroids should be illegal or not, it is clearly written down that you can't do them. So you cheated, dick, and you're a bad person for cheating. Rules suck sometimes, but if there were no rules life would be BS. Ever play a board game "just for fun"? It sucks! Because there's no point. Same here. So I understand why someone might not vote for them.

Of course, on the other hand, baseball has punishments in place for this type of deal. 50 games-150 games-Go find a new job. At the time, they did not have those kinds of punishments in place. And there is no steroid punishment that says CAN'T BE IN THE HALL OF FAME. So, I feel like you have to vote on everyone eligible and vote for the best guys. Bonds is eligible. Clemens is eligible. Sosa is eligible. If you can tell yourself they were worse than Craig Biggio, vote for Biggio. But if you can't you have to vote for them.

I think he should, too, but the rules are the rules and have to be enforced equally.
I don't think that last bit is entirely fair. If you don't think anybody that year is worthy of being down the hall from Ernie Banks, you shouldn't have to vote in a subpar candidate while you're there just because voting was open. The HoF thing isn't about it being a rule that you can't get in if you did steroids. It's that you didn't turn in a Hall of Fame performance, your PEDs did. Sure, a guy like Barry Bonds probably has the natural talent to get there with slightly less impressive numbers, but we'll never know because that's not what happened. You can't vote based on what probably would have happened had he not been using for the better part of his career

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Mid-Week Basketball Thoughts

-Is the East as bad as we all think it is? The first third of the season was marred with contenders hitting .500 or below and the freaking Knicks easily becoming the #2 team in the conference. Couple that with the West housing the Thunder, Spurs, Clippers, the surprising Warriors, and the fiesty Grizzlies... and the East went right back to where it was three years ago. But lately the East has been having a bit of a resurgence. The Bulls and Pacers have settled into life without their stars (Rose and Danny Granger) and now sit at 19-13 and 21-14 respectively, with both of them notching wins over the Heat this week. Atlanta and Brooklyn are falling back to where they should be after hot starts, and Boston is on a 3 game win streak. Could the East have simply gotten off to a poor start because three of the five best teams in the conference had to get used to a very different life (the Celtics lost Ray Allen)?

-Derrick Rose is taking contact in practice now. For other players, that normally means their return will come within two weeks. For Rose? That's highly doubtful. The organization saw what happens when you push a guy who plays like Rose back from injury too quickly, and it's what got them into this mess. Look for the Bulls to give him several weeks of extra practice before he steps onto the court, and when he does come back, don't expect him to play anything over 25 minutes per game for a while. The Bulls have won 3 in a row and 4 of 5, so there's no reason to rush the former MVP into anything. The All-Star game is on February 17. The Bull's first game after is February 19 at New Orleans, but the first home game back is February 21... against the Heat. That would give Derrick 6 weeks of contact practice to heal, maybe get back to regular practice in two to three weeks, and make his debut, at home, to a raucous crowd, against the hated Miami Heat. Sounds perfect to me.

-Illinois had one hell of a bounce-back game against OSU on Saturday. After taking a difficult to swallow loss against Purdue, Brandon Paul continued his high efficiency play, shooting 6/12 from the field, scoring 19 points, and grabbing 7 rebounds, eventually throttling the Buckeyes 74-55. The humorous thing to take away from this game is that Illinois forced OSU to become Illinois from last year. They took away every scoring option OSU had but DeShaun Thomas, and he was more than happy to take 21 shots on the day and score 24 points (that's some bad efficiency). Aaron Craft scored 11, but no other OSU player had more than 8. Groce has really made the most of what he has, and Brandon Paul has emerged as a premier player in the B1G. I would expect a lot of hype for him as a late first rounder in the draft. He has a smooth stroke, takes great shots, and even has some dribble-drive moves. I'm sure the Bulls would love someone like him to fall into their lap.

-One other interesting B1G note, Wisconsin continues to look extremely unimpressive. After surviving mighty Penn State, Wisconsin managed to beat Nebraska 47-41 on Sunday. Before you defend the Badgers by saying they're a defensive team anyway, remember that Nebraska is a mighty 320th in points per game this year... and that was against their weak non-conference schedule. Wisconsin has played 4 good teams. They lost all four games. In those four they scored over 56 points ONE TIME, losing 84-74 to Creighton. The first time Creighton gave up less than 70 points to a quality team this year was literally Saturday, against Indiana State, and they scored 66. Creighton beats you with offense, not defense. Wisconsin will be tested in the B1G in the next couple weeks with games at home against Illinois, at Indiana, at Iowa, home for MSU, home for Minnesota, at OSU, at Illinois... the beat goes on. If they get lucky, do they get one win out of those? Two? Joe Lunardi has this team in the tourney right now... let's see how he feels in two weeks.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Welcome to Basketball Season, Friday Hoopyball Recaps

Yes, friends, the Bears have been eliminated. Despite the "excitement" of a head coach search and draft prep, that really leaves us with very little to write about concerning the Bears. It also means the only sport involving things related to Chicago going on is basketball, which is generally my wheelhouse. Erik should have plenty of Chicago sports writer cannon fodder concerning this head coach thing, Red will probably break down the year and rosters in preparation for the draft. And I will be taking care of B1G and Bulls hoops. Need a distraction for the eight months between now and the first Bears game of the 13-14 season? ENJOY.


Since last Friday the Bulls have had a strange three games. They started it off on Saturday by beating the Wizards 87-77 in Chicago, which is okay? Of course, the Wizards don't have John Wall, are 4-24, and were lead in scoring by rookie Bradley Beal, who scored 14 points. We'll take it, I guess.

Of course, they followed that performance up by scoring 81 points against the Bobcats, at home, and losing by 10. The Bobcats are a mighty 8-23 and came into Chicago on Monday with an 18 game losing streak. Not the best of days for the Bulls, and that's a loss we should all pretend didn't happen (especially given that the Bulls have a draft pick of the 'cats that is getting closer and closer to being unprotected). Bob-what? The Bulls played who? I think you are mistaken, ser.

They did follow that embarrassment with a 2 point win over the Magic, 96-94, in Orlando on Wednesday. Jameer Nelson dropped 32 points, somehow, but the Bulls still pulled it out, thanks mostly to 31 points and 11 boards from Carlos Boozer. You may have noticed I did not talk about me being personally thankful to Carlos. Me posting his stat line might be the most pleasant thing I have to say about Carlos. Ever. YOU ARE 6'11", CARLOS. STOP SHOOTING FADE-AWAYS GAHHHHH.

The Bulls are currently 17-13 and would be the #5 seed in the East if the season ended today. The relative success of this Bulls team without its best player says a lot about the state of the Eastern Conference. That the Knicks have managed to get to 22-10 with an offense based entirely around shooting threes, Carmelo Anthony, and ancient men perhaps born during the warring states era is another good example to point to. The good news is one Mr. Rose traveled with the team to Orlando and will also be present tonight at the Heat. The timetable for his return seems to be the All-Star break, and if he can return then, get 40% of a season under his belt, and get back into form... well, who knows. But as it stands, this team is still good enough to make the playoffs without Rose.

B1G play also opened this week on Monday. I'm a Hawkeye, Red used to be an Illini fan, but like most Illini fans his interest wanes with how good the Illini are. Now Red is, probably, a Northern Iowa fan. Erik went to Bradley, which would make him a Missouri Valley fan if he knew what basketball was. So, actually, I might have to start recapping the week in the MVC. GO PANTHERS?!


#5 Indiana 69 - Iowa 65

I went into this game hoping the Hawks would keep it close, and boy did they. Strangely, though, they didn't really play very well. They went 3/17 from 3, shot 33% from the floor, Roy Devyn Marble (Iowa's best player, arguably) shot a ridiculous 1/14, they got outrebounded by 9... and lost by four with a chance to tie the game with a three with 3 seconds left. Maybe Indiana had an off night too, maybe Iowa is pretty good. Who the hell knows. But one thing is for certain: if Iowa wants in the tourney this year, they should probably stop letting opposing point guards drive directly at the basket for easy layups. There were a couple instances where Victor Oladipo charged, in a straight line, from the three point line to the hoop, while all five Iowa defenders did the MC Hammer "U Can't Touch This" dance. It was strange, and I question the strategical soundeness of the "Hammertime" defense.

#18 Michigan State 63 - #9 Minnesota 76

Michigan State is always a dangerous out, but aside from an early season win over Kansas they haven't been very impressive. They had a five point lead with about 8:30 to go but collapsed in epic fashion, eventually taking a 13 point loss. The Hollins' and Trevor Mbakwe, predictably, were the biggest parts of the comeback. Minnesota is now in the top 10. Watch for Tubby Smith's team to immediately lose, at home, to a beat-up Northwestern team. Because he is Tubby Smith.


Nebraska 44 - #8 Ohio State 70

Ever seen Nebraska play basketball? This was probably a good effort from them. MOVING ON.

#11 Illinois 61 - Purdue 68

Illinois was probably the biggest surprise of the non-conference season. They have a new head coach, lost Meyers Leonard, ad their best player shoots more than Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings COMBINED. But Brandon Paul has been hitting everything, and that's led to wins over Butler, Auburn, Georgia Tech, and at Gonzaga. Very impressive. It should have been predictable, then, that the Illini would lose to 6-6 Purdue in their B1G opener. Brandon Paul had a pretty good game, and it's rare you want a guy like that to shoot MORE, but when he shoots 5/10 from the floor and 4/7 from the field... maybe he should have taken a few more shots.


#2 Michigan 94 - Northwestern 66

Not much to say here. NW is missing three of its best players, Michigan has Trey Burke and could win a national title. Sorry, smart kids.

Penn State 51 - Wisconsin 60

Wisconsin has lost all of their difficult games so far this year, lost Jared Uthoff to Iowa this offseason, and their head coach lost a lot of respect in the process. I'm predicting a bad year for the Badgers. This game didn't do much to assuage that fear. Writing about Penn State basketball is like writing about Nebraska basketball. It's just a waste of time.

This Week

The Bulls get the Heat in Miami tonight, the Cavs on Monday, and the Bucks on Wednesday. Hopefully they'll get two wins out of that. B1G highlight games include #8 OSU at #11 Illinois on Saturday, #9 Minnesota at #11 Illinois on Wednesday, and #18 MSU at Iowa on Thursday. Enjoy the hoops, see you back here on Friday!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

For the Record: Lovie Sads and What's Next Edition

Erik, our newest esteemed colleague, is represented by mashed potatoes. HE KNOWS WHY.


This season was certainly a disappointment. Life as a Bears fan is full of disappointment…but this one was unique. They’ve never raised hopes so high and then crushed them in such a long, methodical fashion. There was no easy, quick collapse like last year, when we all could say “well, if they had Jay…” This year they had everything they should have needed. At some point they just stopped playing good football, nearly across the board. In those situations, fair or not, the blame has to fall on the only thing that connects all of those players. Lovie paid the price. Even if it wasn’t his fault, even those of us who’ve always been in his corner conceded that there was little to be said in his defense. The Bears were patient. They gave him four chances at getting the offensive coordinator right. They threw QBs and players under the bus to protect him. They threw Jerry Angelo in front of the train to protect him…and in the end, he was the last man standing. You can’t win every power struggle and then expect to avoid the blame when everyone else you could have blamed is gone.

I will miss Lovie Smith. You can never truly tell with such things, but I believe he was a good man. He brought respectability back to this franchise. I’ve been frustrated, but rarely embarrassed, to call myself a Bears fan during his tenure. His philosophy works, but things never came together the way they needed to. Such things happen. Cowher took 14 years to win his Superbowl with the same formula. Such patience is hard to find.

He certainly had his issues. His devotion to his philosophy alternately strengthened and crippled him. It allowed his team to consistently limit big plays and get big takeaways…but kept him from recognizing when the four man rush was failing, when the blitz was necessary…when that 20 yard catch and sprint by the RB was eventually going to be a big f*&king deal. His greatest failure was that he knew nothing of offense, and trusted it to the wrong people. That cost him his job, and no one can say they lacked the justification needed to do so.

So goodbye, Lovie. We like you, we respect you, we thank you, we wish you well, but more importantly, we’re ready to move on.

That last thing there is the most surprising thing to me. Like you said, I don't think any of the three of us has any contempt for Lovie. He fielded good teams, epsecially great defenses and special teams units. But the offenses killed him. Cutler hasn't panned out over his first 4 years, flailing between awfulness and greatness. His offensive coordinators have been a marching band of fail. Turner was too plain, Martz was too crazy and had to be neutered, Tice was running two offenses at once and wasn't great at either of them.

But yeah, even though I don't have an issue with Lovie, it was time. His consistent okayness had become unacceptable. Eventually strides forward need to be made, and Lovie hadn't made any noticeable strides in many years. Time to cut the cord.

I'm sad to see him go, because he's probably the second-best coach in Bear history, but this team should be competing for Super Bowls, not missing the playoffs. Like you said, everyone else who could have been fired has been fired. He's the only one left.

What were we talking about? I was going to do an alternate, gloating piece in which I examine each of Red's arguments in favor of Lovie staying and why they didn't save his job. I'll save my sad recollection for that.

Well, that’s only fair.

It’s definitely going to be an offensive minded head coach next. If it’s McCoy I think the likelihood that they give Cutler one more year goes up. He has Denver ties, has worked with Marshall in the past, was able to adjust his playbook for both Tebow and Peyton Manning, so he seems like a guy they’d hire to give one last crack at sparking the Cutler light bulb. If he fails, you don’t blame him and you let him pick the new guy.