There are times when things are so terrible, so bad, and so awful that you hate it when something positive has the audacity to happen.
This game is my lasting memory of the 2013-2014 Chicago Bulls, like bathroom graffiti branded backwards to your forehead. Unfair or not, this crater is the pivot point for my massive online shoe. That analogy makes no sense, but that’s okay. That game begs and begets senselessness. Imagine the Swaggy P 450 layup airball with all the fun replaced with 3 hours of retching, screaming macaws, and Joakim Noah’s hair (which was actually there at the time.) How messed up is that? Right? Yeah. This was the night Kirk Hinrich became my least favorite player in the league for being the shameless prick to put the Bulls above 30 points in the first half.
There were 35 seconds to go, Kirk. You didn’t need that 3.
Unforgivable. I wanted the game to finish with fewer than 100 total points. I wanted to point to a box score and be able to stiffen and state, “There. That. Look at it. Picture what that must have been like to watch. Do it in your own head and on your own time, because I don’t want to talk about it. Go away, son.” I needed that validation. Instead, I have a frustrating personal experience and a compulsion to relay it.
The Bulls: Mike Dunleavy going 7-24 and Kirk Hinrich playing in spite of my spite as a comeback grows, then withers, then dies, and then floats away on the Bargs Barge, hopefully to be shot with a flaming arrow on National TV.
This was on National TV.
That was also the day I left a pizza in my trunk.
So despite the city of CM Punk chants doing a lot of nice stuff as the season continued like overcoming the Deng trade, again finding an identity without Rose, all the disparate bits of Joakim Noah (hair excepted) congealing into one of my favorite players in the league, Taj Gibson making his contract seem legitimate, and so on, I can’t help but start this season with the memory of Knicks vs. Bulls December 12, 2013 clouding my thoughts.
Maybe this is why I’m down on them. Not bad-down, but tempered-down. Unenthusiastic-down. Public reaction to Blink 182’s 2003 single “Down”-down. But I’m down, and I can’t think of a ton of other reasons why. This team went to the playoffs last year, but added Dougie McBuckets, Pau McGasol, and Derrick MCL. This is good, right? Sure. It probably is; it’s probably better than good, but I can’t bring myself to picture anything better than that.
In the lead up to the draft, the conversation I most recall is “I don’t want McDermott on my team, but he’s a great player.” After the draft: “I’m glad McDermott’s not on my team, but he’s a great fit for the Bulls.” Same thought, different tense. To me, this means one of three things. 1) I heard the wrong conversations. 2) McDermott’s game really doesn’t fit most teams. 3) People aren’t sold to the point of being prepared to attach their hopes to DougBucks, so they’re relieved to root for him independent of their emotional commitment to their team. I don’t know which it is, but the name Doug does not inspire confidence in me. It makes me think of turtles or the more bland types of cheese.
My preferred narrative for Pau these last few years has been “demoralized, misunderstood, misused big guy sandbagging for one final redemption run.” As evident in the Pistons’ decade-long championship drought, what I prefer isn’t always what happens. I can just as easily see Pau on the other side of useful, and FIBA competition has not been stellar enough to sway me. I haven’t truly thought of Pau as a primary piece for a contender in at least two seasons. That said, I can’t separate Pau’s performance from the situation he’s been in over that time, so a USA-Spain final may actually give me something new to think about. [Edit: France happened.]
And I would really, really like something new to think about in regards to Derrick Rose. The last 2+ years of his career have been a declining sequence of oh no’s, to wit:
“Oh no… he’s out for the rest of this season.”
“Oh no… he’s out for the rest of this season too.”
“Oh no… he doesn’t look like the Derrick Rose I last saw..”
“Oh no… he’s out for the rest of this season too, again.”
“Oh no… he looks exactly like the Derrick Rose I last saw.”
D-Rose’s FIBAing has not excited me. It’s kind of done the opposite. I’m seeing reruns of a season I didn’t like that was cancelled before the show-runner could make any changes. The international remake of the show has a different cast, but it’s still hard to watch. At the moment, Derrick is my third favorite Rose behind Jalen and the one from that Seal song. Here’s hoping he can reclaim spot #2 in these next few months and not he fall behind WWE NXT sensation Adam Rose. The protagonist from Titanic remains last. Dead last. And dead.
None of this is to say I expect the Bulls to be bad. They’ll be better than last year. A great deal of teams in the east should have improved to mediocre, and the Bulls should have improved beyond that. Does that make them a 3 seed in the east? Maybe a 2? Yeah. I think it does. Is that something to be excited about when Kirk “horrible, horrible, terrible person” Hinrich is still on the team?
Yeah, probably, but not for me. I hate that guy.