I didn’t expect much from the Chicago Bulls in the playoffs. They were a moribund outfit rife with internal squabbling that squeaked into the playoffs on the final day of the season. And yet they’ve straight-up walloped the top-seeded Celtics, taking a 2–0 lead with two wins in Boston.
In the offseason, the Bulls pitched themselves as having three alphas — Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, and Rajon Rondo. Tuesday night, we found out they have four: German rookie Paul Zipser came off the bench and confounded the Celtics with 16 points:
It would’ve been a career high were it not for a 21-point explosion in the last game of the season, a 39-point win over the Nets. (He is, I suppose, a Game 82 All-Star.) There are few things I love more than players most NBA fans haven’t heard of turning into pivotal factors in playoff series, so when they do, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about them.
Zipser is from Heidelberg, home to a really famous university, Michael Fassbender, and one of Germany’s most historically successful basketball teams. He played for them as a youth and in 2013 was signed by Bayern Munich, which you probably assume is dominant since their soccer team is world famous. They’re not! They didn’t win a Basketball Bundesliga title between 1955 and 2014. They won the championship in Zipser’s first year — we can presume the Bulls will do the same — and it’s the only time since 2009 that the BBL was not won by Brose Bamberg, known until August 2016 as the Brose Baskets. (If you think “Brose Baskets” is a dumb name for a team, please examine the fact that our league has a team called the Brooklyn Nets.)
He was born with an extra bone in his foot, which sounds like a superhero’s awesome backstory, but, like most mutations, actually sucks. It caused him intense pain and discomfort while playing, and he missed most of the 2012–13 season before he began wearing a special shoe to help him cope. Imagine that — a rookie with his own signature shoe!
Zipser was projected as the 34th pick in the NBA draft by DraftExpress; the Bulls got a relative steal by picking him 48th. Perhaps other teams assumed he was in his mid-30s, like I did the first time I saw him play. (He’s 23.)
Zipser owns a Fresh Prince sweatshirt:
Or, at least he owns a sweatshirt with a picture of Will Smith on it that’s colored in a way to remind us of the Fresh Prince. That’s an old-looking Will, isn’t it? Anyway, here is 10 minutes of Der Prinz von Bel-Air. Apparently, there was no way to translate Will’s freshness into German.
Judging from German YouTube uploads, it doesn’t appear they tried to dub the theme song. I wonder how the dubbers handled Will momentarily believing Carlton was German when Carlton was attempting to say he was a virgin.
Although it’s possible Paul just watched in English — after all, it’s the language he’s chosen for screaming “AND-OOOOOOONE.”
Zipser doesn’t yet have a commonly accepted nickname. THE ZIPPER seems obvious, but it just doesn’t work. We tend to mention zippers only in the context of dudes sloppily returning from pisses and people scandalously removing clothing. Why no love for their excellent work fastening so many items every day? Maybe ZIPLOC, if he becomes known as a defensive specialist.
Something About Basketball
Zipser didn’t play much at the beginning of the season, falling behind Doug McDermott and other first-round picks in the depth chart. But he started getting playing time in January and joined the starting five in March; he’s now firmly locked in as the team’s sixth man.
European players have been commonplace in the NBA for over 20 years now, yet there’s still an overriding assumption that Euro imports will be 3-point specialists or stiff bigs or somehow “soft.” That doesn’t apply to Zipser, a 6-foot-8 wing with a versatile skill set on both ends of the floor. He can hit 3s, though this season he shot only 33.3 percent from deep, and he can also blow by defenders who close out too aggressively. His strongest asset is his ability to defend.
Please enjoy the several ferocious dunks in this highlight video, which, like almost all highlight videos, features Nelly’s “Here Comes the Boom.”
Zipser has been getting routine NBA minutes for only a month. Now he’s posting near-career highs while helping wipe the supposed best team in the Eastern Conference out of the playoffs. We have to come up with a better nickname.