Cubs

Rare lackluster Bulls performance doesn't sit well with Thibodeau

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Rare lackluster Bulls performance doesn't sit well with Thibodeau

Following Saturday nights defeat at the hands of the lowly Nets, Tom Thibodeau was understandably frustrated at his teams performance. That disappointment carried over to Sunday afternoons practice at the Berto Center, after which he broke down the lackluster outing from the previous day.

The Bulls performed poorly in every aspect, from getting ready to intensity to defense to offensive energy. There wasnt anything that we did well and we dug ourselves a hole. Down 22-3 after the first five minutes of the game, 34-19 after the first quarter. The first five minutes of the game were poor, the last five of the second quarter were poor, the first five of the third quarter were poor. We were in such a big hole the whole game, we didnt give ourselves a chance, so we have to change that, the coach explained. Its both your offense and your defense because theyre tied to each other. If you dont have offensive energy and floor balance when youre shooting the ball, our spacing is breaking down, were quick-shooting the ball and we dont have floor balance, so it doesnt allow us to have our defense set and were giving up easy baskets. Were not making the effort thats necessary with our smalls being back on the raise of the shot and our bigs sprinting back to get our smalls back out. In this league, if you take shortcuts, youre going to pay for them and we have.

There wasnt one aspect of our defense that was done well. I thought there was one stretch in the third quarter, towards the end, where we picked it up a little bit, but you have to play for 48 minutes and in this league, if you give a team the type of confidence in the first five minutes that we did, youre making it real hard on yourself, which we did, so we have to change that. Weve got to be ready at the start of the game.

That said, Thibodeau said he wouldnt make any drastic lineup changes or anything of that nature, though hes concerned that in three of the Bulls last four contests dating back to last Sundays loss in Boston at the conclusion of the teams nine-game road trip and with the exclusion of Thursdays home win over the Celtics theres been defensive slippage, something thats been a rarity during his tenure in Chicago.

We wont change the lineup. Before you make changes, I always say theres two questions that you always ask yourself. One, are you doing it hard enough and are you executing it properly, he said. If you can answer that youre doing it hard enough and youre executing it properly, then you change the scheme or the play or whatever it is that youre looking at, but if youre not doing those two things, then its hard to judge whether you should change or not because those are the first two things that you have to get right.

If Thibodeau did decide to make a move, an obvious choice would be giving more minutes to 36-year-old veteran Mike James. Currently on a 10-day contract and in his second stint of the season with the Bulls, the backup point guard has provided an infusion of toughness, energy and defensive intensity when on the floor, something Thibodeau expects, as the pair is familiar with each other from their time together with the Houston Rockets.

Im comfortable with him because I know what his strengths are I think he understands what were trying to get done. He needs more reps, he needs a lot of reps, the coach acknowledged. The one thing about Mike is hes going to play hard every time hes out there. You can play him at both guard spots. Hes got experience, too. I like what hes brought to our team.

Another potential adjustment could be the implementation of more zone defense in certain stretches, something Thibodeau has been using more of as of late.

I do like the zone in certain situations, but I think in order to play a good zone, you have to play good man-to-man, so Saturday we did use it some and I didnt think it was very effective, he explained. It depends on who the Bulls opponent have on the floor. Depends on clock, situations like that. It depends on matchups, if you may be small or you may be trying to protect somebody, but I think the hard thing in the NBA is to have a steady diet of long zone because of the amount of shooting thats on the floor.

Right now, most teams have four shooters on the floor and then, youre going to be vulnerable to the second shot. But I do like the concept of the zone. A lot of the principles of our man-to-man also have zone principles, too.

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

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What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

Families gather and people talk about things they are thankful for on Thanksgiving, but what are Chicago sports fans happy for now?

Raised expectations on the North Side

Got to be thankful that a “disappointing” season is winning the division and losing in the NLCS. The expectations have skyrocketed, and that’s thanks to a ridiculous nucleus of bats and a steady front office. Not many clubs can say that. Also, though, it’s important to be appreciative of the Wrigley bar stretch. They may charge $8 for a Miller Lite, but it’s always a damn good party.

Javy tags, too. Don't forget Javy tags.

Rebuild sparking hope in White Sox fans

Where to begin? Obviously, be thankful for the plethora of young talent that will soon take over the South Side. Be thankful for Avi Time (while you still can). Be thankful that taking your friends or family to a game won’t cause you to take out a second mortgage. Be thankful for the 2020 World Series and, of course, 2020 MVP Eloy Jimenez. But most importantly, be thankful that Rick Hahn’s phone stays buzzing.

Eddie O back in the booth for the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are having a rough start to the season, but at least Eddie Olczyk is back in the booth. The longtime Blackhawks broadcaster returned to the booth on Oct. 18 after missing time while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer.

With some of the key names from the Blackhawks’ title runs either leaving or being unable to play this season (in the case of Marian Hossa), Blackhawks fans are probably thankful to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice during games.

Lauri Markkanen leading the Bulls rebuild

OK, there’s not much to be thankful for about the current Bulls team. At 3-13, the Bulls are tied for the fewest wins in the NBA (maybe in the long-term that’s something to be thankful for as well). However, Zach LaVine’s pending debut after his eventual return from injury should help create some excitement.

The thing Bulls fans really should be thankful for this year is the play of rookie Lauri Markkanen. The 20-year-old leads the team in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounds (8.3 per game) while shooting at a high percentage (34.2 percent on threes and 50.6 percent on twos). It’s only the beginning of the Bulls’ rebuild, but Markkanen is a good start.

Mitchapalooza

If a few things broke the Bears’ way, Chicagoans could have been grateful that the team was finally out of the cellar. Instead, we’ll settle for the fact that there seems to be some building blocks already in place. Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks seem to fit that category. Also, some may be thankful that this is likely John Fox’s last season at the helm.

Fire ending a playoff drought

After finishing dead last in MLS in 2015 and 2016, the Fire were one of the most improved teams in the league in 2017. After posting the third best record in the league, the Fire made a first playoff appearance since 2012.

The playoff run didn’t last long with the Fire losing a play-in game at home, but the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the league’s leading goal-scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, helped fill the stadium with six sellouts and gave Fire fans something to cheer for.

With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

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With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

The Bears placed Leonard Floyd on injured reserve Thursday morning, ending the second-year outside linebacker’s season following a knee injury suffered Sunday against the Detroit Lions. Floyd suffered an MCL and PCL injury and will have surgery in the next week, coach John Fox said, and the Bears do not have a timetable for his recovery yet. But that Floyd didn't suffer damage to his ACL is potentially good news for Floyd's recovery timetable. 

Still, with Floyd on injured reserve and out for the season, the Bears’ current outside linebacker depth chart consists of two veterans (Pernell McPhee and Sam Acho) and two practice squad signees (Isaiah Irving and Howard Jones). These final six games of the 2017 season could serve as auditions for all four players for roles on the 2018 Bears. 

If every team needs at least three good pass rushers, the Bears can count on Akiem Hicks and Floyd for 2018, provided Floyd comes back healthy. But who’s the third?

The Bears could save about $7.5 million in cap space if they release McPhee in 2018; if they were to cut ties with Willie Young, who’s on injured reserve right now as well, it would provide $4.5 million in cap relief. McPhee will be 29 in December, while Young will turn 33 next September. 

The Bears won’t necessarily need the cap relief next year, and could certainly decide to keep both players, who’ve shown they’re still productive when healthy. But even if both players are back, the Bears may need to add another outside linebacker via free agency of the draft — remember, the team could’ve began the season with Floyd, Young, McPhee, Acho and Lamarr Houston as their outside linebackers; an injury Houston suffered in the fourth preseason game ended his time in Chicago. 

Needs at wide receiver and cornerback are pressing, but outside linebacker may need to be in that same conversation. If the Bears have a top-10 pick for the fourth consecutive year, plus some cap space, they perhaps could have the ability to address all three needs in March and April. 

That may be looking a little too far into the future, though. The best-case for the Bears is McPhee finishes the season strong and Irving and/or Jones shows something in the opportunities they receive in these final six games (Jones, for what it’s worth, had five sacks as a rookie with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015). But the worst-case — and perhaps the most realistic — is that the Bears go into the offseason needing to fill at least one pass-rushing spot.