Ask Aggrey: Was Rose's injury inevitable?

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Ask Aggrey: Was Rose's injury inevitable?

It was all good just a week ago. Maybe not all good, but last Monday, I was confident enough to attempt to talk Bulls fans off the ledge after Derrick suffered his devastating, season-ending knee injury.

But now, after Jo's severely sprained ankle and the Bulls facing a 3-1 deficit against the Sixers, things look pretty grim. All of a sudden, it seems like nothing can go right for the Bulls, on or off the court. On the brink of being eliminated from the postseason heading into Tuesday's Game 5, it's do or die for the Bulls and as remarkable as the regular season was -- don't forget, even in the shortened, injury-plagued season, they again finished with the league's best record -- it almost seems all for naught now, as the expected rematch with Miami in the conference finals seems unlikely occur and even if it did, without Derrick, even if Jo was back on the court by then, that would appear to be too tall of a task with all of the ailments this M.A.S.H. unit of a team has been through.

Regardless, what fans need to remember is that the core of the team is still relatively young and the championship window, if postponed, remains open for the future, no matter what happens Tuesday at the UC. On to this week's mailbag:

Do you think Rose's injury was almost inevitable? He went up without much contact, and apparently in the push off it just happened. Does that likely mean it was probably going to happen soon anyway that the ligament was somehow compromised, too tight, too weak, etc? i.e. if he were not in the game, then maybe it would have happened in the next game or soon afterward anyway? -- Ron S.

Ron, I definitely wouldn't say it was "inevitable," as first-time ACL injuries are unpredictable. I might buy the fact that Derrick was more susceptible to injuries because of what he's dealt with all season and going back to his explosive style of play without proper recovery time -- though it's unlikely that anyone would have been able to keep him off the court or "shut him down" for the playoffs -- but I believe it was truly a freak accident. It's also possible that he could have built upon what was a stellar game until that point and had a dominant postseason. We'll never know.

I believe Steve Nash would be a nice fit in a Bulls jersey next season, what do you think? -- Robert U.

Robert, I think Nash would be a good fit virtually anywhere, but I don't see him landing in Chicago for a variety of reasons. One, while some have suggested he could play a backup role, after playing at a high level and nearly leading an overachieving Phoenix team to the playoffs, I don't think he'd be willing to go to the bench, even if he would be able to start until Derrick returns. Also, while his playmaking in Derrick's absence and outside shooting fill needs for the Bulls, his up-tempo style and inferior defense don't necessarily mesh with the team's current personnel and style of play. Furthermore, if Nash does leave Phoenix, he's likely to sign with a contender and a Bulls team without Derrick, not to mention Luol Deng, probably isn't an upper-echelon squad entering next season. Lastly, while Nash might not be a max free agent, the Bulls are unlikely to have the financial flexibility to add a player who commands that type of salary and if they were willing to spend, Nash is unlikely to be a priority. Remember: Derrick will be back eventually.

Looking towards the draft, who do you think would be a good fit for the Bulls? -- Kyle R.
Kyle, by virtue of their regular-season record, the Bulls will again pick at the bottom of the first round and if somehow, athletic Mississippi State big man Arnett Moultrie, Syracuse scorer Dion Waiters or Washington shooter Terrence Ross fell in their lap, any of those players -- Moultrie gives them another frontcourt athlete with length, Waiters can play either guard spot and be a scoring sixth man and Ross has nice size and bounce on the wing to go with his shooting range -- would be ideal, but it's unlikely to happen. More realistically, I think Ross' Washington teammate, Tony Wroten, might not be a bad fit with his size, playmaking ability and defensive prowess -- he could potentially play with Derrick in an explosive backcourt on occasion, but would most likely be a backup -- but if he slips that far, it's probably because of concerns about his character and shaky jumper.

Kentucky's Marquis Teague is also intriguing, but his floor generalship still needs work, despite winning a national title, while Iona's Scott Machado was one of the nation's most underrated point guards, but his size and lack of competition raise questions. Shooters like Vanderbilt's John Jenkins, Ohio State's William Buford, Georgetown's Hollis Thompson and the Kentucky duo of Doron Lamb and Darius Miller could also make sense. Skilled big man Kevin Jones of West Virginia might deserve a look, as could Tennessee Tech scoring wing Kevin Murphy, versatile Memphis swingman Will Barton and a trio of somewhat raw big men in Norfolk State's Kyle O'Quinn, Vanderbilt's Festus Ezeli and Syracuse's Fab Melo. The Bulls have the luxury of not needing a rookie to come in and be a star right away, but management could have a different approach with Derrick and potentially Lu missing significant time at the beginning of next season. Right now, the biggest potential needs are a shooter, a shot-creating playmaker, size if Omer leaves via free agency (as many expect) and depending on the thought process about Ronnie and Kyle, another swingman.
Is it reasonable to think Derrick as a 2 guard makes the most sense upon his return to the Bulls next season? -- Kristoffer K.

Kristoffer, I don't think so. While Derrick's mobility might not be the same initially, he still needs the ball in his hands to be most successful and contrary to popular belief, he is a point guard. I can see why some people might think, because of his scoring ability and size, he could slide over to the two, as he'd be defending less mobile players, but even if he doesn't have his full explosiveness immediately upon returning to the court, there's a good chance that he's still quicker than most players in the league. All that said, he is a point guard and that's the position he should play when he returns, unless the Bulls either acquire or develop an All-Star caliber player at the position or Rip isn't with the team anymore, since that's their starting shooting guard.
Keep the questions -- whether theyre about the Bulls, the rest of the NBA, other levels of basketball or life in general -- coming. Youll get a much better explanation, though not as instant, than you would via Twitter with only 140 characters. You can submit a question by commenting on this article below or by clicking here.

View from the Moon: Bears make statement in taking tight end while passing on defensive backs

View from the Moon: Bears make statement in taking tight end while passing on defensive backs

With their second pick in the 2017 draft, the Bears addressed offense and did it in a way that, when coupled with one of their main offseason moves, makes for some very interesting what-ifs for the upcoming season.

The choice at No. 45 was tight end Adam Shaheen, who at 6-foot-6 and 278 pounds becomes the second significant addition at the position following the signing of Dion Sims (6-foot-4, 270 pounds) to a three-year deal. In a sometimes over-specialized NFL, the Bears have brought in not one but two every-down tight ends.

“Yeah, that’s accurate,” general manager Ryan Pace said. “So it opens up a lot of possibilities for our offense.”

The acquisitions of Shaheen and Sims hold some intrigue, if only because of sheer bulk, because the inescapable conclusion with the commitments to big tight ends is that the Bears might be serious about running the football. They ran 28.4 percent of their 2016 plays in personnel packages of two or three tight ends or with a tight end and fullback.

Under coordinator Dowell Loggains the Bears ran the football just 39.3 percent of the time in 2016. Head coach John Fox and Loggains cite the Bears’ frequent need to play catch-up as the reason why, though in 12 of the 16 games the Bears were tied, led or were within seven points at halftime. In fairness to Fox and Loggains, the Bears in fact arguably did not have the physical firepower at tight end to sustain a smash-mouth base of operations.

That said, both Shaheen and Sims also have a fully formed receiver side to their games, which is where the bigger-picture interest lies. Shaheen had 122 receptions over his last two seasons at Ashland. Sims caught 36, 25 and 35 passes in his final three years with the Miami Dolphins. Both Shaheen and Sims were high school basketball standouts; Shaheen played a year of basketball at the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown, while Sims was dual-recruited for football and basketball at Michigan State after finishing fourth in voting for Mr. Basketball in Michigan in 2009.

“I definitely think (the basketball stuff) helps,” Pace said. “Half the time, it’s like these tight ends are going up for a rebound and boxing out. And (Shaheen) definitely has it. When we talk about body control and catching radius, the ball is not always going to be on target. And Adam has the ability to do that. We confirmed that through the tape, and Frank (Smith, tight ends coach) was able to confirm it during the workout.”

Why not take a defensive back?

During the NFL owners meetings this spring, Pace said that the draft's depth of talented options was a factor in free-agency decisions as well as the draft. So his willingness to trade down in the second round of this draft was expected, given that it has been rated as one of the best-ever drafts for quality and depth at defensive back.

Of course, these were the same experts’ analyses that concluded that no quarterback would be drafted before the middle of the first round, when in reality three went in the first 12 picks after teams traded up, so ... oh, never mind.

The NFL collective seems to agree with the take on defensive backs: Of the 107 players selected through three completed rounds, 29 (27.1 percent) have been defensive backs (18 cornerbacks and 11 safeties). Meaning more than one-fourth of the 2017 draft picks have been defensive backs.

What wasn’t expected was Pace then making no move at either cornerback or safety even after the trade-down that recovered much of the draft capital expended to deal up to No. 2 for Mitch Trubisky. When the Bears’ pick at No. 45 came around, the Bears instead chose a smaller-college tight end.

First thoughts were that Pace agreed with thinking that said starter-grade corners in particular could be had as late as the fourth round — he reacquired a fourth-round pick in the trade with Arizona, giving him two (Nos. 117 and 119) — or that he had been outflanked by a sudden minor run on defensive backs. In the eight picks from No. 36 (the Bears’ original second-round slot) to No. 43, four defensive backs were snatched up, three of them safeties.

That clearly didn’t bother Pace, though the Bears ended Friday with a plan to take a revised look in the defensive back direction.

“Yeah, we’re going to have to kind of sort through it tonight and we’ll be here late tonight and early in the morning,” Pace said. “Kind of resetting our board and going through it again. We’re going to take best player available, and if it ends up being offensive players, that’s what it is.”

After fighting through unspeakable adversity, Celtics 'enjoying the moment' with new perspective

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USA TODAY

After fighting through unspeakable adversity, Celtics 'enjoying the moment' with new perspective

Championship moments rarely occur in the first round. With a playoff format that drags the postseason out for more than two months, with playoff series taking as long as two weeks, the second season feels like just that. It’s far too early to say what exactly Friday night in Chicago will mean for the top-seeded Celtics, but a sense of a team coming together under unfathomable circumstances may prove to be the turning point in a season that a week ago appeared hanging by a thread.

It happened in three parts.

On the floor the Celtics looked every bit the part of a 51-win team that edged out LeBron’s Cavs for the top spot in the East. Brad Stevens’ small-ball approach came full-circle as the Boston guards lived in the paint against the Bulls, kicking out to open shooters for 16 3-pointers that helped the Celtics put away the game (and series) midway through the third quarter.

Avery Bradley starred for a second consecutive night, tallying 23 points while making Jimmy Butler work for his, while eight different Celtics hit a 3-pointer and the team shot 49 percent. For the first time in the series the Celtics looked dominant, like a team poised to contend with the Cavaliers for supremacy in the East.

“It felt good to play Celtic basketball again,” Avery Bradley said. “We were all smiling, having fun, and that’s what it’s supposed to be. That’s how hard we worked this entire year, to play that type of basketball.”

Isaiah Thomas was naturally somber much of the series. The well-documented death of his 22-year-old sister put a damper on the series before it began, and the MVP candidate understandably chose not to address it on the few occassions he spoke with the media. But Thomas looked more like himself as the series went on. Not only did his numbers improve, he appeared more vocal after made baskets, laughed off trash talk from Bulls point guard Isaiah Canaan, and engineered the Celtics' offense to near-perfection.

His defining moment came late in the third quarter with the Celtics nearing a 30-point lead. After a hard foul he gathered his four teammates in a huddle near the baseline and shouted that the series for the Bulls was "a wrap for these m------------!" This was the same player who two weeks earlier was brought to tears prior to Game 1, and who will bury his sister on Saturday in Tacoma, Washington. Under unthinkable circumstances, Thomas averaged 23.0 points and 5.7 assists in 34.8 minutes in the series.

“I feel like he has grown,” Al Horford said. "And we all have in a way with all the adversity that has gone on. It could have easily gone the other way, but I feel like especially tonight when we got the game in hand, in control, we all just kept on repeating to stay focused to keep it going, keep pushing. We didn’t want to give them any life and we were a focused group and we were enjoying the moment.”

Thomas' journey won't get easier. He'll have another short turnaround to get ready for Sunday's second-round matchup against the Celtics. But like his teammates did in Games 3 and 4, when Thomas flew by himself to Chicago following his return home to Tacoma to mourn with his family, they'll have another opporuntity to grow closer. Brad Stevens kept an incredible perspective on the situation throughout the series, and applauded his team for doing the same while still fighting for wins.

"Bigger things than basketball happened, and that took precedent and it takes precdedent," he said. "I was really proud of our guys for how they treated each other, how they stood together, stuck together. And how nobody pointed fingers, they were just a great support for one another, especially Isaiah."

When Thomas does return, and when the Celtics gear up for their next postseason journey, expectations will have remained the same. Though the Wizards were one of the league's best teams in the second half, and with John Wall and Bradley Beal playing on another level, it'll take more performances like Friday night - both on the court and collectively staying together - for Boston to advance. A 2-0 hole against the Wizards will feel a whole lot different than it did against the Bulls.

That sort of letdown doesn't feel like it will happen again. Though no one would have wished such tragedy to force it, the Celtics came together at a critical moment and came out better for it. Their work isn't done, and they know it. But the way they were able to handle the adversity in Round 1, anything seems possible for Stevens, Thomas the top seed in the East.

"We just try to stay the course in the day-to-day. And if that results in us winning more games or winning in the playoffs, or whatever the case may be, there’s only one goal in the Boston," Stevens said. "Seventeen (NBA championship) banners above us. We don’t have a choice. We only shoot for one thing there."