Chris Boucher

Chris Boucher | Instagram

MTL Courtside: Chris Boucher just might be awards-bound

PLUS: What the Bulls need, Gianna Bryant’s number and more in the 2nd edition of our basketball column.

The NBA 2020-21 season is in full swing and the games are just as unpredictable as the times we’re living in.

Last year’s playoff finalists the Miami Heat are struggling substantially. Once-MVP contender Luka Doncic has experienced a remarkable fall from grace. To top it all off, the New York Knicks are now…good?

Whoever you’re rooting for, there is certain plenty to discuss on every front. Let’s dive into some of the latest:

Can Chris Boucher bring home two NBA awards?

In the wake of a gaping hole left by Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol’s departures from the Toronto Raptors, none other than Montreal’s own Chris Boucher has stepped up to fill the gap. The late-blooming 28-year-old has been having a career-best season, averaging 13.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks this season, coming off the bench.

Chris Boucher of the Toronto Raptors

Vegas Insider currently ranks Boucher for second pick as Sixth Man of the Year (+500) odds and fourth pick for Most Improved Player (+1100). If he could pull it off, he would be the first player to win both awards since Darrell Armstrong in the 1998-99 NBA season. A lanky 6’9”, Boucher certainly does not have the typical build of a Center. Nonetheless, it is simply delightful to see the young baller thrive in his heightened role on the team. He serves as a beacon of light in an otherwise dismal season start.

The Bulls need veterans

Chicago Bulls need help

To no one’s surprise, the Chicago Bulls are off to yet another rocky start. Since acquiring star-in-the-making Zach Lavine back in late 2017, the team has yet to make the playoffs. The team of young talent face the same problem year in, year out: They are bursting with energy in first halves but konk out when it’s crunch time. Coach Billy Donovan supported such a notion, stating that his players “want to win,” but “they don’t know how to.”

With nothing left to lose, the Bulls should consider bringing back some returning talent. Some of the league’s most dignified elderstatesmen got their career starts with the team. Both Tyson Chandler and Jamal Crawford are free agents who could serve as great mentors. These two might be well past their glory days in terms of posting impressive stats but their basketball IQ and leadership skills offer great locker room potential to these directionless Bulls.

Retire Gianna Bryant’s number

The Lakers ought to retire #2

It’s been over a year since the helicopter crash that took the lives of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others. Upon the tragedy, Lakers guard and lifelong franchise fan Quinn Cook took it upon himself to change his jersey #2 in honour of the younger Bryant, who sported the same number. This season, however, Cook is back in #2, while the #28 that he temporarily adopted was passed to Lakers newcomer Alfonso McKinnie.

The Lakers have 11 retired numbers. With the death of Gigi Byrant, it’s time for them to add a 12th. Although Cook seemingly wears #2 to honour his late father, reverting back to the number feels awkward, to say the least. He transitioned to #28 as a combination of Gigi’s jersey and Kobe’s early #8 look. Gifting McKinnie the number is a commendable move for the veteran player. After all, Jared Dudley had done the same for him. Perhaps Cook could transition to #00, a metaphor for Kobe and Gianna lasting forever in our hearts. ■

This column originally appeared in the Feb. 2021 issue of Cult MTL. For more Montreal sports coverage, visit our Sports section.