The Start of Big Changes for Bulls Franchise

On Friday, one week after the infamous Jimmy Butler trade, the Chicago Bulls have decided to waive Rajon Rondo from the team after just one season.

According to ESPN, Rondo, 31, had a team option for just over $13M that would be guaranteed if the Bulls decided to keep him.  However, after a dismal season and an early exit, the Bulls have finally decided to get younger and rebuild.

Rondo’s performance this year was subpar, averaging about 7.8 points per game and 6.3 assists per game.  He managed to get in double digits in back-to-back games just five times this season, and none of those streaks went for more than three games.  His inconsistency on the court grew incredibly blatant as the season went along, and even though he helped the Bulls in the playoffs, his injury could not have come at a worse time.

Of course, what he lacked on the court he made up with a go-get-em mentality in the locker room, right?  Wrong.  In fact, his attitude in the clubhouse was arguably worse than his playing.  Let’s not forget this is the same man who posted the following statement on Instagram in the middle of the season:

“My vets would never go to the media. They would come to the team. My vets didn’t pick and choose when they wanted to bring it. They brought it every time they stepped in the gym whether it was practice or a game. They didn’t take days off. My vets didn’t care about their numbers. My vets played for the team. When we lost, they wouldn’t blame us.

“They took responsibility and got in the gym. They showed the young guys what it meant to work. Even in Boston when we had the best record in the league, if we lost a game, you could hear a pin drop on the bus. They showed us the seriousness of the game. My vets didn’t have an influence on the coaching staff. They couldn’t change the plan because it didn’t work for them.

“I played under one of the greatest coaches, and he held everyone accountable. It takes 1-15 to win. When you isolate everyone, you can’t win consistently. I may be a lot of things, but I’m not a bad teammate. My goal is to pass what I learned along. The young guys work. They show up. They don’t deserve blame. If anything is questionable, it’s the leadership.”

A clear blow to Dwayne Wade and Jimmy Butler, who were deemed the “leaders” of the team by the city of Chicago.  And the one piece the Chicago Bulls had that kept the veterans and the rookies together, the one veteran who brought his A game each and every time he stepped on the court, Chicago traded away in the OKC trade:  Taj Gibson.  After that trade, you could visually see the Bulls begin to fall apart.

 

The way we see it now, here will be the starting lineup for the Chicago Bulls this season (Below, you will find the players’ names, notable statistics from last year, and their age.):

PG:  Zach Lavine (18.9 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 3.0 APG), 23

SG:  Dwayne Wade (18.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.8 APG), 35

SF:  Paul Zipser (5.5 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 0.8 APG, 33.3% 3 pt.), 23

PF:  Bobby Portis (6.8 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 33.3% 3 pt.), 22

C:  Robin Lopez (10.4 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.4 BPG), 29

Just looking at this starting lineup right now, of course, nothing looks too good; however, the Bulls are in a really good spot, because now they have time to tinker with this roster. Chicago has gotten rid of some key components of their team, yes, but think of this as a clean slate.  They now have 5 point guards (Grant, Carter-Williams, Payne, Lavine, and Dunn), 3 of which can easily move to shooting guard.  Backing up Wade they have Morrow, who didn’t really receive a whole lot of playing time, but has the potential to step up when given the opportunity.  There’s also Valentine, who again didn’t get much time on the court, but provided very productive minutes.  Moving to the 4 position, there’s Niko Mirotic and 1st round pick Lauri Markanen behind Bobby Portis.  Niko is a free agent as of now, so it is completely up to Garpax as to whether or not to pursue him for another year.  We all know about his potential danger beyond the 3 pt. line–well, we could say the same thing about Markanen–and if they were to work even harder at his post game and rebounding, they can be huge weapons in the near future.  Last but not least, there’s the center position.  Behind Robin, we have Christiano Felicio and Joffrey Lauvergne.  Both have provided valuable minutes, and, depending on what Garpax does with Niko, Felicio might find himself working as power forward for the majority of the season.

Whew.

So as you can see, the Bulls can go in many different directions with the talent that they have.  Let’s just hope it’s in the right direction.  And as bad as this may sound, releasing Rondo and trading Butler may be a small step towards the goal for Chicago; it will provide a whole lot more opportunity for our guards and allow them to start fresh.  This team is young, and this team is hungry.  Let’s hope it translates to good basketball.

As for Rajon Rondo, thank you for the time you put in for Chicago, and we all wish you the best of luck wherever you go.  Regardless of where you end up, we hope that your game gets better as you move along.  Just take a second thought before you say anything.

Chicago Devotes Week to #56

With Mark Buehrle’s number being retired on Saturday, the White Sox, along with their fanbase, have taken this week to reminisce on his achievements throughout his career.  And so will we.

214 wins.  1870 strikeouts.  Career 3.81 earned run average.  5 All-Star appearances.  4 Gold Glove awards.  2 no hitters.  And 1 World Series ring.  Needless to say Mark Buehrle stands as one of the greatest pitchers in White Sox history, along with the most accomplished.

No one at first really expected a lot from Mark.  And many have said watching him pitch is not very entertaining.  He didn’t have a whole lot of velocity, but had a pretty decent curveball and a lot of control.  Something completely out of the ordinary at the time, when the league was run by fastball pitchers like Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, and Pedro Martinez.  And besides, he had proven himself to be a ground ball pitcher, conserving his arm for the later innings.  Nevertheless, Buehrle made his debut in July of 2000, as the White Sox were on the road against the Twins; he threw for seven innings, giving up six hits, two runs, and sealing a win.  Not a bad start for the 20 year old from St. Charles, MO, and it only budded from there.

2005:  A Year to Remember

When people think back to that World Champion team, they think of the offense:  Paul Konerko, Joe Crede, AJ Pierzynski, Jermaine Dye, etc.  Buehrle led the charge on the defensive side, proving to be consistent each time he went on the mound.  A 16-8 record with 142 K’s and 82 runs given up in 236.3 innings; not too shabby for a guy who throws a 90 MPH fastball.  His stats only improved in the playoffs, proving once again he was more than willing to step up when the team needed it most.  He compiled a 2-0 record with 12 K’s and allowed only 1 walk in 23 innings pitched, along with a key save in the marathon Game 3 of the World Series.  He had done his part in the chase, and the team pulled theirs as well.  That hard work paid off, and now they had a ring to prove it.

2007:  27 up, 27 down vs. Texas Rangers

Like I said earlier, Mark Buehrle was known as a ground ball pitcher in an effort to last through all 9 innings.  One clear cut example of this was his performance against the Texas Rangers on April 18, 2007.  Don’t forget, the Rangers had a stacked team back then, with names like Mark Teixiera, Hank Blalock, Nelson Cruz, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, and Sammy Sosa.  A team who had weapons to go very far into the playoffs.  And #56 retired them all!  8 strikeouts in the game, 11 ground outs, 7 flyouts, and a sweet pick off move on Sammy Sosa took care of Texas and put Mark in the record books.  Of course, he did have a lot of help from his defense, with Joe Crede on the hot corner, and Iguchi chasing down those tough grounders.  That was sure a game to watch, but if you missed it, don’t worry.  Because an encore is just a couple years away.

2009:  History…Again

Mark had accomplished something 22 other pitchers had done before:  throw more than one no hitter.  This time, his culprit was the Tampa Bay Rays, who again were a playoff caliber team.  Carl Crawford, Melvin Upton, Evan Longoria, Carlos Peña, etc.  Once again,  Buehrle was able to retire them all, this time not even allowing a runner to get on base.  That’s right, a perfect game!  And of course most of us remember the game-saving catch by Dwayne Wise in the ninth to help preserve the win.  What did Mark had to say after the game?  “I don’t know (how I’m feeling).  They said that throwing a no hitter was impossible, but I’ve thrown that.  Now I’ve thrown a perfect game…I don’t know, it’s unbelievable.”

2010:  Defense on Display

Sure, Mark Buehrle was known for his consistency on the mound, but what he did fielding was nothing short of spectacular, if not magical.  One such moment was on Opening Day of the 2010 season against the Cleveland Indians.  Mark had a ball hit back to him, glanced off his leg and rolled toward the first base line; he ran after it, back to Konerko, and he ended up flipping the ball between his legs to first base.  Konerko, not expecting it at all, reached out with his bare hand to complete the web gem.  This act of fielding had not been seen out of a Chicago pitcher since the Greg Maddux era, and this play in particular showed how multidimensional and talented Buehrle actually was. Looking back, I still love watching that play, and I remember replaying it again and again in disbelief.

 

Mark Buehrle is by far one of the best left handed pitchers the White Sox have ever seen, and I believe they are right in retiring his number.  The amount of effort he displayed on the field, his flair, and his overall personality as a teammate help shape the role he’s had in this organization.  Again, the ceremony will be held on Saturday at Guaranteed Rate Field, with some of his former teammates coming in attendance, including Paul Konerko and Frank Thomas.  I know growing up, I always aspired to play like Mark; I too was a left handed pitcher with not a whole lot of velocity.  I too relied on my control and fielding abilities, and watching Mark really helped me grow as a player.  I’m just one person who he has had an influence on, and I can guarantee you that hundreds of others around the Chicago area can say the same.  Coming from me, it is sure nice to see him finally get the recognition he deserves from the place it all started.  And I can assure you I will have my face glued to my T.V. screen when the time comes.