Good morning, frents!
It feels great to be back. After a week of recharging, I'm energized to tackle a 2021 that won't include a Packers Super Bowl.
Yes, things are definitely looking up.
Thanks to the many of you who filled out the Midway Minute survey last week. I'm planning on doing a post on the findings soon, but I'll keep the survey open one more day if you haven't had a chance to complete it yet.
The Bulls were scheduled to hit the season's quarter pole on Wednesday night in Memphis, but the game has been postponed due to the Grizzlies' ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
So after tonight's home game against the Celtics, the Bulls will be off until Saturday's visit from Portland.
Which means we'll have plenty of time to think about where the Bulls have been — and where they're headed.
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The Bulls are 7-9 and currently own the 10th spot in the Eastern Conference. Those facts, combined with Saturday's shapeless loss to the Lakers, almost make it a bit of a surprise that the tone around the team is so optimistic.
And yet it should be! After a few years of this team being little more than a pesky chore, tuning into a Bulls game is no longer something you do after the struggle to choose something on Netflix gets too real.
After a disappointing 0-3 start to the season, the Bulls have straightened themselves into something closer to what we hoped they'd be. They'd won three straight games going into the Lakers contest, the longest winning streak in almost two years. They scored 115 or more points in seven straight games before posting just 90 against Los Angeles.
The addition of Billy Donovan has been everything as the Bulls no longer have a coach getting the side-eye from a majority of the roster. The rotations make sense even though the roster has dealt with absences and the ball is being moved. Zach La Vine has likely made the jump to becoming an actual All-Star and even Lauri Markkanen looks reenergized (though being in a contract year will do that to you).
* * *
The season is still young. At 7-9, the Bulls are still just 2.5 games out of the third spot that the Celtics currently hold. After a difficult schedule to start the season, it's not hard to imagine the Bulls getting things together to make a run at a playoff spot.
But there are still plenty of things to fix. Turnovers have been a problem and the team is still so young. The stress of traveling and playing during a pandemic will almost certainly take a toll.
Still, what we've seen so far seems like it's the best-case scenario: A young team playing well together under a culture-shifting coach while a new regime figures out what pieces make sense for the future.
There's still plenty of story to be told this season — particularly once the March 25 trade deadline rolls around — but I'm enjoying the opening chapters so far.
The Hawks played their first regular season game at the United Center on this date in 1995, a 5-1 win over Edmonton.
Name the Hawks player who scored the first goal in the building that night.
Hawks whip wings over weekend
More good news from a UC tenant: The Hawks won't go winless this season! After being outscored 20-9 on its four-game swing through Florida, the team won two games over Detroit by a combined score of 10-3 on Friday and Sunday. If the Hawks win just eight games this year, I hope all are against Detroit.
- New forward Pius Suter scored a hat trick in Sunday's 6-2 win, becoming just the second Hawks player to have his first three goals come via hat trick. (Art Somers did it in 1929.)
- Kevin Lankinen got the start for both games and looks like he might be the team's current starter, though Collin Delia and Malcolm Subban have to be wondering why they couldn't have debuted against Detroit, too.
- The Hawks signed Scott Darling to a deal with Rockford on Sunday, likely because it'd been awhile since they'd brought back someone from a Cup team.
Green Bay loses another NFC title
Death, taxes and the Packers wasting another year of Aaron Rodgers' career.
And while the Packers fan on my list will probably be quick to point out the all-too-obvious shortcomings of our beloved Bears, there are two irrefutable facts we can answer them with.
- The Packers have converted almost three full decades of Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers into just one more Super Bowl title than the Bears got from about five combined seasons of having a really good defense.
- The following quarterbacks all own just one NFC championship game win: Rodgers, Tom Brady, Rex Grossman.
Say what you will about the Bears wandering through a quarterback-less desert for almost 70 years now. Being a Packers fan has lately been kind of a weird purgatory of its own.
1. Bears players, they're just like us! A round up of tweets celebrating the Packers' demise. (NBC Sports Chicago)
2. Not a Chicago link, but if you haven't read Howard Bryant on the great Henry Aaron yet ... well .... fix that. (ESPN)
3. Aaron's numbers against the Cubs at Wrigley Field over 179 games were insane. (NBC Chicago)
4. Madeline Kenney on the Sky's last puzzle piece to winning over Chicago: Taking home a title. (Sun-Times)
5. Here's some cool footage of Muhammad Ali at his "Ali's Trolley" restaurant at 50th and State in 1975. (Chicago Film Archives )
Trivia answer: Joe Murphy