Of Bulls trades and singing voices on a cold day


Jan 6

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Sometimes we forget they are just kids.

It’s understandable the way our society celebrates professional athletes, demands they adhere to adult standards and be, despite the debate and objection by some, role models for youth. Their behavior and morality is on public display daily for examination and dissection. The excuses and explanations are many, that they are paid so much and have the means to avoid the errors of others. They are verbally poked and prodded. They are queried and questioned about how they did at their job and scrutinized regularly like no workers in the world.

Like I used to counsel my media friends: How would they like it if as they wrote 20,000 people were screaming, “Verb, you idiot! Verb!”

“Losing Derrick (Rose) hit us harder than we expected," said Boozer, who is likely out Tuesday against the Suns. "It was difficult to get over. But we are climbing. This is a chance to make a move and climb a little bit.”

“Losing Derrick (Rose) hit us harder than we expected,” said Boozer, who is likely out Tuesday against the Suns. “It was difficult to get over. But we are climbing. This is a chance to make a move and climb a little bit.”

So they get to be kids mostly behind the closed doors of their locker rooms where the prying eyes of fans and media and even team officials don’t go.

Where Jimmy Butler sings and Joakim Noah harmonizes, though not like an Everly, where they turn up the music and choose which kind, where the contests are not over shots and points. But who sings better, dresses fancier and selects better music.

The door cracked open a bit to that life after practice Monday as Jimmy Butler and Carlos Boozer in addressing reporters let their hair down a bit, though more theoretically, as they kept their stocking caps on preparing for the brutal 15 degree below zero cold.

The topic of the day was another anonymous report from a New York City tabloid newspaper that the Bulls were virtually certain to trade Luol Deng and amnesty Carlos Boozer.

There’s always a media dance around those questions as no one wants much to ask someone else’s questionable supposition. But fans like to talk about trades. Some media members even like to speculate on ones that would make sense.

It doesn’t make much sense to me for the Bulls to trade Deng given he has an expiring contract which won’t draw much in return.

“I don’t pay any attention to any of that,” said Butler. “I can only control what I can. I feel like when you start reading into that you start getting biased about things and you may change the way you think and play, so you keep your eyes off that.

“We just like to have fun and be around each other,” added Butler. “We’re basketball players, but at the same time we’re people. Basketball takes up a lot of our time. But when it doesn’t we’re normal guys like everyone else.”

Sort of.

Because Butler went into that a bit. He declared he was the best singer among the Bulls players and to prove so he would sing the national anthem sometime at the United Center. Boozer was a bit surprised by that and said he better listen carefully. Or maybe he won’t, Boozer going most everywhere with a giant set of headphones and loud music emanating. But Boozer did confirm Butler was singing all the time. He didn’t say that’s why he wears his earphones. But you suspect someone else may have.

“Not everybody sings,” said Boozer. “We’re guys. We don’t go around singing. It’s not an R & B (group). But Jimmy is one of those guys who goes around singing.”

Told Butler wants to sing the pregame anthem, Boozer said, well, “I don’t know if he’s that good. I’ve got to pay more attention.”

But Butler was getting into it, almost insulted when asked whether he was good enough to sing before an audience like that.

“Can I sing? Can I sing? Can I sing?” Butler repeated for the third time.

Then local TV reporter Jim Rose began to sing after Butler mentioned he has some Al Green in him. Butler winced along with several media members and dogs howling outside and said, “I’m not going to do that!”

“If y’all book me for the United Center, I’ll sell it out and y’all come and watch,” said Butler, who, unsurprisingly, said when country music is playing in the locker room it is his. “They need to let me sing the anthem. I feel like the fans would love it. What if I play my guitar (as well)?”

Butler said he and Noah talk regularly about trying that, though no one was quite sure what instrument Noah might play.

“Jo thinks he sings better than I can,” Butler said with some scorn. “Maybe he can be out there with me. The Temptations wanted me. I can dance. I got all of that.”

But Butler said not on a cold day, perhaps during the playoffs as his voice could be affected by the cold.

Yes, Chicago’s favorite topic Monday as the high temperature outside was about 15 degree below zero.

Boozer was wearing a trademark scarf–Butler said Boozer and Noah were the scarf guys on the team, though Noah also wore a few stocking caps as well at the same time–and explained his philosophy on the combination of warmth and style as his brown scarf, a new one for Christmas among his collection, matched with his stocking cap.

But Boozer grew up in Alaska. He wasn’t going to go out in shirt sleeves to make a point. He now lives in Miami in the offseason, after all. But if you want to know cold, he knows cold.

“My last game in high school was in Fairbanks and it was minus 55 (air temperature),” said Boozer. “No wind that day; just real cold. We flew to Fairbanks, had our face masks and crazy gloves, big jackets, North Face or First Down, what was popular then, big boots. It was cold, but we won the game. No big deal.”

For the Texas native Butler, he said it was a big deal as he was only going between his heated house and garage to his car, the Berto Center and back. He was wearing three pair of socks, two pairs of long johns, two sweat shirts, a hoodie and a jacket.

It reminded some of Ben Gordon when he was with the Bulls. On cold days he had a friend who was hired to keep his car running in the Berto Center parking lot with the heat on so when Ben left practice he wouldn’t have to wait for the car to warm up. Hey, you have to do something with the money.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau agreed he’d heard it was cold, “But I don’t think about it. It’s nice and warm in here (Berto Center).”

Though as he’ll do on and off for the next six weeks until trade deadline, Thibodeau addressed the latest round of rumors and speculation. And, after all, what could he say that he hasn’t previously?

Deng has been asked about it all season given his free agency and basically said the same things about waiting until after the season. He hasn’t seemed distracted or bothered. My personal guess is Deng remains with the Bulls as Deng has indicated he was told. But I guess you never know. Trading is becoming more difficult in the NBA as teams still are trying to sort out the ramifications of the new labor deal and often are uncertain about making any major moves. In addition, the players believe they are starting to play better and the sense is with the injuries in the Eastern Conference it’s still possible to make a move.

“We’ve had a tough stretch,” agreed Boozer, who was out Saturday with a knee injury and guessed he could return Tuesday for the Suns but more likely Friday in Milwaukee. “Losing Derrick (Rose) hit us harder than we expected. It was difficult to get over. But we are climbing. This is a chance to make a move and climb a little bit.”

Boozer shrugged when asked about trade talk, saying they hear the rumors all the time and rarely does anything happen.

“Luol is not the only one (mentioned in rumors),” added Thibodeau. “You have other guys that are free agents as well. So that’s part of this game. The guys that have been around, they understand that. There’s always something in this league, whether it’s contract related, schedule related, injury related, and I think the good teams are able to block that stuff out, focus in on the team and do their job. Normally this time of year you hear a lot of stuff, anyway, and that’s what their (management) job is, to see what’s going on in the league. They field calls all the time. If a player is a good player you’re going to get more calls about him. That’s all part of it.

“They’re not actively seeking to move anybody,” said Thibodeau. “But they’re always looking to see if we can improve our club, and if something makes sense they’ll consider it. That’s what they do.’’

Meanwhile, Butler wanted it known there wasn’t any worst singer on the team, that it was a 12-way tie for second.

The worst?

“All the guys but me,” he said with a laugh.

And then he was gone. Just having fun. After all, they say it’s a game.

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