Archive for the ‘Basketball’ Category

by: Mauricio Rubio Jr.
email: mr@99sportsproblems.com
twitter: @MRubio52

I try to be objective. As a Chicago fan I try hard to stay away from the bias that is seemingly inherent to area fans, whether we’re hating on LeBron, trashing Rodgers, or any other silliness we pull off as a collective. I think I do a fairly good job of being an objective observer of sports, and it’s a title that I both welcome and enjoy.

However.

There is one player that I cannot be objective about on any level. There is one guy in the entire sports landscape that I root for with a passion. One player, across 4 major sports teams in the area, completely compromises whatever journalistic integrity I attempt to maintain via this blog.

#1.

To me, Derrick Rose’s game is so Chicago, so south side, so perfect for this city that I desperately want him to succeed in the face of impossibly crazy odds. Midgets don’t win rings on their own. PG’s are rarely the best players on championship teams. His knee exploded. And in the face of that I want him to somehow, some way pull off what looks improbable and win a ring this year.

To me, Derrick Rose’s story is so important that it needs to be publicized. I’m not talking about Chicago Bulls PG Derrick Rose. Not even Memphis G Derrick Rose. I’m talking about the Simeon kid who got out. Ben Wilson’s spiritual brother escaping a brutal south side war zone that is now collapsing in the face of horrendous violence. He lived where too many have died, and he can stand as a beacon of hope for a community that desperately needs a light at the end of the tunnel.

Derrick Rose is a flawed player, but he is a player with a tremendous heart and a fearless attack that I absolutely love. And I can not, and will never be, objective about Derrick Rose.

Chicago Bulls, 2012-2013

Overall

Let’s get the obvious shit out-of-the-way: the Bulls are much worse than they were last year and that can be owed to a few things. Derrick Rose will likely be absent most of the year. The Bench Mob was completely gutted and replaced with variants of the former 80’s super group, European Badness. Boozer is older, Deng is coming off a nasty wrist injury, Kirk Hinrich was the prized free agent signing, I’m just saying it looks bad.

I don’t think this team collapses into the depths of the truly awful, however. Basketball Prospectus pegs the Bulls for 46 wins. I’ll take the over and say they can brush 50. Say what you will about Thib’s approach of trying to win every possession, the bottom line is that team will play hard every game and they will win games they shouldn’t because of it.

Offense

The offense will be ugly largely because they still utilize a basic flex offense and when that failed in the past they would kick it to Derrick and he would bail them out. Now the Bulls will not have that luxury and they will have to manufacture easy buckets in other ways. When Boozer was signed the assumption was that he would lessen the scoring load on Rose via an impressive array of post moves and inside scoring. Boozer has the moves but his pet of recent vintage is a fade-a-way jump shot from just outside of the key. It’s a move that other teams are willing to let him have because it isn’t a high percentage shot for him. Lu Deng is a fine defensive player but he’s still a limited offensive player with questionable handles. He has a good mid range game but the Bulls have that in spades.

You see, the Bulls are still a jump shooting team. They were when Derrick was drafted too, he just masked some of that with his explosive play. Hinrich is a jump shooter. Rip Hamilton has some slasher in him, but he’s primarily a jump shooter. Deng? Jumper. Boozer? Jumper. Noah? Not a jump shooter but he isn’t an “explode to the rim” type guy either.

If we go to the bench the only player that can attack the rim is Nate Robinson and he isn’t even that reliable as a rim attacker. He falls in love with the 3 pt. shot too often and can start chuckin’. Taj Gibson has some explosion at the rim but getting there is still an issue for him. Marco Belinelli is the stereotypical Euro player with nice touch from outside and limited game inside.

Look, the Bulls biggest problem over the years offensively has been manufacturing easy buckets and getting to the FT line. It’s still going to be a problem this year. When the jump shots fall, it’ll look great, and when they don’t, it won’t. This will be the most infuriating aspect of their game. Look for Jimmy Butler and if he develops any kind of offensive consistency. If he can he can be a valuable asset for the next version of the Bulls.

Defense

The Bulls defend pick and roll maybe better than anyone in the league. They can create turnovers with smart defensive positioning and are considered a top defense despite playing Boozer, a noted liability, big minutes. The Bulls have a shape in mind when they play defense and preserving that shape in the face of multiple screens and cuts is paramount to their defensive principles. They are very good at snapping back into form and contesting shots.

This is the primary reason I think the Bulls can win 45-50 games. Defensively they are still one of the best units in the league and some nights that will be enough to overcome some really ugly offense. Look for lineup changes in close games late. We’ve seen Thibs bench Boozer in favor of Taj Gibson. With Omer Asik gone I suggest we look at the minutes Nazr Mohammed and Taj Gibson log as the season progresses. With Omer gone and Deng coming back from a wrist injury the best defensive frontcourt the Bulls can employ early in the year might just be the Taj-Joakim-Nazr combo.

Bench

This unit has been greatly downgraded from last year. The sixth man might just be Jimmy Butler or Nate Robinson. Marco Belinelli replaces Korver, Nazr replaces Omer, and the Nate-Butler-Teague combo replaces Brewer. This group will be exposed in a big way should an injury occur. When you think about the recent injury histories of Rip-Deng-Boozer-Noah it’s easy to see one or more of the starters going down for an extended period and then watching the Bulls struggle to weather the storm. Thibs can be criticized for his strange sub patterns, and now the pressure will be on him to be even more creative with no clear cut “Sixth Man” on the team.

Look for Teague’s development early, Belinelli’s shooting streaks, and how well Nazr is playing defensively. Jimmy Butler is going to play a key role in all of this and his total game will have to improve.

Synopsis

I say they win 50 games and earn a 4-5 seed in the playoffs. I do think this team will be hard to watch in stretches as the offense struggles to find buckets but on the whole they will be a good team, albeit not a great one.

He probably didn’t even say it. He wouldn’t dare. Would he?

This is not even a conversation. The fact that all this time is being wasted on a fruitless endeavor is sort o pissing me off. Basketball fans: it should piss you off, too. I don’t care if you’re the biggest Kobe fan in the world. Your only excuse to be on board with any of this is if you are under the age of…no, there is no excuse.

The beautiful thing about Kobe Bryant opening up his big mouth to say that 2012’s USA Basketball team could beat the original Dream Team is that there is actually no way to prove him right or wrong. It’s all speculation and competitive banter, but the part I don’t like is the disregard for the sanctity of the Dream Team. Up until this point, everyone has had the common courtesy and decency to concede to the Dream Team as the undisputed greatest basketball, no greatest period, team ever assembled.

As the anointed leader of the current Dream Teamers, this is another case of Kobe being Kobe.  I like that he’s reverting back to his former, 18 year old self-talking shit, allowing his ego to get the best of him, claiming supremacy in an area that no one can actually discredit him. He’s really just stirring up shit. What are his motives though?

Ed. Note – Oh you bet your ass Kobe is kicking it old school:
[youtube http://youtu.be/4uG8ubgvSSQ]

Uniquely American in every regard, only here in the States would you have a younger generation team showing up such a national treasure. Around the world, respect for one’s elders is considered a given, but not here. This is our sport. Basketball is ours, but show some respect. In the timeless and elegant words of  Westside Connection: bow down.

My initial reaction to Kobe’s proclamation was that of disgust mixed with a bit of shock. He said what? And LeBron backed him up, saying what about athleticism? Ate these jokesters for real? Maybe they thought the question was, “Can you beat the original Dream Team now, as in not them in their prime back in ’92 but now as middle aged men?” I think the ’92 squad would still give them a run…

Then I dug a little deeper, and I wanted to know more about not what Kobe said, but rather, why he would say it. Many of today’s top NBA talent doesn’t even make up their roster. The Dream Team consisted of the greatest players to ever play the game. Ever. Forever. For-ever-ever. For-ever-ever! Kobe needs to play the role of motivator, and that’s cool. But come on. Ignite the competitive fire at practice the way MJ would. Don’t make ridiculous claims like this. Lead by example on the court.

Th problem with this debate is that the rest of the world has caught up to us on the basketball stage, proven by our Athenian Bronze medal in 2004. When the 2012 squad blows teams out by an average of 40+ points, then a real debate can begin. Granted, they whooped the Dominican Republic last night by 50+, but their star is a 16 year old who’ll be a sophomore next year…in high school. So, they’re on pace after one game. We’ll see. Records are made to be broken, but legacies last a lifetime.

WWMJS? What would Michael Jordan say? He’s the most competitive person ever to walk the earth and soar its skies, so I’m sure he’s got something to say. The only competition the Dream Team faced was that of its own scrimmages, so it’s sort of fitting that its only competition twenty years later remains kept in the American family. By the way, Jordan just laughed off Kobe’s comments. Sounds about right. It is a laughable argument.

Bottom line: the Dream Team is and always will be superior. They’re the only team in the Hall of Fame for a reason.

If you somehow insanely disagree, chew on this:

Tyson Chandler looks to be the starting center. The Dream Team had Patrick Ewing and David Robinson, for crying out loud. Jordan is better than Kobe. Magic is better than LeBron. Scottie is better than LeBron. Stockton is better than Chris Paul. Barkley is better than any power forward on 2012’s team. Same goes for Karl Malone. And Bird is better than Durant and Carmelo Anthony, although Bird wasn’t Bird when sandman entered and The Dream Team dominated. I’d also like to point out the number of championships won, collectively, by both teams. OG Dream Team: Jordan’s 6, Scottie’s 6, Magic’s 5, Bird’s 3, The Admiral’s 2. That’s 22.

2012: Kobe’s 5, Chandler’s 1 from last year, and LeBron’s current 1. That’s a paltry total of 7, just 1 more than Jordan alone. NCAA Championships? Anthony’s got the only one for 2012. Jordan, Magic, Ewing, and Laettner (twice) all won it at the college level. But these accomplishments mean nothing to Kobe. He just thinks that if they played for 48 minutes, that his squad could win. Forget about the accomplishments, but they’re impossible to ignore.

Future Hall of Famers? Dream Team has 11 enshrined in The Hall. ’12 has future inductees in Kobe, LeBron, probably Durant and Paul when it’s all said and done. ‘Melo? No. Chandler? LOLz. 4 future HOFers by my count. Sorry Kobe, but you sound like Skip Bayless on this one. You’re just spouting bullshit to start a conversation. Well, there’s no conversation to be had here. This is a closed case, Mamba. But I’ll be more than happy when they get the technology ready for all 24 of you knuckleheads to hit the hardwood as holograms to settle the (non)debate once and for all. Then all sports conversations cease to exist, something I don’t totally welcome. Having opinions, disagreeing, proving yourself with memorized statistics and facts; these are a few of my favorite sports things. So let’s hear what you’ve got to say about USA Basketball, because we’ve regained supremacy. And that makes me happy as a fan of basketball and the Olympics. U-S-A! U-S-A!

Something I’ve wondered since I was like 10 years old though: why wasn’t Shaq on the squad instead of Christian Laettner? I mean, I’m sure his historic college career as arguably the best college baller ever (and Coach K) had something to do with it, but can you retrospectively imagine that now? A team filled to the brim with 12 Hall of Famers instead of only 11…

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

He has arrived!!

On Tuesday night, the TheoCo rebuilding project placed it’s first building block in place with the debut of Anthony Rizzo, a.k.a. The Riz. The deal for Rizzo was one of the first major trades TheoCo made since taking over in October. When TheoCo took over, the Cubs were lacking in impact prospects and the first priority was to stock the system with such prospects. Rizzo, a highly touted Boston Red Sox prospect, was dealt by Theo himself to San Diego as the centerpiece of the Adrian Gonzalez deal in December of 2010. The SD general manager at the time was Jed Hoyer, who currently holds that position with the Cubs. When Theo hired Hoyer and scouting director Jason McLeod to form TheoCo (I coined that one too, FYI. I’m a damned machine!), they immediately targeted The Riz and managed to wrangle a trade with the Padres to reunite them all here in Chicago.

As The Riz put up monster numbers for the Iowa Cubs, the team’s AAA affiliate, every Cubs fan was filled with anticipation of his arrival. With every majestic bomb of a homer The Riz hit, the fervor increased until his promotion was the most anticipated event in Cubdom since the lights were first turned on on 8/8/88. Here’s an example of what The Riz was doing down in Iowa. Try not to wet yourself with glee like I did….

The only thing holding him back was the service time issue. A player isn’t eligible for free agency until he has played 6 years in the big leagues. The Riz played 49 games with San Diego last season and accrued a small amount of time towards his free agency eligibility. By delaying his promotion, TheoCo ensured that The Riz will not be free agent-eligible until 2019. That extra season may loom large down the road when the Cubs should be contending with a mostly home-grown team. This is the plan and The Riz is the first brick in the wall. If Roger Waters reads this, go ahead and get pissy for stealing that line. Sue me.

LeBron joins The Club

With the Miami Heat’s winning of the 2011-12 NBA title*, LeBron James is no longer the Best Player to Never Win It All. His winning was inevitable as basketball is the sport best suited to having the best player win a title. It took a year longer than all those fake Heat fans (read: all of them) figured it would, but it happened nonetheless. Meanwhile, a funny thing happened…the world continued to spin on it’s axis, the sun rose in the East and Kate Upton remained scorching hot.


Yeah, so I’m a pig. Sue me after Waters is done with me.
Ed. Note – I love you Tony 

I don’t like how LeBron made his Decision. I didn’t like the Heat’s pre-season celebration before even playing a game with that lineup. I loved when they choked against Dallas last season and lost in the Finals. But he’s still a great player, the best on the planet right now, and he’s probably going to win a few more titles before he’s retired. That’s cool. He’ll never match Jordan for sheer accomplishment or competitiveness. He’ll never match Russell for total titles. He’ll never match Magic for charisma. He’ll never approach Kobe for likeability. That’s also cool with me. LeBron will be remembered for what he always will be….a great player without the killer instinct or drive to win that the greats had.

*Title asterisked because of the shortened season and Derrick Rose’s ACL injury.

Euro 2012

Yeah, like I’m going to talk about fucking soccer. Why? Because they’re flopping pussies.


Suck it, futbol.
Ed. Note – I hate you Tony.

The SaniTERRYum XII: An Essay for Asterisks

The asterisk remains a mysterious mistress in sports. She only shows up on stats and achievements if something out of the ordinary is determined to be by the powers that be. Late game not included. Steroid Era. Pete Rose. Strikes, lockouts and the like. LeBron’s first title? Oh, definitely an asterisk next to that shortened season Miami championship.

This isn’t even coming from the Heat hater, die-hard Bulls fan in me. This is just me keeping it 100. A 66 game season culminating in a ‘chip does not a champion make. Well, technically it does, but with an asterisk next to it in the books…a permanent asterisk. As much as I admire the Spurs, their run in ’99 falls into the same asterisk-ridden category. It’s just not the same if 82 games aren’t played. Hence, the permanence of the ever-lingering, ever-annoying asterisk. You can debate the asterisk all you want, but it’s not going anywhere. It’s as much a part of legitimizing an accomplishment as it is from taking away its legs to stand on in a world of amputees.

Everything LeBron has done in the L has been legitimate. We don’t need to talk about anyone taking their talents anywhere. We don’t need to talk about the receding hairline. We don’t need to discuss the 4th quarter meltdowns of yesteryear. The man is the best player on the planet right now, possessing a skill set mashed with athleticism the NBA has never seen. But I’m sorry, asterisk applied to his first championship. I can hear the so-called Miami Heat fans now:  “It took him so long to get here, and now this fucking jerk off writer from Chicago who’s still bitter about the Derrick Rose injury wants to diminish what LeBron and Co. have worked so hard for?” Hey, don’t hate the player. Hate the game. Asterisk stands.

The LeBron-imposed asterisk would have gone to whomever the NBA crowned champion this year. That comes with the territory of any sports’ lockout, strike, holdout, or any other new way greedy players and owners can find to prevent us, the fans, from enjoying a full, asterisk-free season. And you can bet your bottom dollar, us fans would love to live in an asterisk-free sports world.

On the topic of betting bottom dollars: Pete Rose, in many ways, personifies the asterisk, a walking asterisk, if you will. He has become the victim of an opinionated asterisk, possibly the worst kind of typographical symbol there is. Bud Selig has sort of made it his life mission to keep Charlie Hustle out of The Hall, which makes me wonder: “Does Bud have a running bet with someone somewhere on an over/under for years it’ll take to get the all-time hits leader (among many other records) into Cooperstown?”

“Dive in head first. Like Pete Rose.”

Although Bud’s not alone: On February 4, 1991, the Hall of Fame voted formally to exclude individuals on the permanently ineligible list from being inducted into the Hall of Fame by way of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Rose is the only living member of the ineligible list. Players who were not selected by the BWAA could be considered by the Veterans Committee in the first year after they would have lost their place on the Baseball Writers’ ballot. Under the Hall’s rules, players may appear on the ballot for only fifteen years, beginning five years after they retire. Had he not been banned from baseball, Rose’s name could have been on the writers’ ballot beginning in 1992 and ending in 2006. He would have been eligible for consideration by the Veterans Committee in 2007, but did not appear on the ballot. In 2008 the Veterans Committee barred players and managers on the ineligible list from consideration.

What’s the BFD here? It’s not like he was betting against his team and then throwing shit intentionally. “I bet on my team every night. I didn’t bet on my team four nights a week. I bet on my team to win every night because I loved my team, I believed in my team.” Those sound like the words of a competitor, someone who truly cares about winning, a real gamer. Why shouldn’t he make a little dough on the side? I mean, MLB players’ salaries barely allow one to scrape by, so by all means…

“Do you wanna know the terrifying truth or do you wanna watch me sock a few  dingers?”
-Mark McGwire to Bart Simpson

We are all tired of performance enhancing drugs taking over the sport we love, hijacking the headlines. When I look at the list of baseball players I grew up watching who are now all but blackballed from ever receiving the slightest bit of consideration to top anyone’s HOF ballot, let alone make it in,  it brings a heaping pile of bullshit on fire to my front door. Absolute flaming bullshit. I’ll always have Ken Griffey, Jr. and Frank Thomas though…

Guys have been cheating the game for ages, but now that we’ve evolved into drug-taking, performance enhancers, now you want to blow the whistle? The eligible players on this year’s ballot is mind-blowing when you step away and realize that most, if not all, will remain Cooperstown outsiders…possibly forever. Bonds. Sosa. The Rocket. Piazza. Big names, and that’s leaving out perennial snubs McGwire, Palmeiro, and the rest of the renounced hardball heroes turned ‘roid ragers. Barry Bonds has more to worry about than asterisks, though. By the way, can someone explain to me how the fuck Royce Clayton found himself onto the ballot?

The steroid and human growth hormone, performance enhancing goes far beyond baseball and stretches into the world of track and field, football, the Olympics, and the, wait for it, Tour de France.

Lance Armstrong: what a let-down after so much build up and feel-goodery. The man beats cancer like 200 times, takes over a French-dominated, absolutely enduring event and hope is restored to the humanity of sports. Then it all comes crashing down amongst allegations of PED peddling. Really, Lance? You? Say it ain’t so! Marion Jones gets an asterisk, jail time, AND community service. She was dubbed the fastest woman alive, but she has been stripped of her medals won at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. I’m sure she would have been just fine with an asterisk next to her name in history, but the asterisk only has so much power. We could all learn a thing or two from LeBron James and Pete Rose: just hustle and work hard to get where you’re going. You don’t need to shoot steroids in your butt.

*Late Game Not Included

Even when he does cool shit Bryce Harper still looks like a douchebag.

by: Mauricio Rubio Jr.
email: mr@99sportsproblems.com
twitter: @MRubio52

I’ve been avoiding this. This whole Bulls thing that just happened. It’s not good, not in the least. It’s been covered, and I don’t have to review the details really.

All I can say is that it sucks. It really, really sucks. The life of an NBA midget has a finite number of nicks and bruises that it can take, and Rose, Rose has been through hell.

Before you start, the kid is tough as nails, and that’s his real fault. Him and Thibs, both together in this, can’t dial it back. I don’t blame him, I don’t blame anyone or anything but luck really. It happens, torn ACL’s can happen at any point, and while that’s really shitty analysis, it’s honest analysis. The easy thing is to blame Thibs, but the real issue here is a heart that won’t stop beating, a mindset that won’t give up, a sense of responsibility to teammates and fans that won’t allow him to sit, the real thing here is the massive heart of Derrick Rose.

It’s not a negative 99% of the time. There are the times when he demands the ball, demands the shot, demands the weight of a team, of a city, and takes all the responsibility if it fails, and shares the adulation if he succeeds. But that 1%, that percentage when it could backfire, it did. It happened early in the year and he was never really healthy. He pressed to come back even though it was clear to the eye that he was never anything approaching even 80%. When he went out there, he was sluggish, slow, normal. That was the kicker, he looked average.

What an awful thing to witness, average, when you are used to the superlative. It hurt to see him turn a corner at half speed and realize the extra gear wasn’t there, that he couldn’t push it as hard as he so desperately wanted to. It hurt, I tried to ignore it, I tried to tell myself that it’ll be fine, it’ll clear, he’ll find the gear in the playoffs.

No. No he didn’t.

All of three games and the playoff hopes of a team are dashed. Sure, they will still probably beat Philly. They might sneak by either Boston or Atlanta. But that specter is looming on the other side of a bracket that looks like more feed to the maw at this point. A demolishing force is coming for Chicago, and as much as I want to believe in TEAM, and #doitforderrick, I can’t do it. I’m rooting for the Bulls, I am still a fan, but in my heart, I know I’ve seen this before. This Heat engine is humming, and it’s going to be annoyingly loud throughout the playoffs.

Luol&
CJ&
Rip&
Carlos&
Noah

I dunno. I really liked it when #1 meant something to that list. Sadly, he won’t this year.

The SaniTERRYum X: A Call to Chicagoan Arms

Drinking Bell’s Oberon, munching on El Ranchero chips with salsa, and watching Kyle Korver and my Bulls outhustle and beat up on the annoying New York Knickerbockers, it’s difficult for me to be mad at much. But I’m mad at New York. I always have been. I’m not totally sure why. I have a great time when I’m there. It has a ton to offer. The faithful hatred probably has everything to do with my sense of pride for my hometown of Chicago, and us getting the shaft in comparison to The Big Apple. That being said, nothing is more gratifying, sports wise, than a victory over New York and the Knicks. 

There was something redeeming in not only beating the Knicks last night but the way we beat them in every facet of the game that showed how difficult it will be for whoever we face in the playoffs to beat us in a seven game series. 25-5 advantage on second chance points. 51-33 on the boards. Kyle Korver and Company diving for loose balls. Rip Hamilton is not only playing, but he’s balling and dipping into the fountain of youth a bit. DRose or no DRose, we’ll need sustained efforts similar to last night’s W to advance deeply in this year’s playoffs. The Knicks will barely sneak in and be promptly eliminated. 

Carmelo Anthony does not deserve the calls he gets from the refs. His skill level is high, but since coming into the league, he has done more whining than winning. He doesn’t strike me as someone who respects the game. He’s an individual scorer who ends up being a detriment to team goals. Tyson Chandler is still the same player he was when he wore number 3 for us just with a bigger bank account now. Amar’e Stoudemire is a seven footer who doesn’t play defense or rebound (?), and his health is a big question mark. I really hope we square off at The Garden and the United Center in the first round, so the Bulls can expose them for what they really are: a bunch of overpaid, underachieving assholes. What’s the over/under on time it takes for benches to clear and punches to land in that series? Beyond an impending sweep of the Knicks later this month though, I want to know who the better sports town truly is. 

Excluding the Yankees (who I’ve always actually been a huge fan of) and taking the high road on expletive usage, the time has come to run a full-on analysis of Chicago vs. New York sports successes…and failures. I have always been somewhat of an antagonist when it comes to first and second city relations, but I’m setting my Napoleon Complex aside to determine if we here in Chicago even deserve to be in the discussion, let alone take over all you New Yorkers. 

For me as a fan, championships are all that matter. Playoff appearances are nice, but no one remembers anyone but the ultimate champion. As I said before, we’re going to take the Yanks out of the equation here, because that’s really not fair. They’re the most storied franchise in all of sports. Here we go though, let’s count the championship banners: 

New York Mets: 2
New York Baseball Giants: 5
Brooklyn Dodgers: 1
New York Football Giants: 8
New York Jets: 1
New York Rangers: 4
New York Knicks: 2
New York Islanders: 4

As you can see, New York’s numerical population gives them a slight advantage having 3 (4 counting the Yankees) baseball teams, 2 hockey teams, and 2 football teams. Even though they have had almost double the sports teams as us, New York’s output is a total of 27 championships…exactly as many as the Yankee Empire has accumulated over the years. This isn’t coincidence. There’s no such thing. 

And now, The Chi:

Chicago Bulls: 6
Chicago Blackhawks: 4
Chicago Bears: 8
Chicago Staleys: 1
Chicago Cardinals: 2
Chicago Cubs: 2
Chicago White Sox: 3

26 total championships for us here in Chicago. Always coming up one short to The City That Never Sleeps. So it’s agreed then, we shall stop sleeping, Chicagoans. Take a cue from Kyle Korver’s performance last night, and hustle 24/7. We’ve got some catching up to do, Chicago. 

Ah, fuck it. Nevermind. This is a battle I’ll never win…

ALL THE KIDS WITH THEIR PUMPED UP KICKS

While watching the championship game between Kentucky and Kansas the other night, I had several revelations. Kentucky was sporting 4 or 5 future Lottery Picks. Kansas probably 1. Kentucky won the game before halftime started. Bill Self is annoying. Coach Cal knows what he’s doing, and he’s doing it well.

Another revelation: with all four teams in the Final Four being from our neck of the woods, the Midwest truly is the place to be for basketball. All four teams in this year’s Final Four were from the Midwest. I know I probably won’t get much push back from most folks reading this, considering our location and our love for our hometown, not to mention the Midwest as a whole. Seriously though, Louisville, Ohio State, Kansas, and the net-cutting, champion Kentucky Wildcats and South Side Perspectives product Anthony Davis represented the Mighty Midwest to the fullest. Coach Cal finally got his title, and he’s catapulted dozens of one and dones to NBA stardom. Good for him. Good for his kids.  
 
When it comes to the Midwest basketball-wise, Indiana alone is sort of a roundball Mecca for Youth hoopers. New York’s Rucker Park for street ball yes, but the state of Indiana for true hoop dreams. The Hick From French Lick says enough for the Hoosier State. Larry Bird may have become Larry Legend in Boston, but his roots are firmly planted in the Midwest. Michigan is not short on talent either starring Magic Johnson, George Gervin, Chet Walker, The Fab Five, Michigan State, The Bad Boys, and Dave Debusschere. Chicago has also produced some of the best basketball talent the world has ever known. Starting with reigning MVP Derrick Rose (HE’S FROM CHICAGO, in best Stacey King voice), the list grows and grows with the likes of George Mikan, Isiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, Maurice Cheeks, Michael Finley, Jerry Sloan, Doc Rivers, and Mark Aguirre all hailing from Chicago(land area). The Bulls’ ridiculous run in the ’90s solidified Chicago as one of the greatest basketball cities, and we’ve become synonymous with the game’s greatest player ever, one Michael Jeffrey Jordan.

So what does mean more in the great debate over what is the best sports town? Is it how many legends hail from the area or does it depend on professional success? Seriously, I’m asking you. We take a certain sense of pride in our pros in every sport who hail from here, but we certainly don’t root for them when they face off against our teams. If our seasons are over and we have nothing left but local products to cheer on, we’ll take it. But seriously, Midwest is Best.

Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan. What other region of the country can boast that type of pedigree? 
KIDS IN THE HALL
As Chicagoans, we’ll always have our rivalry with New York. If they had the opportunity to burn down the city and start over the way we did, maybe they’d have installed alleys in every borough to store their fucking garbage instead of piling it up on the streets for all to enjoy. We suffer from the Second City Syndrome, but why? We think our food is better than theirs. We have two baseball teams just like them, albeit 25 championships less. Our neighborhoods are cool. Our art scene is emerging. We love our Bulls. We hate the Knicks. This is one of the few things we shared with Reggie Miller over the course of his career. Now he’s a Hall of Famer representing the Midwest on the professional level. Love him or hate him, he’s arguably one of the best three point shooters to ever hit the hardwood. That 30 for 30 on him is classic as hell. I’m surprised Spike Lee hasn’t hit the Twitterverse to express his opinion on Reggie’s upcoming induction. He obviously thinks it’s fine and dandy to do so to advertise what he thought was George Zimmerman’s address. Twitter, Facebook, all the social networking sites are for just that, networking and being social. Not to call a fucking lynch mob to some 70something couple’s house by mistake. A Chicagoan would never to that (through Twitter, that is). We’re gangsters here in The Chi. We handle our biz the old fashioned way. Seriously though, how did that old couple not go completely ape shit over the ordeal Mr. Lee caused them? Who does he think he is?! Besides being a sub-par film director, what has he really done other than provoke visiting superstars while patrolling courtside of Madison Square Garden? 
And who do we Midwesterners think we are? Well, politely of course, I think we’re the best pool of basketball talent in the country. Alright, New York. We’re ready to hear your argument…

Skip: BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH TRADITIONAL POINT GUARD BLAH BLAH BLAH BULLS BETTER WITH JLIII MOVING BALL BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH TEBOW SLURP SLURP BLAH BLAH BLAH

Other guy: CONTRARIANBLAH CONTRARIANBLAH CONTRARIANBLAH CONTRARIANBLAH YOU ARE CRAZY CONTRARIANBLAH CONTRARIANBLAH CONTRARIANBLAH CONTRARIANBLAH YOU’RE STUPID CONTRARIANBLAH CONTRARIANBLAH CONTRARIANBLAH CONTRARIANBLAH LET’S MAKE OUT CONTRARIANBLAH CONTRARIANBLAH CONTRARIANBLAH CONTRARIANBLAH

Skip: BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH DERRICK ROSE ISN’T SPECIAL BL-

THIBS: AAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

THIBS: FUCK THIS MOTHERFUCKER I FUCKING HATE THIS FUCKING ASSHOLE WITH THE FUCKING PASSION OF A THOUSAND MOTHERFUCKING SUNS!


Random Floozy: Don’t you have a game today?

THIBS: AAAHHHHHHH HH FUCK THE THUNDER!

THIBS: FUCKING ICE!

THIBS: FUCKING TIME OUT!

THIBS: FUCKING DEFEND!

THIBS: FUCKING ROTATE!

THIBS: FUCKING STOP FUCKING SHOOTING YOU FUCKING “DISTRIBUTOR!”

THIBS: FUCKING ICE CAN I GET SOME MOTHERFUCKING ICE IN THIS BITCH!

THIBS: I DON’T NEED FUCKING SLEEPING TIPS I NEED ICE MOTHERFUCKER!
Vanilla Ice: Uh that was actually Rip V-


Rip Hamilton: Me?
THIBS: FUCK YOU ASSHOLE, TRY NOT TO BREAK YOURSELF ON YOUR WAY TO THE FUCKING BENCH YOU FUCKING ELIJIAH PRICE WANNABE! FUCK YOU AND YOUR COMIC BOOK GIVING MOTHER YOU FUCK!
Rip: …dude, it-

THIBS: GODMOTHER FUCKING DAMNIT IIIIIIIIICCCCCEEEE!!!!!!! TIMEFUCKINGOUTTIMEFUCKINGOUTTIMEMOTHERFUCKINGOUT!


Lord Boozington: My good man, is there something the matter? I deduce that you are, how shall I put it, rather distressed at our lackluster performance currently. Tell me good sir, whate-

THIBS: SHUT THE FUCK UP BEFORE I DONKEY FUCKING PUNCH YOU IN THE FUCKING FACE YOU SPRAYPAINT WEARING NO-ROTATING FADEAWAY JUMPSHOT SHOOTING FUCKSTICK! HOW MANY FUCKING TIMES ARE WE GOING TO FUCKING LET THAT LITTLE FUCKING SHIT GET INTO THE FUCKING PAINT AND SHIT ALL OVER US YOU LITTLE FUCKS! WESTBROOK IS FUCKING TAKING YOUR FUCKING LUNCH FUCKOS, THAT ASSHOLE DOESN’T EVEN KNOW HOW TO FUCKING PASS, HE FUCKING GETS FUCKING ASSISTS BY FUCKING ACCIDENT! THE ONLY FUCKING TIME THE BALL LEAVES HIS POSSESSION IS WHEN HE FUCKING PASSES TO LOSE HIS GUY AND NEVER GETS IT BACK! THAT FUCKER DOESN’T EVEN PASS IT TO ARGUABLY THE BEST FUCKING PLAYER IN THE FUCKING LEAGUE YOU FUCKERS!


Ninja Turtle: You know I can hear you from here right?

THIBS: SHUT THE FUCK UP YOU KNOW IT’S FUCKING TRUE!


Omer: Pekala durağı, İşbirliği ve dinle Buz benim yeni buluş ile geri döndü

THIBS ENGLISH MOTHERFUCKER DO YOU FUCKING SPEAK IT?

Omer: Dans, Bum hoparlör acele olduğunu bomları
Ben zehirli bir mantar gibi beynini öldürüyorum
Deadly, Uyuşturucu bir melodi çaldığı zaman
En iyi şey daha az bir suç
Onu sev ya terk et, sen daha iyi bir yol kazanmak
Daha iyi vurmaktır, çocuk oynamak istemiyorum
Bir sorun olsaydı, Yo, ben çözeceğim bunu
Benim DJ döner iken kanca Check out

Capt. Skittles: I think coach is trying to say that you guys suck right now. You can’t wee-un like that.

THIBS: FUCKING RIGHT ASSHOLES! WHAT HEART AND SOUL SAID, YOU FUCKERS AREN’T DEFENDING SHIT AND YOU’RE GETTING RUN ON THE BOARDS, THAT FUCKING NEVER FUCKING HAPPENS YOU FUCkiiiinn-

Noah: Uh, coach?
Lord Boozington: Sir?
White Mamba: Yo whitey!
Capt. Skittles: Guys…just let it happen.

Random Assistant: Here you go Lu, here’s that ice pack

Lt. Deng: Thanks man.

Lt. Deng: awww shit

[youtube http://youtu.be/z4rMuugQnBk]

The tournament’s just not that into you. It’s not you, it’s it. The tournament does not care about your crazy Cinderella stories and upset specials. Early on, yes, it was exciting. That’s when unsuspecting top seeds are supposed to get upended by upstarts trying, no dying, to make a splash and instantly put a new program on the map. Lehigh became only the fifth #15 seed to beat a #2 when they beat Duke this year. When that happened, you guys were still in that “can’t keep your hands off of each other, hot and heavy” phase. The tournament was expectedly exhilarating. It had you tuning in to games on three or four channels. You were bending over backwards to make sure you didn’t miss any of the action.

But you guys settled into sort of an annual, predictable rut. Turns out that the exciting tournament you fell in love with for its craziness and spontaneity was just a regular, boring ole tournamental showcase for the NCAA’s elite programs again. These elite programs continue to trump all the initial madness, triumphing over all the smaller conferences, mid-majors, and majorly unequipped programs to claim championship after championship. Once you get past the Sweet 16, the shocks dissipate, and what we’re left with is another notch on the belt for a top ranked program.

The most recent surprise to win it all? That would be Villanova as a #8 seed back in 1985. Since then, there have been 26 champions-16 of them were #1 seeds in their respective region. 4 were #2 seeds. 4 were #3 seeds. One was a #4 seed: Mike Bibby and Miles Simon’s (yes, THEE Miles Simon) Arizona Wildcats from 1997. The other was Danny Manning and Larry Brown’s Kansas Jayhawks from 1988, who won it all under the moniker Danny and The Miracles as a #6 seed.

For anyone who thinks the gap is anywhere near being bridged between major powerhouse programs and the wannabe up and comers, look around. Hi, I’m reality. Have we met? Baylor had a nice little regular season, but Brittney Griner and the Lady Bears might give them a run if it ever came down to it. Butler almost beat Duke a couple years ago in the Final, but come on. It’s Duke. They’re always susceptible to a loss in March. VCU made the Final Four last year, but they lost to Indiana in the second round this year. The aforementioned Butler actually had consecutive Final Four appearances leading up to this year, and this year ended up in the College Basketball Invitational. These two budding programs (Butler and VCU) are actually getting more attention this time of year for their coaches, baby faced Brad Stephens and frenetic Shaka Smart, deciding not to fill the head coaching vacancy at Illinois. The lack of a sustained effort over the course of time for these, and I use the term loosely, underprivileged schools makes for nice symbolism for their inability to break through the rigamaro of the tourney to win a national title. It’s a lot like the real life scenario when trying to get a job in your chosen industry: “Well, your resume looks good, but you don’t have any experience.” Bitch, how am I supposed to get any experience in the industry if you won’t give me the experience? How are these schools supposed to recruit without any credibility as national champions? They’re fighting a losing battle. Some high school graduates choose Purdue for engineering, Harvard to become President, West Point to take over the military, or Oxford to hone their scholarly crafts. Other high school graduates go to Kansas, North Carolina, Kentucky, or UCLA to play basketball (Disclaimer: the author is well-aware of every mentioned university’s academic achievements in addition to their sports accolades; this is a sports site though, after all).

The real madness lies in the fact that these student athletes are not allowed to reap any of the financial benefits until after leaving school and turning pro. Enter John Calipari. Those aforementioned high school seniors deciding where to attend college? If they desire to cash checks signed by David Stern and the NBA, they go wherever John Calipari is strolling the sidelines. He’s done it at UMass, Memphis, and now Kentucky. Rick Pitino has done it in four different decades. Bill Self has done it at Illinois and Kansas, and Thad Matta has done it twice now with Ohio State. Getting to the Final Four is one thing. Being the Final One is what it’s all about, but once again it’s going to be a well-known, already reputable school who will be the beat the bracket

This year, the teams that were supposed to be here are here. It’s not quite a 2008 situation when all four #1 seeds advanced to the Final Four, but Kentucky at #1, Ohio State and Kansas at #2, and Louisville at #4 is relatively…sane. These four powerhouse programs have a combined 20 Final Four appearances. Insane.

Looking back on your relationship with the NCAA Tournament though, it never was all that mad. The initial rounds provide some spark, but the top seeds who inevitably fizzle out are somewhat usual suspects to begin with (ahem, Duke, ahem). The Final Four is, and should be, reserved for the upper-echelon basketball programs who were ranked in the top ten all year for a reason. The SaniTERRYum is reserved for some semblance of madness, but March’s spark is fizzling fast.

That’s the beauty of March Madness: anything can happen. Only when reality sinks in do people realize that it usually doesn’t.