Ex-Bulls coach Collins praises opponent


Ex-Bulls coach Collins praises opponent

PHILADELPHIA If he wasnt so genuine, youd think 76ers head coach Doug Collins was playing some kind of mind game. Following his teams morning shootaround, Collins, an Illinois native and former Bulls head coach, praised his Sunday-night opponent to the point that it seemed he was attempting to soften them up via osmosis or at least visiting media with plaudits about the visitors greatness.

The Bulls are going to be ready. Weve had a couple good games against them, so Im sure theyre going to be ready," said the Illinois native. "Plus, Im sure, too, theyre playing for that home-court advantage. Them and Miami right now, Im sure are watching each other and Im sure the Bulls would like to get the best record throughout. Theyre a great road team I think theyre 16-6 on the road theyre going to have a really good home finish, in terms of games at home, so Im sure those two teams have an eye on one another and you factor in Oklahoma City and all, this year, everybodys really looking for that home-court advantage, so this is a really big game for them.

This is a very proud team, they defend very, very well. Tommy Thibodeaus done a wonderful job with that team. Their defense is terrific, they rebound the ball, they shoot the three well. They have all the elements of a championship team, so for us, we play a game like this, its always a great way for us to see what do we have to do to keep getting better.

Of course, Collins bunch beat the Bulls handily the last time they were in Philadelphia and the veteran coach is wise enough to not inflame what could be a second-round playoff foe by boasting about the Sixers performance in that affair. Collins admitted there were mitigating factors in that contest most notably, the dual absences of Rip Hamilton and Luol Deng but also acknowledged his own teams advantages.

They play 10 guys, very good bench. We did not see Rip or Luol the last time. Lus having a terrific year. Hes really shooting the ball well, his three-point shooting is up, which really makes it difficult to guard Lu because hes such a slasher and a cutter. This team obviously Derrick Rose with the ball in his hands so pick-and-roll, trying to keep them out of the paint. Youve got to rebound the ball against this team. They outrebound their opponents by about six a game and so, if you have any hope of winning the game, from our standpoint, you have to rebound the ball because our speed is a factor, he explained. When weve played in the past, one of the reasons weve been able to beat them is because our speed has been a huge factor. So, rebounding, Rose trying to keep him out of that paint, keep him off the foul line and then give ourselves a chance to get into the open court and makes plays.

"Thats what we did in here the last time and Rip Hamilton being back now means that he gets off all these screens, chase him off screens and then Watson played very well in here against us. Theyve got two very good big guys, Asik and Gibson, coming off the bench. Brewer, who started the last time, Korver, who can really shoot. Theyve got a team that has a chance to win it all, so this is a game from our standpoint, where we know weve got to do a lot of things right to win.

Thats the whole key for us. We cant let them shoot a high percentage and weve got to rebound the ball, can we get some deflections? We made some shots, as well. For us, we were in one of those stretches where we were shooting the ball pretty well and Im hoping that the last couple of games, see the ball go in the basket a little bit, that our guys feel pretty good about that, Collins, whose team is currently fourth in the Eastern Conference, continued. We just tried to get them playing in a crowd. Thats what we tried to do. Active hands, get some deflections. I dont think Derrick was feeling well the last time we played them here. He had missed shootaround that morning and didnt actually even play in the fourth quarter of the game against us. They had no Rip, they had no Lu, so that was all huge factors. The amazing thing about them was they got on a bus after that game and went to New York City, and went in and won

Do you realize just how many things have to break right for a Bears 2018 rebound?


Do you realize just how many things have to break right for a Bears 2018 rebound?

Not all that long ago, back in the seemingly promising Dave Wannstedt days, something of an annual narrative began around the Bears. All too frequently since then it has been the refrain of more offseasons than not, including last year’s. And if there is a cause for very, very sobering realism in the wake of the heady wave of free-agency signings in the first days of the new league year, it lies in what has so often transpired to put the lie to that optimism.

The mantra then, and now, has been various iterations of, “If these three (or four, or six, or 12) things work out, the Bears are gonna be good this year.” Because the reality is that all those what-ifs seldom, if ever, all come to pass, whether because of injury, mis-evaluated abilities or whatever.

Look no further than this time last offseason, just considering the offense:

If Kevin White can come back from (another) injury, if Markus Wheaton flashes his Pittsburgh speed, if Dion Sims takes that next step from a promising Miami stint, if Kyle Long is back from his lower-body issues, if Cameron Meredith comes close to those 66 catches again, if Mike Glennon has the upside that led the GM to guarantee him $18.5 million, and hey, Victor Cruz, too, if… and so on.

And exactly zero of those “if’s” came to pass, with the result that John Fox and Dowell Loggains became idiots.

The point is not to a picker of nit or sayer of nay. But the fact is that a lot of the offseason moves and player development ALL need to come down in the plus-column for the Bears to be even as good as they were back in, say, 2015, when the offense had Martellus Bennett at tight end, Alshon Jeffery at wide receiver, Eddie Royal coming in at slot receiver (with 37 catches in an injury-shortened season), Kyle Long at his Pro-Bowl best, and Jay Cutler about to have the best full season of his career. And a new (proven) head coach and defensive coordinator, and an offensive coordinator with head-coaching talent.

All those things “worked” for a team that would wobble to a 6-10 year.

Now consider 2018:

The current top two wide receivers are both – both – coming off season-ending ACL injuries;

The incoming slot receiver has never had a season as reception-productive as the one (Kendall Wright) he is replacing (59) or as many as Royal had in just nine 2015 games (37);

The new tight end has never been a starter and has fewer career catches (63) than Bennett averaged (69) in three supremely disappointing Bears seasons;

The best offensive lineman (Long) is coming off missing essentially half of each of the past two seasons with injuries, and the co-best (Sitton) is gone from an offensive line that was middle of the pack last year and has high hopes for two linemen (Hroniss Grasu, Eric Kush) who’ve been largely backups, and a third (Jordan Morgan) who missed his rookie season with an injury;

And the quarterback (Trubisky) upon whom the franchise rests, who needs to overcome any so-called sophomore jinx and improve from a rookie level (77.8 passer rating) that was barely better than Cutler’s worst NFL season (76.8).

All of which sounds negative, but it really isn’t, just a perspective. Offseasons are about hope, but realism isn’t all bad, either.

The pros and cons of reuniting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on Blackhawks top line


The pros and cons of reuniting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on Blackhawks top line

Jonathan Toews' offense usually comes in spurts. We're seeing it again right now.

But it's no coincidence his numbers have spiked since Patrick Kane joined him on the top line.

After recording another two points in Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the Blackhawks captain has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in his past eight games; he had 11 points in his previous 23 games total.

Toews also reached the 20-goal mark for the 11th straight season, joining Kane and Alex Ovechkin as the only three active players to accomplish that feat to open their NHL careers.

Kane has seen his offensive production pick up, too. He has 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in his past 13 games after going five straight without one, which was his longest point drought of the season.

When the two of them are on the ice together at even strength, they control 57.9 percent of the shot attempts. It hasn't quite translated on the scoresheet (14 goals for and 17 goals against) maybe the way it should, but they are certainly spending far more time in the offensive zone than the defensive end and are generating a high volume of shots.

So yes, reuniting the dynamic duo has worked stats-wise.

But it comes at a cost:

— Vinnie Hinostroza and Nick Schmaltz haven't scored in six straight contests.

— Alex DeBrincat's season-long goal drought is up to 13 games.

— Artem Anisimov's last even-strength goal came nine games ago.

When you put Kane and Toews together, you risk losing some balance across the lineup and that's why Joel Quenneville has always been reluctant to go to that nuclear option. He prefers when opposing teams are forced to play 'Pick Your Poison.'

Ideally, you'd like to spread out the scoring, but one thing is for certain: The Blackhawks are better when Kane and Toews are each producing offensively, whether they're apart or together. 

When the wins start to dry up though — and they have — that's normally when it's time to try something different.

Perhaps more importantly, the last thing you want are those scoring droughts mentioned above to stretch even further and get inside the younger skaters' heads, then carrying it with them into the offseason.