Bulls face challenge in retaining free agent Asik


Bulls face challenge in retaining free agent Asik

The Bulls pledge to match any offer for free-agent center Omer Asik will be severely tested. The opening of the NBAs free-agency period saw the Houston Rocketswhose general manager, Daryl Morey, posted a message to Twitter prior to meeting with the Turkish backup centerand Portland Trail Blazers reportedly meet with Asik in Los Angeles.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau was also in Los Angeles to meet with Asik, but the combination of an increased paydayin the wake of similarly offensively-challenged center DeAndre Jordan re-signing with the Clippers for approximately 10 million last summer, theres already a baseline for Asiks servicesand a starting role, something Asik privately desires, the Bulls pitch to retain the defensive-oriented big man might not seem quite as appealing. Complicating the process is the fact that while the Bulls can pay Asik 5 million in the first year of his new deal with a slight percentage raise the following seasonpart of the Gilbert Arenas provision of the new CBA, allowing teams to have a better chance at keeping second-round picks that command big offers in free agencyother teams with more cap space can present the center with a back-loaded offer that the Bulls, already featuring four players with eight-figure contracts.

Asiks return to Chicago would solidify the Bulls big-man rotation, their perceived advantage over conference rival Miami, but if hes deemed too expensive to keep in the fold, the organization will have to consider other options, including the possibility of a sign-and-trade, something that may be amenable to Houston, in particular, as the Rockets currently have an unbalanced rosterfeaturing a staggering number of power forwards, as well as long-rumored Bulls trade target Courtney Lee, a restricted free-agent shooting guard, who could be expendable with the drafting of Connecticuts Jeremy Lambreportedly put together for a chance to acquire Orlando center Dwight Howard. It isnt clear who the Bulls would target as a potential replacement big man, though former Celtics power forward Leon Powe will reportedly reunite with Thibodeau for the Bulls summer-league team in Las Vegas later this month, according to CSN New Englands Jessica Camerato.

Another former Thibodeau disciple who has a chance at joining the Bulls is former Rockets point guard Rafer Alston, whose addition to a group of players working out at a Bulls free-agent mini-camp next week was first reported by the Chicago Tribune. However, while Alston, who wasnt in the league last season, and first-round draft pick Marquis Teague will provide depth at point guard, neither is considered a starting-caliber player in the wake of Derrick Roses likely absence at the outset of next season.

Erstwhile former Bull Kirk Hinrich is a primary target, though the Bulls are unlikely to offer him a full mid-level exception deal, something he could potentially command from other suitors. This summer features a deep free-agent point guard crop, led by All-Star Deron Williams and former league MVP Steve Nash and while the Bulls could take a gander at upper-echelon veteran types like Andre Miller and Jason Kidd, their lack of financial flexibility could lead them to lower-tiered players, such as Delonte West.

Backup C.J. Watson is regarded as a longshot to return to Chicago and while the Bulls would be interested in keeping fan favorite John Lucas III, the combination of Teague being drafted and another teams potential willingness to offer him a multi-year deal for more than the veterans minimum after his career season could spell the end of his time in a Bulls uniform. As far as other floor generals, well-traveled point guard Jonny Flynn, who split last season between Houston and Portland, reportedly has the Bulls on his list.

As far as other perimeter players, retired former All-Star Brandon Roy will reportedly meet with the Bullsthough other franchises, such as Minnesota, could be willing to offer him a multi-year deal in the neighborhood of 5 million per year, even with his knee issues and the fact that he didnt play last seasonwhile Warriors swingman Brandon Rush is reportedly a target, though Golden States front office previously indicated theyd like to keep the athletic sharpshooter in Oakland. In other Bulls news, Matt Lloyd, the teams director of college scouting, has moved on to Orlando, where he will work under new general manager Rob Hennigan as the Magics assistant general manager.

While Thibodeau traveled to Los Angeles to help the organization attempt to retain Asiks services, his own contract extension is still in limbo, as reported by the Tribune. While the Bulls indeed officially picked up his option for the 2011-12 season, progress in negotiations for a long-term deal has been a slow-moving process.

Perhaps the reportedly imminent deal for Thunder head coach Scott Brooks to remain in Oklahoma City helps clear things up, for better or worse. Brooks reported deal would put him in the upper third of NBA coaches as far as salary11 NBA head coaches made at least 4 million in 2011-12, reported NBA.coms David Aldridgeand it is believed that Thibodeau is seeking a long-term deal making between 4 million and 5 million per season, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

The Bulls also picked up options on at least some of Thibodeaus assistants, though at least one could depart for another team. Steve Clifford, an Orlando assistant coach under fired Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy, could be an option to fill that void.

Three reasons why the Bears' offense should have success against the Patriots' defense

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Three reasons why the Bears' offense should have success against the Patriots' defense

Every team will try to scheme against what its opponent does best. Not every team does it as well as Bill Belichick consistently has in his Hall of Fame tenure as the coach of the New England Patriots. 
This is what Belichick is famous for, beyond the five Super Bowl trophies and historic partnership with Tom Brady. That thing your team’s offense does best? He’s going to take it away. 
That can create a mental challenge for an opposing coach during the week. Do you focus on doing something other than what your offense does best because Belichick is going to identify and scheme against it, or do you try to accentuate what you do best so it can’t be taken away? 
“That’s that whole chasing the cat’s tail thing,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “All of the sudden you start out-thinking to yourself, ‘What the heck?’ That’s the mystique, and that’s what they do. They’ve earned that over time because of the success they’ve had. 
“When you don’t go too crazy with that and balance it and control what you can control. Then in the end, win, lose or draw, no matter what, you at least feel good you approached it the right way, and you weren’t, ‘Oh shoot, I should have done this. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.’”
When Taylor Gabriel and the Atlanta Falcons faced the Patriots in Super Bowl LI, everybody on that team knew Belichick would do what he could to take Julio Jones out of the game. But that didn’t make preparations any easier. 
“We knew he was going to take away Julio, but we didn’t know how he was going to do it,” Gabriel said. “So it’s just just something you kind of have to adjust to when you get in the game.”
Jones only had four catches in that game, and the Falcons were able to quickly adjust to how he was taken away — though it wasn’t enough to keep them from a historic collapse and ultimate overtime loss. 
Tight end Dion Sims played New England eight times during his four years with the Miami Dolphins, and came away with a healthy respect for the scheme and the players on that defense. 
“They’re fundamentally sound, they got good coaching over there, a good staff,” Sims said. “You gotta be prepared because they come out and they play their ass off.” 
But what should give the Bears confidence they can mentally and physically beat New England’s defense?
1. The Patriots’ defense isn’t what it once was
The way Bears coaches and players have talked about New England’s defense this week has been with reverence and respect. But lately, the Patriots’ defense production hasn’t quite equalled its reputation. 
Maybe it started with Nagy’s Kansas City Chiefs launching 42 points and over 500 yards of offense against New England in 2017’s nationally-televised season opener. Maybe Super Bowl LII, in which the Philadelphia Eagles ripped off 41 points with a backup quarterback, was another turning point. Or maybe the Patriots’ 43-40 win over the Chiefs on Sunday night, which looked more like a Big 12 game than an NFL game, further chipped away at that mystique. 
New England’s defense heads to Chicago ranked 18th in points allowed (24.7) and has allowed 400 or more yards of offense in four of six games this year. They’re 19th in defensive DVOA, though Pro Football Focus’ grades do peg this group fourth, behind only the Bears, Rams and Eagles. 
What this defense does well is take the ball away, with eight interceptions and four fumble recoveries critical in propping up a defense that isn’t good on third down (44 percent conversion rate, 25th) or in the red zone (68 percent, 26th). But as long as the Bears' ball security is better than its two-turnovers-inside-the-five-yard-line showing in Miami on Sunday, an offense that scored 48 and 28 points in its last two games should be in good shape. 
2. Multiple weapons
How Belichick schemes against a Bears offense that’s been explosive and productive in its last two weeks will be fascinating to see on Sunday. Maybe it’ll be Tarik Cohen, who Belichick said is “a special player that you gotta know where he is at all times.” Maybe it’ll be making sure Taylor Gabriel doesn’t beat them deep (“The execution on that was like 99 out of 100,” Belichick said of Mitch Trubisky’s 54-yard deep ball to Gabriel against Miami). Or maybe it’ll be dropping seven or eight guys into coverage, spying Trubisky and forcing the second-year Bears quarterback to make good decisions and fit passes into tight windows. Or maybe it’ll be something else entirely. 
This goes back to the guessing game, though, and it’s one the Bears can’t allow themselves to play. 
“I think you can spend too much time on that,” Nagy said. “I look at that and I think I've said it before, it can be kind of like chasing the cat's tail. You've got to be careful of that and when you just start worrying about what you do — and of course here or there you might so something a little bit different — but if you just start doing things different because of one coach, now you've stopped worrying about just controlling what you can control and I haven't found too much success with that.”
The good news for the Bears, though, is they seem to have the multitude of weapons necessary to have success against a Belichick defense. Kansas City showed it on Sunday — when the Patriots took away Kelce, Kareem Hunt racked up 185 yards from scrimmage, while Tyreek Hill gouged New England for 142 yards on seven catches with three touchdowns.
So if the plan is to take away Cohen, that could lead to opportunities for Gabriel, or vice versa. Or if the plan is to drop seven or eight into coverage, that would give Jordan Howard an opportunity to carve out yards on the ground.  
“They utilize all their players, the backs, the tight ends, the receivers, the quarterback, they all have production, so if you take one away, they just go to the next guy, and that’s hard to defend,” Belichick said. “There are a lot of options on some of those plays, which guy is going to end up with the ball based on a quarterback’s decision, if it’s a check-with me type of play, bubbles and look passes and RPOs and things like that, it’s up to the quarterback to make the right decision and Trubisky’s done a good job of that. I think all those things, they keep getting better and they’re hard to defend.”
3. History repeating itself
In Nagy’s only meeting with New England as Kansas City’s offensive coordinator, his offense scored 42 points — and that’s a number that has resonated in the Bears’ locker room and practice fields this week.  
“You have to go into this game with confidence and know that we’re playing against a great group of guys who’ve been there, been to the Super Bowl and then they also have Tom Brady on the other side,” Sims said. “It’s important that we capitalize on everything and try to be mistake-free.” 
“What the defense is giving you is what the offense will take — what good offenses will do,” Gabriel said. “I feel like we have those type of minds up there in the booth and on the field with us to figure out what those guys are doing and how we want to attack it.”
The Bears’ offense is young, from the coach to offensive coordinator to most of the players that populate it. Beating New England, even if its defense isn’t what it used to be, would send a message around the league that the Bears are for real. Until the Patriots are dethroned in consecutive years, or even finish a season with fewer than, say, 12 wins, they’re still the Patriots.  
But while this team is young, it does have a handful of guys who’ve competed against New England on some of the NFL’s biggest stages. So expect guys like Gabriel, Burton and even Nagy to not allow this team to let facing the Patriots become daunting on Sunday. 
“It’s not difficult at all,” Gabriel said of avoiding thinking about that mystique. “Just like this team, we have the weapons to take advantage of those one-on-one matchups. I don’t care what defense you are, you’re going to have a one-on-one matchup somewhere unless you’re dropping everybody. So as long as you’re staying the pace and being confident in what you’re doing, I feel like we’ll be okay.” 

Bulls turn to Cam Payne as they take on Sixers


Bulls turn to Cam Payne as they take on Sixers

PHILADELPHIA -- The Bulls’ starting point guard missing the team’s season opener is less than ideal, but that is the dilemma Fred Hoiberg and company are faced with.

Hoiberg made the announcement during shoot around that Kris Dunn would miss the first game of his third NBA season for personal reasons, but noted that his absence is “excused.”

The Bulls will turn to Cameron Payne as they get set to play the Sixers in Philadelphia Thursday night. The 24-year-old guard out of Murray State will be tasked with running the offense against one of the better defensive teams in the league.

Because of injuries and the numbers game at guard, Payne hasn’t had a chance to show Bulls fans much since he came over from Oklahoma City in a trade that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Thunder.

“I feel like I can be way better,” Payne said when asked about the opportunity to show what he can do. “I know I didn’t make a lot of shots but it’s really not about that. It’s about getting my team involved and make sure everyone gets the ball in their spots to contribute.”

Payne showed flashes over the last 22 games of the 2017-18 season (14 starts), shooting 42 percent from three and averaging 4.6 assists per game in that stretch. The shooting stroke didn’t show up early in the preseason for Payne.

He was better in the team’s final exhibition against Denver and has shown enough to Hoiberg to earn the starting nod. He’ll have his work cut out for him tonight.

“Obviously we’ve been working on different coverages based on having a full roster, but things like this happen,” Hoiberg said when asked what this does to his game prep. “It’s going to be electric in here. They’re going to come out and play extremely hard and extremely physical. That’s who they are and we have to be ready for that. It’s a little bit of shock and awe with (the Sixers). You have to weather that first storm and hopefully give ourselves a chance with great effort.”

After Payne, the Bulls will have Ryan Arcidiacono as the first point guard off the bench. They’ll also have the services of newcomer Tyler Ulis, who will be in uniform tonight. Hoiberg mentioned that he feels comfortable with Zach Lavine bringing the ball up as well. He also mentioned that Jabari Parker will have his hands on the ball an awful lot with the team’s second unit.

The season hasn’t even started yet and the Bulls are already missing several key players. After an impressive rookie season, Lauri Markkanen will start the season on the shelf with a high grade lateral elbow sprain. Denzel Valentine will also miss tonight’s game with an ankle injury. The team may have Cristiano Felicio, also dealing with an ankle injury, depending on his pregame workout goes.

“It’s not ideal but it is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “It happens at this level. You just have to go out and do the best job you can. It’s an opportunity for our guys to step up with two of our better players out of the lineup – really three with Denzel as a guy that can make plays in that second unit.”