分类目录归档:Fake Bulls Jerseys

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PORTLAND, Ore. — As a Timberwolves rookie in 2014-15, Zach LaVine had it rough.

His rookie duties were assigned by a plethora of hard-core veterans like Mo Williams, Kevin Martin and none other than Kevin Garnett.

Practice would end. And Garnett would start booting basketballs into the stands of whatever arena the Timberwolves would be in for LaVine and fellow rookie Andrew Wiggins to fetch.

Coby White and Daniel Gafford have it easy.

“I haven’t been getting it as bad as some other rookies I know,” Gafford said following Sunday’s practice at Portland State University. “I thought there was a slight chance I was going to have to pay for dinner the other night. But we all chipped in. I was grateful for that.”

Added White: “They’ve been kind of light on me, so I appreciate that. We really don’t have that many vets, to be honest. Thad (Young) is a true vet and then there’s OP (Otto Porter Jr.), Zach and Sato (Tomas Satoransky). So I got lucky.”

Fetching towels and drinks, picking up shoes to give to the equipment manager and making food runs for the group before the Bulls’ charter plane leaves O’Hare have been the rookies’ biggest and most consistent tasks.

Maybe White’s theory holds some water. After all, the Bulls are the league’s third-youngest team. Or perhaps LaVine just recognizes the need to keep White, in particular, fresh.

When White is on the court, particularly alongside LaVine, it presents an offensive challenge for opposing defenses to consider. LaVine can see less double-teaming and blitzing.

“Zach is always in my ear because he has seen what I’m capable of and how good I can be. He tells me it’s my time, tells me to do what I do and to be Coby White and take over,” White said. “For our go-to guy to believe that much in me and encourage me means a lot. It gives me a lot of confidence.”

Coach Jim Boylen has been consistent with his approach regarding White’s closing role. If he has it rolling, which he did in road victories at the Grizzlies and Hornets or the home victory over the Knicks, White plays the majority or all of the fourth quarter alongside LaVine.

“I think he’s a big moment guy, I think he has that in him,” Boylen said. “I have confidence that he’s not scared about that moment. The big shot doesn’t bother him. He’s a competitive guy, so it’s easy to leave him out there.’’

LaVine leads the Bulls by averaging 6.3 points in the fourth quarter. White ranks second at 3.8 points. They average the same amount of playing time in the fourth, a team-high 7.3 minutes per game. Only Wendell Carter Jr. at 7.8 fourth-quarter minutes plays more.

“I think the league has seen him enough that you have to have a decent defender on him, so when you have him and Zach out there together I think that can put some pressure on the defense,” Boylen said. “Usually the primary guy takes Zach, and then maybe the secondary guy takes Coby.”

Trying to score against fourth-quarter defenses beats fetching basketballs from stands.

“In the fourth quarter, everything goes up a different level. So it’s a big deal being out there,” White said. “I’m just glad (Boylen) has faith in me when I have it rolling. Rookies don’t always get that opportunity. I’m blessed and thankful for it.”

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Even before injuries to Otto Porter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison, wing depth loomed as an issue for the Bulls.

Hutchison was coming off a rookie season shortened by injury. Porter has battled nagging injuries throughout his career. And Denzel Valentine was coming off missing an entire season to reconstructive ankle surgery.

On Tuesday, the Bulls fly back to Chicago following their three-game trip with Porter and Hutchison still out and Valentine not playing much although recently in the rotation. Coach Jim Boylen mostly has relied on a three-guard lineup featuring Kris Dunn, Ryan Arcidiacono and Coby White. Both Shaquille Harrison and Dunn have started at small forward on this trip.

“It is frustrating. I try not to look at those things like it’s my frustration. I feel bad for the guy,” Boylen said. “Obviously, the team needs (Porter). But I feel bad for him. I think he’s frustrated. It wears on him. He’s a competitive guy. He’s a winning player. So it’s very difficult for him.”

Porter, in his first comments to reporters in a while, agreed.

“It’s definitely tough watching the guys go through that,” Porter said of the team’s 6-14 start. “I just try to remain positive. I still try to be a leader to them in the locker room, what I see out there when I’m watching, what we can do better. I’m always going to be voicing my opinion on what we should do or just adjustments out there on the court.”

Boylen said Porter and Hutchison will be re-evaluated this week in Chicago. Porter has played just nine games this season because of a soft tissue injury to his left foot. Hutchison is on his third injury this season, a sprained right shoulder.

Originally, the Bulls listed Porter’s injury as a sprained left foot. But a second MRI exam on Nov. 19 revealed bone bruising which the team disclosed in a release and Porter cited it as a bone bruise in his remarks to reporters.

“It takes time. Every day it gets a little better. Baby steps,” Porter said. “You can reaggravate it absolutely. And that’s what we’re trying to monitor to make sure that these days that I do activities, the next day it’s not overaggravated or swells back up. We’re definitely watching it close.”

Porter said he has been able to do some elliptical work and lift weights with some spot set shooting.

“I have no idea about coming back sooner or later.,” Porter said. “The new MRI I’m supposed to be taking is just supposed to see how far along I’ve come. It will eliminate any other things that might’ve happened as far as like tissue and stuff like that. Looking forward to it.”

Just like Boylen is looking forward to Porter’s return, whenever it happens.

“We miss his calm, veteran demeanor,” Boylen said. “I said this last year and this year too: He settles us down a bit, maybe at times we need that. He makes timely shots. He’s one of our better shooters. And he has positional size, which is a huge part of that big wing position. We miss those things. He has done a terrific job of trying to help the younger guys and stay connected even though he has been hurt. It’s difficult. But he has a veteran voice. He’s one of our captains. And he’s doing a good job of that.”

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It wasn’t always pretty, but the Bulls held on and snapped a three-game losing streak with a 113-106 victory over the Kings in Sacramento. Four observations from a game the Bulls had to have and wouldn’t be denied:

Bench turns the tide

Out of the gates, this game looked destined for a(nother) lackluster Bulls performance. The team’s first quarter offense was stilted in an all-too-familiar way — in the period, the Bulls shot 7-for-20 (35%) from the field, 3-for-12 (25%) from 3-point range and missed four layups, to boot. They trailed by as many as 11 in the frame.

Somehow, though, they were only behind 23-22 going into the second after closing the first on a 10-0 run. That spurt foreshadowed an explosive remainder of the first half, in which we glimpsed into the alternate reality where every optimistic preseason expectation came to fruition. The bench lit the torch. At the 7:56 mark of the second, Coby White, Ryan Arcidiacono, Denzel Valentine (!), Thad Young and Daniel Gafford all had plus-minuses of at least +13. None of the starters were better than a -7.

The Bulls forced 18 turnovers in the game, due in large part to the tone their scrappy, swarming reserves set early on. The 23 points they generated off said turnovers proved essential in warding off repeated comeback efforts by Sacramento.

Most encouraging is the fact that, after swinging the tide of the game, the rotations stabilized. They had their hiccups, but ultimately held on. All the starters played over 30 minutes; White was the only reserve to see over 20. That’s a formula for sustained success.

For extended stretches, Lauri Markkanen was excellent

In the second quarter, specifically, he did everything you could ask of him, hitting 3-for-4 from downtown and repeatedly attacking the basket with gumption. The bench flipped an 11-point Bulls deficit into a six-point lead over a seven-minute stretch spanning the end of the first and the beginning of the second quarter, but the starters took that baton midway through the period and didn’t miss a beat. The Bulls won the period 33-21 and went into the break leading 55-44.

Markkanen, for his part, canned two threes and and blew by Nemanja Bjelica off-the-dribble for a vicious (and much-needed) dunk in the latter half of the period. It feels hyperbolic to say that a third-year player ‘looked like his own self,’ but he really did on Monday, for the first time in what feels like a long time.

With the eventual victory, the Bulls move to 4-0 in games where Markkanen converts more than three 3-point attempts (he was 4-for-8 tonight).

Buddy Hield got hot, but so did the Bulls

The Kings, of course, didn’t go quietly into the night. The hosts (who hadn’t lost at home since October before this one) admirably stormed back from a 19-point deficit second-half to at one point pull within two. It wasn’t Hield’s most efficient night (9-for-21 from the floor, 3-for-13 from three), but he did lead Sacramento in scoring with 26 points and tallied 14 in the fourth. His presence loomed large with every run the Kings made.

As mentioned, the Bulls finished the first quarter 3-for-12 on 3-pointers. In the final three, they connected on 13 of 25 3-point attempts, and they needed every last one of them.

Bulls (finally) hold a fourth quarter lead

The Bulls entered this game 25th in the NBA in fourth-quarter defensive rating. Hot starts and big leads aren’t completely foreign to this team, but finishing out a full 48 minutes is.

It wasn’t always pretty (as Stacey King said, “they keep you on the edge of your seat”), but they held on tonight. And the guys that sealed the game couldn’t have been scripted better. Early in the fourth, with Buddy Hield beginning to warm, White stymied a few Sacramento bursts with two of his four threes to keep the Bulls at arms-length.

Then, down the stretch, it was Markkanen and LaVine leading the charge. LaVine had two crucial threes down the stretch, including one to put the Bulls up seven with just over a minute to play. Markkanen hit a pivotal long-ball of his own, and he and LaVine combined for eight free throw attempts (making them all) in the fourth. The two each scored 20+ points in the same game for the first time this season, on a combined 13-for-25 (9-for-15 on threes). That’s an extremely encouraging development.

This was a game the Bulls could and should have won. And, for once, they did, handing the Kings their first home loss since October. What lies ahead will be plenty challenging, but for now, they can bask in a clean, deserved victory.

Drive home safe.

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Ron Harper Jersey

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One of the storylines during the Rutgers men’s basketball team’s late-season resurgence last year was the promising play of the freshman class.

Sophomore center Myles Johnson established himself as a rising star in the paint, while sophomore guards Montez Mathis and Caleb McConnell showed improvement and earned key minutes as the Big Ten slate continued.

The Scarlet Knight (6-1) with the highest upside this year, though, could be Ron Harper, Jr., the 6-foot-6-inch sophomore forward from Franklin Lakes, New Jersey. Harper Jr. has a championship pedigree, growing up under the guidance of his father, Ron Harper, who won five NBA championships with Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Harper Jr. soon made a name for himself on the court, becoming a star for Don Bosco Prep under head coach Kevin Diverio. He took a major leap in his senior season, doubling his scoring output to average 20.8 points per game. That scoring punch was a key factor in the Ironmen’s second straight TOC final appearance in 2018.

While Harper Jr.’s career at Don Bosco Prep earned him a four-star rating from Rivals, he wasn’t as highly sought after as guys like Mathis or true freshman guard Paul Mulcahy. Harper Jr. only had two Power 5 offers: one from Rutgers, and the other from Big Ten rival Nebraska.

Despite the Knights being the worst team in the conference (3-15 Big Ten record) at the time of his commitment, Harper Jr. bought in to head coach Steve Pikiell’s vision of what Rutgers basketball could be.

His commitment, which came just a week after Mathis’s in August 2017, marked a significant early milestone for the Pikiell era, as the duo of Harper Jr. and Mathis would be the first time since 2008 that the Knights had multiple four-star recruits in the same class. While it would take time for this group to develop on the court, the tide was beginning to turn for Rutgers on the recruiting trail.

Harper Jr.’s freshman year wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. After dropping 15 points on Fairleigh Dickinson in his debut, he struggled to find minutes in the rotation. When he did see the floor, he was inconsistent — the roughest outing being when he went 2-of-11 from the field in the loss against Seton Hall.

As the team went on a late-season surge in conference play, Harper Jr. finally came into his own and looked the part of a Big Ten scorer. He burst onto the scene in Iowa City, where the forward led the Knights with 27 points as they blew out Iowa 86-72.

But, the real jump for Harper Jr. came out of the offseason. An emphasis on conditioning and physicality saw the forward go up from 230 to 245 pounds, and it’s been paying off through the first seven games of the season.

Harper Jr. is now much more aggressive in the paint, using his added strength to get better looks inside. He’s now a much more efficient scorer, averaging 13.1 points a game on 54.8% shooting.

While Rutgers hasn’t faced any Power 5 teams so far this year, its young core seems poised to take the next step in its development this winter.

But, Harper Jr.’s game translates well to the Big Ten, and the added physicality will bring another dimension for a Knights team that is heavily reliant on Johnson and senior forward Shaq Carter in the paint. He also brings a presence on the glass, averaging six boards a game this year.

While there probably won’t be a single go-to guy for Rutgers this year, it’s clear that Harper Jr. is poised to stand out in big moments on the Banks.

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The Portland Trail Blazers have waived big man Pau Gasol, he said on Wednesday.

Gasol, 39, has been unable to successfully rehab his left foot following surgery.

Gasol said the Blazers are working on details of a coaching role for the future Hall of Famer. Gasol has two championships and six All-Star appearances in his 18 NBA seasons. He is remaining in Portland to rehab.

He signed with the Milwaukee Bucks after a buyout with the San Antonio Spurs last season but played only three games with Milwaukee before a season-ending foot injury. Gasol finished the campaign having played just 30 games, averaging a career-low 3.9 points and 4.6 rebounds.
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Trail Blazers, Carmelo hopeful after debut loss

Gasol signed a one-year deal with the Blazers in July.

He also has played with the Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls, and he had an outstanding FIBA career with the Spanish national team.

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Coby White is off to a good start with the Bulls, but he’s not ready to ask Derrick Rose-style, “Why can’t I be rookie of the year?”

“Nah, man, I just go out there and hoop,” he said before Saturday’s home opener. “Like I always say, as long as I go out there and play hard, everything will take care of itself.

“At the end of the year, if I’m in that discussion, then I’m in that discussion. If I’m not I’m not. I just know that at the end of the day, as a team I just want to accomplish our goal and that’s to make the playoffs.”

White made his official United Center debut on the 35th anniversary of Michael Jordan’s first game as a Bull, which was a 109-93 victory over the Washington Bullets at the Stadium on Oct. 26, 1984. Orlando Woolridge was the Bulls’ leading scorer that night with 28.
Coby tries coaching:

Bulls coach Jim Boylen credited Coby White for some coaching help late in Friday’s win at Memphis.

“He came up to me during a free throw and said, ‘Hey, let me set the screen on this one because I think they’re sticking to me,'” Boylen said. “I don’t know guys, that doesn’t happen with a 20-year-old or 19-year-old kid at our level like that, where you’re thinking not about yourself, but how you can help the team in that moment. That’s big time.”

White said his suggestion was a simple one: Put he and Zach LaVine in a screen-and-roll, since both had a hot hand.

“They would have had to make a split (second) decision,” White said. “When we did it, they kind of got confused and Zach hits a wide-open 3 off of it. … Coach puts his trust in his players.”
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Hutch closer to return:

Considering Otto Porter Jr. has been on a minutes limit and left Saturday’s game in the second quarter with an injury, coach Jim Boylen is anxious to get Chandler Hutchison back from a hamstring issue.

“Yeah, he’s really close,” Boylen said before Saturday’s game. “Hutch is a big wing, Hutch is what the league is. You know, 6-7, 6-8 guy that can guard multiple positions, he can handle the ball, he can get out and run. Our multiple-ballhandling system was put in with him in mind. We will not rush him back, he is closer than ever.”
WC Bulls draft three:

The Windy City Bulls chose three players in Saturday’s G-League draft. They started with 7-foot center Lamous Brown from Shaw University. He’s a Chicago native who went to Morgan Park High School.

They chose 6-5 guard Jordan Adams, who was a college teammate of Zach LaVine at UCLA. The third pick was 6-5 guard Trey Phills from Yale. He’s the son of the late Bobby Phills, who died in a car accident on a day he was supposed to play for the old Charlotte Hornets against the Bulls.

Windy City opens the season Nov. 8 at Wisconsin, followed by the home opener the following night at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates.

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Nikola Mirotic’s star in the NBA was only rising when he decided to play his basketball for basketball giant Barcelona. Some were definitely surprised by his decision as he was building a reputation for himself as an outstanding stretch option.

It doesn’t make sense for many NBA fans why he would relinquish his spot in the NBA to play in Europe. Some immediately thought that money was what convinced him to play in Europe.

According to Eurohoops, the former New Orleans Pelicans forward scoffed at the idea.

“It makes me laugh a lot. To answer the question, I came to Barcelona because, for me, basketball is the top priority, along with my family. If I don’t enjoy it, I don’t have that emotion, that desire to be better day by day. In the end, it doesn’t matter what money they give me if I’m not happy. If I don’t get up every day wanting to go to practice, it’s not worth it.”

He also said that there were plenty of factors that contributed to his decision to walk away from the league.

“The most important ones are family reasons and that I missed Europe. The European style of basketball. I was in an area of, let’s say comfort. And I like to be a better player every day. There [the NBA] I was an important player but everything was about two or three stars. Although you were a starter, it was very difficult to make a jump, be something else. I always wanted to be a leader and fight for more titles.”

During his five seasons in the NBA, Nikola Mirotic averaged 12.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.3 assists a game. He suited up for the Chicago Bulls, New Orleans Pelicans, and Milwaukee Bucks.

Mickey Johnson Jersey

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MJ is back with the Bulls.

Sometimes he thinks about his high flying days, the dunk contests, the triple doubles, the time he embarrassed Dr. J, the full court flights of fancy and fancy flights, taking that rebound and gliding full court, a sprinter’s body with a player’s intentions.

MJ leaned back, the warmth of the bright Los Angeles sun enhancing the reverie. He was traveling with the Bulls last week on the Western Conference road trip, offering a little advice as an inspirational figure and taking some time to visit some of his famous Hollywood friends from back in the old days.

“Doing some ambassador work for the Bulls,” Mickey Johnson was saying. “They’ve allowed me to talk to some of players, offer some advice. I’m very appreciative of being able to be in this position.”

No, he isn’t that MJ; in fact, he was known as Rubber Band Man in a 12-year NBA career that was perhaps the most unlikely in a world of unlikely stories. “Actually my nickname in high school was BC, which meant Bony Child,” Johnson said with a laugh. “I was 180 pounds my first year in the pros, 6-10 and 180.”

And 40 years before his time.

Magic come into the league and I was able to guard him; I was fast enough. Magic couldn’t guard me on the post up.
Mickey Johnson

Wallace “Mickey” Johnson was probably the first point forward in NBA history, though no one knew it then or quite knew what to do with him. And not only because he couldn’t make his Lindblom High School team and paid his way through west suburban Aurora College trying to achieve his goal of getting into a Sears training program. But could he run, a world class sprinter in high school with a guard’s ability to handle the ball and a big man’s size to finish. Mickey was unique, a round peg in a very square era of NBA basketball.

You know, 6-10, you get by the basket. Little guy, you dribble.

“The game I played was what they are doing now, Scottie Pippen, KD,” Johnson said. “I was just as good as the guards bringing the ball up. I was fast and could run all day, not like a typical big man at the time. That’s 1975, 1976. The problem was the coaches didn’t know what to do with me. I remember Norm (Van Lier) told me if I don’t pass him the ball he wasn’t passing it back to me. I told Norm, ‘I get the ball first with the rebound. I really don’t need you to bring it up and pass to me.’

“It was totally different for a big man back then,” added Johnson. “Players now are slimmer and can handle the ball, things I was doing in the 70s with big man moves inside. Magic come into the league and I was able to guard him; I was fast enough. Magic couldn’t guard me on the post up. But the coaches didn’t understand.”

Still, Johnson averaged more than 15 points for five consecutive seasons, culminating with a career high 19.1 in 1979-80 with Indiana. That was even after being benched when the team traded for an aging but popular George McGinnis. Johnson was among the league leaders in scoring at the time of his demotion and still ended the season as the team’s scoring leader.

Though he never could quite escape the stigma of being from the University of Nowhere, the NBA still something of a caste system. C’mon seriously, Aurora College?

“My biggest problem probably was first time something went wrong it always was, ‘Mickey didn’t have the experience because he went to a small college,'” Johnson recalled. “When we lost to (eventual champion) Portland in ’77, I had a bad game first game (eight for 25 for 19 points and 10 rebounds). Maurice Lucas took advantage of me, but I still led the team in scoring for the series (27.3 per game along with 13 rebounds). I was always an outsider. But I never played for the money, but that love and respect for the game. Nobody can ever say Mickey held out for this or that, cried about salary. I just played. Seeing the world from the bottom up and not top down. A lot can happen in your career, but you try not to take it personal. Do what the coach wants, be there for your teammates. From humble beginnings you can reach greatness, but that greatness can also bring you back down if you let it. It’s one of the reasons the Bulls asked me here.”
1978: Mickey Johnson #8 of the Chicago Bulls poses for a portrait circa 1978 at the Chicago Stadium in Chicago, Illinois.

1978: Mickey Johnson poses for a portrait.

Johnson accompanied the Bulls on their road trip at the invitation of coach Jim Boylen, who is encouraging players to understand and appreciate their ancestors. Mickey took the opportunity to spend some time with his old buddy from the Temptations, Louis Price.

He’s one of those veterans who perhaps may help the Bulls get ready to find their cloud nine. Cliff Levingston, Horace Grant, Scottie Pippen, Toni Kukoc and Bob Love are some of the former Bulls bring in various ambassador and supporting roles for the team.

Boylen receives some kidding about his fondness for talking about pride in the organization, Bulls on their chest. But players like Mickey Johnson can help deliver an appreciation for the game and perhaps some perspective on where they’ve been and where they are going.

Especially considering Johnson’s excellence in the NBA over a decade despite the most unlikely roots and a vision to give back beyond basketball.

Mickey once ran for alderman in his home 24th ward North Lawndale neighborhood. He was a coach at Malcolm X College and has run a successful business, Concerned Pest Control, and worked for the county sheriff’s department for almost 20 years. He’s been a citizen advocate, a businessman and motivational speaker.

He also was believed to be the only player ever to block Dr. J’s dunk and one of the few to have intercepted Kareem’s sky hook

“Bill Willoughby and myself are the only two to have caught the sky hook out of the air,” Johnson insists. “Did that twice and Willoughby once.

“I had some hops,” Mickey says with a bit of a smirk.

“You didn’t dunk much back then unless you had a clear path,” he said. “They’d knock you down. If you dunked you had to get out of there real quick.”

Johnson was quick. He also was one of the dunkers when CBS in 1977 after that first NBA dunk contest following the merger with the ABA had a season long dunk contest at halftime of its game of the week. It was won by Darnell Hillman over Kareem, though Johnson had an array of 360s, reverse and off the backboard dunks winning in earlier rounds.

“My biggest asset, though, was my ball handling ability and speed,” he says. “I was faster than most guards. I used to run the 100 as a college sprinter in maybe 10 seconds, a little less. Used to lose in the finals.”

It’s a heck of a sprint from a simple life on the tough West Side for a kid from a large middle class family, his dad a postal worker, who couldn’t make his high school team.

“Made it my sophomore year only, but didn’t play,” Johnson recalls. “Coach basically wanted me to be the water boy. Played one game my sophomore year. I kept trying out and didn’t make it. Played YMCA basketball, summer ball. I guess the coach just felt I wasn’t talented enough. I was disappointed, but I wasn’t mad. No hard feelings. He did his job. I did the best I could.”

It’s an equanimity that masks an athlete’s heart.

They weren’t scouting Aurora College then, but my stats lured some professionals…I still didn’t think I’d make it. I just wanted to make the best of an opportunity if it came.
Mickey Johnson

Mickey played around the neighborhood like just about everyone else, even on a team for the high school coach who always cut him.

A neighborhood man organized a team and they’d venture out to play small college teams, like Judson, George Williams, Rockford, Aurora. Mickey could score and run down a deer, and he was now close to 6-8. Aurora coach Roald Berg said he’d help him get his degree.

“You wanted to get a college education, a job, a family and all that, typical American life,” Johnson said.

“The other coaches just looked at me as a ballplayer. Coach said if I come there he would help me in trying to get a degree,” Mickey said. “That’s why I went there. No scholarship, NAIA Division 3. Class enrollment of maybe 600 students on and off campus. I stayed on campus to work, construction and janitorial work; my mother gave me about $300 to help. I majored in business administration and economics and got my degree. My goal was to get a job at Sears to be a buyer. I put in my application after graduation.”

“What happened was (Bulls) Coach (Dick) Motta had his basketball camp there and I worked for him in the summer,” said Johnson. “They weren’t scouting Aurora College then, but my stats lured some professionals. I averaged 26 and 20 for four years. I wasn’t getting any big publicity from the major newspapers. A couple of scouts came through going to see Billy Harris (Chicago playground legend from Dunbar High School at Northern Illinois). So they stopped to see me. One had dropped a note on the floor. My coach found. It said I couldn’t make the pros.

“I didn’t really feel I could make it until my senior year,” Johnson agreed. “There was a little more publicity and I began to feel I’d have an opportunity. I still didn’t think I’d make it. I just wanted to make the best of an opportunity if it came.”
Mickey Johnson #8 of the Indiana Pacers looks to make a move against Larry Bird #33 of the Boston Celtics during a game played in 1980 at the Boston Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.

Mickey Johnson looks to move against Larry Bird.

It’s something of a lesson plan Boylen also delivers these days. Take advantage of your chance. Look at Mickey.

Johnson was a surprise fourth round selection of the Portland Trailblazers in the 1974 draft, though they would cut all their draft picks other than Bill Walton. Motta remembered the kid who helped him out, so he offered a conditional third round pick for Johnson, meaning he’d have to make the team. It was more charity since Motta didn’t want to keep Johnson; didn’t believe he was an NBA player. Expected to keep the pick.

“He said I was a nice young man and he wanted me to have the experience of being in a pro camp,” Johnson said. “He said he only had me there for a taste for the money. I made about $500 a week. It was great money. He rescued me. But I never took the Sears thing off the table. I still wanted to be a buyer, and I was working in the post office to make some money.”

Johnson was last man among rookies that included highly regarded Cliff Pondexter, Leon Benbow and Bobby Wilson. Motta wanted Johnson out, but he wanted Mickey to make that decision.

“He had me run suicides, three under 30 seconds,” Mickey recalled. “Then he made me run three against each individual rookie; that’s nine and the three for 12. Then he made me run three more by myself in under 30 seconds. But I still did it. I wouldn’t give him the excuse to cut me. I passed out. It was raining that day. Motta to this day doesn’t know I passed out. I’m laying on the ground outside passed out in a puddle. He wanted me to quit, but I wasn’t going to give him a reason. It’s what you learn, things I can pass on.”

Then good fortune came his way. Bob Love held out, Pondexter was hurt and another draft pick, Maurice Lucas, went to the ABA. Then early in the season, Motta as he was wont to do went berserk when Bill Hewitt missed a layup and the Bulls lost to the Bucks. Johnson got his job.

Mickey rarely played as a rookie as the Bulls lost in the conference finals to the Warriors. But Chet Walker retired after the season, Love held out again, Pondexter was hurt again, and Johnson hung on again. Johnson got a start and never gave up the job with the Bulls.
Mickey Johnson #43 of the New Jersey Nets drives against Robert Parish #00 of the Boston Celtics during a game circa 1986 at the Boston Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.

Mickey Johnson drives on Robert Parish

He averaged at least 15 points the next four seasons with the Bulls with that unique style of play, the speed and elusiveness that is custom now and was a mystery then. He would average 14.1 points and 7.2 rebounds over those 12 seasons. Not bad for basically never having made a high school team.

Johnson went to Indiana in 1979 as one of the first free agents from the Oscar Robertson agreement that included the ABA merger. He had his best season until Indiana went sentimental. Then he bounced around, though still a unique player who played all five positions at times, Draymond Green with a shot. He posted triple doubles, played point forward for Don Nelson in Milwaukee, ran for Johnny Bach in Golden State. He finished up with the Nets in 1986 as MJ was making his mark with the Bulls.

Johnson, 66, was working around Chicago when Tina Berto with the Bulls asked if he’s help with a speaking engagement. “They wanted someone else,” Johnson says. “They didn’t know who I was. But I told them some of the things they didn’t hear from NBA players. They liked it.”

So have the Bulls and Jim Boylen. Mickey Johnson showed himself and the basketball world and it’s a model for these Bulls. If you never give up, you never know how far it will take you. MJ’s back where he belongs.

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It was 25 years ago today, at General Motors Place in downtown Vancouver, that Michael Jordan added one of the great regular-season chapters to his already teeming Chicago Bulls legacy.

For the Grizzlies, in their first season as an expansion team, it was a red-letter day—the first time Jordan, now the owner of the Hornets, and the defending champs would play a game in Canada. For the Bulls, it was a bit of a chore, the sixth game of a seven-game, 12-day road trip they took early each season to accommodate the circus coming to Chicago.

In the early going, the Bulls played like a team that was tired of being on the road, Jordan in particular. This was an eye-opener for the locals, including one of the players for the Grizzlies, forward Antonio Harvey, who had grown up with Jordan as his idol. Vancouver was 2-12 at the time and would win 15 games that year. Jordan’s Bulls were 11-2 and would win 72 games.

This did not look like it would be one of those wins. Harvey picks up the story, which he told me for my book, Facing Michael Jordan:

“He was having a real tough night,” Harvey said. “I think he was 4-for-15 from the field, he had only 10 points, and he sat out most of the third quarter. Just a really poor night for a player like Michael Jordan. We came from behind and we were winning the game in the fourth quarter.

“We were an expansion team, it was our first season. We won 15 games that year—everyone was there to see Jordan, not us. But our fans were really into the game, they were giving us a standing ovation because it looked like we were actually going to win. It was a really cool moment for a team that was supposed to be as bad as us.”
Talking Trash to Michael Jordan? Bad Idea

Then one of the Grizzlies did something always unadvisable when facing Jordan—he talked trash. The player was Darrick Martin, a second-year guard who had been plucked from the Timberwolves in the expansion draft.

Martin was averaging 6.5 points in 17.0 minutes at the time but felt he had some standing with Jordan because he’d been one of the players who appeared alongside Jordan in the movie Space Jam the previous summer. With 8:35 to play in the game, Martin knocked down a 3-pointer that put the Grizzlies up, 85-78.

Martin approached the Bulls bench. Again, Harvey:

“The long and short of it is, Darrick thought they were kind of like friends because of the movie because they had hung out during the summer and Darrick thought that meant he could talk trash. So—I have to clean it up, I can’t tell you what was said word-for-word—but Darrick started yelling, ‘Aw, Mike, it’s just not falling tonight, Mike!’ And he ran by their bench and yelled, ‘I told you we were going to beat you, Mike!’”

The Grizzlies could have had a signature win in the franchise’s first season. For the Bulls, it would have been mostly a meaningless loss and Jordan might have stayed on the bench for the rest of the fourth quarter. But Jordan is a bear you don’t want to poke. Martin poked him. Jordan told coach Phil Jackson he wanted to go back in.

“Michael is listening to Darrick and finally, he gets up and checks back into the game,” Harvey said. “He proceeded to score, I think it was 20 points in a row, in just a few minutes. (Jordan scored 19 points in a row, in a six-minute span.) He was doing it all — he was posting up, he was driving to the basket, he was dunking.”

Jordan’s 19 points carried the load for the Bulls, who held the Grizzlies to three the rest of the way. So an 85-78 lead turned into a 94-88 loss.

“Michael hit a fadeaway, falling toward our bench,” Harvey said. “After it went in, he went and leaned down in front of Darrick Martin and said, ‘Shut up, you little (expletive)!’”

Michael Jordan 1995 vs Grizzlies – 19 points in final 6 minutesMichael Jordan goes off for 19 points in the fourth quarter to lead his Bulls to a come-from-behind 94-88 win. MJ finishes with 29. BOX SCORE: http://www.basketball-reference.com/boxscores/199511300VAN.html2008-10-17T06:03:23.000Z
Byron Scott’s Lament

The Grizzlies didn’t last long from there. The team would go just 101-317 in its first six seasons in Vancouver before the franchise was bought and moved to Memphis. Among those 317 losses, though, was one of the great Jordan-led wins of the Bulls’ championship era.

More than Martin, the guy who suffered most was Byron Scott. While Martin’s mouth got the Grizzlies in trouble, it was the veteran Scott who spent most of the fourth quarter trying to defend Jordan.

“And Byron was at the end of his career, thirty-four or thirty-five years old, trying to keep up with Michael Jordan,” Harvey said. “And Michael was playing angry, which is not a good thing if you’re guarding him. After the game, Byron Scott comes into the locker room and you could tell he was heated, he was not happy with the way that game ended. We had a chance to win a big game on our home floor.

“So it was quiet, and he turns to Darrick and says, ‘Hey, man, do me a favor. Don’t talk (expletive) to my guy. Reserve that stuff for your guy.’ Oh, it was something else. It was maybe the greatest performance I have ever seen firsthand, it was that good.”

Harvey, for one, learned a lesson that day.

“That was the thing you learned from playing against him,” he said. “You can’t give him any motivation.”

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The thought that the Chicago Bulls could shop around power forward Lauri Markkanen should involve a plethora of players they could get in return.

If the Chicago Bulls were to decide to shop their third-year power forward Lauri Markkanen this season, what would be the ideal return they’d be looking for? The Bulls aren’t off to the ideal start, with a 6-14 record through the first 20 games of the regular season.

The good news for the Bulls, and John Paxson and Gar Forman, is that if they want to shop Lauri this season, there’s an abundance of veteran big men on on the trade block at the moment. Those would be quick fixes for the Bulls if that’s the route that GarPax wants to take.

NBA.com Bulls writer Sam Smith opened up on the idea of trading Markkanen this season in a recent version of his “Ask Sam Mailbag”. One of his questions he answered involved how he feels about trading Markkanen while he’s down right now.

Here was the question.

Considering Lauri’s not pulling his weight this season, would it make sense trading him for Domantas Sabonis? Would it make sense to try and trade for LaMarcus Aldridge?

Smith responded to that pretty adamantly that he didn’t think it was a good time to trade Markkanen, but that is a split feeling among the fans at the moment.

Here’s what he had to say in response to that Markkanen trade question.

It’s not a good idea to sell low. I’m more a believer that Markkanen is the guy we saw the first two seasons than the last five weeks. I’m still riding with him, though you never know what can happen if things don’t turn around.

Feeling out the pulse of the fan base right now, there are some that figure that starting anew from the top down is the way to go. That idea would stem from changing the front office personnel, letting go of head coach Jim Boylen, and figuring out a new direction in the third year of this Bulls rebuild.

Here’s a look at the three possible trade packages that the Chicago Bulls could piece together if they so decide to trade power forward Lauri Markkanen.
Next: No. 3