With Rose sidelined, Bulls still get revenge on Knicks


With Rose sidelined, Bulls still get revenge on Knicks

Even with Derrick Rose missing his 23rd game of the season due to a sprained right ankle, the Bulls had plenty of motivation heading into Tuesday nights game against the Knicks at the United Center, as they lost in an overtime heartbreaker at New York just two days before, on Easter Sunday.

The Bulls, missing their All-Star point guard, turned the tables in the second game of the home-and-home series, avenging the loss in the rematch with a 98-86 win, in which prized offseason acquisition Rip Hamilton had a breakout performance and the squads vaunted depth and defense were on full display.

Turning the tables on the Knicks from Sunday, the Bulls (44-14) blitzed their guests at the outset with an 8-0 run to start the contest, as they pushed the pace to score in transition and executed in their half-court sets via crisp passing, much of which could be credited to Rip Hamilton (20 points, five assists).

However, following a timeout by New York interim head coach Mike Woodson to make adjustments, the visitors quickly stormed back, led by the efficient scoring of All-Star Carmelo Anthony and playmaking of veteran point guard Baron Davis.

With contributions from the likes of second-year swingman Landry Fields also helping the Knicks cause, they not only caught up to the Bulls, but built a slight cushion as their small-ball offense thrived and the hosts stalled with poor shot selection on a number of possessions. At the conclusion of the opening period, the Bulls trailed, 25-22.

Propelled by the energetic, defensive-minded play of the Bench Mob, the Bulls made their own comeback, starting the second stanza on a 14-2 run.

Swingman Ronnie Brewers high activity level was a major factor, as was the blend of scoring and playmaking provided by fan favorite John Lucas III, as well as the dual defensive presence of inside tandem Taj Gibson and Omer Asik, all combining for the home team to take a double-digit lead.

New York (29-28) again crept back into the contest, taking advantage of Bulls turnovers and capitalizing on the other end through Anthonys productive scoring and a spark off the bench from sixth man J.R. Smith (14 points).

However, upon the Bulls regulars being reinserted into the game, Duke products and starting forwards Carlos Boozer (10 points, eight rebounds) and All-Star Luol Deng (19 points, 10 rebounds, four assists) led a late-period charge to help the hosts head into the intermission with a 47-35 lead.

After the break, a chippy, more physical affair ensued, as both squads, who had managed to avoid fouls in the up-tempo first half, started to lay the wood on each other on attempted drives to the bucket.

While Anthony still had it going for New York, so did his All-Star counterpart, Deng, as well as Hamilton, who took a much more aggressive approach to scoring in the third quarter, particularly in transition, which aided the Bulls in maintaining their comfortable winning margin.

Hamiltons continued scoring exploitshe got to the rim, drew fouls and knocked down his trademark mid-range jumperpaired with a dominant team rebounding effort and the energetic play of rookie swingman Jimmy Butler off the bench buoyed the Bulls, allowing them to control the games flow and momentum, despite Anthony carrying New Yorks offensive load, with help from center Tyson Chandler (10 points, 15 rebounds), a former Bulls draft pick, and rookie guard Iman Shumpert (12 points), a Chicago native.

Heading into the games final stanza, the Bulls held a 72-62 edge.

Solid defense and timely plays by the usual cast of role players kept the Bulls in firm control of the contest early in the fourth period, though the Knicks only helped matters, as their high-flying offense got bogged down by bad shot choices and unforced errors.

The hosts effort, back to the high standards of earlier in the season, appeared to be the difference, as the Bulls simply beat their offensive-minded guests to loose balls and also outworked them in other aspects of the game, such as the all-important defensive end of the court, where consistently made big plays to keep New York in a double-digit hole.

As the game entered its stretch run, C.J. Watson (nine points, seven assists), who filled in for Rose as the starting point guard, and designated sharpshooter Kyle Korver (14 points, seven rebounds, three blocked shots), stepped up their games to ensure the gap between the two teams didnt get too close, but a determined Anthony persisted in pouring in points to keep the visitors hopes alive.

However, lockdown defense, Korvers outside marksmanship and a Deng putback layup with under a minute remaining sealed the deal, getting vengeance and some positivity with a Thursday home matchup against Miami looming and Roses status still unsure.

Plenty of possibilities loom ahead of Bears' draft pick

Plenty of possibilities loom ahead of Bears' draft pick

As the Bears begin to fill out their draft board in earnest, they’ll do so by evaluating the players they like and the players they think will be available when they pick eighth in April. And what players check both those boxes and go into their draft “clouds,” as Ryan Pace calls them, will depend largely on how many quarterbacks are taken ahead of the Bears’ pick. 

With about a month until the draft, it seems clear two teams will take a quarterback with a top-seven pick: the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets. The Browns own the Nos. 1 and 4 picks; the Jets traded up from No. 6 to No. 3, and teams rarely invest that kind of draft capital to not draft a quarterback. 

That leaves a few hinge points in how many quarterbacks are picked by the time the Bears are on the clock:

New York Giants (No. 2 overall)

The Giants still have an aging Eli Manning but could move to use the second pick to draft his long-term replacement. Or, alternatively, they could use this deep class of top-end quarterbacks as an avenue to trade down, add some picks and build out a young core that way. Either of these scenarios would be good news for the Bears, as we’ve seen Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, N.C. State defensive end Bradley Chubb and Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson connected to the Giants at No. 2 as well, if they were to stay there. The Buffalo Bills could be motivated to trade up to No. 2 to make sure they get the guy they want with quarterbacks almost assuredly going off the board at Nos. 1 and 3. 

Cleveland Browns (No. 4 overall)

If the Browns get their quarterback with the first pick — Sam Darnold? — they could be sitting in an ideal spot at No. 4. If the Giants draft a quarterback, Cleveland could play hardball and tell teams they’re fine keeping the fourth pick and drafting Barkley with it. That could create a bidding war between the Buffalo Bills (No. 12) and Denver Broncos (No. 5) to trade up and draft the last of the four clear-cut top quarterbacks in this class. In this scenario, Cleveland adds a bunch of picks to an already-sizable stash and accelerates their growth through the draft. 

If the Giants were to trade out of the No. 2 pick, let’s say to the Bills, it may lessen Cleveland’s desire to trade down from No. 4 unless a team in need of a quarterback like the Arizona Cardinals (No. 15) or Miami Dolphins (No. 11) starts lurking around. But as we saw last year with the Bears trading up one spot to draft Mitch Trubisky, teams don’t want to leave things to chance if they have conviction on the quarterback they want. So that brings us to the…

Denver Broncos (No. 5 overall)

The Broncos signed Case Keenum to a two-year deal and still have 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch on their roster, though he hasn’t shown much in only five games as a pro. Does Denver absolutely, positively have to draft a quarterback? No. They’re probably in the same boat as the Giants in that regard. But what if they really like Josh Allen and/or Baker Mayfield, both of whom their coaching staff worked with at the Senior Bowl, and one of them is still on the board when the Browns’ pick comes up at No. 4? Or what if Josh Rosen has been their guy all along? 

In that case, John Elway may make an aggressive move to guarantee he gets the quarterback he wants, and not risk losing that guy if a team were to cut the line by trading with the Browns. 

The other scenario is less positive for the Bears: Maybe the Broncos only have one or two quarterbacks out of this group they want, and they either can’t find a trade partner to move out of No. 5 or don’t want to. If three quarterbacks are drafted in the first seven picks, the Bears may not have the opportunity to draft one of Nelson, Chubb or Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds, for example, is a super-talented prospect — but we seem to be moving toward a consensus that Nelson, Fitzpatrick, Chubb and Barkley are the four best non-quarterback prospects in this draft. And in all likelihood, the Bears will only be able to draft one of them four quarterbacks are taken before they pick. 

The wild card here is Nelson, given his position (guard) is rarely seen as worthy of being a top-10 pick. But those who saw him up close in college believe he’s a future perennial Pro Bowler, possibly beginning as soon as his rookie year. The Bears’ fit is obvious, with Harry Hiestand coming to coach the offensive line from Notre Dame and the team — as of right now — still having a fairly clear need for another interior offensive lineman. Perhaps Nelson falls to the Bears even if there are only three quarterbacks off the board before they pick, but having four go off the board would make things a little less stressful at Halas Hall in late April. 

Indianapolis Colts (No. 6 overall) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 7 overall)

The Colts already traded down once, and likely did so with the confidence that Chubb would still be on the board at No. 6 to help their limp pass rush. Fitzpatrick seems to be a good fit with Tampa Bay, though a player of his caliber would be a good fit anywhere. Either of these teams still could be persuaded to trade down, especially if the Giants and/or Broncos pass on a quarterback.

Chicago Bears (No. 8 overall)

If four quarterbacks are off the board by the time the Bears pick, that’s ideal for Pace. If three are, he still could get someone from his No. 8 pick “cloud” and be content staying there. If only two are — and this doesn’t appear to be a likely scenario — that means the Bills haven’t found a trade partner and may want to leapfrog the Dolphins at No. 11 to get their guy. More likely, if the Bears are able to trade down from No. 8, it would be because a team like Arizona wants to make sure the quarterback they want isn’t snagged by an opportunistic team ahead of them. 

But Pace's draft history has seen him trade up far more frequently than trade down. If someone who's in his draft cloud is available when the Bears go on the clock, chances are he'll pick that guy and not trade down. 

Plenty can and will change between now and when the draft begins on April 26. But for right now, the landscape ahead of the Bears suggests only positive things setting up for their first-round pick. 

De La Salle's Joe Bonds ready and excited for the chapter of his football career


De La Salle's Joe Bonds ready and excited for the chapter of his football career

Chicago De La Salle senior linebacker Joe Bonds (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) and soon-to-be NIU Huskie will have zero problems fitting into the "The Hard Way" mantra once he reports to DeKalb this summer.

I had a chance to catch up with Bonds and his teammates at the sixth annual Franklin Middle School Dodgeball Tournament in Wheaton. Proceeds from the event benefited the Northern Illinois Food Bank, Cammy Can, Jack’s Army and Franklin Middle School.

Bonds, a three-star inside linebacker is one of several Chicagoland headline names who comprised of a very strong NIU recruiting 2018 class.

Bonds, who signed with the Huskies over offers from multiple FBS level schools, looks ahead and discusses his soon to be transition from De La Salle to college football and more.