Bears

Rose cut from a different cloth than other superstars

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Rose cut from a different cloth than other superstars

Having to miss practice because of soreness after Mondays win over the Knicks, a 25,000 fine for criticizing officiating in the aforementioned game and getting rear-ended on the Kennedy Expressway, all sandwiched in between marquee matchups with star-studded opponents and potential playoff foes New York and Miami, wasnt an ideal way for Derrick Rose to spend his Tuesday afternoon. Those arent the type of headlines the reigning league MVP likes to make; hed prefer to let his game do the talking, like the previous week, in which he took home Eastern Conference player of the week honors for his stellar play.

In fact, he could do without all the fanfare in general his purchase of a 2.8 million condo in the Trump Tower included and just focus on the high-profile games themselves, showdowns he anticipated would be fun, a description that isnt uncommon when the 23-year-old is asked about so-called individual or team challenges. While the response may seem bland or generic, the look in the fierce competitors eye often gives away how he truly feels: Fun means a highly-competitive game, in which hell try to destroy the opposition.

As always, Rose tends to downplay things in his naturally understated ways, something that differentiates him from many of his superstar peers. While his on-court status makes him a must-have quote before and after games, rarely does he provide the media with inflammatory statements, although his candor occasionally makes for excellent insight.

Take last Wednesdays buzzer-beater to beat the Bucks in Milwaukee, already one of the signature moments in his young career. While he acknowledged that making a walk-off shot on the road was a childhood dream, there were no hints of either arrogance or overexuberance.

Afterward, teammate Brian Scalabrine who has played with Hall of Famers throughout his career, from Jason Kidd in New Jersey to Bostons Big Three told CSNChicago.com: Ive played with some great, great players and what makes him so different is he has the will to win, but he also has the skill to do it and he wants it. Hes not afraid of it. He wants that responsibility. Whether he makes it or misses free throws or something, he likes it. When you have that in your superstar, its the kind of guy you want to have.

Off the court, its the same. Rose has obviously endeared himself to fans worldwide with his combination of precocious basketball skills, remarkably explosive athleticism and extreme humility, but could some of that also be because he simply carries himself differently than the stereotypical NBA star?

In many ways, the NBA is like high school. With approximately 450 players on rosters and several friendships dating back to college, if not to their AAU days, the professional wrestling type of hype the media occasionally falls victim to using when promoting games between rival teams and players is different from reality, as current and former players often describe the league as a fraternity, in which players frequently socialize and stay in touch off the court, regardless of team affiliations or heated on-court occurrences.

That said, while theres a mutual respect factor for all players who make it to the highest level in the sport, as in every industry, natural friendships blossom and people of the same ilk tend to relate to others like them. While some players click with hometown or regional friends, college rivals, former teammates and just people they share commonalities with, there seems to be a growing number of superstar players that have formed a bond, whether formally or not.

Im way younger than those guys, so people that came in with me, Im by myself. Those guys are five or six years older than I am, so its totally different. Theyve been knowing each other for a very long time, playing against each other and with each other for a long time, Rose told CSNChicago.com days later. I stand alone a little bit, but Im a loner. Im used to it. I can be quiet all day. I dont need anyone to talk to. Thats just me.

Rose was talking about his experience at last months All-Star Game in Orlando, where he was criticized in some corners for not dancing on stage with the likes of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade Back to the real world, he said after the game, to refresh your memory. I dont care how I lookif you would have saw me out there dancing, you would have been looking at me different. Im just meI can dance, but I think theres a time and place for it, and I dont think it was right then and there on stage when the Eastern Conference starters were introduced. The soft-spoken point guard was too polite to directly make the connection, but the implication was clear: Rose is a different breed.

I just think its the way he was raised, man. hes not really a clique-type of dude," said teammate Carlos Boozer. "The people that you see around Derrick are the same people who have been around him since he was a young fella his brothers, his boy Randall Hampton, guys he grew up in his neighborhood, his mom the same people around him now. Hes an NBA superstar and every time we go out or we see him at dinner, its the same people hes been with, Boozer explained. His clique outside of the family he grew with is us. Were his brothers, his team. Thats what makes him so dope because he knows where he came from, stays to where he came from and at the same time, his brothers are the people he plays with outside of his family. Hes very different, but definitely true to his roots, man.

Hes not changing. Listen: He has the same mentality. You would have no idea he was some mega-superstar, which he is, if you just talk to him day to day. If you walk into a room, he might not say anything to you, you dont know who he is, but you see him on all the billboards and you see him on every SportsCenter highlight reel. Just a humble dude, man. I keep telling people, hes the most humble star that Ive ever met in my life, in any sport, he continued. The craziest thing Ive seen is most stars love the attention; D-Rose shies away from it. He doesnt want to talk to you all. Hed rather us talk for him. Hed rather go about his business, enjoy his life. That, to me, is crazy because most stars want all the attention. He doesnt.

Echoed Joakim Noah: I love the fact that hes comfortable with who he is, you know? He doesnt have to impress anybody and he doesnt have to be what hes not. Hes comfortable with who he is. Thats why I expletive with D-Rose.

Its fitting the James and Wade are in the Windy City Wednesday coming off an overtime loss to the seemingly confused Dwight Howard and Orlando as the contrast between them and Rose will be on full display. Not in their games, as each of the trio are all elite talents, but in their respective demeanors, as the way Rose comports himself particularly behind the scenes, amongst their peers, with no media in sight is simply cut from a different cloth.

Yes, Roses comments about the officiating Monday seem out of line with his usual humility, but he made them out of a sense of injustice, not hubris. And while he continues to be patient with the media and address repeated questions about the same topic day after day and night after night how many Most Valuable Players are available before and after games, let alone the occasional shootaround? he is obviously getting weary of the constant onslaught.

But this is still the same guy who, until teammates stepped in to put an end to the practice, was determined to sign every autograph for diehard Bulls fans at the airport when the team plane landed back in Chicago in the wee hours of the morning following a road game. Even with all of the attention he receives and success hes had, and will continue to enjoy, as well as the untold riches coming his way, could he ever change?

Its doubtful. In the words of Noah who did note that, outside of his teammates, Rose does hang out with the likes of Oklahoma City Thunder duo Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, as well as Minnesotas Kevin Love, in the offseason; he works out with Westbrook and Love Too many big brothers.

James is one thing, an anointed future Hall of Famer since he was 15-years-old, complete with a never-before-seen hype machine and even with some missteps along the way at least in the media, though even the most avowed LeBron hater cant say hes made bad judgments off the court that could lead anyone to the conclusion that hes an outright bad person, if not a modest one hes become the person, in his public perception, and player, hes supposed to be, clutch performances aside. But in Wades case, his evolvement from underrated South Suburban high school star, Final Four hero at Marquette and NBA champion to his image now has been jarring when looked at in its totality.

This isnt meant to simply bash the Heat, as there will be plenty of time for that later in the evening, from a variety of voices. Its actually a league-wide thing, where stars transform as their brands grow, is somewhat of a necessary evil, but with Rose, his brand, the reason adidas inked him to that mega-deal last month, is built upon him being the same person hes always been.

You pay attention a little bit, but I just try to stay in my own lane, where I just worry about myself, he said.

Scalabrine offered some additional perspective: Derrick wants to be great, so hes not worried about what he needs to do or trying to be something hes not. He just wants to be the best player Derrick Rose can be, which is probably the best player in the world.

That focus and mindset has allowed him to thrive, while his humility is the reason that any perceived negativity seems to bounce off him like its Teflon. From the SAT saga coming out of high school to the sting of last seasons playoff defeat, people seem to forget about the bad when it comes to Derrick Rose after watching him play the next game, interact with the media from touching moments involving his mother to his aw-shucks demeanor after yet another amazing feat and most importantly, his humble approach, which gives one the sense that as seriously as he takes the game. He knows that the world doesnt revolve around basketball, let alone himself.

With Derrick and with me also, its family and the people youre around," fellow All-Star Luol Deng said to CSNChicago.com. "Im not saying anyone has bad people around him, but its really when your brothers are the same way his brothers are the same way as him; down to earth, the same people he has no choice but to be that way. If his brothers were doing that, people in his family or friends he hangs out with, it would be really hard for him to stay the same way, but hes doing a good job of just being him and just knowing that this is a game we play, Deng said. This is not life. Youre going to finish at 30-something and then have another life, so I think staying humble and staying down to earth, and putting God first is what hes doing and thats what we all should do.

2017 Bears position grades: Defensive Line

2017 Bears position grades: Defensive Line

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Medium

Decisions to be made on: Mitch Unrein (free agent), John Jenkins (free agent)

Possible free agent targets: Jared Crick, Frostee Rucker, Dominique Easley

This unit was consistently the Bears’ best in 2017, with Akiem Hicks playing at a Pro Bowl level (don’t let his exclusion from the game fool you on that) and Eddie Goldman putting together a rock-solid, healthy year. 

Hicks signed a four-year contract extension just before the season began and rewarded the Bears with a dominant year, racking up 8 ½ sacks and 15 tackles for a loss. Goldman played in and started 15 games and was a key reason why the Bears limited opposing rushers to four yards per carry, tied for the 10th-best average in the league. 

But while the Bears’ defensive line was certainly good, it wasn’t as good as it could’ve been. These words from Vic Fangio ring true for Hicks and Goldman:

“I think they all have a lot more to give to us than we’ve seen,” Fangio said. “And it’s our job to get them to improve and become even better players. That will be more important to us than anybody we can acquire between now and whenever our first game is. So, and I know it’s always sexy to talk between now and the first game, you know, who are you going to draft, who’s in free agency, etc., but we’ve got to get our so-called good players playing even better. And that will be critical.”

Hicks will enter Year 3 in Fangio’s scheme, while 2018 will be Goldman’s fourth. It’ll also be a critical year for Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris, who’ve flashed potential at times but haven’t been able to turn that into consistent success on the field. 

And that’s where we begin to look ahead to free agency and the draft. Is the Bears’ evaluation of Bullard -- their 2016 third-round pick -- positive enough to hand him a bigger role in 2018? That’s question No. 1 to answer, with No. 2 then being if the team should try to re-sign Mitch Unrein. 

It may be a bit risky to move forward with Bullard, given how popular Unrein was among the Bears’ defensive coaching staff. 

“He’s one of the glue guys on the defense and the team,” Fangio said last November. “Every team needs a few of those guys who are going to do everything right, full speed, hard and tough all the time, and that’s Mitch.”

Defensive line coach Jay Rodgers offered this up about Unrein back in October: “He allows those guys to play fast,” with “those guys” being Hicks and Goldman. 

Statistically, the 30-year-old Unrein doesn’t  jump off the page, but he did record a career high 2 ½ sacks in 2017. Perhaps there would be some benefits to continuity in the Bears’ base 3-4 defensive line.

Worth noting too is this position isn’t a huge need, given Unrein usually played between 40 and 55 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps on a per-game basis last year. Keeping Unrein for a relatively low cap hit would make some sense, as opposed to testing free agency to replace him.

Jared Crick is coming off back surgery and an ineffective 2016; Dominique Easley is coming off his third torn ACL this decade; Frostee Rucker is in his mid-30’s. The Bears could look to pick a 3-4 defensive end in April, but that would be a pretty quick re-draft of the position and would be an indication they don’t think much of Bullard. This seems like a position where keeping the status quo is likely, save maybe for replacing John Jenkins with a different backup behind Goldman. 
 

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

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AP

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

There were no Lakers or Clippers in the 2018 All-Star Game, but Los Angeles was well-represented with plenty of homegrown talent, plenty of historians with Los Angeles ties and all the pageantry L.A. can provide.

Russell Westbrook, Paul George and James Harden are among the All-Stars who came home to put on the biggest show of entertainment the league has to offer, and the new format featuring captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry produced one of the most competitive finishes in recent All-Star history as the spectacle wasn’t lost on DeRozan, who plays for the conference-leading Toronto Raptors.

“It was a dream come true,” DeRozan said. “I’ll forever be a part of this, and to come out and be a starter in my hometown, it was a dream come true.”

With Chicago hosting the event in 2020, one wonders if the city or the Bulls will be as represented.

“What better time to do it than in Chicago?” Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen said about his aspirations of being an All-Star sooner rather than later.

New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, to this point, is the only Chicagoan carrying the torch as an All-Star. For years, Chicago could claim their homegrown talent rivaled the likes of Los Angeles and New York, the self-proclaimed “Mecca”.

But now they’ve fallen behind in the way of star power, as Derrick Rose has gone from MVP to one of the biggest “what if” stories in modern-day sports. Jabari Parker was expected to be next in line but his future as a star is murky due to the same dreaded injury bug.

“I didn’t know that. But there’s a lot of great players (from Chicago),” Davis said Saturday during media availability. “Jabari is just coming back, Derrick is going through what he’s going through. That’s fine. D-Wade is getting older. We have a lot of great guys. Guys have been hurt, in D-Wade’s case he’s just getting up there in age now (laughs).”

Davis is arguably the league’s most versatile big man, keeping the New Orleans Pelicans afloat while DeMarcus Cousins is out with an Achilles injury. He’s had to watch the likes of George deal with free agent questions about the prospect of coming home to L.A., even after he was traded from Indiana to Oklahoma City in the offseason.

It still hasn’t stopped the chants from Lakers fans, panting after George in the hope he’ll be a savior of sorts. And even though his contract isn’t up for another few seasons, teams are lining up in the hope they can acquire him through free agency or trade.

It could very well be him getting the chants when the All-Star party comes to Chicago and he could be joined by the likes of Markkanen and Zach LaVine in the big game.

LaVine was in Los Angeles for the weekend and Markkanen opened eyes around the league with his showing in the rising stars game as well as the skills challenge.

Davis could wind up being the object of everyone’s affection and could find himself being recruited by the likes of LaVine.

Even though 2021 is a long way away, a guy can dream, right?

“I mean, I’m cool with a lot of dudes in the NBA. I feel like I’m a likeable guy,” LaVine told NBCSportsChicago.com about recruiting star players to the Bulls franchise. “I can talk about situations like that, it would be my first time being put in a position. It would be a little bit different but I think I can handle it.”

LaVine has his own contract situation to take care of this summer, being a restricted free agent but understands the Bulls’ salary cap position and their long-term goals.

“Yeah I think once the offseason comes and everybody settles down, and I’m comfortable, and I know the position I’ll be in,” LaVine said to NBCSportsChicago.com.

“I think we’ll start having those conversations because we want to get the franchise back to where it was, on that high plateau. That’s what it’s supposed to be.”

“I’m trying to solidify myself in the league to a certain degree. Once you start reaching those points you can talk to anybody to get to where you want to get to.”

LaVine attended several events over the weekend and shared the same space as several All-Stars in non-media settings. It’s easy to see why he would think he could have that affect with his peers.

Being careful about the rules on tampering, he said about a potential sit-down with Davis, “I would bring some Harold’s chicken to the meeting and we’ll be all good.”