Shot Time!

Shot Time!

Friday, Feb. 26, 2010

With so many things going on, Ive got a lot on my mind.

TIGER: Was that an apology? Only time will tell. It seems that there was a lot of debate on whether he needed to give a public one. Mostly in the media. Mostly by men. For better or worse Woods is such a public figure that whatever he does is news, good or bad. In fact there are probably more people talking about him now more than ever. (Hes all over the checkout aisles.)

While a lot of adults have no problem reconciling what he did, a lot more do. The argument that he did nothing to the game, like say Mark McGwire (more later), doesnt matter to me. Hes brought the public attention onto himself. Hes the one that has his family on the 18th hole to help him celebrate. Thats not part of a calculated formula to present a stable image for his corporate handlers? Not only that, Tiger has become a face to millions of children, not only through golf, but his charitable endeavors. I have taken my daughter to see him at Cog Hill several times. She, like most of the others, was in awe. Now, she, like a lot of other kids, is asking questions. I dont have a problem in answering the questions, because life happens. But it was nice to show in the lesson, that you need to make amends and apologize to all that you might have affected, even if you dont know them, because its the right thing to do. The fact that Woods' problems are public is, unfortunately part of what he and his family have to live with. That he was able to acknowledge his wrong doing, in public, is a step in the right direction. From this point now, I will agree, he doesnt owe us anything. His fans will have to root for him at their own risk.

NOAHS ARCH (Actually a little further down): Did a little light reading on plantar fasciitis the other day. Ive always heard about it but didnt pay much attention. Why now? Well, its put a serious damper on one of the positive stories of the Bulls season: the stellar play and growth of Joakim Noah. Plantar fasciitis is an acute form of inflammation on a thin band of tissue running across the bottom of your foot. The thing about it is, without proper rest, its very hard to heal. In fact, rushing back leads to an excess of scar tissue, which could lead to other complications. After a couple of weeks off, the Bulls decided to ease him back onto the court. So my question is: Have you watched him play? Hes obviously having issues. Why wouldnt you let him continue to heal? I dont know about you, but dont big men with foot issues scare you a little bit? I know there is pressure to win now, there always is, but any Bulls fan can realize the importance the play of Noah is going to have on the future of this franchise. This year is about the future, right? Protect it. Let the other guys on the roster step up, and lets find out what other pieces are going to be around the free-agent prize of this summer. Who knows, maybe Luol Deng will get the wake-up call.

MORE McGWIRE!: Like I typed here before, this story will not go away. Not when there are so many unanswered questions, and Big McClueless thinking that he can slip back into the game under the cloak of being a batting coach. Seems that someone found out the answer to the question I asked here after the charade with Bob Costas: Where did he get the 'roids? Turns out it was his brother. What?! Yeah, and theres more. More?! Of the five McGwire boys, the youngest, Jay, was a body builder. Really? I wont get into any of the obvious youngest sibling issues that abound here, but more to the point, nobody knew this? No one? In his interview with the behemoth, he laid it ALL out. Wow. I mean, anyone doing an investigation, say George Mitchell, congress, any news organization, didnt know that his brother was a body builder? According to Jay hes never been contacted by anyone. This interview was for the release of his book that rats out his brother. And the hits just keep on coming! Not only that, but Tim Kurkjian in a another interview, had Big Mac and Albert Pujols at the Cardinals spring training camp talking about hitting together. My head was about to explode! Albert? Tell me how Mark has helped you. Albert replied, He was able to hit the ball so far with such a quiet swing.

Honestly?! How has this guy waltzed right back in without obviously telling the truth? Is his brother the good one? I cant wait for this to have an unhappy ending.

TW-OZZ-ER?: Ozzie on twitter? Priceless. What the world needs now, is more random thoughts from our boy. The daily updates on ComcastSportsNet were fun enough. Then, theres Ozzie TV on the MLB Network. (I know that the Chairman and Kenny Williams are going to be featured also, but let us not kid ourselves about who the get was. (Although after his White Sox business rant a few years ago, I would love to hear Kenny unplugged.) Now, Ozzies joined the kids on twitter? Over 19,000 followers already? Whats next? A spot on the Ocho-Cinco network? There are definitely two sides to this. The more popular reaction is: Cant wait to hear what Ozzie has to say. The negative reaction is: Whats Ozzie going to say? Thats the reason that this is such a big story. When Ozzie speaks, people cant get enough. Like another one of my favorites, Charles Barkley, he can say almost anything and get away with it. I think that Ozzie might find tweeting a little restrictive and time consuming. Getting one of his streams of consciousness to fit into 140 characters might be hard. (Then again the use of symbols could be pretty & handy!) Then theres the fact of having to actually type your thoughts, (you cant do it while youre driving anymore!) and when can you find the time? Plus, theres so much expectation. So far hes been pretty tame, albeit frequent, but can that last?Can he live up to the hype? One thing is for sure, were ALL going to find out.
WINTER OLYMPICS: Like everyone else Ive been paying attention, but like I said here last week, I dont feel like Im totally into it. Of course Im watching the hockey, USA vs. Canada had the bar rocking, but that was about it. Until I learned of the story of Joannie Rochette. Weve all heard by now that she lost her mother tragically on Sunday. In her mothers memory, she decided to continue on with her Olympic dream in her home country, with hundreds of millions of people around the world watching on Tuesday, as Im sure her mother would have wanted. Respectfully, the announcers did not say a word as she skated. One look at her face was all you needed. That she finished with the third best score after her program did not matter. Again, one look at her face was all you needed; the combination of sorrow and the exhaustion of a competitor that knew that she had given her best. Im sure Im not the only one who had to wipe away a tear. On Thursday night, and again not being the only one, I had to watch again, in hopes that she would medal. Not that I was rooting for anyone else to fail, or would have thought less of her achievement if she didnt, I just thought it would help her through this difficult time. How could anyone not want her to do well? That she scored her highest total ever in an event that she has probably been training for her entire life was poetic justice. What an incredibly strong young lady. If the true meaning of the Olympics is to show us the best we can be through competition and athletic achievement, then that is what she, and her mother, should be remembered for. Its something Ill never forget.

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


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 rewarded with game-winning goal.

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


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.