Bulls

'I'm sold on the Baby Bulls,' a conversation with The Basketball Analogy's Black Tray

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USA TODAY

'I'm sold on the Baby Bulls,' a conversation with The Basketball Analogy's Black Tray

You may have heard Black Tray - yes, he really does introduce himself like that - interject his patented "shouts to (fill in the blank)" one-liner before on ESPN's The Basketball Analogy podcast.

In recent episodes, he's chimed in with a facetious "shouts to bullying" and "shouts to gentrification." And just Monday, he fired a "shouts to the real MVP, Solange. Off of that elevator scene, we got three great albums."

Yes, this type of analysis can be found in an ESPN production.

The episodes he appears in - better known as Black Opinions Matter Monday - conflate NBA and pop culture to a degree where the audience knows Tray's unmistakable fandom for Tupac and the Bulls.   

He recently gave CSN Chicago a shout to discuss being sold on the rebuild, players he irrationally loved to watch play and, of course, Gar/Pax. 

You introduce yourself as Black Tray to people, right? 

Black Tray: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

Why?

BT: “I mean if people are going to hear it, they’re going to be asking questions. And I kind of just eliminate the questions before you can even ask. If I say, ‘Hey, I’m Tray,’ and then my friends say, ‘Yo, Black Tray come here,’ I might as well just introduce myself from the jump. Women can sometimes get annoyed by it, but it’s not like I’m trying to talk in third person or anything like that. It’s just a nickname that just kind of carried through and you just kind of roll with it. It’s super funny because there’s always jokes about it. ‘Hey, you’re really not that black.’ I’m not like a darker skin tone. It’s pretty funny to go about it.

“There’s some symbolism behind it as far as my avatar, and I don’t really show my face and stuff that much. So I really want people to tune in just ‘cause of my opinion or what I have to say versus the image. You know what I mean? With Black Opinions Matter, it’s really everybody. We’re just getting our point across. It’s, ‘Oh, we’re talking about durags. White guys can’t wear durags.’ No that’s not true. I don’t care who wears a durag. If you wear it well, you wear it well. But at the end of the day, we’re just speaking like, ‘Hey, we wanna be heard, too.’ I mean obviously you wouldn’t want to hear White Opinions Matter Monday. That’s gonna sound crazy. Isn’t that kind of the default?”

How'd you first get on The Basketball Analogy? 

BT: “I really wasn’t high on doing podcasts. (ESPN's) Amin (Elhassan's) a good friend of mine. We’ve been following each other on Twitter for several years, and he reached out and said, ‘hey, I would like to have you on’ because at the time Brandon Jennings was playing for the Knicks. That’s one of my best friends. At the time, they wanted an inside opinion on it, like talking about the coaches. Black Opinions Matter hadn’t even had a name or anything. I was just coming on the show to do an episode, and we had a good episode. The next week I didn’t come back on. First of all, I wasn’t invited but then also I really just wasn’t sold on podcasts. Then he asked me to come back, and I had a guest and it was Chris Childs. It was more so just the feedback that got me back on the show. I was really receptive to it. I read every mention. I look at everything. I’m always open to giving my opinion on stuff that I actually have knowledge on and the stuff I don’t I won’t speak on.”

Are you surprised with how the pod took off? 

BT: “Pretty much so. I had never listened to a podcast before. I didn’t even listen to my own podcast after I did it. I just kind of let go. I just do it and then scroll through my mentions and if I had a cool one-liner, I’ll retweet it here or there.”

You're from California, so why'd you become a big Bulls fan? 

BT: “My fandom for the Bulls began in ’91. I was about 6 years old and at the time Magic (Johnson) had the HIV virus, but L.A. was still coming off the Showtime Lakers. I was always the person in my family that goes and chooses outside of what everybody else likes. So at the time Michael Jordan was like really fun to watch, and all I can remember is me sticking my tongue out and imitating him by doing reverse layups on my Fisher Price hoop. He was my idol – the only person I kind of admired. I was unaware, at the time, that Michael Jordan was 6’6 and I was like, ‘well I wanna be as tall as him.’"

So give me a Bulls player you irrationally like?

BT: "Larry Hughes. With the Bulls, he was not amazing, but he was okay. But I’m a Larry Hughes fan. I was like all for Larry Hughes. Huge Khalid El-Amin guy. I call the Bulls ‘Point Guard U’ for troll’s purpose. A.J. Guyton, El-Amin, Jamal Crawford going down the line Jay Williams. Tons of heartbreak. I tweeted out not too long ago about our under-20 win seasons. We’ve had multiple. It was during the time I was in high school so I really wasn’t watching at all. I was like ‘Oh, basketball doesn’t exist.’" 

What're you thoughts on now? What'd you think about the trade? 

BT: “I’m sold on the Baby Bulls. I’m bringing the Baby Bulls title back. I call Lauri (Markkanen) Lauri Kukoc. What can we really do? You just gotta be positive about everything. I can’t really wear a paper bag or anything. I like that they brought back (Cristiano) Felicio. I like the Justin Holiday signing. Justin’s a great guy and, honestly, I thought we got him for cheap for what he brings. He just knows how to play the game. High IQ guy, won’t hurt his team on the floor. So I’m praising the offseason right now just because I know what direction they’re going in, but I’m still kind of anti Gar/Pax."  

What about Hoiberg? 

BT: "Hoiberg is like a cool-ass stepdad to me. He’s like, ‘Hey I know you guys aren’t 21. You’re not supposed to be drinking, but hey you can drink inside the house.’ You know what I mean? He doesn’t have the full authority with it as I want him to be. That’s why I said I’m not mad at Jimmy trying to call him out sometimes because he doesn’t hold him accountable. You gotta check them, you can’t be a fan of them.”

Were you on board when they brought in Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade last offseason? 

BT: “I wish what we were doing now happened last year. Now it’s the heartache and pain of we made the playoffs and we’re going to abandon everything.”

Are the Bulls winning that first-round series with the Celtics if Rondo doesn't go down, though? 

BT: “Absolutely. My thing was I think he just had intimidation. He basically played mind games with those guys like Avery Bradley. He still had that over them, he had those guys on the ropes. He was just leading the right way, he had everybody on board. Once he went down it’s like not so much because we had nobody at the point guard position.”

How do you think Zach LaVine will fit? 

BT: “Looking back at the trade, that trade should have happened last year. LaVine was rumored to come to the Bulls before. LaVine’s agent is my guy, that’s my friend, so I’m all for the LaVine trade and he’s looking good as far as recovery. He’s got tons of potential and was playing very well before he hurt his knee, so I’m on board. I don’t think he’s going to be an immediate All-Star, but he could be in the 17 to 20 points per game range. He’s not a slouch."

So how long for this rebuild then? 

BT: “Three years.”

Three Years? That's optimistic, don't you think? 

BT: “Hey, I trust it. Look at it like this: You can’t really lobby off, ‘Hey, Chicago’s a great city. Come here and play.' It has to be draft, teach, play. Throw in a couple veterans and go through that process.”

Come spend the winter in Chicago is probably not a good selling point.

BT: "I lived in Milwaukee for one year. I understand it.”

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

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USA TODAY

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

John Calipari's 2017 recruiting class featured five McDonald's All-Americans and Hamidou Diallo, a former five-star recruit who nearly jumped to the NBA the previous year. It also included a lanky 6-foot-6 point guard named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And for the first part of the 2017-18 season, the Toronto native who played his final two high school years in Tennessee, appeared to be a nice fit off the bench for Calipari.

But something flipped. Gilgeous-Alexander was inserted into the starting lineup for good on January 9 and never looked back. He played his best basketball beginning in late February to the end of the season, a span of 10 games against eight NCAA Tournament opponents. In those games Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 19.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists. He shot 51 percent from the field, 50 percent from deep and 84 percent from the free throw line, and added 1.4 steals in nearly 38 minutes per game for good measure. He was one of the best players in the country, and on a team with five McDonald's All-Americans, he was Calipari's best freshman.

"I knew with how hard I worked that anything was possible," SGA said at last week's NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. "It was just a matter of time before it started clicking and I started to get it rolling."

That stretch included a 17-point, 10-assist double-double against Ole Miss, a 29-point showing against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament, and 27 more points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Buffalo. Even in his worst game of the stretch, a 15-point effort against Kansas State in the Tournament, he made up for 2 of 10 shooting by getting to the free throw line 12, converting 11 of them.

It made his decision to make the jump to the NBA an easy one - that, and another loaded Calipari recruiting class incoming. He stands taller than just about any other point guard in the class and might have as good a jump shot as any. He's adept at getting to the rim, averaging 4.7 free throw attempts per game (that number jumped to 5.6 after he became a starter, and 7.5 in those final 10 games of the season. He isn't the quickest guard in the class, but he uses his feet well, is able to find open shooters due to his height and improved on making mistakes on drive-and-kicks as the season went on.

"I think I translate really well to the next level with there being so much more space on the floor and the open court stretched out," he said. "It only benefits me and my ability to get in the lane and make plays."

There's something to be said for him being the next in line of the Calipari point guards. The ever-growing list includes players like Derrick Rose, John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Murray and DeAaron Fox. It's the NBA's version of Penn State linebackers or Alabama defensive linemen. The success rate is nearly 100 percent when it comes to Calipari's freshmen point guards; even Brandon Knight averaged 18.1 points over a three-year span in the NBA.

"That’s why guys go to Kentucky," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "It prepares them for the next level. Coach (Calipari) does a really good job, especially with point guards, getting them ready for that next level in a short amount of time."

Gilgeous-Alexander didn't test or play in the 5-on-5 scrimmages, but he still came out of Chicago a winner. He measured 6-foot-6 in shoes with a ridiculous 6-foot-11 1/2 wingspan, a full three inches longer than any other point guard at the Combine. He also added, rather uniquely, that he watches of film Kawhi Leonard playing defense. Most players don't mention watching film on different-position players; most players aren't 6-foot-6 point guards.

"(It's) obviously a more versatile league and playing small ball. And with me being able to guard multiple positions, a lot of teams are switching things like the pick and roll off ball screens, so me being able to switch and guard multiple positions can help an organization."

Gilgeous-Alexander's arrow is pointing way up. He appears to be teetering near Lottery pick status, though that could go one way or the other in private team workouts, especially if he's pitted against fellow top point guards like Trae Young and Collin Sexton. But if his rise at Kentucky is any indication, he'll only continue to improve his game, his stock and eventually his draft position.

The Celtics tied MJ's and the '96 Bulls' record for consecutive home playoff wins

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The Celtics tied MJ's and the '96 Bulls' record for consecutive home playoff wins

The Boston Celtics have been the surprise of the 2018 NBA Playoffs, and after last night's Game 5 win against LeBron James and the Cavs are one game away from a trip to the NBA Finals.

They've done it with some of the most interesting splits in league history for a team that's advanced this far: they're 10-0 at home and  1-6 on the road.

The six road losses are something else, but with the convincing 96-83 victory over Cleveland, the Celtics tied a record held by the 1996 Bulls for the most consecutive postseason home wins in a season.

Boston earned home wins against the Bucks in Round 1 in Games 1, 2, 5 and 7. They crushed the heavily favored Sixers in five games, earning home wins in Games 1, 2 and 5 (and their only road win in Game 3). They took the first two games of the series from the Cavaliers at home and then again in Game 5. If they can't close the series in Cleveland they'll have a chance to break the record Sunday in a potential Game 7. If they do close the series in Cleveland their next chance will be in Game 3 of the NBA Finals; Boston will be on the road regardless of whether Houston or Golden State comes out of the West.

Jordan's Bulls won 10 consecutive games during their historic 72-10 season. They swept the Heat in Round 1, winning at home by 17 and 31 points. In the second round they knocked off the Knicks in Games 1 and 2 at the United Center, winning by 7 and 11 points. After the Knicks earned a Game 3 win at Madison Square Garden the Bulls won the final two games of that series, including a 13-point win at home to clinch the series and a fifth straight home win.

The conference finals were no problem for the Bulls at home or on the road. They began their eventual sweep of Orlando with a 38-point shellacking in Game 1 at home. A five-point win in Game 2 gave them their seventh consecutive home win and they wouldn't be back at the United Center until Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

They smoked the Sonics by 17 in Game a 1 and held on for a four-point win in Game 2. Seattle took Games 4 and 5 at their place to avoid being swept, but when the series returned to Chicago the Bulls were back to their winning ways, earning a 12-point win - their 10th consecutive in the postseason - and their fourth NBA title.

Yes, the Bulls lost just three times (half as many as the Celtics) and actually won the title. Boston, of course, has plenty to do before they reach that status, and they'll do so with at least six losses. We're not comparing the two teams. Simply pointing out a record.

And if you're wondering, Steph Curry and the Warriors have simply been too good to get to 10 wins. Last year they swept all three rounds of the West playoffs, giving them six straight home wins. Then they only needed five games to beat the Cavaliers in the Finals, with three of those coming at home. So they went 9-0 at Oracle Arena before winning it all. They recently had their streak of 16 consecutive postseason home wins, regardless of year, snapped when the Rockets earned a Game 4 win on Tuesday.