Bears

NBA MVP takes down the Bucks at the buzzer

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NBA MVP takes down the Bucks at the buzzer

From Comcast SportsNet
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Derrick Rose faked like he was going to drive to the basket again, creating just enough of a cushion on defender Brandon Jennings. Then he slid to his left in a split second, drilling a winning shot at the buzzer. The reigning league MVP sure knows how to thrill a stadium filled with Bulls fans -- even when he isn't playing at home. Rose's off-balance shot just inside the 3-point line capped a 30-point night that powered the Chicago Bulls to a 106-104 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday. "It was like a kid, all the things that you dream about," Rose said. "It felt good. You're on the road, going against a team that's giving you their all and you hit a nice shot like that." Rose was mobbed by his teammates near halfcourt as a predominantly pro-Bulls crowd roared in approval, bursting out in chants of "M-V-P!" Joakim Noah added 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulls, who have won eight straight. "It was like a movie," Noah said. "Hit the shot, no time left on the clock, you hear the horn, the ball goes through the net. It must be an unbelievable feeling to hit a shot like that." Jennings noted that Rose wasn't having a particularly good night shooting from outside, so the Bucks were expecting him to drive. "I tried to make him take as difficult a shot as he could," Jennings said. "I was playing him to go to the basket, of course. He hit a step-back jump shot with a hand in his face. Hey, man, you go ahead and take that one." Bucks coach Scott Skiles said Rose made an incredibly tough shot look easy. "What a luxury to have, you don't even need to run a play," Skiles said. "You can just bring it in, throw it to a guy and he can get whatever shot he wants." Ersan Ilyasova had a career-high 32 points and Drew Gooden added a season-high 27 for the Bucks, who were coming off a home win over Philadelphia on Monday. The Bulls held Jennings to 11 points on 4 for 18 shooting. Jennings had scored 27-plus points in his previous three games coming into Wednesday. With the Bulls often double-teaming Jennings on defense, especially early, Gooden was left open for several outside shots -- and he cashed in, scoring 16 first-half points to keep the Bucks in the game. "I mean, it was a little difficult," Jennings said. "But like I said, Drew was hitting shots, Ersan was playing big for us." Once again, the Bradley Center was taken over by Bulls fans -- although Chicago's home-away-from-home-court advantage wasn't quite as pronounced as it was in the Bulls' Feb. 4 victory at Milwaukee, a Saturday night game that drew a huge crowd comprised mostly of Bulls fans. Still, the Bucks received a jarring greeting when they took the floor before Wednesday's game -- mostly boos -- and the crowd was decidedly pro-Bulls most of the game. When Milwaukee's Mike Dunleavy Jr. missed badly in the second quarter, he was subjected to "Airball!" chants. It left the Bucks in the odd position of having to talk about tuning out the crowd at home. "It hurts a lot that we lost this one, just the fact that we played so hard for 48 minutes," Jennings said. "Guys were down there battling. We didn't let the crowd get to us at all." The crowd apparently did get his attention before the game. "I told the guys before the game, we're just going to tune that out and play basketball," Jennings said. The Bulls have won all four meetings with the Bucks this season. With the Bulls up by two, Rose lost the ball out of bounds and officials initially ruled it went off a Bucks player. After a replay review, the call was reversed and the ball went to the Bucks with 55.2 seconds left. Milwaukee's Beno Udrih then drove for a layup, tying the game with 42.9 seconds left. Rose drove on Jennings, then tried to hit a turnaround jumper -- and drew a foul on Jennings and hit both shots for a 104-102 lead with 32.5 left. Ilyasova scored inside, tying the game again with 24 seconds left and setting the stage for Rose's last-second shot. "It was a great play by him," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He took the clock down, he didn't leave any time because it was one of those games where whoever had the ball, you thought they were going to score next." Notes: The Bulls were without guards Richard Hamilton and C.J. Watson because of injuries. Hamilton has a right shoulder injury, while Watson has a left ankle sprain. ... The Bucks were without defensive ace Luc Richard Mbah a Moute because of a right knee injury, and Udrih played despite left knee soreness. Stephen Jackson continues to sit out with hamstring soreness, and no timeline has been established for his return.

Will Mitch Trubisky be this season's Jared Goff?

Will Mitch Trubisky be this season's Jared Goff?

The Chicago Bears have been compared to the Los Angeles Rams as a team capable of a significant one-year turnaround after the many moves by GM Ryan Pace to improve the offense and build around second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

According to NFL.com's Adam Schein, the comparisons go one step further. He thinks Trubisky is the best candidate to be 2018's version of Jared Goff:

"I'm infatuated with the Bears' offseason," Schein wrote. "The Bears smartly followed the Rams' blueprint from last offseason: hand the keys to an offensive guru/quarterback whisperer (Matt Nagy) and dedicate the offseason to surrounding your young signal-caller with talent (Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton in free agency, James Daniels and Anthony Miller in the draft). Trubisky will follow in Goff's footsteps and take a major jump in his sophomore campaign."

MULLIN: Teammates see greatness in Trubisky

The comparison of Trubisky to Goff makes a ton of sense. Both were drafted with franchise-quarterback expectations but had average rookie seasons. Both played their first year with an old-school, defensive-minded head coach who was later replaced by a young up-and-coming offensive specialist. And both Goff and Trubisky were given high-powered weapons to begin their sophomore seasons with (the Rams signed Robert Woods and traded for Sammy Watkins before last season). 

Trubisky has to turn these comparisons into production, however. The Rams' remarkable 2017 campaign was just that because rarely does a team have such a dramatic turnaround in only one offseason. The odds aren't in the Bears' favor.

Still, there's a surge of confidence and support in and around Trubisky from the coaching staff and his teammates. He's doing everything he can to prepare for a Goff-like season. We'll find out soon enough if his preparation pays off.

Why the Bulls should bet on potential and draft Jaren Jackson Jr.

Why the Bulls should bet on potential and draft Jaren Jackson Jr.

Previous making the case for: Deandre Ayton | Luka Doncic | Mo Bamba | Marvin Bagley | Michael Porter Jr.

The modern NBA center is transforming. Last season 12 centers (as listed by Basketball Reference) made 50 or more 3-pointers, up from 10 players in 2016-17. The year before that, in 2015-16, five players accomplished that feat. Four players did it in 2014-15, three did it in 2013-14, and from 1990 to 2012 only Mehmet Okur (five times), Channing Frye (three times) and Byron Mullens (once) accomplished it.

Many of the names on that list, however, don’t exactly cut it on the other end. Sure, players like Joel Embiid, Al Horford and Marc Gasol are elite defenders. But repeat 50+ club members also include Karl-Anthony Towns, Marreese Speights, Kelly Olynyk, DeMarcus Cousins and Pero Antic. In other words, players Rudy Gobert won’t have to worry about contending with for Defensive Player of the Year.

But that former list – the Embiid, Horford, Gasol one – could add another member to it in the coming years. Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. was a rarity in college basketball this past season. He became the fifth player since 1992 to compile 35 or more 3-pointers and 100 or more blocks in a single season. Jackson had 38 and 106, respectively, and he accomplished those numbers in 764 minutes; the other four players on the list averaged 1,082 minutes, and the next fewest was Eddie Griffin’s 979 minutes in 2000-01.

Staying on those minutes, Jackson averaged 21.8 per game. That was decidedly fewer per game than Carter (26.9), Bamba (30.2), Ayton (33.5) and Bagley (33.9). We’ll get to why those minutes might be an issue, but for now it’s a reason to not be scared off by his lack of raw numbers (10.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.0 blocks).

Jackson’s block percentage (14.2%) ranked fourth in the country. That was higher than Bamba’s 12.9%, despite Bamba tallying 3.7 blocks per game. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that Jackson was elite as a rim protector. He ranked in the 99th percentile in defensive possessions around the rim, allowing a mere 0.405 PPP. To put that number in context, freshmen Joel Embiid (0.844), Karl-Anthony Towns (0.8) and Myles Turner (0.667) weren’t even close. This past season Bamba allowed a whopping 1.088 PPP in that area, ranking in the 33rd percentile nationally.

Jackson plays bigger than the 236 pounds he weighed in at last week’s NBA Draft Combine. Here’s where we tell you he’ll need to add muscle like all 18-year-olds entering the NBA (oh, he’s also the youngest first-round prospect in the class). But defending the interior shouldn’t be a problem; his defensive rebounding rate wasn’t spectacular (19.8%), but the Spartans were a solid rebounding team as a whole – 76th nationally – so Jackson didn’t need to be great for the Spartans to succeed.

Jackson is going to defend at a high level, and in five years he’ll likely be known more for his defense than his offense. But that’s not to say he doesn’t have potential on that end of the floor. He ranked in the 91st percentile in points per possession (shooting 51 percent from the floor and 40 percent from deep helps), doing his most damage in the post (1.22 PPP, 98th percentile) and on jumpers, which were almost exclusively 3-point attempts (1.09 PPP, 81st). He was even a plus on pick-and-rolls, averaging 1.11 on a limited 27-possession sample size.

But not all 3-pointers are created equally. Consider that Jackson did almost all of his damage beyond the arc from the top of the key. He went 21-for-42 from straightaway, according to Synergy Sports, an absurd percentage on that many attempts. From all other areas he went 17-for-54. But in the pick-and-roll era, Jackson’s ability to pop out to the top of the key after setting a screen, and his confidence to take and make those shots, is priceless.

He needs polish on both ends. That seems like the easy way out, and a generic statement that could be made for all these prospects. But so much of his game is still raw; again, there’s a reason he played just 54 percent of all available minutes, and tallied 15 minutes in the Spartan’s NCAA Tournament loss to Syracuse.

He committed 5.9 fouls per 40 minutes (Bamba committed 4.3, for reference) and he shot just 48 percent on non-dunks inside 6 feet. His post numbers were good because he is nearly 7 feet tall and was always one of the most talented players on the floor. It’ll get tougher at the next level, and he’ll need to improve his feel around the rim as well as his post moves.

It doesn’t appear likely at this point, but there’s still a chance Jackson could fall to the Bulls at 7. We’ll safely assume Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic will be off the board. If Michael Porter’s medicals check out he should go in the top 5, and the other three selections could be Marvin Bagley, Mo Bamba and Trae Young. Young is certainly the least likely of the bunch, but it only takes one team to fall in love with his potential. Orlando at No. 6 is a natural fit.

If he is there at No. 7, he needs to be the Bulls pick. Admittedly this would be less of a decision than some of the other picks we’ll get to in the coming weeks. Allowing Lauri Markkanen to roam the wings while Jackson set picks for Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine would improve the offense drastically. And putting an elite rim protector next to Markkanen only covers up the latter’s weaknesses and, thus, makes him a better player.

If teams fall in love with Bamba’s length, Young’s shooting and Porter’s health, Jackson could be waiting when the Bulls pick at No. 7. He isn’t the wing the front office covets, but he is a two-way player with immense upside.