Bulls

Taking a closer look at the 76ers

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Taking a closer look at the 76ers

With the Bulls set to welcome the Philadelphia 76ers to town to kick off the playoffs Saturday, let's take a closer look at the team from the City of Brotherly Love:

2011-12 Record: 35-31

Coach: Doug Collins

Eastern Conference Seed: 8

Record against Bulls: 1-2

--Feb. 1: Sixers win 98-82
--Mar. 4: Bulls win 96-91
--Mar. 17: Bulls win 89-80

Leading scorer: Lou Williams -- 14.9 ppg

Leading rebounder: Spencer Hawes -- 7.3 rpg
Projected Starting Five:

PG: Jrue Holiday (13.5 ppg, 4.5 apg)
SG: Jodie Meeks (8.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg)
SF: Andre Iguodala (12.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 5.5 apg)
PF: Elton Brand (11 ppg, 7.2 rpg)
C: Nikola Vucevic (5.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg)

Notes:

--Vucevic has gotten the majority of the starts at center lately, but Spencer Hawes has gotten the most minutes there. Hawes began the year in the starting lineup and surprised many with his stellar play, averaging close to a double-double before back and Achilles injuries knocked him out for all but two games from mid-January to mid-March. Hawes is averaging a career-high 7.3 rebounds per game and 1.3 blocks per game.

--Doug Collins coached the Bulls from 1986-87 through 1988-89 with a record of 137-109 in the three seasons. He was a graduate from Illinois State University in Normal, Ill., where the Redbirds' home court is named after him. The 76ers made him the first overall pick in the 1973 NBA Draft.

--The Sixers' win in Philadelphia on Feb. 1 by 16 tied for the second-largest margin of defeat for the Bulls this season.

--Though the Sixers are 1-2 against the Bulls, they actually led point differential 269-267 thanks to the 16-point win.

--Philadelphia backup guard Evan Turner is a Chicago product. The Oak Park native went to St. Joseph's in Westchester. The versatile swingman started 19 games this season, averaging 9.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.

Just as we all predicted, two rookies stole the show in L.A.

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USA TODAY

Just as we all predicted, two rookies stole the show in L.A.

There's not often hype surrounding a game between two of the NBA's worst teams, but Tuesday's Bulls-Lakers matchup was intriguing to many because it offered a chance to see a pair of top rookies compete. 

Oh, but you didn't think we meant Lonzo Ball and Lauri Markkanen, did you?

Nah, it was two different, less-touted first-year players that ended up stealing the spotlight at the Staples Center. 

Kyle Kuzma and Antonio Blakeney may not be household names, but they sure played like they were in the Bulls' 103-94 loss. 

Kuzma, the Lakers rook drafted 27th overall, has been a spark for Luke Walton's squad all season long. Boasting a terrific scoring arsenal, the Utah product carried the load for the Lakers' offense in the first half, dropping 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting. He finished the game as L.A.'s leading scorer with 22 in 40 minutes. But if you still need a more in-depth scouting report on Kuzma, just let Lonzo break it down:  

More importantly for Bulls fans, though, was the play of their undrafted guard who's signed to a two-way deal. 

Blakeney, the unofficial Summer League MVP, came off the bench on Tuesday and immediately left his mark on the game. The 21-year-old out of LSU posted 15 in the first half, finishing through contact as well as connecting on outside jumpers. 

Blakeney's shooting isn't reliable quite yet, but his energy has clearly influenced Hoiberg's rotation. The guard went from playing one NBA minute in the Bulls' first 11 games to playing 75 in the last four. Given that his two-way deal allows him to only spend 45 days with the team, it'll be fascinating to see how creative Gar Forman and John Paxson will get with his contract if this type of production continues. 

In a season that's obviously going to have its share of rough moments, an offseason flyer hitting is a huge plus for the rebuild. 

As for the recognized rookies, Lonzo's shooting woes persisted and Markkanen had maybe his worst offensive performance of his young Bulls career. Combined, they finished 7-for-30 with 21 points. Not ideal. 

White Sox Talk Podcast: Class A manager Justin Jirschele, youngest manager in professional baseball

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Class A manager Justin Jirschele, youngest manager in professional baseball

27-year-old Justin Jirschele made quite an impression in his first season as manager of the White Sox Class-A affiliate in Kannapolis. He helped lead the Intimidators to the South Atlantic League championship, and was named White Sox Minor League Coach of the Year. Jirschele came on the podcast to speak with Chuck Garfien about how he went from playing minor league baseball with the White Sox to coaching in their system. He talks about how growing up with a dad who was coaching minor league baseball helped mold him as a manager who is wise beyond his years. Jirschele also gives a report on some of the top White Sox prospects he managed last season such as Jake Burger, Alec Hansen, Dane Dunning and Miker Adolfo.