Bulls

Marshall creating more than just separation or catches

771606.png

Marshall creating more than just separation or catches

Brandon Marshall is doing things hes never done before, and the effect is bringing an almost palpable change in the chemistry within the Bears wide-receiver group. (Put another way, Roy Williams is gone, in more ways than one.)

Indeed, the first thing you notice isnt Marshall catching passes in drills or 7-on-7s or team sessions. Its what he was doing in warmups.

Marshall is treating the casual throw-and-catch prelim of organized team activity sessions with the same kind of spirit that is typically reserved for those drills when theyre run before a game.

Without degenerating into wanton rah-rah, Marshall is giving a high-five or back slap to each teammate coming in after making his catch. He runs even his warmup routes like they matter.

If hes seeming like a teacher or role model, its because he is, and thats exactly how he sees himself.

I guess its in me, in a way, Marshall said. It took seven years to harness it and put it in a positive direction, and Im excited about it.

This is the first year that Ive actually felt pressure as far as, Ive got to work because theres some young guys and Im getting older, but also, Im recognizing how important it is to bring those guys along. This is a first for me, but Im embracing the opportunity.

The contrast is nothing less than stark between this situation and last years with Williams, signed post-lockout to reprise the kind of season he had once under Mike Martz in Detroit, being anything but a role model for the Bears group of young wideouts.

Williams reported admittedly out of football shape, compromising his effectiveness with unfamiliar quarterbacks who were throwing to a receiver who was sub-standard out of breaks and achieving separation.

His suspect effort grated on some in his group, particularly when he was installed over Johnny Knox as one of the starting wideouts.

That is gone now. Instead of a receiver who fell well short of greatness, the Bears this year have brought in one who is at a point in his career when that has to be the absolute goal.

We strive for greatness, Marshall said. Even in warm-ups and in route running, we get upset when we drop balls or miss throws or call the wrong plays. We know what we expect out of each other, and we know what we expect of guys around us. So were excited.

Zach LaVine's conditioning at '70 percent' but still on schedule

0109_zach_lavine_bulls.jpg
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

1-22_pelicans_matchup_nba_chi_blank.jpg

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.