IncrediBulls define team mentality

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IncrediBulls define team mentality

For years, they have defined the team mentality that weve come to know the Bulls for.

Their contributions throughout the United Center often go unnoticed by most as the LuvaBulls and Matadors receive most of the notoriety, but aside from the actual team, there might not be a more important factor on game night than the IncrediBulls.

The roster goes 15 deep, including the likes of Terrance Grady, Morris Brent, Joe Alexander, Mitchell Mangoba, Ernesto Sanchez, Michael Turner, Ashlee Bodden, Darrel Dupit, Pegie Diaz, Eric Wackerfuss, Carlos Ayala, Deborah Byczkowski, Dagoberto Soto, Tom Niemiera, and Shawnkesse Jackson.

Its a team built on energy, enthusiasm, personality, creativity, teamwork, professionalism and showmanship. Aside from the energy aspect, teamwork is arguably the most essential aspect of the squad.

There are plenty of things that we have to do out there on the court, in the stands that involve more than just one person, says 10-year vet Ayala. We have to communicate with one another as far as running a sling-team where were swinging the t-shirts. We all have to be perfectly coordinated, two people holding the sling, one person slinging and we have one person whos technically showing the shirt to the crowd of what were going to be tossing them. Its very important. Its a lot of teamwork. Just like in any other workplace, you have to be able to communicate with everybody and work to be on the same page.

The t-shirts, arguably the item in which theyre most linked with and the ultimate souvenir for fans lucky enough to have one flung, thrown or cannoned their way during a break in play.

To casual observers, it may look just like a group of individuals scrambling around, but its all coordinated with timing.

Its knowing where youre supposed to be when youre supposed to be there, says Wackerfuss, an IncrediBull for five years. It goes along with teamwork. If you have a timeout that lasts about a minute-and-a-half, when you hear the horn go off, when the timeout is over, you know thats your signal to get off the court, so you dont disrupt the game and, god forbid, have the team get assessed a delay of game penalty because of something we caused. Its really an important issue to make sure that were in the spots that we need to be in, in order to both rev up the crowd and not disrupt the game.

From the 300 level to the ground floor, they keep United Center faithful engaged through wins, bouts of lack of energy and are still expected to draw the crowds reaction during a loss.

Its not all rah-rah either as any member on the Bulls will tell you that they have the best fans in the world and their tenacity on a nightly basis is a direct correlation to the crowds energy.

The energy that we bring to the crowd allows the NBA players to have the energy on the court, says four-year member Turner. I kind of feel without us amping the crowd up; it doesnt give players that energy. Thats just my personal opinion. Our energy feeds the crowd and that feeds the players.

Being an IncrediBull is only a part-time, seasonal position as there is no true job security with tryouts being held every summer for new potential members.

In any job, there are those days where you simply just dont have it in terms of energy and you have to coast throughout the day. That isnt a luxury that the IncrediBulls are afforded.

All of us have other jobs aside from this during the day, says Diaz, a five-year veteran. Sometimes we can have a stressful day at work but as soon as we get to the United Center, we have to leave everything outside and turn into a different person. Were here to make people happy and to get the crowd pumped up and screaming.

Their duties extend beyond the confines United Center as they also lend their time to charity and community events, represent the organization at special events and promotional engagements.

No matter what theyre called on to do, its never too much as each member has an undying love for the franchise and city which Ayala sums up perfectly.

10 years ago when I got this job, I had a friend who told me hey, the Bulls are looking to hire people that are going to be fun, energetic, throw a couple of t-shirts into the crowd, run a couple of contests and you get paid for it. Are you serious? That was a no-brainer for me. If they would have said its for free than I would have probably still done it. I was here every single game my rookie year. It was a couple tough years after the Jordan era, but Ive been a fan of sports my whole life and going back to the first six championships the Bulls had. To be in the same building, see those banners; why wouldnt anybody want to do that? If youre a fan of the Bulls, why wouldnt you want to be in my position? I feel like Im one of the lucky 13 people on this squad that get to do what we do.

Interestedin being a member of the IncrediBulls? Be sure to stay tuned to Bulls.com for tryout infomation.

Can Deiondre' Hall overcome on- and off-field hurdles to make an impact with Bears?

Can Deiondre' Hall overcome on- and off-field hurdles to make an impact with Bears?

Rookie Deiondre' Hall flashed in the preseason a year ago, leading the Bears coaching staff and fans to believe they found something amidst their trio of 2016 fourth round draft picks. 

He’s hoping to do the same this August after overcoming one physical hurdle, while waiting to see if he can get past a legal hurdle he created for himself.

Let’s start on the field, where, just days after his first NFL interception in the fourth game last season, he sustained an ankle injury in practice, sidelining him for two months. Once his walking boot and scooter were finally put away, he was active for the final four games. But what progress he’d been making on the field was difficult to recapture.

“Just coming off the injury, there was a little rust here and there, but the training staff here’s great and I had to push through it,” Hall said at last week’s minicamp in Lake Forest after he was one of numerous Bears hit by the injury bug, but not one of the 19 who wound up on Injured Reserve. “(I was) getting comfortable with the defense and in myself playing with those guys out there, getting the opportunity in the red zone and making plays. But the injury kinda sucked because I haven’t really had an opportunity to play since Week 5, so I’m not necessarily starting fresh.”

As the offseason unfolded, Hall was informed the coaching staff was going to try him at safety, if not permanently, then as an option for the 6-foot-2, 201-pound Northern Iowa product. 

But Hall’s not totally foreign to the position. He was a free safety his first year in college, then transitioned to outside linebacker/nickel as a sophomore, moved to cornerback as a junior before breaking his hand his senior year, playing through it back where he started at safety. So the decision wasn’t a big deal, especially if it enhances his chances to get on the field. But his preference?

“Defense. Opportunity,” Hall responded. “You get in where you fit in and the more you can do, the better it is for the team. If opportunity presents itself at corner, then I’m at corner. But right now at safety, I’m making strides (there) and keep pushing for that.”

“We’re gonna float him back and forth,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said last month, after the Bears signed free agent cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper in the off-season, while Bryce Callahan and Cre’Von LeBlanc are expected to battle for slot duty and former first-rounder Kyle Fuller and veterans Johnthan Banks and B.W. Webb hope to impress. “He (Hall) had some experience there in college. When it comes down to picking your team and you’re taking nine or 10 DBs, if someone’s got versatility to play both of those spots, that helps, so we’re gonna see if he’s one of those guys.”

But before Hall gets back to work in Bourbonnais, he’ll find out if he has some other dues to pay. Hall was back at his alma mater’s Cedar Falls campus March 26th when he and a former UNI teammate were arrested outside a bar called Sharky’s. Police had responded to a call, and by the time all was said and done, Hall needed to be tased before being arrested on charges of public intoxication, interference (with an arrest), and disorderly conduct. 

The case was continued late last month and Hall’s jury trial is scheduled for July 11th. Pending the outcome, he could face disciplinary action from the team and the NFL. He’s told his side of the story to Bears management and while expressing remorse for putting himself in the situation, Hall says it wasn’t in character and feels confident in what the outcome will be.

“People make mistakes and the truth always comes out,” the 23-year-old said, adding the situation isn’t weighing on his mind or affected his preparation in off-season workouts. “You gotta let people make their own mistakes. I won’t shed light but the truth always comes out, and (I’ve learned) just don’t take anything for granted.”

“My main focus is football and keep pushing to make strides to become good, and great.”

Saad Day: Blackhawks deal Artemi Panarin for familiar face

Saad Day: Blackhawks deal Artemi Panarin for familiar face

When the Blackhawks found Artemi Panarin, they found a talent who was NHL ready from the start, who found instant chemistry with Patrick Kane and earned a Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. It was also a tremendous panacea for a team that couldn’t pull off a deal to keep Brandon Saad, who was the power forward that fit in beautifully in the Blackhawks’ top six.

On Friday, the Blackhawks brought Saad back and dealt Panarin to do it.   

Saad returns to the Blackhawks, who also acquire goaltender Anton Forsberg, in exchange for Panarin and Tyler Motte. The Blackhawks also get the Blue Jackets’ fifth-round pick in the 2018 NHL draft and the Columbus gets Chicago’s sixth-round pick from this weekend’s draft. Elliotte Friedman was the first to report the deal. The Blackhawks inherit Saad’s deal, which has four years remaining at a $6 million cap hit. Panarin was about to enter his current deal, which is two years with a $6 million cap hit. This is key for the immediate future; when Panarin’s latest deal is up, if he keeps up at his current pace, he’ll likely sign for a lot more.

[MORE: Blackhawks deal Hjalmarsson to Arizona]

The Blackhawks have missed Saad terribly since his departure. The team has struggled to find consistent line mates with Jonathan Toews, especially at that left-wing position. They did fairly well with Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik flanking Toews this season but it wasn’t as strong as the Saad-Toews combination. So it looks like the Blackhawks’ top line will be solidified again.

Now, what about the second line? As good as Toews and Saad’s chemistry was, Panarin’s and Kane’s was dynamite. The two had their respective skill, which they flashed often, and their ability to read each other was evident from the start. The Blackhawks’ second line was as consistent and steady the past two seasons as the top line was during Saad’s time here.

So, there are changes. The Blackhawks will absolutely miss what Panarin brings. But as far as bringing back a former Blackhawks player who could help in the present, getting the 24-year-old Saad back will be very beneficial.