The Chicago Bulls may have gone through one of the most unique up-and-down starts to the NBA season that fans have seen in recent memory.
It started when Derrick Rose was traded in the offseason. Many among Chicago’s fan base, including myself, were distraught. We called for the heads of the the executives, demanding that Gar Forman and John Paxon be fired and change the owners of the organization.
It seemed as though the fans judged them too soon. Shortly afterward, the Bulls announced that they were signing Rajon Rondo to a two-year contract. This was good news, as Rondo had just led the Sacramento Kings the year before in total assists as he looked to put his past troubles with the Celtics and Mavericks behind him. Overall, while the fans knew that Rose had the potential to be more explosive, they were okay taking the slow-and-steady approach of Rondo over the risk of continuing to play Rose.
The front office, however, had much more to come. Dwyane Wade, a Chicago native born and raised, had reportedly been struggling with negotiations with the only team he has ever played for in the Miami Heat. Reports slowly started coming in that Wade was looking at other offers from various teams. It was only a matter of time, however, that reports started coming in that Wade was interested in the Bulls. Eventually, the reports began to confirm the incredible; Wade was returning home to the Chicago Bulls on a two-year, $47-million contract.
The Bulls instantly had their three main stars. Jimmy Butler was an emerging star in the league and quickly established himself as one of the best two-way players in the league. Dwyane Wade was a future Hall-of-famer, a three-time NBA champion and, while he was still on the decline, he has shown that he is still able to take over a game in the fourth quarter if he needs to. Rondo is a former All-star and has an NBA championship ring to his name. Rondo had a falling out with the Celtics and the Mavericks, but had shown in the previous season that he was still capable of being a productive player.
The season started out well for the Bulls as they were competing well with an 11-7 record through the first nearly quarter of the season. However, things started to make a turn for the worse after the first two weeks of the season. Suddenly, the Bulls had a hard time defending the paint and predictably, their three-point shooting was lackluster at best.
Many of the ESPN forecasters had predicted that the Bulls would struggle as a team from three-point range. As of now, all the predictions have been eerily true. The Bulls are last in the league in three-point attempts, three-point shots made, and three point shooting percentage as a team. In today’s NBA, many teams live or die by three point shooting. The Bulls, predictably, have struggled. Their season has been tumultuous at best. They have been hovering around .500 for the last few weeks and have shown no signs of improving on their situation.
As the team enters the All-Star break, the Bulls will look to improve on their league-low three-point defensive shooting as they try to make a run and improve their playoff positioning. The Bulls are not quite in the rebuilding mode and should not be looking to trade Jimmy Butler at the trade deadline. If anything, they should look to ship their young talent to a cellar dweller with some talent and make a run with the current team. When this team is playing at their best, they have three playmakers in Rondo, Wade, and Butler. They have big men up front with Cristiano Felicio, Robin Lopez, and Taj Gibson. Lastly, they have the shooters from behind the arc with Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic. This team has the talent to succeed and with the right push and motivation should be strong enough to finish in the middle seeds in the East and make a run to try and represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA FInals.
To a typical sports fan, this is something that seems unrealistic, although very exciting and they look forward to seeing if the Cubs can end their 108 years of misery.
To Chicago natives and Cubs fans around the world, it means something totally different.
As an avid Cubs fan and someone that was born in the northern Chicagoland suburbs, two thoughts came to my mind as I watched Aroldis Chapman draw the National League Championship Series ending double-play.
The first was amazement; I could not believe the Cubs actually pulled it off. I knew we had huge expectations coming into the season, and I knew that we had jumped out to one of the fastest starts (25-6) in baseball history, but it all meant nothing until we actually played the games in October.
The second thought that came to my mind was one that echoed many longtime Cubs fans: “Man, I wish _____ was alive to see this.”
The Cubs are so ingrained in Chicago culture, that many current fans grew up watching their parents or grandparents agonize, season after season, over the team’s inability to put competitive players on the field.
Personally, I felt this way about my great grandmother. She was probably the biggest Cubs fan in the city. She used to watch all 162 games on WGN, had a Cubs scarf that she knit herself when she was a little girl and constantly reminded my mother and I that one day she would see the Cubs win a World Series.
This story is not unlike many others; Fans waiting their whole lives to see the Cubs do what they are doing right now.
My great grandmother unfortunately passed away 10 years ago. I know she would be jubilant if she were alive to see this moment.
This moment is so transcending in Cubs history, I even wonder why I deserved this. It’s been 71 years since the Cubs have been in the World Series and 108 years since they have won it. Why now, in 2016, do the fans of this era deserve to witness World Series games played in the friendly confines versus the generations before us?
Regardless, I know the city is not taking this lightly. You can expect ticket prices to be soaring. At the moment, standing room tickets are well over $2,500. Tickets can be expected to go for well over $30,000 for closer seats.
Of course, people will pay it. It is the Cubs after all, and this is history in the making. Money is irrelevant when you can tell your kids and grandkids that you were able to be in Wrigley Field, one of the nation's most iconic ballparks, for the Cubs first World Series games in 71 years.
These are once in a lifetime-type occurrences. and I am grateful that the baseball gods have bestowed this awesome event on our city.
As the Cubs begin the series this Tuesday, you can expect millions of people to be watching. This will definitely be the highest viewed World Series in a long time. Maybe ever.
When the Chicago Blackhawks won their first of three Stanley Cups this past half decade or so, average attendance at the championship parade was around six million people. If the city can bring in six million people for the fourth most popular sport in the country, can you imagine how many people would come for a Cubs parade? There could very well be 15 million people coming into the city from all over the country, and the world.
The Cubs are not only a national icon, but an international one as well. Whenever I interact with international tourists in the city, there are two things I typically hear from them. The first is, “Where is the deep dish?” The second is, “Do the Cubs play today?”
Despite being the lovable losers, people from all over the world can identify the Cubs and the city of Chicago.
Regardless of what happens this next week, I am proud of the 2016 Chicago Cubs for everything they were able to accomplish. A team overflowing with talented youth and led by a few savvy veterans, the Cubs cruised to a Major League-best 103-58.
What’s even more impressive than their record is their ability to ignore the hype and pressure that was inevitably building towards the later parts of the season. More-so, they were able to zone out the media and even their fans in winning two tough series against two incredibly talented California teams.
All that remains is another Midwestern team from the great state of Ohio. A team that, although devastated with injuries heading into the playoffs, has still managed a 7-1 record this postseason.
I believe I can speak for both myself and the rest of the Cubs fans both in the city of Chicago and throughout the world when I say, just four more wins to go.
The MLB regular season is coming to a close soon, with around 15-17 games left in the schedule for most teams. As has been the case most years since the introduction of the two team Wild Card format, there are tight races in both the American League and the National League.
Unlike 2015, when the three best teams in MLB were all from the NL Central, 2016 has very balanced divisions. This can be seen from the AL Wild Card race. The Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays have the two Wild Cards and four other teams are within four games of a playoff spot.
While there is no particular division that stands out, the weakest division in 2016 would be the National League West. As of Saturday, The Los Angeles Dodgers have a narrow lead in the division at four games, a far cry from other division leaders in the National League (The Chicago Cubs currently have an 17-game lead and the Nationals have a nine game lead).
Furthermore, as a division leader, the Dodgers rank in the middle of the pack in runs scored (17th in MLB ) and have been able to maintain their division lead through consistent pitching.
Clayton Kershaw, who was out for about three month with injury, has rebounded nicely from his start back and threw five shutout innings, only allowing one hit. However, he will be on a pitch limit for at least his next start and would still needs time to get back to his dominant self. Even if Kershaw is full go come playoff time, his playoff struggles are well known and wouldn’t necessarily provide the dodgers a boost.
Another reason why the Dodgers have been able to hold a lead in their division is because of the San Francisco Giants. The team has gone an abysmal 21-37 since the All-star break, second worst in the majors. For a team that was 57-33 before the All-Star Break, which was the best record in baseball, to be 79-69 in the middle of September doesn’t make it too difficult to overtake them in the standings.
The NL West has some horrendous teams in or near the cellar. The Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres are currently 62-85 and tied for last place in the division. The only team with a worst record in the NL is the Atlanta Braves, who are starting to improve with via young players, like rookie shortstop Dansby Swanson.
The Rockies, who are 70-77, and have had a mediocre season. It seems like the Rockies can not get over the hump, their last winning season was 2010.
Even though there has not been one overpowering division in MLB this season, the NL West have been the easiest path to the playoffs. The NL West has two of the worst teams in MLB, and the top of the division has been relatively inconsistent through the season. The Dodgers have dealt with so many injuries this season, including ace Clayton Kershaw. The Giants were the best team in baseball before the All-Star Break, but have been one of the worst teams in baseball since and are barely hanging onto a playoff spot. The NL West has not been as competitive as other division in baseball.