Cubs

Starting Five: Bulls at Rockets

Starting Five: Bulls at Rockets

Tuesday, Nov. 16, 20102:29 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

1) Brad Miller acknowledged Houstons injury issues, as well as the teams reputation for role players stepping up even when short of bodies.

It is what it is," he said. "That situation is a little bit of whatever. People always say Houstons always blessed with injuries at some point and I had mine. They said welcome to the team when I turned my ankle. It just seems like the curse of this team, but guys keep stepping up.

Youve got Kyle Lowry at point instead of Aaron Brooks, that changes the team -- Im not saying good or bad, just changes the team. With Yao not out there, it changes the team. So weve just got to be ready to play, like, 20 different styles with all the different lineups that we throw out there.

2) Ishmael Smith, an undrafted free agent out of Wake Forest (where the rookie played with Bulls forward James Johnson) isnt putting up gaudy numbers, but has opened some eyes with his game-changing speed in the absence of Brooks, the former Most Improved Player.

It has been an adjustment, the difference from college to the NBA ... its been going well so far," Smith, who earned a spot on the team by virtue of a strong summer-league performance in Las Vegas, told CSNChicago.com after Tuesdays shootaround. "Im just trying to work hard and continue to work on the things I need to work on and get better at the things I guess Im pretty good at.

You never hope injuries happen to anybody and we all hope Aaron comes back with a speedy recovery because were going to need him, but Im just trying to hold the fort, do it whatever it takes to get wins while Im out there and not do anything too crazy.

3) Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau is regarded as a key to Yao Mings early NBA development, as he spent countless hours with the center working on his game. Therefore, he better than anybody understands how the Rockets attack changes with the All-Star out of the lineup.

Yao has missed -- unfortunately for him and their team -- games, so I think they have gotten used to playing without him. I think the hardest thing for them at the start is readjusting, where Yao was only playing half the game because they were playing two different styles, said Thibodeau before Tuesdays shootaround. When you have a primary low-post scorer like Yao, it does kind of change the way you play. So now their bigs are up higher -- more in the high-post area -- so it sets up their cutting game, and theyre a great cutting team. Youve got to concentrate on your body position because the low blocks, at times, are not going to be occupied. If you dont have good body position, theyre going to get back cuts and layups, and you cant allow that.

4) With a seven-game road trip and eight newcomers on the team, the Bulls are using their off time spent together as an opportunity to bond.

People have video-game systems. I gave Taj my traveling Xbox. Its like a TV and an Xbox in a suitcase, so we could be playing that -- playing Call of Duty, whatever -- but somehow weve got to get closer, said Derrick Rose after Tuesdays shootaround.

Its going to be good," added Luol Deng. "At the end of the two weeks, well get tired of each other, but its really good for the team, spending a lot of time together.

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

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Cubs still searching for answers for Tyler Chatwood's puzzling control issues

Cubs still searching for answers for Tyler Chatwood's puzzling control issues

Tyler Chatwood looked to be turning the corner with his control issues, but alas, he and the Cubs aren't so lucky.

After walking only two batters in a solid start in Atlanta last week, Chatwood had taken a big step in the right direction. It was, after all, only the third time he'd walked fewer than 5 batters in an outing this season.

Those control woes reared their ugly heads once again Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in a 10-1 loss to the Indians. Chatwood walked 6 batters and managed to net only 8 outs, getting hammered for 4 runs in the third inning.

"Ugh, it was tough," Maddon said. "The stuff was so good, we just couldn't get a strike."

"It's definitely frustrating," Chatwood said, "because one at-bat, I'll feel really good and the next one, I feel like I'm fighting myself.

"Last time [out], I was able to stay in the rhythm. Tonight, I was kinda battling, rushing rather than staying back, so it's just keeping that feeling and maintaining that."

His season ERA is only 3.74, which looks good until you consider his WHIP is 1.62 and he's walked 40 batters in 45.2 innings with only 41 strikeouts in the process. He now leads baseball in walks per 9 innings.

Chatwood said earlier this month in St. Louis that he's figured out what has led to the startling lack of control and while he didn't elaborate on the mechanical issue, he was working hard at correcting the problem in bullpens.

He's also used the term "fighting myself" at least a dozen times this month alone and it's become a common refrain for his explanation of what's going on. 

"He's got a busy delivery when he throws the baseball," Maddon said. "He's kinda busy what he does with his hands. It's not like he can just change it easily because that's how his arm works, how his body works.

"Sometimes, like you see him the other day, everything's on time and how good it can be and when it's out of sorts a bit, then all of the sudden it becomes shotgun. Ah man, you can see the movement [on his pitches] from the side, how good it is. 

"We gotta harness it somehow. I spoke to him briefly on the bench; I reassured him it's gonna be fine, it's gonna be really good by the end of the year. We gotta figure it out and he knows that. But man, that's good stuff. We just gotta get it in the zone."

Chatwood also admitted part of the problem is mental in that he's trying to force pitches rather than trusting his stuff. He's also gotten into the bad habit of drifting down the mound, though he's not sure when or where he picked up that hitch in his delivery.

Chatwood and Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey are working on slowing his delivery down to get his arm in the same spot on a more consistent basis.

When the Cubs signed Chatwood over the winter, it was easy to see why.

He just turned 28 in December, his peripherals and a move from hitter-friendly Coors Field foretold a potential leap in performance and his stuff is nasty. Plus, he signed a three-year deal at a relative bargain of $38 million.

Once the Cubs signed Yu Darvish in spring training, you could make the case that Chatwood could be among the best No. 5 starters in baseball.

Nine starts later, the honeymoon period is well over with Chatwood, as he threw only 30 of his 74 pitches for strikes Tuesday night and sent catcher Willson Contreras sailing all around home plate for pitches way out of the zone.

Still, it's clear to see there is some intriguing talent there and the season there is roughly 70 percent of the season remaining before the Cubs make what they hope is another run at the World Series.

"I have a lot of faith," Maddon said. "I know we're gonna reap the rewards, the benefits as he figures this thing out."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bulls use Lauri Markkanen as centerpiece of a trade to bring in a superstar?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bulls use Lauri Markkanen as centerpiece of a trade to bring in a superstar?

On this episode of SportsTalk Live, Hub Arkush (670 The Score/Pro Football Weekly), Danny Parkins (670 The Score) and Lauren Comitor (The Athletic) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Manny Machado Mania continues in Chicago. Do the Cubs even need to trade for him to win the World Series this year?

Ricky Renteria has to bench another player for not hustling. Is this becoming a problem on the South Side?

Plus, Lauri Markkanen is named to the All-Rookie team. Could he be the centerpiece of a trade if the Bulls want to acquire a superstar or move up in the draft? 

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: