Bulls

Bears passing 'O' looking in wrong direction vs. Seattle

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Bears passing 'O' looking in wrong direction vs. Seattle

In the NFL, just like in real life, be careful what you wish for. You may get it.

Brandon Marshall expressed excitement on Wednesday at the prospect of going against one-on-one coverage from the Seattle Seahawks defense, specifically in the form of cornerbacks Richard Stewart and Brandon Browner.

Best guess is that this is some sort of gamesmanship on Marshalls part, professing to hope for single coverage from two of the better cornerbacks in the NFC. Browner was a Pro Bowl selection; Sherman was All-Rookie team in 2011.

Ive been excited about this game for some time just because of that, Marshall said. Whenever you get a chance to play a little one on one, its exciting. Ive been watching film and I saw what they did against Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions and Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals. They threw some Cover 2 in there but for the most part they do what they do. Im excited about that.

Beware the problems

The problem with that, if Marshall really is excited about his matchups with the Seattle secondary, is that Johnson caught exactly three passes for just 46 total yards against the Seahawks. Fitzgerald caught four. Neither receiver scored against Seattle.

The bigger problem with that is that the Bears have lost the only two games in which Marshall caught fewer than five passes (Green Bay, San Francisco, two vs. each). Marshall may be excited at what he has seen the Seahawks do vs. Fitzgerald and Johnson but the message there is that he thinks he can do what neither of those could do.

And the biggest problem of all is that with Marshall as the center of the offense, the Bears have the worst passing offense in the NFL (32nd in yards per game, 30th in yards per pass play). The Bears are 8-3 through little fault of the passing offense.

Still, Cutler is going to keep going to Marshall, period.

Whenever he gets in that zone he was on Sunday 12 catches vs. Minnesota, just feed him the ball, Cutler said. Just find him the ball. Just find a way. If Bs not No. 1 in the progression, go to him anyway. He just makes it happen.

Numbers vs. wins

Marshall and Cutler appear to be overlooking the fairly significant fact that the Lions and Cardinals, two 4-7 teams, both beat the Seahawks.

A major reason: While the Seahawks were dealing with Johnson, Titus Young was catching nine passes (for 100 yards, two TDs), Brandon Pettigrew snagged seven and Tony Scheffler four. The Seahawks took care of Fitzgerald but neglected Andre Roberts, who caught five passes, one for a touchdown.

Arizona and Detroit both stopped feeding their elite receivers and went elsewhere. And won.

Roberts has 50 catches this season. After Marshall (81) the Bears have no receiver with more than Matt Fortes 27 and hes a running back. Only twice this season has a Bear caught more than four passes (Forte five vs. Carolina, Alshon Jeffery five vs. St. Louis).

If not Marshall, who?

To his credit, Marshall does see the problem in the offense even as he likes seeing the ball come his way as much as it has.

Its impressive that were moving the ball, but there is a sense of urgency to get other guys the ball, Marshall said, without specifying where the extra footballs will come from. I was really excited about Jay spreading it around last week. Probably got seven or eight different guys involved, just getting a touch.

It doesnt matter if its one or two catches, as long as other guys are involved, it makes it easier for our whole team. Were going to lean on Earl a lot this week. Were going to lean on some of the other guys that are stepping up and playing this week to make some plays. Im excited.

Zach LaVine's conditioning at '70 percent' but still on schedule

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USA TODAY

Zach LaVine's conditioning at '70 percent' but still on schedule

Everybody saw the play, that awkward instance where Zach LaVine looked ready for his second dunk of the season but was fouled from behind by Atlanta’s Taurean Prince.

It looked as if LaVine was ready for liftoff but one of his jets misfired, sparking at least the thought of his recovery from his ACL injury being a bit off—but he laughed at the thought.

“I don’t know why everybody keeps talking about it,” LaVine said Sunday at New Orleans’ Smoothie King Center, where the Bulls held practice. “The dude stepped on the back of my foot, so I couldn’t get off the ground. Everybody’s wondering if I’m okay, yeah. I just missed a fouled layup.”

The adrenaline from his first two games have worn off a bit, and he missed his first four shots from the field Saturday before hitting a couple in the start of the third quarter in the Bulls’ 113-97 win over the Hawks.

He looked winded a few times during his stint and admitted his conditioning isn’t where it should be—as expected given he’s missed 11 months of real basketball. He said his conditioning is at about “70 percent”, and you can certainly see it in his jump shot not being as fluid as it was last season in Minnesota.

“It was feeling good in practice but in games it’s seventy,” LaVine said. “Playing defense, getting back, running the break, just getting used to it.”

Add to it, the Bulls cover the most halfcourt ground of any team in the NBA with their set offense and Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg has long said he’s not slowing down his offense while LaVine is in.

The shooting guard will have to catch up to the pace, and it’ll probably be better for him in the long run.

“I think it’s just ‘okay’ and rightfully so,” said Hoiberg about LaVine’s conditioning. “It’s impossible to simulate game action in practices when you’re doing individual workouts. Every time he plays that conditioning will ramp up. As he plays, it’ll get better and better. And he’s such a good and natural athlete, it’ll come back quickly.”

Hoiberg isn’t concerned about the variances in LaVine’s performances. He came out the gate with such force and adrenaline in his debut against Detroit and two days later against Miami, but it’s tailed off against Golden State and then Atlanta.

“I think Zach’s doing great,” Hoiberg said. “You look around the league where players have come back from significant injuries, he’s gonna be up and down. His first two games he’s been unbelievable. A couple games he hasn’t shot the ball great. He played unselfish basketball last night.”

LaVine’s minutes has been extended to 24 from 20, and he’ll still practice in the off-days as the Bulls want to keep his rehab on schedule as opposed to having him play heavy minutes initially.

He’ll be re-evaluated after Wednesday’s game in Philadelphia and could see his minutes rise before the Bulls host the Lakers Friday at the United Center.

“I should just get used to it,” LaVine said. “Just getting used to the swing of things. It takes a second for your body to get adjusted to it.”

Three Things to Watch: Bulls visit Pelicans

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls visit Pelicans

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Bulls take on the New Orleans Pelicans tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Pregame Live.

1. Anthony Davis

The five-time All-Star just continues to improve. While he's not averaging career-highs in any major category, no one's going to scoff at his 26.7 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 2.1 blocks in 36 minutes per game. He's shooting nearly 56 percent from the field and is on pace for a career-best in 3-pointers made, which is a pretty impressive statistic. Lauri Markkanen will have his hands full, and it may be in the Bulls' best interest to get Nikola Mirotic some early minutes to try and get physical with Davis. There's no real way to slow him down.

2. DeMarcus Cousins

And if the Bulls should so happen to get lucky and slow down Davis, there's another All-Star starter waiting alongside him. Boogie Cousins has been every bit as good as Davis this season, averaging 25.3 points, 12.7 rebounds and 5.1 assists in 36 minutes. He's certainly not as efficient as Davis (47 percent from the field, 5.0 turnovers) but is deadly inside. He's shooting a career-best 52.8 percent on 2-pointers this season, and his 1.6 steals and 1.6 blocks make him a serviceable defender (although the Bulls could certainly stretch their offense to make him work more).

3. Rajon Rondo

Rondo hasn't been great in his first season with the Pellies, but perhaps he's turning things around. Beginning with his absurd 25-assist game just after Christmas, Rondo is averaging 7.4 points, 8.2 assists and 1.0 steal per game. He's allowed Jrue Holiday to play more off the ball, and while his defense is nothing to write home about he's logging solid minutes for a Pelicans team woefully short in the backcourt.