Bears

Five reasons to watch tonight's "Bulls Classics"

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Five reasons to watch tonight's "Bulls Classics"

Five things to watch in tonight's Comcast SportsNet's "Bulls Classics" broadcast of the Bulls' 117-116 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Feb. 16, 1989, in which Michael Jordan scored 50 points, including the game-winning shot:

1) In something that was a staple for Jordan throughout his career, perhaps the most impressive aspect of his 50-point outing wasn't the gaudy numbers, but the manner in which he accumulated the high point total. He shot 16-for-26 from the floor, including splitting a pair of three-point attempts, and nailed 17 of his 18 shots from the charity stripe. In addition, he snared eight rebounds, dished out five assists and swiped three steals on the evening in Chicago Stadium. For good measure, he knocked down his final attempt, a mid-range jumper, with one second remaining in the contest to give the Bulls the one-point victory.

2) In the 1988-89 season, the Bulls were still coming into their own, but were making strides toward being the franchise that would dominate much of the next decade of NBA basketball. It was center Bill Cartwright's first season in Chicago after being traded from the New York Knicks for power forward Charles Oakley. Cartwright, who finished with 11 points and eight boards that night, wasn't a star, but he was a consistent, legitimate pivot presence and paved the way for Horace Grant to join fellow second-year forward Scottie Pippen in the Bulls starting lineup. As for Grant and Pippen, they were still somewhat raw, developing young players, but their near-identical stat lines -- Grant recorded 18 points, six rebounds, five assists and a blocked shot, while Pippen went for 17 points, five apiece of rebounds and assists, to go along with two blocks and four steals -- offered a glimpse of the well-rounded veterans they'd later become. The Bulls went on to finish the regular season with a 47-35 mark and advanced all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they'd suffer a painful -- literally and figuratively -- defeat to the hated Detroit Pistons after knocking off the Knicks and Central Division rival Cleveland in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

3) Milwaukee was no slouch in those days, as the Bucks actually finished with a better regular-season record than neighboring Chicago before losing in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Jack Sikma and Terry Cummings were a formidable big-man tandem and the wing trio of star Sidney Moncrief, sixth man Ricky Pierce, a dangerous scorer and Paul Pressey -- credited by many as the game's first "point forward," as he was deployed by former coach Don Nelson -- was also quite strong, although Pierce and Moncrief both missed that February 1989 game on Madison Street.

4) Not only is Milwaukee close in proximity to Chicago, but that season's edition of the Bucks featured some local flavor. The aforementioned Cummings, reserve Tony Brown and then-aging backup point guard Rickey Green all hail from the Windy City, while Sikma is from nearby Kankakee, Ill.

Fun fact: Milwaukee reserve Tito Horford is the father of current NBA All-Star Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks.

5) An inordinate number of players from this game went on to coaching careers. Cartwright is an assistant with the Phoenix Suns and Bulls starting point guard Sam Vincent is currently a head coach in the D-League, although he previously was the head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats. Milwaukee, however, takes the cake. Starting point guard Jay Humphries and backup big man Paul Mokeski also coached in the D-League, Pressey is a Cavaliers assistant, Moncrief is back with the Bucks as an assistant, Sikma is on the Minnesota Timberwolves' new staff and Brown was most recently a Clippers assistant under Dunleavy. Dunleavy actually coached against the Bulls in the 1991 NBA Finals, when he was at the helm of the Lakers. Blue-collar forward Larry Krystowiak (24 points, game-high 18 rebounds) was actually the Bucks head coach for a short stint, sandwiched between college head-coaching jobs at his alma mater, the University of Montana, and his current position at the University of Utah.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

Seth Gruen (Bleacher Report/”Big Ten Unfiltered” podcast), Chris Emma (670TheScore.com) and Matt Zahn (CBS 2) join Kap on the panel. If the Bears lose badly to the Lions, should Sunday be John Fox’s last game? 

Plus Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill joins the panel to talk Bulls as well as the Niko/Portis cold war.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

John Fox on Friday sought to clarify some comments he made earlier in the week about Tarik Cohen that seemed to follow some spurious logic. Here’s what Fox said on Wednesday when asked if he’d like to see Cohen be more involved in the offensive game plan:

“You’re looking at one game,” Fox said, referencing Cohen only playing 13 of 60 snaps against the Green Bay Packers. “Sometimes the defense dictates who gets the ball. I think from a running standpoint it was a game where we didn’t run the ball very effectively. I think we only ran it 17 times. I believe Jordan Howard, being the fifth leading rusher in the league, probably commanded most of that. I think he had 15 carries. 

“It’s a situation where we’d like to get him more touches, but it just didn’t materialize that well on that day. But I’d remind people that he’s pretty high up there in both punt returns, he’s our leading receiver with 29 catches, so it’s not like we don’t know who he is.”

There were some clear holes to poke in that line of reasoning, since the question wasn’t about Cohen’s touches, but his snap count. Cohen creates matchup problems when he’s on the field for opposing defenses, who can be caught having to double-team him (thus leaving a player uncovered, i.e. Kendall Wright) or matching up a linebacker against him (a positive for the Bears). The ball doesn’t have to be thrown Cohen’s way for his impact to be made, especially if he’s on the field at the same time as Howard. 

“They don’t know who’s getting the ball, really, and they don’t know how to defend it properly,” Howard said. “… It definitely can dictate matchups.”

There are certain scenarios in which the Bears don’t feel comfortable having Cohen on the field, like in third-and-long and two-minute drills, where Benny Cunningham’s veteran experience and pass protection skills are valued. It may be harder to create a mismatch or draw a double team with Cohen against a nickel package. It's easier to justify leaving a 5-foot-6 running back on the sidelines in those situations. 

But if the Bears need Cohen to be their best playmaker, as offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said last month, they need to find a way for him to be on the field more than a shade over one in every five plays. As Fox explained it on Friday, though, it’s more about finding the right spots for Cohen, not allowing opposing defenses to dictate when he’s on the field. 

“We have Tarik Cohen out there, we're talking about touches, not play time, we're talking about touches so if they double or triple cover him odds are the ball is not going to him, in fact we'd probably prefer it didn’t,” Fox said. “So what I meant by dictating where the ball goes, that's more related to touches than it is play time. I just want to make sure I clarify that. So it's not so much that they dictate personnel to you. Now if it's in a nickel defense they have a certain package they run that may create a bad matchup for you, that might dictate what personnel group you have out there not just as it relates to Tarik Cohen but to your offense in general. You don't want to create a bad matchup for your own team. I hope that makes sense.”

There’s another wrinkle here, though, that should be addressed: Loggains said this week that defenses rarely stick to the tendencies they show on film when Cohen is on the field. That’s not only a problem for Cohen, but it’s a problem for Mitchell Trubisky, who hasn’t always had success against defensive looks he hasn’t seen on film before. And if the Bears are trying to minimize the curveballs Trubisky sees, not having Cohen on the field for a high volume of plays would be one way to solve that. 

This is also where the Bears’ lack of offensive weapons factors in. Darren Sproles, who Cohen will inexorably be linked to, didn’t play much as a rookie — but that was on a San Diego Chargers team that had LaDanian Tomlinson, Keenan McCardell and Antonio Gates putting up big numbers. There were other options on that team; the Bears have a productive Howard and a possibly-emerging Dontrelle Inman, but not much else. 

So as long as Cohen receives only a handful of snaps on a team with a paucity of playmakers, this will continue to be a topic of discussion. Though if you’re looking more at the future of the franchise instead of the short-term payoffs, that we’re having a discussion about a fourth-round pick not being used enough is a good thing.