Blazers rookie Lillard rankles Bulls with last-second dunk

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Blazers rookie Lillard rankles Bulls with last-second dunk

PORTLANDPrior to his teams loss to the Trail Blazers, Bulls head coach was practically gushing over Portland rookie point guard Damian Lillard, a strong early-season Rookie of the Year candidate.

Very impressive. His skill set makes him very hard to guard. His ability to shoot the ball sets everything up. Very clever in the pick-and-roll. Plays with a lot of poise for a rookie, Thibodeau evaluated. Hes taking seven threes a game and if he gets a clean look at it, its always a very good shot, so that sets up the drive, and when you add in Aldridge and Batum and Matthews, its a very explosive team.

The young floor general, the sixth overall pick in Junes NBA Draft out of tiny Weber State, has indeed opened up his eyes with his play this season, showing the ability to step up in the clutch, run a team at a high level, knock down shots and get into the lane and finish. Lillard finished with 16 points Sunday evening, but it was his final two that raised a mild controversy.

With the game already in hand following the Bulls last-gasp comeback, the point guard took the ball in for a two-handed dunk with 0.9 seconds on the clock. Afterwards, he was confronted by Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, who werent too pleased with his display of showmanship, which many perceive to unsportsmanlike in NBA circles.

It is what is, Thibodeau said about the play.

Asked if he spoke to Lillard, Noah responded, Yeah, but its a non-issue. Its okay.

Gibson, however, was more forthcoming about the incident.

Lillard didnt say anything. He was making a scene out of nothing. He made a dunk, and me and Joakim just addressed it like, In the future, youve just got to be smarter. A lot of teams are not going to let you do that, and Trail Blazers forward Jared Jeffries just came up and told me the same thing, that I was right, he explained. But it wasnt anything more than that. I was just like, You cant do that. Youve got to be smart.

Bulls backup point guard Nate Robinson, who shares an agency with Lillard, was also on the court and talked to Lillard, who hes previously reached out to as a veteran dispensing advice.

I just told him, Thats not the right play, dog. Just dribble the ball out. You all have got the victory already, stuff like that. Everybody around the league watches that. That pisses people off. Youre losing already, then youre going to finish it off with the dunk at the end. Thats how, you could say, flagrant fouls and things like that happen. You dont want anything like that to happen to anybody in the league, where guys kind of hold grudges about things like that.

But its a part of basketball. It happens. Its not a big deal, but its just something that you dont, Robinson recounted. I just told him, Thats not the right play, dog. You had a good game, just dribble it out and then, we go on our way. Take our L like a man.

Preview: White Sox, Royals tangle Friday night on CSN

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Preview: White Sox, Royals tangle Friday night on CSN

The White Sox take on the Royals on Friday, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. from Kansas City. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Miguel Gonzalez (0-1, 4.57 ERA) vs. Danny Duffy (0-0, 2.13 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the White Sox: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with White Sox Pulse.

Preview: Cubs, Phillies start series Friday on CSN

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Preview: Cubs, Phillies start series Friday on CSN

The Cubs take on the Phillies on Friday, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester (4-3, 2.60 ERA) vs. Adam Morgan (1-2, 5.61 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

[SHOP CUBS: Get your Cubs gear right here]

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Cubs Pulse.

Bears' move away from Forte part of change in run-game philosophy

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Bears' move away from Forte part of change in run-game philosophy

The Bears’ decision to move on from Matt Forte, the No. 2 running back in franchise history behind only Walter Payton in yardage, was not necessarily an easy one. It was, however, unanimous at Halas Hall, sources told CSNChicago.com. And it was also part of a significant deeper change in the main operating principle underpinning the Bears’ rushing offense.

Depending upon what Forte does with the New York Jets — and for how long — the decision might be open to question. Few NFL decisions aren’t.

But the Bears’ offense under John Fox and new coordinator Dowell Loggains was clearly going away from what Forte was accustomed to — a true featured back with a relief-back in the form of a Chester Taylor/Marion Barber/Michael Bush — and moving onto a true use of two backs in the fashion that Fox’s Denver Broncos offenses used them.

The change will be more than just a few carries. Forte lost carries last season to Jeremy Langford and Ka'Deem Carey. This is different.

Instead of Forte and an understudy, as the de facto rushing offense has been since Forte was drafted in 2008, the Bears this offseason made the decision to emphasize the run even more under Loggains, and that has meant something other than simply more carries for Forte’s understudy.

For perspective purposes: Last season Forte missed three full games due to a knee injury but still totaled 276 touches (carries plus targets) to 236 combined for Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey. When Forte returned from the three-game injury break, the offense had changed. Forte had four 20-carry games in the first six. He had one over the final six.

Forte did not appear publicly to genuinely embrace the job-sharing approach as Langford’s carries matched and in cases exceeded his own. Whether he would have been on board with ceding even more meaningful time to a co-back is another matter that would have been open to question, though any suspicions that direction are now moot.

(If Forte would have had problems with younger backs rising, he would not have been the first; Thomas Jones ultimately demanded a trade after the Lovie Smith Bears drafted Cedric Benson to broaden the run game.)

Regardless, the true multi-back system will be a change for the Bears, harking back perhaps to the Bears building their run game on two starter-grade backs in Benson and Jones. The Bears’ unsuccessful attempt to bring in C.J. Anderson from Denver suggests less a no-confidence vote in either Carey or Langford than a measure of the commitment to both competition and a depth chart with meaning past the top one or even two names. The Bears have used mid-round picks on running backs in three straight drafts (Carey, Langford, Jordan Howard this year), making the same point the Anderson interest did.

And that’s how Langford took the Howard selection to a position that where confidence in him was one of the reasons the organization was OK with parting with Forte.

“I really didn’t think too much of (the Howard pick),” Langford said. “I know it’s just competition. That’s what brings a lot of running backs, a lot of positions, to push themselves even more. Competition is always a good thing, and playing in the NFL, there’s always going to be competition, so you can’t really become too complacent as a player.”

“Complacent” wasn’t a word anyone was likely to apply to Langford, and certainly to Carey, who played his way up from a roster bubble at the end of training camp last year. And Howard as a fifth-round rookie isn’t guaranteed anything for awhile in training camp except reps with the 2s or 3s, with Jacquizz Rodgers also re-signed after an injury shortened 2015.

Loggains has been dealt a hand without an ace like Forte but with what he and the organization think can be three or four kings, depending on roster decisions at the end of August.

“We like where Jeremy’s at,” Loggains said. “He needs to continue to develop. There’s things he can do a better job of in the passing game, but we still like our other backs. Ka’Deem Carey finished strong for us last year. We obviously drafted a back. We’re excited about getting Jacquizz Rodgers back as well.”