Bulls

Bears plan to score more by passing less, not more

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Bears plan to score more by passing less, not more

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- When the Bears hired Jeremy Bates to be Jay Cutlers quarterback coach, then traded a couple of draft choices to acquire Brandon Marshall, and then spent a second-round draft choice on Alshon Jeffery, the expectation was that the three-party reunion was the signal that the Chicago offense would become the Air in the annual Chicago Air and Water Show.

Dont count on it.

An NFL source told CSNChicago.com that the strongest indications were that the Bears would in fact run the football and run it significantly more than everyone has been inclined to believe based on the passing-game changes of this offseason.

And GM Phil Emery said Tuesday as training camp opened that, after the obvious first tenet of offense that you need to score points, that the best Bears way to do that is not to put on an air show.

I understand that people say theres a shift in the NFL toward passing, Emery said. Yeah, there is, but I think theres a shift where teams are trying to be 50-50 to keep defenders off balance, to run a lot of the same plays out of different formations. Keep you off balance formation-wise, keep you off balance run-pass.

Emery is up on his Chicago Bear history.

The three lowest yardage outputs and all three defeats -- in Cutlers 10 games in 2011 came in the games with the highest numbers of pass plays (New Orleans, Green Bay I, Detroit I).

Those were also the only three Cutler games in which the Bears scored fewer than 24 points, with 13 against both New Orleans and Detroit and 17 vs. the Packers).

It was after that Green Bay game that Mike Tice was, for the second year in a row, given a greater say in game planning. It was at that point also that coach Lovie Smith mandated, not more passing, but more balance.

I think balance is what Mikes mind is and thats what well see, Emery said.

Smith sounded the identical note even as he assessed that this was perhaps the best assemblage of skill-position players in his nine seasons as Bears coach.

Look at our additions just look at the receiver that we brought in we brought in a 1 receiver, so just starting with him, you add a lot, Smith said. We brought in another running back who was a starting running back in the NFL. I think as you look across our board at our skill positions, we have improved quite a bit, and that should put points on the board, which were trying to do.

We talk a lot about the skill in receivers, but just think, were in a position to have the best balance offensively that weve had in a long time.

Robin Lopez taking demotion in stride, wants to return to Chicago

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USA TODAY

Robin Lopez taking demotion in stride, wants to return to Chicago

Only an errant punch that missed the face of Serge Ibaka prevented Robin Lopez from suiting up for the Bulls since arriving in the summer of 2016, but his availability streak will come to an abrupt end as the Bulls are sitting and Justin Holiday for the foreseeable future.

Lopez didn’t dress for the Bulls’ game against the 76ers, as he and Holiday were replaced by Cristiano Felicio and David Nwaba. Although he was jovial, cracking a few jokes when meeting with the media in pregame, it was clear he was disappointed.

“It was rough for me. I get it. I understand it,” Lopez said. “I always want to be out there playing on the court. That’s what I enjoy, especially playing with these guys. But I’m excited to watch these guys give it a go from the bench.”

With the Bulls being eighth in the lottery standings, Lopez understands the long-term objectives of the organization and said the conversation with the front office went as expected.

“I think pretty much what everybody else has heard,” Lopez said. “I was pulled aside. They told me they wanted to evaluate a few other guys, a few of the young guys. So I get it.”

Starting 138 of 139 games makes his streak ending a bit tougher to stomach, especially considering he didn’t find out about his certain inactivity until right before leaving for the United Center.

“I suppose that’s a little selfish of me, but a little bit,” said Lopez of sadness concerning the streak. “I looked in my closet today and thought I would have a glut of jackets. And I only found two. I didn’t realize this was an issue until about 5 minutes before I had to leave. So I got kind of a ragtag outfit for tonight but hopefully I’ll be better prepared in the games to come.”

Not only will he be armed with better wardrobe but he’ll be bringing a positive disposition to the sidelines that made him loved amongst his teammates.

“All my teammates, whether they’ve been playing with me or sitting on the bench and not dressing, they’ve all supported me,” Lopez said. “I don’t think I’d be too good a person if I didn’t do at least the bare minimum of the same.”

Lopez represented stability and veteran leadership in a tumultuous season, a solid performer when losing was the early norm and upheaval has been constant. It was a reason the Bulls hoped he would garner some interest in the trade market but after hitting for a draft pick in the Nikola Mirotic deal, they had no such luck with Lopez.

Naturally, he was asked about the prospect of being traded over sitting as a healthy scratch.

“That’s hard for me to talk about because I don’t know what situation I could have potentially been in once I had been traded,” Lopez said. “Yeah, it’s … I want to be playing obviously, but we’ve got a great group of guys right here.”

Considering how uncertain things will be for the future, it isn’t a guarantee Lopez won’t be around for the 2018-19 season.

“Yeah. It seems like they still like me. How could they not?,” he joked.

He’s due $14.3 million next season, the last of a four-year deal he signed with the Knicks in 2015. Averaging 12.3 points and shooting 53 percent from the field, he’s productive and valuable on the floor. He’s easy to dismiss with the hoopla surrounding the youth on the roster and the way things clicked when Mirotic stepped on the floor, but seven footers like Lopez aren’t easy to find—even as the game changes.

“I’m a team player. I like to think my play is tied to how the team plays,” Lopez said. “I think we had some really great stretches. The young guys really developed and found a rhythm once we all got healthy. I think we played pretty well.”

With 25 games remaining, he’s unsure of how long his inactivity will last but it’s hard to see him missing the remainder of the season. It would be a bad look for the Bulls and the league to have a healthy player miss two whole months, and Lopez claims no knowledge about that ugly “T” word.

“I’m not familiar with military artillery,” he said.

At least he’s keeping his sense of humor.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls complete 'the process'?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls complete 'the process'?

On today’s edition of STL Podcast, Luke Stuckmeyer is joined by Mark Schanowski, Nick Friedell and Vincent Goodwill to talk all things Bulls. Will the Bulls complete “The Process” as well as the visiting 76ers have so far? Our panel discusses the tank watch, recaps the epic Women’s Hockey Gold Medal game and much, much more.