Bulls

Bulls appreciate being Holiday Showcase game

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Bulls appreciate being Holiday Showcase game

Saturday, Dec. 25, 2010
10:23 a.m.
By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com
NEW YORKA noon start, away from their families. But all of that pales in comparison to the honorto a man, that was the word used to describe itof playing on Christmas Day.

I think its an honor and a privilege to be playing, and I know its tough for the away teamparticularly the players who have kidsbut thats all part of it and hopefully when we get back, theyll have a chance to spend some time with their families, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said prior to Fridays practice at Madison Square Garden.

Everyone around the worlds going to be watching. Everyone that loves basketball, theyre going to tune in, so its definitely an honor to play on Christmas, echoed Kurt Thomas, who couldnt remember how many Christmas days games hes played inthe former Knick estimated three to fiveover the course of his 18-year career. Its the fact thatmy kidsIm not at home, seeing the Christmas tree, opening up their presents. Thats really the only difficult part, but its part of the job. You just go out there and play, go have fun.

Luol Deng, the longest-tenured Bulls player, hasnt played in any games on the holiday during his career, so he acknowledged how the teams rising status in the league earned them their reward.

I think the league schedules it before the season starts, so I think they schedule it kind of depending on the players you have, Deng told CSNChicago.com. I think it shows a lot, the kind of guys we have on the team and people want to watch us. We could have came in with a bad record, but I think they scheduled it because people at home want to see all these players.

Carlos Boozer, coming from small-market Utah, definitely appreciates the benefits playing on a high-profile squad has garnered.

None Christmas Day games in Utah. I think I played in one in Cleveland, Brons LeBron James rookie year, said Boozer. Its an honor to play on Christmasits for the fans and we take great pride to be one of the teams thats featured for the fans.

Obviously we wouldnt mind spending more time with our family at home, toolike most peoplebut we take pride and honor in what were able to do and we look forward to the game tomorrow.

For native New Yorker Taj Gibson, playing in the Garden, in front of friends and family in his hometown, makes it even more special.

This is a dream come true, remarked Gibson. Hopefully we can get a win and it would be even better.

Deng, who attended high school in nearby New Jersey, shared his sentiments.

I went to high school not too far from here. Im going to have a lot of friends at the gameI always have friends coming hereI have some family in New York, so to me, its always been special because of that. History plays into it, but I think a lot of people, they dont have that connection with Madison Square Garden that I have, Deng told CSNChicago.com. I think everyones excited. Im a little bummed for Jo injured center Joakim Noah, but its part of the game. Hell be back and hell have his days playing here.

Thomas, whose Knicks career coincided with the last time New York was relevant in the league, also savored his return to the worlds most famous arena.

I love New York. I spent a lot of time here. Im always excited to come back here and play, said Thomas. Every time I walk into this building, I see people Ive known for a good number of years.

Going to the NBA Finals in 99, that definitely was the highlight, and just playing here in the Garden every night was just amazing. The fans here were incredible.

Derrick Rose didnt necessarily grow up dreaming about playing on the holiday, but understands its significance for the team.

I never thought about playing on Christmas. I just thought about playing in the NBA. I really didnt think about it when I was younger, like, I cant wait to play on Christmas. Its an honor to be playing on Christmas. I remember the first two years and being at homebeing in Chicago for Christmas, then going somewhere to play the next day, but its an honor to be playing and were playing in one of the best arenas in the world, said Rose. Were on the rise. Were getting noticed, but we still have to handle our business, knowing that this is still a job. We have to take this as very important, and go out there and play hard.

The serious-minded Thibodeau certainly has preached that to his team.

The big thing is its a holiday and its an early game, so theres a lot going on. But we have to be ready, so our preparation today and then early morning tomorrow at the walk-through and then noon start, we have to be focused, said Thibodeau, who will be facing one of the several teams, the Knicks, hes worked for as an assistant coach. Normally, you would haveif its a 7 or 7:30 startyou would have your shootaround in the morning, where you can go through some things live on the court and it changes when its a noon start. Youre in the ballroom in the hotel and youre just walking through things, so from that standpoint, it changes.

Besides that, its just a regular gameor so the participants would have you believe.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Jabari Parker unafraid of history, expectations that come with Chicago's homegrown stars: 'There's no fear'

Jabari Parker unafraid of history, expectations that come with Chicago's homegrown stars: 'There's no fear'

The Chicago sunlight followed Jabari Parker as he walked through the East Atrium doors of the United Center, facing Michael Jordan’s statue before meeting with the media, introduced as a member of the Bulls for the first time.

For his sake, the brighter days are ahead instead of to his back as he’ll challenge the perception of being the hometown kid who can’t outrun his own shadow.

Parker re-enters Chicago as the No. 2 pick of the the 2014 draft the Milwaukee Bucks allowed to walk without compensation despite holding the cards through restricted free agency, damaged goods on the floor but not giving the Bulls a discount to don that white, red and black jersey he’s always dreamed of wearing.

“There were other teams but as soon as I heard Chicago, I just jumped on it,” Parker said.

It took a two-year, $40 million deal (2019-20 team option) to get Parker home, along with the selling point that he’ll start at small forward—a position that’s tough to envision him playing with on the defensive end considering three of the game’s top six scorers occupy that space.

It was a dream come true for his father, Sonny Parker, and high school coach, Simeon Academy’s Robert Smith, who both couldn’t hide their joy following the first question-and-answer session with the media.

“This is where he wanted to be,” Sonny Parker said. “His family’s happy, the support is there. All I know is the United Center will sell out every game. He can’t wait.

“Normally guys get drafted here. He signed to come here. He had a couple offers from other teams but he wanted to come here.”

The biggest examples of Chicagoans who arrived with outsized expectations for this franchise had varying results, but Derrick Rose and Eddy Curry both came away with scars of sorts that had many wondering why any hometown product would willingly choose to play for the Bulls.

The risk seems to far outweigh the reward; the emotional toll doesn’t seem worth the fare. And with the roster makeup not being ideal for Parker, no one could blame him for going to a better situation—or at least one more tailored to his skills rather than his heart.

“I think every situation is different. Derrick was excelling,” Bulls executive vice-president John Paxson said to NBCSportsChicago.com. “MVP of the league in his hometown before the injury. Eddy was just a young kid who didn’t have the savvy Derrick had. I think every situation is different. Jabari is such a grounded, solid person that he’s gonna be just fine.

“You don’t have to spend a whole lot of time with him to figure out he’s got it together. He knows who he is. Comfortable in his own skin. A quiet guy. Hopefully he’ll thrive here. The goal is it works great for him and works great for us.”

It seemed like he was bred to be a pro—and not just any pro, but the type Chicago demands of its own when a covenant to play 82 nights a year has been reached. If the constant prodding from his father didn’t break his façade, or older brother Darryl doing everything he could to coax emotion from the most gifted of the Parker clan couldn’t do it, two ACL surgeries on his left knee may pale in comparison.

The numbers from Parker’s recent stint with the Bucks don’t bear it out, but Smith sees a player who’s back on track to being what his talent has always dictated he should become.

“Even watching him work out lately, it’s like whoa,” Smith said. “But of course, everything with Chicago period you have to be cautious. With his family and the support system he has, this thing is about winning basketball games and giving back to the community.

“He’s had that (target) on his back since he stepped on the court at Simeon, coming behind Derrick and being one of the top five players as a freshman and No. 1 player as a junior. I don’t think it’s a huge problem, it can help him a little bit. If he has those moments if something doesn’t go right, he has someone to help him.”

Parker is more known for his restarts than his unique skill set in his young career, but even at 23 years old speaks with a sage of someone 20 years his senior, unwilling to tab this portion of his journey as a fresh start.

After all, it would be easy to envision his career beginning from the moment he left Simeon as a phenom followed by his one season at Duke—having two games where he totaled just 24 minutes with just two points to start the Bucks’ first-round series against the Boston Celtics isn’t typical of a star’s story if he sees himself that way.

“I don’t. I don’t want to forget all the hard work I had,” Parker said. “To forget I hurt myself and came back is to discredit my success. That in of itself is something outside the norm. I want to always remember the setbacks and failures I’ve had in my career so far. I want to use that as a sense of motivation.”

Bringing up his awkward pro beginnings in Milwaukee, where Giannis Antetokounmpo’s ascension to an unexpected strata mirrored thoughts he might’ve had of himself before his injuries, didn’t cause him to growl.

“I’ve never got jealous a day in my life. That’s why it wasn’t hard because I wasn’t jealous,” Parker said to NBCSportsChicago.com. “My journey is my journey. I gotta be proud of that and be patient. I took that and I move forward.”

The mention of his defense didn’t make him defensive, either, as he definitively pointed out the truth as he saw it, that today’s game is far more offensive-minded than the bruise-fests of the previous decades. Telling by his words in subsequent interviews, the best defense is a great offense and when he’s right, there aren’t many who can get a bucket as easily and with as much diversity as himself.

The only time Parker broke serve was at the notion he’d be following in the footsteps of Rose’s perceived failures, the setbacks Rose suffered when his knees began to fail after reaching inspiring heights players like Parker wanted to emulate.

At the podium for all to see, he corrected a question formed around Rose’s “rise and fall”, a sound byte copied and pasted by a couple Chicago-bred NBA players on social media in support of Parker’s words and feelings.

“Derrick had no lows. He didn’t. He still maintained. Derrick’s a legend, no matter what…no rise and falls. Injuries are part of life. Derrick is one of the best icons in Chicago. He accomplished his duty already.”

And later, he wanted to set the record straight again, drawing a line from how the media has presented Rose compared to how the people of Chicago see him, and vice-versa.

“We didn’t turn on Derrick, the media (did),” Parker told NBCSportsChicago.com. “We’re hometown. I speak for everybody, we love our hometown.”

The love of Chicago meant more than the prospect of not being able to live up to a glorious prep past, even though he should be well aware wanderlust can turn to villainy in a heartbeat—or the wrong step.

“There’s no pressure for me,” Parker said to NBCSportsChicago.com. “I’m just happy I get to play with some young guys, and I don’t harp on the negative. Anybody and everybody is gonna have an opinion. I value more my dreams than their opinions.”

And the dreamer steps forward, with a confident gait, eyes wide open and a city hoping it doesn’t repeat the same mistakes of its past.

“There’s no fear,” Parker said. “I haven’t faced any other pressure than bouncing back. I’m back on my feet and moving on.”

“When you struggle more, you succeed more.”

Sports Talk Live Podcast: With Jabari Parker in the mix, are the Bulls playoff contenders?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: With Jabari Parker in the mix, are the Bulls playoff contenders?

David Haugh, Patrick Finley and KC Johnson join Kap on the panel. Jabari Parker is officially a Chicago Bull. So does that make the Bulls a playoff team? And who will play defense for Fred Hoiberg’s young team? Vincent Goodwill and Mark Schanowski drop by to discuss.

Plus with Manny Machado now a Dodger, are the Cubs no longer the best team in the NL?

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