To all the players, media and fans from around the world who have come to our humble burg for NBA All-Star Weekend, a most hearty welcome!
We Chicagoans might not have an NBA team, but we love the game and, besides, have everything you could want in a host city.
Hot food? Yes! Temperatures in the teens and snow everywhere? Well, yes. The delightful No. 20 Madison bus to convey you from downtown to the United Center? Indeed (and you’re welcome).
OK, fine, enough with the shenanigans. We have an NBA team, but only in the loosest interpretation of the phrase. We have our Bulls, a 19-36 mash-up of overmatched players, an in-over-his-head coach and a catastrophically inept front office. (Other than that, they’re in great shape.)
The 69th All-Star Game will go on without a single Bulls player in quite the same manner that the 67th and 68th All-Star Games did. Sad but true: We’ve gotten pretty used to NBA irrelevance around here.
Put another way: Many of us pine for 2016. What was up that year? Well, the Bulls’ Pau Gasol replaced injured teammate Jimmy Butler on the All-Star roster, but that’s just an insignificant detail. More to the point: It was a massively strange season for the team, which already was beginning to fracture under coach Fred Hoiberg and would gag away a playoff seed with a stretch-run collapse that left everyone involved feeling anywhere from bewildered to bitter.
See? That was so much better than this.
These Bulls have a ‘‘star’’ in Zach LaVine, who can drop 40 on any given night but apparently isn’t good enough to make the All-Star team even when the game is on his home court.
They have three consecutive No. 7 overall draft picks — Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. and Coby White — who’d be a whole lot better if they could find, respectively, a bigger heart, a healthier ankle and a more natural position.
They have a front office — namely, vice president of basketball operations John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman — that’s in desperate need of a long-overdue restructuring.
They have a coach in Jim Boylen who calls individual work ‘‘batting practice’’ and talks about ‘‘winning’’ quarters, as though anybody is handing out ‘‘W’s’’ for that. Then again, aren’t they doing just that for the first, second and third quarters of the oddly rejiggered All-Star Game on Sunday? But we digress.
Boylen loves to talk about ‘‘spirit’’ and ‘‘togetherness’’ despite neither thing being, by any sign, in abundant supply with his team.
So here we are. The long weekend of Bulls invisibility surely was to be evident beginning with TNT’s ‘‘Inside the NBA’’ telecast Thursday from House of Blues. Which makes us wonder: Could Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith beat any current Bulls trio in a game of three-on-three? Half-court and make-it, take-it, of course.
Maybe LaVine will win the three-point contest Saturday at the UC. Care to bet on him? We’ll pass, too.
But, again, welcome! Stay warm and have a ball.
We’ll be on the outside looking in if you need us.
Interesting comments Wednesday from captain Jonathan Toews after the Blackhawks fell 3-0 to the Canucks in Vancouver for their fifth loss in a row.
Interesting, as in, where have we heard that 8,000 times before?
‘‘You can sit around and sulk about it for 20 minutes, and then you’ve got to make a decision on how you want to react and get ready for the next one,’’ he said. ‘‘So that’s all we can do right now.’’
At least the loss to the Canucks was different in that the Hawks put a season-high 49 shots on goal and Jacob Markstrom set a Canucks franchise record with 49 saves. No one could call it a poor effort by Toews and Co.
Still, there are two games to go on this brutal Canadian trip, including a second one against the Jets. Because everyone knows one night in Winnipeg is never enough.
Ah, well. Who needs playoff hockey, anyway?
• Alex DeBrincat’s four even-strength goals this season vs. Dylan Strome’s one point since New Year’s Eve.
While I am flattered to be considered for the HC job @MSU_football, I am committed to @CUBuffsFootball for #TheBuild of our program, its great athletes, coaches & supporters. #UnfinishedBusiness #GoBuffs— Mel Tucker (@Coach_mtucker) February 8, 2020
We are #Relentless #Culture #TheBuild
• Colorado football coach Mel Tucker last weekend on Twitter:
‘‘While I am flattered to be considered for the HC job at [Michigan State], I am committed to [Colorado] for #TheBuild of our program, its great athletes, coaches & supporters. #UnfinishedBusiness’’
Translation: ‘‘Meet you in East Lansing!’’
A couple of days after issuing that tweet, Tucker — a former Bears defensive coordinator — was introduced at Michigan State as Mark Dantonio’s replacement.
A funny, sordid, twisted business, major-college athletics. I don’t blame Tucker one bit for doubling his pay, but he handled the thing like a real schmo.
• Get well soon, Ayo Dosunmu.
What a relief to learn there was no structural damage to the Illinois guard’s left knee after he slipped and fell awkwardly on the final play of a 70-69 loss to Michigan State that would have been a tough one for the Illini to take even without the injury to their best player.
The plot has thickened with a three-game losing streak for a team that had seemed to be a shoo-in to end a seven-year NCAA Tournament drought. The next two games, at Rutgers and at Penn State, would have been severe tests even with a healthy roster.
Coach Brad Underwood’s team has gone from ‘‘Can we get a top-four seed?’’ to ‘‘Any seed will do.’’ Don’t worry, the Illini still will make the field. Probably.