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This Week in the Bulls: Basketball is our only hope

This Week in the Bulls is back with more DeMar crunch-time heroics, Lonzo touchdown passes, and Benny the Troll.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Chicago Bulls Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

I’m a long-time subscriber to the idea that one of the best reasons to be a sports fan is the way it opens up casual conversations and new friendships. Sit next to a stranger wearing a Bulls hat on an airplane and you can become instant bros (gender neutral) by bonding over Lonzo Ball’s basketball genius, DeMar DeRozan’s mid-range mastery, the joy of GarPax getting shit-canned, or the time Nazr Mohammed hilariously shoved LeBron’s ass to the ground.

For all the doors sports can open with new people, being able to talk about your teams with family is even better. If you’re anything like me, fandom has been passed down from generation-to-generation. I assume it’s this way for most locals around here, if only because no one would willingly subject themselves to being emotionally invested in the Chicago Bears.

Honestly, I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to talk sports with those closest to you, and it has nothing to do with sports, really. Debating politics, the pandemic, or the ongoing horrors of the world at large is a great way to feel even more isolated from the people you love. We all did this shit for the last few years and rarely does anyone ever learn anything or change their mind.

Get your fucking shots, please, and then let’s get on to the good stuff. Want a quick-and-easy win with your aunts, uncles, and cousins this holiday season? Simply say four small words that speak to the one universal truth we all can agree on: “the Bulls are back.”

I really feel like this is a team that can resonate with anyone. The Bulls have a group that is at once gritty and fun as hell. They dive on the floor for steals, throw full court outlet passes, and do 360 dunks — sometimes all on the same play. Zach LaVine’s bounce and shot-making has universal appeal. Lonzo guards all five positions, bombs threes, and makes some brilliant passes. Alex Caruso’s non-stop point-of-attack hounding can cross party lines. Ayo Dosunmu brings the local angle. DeRozan is basically late-career Michael Jordan. And like all the best teams this city has ever had to offer, they defend their ass off every night.

Just imagine how dire it would be without our guys. The Bears are as pathetic as ever right now. MLB owners have locked out the players with no end in sight. The Blackhawks stink. The only other redeemable teams in this city are the Sky and the Red Stars — and yes, it only takes about 1.5 drinks for me to start running my mouth with Courtney VanderSloot propaganda.

I applaud the casual fans for tuning out during the Boylen era, but this is the time to get back in. The Bulls enter Christmas in second place in the East, and it doesn’t feel like a fluke. This team is really good, and beyond that, they’re also extremely likable.

The Bulls are back — say it loud, say it proud. There’s nothing better to talk about.

DeMar DeRozan is everything

Someone tell David Falk to send in the fax because DeMar DeRozan is back. After missing three games in health and safety protocol, DeMar picked up where he left off in his return against the Los Angeles Lakers by turning in arguably his best effort of the season.

He ended the night with 38 points — 19 of them during an epic fourth quarter to clinch the season-sweep of the Lake Show for the Bulls. Letting DeMar get to his spots his instant death as he’s proven time and time again this season. There is really no way of keeping him from getting there that doesn’t involve throwing multiple defenders at him.

I love how DeMar bullied Russ Westbrook on this play: charging at the rim after he crosses the halfcourt line, initiating contact with his shoulder, backing him down twice in post position, and then spinning into a perfect side-step to create just enough separation to get off the shot.

The game-winner was also beautiful. After a great rebound by Javonte Green, DeMar sized up LeBron and fired a pull-up a couple steps inside the three-point line.

Cash. Bulls win.

The most underrated aspect of DeRozan’s success continues to be his ability to get to the line and make free throws. He went 16-of-17 from the foul line against the Lakers, including going 5-for-5 in the fourth quarter. DeRozan is second in the league in free throw attempts per game (7.7), only behind Giannis. He’s also top-10 in free throw percentage at 89.5 percent on the year.

The consistency in crunch-time is just astounding. He’s really like this every game.

Touchdown, Lonzo

For as great as DeMar is, play of the week goes to Lonzo for his Hail Mary inbounds pass against the Rockets.

I promise you this makes it even better.

Eat shit, Nick Foles.

Lonzo has been doing this stuff since high school, and it stays exactly as effective as it’s always been. I wrote a feature on Lonzo from the 2016 McDonald’s All-American Game, and this exact type of play was my lede:

CHICAGO — Lonzo Ball found himself in a familiar situation on Wednesday night: his team up 20 points in the final minutes of a game, his brain still wired like he didn’t have a second to spare.

The McDonald’s All-American Game was already a blowout late in the second half when Kentucky commit Bam Adebayo picked up a blocked shot and slammed it through the net. Ball waited impatiently out of bounds, frantically shaking his hands until someone gave him the ball so he could inbound it. In one motion, Ball rifled a one-handed pass to the opposite free throw line to hit streaking teammate Josh Jackson in stride for a dunk. The entire sequence took less than two seconds of game time.

“Thank god for Lonzo Ball,” Jackson said after the game when accepting his co-MVP trophy.

Never stop, Zo.

Coby pwns LeBron

OK, maybe THIS is the play of the week.

Man, so good. Coby follow it up by dropping 24 points on 5-of-9 three-point shooting against the Rockets.

I know Coby has frustrated many, but this team could really use the peak version of him. The Bulls are No. 29 in the league in bench scoring. Coby should be the designated bucket-getter off the pine. He’s had a really hard year with the offseason shoulder injury, catching Covid, and trying to fit in to an all-new and totally awesome team after years of being surrounded by garbage. The Bulls can be patient with him until he returns to form, and I really hope it happens.

Coby is simply way too good of a shooter to finish the season hitting 27 percent of his threes. That number is going to go up. One thing I noticed in a great new video from The Ringer’s Zach Kram: Coby is No. 9 all-time in most made threes through age-21.

He also seems like a sweet guy. I love what he’s been doing with his pre-game outfits the last two years.

If Coby can be cooking by playoff time, that would be a big boost to the bench. Fingers crossed.

Benny the Troll

This is art.

Unfortunately, Caruso is out with a sprained foot

No need to rush back like last time, AC. Take the rest of 2021 off.

Javonte is an agent of chaos

And we love him for it.

What do Alfonzo McKinnie and I have in common?

Really enjoying the full McKinnie experience.

Please keep him around, Bulls. It’s been real, Matt Thomas.

Just when the Bulls got everyone out of health and safety protocols ....

I let out an absolutely deranged noise when I read this. What the hell.

Like Mr. J Draft said:

The one person not catching Covid right now? Lonzo.

Siri, play “I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside.”

We stan a relatable king.

Finally, Zach is back.

I’ll let DeMar have the last word here.

Actually, I’m gonna let this dude have the last word.

The Booz News

This has been The Booz News.