No easy solutions for Bulls' offensive problems

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No easy solutions for Bulls' offensive problems

Its always dangerous to make any conclusions this early in the NBA season, but with that disclaimer out of the way it looks to me like the Bulls are going to have a tough time scoring in their half-court offense until Derrick Rose returns. This team reminds me of the Scott Skiles teams that clawed their way into the playoffs from 2005 to 2007: lots of jump shooters and no one really adept at breaking down his defender and getting to the basket. Those Skiles teams utilized a drive-and-kick offense run by Kirk Hinrich and Chris Duhon. Captain Kirk is now back, still shooting around 40 percent from the field and not able to drive past defenders as often as he did in his younger days.As a result, the Bulls are prone to long dry spells from the field, making it crucial they take advantage of their fast break opportunities. As weve seen early in the season, Tom Thibodeau is encouraging his players to push the ball up-court after every turnover or defensive rebound. The starters have done a pretty good job of seeking out early offense, but the second unit still is searching for its rhythm.Nate Robinson was in the lineup during the fourth quarter against the Hornets and Magic to get more speed on the floor, and Nate is probably the only player on the team who can consistently beat his man off the dribble and break down the opposing defense. The Bulls scored 31 fourth quarter points against Orlando with a lineup of Robinson, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, after managing just 68 points in the first three quarters combined. It looks like Thibodeau wont hesitate to go to that smaller, quicker line-up if he feels his team needs to force turnovers and push the ball down the stretch.But what can the Bulls do to get more points in the half-court offense?
Thibodeau always likes to talk about playing inside-out, which basically means throwing the ball into the post to force a double team, then pass the ball back out to an open shooter. Problem is, the Bulls dont really have a consistent scoring threat in the low post. Noah has done a good job so far with a pair of 20-point games, but hes not a big enough threat to draw a double team. Carlos Boozer was brought to Chicago to be that low post guy, but hes become more of a pick-and-pop player, looking to fade out to the elbow for fall-away jumpers.As a result, the Bulls have tried to use Deng and Rip Hamilton in post-up situations, trying to take advantage of whichever match-up gives them the best chance score from close range. Look for more of Deng in the post as the season moves forward. He seems more comfortable there than any other player currently on the roster, with the possible exception of back-up center Nazr Mohammed, who doesnt figure to play much because of his limited mobility.Bottom line, the formula for the Bulls to make a run at another Central division title continues to be lock-down defense and control of the defensive boards. Weve seen a little slippage in those areas early in the season, but the Bulls still managed to hold three of their first four opponents under 90 points.
And, with the news of Danny Granger being sidelined for the next three months because of knee tendinitis, it might only take 48 to 50 victories to win the Central this season. If the Bulls can become more productive in their half-court sets, that win total is certainly within their reach.

Could ex-Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian replace Peyton Manning?

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Could ex-Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian replace Peyton Manning?

The starting quarterback for the reigning Super Bowl champs?

It might be a Northwestern alum.

Trevor Siemian, who was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the seventh round of last year's NFL Draft, is very much in the mix to succeed Peyton Manning as the Broncos' starting quarterback, according to the Denver Post's Troy Renck.

The Broncos' quarterback situation has been a hot topic during this NFL offseason. Manning rode into the sunset, retiring after winning his second Super Bowl in February, and backup Brock Osweiler signed a free-agent deal with the Houston Texans.

And while Denver brought in former USC star Mark Sanchez as a free agent and used a first-round draft pick on Memphis' Paxton Lynch, head coach Gary Kubiak is telling reporters he "wouldn't sleep on" Siemian to beat out both for the starting job.

"I think Trevor has a maturity to him. He’s kind of the sleeper, I would say. Trevor knows the offense. He’s very comfortable and can throw the ball too," Kubiak said, quoted in Renck's story. "We’ve also seen him make big plays in the preseason games under the lights. I wouldn’t sleep on Trevor to win the job, either."

Siemian didn't throw a pass during his rookie season, but if he were to beat out Sanchez and Lynch for the Broncos' starting gig, he'd be the first Northwestern product to start an NFL game at quarterback in the 21st century. Two others — Brett Basanez and Mike Kafka — threw a combined 27 passes in five NFL games during the 2006 and 2011 seasons.

Tom Izzo lauds 'bona fide 4-man' Ben Carter as Spartans announce addition

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Tom Izzo lauds 'bona fide 4-man' Ben Carter as Spartans announce addition

Early this month, UNLV transfer Ben Carter announced he'd be playing his final season of NCAA eligibility at Michigan State.

Tuesday, the Spartans officially announced Carter's addition, and head coach Tom Izzo — who was in need of some front-court help — welcomed a player he called a "bona fide 4-man."

"What struck me about Ben from the very first time I talked to him was that the most important thing to him was winning and being a part of a championship team," Izzo said in the team's announcement. "(Former UNLV interim) coach (Todd) Simon felt Ben was one of the keys to their team last season before he was injured in January. He's going to give us a bona fide 4-man, but once again, it's his passion for winning that most impressed me. After meeting with him and his family on their visit, I'm excited to say that we are adding a good player and a great kid."

Carter should give Izzo and the Spartans a good deal of assistance. Before that aforementioned season-ending ACL tear in January, Carter was averaging 8.6 points and 6.0 rebounds a game in 24 minutes a game for the Runnin' Rebels.

A total of five forwards — including two members of Michigan State's starting five — from last season's team departed this offseason. Matt Costello and Colby Wollenman graduated, Deyonta Davis is off to the NBA Draft and Javon Bess and Marvin Clark Jr. both transferred.

Carter joins a front court that returns Gavin Schilling and welcomes in incoming freshman Nick Ward.

Charles Buggs transferring away from Gophers

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Charles Buggs transferring away from Gophers

Another departure from the Minnesota basketball program.

The Gophers announced Tuesday that Charles Buggs will transfer out of the program following his graduation and will seek to play his final season of NCAA eligibility elsewhere.

"I want to take the time to thank everyone including our coaching staff and especially Minnesota fans for their support and efforts throughout my time here," Buggs said in the team's announcement. "Being part of the University of Minnesota athletic program, I was able to not only make friends but formulate a new family that helped me grow as an athlete and a person. I will always support the University and Minnesota and hope to get the opportunity to give back to the school and the athletic program as much as it has given me."

After redshirting as a freshman, Buggs played for the Gophers over the last three seasons, averaging a career-high 5.9 points per game last season in 24 minutes a game.

"It has been a pleasure to coach Charles over the past three years and see his continued development and growth as a basketball player and a person," head coach Richard Pitino said in the announcement. "Charles has always represented the university with class, and I am especially proud of him graduating. He has a bright future in basketball and life ahead of him and will no doubt find success wherever he goes."

Minnesota was a miserable 8-23 last season, the 23 defeats setting a program record. All that losing has Pitino on the hot seat, and a host of disciplinary issues led to multiple suspensions and dismissals last season.

Buggs is the second player to transfer out of the program since the season ended, joining Kevin Dorsey, who according to the Star Tribune transferred "following a suspension for the final four games after sex videos appeared on his social media sites."