Bears

Boozer out, Noah game-time decision vs. Wizards

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Boozer out, Noah game-time decision vs. Wizards

Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Posted: 2:09 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com
As if playing without Carlos Boozer weren't enough for the Chicago Bulls, it looks like the Ides of March have wreaked havoc on Joakim Noah, too.

After Tuesday's shootaround, head coach Tom Thibodeau said that Boozer will miss tonight's game against the Washington Wizards due to his ankle injury and that Noah will be a game-time decision after he was sent home with an illness.

With the possibility of being without two key players and Derrick Rose having to pick up some of the scoring load, it could be an opportunity for C.J. Watson to step into the spotlight a bit.

Playing behind Rose, it's easy for Watson to go unnoticed. In the approximately 13 minutes he plays nightly, the soft-spoken point guard averages a modest 4.8 points and 2.1 assists.Tom Thibodeau to appear on "The Dan Patrick Show" Wednesday at 9:05 a.m.

By the numbers, this isn't the season he expect, nor did diligent Bulls fans expecting him to be more of a scoring threat, given his past two seasons in Golden State, when he averaged around 10 points per game. But don't lump Thibodeau into that category of observers.

"C.J.'s played very well all season," said Thibodeau. "Whenever C.J.'s gotten extended minutes, he's played even better. We felt good about him going into the season and I think he's exceeded all our expectations."

While Watson has occasionally shown some of the scoring ability he displayed more often with the Warriors--for example, his 16-point, eight-assist, five-rebound performance Saturday or his 33-point explosion in November against the Nuggets when Rose missed the game with a sore neck -- his role with the team's second unit as a ball-pressuring point guard, capable outside shooter, savvy penetrator and underrated playmaker have been more valuable to the Bulls.

"I'm just trying to go out there and make some plays, whether it's offensively or defensively. I'm just trying to play well, so he Thibodeau doesn't take me out," Watson told CSNChicago.com. "It takes a little time for me to get adjusted to the system and all the play calls. Everybody wants the ball and it's the first year with a lot of new players, so now I'm just a little more comfortable trying to get my shots and get others shots."

Added Thibodeau: "C.J. can get a lot going with his defense, too."

"C.J. can really shoot the ball, too. We're starting to see it more and more, but he's a great shooter, he's clever with the ball, he's very effective in the pick-and-roll and he's done a good job of getting Kyle shots, and now they're also starting to make plays for each other ... he's done a great job. You judge a point guard more by how the unit's playing when he's on the floor," he continued. "He's a very bright guy and he picks things up quickly. He played for Don Nelson, who's a great coach. That helped him in some ways; in a lot of ways. He picked things up very quickly here. That was the challenge for us right from the start of the season. With so many new guys, how quickly could we get all of them on to the same page? He made that adjustment very well. He got his unit playing great. They feed off of each other and they're bringing a lot of energy to the game each and every night."
READ: Bulls bench playing major role in recent success

Watson isn't much of a talker -- he doesn't say much to the media, although he's certainly not unfriendly and is clearly popular with his teammates -- and while he isn't as dynamic as Rose, he's become noticeably more vocal on the court.

"He's sort of quiet -- he's not quiet when he's around his teammates--but he's very confident and he's prepared himself," observed Thibodeau. "He's got that second team executing great right now."

Of course, Watson would love to see more minutes--his effectiveness with Rose when Thibodeau pairs them against smallish opposing backcourts may come into play in the postseason, depending on the Bulls' opponents -- but when you're backing up the likely league MVP, it's hard to see where the minutes would come from. At the same time, after toiling in the minor leagues and overseas, then playing for a less-than-competitive Warriors team, Watson is appreciative of his experience on a contender.

"It feels great," Watson told CSNChicago.com. "Going home at night, it's a lot better than losing and just thinking about the playoffs is a whole other feeling."Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Low

Decisions to be made on: Christian Jones (free agent), John Timu (free agent), Jonathan Anderson (free agent); Jerrell Freeman has reportedly been cut

Possible free agent targets: Demario Davis, Preston Brown, Anthony Hitchens, Avery Williamson, Navorro Bowman, Derrick Johnson

How the Bears rate Nick Kwiatkoski will be the key to figuring out what this unit will look like in 2018. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio thought Kwiatkoski finished last season strong, but strong enough to rely on him in 2018 as the starter next to Danny Trevathan?

The thing with the Bears’ inside linebackers, though: Trevathan makes whoever is playing next to him better. The problem is Trevathan hasn’t been able to stay on the field — he missed time in 2017 with a calf injury and a one-game suspension, and missed half of 2016 after rupturing his Achilles’. Trevathan hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013, so durability is an issue for the soon-to-be 28-year-old.

So that leads to this question: Do the Bears need to find someone in free agency, regardless of how they value Kwiatkoski, who’s also missed time due to injuries in his first two years in the league?

Free agency could provide a few options. Demario Davis had a career high 97 tackles for the New York Jets last year and has never missed a game as a pro. Preston Brown had some decent production in Buffalo and also hasn’t missed a game since being drafted in 2014. Avery Williamson may not be a world-beater but has only missed one game in his four years in the NFL.

The Bears could also opt for someone who fits more of a rotational mold, like Dallas’ Anthony Hitchens, or try to lure a veteran linebacker like Navorro Bowman (who played for Vic Fangio in San Francisco) or Derrick Johnson (who Matt Nagy knows from his Kansas City days) to play next to Trevathan and/or Kwiatkoski.

The Bears could opt to keep the status quo and re-sign Christian Jones and John Timu for depth, and enter 2018 with Kwiatkoski and Trevathan as the team’s starters (Jerrell Freeman, who suffered a season-ending injury and then was hit with his second PED suspension in as many years, was cut on Tuesday). Signing a starting-caliber free agent isn’t out of the question, either, but there is a third option for the Bears if they appear to stand pat in free agency: Draft an inside linebacker in April. If that’s the route they go, Georgia’s Roquan Smith could be the guy. But again, those more pressing needs at other positions could mean the Bears don’t burn a first-round pick on an inside linebacker.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?