Bulls

Deng back at practice; Rose fined for comments

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Deng back at practice; Rose fined for comments

In advance of Wednesdays showdown with the rival Heat, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau revealed some good news following the teams Tuesday-afternoon practice at the Berto Center: Luol Deng returned to the court.

Hopefully, Thibodeau responded when asked if the All-Star small forward would play in the much-ballyhooed contest. I want to see how he feels after practicing today, but he went through everything in practice and he felt pretty good.

Conversely, the teams other All-Star, point guard Derrick Rose, sat out of the practice, though Thibodeau said the reigning league MVP would be in action against Miami.

Just a little sore, rest, said the coach. Hes nicked up a little bit.

Wear and tear, so hopefully the rest will do him good.

The Chicago native watched video with Thibodeau after practice a familiar routine from last season but was unavailable for comment. It can be assumed that Roses soreness arose from Monday nights win over the Knicks, in which he took a few hard spills and afterwards, criticized the officiating, resulting in a 25,000 fine from the league Tuesday.

You guys know Derrick. Derricks not a complainer, so usually, if he says something, he has a point he wants to make, said Thibodeau. I thought he was driving the ball pretty hard and didnt get calls.

It comes with experience and I think that hes developing relationships with NBA referees. Hes a hard guy to officiate and sometimes, because of his speed and power, you dont recognize when he is being hit and usually, hell play through things and he doesnt say very much, but I think he was frustrated, so he made his point, he continued. Hes very respectful about making his points. I dont think he ever is at a point where he shows somebody up. When he has something to say, he says it.

Meanwhile, Roses understudy, C.J. Watson, continues to recover from his sprained left ankle.

Hes doing a little bit more and hes not quite there, but well see tomorrow after the shootaround, Thibodeau said of Watson, who was doing conditioning drills after practice. Theres a possibility. Hes doing running and shooting, and stuff like that.

Lauri Markkanen celebrates 21st birthday with a spot on the NBA's All-Rookie First Team

Lauri Markkanen celebrates 21st birthday with a spot on the NBA's All-Rookie First Team

Lauri Markkanen’s celebration for his 21st birthday coincided with another major honor, being selected to the All-Rookie First team.

Markkanen received 76 of 100 possible first-team votes to join Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, Boston’s Jayson Tatum and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma on the first team. Mitchell and Simmons were unanimous selections and Tatum was one vote short of joining Mitchell and Simmons.

Markkanen, acquired on draft night in the package of players for Jimmy Butler, showed he was far more advanced than many expected. His 15.2 points per game ranked third among rookies and his 7.5 rebounds were first.

Markkanen was a constant in a topsy-turvy season for the Bulls, scoring 30-plus twice and hitting the 25-point plateau another three times. As a perfect fit in Fred Hoiberg’s offensive system, Markkanen had eight games where he hit four triples or more, including a game in New York where he drilled eight 3-pointers against the Knicks.

Only 15 rookies have hit more than 140 triples in NBA history, with Markkanen accomplishing the feat in 68 games—he was joined by Mitchell and Kuzma from this year’s star-studded class.

As the season progressed and Markkanen took hold of the power forward position, the Bulls began maneuvering personnel around him, trading disgruntled forward Nikola Mirotic and making a concerted effort to put Bobby Portis at center to pair Portis with Markkanen as a spread-shooting duo.

As the most impressive rookie the Bulls have employed since Derrick Rose, he’s also the first rookie since Taj Gibson in 2010 to make All-Rookie First Team.

Bears backfield ranked fourth-best in NFL

Bears backfield ranked fourth-best in NFL

The Chicago Bears have a really good problem in their backfield. Both Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen will demand touches in 2018 and are each starting-quality running backs. Howard is the more traditional first and second-down back while Cohen offers top-tier playmaking ability.

The duo is so talented that they were recently ranked the fourth-best backfield in the NFL.

The Chicago Bears' Jordan Howard has emerged as one of the NFL's top rushers. He finished his rookie season with 1,313 yards, second-most in the NFL. Last season, he rushed for 1,122 yards and 4.1 yards per carry even though Chicago had the league's least threatening passing attack (175.7 yards per game).

Howard isn't the only standout back on the roster, though. Tarik Cohen is a supremely talented runner and receiver and a perfect complement to Howard. Last season, he amassed 370 rushing yards, 53 receptions and 353 receiving yards.

The Bears' backfield was behind only the Rams, Saints and Chiefs.

Howard set Chicago's rookie rushing record with 1,313 yards in 2016 and became the first Bears running back to start his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He should be the Bears' primary back, but coach Matt Nagy expressed genuine excitement over Cohen's skill set which suggests he plans on getting him the ball quite a bit this season.

Regardless of how the touches play out, the Bears will present opposing defenses with one of the most challenging ground games in the NFL.