Barring fourth-quarter meltdown, franchise history says Lovie stays


Barring fourth-quarter meltdown, franchise history says Lovie stays

The key to the future often lies in the past and barring a near epic collapse in multiple bad losses, franchise history points to Lovie Smith remaining Bears head coach through the 2013 end of his current contract.
More than missing the playoffs will be required for the Bears to jettison a well-liked coach who began this season 14 games over .500 for his career.
Some sentiment did exist in high places at the end of last season to sever ties with Smith along with general manager Jerry Angelo. The 11 million remaining on the coachs contract was a tipping point for giving him another year. But it was not the sole reason.
Consider: Dave Wannstedt made the 1994 playoffs, then missed by increasing margins for the next three years. He was then brought back for the 1998 season and when that 4-12 record pushed the playoff-less streak to four, he was dismissed.
Dick Jauron bought himself an extension with a 13-3 mark in 2001. His team collapsed to 4-12 the following years amid a blizzard of injuries (sound familiar?) and Angelo, who had designs on Nick Saban for Jaurons job, had to wait through a second dismal season before Jauron was out.
Smith missed the playoffs the three years after his 2006 Super Bowl season but managed a near-miss 9-7 season in 2008. The NFC Championship appearance in 2010 was followed by a 7-3 start last season before an injury fest that destroyed that playoff run.
If the Bears happen to miss again, it will in all likelihood still be a winning season, unless the Bears somehow bumble away games with Green Bay, Arizona and Detroit. Even then it would be two seasons without playoffs.
Would the equivalent of playoffs every three years be grounds for firing? Not likely, for an organization that in fact does value character in its field bosses. Michael McCaskey did fire Mike Ditka after one miserable year (1992) following consecutive playoff appearances but that coach-GM relationship was toxic for years.
Smiths with Phil Emery is not. And Smith has a year on his contract. If Smith can stanch the hemorrhaging vs. Green Bay, or even win the final two, teams seldom fire 10-6 coaches.

Morning Update: Bulls win season opener; World Series returns to Wrigley

Morning Update: Bulls win season opener; World Series returns to Wrigley

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Bulls physicality a new wrinkle from last season

Bulls physicality a new wrinkle from last season

College teammates Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder made plans to go to dinner after Thursday’s game in Chicago but for a few short moments they weren’t just competitors but unexpected combatants, getting tangled up in the second quarter.

There looked to be some harsh words exchanged after Butler took a charge on an unsuspecting Crowder near three-quarter court, with Crowder putting the basketball in Butler’s chest while Butler was still on the floor, causing players on both teams to convene for some tense moments.

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas got involved and then before Butler could blink, Bulls guard Rajon Rondo joined the proceedings, as pushing and shoving ensued before technical fouls were assessed to both teams after an officials’ review.

If one wondered whether these Bulls—a team that touts itself as young with so many players having three years or less professional experience—could play with some bark and bite, perhaps the season opener provided a bit of a positive preview for the next 81 games.

Nearby, an unbothered Dwyane Wade took a practice 3-point shot, much to the delight of the United Center crowd, as observers witnessed the first sign of tangible proof the Bulls have intentions on regaining a bit of an edge on the floor.

Wade joked and took it as a sign of respect between the two teams.

“It looked like it, right? Yeah. It was a little something out there,” said Wade when asked if there was some chippy play. “Every time we play them it’s gonna be like that. Two teams finding their way in the Eastern Conference. We know we gotta see each other a lot. They never give up. They can be down 30 with 15 seconds left and they’re still gonna fight.”

The Bulls have externally preached toughness from the start of camp. Although Wade didn’t participate in that meeting of the minds, he isn’t exactly running away from such matters.
And Rajon Rondo is competitively ornery enough to have his voice hard no matter the setting.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

“It’s been a big theme of practice,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We want to play with physicality and toughness. I think it was evident on the glass tonight.”

Yes, the Bulls outrebounded the Celtics by 19, but that could’ve been a by-product of the Bulls’ crashing the offensive glass on a porous shooting night. And yes, the slightly tense moment between Butler and Crowder probably won’t be an expected occurrence.

But when’s the last time one had multiple examples to dissect to discern this team’s level of toughness—or lack thereof.

“That’s something to show that the guys are out there fighting for each other,” Hoiberg said. “That they were playing with an edge. It happens with this game. You have to be competitive.”

Competition boiled over slightly, but considering the NBA isn’t exactly UFC, one doesn’t have to do much to display a little physical resolve.

“The fact that nothing escalated was good,” Hoiberg said. “The fact that those guys are out there and playing for each other and have each other’s back, that’s a huge thing right now.”

Too many times last season, it seemed the Bulls would submit in situations like those. Not that they were particularly soft, but it didn’t appear they had the collective will to fight for one another if an altercation arose.

Half the time, they looked like they could barely stand to be in the room with each other.

“It’s people’s will to win. Not saying a bad thing about anybody from last year,” Butler said. “To tell you the truth, I study the game and put in a lot of work but Rondo studies the game a lot. Every time I’m in the gym, he’s in the gym. That lets me know, these (dudes) are going to war with you. Every day. When I hit that deck, Rondo was right there. I wanna play with guys that’s gonna play hard, that’s gonna fight.”

And it didn’t take long for Butler to realize he has at least a couple teammates willing to jump in the foxhole with him.