New-look Bulls maintaining old habits

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New-look Bulls maintaining old habits

When the Bulls open their 2012-13 season tomorrow at home against the Kings, there will be multiple new faces on the bench and a notably absent former MVP in the starting lineup.

Like the majority of NBA teams, the new-look Bulls have question marks in certain areas. But as head coach Tom Thibodeau has preached all offseason and into the preseason, he expects nothing to change regarding the way his team prepares and executes this season.

And Thibodeau seems to be in mid-season form with his list of objectives for his team.

Our style of plays gonna be the same. Were not changing our attitude or approach to how were gonna play; defend, rebound, low turnovers, inside-out, share the ball, cover up your weaknesses, know your job, do your job, know when to shoot, know when to pass, stay disciplined. Whether Rose is here or not, thats always the same.

Weve got a host of new players, forward Carlos Boozer said. Our core is the same, our principles are the same and our goals are the same. We all have the same challenge of getting better every day.

With the group Gar Forman and John Paxson constructed in the offseason, Thibodeau seems to have put an emphasis on running the offense through the post. With a core frontcourt of Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson, Thibodeaus hope is that establishing the painted area and then working the ball back outside will yield results for an offense that struggled to score in the preseason.

We want to be inside-out. The defense is gonna tell you what shot youre gonna get. I want us to make the right plays. We want to score as quickly as we can, score as many easy baskets as we can; our looks, in order, are lay-ups and dunks first, deep post-ups second, and then open jumpers third, he said. So the more we score inside, that puts more pressure on the defense. Then the responsibility of those players is to hit the open man.

That process began slow for the Bulls, but Thibodeau must be pleased with how his group battled back in the preseason, winning its last four contests. But even with improved results, it may take the Bulls more than an offseason to fully acclimate to each others styles of plays and roles on this years team. Thats where Thibodeau will play a major factor, changing on the go and feeling out his teams strengths and weaknesses.

Just because were starting doesnt mean its the end-all. We know its the beginning and you constantly have to work on different things. You have a problem area, you address it, Thibodeau said. So youre constantly working on things, trying to build the right habits so you can be successful in the end.

And while Thibodeau has instilled consistency on a daily basis for his team, expectations have stayed the same, as well. With Rose out indefinitely, the Indiana Pacers are considered by many to be the frontrunners in the Central Division. But inside the Berto Center, the Bulls arent worried about what anyone thinks but themselves.

I feel like the expectations for us are always pretty similar. We want to get better. We want to play our best when our best is needed, Joakim Noah said. Were a hungry group and whether its two years ago, last year or this year, the goal is to be ready when it hits the fan at the end of the year in the playoffs.

Their first test will be tomorrow night against Sacramento, a group of young, rising players who are likely still a few years away from competing. Led by Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins, power forward Taj Gibson said some of the other players like Marcus Thornton, Isaiah Thomas and Jason Thompson are talented players who may be unknown because of the Kings lack of recent success.

Theyre not rookies anymore. Theyve got a lot of guys that can play. Theyve got a lot of guys that people dont really know about because their team the last couple of years has not been doing so well, but its all about a new year. Everybodys focused and ready. Its all about who wants to compete harder and I know that weve got to come out with the right mindset.

It may be a new year for all 30 teams, but the Bulls, facing questions and a relatively new roster, are looking at it no different than they have the first two seasons under Thibodeau.

The skys the limit for us, Gibson said. Right now were focused on just winning one game at a time. Its up to us to play hard, but I know we have a lot of talent and Im looking forward to shocking the world.

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Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks battle Bruins tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks battle Bruins tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Boston Bruins tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Scott Darling gets the nod.

Joel Quenneville is giving a struggling Corey Crawford a breather tonight, electing to go with Darling in the final game of the father's road trip. Darling is 11-4-2 with a 2.34 goals against average, .924 save percentage and one shutout in 20 games this season. His numbers aren't as great on the road, where he is 4-2-1 with a 2.83 GAA and .901 save percentage compared to a 7-2-1 record with a 1.98 GAA and .928 save percentage at home, but he fared well against Boston last season. The Lemont native stopped 42 of 46 shots, good for a .913 save percentage, in a 6-4 win at the United Center last April.

2. The Panarin-Anisimov-Kane line.

The Blackhawks' trio of Artem Anisimov, Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin had a rare zero points in Tuesday's 6-4 win over Colorado, but don't expect to see that again. In fact, it could be the opposite. In their last meeting against the Bruins, a 6-4 win on April 3 during the 2015-16 season, they combined for 11 points (five goals, six assists), highlighted by a Kane hat trick that put him at 100 points on the season for the first time in his career. 

3. How the rookies build off a monsterous game.

In arguably the most well-rounded victory of the season Tuesday in Colorado, the Blackhawks had three rookies that had multi-point efforts. Vinnie Hinostroza had two goals, including the game winner. Tanner Kero had two goals and one assist, while Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. It was the top-six that was doing the heavy lifting earlier in the season, now the bottom-six is slowly starting to contribute on a consistent basis. The Blackhawks will be in great shape if they can confidently roll four lines that have the potential to find the back of the net on any given shift.

4. Patrice Bergeron vs. Jonathan Toews.

Two of the best two-way centers in the league will go head-to-head, and it's always a fun matchup to watch. Bergeron leads the league with 597 faceoff wins, and is ranked fifth with a 58.4 percentage at the dot while Toews ranks eighth in wins with 473 — despite missing nine games with a back injury — and sits at sixth with a 57.5 percentage. Both of the perennial Selke Trophy candidates have struggled offensively this season, with Bergeron recording only 21 points in 45 games and Toews with 22 points in 38 contests. Bergeron has been heating up as of late, though, scoring three goals and six assists in his last eight games. Bergeron also leads the league in possession numbers, with the Bruins controlling 61.9 percent of the even-strength shot attempts when he's on the ice.

5. Brad Marchand.

In September, Marchand inked an eight-year, $49 million deal and it's already paying dividends for the Bruins. He has 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in his last eight games, and 45 points total, which is by far the most on his team and tied for sixth in the NHL. He's 16 points away from tying his career high of 61 set last season, with a little less than half the year to go. He's also had great success against the Blackhawks. In his last six games against Chicago, dating back to the 2013-14 campaign, he has registered at least a point in all of them, scoring four goals and adding five assists. To make life more difficult, he's a player that enjoys getting under people's skin, so expect him to be a big factor tonight.

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