Despite different backgrounds, Teague, Allen have similar experiences


Despite different backgrounds, Teague, Allen have similar experiences

Besides each having an older brother also in the NBA, the Bulls' two rookies don't have much in common. Except, of course, the usual rookie struggles.

Marquis Teague is 19 years old, a first-round pick with a guaranteed contract after an amateur career that included winning a national championship in his lone college season at the University of Kentucky. Following his high school days, in which he was ranked as one of the nation's top players early on, he was destined to play on basketball's highest level and was considered to be an even better prospect than his brother Jeff, the starting point guard for the Atlanta Hawks.

Chicago native Ryan Allen is 24 years old, an undrafted rookie from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a mid-major program. The journey of his brother Tony, the starting shooting guard for the Memphis Grizzlies, has been well-documented over the years--an afterthought on Chicago's prep scene until his senior year at Crane High School on the West Side, he attended two junior colleges before leading Oklahoma State to the Final Four alongside former Bulls guard John Lucas III--but the younger Allen's saga of playing at two high schools, a post-graduate prep school and two junior colleges gives him a leg up in terms of mileage.

What Teague and Allen do share is, though they've struggled to get playing time in actual games this preseason--Allen has appeared in one contest, matching up with his brother when the Grizzlies were in town; Teague, who the organization is obviously more invested in, has played 25 minutes in five games--is a willingness to learn.

"I've learned a lot about the game. Just getting coached by Thibs, a future Hall of Famer, it's amazing. Being teammates with Booz, Rip, Luol, players that have played in the league for 10-plus years. Just being around those guys, you get a feel for what you need to do to excel at this level. My brother's been around, Derrick's been around, so really just showing me what hard work can get you and being consistent with that," Allen, a defensive specialist, told "I'm just learning a lot. I'm just learning all the plays, seeing mistakes that other guys make, building off those things and just being ready. My brother, he sat on the bench for a few years in Boston cheering and he finally got his chance, and he made it happen, so I've seen it all. I've pretty much prepared myself for everything. I'm just ready. This is a process."

By no means is Allen a loudmouth, but compared to Teague, he's Nate Robinson when it comes to talking, at least to the media. Still, he shared similar sentiments.

"I think it's been pretty good. I'm still trying to learn more. Just trying to take it all in and use it as a learning experience," Teague told "Just different teams, playing for a different coach, trying to figure out what he wants you to do and things like that. So, it's just starting to adjust and figure out how to put your game in the system."

Teague was billed as a speedster and on certain plays, his explosiveness is evident, but more often than not, he appears to be over-thinking on the court, playing not to mistakes. In that regard, he's gotten advice from fellow point guards Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson, as well as the sidelined Derrick Rose.

"I'm just kind of holding back. Pretty much not being aggressive," admitted Teague, who played with five other NBA draft picks last season. "I've talked to Rose. He just told me to shoot the ball. He said, 'You've got to shoot.' The way our offense is, the point guard has to shoot the ball. He was just telling me to be aggressive."

In Allen's case, he's already outlasted most of his fellow non-guaranteed training-camp invitees, some of whom--the recently-waived Kyrylo Fesenko and swingman Andre Emmett--have prior NBA experience. His odds to make the Bulls' regular-season roster remain long, but he's endeared himself to both teammates and coaches with his work ethic and demeanor, which isn't surprising since his humility is eerily reminiscent of Rose, his childhood friend.

Privately, sources believe that he could be the proverbial basketball journeyman, perhaps starting out in the D-League or overseas and polishing his raw offensive game before making it in the NBA, similar to players Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau has coached in the past, such as former Knicks star John Starks. Allen's stated of objectives of being able to "defend, go out and play hard, bring a lot of energy and hit open shots," as well as his selflessness, could go a long way in his professional future.

"Same as Day 1, really not even thinking about it. Just one day at a time. My main thing right now is just helping the team in any way that I can. My goal is to make the team better. It's not only just to make the team, but to make the team better, as well. That's just what it is because I've been a fan before I was here and I'm always going to be a fan, and support the team 100 percent. So whatever happens, happens. But I'm just here to help the team and get better every day," explained Allen, grew up in walking distance of the United Center. "Defense comes easy to me. I can play offense, as well, but I'm so good defensively, my offense is kind of overlooked. I can score the ball if that's what needed for me to do. I can do it, but defense is where I'm going to hang my hat and I'm going to get things done to help this team."

For Teague, his progress is under far more scrutiny, not only by coaches, but Bulls fans, who note his pedigree--like Rose, he was coached by John Calipari and experienced team success, so with the former league MVP currently on the shelf, it would seem to some observers that he should be an immediate contributor--and recall the fact that the last time the Bulls drafted a point guard with only a year of college basketball under his belt, he won the Rookie of the Year award. But the Indianapolis native, who says coaches have singled out his weak-side defense as needing room for improvement, has put it all in perspective, particularly with his former college teammates, including No. 1 overall pick and Chicagoan Anthony Davis, all citing the typical first-year ups and downs when they commiserate.

"Everybody's been saying that they're trying to figure it out, too. It's been up and down. People have been playing good, some people have been struggling. Everybody's just saying they're trying to figure it out. We're all in the same stage really," said Teague, whose brother also struggled as a rookie before earning more minutes in his second season. "I'm playing with some of the best players in the NBA that know how to win, know how to play playoff basketball, so I feel like this is the best situation for me to get better."

Jon Lester says Cubs haven’t done anything yet: ‘Nobody likes second place’

Jon Lester says Cubs haven’t done anything yet: ‘Nobody likes second place’

As Cubs players and generations of fans celebrated Christmas in October, Jon Lester had to be The Grinch for a moment. Sure, the Cubs would party from Saturday night into Sunday morning, probably get “a little bit” drunk and enjoy the franchise’s first National League pennant in 71 years. But the reality of the Cleveland Indians would set in once the Cubs got rid of this hangover.

“We ain’t done anything yet,” Lester said during the Wrigley Field celebration after the Cubs eliminated the Los Angeles Dodgers. “Nobody likes second place.”

There are enough Boston Red Sox connections in this World Series that Lester already knows what to expect, starting with Indians manager Terry Francona, who became a father figure as he dealt with a cancer scare as a rookie.

There are ex-teammates from those championship teams in 2007 (Coco Crisp) and 2013 (Mike Napoli, Andrew Miller) at Fenway Park. There is the accumulated experience from throwing 119 postseason innings (2.50 ERA) and becoming one of the best big-game pitchers of his generation.

“I don’t want to sound like a smart-ass, but we got a long ways to go,” Lester said. “I know that manager on their side’s going to be prepared. I know their coaching staff’s going to be ready. I know their players are going to be ready, just based on one player alone, and that’s Mike Napoli. I know what he brings to the table. He helped transform our 2013 team.

“Come Tuesday, we got to put the gloves back on. We got to get ready to fight and grind and do what we’ve done well all year. We got four more games to win.”

After limiting the Dodgers to two runs in 13 innings, and being named the NL Championship Series’ co-MVP along with Javier Baez, Lester should be a worthy Game 1 starter opposite Corey Kluber, the 2014 American League Cy Young Award winner.

This is why Lester took a leap of faith with Cubs bosses/ex-Red Sox executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer and chairman Tom Ricketts’ family and what had been a last-place team in 2014.

Two seasons into the $155 million contract that signaled the Cubs would be serious about contending – and not just in the Baseball America/Baseball Prospectus prospect rankings – the franchise has won 200 games and four playoff rounds and remained in position to dominate for years to come.

“Theo and Jed and the front office and Tom and all these guys had a belief,” Lester said. “I believed in that belief. The talent here speaks for itself. I didn’t do anything – I came here because I wanted to win in Chicago. I’m just happy to be here and be a part of this and get to this point.

“(But) we’re four hard wins away from doing what we set out to do in spring training.”

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As bright as the future looks on the North Side, Lester will be 33 next season and his left arm has already accounted for more than 2,000 innings during his decorated career. John Lackey turned 38 on Sunday. Jake Arrieta only has one more season before becoming a free agent.

The Cubs built their franchise around young hitters, with the idea that they can figure out the pitching later with free agents, change-of-scenery trades and bounce-back guys. Easier said than done. They have a true No. 1 starter now in Lester, who as a free agent watched a recruiting video that imagined what it would be like when the Cubs win the World Series.

“This isn’t it,” Lester said. “It’s been a tough playoffs for us to this point and it’s only going to get tougher. We’re going to enjoy it. We’re going to show up Tuesday in Cleveland ready to play. We’ll see what happens.”

Three quick fixes for some Bears woes while searching for a turnaround

Three quick fixes for some Bears woes while searching for a turnaround

Positives were difficult to find in last Thursday’s 26-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers. So maybe the place to look for improvement lies in just getting rid of a few negatives.

As far as positives, Leonard Floyd would be the obvious one, with two sacks, one a strip and fumble recovery for a TD. Ka’Deem Carey would be another, with 10 carries for 48 yards, his second straight game with high-impact running; Jordan Howard has been shackled for two weeks, so the Bears have needed another backfield-committee member contributing. Jeremy Langford may have trouble finding work when he comes back from his ankle injury.

But negatives have far outweighed positives, which is how you get to 1-6. Fixing three of those will go a long way toward improving their chances against a Minnesota Vikings team that appeared eminently beatable in losing at Philadelphia on Sunday:

Stop the penalty hemorrhaging

For the third straight game the Bears had 10 penalties walked off against them. This "streak" started after eight infractions in the win over Detroit. The 10 in Green Bay cost the Bears 108 yards in a game where their offense netted just 189. Seven of the penalties were charged to the defense, six of which gave the Packers first downs.

The three offensive penalties were mental. A wide receiver (Alshon Jeffery) lined up offsides. The quarterback (Matt Barkley) drew a delay flag. An offensive lineman (Ted Larsen) was illegally downfield.

All of which point to a discipline problem getting worse, not better. Whether the fault lies with players losing focus or coaches not instilling a mindset is a debate, but meaningless if the problem is not addressed. “There were a lot of penalties out there,” said cornerback De’Vante Bausby, who committed three of those penalties. “We had a good scheme and plan but we just didn’t finish in the second half as a group.”

Stop the dinking

While Brian Hoyer replacing Jay Cutler scaled back the downfield element of the offense, the loss of an emerging Kevin White should not be understated. The de facto rookie may not have gotten in the end zone but he was leading the team in receptions before he suffered a broken leg in the win over Detroit.

Since the loss of White, however, the offense has shrunk. The Bears averaged 7.5 yards per pass attempt through four games with White. Without White the average is 7.0, and that is including the blip in Indianapolis, which stands as a complete anomaly. The average was 5.9 in the Jacksonville loss and 5.0 in Green Bay.

Hoyer’s ball-security orientation has been a positive, but also a limiting factor. Cutler last year had one of the best ball-security seasons of his career, yet the offense was able to average 7.5 yards per attempt.

The Bears scored two of their three rushing touchdowns in games with White, who may not yet be the field-stretcher his 4.35 speed but the prospect of White arguably made for a more threatening offense than even with the contributions of Cam Meredith.

Stop the Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings have suffered injuries at a rate like the Bears’ but have overcome them. Until Sunday in Philadelphia, when the Eagles sacked Sam Bradford six times and hit him more than a dozen other times. The Vikings never sacked Carson Wentz, who wasn’t special but was good enough while Minnesota was self-destructing.

The Vikings have beaten the Bears the last three times they’ve met, the first time that’s happened since 1999 and 2000, which is also the last time the Bears started 1-6. And the Bears have lost three straight.

The Bears were able to end the first three-game skid by focusing on one game: the Lions. The result was shutting down a very good offense, the lowest yardage-allowed (263) of the season and the firmest commitment to the run game (29) attempts.

Morale inside the locker room can only be revived by a win. One game. This game.