Rivers talks Bulls, Thibodeau, Robinson

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Rivers talks Bulls, Thibodeau, Robinson

With Kirk Hinrich sidelined for Mondays contest against the Celtics with a right hip strain, Bulls backup point guard Nate Robinson will be thrust into a starting role.

Robinson has already started and played tremendously in Hinrichs place during a pair of preseason contests and overall, the diminutive energy player has been solid, at minimum, thus far during his stint in Chicago.

Celtics head coach Doc Rivers isnt surprised at Robinsons success. Robinson played under Rivers for parts of two seasons, including the Celtics 2010 run to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Lakers, but since leaving Boston, Rivers has been pleased with Robinsons progress from afar.

Well, I just think hes matured, honestly. Ive told Nate this: Its never been his basketball. Nate knows how to play. Hes grown up. Hes more of a professional. I think hes got better focus, Rivers said after the Celtics shootaround Monday morning at Moody Bible Institute. I thought he started doing it last year. I thought last year, you could see the difference in Nate and Im happy for him. I want him doing that. Its not like we dont want players to be good. Im a fan of Nates talent and this is good for Nate.

Added former teammate Rajon Rondo, who will match up with Robinson in Mondays affair: He was the starting point guard for part of the season in Golden State, so hes been there before."

Rivers acknowledged that the Bulls are in a tough situation without All-Star Derrick Rose, but believes that behind his good friend and former assistant Tom Thibodeau, the Bulls' head coach, the team will overcome the major setback.

Its like not having Rondo, but theyre better at it because theyve done it for a while. Injuries are bad obviously, but when you have a training camp without the guy, you can make a team. I think injuries are far tougher when you have them in the middle of the season and then youre working a guy out. Its like Sunday night in the Bears game. The starting quarterback goes out, its tough because they didnt have training camp doing that. Its a little different, but Chicagos playing well, the Maywood, Ill., native explained. They play great D, Nates come in and done a terrific job. Its not like the guys they have playing are bad players. Hinrich may or may not play tonight, but Im talking about their team as a whole, and Nate Robinson, theyre NBA players, so theyre pretty good.

I dont look at it, honestly, because Derricks not playing. I dont prepare that way. I just look at what they are now and obviously, having Derrick, youre a better basketball team because he creates their offense all on his own for the most part and they dont have that. They still run the same stuff, but the same thing with any great point guard. What great point guards do is run the offense better, but more important is at the end of a set or anything, they can create their own offense in transition or off the end of sets, and thats the difference, he continued. I hope every coachs team takes on their identity or somethings not right, unless the best players that good, where they take on that players identity. In this case, I think the team has clearly taken Thibs identity and Derricks, for the most part, but I think its Thibs leadership. I think he sets the tone and he didnt let them give in, and to me, thats the value of Thibs.

They also use the clock on offense. They shoot the ball with one second on the shot clock a lot. They have great ball control. Its not like they wont run they will but theyre going to exhaust the clock until they get the exact shot that they want and so, you can be a running team all you want, it cuts your possessions in half.

Chimed in Rondo: Theyre still a defensive-minded teamI think its worked so far. Different guys have to step up.

Rivers revealed that Thibodeau, despite signing a new contract prior to the start of training camp, is still very frugal, joking, Hes still cheap as hell. Ive been trying to get him to buy a place here, instead of renting. But he tips now. Thats the first step. One step at a time.

The coach was also very complimentary of Bulls starters Luol Deng and Joakim Noah.

Deng likes playing against us, if you go by the numbers. Hes good against us. I love Luol. Hes just a good player. Solid, solid basketball player. Hes another one of those All-Stars thats a role player, but hes an All-Star. Hes just such a team-oriented guy. Hes a great guy to have on your team, he gushed. Noah is being more aggressive, hes taking people off the dribble a lot and his I.Q. is as good as there is in the league. Noah, Kevin Garnett. Theres only a handful of bigs that have great I.Q.s, as far as point-guard I.Q.s and Noahs one of them.

Rivers also opined about the Lakers hiring of Mike DAntoni as head coach to replace the fired Mike Brown and eventually, interim head coach Bernie Bickerstaff, a former Bulls assistant instead of former Bulls and Lakers head coach Phil Jackson, an 11-time NBA champion.

Ive kind of heard about it through the media. Thats good. Hes a hell of a coach. Its a good fit, he said. I think its a terrific fit.

Not my team, so I could care less, as you know, but I dont know how anyone can scoff at Mike DAntoni being a head coach.

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

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USA TODAY

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

There were six teams deserving of reaching the College Football Playoff this season. But there were only four spots.

But what if there were more spots?

An expansion of the Playoff field to eight teams has seemed inevitable from the day the four-team system was announced. Four more Playoff games means oodles more TV viewers, which means oodles more dollars.

And then we wouldn't be having all these arguments, either — but that's nonsense because of course we would, trying to figure out who got snubbed from the expanded bracket.

But this season's emphasis on the conference-champion debate might kick the efforts to expand the Playoff into high gear. Just take it from NCAA president Mark Emmert.

Now, technically speaking, there are 10 FBS conferences, each of which crowns a champion at the end of every football season. Emmert is obviously referring to the Power Five conferences: the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC. He might want to pick his words a bit more carefully, considering he represents the other five conferences — the American, Conference USA, the MAC, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt — too, but his point remains understood.

This season has sparked a ton of controversy as the Playoff selection committee opted for the first time to include a team that did not win its conference, Ohio State, and it picked the Buckeyes over the Big Ten champs, Penn State. Plus, Big 12 champion Oklahoma was passed over in favor of non-champion Ohio State, too, actually falling behind another non-champion from the Big Ten, Michigan, in the final Playoff rankings.

With that decision brought the reasonable question of how much a conference championship should matter in getting a team into the final four and competing for a national championship.

The Playoff committee's mission is to pick the country's four best teams, and there aren't many people out there that will argue that Ohio State isn't one of the country's four best teams. But there's something to be said for winning a conference championship because if the Buckeyes can waltz into the Playoff without even playing in the Big Ten title game, why even have a conference championship game — besides, obviously, earning one more night of big-time TV money.

And so the call for an expanded Playoff bracket has reached perhaps its greatest volume in the short time the Playoff has existed. The obvious solution to Power Five conference champions continually being boxed out is to lock in five spots on the bracket for the five conference champions. Then, guarantee a spot for the highest-ranked team from the Group of Five conferences, and you're left with two "at-large" spots that this season would've gone to Ohio State and Michigan, two of the highest-profile programs in the country sure to drive TV viewership in battles against conference-champion Alabama, Clemson, Washington, Penn State and Oklahoma teams. And P.J. Fleck's undefeated Western Michigan squad takes the final slot.

That's quite the field. But if you think it would've solved all this year's problems, you're wrong. Still there would've been outcry that red-hot USC didn't make the field. The Trojans are playing so well that they could very well win the whole thing, despite their three early season losses. That debate over snubs will exist forever, no matter the size of the field, something we see play out each and every season in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Also, what a damper an expanded bracket would put on the final few weeks of the regular season. Ohio State's game against Michigan, the highest-rated game of the college football season with more than 16 million people watching, would've been effectively meaningless. No matter who won or lost, both teams would've made that eight-team field, right?

Additionally, another round of Playoff football would expand the season to 16 games for some teams. That means more physical demands on student-athletes and a season cutting deep into January, which would impact their educational and time demands.

But again, an expansion of the Playoff bracket has always seemed inevitable. There's too much money to be made, and at the same time fans seem to be all about that idea. People love the postseason for good reason, and the win-or-go-home nature of the NFL playoffs make those games the most-watched sporting events of the year.

Now the NCAA president is chiming in with hopes of an expanded field. So really isn't it just a matter of time?

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

CSN's Chris Boden and Tracey Myers have the latest on the Blackhawks in the Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

From an injury standpoint, it's been a tough few weeks for the Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks are down two key players in captain Jonathan Toews and goaltender Corey Crawford, and now may be without defenseman Brent Seabrook who sustained an upper-body injury in Tuesday's victory over the Arizona Coyotes.

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While the Blackhawks haven't had much luck on the injury front, their upcoming two opponents are in the same boat.

"You look at the New York Rangers, a very talented team, but this is what every team goes through every season. Your depth gets tested," Myers said.

Check out what else Boden and Myers had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Ahead