Offense can succeed without Rose, go-to scorer


Offense can succeed without Rose, go-to scorer

When Richard Hamiltons Detroit Pistons won the 2004 NBA Championship, there were no superstars. Only center Ben Wallace made the All-Star Game from a team that won 54 games and Hamilton led the team at 17.6 points per game. He was the de-facto go-to scorer, though his 14.9 field goal attempts per game were 25th in the league.

Thats why the veteran, beginning his second year with the Bulls but the first time without Derrick Rose, knows that the Bulls offense can be successful without a high volume shooter and scorer.

In this league, in order to be a great team youve got to have production from all the guys on the floor. You cant just have one guy do the bulk of the scoring, he said, because good teams key on that and in the playoffs its hard to win like that. So in order for us to be good and successful, we all gotta be better. We all gotta help each other without Derrick and bring more of a team theme to win games.

The Bulls are hoping to get some of that production from Carlos Boozer, who has looked impressive early in the preseason. The 30-year-old has averaged 13.2 points in just 24.5 minutes in six games. And though his scoring will be important for a team looking to make up Roses 21.8 points per game from a year ago, Hamilton has seen Boozers aggressiveness benefit the outside shooters as well.

The more productive he is in the paint, it makes everybodys job easier. Not just him scoring the ball, but him making plays, Hamilton, averaging a team-high 14.8 points per game, said. When we can get the ball down there, it makes the perimeter guys jobs a lot easier, because now the defense cant just focus on guys on the perimeter. Theyve got to focus on guys down low.

The Bulls certainly will see production from small forward and 2012 All-Star Luol Deng, as well as Joakim Noah. That three-headed monster, coach Tom Thibodeau said, is essential for any team and the theory has not changed despite Roses absence.

I think you always want three primary scorers, and thats always been the case, Thibodeau said. It was the case when Derrick was here. So I think when you look at the game, your ability to try to make it hard on your opponents three primary scorers, theyre gonna try to make it hard on your three primary scorers.

And then the responsibility of the primary scorer is when youre 1-on-1, you want to score. When a second defender comes, he has a responsibility to hit the open man and make the right play. So theres a lot of responsibility that comes along with being a primary scorer.

Whether that primary scorer becomes Deng, who led the Bulls with 16.7 points per game when Rose sat, Boozer or Noah, expectations from outside have been lowered until that trio emerges.

But just as Hamilton saw it in Detroit, he has no problem with the Bulls flying under the radar without their proven go-to scorer and leader.

We love it. We love it, because you love to be the underdog, he said. You love to do stuff when people dont expect you to do anything. It makes you strive and go out and want it even more.

Bears Talk Podcast: What's next for Bears at QB after Brian Hoyer suffers broken arm?


Bears Talk Podcast: What's next for Bears at QB after Brian Hoyer suffers broken arm?

Lance Briggs, Alex Brown and Jim Miller break down where the Bears go at QB following Brian Hoyer’s injury and evaluate the defense’s gutsy performance on Thursday night against the Packers despite numerous injuries. Plus, a look at the big picture and who can help the Bears down the road.

Check out the latest edition of the Bears Talk Podcast here:

Anthony Rizzo/Javier Baez antics show how this Cubs team doesn’t feel the same weight of history

Anthony Rizzo/Javier Baez antics show how this Cubs team doesn’t feel the same weight of history

LOS ANGELES – Within minutes of the last out on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium, ESPN’s @SportsCenter account sent out a photo of Moises Alou at the Wrigley Field wall to more than 30 million Twitter followers: “The last time the Cubs were up 3-2 in an NLCS was Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS vs. the Marlins. Most remember it as ‘the Bartman Game.’”

As Kerry Wood once said: “Irrelevant, dude.”
Look, the Cubs still need to find a way to beat either Clayton Kershaw or Rich Hill this weekend, with Kenley Jansen resting and waiting for the multiple-inning saves. The obligatory description for Kershaw is “the best pitcher on the planet.” Hill’s lefty curveball – and “the perceptual velocity” of his fastball – freezes hitters. Jansen has a mystical cutter reminiscent of the great Mariano Rivera. The top-heavy part of this Los Angeles playoff pitching staff has held the Cubs to zero runs in 16.1 innings.

But until proven otherwise, forget about this idea of a Cubs team weighed down by the history of a franchise that hasn’t played in the World Series since 1945.

Just look at Javier Baez getting in Anthony Rizzo’s airspace during Game 5, the human-highlight-film second baseman standing right next to the All-Star first baseman as he caught a Kike Hernandez pop-up for the second out of the third inning.

It didn’t matter that this was a 1-0 game and MVP-ballot players Justin Turner and Corey Seager were coming up. This is what the 2016 Cubs do. Rizzo caught the ball, quickly flipped it underhand and it bounced off Baez’s chest – in front of a sellout crowd of 54,449 and a national Fox Sports 1 audience.

“We always mess around,” Rizzo said at his locker inside a tight clubhouse jammed with media after an 8-4 win. “So I’m screaming: ‘Javy! Javy! I got it! I got it, Javy, I got it!’

“And usually he’ll yell at me: ‘Don’t miss it!’ Or I’ll yell at him: ‘Don’t miss it!’

“We do that a lot. If it’s a pop-up to him, I’ll go right behind him. It’s just little ways of slowing the game down and having fun, too.”

Rizzo is a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman for a team that led the majors in defensive efficiency this year. As a super-utility guy, Baez got credit for 11 defensive runs saved in 383 innings at second base, or one less than co-leaders Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler, who each did it in almost 1,300 innings.

“Sometimes when I call (Rizzo) off to get a fly ball, he starts talking to me,” Baez said. “I tell him: ‘Hey, you can do whatever you want. Just don’t move my head. You can touch me if you want. Just don’t move my head.’

“And I told him to be ready for it, because I was going to do the same thing. You just got to be focused on the fly ball. No matter what’s happening around you, you just got to catch it.”

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

This isn’t about Bartman. It’s about a group of young, confident players who are growing up together and absolutely expect to be in this position. It’s manager Joe Maddon designing “Embrace The Target” T-shirts and telling them to show up to the ballpark whenever they want and then blow off batting practice.

“For sure, we’re relaxed,” said Baez, who’s gone viral during these playoffs, the rest of the country witnessing his amazing instincts and flashy personality. “I’m relaxed when I play defense.”

The thing is, Rizzo and Baez could be playing next to each other for the next five years, the same way Kris Bryant and Addison Russell will be anchoring the left side of the infield.

This is how Rizzo introduced Russell to The Show when a natural shortstop tried to learn second base on the fly last year and track pop-ups in front of 40,000 people: “Hey, watch out for that skateboard behind you! Don’t trip!”

“Oh yeah, we yell at each other all the time,” Rizzo said. “It’s just one of those things where you got to stay loose.”