Bulls can’t escape embarrassment on Day 1 of All-Star Weekend
The Rising Stars Game was supposed to headline the day, but instead the anger of Bulls fans with their own organization hijacked the festivities. Thank goodness Wendell Carter Jr. at least had some good news.
The Rising Stars game on Friday night was supposed to be the welcome to Chicago moment.
The official tip-off of the All-Star Weekend, with the host city opening up its arms to the NBA world.
Who could have guessed that a disgruntled Bulls fan base would hijack the show hours earlier?
During the Friday morning episode of ESPN’s “First Take,’’ the program brought Bulls guard Zach LaVine onto the set for the live interview, and co-host Max Kellerman made the mistake of uttering a name from the Bulls front office.
Any name would have set the crowd off, but it was actually a question about if LaVine had confidence that vice president of basketball operations John Paxson could bring more talented players to the roster to help out LaVine.
That immediately started a roar of boos.
Trying to stay in the role of play-maker – peace-maker in this case – LaVine said of the booing fans, “They might think differently, man, but I’m with the team man, I gotta put the team first.’’
LaVine then tried laughing off the uncomfortable moment, saying “They’re terrible, man,” again referencing the fans.
It wasn’t the calming reaction LaVine was hoping to get.
Instead, the boos turned into “Fire GarPax” chants, all but drowning LaVine out.
The show’s moderator Molly Qerim tried to calm the crowd down, as did co-host Stephen A. Smith, and even though it did calm down, the message was sent to the rest of the nation just how unhappy this fan base was with the Bulls in Year 3 of the rebuild.
Just in case the television audiences missed it, the video quickly hit the social media rounds, with a source saying Friday night that the Bulls were aware of it.
Likely the last thing the organization needed this weekend, considering the 19-36 record in Year 3 of the rebuild, as well as the lack of representation the host team had in the three days of events.
LaVine will participate in the Three-Point Contest on Saturday night, and that’s it.
Bulls second-year center Wendell Carter Jr. was selected to play in the Rising Stars Game, but a slow-healing right ankle injury forced him to miss the contest.
Considering the lack of defense played in the 151-131 win by the USA team over the World, the defensive-minded Carter likely didn’t miss much.
Well, besides the mystery of the bent rim.
Miles Bridges was named the game’s MVP, but of course rookie phenom Zion Williamson captured all the attention. After a series of late second-quarter dunks by Williamson, it became apparent that the USA rim was slightly bent.
The adjustment was made at halftime, and the suspect was obvious, but Williamson, who finished with 14 points wouldn’t admit to anything.
“We went into halftime and my teammates started telling me about it,’’ Williamson said. “I don’t know which dunk it was on, but I don’t think it was me.’’
As far as any sort of good news for the Bulls, Carter did say he was hoping for a return this week, when the Bulls resume play on Thursday, hosting Charlotte.
Carter was hoping to participate In the Tuesday evening practice, see how it bounces back in the Wednesday practice, and then get cleared to go back at it.
He’s only played in 37 games this season, averaging 11.7 points and 9.9 rebounds per game, and getting in work the last 20-plus game would not only be huge for Carter, but for a front office that insisted at the trade deadline that they were still trying to evaluate how this group functions together.
“I want to be back the next game,’’ Carter said. “That’s what I’m shooting for right now.’’