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Things That Make You Go “Hmmm”

Wennington at the Alamo While in San Antonio last week, Wennington found time to visit the Alamo and walk along the River Walk for a few hours.
(Courtesy of Bill Wennington)
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    March 8, 2005 – "And it ain't over now," John "Bluto" Blutarsky eloquently proclaimed twenty-seven years ago in the legendary Animal House. "'Cause when the goin' gets tough... the tough get goin'! Who's with me?" That could very well be Chicago’s battle cry for the remainder of the season. Not long after putting the finishing touches on a successful February, the realities of the NBA surfaced and now the Bulls know more than ever: if they’re destined for the NBA Playoffs, they’re going to have to earn it.

    By Bill Wennington

    Last week wasn’t an especially great one for Windy City fans who enjoy watching winning basketball. The Bulls lost three games: one to Houston in which they never had a chance, one to San Antonio which was a great game that was tied with a minute to go, and the last to Milwaukee in which the Bulls were leading for most of the game but ran out of gas in the fourth quarter.

    However, they came back strong last night and evened the score with the Bucks, getting a nice win before heading to the West Coast for a three-game swing at three games over .500. Even taking into consideration Monday’s victory, it seems as if the team is not playing at the same level it was in January and early February. But I’m optimistic that this is not going to be a prolonged state that the team is going through.

    An 82 game season can be more than a young group can cope with at times and they have done a terrific job so far. The coaches have a difficult task at hand to keep the guys fresh and enthused, so let’s hope they can get the guys out of the down phase they’ve been in and back on track for the last month and a half of the season.

    The injury to Luol Deng in the Houston game—a significant sprain to his right ankle—was a disheartening blow to the team. Luol may be out as much as four weeks, but he is already walking on his ankle and hopefully with his work ethic and training regime, he can shorten that time up a little. Athletes like Luol sometimes can get better faster because they are in such good condition before the injury; plus I know that Luol will work hard at his rehabilitation.

    Eddy Curry and Harold Ramis at FestaBulls Who you gonna call? Eddy Curry poses with Harold Ramis, a.k.a. Dr. Egon Spengler, at FestaBulls.
    Remember the old Arsenio Hall Show and his bit about “things that make you go… hmmm”? Well, I was just looking at the schedule and the Bulls have had and will play a road game on every Wednesday since February 9 with the only exception being last week when they hosted the Rockets on Tuesday. That’s ten Wednesday road games in eleven weeks! Can someone explain that? I can’t… and I wanted to point it out because it looks odd on the little pocket schedule… just something to make you go “hmmm.”

    This will be a good month for watching the Bulls because they play just about every other day with four more back-to-back sets in the mix. Get ready, basketball fans, it is getting to be crunch time and there are a lot of games to listen to on ESPN Radio WMVP-AM 1000, where you can listen to me talk about every wonderful minute of it. Or, come on down to the United Center and check out Chicago’s version of March Madness yourself.

    On a positive note, once again I am pleased to report that there weren’t any travel mishaps for the team this week—unless you count the guys from Comcast SportsNet who got their flight home from Milwaukee canceled. Tom Dore, Jim Angio, Bob Albrecht and Tamra Anderson were originally going to take the team’s plane back to O’Hare, where their cars were parked. However, the threat of fog kept them grounded in Milwaukee, so they and had to rent a car to drive back to O’Hare, finally arriving at 4:30 in the morning.

    For all of the Packer fans out there—Bulls strength and conditioning coach Erik Helland included—we stayed at the same hotel in Milwaukee as Bart Starr, the Packers MVP quarterback from Super Bowls I and II and current Head Coach Mike Sherman. Rick Majerus, the popular former coach at the University of Utah, was also around to spend some time with Bulls assistant coach Jim Boylan. It was a great day for sports fans hanging out in the hotel’s lobby.

    In looking back to last week, if you weren’t at FestaBulls, the team’s annual charity dinner auction, you missed out. The fundraiser, held at the Berto Center, is a night where you can mingle with all the players and coaches and of course, Neil Funk. Everyone enjoyed a nice buffet style dinner and there was a ton of sports memorabilia to bid on if you are a collector or just a fan in general.

    Towards the end of the evening there is a live auction and it is always fun to watch the big spenders outbidding each other. This is also one of the only events that I would feel comfortable buying an authentic autograph that was not signed right in front of me. I know the signatures are real because I’ve seen the Bulls staff get the different jerseys signed by players from around the league for this event.

    FestaBulls 2005 Evadney and Kate from the Luvabulls display an autographed ball that netted $5,300 in the live auction at FestaBulls.
    The players are great—they all sign autographs and take pictures and everyone gets to hear Coach Skiles introduce the team along with his staff. It really is a fun night for the entire family. Harold Ramis, one of Second City’s most notable alumni (wrote Animal House; appeared in Stripes, Ghostbusters and a number of other great films), brought his son to the event and had a great time, talking to the players and coaches and even bidding on a few of the auction items.

    Now it’s time to see if there is anyone e-mailing me…. first up, Christopher from Los Angeles writes:

    “Your columns are really exciting to read every week. I never get the chance to see how the players are outside of the basketball court and you give us fans a peak in, which truly is fun to read. Anyway, I live in L.A. and I've really seen the spark in the media that the Bulls have lit. They seem to be popping up in every magazine, all over television and all over the net. The hype is catching on.

    Do you think that the Bulls are going to be able to keep focus during the whole season, including the playoffs, since most of the players are under 24 [years old]? I really believe that the Bulls can be a force in the playoffs after watching Detroit use defense to win it all last year. Do you think the Bulls’ defense could win them a couple of series?”

    There is no question that the Bulls have made serious strides this season and the popularity of the team has increased two-fold. They play very good defense and that has gotten them where they are now; I just hope they can maintain the energy and continue this through the rest of the season.

    Ben Gordon Ben Gordon’s late game heroics have won the Bulls a few games this season.
    The playoffs, should Chicago get that far, are a different story. You play teams in a best of seven series and there is much more physical play in the playoffs—the referees allow a little bit more than they normally do during the regular season. Being such a young team, it’s hard to see the Bulls going far in the playoffs but I could see them winning the first round if the cards fall right in the match-ups.

    Moving on, it seems at least one person was paying attention to my not so cryptic message in last week’s column. Kyle Shutts writes: “Cute… I like how you [spelled out] Neil Funk Is Here.” Well, Kyle, all I can say is that I’m very talented… and it only took me two weeks to do it. I’m so proud of myself!

    Here is a note from Stephen Brust that I liked reading:

    “I enjoy reading your columns each week. The Bulls are on fire and I love coming back to my dorm room and putting the game on when I get back from soccer practice. My roommate thinks I’m crazy because I’m jumping off the couch and going nuts! When the Bulls played Miami, he was telling me that the game was over and I should shut off the game... there were three minutes left when I said two words: Ben Gordon.

    Anyway, Bill, I’m sure you have a ton of e-mails so I won’t make this long. Just wanted to say the articles and the Bulls are where it’s at and I wouldn’t mind a little shout out in a column! See you at a Bulls game or the next time your son Robbie and my brother Ben are ballin’ it up.”

    You’ve got to appreciate college students who not only love the game, but also take the time to think about their little brothers. Stephen, I hope that you’re getting your homework done before you’re jumping around your dorm room. I don’t want to have to tell your Dad that it was the Bulls fault you did not pass…

    Bill's bookYou're missing out if you don't have this book.
    Once again, I’m running out of time before we catch our plane for the West Coast and I know Adam at the Bulls office is probably thinking I got stuck on a word again… so off this column goes. Check back next week when I’ll fill you in on our adventures out West in Portland, Seattle and Los Angeles. All the best to you all and I’ll see you at the United Center.

    Send your questions and/or comments to Bill at bullsvip@bulls.com and check back next week to see if he responds to your e-mail.

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  • Past columns: Taking Care of Business (02.28.05) | Midterm Report Card (02.18.05)
  • Tough Times in Texas (02.10.05) | Man of the People: (02.02.05)
  • Thrown Under the Bus (01.25.05) | Team the Theme for Skiles’ Squad (01.18.05)
  • Wennington Column on the Way