Bears

Bulls not satisfied with recent success

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Bulls not satisfied with recent success

BOSTONFour consecutive road games, four wins by more than 20 points. A quick perusal of the records of the Bulls opponents during that stretchNew Jersey, New Orleans and Charlotte are clearly the dregs of the league, while Milwaukee is a playoff contender, but far from a formidable opponentmight make the aforementioned feat seem less impressive, but the level of focus needed to pull it off should be taken into consideration, especially when recalling a squad that sometimes let up in intensity in the past when charged with protecting a big lead.

It says that youre playing well, but again, it doesnt mean a lot other than we have to get ready for the next game, opined Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. Overall, from the start of camp, I thought our teams attitude and approach to the season, to the games has been very good and I dont think it changes from game to game, and I think thats very important. Again, we dont want to look behind, we dont want to look ahead. We just want to stare at exactly whats in front of us.

Whatever challenges youre facing, thats what you have to deal with and for us, its been a heavy road schedule early, a lot of back-to-backs, so I think weve maximized the time weve had with shootarounds, film sessions, ballroom and thats why it comes back to having the right guys and right attitude, and approach. Because of how serious they are and the way theyve concentrated, I think it allows us to be prepared.

Carlos Boozer, who has been playing some of his best basketball of the season during the teams current five-game winning streak, agreed.

I just think weve gotten better. Were not the same team we were. I think weve improved. Guys have gotten great experience to help us out. When we go to our bench, we dont lose anything. The starting five does a great job of setting the tone and then the second unit, our Bench Mob comes in and takes it up even another notch. Me and Lu were just talking about it with Jo and I think were getting even better at what we do. We know what were trying to accomplish on both sides of the ball and were getting better at it, he said. Its a great accomplishment, but were playing for something much better than that.

Echoed Luol Deng: Thats good to hear. Thats a great accomplishment. Were just the type of guys, were just so focused on us that even though were winning by 20, we still see some things out there that we could still work on and thats just the type of group we are.

When asked to specify how exactly the Bulls, who have looked dominant even with superstar Derrick Rose either playing limited minutes or sidelined completely in three of those four contests, due to lower back spasms, the newly-minted All-Star answered:

Theres stuff defensively, where were making mistakes. Theres times offensively, where we could do a better job moving the ball, even though its moving great. Is it a lot of stuff? No, but its always going to be something. Were not going to be perfect out there. Im never going to sit here and tell you guys we played perfect. Its not going to happen.

Added Boozer: The Bulls can get better at everything, every area. We want to try to have more assists on offense, we want to try to get more rebounds on defense. Our goaland Coach Thibs will probably say this to you guys a million timesis to play a 48-minute game, a perfect game, which is impossible, but thats what we strive to do. Thats what keeps us going.

That line of thinking jibes with Joakim Noahs thought process.

It really doesnt mean anything. Just trying to get better. Were a work in progress, he said. On to the next one, Boston on Sunday. Big game, lets get it popping.

Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7

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USA TODAY

Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7

The Bears were not at their best against the New England Patriots on Sunday. They made plenty of mistakes on all three phases and gave Tom Brady too many opportunities to control the game.

It wasn’t all bad from Chicago, though. Trey Burton emerged as a new favorite weapon of Mitchell Trubisky, and the tight end was the Bears’ highest-graded player in the game by Pro Football Focus.

Burton had a career high 11 targets, nine catches and 126 yards with a touchdown, giving Trubisky a 144.7 passer rating when targeting his top tight end.

Seven of Burton’s targets and six of his catches traveled 10 or more yards in the air, according to PFF.

Defensively, safety Adrian Amos led the pack with a 74.6 overall grade. He did not miss a tackle after missing a career-high five last week, and he allowed only one catch for eight yards against the Patriots.

On the bottom of the scale, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd received the second-lowest grade of his career (38.9 overall) for his performance. He did not record any pressure on the quarterback in 13 pass rushing snaps, and he allowed two catches for 13 yards and a touchdown in coverage against running back James White.

Wide receiver Allen Robinson had a career-low grade as well at 44.9 overall. He was clearly limited by his groin injury, targeted five times with one catch for four yards and a dropped pass.

Overall, the Bears were able to stick with one of the top teams in the AFC while also leaving a lot of room for improvement. It’s a step in the right direction from where Chicago was in recent seasons.

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

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AP

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

Don't tell Wendell Carter Jr. the center position is a dying breed.

The 19-year-old rookie hasn't exactly been able to ease into the NBA, finding himself up against a handful of All-Stars and powerful frontcourts just five days into his career.

It culminated Monday night with a date against Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan, and once again the seventh overall pick held his own. It was much of the same as it was against Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Detroit's Andre Drummond last week (and Nikola Jokic in the preseason finale): some good, some bad, plenty of poise and zero backing down. The NBA is unforgiving, but this could very well be the toughest stretch Carter faces all season.

"He’s playing against top level centers now," Fred Hoiberg said before Monday's game. "It’s a great experience for him. He’s going to learn and get better and he plays within himself, we will continue to look for him to be more aggressive."

He was as aggressive as the Bulls have seen him against Jordan and the Mavericks. He blew by the 20 and 18 minutes he played in the first two games of the year, totalling 32 minutes. His final line won't tell the story - 4 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a block - of a Carter who defended well at the rim, picking and choosing his spots on when to attack shots and when to simply use his verticality.

He wasn't credited for a block but he contested a Jordan dunk that turned into a Bobby Portis dunk on the other end. Plus-minus isn't always a good indicator of a player's worth, but Carter was a +5 in a 14-point Bulls loss. He even attempted a corner 3-pointer early in the shot clock, showing no hesitation. Carter's had his moments, but it's also apparent he's got a 19-year-old body going up against veterans each night. That'll come with time in the weight room. For now the experience is 

"I appreciate the fact I’m able to play against these very talented bigs early in my career," Carter said after the loss to the Pistons. "What I need to work on is I have to get stronger; that’s the first thing I recognize; just being up against the best. I love the competition. It’s always a great feeling going against the best."

What the Bulls are finding out is they have a player mature beyond his years. As he progresses he'll continue to get more difficult assignments. He had his rookie moment late in Monday's loss, committing a turnover in the backcourt after the Bulls had cut the deficit to five with 35 seconds left. The fouls are also an issue, as Carter has committed 10 in three games (after committing 17 in five preseason games).

That doesn't necessarily seem important for a Lottery-bound team, but considering the continued struggles of Robin Lopez (and Cristiano Felicio is entirely out of the rotation) it is. Lopez had 2 points and 1 rebound in 10 minutes while committing five personal fouls. In three games he has 11 personal fouls and 11 points, and also has more turnovers (five) than rebounds (four). If the Bulls are going to compete until Lauri Markkanen returns, Carter will need to hover around the 32 minutes he played Monday.

He'll get a much easier test on Wednesday when the Charlotte Hornets arrive in town. Cody Zeller doesn't exactly have the credentials of a Jokic or Embiid, meaning Carter may have a little more room to work. 

The Bulls know they have something in Carter. It'll be abother month until they can deploy him alongside Markkanen, but if the first three games are any indication, Carter won't have any problems matching up with some of the league's best.