Bulls look to extend home win streak on CSN

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Bulls look to extend home win streak on CSN

Friday, March 25, 2011
Posted: 3:25 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

As the Bulls head down the regular-season home stretch and try to keep their hold on first place in the Eastern Conference, All-Star point guard Derrick Rose believes the team must concentrate their focus.

"Finishing on the right foot, making sure we finish positive. We dont want to take any steps back. Try to finish right. We should be playing our basketball right now, going into the playoffs and we should be playing with a lot of confidence," Rose emphasized as the team's primary goals. "Its hard. Right now, were just trying to keep things going. Were playing against good teams, were playing against teams thats fighting for their lives right now. Even against bad teams, theyre playing for their future. They want to let people know that they can play. Its hard, definitely, but I wouldnt trade this for anything."

In comparison to his first two seasons in the NBA--when the team sneaked through the back door to make the playoffs with a .500 record, garnering the eighth seed both seasons--the Bulls are sitting pretty, but don't expect Rose or his teammates to take their collective foot off the gas anytime soon.

READ: Derrick Rose to donate 1,000 per point to benefit Japan

"Everybody on the team has stepped it up a little bit. The way people have been playingour bench has been playing great, giving us the leadpeople have been stepping up their game, a lot of people," said Rose. "That's what we need on this team.

"We know, especially on the road, its going to be kind of crazy. Youre going to get everybodys best and you kind of get used to it. You cant come out sluggish. It makes you play kind of hard and aggressive," he went on to say. "It makes you ready to play in the games."

Unsurprisingly, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau has been the prime source of the Bulls motivation, using his vast coaching experience as a reference point.

"Youre never going to stop hearing it from Thibs. He always says if we want to be this team we say we want ourselves to be, weve got to put a lot more things into it and thats what we have to do right now, keep pushing ourselves. We cant be satisfied with where we are right now and weve just got to keep going and pushing each other," said Rose. "He always tells us stories about the Knicks Thibodeau was a New York assistant coach under Jeff Van Gundy, when the Knicks and Bulls were fierce rivals, saying that they were in a situation where guys werent playing up or certain plays that they didnt call defensively in that gamea Knicks gamewhere a guy didnt follow an assignment. It cost them a championship. He always throws things out there like that and makes you think about it."

WATCH: 'Bench Mob' unsung heroes of first-place Bulls

Not so ironically, Thibodeau's last stop--Boston--has been on Rose's mind lately, too; not just because the Celtics are currently chasing the Bulls for the East's top seed, but because the defensive schemes of the two teams are similar, and not by coincidence.

"Its kind of weird, definitely weird. Hell say something about them, how good they are and it makes you think about it. Were kind of like the same team, where we both over-help on the defensive side. Usually, people do that in college. Thats not normal NBA defense, Ill say. Most of the time, NBA teams leave you out on an island and us, we just help everywhere and we depend on each other," Rose observed. "Theyve Boston been in tough situations before. They play well together, kind of like us. We just keep fighting. No matter how much were down, its going to be a tough game. Right now, were just trying to win it out. If us winning gets us into the No. 1 spot, were fine with that, but if not, well still be thankful that were in the playoffs."

According to Rose, Thibodeau uses his insight into a championship squad--he was on Boston's staff for the 2008 Celtics title team--as a further reminder that the Bulls have work to do before matching that feat.

"He doesnt bring the Celtics championship ring, but he always saysif were messing around at practice or somethinghe always reminds us, if we want to be that team, we cant be doing what were doing. We cant take any steps back. Weve got to be playing with an edge every single game," Rose recounted. "If you want to win, youll do it or separate yourself from all the other teams in the NBA. Weve got good guys on the team. Theyre winners. Doing extra stuff, like shooting after practice, shooting before practice. When you come into practice, having the right attitude, making sure that you dont mess up practice. You dont want to be the one that messed up a whole practice because you messing up that practice, theres other teams that are having great practices in the NBA and that can put you back a little bit. We just try to come in, work every dayespecially defensivelytry to work hard and try to learn each other better on the defensive side."

Rose joked about Thibodeau's lack of a social life, but underneath the humor shone through an appreciation for the coach's dedication.

"Me and Joakim Noah were talking about that last night. I never played for a coach that was that focused. Theres nothing else. He has no kids, no wife, no leisure time just to watch TV. Im dead serious. Theres nothing else but winning. I never in my life played for a coach like that," Rose quipped. "Hes healthy, were winning, he seems like hes enjoying himself, so Im fine with it.

"Ive never heard about Thibs being out eating anywhere or ran into him eating him anywhere, ordont you know when you in the restaurant, theyre like, Your coach just leftnever. Never. No matter what city were in. I wont see him until the next day. Ive never been around a coach thats like that. Never. Or never met a coach thats like that I'll say," he continued. "He can keep it going. As long as were winning, he can keep it going."
Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Looking back at Texas in 2013 and setting Notre Dame’s defensive expectations

Looking back at Texas in 2013 and setting Notre Dame’s defensive expectations

After allowing 40 points in an embarrassing road loss at Brigham Young three years ago, Texas coach Mack Brown fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. Diaz, whose defense only had one sack at the time of his firing, was replaced by a defensive analyst with coordinator experience. Sound familiar?

In-season, high-profile coordinator firings aren’t completely unheard of at the college level, but they are rare. So with Notre Dame replacing Brian VanGorder with Greg Hudson on Sunday, we can look back at Texas’ 2013 season as a rough blueprint for setting expectations for the Irish defense going forward. 

And the expectation is this: A mid-season firing of a coordinator probably won’t fix a broken defense. It didn’t necessarily do that at Texas. 

Like VanGorder’s 2015 defense, Diaz’s group in 2012 was inconsistent and prone to debilitating showings: West Virginia, Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas State all scored 40 or more points against the Longhorns, with Texas losing three of those four games in a 9-4 season. 

So with championship expectations still on Brown at Texas, and a defense clearly in regression, Brown fired Diaz — who earned $700,000, about $400,000 lower than the salary ESPN reported VanGorder earned in 2014 — just two games into the 2013 season. Here’s how Texas fared after jettisoning Diaz and promoting former Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Robinson to that post in Austin:

Lost, 44-23, vs. Ole Miss (allowed 6.24 yards per play)
Won, 31-21, vs. Kansas State (allowed 5.74 yards per play)
Won, 31-30, at Iowa State (allowed 6.01 yards per play)
Won, 36-20, vs. Oklahoma (allowed 4.46 yards per play)
Won, 30-7, at TCU (allowed 3.90 yards per play)
Won, 35-13, vs. Kansas (allowed 5.19 yards per play)
Won, 47-40, at West Virginia (allowed 4.81 yards per play)
Lost, 38-13, vs. Oklahoma State (allowed 6.13 yards per play)
Won, 41-16. vs Texas Tech (allowed 4.95 yards per play)
Lost, 30-10, at Baylor (allowed 5.52 yards per play)
Lost, 30-7, vs. Oregon (allowed 6.90 yards per play)

Texas still struggled to stop the Big 12’s most powerful offenses in Oklahoma State and Baylor, as well as Oregon in the Alamo Bowl. That win over Oklahoma certainly was impressive — the Sooners went on to beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl — and this group did do better in terms of putting pressure on opposing offenses, but for the most part, Texas’ defense was still an up-and-down group. 

Its defense did well against Kansas State, Oklahoma, TCU and Texas Tech but struggled to stop Ole Miss, Iowa State and West Virginia. Robinson didn’t magically turn Texas into a reliably-competitive defense: The Longhorns finished 44th in defensive S&P+, 57th in scoring defense (25.8 PPG) and 62nd in yards per play (5.48). It wasn’t good enough to allow Texas to compete for a Big 12 championship (of course, it's worth noting Texas' offense wasn't, either). 

Notre Dame’s circumstances are different, with the Irish possessing a much better offense this year than Texas had three years ago (Case McCoy and a banged-up David Ash were largely ineffective) but less talent on defense (both Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed totaled double-digit sacks; Notre Dame only has one sack as a team through four games). 

But the lesson here is that a mid-season coordinator change shouldn’t be expected to completely fix a defense. For Notre Dame’s sake, it has to hope Hudson can, at least, inject something into this defense to marginally improve it enough to get the Irish to six wins and bowl eligibility. 

Funky style has Todd Frazier leading White Sox in stolen bases

Funky style has Todd Frazier leading White Sox in stolen bases

It may not be very pretty, but it’s hard to argue with the effectiveness of Todd Frazier’s stolen base technique.

Despite employing a walking-lead style that his manager loves to harp on, Frazier swiped two more bags in Sunday’s victory over the Cleveland Indians. Frazier’s 14 stolen bases this season not only leads the team, it’s also the most by a White Sox third baseman since Luis Salazar also stole 14 bases in 1985.

“He’s got that sneaky little stolen base thing where he sneaks off there,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He looks like a fan ran on the field. It works. I don’t know how to explain it, but it works.”

Frazier has learned how to make it work.

Successful only 58.5 percent of the time in his first three minor league seasons, Frazier adapted his style after he and Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan discussed his leads. Frazier, who was successful in only 24 of 41 tries between Cincinnati’s Rookie League team and Double-A, said the talk resulted in an alteration and drastically improved results. Frazier’s success rate increased to 81.8 percent at Triple-A as he was successful in 36 of 44 tries.

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Frazier has converted 57 of 85 tries in the majors (67 percent), including 14 of 19 this season.

“Basically every time I stole a base my first move would be coming up in the standstill,” Frazier said. “(Morgan) taught me the walking lead, basically because the more you get your momentum going toward the base I have one or two steps ahead of somebody. We went over that a little bit, I started working on it in Triple-A and I’d get about 15 stolen bags a year. I’m not the fastest guy, but if I can a step ahead and get two or three or four when the guy throws it they’re not going to be be able to throw it. Sometimes I’ll get picked off and you’ll be like, ‘What is he doing?’ But I’ll take five or six of those a year to get to second base and get two big runs there for us.”

Frazier’s steals on Sunday led to two of three runs scored by the White Sox. Even more important (for the purposes of bragging rights), the stolen bases gave Frazier the team lead over Adam Eaton, who has 12 steals.

“I told Eaton I was going to get him, no problem,” Frazier said. “I told him ‘I’m coming for you,’ and I got two today so I took the lead, which is pretty cool.”

Ventura still isn’t quite sure how Frazier does it. But he’s impressed nonetheless.

“He’s not a normal looking base stealer, but he’s able to create some havoc when he’s out there” Ventura said.