Bears

'Other' Hornets rookie Rivers has ties to Thibodeau, Chicago

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'Other' Hornets rookie Rivers has ties to Thibodeau, Chicago

If nothing else can be said about Tom Thibodeau, the man is consistent. Prior to the Bulls loss Saturday night to the Hornets, the coach was asked if hed take it easy on New Orleans rookie Austin Rivers, the son of his friend and former boss, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers.

Shoot, Thibodeau responded, dragging out the word with a wry smile creeping onto his face. Hes a very gifted player and actually, his floor game has been very, very impressive. Hes dangerous with the ball, gives them a second guy that can break you down off the pick-and-roll.

Hes a great kid, the coach continued. In Boston, he was around the team a lot and he had a lot of confidence and poise, and very comfortable being on the floor against pros, even when he was in high school. So, hes been around the pro game his whole life. I think hes going to be a terrific player.

The younger Rivers was considered a top high-school prospect from an early age, then went on to have a lead role at Duke in his lone college season before being picked by the Hornets in the lottery. Despite being overshadowed by top overall pick Anthony Davis, the scoring combo guard has attracted plenty of attention.

Doc starred for Proviso East High School in nearby Maywood, Ill., before going to Marquette, then having a stellar NBA career and moving on to the coaching ranks. While Austin was raised in Orlando, where Doc coached the Magic, he still has plenty of ties to Chicago, just like teammate and Windy City native Davis, who missed Saturdays contest after suffering a concussion Friday.

It was amazing. I was here a couple years ago, for the McDonalds high school All-American game and Ive just been around here all my life because this is where my familys fromI had like eight relatives in the stands tonightso it was good to come out here and play well, and more importantly, get a win. This was a back-to-back game, on the road versus the Bulls. That shows what were capable of and how good we can be, Rivers said afterwards. Its tough, but we dont have Eric Gordon, the Hornets injured shooting guard, who was on the bench in street clothes after visiting a Chicago knee specialist or Ant. When you dont have two guys like that with you, it makes it tough.

I knew it was going to be tough and every point that I got tonight was tough. I had to work for it, continued the rookie, who scored nine points against Thibodeaus defense, something hes watched from afar for years. I thought we won the game today with our defense. To hold the Bulls, who execute really good in Chicago, to 82 points, thats pretty good.

Its getting better and better. If you look at my first game to my second game to tonight, I think Im getting better and better, and Ill continue to do that just because Ill be smarter. Its been a blast, he went on to say. For us to hold the Bulls to 82 points in Chicago off a back-to-back game, it shows our defensive capability and when we play that way, our offense will always be fine. We could be having an off night, but if we play defense like that, we still can win.

Its an adjustment and tonight I didnt shoot it my bestI havent shot the ball well, but its only been three games.

Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7

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USA TODAY

Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7

The Bears were not at their best against the New England Patriots on Sunday. They made plenty of mistakes on all three phases and gave Tom Brady too many opportunities to control the game.

It wasn’t all bad from Chicago, though. Trey Burton emerged as a new favorite weapon of Mitchell Trubisky, and the tight end was the Bears’ highest-graded player in the game by Pro Football Focus.

Burton had a career high 11 targets, nine catches and 126 yards with a touchdown, giving Trubisky a 144.7 passer rating when targeting his top tight end.

Seven of Burton’s targets and six of his catches traveled 10 or more yards in the air, according to PFF.

Defensively, safety Adrian Amos led the pack with a 74.6 overall grade. He did not miss a tackle after missing a career-high five last week, and he allowed only one catch for eight yards against the Patriots.

On the bottom of the scale, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd received the second-lowest grade of his career (38.9 overall) for his performance. He did not record any pressure on the quarterback in 13 pass rushing snaps, and he allowed two catches for 13 yards and a touchdown in coverage against running back James White.

Wide receiver Allen Robinson had a career-low grade as well at 44.9 overall. He was clearly limited by his groin injury, targeted five times with one catch for four yards and a dropped pass.

Overall, the Bears were able to stick with one of the top teams in the AFC while also leaving a lot of room for improvement. It’s a step in the right direction from where Chicago was in recent seasons.

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

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AP

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

Don't tell Wendell Carter Jr. the center position is a dying breed.

The 19-year-old rookie hasn't exactly been able to ease into the NBA, finding himself up against a handful of All-Stars and powerful frontcourts just five days into his career.

It culminated Monday night with a date against Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan, and once again the seventh overall pick held his own. It was much of the same as it was against Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Detroit's Andre Drummond last week (and Nikola Jokic in the preseason finale): some good, some bad, plenty of poise and zero backing down. The NBA is unforgiving, but this could very well be the toughest stretch Carter faces all season.

"He’s playing against top level centers now," Fred Hoiberg said before Monday's game. "It’s a great experience for him. He’s going to learn and get better and he plays within himself, we will continue to look for him to be more aggressive."

He was as aggressive as the Bulls have seen him against Jordan and the Mavericks. He blew by the 20 and 18 minutes he played in the first two games of the year, totalling 32 minutes. His final line won't tell the story - 4 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a block - of a Carter who defended well at the rim, picking and choosing his spots on when to attack shots and when to simply use his verticality.

He wasn't credited for a block but he contested a Jordan dunk that turned into a Bobby Portis dunk on the other end. Plus-minus isn't always a good indicator of a player's worth, but Carter was a +5 in a 14-point Bulls loss. He even attempted a corner 3-pointer early in the shot clock, showing no hesitation. Carter's had his moments, but it's also apparent he's got a 19-year-old body going up against veterans each night. That'll come with time in the weight room. For now the experience is 

"I appreciate the fact I’m able to play against these very talented bigs early in my career," Carter said after the loss to the Pistons. "What I need to work on is I have to get stronger; that’s the first thing I recognize; just being up against the best. I love the competition. It’s always a great feeling going against the best."

What the Bulls are finding out is they have a player mature beyond his years. As he progresses he'll continue to get more difficult assignments. He had his rookie moment late in Monday's loss, committing a turnover in the backcourt after the Bulls had cut the deficit to five with 35 seconds left. The fouls are also an issue, as Carter has committed 10 in three games (after committing 17 in five preseason games).

That doesn't necessarily seem important for a Lottery-bound team, but considering the continued struggles of Robin Lopez (and Cristiano Felicio is entirely out of the rotation) it is. Lopez had 2 points and 1 rebound in 10 minutes while committing five personal fouls. In three games he has 11 personal fouls and 11 points, and also has more turnovers (five) than rebounds (four). If the Bulls are going to compete until Lauri Markkanen returns, Carter will need to hover around the 32 minutes he played Monday.

He'll get a much easier test on Wednesday when the Charlotte Hornets arrive in town. Cody Zeller doesn't exactly have the credentials of a Jokic or Embiid, meaning Carter may have a little more room to work. 

The Bulls know they have something in Carter. It'll be abother month until they can deploy him alongside Markkanen, but if the first three games are any indication, Carter won't have any problems matching up with some of the league's best.