Bulls

Maybe Rodman's not such a 'Bad Boy'

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Maybe Rodman's not such a 'Bad Boy'

Basketball Hall of Famers Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and David Robinson talked about a variety of topics during appearances on "The Dan Patrick Show" Wednesday.

Malone opined on former Bull, Dennis Rodman, who he said he's known since both played in an Oklahoma pro-am event backed by the late Wayman Tisdale, a former NBA player.

"What people don't realize about Dennis is that guy would give you the shirt off his back and I think that's been some of his demise," he said. "When they were talking about 'should he go into the Hall of Fame,' I don't think they were necessarily talking about his stats. I think, personally, that they were scared to death about what he would wear or say.

"I love the fact that he made the Hall of Fame."

Barkley, an NBA analyst for TNT, admitted that he picked the Heat to win the Finals, but after the Thunder's Game 1 win Tuesday night, he stated, "LeBron James doesn't have a lot of help. He's Michael Jackson playing with a bunch of Tito Jacksons..I picked Miami to win that series, to be honest with you and I still think they have a good chance to win that series, but if they don't give him any help, they're in trouble because Oklahoma City's got a very good team. I thought the difference in the game last night was Russell Westbrook. He was fabulous."

He also threw in a jab at his friend Dwyane Wade, Miami's All-Star guard, a Chicago native and Barkley's occasional co-star in commercials: "When he plays poorly, his knee is hurt. When he plays great, he's great."

Barkley complimented Sam Presti, the Thunder's general manager, but added: "I like Sam, but if the Portland Trail Blazers had taken Kevin Durant, we wouldn't be having this conversation, would we? He did a great job with Westbrook and he did a great job with Serge Ibaka, and Harden."

Barkley also discussed a report that he's interested in being a candidate for the Philadelphia 76ers'--his first NBA team--general-manager position.

"I think everybody knows that I want to be a GM, so I would sit down and talk to them," he said. "It would depend on the financial considerations. I'm not taking any big old huge pay cut; let's get that straight.

"I want that challenge at some point and I think I'm ready for it, and I think I would be successful, to be honest with you," Barkley continued. "I can't be worse than some of these other stiffs running NBA teams. Some of these guys are bums.

"I'm not going to take a bad job. I'm only going to take a job where I have creative control."

Robinson, who was maligned for not winning a championship early in his career prior to Tim Duncan's arrival in San Antonio, was asked about the widespread criticism of Heat superstar LeBron James and though he defended the current league MVP, he admitted that he would choose Kevin Durant over James moving forward.

"In the past, he let it get to him a little bit, but this year he looks like he's relaxed, he's doing a great job, he's playing extremely well, but still, if he doesn't win, everybody's still going to talk about him and that's ridiculous. The way the guy has played, especially during these playoffs, has been outrageous," he said. "I think Durant for right now. I think the way he's playing and I like their team right now. I like the way they're playing. I think they're going to win this one, so I'd have to go with his for right now. We'll see who wins this championship and I'll tell you after that."

The Hall of Fame center, a former No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick, also discussed Chicago native Anthony Davis, the likely top choice in the upcoming draft.

Explained Robinson: "Anthony, I think, similar to Tim, I'd just try to take as much pressure off him as possible and get him to understand the expectations out there--I think LeBron's a good example--the expectations are always just ridiculous. You've just got to play at your own pace, your own strength and just be your own man because you can't be what everybody else expects you to be all the time."

NBA Draft Tracker: Arizona C DeAndre Ayton

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USA TODAY

NBA Draft Tracker: Arizona C DeAndre Ayton

With college teams heading into conference play, momentum is starting to build for Arizona center Deandre Ayton as a potential No. 1 pick in next June's draft.

Ayton already has an NBA body at 7-foot-1, 250 pounds and he's a lot more agile than most young big men. Watching his recent game against Texas A&M, Ayton showed the kind of footwork and explosiveness that will impress scouts and general managers. He doesn't have the Hakeem Olajuwon-like moves of a Joel Embiid, but he's already got the basic NBA post move skill set, including a jump hook and up-and-under package. Ayton exploded for 29 points and 18 rebounds in a win over Alabama on December 9, making 12 of 18 shots.

Ayton is already a force on the defensive end with his quick leaping ability allowing him to alter shots in the paint, and he has a nice touch from the outside, hitting just under 70 percent of his free throws while also venturing out to the 3-point line to attempt a couple shots.

Where does he fit for the Bulls? Robin Lopez is under contract for another season and the Bulls also have three more guaranteed years of seldom-used Cristiano Felicio. Still, all that could change by season's end, with Lopez a potential trade candidate for a contending team looking to add another quality big man. Ayton's size and athleticism could be attractive to a Bulls’ team that's already identified three young starters going forward in Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn, especially since the power forward position is overloaded right now with Markkanen, Bobby Portis and Niko Mirotic. 

At this point early in the college season, Marvin Bagley and Ayton probably rank first and second on most teams’ draft boards, followed by Slovenian guard Luka Doncic and Missouri forward Michael Porter, who's out for the season because of a back injury. 

Bagley is the hot name among NBA scouts, but don't be surprised if Ayton gets consideration for the No. 1 overall pick next June. The NBA might be a point guard league right now, but the influx of quality young centers like Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andre Drummond, Hassan Whiteside, Rudy Gobert, Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic suggests the big man is still a valuable commodity.

For Mitch Trubisky, key ball security extends well beyond just third downs

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USA TODAY

For Mitch Trubisky, key ball security extends well beyond just third downs

John Fox has mentioned Mitch Trubisky’s third-down passing on more than one occasion, and not simply as a stroke of what his staff has done in the way of player development as a coaching decision of tectonic-plate degree looms. The fact is that third-down passing is a defining measure of an NFL quarterback; as Loggains stated, it’s where quarterbacks earn their money, and by extension, make it possible for a lot of other folks to earn theirs.

But it’s far bigger than only third downs. Case in point: Trubisky completed 25 of his 32 passes at Cincinnati. All of those passes came during the Bears’ first nine (of 11) possessions. Significantly, the Bears had at least one first down on every one of those possessions, and more than one on seven of the nine.

Meaning: The offense sustained drives and the defense was able to recover on the sideline. That would comprise two-thirds of “complimentary football” the way it’s designed.

(It also did not hurt that every drive on which the Bears didn’t draw a penalty, with the exception of the one ended by halftime, the Bears scored a touchdown. Probably just coincidence…but…maybe not…)

Putting all of this in the broader context of Trubisky’s development, the self-professed gunslinger has thrown zero interceptions in six of his nine games, none in four of the last five. That points to the rookie being schooled hard in ball security, something that has been a hallmark of quarterbacks under coordinator Dowell Loggains’ auspices. Brian Hoyer and Jay Cutler in 2015 played with a level of ball security at or among the best of their careers.

Trubisky’s 1.8 percent interception rate overall is the larger point. As mentioned in this space and elsewhere previously, coaches aren’t going to “breed” Trubisky’s core aggressiveness out of him by drilling “ball security” into his head.

And while the concept is simple enough, implementing it isn’t. For all of his meteoric success before his season-ending knee injury, Deshaun Watson was being picked on 3.9 percent of his throws. Cutler has reverted to his career base course (3.2 percent) while Trubisky keeping his throws out of harm’s way percentage-wise better than all of Matthew Stafford (1.9), Russell Wilson (2.3), Matt Ryan (2.6) or Ben Roethlisberger (2.6).

Maybe it’s “generational:” Jared Goff (1.4) and Carson Wentz (1.6) seem to have been schooled the same direction. And how’s that working for them?

Marcus Mariota is having his worst (by his reckoning) NFL season, with 14 interceptions making him so testy that his Mom yelled at him for being grumpy to reporters while discussing his play.

Key to Bears defeating Detroit

The obvious is how well the offense and Trubisky control the football without turning the football over and without self-destructing with penalties that put them behind the sticks. It’s not a sure-fire formula; the Bears didn’t turn the ball over vs. San Francisco and had half the number of penalties assessed as the 49ers and still took incompetence to epic levels. But it is a foundation starting point.

Actually, it’s more than that where the Detroit Lions are concerned.

Detroit has lost three of the four games in which its opponents didn’t give them at least one turnover.    

Stopping the run is a standard “key,” but in the Lions case, they don’t run the ball much anyway. They are last in the NFL in rushing yards per game (76.3) and yards per attempt (3.3). Nine different individuals, including Jordan Howard, average more per game than the Lions. They did win the only two games in which they rushed for more than 100 yards (but those were against the Giants and Browns, so those don’t count).

But Detroit is 7-6 overall without any appreciable rushing offense. So stopping the run, while always a factor, isn’t necessarily a game-changer vs. the Lions.

Ball security is. Keeping Matthew Stafford off the field, as it is with most elite quarterbacks, is everything. Stafford is tied for second for taking sacks (39) and is even taking them at a concerning rate of one every 13 pass plays – statistically significantly higher than nearly every other top passer – and he is still passing to a rating of 97.9, good enough for No. 8 in the NFL.

So getting after Stafford helps. Stopping the run helps. Forcing takeaways helps. But the only element that directly correlates to upending the Lions is not so much creating turnovers as avoiding ones of your own.