Bulls

Star receiver upset with lack of targets

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Star receiver upset with lack of targets

From Comcast SportsNet

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) -- Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Lloyd isn't catching any deep passes in John Fox's conservative, run-oriented offense, and he's letting his quarterback and his coaches know just how he feels about it. Kyle Orton and Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said Lloyd has asked to be more involved in the offense even as opponents roll a safety over the top to bracket him in double-coverage. A year after leading the league with 1,448 yards receiving, Lloyd said he thinks he's being underused by the Broncos. He had 17 catches of 25 or more yards last year and none of his 10 catches so far this season have gone for more than 20 yards. "It's not like we're not trying to get him the ball," McCoy said. Fox pointed to a strained groin as one reason for the dearth of downfield chances for Lloyd. Orton noted that Lloyd's getting a lot of attention from defensive coordinators and the flow of the games has dictated a different approach. Lloyd said Denver's offensive doctrine is the primary culprit. "I think it's just us, the coaching staff, staying true to the philosophy of running the ball," Lloyd said Thursday. "I think we've kind of gotten in game management mode, as opposed to an aggressive, take-control mode. I think that's what has limited us." So far, the Broncos have called plays that have led to long, time-consuming drives that rely on a heavy diet of runs and underneath passes and not the quick-strike deep ball that was featured so often in 2010. Orton said Lloyd is commanding so much attention after his breakout season but the Broncos will certainly capitalize on his speed and athleticism at some point. "He'll have to stay patient," Orton said. And healthy, Fox suggested. "He was hobbled in the fourth quarter of the opener, missed the whole second game. It's hard to be any kind of a threat when you don't have a uniform," Fox said. "I don't think he was 100 percent" last week, when he caught four passes for 38 yards at Tennessee. "I'd say that was a little bit of a reason." "I'm healthy," Lloyd countered. "I mean, I'm not frustrated, but I want to go down the field more," he added. "I think that just helps us. I feel like we play better when we have a lead. I think that explosive pass plays hurt a defense more, when you can get big chunks passing the ball and running the ball." Lloyd said if McCoy wants to get him the ball, he would design the plays to beat the double coverages. "I think there's still a niche that I have and a talent, a skill-set, that should be used," Lloyd said. And he's let his quarterback know it, too. "Oh, yeah. I've been with Brandon a long time now and he always wants the ball," Orton said. "And you always want your receivers to want the football. So, I just keep telling him to run his routes hard and we'll hit them when they're open." Despite his unhappiness, there's no simmering controversy at Broncos headquarters. Fox said he doesn't mind players letting him know they're displeased with their production. "I think most competitors do (speak up). They all want to win," Fox said. McCoy said he, too, welcomes Lloyd's input. "Yeah, that's the way we want it to be. We have an open door policy here and he's a very talented player," McCoy said. "Of course you want to get him the ball more. Have we played a certain style of offense the first three weeks of the season? Yes, but we'll find ways to get him the ball." Wide receivers protesting their light workload is nothing new in the NFL. "They're all selfish. I mean, there's only one football," McCoy said. "The quarterback's the only one who's going to touch it every play. We have some very talented skilled players and you'd love to get them all the ball 10, 15 times a game, which you can't." The Broncos might target Lloyd more at Green Bay on Sunday. For one thing, the Packers have allowed a ton of yards through the air and not so many on the ground. For another, Denver must try to neutralize star cornerback Charles Woodson, who can wreak havoc when he's in a zone patrolling the short and intermediate passing lanes. "The tough thing with him is you never know where he's going to line up," Orton said. "It might be corner, at nickel or at safety. He's all over the field. He's good wherever he's at. He's a playmaker and a ball hawk, so wherever he is you've got to be careful and make sure your guy's open and Charles can't make the play." The Broncos could stick with their time-consuming approach to keep Green Bay's explosive offense on the sideline, but Orton noted that maintaining those sustained drives is difficult. "We have to find a way (at some point) to steal a touchdown on a two- or three-play drive on a big play." Packers coach Mike McCarthy worked with Lloyd during their time together with the San Francisco 49ers and he said he knows him too well to think he won't use his speed and athleticism to get behind the defense Sunday, even if he hasn't done it so far. "I know Brandon Lloyd can go deep and catch the football," McCarthy said. "We're well aware of that and he's still a threat to do that this week."

Portis 2.0? Bulls get mature, hard worker in Daniel Gafford: 'He has a great feel for who he is'

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USA TODAY

Portis 2.0? Bulls get mature, hard worker in Daniel Gafford: 'He has a great feel for who he is'

Had Daniel Gafford kept his name in the 2018 NBA Draft as a freshman, he likely would have walked across the stage and shook the commissioner’s hand as a first-round selection. The Arkansas center instead returned to school for his sophomore season and, despite individual successes, saw his draft stock fall out of the first round.

Draft evaluators would consider his decision to return to school a failed attempt at betting on oneself. But Gafford, who the Bulls made the No. 38 pick on Thursday night, knew he wasn’t ready for the NBA and instead got himself ready for the league on his own terms.

“I decided to come back to get that year under my belt. If I would have came out my freshman year, this process would have (eaten) me up,” Gafford said Monday at the Advocate Center. “And I didn’t want that to happen.”

That maturity and self-awareness was apparent during Gafford’s introductory press conference that also included first-round pick Coby White, VP John Paxson and head coach Jim Boylen. He made no excuses for why he may have slipped to the second round in what was largely considered a weak draft class – “it could have been me, it could have been the draft – but owned that reality that he says will only push him to work harder.

Both Paxson and Boylen saw that ownership in the pre-draft process. Ironically enough, it reminded both of Bobby Portis, another Arkansas big man selected by the Bulls.

“His spirit of who he was in the interview, at the pre-draft camp, to where he came in and worked out for us, it was a Bobby-like spirit,” Boylen said. “Competitive, toughness, compete, take coaching, take correction, learn on the fly. We changed his free throw a little bit just when he came in for the workout. He was able to pick it up. Things like that.”

It’s common – and almost a requirement – for draft picks to describe their competitive nature and willingness to work hard in introductory interviews. But none of it felt rehearsed or fake with Gafford, who admitted he’s far from a finished product but also said he’s willing to improve wherever he can.

Gafford, who said he became a Portis fan before he even committed to Arkansas, won’t provide the same versatility as Crazy Eyes did in his time with the Bulls. Gafford is a true center, a rim-runner whose offense will come from pick-and-rolls and offensive rebounds – “I treat every shot like a miss,” he said when describing his rebounding prowess – and who will be relied upon to defend the rim on the other end. He admitted that at times he’s guilty of expanding his game too far but that he’s gotten better at realizing his strengths and playing to them. That’s something Boylen said stuck out to him when he first met Gafford in the pre-draft process.

“There’s an art in the world of kind of knowing who you are, and he has a great feel for who he is as a player,” Boylen said. “Again, he adds to our vertical spacing, he adds to our athleticism, our length, our competitiveness, and again, he looks you in the eye when you talk to him, he has a great spirit.”

The expectation is that Gafford will slide in behind Wendell Carter Jr. on the depth chart at center. There’s been no indication that the Bulls plan to bring back Robin Lopez, and Cristiano Felicio won’t be part of any rotation unless the Bulls are playing for Lottery balls in March and April.

His skill set also gives the Bulls an added dimension. He’s built like and plays like Clint Capela, a comparison he agreed with on Monday, and should allow the Bulls to run more in the open court. He’s an unfinished product (despite being 6 months older than Carter) but will get to learn on the fly for the rebuilding Bulls.

A new skill set, a hard worker and a guy who returned to Arkansas for his sophomore season to hone his game. Though they’re different players at different positions, the Bulls would be more than happy if Gafford’s career panned out the same as Portis’.

“Bobby was great for us and a great kid and I think that Daniel’s in that same mold, maybe on a different style of play, different position,” Boylen said. “He adds to our versatile spacing and our length and our athleticism. (The) Arkansas program has been good to us, so we’re gonna keep it going here.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Chris Getz on Luis Robert, Dylan Cease, Nick Madrigal and more!

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Chris Getz on Luis Robert, Dylan Cease, Nick Madrigal and more!

Chuck Garfien gets the inside info about some of the top prospects in the White Sox organization from director of player development Chris Getz.

They talk about the wow factor of Luis Robert, what he's working on before being promoted to Triple-A, if he can make the majors in 2019, what kind of major league player he will be and more (3:45)

-Why Nick Madrigal has the "it" factor and why he might have been disappointed with Getz at the start of the season (10:10)

-Why Zack Burdi has struggled this season and a great sign of things to come (16:30)

-Why Kyle Kubat is so highly thought of in the White Sox farm system (18:20)

-How close Dylan Cease is to the major leagues (20:15) and more.

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

White Sox Talk Podcast

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