WBEZ | NBA http://www.wbez.org/tags/nba Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Luol Deng reflects on 10 years with the Bulls and upcoming free agency http://www.wbez.org/news/luol-deng-reflects-10-years-bulls-and-upcoming-free-agency-110016 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP705998648470.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Chicago Bulls traded Luol Deng in the middle of the night: There&rsquo;s been no closure, no time for Deng or fans to reflect on his 10 years in Chicago. The veteran forward&rsquo;s been in Cleveland since early January, learning to play in a different system--and in a different role--with the Cavaliers.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>When WBEZ sports contributor Cheryl Raye Stout saw the Cavs would be playing the Bucks on Friday, she decided to head to Milwaukee to see how Deng is doing. She first asked him if he was surprised by the trade.</p><p>&ldquo;I wasn&rsquo;t surprised,&rdquo; he began. &ldquo;No, no,&rdquo; Deng clarified, &ldquo;I should say I was surprised but I expected it...I was hoping to be wrong but, I think I was expecting it.&rdquo;</p><p>Deng said it was extremely difficult to leave all the familiarities of Chicago for something completely new. He said it was one of the hardest things he&rsquo;s ever had to do because he&rsquo;s never really had to make that type of transition. He played four years of high school ball, played with all the same guys in the same club growing up in London. He stayed in touch with Coach Mike Krzyzewski, even after leaving Duke University after his freshman year. But for the 10 years that followed--for 82 games a year--he lived and breathed Chicago Bulls basketball.</p><p>Now, at almost 29-years-old, he&rsquo;s learning to take on a new and different leadership role in Cleveland.</p><p>&ldquo;In Chicago,&rdquo; Deng said, &ldquo;it got to a point where I was so comfortable with everything. I just did me.&rdquo;</p><p>And, while he doesn&rsquo;t expect everyone to believe him, Deng said he&rsquo;s grateful for the challenge.</p><p>&ldquo;Through my whole life, nothing has ever come easy. I&rsquo;ve always had a hard road before I do something great, and I&rsquo;m thankful for it,&rdquo; Deng explained.</p><p>Raye Stout asked Deng what he missed most about being a Chicago Bull. He said he misses his teammates and the coaching staff more than anything.</p><p>&ldquo;I felt like I knew them as well as I&rsquo;ve known myself. I knew how to get everyone going, I knew how to make things easy, how to stay positive...that comfort zone. I didn&rsquo;t really see those guys as teammates. Those guys were really my friends.&rdquo;</p><p>Deng said he will probably stay friends with most of them for the rest of his life. In fact, he&rsquo;s joked with some of the guys still on the team that he plans to sit courtside in Chicago during the upcoming playoffs. But, he doesn&rsquo;t want the TV or attention coming his way--he doesn&rsquo;t want to mess up the flow. And he doesn&rsquo;t want any fans to yell, &ldquo;You should be here,&rdquo; or something like that. He&rsquo;d just love to be there to support his former teammates because he knows their struggle and the focus and effort required during a playoff push.</p><p>And Deng said he&rsquo;s not surprised the Bulls--or All-Star center Joakim Noah--are having a successful season. He said Noah&rsquo;s newfound leadership position is deserved and necessary.</p><p>&ldquo;When you play hard all the time, it becomes who you are,&rdquo; Deng explained.</p><p>Deng will become a free agent at the end of the season. He said he knows it will be a tough decision, but he knows what he wants and has learned a great deal from this experience.</p><p>&ldquo;When I&rsquo;m not happy with things, I know how hard I work to change that,&rdquo; Deng said with a slight grin. &ldquo;Also, I&rsquo;m a competitor. I always take things, and I want things to be my way.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Katie O&rsquo;Brien is WBEZ producer and reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/katieobez">@katieobez</a> and WBEZ sports contributor <a href="https://twitter.com/Crayestout">@crayestout</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 11 Apr 2014 19:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/luol-deng-reflects-10-years-bulls-and-upcoming-free-agency-110016 Phil Jackson chats about his book and the Bulls http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-05/phil-jackson-chats-about-his-book-and-bulls-107348 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rsz_phil_jackson_tony_gutierrez.jpg" style="height: 233px; width: 350px; float: right;" title="Author Phil Jackson has no plans to coach again. (AP)" />It has been 15 years since Phil Jackson rode out on his motorcycle and ended his coaching career in Chicago. He continued his success after his six Bulls NBA Championships with the Lakers and earned five more rings. Now at the age of 67, he has authored a new book aptly titled, &quot;Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success.&quot;</p><p>Jackson held court about his new book at the <a href="http://media.apps.chicagotribune.com/secondscreen/phil-jackson-interview-with-k-c-johnson:-chicago-tribune-printers-row-live-event/index.html" target="_blank">Trib Nation&#39;s Printers Row</a> session conducted by the Chicago Tribune&#39;s beat reporter K.C. Johnson. An audience of dignitaries, including new Bears head coach Marc Trestman, and a large group of fans filled the Palmer House Hilton Ballroom. Before the event, I was privileged to be granted a one-on-one with the &ldquo;Zen master&rdquo; himself-Phil Jackson.&nbsp;</p><p>The essence of the book is found in the subtitle, The Soul of Success.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;[It&#39;s about] trusting, nurturing your spiritual side and allowing that side to be part of your business life,&rdquo; Jackson said.</p><p>What the former NBA coach found interesting was the focus of some reviewers is centered on the fact that he &ldquo;finally&rdquo; sided with one of his superstars, Michael Jordan, over another, Kobe Bryant. Jackson said he was not saying one was better or best, but different and great. He attributes it to the way our society measures success &ldquo;winners take all and losers lick their wounds&rdquo; and Jackson says some his most successful seasons came from losing.</p><p>Of course, the bulk of our conversation was about the Bulls, both past and present. Jackson appreciated the terrific play from his big time stars: Michael Jordan&rsquo;s heroics, Scottie Pippen&rsquo;s flashes of brilliances and Dennis Rodman&rsquo;s rebounding. He found a true appreciation for the &ldquo;little things&rdquo; such as Jud Buechler and Steve Kerr having the opportunity to hit a big three-pointer. Jackson pointed out the fact those two bench players and others had a high level of professionalism to play the roles they were given.</p><p>As the conversation steered towards this current Bulls team, he mentioned the team&rsquo;s injuries have been an impediment. Additionally, he believes presently the Bulls don&rsquo;t have &ldquo;all the pieces&rdquo; yet. Jackson was complimentary to the high level of play by Jimmy Butler and Marco Belinelli. He looks at how well his former player, now team President, John Paxson has assembled the team, especially with all the salary cap implications.</p><p>Looking at this Bulls roster, I had to ask Jackson if there are one or two players he would like to coach. The first player he mentioned was center Joakim Noah.</p><p>&ldquo;He is a player that is really good on a ball club he leads the team through his energy and his vocal capabilities,&rdquo; &nbsp;Jackson said.</p><p>There were two other Bulls he brought up: Nate Robinson and the way he could win <em>or</em> lose a game but inspire a team and Kirk Hinrich&#39;s overall play.</p><p>Needless to say, there was one other player to discuss: Derrick Rose. Jackson believes you have to trust a player&rsquo;s instincts about their physical and mental status, otherwise he could have a &ldquo;misstep&rdquo; that could be more detrimental to the player&rsquo;s career.</p><p>As to Jackson&#39;s career and a possible return as a NBA coach, he maintains that is not in his future.</p><p>&ldquo;My intention is not to coach,&rdquo; Jackson said with one caveat. &ldquo;My finance Jeanie Buss says whenever you have to answer that, say, Jeanie Buss thinks I can still coach.&rdquo;</p><p>There is no doubt he could, however, the travel and physical ailments are a huge roadblock in his mind.</p><p><em>Follow Cheryl on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/Crayestout" target="_blank">@CRayeStout</a>&nbsp;and Facebook <a href="http://www.facebook.com/CherylAtTheGame" target="_blank">Cheryl Raye Stout #AtTheGame&nbsp;</a></em></p><p>&nbsp;&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 24 May 2013 18:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-05/phil-jackson-chats-about-his-book-and-bulls-107348 More than Derrick Rose's injuries need to heal http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-05/more-derrick-roses-injuries-need-heal-107224 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rsz_1derrick_rose_rick_bowman.jpg" style="float: right; height: 427px; width: 300px;" title="Not returning to the Bulls lineup has caused ill will for Derrick Rose. (AP/File)" />There is plenty of time for the Bulls to heal all their various ailments after losing the series to Miami. In the case of Derrick Rose, he has some other wounds that need to be repaired between now and when he returns to play next year.</div><p>The anger directed at Rose for not returning this season after major ACL knee surgery was frankly, unbelievable.&nbsp; There were definite mistakes made concerning the prospect of the Bulls guard&rsquo;s return to game time action. His shoe company even did a video &quot;The Return&quot; to highlight the rehabbing Rose was doing after he was given the green light.&nbsp;</p><p>At media day in early October, Rose sounded hopeful that he would be able to join the team during the season. At no time, publicly, did Derrick Rose or the Bulls ever give a hard date. It was all speculation that drove the story, lit a smoldering fire and turned into a firestorm once months passed.&nbsp;</p><p>The silence of Rose and his camp of handlers muddied the waters. When there were &quot;on the record&quot; quotes, it was Rose&rsquo;s brother/manager Reggie that caused the biggest stir. He inferred that there were other issues than his brother&rsquo;s health (like the quality of the team&rsquo;s roster) that was impeding his comeback. Eventually, Rose did give a lengthy interview with a national paper and from time to time spoke with the media, but nothing was settled.</p><p>A report from ESPN.com writer Melissa Isaacson in March indicating that doctors cleared Rose to play stirred the pot. Once that news was out, it was assumed that he would soon be announced in the players&rsquo; introductions for a game, but that never materialized.</p><p>Rose did practice with the team, but the Bulls did not have many full team scrimmages at this point. With all the team ailments, film sessions and free throw shooting filled most of the practice time. Most scrimmages involved under-used players.</p><p>During every interview, coach Tom Thibodeau was asked about his star player and the answer was optimistic but never definite.</p><p>As playoffs approached the tide of public opinoin turned against Rose. Everyone became an expert on what was best for him. Many argued he owed it to the Bulls to return. Some want the Bulls to trade him.</p><p>Last season the Chicago native suffered one injury after another, tried to play through it and was felled by the devastating one. Forget that the injury is scary for a young player that does things on the court most can only dream about. People have questioned his heart and his courage.</p><p>A few weeks ago, Rose was in the hallway of the United Center and I asked him if he was hearing or reading the negative comments. He said no. Maybe he hasn&rsquo;t, but he likely has some knowledge that his reputation has been marred.&nbsp;</p><p>The reaction to him not playing is more apt for a player who has committed a major crime. Not for one trying to be completely healed in his mind and his body.&nbsp;</p><p>What has been a problem was how it was handled. There should have been more transparency about the situation. Maybe the Bulls could have taken the decision out of Rose&rsquo;s hands once the season was winding down. Maybe they did, but strategically they allowed teams to think a Rose return could make it difficult to game plan.</p><p>It would have been advantageous to have a media session with the doctors, Rose and the front office to answer the whispers out loud. Hopefully, lessons were learned by everyone involved in this situation.</p><p>It will be a long summer and fall before we can expect to actually see Rose on the court. If it is the pre-season, it won&rsquo;t even be in the U.S. The first game is in Brazil. That doesn&rsquo;t really matter, once he steps on the court and drives to the basket and lands on his feet, he and the fans should feel better. If the fans still don&rsquo;t forgive him, Rose should close his social media accounts.</p><p>Derrick Rose hasn&#39;t deserved the condemnation and I look forward to seeing him again on the court exciting the fans whostayed in his corner.</p><p><em>Follow Cheryl on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/Crayestout" target="_blank">@CRayeStout</a> and Facebook <a href="http://www.facebook.com/CherylAtTheGame" target="_blank">Cheryl Raye Stout #AtTheGame </a></em></p></p> Fri, 17 May 2013 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-05/more-derrick-roses-injuries-need-heal-107224 Bulls' hope fades, Blackhawks take on Red Wings http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-05/bulls-hope-fades-blackhawks-take-red-wings-107169 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rsz_bulls_fans_nam_y_huh_0.jpg" style="float: right; height: 260px; width: 350px;" title="Bulls fans are glum about the team's chances against Miami. (AP/File)" />The depleted, ailing Chicago Bulls are one game from starting summer vacation. Down three games to one to the Miami Heat, it feels as though the end is near. It has felt that way since early in Game Three when the listless Bulls could not muster the strength to avoid a lopsided loss to the defending NBA Champions.</div><p>This isn&rsquo;t a small hill the Bulls face to get back in this series. It is the Rocky Mountains. You could see it in the eyes of the players in the locker room following Monday&rsquo;s game.</p><p>They didn&#39;t concede anything, but slumped back in their chairs. At this point, the Bulls cannot compete in the same stratosphere as LeBron James and his teammates. Missing players have forced others to carry a load that is too heavy.</p><p>It really is amazing they were able to stun Miami in Game One. Since then, the Heat adjusted defense and took advantage of their size to trap Bulls guard Nate Robinson. The physical play in the first three games was missing in the last contest. The Bulls may try to pull out all the stops tonight. This is a team that would love to go down swinging.&nbsp;</p><p>Dwayne Wade&#39;s sore knee may force him to miss Game Five, but it doesn&#39;t matter at this point. He wasn&rsquo;t a factor in last game. The Heat is alreadly looking forward to the winner of the Knicks-Pacers series and will need Wade moving to the next round.</p><h2><strong>Better chances for the Blackhawks</strong></h2><p>Bulls fans may be gloomy, but Blackhawks fans heading to the United Center have high expectations as second round action against the Detroit Red Wings. You can&rsquo;t fault the Chicago hockey crowd for being giddy. This is a series that oozes great drama and of course, there will be the ever-present &#39;Detroit sucks!&#39; chant.</p><p>If there is one player with a smile on his face knowing the Wings are next it is Corey Crawford. The Hawk goalie is 11-2-2 lifetime against them with a 1.82 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage.</p><p>It has been a long time since the Blackhawks played, so recent practices have been important to keep focused for the challenge at hand.</p><p>It will be a quicker-paced series than Minnesota. Detroit has been resilient: getting into the playoffs, then forcing and winning a game 7 on the road.&nbsp; The Red Wings have two big-time stars Pavel Dansyuk and Henri Zetterberg who will challenge the Hawks. Of course, the Hawks have plenty of stars and are healthy.</p><p>The Red Wings have been the cream of the crop for years. Heck, the city is known as Hockey Town. These two teams&nbsp;met in the post season four years ago for the Western Conference Final. There were three overtime games and Detroit took the series in five games. This will be the last time Detroit will be in the Western Conference, so in the future the Hawks can only meet them in the Stanley Cup Final.</p><p>Nothing is better than these two Original Six teams doing battle with so much at stake.</p><p><em>Follow Cheryl on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/Crayestout" target="_blank">@CRayeStout</a> and Facebook <a href="http://www.facebook.com/CherylAtTheGame" target="_blank">Cheryl Raye Stout #AtTheGame </a></em></p></p> Wed, 15 May 2013 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-05/bulls-hope-fades-blackhawks-take-red-wings-107169 Playoff ride continues for Bulls and Blackhawks http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-05/playoff-ride-continues-bulls-and-blackhawks-107134 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rsz_1lebron_charles_rex_arbogat_2s.jpg" style="height: 377px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Physical play has been big in the Bulls-Heat series. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)" />It is not an overstatement to say the Bulls face a must win game Monday night against Miami. Chicago is down two games to one, and it is likely going to be another physical, tough game at the United Center.</p><p>It has also been a costly series for the Bulls so far. Coach Tom Thibodeau is $35,000 dollars lighter after his negative comments about the officiating last Friday. Taj Gibson had to cough up $25,000 for his dispute with referees in the second game.</p><p>There have been three Bulls players ejected from the last couple of games. The perception is this is a whiny Bulls team. When you look at everything they have dealt with this year, it is more like they are fighting to stay alive in the playoffs.</p><p>Nothing has been easy for them and facing the Miami Heat that is healthy and loaded with talent has been difficult. The hurdles they have dealt with would have weakened the resolve of most teams. The Bulls can not afford to lose the war with the officials. They must remain level-headed.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Luol Deng is still struggling with his health after his spinal tap. Kirk Hinrich is not seeing much improvement on his bruised calf. Of course, you have to mention (and would rather not) Derrick Rose is unavailable.</p><p>Can this Bulls team win another game in this series?</p><p>You cannot rule them out, but they are treading on thin ice if they don&rsquo;t win tonight. Being home and knowing they were in the game last Friday magnifies the urgency to take advantage of favorable opportunities.</p><p>Having two days off between games may help the Bulls. At this point, you have to grasp at straws to find any positives.</p><h2><strong>Bring on the Red Wings</strong></h2><p>The Chicago Blackhawks now know who they will meet next in the Stanley Cup playoffs.</p><p>Late Sunday night the Detroit Red Wings finished a seven game series on the road in Anaheim with a 3-2 win. What a great matchup in the second round: two of the original six NHL teams meeting. It&rsquo;s particularly interesting because next season Detroit will move to the Eastern Conference.</p><p>The Hawks have home ice advantage and the first two games of this series will be played at the United Center. During the regular season, the Hawks beat the Red Wings in all four meetings. Since finishing off their first round series last Thursday, the Hawks have been able to mix rest with intense practices. Intensity was the magic word used by players at their practice on Saturday. Knowing it is Detroit will make it easy to dial it up a notch entering the next round.</p><p>The Hawks will have more players at their disposal. Coach Quenneville says he will have Ray Emery and Dave Bolland back from injuries.&nbsp; Bolland is known as someone who can get under the skin of his opponent.</p><p>Emery&rsquo;s return is good insurance to back up Corey Crawford between the pipes. Crawford is coming off a stellar first round and to have the Hawk fans back in his corner is an added bonus. There is no question that Crawford is more confident having that first series win under his belt. But if he falters (which seems unlikely), Quenneville will not hesitate to go with Emery.</p><p>It will be interesting to see if the Red Wings are worn down from their seven game series or if they have momentum from their series opener. Either way the Blackhawks will be ready, willing and able to meet the Detroit Red Wings. This is match-up the fans will definitely love. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><em>Follow Cheryl on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/Crayestout" target="_blank">@CRayeStout</a> and Facebook <a href="http://www.facebook.com/CherylAtTheGame" target="_blank">Cheryl Raye Stout #AtTheGame</a>&nbsp;</em></p></p> Mon, 13 May 2013 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-05/playoff-ride-continues-bulls-and-blackhawks-107134 Chicago Bulls prepare for Miami Heat, Blackhawks beat Wild http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-05/chicago-bulls-prepare-miami-heat-blackhawks-beat-wild-107116 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rsz_1joakim-miami_tech_lynne_shadkey.jpg" style="height: 221px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Chicago Bulls hope to have cooler heads tonight when they take on the Miami Heat. (AP/File)" />Stay classy, Chicago fans. Game three of the NBA playoff series tips off at the United Center Friday night.</div><p>With the Bulls and Heat knotted at a game apiece, most of the attention should be on the series. But antics and injuries off the court are garnering plenty of interest.</p><p>The Bulls had two players, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, ejected in the enormous 115-78 loss to Miami. As Noah was walking through the exit in the American Airlines Arena, one of the fans bluntly showed her displeasure with the Bulls center. <a href="http://deadspin.com/the-bird-flipping-miami-fan-was-once-accused-of-murderi-498713885">Filomena Tobias</a> flipped off Noah and the image went viral. This is not new. Several years ago the Chicago Sun-Times had a back page photo of a Bears fan doing that to players walking through the tunnel. I remember because it was my son&#39;s grade school gym teacher doing the gesture.</p><p>The Miami fan story shielded the Bulls from their crushing defeat by LeBron James and the Heat on Wednesday night. It must have felt like a freight train for the Bulls as James did what most people expected after losing the opener: he took over. The physical play was brutal and the officiating was a big factor, with nine technical fouls and two players ejected.</p><p>Friday the Bulls can expect the same tone from the NBA&nbsp;defending champions. Since the Heat formula is to be rough and tough, the Bulls have to play smart in response. They cannot lose their cool and they must still move the ball on offense. You can bet the officials will be calling this game close. That may make it harder on the Bulls since they are so undermanned and can&#39;t afford any players to get into foul trouble.</p><p>Two of the ailing Bulls, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich, were at Thursday&rsquo;s limited workout. It was mostly a film session (more like a horror film).&nbsp;It was the first day Deng has been able to get out of bed after an illness and severe side effects from a spinal tap procedure.</p><p>How bad has this past week been for the Bulls All-Star? Deng lost at least fifteen pounds, suffers headaches with too much movement and looks weak. Deng admitted he was frightened since he had many issues with bodily functions, speaking and walking. It&#39;s doubtful Deng will play for a while.&nbsp;</p><p>Hinrich&#39;s bruised calf is still causing him to walk gingerly and will likely keep him planted on the bench next to Derrick Rose. Of course, there are tons of rumors about the former MVP return and people are becoming more vicious by the day. It is extremely doubtful Rose will suit up.</p><h2><strong>Blackhawks slam door on Minnesota Wild</strong></h2><p>The Blackhawks slammed the door on the Minnesota Wild 5-1 to take the series four games to one Thursday. What a huge series for Corey Crawford. He played tough and atoned for early first round exits the past two seasons. Last night when Crawford made some terrific saves the fans chanted his name.</p><p>The heroes of the night, besides Crawford, were Marian Hossa scoring two goals, one each for Marcus Krueger and Andrew Shaw (his first career playoff goal). Patrick Sharp had a 3rd period 5-on-3 power play goal and finished with five goals&nbsp;for the series.</p><p>The penalty kill was again brilliant they denied the Wild twice on the power play and all 17 times for the series.</p><p>The Blackhawks will play either San Jose or Detroit after the Western Conference playoff series.</p><p>One thing we know for sure, round two will open at the United Center for the first two games and this Hawks team will be rested and ready.</p><p><em>Follow Cheryl on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/https://twitter.com/Crayestout" target="_blank">@CRayeStout </a>and Facebook <a href="http://www.facebook.com/CherylAtTheGame" target="_blank">Cheryl Raye Stout #AtTheGame</a></em></p></p> Fri, 10 May 2013 00:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-05/chicago-bulls-prepare-miami-heat-blackhawks-beat-wild-107116 Bulls odds improving after Game 1 upset http://www.wbez.org/news/bulls-odds-improving-after-game-1-upset-107090 <p><p>After a surprising Game-1 win against the Miami Heat Monday night, the Bulls&rsquo; odds seemed to be improving. But before what some have called the playoff upset of the decade, the battered Bulls were hardly a safe bet.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/bulls2.jpg" style="float: left;" title="Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer dunks the ball against Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Bulls lead the series 1-0. (AP/File)" />The Heat are the reigning champions and overwhelming favored to repeat.<br /><br />In a ceremony before Monday night&rsquo;s game, LeBron James was named the league&rsquo;s most valuable player for the fourth time in five years.</p><p>The only player to interrupt his reign was Derrick Rose.</p><p>But Rose didn&rsquo;t play in Game 1...or any other matchup this season.</p><p>And yet the Bulls managed to knock King James &ndash;&nbsp;and oddsmakers &ndash;&nbsp;off their game Monday night.</p><p>In fact, Miami was so favored to win the series that in order to win a single dollar off a bet in their favor, you&rsquo;d have to put up $30. Again, to win a dollar...you&rsquo;d have to bet 30.</p><p>But then the Bulls won--and the odds began to change.</p><p>&ldquo;A lot of people are betting on the Bulls tonight with the points...it&rsquo;s a lot of points, with 12 points. One book said it&rsquo;s like 80 percent of the bets so far were on the Bulls,&rdquo; David Purdum explained.</p><p>Purdum covers the sports-betting industry for<a href="http://www.OddsShark.com"> OddsShark.com</a>. He said the Bulls odds may still improve if they can get healthy. But, that some players&rsquo; return is more impactful than others.</p><p>&ldquo;Luol Deng coming back would even surpass the impact on the line that Derrick Rose, if he was to decide to play. You just don&rsquo;t know what you&rsquo;re going to get out of Rose,&rdquo; said Purdum.</p><p>Rose and Deng have both been ruled out for Wednesday&rsquo;s game.</p><p>But here&rsquo;s to Bull-ieving...</p><p><em>Katie O&rsquo;Brien is a WBEZ reporter and producer. Follow her <a href="http://www.twitter.com/katieobez">@katieobez</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 08 May 2013 18:12:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/bulls-odds-improving-after-game-1-upset-107090 Battered Chicago Bulls take on Miami Heat http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-05/battered-chicago-bulls-take-miami-heat-107023 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rsz_noah-nets_julio_cortez.jpg" style="float: right; height: 450px; width: 300px;" title="Joakim Noah and the Bulls will face the Heat in the playoffs Monday. (AP)" />The sweet smell of the Bulls playoff series win in Brooklyn still lingers today, however, it will dissipate soon enough. Tonight the Bulls are in Miami to play game one of a best of seven series in round against the Heat.</p><p>Fresh off winning his fourth NBA Most Valuable Player award, LeBron James and his teammates are also fresh since they have rested for several days. That is what happens when you dispose of the Milwaukee Bucks in a four game series sweep.</p><p>You could not use the word fresh for the Bulls, instead, ragged, undermanned or tired. On Saturday, they completed a seven game series with a win in Brooklyn, while missing two important starters (three, if you count Derrick Rose). With Luol Deng experiencing problems with his spinal tap for his viral infection and Kirk Hinrich still hobbled by a calf bruise it seemed like it was the end of the road for the 2012-2013 season.</p><p>What most Bulls fans have known and now is apparent to the rest of the NBA fans everywhere: this is a resilient team with heart and character. Joakim Noah would not let his team exit in the first round, which they did last year with him and Rose injured. Marco Bellini is back on track and filled in for Deng very well against Brooklyn. Coach Tom Thibodeau has proven time and time again he will get the most of what this team can give and they believe in him and the system. Throw another player&rsquo;s injury or ailment at him and Thibodeau responds, &ldquo;We have enough.&rdquo;&nbsp; Against a more talented and healthy Nets team, it was enough. Against the Heat, I&#39;m sad to say the Bulls likely do not have enough.</p><p>This Eastern Conference semi-final series will be a colossal challenge for the Bulls.</p><p>Deng&rsquo;s status is up in the air, he was weakened from his illness and if Hinrich tries to get back on the court, his movement will be limited. So no matter how you look at it, this is still a depleted Bulls club.</p><p>But the biggest factor is they face the defending NBA champions. James is playing at a super-high level. He has tasted the champagne after earning his first ring and he wants his thirst quenched again.</p><p>His teammate Dwayne Wade is expected to be back in this series after being hampered by a knee bruise in the Heat&rsquo;s opening round.</p><p>If the Bulls have any chance in this series, they must play a tough, physical game. Noah and Boozer must control the interior on defense and offense. The Bulls are prone to turnovers, especially without Hinrich. Nate Robinson has to think as a point guard and not act like a scoring machine. He will need to score, but he must keep the ball moving and make Miami play defense. It would seem without Deng that Jimmy Butler gets the short straw and will have to defend James. Bench play will be an important factor with all the maladies affecting the Bulls. &nbsp;</p><p>Forget about the regular season series that was a split with each team taking two games. One of those Bulls wins did stop the Heat&rsquo;s 27 game win streak.</p><p>And of course there is loud chatter about Derrick Rose and his situation. Fans and media are beating him up about not suiting up for the games. Everyone is an expert on Rose&rsquo;s reasons, but only he knows what he intends to do. It would be terrific if the former MVP was part of this series, but in the long run it will not matter. The Bulls are a huge long-shot are not expected make it out of this second round with or without Rose.</p><p>The Bulls will not go down without a fight and the Heat will feel it.</p><p><em>&nbsp;Follow Cheryl on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/Crayestout" target="_blank">@CRayeStout</a>&nbsp;and Facebook <a href="http://www.facebook.com/CherylAtTheGame" target="_blank">Cheryl Raye Stout #AtTheGame</a></em></p></p> Mon, 06 May 2013 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-05/battered-chicago-bulls-take-miami-heat-107023 Beleaguered Bulls battle both the flu and the Nets http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-05/beleaguered-bulls-battle-both-flu-and-nets-106966 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/rsz_nate_robinson_nam_y_huh.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>There were no vaccines strong enough to stop the Bulls from dropping Game 6 against the Brooklyn Nets 95-92. The Bulls didn&rsquo;t get defeated by only the Nets, they were wiped out by the flu bug too. Luol Deng was sent home sick, while Taj Gibson and Nate Robinson (seen vomiting during the game) suffered on the court. And with Kirk Hinrich continuing to be sidelined with his calf bruise, it was a much-depleted Bulls team. Derrick Rose continues to watch the game on the bench in street clothes.</p><p>The Bulls were in the game and had opportunities to either tie or go ahead at various times late in the contest despite their setbacks.</p><p>The Nets flexed their offensive abilities and shot 57 percent and had a 60-54 lead going into the halftime. It looked like Brooklyn was having the type of game they enjoy playing.</p><p>What has been typical of this Bulls team, especially this Tom Thibodeau-coached club is that they don&rsquo;t give up. They fought and clawed and did everything they could possibly do in the second half to make it the kind of game the Bulls prefer&mdash;a defensive struggle.</p><p>You would think without Deng and Hinrich the Bulls chances were impossible. Jimmy Butler played every minute of this game, scoring seventeen points with six assists and seven boards, and worked hard on defense too. Marco Belinelli played almost the same amount of time and played both ends of the court too. Filling in for Deng, Belinelli had a game high 22 points and seven assists. Joakim Noah also played huge minutes and was very active around the paint grabbing 15 rebounds, 9 of them on the offensive glass. The Bulls center also had 14 points in the losing effort. Nate Robinson was still able to pour in 18 points despite being ill. Boozer had another double-double, 14 points and 13 rebounds before he fouled out.</p><p>This was an opportunity to close out this best of seven game series, which has to be dissapointing for the team. They had a three games to one lead and now it is tied up with a final game seven on the road at the Barclays Center.</p><p>The big three for Brooklyn were able to establish their offense in the first half and struggled later when the Bulls tried to control the game with their defense and whatever energy they could muster. Deron Williams finished with 17 points and 11 assists, but he only had three points in the second half without Hinrich defending him.</p><p>Both Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson contributed with 17 points apiece and both had a similar scenario as Williams&rsquo; the majority of their scoring came in the first half. However, the Nets got two clutch free throws from Andray Blatche in the final nineteen seconds. Up until then, the Nets were having great difficulty at the line. The Bulls had one last attempt to knot up the game, but Marco Belinelli missed a three and Noah had a turnover and then could not control the tip of a jump ball when final horn sounded at the United Center. This could have been the final home game of this very difficult season.</p><p>Now they have to go to Brooklyn for this first round series finale and they will need every bit of energy and health to try to gut out a win in New York.&nbsp; The big question, which Bulls players will be able to return to play on Saturday, Luol Deng or Kirk Hinrich? If only Derrick Rose could suit up...</p><p>And <strong><em>IF</em></strong> (it is a very big if) the Bulls can pull out a win, they would travel to Miami to play the Heat on Monday. With the team and this season anything is possible.</p><p>&nbsp;Follow Cheryl on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/Crayestout">@CRayeStout</a> and Facebook Cheryl Raye Stout #<a href="http://www.facebook.com/CherylAtTheGame">AtTheGame </a></p></p> Fri, 03 May 2013 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-05/beleaguered-bulls-battle-both-flu-and-nets-106966 Why Jason Collins' coming out is so meaningful http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-04/why-jason-collins-coming-out-so-meaningful-106903 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP130417116345_0.jpg" style="float: right; height: 240px; width: 300px;" title="File: In this April 17, 2013 file photo, Washington Wizards center Jason Collins, right, battles for a rebound against Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich. Collins is the first male professional athlete in the major four American sports leagues to come out as gay. (AP/File)" />When I was in 20s, my queer friends and I had a phone tree. One of the most fun excuses to call was when a gay character would pop on TV. These were like rare birds or comets. There was a certain delight in seeing them, even when they were terribly written or acted, or when their ultimate effect was negative. For us, who rarely saw ourselves reflected in the flickering light of media ordinariness, seeing another member of our species in almost any circumstance was an affirmation that we existed, that we were, in fact, everywhere, however covertly.<br /><br />I was thinking about those times again after reading Jason Collins&rsquo; moving <a href="http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/magazine/news/20130429/jason-collins-gay-nba-player/">coming out story</a> in <em>Sports Illustrated</em>. We live at a time when queer people have never been more ubiquitous in media and out in the world. However unequal we may in fact be, we&rsquo;ve never been more equal. But Collins&#39; description of life in the NBA closet harkened back to a darker and lonelier time, a time when the stakes of being found out could be life-altering and devastating.<br /><br />It reminded me too of those years when Martina Navratilova ruled the tennis world and we &ndash; gaggles of lesbians, including many like myself who weren&rsquo;t particularly interested in tennis &ndash; would flock to see her perform. Why did we go? Because one of us had reached a pinnacle, because it was important to support her. Especially important since&nbsp;Navratilova, <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/jtes/female-athletes-have-been-out-for-decades">one of the very first pro athletes ever to come out</a>, was hounded by the media and actually brought to tears by the relentlessness inquisition and barbs.<br /><br />That particular episode made a hero of her <a href="http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/magazine/news/20130429/jason-collins-gay-nba-player/">friend and rival</a>, Chris Evert, the tennis golden girl she stole the crown from. Evert admonished everybody to leave her friend alone. Evert demonstrated the importance of allies with words, but there was something more significant in her actions: She draped her arm around Martina and showed queerness didn&rsquo;t rub off.<br /><br />And we, the gay gals in the stands, understood something else was at play too. With every inch that Martina won for herself, she was advancing the cause of tolerance. And every time Evert draped that arm over her shoulder, it was less extraordinary, less brave &ndash; precisely because it had been so brave that first time &ndash; and more and more a common sight at countless Grand Slams. It was weird not to see them together, so much had they become the norm. And, sure, because Martina was such a towering figure &ndash; because she reshaped and redefined women&rsquo;s tennis &ndash; she was indisputable.<br /><br /><a href="http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/magazine/news/20130429/martina-navratilova-jason-collins-reaction/">Navratilova wrote</a> an accompanying piece to Collins&rsquo; in which she makes an important point: hers was an individual sport. She was either good enough or she wasn&rsquo;t. No one could keep her off the court but herself. With Collins, in a team sport in which personnel decisions aren&rsquo;t made by players, a prejudiced coach or owner could keep a player off the court. Jason Collins&rsquo; position was more precarious.<br /><br />And yet Collins, deep in the closet, felt compelled to reach out with symbolic identification, a move so covert I&rsquo;m not sure anyone outside his most immediate circle understood it. He wore 98 on his uniform, in honor of 1998, the year Matthew Shepard, <a href="http://msn.foxsports.com/nba/story/jason-collins-matthew-shepard-parents-touched-by-jason-collins-decision-to-wearnumber-98-042913">a young gay man was murdered in horrific and inhumane fashion</a>.<br /><br />That may seem an odd choice for identification. Collins is a titan, Shepard like a baby bird. But it may say something about how vulnerable Collins has felt all his life. And, of course, what an incredibly important step his coming out is. And how important all <a href="http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/magazine/news/20130429/jason-collins-reveals-gay-nba-reaction/?sct=obinsite">the media, league and political support</a> is. It&#39;s Chris Evert&rsquo;s arm multiplied by thousands.<br /><br />When I read through the reactions to Collins&rsquo; announcement and see the inevitable reader comment suggesting the revelation of sexual orientation shouldn&rsquo;t be news, I agree. But until there are no Matthew Shepards, saying you&rsquo;re anything but heteronormative is still an act of courage.</p><p>And the fact that Jason Collins &ndash; roommates with a Kennedy, earning more than $1 million a year, and possessing the physical powers to dispatch any street bully &ndash; was still afraid, means that, yes, it&rsquo;s still news.</p></p> Tue, 30 Apr 2013 12:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-04/why-jason-collins-coming-out-so-meaningful-106903