Bulls hope to regain swagger against Rockets

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Bulls hope to regain swagger against Rockets

HOUSTONA dominant defense. A nightly advantage on the glass.

A bench that not only maintained, but extended leads on a consistent basisor, in the case that the starters were behind, often took control of the game. Chemistry that led to teammates recognizing the hot hand and when they didnt have it going themselves, making timely plays that didnt involve scoring.

The aforementioned traits were all hallmarks of the Bulls the last two seasons and while they may eventually reappear, in the present, theyre largely absent. It goes without saying that in sidelined superstar Derrick Roses absence, the squad doesnt have that one, dynamic, game-changing equalizer to rescue them, but that didnt stop past editions of the Bulls from being successful in their blue-collar, hard-nosed fashion.

The departure of the Bench Mob has been perhaps overly discussed, but while the reputations of their individual abilities is now more myth than factit must be remembered that upon Tom Thibodeaus arrival over two years ago, the Bulls bench wasnt exactly mythologized and to be honest, the group was regarded as a bit flawed and underwhelming before they hit their stridethe spirit of the departed reserves, including holdover Taj Gibson, is what made them special. But throughout the young campaign, that nightly passion, determination and most significantly, defensive focus, have dwindled.

Its more the process. I want us doing the right things and so, every game, you evaluate the things that you think are necessary to win and for us, its always the same. Its the defense, the rebounding, the inside-out, the low turnovers, the sharing the ball, Thibodeau explained before the teams Tuesday afternoon practice at the Toyota Center, where his team will take on the Rockets, one of his many former employers, Wednesday evening.

When you evaluate are you doing things correctly, you can sometimes do things correctly and they opponents can make shots. The problem is, when youre not doing things correctly, to understand the difference and make the necessary corrections, so you can improve and right now, theyre a number of things were doing, and some things were doing well.

We started off the season not challenging shots as well as I would like. I think were covering the three-point line better, but our turnovers, putting opponents into the open floor has hurt us, particularly on the road, so thats something that we have to change, and then we have to play for 48 minutes. Right now, theres some good sequences, some bad sequences, but we have to be more consistent, continued the coach, who noted that well see how it unfolds, when asked specifically if there would be changes to his rotation.

The second quarter has been an area we have to clean up. Offensively, were starting the games strongly. Were inside-out, were shooting a good percentage, were scoring. But the tone of the game is not a defensive tone and then in the second quarter, were being hurt in a lot of different areas, mainly the turnovers. So, thats something that we have to get corrected and then, were in a hole and we usually make a run to come back, but thats difficult to overcome, particularly on the road, when youre fighting a double-digit deficit.

Against the Rockets, a similarly spiraling team and losers of three consecutive outings after a fast start to the season, the Bulls will look to bounce back before returning to the Midwestthey will fly back to Chicago after Wednesdays game, then play Saturday in Milwaukee to conclude their annual Circus Trippreferably with a record over the .500 mark. It wont necessarily easy, however, as reeling Houston does possess talent, as Jeremy Lin, last seasons phenom, combines with early-season blockbuster acquisition James Harden for an explosive backcourt, and former Bulls backup Omer Asik anchors one of the NBAs youngest team in the middle.

Harden is a great player, so he keeps a lot of pressure on you. Its his ability to shoot, his ability to put it on the floor and then, of course, his ability to draw fouls. Then, you combine him with Lin in the backcourt, very dynamic and then, they run the floor extremely well. They play with energy, they shoot a lot of threes, Thibodeau said. Chandler Parsons is one of the most underrated players in the league. Hes really coming on strongly and so is Patrick Patterson.

We know that defensive transition and covering the line will be critical.

So will getting back their old swagger.

Blackhawks acquire Michael Latta from Kings in swap of minor leaguers

Blackhawks acquire Michael Latta from Kings in swap of minor leaguers

The Blackhawks made a minor league deal on Saturday, announcing the acquisition of forward Michael Latta from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for defenseman Cameron Schilling.

Latta, 25, has two goals and four assists in 29 games this season with the Ontario (Calif.) Reign of the American Hockey League.

He has four goals and 13 assists in 113 career games in the National Hockey League, all with the Washington Capitals from 2013-16.

Latta, who was a third-round pick (No. 72 overall) by the Nashville Predators in 2009, will report to the AHL's Rockford IceHogs. He carries a $600,000 cap hit, and is a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

Schilling ranked second among defensemen on the IceHogs with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 40 games, and had a minus-3 rating. The 28-year-old blue liner signed a two-year contract worth $575,000 per season with the Blackhawks in July 2015.

Sunday on CSN: UIC travels to Valparaiso

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Sunday on CSN: UIC travels to Valparaiso

Horizon League basketball returns to CSN on Sunday as UIC travels to Valparaiso. This game tips at 2:00 p.m. live on CSN.

The Flames (11-8, 4-2) have won three straight games and have played pretty good ball after the loss of Dikembe Dixson to a torn ACL. Junior big man Tai Odiase, a Homewood-Flossmoor graduate, is playing well along with former St. Rita product Dominique Matthews.

Valparaiso (15-4, 5-1) is hoping to maintain its conference lead behind senior All-American candidate Alec Peters. The 6-foot-9 senior is averaging 23.9 points and 10.9 rebounds per game on the season.

The Crusaders won the first time these two teams played at UIC on Dec. 30 as Tevonn Walker had 23 points.