Blackhawks

Bulls' offense still a 'work in progress'

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Bulls' offense still a 'work in progress'

With their star player sidelined until at least halfway through the season and seven newcomers on board, there were bound to be some growing pains offensively for the Bulls.

And while Tom Thibodeaus group has averaged 89.3 points through six preseason games, improvement can be seen from a team still learning each other and their tendencies.

The Bulls raced out to a 51-40 lead last night in an eventual 94-89 win over the Thunder. And while things began well for Chicago, a sluggish end to the third quarter carried into the fourth quarter, allowing Oklahoma City back into the game.

Indecision and passed-up shots plagued the Bulls offense, which shot less than 38 percent from the field after halftime.

Youve got to know you job; know your job and do your job and youll be fine, Thibodeau said. When youre taking your shots and youre making the right plays, youre gonna live with yourselves. Its the indecision that gets you into trouble.

The Bulls played at a noticeably faster pace against the Thunder in the first half, something Thibodeau said his team may do this year to play to the teams strengths. But both the primary and secondary breaks he plans on using require control and spacing, something he noticed was lost in the second half.

We have to stay disciplined, we have to have the ability to run late to try and get some easy scores, Thibodeau said. When we do that well be efficient offensively. But when we break things off and we make things up, its hard to read and react off that. So we just have to stay more disciplined.

Often times were initiating, also, when we havent gotten to our spots yet. So usually with offense, if it doesnt start right its not gonna end right; so we have to make sure were starting it right.

Part of that, veteran shooting guard Richard Hamilton said, is the offensive unit still learning both Thibodeaus schemes and their new teammates.

Were playing well in spurts, Hamilton said of the teams offense. I think guys are still learning each other. With our seven new players, guys are still trying to learn their roles and things like that. So I think were getting a little bit better each and every day. I think were nowhere near where we want to be. I think its still a lot of room for improvement.

Hamilton even includes himself in that group. After arriving in Chicago as a free agent last summer, there was no acclimating to his new teammates or the playbook during the lockout-shortened offseason. Had Hamilton still been in Detroit, where he spent nine seasons, it wouldnt have been an issue. But even he is seeing the positive effects of a full offseason.

If I was in Detroit I wouldnt mind it because I know the offense in-and-out, I know whats expected and things like that, he said. But coming into a situation where you have no clue on the coaching staff, your teammates, anything like that, and just going out there and playing games. Thats not an easy task.

Hamilton said he is not worried about any inconsistencies in the Bulls offense through six games, noting that while it may not be completely in order by Opening Night on Halloween, the team will continue to work on its chemistry and discipline until its where it needs to be.

I think its still a work in progress. The goal for any NBA team is to be playing your best basketball late, and trying to get all the kinks out early, Hamilton said, just try to learn and get better as games go by. I think thats the key.

It's official: Blackhawks-Bruins to play at Notre Dame Stadium in 2019 Winter Classic

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USA TODAY

It's official: Blackhawks-Bruins to play at Notre Dame Stadium in 2019 Winter Classic

It’s official: The Blackhawks are headed back outdoors.

The NHL announced that the 2019 Winter Classic will be held at Notre Dame Stadium, featuring the Blackhawks and Boston Bruins on Jan. 1.

"The Blackhawks and Bruins, two of our most historic franchises, will be meeting outdoors for the first time at the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "Notre Dame Stadium, with its capacity approaching 80,000, will provide an ideal setting for this ground-breaking event and will host the largest live audience ever to witness a game by either of these teams."

"The Chicago Blackhawks are honored to be participating in this marquee event at an iconic venue like Notre Dame Stadium," Blackhawks President & CEO John McDonough said in a statement. "The University of Notre Dame has strong alumni roots in both Chicago and Boston, and, with an established rivalry between the Blackhawks and Bruins, fans will be treated to an exciting game in a unique atmosphere. We appreciate the invitation to the game and look forward to what will be a great day for both franchises and the National Hockey League."

It's the sixth time the Blackhawks will be playing outdoors, and their league-leading fourth Winter Classic. The Blackhawks are 1-4-0 in outdoor games, and are winless in three Winter Classic games.

Chicago's only outdoor win came against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2014 Stadium Series Classic, a 5-1 victory at Soldier Field.

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

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USA TODAY

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

The wait to find out which players have their options picked up or declined by the Fire might still be a couple weeks, but the first news of a player move in the Fire's offseason came via Twitter.

Defender Joao Meira announced he won't be returning to the club in 2018.

Meira signed with the Fire just before the start of the 2016 preseason after being out of contract in Europe. The Portuguese center back signed a one-year deal with a club option for the second year.

After he played 28 matches with 26 starts in 2016, the Fire picked up his option. He became even more of a fixture at center back in 2017, beating out Jonathan Campbell for the other starting spot alongside Johan Kappelhof. Meira played in 30 regular season matches and made 27 starts, finishing fourth on the team in minutes played (2,412).

That Meira won't be back isn't a major surprise for a few reasons. First, he was out of contract. He was one of two players, along with Bastian Schweinsteiger, on the Fire's roster that the team had no control over for 2018. On top of that, the 30-year-old had made it clear that he wanted to be closer to his home and family in Portugal.

Meira's departure leaves a gap at the center back position for the Fire. Kappelhof, who enters the third year of a three-year guaranteed deal in 2018, and Campbell, who will likely have his club option picked up, enter as the only healthy center backs in 2018. Christian Dean was added in August via trade, but is coming off a broken foot, an injury that has plagued him before. His status for the start of the 2018 season is unclear.

Grant Lillard, a potential homegrown signing and a senior at Indiana, could compete for time at center back next season. He is one of the top rated players in the country for the Hoosiers, which are the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. While Lillard could step in from a numbers perspective and would add size to the Fire's back line (Lillard is 6-foot-4), he wouldn't be able to replace Meira's ability on the ball. Meira wasn't as effective of a defender as Kappelhof, but was arguably the best passer among the Fire's center backs and helped alleviate pressure at times.

This also opens up an international spot on the Fire's roster. The Fire went over the alloted total last season, but were able to put John Goossens and Jorge Bava on the disabled list to clear room. Meira's exit gives a bit more flexibility in that department.