Before I get into how amazing last night was for me not only as a member of the media, but as a life long fan of this franchise, I want to comment on the shitty weather in the District. I know when the weather gets gloomy, it affects our attitudes significantly. We’re not as motivated, not as eager and, in general, it’s never fun to wake up to torrential downpour. But in my travels to Chicago yesterday, I found something that’s worse than shitty weather. Being stuck in an airport in Detroit during shitty weather. Be grateful you’re in D.C. because you could be in Detroit. I digress.
On Sunday evening, I expressed my interest in traveling to Chicago for this once in a lifetime experience to cover the Wizards playing in a potential series clinching game with their sights set on the second round – a place that this Wizards franchise hasn’t seen since 2005 when “the Big 3” lead them to a series win at home over the same Chicago Bulls. It was the series that gave birth to Steve Buckhantz’ infamous “dagger!” call on Gilbert Arenas’ buzzer beater over Kirk Hinrich.
On Monday evening, Hoop District and the wonderful people at the Chicago Bulls front office opened their doors and welcomed me as a part of the media family for one night.
Before I knew it, less than 17 hours later, I was on the train listening to Bulls fans talk about how “the Wizards are the worst team in the league. Worse than the Bobcats.”
I know, we all just collectively shook our heads right now. The two Bulls fans also went to defend their “logic” by saying “we (the Bulls) have Noah, and they got John Wall” as if to imply that Joakim Noah was some sort of miracle savior, elite scorer, former number one overall pick and face of their franchise. Sorry, Noah and sorry, Bulls fans, that title belongs to the cripple at the end of your bench.
It was time for me to head down to the infamous United Center and check out the sights and sounds of Game 5, otherwise known as the last game the Chicago Bulls will play until October. Here’s the time line of events complete with social networking commentary. Enjoy!
4:00 p.m. I get to the United Center only to see that Bulls fans were lining up to get into the United Center. However, I don’t think United Center got the memo that there was a Bulls game going on, because the “Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs” banner was hanging upon their arrival.
I had a little bit of time to kill so I wanted to pay respect to the person responsible for one of the worst draft picks in NBA history..
4:20 I receive my credential and head down to the media room to get myself situated. I sit down, start reading the media information provided to us by Bulls PR and then two of the nicest people in the business sit down next to me and start conversing with me about tonight.
I asked if I could take their picture to post on our Twitter page and they obliged. Buck even holla’d back!
@DJ_SAAM Great to have you with us in Chicago Saam! Thanks for the kind words!
— Steve Buckhantz (@SteveBuckhantz) April 29, 2014
5:00 The coaches were set to begin their pregame press conferences. Seeing that it was a home game and an elimination game, I fully expected there to be a lot more media attention on Tom Thibodeau but it was a circus. Even a senior member of the Wizards PR turned to me and said, “this is way more than games 1 and 2 combined.” Not like I was there to compare, but based on the turnout, I was not surprised. Tibs spoke for only a few minutes, mentioning that the Bulls were going to do “nothing different.” At that point, I knew he mailed it in. You’re down 3-1 in the series and your best players in the series are coming off the bench. WHY NOT START THEM?
Good news wizards fans…Tibs said Chicago is going to "keep doing what they've been doing."
— Saam Bozorgmehr (@DJ_SAAM) April 29, 2014
Randy Wittman came out and the media coverage for him was substantially less. He talked about how he was pleased about the team’s start to games. He later added that the great starts set the tone for the rest of the games moving forward.
7:00 I’m seated and ready to go. Wizards are being introduced and to no ones surprise, Nene gets the loudest showing of disapproval from the Bulls fans.[Side note about the Bulls fans]: I was pretty disappointed in them. For a team that lead the league in attendance and prided themselves on “home court advantage” they only got loud when pictures of the Blackhawks players came on the big screen and when a 10 year old boy was crushing it on the dance cam. Road Court Advantage: Wizards.
9:15 Let’s skip ahead because I’m sure you all watched the game and if you didn’t, you know the outcome. After what seemed like 100 offensive rebounds for the Wizards in the final two minutes, the Wizards pull off a series win in Chicago beating the Bulls in every game they played at United Center this season. The official Wizards Twitter account then trolled ESPN.
— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) April 30, 2014
I also trolled the delusional Chicago Bulls fans with my tweet.
This is what 21,000 pissed off Chicago Bulls fans looks like live and in person. Kick Rocks. See you in October pic.twitter.com/zgKUo7t5Tr
— Hoop District (@HoopDistrictDC) April 30, 2014
Life was good in the Windy City.
9:40 I walk down stairs and see Ted Leonsis. He’s not talking to anyone, and no one is around him. He’s just swaying back and forth. He takes a sip of his gatorade, closes his eyes and exhales heavily. It’s been a crazy last few weeks for him and you can tell he was relieved to get the win. I shook his hand and congratulated him. He thanked Hoop District and all the other blogs for our “hard work and dedication.”
The Wizards locker room opens up and you can hear the guys celebrating. One lasting image I’ll always have is someone came into the Wizards locker room and John Wall gave her a big hug and said “I told you, I told you we would do it!” It’s moments like that when I wish I had a video camera implanted in my eyes to capture that moment. It was the the happiest I’ve ever seen John.
10:00 Press conferences begin. First came Wittman, then Wall and Beal as a pair and it ended with Nene. I asked John and Bradley the first question of their presser, on how they felt being here at this point after both of them came off of serious injuries the season before and to have overcome this at such a young age.
Michael Lee ended the presser with the quote of the night: “Brad, Andre Miller’s been playing in this league for 15 years and its the first time he’s gotten out of the first round. This is your second year..”
He then added the ultimate zinger – “Can you imagine, he’s almost been in the league as long as you’ve been living. For him to get this far…” Well played, Mike!
The last press conference of the night belonged to the man at the center of this series, Nene. The cool and calm Brazilian started off his presser by thanking God and then talked about how happy he was for Bradley Beal and John Wall. He said, “a lot of people have been saying some bad things about them. I am so proud of them.” He kept the presser short and sweet. You could see the happiness and sense of relief on his face. They came in to this series knowing that they had to match Chicago’s toughness and they did just that.
Before I left, I ran into one more person, who had a nice message to all Wizards fans…
— Hoop District (@HoopDistrictDC) April 30, 2014
10:30 The magical ride was over and everyone was leaving the arena. A few Bulls players came over to Wall and Beal to congratulate them as they advanced. Scottie Pippen also popped his head in to talk to Beal, Wall and Nene as they made their way out of the stadium. I followed the team out of the stadium and headed back to my hotel. I looked up at the ceiling and said to myself, “well, that just happened.”
This was the experience of a life time. As a disgruntled DC sports fan, I haven’t seen much to cheer for or to be happy about. But last night was something I’ll never forget. I know the Wizards didn’t win the title. Hell, nor have they even advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals (not yet, at least), but to be able to be in that environment and to experience it was a once in a lifetime event. Did I mention that it was my first ever NBA playoff game? Thank you Hoop District. You guys are the best Wizards Blog on the internet and I’m happy to be a part of the team.
Go Wizards! I’m late for my flight and the last thing I want is to be stuck in Detroit.