Bulls

Turner Sports sideline reporter Craig Sager passes away at 65

Turner Sports sideline reporter Craig Sager passes away at 65

Longtime Turner Sports sideline reporter Craig Sager passed away Thursday after a lengthy battle with leukemia. He was 65.

“Craig Sager was a beloved member of the Turner family for more than three decades and he has been a true inspiration to all of us,” Turner president David Levy said in a statement. “There will never be another Craig Sager. His incredible talent, tireless work ethic and commitment to his craft took him all over the world covering sports.”

Sager, a native of Batavia, Illinois, was diagnosed with the disease in April 2014. It caused him to miss that spring's NBA Playoffs and a good portion of the 2015 season. It was in Chicago, nearly one year after his diagnosis, where Sager returned to the sidelines to cover Bulls-Thunder. He received a standing ovation from the United Center crowd.

Later that month Sager was working a Bulls-Rockets telecast on TNT. During an in-game interivew, Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg bypassed Sager's question to relay well-wishes of good health.

"Craig, first of all I just want to tell you how great you look, man," Hoiberg said. "You're an inspiration to everybody. I want to tell you how much it meant to me a couple years ago in the NCAA Tournament having the opportunity to be interviewed by you. I wasn't ever good enough as a player to get interviewed by you. That was a real thrill for me. I just want you to know - and I know I'm speaking on behalf of everybody in the NBA - we're praying for you, and to keep fighting."

Later that season Sager was asked by ESPN to join their broadcast team for Game 6 of the NBA Finals. It was the first time Sager had covered an NBA Finals game.

A few weeks before covering the NBA Finals, Sager, a lifelong Cubs fans, was a guest at Wrigley Field and threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Conquer Cancer Day. He joined SportsTalk Live to discuss his battle with cancer (which you can watch in full in the video above).

"I don't want to miss anything," he said. "It's not because I have this disease. You don't know how much time you have left, and the future's uncertain, you can't buy time, and all the cliches. But I've never had a bad day in my life. Every day is happy and I really have never been down. I don't like to be around negative people."

Sager was named the recipient of the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the ESPYS this past summer, where he gave a passionate speech about the importance of time.

It was similar to the message he gave at Wrigley Field six months earlier.

"I'm not fighting just for me," he said. "I'm representing everybody who's fighting cancer. And we don't give up and we don't give in, and don't let it affect your attitude, don't let it affect your job, your life, whatever, if you can help it."

Dwyane Wade shared a video tribute to Sager on Instagram, in which he called the sideline reporter a "legend."

"Just woke up and heard the news about Craig Sager. I just want to share this. In our sport, people always throw around the word 'legend' or 'legacy.' And to me, having a legacy is what Craig Sager has," Wade said in the video. He was someone that we all wanted to be around, he was someone that, when the game was over, we couldn't wait to get interviewed. Whether we were going to talk about his suit, we were going to be interviewed by the greatest. Leaving a legacy is leaving a story to tell. Craig has left us with so many stories to tell, so many memories, so many moments. Whether it's people who want to be like him, whether it's people that never met him and just seen him from afar and enjoy his light that shined on him. That's a legacy. That's a legend.

"So I want to thank God for allowing us to touch, and be friends, and be a part of a real-life, on-earth legend. Your legacy will never be forgotten."

The Bulls and other members of the team also posted heartfelt thoughts on Sager's passing.

RIP #CraigSager you will be missed 🙏🏼

A post shared by Taj Gibson (@tajgibson22) on

Fun with tall people: Lauri Markkanen takes photo with Yao Ming and looks short

lauri.jpg
USA TODAY

Fun with tall people: Lauri Markkanen takes photo with Yao Ming and looks short

Lauri Markkanen doesn't often feel short.

The Bulls forward is 7-feet tall, which even in the land of NBA giants makes him one of the tallest players on the court at all times. So when Markkanen stands next to Yao Ming, it changes perspective quite a bit.

Markkanen posted a photo with him and the 7-foot-6 Chinese Hall of Famer. Markkanen looks like a child.

Makes you wonder if Markkanen pulled some "What's the weather like up there?" jokes just because he otherwise never can.

 

Could Derrick Walton Jr. become the solution at backup PG?

dw.jpg
USA TODAY

Could Derrick Walton Jr. become the solution at backup PG?

Former Miami Heat two-way player Derrick Walton Jr. is reported to be nearing a deal with the Bulls. In an interview with The Athletic, it was stated: "Walton, 23, says he knows where he’ll play next season. An agreement is in place, but his agent, Mark Bartelstein, is requiring him to sit on the news until next week. All Walton can put out publicly is this: 'Long story short, I’m good. I’m going to a great situation. All I can say.' "

And while it is not yet known if the potential contract will be a two-way deal or not, Walton would provide an intriguing lottery ticket for the Bulls. 

The team mostly ignored looking for a backup point guard on the market. There is obviously a belief in the organization that Cameron Payne will have some internal growth, making him the best option. And the trade of Jerian Grant for essentially nothing, shows even more that Payne is there guy. Retaining Ryan Arcidiacono is a nice move considering the hustle that he showed last season at both the G League and NBA level, but it still leaves the Bulls thin in terms of established backup PGs behind Kris Dunn. And that is where Walton comes into play. 

Walton was a four-year player at the University of Michigan, where he played in some big-time games and showed immense leadership potential. But in terms of strictly on the court skills, there is one thing that he does extremely well: space the floor. 

In his four years at Michigan, Walton took a total of 581 3-point attempts, and knocked them down at a 40.1 percent rate. His elite shooting is enough to make him a legitimate rotation player for Fred Hoiberg. And while Payne still may develop into a better player, his outside shooting is his calling card despite never being elite at that skill at the NBA level. And in fact, when you compare he and Walton’s stats from college, the G League and the NBA, it becomes apparent who is the better shooter right now.

3-point percentage at NCAA level: Payne- 35.9 percent, Walton- 40.1 percent
3-point percentage at G League level: Payne- 33.8 percent, Walton- 37.7 percent
3-point percentage at NBA level: Payne- 34 percent, Walton- 41.2 percent

Now obviously, there is a “small sample size alert” for the NBA level, as Walton has only taken 17 3-pointers at the NBA level in his limited time with the Miami Heat. But these numbers show that even dating back to their freshman years of college, Walton has been the more efficient shooter from 3-point range.

Cameron Payne has the edge when it comes to playmaking, and this is based off of the fact that Payne has maintained an assist rate above 30 percent through all of his G League stints, while also having a low turnover rate (9.9 percent). Walton didn’t come close to Payne in terms of G League assist rate, and his 17.9 percent turnover rate at the G League level shows that his decision-making has yet to catch up to his shooting. 

Ultimately, Walton is going to be most effective as an off-ball guard who can make quick decisions, and knockdown the 3-point shot at a high level. Though if Summer League was any indication, his passing out of the pick-and-roll is getting better. And while Payne certainly is a good shooter, his game is much more predicated on having the ball in his hands, and playing in the pick-and-roll. With so many players on the Bulls who can create their own shot, Walton could end up being the cleanest fit with this constantly evolving Bulls roster.