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Don't look now, but the Bulls just had the best week of their season. Sure, they only won two of four, but they did it far from home (they were evicted from the United Center by an extended run of High School Musical on Ice - ouch, babe), and with several key contributors on the bench with injuries. The affected players, Kirk Hinrich (bruised ribs), Luol Deng (tendinitis in his Achilles) and Ben Gordon (sore shooting wrist) could very well return this week or next. But will the Bulls want to bench the guys who have made a difference for the better of late?

Most important, the effort that was so infuriatingly lacking at times earlier in the season was there all week. The Bulls beat Seattle and Golden State and battled before losing to two of the hottest teams in basketball (Portland and Utah).

On the other hand, nothing the team does at this point changes the fact that a reckoning will be required if it was an unwillingness to pay a little luxury tax (OK, it would have been a little more than a little - but so what?) that did in a Bulls trade for Pau Gasol. I hate the attitude that the answer to every problem is to increase the payroll (ask the average fan what he hates about modern day pro sports - he'll tell you it's the salaries - so maybe it's OK if owners hold the line every once in a while). But this Bulls season has been so disappointing and the seven-foot center from Spain was just the sort of reliable low-post scorer the Bulls desperately need. Instead Gasol was traded from Memphis to the Lakers. Surely at least a few of the Bulls fans who devote significant financial resources to paying for ridiculously expensive Bulls tickets will demand an accounting?

But first there is the trade deadline coming up on February 22. And hope springs yet again. There were reports over the weekend that teams might be interested in trading for Ben Wallace. That's right, not "one deluded team is actually considering ridding the Bulls of their biggest-ever free-agent bust" but "teamS are interested in trading for Ben Wallace." Sporting wonders show no signs of ceasing.

Let's circle the bases:

* This just in: The Blackhawks dropped a shootout to the Vancouver Canucks to wrap up their own West Coast swing late Sunday. On the kind of bright side, there was word earlier in the weekend that general manager Dale Tallon believes he has a shot to sign Peter Forsberg, the talented and physical forward who was so good for so long with the Colorado Avalanche. He struggled for a season and a half with the Flyers before being traded to Nashville and performing reasonably well for a Predators team that still lost in the first round of the playoffs last season, and then became a free agent. Due to ongoing injury difficulties (I think he had yet more surgery on his foot in the off-season), Forsberg remains a free agent. Signing Forsberg (and hey, let's not kid ourselves, it almost certainly won't happen) would indicate the Blackhawks are serious about doing everything they can to make the playoffs this year. Of course, a trade for an accomplished two-way defenseman would do that, and help in the future. But I know I need to keep my expectations in check.

* Early last week, Texas Tech basketball coach and former Indiana coaching legend Bobby Knight up and quit right in the middle of his team's conference season. Knight made it clear he was doing so to help his son, and now former assistant Pat will make the transition to the top job. We never did get an explanation of how Bob Knight's quitting in the middle of the season would help the players (especially the seniors) transition to . . . whatever it is they'll transition to. Knight was volatile until the end, rarely avoiding losing his cool but still expecting iron-clad self-control from his players at all times.

The Washington Post's John Feinstein, the author of the Indiana University men's basketball book A Season on the Brink, finished his post-retirement story about Knight by relating a seemingly complimentary anecdote about how the coach had at one point met three brothers who were big Indiana fans. Two of the young men were deaf and mute. Knight ended up inviting them to visit Indiana's locker room and meet the Hoosiers. Feinstein noted that after the pre-game get-together, Knight told his team something to the effect of "I don't ever want to hear about how tough your life is," i.e. I don't want to hear you complain about how unlucky your are.

What Knight should have said to the players was "you'll never hear me complaining about how tough my life is." But that wasn't how the coach was wired. Knight was always convinced that his players were the lucky ones, certainly not vice versa.

* Ken "Hawk" Harrelson signed a contract extension with the White Sox last week and is on track to do most of the team's TV play-by-play for at least another couple seasons. And I'm confident I would have heard if analyst Darrin Jackson had been let go. So this not-well-loved duo will return for the 2008 season. There are clearly many ways these guys could improve, but let's focus on what has to be the most irritating announcing gimmick in all of Major League Baseball.

I can handle homers. In fact, I appreciate hometown announcers who get excited when the hometown fans are excited. But guys, after Sox home runs, don't put on the pleated skirts! You don't cut it as cheerleaders! Stop with the orgasmic, in-unison cry of "Yes" following "You can put it on the board . . . " OK, Hawk and DJ probably aren't going to see this, so we'll have to all try to tell a friend, who will tell a friend and surely at some point the word will filter down to someone with some sort of affiliation to the White Sox organization. And that White Sox employee will have the chance to go down in history as the person who convinced the guys in the booth to stop doing the call that makes White Sox fans desperately want to turn away despite the fact that the fireworks are just beginning. We can do this!


Jim Coffman brings you SportsMonday every . . . Monday.

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Posted on Nov 26, 2021