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    A once-tragic Bulls tale turns into a huge action adventure

    Apr 21, 2017

    CHICAGO - Before his untimely demise, at age 52 in 1616, William Shakespeare penned ten tragedies, including Romeo and Juliet, a morbidly delightful tale of love and romance.

    But Shakespeare, even with his brilliant and twisted genius, couldn't have concocted the conflict and dysfunction that draped the 2016-17 Chicago Bulls regular season.

    Like pricking your eyes with a needle, the Bulls were painful to watch. They began to unravel in December and hit rock bottom in mid-March when they were on the throes of a five-game losing streak and out of the playoffs picture with a 31-35 record.

    Decimated by injuries, they employed 45 different lineups, which made building team chemistry a hopeless task. They were shaken by internal strife, while their coach and management were flogged by the fan base and the media.

    At the center of the maelstrom stood Rajon Rondo, an elite point guard who deftly avoids turnovers but couldn't elude controversy.

    The mercurial 31-year old was suspended for one game following a dust-up with an assistant coach. He lost his starting job and was eventually benched, a costly move for the Bulls, who are paying Rondo $170,731 a game this season.  

    But when no one in the Bulls' platoon of guards could direct the offense consistently and efficiently, coach Fred Hoiberg inserted Rondo back as a starter. What appeared to be a work of desperation turned out to be a stroke of brilliance.

    With Rondo at the helm, Chicago won seven of its last nine games to finish at 41-41, just enough to become the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.

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    Rondo's resurgence is ongoing in these playoffs. In two games against the top-seeded Celtics, the same team he helped win a title in 2008, the four-time All-Star has collected 23 points, 20 assists, 17 rebounds and 7 steals. 

    With Rondo leading the charge, the once scattered and uneven Bulls offense is now poised and egalitarian. And this is largely why the Bulls stole Games 1 and 2 at the TD Garden in Boston for a mildly shocking 2-0 series lead.

    The Bulls hold the option on Rondo's final contract year next season. The team can either buy him out for $3 million or let him stay for $13.3 million. A few weeks ago, Rondo seemed like a goner, a one-year experiment that didn't light the lab on fire. 

    But by leading the Bulls' rebirth and providing much of the legs in this improbable, unexpected playoff run, Rondo is definitely a keeper. 

    What a difference a postseason makes.

    OH GEORGE.  I was in Milwaukee a few hours ago to cover Game 3 of the Bucks-Raptors series at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. 

    From my seat a few steps from the court, I watched Toronto throw enough bricks to build a house, making just 24 of 71 shots on the way to a disastrous 104-77 defeat.

    Bored, I glanced at the NBA website and saw Paul George and the Indiana Pacers take a commanding 74-49 halftime lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

    A little over an hour later I was flabbergasted to find out that LeBron James and his cohorts had somehow pulled an unbelievable comeback, one that hasn't been done in 70 years, to take a 3-0 series lead. I almost choked on my pizza.

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    "It ain't over 'till lhe fat lady sings," says an old sports adage. Nah, not this one.

    The Pacers are done. In the words of the great Los Angeles Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn, "this one is in the refrigerator, the lights are out, the eggs are cooling and the butter's getting hard." 

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