With the Bulls on the ropes, Sixers won't be overconfident


With the Bulls on the ropes, Sixers won't be overconfident

This isn't how the Bulls and their fanbase envisoned the 2011-12 playoff run.

It doesn't really matter whether the fault lies with the injuries to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah or any other factor. The fact of the matter is, the Bulls are down 3-1 and facing elimination on their home court Tuesday night.

And to an 8-seed, no less.

The Bulls claimed the NBA's top record in the regular season despite a plethora of injuries while the Sixers needed wins in the final week of play to sneak into the postseason.

"We had to play our way into the playoffs," Sixers coach Doug Collins said prior to Tuesday's contest. "Three weeks ago, the Bulls are sitting here with a great chance to win the championship and we didn't even know if we were gonna be in the playoffs or not.

"That's how quickly things can change. And things can change just as quickly the other way. We know that."

The Sixers have the Bulls on their ropes. It's win or go home time for Chicago, but Collins' squad isn't taking anything lightly, even though it's only Game 5.

"When I was broadcasting, I always called this a human nature game," Collins said. "The team that's up 3-1, if you get down, do you have that fight to get back in the game to do the things you have to do to win games like we've won in this series? Or do you settle into that human nature of 'if we don't win tonight, we got a couple more games left.'

"That's why I said these games are games where you really have to focus in. It has to be as important tonight to us as it is to the Bulls."

Philadelphia is one of the youngest teams in the playoffs and their roster is filled with players who don't have much experience -- if any -- closing out playoff series. It's been a while for Collins, too, as he hasn't won a playoff series as a head coach since the 1988-89 season.

But like any good coach, Collins knows he has to keep things on as even a keel as possible.

"We have a young group and I want to manage the extremes -- the highs and the lows," said Collins, who got his first head coaching gig with the Bulls and was a standout player at Illinois State University. "I thought we were good in Games 3 and 4.

"We won the games, but I didn't think we were on a parade. I didn't think we were on a joy ride. We found a way to grind a couple games out and we knew how much we had to do. So I just tried to keep guys on that kind of path, especially with some of our younger guys."

Bulls' Denzel Valentine continues passion project, releases second rap video

Bulls' Denzel Valentine continues passion project, releases second rap video

Denzel Valentine talked occasionally about his developing passion for rapping before COVID-19 paused — and eventually ended — the Bulls' 2019-20 season.

Now, the free agent swingman is using the hiatus to not only continue his charitable work in both his native East Lansing, Mich., and Chicago, but also further his passion project.

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A music video for Valentine's latest track, "Get Ya Grind Up," appeared on social media Friday. It not only stars Valentine, but his older brother, Drew, who is an assistant coach at Loyola. Their mother makes a cameo, as well.

Warning: Song contains NSFW language

Valentine released his first song and video in January, titled "Introduction," and in March, featured alongside Diamond Jones on a track titled "Hate Me." He also talked about his passion for rapping in an episode of the Bulls TV-produced "Run With Us" miniseries.

Valentine will either be a restricted or unrestricted free agent in October depending on if the Bulls submit a qualifying offer. After sitting out the entire 2018-19 season following reconstructive ankle surgery, Valentine endured a difficult 2019-20 season. He moved in and out of Jim Boylen's rotation despite representing one of the team's better 3-point shooters and passers. Over 36 games, he averaged 6.8 points in 13.6 minutes.

The Greater Lansing Food Bank thanked Valentine via social media for a March donation, and he also recently made a donation to Lurie Children's Hospital.


Report: NBA, NBPA agree to social justice messages for jerseys during restart

Report: NBA, NBPA agree to social justice messages for jerseys during restart

The NBA and NBPA have come to an agreement on social justice-related messages players can display on the backs of their jerseys when the league resumes play in Orlando on July 30, ESPN’s Marc J. Spears reports.

Here is the list of ("suggested") approved terms, according to Spears:

Black Lives Matter; Say Their Names; Vote; I Can't Breathe; Justice; Peace; Equality; Freedom; Enough; Power to the People; Justice Now; Say Her Name; Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can); Liberation; See Us; Hear Us; Respect Us; Love Us; Listen; Listen to Us; Stand Up; Ally; Anti-Racist; I Am A Man; Speak Up; How Many More; Group Economics; Education Reform; and Mentor

Per Spears, players will have the choice to brandish said messages above the number on the backs of their jerseys in place of their names for the first four days of the restart. From there, messages will still be permitted, but with players’ last names included underneath. TBD if more messages are to come.

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The Premier League provides some precedent for this initiative; all players participating in its season restart, which began on June 17, are donning jerseys with “Black Lives Matter” on the back in place of their names.

Meanwhile, prominent NBA players including Kyrie Irving, Dwight Howard and Avery Bradley have voiced concerns that play resuming could distract from the fight against racial injustice. Others contend that the attention the league’s restart will command can be leveraged into advocating for change. 

Ultimately, the league has left that assessment up to players on an individual basis. Commissioner Adam Silver has publicly said the NBA is deliberating on social justice programming for the bubble, and future investment in social justice causes, though no concrete plans have been made public. On June 24, the NBA and NBPA announced in a joint statement that leadership of both sides had met to “further advance the league’s collective response to the social justice issues in our country.”

“I think ultimately we can accomplish a lot (for social justice causes) by playing,” Silver said on a panel with Caron Butler, Magic Johnson and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in June. “But as I said, I know there’s some roiling going on within the Players Association, and I respect the point of view of those who are saying let’s make sure that in returning to basketball, a larger, broader message about social equality, racial issues are not somehow lost.”