Bulls

Bulls will open 2018-19 season against Joel Embiid and the Sixers

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USA TODAY

Bulls will open 2018-19 season against Joel Embiid and the Sixers

It's The Prospects vs. The Process.

The NBA announced Wednesday afternoon that the Bulls will begin their 2018-19 campaign in the City of Brotherly Love against the Philadelphia 76ers on Oct. 18.

It'll be a difficult task for Fred Hoiberg's group as they begin Year 2 of their rebuild, facing a 52-win Sixers team that touts an MVP candidate in Joel Embiid and the reigning Rookie of the Year in Ben Simmons.

It's also the return of the #TNTBulls. In one of the most peculiar and unlikely streaks in the NBA, the Bulls have won 20 straight home games on TNT.  So while this won't necessarily count, the Bulls still enjoy playing on the network.

A year ago the Bulls took one of three contests against the Sixers, though both Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine missed one of those three games. The highlight of last year's matchups between the two teams was Bobby Portis scoring a career-best 38 points and nearly hitting a game-winner in a 116-115 loss.

The Bulls bring back much of last year's team, with the addition of rookies Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison, as well as Chicago native Jabari Parker.

They'll be tasked with slowing down Simmons, who averaged a triple-double in those three games a year ago (23.3 points, 11.7 rebounds, 11.7 assists). Embiid appeared in just two games against the Bulls (the first two of his career), averaging 26.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists.

It won't be an easy tak for the Bulls, as Philadelphis went 30-11 at home last season, tied for the fifth best home record in the league.

The rise of David Bote, as told by David Bote

The rise of David Bote, as told by David Bote

Five months ago, nobody would've blamed you if you had never heard the name David Bote. 

Now, he's hitting the middle of the lineup and starring for a team with the best record in the National League.

Bote was inserted into the lineup in the No. 3 spot Sunday afternoon and hit 5th in his next start Tuesday night. Both times, he responded with two-hit games.

Quite the rise to prominence from a guy who made his MLB debut about two weeks after he turned 25 and was never ranked on top prospects lists after the Cubs took him in the 18th round of the 2012 Draft.

[More: David Bote's unique perspective on the rise of the Cubs]

Even in his wildest dreams, did Bote think his own story would play out like this?

"Man, the little kid inside me would've said, 'You're out of your mind,'" Bote said. "But then in my own head, too, it's like, 'Let's do it.'"

After another big game in Tuesday's 5-0 win that included a two-run triple, an RBI single, a walk and run scored, Bote is now hitting .344 with a .436 on-base percentage and .983 OPS in 64 at-bats spanning 30 games with the Cubs.

Bote has racked up the miles bouncing between Chicago and the minors this season. He was called back up late last month when Kris Bryant had to return to the disabled list and has been a vital part of the Cubs equation the last two weeks, playing all over the infield and hitting all over the lineup whether he starts or enters as a sub.

In his first game back up in the big leagues on July 26, Bote hit a game-tying, two-run homer on an 0-2 pitch in the bottom of the ninth inning, setting the table for Anthony Rizzo's walk-off two pitches later.

Last Friday, he entered the game as a sub and struck out in his only two plate appearances, but wound up making a game-saving play at third base by throwing out a Padres runner at home in a 5-4 Cubs victory.

Entering Tuesday's game, Bote had racked up the same WAR (1.1) on Baseball Reference as Anthony Rizzo, despite playing in 73 fewer games. 

"Bote's game has been so complete," Joe Maddon said. "...His prep is great. His demeanor, the slow heartbeat, everything about him. He's got the respect of that entire [clubhouse] already."

Bote credits Maddon and the Cubs clubhouse culture for making him feel comfortable from the moment he arrived during the series in Colorado in mid-April. 

They've let him be himself and he's thrived. At the moment, Bote might be behind only Javy Baez in Q-rating on the Cubs among the fanbase.

But his success is no suprise to David Ross.

Grandpa Rossy — who filled the same fan-favorite part-time player role with the Cubs — walked into Maddon's office in spring training in Arizona to let the Cubs manager know how highly he thought of Bote after a few conversations.

"David Bote revealed to David Ross that he kinda had what it takes to be a part of this group," Maddon said. "Bote is definitely his own man. No question about it. You can converse with him, he's gonna come back at you with a well-thought-out response. 

"He's definitely not wide-eyed. And I don't think peer pressure really matters in a bad way. He's not gonna conform to somebody else's methods just because they came after him strongly. Because he is a strong person himself, so I like all that about David."

Bote said he's always been confident in his own abililties, but it's gotten easier and easier to tap into that as he's matured and grown as a person and as a baseball player.

"To rely on my preparation and to know that I've prepared well enough to be confident, I feel like that's what the biggest change was over the last couple of years," Bote said. "Just seeing some things come together off my work — not even results, just how I've turned into a baseball player. Like, yes, I see where I've come and I can rest on the confidence I've built in that."

Bote acknowledged that he's grasped how quickly and passionately the Cubs fanbase has taken to him over the last couple months, but he also knows he can't ride the roller coaster of external expectations and opinions. His main focus is to stay true to himself and keep the respect of his teammates — his "brothers" — that he's earned.

Bote's physical development on the field can't be denied, with eye-popping exit velocity and a success story of the recent Launch Angle Revolution.

But the Longmont, Colo., native believes the true key to his rise lies between the ears. 

Throughout the seven years he spent in the Cubs' minor-league system, Bote credits the organization's mental skills department for how they've focused on a theme each year and gotten more and more concise as he moved toward "The Show."

"Just really honing in on being present and focus your breath and being able to control the things you can control and practicing mindfulness and being able to catch your mind drifting and bring it back," he said. "All sorts of incredible skills to practice so that when you are in there with the game on the line in the ninth inning, you're not overwhelmed by the situation because you've practiced to get back to where you need to be on this pitch.

"Not worried about what the story is around. Everybody wants to add a story to a thought. But if you could just have a thought for that thought and not put a story to it — like, 'This is a 2-0 fastball, if I hit a homer, we tie the game.'

"It's more — 'This is the pitch I'm looking for and I'm gonna put my best swing on it and I'm gonna let whatever happens, happen. And that way, you can stay centered in to what you have to do on that pitch."

Whatever he's been doing or thinking, it's working and the Cubs — and their fans — are all aboard the David Bote Hype Train and loving every minute of it.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Reaction to Vegas betting against the Bulls next season

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Reaction to Vegas betting against the Bulls next season

On the latest Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski and Kendall Gill discuss how Jabari Parker’s arrival will impact the Bulls’ rotation, and the pressure Parker will face in playing for his hometown team. Plus, the guys go through the NBA over-under win totals posted by the Westgate sports book. Are the Bulls a lock to go over 27.5 wins, and which other teams were dealt a bad hand by the Vegas oddsmakers?

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: