Luke Stuckmeyer

Bulls must find their diamond in 2019 NBA Draft, no matter where it may be hiding

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USA TODAY

Bulls must find their diamond in 2019 NBA Draft, no matter where it may be hiding

Holding the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft is great, but finding a diamond can happen anywhere. Just pay attention to the NBA Playoffs. The teams that are thrilling us this spring have rosters featuring draft picks that most franchises missed on. They didn't all look like Zion Williamson. Actually, none of them did. They weren't that obvious and some weren't even first round selections. There were living outside the United States, hiding in mid-major schools and, in some cases, found via trade.

Bucks - Milwaukee built their team around the most stunning diamond in the rough. By now, we all know that 14 NBA franchises undervalued the Greek Freak, as Giannis Sina Ougko Antetokounmpo is now arguably the best player in the NBA. It's easy to see how he slipped through the cracks, having started playing the game in Greece just six years before getting drafted. The Bucks didn't miss him, though they've also teamed him with more talent that was once undervalued on draft day.

George Hill and Kris Middleton did plenty of damage against the Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Middleton was a second round pick by the Pistons, while Hill was the 26th overall pick out of little IUPUI. The Savvy Spurs later turned him into Kawhi Leonard. More on that guy later. The bottom line is this: Brook Lopez is Milwaukee's only player who was drafted in the top-10. Their bench features four former second round selections

Raptors - Toronto doesn't have a single player that was drafted in the top-14. Kawhi Leonard was traded by the Pacers to the Spurs and later to the Raptors, but he was drafted 15th overall in 2011. He just put up the highest scoring average in a playoff series since Michael Jordan and won it with an insane buzzer beater. Playing at San Diego State didn't matter. Stars come from all over and the same goes for role players. The Raptors start two second round guys, a 24th overall pick and a 27th.

Blazers - Did you see CJ McCollum in Game 7 against the Nuggets? There's a 10th overall pick taking over a game (from the same draft as Giannis). Nine teams passed on McCollum. He entered Sunday averaging more than 26 points per game in the Western Conference semifinals. With Portland star Damian Lillard struggling, McCollum put the Blazers on his back to the tune of  37 points and nine rebounds in the series' deciding game.

While Lillard was off in Game 7, he's been All-World in the playoffs. The Blazers found Dame at No. 6 in 2012. That's Weber State and Lehigh University carrying Portland to the Western Conference Finals.

Warriors - You don't build dynasties without hitting on some draft picks. Adding Kevin Durant was huge, but Golden State built their foundation with incredible draft success. Steph Curry was the 7th overall pick in 2009 out of Davidson. Klay Thompson went 11th out of Washington State in 2011. Draymond Green was a 2nd rounder (No. 35 overall) and a pick the Warriors got from the Nets.

Together that's a combined 50 times NBA general managers passed on the Warriors original 3. The rest is history.

If that's not enough? See Nikola Jokic (41st overall), Jimmy Butler (30th overall) and, to a lesser degree, even Joel Embiid (third overall).

The Bulls must find their diamonds no matter where the ping pong balls drop, wherever they might be hiding.

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Fly the W and fly high, number 31

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USA TODAY

Fly the W and fly high, number 31

Ten years ago, the Cubs finally retired a jersey number in honor of a pitcher. Make that two...

On May 3, 2009, the number 31 was raised at Wrigley Field for Hall-of-Famers Fergie Jenkins and Greg Maddux. Fergie's flag floats in left field and the Maddux flag ripples in right field. Here's the funny part: after his trade to the Cubs in 1966, Fergie only wore #31 because his number with the Phillies, 30, was already taken by Cubs pitcher Ken Holtzman. Fergie says he negotiated with longtime clubhouse attendant Yosh Kawano.

"I said, well is 31 available? Because I was born on the 13th and it's just the number reversed. I wore that number for almost 18 years."

Jenkins and Maddux both won the Cy Young award while pitching for the Cubs and Fergie thinks the similarities don't end there with his fellow #31.  "Control was very important. Getting ahead of the hitter. Don't walk anybody and you might have 6 or 7 strikeouts, but I pitched to contact a lot of times in certain games," Jenkins said.

He was durable and dominant. Fergie Jenkins won 20 or more games seven times in his career. He won 15 or more games a stunning 12 times over 19 seasons. But you want durable? Jenkins threw more than 200 innings in 13 different seasons and more than 300 innings five times.

"I ran all the time to keep the core of my body strong. I didn't try to overthrow or throw sidearm. I was a 3/4 arm pitcher. I threw 4 pitches - fastball, curveball, slider and change-up. I tried to stick to that routine and I was fortunate to never have a sore arm."

Fly the W and fly high, number 31.

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Looking back on Rick Monday's flag-saving incident in 1976

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USA TODAY

Looking back on Rick Monday's flag-saving incident in 1976

"I would rather be remembered as someone who stood up and did something about something I felt strongly about, than as someone who just stood there and watched the parade go by."

When you least expect it, life can come at you pretty quickly. The way Rick Monday reacted 43 years ago in a Cubs uniform is still worth remembering.

The Cubs were playing at Dodger Stadium on April 25, 1976. Monday was in his fifth season with the Cubs and playing in center field. Steve Stone was the starting pitcher and in the bottom of the fourth inning, Monday heard something going on around him. Two fans ran onto the field and then past Cubs left fielder Jose Cardinal.

"Is it because they have a bet with somebody?" Monday said. "Is it because they've had too much to drink? Is it because they don't like you?”

The fans turned out to be protesters and one of them was carrying the American flag under his arm. As they laid down the flag and doused it with a can of lighter fluid, Rick Monday darted at them from center field.

"It angered me for a lot of reasons," he said. "First of all, you're interrupting the game. Secondly, now you're bringing out a flag and I was only about three or four years removed from being in the Marine Reserves."

Monday considered bowling them over if he got there on time, but the first match blew out as they tried to ignite the flag. Monday improvised. He scooped up the soaking wet flag and kept running with it. By the time he'd handed it to a teammate near the dugout, Tommy Lasorda let the protesters have a few choice words. At the time, Lasorda was the third baseman for the Dodgers.

"He [Lasorda] came running past me yelling about every expletive that a longshoreman would utter on a bad, bad day!" Monday said.

The fans were arrested, and when Monday came to the plate for his at-bat in the top of the fifth inning, the scoreboard in center field paid tribute with - "Rick Monday...you made a great play" and the California crowd gave the Cubs outfielder a standing ovation. One year later, they'd be cheering for him again. The Cubs traded Rick Monday in a five-player deal that brought Bill Buckner and Ivan DeJesus to the North side. Rick Monday went on to play a total of 19 seasons in the Majors. He was part of the Dodgers World Series championship team in 1981.

43 years after the flag incident, Rick Monday works in the Dodgers radio broadcast booth and that American flag is still a part of his life. He and his wife take the flag around the country while raising money for military charities. Monday says he reacted quickly that day because that's the way he was raised. Six years in the United States Marine Corps Forces Reserves only reinforced those instincts.

"It's a good thing I did get it, because I did not want any of my former drill instructors from the Marine Corps to come and say, 'Hey Marine! Why did you stand there and watch when they ignited the American flag?" Monday said.

An All-American play by a two-time All-Star outfielder

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