Bulls

Denzel Valentine frustrated that he has fallen out of Bulls' rotation

Denzel Valentine frustrated that he has fallen out of Bulls' rotation

DETROIT — Throughout December, Denzel Valentine was living his dream.

His surgically repaired ankle felt great. After beginning the season out of Jim Boylen's rotation, he was contributing. And the Bulls were winning, going 7-7 on the month.

"Basketball is everything to me," Valentine said.

But when Chandler Hutchison returned from his shoulder, Valentine became the odd man out. He has played nine minutes this month and drew his second straight "Did Not Play — Coach's Decision" Saturday night.

"It’s frustrating because I feel I haven’t made as big an impact as I want lately," Valentine said. "I know I can help us win and be a better player. All I can do is try to build and learn and grow."

The Feb. 6 trade deadline is approaching. Valentine wants to remain a Bull, but he also wants to play. Plenty of playoff teams seek shooting at the deadline, and Valentine is a career 37.5 percent shooter. While a team like the 76ers may show interest if they don't land a bigger name, Valentine also could be packaged if the Bulls decide to trade Thad Young.

"I let my agent handle that. I try not to worry too much about that. I try to make the most out of my situation right now.," Valentine said. "I feel I can play on any team. I’m trying to make the Chicago Bulls better. Any other stuff is out of my control."

About the only good news lately is that Valentine, who missed all of last season, said his ankle feels great.

"I never think about it," Valentine said. "Dr. [Bob] Anderson is good. He tightened up the ligaments on each side because I rolled my ankles so many times during the years. They were loose. At the beginning of the season, it was a little sore here and there. But it’s been good. I’m locked and loaded, ready to go."

Valentine just hopes he gets another rotational shot soon.

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The time former President Barack Obama's Joakim Noah takes sparked a story

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USA Today

The time former President Barack Obama's Joakim Noah takes sparked a story

Former U.S. President Barack Obama’s devout basketball and Bulls fandom is well-documented

But according to former Obama communications director Dan Pfeiffer on the most recent episode of “The Crossover NBA Show with Chris Mannix,” there came a point in Obama’s time as the leader of the free world when he had to consciously reign in his inner blog boy.

It began with the Bulls’ drafting of Joakim Noah.

“Obama learned over the years that, being president and being a fan, you can’t be a normal fan when you’re president,” Pfeiffer told Mannix. “When he was running for president, we were in New Hampshire doing an interview with a local reporter a day or so after. This must have been the ’07 draft. And the reporter at the end just asked Obama, as a fan, what did he think of the Bulls pick, and that was the year the Bulls picked Noah.

“And Obama, as a fan, like a lot of, if I remember, Bulls fans at the time, thought it wasn’t a great pick because it was duplicative of Tyrus Thomas, who they’d taken the year before. And Obama said that, and it made a lot of news both in Chicago and in sports… So he realized that you can’t just pontificate on draft picks without some consequences when you’re president of the United States.”

Worse, Noah was an ardent Obama supporter. Also according to Pfeiffer, the eventual Bulls center spent part of his time at the University of Florida as a member of a grassroots, Obama-supportive student organization. Obama's comments didn't change that sentiment: In an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche in Feb. 2008, Noah endorsed Obama in the 2008 election and said he'd been a supporter since 2004. 

But it’s hard to blame the ex-President too much for that take, ice cold as it ended up becoming. The Noah pick was widely polarizing at the time (and even through his rookie season), and Thomas wasn’t yet considered an unequivocal bust. Plus, Obama did eventually renege on those comments, even inviting Noah to his 49th birthday party at the White House in 2010, which saw stars across the NBA spectrum assemble for a pickup game.

That day spawned an anecdote that will go down as an all-timer, even for a player as celebrated as Noah. From former Obama senior advisor David Axelrod in GQ’s “The Oral History of President Barack Obama Playing Pickup Basketball”:

“[The President] ticked off Joakim Noah because the president was trash-talking him about his shot, [which is], shall we say, unorthodox. The president said, ‘Where’d you get that shot? That’s the ugliest shot I’ve ever seen.’ So at some point, Noah decided, ‘Okay, let’s see about yours.’ And he completely smothered the President. I mean he was guarding him and the President could not go anywhere. But I will say that with all of that, somehow playing against all these NBA players, he (Obama) mysteriously was able to hit the winning shot.”

Surely, the Obama-Noah relationship is all love now. But the evolution of it has certainly been a riot. 

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Bulls' treasure Johnny 'Red' Kerr was a walking basketball encyclopedia

Bulls' treasure Johnny 'Red' Kerr was a walking basketball encyclopedia

With the Eastern Conference finals and NBA Finals games largely shifting to network coverage, the broadcasting work from Tom Dore and Johnny “Red” Kerr for the 1996 playoffs is mostly over.

But what a treat it has been hearing that duo work together again during NBC Sports Chicago’s re-airing of the 1996 playoff run. Covering the games meant you didn’t get to hear the humorous interplay between the two, or Dore’s economical play-by-play work, or Kerr’s heart-on-his-sleeve bemoaning of missed boxouts or official’s calls.

Not that those of us around that team didn’t hear such moments off the air. It was fun to catch up with Dore on a recent Bulls Talk podcast. And I’d call getting to know Kerr one of the highlights of my two decades-plus around the franchise.

Red was there when John Havlicek stole the ball. And he was there when Michael Jordan held the pose.

Yes, Kerr was a walking, talking basketball encyclopedia who bled Bulls red. A storyteller supreme.

Beyond basketball, Kerr graciously sat for a tear-stained interview about his 46 years of marriage to Betsy after she passed away in October 2000. He did so because he wanted to share their love story, because her support allowed him to pursue his passions and because of her Bulls fandom.

At the time, Kerr shared how he hand-picked the three songs played at his wife’s funeral. This sparked a discussion about our shared passion for music.

From that day on, Kerr used to burn me CDs of artists he liked or he thought I’d like or I had told him about. In fact, having a 68-year-old Kerr thank me for introducing him to Uncle Tupelo is a career moment that may be hard to top.

Kerr became the first coach in sports history to lead an expansion team to the playoffs when he guided the 1966-67 Bulls. His knowledge of the game burned through every broadcast. His humor played out in lines like this one as the Bulls eliminated the Knicks to advance to the Eastern Conference finals against the Magic:

“The Bulls are trying to send the Knicks to play golf tomorrow. The Bulls might play golf, too.”

A bust of Kerr stands in the atrium of the United Center, a fitting tribute to a wonderful player, coach and broadcaster. And above all, a gem of a man.

Every other night through April 15, NBC Sports Chicago is airing the entirety of the Bulls' 1996 NBA championship run. Find the full schedule here.

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