Toni Kukoc Heads to the Hall of Fame! (and Other Bulls Bullets)

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Toni Kukoc Heads to the Hall of Fame! (and Other Bulls Bullets)

Chicago Bulls

First and foremost: Today we remember.

My thoughts are with everyone who has been impacted by the events of September 11th. Two decades later, so many continue to grieve and cope with what the world experienced that day. My thoughts are with all of you.

•   Bulls fans normally choose not to recognize the Michael Jordan Wizards years (the what?), but we all have to admit it’s pretty cool what he did with the money he earned.

•   When the Chicago Bulls open their preseason against the Cleveland Cavaliers on October 5th, they will not only have to deal with the wrath of Lauri Markkanen but also … Denzel Valentine!

•   Yes, that was sarcasm. But it does appear Chicago will see both former GarPax lottery picks four times this regular season (and two times during the preseason). Fortunately, I don’t think we have to worry about any strong “revenge game” effort from Valentine. Lauri Markkanen, however, could be a different story. We all know The Finnisher is capable of putting together some big nights, particularly on the offensive end of the court. While he said in a recent interview with The Athletic that he holds no ill-will toward the Bulls organization, I have no doubt he will play with a little extra juice against a franchise that – for a lack of better words – gave up on him. Now, will that amount to a victory? I wouldn’t go that far.

•   By the way, I can not be more excited to watch Patrick Williams give Markkanen the work. Seeing the old regime’s cornerstone vs. the new regime’s cornerstone is going to be all kinds of fun. Williams is going to swat a Markkanen shot to the moon!!

•   I’m pretty surprised it took this long for Toni Kukoc to get the recognition he deserves. Not only was he the third-leading scorer for one of the most famous dynasties in sports history, but he is easily one of the best European talents of all time. He was a player who helped pave the way for so many overseas talents, and the resume speaks for itself …

•   Also, game recognizes game, and the fact Michael Jordan will stand at today’s ceremony to present Kukoc (a teammate he once struggled to embrace) should tell us all we need to know about how special of a player Kukoc turned out to be.

•   Kukoc will be official inducted during the Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at 7:00 p.m. CT on NBATV. However, before addressing the crowd tonight, Kukoc did sit down with NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson for a fun discussion about the glory days. He pulled back the current a bit on his time in Chicago, and it sure sounds like we will hear plenty more of his side of the story tonight.

“I don’t want to say what part of my speech is going to be (Saturday),” Kukoc told Johnson. “But our practices were actually harder than games we played. And it was all because Michael and Scottie were there each and every day, together with Phil, to make us believe that there’s always a chance to get better. That there’s always something new, something else to learn in a game. And that I think it’s one of the biggest reasons why we had that kind of run and won three championships in a row.”

•   So I don’t necessarily agree with this claim from Sam Smith, but I definitely understand where he was coming from. Kukoc probably was underutilized over his time in Chicago due to the presence of … well … the best player of all time and another all-time great in Scottie Pippen. If Kukoc had been given the keys to his own team (or even been second in command) during his mid-to-late 20s, I do believe he would have been a bigger star and probably a multi-time All-Star. After all, he did average 18.8 points with 7.0 rebounds and 5.3 assists the year after The Last Dance. He was one of the more versatile forward in the league, and his game was ahead of its time.

•   Another all-time great Bulls is also getting inducted today! Ben Wallace was the surprise nod for this latest class. The four-time All-Star, four-time defensive player of the year, and NBA champion played one full season in Chicago in 2006-07 where he averaged 6.4 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game. The team traded him to Cleveland the next season and got off of his massive four-year, $60 million deal. Congrats, Ben!

•   The NBA must read my bullets.

•   Do insurance companies cover “Tyler Herro-caused” collisions?

•   If you need me, I will be watching college football on one TV and playing NBA 2K22 on the other (until the girlfriend yells at me to stop).

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.