Despite lockout, NBA attendance, ratings increase

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Despite lockout, NBA attendance, ratings increase

Well, by the looks of things basketball fans really really missed the NBA and didn't hold much of a grudge as I thought they would. For now. After the 1998-'99 lockout, television ratings and attendance significantly dropped. Au contraire says 2011-12. The LA Times reports that the five Christmas day opener produced healthy ratings on TNT, ABC and ESPN, including ABC drawing in 11 million viewers for the Bulls-Lakers game. Twenty-five of the first 32 games in the shortened season were sellouts which is up from 19 of the first 32 last season. Maybe fans want to get their NBA fix in quick while it lasts. After the holidays, however attendance might fall, but the NBA is prepared for that. The NBA encouraged teams to make around 500 tickets per game available at 10 or less according to NBA Executive Vice President Chris Granger. Granger told the LA Times that about one million 10 tickets will be availble over the course of the season.There have also been plenty of subtle, or not-so subtle reminders that the NBA is back. In Atlanta, the Hawks operated toll booths during a morning rush and the Timberwolves staffed a drive-through window of a fast-food restaurant. And let's not forget the Bulls showcased their six championship trophies throughout the city prior to the beginning of the season. These fan-friendly initiatives could play a big part in the jump from 90.3 percent capacity for the full 2010-11 season to a now 99.2 percent capacity. But, time will tell if the stands will continue to fill. Have your views changed? Did you back off or are you just as a big of a fan as you were last season?

Bulls pass out Christmas gifts to Chicago youth on Sunday

Bulls pass out Christmas gifts to Chicago youth on Sunday

It was hard to tell who was more excited Sunday afternoon: the Bulls players or the 400 kids who stopped by the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry as the team passed out Christmas gifts for kids who reside in the Chicago family housing development.

Robin Lopez was carrying about Benny the Bull, much to the surprise and delight of many kids who were in attendance, while Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo took photos and passed out gifts to every child.

Rondo established roots in Chicago long before becoming a Bull, but has become entrenched in the months since signing with the franchise, being a part of the 17th annual holiday party.

“It’s definitely an honor. An honor to be a Bull,” Rondo said. “Since Day 1 when I got here I thought they were the best organization as far as giving back to the community, and it shows. They do it without hesitation.

“Very welcoming. The people have been great. The kids have been here since Day 1 supporting us as well. It’s very exciting.”

Bulls volunteers served lunch provided by Papa John’s, Coca-Cola and Edy’s Ice Cream, as the holiday party is one of the 30 events the Bulls are organizing as part of the team and NBA Cares’ “Season of Giving.”

“It’s no problem for any of us,” Lopez said. “Look at Raj, look at Jimmy, they’re having a blast out there. They’re having as good of a time as the kids out there.”

Being a California native, the newfound snowfall added to the atmosphere for Lopez.

“This really feels like Christmas,” Lopez said. “I can feel the spirit inside with the kids and the looks on their faces when they walk in and see the toys, they see Jimmy Butler and they’re so excited to be a part of it.”

Whether it was Barbie Dreamhouses, or Nerf basketball rims, the kids were ecstatic to see the Bulls and to pick out the toys being distributed by the Bulls’ stars.

“Very humbling. Over 400 kids. And every kid comes through all smiling and excited,” Rondo said. “Some of them don’t get toys all year and this time of year is about giving. I’m very humbled.”

Butler has been around Bulls Charities since being drafted in 2011, so although this is old hat, he hasn’t lost any of the spirit that comes with doing events like this year after year.

He posed with kids for photos and cracked jokes to the younger basketball fans.

“Feels good. I just like being here. It’s what this time of year is all about, seeing these kids smile,” Butler said. “I love kids, I love this city, I want everybody to be happy all the time. However I can make that happen, especially around Christmas and the holidays, I’ll do.”

Lopez is quiet to many who see him on the floor, but his eyes lit up around the kids and made Benny the Bull his personal prop by picking him up and carrying him through the museum.

“Every time I see it, it’s a wonderful feeling. To think I’m a small part of it, I can’t begin to describe it,” Lopez said. “Any opportunity I get to work with kids, that’s always easy yes in my book. I’m a big kid at heart. Any time I can go play, I’m in.

“It’s indescribable. I got so many great gifts as a kid, and blessed in so many ways. Just to be able to give back in any facet, that’s an easy yes.”

Sunday's event leads up to Monday's Chicago Bulls Charities Night at the United Center. The Bulls host the Portland Trailblazers at 7 p.m. on CSN.

Tune in tonight for Chicago Bulls Charities Night

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Tune in tonight for Chicago Bulls Charities Night

The Bulls are looking to bounce back Monday night against the Blazers, with coverage on CSN beginning at 6:30 with Bulls Pregame Live.

And once the game gets underway, make sure you're tuned in as we and other affiliates participate in Chicago Bulls Charities Night.

Throughout the game we'll be highlighting the work that the Bulls organization has done in the Chicago community this past year, including taking part in more than 200 programs that the team says has impacted more than 87,000 Chicagoans.

You too can make an impact by checking out the Bulls Charities silent auction, going on until Dec. 6.

You can also make a donation of any size to Bulls Charities to be entered into a raffle to win a basketball autographed by this year's Bulls team.

Also, Bulls Charities will be hosting a ping-pong tournament next month to raise money. Winners of the tournament will get a chance to play against the Bulls! Learn more about the event, which will take place at Spin, here.

Learn more about Bulls Charities and the work the team does in the community here.