Bears

Bulls' collective effort has star potential

931351.png

Bulls' collective effort has star potential

CLEVELANDIt appears that this will be a theme this season. The Bulls, without injured superstar Derrick Rose, will be an unselfish squad, score by committee, play determined defense on a nightly basis and try to get out in transition.
Of course, the caliber of opponent will varynot every team will struggle as much as the hapless, inexperienced Cavaliersand they wont record 34 assists on nearly 64-percent shooting every night, but the aforementioned principles will remain constants.
It also helps to have some extra motivation.
I thought the readiness to play was really good, I thought the defense was very good to start the game and then, we ran the floor well and we played inside-out, and we shared the ball, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau explained. When you look at intensity, you have to understand where it comes from. It comes from your concentration, being prepared and your effort. When you put those three things together, youll be intense. It doesnt come from emotion. You have to understand where it does come from, so if we put the work in and we do the right things, and were ready to go, well be intense.
It was a balanced attack. The ball was moving and when a guy got going, they searched him out a little bit. We got our cutting game going, got to the free-throw line. Theres still things we can do better, he continued. The balls hopping, making quick decisions. That part is really good.
What Thibodeau neglected to mention was the fact that the Bulls wanted to avenge one of their two preseason lossesthey already repaid Minnesota upon the Timberwolves return exhibition trip to Chicagoa disappointing defeat in Champaign, Ill., on the campus of the University of Illinois.
We watched our last game that we played against them. They kind of blitzed us and they got after it. At the end, we came back. We ended up losing by two or three in the preseason. We remembered that, Nate Robinson revealed. We were like, Were going to come here, were going to play hard, were going to get after it from jump ball to the end, and we did that.
Getting revenge wasnt the only objective on the evening for the Bulls, however. It appeared that they were trying to challenge themselves to execute expertly or, as Thibodeau likes to say, strive for perfection.
Coach does a good job of every day, repetition, going over the plays, getting guys in spots where they can be successful, Robinson, a catalyst on the night, said. Thats what basketballs about, playing team ball and everybody getting a piece of the pie.Thats me. Just bring the energy. Everything else will take care of itself, he added. I made a couple shots, but just trying to make the right play. Not trying to make the home-run play. Just getting guys involved, attacking, keep driving and kicking, and finding guys. Im just having fun.
Whether it was Robinsons energy, Rip Hamiltons marksmanship, the versatility displayed by forwards Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer or the collective selflessness in both transition and against Clevelands set defense, the Bulls looked like a juggernaut Friday.
It was awesome. It felt good. I think everybody felt good. I think the good thing about it was everybody was catching the ball in their sweet spot and just trying to make the easy play, Hamilton explained. Its hard to guard. When youve got guys at every position that can score and play, and make the right play, it puts pressure on the defense at all times. The floor always stays spaced, guys are scared to help.
Added Boozer: We came out of the gate with intensity defensively. I thought we did a great job of trying to stop them from scoring to start the game and to be honest, that just kind of set the tone for the rest of the game for us. Offensively, you know unselfish we are. We pass, we cut, we screen, take open shots. We do a good job of moving the ball, but I think the key to the game was how we came out defensively.
"You've got to measure yourself if it's good enough to win against the great teams. Not taking anything away from Cleveland, but our goals are much higher than beating Cleveland. Our goal is to try to win a championship and for us to do that, we have to measure how we're playing and if it's championship-worthy. Thibs talks to us about that all the time and amongst ourselves in the locker room, we talk about that, too."
No, it's not flashy and yes, Friday's blowout wasn't against the cream of the crop. But it's effective and on the nights when the Bulls are clicking--even without the gaudy shooting statistics, but still executing at a high level--on any given night, that type of solid play is capable of beating anybody.

Bilal Nichols eyes an even bigger impact for Bears in 2019

6-20bilalnichols.jpg
USA Today

Bilal Nichols eyes an even bigger impact for Bears in 2019

Even if Bilal Nichols repeated his 2018 performance in 2019, the Bears would be lauded for unearthing a solid rotational player with a fifth-round draft pick. But Nichols isn’t resting on his rookie accomplishments, and is aiming to be an even more impactful player on the Bears’ defensive line as he enters Year 2 in the NFL. 

“More consistent, more dominant,” Nichols said. “That’s the biggest thing for me right now.”

Nichols was a top-50 run defender in the NFL last year, as rated by Pro Football Focus — he made a “stop” on 8.7 percent of his run defense plays, ranking 44th in the league (PFF defines a “stop” as a play that constitutes a failure for the offense). For reference, Akiem Hicks ranked eighth at 13.3 percent, Eddie Goldman was 17th at 11.6 percent and Jonathan Bullard came in 40th at 9.1 percent. 

Nichols’ biggest “stop” came in the Bears’ narrow Week 3 win over the Arizona Cardinals, in which he dropped running back Chase Edmonds for a three-yard loss on a third-and-two play inside Bears territory just after the two-minute warning. While Nichols debuted a week earlier against the Seattle Seahawks and recorded a pressure of Russell Wilson, that play against the Cardinals was critical in an important victory for the Bears. It also proved to Nichols that what he was doing was beginning to work. 

“That was really a situation where I had cut it loose and went,” Nichols said. “I knew what i was doing on that play, I knew the possible things I could get from the offense and that was just a situation where I cut it loose and just played football. And I happened to make a big play. 

“I can’t wait to do that this year.” 

Nichols, as he was figuring out how to form a routine and study opponents in the NFL after making the jump from FCS-level Delaware, played a shade under a third of the Bears’ snaps last year as part of a rotation that proved critical to the team’s defensive success. Hicks played the most snaps (780), followed by Goldman (552) and Roy Robertson-Harris (353). Nichols (328) pushed Bullard (298) to the bottom of the rotation, which helped keep members of Jay Rodgers’ unit fresh and at their most effective when they were on the field. 

The Bears’ defensive line is arguably their best and deepest unit, one which can collapse pockets and stymie opposing run games (the latter of which is especially important, given the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions’ renewed commitments to running the ball this year). Nichols was already a big part of it in 2018, and may be an even bigger part of it in 2019. 

“Last year, I was still trying to figure things out, still trying to figure the league out, figure myself out as a player,” Nichols said. “And now that I got everything figured out, I’m just able to go. I could just play and play fast and cut it loose.”

Bears announce 2019 training camp schedule, which features July 25 report date

bears_training_camp.jpg
USA TODAY

Bears announce 2019 training camp schedule, which features July 25 report date

The Bears' potential run to Super Bowl 54 will begin in earnest on July 25.

Thursday, the Bears unveiled their 2019 training camp schedule, which will run from July 25-Aug. 11 at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais. The team will hold nine open practices during camp, including eight in Bourbonnais from 7:30 a.m. to noon. The ninth open session is Bears Family Fest, which will take place at Soldier Field on Aug. 3 starting at 7 p.m.

Before heading off to Bourbonnais, though, the team will hold a "Return to Decatur" event from July 20-21 in Decatur. 2019 is the Bears' 100th season in the NFL and they played their first season as the Decatur Staleys in 1920. The team will announce details at a later date, though both general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy will hold their opening press conferences on July 21.

Admission to training camp is free, though fans must get tickets in advance at chicagobears.com/camp. Giveaways will be available to the first, 1,000 fans or while supplies last, according to the team. 

Check out the official training camp schedule:

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.