By Daniel I. Dorfman–
CHICAGO (WSCR) At first glance, June 22 may not stick out as one of the most important dates in Chicago sports history. Those are reserved for days like January 26, 1986, when the Bears destroyed the Patriots in Super Bowl XX. Or October 7, 1984, when Walter Payton broke Jim Brown’s All-Time NFL rushing record, and the Cubs lost their last three games in San Diego as the National League pennant slipped away. Finally, there was October 26, 2005, when the White Sox completed their sweep of the Astros for their first World Championship in 88 years. There are other reverential dates in Chicago sports history, but no discussion can be started without those three.
Yet two separate June 22nds – 20 years apart – belong in the class picture for the way they changed the fortunes of the two United Center tenants.
Four years ago today, the Blackhawks took advantage of winning the NHL Draft Lottery and selected Patrick Kane, a crucial step in turning around a moribund franchise. At times, Kane has acted like 22-year-old in a big city, with a lot of money, but his goal against Nashville in the 2010 playoffs, and of course the Stanley Cup clincher against Philadelphia are now part of the city’s tapestry. It’s hard to believe the ‘Hawks would have broken their Stanley Cup drought without him. He is locked into a long-term contract, and as long as he and Jonathan Toews are healthy, the ‘Hawks have a solid foundation to build upon.
As for the Bulls, it’s 24 years ago today that Jerry Krause pulled off a masterful trade with Seattle to land Scottie Pippen, in addition to selecting Horace Grant. Less than four years later, Pippen and Grant left the court in Los Angeles chanting “1987” as they had won the first of what would be three championships together. Pippen, however, would go on to win three more. The six titles and the 1984 draft, when the Bulls got Michael Jordan, are likely the most important dates in the team’s history, but June 22, 1987 is certainly in the Top 10.
It’s easy to think about that day a generation later. The 2011 NBA Draft is Thursday and the Bulls pick twice in the first round, at the 28th and 30th slots. At this point in 1987, the Bulls were still taking their ascendancy and needed many pieces to compliment Jordan. That’s not the case today.
Yes the Bulls need to make some tweaks to their roster to get past Miami. But it’s hard to believe a prime shooting guard, or any other type of player who can take the scoring pressure off Derrick Rose, is going to be found in the draft. Gar Forman and John Paxson will have to find that player via trade or free agency, for whenever the next NBA season is played.
It’s likely that Thursday won’t be a major day for the Bulls. With every Taj Gibson, selected at 26th overall, the landscape is littered with late first round selections like Travis Knight, Keith Booth and Byron Houston. Booth is the only player from that group to have ever played for the Bulls.
The fact that the Bulls are drafting so late shows just how far they’ve come in a such short period of time, they were a lottery pick just three years ago and barely made the playoffs in 2010. Now we’re not only talking how to getting back to the Eastern Conference Finals, but how to advance to the NBA Finals. It may not be easy, but it can be done.
We’re fortunate to look back 24 years and be grateful for Pippen and Grant, and what they did for Chicago. But we’re also fortunate there isn’t a need for another of infusion of talent yet again.
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Daniel I. Dorfman is a local freelance writer who has written and reported for the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer and the Boston Globe among many other nationally prominent broadcast, online and print media organizations. He is also a researcher for 670 The Score. You can follow him on Twitter @DanDorfman To read more of Daniel’s blogs click here.