Bulls

Word on the Street: OJ Mayo to the Bulls?

Word on the Street: OJ Mayo to the Bulls?

Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011
CSNChicago.com

OJ Mayo to the Bulls?

The Bulls completed a deal Tuesday evening, sending James Johnson to the Toronto Raptors for a first round draft pick; could it have been a precursor to a move for Grizzlies guard OJ Mayo? According to Mark Stein, the Bulls have not yet abandoned all hope of acquiring Mayo, who has seen his minutes cut in Memphis. (Chicago NowHoops In View)

Noah to start vs. Raptors

It's been 30 games since the Bulls last had their full starting lineup on the floor, but that streak will end on Wednesday against Toronto. Coach Tom Thibodeau said Tuesday that Noah will be in the starting lineup against the Raptors, making his first start since Dec. 15. The Bulls went an impressive 22-8 in Noah's absence thanks to the contributions of Kurt Thomas and Omer Asik.

"My thumb feels a lot better," Noah said Tuesday after practice. "I'm very excited. Its been a while. I think it will take a little while to get into game shape. But I promise to give it all I've got." (Chicago Breaking Sports)

Baker still holds bad memories of Chicago

Dusty Baker still has some less-than-fond memories of his time on the north side of Chicago, starting with a rather-disgusting story of what was left where he sat in the dugout. Baker also commented on how quick the turnover rate is for Cubs managers.

They turn over their managers pretty quick, Baker observed. They dont stick with anybody for a period of time, because everybodys counting Year 100, Year 101, Year 102. Theres no such thing as a four- or five-year plan. Its a one-year plan.

I was one of the top managers around, supposedly, and then all of a sudden I dont know (expletive), know what I mean? They (the critics) were always looking for something critical, ever since I went there (to Chicago). (FoxSports)

Williams uncomfortable with Sox payroll

Kenny Williams is not a fan of high salaries, a fact he has made perfectly clear over the past few days. He went further on Tuesday, saying that he is not comfortable with the Sox' 125 million 2011 payroll.

"Hell, no," Williams said. "I'm not comfortable with the payroll right now. We're out on a limb. But that's our choice. We made the choice in an effort to give our fans hope and give ourselves a chance to compete for a championship." (Chicago Breaking Sports)

Ex-Cub Grudzielanek retires

Journeyman second baseman, and former-Cub, Mark Grudzielanek has announced his retirement. Grudzielanek, 40, first broke into the major leagues in 1995 with the Montreal Expos, but Chicagoans will remember him best for helping the Cubs reach the NLCS in 2003. He retires with 2,040 career hits and a lifetime .289 batting average. (FoxSports)

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

usatsi_13855968.jpg
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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