Bears

Offense can succeed without Rose, go-to scorer

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Offense can succeed without Rose, go-to scorer

When Richard Hamiltons Detroit Pistons won the 2004 NBA Championship, there were no superstars. Only center Ben Wallace made the All-Star Game from a team that won 54 games and Hamilton led the team at 17.6 points per game. He was the de-facto go-to scorer, though his 14.9 field goal attempts per game were 25th in the league.

Thats why the veteran, beginning his second year with the Bulls but the first time without Derrick Rose, knows that the Bulls offense can be successful without a high volume shooter and scorer.

In this league, in order to be a great team youve got to have production from all the guys on the floor. You cant just have one guy do the bulk of the scoring, he said, because good teams key on that and in the playoffs its hard to win like that. So in order for us to be good and successful, we all gotta be better. We all gotta help each other without Derrick and bring more of a team theme to win games.

The Bulls are hoping to get some of that production from Carlos Boozer, who has looked impressive early in the preseason. The 30-year-old has averaged 13.2 points in just 24.5 minutes in six games. And though his scoring will be important for a team looking to make up Roses 21.8 points per game from a year ago, Hamilton has seen Boozers aggressiveness benefit the outside shooters as well.

The more productive he is in the paint, it makes everybodys job easier. Not just him scoring the ball, but him making plays, Hamilton, averaging a team-high 14.8 points per game, said. When we can get the ball down there, it makes the perimeter guys jobs a lot easier, because now the defense cant just focus on guys on the perimeter. Theyve got to focus on guys down low.

The Bulls certainly will see production from small forward and 2012 All-Star Luol Deng, as well as Joakim Noah. That three-headed monster, coach Tom Thibodeau said, is essential for any team and the theory has not changed despite Roses absence.

I think you always want three primary scorers, and thats always been the case, Thibodeau said. It was the case when Derrick was here. So I think when you look at the game, your ability to try to make it hard on your opponents three primary scorers, theyre gonna try to make it hard on your three primary scorers.

And then the responsibility of the primary scorer is when youre 1-on-1, you want to score. When a second defender comes, he has a responsibility to hit the open man and make the right play. So theres a lot of responsibility that comes along with being a primary scorer.

Whether that primary scorer becomes Deng, who led the Bulls with 16.7 points per game when Rose sat, Boozer or Noah, expectations from outside have been lowered until that trio emerges.

But just as Hamilton saw it in Detroit, he has no problem with the Bulls flying under the radar without their proven go-to scorer and leader.

We love it. We love it, because you love to be the underdog, he said. You love to do stuff when people dont expect you to do anything. It makes you strive and go out and want it even more.

Akiem Hicks makes Pro Football Focus Team of the Week after strong game against Dolphins

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USA TODAY

Akiem Hicks makes Pro Football Focus Team of the Week after strong game against Dolphins

The Bears defense was not its usual self in their overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. The pass rush was minimal and tackling looked optional, and Brock Osweiler threw for almost 400 yards.

There was plenty of blame to go around, but a few individual defenders had success while their teammates struggled.

Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks made the Pro Football Focus Team of the Week for Week 6 with a 92.2 overall grade.

He recorded seven tackles that resulted in a defensive “stop,” the most of any defensive lineman according to PFF.

Chicago’s next highest-graded player was cornerback Kyle Fuller (78.2), who intercepted Osweiler twice but also missed two tackles.

Offensively, wide receiver Taylor Gabriel led the way with a 76.9 mark. PFF credited four of his five catches coming against Dolphins cornerback Torry McTyer in coverage.

Meanwhile, outside linebacker Khalil Mack had the lowest-graded game of his career (47.8), while linebacker Danny Trevathan (29.9) and safety Adrian Amos Jr. (47.5) each had their second-worst games.

Some of the Bears’ best players were at their worst in Miami. They’re going to need to get their act together for the New England Patriots on Sunday.

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

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USA TODAY

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

The theme of the 2018-19 NBA season will be: “old faces in new places”. Like a season-long game of the NBA on TNT crew’s “Who he play for?” game, this year will be about fans trying to get used to the idea of LeBron James in purple (I won’t call it ‘Forum Blue’)-and-gold, DeMarcus Cousins being on a championship-contending franchise and Kawhi Leonard being the new face of Toronto.

The Warriors are still the easy favorite to make it four NBA championships in five years, but they will be tested perhaps more than any year before in a loaded Western Conference, where even the lowliest of teams (here’s to you Phoenix and Memphis!) made solid offseason moves geared towards winning games.

Over in the now-LeBron-less East, there is hope amongst at least four-to-five teams that they could actually have a shot to win the conference. The Pacers still have budding superstar Victor Oladipo, the Sixers still have Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and the Raptors and Bucks made head coaching changes that could lead to deep playoff runs. But with the rest of the Eastern conference being stuck between lottery contention and middle of the pack, expect the half-experienced, half-youthful Celtics to takeover as East juggernaut.

But whether or not your favorite franchise is aiming for a high draft pick or a postseason berth, there is tons to be excited in a 2018-19 NBA season that will surely be an intriguing one. Check out Week 1 of our NBA Power Rankings right here.