CLEVELANDThis is how you know Marco Belinelli had a good night Tuesday: Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau subbed out Luol Deng, in the first quarter, in order to leave Belinelli, who scored 12 in the opening period and 23 on the evening, in the game.Marco, I thought, had a pretty good rhythm going and he had the hot hand, so we went the other way on that, Thibodeau said of his decision to put reserve swingman Jimmy Butler in the game for Deng, the NBAs minutes-per-game leader entering the evening, instead of Belinelli. I thought Marco was terrific.Hes been playing well. He had extended minutes, that was the biggest difference. I thought he played hard. He scored different ways, he got to the free-throw line, posted up, catch-and-shoot and I thought his teammates were searching him out, too, which was playing smart. You want to have a balance. You want to be inside-out, so we wanted to get our ball movement going. So, we felt that was the most important thing and hes a very good catch-and-shoot player, so we tried to play off that some, continued the coach, before delving into why he believed the Italian free-agent acquisition would eventually break out of his early-season slump. Because of what hes done in the league. You have an idea because hes already proven that, so you know that its a matter of time and I think that each day and each game hes gotten more comfortable, so I thought he played very, very well.Belinellis teammates also never wavered about the backup shooting guards ability, despite his woes in adjusting to a new system.I think it was huge. Even in the beginning of the year, hes somebody who works really hard on his game and never got discouraged, kept playing hard and you see that as a player, Joakim Noah said. As somebody whos passionate about the game, Im happy that its paying off for him.Deng added: Its really good. Marco played great tonight. First quarter, came out, he was aggressive, stayed aggressive, made some big plays. But we knew Marco could play. Hes been struggling a little bit finding his rhythm and hopefully this will help him find his rhythm until Rip comes back.When he comes off the bench, hell be comfortable with what hes doing and now hes getting more minutes.Belinelli himself attempted to deflect all the attention he was getting and instead focused on the team getting back to winning.It was a good game for us, he said. I think we played a great first quarter and we played together on offense and defense. I think thats whats important, especially after the game yesterday. It was a tough loss for us, so winning a game like tonight was important for everybody.It was good tonight, Belinelli continued. My teammates were ready to find me, so that was good. Just continuing this way. Its important for us to play together like tonight, run on fast breaks, try to score each basket and play good defense.I think it was important for me, he went on to say. First of all, just working, working and working.New team, new organization for us, for me especially, so just be ready to play, be aggressive every time. Thats the way that weve got to play. Tough, tough, tough.As for Deng, he still ended up logging over 42 minutes of playing time, but the All-Star felt that the early breather helped him, especially coming in a back-to-back contest. A 22-point scorer on the night, the ironman used his rare time on the sidelines to crack wise.When I went and sat on the bench, watching the game, I just told the guys, So this is what you all do at this time? No, but it was cool, he said. I think Coach realized that it was a tough game last night, I played a lot of minutes and quick turnaround. So, he realized that, gave me a quick rest early and that actually helped me a lot.
John Fox and the Bears have added another assistant coach.
Zack Azzanni is leaving the University of Tennessee to become the Bears' new receivers coach.
Azzanni has been with Tennessee since 2013 as a receivers coach and passing game coordinator. Prior to that, he spent time at Wisconsin, Western Kentucky, Florida, Central Michigan and six seasons at Bowling Green.
Azzanni was on Urban Meyer's coaching staff at Bowling Green in 2001-02 and also coached Pittsburgh Steelers superstar receiver Antonio Brown at Central Michigan. Under Azzanni's tutelage at CMU from 2007-09, Brown totaled 305 receptions for 3,199 yards and 22 TDs, earning a sixth-round draft selection in 2010.
Curtis Johnson spent 2016 as his first season in the role of Bears' wide receivers coach, but announced he was leaving after the Senior Bowl to take a job with the New Orleans Saints.
It's unknown if Azzanni will get a chance to coach Alshon Jeffery (who is currently a free agent) but the incoming coach will have an important job in molding young receivers like Kevin White and Cameron Meredith.
Here are some of Tuesday's top stories in Chicago sports: