Bulls

When Eli talks, the Giants listen

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When Eli talks, the Giants listen

From Comcast SportsNetEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- When Eli Manning talks, the New York Giants listen. Making a rare mid-week address, the Super Bowl MVP told his teammates Tuesday to take care of personal business early so they can focus on preparing to play the New England Patriots in the super sequel in Indianapolis on Feb. 5. In other words, use the next 48 hours to buy tickets for family and friends, book air fares and hotel rooms and show up on Thursday ready to start practicing for the title game. Manning seemingly was ready to go on Tuesday. He had little to say about the 20 or so times the 49ers hit him or knocked him down during the 20-17 overtime win in the NFC title game in San Francisco on Sunday. The 30-year-old said he had a workout and was fine when asked about his health. He was more concerned about the Giants being ready for the rematch with Tom Brady and company. "I just told them a little bit how to prepare for this," said Manning, one of 15 Giants who played in Super Bowl XLII win over New England. "Just handle your business with tickets and get that stuff done, and just a few things on the mindset of this week. We have to have great preparation. Prepare this week like you are playing the game this week." Manning said the week leading up to the Super Bowl tends to throw teams off because they have to take bus rides to practice and their routine is thrown off. He believes the Giants will have 95 percent of their game plan practiced by Saturday, and they will be reviewing things in their week in Indianapolis. "Once we get out there, everyone will feel good about what we are doing, and now it will continue as dress rehearsal," Manning said. Punter Steve Weatherford, who is finally going to the Super Bowl after losing in the AFC title game the past two seasons with the Jets, appreciated Manning's message. ""Anytime he opens his mouth, it has some substance to it," Weatherford said. "He is not a guy who is going to bark a lot. He rarely talks actually. He is a very quiet leader. It was jovial in that team meeting but as soon as Eli got up to talk everyone shut up because they knew it was something important. He is a veteran. He has been there before and he knows what it takes to win, and he is a Super Bowl MVP and people respect him." Safety Antrel Rolle, who went to the Super Bowl with Arizona and lost in 2009, said Manning's message was excellent. "He doesn't say much and when he says something, he means it," Rolle said. "It's about business and that's basically what the message was about. We've got to go out there and take care of business. Everything else is for the spectators. Everything else is for your family and for your friends. We're going out there to take care of business." Players can purchase up to 15 tickets apiece for the game and kicker Lawrence Tynes said that can cause problems, especially deciding which members and friends gets the tickets. "I let my wife be the bad cop," said Tynes, who once again kicked a game-winning field goal in overtime to get New York to the Super Bowl. He also did it against the Packers in January 2008. Protecting Manning will be a big factor against the Patriots. The Niners sacked him six times and had at least that many hard hits on him. Guard Kevin Boothe said the line could have played better, but he added that San Francisco is an outstanding defense. He added Manning never went into the huddle and told the line they had to protect better. "He's a tough guy," Boothe said. "Nobody has ever questioned his toughness. He hung in there and made the plays when we needed them." Giants defensive end Justin Tuck was impressed "He doesn't get rattled," Tuck said. "He took a few good hits. He took a lot of hits, some that were like you look and go: "Nahhhhh" I was hoping I could get one on Alex (Smith) like that. But it just showed his toughness. I know I said Eli looked like the kind of guy who rarely sees the weight room but he's a tough guy and to get up and continue to fire the football and lead our football team the way he did with number of hits he took in that game, it's makes it easy to rally behind him." It also makes it easier to listen to him. NOTES: Manning had no regrets about his comment earlier this season that he felt he was in the same class with Brady. He admitted he can't always control how the answer is played by the media. He said his only concern now is getting ready to play the game. "My job is to play the game," he said. "It's your job to talk and make up stories." ...Tynes grew up in the Florida panhandle. He calls it the "Redneck Riviera."

There are 600,000 reasons you won't hear Gar, Pax or Hoiberg discuss losing

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AP

There are 600,000 reasons you won't hear Gar, Pax or Hoiberg discuss losing

The Bulls made headlines on Tuesday when VP John Paxson announced that David Nwaba, Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Payne would be entering the rotation, thus continuing the youth movement in Chicago.

On the surface the moves make sense. The 24-year-old Nwaba, the 25-year-old Felicio and the 23-year-old Cameron Payne will be replacing 28-year-old Justin Holiday, 29-year-old Robin Lopez and 25-year-old Jerian Grant. The Bulls want to see what they have in these younger players who haven't played much; they already know what they have in Lopez and Holiday, and Grant (like the other two) is under contract through next year.

OK, got that? Here's why they're making the move: they're sitting 8th in the NBA Lottery standings and really want to move into the top-5 to give themselves a chance at what should be a loaded front-end of the draft class. It's pretty obvious, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either named Gar Forman, John Paxson or Fred Hoiberg.

And here's why: On Wednesday Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined a whopping $600,000 by the NBA for comments he made on a podcast regarding tanking. The Mavericks are currently 18-40, the third worst record in the NBA. This comes a season after they finished 33-49, netting them the No. 9 pick that turned into talented point guard Dennis Smith Jr.

So when Cuban was asked about the best interests of his Dallas team, which touts young talent but clearly isn't headed for the postseason in 2018, he said this on the House Call with Dr. J Podcast:

"I'm probably not supposed to say this, but, like, I just had dinner with a bunch of our guys the other night, and here we are, you know, we weren't competing for the playoffs. I was like, 'Look, losing is our best option. [Commissioner] Adam [Silver] would hate hearing that, but I at least sat down and I explained it to them. And I explained what our plans were going to be this summer, that we're not going to tank again. This was, like, a year-and-a-half tanking, and that was too brutal for me. But being transparent, I think that's the key to being kind of a players owner and having stability."

Cuban isn't wrong, and the Mavericks sure as hell aren't the only team tanking. But to come right now and admit that losing is the team's best option wasn't, as Cuban predicted, going to sit well with the league office.

Commissioner Adam Silver sent out a memo with the fine that said Cuban's comments "which concerned his perspective on the team's competitive success this season" were "detrimental to the NBA."

So while the Bulls are going about their business in trying to lose as many games down the stretch as possible, don't expect anyone to admit it's the reason behind their personnel moves. There are 600,000 reasons why.

NBA Draft Tracker: Michigan State's Miles Bridges

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USA TODAY

NBA Draft Tracker: Michigan State's Miles Bridges

NBA general managers were fully expecting to see Miles Bridges declare for the 2017 draft after a solid, but unspectacular freshman season at Michigan State. Bridges arrived in East Lansing as one of the nation’s top prospects, and his impressive leaping ability led to a number of highlight reel plays for Tom Izzo’s Spartans.

Problem is, Bridges didn’t show much versatility to his offensive game because of an inconsistent outside shot and inability to create shots off the dribble. Bridges probably would have been a late lottery pick last year on athletic talent alone, but to his credit, he decided to go back to Michigan State for his sophomore season and work on some of his weaknesses.

Unfortunately for Bridges, he really hasn’t shown much improvement year to year. Yes, he’s leading the Big Ten in free throw shooting at 89%, but his other numbers are basically flat from season to season. Bridges averaged 16.9 points a year ago, 17.1 this season. He shot .486 from the field in 2016-17, .477 this year. Even with all the work he put in on his 3 point shooting, his percentage has dropped slightly this season, from .389 to .376. Rebounding is also down slightly, from 8.3 to 6.8. 

Bottom line, Bridges is once again projected as a late lottery pick.

How does he fit for the Bulls? It’s no secret small forward and center are the two positions of need heading into the 2018 draft, and the 6-7 Bridges would give the Bulls another athletic frontcourt player who fits the pace and space game Fred Hoiberg prefers. Bridges could be a real weapon running the floor with Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine for alley-oop dunks, and he should continue to improve as a 3 point shooter.

The Bulls are hoping to land a top 5 pick to add one of the elite players in this draft, and unless the Pelicans drop into the late lottery, Bridges will probably be gone by the time that selection comes up. He’s probably a bit of a reach in the 6 to 10 range, but if positional need and athletic potential are the most important factors for the Bulls, Miles Bridges could be the choice if they don’t improve their position in the current lottery watch standings.

Personally, I would prefer either Kentucky’s Kevin Knox or Villanova’s Mikal Bridges (no relation) over Miles Bridges as a small forward prospect, but all 3 players offer different skill sets that could be helpful to a young, developing team like the Bulls.

The dream scenario would be drafting a young center like Deandre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr. or Mo Bamba with a top 5 pick, then coming back to add one of those 3 small forward prospects with the 1st rounder they acquired in the Niko Mirotic trade with New Orleans. We’ll all have to wait until the lottery is held on May 15th to see if the Bulls are in position to add two more foundation pieces to their rebuilding project.