Gutsy effort by Bulls earns win over Sixers

962153.png

Gutsy effort by Bulls earns win over Sixers

PHILADELPHIATired, coming off a late game, the second game of a back-to-back and on little sleepnone of these excuses mattered to the Bulls Wednesday night, as they dispatched a familiar foe, the 76ers, 96-89 at the Wells Fargo Center.

Like most Bulls wins, it wasnt pretty, but a combination of their vaunted defense stepping up at the right time, the surprising poise of rookie Marquis Teague (six points, four assists), All-Star Luol Deng (19 points, 12 rebounds) coming through in the clutch and simply a major display of heart and determination sealed the victory for the gritty group.

Behind the scoring of Joakim Noah (21 points) and the playmaking of Deng, the Bulls (12-9) got off to a quick start, a must as they were missing their starting backcourt, as Rip Hamilton, still recovering from a torn left plantar fascia, didnt make the trip to his home state and Kirk Hinrich was sidelined with a knee injury suffered in the previous evenings home loss to the Clippers.

The jump-shooting Sixers (12-10)still without offseason acquisition Andrew Bynum, the All-Star center expected to finally give them a low-post presencegot into the groove quickly thereafter, as the likes of point guard Jrue Holiday (26 points, nine assists), pushing for an All-Star bid in his fourth NBA season, sixth man Nick Young (10 points) and swingman Evan Turner (16 points), a Chicago native.

Nate Robinson (14 points), filling in for the injured Hinrich, made his presence as a scorer felt early, but the visitors had already dug themselves a hole, as Philadelphia got into transition for easy baskets, something their coach, former Bulls head man Doug Collins, said his team would try to do before the contest even started.

With Deng and Noah carrying the offensive load for the entire opening period, the Bulls trailed, 24-21, at the conclusion of the first quarter.

Taj Gibson (six points, seven rebounds) joined Noah and Deng as the Bulls catalysts at the outset of the second frame and as Teague ran the show in Robinsons stead, the Bulls overtook their hosts.

Teague, who has already played with poise in his limited minutes this season, gave a solid defensive effort, was assertive as a floor general and displayed the pure playmaking ability that, among other things, the Bulls have lacked on the young campaign.

As the first half waned on, the Sixers, propelled by Holiday and insiders Lavoy Allen (six rebounds) and Thaddeus Young (13 points), fought back and regained the advantage, making a back-and-forth affair for the remainder of the period.

While it wasnt exactly the grind-it-out contest that Collins said he feared before the game and in which the Bulls usually thrive, the guests certainly didnt appear to be worn downon the second night of a back-to-back, after a late game at home and arriving in Philadelphia in the wee hours of the morningthe Bulls were behind at the intermission, 44-41.

After the break, it was Marco Belinellis (16 points) turn to spark the Bulls offense-by-committee approach in the close-knit affair, but with Holiday continuing to use his size advantage at the point to score and the hosts enjoying an edge on the boards, the momentum wasnt with the visitors and the Sixers once again built a slim cushion.

Robinsons instant-offense game kept the Bulls within striking distance, but with Philadelphia both getting out in transition and keeping typical rebounding forces Noah and Carlos Boozer (five points) off the glass, the guests were definitively playing catch-up, even if the gap between the two teams wasnt huge.

The Bulls replacement backcourt of Belinelli and Robinson, as well as Noahwho has quickly become Public Enemy No. 1; after getting booed following his severe ankle injury in last springs playoffs, he feels the same way about the Philadelphia crowdwith a boost off the bench from the ever-active Gibson, produced enough points to even take the lead, though that mostly by virtue of their stingy defense.

The Bulls led, 69-66, heading into the final stanza.

A slow offensive start to the fourth quarter allowed the Sixers to briefly seize control of the game, but Deng, aided by the contributions of reserve Jimmy Butler (nine points), came alive as a scorer to again make the contest a back-and-forth affair.

While Holiday, flanked by the trio of both Youngs and Turner, continued to be effective, the home team was in for a battle down the stretch, as the two teams settled into a defensive showdown reminiscent of the first-round playoff series.

Eerily, Deng went down in a heap after being fouled in transitionthe arena went quiet until he got up and walked it off, unlike how they booed Noahand the All-Star resumed his role as closer, along with the teams vaunted defense coming up with big stops when it counted helped them gain late-game separation from the Sixers.

A Noah jumper with 1:19 remaining made it a three-possession game, 90-83, and while Philadelphia didnt give up hope of a last-gasp comeback, it was all academic from that point forward.

He’s back: Blackhawks sign Brian Campbell

He’s back: Blackhawks sign Brian Campbell

For Brian Campbell, it was pretty simple.

He wanted to come back to Chicago. He makes his offseason home here, wants to continue to raise his young family here and is incredibly familiar with the team here. All it was going to take was a decent, not decadent, salary.

Campbell got that, and now he’s back to try and win another Stanley Cup.

Campbell signed a one-year deal worth a reported $2 million with the Blackhawks not long after the NHL free agency window opened on Friday. For Campbell, the chance to come back to Chicago was too tempting and worth turning down other, more lucrative offers.

“It’s where my heart is, where I want to play,” said Campbell via conference call. “The last time when I was a free agent, money played a factor. This time it was about what was best for me and my family. I have two young daughters; one is going into preschool. I’ve been welcomed into the neighborhood I live in. It’s just where I wanted to be, where my heart was. It just makes our life perfect. We’re ecstatic about being here.”

It’s a good, affordable deal, just like the one the Blackhawks signed Brad Richards to entering the 2014-15 season. Unlike with Richards, there shouldn’t be much adjustment time for Campbell. While the Blackhawks’ roster has changed plenty since Campbell was traded, the core is still fairly intact.

General manager Stan Bowman said at the draft last weekend that he wouldn’t rule out getting a veteran defenseman. Now he has Campbell back in the fold and it didn’t take long to convince him to return.

“The fact it came together so quickly, seemed it was a place Brian wanted to be,” Bowman said. “No question that Brian had a tremendous season this past year and several good years, leading up to this year. I’m sure he had other opportunities. Speaks to what person Brian is. He’s a winner. He believes in our organization and our chances last year. Nice to know he wants to be part of what we’re doing in Chicago. Familiarity with the coach and some players here. We’re excited he chose Chicago.”

Campbell’s return helps a defense that missed Johnny Oduya last season. Whether or not he plays as big a role as he did in Florida, or even in his first stint with Chicago, remains to be seen but Campbell believes he can still be a top-minute guy. His durability has been proven; the 37-year-old Campbell has played in every regular-season game with the Florida Panthers since he joined them in the 2011-12 season.

“I have a lot left in the tank,” Campbell said. “There are no egos here for me. It’s doing what’s best to win. I know how old I am but I definitely don’t feel that old. I led the Panthers in minutes last season but I’m definitely fine with less minutes as well. Whatever they want I’m more than happy to contribute.”

With the Campbell deal done the Blackhawks have around $3.2 million in cap space, per generalfanager.com. The Blackhawks may not do a whole lot else regarding free agency. Bowman said the Blackhawks could get a “role-type player,” but getting Campbell was their top priority.

The Blackhawks needed to bolster their defense. Campbell wanted to come “home.” It worked out. Now to see if Campbell is once again the defenseman the Blackhawks need.

“I call Chicago home. My wife grew up here and we’re excited to raise our two daughters here,” Campbell said. “I couldn’t be happier to play for my hometown team now.”

Dale Weise signs four-deal deal with Flyers

Dale Weise signs four-deal deal with Flyers

Dale Weise has moved on from the Blackhawks, and signed a four-year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers, the team announced Friday.

The deal is reportedly worth $9.4 million total, according to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, which comes out to be an annual cap hit of $2.35 million.

Weise struggled to hold down a roster spot in Chicago after being acquired at the trade deadline from the Montreal Canadiens.

He registered just one assist in 15 regular-season games with the Blackhawks, and was a healthy scratch in three of their seven playoff contests. 

Prior to his brief stint with the Blackhawks, the 27-year-old Weise put up 14 goals and 12 assists in 56 games last season with the Canadiens.

Blackhawks sign Sam Carrick, Pierre Cedric-Labrie to one-year deals

Blackhawks sign Sam Carrick, Pierre Cedric-Labrie to one-year deals

The Blackhawks announced Friday that they have made a couple minor-league moves.

Forwards Sam Carrick and Pierre-Cedric Labrie agreed to one-year deals with the team, and are likely to report to the Rockford IceHogs of the American League.

Carrick, 24, scored 16 goals and 18 assists in 52 games last season with the AHL's Toronto Marlies. Across four seasons with the Marlies, Carrick has accumulated 100 points (41 goals and 59 assists) in 192 games, including six goals and 11 assists in 36 career Calder Cup playoff games.

He was a fifth-round pick (No. 144 overall) in the 2010 NHL Draft.

Labrie, 30, has spent the last two season in Rockford, where he scored a career-high 20 goals and added 14 assists in 66 games last season. The Blackhawks originally signed Labrie, who was an undrafted free agent, in 2014 before re-signing him to a one-year contract last June.