Bulls

Eifert feels he made right call in returning to Notre Dame

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Eifert feels he made right call in returning to Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Tyler Eifert has heard it from all angles, the incessant questions about why he's only caught 34 passes a year after reeling in 63, tops among FBS tight ends in 2011. The soft-spoken senior from Fort Wayne, Ind., didn't seem too bothered by those questions, though, since he feels he's actually improved his draft stock in his senior year.

"I control what I can control, and thats making plays when I the opportunity, being a good teammate, blocking, playing my best when Im out there to help us win," Eifert said. "It hasnt been annoying, but what people dont really understand is theres a lot of people that are watching other things than how many catches you have."

Many see Eifert's outstanding stats from 2011 -- he also led FBS tight ends in yards -- and the subsequent dropoff in 2012 as a problem, one that could make him regret returning for his senior season. But Eifert has developed into more than just a pass-catcher in 2012, becoming a guy coach Brian Kelly frequently refers to as the real deal at tight end.

"This isn't about numbers this year," Kelly said. "This is about a guy that's developing himself as a complete tight end."

Eifert said he came close to declaring for the NFL Draft last winter, following Notre Dame's Champs Sports Bowl loss to Florida State. He weighed both options, and ultimately decided to return to South Bend, where he felt he could make himself into a first-round pick.

Most scouts loved Eifert's pass-catching ability, but had plenty of doubts about his ability to handle the other half of being a tight end.

"My knock has always been Im not a good blocker, so thats something I focused on and tried to get better at, and I think thats helped me," Eifert said.

But the decision to return wasn't just about improving for the NFL. While few could've predicted the success Notre Dame has seen in 2012, looking back, Eifert's glad he doesn't have to watch the team's title bid from afar.

"Id be kicking myself if I couldnt be a part of this team," Eifert said. "Im just really happy that I get to be a part of this team."

Eifert and quarterback Tommy Rees have a fantastic rapport, with Rees looking Eifert's way seemingly every time he enters a game for Everett Golson. Had Rees quarterbacked the Irish this year, perhaps Eifert's stats would be near where they were last year.

But as Golson worked through his development, Eifert has been left out of the box score. In Notre Dame's wins over Michigan State and Michigan, Eifert only caught one pass, and the tight end didn't record more than five catches until Nov. 3 against Pittsburgh.

"Id like to be catching more balls, as many balls as I did last year, but at the end of the day were winning football games and were winning football games the way that were playing this year, not the way were playing last year," Eifert explained. "Ive said it before, you cant really be frustrated with winning."

The Golson-Eifert connection has improved in the last two weeks, with Eifert catching 12 passes for 129 yards. After Notre Dame's win over Boston College, Golson spoke about how he's learned to let Eifert use his size to reel in passes, something Rees was adept at doing last year.

That's because Eifert is, with the right throws, a matchup nightmare. Few can keep the athletic 6-foot-6, 251-pound tight end from catching a well-thrown pass.

But Eifert's pass-catching ability was a known factor. The rest of his game wasn't, although his coach feels that's changed in 2012.

"If you asked the guys at the next level about Tyler Eifert, they really don't care about how many balls he caught because they know he can catch the football," Kelly said. "They're looking at other things that he's developed. He's going to find himself in a pretty good position in April."

Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

Is there any better way to break in your new Black Friday television than Bulls-Warriors tonight? We think not. Coverage starts at 9 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live, and the game is also available to stream via the NBC Sports app

Here are three things to keep your eye on: 

1. Not the score. Let's be honest: the Bulls probably won't sneak out a win at the Oracle. In fact, ESPN's matchup predictor only gives Fred Hoiberg's young squad a 2.9 percent chance to come up victorious. UIC has three times better odds against juggernaut Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Sunday, in case you needed some context.  

With the talent gap in mind, though, it will be important for the Bulls to come out with high energy. The Warriors will likely take the contest lightly in the first half, so starting off strong reflects well on the coaching staff and starters. Stay within 10 points by the half, and that's considered a massive triumph. 

2. Lauri Markkanen vs. Draymond Green? Assuming the Dubs start out with Green on Markkanen, this will be rookie's biggest test of the season. Green is an elite defender, capable of wrecking gameplans from the tip. He's physical, quick and athletic. 

Markkanen is coming off two duds on the West Coast trip, but his aggressiveness hasn't wavered. It'll be important for him to continue to attack even with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year hounding him. 

3. Steph, KD and Klay doin' work. The Bulls offense hasn't exactly been a thing of beauty through the first 16 games. Their offensive rating is a brutal 94.4, ranked last in the NBA. Golden State, on the other hand, sits at the top with a rating of 113.1. 

Take some time to admire the skills of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson because when it comes to working cohesively on offense, they've set the gold standard. 

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

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USA TODAY

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

Families gather and people talk about things they are thankful for on Thanksgiving, but what are Chicago sports fans happy for now?

Raised expectations on the North Side

Got to be thankful that a “disappointing” season is winning the division and losing in the NLCS. The expectations have skyrocketed, and that’s thanks to a ridiculous nucleus of bats and a steady front office. Not many clubs can say that. Also, though, it’s important to be appreciative of the Wrigley bar stretch. They may charge $8 for a Miller Lite, but it’s always a damn good party.

Javy tags, too. Don't forget Javy tags.

Rebuild sparking hope in White Sox fans

Where to begin? Obviously, be thankful for the plethora of young talent that will soon take over the South Side. Be thankful for Avi Time (while you still can). Be thankful that taking your friends or family to a game won’t cause you to take out a second mortgage. Be thankful for the 2020 World Series and, of course, 2020 MVP Eloy Jimenez. But most importantly, be thankful that Rick Hahn’s phone stays buzzing.

Eddie O back in the booth for the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are having a rough start to the season, but at least Eddie Olczyk is back in the booth. The longtime Blackhawks broadcaster returned to the booth on Oct. 18 after missing time while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer.

With some of the key names from the Blackhawks’ title runs either leaving or being unable to play this season (in the case of Marian Hossa), Blackhawks fans are probably thankful to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice during games.

Lauri Markkanen leading the Bulls rebuild

OK, there’s not much to be thankful for about the current Bulls team. At 3-13, the Bulls are tied for the fewest wins in the NBA (maybe in the long-term that’s something to be thankful for as well). However, Zach LaVine’s pending debut after his eventual return from injury should help create some excitement.

The thing Bulls fans really should be thankful for this year is the play of rookie Lauri Markkanen. The 20-year-old leads the team in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounds (8.3 per game) while shooting at a high percentage (34.2 percent on threes and 50.6 percent on twos). It’s only the beginning of the Bulls’ rebuild, but Markkanen is a good start.

Mitchapalooza

If a few things broke the Bears’ way, Chicagoans could have been grateful that the team was finally out of the cellar. Instead, we’ll settle for the fact that there seems to be some building blocks already in place. Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks seem to fit that category. Also, some may be thankful that this is likely John Fox’s last season at the helm.

Fire ending a playoff drought

After finishing dead last in MLS in 2015 and 2016, the Fire were one of the most improved teams in the league in 2017. After posting the third best record in the league, the Fire made a first playoff appearance since 2012.

The playoff run didn’t last long with the Fire losing a play-in game at home, but the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the league’s leading goal-scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, helped fill the stadium with six sellouts and gave Fire fans something to cheer for.