Bulls

Goodell confident that bounties are thing of the past

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Goodell confident that bounties are thing of the past

From Comcast SportsNet
CHICAGO (AP) -- Commissioner Roger Goodell is confident that bounty hunting will no longer be an issue in the NFL because of the severe penalties handed out in the wake of the New Orleans Saints scandal. Goodell said the actions taken by the league "speak very loudly." "I heard that from our clubs, from our personnel," he said during a news conference in Chicago on Thursday. "They recognize it's not part of the game. It doesn't need to be part of the game. And I don't think it's going to be an issue going forward." The NFL said it found that former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams oversaw a bounty program in New Orleans from 2009 to 2011 which paid off-the-books bonuses of 1,500 for "knockouts," or hits which forced a player out of games, and 1,000 for "cart-offs," which left players needing help off the field. Williams, who took a job as the defensive coordinator in St. Louis, has since been suspended indefinitely and coach Sean Payton was banished for the 2012 season. General manager Mickey Loomis was suspended eight games and assistant head coach Joe Vitt for six games. There was also a 500,000 fine for the team and the loss of two second-round draft picks, not to mention suspensions for several current and former Saints players. Current Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma was suspended for the upcoming season, while defensive end Will Smith got a four-game punishment. Green Bay defensive end Anthony Hargrove (eight games) and Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita (three games) were also punished. The NFL Players Association has challenged Goodell's power to impose penalties and has asked an arbitrator to decide if the players should be punished for the system. Goodell would not say if he thought the case would be resolved before the end of the season, pointing out that it's in arbitration. It's one of several areas where the union has challenged the league during a combative offseason, including a grievance accusing the NFL of using a secret salary cap during the uncapped 2010 season that cost the players at least 1 billion. The union also filed a grievance for drug-related suspensions for two Denver Broncos. Vilma has filed a defamation lawsuit against Goodell, whose lawyers requested a delay to respond, something the league calls routine in such cases. "I think one of the things that's made the NFL great is we've solved our own problems," Goodell said. "Several of those things are collectively bargained, which we've just concluded a 10-year agreement, and they're in the collective bargaining agreement. I believe that our process has worked. We've modified those processes, even outside of the collective bargaining, to make them responsible and responsive to their needs. But we do want to make sure that at every point we uphold the standards that our fans expect." Goodell was at Soldier Field with Mayor Rahm Emanuel to recognize the stadium as the first to become a LEED-certified building, meaning it is considered environmentally friendly. They also discussed the possibility of Chicago hosting a Super Bowl. "We did speak about this earlier," Goodell said. "We are, as you know, hosting a Super Bowl in New York in an open-air stadium in 2014, and we're excited about that. We think it's going to be a great thing for our fans and a great thing for New York. "I think if we can do it successfully there, and I think that opens up doors where we'll be looking at. Obviously, you know how to host great events. ... And you've got a great stadium." Emanuel touted the recent NATO summit as an example of the city's ability to host a big event, with world leaders in town, and he said Chicago would be a "perfect place" to have a Super Bowl. Of course, everyone is familiar with Chicago's reputation for savage winters and Soldier Field lacks a roof. It also holds just 63,500 fans. Would the city have to enlarge the stadium to attract a Super Bowl? Emanuel would not say. "I think the commissioner said something which is really, really important," Emanuel said. "The first step is to host something in New York, which is an open stadium." Goodell acknowledged that capacity "is always an issue." "The most important thing now is having a great stadium and a city that can have the infrastructure to host the hundreds of thousands of people that come in," he said.

Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen fail to produce in crunch time for Bulls

Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen fail to produce in crunch time for Bulls

Coby White’s second straight 3-pointer splashed through the net — a three that, combined with a Ryan Arcidiacono long-ball, capped a 9-0 run to give the Bulls a one-point lead over the Bucks with 6 minutes, 23 seconds to play.

For the second time in five days, the Bulls had an opportunity to knock off the Bucks, an Eastern Conference champion contender.

Then, reality hit. Or the starters returned. At this point, that’s one and the same.

Here’s all you need to know about where the Bulls’ rebuild stands as 'Year Three' fell to a 4-10 start following the Bucks’ 115-101 victory: Coach Jim Boylen admitted he considered riding a bench unit down the stretch over one that featured Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen.

“They have a guy that they can go to that can get them a bucket, which is what good teams have,” Boylen said, referring to the Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo. “I’ve been on those teams. We’re figuring out who that guy is and we’re learning to play that way. We’re not there yet.”

Boylen then supported his beleaguered core players, because that’s what he’s paid to do. But the sobering reality of the Bulls’ current fortunes didn’t just play out in LaVine’s stat line of 11 points on 4-for-16 shooting, or Markkanen’s 9 points on 2-for-12.

It played out when Boylen indeed returned to LaVine and Markkanen with 5:04 remaining, and the Bucks leading 103-99. From that point, the Bulls didn’t score another field goal.

Markkanen sank two free throws but missed a driving layup and 13-foot jumper. LaVine committed a turnover, missed a layup and a 3-pointer.

Game, set and match.

“They got the MVP over there. He did his thing. And we didn’t,” LaVine said. “It’s going to be tough when your leading players, me and Lauri, don’t perform at our level. You can understand that. You’re missing a lot of points and a lot of plays. We understand we have to pick it up.”

What’s that they say? Recognition is the first step towards recovery. The Bulls have to hope so, especially after Markkanen admitted his slump is affecting him mentally.

“It’s frustrating knowing I’ve never had this kind of stretch of not even not hitting 3s but missing layups and dunks,” he said. “I have to keep my head up knowing that you work too hard for this not to turn around. Keep working and I know it’s going to turn around.

“I noticed myself kind of thinking too much at the half. I tried to switch it up and make the plays for the team. That’s how you get out of your own head. I have to stay aggressive. Create contact and then finish every shot. Not getting out of it too early or anything like that. I’ve done my film study. Put the work in and I know it’s going to turn around.”

At one point, Markkanen actually missed two dunk attempts on the same possession. Following the second, he rolled his eyes toward the United Center roof as if to say, 'What’s next?'

Markkanen is shooting 36.2 percent overall and 26.8 percent from 3-point range. He missed all four three-pointers he attempted versus the Bucks.

“Just try to get an easy bucket and lay it in. But having two 7-footers there, I know it’s going to be blocked so I tried to go up quick and end up missing it,” Markkanen said of the dunk sequence. “It was frustrating. I know I can play better. It’s not going to be like this forever. I don’t know what else to say.”

Antetokounmpo made 13 field goals, equaling the total of five Bulls starters. How do you say 'ouch' in Greek?

“What I’m going to do is I’m going to support those two guys. I’m going to coach them like I always have. I’m going to show it to them on film and we’re going to work on it in practice. We’re going to get them to understand that we believe in them, we value them and that we need to do better,” Boylen said. “It’s all part of this process. We’re slugging uphill right now. We gotta keep slugging. That’s all I can say.”

Boylen said he returned to LaVine and Markkanen because he still believes in them. He has to say that and he has to believe that. The rebuild is structured for them to shine.

It’s not currently happening.

“I’m still developing two young guys,” Boylen said. “Zach missed a year-and-a-half. Lauri was hurt last year. He has basically played two years. I’m going to keep developing them to come in and learn how to win games. I believe in both of them. I believe they’re important to what we’re doing.”

Raising LaVine’s absence to an ACL injury and subsequent rehab is a curious approach from Boylen given that LaVine has been fully healthy and rehabbed for quite some time. But again, he has been placed in a position where he has to protect their play and lack of production in big moments.

The Bulls are a long way away from respectability at this point.

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Three observations: Bulls come up short against Bucks — again

Three observations: Bulls come up short against Bucks — again

For the second time in less than a week, the Bulls played the Bucks close, but came up just short — this time falling 115-101 at the United Center. Three observations from a soul-crushing loss:

Daniel Gafford: Free man

If I dumped all the expletives I have written in my notebook about Daniel Gafford from this game, you’d never read another article under this byline.

So, while I catch my breath, here are the hits:

 

 

 

Gafford ended the game a -4 in 20 minutes, but it’s hard to overstate the impact he had on a particularly electric Bulls bench in this one. He was every bit the gumptious, brick-bodied big that Jim Boylen billed him as, and so much more. Every second without the ball in his hands on offense, his feet were moving — setting screens and leveraging rebounding position. In the air, every shot, pass or lob within five feet of him seemed to find his hands, and then — rather violently — the bottom of the net.

At one point, en route to his team-leading 16 first-half points, a fan behind me exclaimed: “Him and Giannis are going at it!” In reference to… Daniel Gafford. What a night.

Gafford ended his stellar breakout performance with 21 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks and approximately 2.716 million hearts stolen, on 10-of-12 shooting.

The three-guard lineup provides a spark

At the very beginning of the season, Boylen’s utilizing of a three-guard lineup (Kris Dunn-Coby White-Ryan Arcidiacono) was widely panned. Tonight, that group — with contributions from Thaddeus Young and a combination of Wendell Carter and Daniel Gafford at the center spot — proved their mettle. 

In the first half, that lineup catalyzed a 20-8 run that pulled the Bulls from down nine with 2:17 remaining in the first quarter to up two with 8:05 to go in the second. In the fourth quarter, a torrid stretch by Arcidiacono and White vaulted the Bulls from down 98-90 to up 99-98 in a matter of 66 seconds, sending the UC in a frenzy not seen in quite a while.

The Bucks pulled away from that point on, but this lineup showed something tonight — so much so that Boylen closed with White and Arcidiacono both on the floor along with Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter. (Stunningly absent was Tomas Satoransky, who logged only 18 minutes tonight after coming out of the gate aggressive, offensively.)

Arcidiacono was on every loose ball in sight. White was a blur in transition and coming off screens and dribble handoffs. Combined, they shot 7-of-11 from long distance. Maybe Boylen is on to something.

Bulls melt down the stretch

The Bucks finished the game on a 17-2 run after that aforementioned White-Arcidiacono blitz. For most of the game, the Bulls were able to hang around despite being out-shot from three and on the wrong end of a 35-14 free throw disparity, but their energy waned late in the game. Despite miraculously out-rebounding the Bucks 50-48, out-scoring them in the paint 50-46 and competing defensively throughout, the Bulls couldn’t buy a bucket down the stretch (they failed to score a field goal in the final six minutes), and it ultimately cost them.

The blame is shared in this one. Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine combined to shoot 6-of-28 from the floor (only 0-of-4 in the fourth) and were largely outplayed by the bench unit. 

In a performance reminiscent of last Thursday’s in Milwaukee, the Bulls appeared to everything necessary to win on Monday. But they didn’t. Now, with a record of 4-10, the heat is on.

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