O'Brien, Penn State mindful of past, but ready to move forward

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O'Brien, Penn State mindful of past, but ready to move forward

Penn State didn't get the death penalty. The football team will play games this fall, instead of the broached penalty of being axed for four years. So with that in mind, Bill O'Brien has to do his job, and that's coach the Penn State football team.

"Penn State's sanctions aren't the end of the world," O'Brien said Thursday at Big Ten media day. "I think people have to keep things in perspective and remember that there's a lot more important things in the world, like the victims of child abuse, like our own families, like these kids and their emotions right now. Like I've said from Monday on, my job is to keep this 2012 football team together, but after that it's just about competing and doing the best job we can."

Whoever succeeded Joe Paterno at Penn State was going to have a difficult time. Nobody could've envisioned the job being as difficult as the daunting task facing O'Brien. But from a purely football standpoint, all O'Brien -- who said he expects 108,000 fans at every home game at Beaver Stadium this year -- is concerned about is winning games.

"I think we have a chance to be a decent football team," O'Brien said. "I think we can field a competitive team and I think that would show a lot of people that we're not dead."

But the sanctions handed down Monday were harsh in an effort to de-emphasize football and attempt to change a culture within the program that helped protect Jerry Sandusky. With no chance of making a bowl or Big Ten championship game, and with severe scholarship reductions put in place, Penn State players are free to transfer to wherever they please without having to sit out a year.

O'Brien hasn't seen a mass exodus from State College, though, at least not yet. The first-year coach said about 50 players have already affirmed their commitments to stay at Penn State.

"It shows you what Penn State is all about, it shows you what these kids are all about," O'Brien said of those players sticking with the program. "This is a prideful bunch of kids, these are tough kids. ... We've got great kids, kids that want to stick together. Now, I know there may be some kids that will leave, I understand that."

Only a handful of Big Ten coaches said Thursday they would look to recruit Penn State players. Illinois coach Tim Beckman was one, and his approach was met with some level of criticism. Most other coaches said they would listen if a Penn State player contacted them, but won't actively recruit anyone away from Happy Valley.

"I have a problem with that," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said of actively trying to add current Penn State players, reiterating the same phrase. "But as a player, a young man has a right to play wherever he wants to play. We have to keep that in mind. However, when he's a part of a team, you're getting into a situation that I'm not quite very familiar with, and we're not going to get very familiar with it."

Michigan coach Brady Hoke was a little more open to the idea, but ultimately decided against adding any Penn State players.

"To be honest with you, we kind of made a decision -- I'd be lying if I didn't say we didn't look at the roster to some degree," Hoke said. "But we've kind of made a decision that we're going to stay and not recruit the guys and keep our business our business."

While O'Brien said none of his players have informed him of their decision to transfer, running back Silas Redd reportedly is considering a move to USC.

"The rules are what they are -- it's like NFL free agency without the rules," O'Brien, who previously coached with the New England Patriots, said. "So other schools can do what they want as long as they tell our compliance office that they're contacting these kids, and it is what it is."

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany would rather the contact between other schools and Penn State be, at least within the conference, nn an athletic director-to-athletic director level instead between compliance departments.

"I want it to happen at a higher level," Delany said, adding that he wasn't in favor of allowing the transfers to happen within the conference. "I argued to some extent against it. Our presidents were clear and unanimous that they want these students to have the opportunity to go where they want to go and with no exceptions, including Big Ten exceptions.

"What I said to our coaches this morning, you know, I get it; this is what the rules are. And I expect you to operate in a way that makes not sense just under the rules but sense to you as adults and grownups, so that if a player is interested in talking to you or has an interest in your university, so be it. Those are the rules. That's what our presidents want. That's what the NCAA wants."

Like O'Brien, who repeatedly expressed a desire to turn the page now that the sanctions have been placed on Penn State, Delany is ready to move forward while still reflecting on the past.

"What's clear to me, though, is that justice can never really be served in this case, because the victims can never receive justice," Delany said. "And that's just the sad fact of the case. And while there are ancillary people who impacted the case in one way or another, affected the Big Ten, it's affected Penn State, obviously. It's affected a lot of people who are not involved in any way shape or form with the case, I think you have to just ... you have to recognize that the 10 individuals and perhaps many, many more, were damaged and hurt. And there's no amount of legal, criminal, civil, NCAA, Big Ten action that can change that or help them.

"And so a lot of people want to debate about NCAA penalties or Big Ten penalties, and those debates are fine. But to me, they miss the point very much because they're not in any way related to what happened to the victims of Sandusky's actions."

Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

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AP

Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

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Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

It was a gift and the Bulls weren't going to look it in the mouth as Dwyane Wade was poised to finish off another one of his sterling defensive plays with a breakaway dunk with the game tied and Arron Afflalo and DeMarcus Cousins trailing.

Lightly touched by the small of his back by Cousins, Wade miscalculated his liftoff and missed the dunk but was bailed out by the refs for a foul with 14 seconds left.

Then, he bailed the Bulls out.

Wade had his fifth fourth-quarter defensive play, stripping Cousins on a steal on the ensuing possession with the Sacramento Kings having a chance to win, leading to a Michael Carter-Williams dunk and finishing a 102-99 win Saturday night at the United Center.

It was a clock-turning performance for Wade on both ends of the floor, even if his missed dunk is a reminder that he is 35 years old. 

"I took off too far as I look at the instant replay," Wade said. "I should've took maybe one more dribble. Can't say I felt 35, I just took off too far (laughs). But hey, sometimes you get calls, sometimes you don't. I'm a person who hasn't gotten a lot all year so I'm not gonna apologize for nothing."

Stripping Cousins on his spin move was the finale, but he swatted an Arron Afflalo corner triple in the fourth, smothered Ty Lawson at the rim twice for blocked shots to end the third and tortured Lawson again in the fourth for another steal that led to him following up a Jimmy Butler missed layup with a follow and foul.

"Just a read," said Wade on stripping Cousins. "We knew he was gonna go to DeMarcus at that point. Once we forced him left, I knew he had to come back to the right hand. And being in the right place at the right time, the ball was right there for me."

Wade played like a desperate and motivated man, putting up 30 with six rebounds and four assists on the second night of a back-to-back is proof positive he took Friday's loss to Atlanta personally and used his play to back up those feelings.

He took to twitter to apologize for the poor effort against the Hawks, producing his best all-around performance as a Bull.

"We've been good in desperate moments," Wade said. "We haven't been good in non-desperate moments, when we win three in a row or playing a team that we should beat. But (in) the desperate moments I like us."

He scored 13 in the fourth, along with the last of his four blocked shots and all three of his steals took place in the final 12.

"I thought he was terrific," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He was aggressive all game long, taking the ball to the basket, getting to the line 15 times. He came up with two big plays."

Hoiberg threw out different lineups and rotations, playing Paul Zipser as a sixth man and having the second-round draft pick close the game. Zipser took advantage, hitting three triples and scoring 13 points.

"I thought it was night and day from last night," Hoiberg said. "Our energy was really good all night long. We got just enough stops to find a way to win."

Cousins dominated the game with 42 and 14 rebounds in 35 minutes, the only Kings player in double figures all night.

"He was pretty much unguardable for the majority of the game, Taj did a solid job on him," Hoiberg said. "When Robin was on him, they put him on the perimeter and let him shoot threes. He's a monster."

Back-to-back triples from Cousins gave him 40 and tied the game at 97, as a third one rimmed out with a little under two minutes left.

Cousins dominated the start of the third quarter, hitting midrange jumpers over Lopez and taunting the Bulls bench after hitting a jumper to put the Kings ahead, 70-63 midway through the third.

But the Bulls stayed close, with Hoiberg choosing to sit Rajon Rondo for the second half after playing him six minutes in the second quarter, using Wade as a point guard and going with Carter-Williams for defense, along with Zipser, who didn't look scared of the moment.

"I like the wrinkle coach put in there, putting him in early," Wade said. "He gave him an opportunity and he helped us big time."

Butler scored 23 with seven assists and five rebounds in 39 minutes, didn't have to play the hero for once and made fun of Wade's apology tweet.

"He was due for a big night," Butler said. "He can tweet again if he can come out again and give us 30 and some big steals and big dunks."

"I think that's what called of him, to score baskets and guard. It's kinda sneaky. You never really expect it until it happens."

It looked like the worst was over when the Bulls made a short run to end the third, surviving the onslaught from Cousins — and surviving their own experimenting with Zipser instead of going with Denzel Valentine, switching things up altogether.

But the tone was set by the leaders, who can only manufacture but so much urgency on a nightly basis.

"I like this team when we're desperate," Wade said. "A desperate team, we're not bad."