Bulls

Thibodeau's Bulls won't take young Kings lightly

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Thibodeau's Bulls won't take young Kings lightly

SACRAMENTO -- Coming off a disappointing loss Monday to Golden State, with three days in between to prepare, Tom Thibodeau was subdued when talking to reporters after the Bulls Thursday-morning shootaround at the Power Balance Pavilion (nee Arco Arena) prior to the evenings contest against the Kings.

Dont expect his team to be as docile when they take the court. Thibodeau, who is as intense as they come, even in the context of NBA head coaches, was extremely chagrined at the Bulls effort against the Warriors, coached by first-year head coach Mark Jackson and not expected to be among the leagues elite this season, despite an even more definitive win Wednesday over the Knicks.

Thus, the young and deep Kings are poised to bear the brunt of the Bulls revenge, especially if the well-rested visitors return to last seasons philosophy of treating every team the same way, not to mention Derrick Roses pledge to be more aggressive from the outset of games.

"The thing is, every team in this league is talented and this team has a lot of firepower, said Thibodeau. Theyve added some weapons and they can really shoot the ball, so you have to establish your defense early in the game. Theyve always been tough to play here and theyre young, and theyve gotten better.

Its early. People are still ironing things out. The schedule is different. The Lakers already went through their three in a row. Bostons had a tough early schedule with travel, road games, he went on to explain. So those things do factor into it, particularly when you dont have your eight preseason games. But that being said, your urgency has to be great because all these games are important. They all carry equal importance. So this game tonight is just as important as the game two months from now. Thats the way everyone has to approach it.

Since falling out of the NBAs spotlight after being one of the leagues upper-echelon franchises the previous decade, casual observers might not be aware of whom Sacramento actually features on its roster. Well, while they dont have a true established superstar-type player, the Kings are a dangerous bunch with lots of depth.

Marcus Thornton is a very explosive scorer. Tyreke Evans is a tremendous player, said Thibodeau. DeMarcus Cousins is a very talented guy. J.J. Hickson is explosive off the bench. Isaiah Thomas is another guy who can score quickly.

The shooting is a big concern. Travis Outlaw, they picked up, has the versatility to play multiple positions. So, to me, its a very talented team.

Thornton, who was acquired in a midseason trade last year, was re-signed as a free agent after the lockout and pairs up with Evans -- like Rose, a former Rookie of the Year, as well as a John Calipari protg at the University of Memphis -- for a scoring-oriented backcourt, which also features the diminutive rookie Thomas, the last pick in the draft, first-round draft pick Jimmer Fredette, the nations leading scorer in college basketball last season and already a cult hero.

You cant give him any daylight, Thibodeau said of Fredette.

In the frontcourt, the explosive (as a player and person) Cousins is one of the more skilled young big men in the league and is complemented by the likes of the athletic but raw Hickson, a draft-day acquisition from Cleveland and Northern California native Chuck Hayes, a Thibodeau favorite from his days as an assistant coach with the Houston Rockets.

Chuck Hayes is like one of those guys that get overlooked by everybody and all he does is help you win. Hes underrated, plays great defense, can really pass the ball, very good offensive rebounder, praised Thibodeau, who acknowledged that the veteran undersized power forward -- who had his free-agent contract briefly voided due to a health scare -- has similar attributes to departed Bull Kurt Thomas. Chuck is maybe a little bit different, in terms of offensively. He can pass and put it on the floor, and Kurt is the better shooter. But all the intangibles that they bring -- the physical toughness, the mental toughness, just knowing how to win -- thats what they bring.

But even the thorough Thibodeau, who often gives a mini-scouting report to the media (just imagine what his players have to endure) when asked about an opponent, left out some Kings players who could contribute. Former Bulls swingman John Salmons is back for a second stint in Sacramento -- leaving the longest-tenured King, fellow veteran wing Francisco Garcia, seemingly the odd man out -- and young forwards Donte Greene and Jason Thompson also factor into Paul Westphals rotation.

No, the list of players isnt the most accomplished or experienced, but as witnessed in Oakland, that doesnt always matter when it comes to the NBA. Thibodeau clearly understands that and its likely (through positive reinforcement, of course) that his players do, too.

Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

Is there any better way to break in your new Black Friday television than Bulls-Warriors tonight? We think not. Coverage starts at 9 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live, and the game is also available to stream via the NBC Sports app

Here are three things to keep your eye on: 

1. Not the score. Let's be honest: the Bulls probably won't sneak out a win at the Oracle. In fact, ESPN's matchup predictor only gives Fred Hoiberg's young squad a 2.9 percent chance to come up victorious. UIC has three times better odds against juggernaut Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Sunday, in case you needed some context.  

With the talent gap in mind, though, it will be important for the Bulls to come out with high energy. The Warriors will likely take the contest lightly in the first half, so starting off strong reflects well on the coaching staff and starters. Stay within 10 points by the half, and that's considered a massive triumph. 

2. Lauri Markkanen vs. Draymond Green? Assuming the Dubs start out with Green on Markkanen, this will be rookie's biggest test of the season. Green is an elite defender, capable of wrecking gameplans from the tip. He's physical, quick and athletic. 

Markkanen is coming off two duds on the West Coast trip, but his aggressiveness hasn't wavered. It'll be important for him to continue to attack even with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year hounding him. 

3. Steph, KD and Klay doin' work. The Bulls offense hasn't exactly been a thing of beauty through the first 16 games. Their offensive rating is a brutal 94.4, ranked last in the NBA. Golden State, on the other hand, sits at the top with a rating of 113.1. 

Take some time to admire the skills of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson because when it comes to working cohesively on offense, they've set the gold standard. 

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

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USA TODAY

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

Families gather and people talk about things they are thankful for on Thanksgiving, but what are Chicago sports fans happy for now?

Raised expectations on the North Side

Got to be thankful that a “disappointing” season is winning the division and losing in the NLCS. The expectations have skyrocketed, and that’s thanks to a ridiculous nucleus of bats and a steady front office. Not many clubs can say that. Also, though, it’s important to be appreciative of the Wrigley bar stretch. They may charge $8 for a Miller Lite, but it’s always a damn good party.

Javy tags, too. Don't forget Javy tags.

Rebuild sparking hope in White Sox fans

Where to begin? Obviously, be thankful for the plethora of young talent that will soon take over the South Side. Be thankful for Avi Time (while you still can). Be thankful that taking your friends or family to a game won’t cause you to take out a second mortgage. Be thankful for the 2020 World Series and, of course, 2020 MVP Eloy Jimenez. But most importantly, be thankful that Rick Hahn’s phone stays buzzing.

Eddie O back in the booth for the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are having a rough start to the season, but at least Eddie Olczyk is back in the booth. The longtime Blackhawks broadcaster returned to the booth on Oct. 18 after missing time while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer.

With some of the key names from the Blackhawks’ title runs either leaving or being unable to play this season (in the case of Marian Hossa), Blackhawks fans are probably thankful to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice during games.

Lauri Markkanen leading the Bulls rebuild

OK, there’s not much to be thankful for about the current Bulls team. At 3-13, the Bulls are tied for the fewest wins in the NBA (maybe in the long-term that’s something to be thankful for as well). However, Zach LaVine’s pending debut after his eventual return from injury should help create some excitement.

The thing Bulls fans really should be thankful for this year is the play of rookie Lauri Markkanen. The 20-year-old leads the team in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounds (8.3 per game) while shooting at a high percentage (34.2 percent on threes and 50.6 percent on twos). It’s only the beginning of the Bulls’ rebuild, but Markkanen is a good start.

Mitchapalooza

If a few things broke the Bears’ way, Chicagoans could have been grateful that the team was finally out of the cellar. Instead, we’ll settle for the fact that there seems to be some building blocks already in place. Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks seem to fit that category. Also, some may be thankful that this is likely John Fox’s last season at the helm.

Fire ending a playoff drought

After finishing dead last in MLS in 2015 and 2016, the Fire were one of the most improved teams in the league in 2017. After posting the third best record in the league, the Fire made a first playoff appearance since 2012.

The playoff run didn’t last long with the Fire losing a play-in game at home, but the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the league’s leading goal-scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, helped fill the stadium with six sellouts and gave Fire fans something to cheer for.