Bulls

Heisman winner Griffin wows at NFL Combine

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Heisman winner Griffin wows at NFL Combine

From Comcast SportsNet
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Robert Griffin III proved he's the fastest quarterback at this year's NFL scouting combine. It might not be enough to supplant Andrew Luck as the No. 1 pick. The two finally got a chance to demonstrate their athleticism Sunday when workouts began. Griffin showed his speed in the 40-yard dash, finishing officially in 4.41 seconds -- the best of any quarterback. Unofficially, Luck ran a 4.59, the same time Cam Newton posted in 2011, but the time was later adjusted to an official 4.69, fourth among quarterbacks. Even so, not much has changed in the rankings. "I think what was surprising to some people was how athletic Andrew Luck is. I think a lot of people might be surprised to compare his measurables to Cam Newton from a year ago," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. "Cam Newton hits you over the head with a sledge hammer as far as his athletic ability; it's pretty obvious, whereas with Andrew Luck, it's sneaky athletic. " His broad jump (10 feet, 4 inches) was two inches short of Cam Newton's best in 2011, and Luck's vertical jump (36 inches) was actually better than Newton's (35 inches). Griffin and Luck both skipped Sunday's throwing drills as planned, opting instead to do that with familiar receivers in a familiar environment during Pro Day workouts. Justin Blackmon, the No. 1 ranked receiver in this draft class, ran the gauntlet -- a drill in which players must catch balls thrown quickly in succession. Blackmon sat out the 40, as expected, after he said he hurt his hamstring last week. Three receivers led the official results: Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill, Stanford's Chris Owusu and Miami's Travis Benjamin all finished with official times of 4.36. Receivers A.J. Jenkins of Illinois and Devon Wylie of Fresno State rounded out the top five at 4.39. Miami's Lamar Miller (4.40) was the fastest running back of the day. Defensive linemen and linebackers will work out Monday. But as has been the case all week, the quarterbacks were the feature attraction. "I don't think they really hurt themselves here," Mayock said. "Most teams will take into account and appreciate the fact that they worked out. Those two quarterbacks are specials kids, and what they did in gym shorts today isn't going to change anything. Outside of not throwing the football, nothing is going to change. Both of them had athletic days (today) which I knew they would." ------ FANS WELCOME: A little more than three weeks after the NFL allowed fans to watch the Super Bowl's media day for the first time, league officials let a smattering of fans watch the combine workouts for the first time. The league gave out about 250 free tickets to some of Sunday's workouts. NFL Network televises the performances, but league officials traditionally have kept the workouts closed because they didn't want spectators becoming a distraction by cheering. On Sunday, fans got to see the showcase group and the head-to-head battle between Griffin and Luck. ------ CRICK ALMOST READY: Nebraska defensive lineman Jared Crick is nearly recovered from the pectoral tear that cost him more than half his senior season. When his college career ended, he was eighth on the school's career sacks (20), including 9 in both 2009 and 2010. Now he's trying to prove he's healthy in time for April's draft. "I'm not there yet, but I'm getting there," he said. "I'm almost there. I've got to keep showing them that I'm improving, and I'm getting better." Crick said he can now do his normal weight-lifting routine, and he plans to do all the workouts March 8. If he's healthy, Crick might be a first-round pick. "I know my question mark about the pectoral is if I'm going to be able to get back to 100 percent in time for OTAs (offseason team activities)," he said. "As long as I prove I'm on schedule for a full recovery, that's all I can do." ------ TOONING UP: Good hands are just part of the Toon family's legacy. Last season, Nick Toon caught 64 passes for 926 yards and 10 touchdowns for Wisconsin, the same school his father, Al, starred at before a successful NFL career. Al Toon caught 517 passes for 6,605 yards and 31 touchdowns from 1985-1992, all with the New York Jets. Living up to his father's reputation is something the younger Toon has prepared for his entire life. "I think my biggest strength is my hands," he said. "A receiver's job is to catch the ball. That's something my dad taught me from a young age, something I've continued to work on." as one of the 300-plus invitees to this week's workouts in Indy, the son is hoping to emulate his father's NFL career. "My dad was a great route runner, had great hands," Nick Toon said. "He was fast, and he was one of the first of his kind as far as the big receivers go. I think I look like him a little bit when I'm out there playing. That would only make sense."

Justin Holiday continues to string together solid efforts amid tough Bulls losses

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USA TODAY

Justin Holiday continues to string together solid efforts amid tough Bulls losses

The Bulls came out on fire against the Bucks, putting up 40 points in an explosive first quarter. Unfortunately they followed that up by scoring 41 points in the second half. But the offense of Jabari Parker and Justin Holiday was pretty much the only thing working for Chicago on Friday night.


Holiday’s effectiveness as an aggressive, dependable floor-spacer continues to showcase what makes him such a valuable NBA player. Unfortunately, that value has been mostly squandered on a Bulls team that lacks a diverse offensive attack.

Holiday contributed 9 points on 3-3 shooting from the 3-point line in the first quarter. He kept this momentum rolling in the second, and ended up not missing a single shot in the first half. Holiday ended the first half 6-6 from the 3-point line but went on to only score once more in the second half. He ended the game with 20 points, the second-leading scorer on the night for Chicago.


On a night where Zach LaVine was clearly gassed from the burden of carrying the offense all season (6-20 from the field), only Parker could provide a solid secondary option. Parker’s effectiveness also tapered off dramatically in the second half, as he stopped taking 3-pointers and didn’t get to the free throw line at all. Early season struggles were to be expected from Parker, as he is on a new team with a roster full of young players. But his shot selection is what has been so frustrating to watch. 

Results do not have to be immediate, but seeing as Parker is taking a greater percentage of his shots from long 2-point range than last season, it is clear he hasn’t fully bought in to the idea of getting all the way to the basket or shooting the 3-pointer without hesitation. And that is why players like Holiday—one of Hoiberg’s loyal soldiers from his first year as Bulls coach—are so crucial.

It is clear that Hoiberg’s preferred playing style has stuck with Holiday and hopefully, that it can rub off on the other players.

We have discussed before how his 3-point attempt rate (72 percent) is the perfect indicator of how often he is hunting the 3-point shot. But the problem is that this current Bulls roster needs more players who create 3-point looks for others, rather than knock them down.

Heading into Friday night’s game, Holiday had been assisted on 72 percent of his 2-point shots and 95 percent of his 3-point shots. This season, he has been assisted on 57 percent of his 2-point shots and 90 percent of his 3-point shots. This is an alarming sign for the Holiday, as he has never been a player known for creating his own shot and the decline in assisted baskets means he is being forced outside of his comfort zone on offense.

It is no coincidence that Holiday’s 3-point percentage in November (35 percent) is lower than his 3-point percentage in October (40 percent). He played 34 minutes per game in October before that number got increased to 37 minutes per game in November. Holiday has been in the top 10 in minutes all year and there is no end in sight for his tremendous minutes load with the Bulls being so thin on the wing.

The 2019 NBA offseason for Chicago will likely be about finding players they can comfortably play at the small forward spot. But Bulls fans should appreciate Holiday’s play while he’s here, as he has been one of the team’s more consistent players. Holiday has done a decent amount of leading by example—especially when it comes to playing the way Hoiberg wants to—and continues to show why he can continue to be a valuable piece on this Bulls team.

Four takeaways: Blackhawks can't solve rookie Cal Petersen in shootout loss

Four takeaways: Blackhawks can't solve rookie Cal Petersen in shootout loss

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 2-1 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings at the United Center on Friday:

1. Blackhawks can't solve Cal Petersen

With Jonathan Quick (knee), Jack Campbell (knee) and Peter Budaj (sick) out, the Kings trotted out former Notre Dame standout Petersen to make his first career NHL start between the pipes. And he didn't disappoint.

The 24-year-old stopped 34 of 35 shots (.971 save percentage) in 65 minutes of play and denied Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in the shootout to earn his first victory in the big leagues.

"He was good, yeah," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "The third period was more like it. If we’d had 60 minutes [like that] maybe we break him down eventually. He did well, he did a good job. I thought we had a little more traffic, got some more pucks to the net. That was better. But you can’t help but think if we’d have had that push earlier, then we’d get paid off for it."

2. Line changes serve as third-period spark

After failing to generate many scoring chances in the first two periods, Jeremy Colliton spruced up his top-six by putting Brandon Saad with Kane and Toews and Nick Schmaltz with Alex DeBrincat and Artem Anisimov. They saw the benefits almost immediately.

Saad scored 2:39 into the final frame after burying a feed at the doorstep by Toews for his third goal in six games, tying the game at 1-1.

'We showed some resiliency battling in the third," Saad said. "It was definitely a slow start. We've got to play a full 60 minutes to win hockey games, but I think it shows some character how we can battle back in the third. And then overtime we had some chances and some puck possession, and when it comes down to a shootout it can be anyone's game. But the message for us is to play a full 60, because when we play well you can see that we have opportunities and a better chance to win the hockey game."

3. Power play comes up empty

Special teams was the deciding factor in the Blackhawks' last two games. They gave up two power-play goals in 66 seconds against Carolina on Monday and then beat St. Louis 1-0 on Wednesday thanks to a power-play goal of their own.

The Blackhawks had three power-play opportunities against the Kings, and all three of them came in the second period. They recorded a combined six shots on goal during them, but reverted back to some old habits by waiting for the open shot and lacking net-front presence.

"You get three in the second, it would be nice to get one," Kane said. "Even if you're not getting anything on it, it's nice to get momentum off of it. I thought we did a decent job of getting momentum, getting some chances and some looks. Sometimes you've just got to converge on the net and hopefully get those rebounds and try to find a way to get one a little bit dirtier."

The Blackhawks also allowed a breakaway chance towards the end of the third power play, but Corey Crawford saved the day. Tyler Toffoli scored 19 seconds after the Blackhawks' first power play to make it 1-0 Kings.

4. Meet your newest Blackhawk

The Blackhawks had a visitor at morning skate in Carter Holmes, an 11-year-old from Wisconsin, who is battling Hodgkin's Lymphoma. As part of the Make-A-Wish Experience, Holmes became a Blackhawk for a day and practiced with the team, including his favorite player Patrick Kane.

"I might have to change my number," Kane joked about Holmes, who wears No. 88 because of Kane. "I think he was a little bit better than me out there today."

It was the first time Holmes skated since being diagnosed on June 30, four days after his team took first place at a tournament. Holmes feared that he would never be able to play hockey again, but that won't be the close. He's expected to re-join his teammates soon, even if it may take a while to get back into game shape.

"It's pretty special," Kane said of Holmes, who will drop the ceremonial first puck on Sunday for "Hockey Fights Cancer" Night at the United Center. "Sometimes you're just playing hockey and worried about the business aspect of it, but days like today you can take a step back and realize there's more important things out there."