Mar 29, 2021 5 min read

The Bulls outlook has completely changed in less than a year

The Bulls outlook has completely changed in less than a year

Good morning, frents!

Smile. Opening week has arrived.

Sunday's results
Predators 3, Hawks 2
Sox 7, D'Backs 4
Rangers 12, Cubs 8

Today's schedule
Bulls at Warriors (9, NBCSCH)
D'Backs at Cubs (2, Marquee)
Sox off

The difference a year makes

The debut of the new-look Bulls on Saturday night went just like Loyola's trip to the Sweet 16 earlier in the day.

Not great.

The Bulls fell in San Antonio 120-104 and only a late rally made it look that close. The Spurs went on an 18-0 run in the second quarter and their lead was as large as 36 in the third. Nikola Vucevic chipped in his normal production for his Bulls debut — 21 points, nine rebounds and four assists — but the rotation struggled to bond in its first time out. Lauri Markkanen looked lost, a hobbled Zach LaVine struggled to produce (18 points on 6-of-15 shooting) and no one could stop the Spurs in the paint.

So there's plenty of work to be done. The Bulls are 19-25 heading into tonight's game against Golden State in San Francisco. If there's a playoff push to be made, it needs to start on this difficult road trip.

But whether the Bulls succeed or not, Thursday's big trade for Vucevic was a reminder of just how far the franchise has come within the span of a year.

It's honestly kind of mind-blowing.  

When I first started Midway Minute in February 2020, the Bulls were the most adrift of Chicago's "Big 5" franchises.

Just over 13 months later, the Bulls arguably have the most optimistic of the bunch while the Bears have replaced them as the city's most frustrating punchline. (That, of course, is another column for another time.)

Scott Koral and I talked about this on our latest YouTube talk, but the amount of change is enough to make your head spin.

When it comes to rebuilding projects in this town, we'd become more accustomed to the pace set by Theo Epstein and the Cubs, then Rick Hahn and the White Sox. Baseball teardowns tend to take multiple years thanks to the nature of prospect development and the work that must often be done from the top to the bottom of the organization.

Not so with basketball.

Or at least not with Arturas Karnisovas and the Bulls. Consider that most Chicago sports fans didn't even know his name at this point of the year. The Bulls weren't reported to be in a search for new leadership until April 3 of last year and Karnisovas wasn't tabbed until five days after that.

Less than a year later, he's installed a totally new front office led by GM Marc Eversley that's more accustomed to doing business in the modern NBA.

The front office has identified and selected a draft pick with some of the best long-term potential of last year's class in Patrick Williams.

And on Thursday, Karnisovas and Eversley decided they weren't going to leave the team's future up to the luck of the lottery or a free agent market that had already been depleted by early extensions. So they flipped two of the previous administration's last big misses — Wendell Carter and Otto Porter — for a bonafide All-Star to pair with the one they already possessed.

Another trade sent away three additional players, further cementing the idea that Karnisovas and Co. had come to some important conclusions on the players they were left. (One of my favorite things about this front office has been how leak-proof they've been so far. I think that's generally a good thing.)

As Saturday showed, their work is still only beginning. Markkanen's future has to be decided (though that answer seems clear) and getting a ball handler will be offseason priority No. 1. The success of this front office is far from guaranteed. The next year or two of moves will probably determine it.

But there are still 10 days to go before we celebrate the year anniversary of the #Wojbomb that said help was on the way.  

No wonder why we feel so optimistic.

News and results

Bears to play Raiders in 17th game: Road trip! The NFL is expected to finalize an extra game in 2021 and the Bears' extra opponent just so happens to play in Las Vegas. That's one way to resurrect the Sin City economy (and, hey, maybe finally get a Bears QB to 4,000 yards).

Final: Predators 3, Hawks 2

  • Kirby Dach made his return to the Hawks on Sunday, but maybe it'd have been better if he hadn't. Dach was on the ice for all three Nashville goals and made the turnover that  led to Roman Josi's gamewinner.
  • Two third-period goals by Alex DeBrincat made this one interesting, but the Hawks were otherwise awful all weekend. Nashville took all four points to pass the Hawks for the last playoff spot in the Central. There are 20 games to go.
  • Next: Carolina comes to the UC for two this week before the Hawks head to Nashville for a rematch against a team they haven't beaten in four tries this season.

Final: Sox 7, D'Backs 4

  • Dallas Keuchel gave up two runs over five innings, Garrett Crochet had a good appearance, Michael Kopech didn't and the bench scored six runs in the eighth for the win. The Sox are 12-11 this spring.
  • Jose Abreu showed off a pair of red batting gloves as a tribute to Eloy Jimenez.
  • Next: The Sox are off today before closing out the spring against Colorado on Tuesday. The team starts the regular season in Anaheim on Thursday.

Final: Rangers 12, Cubs 8

  • Joc Pederson hit his Cactus League-leading eighth home run and Jake Arrieta gave up four runs in 2.2 innings. Although three of them came on a home run allowed by Juan Gamez after Arrieta left the game in the second before re-entering in the third. Hey, who else is ready for spring training to be over?
  • Next: It luckily comes to an end for the Cubs today with a game against Arizona. Home opener Thursday against Pittsburgh.

Trivia
Who did Joc Pederson play for in the 2013 World Baseball Classic?

  1. Steve Greenberg on what comes next for Porter Moser and Loyola. Sun-Times
  2. The Ramblers cost one gambler $305K. Yahoo Sports
  3. Sahadev Sharma on why the Cubs left Nico Hoerner off the opening day roster despite an impressive spring. The Athletic
  4. Lucas Giolito and Ethan Katz's high school reunion gets the national treatment from Chelsea Janes. Washington Post
  5. Josh Noel on the 10th anniversary of Goose Island's sale to InBev. (Always read Josh Noel.) Tribune

Trivia answer

Israel

Kevin Kaduk
Kevin Kaduk
Kevin is the founder of Midway Minute.

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