Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Rose By Any Other Name

On June 26th, a life long dream of Derrick Rose was realized. He was drafted into the NBA. And while that alone may have made some of us the happiest people ever to have walked the earth, Rose was blessed with an added bonus: He was drafted by his hometown Chicago Bulls. Born and raised on the southside of Chicago, Rose, just 19, grew up during the heyday of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and the 6 championships of the 1990's.

For those of you who are not from Chicago, let me tell you a little bit of what those championships meant to my hometown. See, we hadn't won anything since the Bears took it all in 1985. And prior to that, well lets just say that there were large segments of the population that were born, got married, had children, fought in wars, had grandchildren, and had gone to glory without ever seeing a championship celebrated within Chicago's city limits. And also, the Bears were a great team. Not just in 1985, but a few years following. However 1985 remained the only championship my city would see.

Now fast forward to 1991. The Bulls thumped their long time nemesis in the Detroit Pistons. (The team that eliminated them in the previous three straight playoff appearances. F-U Bad Boys!). Bring on Magic Johnson. Well, in a hard fought series, Michael Jordan led us to the promise land. And again in 1992. And so on and so on. Michael and his cohorts made Chicago into title town. No longer were we the second city.(Hell, with so many people moving to L.A., we actually became the third city. Thanks Curtis).

Then came that fateful time in 1998. Mike, and the rest of the squad was broken up, and traded for little or nothing. (As fans, it felt like we were children watching our parents go through a painful and bitter divorce). This is where the real purpose of this blog comes in. Though the magic of the Bulls getting the number one pick this year draft was great, (they only had a 1.7% chance in the lottery) I have little confidence in the Bulls having chosen the best player for the team.

In 1987, the Bulls drafted Horace Grant, and Olden Polynice. They then traded Olden Polynice for the rights to Scottie Pippen. Those two players contributed immeasurably to the Bulls success. Since then, here's a rundown of the players they've drafted. After reading this, you will understand why I am very apprehensive about Mr. Rose. (No offense to him of course).

1988 - Will Perdue (11th pick) - Perdue made contributions to the Bulls championship run of 91-93, but with career stats of 4.7 points per game (PPG) and 4.9 rebounds per game (RPG), no one would say that we struck gold with this pick.

Notable players drafted after Perdue included Dan Majerle, Rod Strickland, Steve Kerr and current Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro.

1989 - Stacey King (6th) - King too made contributions to the Bulls championship run of 91-93. King was a little bit better than Perdue, however his 6.4 PPG and 3.3 RPG left much to be desired from a number 6 pick.

B.J. Armstrong (18th) - BJ was an integral part of the Bulls 91-93 run. This selection is acceptable to me. His career 9.8 PPG fit for the role in which he was asked to perform. (Plus my granny Alverta loved him, so he's cool in my book).

Jeff Sanders (20th) - With this one, you can only say "swing and a miss". Or as some of you may have said "Jeff Who"? Jeff scored a grand total of 112 points in 55 NBA games. Now for a frame of reference, Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 in 1 NBA game. And that game stopped with about 45 seconds on the clock after the crowd rushed the court. Who knows, he might have been able to outscore Jeff in one game if it went to completion.

Notable players selected in this draft include Tim Hardaway (14th), Shawn Kemp (17th), Vlade Divac (26th), and Cliff Robinson (36th).

1990 - The Bulls had no first round draft pick this year. What they did with it, I really don't know. We may have traded it for a useful player, or a ham sandwich. (Hope the sandwich was great. Wish we had made the sandwich trade instead of drafting Jeff Sanders. As a matter of fact, I probably ate a sandwich in 1990 that made more of an impact in my life than Jeff Sanders made in the NBA).

1991 - Mark Randall (26th) - This was the first of the championship picks. Basically due to the
Bulls success, they were drafting at the bottom of the first round. Mark played one season, got a ring, and was on his way to journeyman status. Career 2.6 PPG and 1.3 RPG. Luckily, the only player of note selected after him was Bobby Phills.

1992 - Byron Houston (27th) - Houston never even played a minute for the Bulls. He was traded to Golden St. Maybe we got another ham sandwich in return. (Both Jerry Reinsdorf, Bulls majority owner, and Jerry Krause, Bulls then General Manager, are big boys). With his career 3.9 PPG and 3.0 RPG, sounds like we came up. P.J. Brown was taken two picks after Houston.

1993 - Corie Blount (25th) - Corie made no significant contribution to the Bulls. Career 3.6 PPG and 4.2 RPG. Nick Van Exel was picked 37th, and the player who tried to defend Michael Jordan's final shot as a Bull, Bryon Russell was drafted 45th.

1994 - Dickey Simpkens (21st) - Simpkins made minor contributions to the Bulls championship runs in 96 and 97. Career 4.2 PPG and 3.6 RPG. I'll give the Bulls a pass on this year because there were no players of note selected after him.

1995 - Jason Caffey (20th) - Caffey contributed to the Bulls runs of 96 and 97. Caffey actually represented some actual draft success, something missing for a while at this point in time. Career 7.3 PPG and 4.4 RPG. However, selected right after Caffey was Michael Finley.

1996 - Travis Knight (29th) - Knight never played for the Bulls. Not to sound racist at all, but we had enough tall white boys on the team at that point. (Bill Wennington, Luc Longley, and Joe Kleine that next season). Career 3.7 PPG and 3.1 RPG. In that very same season, future Bull and NBA defensive player of the year Ben Wallace went undrafted.

1997 - Keith Booth (28th) - Talk about timing. Keith Booth made it on to the Bulls for the final championship run. His 130 points in 45 NBA games reflects that the only other way he would've gotten a championship ring is with a gun and a ski mask. To his credit, no one else of note was selected after him.

1998 - Corey Benjamin (28th) - Well Mr. Benjamin, I have good news and bad news. Bad news, you get to play for, what was called at the time, the Baby Bulls. Good news, your 3.8 PPG contribution to the team will be completely ignored due to the departure of Michael Jordan. (You just became what we can call insult to injury). Current Magic star Rashard Lewis was taken 4 selections after you. Also selected after Benjamin was Cuttino Mobley, and undrafted was Brad Miller.

1999 - Elton Brand (1st) - The Baby Bulls record of 13-37 in the lockout shortened season was enough to secure the Bulls the number one pick. Elton Brand was a decent selection that year. He was not given the opportunity to fully blossom into the player that he has become. Instead he was traded for Tyson Chandler. Who also was traded before he had the opportunity to blossom. Many great players like Baron Davis and Manu Ginobili were drafted after Brand, but I don't hold this selection against the Bulls. Just the fact that they traded him too soon.

Ron Artest (16th) - We all know Ron from the melee in Detroit with previously mentioned Ben Wallace. But Ron started his career with the Bulls. And after two successful season with the Bulls, he made a quick exit to Indiana. At the time I wondered why they traded him. But his antics have proven that obviously someone in the Bulls front office knew he was headed for destruction.

2000 - Marcus Fizer (4th) - Fizer really did not do a whole lot for the Bulls in his four seasons there. With career stats of 9.6 PPG and 4.6 RPG, he obviously did not live up to his selection at number 4.

Chris Mihm (7th) - Technically he was drafted by the Bulls, but he was traded on draft day for Jamal Crawford who was drafted number 8. Crawford struggled to truly find a position with the Bulls. He was always stuck in between point and shooting guard. The Bulls traded him to New York where he has since discovered his talent at shooting guard.

Dalibor Bagaric (20th) - I don't ever recall actually seeing this man play for the Bulls. However checking his career statistics, I discovered he did play 95 games for the Bulls. Considering he averaged 2.6 PPG, he must have been playing long after the Bulls were losing, and I changed the channel. Now the Bulls whiffed three times in this draft. (Considering Crawford developed for another team). But what holds them down is the fact that despite Michael Redd being drafted 43rd, no other players of real note were taken in this draft.

Do you need a break? I understand. Its been hard to write about the level of mediocrity that had befallen my once proud hometown team.

2001 - Eddy Curry (4th) - Another hometown product. The Bulls expected that Curry would develop into a Shaquille O'Neal type. Well due to a heart problem, the Bulls asked Curry to take a DNA test. When Curry refused, he too was traded. Like a flight from O'Hare to JFK, Curry was New York bound. This trade however benefited the Bulls immensely. The Bulls were able to swap picks with the Knicks during two straight years. Other people drafted in 2001 included Jason Richardson (5th), Joe Johnson (10th), Richard Jefferson (13th), Tony Parker (28th), and Gilbert Arenas (31st).

2002 - Jay Williams (2nd) - This story is very tragic, and in some ways made me start to believe that the Bulls may be suffering from a "Curse of the MJ". After a promising rookie season, Jay hit a pole on his motorcycle. He suffered serious injuries, and since then has struggled to regain any of his former glory. The Bulls, in a true gesture of good will, bought out his contract for what is believed to be 3 million dollars. (By rights, the Bulls could have terminated his contract and given him nothing). Taken in that same draft were Amare Stoudamire (9th), NBA champ Tayshaun Prince (23rd), and Carlos Boozer (34th). However due to the circumstances, we can't hold this selection against the Bulls.

2003 - Kirk Hinrich (7th) - For this selection, we will again give the Bulls a pass. Hinrich was selected to replace Jay Williams. Hinrich has developed into a nice point guard, but with the selection of Derrick Rose, his time in Chicago may be coming to an end. David West (18th) and Josh Howard (29th) were also selected in the 2003 draft.

2004 - Ben Gordon (3rd) - Ben has been a spark in the revitalization of the Bulls. He won the NBA's Sixth Man Award as a rookie, and has shown himself to be a very valuable asset. Much like Hinrich, Rose's selection could signal the end of Gordon's time in Chicago.

Loul Deng (7th) - Though he was technically drafted by Phoenix, Chicago acquired Deng on draft day. Deng has developed into a strong presence at small forward. Add to that his contribution to bringing awareness to the struggles in the Sudan, and Deng has been an excellent addition to the Bulls roster. This crop of players selected by the Bulls reminds you of 1987. Hopefully it will bring the same success soon.

2005 - As a condition of getting Luol Deng, the Bulls traded their 2005 draft pick to Phoenix.

2006 - LaMarcus Aldridge (2nd) - This was the first time the Bulls swapped picks with the New York Knicks. (As a part of the earlier discussed Eddy Curry trade). The Bulls wound up trading Aldridge for Tyrus Thomas. So far, it is too early to say what the ultimate outcome of either of these deals will be.

2007 - Joakim Noah (9th) - In this year, the Bulls again swapped picks with the Knicks. (Great trade I say. Thanks Isiah Thomas, Knicks then General Manager). Noah was a driving force for his back to back NCAA champion Florida Gators. He had a nice rookie season, and the Bulls expect big things from him in the future.

With recent selections like Gordon and Deng, you hope that the Bulls have progressed past the draft selections of Mark Randall, Keith Booth and the incomparable Jeff Sanders. But as any sports fan knows, once you've been burned by your favorite team, its hard to forget all that they've done to you. Ask any Cubs fan, and they can recount to you every time in their lives that they believed the Cubs would win it that year. Only to once again have to rely on "wait til next year".
For Rose, I'm very impressed with his start. When asked what his goal was for his rookie season he answered "I want to win the MVP award". Considering that it has never been won by a rookie, I like the kid's spunk. Hell, if he plays that well, he'll blow by Jeff Sanders and Dalibor Bagaric on the Bulls all-time scoring list sometime in game three. Derrick, welcome home baby! Now let's remind them how 23 does it.


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