Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lance Briggs Inc. named NFC Defensive Player of the Week

When you have injuries mounting up at one position (Urlacher, Tinoisamoa, Hillenmayer) it's great to see one of your stars step up to the limelight and have a great game. That's what Briggs did on Sunday. He was all over the field and played like the stud Pro-Bowler that he is.

Huddle Up - Chicago Tribune
Bears linebacker Lance Briggs, who had a key interception and a sack in the 25-19 win over the Seahawks, was named the NFC's defensive player of the week.

Briggs, who also had eight tackles in the game, leads the Bears with 23 tackles and has taken ownership of the defense with Brian Urlacher out for the season following wrist surgery. Briggs was named a co-captain along with Adewale Ogunleye after Urlacher was placed on injured reserve.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bulls Links

Bulls media day notes -
The Chicago Bulls held their Media Today at the Berto Center, their practice facility in Deerfield, Illinois, and these are the most noteworthy snippets of the afternoon:

Gar & Vinny Address the Ben Gordon Loss

First order of business—how does the Bulls organization replace the 20+ points per game they lost by letting Ben Gordon walk this past season? Vinny Del Negro echoed what I think many other people suspected by suggesting it will have to be the result of everyone stepping up their game.

MJ college pics from SI

After 2 season of injuries Luol Deng is ready -
The basketball court was only one source of Luol Deng's angst. In the ever-important court of public opinion, Deng is lucky he wasn't sentenced to hang.

As a professional athlete, the Chicago Bulls forward had it all going against him. First, he turned down a contract with the kind of numbers that make most normal people choke on their cornflakes ($57.5 million, five years). Then, he signed an even bigger deal ($71 million, six years), but not before his play dipped (strain of negotiations). It was all compounded by injuries, and the team bottomed out at 33-49.

When Deng did not bounce back at the start of last season, then got hurt again -- missing 11 games with hamstring and ankle problems and sitting out the final 22 games, plus the playoffs, with what the team termed "mild inflammation" while he was calling it a "tibial stress fracture" -- well, let's just say Deng wasn't having his dinner check picked up by adoring fans on a regular basis.

The fact that Deng happens to be one of the most upstanding and charitable-minded young athletes in all of sports mattered very little compared with his failure to materialize into the next big thing.

That's what we were calling him after 2006-07, when the Bulls embarrassed the Miami Heat and pushed the Central Division champion Detroit Pistons to six games.

Deng was christened a future All-Star, and it was not unreasonable.

Bench strength -
While sifting through the incredible amount of data over at, I came across the NBA Team Starter/Reserve stats page for the 2008-09 season. Check this out:

Last season, the Bulls bench ranked 13th in points per 100 possessions (106.3), 10th in rebounds per game (14.3), ninth in points per game (31.0), tied for 7th in assists per game (6.9), tied for fourth in steals per game (2.7), and an amazing third in the league (behind Boston and Utah and ahead of the Lakers and Cleveland) in net points (+462). That’s some pretty impressive bench production! And note that the four teams around them in net points were a combined 241-87…that’s a winning percentage of 73 percent. So bench-wise, the Bulls were in elite company in 2008-09.

Rose took SAT -
For the second straight day, Derrick Rose was asked about the allegation that someone took the SAT exam for him during his senior year of high school. Again, Rose denied any wrong doing and said he took the exam himself.

"I'm not worried about that," he said. "Right now, I'm worried about the season. I just want to put that behind me."

Bulls and VDN growing together
Vinny Del Negro surveyed the Berto Center court between Saturday's first day of double practices, took a deep breath and smiled.

"No question this morning's practice was by far the best practice we've had this year so far," the Bulls coach deadpanned.

Rim shots aside, Del Negro knows the need for the Bulls' development isn't merely limited to players. Like Derrick Rose, Del Negro no longer is a rookie, and the pressure is on for both individuals to take the next step.

"I need to improve, and I will improve," Del Negro said. "I made a lot of very smart decisions last year and some I wish I could redo. But it's just part of the growing process as a coach."

Del Negro's candor is a refreshing contrast to last season, when he refused to second-guess himself for not having timeouts at the end of playoff games or repeatedly using single coverage on a hot Paul Pierce.

Del Negro is entering the second year of a three-year contract with expectations the Bulls must build on last season's first-round playoff loss to the Celtics.

"My expectations personally are always very high," he said. "That's just the way I'm built. Having an understanding of the speed of the game as a coach, the managing of people as a coach, the managing of time during practice as a coach ... there are so many things thrown at you, especially when you haven't done it before. There's definitely more of a comfort level for me."

Defense is top priority - Obviously there are a lot of priorities to address as camp begins, but would you say that defense is the top priority?

Forman: “It really is. We have got to have a defensive mentality about how we play, and that’s got to start on the first day, Saturday, when we open up camp. It’s our goal to have a defensive base as to how we play on that end of the floor. That’s got to be from the first man to the thirteenth man on the team. With that comes maintaining our energy level, not only throughout a game, but throughout the season. Whether it is in practice or in games, when we approach things, the players are going to be held accountable to that defensive mentality. It’s a huge point of emphasis as we start the season.”

5 Bulls questions -
3. How much better can Rose be?

Even some closest to Rose believe he exceeded expectations in winning Rookie of the Year honors last season. That's why it shouldn't be a surprise if Rose takes an even bigger jump in improvement from Year 1 to Year 2.

Rose has worked out religiously, mostly in Los Angeles with trainer Rob McClanaghan, and has added muscle in his upper torso. He looked focused, composed and more outgoing during an appearance at his local basketball camp in August.

Rose has told associates he hopes to be more assertive at the defensive end and with his leadership this season.

Rose is the new clutch option -
Rose's life is basketball. He socializes like any 20-year-old millionaire, but his main focus is improving his game. It's plainly obvious to see how much the sport means to him, and watching him spin a basketball on his right finger while holding a conversation, I remembered how entertaining he is on the court.

Rose is a legitimate NBA star, especially after wowing the league in the Bulls' thrilling seven-game series loss to the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs. Rose doesn't think too highly of his performance, not publicly at least.

"It went well," he said, "but if I had to grade it, it would be a C. To tell you the truth, that's how hard I judge myself. I want to win everything. No matter how hard it is, I want to win."

Salmons more versatile than BG -
Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro is going to miss Ben Gordon, but he's content with John Salmons.

"[Salmons] gives you a little more versatility," Del Negro told the Chicago Tribune. "We'll have to wait and see how all that pans out, but you like that length.

"One of the areas we struggled was defensive rebounding, so with more size at the two [shooting guard] and with Luol (Deng) back healthy and then with a couple of rookies that have some length ... it gives us some more options and versatility."

Opposing two-guards won't be able to post up against Chicago often anymore, as Salmons provides a bigger obstacle.

"The only difference is really on defense," Salmons said of moving from small forward to shooting guard. "Guarding the two and the three, sometimes, is going against two totally different players. Threes are more post-up wings, one-on-one players. A lot of twos run off screens for the most part.

Rose soaks up Kobe Karma
The cameras were rolling. The good-natured trash talk was flying. And the video game commercial was nearing completion earlier this month in Los Angeles.

Derrick Rose says he didn't want the experience to end.

Humble to a fault, Rose still doesn't picture himself worthy of rubbing elbows with the game's elite. So the second-year Bulls guard had an ulterior motive to sharing a set with Kobe Bryant.

"When you're around people like that, of course you can learn a lot," Rose said Sunday following practice. "How they manage themselves, how they eat, how they treat people, how they take care of their business, how hard they work, how they act all day.

"If Kobe's not the most competitive person in the league, I'd like to see the person who works harder. That's Kobe. He wants to win everything. I want to win everything. I guess it's something that's just born in you."

Running with The Bulls
An NBA media day event can quickly turn your day into a non-productive one if you go in without a plan. Covering the Chicago Bulls annual media day last Friday at the team’s practice facility, the Sheri L. Berto center in suburban Deerfield, IL, my plan was simple. While some reporters and members of various media outlets looked for stories regarding the departure of Ben Gordon, the health of Luol Deng and John Salmons, Tyrus Thomas’ contract situation, or if Derrick Rose actually took hJoakim Noahis SAT test or not, the only story I was after was a basketball one.

I wanted to know and see for myself how Rose had grown from last season going into this one? On a team who just two months earlier lost its leading scorer to the archrival Detroit Pistons, as a second year player, with a second year head coach on a still relatively young team, success or failure of the Bulls this season rests squarely on his 20-year-old shoulders now, more than it ever did. And I wanted to know how he was going to handle the pressure.

With the balance of power in the NBA shifting from west to east and considering that the Bulls made no significant moves to improve their team during the offseason, it’s going to take a lot for them to compete and remain relevant in the Eastern Conference. The days of sneaking up and surprising teams like they did last season are long gone. But if looks mean anything, then teams going up against this year’s squad had better be ready for a fight. The Eastern Conference has always been known as the more physical of the two and the Bulls look ready to live up to the nature of the east.

Maybe the dumbest/worst link I've ever posted ...
Kobe catching (or passing) MJ? -
Let me start by saying how privileged I was to watch Michael Jordan play his entire career, I saw amazing moments. As a Knicks fan, he broke our hearts millions of times. Competing against those Ewing-led frontlines was no easy task.

So when he won, he definitely earned it. New York fans hated him because he wasn't a Knick, but we still respected, admired, and were in awe of him.

I saw amazing moves, both graceful and smooth. I saw clutch shots, I saw Mike put it all on the line in the biggest moments. He was so good I could just say Mike and people know exactly who I'm talking about.

Whether they were a sports fan or not. What set Mike apart from the others was his killer instinct. He was an assassin on the court. he looked to embarrass and annihilate his opponents, especially when it really counted.

In the beginning he had the league in awe because he was an innovator. His acrobatic moves, crazy shots and dunks hypnotized us into amazement. He scored on opponents with ridiculous ease. Midway through his career, he was labeled as the best player in the league, and the best to come along in years.

That was just off of his talent alone. He wasn't in the discussion of being the best player ever until he was able to trust his teammates, get his whole team involved, and win games.

I remember one game in particular, where my respect for him really hit an all time high. It was Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, and he had the flu or a fever or something. I've heard all of that before, but for once you could see by the look of him he was really sick.

You saw the fatigue in his face. When he went to the bench he was visibly exhausted, and not from running up and down the court. He gutted it out and carried that team to a series clinching win. That pretty much sums up the will of Michael Jordan

James Johnson fighting for minutes -
Chicago Bulls rookie James Johnson was drafted for his versatility and aggressiveness, but he said he knows he has a lot of "fighting" to do to earn some minutes this upcoming season.

"I've been working on my jump shot a lot try to make it more consistent. It's been working out for me. I've been playing well and practicing well as long as I can keep up and help teammates out; that's all that matters," Johnson said.

And that included a little hazing by bringing the donuts.

"It's just fun. It's part of the game, part of being a rookie; but it's been nothing but love so far. Just a little bit of breakfast here and there, some Dunkin Donuts, Panera bread. It's all good," James said.

Asked if showing them his black belt in martial arts would end the hazing, Johnson said, "They know about it but I don't think they care," Johnson said.

Teammate Joakim Noah said, "I haven't' seen any of his martial arts skills and I hope I don't."

Monday, September 28, 2009

NBA Pre- Pre-Season Playoffs & Awards Predictions

With October just around the corner, the NBA is about to begin another pre-season. I could not be more excited (unless we actually had real NBA referees for pre-season ... then I would be slightly more excited). Either way, I am glad D-Rose, TT and Joa-Noah will be back in my life on a more consistent bases.

The greatest sport on earth begins the 2009-10 season in just a few weeks. Here are my predictions for The Association (*since pre-season is just getting under-way, I reserve the right to change these picks after I have seen some of these teams in action) ...

Western Conference Playoffs:

1. Lakers
2. Spurs
3. Blazers
4. Hornets
5. Nuggets
6. Mavs
7. Jazz
8. Thunder

Just miss playoffs: Clippers, Rockets, Suns

The Lakers basically swapping Artest for Ariza hurts them, but the Kobe/Pau combo should be enough to take them back to the #1 seed in the West. Jefferson and a healthy Manu really help the Spurs. The Blazers are ready to make a jump if B-Roy continues to produce and they can get anything out of Oden. The Hornets-Nuggets-Mavs-Jazz seem fairly interchangeable at this point, though I have to say Matrix makes the Mavs very interesting. I am going out on a limb with both the OKC Thunder in the playoffs and the Clippers just missing. It could be the other way around, but I love OKC (especially KD, as you will soon see). The Clippers have a good young core (Gordon and Griffin) and if the Mad Baron is healthy, they could compete or even sneak in.

Eastern Conference Playoffs:

1. Cavs
2. Magic
3. Celtics
4. Hawks
5. Wizards
6. Bulls
7. 76ers
8. Heat

Just miss playoffs: Pistons, Raps

Cavs should have a great regular season, but I predict we will Witness another choke in the playoffs. Not convinced the Magic will be the 2 seed because I don't think they create the same matchup problems with VC as they did with Hedo ... but who else can I put there? I don't think KG is healthy (plus I hate (HATE!) the Celtics!!) Hawks and Wizards are somewhat of a guess and I really wanted to peg the Bulls a bit higher, but the East has a bunch of really good teams ... and we are still coached by VDN. I could see the Hawks and Wizards slipping and the Bulls fighting for home-court in the first round. I could also see the Heat struggling and the Pistons in the playoffs, but haven't seen their new core together yet.

Conference Finals:

West: Lakers over Spurs

East: Magic over Hawks

No idea how the East will shake down in the playoffs, but I don't see both of last year's Finals teams making it back. I'll make that the pick for now, but I think that my pick will change after I see the pre-season.

NBA Champ:


Artest put this on his shoulders, but I think it's Kobe and Pau leading the way back to the title.


League leaders:

PPG: Kevin Durant (33.2)
I think this is a breakout year for KD - he's going to show everyone just what a special scorer he is. And he's going to do it in a humble, lovable manner! (Take that Lebron!)

APG: Chris Paul (12.1)
Best PG in the NBA.

RPG: Dwight Howard (12.9)
Nothing changes from last year.

BPG: Dwight Howard (2.75)
See previous comment.


ROY: Johnny Flynn
I have him edging out Blake Griffin because he will have the ball in his hands a lot, and Minny might not be terrible with their young core. Putting up points on a decent team usually does the trick, so it's either Flynn or Griffin.

6th man: AI
Hard to pick this award at this point.

Most improved: Devin Harris
Has to shoulder a lot more of the offensive load with VC gone, so his numbers will jump.

DPOY: Dwight Howard
Blocks and rebounds should do it again, especially if the Magic are a dominant defensive team. Someone like D-Wade could sneak in with a lot of blocks and steals, but Superman did enough last year, so this award will remain his for another season.

MVP: Kevin Durant
That's right I said it. I think OKC sneaks into the playoffs behind Durantula's breakout season and he wins his first MVP award in the feel-good story of the year.


Marc Stein's Pre-season power rankings -
13 (11) Bulls 41-41
With D-Rose no longer a rook, Deng back from injury, and Brad Miller and Salmons in training camp, Chicago will weather Ben Gordon's departure. Especially since the Bulls are a likely 2010 free-agent player, too.

Week 3 Grades

***Going to try and provide my opinions on each area of the Bears team after each week from now are my grades for Week 3 in Seattle.***

The Bears improved to 2-1 with a nice 25-19 road win against the Seahawks. Even though Seattle was very banged up coming into this week, Seattle is never an easy place to play. In fact the Bears hadn’t won in Seattle since the 70s. Any player will tell you they’ll take a road win any way they can take it. So, even though the game wasn’t the prettiest victory, it’s a win and the Bears are now 2-1 going into week 4 like I had predicted they would be.

Quarterback (Grade: A)

Second week in a row Jay Cutler was given the ball with Bears down in the 4th quarter. Second week in a row Jay Cutler comes through with the game winning drive. This is the quarterback we traded for and re-emphasizes how much week 1 was an aberration. It wasn’t a flawless game for Jay…the interception was a poorly thrown ball and killed a positive drive at a point in the game where the Bears were fighting uphill against an energized Seahawks team and a rowdy crowd. Cutler was also credited with 3 fumbles (1 lost)…but those aren’t really on him. Two were caused by poor blocking and one was a botched center exchange.

Cutler was, besides the pick, very efficient (21-27) and threw 3 touchdown passes including the eventual game winning throw. On that play to Hester, Cutler read the blitz and knew he’d have Hester 1 on 1 on the slant and Hester did the rest. As a fan, it’s so strange to have the Bears losing in the 4th (on the road no less) and be more than 50% confident that our QB can get it done. Cutler brings that confidence and it’s a breath of fresh air.

Random stat: with a 126.4 passer rating, Cutler posted the highest rating by an opponent in the
history of Qwest Field

Final stats: 126.4 passer rating, 21-27, 247 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT, 3 fumbles (1 lost)

Running Backs (Grade: C)

We’ve heard it like a broken record from Lovie Smith: “We are a running team; we like to get off the bus running”. Apparently that bus has been in the shop so far this season as the Bears once again had trouble getting the running game going…and against a team that was banged up and had just let up 200+ rushing yards against the 49ers, a team with a similar “run-first” mantra. You wonder how much of this is to be blamed on the O-Line and how much is to be blamed on the running backs. But for a team who was so successful against defenses stacked against the run last year to be so ineffective thus far when opponents actually have a passing attack to worry about, it’s been a puzzling struggle. Forte ran for 66 yards before reportedly leaving the game with a knee injury, not the production anyone hoped for, but he was also able to contribute to the passing game (6 catches, 40 yards). Adrian Peterson and Garret Wolfe got limited carries, including a puzzling third down run to Wolfe who isn’t exactly your best option in a third down running situation. Hopefully next week against the Lions the running game can really get going more effectively.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends (Grade: B)

Pros: The WRs and TEs have really begun to sync up with Cutler since week 1. I don’t recall any significant drops this week which is a major improvement from weeks 1 & 2. Earl Bennett is fast becoming Cutler’s preferred option (4 catches, 80 yards) as they continue their Vanderbilt partnership in Chicago. Greg Olsen showed a glimpse of why some football pundits predicted a pro bowl season from him (5 catches, 44 yards, 1 TD). It seems this receiving corps, while still not elite, may be able to get the job done with Cutler calling the shots.

Cons: Blocking. Greg Olsen got worked over on the lost fumble after Cutler audibled for max protection seeing a blitz coming. In addition, on a third and short running play in the second half, Kellen Davis blew his assignment and let a Seahawks DL into the backfield with minimal resistance. With a heavy dose of blitz packages becoming the fashionable defense in this league of copycat coaching (a la the Tampa 2 of the early 2000s and last year’s Wildcat offense), our TEs are going to need to be able to help our offensive line to provide Cutler with some protection.

Offensive Line (Grade: C)

So far the Bears offensive line seems to be doing just enough to give Cutler a chance to win some games. The Seahawks registered 2 sacks and 4 QB hits on the day (1 of those sacks coming on the aforementioned play where Olsen got owned by Curry). The running game racked up 85 yards on a pedestrian 3 YPC. This just isn’t acceptable for a team who ran so well last year against 8 man fronts. The only reason the line salvages a C is because they were able to pass protect well enough for Cutler to have a very efficient and successful day through the air. He was not flushed from the pocket often (although it should be noted he was under significant heat on the interception). Chris Williams got beat for one of the fumbles but had the presence of mind to recover his own blunder. Three false starts on the day certainly aren’t good, but for a stadium that averages 2.5 per game it’s not unexpected.

Still not sure if Omiyale should be starting ahead of Beekman at left guard (if they made the same $$$ would this be the case? I doubt it). I probably won’t be giving the line a higher grade than a C until they show me some run blocking.

Defensive Line (Grade: B)

Three sacks and three QB hits on a mobile quarterback like Seneca Wallace is a fairly successful outing. Mark Anderson, while unable to register a hit on the play, pressured Wallace into throwing the important, momentum shifting interception to Briggs in the third quarter. I still haven’t seen much from Tommie Harris and you have to wonder how healthy he truly is. The Seahawks ability to run the ball and convert on third downs (7 for 17 including a few third and longs) doesn’t fall solely on the D-Line but they need to be able to hit their gaps and cut off running lanes better than they did on Sunday as well as get pressure on the QB in long passing situations instead of giving opposing WRs time to find the holes in our secondary.

Linebackers (C+)

All things considered, our linebackers have been playing well. Two of our three starters were out, and then Hillenmayer injured his ribs during the Seattle game. The group of Roach, Williams and Briggs played OK, but not well enough. Julius Jones ran for 98 yards and the Seattle running backs and tight ends racked up 80 receiving yards on the day, including Jones’ first quarter touchdown reception that featured some of the poorest tackling I’ve seen since West Canaan’s improbable run to the 1999 district championship.

On the bright side, Lance Briggs Inc. did his thing (7 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) and was flying all over the field Sunday showing his Pro Bowl pedigree. Tinoisamoa ran laps before the game and should be ready to go next week vs. the Lions, hopefully the run defense will see an improvement with his addition.

Secondary (C)

The secondary won the war of words with TJ Houshmanzadeh by limiting him to 4 catches for 35 yards with a huge fumble caused by Peanut. This is the best game they’ve played all season in my opinion overall, but there is still room for improvement. Afalava made a great defensive pass deflection to end a Seattle drive and Bowman played well (team high 9 tackles, one pass deflection). However, if it weren’t for Wallace’s lack of passing touch, John Carlson would have walked untouched into the end zone for a touchdown with Tillman trailing him by 2-3 steps. Hasselbeck would have made that pass…so would just about every other starter in the league (maybe even Orton).

I might have given the unit a B if it weren’t for Tillman’s non-tackle on Julius Jones’ touchdown catch. I know Lovie Smith preaches turnovers and stripping the ball…but generally you wrap the ball carrier up and the second defender tries for the strip. If I recall, Manning made the same bonehead mistake on an Adrian Peterson TD run last season. Tillman’s bullfighter impression trying to strip the ball from Jones was just pathetic.

Special Teams (Grade:C)

Not much to say, the kick coverage could have been better. Gould missed a field goal. Maynard shanked a punt badly early in the game when the Bears couldn’t afford to give up field position. Not what is generally expected from Dave Toub’s unit. Mare did miss two field goals, but not sure if the special teams D had much to do with them.

The bright spot was Johnny Knox’s kick return ability. This kid really has big play ability and averaged 33.5 yards per return on the day.

Coaching (B-)

Lovie won a challenge!! I am so used to writing off a timeout every time the red flag emerges from Lovie’s pocket I have to admit this shocked me…especially when it really was a coin flip challenge. I don’t think any one of us could claim that they saw definitive evidence in those replays. But I’ll take it. I also liked Lovie's decision to keep bringing the heat on Wallace even though he is a mobile QB. I would get sick watching the Bears drop into Cover 2 for long stretches of games last year only to be picked apart by the passing game.

I hate Ron Turner. Always have. And while, overall, he has been doing fairly well…his play calling in key situations remains puzzling to me. Down 13-0 in the second quarter he was sticking to his guns and running on 3rd down situations when the running game was clearly stalled. I’m all for getting the running game going…but down 2 scores and with Cutler at QB and 0 momentum, you have to get the ball in the air. In the second half, Garret Wolfe’s number was called on a key 3rd down conversion and a combination of poor blocking, poor personnel selection and poor play calling = a punt to Seattle in a close game. He has to get better.

Bears Grind Out Win Over Seahawks

Last week DC wondered "Does the QB make the WRs or vice versa?" and the question continues as the WRs make Cutler look good -
If Jerry Angelo is writing that thesis on his belief that the quarterback makes the wide receiver in the NFL, a theory Angelo brought Jay Cutler to Chicago to prove, then some minor edits are recommended.

Everybody expected Cutler to make the Bears' wide receivers better. But a week after Johnny Knox provided the fourth-quarter heroics, a second straight victory resulted from a Bears wide receiver making Cutler look pretty good.

Next thing you know, the TV show "MythBusters" will start staffing Bears games.

This time it was Devin Hester leaping high to catch a quick slant from Cutler and running away from two Seahawks defensive backs for a 36-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter that clinched the Bears' 25-19 win at Qwest Field.

It wasn't the best of throws from Cutler. But Hester never has made a catch any better, though his three other receptions Sunday weren't exactly routine.

"It's a team thing, and if Jay does his part, we're going to come out successful," Hester said.

Postgame analysis -
Lovie Smith put it best: "Every win that I've ever been a part of is pretty."

Smith's assessment is spot-on. Nobody would call the 25-19 win over the Seahawks a masterpiece, but it does show that even when they're not playing their best football, the Bears are still capable of winning games.

"This says a lot about our team," Smith said. "When you're down and things are going against you, they kept fighting. That's what good teams do."

"It's tough; Seattle is a good team," Devin Hester said. "We just showed today that we're capable of playing all four quarters. Coming out of Pittsburgh, and going to play in this tough environment and coming out with a win, that was pretty big for us today."

Many people still refuse to label Hester a true No. 1 wide receiver, but he definitely looked like one late in the fourth quarter, hauling in what proved to be a game-winning 36-yard touchdown pass.

"It was basically a slant call," Hester said. "We knew that we could get them on a quick slant, so we took advantage of it. Jay [Cutler] threw a great ball, the offensive line held up and we got it into the end zone."

Hillenmeyer injured -
The dominoes behind star linebacker Brian Urlacher kept falling. Yet fill-in Nick Roach and the Bears' defense stood tall when they had to.

Chicago finished Sunday's 25-19 victory over the Seattle Seahawks down to its third middle linebacker. Hunter Hillenmeyer got hurt two weeks after the Bears lost Urlacher, their six-time Pro Bowl selection and defensive leader, to a season-ending wrist injury.

Hillenmeyer, a seventh-year veteran, left in the third quarter with what Bears coach Lovie Smith said was a rib injury. That left Roach, a third-year veteran from Northwestern who replaced injured outside linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa earlier this month, to move inside to the middle spot in Chicago's defense.

Roach earned rave reviews from teammates and coaches after he chased Seattle's Seneca Wallace across the end zone and forced a wild, off-balance throw that Lance Briggs intercepted in the third quarter to set up a field goal.

2 straight dramatic wins -
Call it living dangerously if you must, but for the second straight week the Bears managed to win a game in the same dramatic fashion that they lost close contests a year ago.

That's life in the NFL, where victories usually come down to a few plays here and there. Thinned out even more by injuries, but not nearly as depleted as the Seahawks, the Bears prevailed 25-19 Sunday at raucous Qwest Field.

With Seattle minus nine projected starters, the Bears took a bigger punch than they probably expected, falling behind 13-0 early in the second quarter. But as has been the case under Lovie Smith, it's hard to put this group away.

The Bears didn't play particularly well, even as they climbed back into the game. But just as they rebounded against the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers a week ago, they rallied to take control of the game in the second half and win on a Jay Cutler-led drive.

''I pride myself in that,'' Cutler said after the Bears' first victory in Seattle in 33 seasons. ''I want the ball in those situations, and I think the offense is starting to get a feel for it. The fourth quarter is where we've got to play our best, and I think we are right now.''


Friday, September 25, 2009

Bears v. Seahawks Preview

Before the season, all 3 BBS writers picked a blowout Bears win this week -
-3- Sept. 27 at Seattle, 3:05 p.m., Fox-32

2j – Can you name 5 guys on the Seahawks? Me neither. This should be an easy win for the Bears. Bears 34, Seahawks 10

Kmart –I really can’t give any better analysis than Jim on this one. Hasselback, Houshmandzadeh… I’m out. Bears 35, Seahawks -12… yes that’s a negative

DC – The Seahawks are actually getting a little bit of hype this year. It reminds me of how the Cardinals were the sleeper for the past 7 years or so. Good thing for the Bears is that it took 7 years for the hype to be real. Hasselback vs. Cutler? Easy one here. Bears 31, Seahawks 10

Simmons is taking the Bears, but more because of Seneca Wallace than Jay Cutler -
Bears (-2) over SEAHAWKS
I received so many "Jay Cutler is the next Jeff George" e-mails these past three weeks that I'm going to have to run one just to stop the influx (from Tony in St. Louis): "Isn't Cutler the Jeff George of this era? He has it all: rocket arm, surly disposition, can turn a fan base against him at the drop of a hat. Will he impress one front office after another with his physical skills only to ultimately disappoint and move on after two years? Prediction: In 2022, a wheelchair-bound Al Davis signs balding, 39-year-old Jay Cutler to a two-year, $66 million contract with the Raiders. Then cuts him five days later."

In other news, we need to come up with a phrase to describe those Awkward White Guy Plays like the one in which Matt Hasselbeck got injured last week. If you didn't see it, he scrambled out of the pocket, thought he might be able to scramble into the end zone, realized he couldn't -- uh-oh, Awkward White Guy Play coming up! -- then ended up lurching forward with a dive, only he looked like a wrapped-up corpse that was being tossed into the ocean by gangsters. THUD! So what do we call these moments? Does "Awkward White Guy Play" cover it? Could we did deeper with something like "Vanilla Pudding Play"? Or just a two-word thing like "Caucasianistically Challenged"? Or maybe just "Went honky on us"? I'd like to figure this out. In a related story, Hasselbeck cracked a rib and ushered in a few weeks of the Seneca Wallace Temp QB Era, or as it's better-known, "Ka-Ching."

In Chicago, He Who Dealt It Is Also Fined For It

The issuance of flatus during film sessions is enough of a disruptive force for the Bears that any player who lets one loose is slapped with a $20 fine.

Now, before you go thinking that Lovie Smith has become a taskmaster on par with Eric Mangini, who, if you'll recall, fined a player four figures for not paying for a $3 water bottle during the preseason, this is a matter of self-policing by Bears players.

At least that's what Bears defensive tackle Anthony Adams has divulged in a post for a Chicago Tribune blog.

Adams has also spotlighted a serial worst offender in defensive end Mark Anderson, whose eruptions could possibly clear out all of Soldier Field.

Housh calls out Bears D -
T.J. Houshmandzadeh was the biggest free agent wide receiver on the market this offseason, but despite all the Bears uncertainty at the position, Jerry Angelo decided to take a pass.

"Ah man, the Bears ain't holler at me," the receiver said Wednesday on a conference call with Chicago media. "Jerry Angelo probably didn't think I could play, so I'm going to show him Sunday."

"I didn't hear from Chicago, I don't think my agent did, I know I didn't," said Houshmandzadeh. "It is what it is, they got good receivers there.

"Devin Hester is going to develop into a pretty good receiver. He has great quickness, great lateral movement, great speed, great hand-eye coordination. So, he should be able to develop into a pretty good receiver, if he has the coaching and they open up the pass game for him."

It's not like Houshmandzadeh is losing sleep over not coming to Chicago -- especially since he received a 5-year, $40 million dollar contract from Seattle.

Bears refuse war of words with Housh
Technically speaking, Seahawks receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh has bragging rights over Bears linebacker Lance Briggs.

Back in 2000, when Briggs was in his second year at Arizona and Houshmandzadeh was in his one and only year at Oregon State, Houshmandzadeh's Beavers pummeled Briggs' Wildcats 33-9.

"I've been playing against T.J since college, so I know what type of competitor he is," Briggs said Thursday. "The guy can play."

He can run his mouth too.

Houshmandzadeh's brash comments that he will best the Bears' defensive backs 95 percent of the time Sunday and show up general manager Jerry Angelo for not signing him in free agency echoed Thursday throughout Halas Hall.

"Sounds like a bitter guy," Briggs said. "Maybe he wanted to play in Chicago. If he's going to show what he's going to do on Sunday, tell you what, so are we. So am I."

Bears secondary -
Bears cornerback Charles Tillman bristled at the suggestion that the Pittsburgh Steelers seemed to be targeting him Sunday, even though his position partner, Zackary Bowman, admitted he wasn't getting tested on the right side.

''I did notice, like everyone else did, that they were going at the left side a lot,'' Bowman said. ''I was just kind of on alert on the right side. Just being ready, for at any time they could come at me.''

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Friday (Derrick Rose) Links

Fantasy predictions -
John Salmons will be a better fantasy player than Derrick Rose: Clearly Rose is the better and more dynamic player however this is for fantasy purposes.

Player A: 18.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.9 threes,1 steal, 47% from field, 84% from foul line

Player B: 16.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 0.2 threes, .8 steals, 47% from field, 78% from foul line

Player A is John Salmons. He came to the Bulls via trade and played in 26 regular season games for them. Rose should elevate his game with Ben Gordon off the team but so should Salmons. Rose could be selected in rounds 2-3 while Salmons is going much later.

Sophomore projections -
How will the top 20 sophomores rank this season?

2009-10 Projected Sophomore Rankings
1. Brook Lopez - How good is Lopez? We're about to find out. By trading Vince Carter in the offseason, the Nets made a subtle statement that they think Lopez can make enough of an offensive impact to be an effective second scoring option. Not only did Lopez rank 2nd among rookies in fantasy production, but he was 9th among all center-eligible players. Expect him to make as big a fantasy impact this season as any of the sophomores.

2. Derrick Rose - Rose took home Rookie of the Year honors, but he has some work to do to improve his fantasy status. From all indications, it seems like he has done just that this summer. Rose focused on his perimeter jumper this offseason, and those 16 three-pointers he hit last year could quadruple. He should also benefit from John Salmons replacing Ben Gordon at shooting guard. Gordon often dominated the ball stealing assist opportunities from Rose.

Media day questions -
Questions I'd like to have answered:

What positions are really up for grabs in the starting lineup? The answer will probably be all of them, but the reality is that there's probably only a couple. I"m most interested to find out if Luol Deng is healthy, is he a lock to start or could Salmons and Hinrich start? Also, would we consider playing Joakim and Tyrus together in the starting lineup?

Derrick, what have you been doing this off-season? The biggest leaps you see out of a player aer between years 1-3. So if Derrick is to become a superstar then we should see significant improvement this season. I'm sure he's worked on many things in his game, but the biggest things that would add improvement are better defense, better foul drawing, better court vision, and perhaps a three point shot (though I'm not as gung-ho on the three as most fans). I really want to know where Derrick expects to have made the largest strides. I expect he'll be asked, and i expect he'll say everywhere.

Breakout season predictions
Chicago Bulls
Ask yourself this: When will Derrick Rose average 20ppg, 10apg, 5rpg? Maybe this season.

Tyrus Thomas has shown flashes of brilliance and flashes of … uh … not so brilliant plays but one of these days he will turn into a double double with a couple bpg. Perhaps this season.

The Bulls invested a lot in Luol Deng and have received very little in return. He averaged 22ppg and nearly 9rpg two playoffs ago and the Bulls would love to see those numbers this regular season.

Joakim Noah can thank Kendrick Perkins for lighting a fire under him as the Celtic big bullied him the entire epic series. His playoff numbers were incredible and he should see an increase in production across the board.

Rough end-of-summer in Chi -
Seriously, how bad were the past couple months?

The Sox tanked. Ditto the Cubbies, who now face a possible Milton Bradley grievance from the Player’s Union.

Adam Burrish’s torn ACL represents the latest news out of Blackhawks camp.

The Illini opened 2009 with a 37-9 shellacking from Mizzou; Northwestern lost to Syracuse and this guy last week.

The Bulls? How about the utter demystification of their franchise face? Here’s a rundown of Derrick Rose’s summer: Leaked gang sign photo, high school academic fraud (at CPS’s own Simeon High!) and the SAT cheating fiasco. I repeat: The brains directing the Bulls attack couldn’t pass the SAT legally.

D-Rose interview with SI
Hard to top a debut like the one Derrick Rose had. The first overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft, Rose quietly racked up the accolades -- Rookie of the Year, First Team All-Rookie -- while (though he may tell you otherwise) serving as commander-in-chief of the Chicago Bulls. After a year spent away from his South Side hometown to play at Memphis, Rose's return, and ensuing feats, was enough to challenge even President Barack Obama's celebrity in the Windy City.

With training camps about two weeks away, Rose found some spare time recently to whoop a video-game-challenged producer in a round of NBA 2K10 and to speak about his first year in the pros, the Bulls' memorable seven-game playoff loss to the Celtics and, as the spokesman for 2K Sports' latest virtual hoops game, his love of video games. Do you feel any pressure by playing for your hometown team?

Derrick Rose: A little, but as a player, you want pressure. If you don't have pressure, there's no point in you playing. I want pressure when I'm playing. It makes me perform a little bit better.

Rose and supporting cast -
The last we saw of the Bulls, they were walking off the court in Boston after the Game 7 playoff loss to the Celtics back in May. But despite the disappointment of losing in the first round, there was an aura of optimism around the team that night because of the gritty play of the young Bulls throughout the series.

If the roster were kept intact (with a few tweaks here and there), many believed the Bulls were capable of stepping up a level. Of course, things didn't quite work out that way this summer.

Leading scorer Ben Gordon, who averaged 24.3 points in the playoffs against the Celtics, left via free agency, and the Bulls really made no significant additions, save for the drafting of forwards James Johnson and Taj Gibson.

Still, with training camp set to begin today, many in the organization believe stepping up a level remains a possibility -- if a few of the youngsters continue to grow.

6 teams with roster questions -
Bulls shooting guard: Letting your leading scorer walk out the door in order to squirrel away cap space for a free-agent plunge a summer away might make sense from a general manager's point of view. But losing a clutch shooter such as Ben Gordon -- to the division rival Pistons, no less -- won't make life any easier for the Bulls, who were hoping to ride the momentum of their thrill-a-minute playoff series with Boston to a 50-win season. Now second-year coach Vinny Del Negro must rebuild his offense without that 20.7-point-per-game scorer, whose 41 percent accuracy from the three-point line helped Chicago hide its lack of a consistent scoring threat in the post.

Del Negro will win some fans in the locker room, particularly Derrick Rose and Luol Deng, when he asks them to assume Gordon's share of the shots, but Chicago's offense just got a lot more vanilla. John Salmons and free-agent pickup Jannero Pargo will bring a more physical defensive presence to the position, which isn't saying much, and the Bulls hope the seven-year veteran Salmons can back up his best year (he averaged 18.3 points with Sacramento and Chicago last season, 11 more than his career mark entering 2008-09). Look for the Bulls to experiment with pairing point guards Rose and Kirk Hinrich whenever matchups allow.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Friday Links (1 Day Early!)

Bulls Predictions -
I typically am not a big prediction guy. There are too many moving parts, too many variables that you can't account for. There's a reason why people don't accurately predict what happens in sports. If they did, then they'd go to vegas and strike it rich. That being said, it's always fun to state what you expect and see how stupid you look in a year. So here are my top 10 predictions, read them and wager against them.

#10: Vinny Del Negro gets scapegoated for everything bad that happens and gets no credit for anything good that happens. I figured it's fair to play it safe on at least one prediction.

10 Bulls Questions -
Now that the Bulls are getting set to open training camp, here are 10 questions surrounding the team following a quiet offseason:

1. How will the Bulls manage without leading-scoring Ben Gordon, who signed with the Detroit Pistons?

2. Will the three-guard rotation of Derrick Rose, John Salmons and Kirk Hinrich improve the defense and make up for the loss of Gordon's offense?

3. Will Rose continue to progress and become the team's leader following the controversies of the spring and summer?

4. Is Luol Deng healthy after missing the final 2½ months of the regular season and the playoffs last season, and is he ready to live up to the big contract he signed in the summer of 2008?

Bulls re-sign Aaron Gray
The Chicago Bulls re-signed center Aaron Gray on Tuesday.

Gray, who is 7 feet tall and 270 pounds, was drafted by Chicago with the 49th selection in the 2007 NBA draft. During his two seasons with the Bulls, he has appeared in 117 games with 19 starts. Gray has averaged 3.9 ppg and 3.3 rpg in 11.4 mpg.

Does anyone care? Or know why?

D-Rose and D-Howard in China
Adidas found a way to appeal to two passions among urban Chinese youth -- the internet and basketball -- by bringing two National Basketball Association stars to China and establishing a digital initiative around the tour.

The German sportswear company organized a trip to Shanghai in late August for Dwight Howard, the NBA's defensive player of the year, and Derrick Rose, the rookie of the year, called the Adidas Double-Double Tour. Their visit was promoted through an aggressive online strategy in the world's largest internet market. The number of web surfers in China topped 338 million people earlier this year, more than the whole U.S. population. Adidas's primary target, urban youth in China's most-developed markets, is particularly addicted to the internet and mobile handsets.

"The tour was anchored by an unprecedented digital initiative that has never been done in China. From the minute [Messrs. Howard and Rose] touched down in Shanghai, they were communicating directly with fans," said Natalie Lam, exec creative director at OgilvyOne Worldwide, Shanghai and regional creative director, Asia/Pacific.

Bulls Preview -
The 2008-09 Chicago Bulls went 41-41 a year ago, and then had one of the best rounds of NBA playoffs many of us have ever witnessed. Not only was it probably the greatest playoff round of 2009, but I would challenge all you to show me a better round of NBA playoffs in the history of that league. This was a seven game series that featured seven overtimes, and even some spilled blood. It seems to suggest that the Bulls were a lot better than their .500 record.

The Bulls seem to think that this series should be the predecessor for great things in 2009-10. Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose played outstanding against the Celtics, and then second year man Joakim Noah also stepped up big time. If these two players can play like every night, then the new NBA season should be a great one for the Bulls.

Of course it took Ben Gordon about two hot seconds to bolt the team for the Detroit Pistons. While Gordon led this team in scoring the past four years, his play was wildly inconsistent. While they will miss his ability to score a lot of points in a short amount of time, this team just might be better without him.

There have been a lot of rumors that this team is looking to trade for Utah Forward Carlos Boozer. However with the talent already on the roster second year Head Coach Vinny Del Negro should be able to take this team back to the post season.

I already pre-ordered Bill Simmons' The Book Of Basketball, and here's a pretty funny review -
Bill Simmons: I have a bone to pick with you.

Earlier this month, I got my hands on a galley of your upcoming NBA magnum opus, The Book of Basketball, and found myself excited about pro hoops for the first time in years. A league that I had dismissed as dead jumped to life through your hilarious and insightful commentary. It was impossible not to get fired up after just the prologue, and I'm convinced that you've written the finest basketball book since David Halberstam's The Breaks of the Game.

So what's my beef?

Bulls camp opens -

f 2008-09 was a step forward for the Chicago Bulls, a coming-out party, a brief glimpse at the potential of a brighter future, 2009-10 is likely to be more of the same. Whether Bulls fans will be happy with that or not will have a lot to do with their expectations.

As the Bulls open camp today, what should we expect? With Ben Gordon gone, no real impact rookie to look forward to, and zero free agent signings of note, frankly, we can look forward to another year of mediocre, occasionally good, rarely great basketball. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Bears lack offensive balance
Don't look now, but the team that used to get off the bus running needs to bus in a running game.

It's just a two-game snapshot, of course, but the Bears are as one-dimensional as any offense in the league these days: a throw-first, throw-often bunch that can barely run in place.

And that is far from ideal. Running the ball may be one of the most boring and charmless elements to an offense, but it's also essential to generate the kind of balance that keeps opposition defenses out of sync.

''Well, we haven't had a lot of yards, but I think with being a running team and continuing to run the ball, and just by people knowing we're a running team, that's doing enough in itself right there,'' coach Lovie Smith said after Sunday's 17-14 victory over Pittsburgh in which the Bears produced just 43 total rushing yards on 18 carries.

Last season, the Bears put up big numbers on the ground in their first two games. This season, the Bears have relied much more on the passing game.


of the Bears' total yards have come on the ground in 2009. Through two games in 2008, the percentage was 51.8.


of the Bears' total plays have been rushing attempts. Last year that percentage through two games was 56.2.


The number of rushing yards on 38 attempts for Matt Forte through two games. Last season, he ran for 215 yards on 46 attempts in the first two games.

Concerns about rushing attack -
Scan through the Bears statistics and the name behind the longest rush is sure to come as a surprise.

No, it's not Matt Forte. It's not Devin Hester, either, especially because the Bears have yet to break out the Wildcat.

Adrian Peterson's 15-yard scamper against the Steelers stands as their longest run play.

Most observers expected Forte, who rushed for 1,238 yards as a rookie last season, to be the one picking up the huge chunks. Instead, the second-year running back remains stuck in neutral, ranked 36th in the league in rushing (84 yards) going into Sunday's game at Seattle. And his 2.2 yards per carry is worst among the first 45 rushers listed.

Offensive coordinator Ron Turner believes too much has been made of the running game's woes.

"It has been only two games," Turner said. "We didn't give [Matt] a whole lot of chances last week."

As he addressed the issue Wednesday, Forte sounded confident: "I think the running game will come along pretty soon."

Knox in the Spotlight -
The names ahead of him include Randy Moss, Santonio Holmes and Chad Ochocinco, but for Johnny Knox, there is no shame in being ranked 15th among NFL receiving leaders after two games.

In most people's eyes, Knox has no business on that list, period.

Not a rookie. Not a fifth-round pick. Not a player from a Division II school.

DC sent me this link ... (worth clicking to watch the intro)

Jenks done for Season
Right-handed pitcher Bobby Jenks' career with the Chicago White Sox might be over.

The team's closer since July 2005 pulled his right calf muscle in pregame drills on Tuesday, likely ending his season. Jenks originally injured the calf in Seattle on the team's last road trip. However, with the help of the White Sox training staff, the pitcher was able to continue to compete until Tuesday's injury.

"I am most likely done for the year," Jenks said. "Today, during the stretch and warmups, I went a little overboard and did a little too much. I completely pulled it."


Be sure to check back tomorrow for more links, and next week for my "NBA Player Rankings by Position"

Does the QB make the WRs or vice versa

A great deal of the Cutler criticism in the pre-season, probably mostly coming from upset Denver fans, was that Cutler was only good because he had Eddie Royal and Brandon Marshall to throw to. As soon as he came to the Bears with our inadequate WR core he would be exposed as merely average. Now no one is saying that Cutler has been at his best thus far...although his poise and stellar play in the Pittsburgh game was impressive...but let's take a look at how the Denver top WRs have fared with Orton at the helm in comparison to the Bears' inexperienced core through 2 regular season games of the Cutler Era:

Brandon Marshall: 7 catches, 61 yards, 0 TD
Eddie Royal: 5 catches, 38 yards, 0TD

Earl Bennett: 9 catches, 88 yards, 0 TD
Johnny Knox: 8 catches, 152 yards, 1 TD
Devin Hester: 8 catches, 111 yards, 1 TD

Now this is an understandably small sample set (and it doesn't include Stokley because his stats are padded by a play that would cause all of us to hit 'restart' on our Xbox if it happened in a video game). Two games with a new QB aren't enough to say that Royal and Marshall won't be more productive, but this will be an interesting trend to keep an eye on throughout the season, especially considering the Bears have played the harder schedule thus far.

I should also point out that I feel the Bears WR/TEs still have a long way to go. I'm not rejoicing in the streets at their production through 2 games. Too many drops are still occurring...I counted at least 3 last game not counting the one where Olsen was nearly killed by a Steeler safety. But it is nice to see that all the Bears needed was QB talent to pull productivity out of a phase of the game where it had been nonexistent for so long.

And to add on to 2J's post earlier, I plan to keep my posts as infrequent and poorly prepared as I always do. Consistency is key.

EDIT: no idea why that picture won't show up correctly...obviously the second half of it is Orton.

BBS News and Links

I will try to be more consistent with new blog posts moving forward. Look for links (and more) every Tuesday and Friday. Those will be the two "regular" days each week. There may be other posts when I find some urgent/breaking news or have extra time (and because NBA season is right around the corner), but I will definitely try to make posts every Tuesday and Friday.

Also, please email BBS if you happen to come across any good articles about the Bulls (or anything NBA), Bears or White Sox. New email address: BullBearSock (at) gmail (dot) com


HoopsWorld Bulls Preview -
The Chicago Bulls had a good season last year and rookie Derrick Rose proved to be an elite player in his first year in the NBA. The Bulls held firm in free agency making only minor moves, although they did allow ben Gordon to leave via free agency. The Bulls will return the bulk of the team from last year's playoff run and look poised to be a playoff team again this season.

Here is a preview of what to expect this season, and what we here at HOOPSWORLD see as we look into the state of the Chicago Bulls in 2009-2010.

Derrick Rose's kicks for the upcoming season (pics) -
With the NBA season ready to tip-off in a little bit over a month, all of the major footwear brands are preparing to outfit their athletes in this year's performance footwear. For adidas' guards, that means the adidas TS Cut Creator. The TS Cut Creator will be worn by players such as Chauncey Billups and the reigning Rookie of the Year, Derrick Rose. The adidas TS Cut Creator features adidas Formotion, a large side vent for breathability, and functional Three Stripes that wrap around the foot for support.

adidas is set to roll out several coloraways of the TS Cut Creator which will include the Derrick Rose Black/Red/White Chicago Bulls colorway which features Black nubuck on the upper with White and Red accents. Read on for more pics.

Overvalued fantasy players -
Derrick Rose—Chicago Bulls

Derrick Rose elevated his game in the playoffs averaging 19.7 points, 6.4 assists, 6.3 assists, and shot 49 percent from the field. During the regular season, he finished ranked 17th in assists (6.3), along with .2 three-pointers per game, and .8 steals per game.

He is a dynamic point guard with great speed and strength but did not have a great fantasy season. For him to jump into the elite PG tier, he needs to increase his threes, steals, and free-throw percentage.

Owners may buy into his hype and draft him in rounds three or four. Remember, while Rose should improve this year, he ranked 91st on the ESPN fantasy player rater.

Chalk me up as someone who will over-value Rose and draft him way too early.

Not much on the Bulls after the intro paragraph ...
Rating the off-season of each Central Division team -
Much like in the Atlantic Division, the rich get richer in the Central. Cleveland made the most noise by acquiring Shaq in a trade with Phoenix, but it’s their other moves to solidify the bench that really puts the Cavs on top of their counterparts. Detroit didn’t do much to change their complexion as a team other than get a bit younger, while the Bucks decided to turn over quite a bit. Chicago did almost nothing, but actually might be better off with the the departure of Ben Gordon now that Derrick Rose will have more freedom to operate in the backcourt and Luol Deng is reportedly healthy. The Pacers? Well, aside from the departure of Jarret Jack, they didn’t make too many waves. Let’s take a look at the awards.

Best GIF from last NBA season. The youtube link to the same clip is in the "BBS Links" section to the right -->

D-Rose and Rainn Wilson (Dwight from The Office).

Free-agents who will break out -
However I think Ben Gordon will flourish Detroit's team-oriented style. It also gives Detroit a scorer, who unlike Iverson, doesn't have to take a high volume of shots to get his points.

Really? Let me point out a few games from last season:

Date - shots / points
Nov.11 - 20 / 20
Nov.15 - 19 / 19
Nov.18 - 22 / 23
Nov.19 - 12 / 11
Nov.21 - 15 / 13

And that's just the first month of the season!

I realize he was a great player for the Bulls - When he is on fire there are few players who can score the way that BG can. And obviously scoring the basketball is a major part of the game. But I think the Bulls will be a better team moving forward without BG. I don't want to get too into it right now because I need something to write about in my Bulls season preview.

Awesome MJ photo. (via @jeskeets)

NBA predictions, who wants to be compared to Kanye?
Lebron James Becomes the Kanye West of the NBA

Probability: .5

I thought about comparing Lebron to Megan Fox instead since they are both talented on the stage but stupid when they talk off-the-record, Transformers 2 reminds me of the Cavaliers in the playoffs and they both have ridiculous tatoos, but in the end Lebron/Kanye have such a similar God-complex that I simply couldn't resist. Both have an incredible amount of talent, incredible egos (his second child has the middle name "Maximus"), and every award available (except the Championship). What does Kanye West do when put in a potentially embarrassing situation by South Park? He writes an unintentionally hilarious blog post explaining his personality type. What does Lebron James do when he is dunked on by a rookie? Tries to stronghand Nike into suppressing the tape of the incident. As if you needed further proof, he has "Witness" and "Chosen 1" tatooed on his body. Does anyone remember the pic of Kanye on the cover of Rolling Stone with a crown of thorns? I'm just saying. If Lebron wants to be a true NBA legend, he better clean up his act. That's something that will not happen if he moves to New York or Brooklyn. If he re-signs with the Cavs then I think there is still hope.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Steelers fans... don't deserve to win when this is your kicker:

BEARS WIN!! (Links)

Cutler's calm helps the Bears to win
The Bears insist Jay Cutler was as in control of himself and his faculties last week as he was Sunday. Their offensive coordinator and their best tight end seem willing to take the debate to Congress until the world believes it.

So you can stand there all day and argue that the man who threw four interceptions against the Packers in Week 1 looked nothing like the man who carved up the defending Super Bowl champions in Week 2, but what's the point?

What everyone can agree on is that the Bears beat the Steelers 17-14 thanks to Cutler's precision and the imprecision of Pittsburgh's kicker. And after the Green Bay debacle, those are the only facts that matter.

Cutler got his first victory as a Bear, and he was just happy the hernia threat was over.

"It means a lot," he said. "It means a lot to this team. There's been a lot of pressure and expectations on us since I got here, since Orlando (Pace, the Bears' left tackle) got here, since the defense has stepped it up. Just glad to get this one off our back and move on. We went to Green Bay with the whole city of Chicago on us, which is fine. We love it."

Cutler leads 4th quarter comeback -
Every great quarterback needs a defining moment, a signature victory, an extraordinary event that creates instant credibility for teammates and coaches and fans and foes.

Jay Cutler needed it more than most on a rainy afternoon at Soldier Field when his first season as savior somehow looked fleeting and hopeless and bound for disappointment. A drive here, another one there, a missed field goal and then a second, and a final glorious kick, that's all it took, and somehow, some way, the Bears and Cutler turned turmoil to tranquility.

The Bears became the first team to beat the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers, winning 17-14 on Robbie Gould's 44-yard field goal with 15 seconds left as Cutler outplayed Ben Roethlisberger to deliver the victory.

''Didn't throw four picks,'' Cutler said, smiling, when asked how he turned into a completely different quarterback from the one Sept. 13 in Green Bay.

Steelers missed 2 FGs -
A week after being panned for his demeanor on the field and in the interview room, Jay Cutler delivered the ultimate silencer.

It wasn't pretty, but on a rainy Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field, the gunslinger charged with taking the Bears to the next level proved he's as gritty as they have had in a long time.

There was steady pressure from the Pittsburgh Steelers, a handful of dropped passes and no running game, but Cutler hung in long enough to guide the Bears (1-1) to a 17-14 victory over the defending Super Bowl champions, winning on Robbie Gould's 44-yard field goal with 15 seconds left.

Steelers kicker Jeff Reed missed two field goals, including a 43-yarder with 3:18 to play. However it comes, the significance of a victory in Week 2 cannot be minimized -- not when only 11.5 percent of teams that have begun a season 0-2 this decade have reached the postseason. And the playoffs are what the Bears believed they were destined for when they acquired Cutler on April 2.

''Didn't throw four picks,'' Cutler said with a grin when asked about the difference a week made. ''I think they brought me here for a reason, and I want the ball at the end of every game with a chance to win it.''

Cutler completed 27 of 38 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, helping a defense that made four lineup changes -- including replacing middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, who cheered from the sideline with a cast on his wrist.

School of Hard Knox -
Sure, Ron Turner can say now he never had a doubt about rookie fifth-round draft pick Johnny Knox making a quick transition from NCAA Division II Abilene Christian to NFL playmaker.

Turner can act like he knew all along Knox would emerge as the Bears' best big-play passing threat against the defending Super Bowl champions with a playoff-or-bust season already in jeopardy.

But the truth could be found in the nervous chuckle from Turner as the Bears' offensive coordinator recalled the night at training camp when Knox approached him looking like someone needing directions.

Or a hug.

"We had about 7,000 or 8,000 people at practice, and Johnny comes up and says, 'I've never seen this many people in my life,' " Turner said. "I thought, 'Hmmmm. This is only training camp.' ... But it didn't seem to faze him."

Little has fazed the speedy wide receiver so far, and Sunday at Soldier Field, the Steelers became the latest Bears opponent to get educated in the School of Hard Knox.

Early look at next week -
QUICK LOOK: If quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and his wide receivers are healthy -- and that's a big if after Hasselbeck suffered a rib injury against the 49ers on Sunday -- and firing on all cylinders, this is a dangerous team that that can play with anyone. Forget the fact that the Seahawks won only four games a year ago -- that has nothing to do with the 2009 version.

The Seahawks' stadium, Qwest Field, gives them a tremendous advantage over visitors because it is one of the loudest outdoor stadiums.

Like the Bears, the Seahawks could have some issues at the linebacker position. Leroy Hill is expected to miss the game with a groin injury. In the off-season, Seattle traded Pro Bowler Julian Peterson and replaced him with Aaron Curry, the fourth pick in the draft. The Bears will be trying to take advantage of his inexperience.

If Hasselbeck can't play, Seneca Wallace will run the Seahawks' offense.

KEY STAT: The Seahawks have beaten the Bears in seven of their 11 meetings.

KEY MATCHUP: Seahawks right end Patrick Kerney will give Bears left tackle Orlando Pace top effort on every snap. His relentlessness, combined with his athleticism and know-how, make him a playmaker.

DAN POMPEI'S EARLY PICK: Seahawks 27, Bears 26.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Random BBS Links

My kind of reaction to MJ HOF speech -
In his heyday, Jordan played on a stage that was unparalleled for any other NBA player. He had to be the best every night, had to win, had to bring home championships and MVP’s. Had to carry the load, had to carry the expectations of millions of fans, of David Stern, of NBC executives. Really, he was set up to fail. And with the weight of the world on his shoulders, he shook the pressure off like it John Starks on the baseline, spun back and dunked the expectations in everyone’s faces.

Along the way, in a sense, a monster was created. It’s impossible to be that competitive your whole life and then turn it off when your playing days are done. The traits that put the world in Michael Jordan’s hands are the same ones that have been chastised in the days following his Springfield speech. Wojnarowski said in his piece that “Jordan didn’t hurt his image with the NBA community as much as he reminded them of it.”

If there’s anyone that should understand MJ at all, it’d be the NBA community. In the Jordan montage prior to his speech, Scottie Pippen showed that understanding and said a lot about his former teammate.

“Winning is hard to do,” he said. “And It’s a price that you pay for it and that’s how I saw Michael as a player: as someone that wanted to prove that he’s a winner every day.”

Jordan’s candor on Friday showed that he’s a winner and the cost that it came at. He’s not the guy that I’d want to have any kind of contest with (I picture him keeping a table full of people up, bleary-eyed at 5 in the morning until he won a round of poker) but even today, I’d put my money on him for a five-minute stretch through the final stages of a tight game in the NBA. Because nobody won like Michael Jordan.

I would have preferred Derrick Brooks, but Bears sign LB Tim Shaw -
Looking for depth after season-ending wrist surgery for Brian Urlacher, the Chicago Bears signed linebacker Tim Shaw on Monday, the team announced.

The Bears had been in contact with free-agent linebacker Derrick Brooks, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter on Monday, but they informed the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year that they intend to go with their younger players for now.

"They just want to take more time with their decision," Brooks said.

Shaw played in three games for the Jacksonville Jaguars last season and in 14 games for the Carolina Panthers in 2007.

He is expected to contribute immediately on special teams.

I tweeted about this, but it's worth posting. You can add Bulls, Bears and White Sox schedules to your google calender -
To subscribe to your team's calendar - or other teams you'd like to keep up with - log in to your Calendar and Click "Add" to browse some of the interesting calendars that you can follow.

Also, follow my updates and get BBS updates on twitter: @BullBearSock; follow DC: @DanFXC and follow Kmart: @THE_REAL_KMART

I would care more about this list if Frank Thomas weren't 18 spots behind Sammy Sosa. What a joke.

Forte concerned about field

At approximately the same time Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte was expressing concerns on Tuesday about the playing surface at Soldier Field, crews were in the stadium working on re-sodding the entire grass field.

The Bears' home opener is Sunday at 3:15 p.m. CT against the defending world champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

"I'm definitely concerned about it," Forte said on the "Waddle & Silvy" show on ESPN 1000. "I make a lot of cuts out there, and that's important being a running back. And [it's important] to the special teams and every part of the offense and defense.

"I just hope the field is set in."

I think the best part about this story is that the Bears game is at 3:pm and not t noon ... could be a rough Saturday for me.

From TrueHoop's Tuesday Bullets ...

Awesome idea/move by the Suns -
Michael Schwartz of Valley of the Suns has a report on social media in the NBA: "The Suns plan to stream live tweets at the bottom of the TV screen during telecasts and on the big screen and 360-degree LED rings at US Airways Center a couple times each game, [Suns executive Jeramie] McPeek said. This further encourages interactivity by allowing fans to tweet about the game from their couch or seat and immediately see it pop up for all of Planet Orange to see. Plus, this way everyone will know if @Amareisreal starts tweeting during a timeout. 'It would be really cool if we can have fans at home tweeting about the game and fans in the building itself tweeting about the game, and those tweets kind of merging together to be on display,' McPeek said."

Bulls release pre-season schedule

In preparation for the 2009-10 NBA season, the Chicago Bulls will start training camp on Friday, Sept. 25 with their annual Media Day at the Sheri L. Berto Center in Deerfield, Ill.. Bulls coaches, players and General Manager Gar Forman will be available to the media for interviews and photos.

Chicago’s first practice will get underway on Saturday, Sept. 26 with a two-a-day practice session set for 10:00 A.M., and again at 4:30 P.M. The two-a-day practice sessions will continue through Wednesday, Sept. 30.

The Bulls will tip-off their eight-game preseason schedule on Friday, Oct. 2, when they travel to Indiana to take on the Pacers. Chicago will then travel to London, England to take on the Utah Jazz, as part of NBA Europe Live presented by EA Sports on Oct. 6. Other preseason contests include: at Milwaukee Bucks (Oct. 10 in Green Bay, Wis.), vs. Milwaukee Bucks (Oct. 13), at Minnesota Timberwolves (Oct. 14), vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (Oct. 16), vs. Orlando Magic (Oct. 19) and vs. Washington Wizards (Oct. 23). The team will then tip-off the regular season on Oct. 29 at the United Center against the San Antonio Spurs.

Reinsdorf and TT react to MJ's HOF speech -

Cutler vows to play better -

Just for the record, Jay Cutler had a hard time believing how his debut with the Chicago Bears went, too.

Hailed as a franchise savior after the blockbuster trade from the Denver Broncos, the rifle-armed quarterback threw a dud in a season-opening loss at Green Bay. Four interceptions had fans buzzing for the worst.

He vowed to do better when the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers visit this week.

Cutler said he wasn't any more nervous than usual against the Packers. He was, however, "disappointed in my performance, but I can't dwell on it."

*** EDIT ***

Missed this link on Monday Morning Hangover -

Jay Cutler: Four interceptions? What was he looking at? Or, perhaps, what was he looking through? (Bangs and ridiculous sunglasses, maybe?) I'll give him this, though: Cutler immediately succeeded in a way an all-time great athlete like Alex Rodriguez could not. Cutler is already a true Chicago Bears quarterback. Hopefully for Bears fans, he'll soon snap out of that.

Quick-Hit Bears Links

Urlacher update -

Grading Sunday's performance -

What was obvious from the naked eye was that Jay Cutler was bad Sunday night. What was less obvious is that his receivers weren't anywhere near as inefficient as he was.

Is something wrong with this picture?


Grade: 1

First, the good. Cutler made a pair of beautiful deep throws to Johnny Knox and Devin Hester, and he had a 158.3 passer rating in the third quarter.

Now, the bad. Take away the third quarter, and his passer rating was 20.6.

The TD was not just Vasher's fault

Nathan Vasher wound up being the unfortunate victim of Greg Jennings' 50-yard touchdown that propelled Green Bay to victory Sunday night, but the veteran cornerback wasn't the only one to blame on the play.

Defending third-and-one at the 50-yard line, the play call directed rookie strong safety Al Afalava to walk down into the box for run support. Free safety Kevin Payne was supposed to have help deep, but after a play fake by Aaron Rodgers to running back Ryan Grant, he got frozen when Rodgers looked right to tight end Donald Lee. Jennings was already well beyond Vasher, who slipped a little, and that was the ballgame.

Replacing BU -

Replacing a six-time Pro Bowler, a defensive captain and the longtime face of the franchise is no easy task, so Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer would rather not burden himself with such lofty expectations.

"My job is not to go try to be Brian Urlacher," Hillenmeyer said Monday, referring to his injured teammate. "My job is to go play the best that I can. It's not my burden. It's the whole defense's burden when you lose a guy like him."

Why can't Urlacher play with a cast? -

The reason Urlacher was placed on IR is because of the bone he injured. He dislocated the lunate bone, according to the Bears, and that is the bone that is at the center of the wrist, at the middle of the eight bones. It holds the wrist together, and the risk in not treating the injury immediately, or coming back before the injury is completely healed is significant. It could lead to permanent nerve damage and that could affect Urlacher's hand long term.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ouch, Bears loss just got worse!

Well the Jay Cutler era did not start as planned ... 4 picks, no help from the WRs, and some TERRIBLE coaching decisions got the season started all wrong. And now, Urlacher is out for the season -

Brian Urlacher appears to be out for the season after dislocating his right wrist, the linebacker said Monday. The team has not given the official word, but Lovie Smith is expected to address the issue during his afternoon press conference.

Urlacher injured his wrist in the first quarter of Sunday's 21-15 loss to the Packers. He was ruled out after halftime.

When asked about his status Monday, Urlacher said in a text message that his ``season is over.''

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Michael Jordan Hall of Fame Speech

Video and text at -
“It did not stop there,” Jordan went on in thanking the Bulls at length for giving him a chance to excel and have a professional life in basketball. “I get to the pros. (Coach) Kevin Loughery used to take practice and put me in the starting five. Halfway in the game he’d put me on the losing team. I take that as competitive. Nine times out of 10 the second team would come back to win no. I appreciated Loughery giving me that challenge.

“The (Bulls) came up with this whole theory you can play seven minutes a game when I’m practicing two hours a day,” Jordan said about the time in 1985 he broke his foot and the team wanted to limit his return for fear of worsening the injury. “I didn’t agree with that math. I wanted to play. I wanted to make the playoffs. Jerry (Reinsdorf) said, ‘Let me ask if you had a headache and—there was a 10 percent chance then I’d reinjure myself--and you’ve got 10 tablets and one is coated with cyanide, would you take it?’ I looked at him and said, ‘How bad is the headache?’

I loved that the first person he thanked/recognized was Scottie Pippen. Thought the speech was exactly what I expected, hardly humble, but graceful in its arrogance/pride.

Reaction from the Washington Post -
Michael Jordan buried his head into his hand, wiped the sweat from his brow, then rubbed away tears before they poured from his eyes. It was an emotional display, during a 73-second ovation that preceded Jordan's speech as he entered the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday. Jordan told friends that he would simply thank the people who helped him become known as the greatest basketball player in history and then move aside gracefully.

But Jordan, who has established himself as a global icon, gravity-defying marketing machine and ultimate showman, couldn't leave the lectern swiftly. He asked one question -- "What is it that you don't know about Michael Jordan?" -- then spent the next 21 minutes explaining the competitive drive that pushed him to one NCAA championship at North Carolina and six NBA championships, five most valuable player awards and 10 scoring titles with the Chicago Bulls. It started with his family, growing up in Wilmington, N.C., where his parents taught him the value of hard work; his older brothers, Larry and James, fought him; and his younger sister, Roslyn, took extra classes to graduate from high school with him.

"You want to know where my competitive nature came from? It came from them," Jordan told a capacity crowd at the Springfield Symphony Hall. "As I grew, people added wood to that fire."


Jordan said earlier that he hated entering the Hall of Fame because it meant that his career in basketball was officially over. On Friday night, he left another opening.

"One day you might look up and see me playing the game at 50," Jordan said. "Oh don't laugh, don't laugh. Never say never. Because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion. Thank you very much."

A negative reaction to MJ's speech

“M.J. was introduced as the greatest player ever and he’s still standing there trying to settle scores,” one Hall of Famer said privately later.

Jordan didn’t hurt his image with the NBA community, as much as he reminded them of it. “That’s who Michael is,” one high-ranking team executive said. “It wasn’t like he was out of character. There’s no one else who could’ve gotten away with what he did tonight. But it was Michael, and everyone just goes along.”

Jordan wandered through an unfocused and uninspired speech at Symphony Hall, disparaging people who had little to do with his career, like Jeff Van Gundy and Bryon Russell. He ignored people who had so much to do with it, like his personal trainer, Tim Grover. This had been a moving and inspirational night for the NBA – one of its best ceremonies ever – and five minutes into Jordan’s speech it began to spiral into something else. Something unworthy of Jordan’s stature, something beneath him.