Blackhawks

Rubio, Roy preach patience to Rose in recovery process

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Rubio, Roy preach patience to Rose in recovery process

Friday nights contest was a typical preseason game, with the Bulls avenging last Saturdays loss in Minneapolis by beating the Timberwolves at the United Center. It may have been more notable, however, by its absences.

No offense to Minnesota All-Star power forward Kevin Love, out for six to eight weeks with a broken hand, but eyes across the league are on the ongoing recoveries of two of the games premier floor generals and elite young players, Bulls point guard Derrick Rose and his Timberwolves counterpart, Ricky Rubio.

Everybody in Chicago knows the saga of Rose, who suffered an ACL injury in the Bulls playoff opener against the 76ers last spring. Rubio suffered a similarly devastating injury in March, but with a couple months head start, hes closer to coming back to the court and therefore, worth monitoring for anybody with even a passing interest in either Rose himself or the Bulls as a whole.

Ive been working every day and Im dying to come back. I want to come back soon, but I know that if I come back early, its hard for me, so I want to make sure everythings fine, said the affable Rubio before the game. Im close to start practicing with five-on-zero, no contact. I dont know how long, maybe a month from that, but I want to come back as soon as possible. But like I said, I want to be healthy, so Im at a stage now where I can do more things, like running and I think Im close to being athletic again.

Im able to jump a little bit, so I can start practicing some jump shots, but only moving forward, not lateral yet, continued the native of Spain, who added that he cant do any cutting yet. I hope in two weeks. I dont know yet. Lets see when I start running harder and longer, and see if I dont have swelling at all. Then I can do more things.

Chimed in Timberwolves head coach Rick Adelman: Hes doing fine. Hes progressing every day. Hes been moving up, as far as his running. Its still just straightaway running; its not cutting or anything. He was just shooting set shots now. Hes jumping a little bit. I talked to him today, this morning, and he said hopefully in the next couple of weeks, hes going to increase his running, his acceleration.

Im sure were just like Chicago. You want to get him back, but you want to be sure theyre comfortable coming back. But I think hes probably just like Chicagos guy. Theyre going to work their tail off to come back and thats what Rickys been doing. Hes been working, hes around the team all the time and were hoping when he does come back, that he can play, but even when he does come back, its going to take some time and hes going to have his ups and downs, and were going to have to find a way to work him in. But its going to be good to have him back.

At the time of his injury, Rubio had established himself as a budding superstar, was challenging Clevelands Kyrie Irving in the Rookie of the Year race and had Minnesotas long-suffering fan base thinking playoffs. But as he said in reference to Loves ill-timed injury We have so much bad luck on this team.

Still, the point guard remains optimistic and expressed high hopes for not only himself, but Rose, as well.

I know its tough. Its a tough injury. Youre six, eight, nine months without playing your favorite sport, and sometimes playing basketball is where you forget about everything and you just enjoy it, so I wish him a healthy recovery, he explained. Ive talked with Spanish guys who have had the same injury like Raul Lopez, who was in the NBA for a couple years and every player is different. Nobody has the same injury maybe a little more meniscus or two ligaments so every player is different, every recovery is different. We dont have to look at somebody else to see where one can come back, so you just take your time, but work hard every day to come back.

Well, in the beginning, it was physical because you were in so much pain and you had to fight every day, and you had to bend the knee, and every day was painful and then, when that pains goes away, you just have to work out and see your teammates, and all your friends playing. Not just basketball games, but basketball in the street, Rubio went on to say.

Added Adelman: I think you have to be a little bit cautious, for sure, when youre bringing him back. Its not like Kevins injury, where its a broken bone. He can still run and everything. But weve got to be careful. Thats why I say, when he comes back, you dont know what the timeframe is going to be, but its still going to be good to have him when he does come back, but we have to be cautious with him and make sure. But thats down the line.

Ironically, Minnesota also has former All-Star Brandon Roy on its roster. Roy was one of the elite shooting guards in the league before his recurring knee issues got to the point where it was bone on bone and he temporarily retired, before launching a comeback and signing with the Timberwolves during the offseason, over interest from the Bulls, among others.

Just going through the mental grind of being back in the league, the ups and downs. Some nights feel great. Some nights, not so great, so physically, I feel really good. Right now, mentally, Im just trying to learn the team, learn the system and then get used to playing the game day in and day out, said Roy about his own progress, before giving some advice to be passed along to Rose.

The biggest thing for him that I would say is just to be patient. Hes a young guy, hes got his whole career ahead of him and again, being patient and being mentally tough I think is the biggest challenge.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 4-2 win over Coyotes: Puck don't lie

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USA TODAY

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 4-2 win over Coyotes: Puck don't lie

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night:
 
1. Surviving a crazy first period.

The Blackhawks committed four penalties in the opening frame within a 2:18 span, and escaped unscathed from it despite a pair of 5-on-3 opportunities for the Coyotes.

Of course, the only goal allowed in the period came from a fluke deflection off Jordan Oesterle's stick and slipped underneath Corey Crawford's five-hole.

Joel Quenneville likes to say the team that takes advantage of their 5-on-3 opportunities has a pretty good chance to win the game. It applied in this case, with the Blackhawks coming out victorious after surviving that stretch.

2. Power play comes alive early.

The Blackhawks got off on the right foot in an area that has been an issue for them this season, capitalizing on their first power play of the game 24 seconds into it when Richard Panik redirected a Jonathan Toews shot that tricked past Louis Domingue.

Good thing too, because it was the only man advantage they'd get. Well, excluding the power play they received with 17 seconds left in regulation when the game was already decided. 
 
3. Another controversial review in Arizona.

What's with it with controversial reviews in Arizona and the Blackhawks being on the wrong end of the call?

The Blackhawks appeared to have taken a 3-1 lead when Tommy Wingels converted on a penalty shot, but it was overturned after officials reviewed it and determined the Coyotes netminder got a stick on Wingels' initial shot. Replays didn't exactly show conclusive evidence, but the NHL released a statement proving otherwise:

Video review determined that Wingels shot the puck into the net after Arizona goaltender Louis Domingue made contact with the puck. According to Rule 24.2, "No goal can be scored on a rebound of any kind."

Shortly after, the Coyotes scored in the final minutes of the period to even up the score at 2-2 in a big turn of events at the time.
 
4. ... But puck don't lie.

The overturned penalty shot didn't matter in the end though, because the Blackhawks came away with the victory and Wingels ended up getting his first goal after all on an empty netter that iced the game.

It was Wingels' first goal as a member of his hometown team, and it was well deserved for a guy who was part of the fourth line that turned in arguably their best performance of the season.
 
5. Lance Bouma pots game winner.

Speaking of which, it was fitting that Bouma scored the game winner with 4:24 left in the third period because that trio of Bouma, Wingels and John Hayden was around the net for the majority of the night.

They combined for two goals and two assists, had eight attempts shot attempts (five on goal), eight of the team's 16 hits and four blocked shots.

Miscues, miscommunications and missed shots: Bulls offense struggling all around

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USA TODAY

Miscues, miscommunications and missed shots: Bulls offense struggling all around

Denzel Valentine corralled a rebound and casually dribbled up the right side of the floor, unaware of the final 5 seconds ticking off the clock in the third quarter. The second-year shooting guard moved toward the basket as the buzzer sounded, only realizing his gaffe as the red lights behind the backboard lit up. It was that kind of night for the Bulls offense, and one that highlighted carelessness, a lack of talent and obvious growing pains as the rebuild begins.

Fred Hoiberg’s group finished with more turnovers (20) than assists (18), shot 38 percent from the field and were doubled up on points in the paint in an ugly 87-77 loss to the Spurs on Saturday night. Adding to the issues were only nine free-throw attempts and 28 percent shooting from deep on a night where the Bulls played well enough defensively to earn a win.

But they couldn’t take advantage of a Spurs team playing without Kawhi Leonard. The ball stopped for long periods of time in the halfcourt, the fast break was non-existent and miscommunications were frequent, even when they didn’t result in one of those 20 turnovers.

“We had 20 turnovers that led to 23 points…that’s what kills you,” Hoiberg said. “A team goes on a run and they get easy ones, pick-sixes, you’re all of a sudden in a big hole. And obviously did not shoot the ball well today.”

The struggles came from across the board. Only Cris Felicio was turnover-less of the nine Bulls who played. The backcourt tandem of Jerian Grant and Justin Holiday combined for 11 of 32 shooting. Rookie Lauri Markkanen showed flashes with eight first-half points, but finished 5 of 14 and committed three ugly turnovers. Robin Lopez made the first 3-pointer of his career 630 games in, but a 29-year-old leading the way for a young rebuilding group could be deemed bittersweet at best.

It capped off a whirlwind first week for the Bulls, who dealt on the fly with the fallout of the altercation between Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis. Losing Mirotic and Portis hurt from a talent standpoint, but it also threw a wrench into Hoiberg’s rotation and scheme. It thrust 20-year-old Markkanen into the starting lineup; Paul Zipser has shifted to playing more power forward (while also starting at small forward); Lopez is being asked to score more than ever, and at times be the primary option.

“With everything we’ve had going on the past week, with playing guys different positions that they haven’t played yet,” Hoiberg said, “we’re still trying to figure out exactly how we’re going to go out there and play. We’re getting stuck at times because guys are in the wrong spots.”

The Bulls opened Saturday night with a solid first quarter, scoring 21 points, assisting on nine of 12 baskets and committing just three turnovers.

The final three quarters couldn’t have been more different. The second unit again struggled like it did in allowing the Raptors a 20-2 second-quarter run on Tuesday. Even without Leonard the Spurs’ defensive length cut off passing and driving lanes, forcing the Bulls to dribble down the shot clock and turn to isolation basketball or contested 3-pointers.

The Spurs couldn’t pull away thanks to an inspired defensive effort by the Bulls, but the offensive stalling rendered it moot; the Bulls took 28 3-pointers and 37 shots in the paint, an ugly ratio when considering the nine free-throw attempts. The bench shot 7-for-19, but most of that came in garbage time.

“One thing we definitely need to work on is attacking the basket,” Lopez said. “I think there are times where we all get a little jumper-happy on the perimeter. I think we need to have a good balance.

We need to be aware of that. We’re a team that doesn’t have a lot of room for error so any time we concede the ball like that, we don’t get up a shot attempt, tat’s going to really hurt us.”

Kris Dunn may be closer than expected to returning to the lineup after dislocating his finger in the preseason. It would give the Bulls help on that dismayed second unit, knocking Kay Felder (3 turnovers in 15 minutes) out of the rotation. Once Mirotic and Portis return in November, Hoiberg will have more flexibility with his rotations as well as some insurance if frontcourt foul trouble arrives.

None are go-to scorers, and not even Zach LaVine's 19.8 points per game last season will save the Bulls once he's healthy. Season-long struggles like Saturday night are on the way for a young team searching for pieces of the future. That's expected, and in the long term it benefits them as more Lottery balls roll toward Chicago.

But in a season in which success will be judged not on wins and losses but improvement from game-to-game, but the Bulls have set the bar low in the season's first week.