Bulls

Starting Five: Bulls to face Jordan-owned Bobcats

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Starting Five: Bulls to face Jordan-owned Bobcats

Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011
10:32 a.m. Updated 4:32 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

1. Charlotte star swing man Stephen Jackson spoke to CSNChicago.com about the teams mentality under new Bobcats head coach Paul Silas. Well, I think were playing the type of ball everybody wants to play. Its exciting, our style of play and hes giving the young guys confidence, the confidence that they need to for them play well and for us to play well. I think its been great, Jackson told CSNChicago.com. Its Golden State with a defensive mentality. Youve got a lot of guys that can score, that can get up and down the floor quick. Coach is letting us use that talent in that aspect and were trying to get back to the defensive team we were last year. Continued Jackson: Its been hard, but I think were making the adjustment. Weve got guys that can step up. Weve got a lot of young guys that are getting the opportunity to play and are doing a great job. And also, D.J. is coming into his own, which we knew that he could do, so its exciting to see these young guys grow and start to contribute to our team.

Jackson also believes third-year point guard D.J. Augustin is benefiting from Silas guidance. Its been good because you dont have too many point guards in the league that can shoot and also run a team as well as he can, and I think for him, Coach is giving him the confidence to be a leader out there and to be able to take shots and make mistakes, and not worry about coming out of the game. I think its helped his confidence and thats why hes been playing so well, said Jackson.

2. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau coached new Bobcats assistant Charles Oakleya former Bull and one of the leagues all-time tough guys during his NBA careerin New York.

Prior to the teams shoot-around Wednesday morning in Charlotte, he opined on the colorful Oakley as a coach. Whatever he decided to do, I thought hed be great at it, just because of the way he approaches everything. When he goes into something, hes 100 percent committed to it and I think hes figuring out now what he wants to do. He tried the management part of it, now hes trying the coaching part of it. Whichever way he decides to go, hell be great at it, said Thibodeau. The way he played is also the way he practiced every day. Never took a day off and you got 100 percent from that guy all the time.

Jackson also discussed Oakleys contribution to the team. Its good, bringing that toughness that we need, getting our big guys to be physical and to have our best constantly on the court is something that I think he was one of the best at, and its definitely going to help us if our bigs can start playing the way he played.

3. Thibodeau also discussed Silas, another of the NBAs warriors during his playing career, as well as a head coach known for turning teams around quickly. Hes been around the game forever. Hes done a great job in a number of different places. Theres not too many things that he hasnt seen and experienced. Hes been through every situation, so I think hell do a great job here, said Thibodeau. When you look at the way theyre constructed, Augustin with his shooting and then you look at the two, three and four, when you have Jackson, Gerald Wallace and Diaw, because of their versatility, it makes them different. They do a lot of switching, they can spread you out, theyre skilled and now theyre pushing the ball more. But I thought this team has always had a defensive mindset to it and theyre unique because of all the switching they can do. You cant allow that to slow you down or turn you over because now theyre in the open floor. Theyre hard to stop. I like Kwame Brown. Some people have criticized him, but I think hes a terrific defender, he plays hard and then when you look at Tyrus Thomas athleticism coming off the bench, Henderson is playing a lot better right now and Livingston poses a number of problems because of his post-up ability, ability to run the team, great vision, unselfish. So, theyre a talented team.

4. Rose talked about his individual improvement on the defensive end, an area of weakness before this season. I think I improved a lot everything was just new. In college, you dont really play pick-and-roll defense like that. We were a good defensive team, but we never played pick-and-roll defense, said Rose, who credited Thibodeau for his defense becoming better. He forces it. He holds you accountable, especially me, on everythingThibodeau doesnt really do that embarrass players during film sessions, but hell stop the film and tell you what youre doing wrong. Were used to it right now. We watched so much film in the beginning of the year and in training camp of ourselves, that we expect him to be hard on us in film.

Continued Rose: I look at Kobe Bryant. Hes a guy that, he tries to kill you on both ends. Definitely when he has the ball, hes trying to score every single time, but on the defensive end, hes giving his heart outjust watching how almost everybody in the league plays defense. Chris, Deron, Rondojust seeing what they do on defense because in pick-and-rolls, people play different, teams send people different ways. The biggest thing I know in pick-and-roll is that youve got to push yourself into the ball, so that you can avoid all the screens.

Thibodeau chimed in about where he thought Rose improved the most. Guarding the ball, his ball pressure. I think the two areas hes improved the most are getting over screens and challenging shots. Now, I think hes starting to see how he can help with his team defense. I think hes reading plays well and I also think his rebounding. He knows when he rebounds and he busts out with the ball, thats almost an impossible break to stop, said Thibodeau. Fighting over screens is about both effort and technique. Communication by the big, effort, intensity, technique. I think you have to combine all those things and I think you have to continually work on it.

Thibodeau went on to talk about the biggest adjustment defensively from the college level to the NBA. In the pros, youre going to see multiple pick-and-rolls on the same play, so you may handle the first one well and there may be a re-pick and then maybe even a third one. You have to be prepared to do that throughout the course of a game, to develop a multiple-effort mentality, said Thibodeau. You get over the first one and even when you do handle the first part of it, you still have your team help responsibilities after youve done that. Its a never-ending concept. You cant stop and you cant relax. You have to keep going, you have to do it for 24 seconds, you have to do it for 48 minutes, you have to do it day after day. Thats what makes a team special. Thibodeau used his last point guardBostons Rajon Rondo, a highly-regarded defenderas an example. He Rondo really had to work at it, too. Youre coming in from college, I think the biggest thing is getting to learn the players, their tendencies, the teams, their systems. You understand the speed of the game and the strength the players have, and I think that you have to recognize that you have to get stronger, said Thibodeau. I know Rajon has and I know Derrick has the commitment to the weight room, so you can get over things. Youre going to get hit and your body position is critical.

5. Dont forget to follow me on Twitter at @CSNBullsInsider.

What to watch for: Bulls face an uphill battle against Milwaukee Bucks

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USA Today

What to watch for: Bulls face an uphill battle against Milwaukee Bucks

On the heels of an epic comeback over the Cavaliers on Saturday, the Bulls visit the Bucks in search of a signature win. The game tips off at 4 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago — until then, here's what to watch for:

Bucks’ last five games: (5-0)

  • Jan. 18 — W at Nets: 117-97

  • Jan. 16 — W at Celtics: 128-123

  • Jan. 14 — W vs. Knicks: 128-102

  • Jan. 11 — W at Trail Blazers: 122-101

  • Jan. 10 — W at Kings: 127-106

Storyline(s) to watch

There’s a lot working against the Bulls in this one. On top of the Bucks being, far and away, the best team in the NBA so far this season (their current +12.6 point differential is almost two points better than the 2015-16 Warriors), they’re currently in the midst of a six-game win streak and own the league’s second-best home record at 20-2. These teams have met three times already this season, with the Bucks winning all three by an average margin of 14.7 points. The Bulls will be happy the fourth meeting is the last.

It’s another game against a winning team, famously the Bulls’ kryptonite. The comeback over Cleveland was great theater, but the Bucks represent the harshest of reality checks. In those aforementioned three matchups, Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging 31.3 points, 12 rebounds and four assists while shooting 56.7%. As a team, the Bucks averaged 55 rebounds per games (to the Bulls' 46), blocked 6.3 shots per game and held the Bulls to a cumulative 39.4% shooting from the field in those three games.

On the flip side, pulling out a win, though unlikely, would be that much more of a confidence boost.

Player(s) to watch: The shooters

Antetokounmpo is unstoppable. The ever-looming threat of him getting rolling is the most pressing issue facing the Bulls today, especially without both of their top two centers. 

But the Bucks are truly devastating to match up with because of the shooting they’ve surrounded him with. As a team, Milwaukee attempts the fourth-most 3-pointers per game (38.8) and cans them at a 36% clip. That’s not mind-bending efficiency, but between *deep breath* George Hill (53.3% from deep, three attempts per game), Kyle Korver (42.6%, 3.9 attempts), Khris Middleton (41.5%, 5.2 attempts), Ersan Ilyasova (37%, 2.5 attempts), Wes Matthews (36%, 4.2 attempts), Eric Bledsoe (35.4%, 3.6 attempts) and others, they’re a threat to have at least one or more guys catch fire from deep every night. Even in a down shooting year, Brook Lopez (29.9%, 4.7 attempts) isn’t afraid to chuck, either, especially above the break.

The Bucks have made at least 10 3-pointers in all but three of their 44 games this season. The bright side? The Bulls are responsible for one of those and have outshot the Bucks from behind the arc in two of their three meet-ups — though, of course, none have resulted in wins.

Matchup to watch: Zach LaVine vs. the Bucks defense

LaVine is the engine behind most every competent offensive stretch of basketball for the Bulls this season, but he's struggled versus Milwaukee, averaging just 18.3 points and 32.2% shooting in their previous three meetings. This season, the Bulls own a 99.8 offensive rating with LaVine off the floor (per Cleaning the Glass) and are 3-10 in games in which he scores under 20 points. LaVine's 31 20-point games are leagues more than the rest of his teammates have combined (20), as are his 14 30-point outings (Lauri Markkanen has two of those).

LaVine is on a rare kind of tear of late, but the Bucks are multiple steps up from the quality of opponent he has been eviscerating. With the unique amount of length and athleticism they'll be able to throw at him (as a team, the Bucks own a 101.4 defensive rating, first in the NBA), the Bulls will have to be creative in finding ways to get LaVine going. If they can't, it will likely spell doom.

Trend to watch: A return to small-ball?

Against the Cavaliers, Boylen rode a new-look lineup of Kris Dunn, LaVine, Tomas Satoransky, Chandler Hutchison and Markkanen down the stretch to enormous success. Boylen has stated that he wants everyone on this team to be interchangeable relative a consistent style of play, but the Bulls deviated from their norm and switched a ton of pick-and-roll in the fourth quarter of that game, forcing 10 Cavaliers turnovers while holding them to 14 points and 26.7% shooting.

Yes, that was the Cavs and these are the Bucks. Still, LaVine and Dunn were both highly complimentary of that lineup’s speed and versatility after the game, and it’ll be interesting to see if Boylen goes back to the well with it — or at least starts switching more in pick-and-roll situations as a different look defensively.

Injury report


The Bulls are undermanned in the frontcourt, at present, so evading R. Lopez minutes off the bench is helpful.

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MLB Source: Cubs 'got fat and happy' after World Series, culture must change

MLB Source: Cubs 'got fat and happy' after World Series, culture must change

Fact: The 2019 Chicago Cubs wildly underachieved, finishing with an 84-78 record and finishing third in the NL’s Central division. Fact: The Chicago Cubs didn’t fail because they didn’t spend enough money. The Cubs were 2nd in all of baseball in payroll finishing behind only the Boston Red Sox. Both of those teams failed to make baseball’s postseason.
 
Fact: The Cubs front office has done a lousy job acquiring players since winning the 2016 World Series and they have done a poor job in developing quality, big league caliber pitching through their minor league system.

But, it is also a fact that former manager Joe Maddon allowed his comfort level with players interfere with how much he held them accountable and the result was a team that paid little attention to detail and spiraled out of contention. That's the mess Maddon left the Cubs.
 
The reasons the Cubs are struggling are not mutually exclusive. There is no singular reason why they have seen their window of contending for another World Series start to close. But, for people to blame everything on either a lack of spending by ownership or a lousy job by the front office misses a main factor in the Cubs decline.

Multiple sources told me the Cubs have had a lack of attention to detail over the past three years. One person in the organization said, “on the field we got fat and happy and that cannot be allowed to continue.”

When I asked the front office about this perception, Theo Epstein and other members of the Cubs' front office praised Maddon. They have not taken any shots at their World Series winning manager, a first class move when it would be easy to make him the scapegoat.

"Sometimes it's just time. We're going through some transitions in various levels of the organization and think change will be good for this group," Epstein said at the end of the 2019 season.
 
So what does a lack of accountability mean? How does that get fixed?

It starts with every player coming into camp in better physical condition than they ever have been before. The vibe at the recent Cubs Convention is that players are working exceptionally hard and it happened in concert with the player development, strength and conditioning staff that the Cubs have spent the past six months upgrading. Anthony Rizzo for one looked like he is in the best shape I remember him being in since he came to the Cubs.
 
Yes, the Epstein and Jed Hoyer led front office have to be much better in upgrading the roster. Epstein can walk into any room and set his three World Series championship rings on the table and lay out his vision for the future and every owner in baseball would sign up for his plan.

But there is no short cut to fixing what ails the current edition of the Cubs. They have very little payroll flexibility and until the service time grievance of Kris Bryant is settled the Cubs cannot engage in substantive trade talks for him because they don’t know if they are trading one year or two years of team control.
 
And ownership has made a philosophical decision to reset the team’s luxury tax, so there is no magic pot of money Epstein and Hoyer can dip into to fix the multiple holes currently plaguing the roster.

New manager David Ross has to find a way to get more out of the roster than Joe Maddon did and that starts with holding his players far more accountable than Maddon did. When I questioned Maddon at the recent Winter Meetings about about dealing with his critics (most notably me) he said: “I am so self confident in what I do and how I do it, just because guys like you are wrong, I’m not gonna respond to that stuff when it happens.”
 
I neglected to tell Maddon during that interview that while I may have been hard on him at times, my primary criticism was that he did not hold his players accountable far too often. Maddon says I was wrong.

The Cubs effectively fired him and now he's the manager of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Maybe I wasn’t wrong. It sure seems like his bosses felt the same way.

Thank you for 2016 Joe. It was the thrill of a lifetime for all of Cubs Nation. It was time for a change too and that’s okay to admit.

Now it’s on Epstein, Hoyer and Ross to fix the Cubs without a bottomless pit of money. I hope they’re up to the task.

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