Bulls

Sharp, Bowman weigh in on Lidstrom's outstanding career

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Sharp, Bowman weigh in on Lidstrom's outstanding career

NEWARK, N.J. As a kid growing up in Michigan, Los Angeles Kings defenseman Matt Greene didnt have to look far for his hockey role model: Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom. Even if emulating him was a tough, if not impossible, task.

I realized early on I cant play anything like him, the Grand Ledge, Mich., native said. But as a young kid, thats who you wanted to model your game after. You talk about pure class. Hes definitely a role model in how the game should be played and respected.

When the four-time Stanley Cup and seven-time Norris Trophy winner announced his retirement on Thursday, the Detroit Red Wings lost a tremendous player. And the NHL lost a tremendous ambassador and gentleman of the game. Lidstrom epitomized class and talent throughout his 20-year career. And everyone from Central Division opponents to the defensemen who wanted to grow up and play just like him, chimed in on his legacy.

Hes probably one of the greatest defensemen to play the game, if not the greatest. That alone says something, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said. Hes a special player. I think the game of hockey is lucky to have had him as many years as it has. Hes ending the greatest career of a defenseman Ive ever seen live.

Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp joked, hopefully the Wings leave that spot open and they get a little worse. Hes arguably the best defenseman who ever played the game. I have good memories playing against him. I talked to him personally a few times; hes a nice person and well respected. I dont think youll see anyone say a bad thing about him.

Indeed, youd be hard pressed to find that. Coaches included, too.

It didnt matter how you forechecked or how you set up. Hes one of the few guys who could control a game from the defensive standpoint, Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter said. You think about how many guys there are in recent history are who are like that. Not many. We were kids, thought Bobby Orr could do that. Pretty awesome player.

Drew Doughty echoed that sentiment.

Im having to take hard strides. If you watch him, I dont think he ever took a hard stride. It always looked like he was gliding, the Kings defenseman said. Yet at the same time he was always in the exact position he needed to be. To this day I dont know how he did it. I want to try to model myself after him one day.

The 42-year-old Swede had a career some could only dream off, one filled with tremendous stats and impressive hardware. He also had an enviable curtain call: he went out on his terms, still a strong talent.

Its not that the tank is completely empty. I just dont have enough to carry me through every day at a high level that I want to play at, Lidstrom told reporters at his emotionally charged press conference. My family and I are completely comfortable with this decision. Retiring today allows me to walk away from the game with pride, rather than having the game walk away from me.

Lidstrom played the game they way it was supposed to be played, going through all the changes to it. Off the ice he carried himself the way a professional should: no histrionics, no hijinks, no headaches.

The Red Wings bid goodbye to a tremendous defenseman. The league bid goodbye to a class act.

Its sad to see him retire but its amazing to look back and see his stats, Greene said. You cant fault him for (choosing retirement). Playing as long as he has, everything hes accomplished, its unbelievable.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Kevin Anderson react to a breakout game from Kris Dunn against the Hornets Friday night. They’ll discuss his development and how it impacts rookie Lauri Markkanen. Plus just how long will both the Wolves and Bulls be judged on the Jimmy Butler trade? Is Dwight Howard a hall of famer? And a new era in Philly with Simmons and Embiid. That and more on this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast.

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Kris Dunn did it: You can’t play that position without an edge, without some form of “basketball killer” in you. Kris Dunn showed at the very least, he has that in his DNA in his best game as a Bull with a career-high 22 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

Leave it to Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg to point out a forgotten stat: one turnover in 26 minutes.

“That’s the biggest thing I’m proud of,” Dunn said. “Everyone knows I’ve had a lot of careless turnovers in the season. It’s one thing I’ll take credit for.”

Dunn scored 13 with six assists in the fourth quarter alone as the Bulls outscored the Hornets 40-28 for the comeback victory. More than anything, it was his competitive spirit and aggressiveness that stood out. Kemba Walker stood across the way and gave Dunn—and the Bulls—every bit of 47 points.

“He tested my conditioning, for sure,” Dunn admitted. “He’s a great player. He’s been in the league for so long. It was good to go out there and compete with him.”

It could’ve went a different way had Walker not been bothered by Lauri Markkanen’s challenge at the rim, blowing a layup that would’ve given the Hornets the lead back with seconds remaining but he missed it and the narrative changed at least for a night.

And when teams are talking about learning experiences, it’s good to have them in a win every now and again. Markkanen’s challenge at the rim followed by his closing free throws right after, along with a quietly effective 16 points and seven rebounds, proved huge on this night.

Dunn finally having a confidence booster was imperative.

Dunn scored but it wasn’t an easy 20 or a smooth 20. It was an attacking 20, a necessary 20. He did hit some elbow jumpers, especially in the fourth as the defense laid off him.

But his biggest basket was a slithering drive to the rim for a layup with 2:24 left, because he attacked and was under control.

“That’s huge growth for Kris,” Hoiberg said. “He made the right play darn near every time he had the ball in his hands. Rose up with confidence, knocked down huge shots. Defensively got them going, got steals.”

What a relief: Nobody wanted to say it, but it bore out on the floor, the sheer desperation the Bulls played with.

Coming in with a five-game losing streak and headed out west to for four games in the next week, they were staring in the face of a possible double-digit losing streak to end November.

Confidence was sparse after three bad losses, and it’s a dangerous time for a team that will struggle to win games all season.

The United Center crowd got into it, particularly late when the Bulls began climbing back into contention to start the fourth quarter. The fans wanted this win too, even with the eyes being on a larger prize coming in mid-2018.

The relief was written all over Hoiberg’s usually-stress ridden face and he even cracked a couple jokes that weren’t aimed in his direction, as self-deprecation is normally his escape of choice.

“It is important but I asked the guys: is it hard to play with that type of effort? When you play with that type of energy and effort and swagger, it’s fun,” Hoiberg said. “When you play low energy and hang your head, it’s a drag. It’s hard to play at this level with that mentality.”

Starting change: Justin Holiday returned after his quick leave with his wife delivering a baby girl recently and his game-high 27 points showed he missed the Bulls as much as they missed his shooting, hitting four triples and going 10 for 15 from the field.

“Guys were serious about getting their jobs done,” Holiday said. “It was a lot of energy, a lot of energy, competitiveness. That’s how we have to play every night for our team to do well.”

Denzel Valentine, although he didn’t want to say it, wants to be a starter. Hoiberg chose Quincy Pondexter over him recently and then made the change Friday to insert Valentine for more scoring.

Valentine scored 18 with six assists and five rebounds in 32 minutes of run—and with those two starting as scoring options, the Bulls surpassed that seven-point first-quarter mark really early and scored 26 overall.

He hit a big triple in the fourth with 2:49 left to give the Bulls a 110-109 lead on a set play the Bulls actually executed between Valentine, Dunn as a setup man and Robin Lopez as a screen to pop Valentine open.

If he continues to hit 3-pointers at a 40 percent clip, especially with the way the Bulls have struggled to start games, he’ll have the right to feel he belongs in the first five.

“It’s definitely more confidence,” Valentine said. “You feel you’re an NBA starter, you get to go in and feel it out for a second and bring some energy to start the game.”

He didn’t mince words about starting, with a little honesty saying, “I think it’s huge being a starter.”

When asked if he felt validated by his performance and the result being a high-scoring win, it was just as telling.

“I think I deserve…I think I deserved a starting role,” Valentine said. “At the same time it’s different combinations, different people that need to be on the floor at certain times, so if he feels like I don’t need to start, I won’t start. But I feel very comfortable starting as well.”

Hack-a-Dwight: It could be Hack-a-Dwight, hack-a-Drummond, hack-a-Wilt or Shaq or Charles Shackleford.

The Bulls went to it and Howard went two of four from the line but it took a little rhythm from the Hornets and probably slowed Kemba Walker down just enough before he got cooking in the last 90 seconds and almost pulled a win out of his keister.

But…

I hate it. Get it out of the game completely.