Bears

Rivers confident new pieces will find their rhythm

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Rivers confident new pieces will find their rhythm

The main core of the Boston Celtics remained intact this offseason, but the surrounding pieces are new and it has taken Doc Rivers group time to find their rhythm.

But Rivers knows it will come soon enough.

Offseason acquisition Courtney Lee started the first five games at shooting guard for the Celtics, but Rivers switched things up and went with Jason Terry on Saturday night against the Bucks. Terry will get the start again Monday night against the Bulls, a move Rivers said will get his team closer to staying consistent throughout the game.

Were still just trying to figure out a way where we can play 48 solid straight minutes, and maybe thats not gonna happen right away, but its coming, Rivers said. I do feel like, as a team, and I dont know it has anything to do with whos on the floor or the rotation or anything like that, I think were just starting to figure it out and get it.

Defensively were late on a lot of the stuff we should be there on, but you can see the guys, theyre thinking about it now, and now I guess the next step is doing it. I think offensively we moved the ball, in the second half was terrific. But thats only one half, and so again were just trying to complete a game, a full game.

Terry and Lee were brought in this summer to replace Ray Allen, who signed with Miami as a free agent. The NBAs all-time leading 3-point shooter had been with Boston the last five seasons, and averaged 16.7 points and 2.2 3-pointers per game in that span.

With Allen gone, the replacements have struggled to match that productivity. Lee has averaged just 5.0 points in more than 25 minutes per game. Terry seems to be finding his touch with a 14.6 point-per-game average over the last three games, which has an uptick in minutes closer to a starters.

But while the Celtics chemistry at shooting guard continues to mesh, another concern is who spells Rajon Rondo on the second unit.

Neither Terry nor Lee are true point guards, and with Avery Bradley -- a true shooting guard but a player Rivers trusts to run Bostons offense -- sidelined until December, Rondo has no real backup. He currently leads the league in minutes per game (41.2) but Rivers realizes that trend cannot continue if he wants his All-Star floor general healthy down the stretch.

"Weve basically got one point guard, and its Rajon Rondo, Rivers said. Hes a pretty good one, but he cant play all game. And so what were trying to run is a lot of motion stuff where anyone can bring it up, but weve got to get someone to bring it up.

Rivers even noted that in Saturdays game against Milwaukee, with Rondo on the bench all five Celtics players started running down-court after a made basket, with no one taking the inbounds to bring the ball up.

It takes time. Thats part of team-building, guys. It just doesnt happen overnight. I wish it did, but theyll buy in, Rivers added. I think we have a good group and they all want to figure it out, individually first and then as a team. But I think theyre trying.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

Seth Gruen (Bleacher Report/”Big Ten Unfiltered” podcast), Chris Emma (670TheScore.com) and Matt Zahn (CBS 2) join Kap on the panel. If the Bears lose badly to the Lions, should Sunday be John Fox’s last game? 

Plus Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill joins the panel to talk Bulls as well as the Niko/Portis cold war.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

John Fox on Friday sought to clarify some comments he made earlier in the week about Tarik Cohen that seemed to follow some spurious logic. Here’s what Fox said on Wednesday when asked if he’d like to see Cohen be more involved in the offensive game plan:

“You’re looking at one game,” Fox said, referencing Cohen only playing 13 of 60 snaps against the Green Bay Packers. “Sometimes the defense dictates who gets the ball. I think from a running standpoint it was a game where we didn’t run the ball very effectively. I think we only ran it 17 times. I believe Jordan Howard, being the fifth leading rusher in the league, probably commanded most of that. I think he had 15 carries. 

“It’s a situation where we’d like to get him more touches, but it just didn’t materialize that well on that day. But I’d remind people that he’s pretty high up there in both punt returns, he’s our leading receiver with 29 catches, so it’s not like we don’t know who he is.”

There were some clear holes to poke in that line of reasoning, since the question wasn’t about Cohen’s touches, but his snap count. Cohen creates matchup problems when he’s on the field for opposing defenses, who can be caught having to double-team him (thus leaving a player uncovered, i.e. Kendall Wright) or matching up a linebacker against him (a positive for the Bears). The ball doesn’t have to be thrown Cohen’s way for his impact to be made, especially if he’s on the field at the same time as Howard. 

“They don’t know who’s getting the ball, really, and they don’t know how to defend it properly,” Howard said. “… It definitely can dictate matchups.”

There are certain scenarios in which the Bears don’t feel comfortable having Cohen on the field, like in third-and-long and two-minute drills, where Benny Cunningham’s veteran experience and pass protection skills are valued. It may be harder to create a mismatch or draw a double team with Cohen against a nickel package. It's easier to justify leaving a 5-foot-6 running back on the sidelines in those situations. 

But if the Bears need Cohen to be their best playmaker, as offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said last month, they need to find a way for him to be on the field more than a shade over one in every five plays. As Fox explained it on Friday, though, it’s more about finding the right spots for Cohen, not allowing opposing defenses to dictate when he’s on the field. 

“We have Tarik Cohen out there, we're talking about touches, not play time, we're talking about touches so if they double or triple cover him odds are the ball is not going to him, in fact we'd probably prefer it didn’t,” Fox said. “So what I meant by dictating where the ball goes, that's more related to touches than it is play time. I just want to make sure I clarify that. So it's not so much that they dictate personnel to you. Now if it's in a nickel defense they have a certain package they run that may create a bad matchup for you, that might dictate what personnel group you have out there not just as it relates to Tarik Cohen but to your offense in general. You don't want to create a bad matchup for your own team. I hope that makes sense.”

There’s another wrinkle here, though, that should be addressed: Loggains said this week that defenses rarely stick to the tendencies they show on film when Cohen is on the field. That’s not only a problem for Cohen, but it’s a problem for Mitchell Trubisky, who hasn’t always had success against defensive looks he hasn’t seen on film before. And if the Bears are trying to minimize the curveballs Trubisky sees, not having Cohen on the field for a high volume of plays would be one way to solve that. 

This is also where the Bears’ lack of offensive weapons factors in. Darren Sproles, who Cohen will inexorably be linked to, didn’t play much as a rookie — but that was on a San Diego Chargers team that had LaDanian Tomlinson, Keenan McCardell and Antonio Gates putting up big numbers. There were other options on that team; the Bears have a productive Howard and a possibly-emerging Dontrelle Inman, but not much else. 

So as long as Cohen receives only a handful of snaps on a team with a paucity of playmakers, this will continue to be a topic of discussion. Though if you’re looking more at the future of the franchise instead of the short-term payoffs, that we’re having a discussion about a fourth-round pick not being used enough is a good thing.