Bears

The Starting Five: Bulls v. Hawks

The Starting Five: Bulls v. Hawks

Wednesday, March 2, 2011Posted: 4:10 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

1. Kirk Hinrich, who was dealt from the Wizards to the Hawks at the trade deadline, talked about being back on a playoff team. Its a great feeling. It was getting to be a very long year there in D.C. The organization was great to me, everybody was great, but to be coming to a talented team like this in the middle of the playoff hunt is very exciting," Hinrich, who told reporters he will play Wednesday, despite nursing a calf injury, said after Hawks shootaround. Im definitely excited to get a chance to play with these guys. After going against them all those years, I know the talent that they have and how high of a ceiling they have as a group, so Im just excited to be a part of it and help in any way that I can. Hinrich said he wasnt expecting to be traded, but the fiery competitors reaction was understandably positive. The day that it happened, I was hearing all the rumors, so that was basically when I opened my mind up to the possibility that it might happen, said Hinrich. I was very excitedit was kind of like having a new life.

2. Derrick Rose discussed the matchup with Hinrich, his former backcourt partner. It should be fun. It should feel like any other game, like when he was in Washington. He was playing the same way, playing aggressive, playing the same way he normally plays and thats wellI know that I will be better after this game. Every game you play against a good defender like that, youre going to get better because youve got to get prepared for it and I just cant wait. Hes somebody that when I came into the league, he took me under his wing, said Rose. Its going to be hard. Were playing against a good team. Earlier when we played him, his team wasnt as good as this team, so tonight, I think the atmospheres going to be crazy and both teams are going to be out there playing very hard. Hinrich spoke highly of Roses progress and the challenge of defending him. Its a nightmare. With his strength and athleticism, it definitely has to be a team effort, for sure, said Hinrich. Watching him, you still shake your head at times. Its unbelievable, the way that hes playing. As for playing his former team in his first home game with his new team, Hinrich was upbeat. Im excited. Theyve got a very good team and theyre playing really well right now, so it should be a good challenge for us. Its always a big game when you have a long road trip and you come back home, so were definitely up for the challenge tonight, said Hinrich. Its a little different, I guess, just because I have really good relationships with all those guys, but other than that, its another game and Im still trying to get acclimated here, so Im just trying to focus on that.

3. Luol Deng told CSNChicago.com that he believes that Hawks will gradually improve with Hinrich running the show. I think theyll improve a lot, said Deng. I dont know how quick they will improve, but I think Kirkespecially defensivelywill bring them more energy. While some observers focus on the Bulls flying under the radar, the steady Hawks have been a consistent playoff team in the East for the past few seasons, although last springs second-round flameout at the hands of Orlando dampened preseason expectations, given they returned virtually the same team. People get tired of seeing the same thing. I think thats what it is. I think we just had a tough season last year, so all of a sudden, we turned it around and were the team. The Hawks have been doing it for a few years now, so people are kind of like, Well, in the playoffs, theyre going to do the same thing, so they dont give them the props, Deng opined to CSNChicago.com. Theyre making changes and theyre a different team. As for us, if we keep doing the same thing for a few years, its going to be the same thing. People just get tired and always want something new.

4. Joakim Noah discussed facing his former teammate Hinrich. Kirk obviously knows a lot of our personnel very well, said Noah. Kirky is also a very competitive player, somebody who will always come ready to play against the Chicago Bulls, I think. Noah also spoke about matching up with former college teammate and Hawks center Al Horford, with whom he won two collegiate national championships at the University of Florida. I think this is an important game tonight and just being able to go up against him is exciting. Hes a very competitive guy, Im a competitive guy and its an important game for us. Were trying to grab the No. 1 seed and we have a lot of work to do. We havent played them yet and its going to be exciting to play the Hawks tonight, said Noah. I think Als a big piece of the Hawks are trying to do and just being here for the last couple days, Ive realized how much love he gets out here. Its very, very well deserved. Hes somebody whos very professional and comes with that workmanlike attitude every day. Hes somebody who wants to win very badly. Horford shared his own opinion on the matchup. It was a little weird, the first few years facing him in the NBA. We havent faced them at all this year. Its different. You play with a guy for such a long time. We have to get prepared for this game like any other game, said Horford, who added there was no question Noah would make it to the next level when they were at Florida. Its hard when you play with a guy on your same side and you know each others game, so you know its going to be different, but we know weve got to go out there and do our jobs. Horford believes Hinrich will be a positive addition to the Hawks. I think he helps a lot, said Horford. He brings toughness and hes a leader out there. Thats one of the things that we need.

5. Dont forget to follow me on Twitter at @CSNBullsInsider.

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Low

Decisions to be made on: Christian Jones (free agent), John Timu (free agent), Jonathan Anderson (free agent); Jerrell Freeman has reportedly been cut

Possible free agent targets: Demario Davis, Preston Brown, Anthony Hitchens, Avery Williamson, Navorro Bowman, Derrick Johnson

How the Bears rate Nick Kwiatkoski will be the key to figuring out what this unit will look like in 2018. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio thought Kwiatkoski finished last season strong, but strong enough to rely on him in 2018 as the starter next to Danny Trevathan?

The thing with the Bears’ inside linebackers, though: Trevathan makes whoever is playing next to him better. The problem is Trevathan hasn’t been able to stay on the field — he missed time in 2017 with a calf injury and a one-game suspension, and missed half of 2016 after rupturing his Achilles’. Trevathan hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013, so durability is an issue for the soon-to-be 28-year-old.

So that leads to this question: Do the Bears need to find someone in free agency, regardless of how they value Kwiatkoski, who’s also missed time due to injuries in his first two years in the league?

Free agency could provide a few options. Demario Davis had a career high 97 tackles for the New York Jets last year and has never missed a game as a pro. Preston Brown had some decent production in Buffalo and also hasn’t missed a game since being drafted in 2014. Avery Williamson may not be a world-beater but has only missed one game in his four years in the NFL.

The Bears could also opt for someone who fits more of a rotational mold, like Dallas’ Anthony Hitchens, or try to lure a veteran linebacker like Navorro Bowman (who played for Vic Fangio in San Francisco) or Derrick Johnson (who Matt Nagy knows from his Kansas City days) to play next to Trevathan and/or Kwiatkoski.

The Bears could opt to keep the status quo and re-sign Christian Jones and John Timu for depth, and enter 2018 with Kwiatkoski and Trevathan as the team’s starters (Jerrell Freeman, who suffered a season-ending injury and then was hit with his second PED suspension in as many years, was cut on Tuesday). Signing a starting-caliber free agent isn’t out of the question, either, but there is a third option for the Bears if they appear to stand pat in free agency: Draft an inside linebacker in April. If that’s the route they go, Georgia’s Roquan Smith could be the guy. But again, those more pressing needs at other positions could mean the Bears don’t burn a first-round pick on an inside linebacker.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?