As someone who spent countless hours eating Hickory River barbecue before dodging bodies underneath the basket with my Canon at the State Farm Center, I can envision last night’s atmosphere in Champaign.
Ayo Dosunmu returned to the program he helped rebuild on Thursday to watch his jersey rise into the rafters. The moment tied a beautiful bow around his Illini story, symbolizing the Bob Cousy Award Winner accomplished exactly what he hoped to when he signed with the down-on-its-luck institution in 2017.
Ayo Dosunmu Officially Got His Illini Jersey in the Rafters (And DeMar Was There to See It!) https://t.co/qGnAKKWJW7
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) January 7, 2022
• As the cliche goes: As one story ends, another begins. And the presence of a certain four-time All-Star in central Illinois reminded us of that last night. DeMar DeRozan made the two-and-a-half-hour trip down south to support Dosunmu, and he sat right next to the rookie with a smile on his face like any good hype man should. The image not only acted as a bridge between Dosunmu’s two basketball lives, but it was a representation of everything DeRozan brings to the table.
• Sidenote: Do we think DeRozan and Dosunmu drove to Champaign together? If so, do we think they were eating Slim Jims and singing “Life is a Highway?” Maybe they stopped by a sign or two to take a selfie? I have questions that need to be answered.
Lmao DeMar DeRozan’s reaction when he noticed he and Ayo were on camera. pic.twitter.com/7eHa1Z0fZn
— Hoop Informatics 🏀📊🎥 (@HoopInformatics) January 7, 2022
• While I don’t want to take the spotlight off Dosunmu after his big night, it’s hard not to when the NBA’s 5th-leading scorer walks through the door. DeRozan’s on-court contribution to the Bulls has been everything the franchise has wanted and more, but it’s a little moment like this that best represents the overall value of his offseason signing. Not every player of DeRozan’s stature goes out of his way to support a 21-year-old with just 31 NBA games under his belt. His excitement to join Dosunmu on his big night is a glimpse at the leadership he provides in the locker room and the respect he radiates throughout the Bulls organization.
• For those of you in New York, if you’re thinking about doing the sports betting thing, make sure you check out the pre-registration bonuses from DraftKings here and from FanDuel here. You get a $100 bonus just for signing up (and you still get all the usual new user bonuses after that), but the offer goes away when sports betting goes live in the state on Saturday morning. So it’s kinda today or bust on that. Full details on DraftKings here, on FanDuel here.
• I’ve been hesitant to compare the Bulls to a surprise contender like the 2019-20 Miami Heat or 2020-21 Phoenix Suns. Half of that is probably due to superstition, while the other half is me wanting whatever story the Bulls write to stand on its own. However, the more we watch DeRozan weave his way into the DNA of this organization, the more it feels like he is the next Chris Paul or Jimmy Butler. In other words, DeRozan is solidifying himself as the next veteran leader to completely change what his team is capable of. And he isn’t just doing this with an MVP-caliber campaign, he’s doing this by tuning out the noise, staying after the game to make 250 free throws, and going to Champaign-Urbana to show a rookie some love.
DeMar DeRozan has been a fan of Ayo Dosunmu's long before they became teammates on the Bulls. MVP stuff off the court from DeRozan to make the trip to Champaign to see Dosunmu have his jersey raised to the rafters of the State Farm Center tonight #Illini #BullsNation pic.twitter.com/osKTHVWjvN
— Nico Haeflinger (@NicoFOXIL) January 7, 2022
• I do want to make clear that Zach LaVine also plays a vital role in this culture shift I allude to above. If we keep the Suns’ analogy going for the sake of simplicity, LaVine and Devin Booker are one of the same. LaVine remains the face of the franchise, and the perspective he holds as the one who fought through the mud is vital to building the mentality this team needs. LaVine is the guy who has kept Chicago tattooed on his forehead through live boos on ESPN (remember those dark times?) and ridiculous late-game timeouts in blowout losses. The leadership he has shown through his endless commitment is another major part of the Bulls’ turnaround.
• Before DeRozan told ESPN’s Malika Andrews about his team’s Championship ceiling (which you can read more about here), he gave us an idea of which buzzer-beater meant that much more: “Probably the second one, for it being the next night, for sure. Kuz just hit a big 3, so for us to pull that one out, it was crazy being on a back-to-back win.”
• We might have to change the headline to “and Other DeRozan Bullets.”
Checkout this weeks episode of "Gimme The Hotsauce" podcast. This weeks Special guest @DeMar_DeRozan Audio spotify: https://t.co/YuT39b5SX3 in studio version youtube: https://t.co/B5I19vf5gB make sure you subscribe and like our youtube channel to know when we drop that 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/FrnXcVpvbI
— Stacey King (@Stacey21King) January 7, 2022
• The Chicago Bulls should get back some much-needed size. Big man Tony Bradley is no longer listed on the team’s injury report ahead of tonight’s meeting with the Washington Wizards. Before entering the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols, Bradley appeared in six-straight games averaging 11.5 minutes and 5.0 rebounds. While head coach Billy Donovan has used the big man circumstantially, I have to imagine we see him receive plenty of minutes in the coming weeks. The Bulls have really struggled to protect the rim in recent weeks, allowing the third-most points in the paint per game. Having the perimeter and held defense of Lonzo Ball back in the picture should help clean things up, but Bradley’s size and physicality have also proven to be quite useful in short stints this season.
• DeRozan did it better.
RJ BARRETT CALLS GAME AFTER KNICKS COMEBACK 😱🔥 pic.twitter.com/y5bZOzHk2U
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 7, 2022
• The Boston Celtics situation continues to get worse and worse.
New ESPN story: After Boston’s latest blown lead — losing for a league-leading fourth time after taking a 19-point lead — Thursday night, Celtics coach Ime Udoka repeatedly called out his team for a lack of mental toughness. https://t.co/cywpv8fmnm
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) January 7, 2022
• Makes sense.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 7, 2022
• My trusty co-worker Patrick Flowers talked some Bulls, so give it a listen!
— The Rebuild-A-Bull Podcast (@Rebuild_A_Bull) January 7, 2022
• At least we have the Bulls, right?
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) January 7, 2022