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.

White Sox: Jake Petricka hopes DL stint is short

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White Sox: Jake Petricka hopes DL stint is short

Jake Petricka will have to resume some mechanical work with Don Cooper as soon as he’s healthy.

With hip tightness he’s experienced in the early part of the season continuing to linger, the White Sox reliever went on the 15-day disabled on Thursday. Petricka has a right-hip impingement and seems optimistic that rest and treatment should have him on the mend quickly.

“I have a little history of tight IT bands,” Petricka said. “I just thought it was part of the normal wear and tear, so I upped my other stuff to take care of it and it just kept coming back and coming back and it kinda hit a point.

“It sucks being on the DL, but I think Herm (Schneider) will take care of me and get it cleaned out and be good to go when I get back.”

Petricka described the injury as a minor ailment. With treatment, he can avoid a worse future injury. But he needs at least a week off, which forced the White Sox to place him on the DL.

Petricka has struggled with command early in the season. He has issued eight walks and allowed eight hits in eight innings, which has resulted in a 4.50 ERA. The right-hander said he and Cooper have begun to try and make some corrections and he hopes to get back to it shortly.

“I felt good,” Petricka said. “Obviously, location has been off. We were looking at mechanics and stuff with Coop and we were getting into a good groove of figuring stuff out and this kind of popped up. We’ll pick up right where we left off when we’re done with this.”

Lackey's 'country hardball' leads to 11 strikeouts in win over Nationals

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Lackey's 'country hardball' leads to 11 strikeouts in win over Nationals

John Lackey struck out 11 hitters for the second time this season Friday.

He had a slightly different way of describing it:

“We’re going to play a little country hardball and figure it out.”

The “country hardball” was working well for Lackey, who punched out nearly a dozen Washington Nationals in the Cubs’ 8-6 win at Wrigley Field, matching a season high in whiffs and earning his fourth win of the year.

After surrendering a pair of early runs, Lackey settled in nicely, allowing just two hits in his final five innings of work. Getting a ton of assistance from his offense certainly helped, the Cubs digging out of that early 2-0 hole by bashing four home runs against Nationals ace Max Scherzer.

Given Scherzer’s fate, Lackey’s performance on a day when the ball was soaring out of the Friendly Confines was particularly impressive. So too was his second 11-strikeout game of 2016 after not reaching that number in any game last season with the Cardinals.

“It was definitely a day for the hitters. A little warmer, wind blowing the other direction. It was a tough challenge today, for sure, with a good lineup, and I was fortunate to get a few strikeouts,” Lackey said. “You never know with the fly ball when things are like that around here.

“You’re going to have to miss some bats in this ballpark, especially later on in the summer when it warms up. Obviously it’s not a great place to pitch some days when the wind’s blowing out. It can play pretty small. Today I was fortunate.”

The Cubs’ hitters will take the headlines and make the highlight shows, an unsurprising result when Ben Zobrist hits four homers in three games and the Cubs boast a mind-boggling plus-98 run differential.

But that run differential and the Cubs’ success in general — 22 wins in their first 28 games of the season — wouldn’t be possible without elite pitching. Jake Arrieta’s credentials are well known, as are Jon Lester’s, and Jason Hammel has dazzled, too, with a 1.24 ERA.

Lackey has maybe seemed the odd man out with an ERA north of 4.00, but he’s shone in more than half his starts this season. In fact, he’s finding the confines at Wrigley to be quite friendly, owning a 2-0 record and a 2.49 ERA in three home starts. He’s gone at least seven innings in three of his last four starts and has a team-high 40 strikeouts on the season.

Make no mistake, every piece of this five-man rotation is pulling his weight, and Lackey is no exception.

“I’ve been in a few rotations, I try to handle my own business,” Lackey said. “We definitely root for each other hard. Jake’s on another level right now doing his thing. It’s a great group, it’s a fun group to hang out with and we work hard in the weight room, push each other. And then whoever’s day is that day, I’m their biggest fan, and I hope everybody does well.”

Lackey also became the fifth active pitcher to reach 2,000 career strikeouts, an achievement he chalked up to being old.

“I guess it means I’m old and been around a while, done a few things.”

The truth is that Lackey has “done a few things,” and it’s why he’s here. Theo Epstein’s front office brought Lackey in this winter because of his pedigree, which includes a pair of World Series rings and a dominating performance against this very Cubs lineup in Game 1 of last year’s NLDS.

Lackey signed on for the same reason the other big-name free agents did this offseason: This Cubs team has a chance to make his jewelry collection even more impressive.

With the Cubs owning the title of baseball’s best team almost 30 games into this season, is it time to start comparing this group with Lackey’s past title-winning squads?

“It’s a little early to get too crazy,” Lackey said. “Let’s play a little baseball.”

Injury Report: White Sox, Cubs weekly update

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Injury Report: White Sox, Cubs weekly update

Each week, CSNChicago.com takes a look at the injury report from both the Cubs and White Sox, presented by Service King.

WHITE SOX

- Catchers Alex Avila (strained hamstring) and Kevan Smith (back) were sent to the 15-day disabled list on April 24. On Friday, Avila started his rehab assignment in Triple-A Charlotte. Smith is in Glendale, Ariz. rehabbing his injury.

- Daniel Webb went to the 15-day DL on April 29 for right elbow flexor inflammation.

- Jake Petricka hit the 15-day DL with a right hip impingement.

CUBS

- Jason Heyward returned to the field mid-game on Thursday night after Dexter Fowler was ejected in the third inning against the Washington Nationals. Heyward, who missed three games due to a wrist injury, started for the first time in four contests on Friday, going 1-for-3 with a double and a walk.

- Matt Szczur was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday with a strained right hamstring.

- Miguel Montero is eligible to return from the DL next Tuesday but Joe Maddon isn't sure if he needs a rehab stint. Montero landed on the DL on April 25 with back stiffness.