Bears

Rose, Hamilton making progress for Bulls

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Rose, Hamilton making progress for Bulls

Progress is the name of the game for the Bulls right now, as difficult as that might seem to do with leagues best record. But even as their starting backcourt of Derrick Rose and Rip Hamilton remains out, not only does the team continue to win games, but the guard duo looks to be on the mend.

Derrick was better today. He did part of practice. We just have to have him keep making the progress that he is and hopefully hell be healthy soon, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, who described the reigning league MVPs health status as day-to-day and wouldnt speculate as to whether Rose would play in Saturdays home game against the Raptors, whom the Bulls defeated Wednesday in Toronto. Hes been running in the water. Hes going to do some running later today.

As for Hamilton, Thibodeau revealed that the 13-year veteran shooting guard was a full participant in Fridays practice at the Berto Center.

Hes moving along. We havent done contact with him yet so that will be the next step, Thibodeau said after the session. Day to day. Always a possibility. You know me: Im optimistic.

The Bulls didnt have Hamilton last season, so with most of the squad returning from last season -- Hamilton, rookie swingman Jimmy Butler and point guard Mike James are the only new additions -- adjusting to life without the banged-up former All-Star hasnt been different. However, although Rose played in 81 of regular-season 82 games a year ago, the Bulls have figured out how to win games without their superstar, currently suffering from a strained right groin, in the lineup this season.

We know what we need to do to win. We feel like if we can play good defense, get back in transition, win the rebounding contest, we have a pretty good shot at winning. said Joakim Noah. Derricks a great player, so the game is obviously a little bit different if hes not in there. Injuries are part of the game and were a no-excuses team.

Were growing as a team, he continued. Last time around this time, I was coming back from the injury, so I feel healthier than I have in a long time. I feel great. were a confident group and being able to play for something big is special.

Added Butler: I think weve got a lot of great players. Weve got enough parts that when one players down, everyone just kind of picks up the link that he was. John Lucas III has been playing incredible, hitting huge shots in the fourth quarter. C.J. Watson has been playing super-aggressive.

Its like youre picking up Derricks absence and Rips, and youre just adding it to the other players games and just putting it on their backs.

Of Lucas, the third-string point guard turned fan favorite, Thibodeau said: Hes got to run the team, make the right decisions, play to his strengths and understand what his teammates strengths are. He has done that. Ive known he can do that because I coached him before. He did the same thing for us in Houston. And hes a better player now than he was then. He stays ready. He handles his responsibilities well.

But no matter who steps up for the Bulls, their usual intensity, preparedness and focus can be traced back to Thibodeau.

First one in the gym, last one to leave. He lives, breathes this basketball stuff, said Noah. Everybody always says that Thibs breathes this basketball thing.

Im happy that hes my coach, he continued. Hes the most consistent guy Ive ever met in my whole life. Its the same thing every day. Since hes been here, I dont think our practices have changed one bit. Go over our skeleton of plays, go over defense, shoot. Thats it.

Pro Football Focus: Bears rank near bottom-third of NFL in pass protection

Pro Football Focus: Bears rank near bottom-third of NFL in pass protection

If the Chicago Bears want to make a real run at the playoffs in 2018, the offensive line will have to do its part by keeping QB Mitch Trubisky upright. The offense is expected to be more pass-heavy under coach Matt Nagy and will depend on Trubisky having time in the pocket to go through his progressions and find the open target.

New offensive line coach Harry Hiestand should help that cause. He's universally praised as one of the best offensive line coaches in the sport and will be charged with getting a better effort from a unit that ranked near the bottom-third in pass protection last season, according to Pro Football Focus.

19. CHICAGO BEARS

2017 pass-blocking efficiency: 77.9

Best individual PBE: Josh Sitton, 97.4

Because of several crippling injuries, nine different players saw at least 100 pass-block snaps for the Bears in 2017. They gave up 152 pressures on 536 passing plays. The top performance came from left tackle Charles Leno Jr., who enjoyed the best season of his career and allowed just 24 pressures all season. Heading into the 2018 campaign, rookie guard James Daniels is penciled in to fill the shoes of the recently departed pass-blocking star Josh Sitton. Daniels performed well in pass protection during his final college season, allowing just 10 pressures on 371 pass-blocking snaps at Iowa.

The Bears will be without last season's top pass-protector, Josh Sitton, who was let go by GM Ryan Pace this offseason and signed with the Dolphins. 

Pass protection was once all about the play of the offensive tackles, but with the NFL's interior defensive linemen evolving into disruptive forces up the middle, guard play will be nearly as important. A healthy Kyle Long is critical. Chicago can't afford growing pains from James Daniels, either. Cody Whitehair returns to full-time center duties, a role he excelled at during his rookie season. 

Charles Leno should provide reliable play at left tackle. Bobby Massie remains a wildcard, but with little depth behind him, the Bears can do nothing more than hope his bad reps are limited in 2018.

With Hiestand in the fold and a healthy Long ready to compete at a high level again, the Bears' offensive line should be much improved this season.

NHL Draft Profile: D Evan Bouchard

NHL Draft Profile: D Evan Bouchard

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Evan Bouchard

Position: Defenseman
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 193 pounds
Shoots: Right

Scouting report:

"A highly intelligent defenseman with exceptional vision and offensive instincts. He reads the play very well and his passing ability allows him to be a constant threat in his team's transition game. He's one of the top offensive-defenseman in the Canadian Hockey League and magician-like when quarterbacking the power play."

NHL player comparable: John Carlson/Alex Pietrangelo

Fit for Blackhawks:

At 6-foot-2, 193 pounds, Bouchard is one of the most NHL-ready defensemen in this year's draft and that could be appetizing for a team like the Blackhawks, who are looking for immediate help on the blue line. But Bouchard is a right-handed shot, and drafting him would add a third high-end right-handed shot defenseman to the organization, along with prospects Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell.

You can never have enough of them, but there's only room for three before somebody would have to play on their off hand and that would mean the third would be playing on the bottom pairing. All three of these players have Top 4 potential.

Still, that may not even come into play here. The Blackhawks will seek to take the best available player, like they always have. And if they feel it's Bouchard, they'll do it.