NBA Insiders Notebook: More trade talk as All-Star break nears

NBA Insiders Notebook: More trade talk as All-Star break nears

AN ARENA NEAR YOU – Welcome NBA fans to another edition of the CSN Insiders notebook which as you can imagine this time of year, is full of trade talk.

While the next blockbuster move this season in the NBA will be the first, there’s still lots of activity that’s bubbling over into what should be some interesting deals cemented between now and the Feb. 23 trade deadline.

The first deal of this trading season went down over the weekend involving the Portland Trail Blazers sending Mason Plumlee, a second-round pick and cash to Denver for disgruntled big man Jusuf Nurkic (we wrote about him being one of the first to be traded a couple weeks ago), a future first-round pick (it will be Memphis’ 2017 pick) and cash.

This is one of those both-teams-win kind of deals.

The Nuggets are currently in the eighth and final playoff spot out West. The addition of Plumlee who is having a career season, strengthens their chances of sticking where they are or potentially moving up a spot or two as far as playoff seeding.  

Portland (24-30) ranks 20th in rebounding which is an area that Nurkic (16.0 points, 11.6 rebounds per 36 minutes) could help. And he gets a chance to play his way into a meaningful role, something he failed to do with the Nuggets in part because of the emergence of Nikola Jokic whose play has been one of the main reasons Denver is thinking how much their young team would benefit from getting to the postseason now even if the NBA’s most powerful team, Golden State, awaits them. Portland was also motivated to unload Plumlee due to his restricted free agent status this summer, and the unlikelihood that they would re-sign him due to luxury tax concerns.

Meanwhile, the Blazers now have the potential to have three, first-round picks in a relatively solid draft class.

As much as we’re all about trade talk, the story that has the league buzzing is the incident involving ex-New York Knick Charles Oakley and Knicks owner James Dolan which involved Oakley being arrested.

CSN Philly Insider Jessica Camerato details how Dolan who clearly screwed this up (just like he screwed up in hiring Phil Jackson which is another story for another time), tried to change the narrative just days after the incident which Oakley has made pretty clear that it isn’t over.


Can't we all get along?

Days after Charles Oakley was escorted out of Madison Square Garden and arrested following an incident with team owner James Dolan, a familiar face was in the arena in an unexpected setting.

Latrell Sprewell sat with Dolan during Sunday’s game against the Spurs. Sprewell and Dolan have a rocky past, so the pairing was surprising especially after what happened with Oakley.

Former Knicks Bernard King and Larry Johnson were also sitting with them.

"I can't tell you why I haven't been back here, but I'll tell you when I left, I was not happy," Sprewell told ABC, per ESPN.com. "New York is like a second home for me. I love the fans here. The fans have embraced me. There's no place like the Garden to play in. I mean, who wouldn't want to play in the Garden?"

Sprewell played five seasons for the Knicks from 1999-2003. – by Jessica Camerato

Bradley's return remains a mystery

Avery Bradley remains out of commission due to a right Achillles strain injury with the timetable for his return becoming murkier with each passing day. The Celtics maintain that he’s making progress and getting better, but there are growing concerns that Bradley’s injury may render a similar result to what happened with Kevin Garnett in 2009 when he was unable to play in the postseason for the Celtics.

While the two have very different injuries – Garnett was dealing with a knee injury – there is a parallel between the injury taking significantly more time to return from than expected.

Garnett missed 25 games with the knee injury, and was supposed to return near the end of the season. But on the eve of the playoffs, then-head coach Doc Rivers declared that the knee was sound enough to where Garnett could play in the postseason.

“It's not official that he's out for the entire playoffs, but it's official as far as I'm concerned," Rivers told reporters at the time. "I just don't see how. I hope I'm wrong, but I just don't see it."

While the mood isn’t anywhere close to being that ominous regarding Bradley, the longer it takes for him to return the more concern there will be among fans that his injury may be more serious than it’s being portrayed as currently.

Prior to Boston’s game at Dallas on Monday night, head coach Brad Stevens was asked about Bradley’s return which has now been set for some time after the all-star break.

“We met as a staff (Sunday) and every indication is he’s feeling as good as he’s felt, right now,” Stevens told reporters in Dallas. “What that means, I don’t want to speculate nor do I know.”

In other words, nobody knows when he’ll return which has to be troubling for Celtics fans who know a deep playoff run, barring a blockbuster trade, has to involve Bradley in some capacity beyond cheering from the bench. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

Okafor trade coming soon?

Trade talks surrounding Jahlil Okafor have progressed to the point head coach Brett Brown has decided not to play him while they are ongoing. Brown sat Okafor against the Heat on Saturday. That night, a deal was not imminent but talks were progressing, according to a source. 

“There were trade rumors that were happening before the game,” Brown said. “I was aware of those. In those situations, I felt that it was best to not complicate things and not play Jahlil. We talked about it together before the game and I explained to him that this was going to happen for this reason. That’s why I made the decision.” 

Okafor did not travel with the Sixers to Charlotte for Monday's game against the Hornets. They only have one more game after that (Wednesday in Boston) before the All-Star break and trade deadline. 

The Sixers had been involved in previous discussions surrounding Okafor, including with the Bulls and Pelicans. The talks on Saturday were more advanced than those, per a source. – by Jessica Camerato


Milwaukee can't buck bad luck trend

For the Milwaukee Bucks, they can't seem to get it right, through no fault of their own.

One big piece comes back, one goes down--indefinitely.

The day swingman Khris Middleton debuted after a hamstring injury this summer prevented him from starting the year, they lose up and coming star Jabari Parker to an ACL injury--the same ACL he tore his rookie year and threatened to derail his promising career.

Now, he's out for the year and the Bucks have to think long-term about where they go from here.

But now, they have to replace Parker and it could be with the mercurial Michael Beasley in the meantime--as adjusting is something they're used to this year.

"Just going through the process of playing without Khris, we understand how to play without someone," head coach Jason Kidd said to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Now we've got to learn how to play without Jabari. We don't have training camp or time to waste. We've got Friday and Saturday with games. We've just got to be pros.” – by Vincent Goodwill

Korver: 'Who wouldn't want to play with the best players in the world?'

When finding ones rhythm happening to coincide with wanting to stay put, it's no such thing as a coincidence, right?

In the case of Cavaliers' new acquisition Kyle Korver, it's been a few weeks in the making but he's finally located his groove and indicated he wanted to stay with the franchise as he becomes a free agent this summer. It's the same week he connects on 12 of 14 3-pointers in his last three games, including an 8-for-9 masterpiece against the Pacers, scoring a season-high 29 points.

"I mean, who wouldn't want to play with the best players in the world?" Korver told Cleveland.com. 

Or more specifically, who doesn't want to play with the best passer in the world, one LeBron James?

Keep cashing those checks, Korver. – by Vincent Goodwill

Pistons (finally) motoring in the right direction

The Detroit Pistons seem intent on this stop-start process where they can't figure out what they're doing. 

But what if they've finally found their groove?

Sunday night's 16-point fourth-quarter comeback win over the Toronto Raptors was their biggest such comeback win in regulation since moving from Fort Wayne in 1957-58, and more importantly, gives them five wins in their last seven games as they tied the Bulls for the seventh playoff spot in the East.

Stanley Johnson has struggled in his second year but if he and Tobias Harris can find their rhythm off the bench, one wonders if they can do more than take up the rear in the playoff race. Johnson scored 11 and played critical minutes in the win over the Raptors.

“I just have to figure out a way to play my game within the system. Offensively, it’s a little tougher for me,” Johnson told the Detroit News. “Even last year, I feel like I found more shots within the system.”

If the system can find a way to make Johnson more effective, Detroit can be dangerous down the stretch. – by Vincent Goodwill

Pacers remain inconsistent, time for LB to make a trade?

If anybody can get a handle on the Indiana Pacers, call Vegas because not even the experts have a good enough feel for them. 

One week ago, they were on the rise and Paul George had been reasserting himself as a bona fide swingman in the league, on a seven-game winning streak and being downright scary as a playoff opponent.

But since then, they've lost three straight, including a thrashing from the Cleveland Cavaliers and what's probably a little worse, they were beat up on the boards late by the Washington Wizards, causing George to call his teammates out for a lack of toughness--the worst thing a team can be called as a whole short of quitting.

“We got stops. Made them miss shots, but we couldn’t secure the rebounds. We’re not tough enough," George said after a 112-107 loss to the Wizards Friday night. "This has been an issue for us all season long. We’re really struggling and we’re just not tough enough. We’ve got to get grittier. We’ve got to get nasty on these boards. We’re just not tough enough.”

If the answer isn't on the roster, one wonders if it'll cause Larry Bird to hit the phones before the trade deadline. – by Vincent Goodwill

D-Wade: 'You know I got an Oak story'

No matter the walk of life or a person’s status, coming across Charles Oakley means there’s an experience, an “Oak story” that’s embedded in your brain.

As long as you’re not the topic of an Oak story, it’s probably pleasant in some ways.

“Do I got an Oak story? You know I got an Oak story,” a wide-eyed and smiling Dwyane Wade said to CSNChicago.com Friday afternoon.

Wade was a soon-to-be-rookie in the summer of 2003 when he was working out at famed trainer Tim Grover’s gym in Chicago.

“Oak just randomly came in and played. Open gym,” Wade said.

The directives were clear from the regulars to the novices who hadn’t experienced Oakley in his glory in an open gym with no television cameras, no coaches and most importantly, no referees.

“And everybody was like, "Oak is in here today, you shoot jumpers". I'm like, man (screw) that,” Wade said.  “You know me, I'm an aggressive guy, go to the basket.”

“First time I get the ball, I go to the basket.”

From there, Wade’s education on the scrappy big man who didn’t take kindly to high-flying young players coming to his territory began.

“Oak picked me up. I jumped in the air to finish and he grabbed me out the air and said, "don't come in here. Respect.’”

As for the unfortunate situation at Madison Square Garden, Wade stands firmly behind Oakley.

"From an organization standpoint, I thought it was handled poorly,” Wade said. “And I don't condone violence either. I thought it could've been handled better." -by Vincent Goodwill


Wizards' need for backup big man not as great now

With Ian Mahinmi back playing after a couple of setbacks with his knees, the Wizards have a clearer path ahead going into the Feb. 23 trade deadline.

That is they don’t require a big man to stabilize the frontcourt behind 32-year-old starter Marcin Gortat.

Defensively, the second unit has been stable. Before Friday’s game vs. the Pacers, the Wizards’ bench had a plus-9.3 points net rating per 100 possessions in the previous 10 games.

The key decision to be made is whether or not they can rely on rookie Sheldon McClellan or veteran Marcus Thornton for scoring from the shooting guard spot behind Bradley Beal – by J. Michael

Zeller, Hornets suffer yet another setback

Even with Cody Zeller, the Hornets were struggling. He returned from a right thigh contusion after missing seven games, played against the Rockets and had another setback and sat out vs. the Clippers.

His injury occurred against the Wizards, and it appears to be similar to one that Washington forward Otto Porter had a season ago.

Zeller said his entire leg had bruising, according to a report from the Charlotte Observer, “from my knee to my hip.”

Porter took a knee in his quad and there was the actual injury that he played through and then bruising and blood pooling in other areas that didn’t knock him out of action until a few games later.

The Hornets already made a trade to acquire Miles Plumlee for Roy Hibbert and Spencer Hawes. They’ll need Plumlee’s skill set more than ever with Zeller’s situation because he fills the voids that Hibbert and Hawes could not.

“Miles’ strengths fit into what we need,” coach Steve Clifford said. “He can bring physicality, rim protection and versatility in pick-and-roll coverages at the defensive end. I also think that he plays in a very similar fashion to Cody at the offensive end where I think he has a roll game that will allow him to play well with most of the perimeter players on our team.”

Johnson's versatility, Spoelstra's coaching keys to red-hot play by Miami

At $4 million for this season, James Johnson has been one of the NBA’s best bargains and has keyed a 13-game winning streak for the Heat going into Saturday’s game vs. the Sixers.

“I don’t know if there’s another guy in the league — maybe LeBron (James) and him — who can play the position one to five,” point guard Goran Dragic said.

Johnson is on his fifth NBA team. His overall averages are modest but represent career-highs: 12.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 35.6% three-point shooting.

Using him at the five spot has been a matchup problem for everyone, but Heat coach Erik Spoelstra deserves a chunk of the credit, too. The Big Three of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are gone (technically, Bosh hasn’t been released yet), D-Leaguers have been major contributors and Spoelstra still has them in the playoff picture after an 11-30 start.

“I’ve said it for years, but because I worked with him I'm biased and nobody writes it: but there’s not a better coach in the league than Erik,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, who used to coach the Heat, told reporters recently.

“People discounted him because he had LeBron and Wade and Bosh. Gregg Popovich is one of the best ever, Phil Jackson. But nobody goes to four straight finals. Nobody. He did. Those other great teams have not. But even before he had those guys, he had them in the playoffs. And now look what he’s doing in Miami.” – by J. Michael


Kings remain hard team to figure out

Break up the Kings. Sacramento has won two straight and three out of four this week, including victories over the elite of the Eastern Conference in the Cavs, Celtics and Hawks. Now if they could only beat teams like the Phoenix Suns and Chicago Bulls, they might be onto something. … All-Star big man DeMarcus Cousins sat out in the win over Boston due to league suspension after picked up his 15th and 16th technical fouls of the season against the Bulls. He wound up picking up technical foul No. 17 on Sunday in Sacramento’s 105-99 win against New Orleans. If (when) he picks up No. 18, he will have to serve another one-game suspension. … Ty Lawson strained an adductor muscle against the Celtics and missed Friday’s win over the Hawks. He joins Garrett Temple (torn hamstring), Omri Casspi (calf strain) and Rudy Gay (ruptured Achilles) on the injury list. – by James Ham

D-Leaguer Jones set to star in Slam Dunk Contest

PHOENIX - Rookie Derrick Jones Jr. is set to participate in the Verizon Slam Dunk Contest during All-Star weekend. He’s played in just five games with the Suns this season, but shown a flare for the dramatic in the D-League.  … Alex Len missed the Suns win over the Bulls on Friday after being suspended for leaving the bench during an altercation in Phoenix’ loss to the Grizzlies. Rookies Tyler Ulis and Marquese Chriss were each fined $15K for their part in the altercation. … Rookie Dragan Bender is out 4-6 weeks after undergoing ankle surgery this week.


Where do the Spurs find these guys?

SPURS - Winners of five out of their last six, the Spurs are once again rolling and they are getting a big boost from an unlikely source.

DeWayne Dedmon appears to be getting his sea legs as a starter. The fourth-year big dropped in 17 points, 17 rebounds and two blocks Friday night against Andre Drummond and the Pistons. Since taking over the starting job six games ago, Demon has posted three double-doubles.   

In need of more depth up front with Pau Gasol out of action, San Antonio inked veteran center Joel Anthony for the remainder of the season. – by James Ham

Help on the way for Davis?

Anthony Davis has been New Orleans’ lone hope when it comes to making an impact among frontcourt players, but that may not be the case for much longer. Philadelphia’s Jahlil Okafor is on his way out with New Orleans appearing to be the front-runner.

The Sixers have been negotiating with a number of teams, but the Pelicans appeared to have jumped to the front of the line after the Denver Nuggets – another team the Sixers were discussing a possible trade with – moved on to engineer a deal that netted them Mason Plumlee from Portland in exchange for Jusuf Nurkic.

If an Okafor trade falls through, look for the Pelicans to make a hard push for Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez. The Nets have the worst record in the NBA, but they won’t benefit from having a high pick in this year’s draft courtesy of the 2013 trade they made with Boston that included, among other things, Boston having the right to swap first-round picks in this year’s draft. They may be inclined to move Lopez now and get a lottery pick in return either from New Orleans or potentially from a third party if the potential trade is expanded.

Regardless, the Pelicans have made it clear that they are searching far and wide for ways to give their franchise player, Anthony Davis, some assistance right now. – by A. Sherrod Blakely


Jazz to have jersey patch with charitable twist

The Utah Jazz have always been seen as one of the classier organizations in the NBA, and their latest endeavors will only enhance that image.

Qualtrics, a Utah-based data and analytics research firm will have a patch on the Jazz uniforms for the next three seasons, joining other NBA teams such as the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets and Sacramento Kings.

But the Jazz and Qualtrics are doing something radically different.

Qualtrics will not put its brand logo on the jersey.

Instead, it’ll be a 5 For The Fight logo for at least the first season of the three-year pact.

5 For The Fight is a charitable organization focused on eliminating cancer with $5 donations with the goal being to raise at least $50 million.

“This is the right thing to do,” Qualtrics CEO Ryan Smith told USA Today. “As much as I would love to put Qualtrics on it, this idea of raising $50 million for cancer research was something we couldn’t stop thinking about it. The Jazz were open to our ideas and how we wanted to use the patch.” – by A. Sherrod Blakely

Parsons rounding into shape

Other than some Twitter beef earlier with Portland’s C.J. McCollum, we haven’t really heard much from Chandler Parsons this season. Injuries once again limited his impact for long stretches. But the 6-foot-10 wing is relatively healthy now, which could make the Grizzlies a much tougher out once the playoffs roll around.

Memphis signed him to a four-year, $94.4 million contract in part because of his versatility at both ends of the floor. The Grizzlies have been a grind-it-out type of team for years that lacked the kind of firepower in the postseason needed.

Parsons gives them that, while not being a major detriment to what Memphis is about defensively.

Of course the key with him as is the case all the time, is his health.

Injuries have limited him to just 25 games this year while averaging just career-low 6.6 points per game with a minutes restriction of 24 minutes or less.

With 20-plus games left to shake off the rust and improve his conditioning from sitting out most of this season, you can count on the Grizzlies to be one of those teams few want to see in the postseason with the play of Parsons being a factor. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

Durant gets lots of boos and the win in return to OKC

OKC - Kevin Durant stopped by on Saturday night for his first game back in OKC since leaving over the summer. The Warriors throttled the Thunder 130-114 with Durant dropping 34 points and nine rebounds on his former teammates.

Durant’s return was the focus, but Russell Westbrook put on a show as well, scoring 47 points, handing out eight assists and grabbing 11 rebounds in the loss. He also turned the ball over 11 times in an emotional game at Chesapeake Energy Arena. – by James Ham

The Pecking Order: An evening with the Chicago Bulls

The Pecking Order: An evening with the Chicago Bulls

As if letting us attend Bulls Media Day wasn’t ridiculous enough, my fellow Outsiders and I were invited to the 31st annual “An Evening with the Chicago Bulls” charity event on Tuesday night. Granted, our invitations only came when NBC Sports Chicago received a few extra tickets on the final day people could RSVP. But our executive producer Kevin Anderson got three very quick “Um, hell yeah!" responses from myself, Big Dave and John. Fool them once, shame on us. We were in!

Before I get into my silly list of favorite moments from the evening, I did want to mention how much I enjoyed and learned from the evening’s speakers. Jens Ludwig, the faculty director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab, spoke passionately and eloquently about our city’s crime problem, how it compares to other cities of similar size, and the ways his team’s research is creating new solutions.

Jack Solomon, a youth guidance counselor for BAM (Becoming a Man) and Jamille Thomas, an alum of the program, provided inspiring testimony of their experiences and the effectiveness of BAM’s operation for at-risk youth in Chicago.

We can talk about the Reindorf’s’ (un)willingness to pay the luxury tax for elite level talent at a different time. But when it comes to the work they do with Chicago Bulls Charities, they put their money where their mouths are. As they played a montage of some of their events from last year, I watched Zach LaVine – seated at the table next to me – look up at the screen with pride and joy as he watched himself bond with a family who received Christmas gifts courtesy of Bulls Charities. It’s so easy to forget that professional athletes are more than just stats, wins and losses that we watch on our TVs and discuss on social media. They’re human beings and they care. It was truly remarkable to see. Good job, Zach. Good job, Bulls.

Now, on to my favorite moments from the Outsiders experiencing our first “An Evening with the Chicago Bulls.”

1. We met Toni. THE Toni. Toni Kukoč. The Waiter. The Croatian Sensation. Sixth Man of the Year for the legendary 72-win season and 3-time NBA Champion for your Chicago Bulls. What the what? In case you think that John, Dave and I are starting to get a little too Insider-y for our role as Outsiders, this is what we look like when we get to talk to Toni. Us? Starstruck? No way.

We tried to get some intel from Toni on the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary “The Last Dance,” chronicling the Bulls’ final title season in 1997-98. Namely, when the hell is it going to debut? All they’ve given us so far is that it will be released some time in 2020. At least we’re getting closer, but still no exact release date? Come ON, people! Sadly, Toni couldn’t tell us the release date. Either because he doesn’t know or it’s a secret.

No matter. Meeting Toni was a major bucket list check mark of my Bulls super fandom, and he couldn’t have been nicer to us. Thanks to his daughter Stela for helping when Toni obliged our photo request!

2. OK, this one is a second-hand story of something that happened to Big Dave before John and I arrived. Dave’s wandering around upstairs at the Advocate Center and he runs into Gar Forman. Dave introduces himself and explains to Gar that he does a fan-centric show called Bulls Outsiders. Gar, who hadn’t heard of our show, asks Dave, “Are you nice, or are you mean?”

*Insert several cry-laughing emojis here*

Dave tells Gar he thinks we’re fair. As they continue to chat, Gar’s wife, Leslie, emerges from around a corner and recognizes Dave. “Hey, you’re one of the guys from that show!” Apparently, Leslie had caught our episode following the first Bulls preseason game last week. She told Dave that she enjoyed it and told Gar that he needs to watch.

So, we have at least two confirmed viewers of Bulls Outsiders. Zach LaVine’s dad and Leslie Forman. Now we just need to find a way to get Gar hooked on the show. Hmm…I’ll do some brainstorming. Have I mentioned how much younger and more athletic the Bulls look this season?

3. Kevin and I had a great chat with Zach. We asked him about his recent trending quotes; both people “talking sh*t” about his defense and the midrange shots controversy that got blown way out of proportion. You could tell Zach didn’t take kindly to the, shall we say, bold headline of a particular Bulls reporter on his story about Zach’s midrange quotes. Zach even responded to the article on Twitter, saying it was the farthest thing from the truth. He took the tweet down eventually, and it appears as though he and said reporter cleared up the confusion.

I agree with Zach’s assessment, and told him so during our chat. Yes, the league is trending away from midrange shots in favor of attacking the basket and shooting threes. He knows that. But when your team needs a bucket, get the ball to your best scorer. That’s Zach. If the shot he gets is a midrange shot, he’s going to take it. That’s the right answer. It’s that simple. Everything else about that midrange story was so ridiculously overblown.

Whether it’s Zach having the confidence to know any shot he takes is going in – midrange or not – or his newly inspired efforts we’re seeing on the defensive end, everything about Zach looks poised for a dominant season. As we were saying farewell at the end of the evening, I gave Zach a fist bump and told him, “Go get that All-Star nod.” He told me, “Oh it’s a done deal. In the bag." I believe him.

4. Luke Kornet finally got to hear John’s pitch for the “Luke Kornet’s Corn Nets” bit that he didn’t get to do at Media Day. He and his wife both thought it was hilarious. Dave was even quick to pull out his phone and show Luke a picture of the corn and nets that John brought to Media Day. Turns out, Luke’s wife wants Luke to write and perform a sketch for her upcoming birthday present. Methinks that John “Second City” Sabine and Luke have a bright future as comedy writing partners. First thing on their to-do list: Shoot the Kornet’s Corn Nets commercial and convince the necessary people to play it on the new videoboard at the United Center during a timeout of the home opener.

5. The Chicago Children’s Choir performed to kick off the evening’s festivities. Oh my God, they’re so talented. They sang two songs and I wanted at least two more. I asked Cristiano Felicio, who was seated with his girlfriend at our table, if he ever sang in a children’s choir. Sadly, no. I’d love to go searching for that footage. Remember how much Cubs fans freaked out when somebody unearthed that video of Kyle Schwarber performing with his high-school show choir? I’d pay top dollar to see a young Felicio in a similar setting. (Side note: Felicio is a really nice guy. It must be tough to be aware of how the fan base sees you and still put on a brave face. I’m sure the paycheck helps. But truthfully, the guy is delightful.)

6. Dave and I met Daniel Gafford and got to tell him how much we’re enjoying watching him play in these preseason games. In the annual NBA GMs poll that was released Thursday morning, we saw his name on the “others receiving votes” list for the category of biggest draft steal. The 38th overall pick could prove this season that he deserved a lot more votes. Assuming a healthy roster, his minutes will be hard to come by on a consistent basis. But he’s doing everything he can in this preseason action to show he’s significantly farther along in his development than people thought as they passed him by on draft night.

7. John and Benny the Bull crossed paths again. As Benny walked by us, he stopped dead in his tracks, whipped off his sunglasses and gave John a death stare that could darken the sun forever. There was another uneasy handshake between the two after the initial moment of terrifying tension.  Benny has nothing but love for Big Dave and me, but I’m still worried about his relationship with John. At some point soon, this could lead to fisticuffs. Or would that be hooficuffs?

8. Bulls assistant coach Karen Stack Umlauf has been with the team for decades and earned another promotion last year when became the first female assistant coach in franchise history. On Tuesday night, we met her husband, Mark, who is apparently another fan of Bulls Outsiders. (Hey, that’s three!)  He engaged us, and we ended up having a delightful conversation. He had some great stories about Bulls seasons of years past and teased us that he has several more. I’m hoping we run into him again soon.

Mark told us that Karen must always warn him to not “nerd out,” as she puts it, before he enters a room with various Bulls celebrities. Apparently, she gave him that very same warning when he wondered if he would run into us at this charity event. Us. Us three doofuses? C’mon, Mark. That’s hilarious. I assured him that we give each other the same warning before we’re about to meet Bulls legends of past and present, too. Mostly, it’s Dave doing it to me. 

I will continue to nerd out upon meeting Bulls heroes. They can deal with it. They’re used to it. I’m definitely still not used to it. (In case he’s reading this: Hey, Mark! Pleasure meeting you. And please, nerd out whenever you like. That’s what true fans do. Also, thanks for watching!)

9. Jim Boylen. Oh my god. I don’t know what planet this guy came from, but its beings are made with way more energy than the average human. Jim came up to us while we were sitting at our table, and joked, “Who let you guys in here?” Good question. We still don’t know who, but they made a mistake. Jim looked like a pinball all evening, bouncing around and conversing with seemingly every individual at the event. Maybe he felt like he needed to soak it all in, this being his first time attending the annual event as the team’s head coach. The face of the franchise. Gotta shake all the hands and kiss all the babies, as it were. But the dude certainly has the energy for it.

Then, as the evening was winding down, Jim came back to find us and engaged us again. He wanted to pitch us on what happened last season, the work they’ve done this offseason, and the positive changes we’re about to see on the floor. He told us that he wants us – all media, for that matter – to just be honest and fair. Critique his job performance and the team’s when it’s deserved. Most importantly, only speak on things you see and understand. 

Last season, plenty of people didn’t have a flipping clue what was going on. If there’s one area where I do have some sympathy for Jim and the Bulls front office, it’s that a lot of Bulls “fans” who checked out a long time ago still hurl insults in their direction for their own entertainment. And that’s not constructive. Often, it’s based on false information.

But we wouldn’t be doing our job as Bulls fans with our platform if we only talked about the positives. If something or someone is bad, we’ll call it out. I did warn Jim, too, that we’ll still be making jokes at his expense this season. And not to be “mean,” as Gar feared we might be. But because we’re fans, he’s the coach, and he’s got to roll with those punches. And let’s be honest, Jim’s epic quotes are ripe for joke picking. I think he understands that.

The last thing I told Jim, after I gave him that fair warning, is that I do sense a great deal of optimism among the fan base about this season. It’s been a long offseason of waiting, but there’s great belief that this team might finally be ready to turn a corner. We’re ready. We hope that Jim and his players are too. As Big Dave has stated repeatedly, and I couldn’t agree more: “I want to like Jim Boylen the coach as much as I like Jim Boylen the man.”  I’m certainly rooting for both.

Thanks for reading.  Attending this event was all kinds of stupid. I don’t understand why people let us do this, but it’s super cool that they do. Till next time.

See red, be good. - Peck

Bulls Talk Podcast: Thoughts after the preseason finale


Bulls Talk Podcast: Thoughts after the preseason finale

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Kendall Gill and Will Perdue join Jason Goff to recap the preseason and look ahead to the regular season opener

0:55 - On Wendell Carter Jr aggravating his thumb injury, how to treat it
7:00 - On the backup bigs, Luke Kornet’s role
8:45 - On Tomas Satoransky and Lauri Markkanen’s importance
10:30 - On how Lauri gets his points, does that matter?
13:45 - Are Bulls playing the right style of basketball for this roster?
17:25 - On Zach LaVine, how can he become an elite player?
20:10 - The traits of a good defender
22:50 - Kendall on how he decided to be a good defender
23:45 - Will on how Tim Duncan held teammates accountable on defense
27:15 - Kendall giving Will a hard time for calling Jordan ‘an average defender’


Bulls Talk Podcast