Before I say anything further about the Saturday night Bulls-Bobcats game, I should come clean on two things right up front: Chicago features both my most hated player and my most hated announce team. Carlos Boozer is the player, and Neil Funk and Stacey King (really just King) are the announcers. With the game only available on Chicago’s network, and with Boozer the featured player, I knew I’d be in for a gay old time.
I know professional basketball players are transient mercenaries by nature, but Boozer is by far the most overt about it. What he pulled in Cleveland—weaseling out of a verbal agreement with a kindly blind owner was Dickensian in its repugnance—and Utah (I call his behavior during his last year there “Dwight Howard-lite”) were ugly enough, but it’s even more infuriating to see him get rewarded for his chicanery with outsized, undeserved contracts every time. Even worse, he’s the ultimate empty stats guy; he’s frequently injured and he always vanishes at crunch time. Yet teams are still stupid enough to fork over money to him in heaping helpings. But therein lies the good news for us Boozer-hating connoisseurs: we’re annually rewarded for our efforts with his no-shows in the playoffs; it’s as reliably delightful as the Turner Network 24-hour marathon of A Christmas Story. The one downside is that for the foreseeable future, Boozer’s shrinkage will come courtesy of the Miami Heat—not exactly a likeable bunch themselves. I suppose I’ll view the next Miami-Chicago series with while holding my nose, like a liberal watching the Republican primaries.
As for King, I’m not even sure how Bulls fans can stomach him. At least the other announcers I dislike have some mitigating factors: Tommy Heinsohn (Celtics) is old, Austin Carr (Cavaliers) is more annoying than hateful, and Sean Elliot (Spurs) suffers from a deadly kidney disease, which makes him sympathetic. King, on the other hand, is 100% pure un-likeability. He makes audiences (me, anyway) squirm by simultaneously nicknaming Bulls (“Omer Asik-and-Destroy”) while mispronouncing the Bobcats players (“Bismack BIE-yombo”). He talks circa mid-70s trash after successful Bulls plays. He’s openly disdainful of the opposing team throughout the game. As with Boozer, though, at least there’s a tiny sliver of upside that comes whenever King is wrong. For instance, after Byron Mullens missed his first few shots, King heaped a mountain of derision on him for his shot selection (clearly unaware that Mullens’ great asset is his range). Then BJ got hot with four at the end of the first quarter, and then he later drilled a 3-pointer. “They’re giving him the green light,” was all King could say, stupidly. It was delightful.
And I had to take my tiny pleasures where I could find them in this game, because it was an overwhelming Bulls victory. The final score (95-89) made the game appear much closer than it really was. “Once the game got going, we just let one slip away,” Mullens said afterward, which is a quote I found somewhat puzzling. I’ve never heard of a team letting a game slip away as soon as it starts; usually it slips away after it’s been going on for a while. But now that I think about it, Mullens is exactly right (although probably not in the way that he intended). The Bulls are in the middle of a jam-packed schedule and were without Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Taj Gibson, rendering the loss all the more humiliating for the Bobcats. So I suppose the Bobcats did let it slip away right from the start.
There was also the much more elementary fact that the Bobcats are neither very good nor very tall. Even marginal players like CJ Watson, past-his-prime Rip Hamilton, and fresh-from-the-D-League-via-Aliaga, Turkey Mike James are going to get theirs against our Hobbit backcourt. Indeed, either the Bulls guards just shot right over DJ Augustin and Kemba Walker, or Mullens and Tyrus Thomas had to slide to help, leaving “Booze Cruise” and “Deng-erous” (Ugh, have you no decency, Stacey King?) wide open. And the knife cut both ways: on defense, Chicago compensated for their lack of manpower with an impenetrable thicket of hands in passing lanes. Augustin and Walker (a.k.a. Frodo and Samwise) combined for 7 points, 5 assists, and 8 turnovers; and although they only had 11 official steals, the Bulls had more ball tips than a hardware store. It was complete domination on both ends. If this game were a Megadeth album, it would be Symphony of Destruction.
What can I say? Chicago is a good team. In fact, I’m actually thankful that they’re so good, because it means a lot of national broadcasts.