Bulls

O'Brien, Penn State mindful of past, but ready to move forward

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O'Brien, Penn State mindful of past, but ready to move forward

Penn State didn't get the death penalty. The football team will play games this fall, instead of the broached penalty of being axed for four years. So with that in mind, Bill O'Brien has to do his job, and that's coach the Penn State football team.

"Penn State's sanctions aren't the end of the world," O'Brien said Thursday at Big Ten media day. "I think people have to keep things in perspective and remember that there's a lot more important things in the world, like the victims of child abuse, like our own families, like these kids and their emotions right now. Like I've said from Monday on, my job is to keep this 2012 football team together, but after that it's just about competing and doing the best job we can."

Whoever succeeded Joe Paterno at Penn State was going to have a difficult time. Nobody could've envisioned the job being as difficult as the daunting task facing O'Brien. But from a purely football standpoint, all O'Brien -- who said he expects 108,000 fans at every home game at Beaver Stadium this year -- is concerned about is winning games.

"I think we have a chance to be a decent football team," O'Brien said. "I think we can field a competitive team and I think that would show a lot of people that we're not dead."

But the sanctions handed down Monday were harsh in an effort to de-emphasize football and attempt to change a culture within the program that helped protect Jerry Sandusky. With no chance of making a bowl or Big Ten championship game, and with severe scholarship reductions put in place, Penn State players are free to transfer to wherever they please without having to sit out a year.

O'Brien hasn't seen a mass exodus from State College, though, at least not yet. The first-year coach said about 50 players have already affirmed their commitments to stay at Penn State.

"It shows you what Penn State is all about, it shows you what these kids are all about," O'Brien said of those players sticking with the program. "This is a prideful bunch of kids, these are tough kids. ... We've got great kids, kids that want to stick together. Now, I know there may be some kids that will leave, I understand that."

Only a handful of Big Ten coaches said Thursday they would look to recruit Penn State players. Illinois coach Tim Beckman was one, and his approach was met with some level of criticism. Most other coaches said they would listen if a Penn State player contacted them, but won't actively recruit anyone away from Happy Valley.

"I have a problem with that," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said of actively trying to add current Penn State players, reiterating the same phrase. "But as a player, a young man has a right to play wherever he wants to play. We have to keep that in mind. However, when he's a part of a team, you're getting into a situation that I'm not quite very familiar with, and we're not going to get very familiar with it."

Michigan coach Brady Hoke was a little more open to the idea, but ultimately decided against adding any Penn State players.

"To be honest with you, we kind of made a decision -- I'd be lying if I didn't say we didn't look at the roster to some degree," Hoke said. "But we've kind of made a decision that we're going to stay and not recruit the guys and keep our business our business."

While O'Brien said none of his players have informed him of their decision to transfer, running back Silas Redd reportedly is considering a move to USC.

"The rules are what they are -- it's like NFL free agency without the rules," O'Brien, who previously coached with the New England Patriots, said. "So other schools can do what they want as long as they tell our compliance office that they're contacting these kids, and it is what it is."

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany would rather the contact between other schools and Penn State be, at least within the conference, nn an athletic director-to-athletic director level instead between compliance departments.

"I want it to happen at a higher level," Delany said, adding that he wasn't in favor of allowing the transfers to happen within the conference. "I argued to some extent against it. Our presidents were clear and unanimous that they want these students to have the opportunity to go where they want to go and with no exceptions, including Big Ten exceptions.

"What I said to our coaches this morning, you know, I get it; this is what the rules are. And I expect you to operate in a way that makes not sense just under the rules but sense to you as adults and grownups, so that if a player is interested in talking to you or has an interest in your university, so be it. Those are the rules. That's what our presidents want. That's what the NCAA wants."

Like O'Brien, who repeatedly expressed a desire to turn the page now that the sanctions have been placed on Penn State, Delany is ready to move forward while still reflecting on the past.

"What's clear to me, though, is that justice can never really be served in this case, because the victims can never receive justice," Delany said. "And that's just the sad fact of the case. And while there are ancillary people who impacted the case in one way or another, affected the Big Ten, it's affected Penn State, obviously. It's affected a lot of people who are not involved in any way shape or form with the case, I think you have to just ... you have to recognize that the 10 individuals and perhaps many, many more, were damaged and hurt. And there's no amount of legal, criminal, civil, NCAA, Big Ten action that can change that or help them.

"And so a lot of people want to debate about NCAA penalties or Big Ten penalties, and those debates are fine. But to me, they miss the point very much because they're not in any way related to what happened to the victims of Sandusky's actions."

Does Rodney Hood make sense for the Bulls?

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USA TODAY

Does Rodney Hood make sense for the Bulls?

New York Times veteran NBA writer Marc Stein tweeted late Friday that multiple teams were interested in fourth-year swingman Rodney Hood.

We know that the Jazz are one of the rumored teams interested in embattled forward Niko Mirotic and while it wouldn’t seem to make sense on the surface, Rodney Hood could be a good fit for the Bulls.

Hood will be a restricted free agent this summer and the Bulls would retain the rights to match any offer if they felt like the former Duke Blue Devil was the right piece to join the new core of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, and Kris Dunn.

There is one complication in a potential Mirotic for Hood deal; the salaries don’t quite match. Utah would need to send another player like Alec Burks to Chicago in the deal. The Bulls would have to be OK taking on Burks’ $11.5 million salary for the 2018-19 season and his cap hit in free agency. Good news though, the free agent class this summer is very thin at small forward, the main position the Bulls have a need for.

Another road block, the Bulls are set to max out LaVine this July, and they may be wary on tying up a good part of their cap space for the next four years on two players.

Acquiring Hood hurts the ‘tank’ but you’d have a three-month audition of a 25-year old shooter that on paper would seem to work with the current rotation. If the Bulls felt like Hood wasn’t a good fit, let him walk in free agency. They would then keep their cap space intact for the 2019 super free agent class.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks return to action against Islanders

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks return to action against Islanders

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the New York Islanders tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Erik Gustafsson's season debut.

The Blackhawks recalled one of their top defensive prospects on Jan. 9 but haven't been able to get him some game action yet. All signs point to that changing tonight.

He skated on a pairing with Brent Seabrook during Friday's practice, and was even placed on the second power play unit during special teams drills. Joel Quenneville was excited about the possibility of finally getting Gustafsson into the lineup.

"Good option, good opportunity," Quenneville said. "We’re not for sure but certainly he’s been around, he’s eager to go. I look forward to seeing what he can do."

2. Anthony Duclair's promotion.

He hasn't been in Chicago for very long but Duclair is quickly working his way up the lineup. The newly-acquired Blackhawk registered an assist in his team debut last Friday in a 2-1 victory over Winnipeg, and was put on a power play unit as well.

On Friday, Duclair was promoted to the top line with Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews and continued getting reps on the second power-play unit. Let's see if the 22-year-old can take advantage of that opportunity in a top-six role.

3. Mathew Barzal.

Three rookies will be named finalists for the Calder Trophy at the end of the season. Barzal is a lock to be one of them.

He not only leads all rookies with 48 points, but he ranks 15th in the entire league in the scoring race and is the only first-year player averaging at least a point per game. 

The 20-year-old center has been sensational and he already has two five-point games in his young professional career. To put that into perspective, Patrick Kane recorded his first NHL five-point effort two weeks ago against the Ottawa Senators.