Bulls

'Linsanity' leads Knicks to 7th straight win

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'Linsanity' leads Knicks to 7th straight win

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- Instead of saving the Knicks, Jeremy Lin got to save his energy. Lin played only 26 minutes Wednesday night, 10 fewer than in any game since joining the rotation. With the Knicks blowing out the Sacramento Kings, he checked out for good in the third quarter, grabbing a spot on the bench next to Carmelo Anthony and sharing a laugh with the injured All-Star. "We were just having fun and kind of talking about how we're both excited for when he comes back," Lin said. Hey Melo, no need to rush. Lin and the Knicks just keep on winning. Lin put aside his record-setting scoring to hand out a career-best 13 assists, and New York got back to .500 with its seventh straight victory, 100-85 on Wednesday night. Lin added 10 points, focusing more on his role as a distributor while others torched the Kings for 51 percent shooting. Landry Fields had 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Bill Walker and Steve Novak each chipped in 14 points as the Knicks put seven players in double figures for the first time since April 5, 2009, at Toronto. "As a point guard, my field goal attempts have been really high and I don't think that's necessarily good," Lin said. "I think it's more of my job to distribute and get people in rhythm." Lin scored 136 points in his first five starts, most by any NBA player since the NBA merged with the ABA in 1976. His 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds left Tuesday allowed the Knicks to pull out a 90-87 victory in a game they trailed nearly the whole way. The Knicks (15-15) led this one almost throughout, evening their record for the first time since they were 6-6 after a loss to Oklahoma City on Jan. 14. They host hapless New Orleans on Friday, hoping Anthony will return from a strained right groin. "We wanted to be aggressive, make it hard for (Lin), but he still ran the team and got assists," Sacramento's Tyreke Evans said. "They made shots. It seemed like they were making everything tonight." Evans scored 19 points for the Kings, who had won four in a row in New York. DeMarcus Cousins added 15 but shot only 7 of 18 and grabbed just four rebounds. Already the NBA's biggest story, Linsanity had peaked about 24 hours earlier with the former Harvard guard's winner in Toronto. The shot was replayed on the overhead video board at the Garden, triggering a huge ovation as if it had just happened live. But Lin, the reigning Eastern Conference player of the week, would have few other scoring highlights, taking only six shots. Fans, quite a few wearing Lin's jerseys or holding masks of his face, loved it anyway. They chanted "MVP! MVP!" as he was interviewed on the court after the game and held up signs such as "Lin Your Face," "Linderella," and -- of course -- "Marry Me Jeremy." "It's crazy. Thank you for the energy as always," he said to the crowd. Then he was peppered with an array of questions usually reserved for superstars, from his thoughts about President Barack Obama watching him, to whether it was time to get a new haircut. But for Lin, the only focus is basketball. "I knew him before he was Linmania. He's still the same humble guy," Kings coach Keith Smart said. "The guy has not changed a bit, which is real special for a young man." Lin played last season in Golden State for Smart, who praised Lin's work ethic and attitude, but never imagined "the perfect storm" that would lead to these results. "It's good Monday morning quarterbacks are here now, but no one could have predicted this guy being this big in this place here," Smart said before the game. Lin opened the game with a three-point play, giving him nine straight points dating to late Tuesday, but passed more than shot as the Knicks scored easily in the first half. Lin beat the defense with penetration and dishes to shooters, or by throwing lob passes over the top. The Knicks led 25-17 after one quarter, then blew it open late in the second. Novak converted a four-point play, Lin hooked up with Fields for an alley-oop dunk, then made a free throw to cap a run of seven straight points and make it an 18-point game. The Knicks closed the scoring when Lin drove and threw a wraparound pass to Tyson Chandler for a dunk with 1.7 seconds left, extending it to 54-36. "I just thought we played really exceptionally well the first quarter," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Just the ball was moving, every time we drew up a play they ran it perfectly. Every time I think there was an opportunity to make a great pass, they did it." Lin had six points and nine assists in the first half. He found Fields for a layup that made it a 25-point game early in the third, and the Knicks coasted from there. Notes: Kings rookie guard Isaiah Thomas was booed when his name was announced after checking in late in the first quarter. The names are pronounced the same, but he's not related to former Knicks coach and president Isiah Thomas. "I knew it was going to happen here," Thomas said. "I was expecting something. Spike Lee told me next time you come to New York, you better change your name." ... The Knicks last won seven in a row near the end of last season. ... Former vice president Al Gore and ex-heavyweight champion Mike Tyson were at the game.

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

The Bulls and Bobby Portis were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension by today’s deadline, which will make the power forward a restricted free agent next offseason.

According to The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson, Portis’ agent Mark Bartelstein and Gar Forman had “lengthy face-to-face negotiations” on Monday prior to the deadline. The two sides weren’t able to come to an agreement.

The negotiations – and lack of a deal – come after a summer and training camp in which Portis continued to show progression. After beginning the preseason coming off the bench Portis quickly played his way into the starting lineup alongside rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Portis finished five preseason games averaging 17.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals in just 22.4 minutes.

Portis, the 22nd pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, has seen his role increase each of his three seasons. He made a jump last season in Year 3, averaging 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in 22.5 minutes. He was one of three players, including DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love, to average 21 points, 10 rebounds and 1.5 3-pointers per 36 minutes.

Though the Bulls certainly had the room to sign Portis to an extension, there were obvious reasons on both sides to wait on a deal. For starters, the Bulls will still be able to match any deal Portis receives in free agency next July, much like what happened with Zach LaVine and the Sacramento Kings. The Bulls maintain their abundance of cap space for the 2019 offseason, when they’ll be able to offer a max contract to the top-tier free agents, and they get to see if Portis makes another jump.

For Portis, it’s a case of him betting on himself. If the Bulls came in with a number he wasn’t satisfied with – to help keep their max cap space – he now finds himself on a contract year playing for his next contract. Still only 23 years old, Portis should cash in in July.

Two players from Portis’ draft class were able to cash in. Pacers center Myles Turner signed a reported four-year, $80 million extension and Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. agreed to a four-year, $45 million deal. Portis likely would have fallen somewhere in between those two deals had an agreement occurred.

The Bulls are hardly in an easy situation with Portis. Though they value the versatile power forward, Lauri Markkanen is entrenched at the position for the foreseeable future and the team just spent last year’s No. 7 overall pick on center Wendell Carter Jr. Portis realistically is stuck behind both those players, though he certainly has starting level NBA talent.

Drilling further down on Matt Nagy after Bears OT loss to Miami Dolphins

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USA TODAY

Drilling further down on Matt Nagy after Bears OT loss to Miami Dolphins

The 31-28 overtime Bears loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday had myriad authors on the Chicago side of the ledger. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky correctly assessed the defeat as a team loss, which is pretty much the case in any NFL loss, but particularly so in this case.

“Growing pains” only goes so far in explaining the variety of problems that befell all three Bears phases in the heat of south Florida. And while devastating mistakes are inevitable for young, inexperienced head coaches and players, it falls to those coaches and players to demonstrate that Sunday in Hard Rock Stadium was an anomaly.

Because after five 2018 games, it is not clear that the Miami missteps are indeed exceptions, on the parts of players or coaches, both in fact. Regardless of whether the fault lies with offense or defense (special teams get a pass; Sunday should never come down to Cody Parkey needing to make a field goal from 53 yards).

The Bears have gone into four 2018 fourth quarters with leads and lost two of those games. The late-game defensive collapses at Green Bay and Miami should suffice to put a sock in mentions of the ’85 Bears defense and the ’18 iteration in the same conversation.

And the fact that the Bears offense has not scored more than 7 points in any of the five 2018 fourth quarters says that more than just the defense lacks a consistent finishing kick.

Coaching not to lose?

There is a fourth “phase,” and not the one (fans) that Lovie Smith once cited. It is coaching, which is intricately interwoven with each of the three main units but is its own phase. How well this fourth phase performed in Miami is a matter of some hazy perspectives.

“I’m a big boy; I can handle criticism,” Nagy said Monday. “You talking about the 53-yard field goal? No, I’m fine with that. I have no issue at all with the criticism. That’s where people are? That’s their own opinion. I felt good with what we did and, shoot, we’re all in this thing together and I trust our guys.”

Beginning with relative minutiae: Two flags were thrown (one declined) in Miami for illegal formations, in both cases for leaving the right tackle uncovered. A delay-of-game penalty on a second-and-3 at the Miami 44, led to a punt when the offense only made up seven of the resulting eight yards. That sloppiness pointed to issues on the sideline rather than in the huddle.

On multiple occasions coach Matt Nagy strongly defended Trubisky during training camp when interceptions occurred, the coach considering those acceptable temporary losses in the greater quest for his quarterback learning to stay aggressive in learning his limits and capabilities.

Yet in more than one situation Sunday, it was Nagy who dialed back the aggressive edge that he’s spoken of seeking to install in his quarterback and team. It left at least a small question as to whether Nagy lacked confidence in himself or his quarterback or his team to deliver in a critical moment.

Did Nagy second-guess himself the morning after? “Nope.”

Shaky confidence?

Whether the Bears were properly prepared coming into Sunday was an issue. A team on a three-game high came out of an off week with its poorest first-half performance of the season.

But it is what happened, or didn’t happen, later that warrants the some scrutiny.

As in: Nagy’s playcalling with the game there for the winning – the overtime possession starting from the Chicago 20, needing only a field goal for a win.

The point is not second-guessing a specific call or calls, but rather what may be at work with Nagy’s overall thinking and propensities.

After a short, high-percentage throw to Trey Burton on first down, Nagy called five straight runs. The first two, runs of 19 and 15 yards by Jordan Howard, worked. Howard went out for a two-snap break, then was back for a final run on third-and-4, which failed, leaving the ball at the Miami 35, Nagy’s minimum for attempting a field goal.

Beyond the obvious conservatism, the overall put the Bears in position of not only needing to convert a 53-yard field goal, but also leaving the Dolphins with field position at their 43 if the kick missed, which it did, although NFL kickers convert from 50-plus yards at a rate approaching 62 percent.

“To me, that 35-yard line [was the minimum], a 53-yard field goal, I have ultimate trust in [kicker Cody Parkey] making that,” Nagy said. “But at the same time, every yard that you get brings the percentage up a little bit.

“We just hit a [19]-yard run, we just hit a 15-yard run, and then we had a couple more runs right behind that. That’s just the decision we ended up making. Now, [if] he makes that kick and we’re good. He doesn’t and it’s ‘could you get a little bit closer?’ It would have helped, but at the same time I think Cody would be the first to tell you that he knows he can make that.”

One problem: Were Nagy’s defense playing at the level it had in the three previous games, he could be excused for trusting his defense to deliver a stop even with the Miami starting point. But the Dolphins had pushed the defense backwards for 344 total yards over the prior six possessions. There should have been no reasonable expectation that the defense, which already had driven backward 74 yards before a fumble on the first overtime possession, would suddenly rise up for a stop.

Nagy’s tactics also hint a lack of convinced confidence that his quarterback and offense could pull off an aggressive, under-control possession at that point. Exactly what Nagy is likely to stay in-house. His offense had scored touchdowns on four of its first five possessions of the second half, when the Bears never punted.

But Trubisky had thrown an inexplicable interception from the Miami 13 and Tarik Cohen had lost a fumble at the Chicago 45 on the fourth-quarter possessions on either side of the final Bears touchdown. So by the time the overtime possession arrived, Nagy had seen turnovers by all three principle members of his backfield – Cohen, Howard and Trubisky.

Whatever his reasoning, Nagy flashed defensive in the face of questions on his calls – “You go ahead, you throw it and then [media] are here asking me why you took a sack” – a response loosely suggests that Nagy either cares what people think (unlikely) or that he was mad at himself and/or his players (more likely).

That Nagy alluded to Trubisky taking a sack recalls sacks that the quarterback has taken that cost his team yardage before a missed field goal (Arizona) and other sacks incurred trying to force a play. Nagy sidestepped a question as to whether he would play that situation differently at such time as when Trubisky and his offense are more mature.

An erudite non-answer answer.

Fatigue factor

Running back Tarik Cohen mentioned his own failure to deal sufficiently with fatigue in Sunday’s second half, mentioned it in connection with his lost fourth-quarter fumble. Whether fatigue being allowed to reach a red-line level falls on coaches or player is debatable; players owe coaches honest self-assessments, and coaches had balanced snaps reasonably well for Cohen (34) and Howard (36) for the game.

Cohen is a young player. Nagy and most of his staff are young, and heat-management is not usually at the top of game-planning sheets. The last time (1994) the Bears played a day game in Miami, Cohen was still a year away from being born and Howard was two weeks old. Trips to Tampa the past three years don’t qualify for carryover conditioning; besides, one of the three was in December, a second in November.

But in the absence of player restraint/moderation/discretion/whatever in the face of in-game physical decline, it falls to Bears staff to monitor conditioning. The clear fall-off by the defense was more than apparent in the form of ebbing effort, missed tackles and generally flagging performance.

“I want to say that I’m not sure that our training staff and sports science staff could have done a better job in that situation,” Nagy said. “It was absolutely phenomenal. They were unbelievable, with how they handled the hydration and the cramping with our players. It was unreal. And so, that’s a credit to them for being prepared and getting our guys right.

“That was a long game. And when you play an extra period, or extra quarter in that heat, that’s a lot. For our guys to do that, that’s another part of the challenge that they battled through and that was everybody collectively — not just the players, but our staff as well.”