Bulls

Nathan Marcus decides Vanderbilt best fit

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Nathan Marcus decides Vanderbilt best fit

Glenbard West tight end Nathan Marcus didn't choose Vanderbilt because he likes Nashville, the capitol of country music, or because he wants to compete in the SEC, the toughest football conference in the nation, or because it's only an hour-long plane flight from Chicago or because he wants to major in aerospace at an academic-minded institution.

No, Marcus chose Vanderbilt because he had a "gut feeling" about his decision and because his mother, who did extensive research on the recruiting process, apparently arrived at a positive feeling about the school even before her son did.

"I didn't have to think about it too much," said the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder. "It sounds like a clich but I felt it in my gut. You really have a gut feeling at what you want. I won't change my mind. If Vanderbilt recruits three tight ends who are better than me, I feel I can outwork them. I don't feel I will have any regrets."

Marcus' mother made sure her son didn't make a hasty decision, that he wouldn't regret not waiting for more scholarship offers that would be sure to come as the 2012 season goes along. He had six offers--Vanderbilt, Northwestern, Indiana, Duke, Boston College and Toledo.

"I'm glad to get it over with before it got crazy," he said. "I'm glad to get my mind made up before I get stressed out and maybe not make the right choice. In a clear head, there is no question in my mind that I made the right choice.

"I went to a lot of schools early and got a feel for other schools. When I went back to Vanderbilt a second time, I compared them all. Vanderbilt has great academics, as good as it gets for a Division I school. I know the SEC is the best conference for football but that didn't play a big factor in my decision.

"My family and coaches reminded me that I could wait for more offers. They wondered if I was holding out for a particular school. My mother made me think about it. She wanted to be sure that I wasn't making a snap decision. I think Vanderbilt was her decision for a long time. She liked the coaches, who were very honest to her, and the good education. In the end, I couldn't name another school I was interested in."

Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet said Marcus was the earliest commitment he has had. But he didn't question the youngster's decision. "It is a good fit for him, the best of all worlds. He loves the academic end of it and I think he is excited to play in the SEC. Vanderbilt recruited him as good as anyone, if not better. He had no pressure to commit," Hetlet said.

Marcus is Vanderbilt's sixth commitment. The Commodores play in the SEC's East Division with South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky. Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss, members of the SEC's West Division, also are on their schedule.

Growing up, he preferred basketball to football. His father persuaded him to concentrate on football. He enjoyed basketball because he was taller than other kids and able to dominate them. Then they began to grow and Marcus began to have more passion for football.

As a freshman, he was a wide receiver on a 70-man squad. On a team that was run-oriented, he mostly blocked and caught only seven passes. Then sophomore coach John Sigmund, looking for a tight end, pulled Marcus aside and suggested that he was big enough and would be a good fit at the position. As a starter, even as a blocker, he had fun.

As a sophomore on the varsity, he caught four passes in a game against York. A light bulb went on. "All of a sudden, people were talking about me and I began to think I could be going somewhere as a football player, that I was getting better," he said.

Last year, as college recruiters from coast to coast came to the Glen Ellyn school to evaluate defensive end Tommy Schutt (who went to Ohio State), Marcus began to get some attention. He hoped they took note of the film when he made two blocks against Wheaton Warrenville South in a nationally televised game on ESPN and put the defenders on their backs.

"I started to get pulled out of class to meet with coaches," he said. "I realized they were interested in me as a recruit. I met coaches from Iowa, Ohio State and Michigan State. I said to myself: 'OK, if I keep working hard and performing, I can play in college. My name will get to the colleges and recruiting will take care of itself.' I was surprised but really happy about what was happening.

"Now the pressure is off me. I miss getting pulled out of class and meeting with college coaches. But it feels great to know my future is settled. I have what I want."

Observations from Bulls' blowout loss to Warriors: Curry, Bell, records and a road-weary Markkanen

Observations from Bulls' blowout loss to Warriors: Curry, Bell, records and a road-weary Markkanen

Don’t tug on Curry’s cape: There’s an old saying in the NBA: “Send a limo for (insert player here) to the game tonight. I want to make sure he arrives safely.”

Translation: I’m gonna light him up tonight.

That’s what two-time MVP Stephen Curry did to Kris Dunn in the second quarter Friday, when a slim lead turned into a huge, expected deficit for the Bulls. Curry scored 26 of his game-high 33 points in the quarter, complete with heat checks and celebratory struts that have become commonplace with Curry’s performances.

Whether it was backdoor layups or 30-footers, Curry made Oracle Arena his playground—and Dunn his victim in what could best be described as an old-school baptism Dunn isn’t sure to forget.

Dunn likely set off Curry’s ire with Curry drawing two quick fouls in the first quarter and some aggressive physical defense that is traditionally the book on Curry, if there is such a book.

But when Curry returned in the second quarter, he took advantage of the ultimate green light as All-Star teammates Kevin Durant and Draymond Green were out. He performed his theatrics with relative ease, hitting four of 11 triples and shooting 10 of 18 overall in just 27 minutes of work.

It wasn’t just Curry, as Klay Thompson was even more efficient, scoring 29 on 12 of 17 shootng and hitting five of his nine triples. Nick Young was seven of 12 in 19 minutes for 17 points as the Warriors shot 58 percent and committed just 11 turnovers.

Curry, who can give them away at times, only had two turnovers and it helped lead to an easy win.

“You try to make it a little more difficult,” Dunn said. “He’s a phenomenal shooter, everybody knows that. Once he gets on a roll like that it’s hard but you’ve just got to make it difficult for him.”

Had it been necessary, Curry could’ve gone for a 60-point performance, having 31 at the half. Dunn, enduring a night he won’t sure forget, scored six points with four assists on two of 11 shooting in 25 minutes.

“The turnovers, the lack of awareness,” Hoiberg said. “It is hopefully something he’ll grow from and learn from and find a way to fight through when he’s not playing well. Absolutely. You learn form the good things, learn from the bad things. There’s plenty of bad we can learn from tonight.”

The great ones go through baptisms, especially the point guards considering they’re on an island in this talent-rich stretch of the NBA. Dunn has a chance to be special on defense as he progresses through the years, but if Friday was any lesson, being able to give it back is probably the best remedy—because just taking his medicine can’t feel good.

The Bell rung

Whether it was a bored championship team finding an easy way to motivate itself or wanting to troll the Bulls for sport, the Warriors found an easy storyline to exploit in the insertion of rookie Jordan Bell.

It’s easy to remember the Bulls drafted Bell in the second round for the Warriors in exchange for $3.5 million to go into the Bulls coffers the night they decided to go with a full-scale rebuild.

Bell was rewarded with a start after inconsistent playing time in the absence of Green and made his presence felt from the moment his name was called in the introductions, with a “money sign” as a way to remind the team that drafted him of what it was missing.

"I just wanted to see how cash considerations was playing over there,” he said after the game.

He then proceeded to give the Bulls nightmares all over the floor with his athleticism and shot-blocking, swatting away six shots—including a chasedown block of Denzel Valentine everyone in Oracle Arena could see coming from the moment Valentine started his ground-bound trot downcourt.

It was likely something he’d been envisioning since Warriors coach Steve Kerr told Bell he would be starting two days ago.

“At first I was thinking of things to troll the other team but as I got closer to the game, I was like let me focus on the game,” Bell said. “Then when I saw we won the game, I started trolling a little bit.”

Before the trolling, there was the teasing in the form of production. The eye-popping alley-oop from Zaza Pachulia and even the wild play of fouling Justin Holiday on a corner jumper that almost looked violent.

He was clearly pumped for the opportunity to play against a team that didn’t give him a second thought and his veteran teammates took every opportunity to press his buttons.

“I remember Klay said something, like they don’t want you JB,” he said. “Everybody kept reminding me of it today.”

And it will be a topic of conversation for the immediate future, especially as the Bulls are in the search for young, athletic talent they can build around.

One for the books

The 49-point drubbing was third-worst in franchise history and the Bulls are now the owners of the NBA’s worst record at 3-14, along with having the worst point differential at -12.9 points per game.

The second and third quarters were embarrassing, as the Warriors outscored the Bulls 81-34 in easy fashion. Usually in those occurrences, Hoiberg will make an opening statement to the media about the effort lacking before taking questions.

Friday was no different.

“From Day 1, going back into September, the biggest thing we talked about as a team was fighting through the tough times, handling adversity. Well…we went out and had a great start. Actually had a lead after the first quarter. They go on a run and we’ve seen this before, we put our heads down, we don’t’ fight through it, we start separating and lose trust in each other. That can’t continue to happen. We gotta find a way to battle through the tough times. Quit putting our heads down, find a way to toughen up and stay in the game.”

Hoiberg was asked what kind of effect this can have on a team if these type of beatdowns continue and he didn’t mince words—a shift of sorts from his usual straight-faced demeanor.

“Tonight, they got it going, we didn’t handle it well,” he said. “We stopped getting back. They were getting whatever they wanted. You’ve got to find a way to fight through that. If we don’t learn that soon, we’re going to keep getting our asses kicked.”

Robin Lopez said it’s a collective issue and one that needs to be fixed. Perhaps in a clear moment of self-awareness, Dunn said he can see when the Bulls stop competing.

“You can definitely see it. I think it’s the youth,” Dunn said. “We’re not used to that. In the NBA, people can put up points very quickly. It comes with the territory.”

He’s still a rookie, folks

Lauri Markkanen showed some signs of the west-coast swing getting to him in the fatigue department, struggling in his third straight game Friday.

The Bulls have made it a priority to get Markkanen better shots and cleaner opportunities but they were in short order as he was four of 16 from the field in 27 minutes.

There wasn’t much quality to go around anyways as the Bulls shot 35 percent and fell behind by as many as 49. After scoring 26 with 13 rebounds against Phoenix last Sunday, he’s averaged 10 points on nine of 42 shooting (21 percent).

“Today they didn’t fall in the second half—actually, in the first half either,” Markkanen said. “I’ve just got to work more. I’ve had a couple nights now where I don’t make shots. But I did have good looks, though, they just didn’t fall tonight.”

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back against Panthers

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back against Panthers

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Florida Panthers Saturday on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

(Reminder: Use #AskEdzo on social media and your questions may be answered by Eddie Olczyk, who will be in studio along with Adam Burish, Brian Campbell and Pat Boyle).

1. Another fast start coming?

The Blackhawks had one of their best starts of the season Wednesday in Tampa Bay, and the numbers favor Chicago to dictate the pace of play early again.

The Panthers are tied with the Buffalo Sabres for the fewest goals scored in the first period (13), and have taken a lead into the second period only four times (3-1-0) in 21 games. They are 2-7-1 in the 10 games they've trailed after the opening frame.

The Blackhawks, on the other hand, are tied for fourth when it comes to first-period goals (22) — albeit, five of them came on Opening Night against Pittsburgh — but they are just 4-2-2 in eight games when leading after one period. In fact, they took a 2-0 lead into the second in their most recent game against the Lightning and lost in overtime 3-2.

So while a fast start could certainly be in the cards, the finish must also be there.

2. Take advantage on special teams.

The Panthers are one of two teams ranked among the bottom six in both power play percentage (26th at 16.0) and penalty kill percentage (30th at 73.2).

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks are coming in hot in both areas. They're 6-for-17 (35.3 percent) on the man advantage in their last four games, and own the fourth-best penalty kill unit (84.8 percent).

This is the area to exploit for the Blackhawks going into the matchup, and it could decide the game.

3. Feed Lance Bouma!

In his seventh season, Bouma has faced every NHL team at least five times in his career, with the exception of Vegas (pointless in one game this season).

Bouma is not known for his offensive prowess (72 points in 325 career games), but it's a different story when he plays Florida.

In six career games against the Panthers, Bouma has one goal, six assists and a career-high plus-8 rating. That one goal also happens to be one of his six career game winners.

Florida is the only team Bouma is averaging at least a point-per-game against for his career, so you know what that means: Feed No. 17!