Time for Bulls to fight

755138.png

Time for Bulls to fight

I took in the sights of Philadelphia Saturday during my down time. Having never been to the city, I thought a trip through the historical district would help take my mind off the Bulls playoff predicament. It did.

But then I decided to run up the steps in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The same steps Sylvester Stallone famously conquered in the movie Rocky. I was immediately taken back to the Bulls. Never, has the symbol of Rocky seemed more appropriate as the Bulls face an uphill climb in their series against the Sixers, down 2-1 and having to play without Derrick Rose and now Joakim Noah who sprained his ankle in Game 3.

Coach Tom Thibodeau said Noah was 'most likely' out for Sunday's Game 4, but any one who's seen enough ankle sprains like this in basketball knows he's probably out for the season. Noah hobbled through the lobby of the team hotel Saturday needing assistance from his mother to get up the stairs. He declined to talk to the media, but the pained expression on his face said it all.

Now, the Bulls are without their best rebounder, best interior defender and best big man playmaker. That's on top of losing their best scorer and all around playmaker in Derrick Rose. Don't forget, Rose and Noah were the emotional leaders of the team, as well.

It's like asking Rocky to beat Apollo Creed with one arm tied behind his back.

Is it doable? It depends on whether or not Thibodeau will finally recognize the dire nature of the circumstances. Show his players a compassionate side so he can re-ignite their fighting spirit. Thibs reminds me of the Drago-like machine, repeating the same mantra in robotic fashion.

"When one guy goes down, another guy steps up," says Thibodeau. "We have more than enough to win."

I must break him.

The problem is players are human beings with different strengths, weaknesses and levels of mental toughness. You have to be able to motivate from a psychological stand point as well as from an X's and O's stand point. It's what made Phil Jackson so effective. It's the whole premise of the movie. Physical training or preparedness isn't the only factor in success.

It worries me when Thibs says 'it's not about their mood' when asked about the team's state of mind after Game 3. He softened a bit when asked again and responded with a different mantra, one Bulls fans want to hear.

"We have an opportunity rise and that's what we all have to do. Obviously, there's always disappointment when you lose. That's a good thing. It tells you you have the right players. The big thing is how we respond to have the determination tomorrow to get the job done. I want us to have great fight tomorrow."

Yes, fight Rocky-style. The No. 1 seed has become the underdog in this series. They've been hit hard, but they have to get up. They have to be unafraid of the moment.

The players say they're not feeling sorry for themselves, now they just have to play like it.

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks win, Jimmy Butler starts All-Star Game

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks win, Jimmy Butler starts All-Star Game

Here are some of Sunday's top stories in Chicago sports:

Jimmy Butler: 'Hopefully I’m not going to get traded'

Patrick Kane leads Blackhawks to win in Buffalo homecoming

What Joe Maddon wants to see next from Javier Baez

Jose Abreu ready for 2017 after season full of 'different challenges'

Wojnarowski: Bulls-Celtics Jimmy Butler trade talks 'will loom over the entire week'

After surreal offseason, Ben Zobrist comes to Cubs camp in style as World Series MVP

White Sox rookie Charlie Tilson out at least 10 days with foot injury

Fire score five goals for fourth preseason win

Simeon beats rival Morgan Park for city championship

Former Northwestern football player Torri Stuckey now focuses on helping others

Jimmy Butler: 'Hopefully I’m not going to get traded'

Jimmy Butler: 'Hopefully I’m not going to get traded'

NEW ORLEANS — Every All-Star isn’t created equal, even by the slimmest of margins as the best 24 NBA players take their turn on the midseason stage.

So Jimmy Butler being announced among the first five as an All-Star starter had to represent some form of validation, now that he’s not a novice at the whole experience and he’s able to go through the motions of the hectic weekend without breaking much of a sweat.

But despite being a three-time All-Star and routinely mentioned as one of the game’s top 15 players or even top 10, he can’t shake the trade rumors that have seemed to follow him since this time last season.

As he finished up his All-Star experience at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, clarity was nowhere to be found—although heading to some tropical island for a couple days to actually unwind with clear water and warm air seemed to be the best therapy if he’s stressed by the uncertainty of the next few days.

“What’s Thursday? Oh, trade deadline,” Butler said. “I don’t know. I don’t know. Am I anxious? Come on, man. I don’t worry about it. It don’t bother or scare me none.”

“Hopefully I’m not going to get traded but I don’t know. I don’t control that. Control what I can control, like going on vacation.”

Surely it has to be frustrating for a guy who’s elevated his game yet again, averaging 24.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.8 steals for the Bulls in 51 games. But he refuses to let it damper his All-Star spirits, playing with some of the best players in the world and a few guys he calls friends, like DeAndre Jordan and Kevin Durant.

“Not for me,” said Butler of the potential stress. “Not saying I’m untradeable but I don’t think about that. If I’m not in a Bulls uniform, I’ll give you a hug and say goodbye to you.”

Moments after Butler made his statement in the media room, the floodgates opened for the trade market as fellow Olympian DeMarcus Cousins was traded from the Sacramento Kings to the New Orleans Pelicans for what seemed to be mere fodder, pennies on the dollar for the most talented center in the NBA.

[SHOP: Get your Bulls gear right here]

While Cousins is far more of a handful than Butler could be, the trade almost signals a consistent truth that always bears repeating—that short of a select few, anybody can be traded.

Even a franchise altering talent like Cousins, who was traded to the city he was physically in for All-Star weekend, and included in the package of players was a guy who hit him in the groin last week (Buddy Hield), resulting in a Cousins outburst and ejection.

Butler has made his name with the Bulls, although not necessarily on the All-Star stage, a player who values defense and doesn’t have as much flash as some of the game’s shinier players.

With a six-point outing in 20 minutes, Butler was an on-court afterthought despite being a starter for the first time.

“Six? Should’ve gone for eight,” he sarcastically deadpanned.

In a relatively jovial mood through the weekend, Butler joked about the talk surrounding him and tried to brush it off as mere chatter as opposed to the franchise not seeing enough in him to make a firm commitment for the long-term, as the Boston Celtics are always hovering.

League sources expect the Celtics to engage the Bulls in conversations for the next few days, but nobody has a great feel for what either side is truly looking for.

But as Butler insisted, he’s only controlling what he can control, which is making himself a fixture for All-Star games to come as opposed to some of the first-timers who don’t know if they’ll get back here again.

“I think I got two underneath my belt,” Butler said. “I know what they’re feeling the first time, It’s so surreal like maybe I do belong here. That’s how I was thinking. Now it’s how do I get here every year? I think that’s the fun part, that’s the challenge. A lot of those guys have done it 10-plus years, hopefully I’m one.”

The only question seems to be, which uniform will it be in because the crazy season has begun.