Bulls

Do Cubs fans have the patience to see this through?

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Do Cubs fans have the patience to see this through?

The Cubs are off to a 6-13 start and rank near the bottom of the MLB in most of the important categories, including ERA, runs scored and errors.

Dale Sveum has this team playing hard and fighting each day, but those are the simple facts. Right now, this is not a championship-caliber team.

That's not to say they won't be next year or in 2014 or even at the end of this season. Nineteen games is hardly a large sample size.

Given the slow start and the 71-91 finish in 2011, some fans are already growing restless, however.

When Theo Epstein was hired, he made it clear from Day 1 that there would be no quick fixes. Everybody was on board right away, but this isn't the way some people pictured it. Some fans certainly wanted a quick fix, and it's hard to blame them after more than a century without a World Series title.

Everybody wondered how long Theo's honeymoon phase would last with the fans. Would the Wrigley Faithful be patient with their rock star executive?

I posed this question to CSN analyst and 12-year MLB veteran Todd Hollandsworth earlier this season.

"I don't expect them to be patient," Hollandsworth said. "When you're with your brothers and sisters that attend games, you might get a little mad at them for not sticking it out through the growing process.

"But I absolutely believe we will see that when they turn this around and the Cubs become the organization they have hopes of becoming, the fans will all come out in full force. The place will be packed each and every day and each and every night. That's just how it's going to be. But right now, you're going to lose some attendance based on the performance."

Many in the past have tried the quick fix to turn things around, throwing money at free agents like Alfonso Soriano. But that course of action didn't bring about a championship.

"They've tried to piece this thing together forever and it has not worked," Hollandsworth said. "It's been band-aid solutions. And the band-aids have been ripped off and the wound gets bigger. This is something that has needed to go all the way back to the depths of the minor-league system and be rebuilt, turned over, reinvested."

One of the things Theo has tried to do to help is establish "The Cubs Way" from the lowest of minor league levels right up to the majors. Hollandsworth went through a similar tactic with the Dodgers, the organization that made him a third-round pick in the 1991 draft.

"I grew up in a farm system with a culture and ideas that were just sound all the way from short-season A-ball all the way to the major-league club," he said. "Tommy Lasorda was running that camp. That's who we were. 'Bleeding Dodger Blue' was the saying.

"The Cubs aren't looking to 'Bleed Cubbie Blue' but I will say this -- when they players know it, they players want to see each other succeed. They feel the desire to support and pull for each other. And then you build a core team from within. You have guys that lean on each other like brothers.

"It will take some time. There will always be the small victoriees. That's what I continue to challenge fans -- to see the small victories in each game."

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.