Hopefully, you don’t give a hoot about the Chicago Bulls, and don’t know a whit about Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis, who took the phrase ``fighting for a starting job’’ to a whole ‘nother level.
Whether you know the story or not, it’s yet another example of why some organizations get it—and some don’t. And why that’s so important, whether you’re talking pro sports or college.
The shortest possible version is this: Like the Bears, their stock-market-analogy-named Chicago brothers—the Bulls are winning when it’s time to be losing. If, ahem, you believe the ultimate goal is to build a team capable of winning championships.
The problem started in October in pre-season practice, when Portis nailed Mirotic with a lottery-pick punch to the face. Mirotic, who reportedly had a concussion as well as multiple facial fractures, missed the first 23 games of the season.
Many people wondered, including myself and my sources, if Mirotic would ever play for ``the team that Michael Jordan built’’ again. That was especially true because Mirotic said, ``Either I go or he goes.’’
With their (sometimes) sharp-shooting 6-10 Yugo big man sidelined, the Bulls went 3-20, which was an excellent start for a team trying to secure the highest possible draft position—which everyone thought was the best way for the Bulls to go this year.
This kind of thinking is one of the many reasons why, after a pro-sports-driven youth, I favor the college game in my dotage. No question, ``amateur’’ sports are immensely flawed, but. . . that’s a story for another day.
Back in my day, there used to be a television program—maybe it was a halftime thing—in which Bulls fans were quizzed on trivia. They gave their answers by holding up one of two signs: ``Bull.’’ Or ``No Bull.’’
My friend, Ben Bentley, a cigar-chomping publicity man right out of Central Casting, was the moderator. That was entertainment.
If you actually went to the game, the halftime entertainment included things like a human person getting into the ring with Victor the Wrestling Bear. . . who was not a Chicago Bear.
My father, who owned a small suburban drugstore, would occasionally get Bulls tickets, courtesy of the Coca-Cola products he sold. They were at center court. Face value: $4. A long time ago, but still only a bit more than a movie ticket cost in those days.
And now, back to the fight. . .
The problems really started when Mirotic returned on Dec. 8—and the Bulls won. And kept winning. With Mirotic back and averaging 20.3 points, they have won six in a row.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
That made them the first NBA team to follow a 10-game losing streak with a six-game winning streak. That, and a valid credit card, will get you a nice ride home on Uber.
The Bulls’ six-game romp gave them a 9-20 record, which is only going to mess up things if it continues. They have some decent young players. Give them a stud in next year’s draft and they might be onto something.
But this? This is a recipe for. . . mediocrity.
And this poses a real challenge for the Bulls’ front office. Which hasn’t been scoring well in that department since—well, at least since injuries turned Derrick Rose from an NBA MVP into a worn-out radiator part.
This is what I mean about some front offices getting it. And some front offices stepping in it.
Last I heard, Mirotic and Portis, a 6-11 Razorback from Little Rock, weren’t even saying, ``Pass the Sriracha, s’il vous plait,’’ to each other.
So now what?
True Bulls fans need to keep hoping the team will find a way to stumble until it can find a way to trade Mirotic and Robin Lopez, a really cool dude. Those two make $26 million, and are the only two Bulls who make more than $5 million.
The preceding paragraph contains many of the reasons why I no longer am fascinated by the NBA. I am at a loss to explain how people who clearly don’t understand the phrase ``tax reform’’ can throw their unbridled support behind the salary-cap intricacies of teams like the Bulls.
Or now that I think of it, maybe I do. . .
At any rate, Merry Christmas to you, our dear TMG readers. (Remember, we make a great stocking stuffer. And we’re no threat to your salary cap.)
And Happy Holidays to messieurs Mirotic and Portis. Can you grab me that Tabasco? [/membership]