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.”

What to watch for when Derrick Rose and the Pistons visit the Bulls for the second time this season

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USA Today

What to watch for when Derrick Rose and the Pistons visit the Bulls for the second time this season

In a matchup of two stumbling squads, the Bulls look to begin the process of righting the ship against the Pistons. The game tips off at 7 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago — until then, here’s what to watch for:

In spite of it all, a winnable game

The Bulls enter this game with a bad, no-good, rotten 4-10 record. Lucky for them, their opponent is 4-9, and has lost five of their last six.

En route to their own disappointing start to the season, the Pistons have dealt with injuries to key players in Blake Griffin, Reggie Jackson and Derrick Rose, devolved into one of the lowest rated defenses in the league and struggled mightily with turnovers. They’re actually a pretty good shooting team, but play at such a slow pace (99.96 possessions per 48 minutes, 25th in the NBA), that they haven’t been able to fully maximize that efficiency in the way many modern offenses do.

Oh, man. They’re kind of the anti-Bulls.

In that vein, the area in which Detroit struggles the most could play directly into the Bulls’ hands. Literally. The Pistons are currently tied for 27th in the league in turnovers (17.5) per game and 28th in opponent points off turnovers (28th) per game, while the Bulls rank first in both opponent turnovers (18.9) and points off turnovers (21.9) per game. 

In the first meeting of the season between the two teams — a six-point Bulls win on Nov. 1 — the turnover battle was largely even. But tonight, look for that and the Bulls’ ability to turn takeaways into fast break opportunities to be a factor.

Holding ground in the paint and on the wing

Sure, the Bulls have already beaten these Pistons. But much has changed for both teams since their first meeting — chiefly: Blake Griffin is back for Detroit, and both Otto Porter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison are missing for Chicago. (Hutchison was inactive for their first matchup, too, but Porter started and notched 22 points and six rebounds while shooting 3-for-4 from three.)

Andre Drummond beat the Bulls up on the glass en route to 24 rebounds and Detroit dominated the points-in-the-paint battle 66-40 on Nov. 1. And while not yet at full strength, the addition of Griffin to Detroit’s rotation should only exacerbate those disparities — especially considering the struggles the Bulls have had rebounding, protecting the rim and scoring around the basket. Losing the long, solid and athletic Hutchison just hours before the contest doesn’t help, either.

Boylen may choose to counter with another dose of Daniel Gafford, a strategy many Bulls fans — and players — would certainly endorse. Monday night, the Bulls both outrebounded and won the points-in-the-paint battle against the Bucks, a great rebounding and interior scoring squad. It’s hard to credit all of that to Gafford, but he remains an intriguing option in spurts in this matchup.

On the wing, it’s worth monitoring what buttons Boylen pushes with his rotations. He’ll likely have to call upon Denzel Valentine and/or Shaq Harrison to eat minutes out there (something he’s shied away from doing early in the season), and don’t be surprised to see three-guard lineups — a configuration Boylen has demonstrated an affinity for — galore.

Can Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen bounce back?

Of late, the cornerstones of the rebuild have looked anything but. In Monday’s game against Milwaukee, LaVine and Markkanen combined to shoot 6-for-28, and spearheaded a crunch-time unit that failed to score a field goal in the final six minutes of the fourth quarter.

Their struggles go deeper than that one game, but a Detroit defense that has had issues defending on the perimeter presents an opportunity for each of them to bounce back. In the aforementioned Nov. 1 matchup, LaVine notched 26 points, five rebounds and three assists on 8-for-20 shooting. Markkanen tallied 14 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals (3-for-7 from three), but took only nine shots. Neither of those lines are stamping them tickets to All-Star weekend, but any hint of improvement would be a welcome development. 

Right now, the hope — especially for Markkanen — is that things can only go up from here.

Derrick Rose returns (again)

Last season, there were ‘MVP’ chants. This year, a standing ovation. What will another Derrick Rose return to the UC hold? No one can say for certain, but at the very least, a reunion with an old friend:

 

And, of course, there’s a game to be played, too. As mentioned, Rose has been in and out of the Pistons rotation early in the season with a nagging hamstring injury. When he’s played, he’s been excellent, averaging 18.4 points and 5.8 assists in 24.5 minutes per game with 54.1/37.5/89.7 (all career-bests) shooting splits. 

And he always shows out in Chicago. In three games as a visitor against the Bulls, Rose has averaged 20.7 points, 8.7 assists, 3.7 rebounds and two steals per game on 25-for-48 (52.1%) shooting.

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Chandler Hutchison (sore shins) inactive against Pistons, with no timetable on return

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USA Today

Chandler Hutchison (sore shins) inactive against Pistons, with no timetable on return

If you thought the Bulls were strapped on the wing before, buckle up.

In the run-up to the Bulls' matchup with the Pistons, head coach Jim Boylen announced that Chandler Hutchison, who has started the last five games in place of an injured Otto Porter Jr., will not play against Detroit after experiencing soreness in his sins. 

"Hutch is out. He has very sore shins, and doesn't feel comfortable going," Boylen said after Wednesday's shootaround. "He came in yesterday and it flared up for him, and today it was very sore. We held him out of shootaround, he did a couple things and those things bothered him. So, I'm not gonna put anybody in jeopardy of hurting something else because something's hurt. I'm not doing that."

Boylen wasn't ready to commit to a decision on who will start in Hutchison's place, though he confirmed Shaq Harrison, Denzel Valentine and Ryan Arcidiacono will all be considered. He did rule out the possibility of sliding Thad Young into the starting lineup.

Meanwhile, Porter suffered a setback in his rehab after a return MRI revealed additional bone bruising in his left foot. He'll be re-evaluated by the team in two weeks.

As for a timetable on Hutchison's return? For the moment, it's unclear, but Boylen didn't speak of the injury as a minor setback.

"He's out tonight, and that's about as much as I can tell you," Boylen said. "It doesn't seem to be a quick fix, I don't want to give you a timetable there... We hope he's back as soon as possible."

Boylen also said they've considered calling up reinforcements from Hoffman Estates, but didn't offer anything concrete. 

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