Bulls

Bulls set for reunion with Rockets' Asik

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Bulls set for reunion with Rockets' Asik

HOUSTONWednesday evenings game against the Rockets will be a reunion for the Bulls. For the first time since their season-ending loss to Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs in May, Omer Asik will be on the same court with his first NBA team.

Asiks final game for the Bulls didnt end so well, as the center missed two free throws against the 76ers, opening the door for swingman Andre Iguodalas coast-to-coast drivethe All-Star, now in Denver, was fouled on the play by Asik and hit two foul shotsto end the game and the Bulls postseason. Still, fans in Chicago mourned when Asik signed with Houston over the summer, after the Bulls declined to match a back-loaded, three-year, nearly 25-million offer sheet from the Rockets.

A backup to Joakim Noah in Chicago, the native of Turkey wasnt a prolific scorer for the Bulls, but drew raves from personnel around the league for his defensive acumen and rebounding ability. As a Rockets starter, Asik is averaging a double-double10 points and 12.3 rebounds per game in 32.3 minutes a nightand is proving that all the fuss over his departure was worth it.

Omer is Omer. He plays to win, he makes the team function well. Theres so many intangibles that he brings to your team, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said prior to the teams practice Tuesday morning at the Toyota Center. When you look at it, what he did throughout his career, two years in Chicago, each year he got significantly better and for him, he was playing behind Jo, so theres not a ton of minutes there, but we felt strongly about how good he was and we knew that. We also understand he has the right characteristics, the right makeup. Seven feet, hes got great drive, great character and great intelligence, so those type of players always improve. So, its not surprising. Hes getting more minutes, so his productions going to be better.

Thibodeau, a former Rockets assistant, flew to meet with Asik at the outset of the NBAs free-agency period in July, but apparently failed to convince him to continue to accept a reserve role, let alone take less money than he garnered on the open market.

Explained Thibodeau: Thats part of the league. We felt good about him, the way he performed for us. Plus, we knew that he liked it there. In the end, hes got to make the decision that he feels is best for him and his family, and he did that and thats part of it, so you move on and you move forward.

Asik formed a remarkably effective defensive tag team with fellow reserve big man Taj Gibsonwho himself recently signed a long-term contract extension, making the conclusion that the Bulls valued him over Asik an obvious one, especially considering the poison pill the Rockets put in the last year of Asiks contract, for 15 million in the 2014-15 seasonbut while observers around the league may consider Asiks numbers (which include 1.2 blocks and only 2.9 fouls a night for the previously foul-prone 26-year-old, as well as an improved 62.5 percent from the charity stripe and on the negative end of things, only 44.9 percent shooting from the field and 3.4 turnovers per game) eye-opening, Gibson and his teammates arent surprised.

The first thing that stands out is hes getting a lot more minutes and hes playing to the best of his ability, and hes a great rebounder. I used to witness him during the game, when Joakim used to be hurt, and he used to get 10 rebounds, easily, a night, so you see him doing that and people recognizing that, and Im happy for him, Gibson told CSNChicago.com. One thing about the NBA, when you get a lot, you get a lot of touches and game experience, which hes doing right now, your confidence builds and I can see him doing a lot more stuff in the post, watching film on him. Hes doing a lot of different things with his back to the basket. Even though I saw him do it in practice with me and Joakim a lot, now hes getting more confidence catching the ball in tough positions, so its good.

I know at times it was tough on him, not being able to play a lot. I just told him to be patient. I just told him, Just keep working on your game, be patient. Dont get out of pocket, just play your game, and he took that and ran with it, and when the summer time came, we really had no clue whether he was going to stay in Chicago or not. Then, he got offered a big deal here and the rest is history. Hes doing a good job.

Concurred Noah: No question. I think everybody who saw our team knew that Omer was a big part of what we did last year. I actually felt like I had the best backup center in the entire NBA, but I understand he wanted a bigger role and hes showing everybody what hes capable of.

Noah, who consistently views games from a team perspective, rather than focusing on the player hell match up with on a given evening, is only worried about the Bulls snapping their two-game losing streak Wednesday.

Were two teams that are desperate for a win right now, Noah said about the contest against the Rockets, losers of three consecutive games. Omer, hes a hell of a competitor. Hes a friend of mine. Im really happy for him. I think that hes playing very well and its important for us to come in for the right mindset, try to get this win.

Added Thibodeau: Its not going to be an individual matchup. Its going to be our team against their team. We know what his strengths and weaknesses are, and youre concerned about how were going to try to make it hard on their team, not the individual matchup. Omers a good player, did a great job for us. Were happy for him, but we know that theres a bigger challenge than any individual matchup.

Jimmy Butler may have gotten uninvited to the Wade's BBQ again

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USA TODAY

Jimmy Butler may have gotten uninvited to the Wade's BBQ again

Jimmy Butler is in hot water with the Wades ... again.

Maybe not really, but the two former Bulls teammates exchanged pleasantries on Instagram after Butler commented on a photo Dwyane Wade's wife Gabrielle Union posted poolside, saying: "WELL DAMN!!"

Wade, a three-time all-defensive second team, came to his wife's defense when Butler posted a video the next day with the caption: "The good, the bad, and the ugly...", prompting Wade to respond: "Put well damn in caps on my wife photo again and you're gonna see what the good, the bad and the ugly is like."

*Mic drop*

It appears this won't affect Butler getting an invite to the next get together. Or so he hopes...

"Well that escalated quickly," Butler responded to Wade. "Point noted.. I'm still coming to the bbq tho 😂😂😂"

John Franklin III may be a longshot to make the Bears, but the former ‘Last Chance U’ star isn’t giving up on his dream

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USA Today Sports Images

John Franklin III may be a longshot to make the Bears, but the former ‘Last Chance U’ star isn’t giving up on his dream

Down in Bourbonnais, one of the handful of players who stuck around the longest to sign autographs for fans after training camp practices was the starting quarterback and hopeful savior of a franchise that’s been mired at the bottom of its division for years. 

Another was a fourth-string cornerback who had never played that position before May and has an extremely difficult path to make it in the NFL. 

“Most of the time I’m out here with Mitch (Trubisky), like the last person,” John Franklin III said. “I’d rather have people know me than people not know me. So that’s a good thing.”

You might know Franklin as the super-talented Florida State quarterback transfer in Season One of “Last Chance U” on Netflix. A low point of Franklin’s life played out in living rooms across the world as he played sporadically behind Wyatt Roberts at East Mississippi Community College, but the south Florida native turned that strife into a lesson in persistence. 

From East Mississippi Community College, Franklin transferred to Auburn, where he stayed as a quarterback but didn’t see the field much. He graduated from Auburn and transferred to play his final year of college ball at Florida Atlantic, where Lane Kiffin gave him a shot at playing wide receiver. He didn’t put up the kind of production as either a quarterback or a receiver to get drafted, but his excellent speed is a trait that got him into rookie minicamp. 

After failing to secure a gig with the Seattle Seahawks at their rookie minicamp, the Bears brought Franklin to Halas Hall as a defensive back for a tryout a week later. He signed shortly after, and here he is, trying to figure out how to make it in the NFL at a position he’s never played on a side of the ball he was completely unfamiliar with until May. 

“People are so quick to quit when it doesn’t work the first time,” Franklin said. “It’s like, if you really give up and it didn’t work, then you really didn’t want it. If you keep pushing, it’s going to happen. Life’s not going to be peaches and cream, but you get what you get.”

Defensive backs coach Ed Donatell couldn’t recall ever seeing a player make the switch from offense to cornerback without any prior defensive experience before, let alone for a rookie battling to make a roster. 

“It doesn’t come up that much and usually they have some kind of training in there,” Donatell said. “Nothing comes to mind. 

“But why not us? Why can’t we?”

This isn’t a story about a player who is likely to important to the Bears’ success in 2018, like Trubisky or Allen Robinson or Leonard Floyd or Kyle Fuller. The odds are massively stacked against Franklin, especially after he was picked on by Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Auden Tate in last week’s preseason game (he did, too, have a nice break-up of a pass intended for Ka’Raun White). The stuff Franklin is learning right now are second nature to most NFL cornerbacks who’ve played the position — or at least, played on defense — their entire football lives. 

“I definitely feel like I was in good position most of the night, I just gotta — I know one thing I’m focusing on is getting my head around,” Franklin said. “That’s one thing that I still haven’t felt 100 percent comfortable with and that’s one of the things a lot of the vets are working with me on is to make sure I get my head around because most of the time I’m in a good position. Just finding the ball is still very new to me.” 

Training camp and preseason practices, then, present a difficult dichotomy for Franklin. On one hand, he knows he has to be patient as he learns an entirely new job that he likened to “trying to write with your non-dominant hand.” On the other hand, he has to show considerable progress to even be considered for a spot on a practice squad, let alone a 53-man roster. 

While Franklin has seen himself make significant progress on tape over the last few months and weeks, he knows he’s not where he needs to be or where he thinks he can be. It’s sort of a race against time for him, because rookies who don’t make a roster or practice squad usually don’t get a second chance in the league. 

“He’s such a willing soul,” Donatell said. “He came in here, he’s taking everything in, the veterans are helping him. But he has a skillset that you can see him doing things on the other side of the football that we want to translate to defense. … It’s a race for us right now and a race through this month, and he’s willing. We see progress every day. Time will tell how much.”

What Franklin puts on tape in these final three preseason games — Saturday against the Denver Broncos, Aug. 25 against the Kansas City Chiefs and Aug. 30 against the Buffalo Bills — will be critically important to his chances of sticking in some capacity in the NFL when the regular season starts.

Taking a step back, the task seems almost impossible. This is a guy who played quarterback his whole life, then moonlighted as a receiver for a year, and now is trying to make it in the NFL playing cornerback. It would be a remarkable feat if Franklin were to make a practice squad and allow himself more weeks and months to develop. 

But there’s no doubting Franklin’s desire to make it work. He wants to make it work to live out his dream of playing in the NFL, one he’s had since he was four. He wants to make it work to repay his parents for all they did for him. He wants to make it work to be an inspiration to others to never give up on their goals. 

Will it work? We’ll see. But it’s not in Franklin’s nature to give up, no matter how much of a longshot he may be. 

“I’m accepting the challenge,” Franklin said. “Doing something different at the highest level of football ain’t easy by any means.

“But it’s also doable and possible.”