Bears

Bulls past All-Star snubs, on to Warriors

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Bulls past All-Star snubs, on to Warriors

Saturday, Feb. 5, 2010
10:31 a.m.
By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

SAN FRANCISCOWith the second-best record in the East, it would seem that the Bulls would get rewarded with at least one player--either Luol Deng or Carlos Boozer, to go along with starter Derrick Rose--when the All-Star reserves were announced Thursday night. When they learned that they were shut out, they predictably downplayed the situation.

"It's unfortunate for our guys. I thought Luol and Carlos were deserving, but (Joakim Noah) was on that path until he got hurt. But Im not really concerned about stuff like that because that stuff, you really have no control over," said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau prior to the team's Friday morning practice at the swank Olympic Club in downtown San Francisco. "In our eyes, theyre All-Stars and I think whats important is what their teammates think and what their coaches think, and we feel theyre All-Stars. But in the grand scheme of things, what were doing with our team, thats whats important."

"In some cases, I think its politicalwhatever it isits like the Hall of Fame," he continued. "You cant get caught up in it. Again, its what each individual thinks."

Deng admitted he was disappointment, citing the facts that some All-Star reserves have missed significant time--similar to Boozer, whose numbers compare favorably to others who were honored--and of the conference's so-called elite teams (Atlanta, not considered an upper-echelon team, had two players selected), the Bulls were the only squad with a lone All-Star.

"I wish I would have made it, to go there, represent the team with the record that we have and everything, but at the same time, its weird to me that we only have one. But then again, I think all I can do is kind of put it past me. I really think Im a step ahead of where I was last year, so my main thing is to keep going forward. I am disappointed, but theres nothing you can do about it," said Deng. "Im kind of surprised at that because I really feel as a team, we went through a lot with injuries. We had Carlos missing, Joakim missing and I feel like other teams had injuries, but some of those guys that were hurt made it. So, Im kind of surprised that we didnt get rewarded for how well weve done as a team. We do have Derrick and Derrick deserves to be a starter and everything, but were 20 games above .500."

Deng also implied the snubs could be a motivating factor, but the Bulls' team-oriented goals would take precedent over individual honors.

"I dont know if were a one All-Star kind of team. I think we have more than that. I think if Jo was healthy, he would be in it. If Boozer played more games, he would be in it. Im a step ahead of where I was last year. As a team, were somewhere where we want to be," he remarked. "It kind of shows that were not there yet or the respect is not there yet. Weve got to be hungry for that."

As for Boozer, he acknowledged that his training-camp injury limited his odds and therefore, he lowered his expectations, although he felt Deng should have received the accolade.

"Im not disappointed. I didnt think I was going to make it because I didnt play enough games, but I really wish Luol would have made it. I thought he was very deserving, he played every game this season, having a monster year for us and I was really hoping that hed make his first All-Star team," said the two-time Western Conference All-Star.

"Im sure its going to motivate the hell out of him. Hes already motivated, but itll to motivate him even more. We have a lot to prove. Were a team thats still trying to go out there and find our respect from everybody else," Boozer added. "Its an All-Star Game. I didnt come here for All-Star Games, I came here for championships. Ive been an All-Star a few times, but I want to win some rings. For me, Im not concerned with what everybody else thinks about us."

Added Thibodeau: "What you do on a winning team is important. Coaches tend to put more stock in that."

"Luol has been great all season. I think Carlos has been great since hes been back. I do think that him missing the early part probably hurt him, but if Carlos plays the whole season, in my opinion, hes definitely on the team. Same thing with JoJo got off to a great start, got hurtthose things you dont have control over," he concluded. " How well our team does is important and I think, as we go forward, the more we win, the more people will get recognized."

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Bears to hold joint training camp practices with Broncos this summer

Bears to hold joint training camp practices with Broncos this summer

The Bears will reunite with former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio in Denver this summer, as word broke Monday the Broncos will host Matt Nagy and Co. for joint training camp practices in advance of their preseason game in August.

The Chicago Tribune's Brad Biggs confirmed the news on Twitter.

This is the second time Denver will welcome the Bears for training camp sessions. The two teams held joint practices back in 2018.

Training camp won't be the first time the Bears will see Fangio since his departure last offseason. Chicago pulled off a last-second victory over the Broncos in Week 2 of the 2019 season when kicker Eddy Pineiro booted a 53-yard game-winner as time expired in the fourth quarter. His kick was set up by the clutch version of Mitch Trubisky, who connected on a 25-yard pass to Allen Robinson on the play before Pineiro's conversion.

Fangio left a lasting impact during his time as the Bears defensive coordinator that reached its peak in 2018 when Chicago was widely regarded as the most ferocious defense in the league. The Bears finished third in yards allowed per game and ended the season with the top run defense. Their 27 interceptions were tops in the NFL, too.

Behind a refined approach, Albert Almora Jr. is off to a hot start this spring

Behind a refined approach, Albert Almora Jr. is off to a hot start this spring

The Cubs have only played three spring training games, and it’s dangerous to use spring results to predict regular season successes/failures. Still, it’s okay to acknowledge Albert Almora Jr.’s hot start in camp.

In two games, Almora is 4-for-4 with a walk, double, home run, four RBIs, and four runs scored. That line is essentially equivalent to a single game in the regular season and could be turned upside down by the end of the week. But it’s a start for the 25-year-old who’s struggled immensely at the plate for the last season-and-a-half at the plate.

In his last 177 games (dating back to the second half of 2018), Almora holds a .235/.270/.347 slash line. The advanced stats paint an uglier picture: 58 wRC+, .261 wOBA and 52.2 percent groundball rate.

Last season was the most challenging of Almora’s young career. He hit .236/.271/.381 in 130 games with a 64 wRC+, .271 wOBA, -0.7 fWAR (all career worsts). On top of that, he was involved in a heartbreaking moment early in the season; an Almora foul ball struck a young girl at Minute Maid Park during a Cubs-Astros game in May.

Almora recently refused to blame his 2019 offensive woes on that incident, though it obviously played a part. He did admit he was in a bad place mentally and used this winter to decompress. Almora also used it to make some adjustments to his swing and the changes are clear as day:

Pre-2020:

2020:

As MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian notes, Almora is now more upright in the box and his stance is more closed. His leg kick is less defined, and he’s rotating his front leg far less than previous seasons. In short, he’s more direct to his swing and has more time to react in the box because he cut out a lot of his pre-swing movements.

Almora said Monday he’s far from where he wants to be, pointing out the MLB season is a 200-day marathon. It’s too early to tell whether his simplified approach leads to sustainable success.

Small sample size be damned, Almora’s made noticeable adjustments. That’s the first step in his mission to get back on track offensively.

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