Bears

Rookie Teague takes major step in developmental process

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Rookie Teague takes major step in developmental process

Judging by his statisticsfive points on 1-for-4 shooting from the field and 3-for-4 from the foul line, two assists and three reboundsMarquis Teague didnt have a major impact on Monday nights game. But for a 19-year-old, thrust into a primetime role, facing off with arguably the games top point guardat least active, with Derrick Rose on the shelf, though the likes of Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker would probably beg to differit was a huge step in his development.

However, Marquis Teague didnt act that way afterwards. He wasnt brash about itmaybe a bit nonchalant, in that way 19-year-olds can bebut he was genuine.

I wasnt nervous. I play against my teammates every day. Theyre just as good as anybody in this league, so Im comfortable out there. Im a basketball player. Im ready to play against anybody, the Indianapolis native explained. I was happy I went out there and had the opportunity to go out there, and compete, but at the end of the day, I wanted to get the win.

Every game I play in, I look at it as a learning experience because Im a rookie. Just take it and run with it, get better, he added. If you step on the court, youve got to be ready, no matter what time it is. Im not really fazed by the situation that Im in. it doesnt matter to me. Ive played in a lot of big games in my life, so its another game.

My confidence is the same. It never left. Its always going to be there. Im a basketball player. Thats how I feel.

Now, Teague didnt act as if he should suddenly usurp veterans Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson in the pecking orderafter all, the Bulls did lose and Rondos 20-point, 10-assist, nine-rebound, five-steal outing was a big reason why, with the All-Star making several key plays down the stretchbut it was certainly a moment that hell be able to look back on fondly one day. Just ask his teammates, coach and even the opposition.

I thought it was good. I thought he played real great. I thought he was aggressive, trying to get to the basket. I thought he really played Rondo tough and I think he really used his quickness, Rip Hamilton told CSNChicago.com, before recalling his own rookie-year moment, against veteran Allan Houston. It was fun. It was exciting. It was one of those things where you cant wait to get that opportunity. You just sit there and pay your dues, and when you get out there, you just try not to get too anxious.

But you couldnt get too excited because he was coming at you.

Added Joakim Noah: The young fella played really well. Hes a worker. Hes working really hard and hes just got to stay at it, stay in the playbook and know all the plays, keep grinding. Hes definitely a competitor.

Chimed in Luol Deng: Im proud of Marquis. Not playing in the beginning, staying ready, coming in early, working and I thought he did well tonight. He did more than well. He did great, I think. Its not easy coming in, a team like that, end of game, fourth quarter, clutch time and he wasnt afraid. Got the ball, drove, got fouls, made some plays.

Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, who was familiar with Teagues game because his son, Hornets rookie Austin, was in the same high school class, also came away impressed.

He played terrific, playing with good speed and one thing you love about Thibs is he left him out there, which is terrific. I thought he was responsible, in a lot of way, for bringing them back, Rivers said. I don't think it's any fun to play against Rondo whether you're a 10-year guy or a one-year guy. Teague is a tough kid. I've watched him play for a long time because he and Austin played AAU against each other for a long time. He's a tough kid. I thought he handled Rondo pretty well.

Rondo, a fellow University of Kentucky product, told CSNChicago.com: He played aggressive. Strong going to the cup at the end of the game. He didnt shy away from making a play for his team, so hes a very young confident guard and he should be in this league for a long time.

Perhaps the person who can relate to Teague best on the Bulls is second-year swingman Jimmy Butler, who didnt get to experience a traditional rookie season, due to the lockout-shortened schedule, which also affected training camp and robbed him of a summer league. On a team with experienced, veteran players, Butler and Teague had the shared experience of being at the Berto Center almost all summer, enduring individual workouts together.

Im happy for him. He works extremely hard. He deserves it. Hes constantly in the gym and I know how it feels to be a rookie. Sitting over there, but when your names called, youve got to be ready. I feel like he performed to the best of his ability tonight, Butler told CSNChicago.com. I dont know if it was so much in the summer if it was when training camp hit because he had been through an NBA workout, an NBA-type summer, so when training camp hit, he was up and running. So, he was ready to go. Im not surprised, man. Im so proud of him because he works so hard and he knows his role, but he also knows that his role is going to be called upon every once in a while. Hes ready for it.

Even though we play different positions, I know how hes feeling mentally because thats how I was last year, so I tell him the same thing that Ronnie told me, that Griff told me, all these guys told me, which is be ready, continue to work, dont get too high, dont get too low, try to stay right in the middle and I think everything will level itself out, he continued. Mondays game was big. It builds his confidence, for one. But two, youre out there with Rondo. Hes guarding you, so youre making plays. Its a big confidence booster for him, for anybody, I think. You see those guys on TV for however many years and youre out there lining up against him. Youre like, Oh, I can do what he does. I can be that player.

Teague clearly remembers those summer workouts and for a player who was a highly-touted since his early high school days, it was an eye-opener, even with an older brotherJeff, the Atlanta Hawks starting point guardalready in the league. But after winning a college national championship and more importantly, being from Indianapolis, the biggest city in a hoops hotbed of a state, Teague felt prepared for the experience.

Coming from me, since Day 1, Ive been in the gym with Thibs going hard, harder than Ive ever went in my life. This is just a different level. Youve got to have a different work ethic to play on this level, he recalled. I had many of those. I had a lot of workouts in the summer, going with Thibs, doing two-a-days. There was a lot of times you were like, Man! This is serious on this level. I had a lot of those days.

Teague has been preparing for situations like Monday my whole life. Thats why you play the game, to play the best. Every night, youve got a top point guard youve got to compete with, so youve just got to be ready, he continued. :Growing up my whole life, Ive got a lot of basketball experience, playing with my brothers. Ive played against so many great players just in my city that I feel like could play on this level. Ive been playing against Courtney Lee since I was 11, 12. It just gave me a lot of experience.

If you step on the court, youve got to be ready, no matter what time it is. Im not really fazed by the situation that Im in. it doesnt matter to me. Ive played in a lot of big games in my life, so its another game.

Whether or not that mentality is approved of by his perfectionist head coach is another story, but Thibodeau, who has slowly seemed to warm up to the rookieout of necessity, if not by choicetacitly signed off on Teague, simply by virtue of throwing him to the wolves. Maybe not literally, but playing him for all of the fourth quarter, much of it against Rondo, was no easy task.

Played very well. I thought he played hard. Thats the first step, the coach explained. I liked the way he matched up with the speed. Barbosas extremely quick, so I thought his speed was good with that matchup and Rondos obviously super quick also, so I liked that matchup. I thought it got us going, got us playing with some energy.

Just his energy. I thought the speed and quicknesswhen youre dealing with Barbosa and Rondo, speed and quickness is enormousand then, we wanted to extend our defense a little bit, so Taj and Marquis gave us some energy, he went on to say, revealing why he played Teague the entire period and then recalling a crucial play the rookie made late in the game. On Marquis drive, I thought that was a tough call. I thought he made a strong move to the basket, probably could have gone either way, went against us, thats part of the game.

Countered Teague: Whatever Thibs asks me to do, thats what I was going to do. If he wanted me to come out, thats fine. Whatever he needed.

He just told me to go out there and play aggressive, using my speed to get to the rim, making plays for my teammates. Thats what I was trying to do, he added. I saw a few gaps I had in the first half that I didnt take, and my teammates told me to be aggressive and play my game, so thats what I tried to do.

Keep doing what youre doing, youngster. With his surprisingly impressive individual defense, explosiveness going to the basket and most importantly, fearlessnessyes, he has to work on his outside jumper or at least be more willing to take itTeague has an extremely bright future.

Bears-Lions takeaways: A toughening route to the playoffs, a run game defying fixing?

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USA TODAY

Bears-Lions takeaways: A toughening route to the playoffs, a run game defying fixing?

The Bears putdown of the Detroit Lions provided a critically important statement start to the second half of a season that now would stand as a disappointment if the Bears fail to reach the playoffs. Not so much because of the missed-playoffs themselves, but because to misfire now after a pair of three-game win streaks will mean a couple of bad losses.

Or so-called “bad” because of expectations being raised above ground-level. But the Bears face a remaining schedule with some dark corners.

The Bears haven’t beaten a team currently with even a .500 record. No reflection on the Bears; they can only play whoever shows up. But it puts the remaining seven-game race to the postseason under a cloud of justifiable doubt, leaving it to the Bears to prove they belong in the tournament that starts in January.

The schedule has three A-list games: two against Minnesota, which has won four of its last five and comes to Soldier Field on Sunday following an off-week; and one against the Rams, the highest-scoring team in the NFC.

Three games are against bottom-feeders – the Lions again, the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers. The problems here are: 1) all three games are on the road and 2) those teams will beat someone over the final the final seven weeks.

And the seventh of the remaining games is against the Green Bay Packers, who’ve lost all four of their 2018 road games but have a quarterback who hasn’t lost to the Bears in Chicago since 2010.

Tiebreakers are likely out of play for the division, with Green Bay and Minnesota having a shared tie. But winning the division outright seemed a given, as it does now, in 2012 when the Lovie Smith Bears had an elite defense and stood 8-3.

Run game redux

Concern over the Bears inability to run the football may come off as nitpicking or saying nay about an offense leading a team that is on pace to set a franchise scoring record.

But it does matter that of the 10 teams with six or more victories this season, the Bears, Patriots, Saints and Texans are the only ones not in the top 15 in rushing average. Houston and New Orleans, however, rank in the top 11 for rushing yardage, and New England does have Tom Brady in addition to being tied for third with 12 rushing touchdowns.

The overarching point here is if the Bears hope to challenge for a spot among the NFL’s elite, it behooves them to fix this weakness in an offense without many.

The bigger point is whether the Bears can fix it. Put another way, they may not be able to within the parameters of the offense as being designed and operated by Matt Nagy. He has a No. 1 back who needs carries to build a game, yet he is a coach who does not run his offense through a featured back.

Nagy didn’t isolate blame for his team’s running woes on Jordan Howard, the offensive line, coaches or anyone else. Nor should he, because the problem indeed lies with none of them and all of them.

With a Detroit gameday roster with five backs and three tight ends, the result was the lowest rushing total (54 yards) and average (2.5 yards per carry) of this season and came a week after the previous lows (64 yards, 2.6 yards per carry).

But the issue is more than one back (Howard). It’s the group of running backs (leaving the offensive line out of this point purposely), none of which are likely ever going to give Nagy the identity or consistent production that he wants for this element of his offense.

For one thing, no back is likely to see anywhere near the workload that ostensibly is needed to get Howard “lathered up.” Nagy doesn’t lather anybody up, and until a back emerges who can do a microwave impersonation and heat up in a huge hurry, the Bears rushing upside is hazy.

Using the template Nagy most relates to, Kareem Hunt has gotten 20 carries in just seven of 26 career games as a Kansas City Chief, only once in a 2018 season that has the Chiefs at 9-1.

Run-run-run is simply not in the Nagy offensive DNA, nor is it anything close to a dominant philosophy, even among teams who have been its leading practitioners. Nor is there a consistent formula for winning with an integrated run-pass offense.

The NFL’s three top rushers – Todd Gurley, Rams, 9-1; James Conner, Steelers, 6-2-1; Hunt, Chiefs, 9-1 – come from teams that went into this weekend running the football 46.6 percent of their snaps (Rams), 36.3 percent (Steelers) and 40.5 percent (Chiefs).

The Nagy Bears have in fact been at the high-run end at 45.1 percent, while the coach and staff have struggled for a run-game identity. But that includes nearly 30 percent of the rushing yardage coming from Mitchell Trubisky – not exactly the preferred run-game identity.

Preseason Preps Basketball Power Rankings: No. 10 Bloom

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NBC Sports Chicago

Preseason Preps Basketball Power Rankings: No. 10 Bloom

Bloom

2017-18 record:
16-11, 6-4 Southland

Postseason results: Lost to Marist in Class 4A regional finals.

Players to watch: The perimeter trio of juniors Donovan Newby, Keshawn Williams and Dante Maddox Jr. are all worth watching as they form one of the best backcourts in the state. Junior big man Martice Mitchell provides size inside at 6-foot-9 while Kevin Vance was an intriguing forward this summer. 

Why they're in the power rankings: A year ago, Bloom had the talent to compete with anyone in the area. But with four sophomores and one junior in the starting lineup, the Blazing Trojans were too young. Now, a year later, Bloom looks like a very dangerous team after a strong summer. The Blazing Trojans have multiple Division I prospects on a team with huge aspirations. 

Did you know? Bloom will play one of the elite schedules in the area this season. The Blazing Trojans are scheduled to take part in the Chicago Heights Classic, Chicago Elite Classic, Pontiac Holiday Tournament and When Sides Collide Shootout -- to name a few marquee events.