Bulls

Random News of the Day: Blazing a trail

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Random News of the Day: Blazing a trail

Tuesday, July 6, 20101:08 PM

By Joe CollinsCSNChicago.com
Raise your hand if you've had enough of these NBA rumors.

I'm one of the people that just wants this story to end. Over the last week, we have seen the TMZ'ification of sports magnified to near unhealthy levels. Every day has involved sports paparazzi snapping photos and gathering video of NBA free agents outside restaurants, hotels, stadiums and office buildings. Every rumor contradicts the one that preceded it. The anticipation builds. The tension mounts. For a good amount of sports fans, this kind of theater is great entertainment.

But I need a break. We all do, I think. Just get it done already, you know?

People have different ways to ease their own stress and anxiety levels. For me, I head to the bike trail. You get your exercise, enjoy the scenery and boost your self-esteem a little. What's not to love?

Apparently, 10 things by my count.

I never realized the comedy that makes up a day at the jogging path or bike trail. It is loaded with people trying too hard, people relaxing too hard and people that simply got lost along the way. The trail is full of things that actually cause stress ... and not ease it. Here is a list of the top 10 characters on your neighborhood path:

1) The Swiss Army Trail Person: The comic relief of the bike trail. Since when did a walk in the park become so complicated? It's like somebody covered these guys in Krazy Glue and threw them into one of the shelves at Walgreens. Apparently, some people just cant go an hour without their iPodfanny packheadbandswristbandsleg warmersBluetoothsunglasseschrome novelty shaving kitAltoidscompact umbrellacar key ring holderchaw tinPower Bar holder ... etc. Its too much. Its not healthy.

2) The Lance Armstrong: Before I go on, I should mention that you need to check out the Tour de France on Versus ... even for a few minutes. Some of the crashes these guys endure are incredible. These bikers are fine ... as long as they stay in France. Do we really need them among all of the everyday walkers and joggers? The Lance Armstrong types have a trace of "Swiss Army Trail Person" in them as well: skin-tight spandex bike suit? Check. Livestrong bracelet? Check. Five-hundred-sixty-five dollars worth of safety gear from the mall? Check. Blitzing by you at 40 mph while ricocheting off a kid eating an ice cream cone, all-the-while shouting "ON YOUR LEFT"? You better believe thats a check. Of the hockey variety.

3) The Rollerblading Group: The rollerblading group always seems to look like they're getting filmed as part of a 1990s sitcom intro: carefree and all over the place. Lots of smiles, lots of bad skating, lots of potential accidents. Fortunately, this is where the Lance Armstrong guy comes in real handy.

4) The Marathon Trainer: I have trained for -- and completed -- three marathons in my life. Trust me, were among the most annoying people on the planet. Were the ones who do some kind of jump-rope dance at water fountains -- to maintain a jogging motion -- because we cant stop for anything. Were the ones that get furious if theres a loose pebble on the path. We hate everybody on bikes. We despise anything that moves slower than our own pace. We dont pay attention to red lights ... or flashing "don't walk" signals. Were the idiots you see jogging in a blizzardhail stormtornadoozone action dayflood. Were like that "Rudy" character ... only 23,281,293 times more annoying.

5) Johnny And Susie Chit-Chat: "Susie, I had a wonderful time with you on our first walking date. Mind if I call you again sometime? Wait ... say that again? Move where? Oh ... you mean off the bike trail? Oh, the bikers and joggers wont mind. The bike trail is big enough for everybody. They can go around us. I know we just walked three miles. Im just too lazy and ignorant to move another three feet off the asphalt and into the grass where well be more safe anyway. Were not hurting anyone. It's fine. Maybe Ill also fiddle with my cell phone while standing right in the middle of the path, too. I might even bend down to tie my shoes. Or even send a text message or two without looking up once to see if people are in my way. Let's do this again soon! Same time, same place?"

6) The Novelty Bike Crowd: Nothing says fun like trying to get out of the way of a wobbly penny farthing rider. And dont even get me started on the people that rent those "tandem" bikes like its an old Doublemint Gum commercial. If you're lucky, on a Saturday afternoon, you might come across a unicyclist juggling bowling pins, a chainsaw and a lit torch.

7) The Chalk Artisans: Look, I think its great that your friend is jamming at a club tonight with the seating capacity of seven and a 20 suggested donation at the door. Im fine with that. But Id rather not have the message chalk-scribbled on the bike path -- a message that Im going to run over in 4 ... 3 ... 2 ...1. Please move. Hand me a flyer instead. Then, when I get 20 feet away, I can throw it in the garbage can just like the other 2,000 that came before me.

8) The Family: No particular reason to add these guys ... but just add the word "family" to the end of any of the above categories. Maalox suggested.

9) The Skateboarding Gang: A pure crack-up because they can never get those jumps down pat, can they? Keep practicing the ollies, guys. Maybe on the 943rd try youll get it. And hopefully by that time youll be doing it in a TJ Maxx parking lot, where you won't be accidentally ramming skateboards into people's shins.

And finally...

10) The Stroller-Joggers: The only redeeming quality about this situation is that the kids in the seat don't fully realize the embarrassment factor. For a woman to be a stroller-jogger is one thing. But for a man, isn't that pretty much the end? I mean, you might as well buy the minivan, Pete Yorn songs, mineral water and endless supply of polo shirts that go along with it.

A happy list!

I almost want to hear more NBA rumors.

Or something like that.

Joe Collins is an assignment desk editor for Comcast SportsNet and contributor to CSNChicago.com.

Lauri Markkanen battling the rookie wall

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USA TODAY

Lauri Markkanen battling the rookie wall

MINNEAPOLIS — The misses have come wide, long and short for Lauri Markkanen in the last couple games, perhaps a sign he’s hit the popular but unseen “Rookie Wall.”

Since coming back from the All-Star break, Markkanen has hit the same amount of jump shots as a dead man, only scoring with two dunks and missing all seven 3-point attempts.

He’s hit the point of the season where the legs turn to spaghetti as the grind of the season catches up. Last year at Arizona, he played 37 games and then went through Summer League following the draft before playing for the Finland national team. The Bulls have been careful with his minutes, particularly early on in the season when they didn’t have the depth at power forward, but Markkanen is still adjusting to the rigors of the NBA.

After seemingly peaking in January, averaging 17 points and 8.4 rebounds on 48 percent shooting and 43 from three-point range, he’s averaged just 10.8 points on 37 percent shooting and hitting just four of 27 from deep.

“Gotta get some extra shots up. I see myself thinking too much,” Markkanen said. “That’s how it is. Of course it’s frustrating to not make shots but it is what it is. Gotta work through it.”

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg tried to pump Markkanen up recently, comparing his shooting to a golfer who’s lost his stroke. Unfortunately, it didn’t translate to Markkanen, who looked at his coach as if he grew a third eye.

By the time Hoiberg compared it to curling, he wound up confusing the press corps last week.

And yet, Markkanen hasn’t broken out of his slump. It’s been quite a while since Markkanen’s devastating performance on Broadway where he nailed eight 3-pointers against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 10 for a career-high 33 points.

“It’s been a long season, I’m not denying that,” Markkanen said Saturday night following the Bulls’ loss to the Timberwolves. “I just gotta work through it. At times I feel it. I felt good today. As the game went on, a little tired.”

Consistency has been a hallmark of Markkanen’s season to date. He scored in double figures 21 straight games before the last two, where he scored three points in the last two Bulls losses.

As a whole, he’s only scored fewer than 10 points six times. To compare, rookie of the year frontrunners Donovan Mitchell (nine) and Ben Simmons (six) are right around the same number.

Hoiberg boldly predicts Markkanen will burst out in a big way soon, but the rookie wall takes no prisoners, especially in the dog days of the season.

“He’s shooting the heck out of the ball in practice,” Hoiberg said. “He’s struggling right now with his confidence, no question about it. As a shooter, you gotta keep looking to be aggressive, take the open ones. It takes one game to get that confidence back.”

His looks have been relatively clean, although one can’t discount the difference between playing alongside Cristiano Felicio compared to Robin Lopez. Lopez assisted on 39 field goals, tied with Jerian Grant for second-highest feeds behind Kris Dunn.

Both Lopez and Grant are out of the rotation, while Dunn is still getting his legs back after missing nearly a month in concussion protocol. Lopez was used in a lot of dribble handoff offense with Markkanen, while also setting solid screens to free him.

Felicio doesn’t have that level of experience in this offense, and the Bulls are also running more through Zach LaVine as a primary ballhandler.

“He’s had a lot of really good games. It’s never gonna be an 100 percent season,” LaVine said. “It’s so many games you’ll eventually run into some slumps so I just think he needs to get into a rhythm. We’ve gotta help him with that too. Help him find easier shots on the floor. He’s cool, he’s good. We tell him to shoot the ball every time.”

The postseason begins in the latest Preps Power Rankings

The postseason begins in the latest Preps Power Rankings

The IHSA playoffs are finally here for all of boys basketball as regionals begin this week in the Class 3A and 4A. Since Class 2A only has one team in the top 25, defending champion Orr, most of the focus on the Power Rankings falls on teams in the Class 3A and 4A fields. 

1. Simeon (25-3, 9-0) (1) -- The heavy favorites in Class 4A, the Wolverines start the playoffs against Hubbard or Reavis before potentially facing Sandburg or Crete-Monee for a regional title.

2. Orr (22-4, 9-0) (2) -- The Spartans won a regional in Class 2A as they move on to play Uplift in the sectional semifinals on Wednesday. The Titans might be the toughest team Orr faces in its quest to repeat as 2A champions. 

3. Curie (23-4, 8-1) (3) -- The No. 1 seed in the Riverside-Brookfield Sectional of Class 4A, the Condors could face York or Riverside-Brookfield for a regional title as that could be a tough matchup. 

4. Whitney Young (22-7, 7-2) (4) -- The defending Class 4A champions are the No. 2 seed in the Riverside-Brookfield Sectional as they could face St. Joseph or St. Ignatius for a regional title next week. 

5. Morgan Park (18-9, 7-2) (5) -- The Mustangs will try to repeat in Class 3A as they might face Vocational or Perspectives/Leadership for a regional title. Now that Ayo Dosunmu is healthy and back, Morgan Park should be the favorites once again.

6. Fenwick (19-7, 8-0) (6) -- Catholic League champion Fenwick is up in Class 4A this year as they're a No. 4 seed in a loaded Riverside-Brookfield Sectional. The Friars might have a showdown with Proviso East for a regional title if both teams win earlier in the week. 

7. Evanston (21-5, 8-2) (8) -- The Loaded Maine East Sectional will be tough but Evanston is the No. 1 seed. The Wildkits could have a tough regional title game ahead of them as Maine West and Notre Dame are both capable of making it a close game.

8. Oak Park-River Forest (22-5, 12-0) (9) -- Knocking off Hinsdale South for the West Suburban crown, the Huskies have a lot of positive momentum entering the Class 4A playoffs. OPRF is the No. 3 seed in the Riverside-Brookfield Sectional as they could play Lincoln Park for a regional title.

9. Benet (23-4, 8-1) (10) -- With a 14-game winning streak entering the playoffs, the Redwings are red hot. Benet is the No. 2 seed in the Glenbard East Sectional in Class 4A as they could match up with Naperville Central or Glenbard West for a regional title. 

10. West Aurora (21-4, 10-0) (11) -- Winners of 13 straight, West Aurora is the No. 2 seed in the Romeoville Sectional. The Blackhawks could face Andrew or Plainfield North for a regional title at Plainfield South. 

11. Marist (24-4, 7-2) (12) -- An impressive 24-win season has Marist as the No. 2 seed in the Thornton Sectional as they host a Class 4A regional. The RedHawks might play Thornwood or Bloom to win that regional on Friday night. 

12. Niles North (24-4, 6-4) (13) -- The Vikings took down New Trier to pick up a great win right before the loaded Maine East Sectional in Class 4A. Niles North, a No. 3 seed, might have to face ESCC champion St. Viator for a regional title, which would be one of the most-anticipated matchups in Class 4A. 

13. New Trier (22-5, 8-2) (7) -- Dropping two games during the week, New Trier is limping into the postseason as the No. 2 seed in the Maine East Sectional. It won't get any easier for the Trevians as they might face Mid-Suburban champion Prospect for a regional title.

14. Naperville North (24-2, 15-1) (15) -- The top seed in the Glenbard East Sectional, Naperville North hosts its own regional in Class 4A. The Huskies might play Geneva or Downers North for a regional title. 

15. DePaul Prep (21-6, 5-3) (16) -- The No. 1 seed in the North Chicago Sectional, DePaul Prep hosts its own regional in Class 3A. The Rams could face Foreman or Sullivan for a regional title as DePaul Prep has a winnable sectional. 

16. Loyola (22-6, 5-3) (17) -- Loyola is the No. 4 seed in the Maine East Sectional. The Ramblers could have a tough regional final against host and No. 5 seed Maine South as that would make for a great matchup.

17. Marian Catholic (20-5, 5-4) (14) -- A No. 1 seed in the Pontiac Sectional of Class 3A, the Spartans will be one of the teams to watch in that field. Marian Catholic could potentially take on Thornridge or Rich Central for a regional title during the week. 

18. Hillcrest (21-5, 13-0) (18) -- The Hawks are a No. 2 seed in the Pontiac Sectional in Class 3A as they try to make another deep run in March. Hillcrest could face Rich East or Oak Forest for a regional title.

19. Homewood-Flossmoor (19-6, 9-1) (20) -- The Vikings had some close wins during the week preparing for the Class 4A field. Homewood-Flossmoor could play Oak Lawn for a regional title at T.F. South this week. 

20. St. Viator (23-5, 9-0) (22) -- The unbeaten champs in the ESCC, the Lions are on a six-game winning streak. A No. 6 seed in the Maine East Sectional, St. Viator could have a major test against Niles North for a Class 4A regional title. 

21. Bolingbrook (19-6, 7-3) (23) -- Top seed in the Romeoville Sectional, the Raiders have been a major threat in the postseason the past few years. Bolingbrook might play Lemont or Plainfield East for a regional title.

22. Maine South (21-7, 6-4) (24) -- The Hawks have the recent win over Niles North as they're the No. 5 seed in the Maine East Sectional. As the host in the regional, Maine South could get a home game against No. 4 seed Loyola.

23. Hinsdale South (20-6, 10-2) (21) -- Hinsdale South dropped a close one to OPRF right before the postseason. The Hornets might face Willowbrook for a regional title as the No. 4 seed in the Glenbard East Sectional as the two teams split the season series. 

24. Willowbrook (23-5, 9-3) (25) -- The Warriors had an outstanding season as they are in the tough Glenbard East Sectional. A No. 5 seed, Willowbrook could face Hinsdale South for a regional title, which could be the best title game of the entire week. 

25. Jacobs (24-3, 16-0) (NR) -- Winners of the Fox Valley for the fourth straight year, the Golden Eagles are on a roll as they're a No. 2 seed in the Jacobs Sectional in Class 4A. If Jacobs gets senior Ryan Phillips back from hand injury they could be dangerous.