Bears

Pedigreed Teague eager for NBA experience

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Pedigreed Teague eager for NBA experience

I was pretty surprised, admitted Marquis Teague. I didnt have any workouts for this team and I really didnt know where I was going to land.

The Bulls first-round pick, the 29th overall selection in last Thursdays NBA Draft was a highly-touted prep prospect in his native Indianapolis, but endured an up-and-down freshman seasonmostly up by the endat the University of Kentucky, where he started at point guard for the national champions. Still, many observers projected that hed be selected among the top 20 picks in the draft and be off the board when it was the Bulls turn to choose.

Explained Bulls general manager Gar Forman: We were surprised he was still on the board at No. 29 and even the day of the draft, there were scenarios where we saw, Maybe he will be on the boardinitially, he was projected to be a top-20 pickand as our staff talked about it, and went through different scenarios, it was unanimous, from Tom and the coaching staff, and the scouting staff, to John and to myself, that if Marquis Teague was there, we were going to be excited to have him as a Chicago Bull.

Given that Teague was such a high-profile player on the high school levelhe was ranked among the top guards in his classthe Bulls scouting department had plenty of opportunities to evaluate him, then got to see him play for the most talented college team in the country last season, where he ran an offense that featured five other 2012 NBA draftees in the lineup.

It gave me a lot of confidence. Going against those guys in practice every day, we had a lot of competition in practice, said Teague. They just helped me get better as a player. I feel like playing with those guys helped me elevate my game.

Of course, the fact that hes the younger brother of Atlantas Jeff Teague also helps add to his pedigree, something Thibodeau appreciates after witnessing the Hawks point guard have his coming-out party against the Bulls in the second round of the 2011 Eastern Conference playoffs.

Its a big jump and I think its a big jump going from high school to college, and certainly the program that he was in. He met every challenge in college and we expect him to do the same here and the first step is getting into the gym and to start working, and learning our system, learn his teammates and just get ready for summer league, and just go step by step, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. The fact that he played at Kentucky is a big plus and playing in the big games, and also the fact that his brothers in the NBA, so hes familiar and now hes just got to get out there, and hes got to start to work and understand what were trying to get accomplished. Hell see that the speed and intensity of the game is a little bit different. The rules are different, so he has to learn that part of it, but hell make steady progress. This will be a big summer for him, then the fall will be important and training camp.

You cant skip steps. Hes just got to come in, start working, learn what were trying to do, learn his teammates, learn the pro gamethe pro games a lot different from collegeand have a great summer league, and then get ready for fall and after the fall practices, get ready for training camp, he continued. The individual workouts when the player comes inits basically an hour and 15-minute workoutyoure not going to find out a lot during that, other than it gives you the chance to sit down and talk. Youre basing your decision more on what hes done throughout his entire career and our scouts are very high on Marquis. They followed him from high school, through his first year at Kentucky and the pressure he was under and the way he responded was very impressive.

The Bulls background work on Teague aside, while the 19-year-old speedster is humble, hes confident about his ability and believes he can help the Bulls immediately in certain aspects, such as his skill in getting to the basket and pressuring the ball on defense, as well as pushing the ball in transition.

I can attack the rim and create plays for my teammates. I can defend on the ball, said Teague. Im just trying to work on my outside shot, get a little stronger, just work on my off-the-ball defense.

Teague is also looking forward to being Derrick Roses understudy, after years of taking adviceand likely, some sharp elbows in the processfrom Jeff.

Im going to be able to learn a lot from Rose. Hes one of the best point guards in the league, if not the best, so Im going to take advantage of that every single day, he said. I havent gotten the opportunity to talk to him yet, but when I do, I will try to pick his brain.

Me and my brother, were pretty competitive people. We had a lot of battles in the backyard growing up together. It just helped me become the player I am today. I love my brother and I just thank him for everything hes done for me, Teague continued. He told me just to stay humble. Each game, youve got somebody trying to come after your position, so just be ready, each and every day work hard, do what your team needs you to do to be a winner.

My brother told me a little about the Bulls. Theyre big on defense and playing for Coach Cal, he plays the same style. He likes to defend, run the ball, so I feel like I should fit in great with this team. I feel like I can do good things here.

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Low

Decisions to be made on: Christian Jones (free agent), John Timu (free agent), Jonathan Anderson (free agent); Jerrell Freeman has reportedly been cut

Possible free agent targets: Demario Davis, Preston Brown, Anthony Hitchens, Avery Williamson, Navorro Bowman, Derrick Johnson

How the Bears rate Nick Kwiatkoski will be the key to figuring out what this unit will look like in 2018. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio thought Kwiatkoski finished last season strong, but strong enough to rely on him in 2018 as the starter next to Danny Trevathan?

The thing with the Bears’ inside linebackers, though: Trevathan makes whoever is playing next to him better. The problem is Trevathan hasn’t been able to stay on the field — he missed time in 2017 with a calf injury and a one-game suspension, and missed half of 2016 after rupturing his Achilles’. Trevathan hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013, so durability is an issue for the soon-to-be 28-year-old.

So that leads to this question: Do the Bears need to find someone in free agency, regardless of how they value Kwiatkoski, who’s also missed time due to injuries in his first two years in the league?

Free agency could provide a few options. Demario Davis had a career high 97 tackles for the New York Jets last year and has never missed a game as a pro. Preston Brown had some decent production in Buffalo and also hasn’t missed a game since being drafted in 2014. Avery Williamson may not be a world-beater but has only missed one game in his four years in the NFL.

The Bears could also opt for someone who fits more of a rotational mold, like Dallas’ Anthony Hitchens, or try to lure a veteran linebacker like Navorro Bowman (who played for Vic Fangio in San Francisco) or Derrick Johnson (who Matt Nagy knows from his Kansas City days) to play next to Trevathan and/or Kwiatkoski.

The Bears could opt to keep the status quo and re-sign Christian Jones and John Timu for depth, and enter 2018 with Kwiatkoski and Trevathan as the team’s starters (Jerrell Freeman, who suffered a season-ending injury and then was hit with his second PED suspension in as many years, was cut on Tuesday). Signing a starting-caliber free agent isn’t out of the question, either, but there is a third option for the Bears if they appear to stand pat in free agency: Draft an inside linebacker in April. If that’s the route they go, Georgia’s Roquan Smith could be the guy. But again, those more pressing needs at other positions could mean the Bears don’t burn a first-round pick on an inside linebacker.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?