Cautiously optimistic: Toews feeling better

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Cautiously optimistic: Toews feeling better

Jonathan Toews walked into the Johnnys Ice House locker room with a smile on his face. Its been a long few weeks for the Blackhawks captain, who was coming back nicely, then had a setback, and now is hopefully recovering again from his concussion.

But hes not pegging a game for his return. Not again.

Im not going to do that again, he said with a grin. Obviously that didnt work out (last time).

No, it didnt. But Toews, after skating for the fifth consecutive day - and practicing with teammates for the first time in nearly two weeks -- is nevertheless feeling better. And hes feeling that this time he could be truly turning the corner towards recovery.

Toews is confident hell play this season.

It sucks its taken this long but I feel this is it, Toews said Saturday. Mentally Im positive and telling myself that Ill get through this. Im not going to let the setbacks that have happened (before) weigh me down.

Coach Joel Quenneville said Toews jumped into a couple drills there and looked fine. Theres progress there, so well keep working at it.

Toews was feeling good after skating four straight days in early March, so good that he was targeting the Blackhawks March 13 game vs. St. Louis as a potential return date. But he suffered a setback a day or two before that, and was once again on the shelf. Toews said he wouldnt feel right when he got up in the morning, or symptoms would hit him when he came to the rink, hoping to take the ice.

Ive gotta say its probably the most frustrating thing Ive been through, he said. I had those hopes and feelings that I was going to be ready not even a week into the recovery process. Here I am past a month, still waiting to see when its going to get better the way I was three weeks ago. When you wake up every single day thinking this will be the day youll break through and things are going to happen for you, and it turns out it isnt, its tough to keep going that way.

Toews will obviously keep playing the cautious game. Even when hes deemed 100 percent, he may take another day or two to fully prepare for game action again.

Id love to be playing as soon as I can and get a couple of those games under my belt. At the same time I want to make sure Im in game shape before I go into the game, he said. I dont want to go in feeling like I still need conditioning, still need to catch up. If youre a step slow you may take a hit or two you dont want to take.

Its been a long and frustrating road for Toews. Hes hoping this is the end of the rough part of it.

I feel like Im getting back to that stage where Im progressing and getting closer to feeling the right way, he said. It was a while ago when I felt pretty much the same way I do now. Im just staying positive and hoping theres a time Ill break through.

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After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

Dwyane Wade sounded every bit like a frustrated 35-year old father when talking about the repeated ills and so-called growing pains of his Bulls, as they surrendered yet another game against a sub-.500 team.

Sometimes it's the New York Knicks whom the Bulls are offering temporary refuge. Or maybe the Minnesota Timberwolves as they are all-too-generous to roll out the welcome mat for returning figures to Chicago.

Tuesday it was the Dallas Mavericks, the second-worst team in the Western Conference, who stormed into the United Center and escaped with a 99-98 win, courtesy of Wesley Matthews' triple with 11.7 seconds left followed by him locking down Jimmy Butler on the ensuing possession.

Wade was forced to take a contested 21-footer that went awry, but the Bulls' ills went far beyond the last two possessions, when the Mavericks exploited their strategy yet again.

"Either you learn the lesson or figure out," Wade said. "Keep putting your hand on the hot stove every day.

"We just gotta figure out not to put our hands on that stove. And understand when we come in the kitchen, that stove is hot, don't touch it. As I continue to say, this is a very young team and they have to play in these games and have to go through these moments. The one thing you want, whether it's this year or next year, is to not make the same mistakes."

The Bulls are apparently insistent on touching the stove and keep burning themselves, the most recent time with the confusion or the bad strategy in defending the Mavericks' final offensive possession.

Deron Williams found himself with Nikola Mirotic defending him off a switch from Jimmy Butler. Not the quickest afoot, Mirotic gave Williams an easy path to the basket and Wade was the backside help, not wanting to leave Matthews on the wing for a triple.

But with the bench commanding Wade to help, Williams easily found Matthews for an open 3 as Wade had no help for his man. With the Bulls up two, one could see how Wade didn't want to leave Matthews.

"I'll have to go back and watch, but it looks like Deron got downcourt, Wade went over to help and we didn’t rotate accordingly," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We obviously need to do a better job of staying in front of the other end."

Mirotic was supposed to be brought back slowly in his return from strep throat, but he played the entire fourth quarter and 22 minutes overall, having lost eight pounds with his illness that had him miss four games.

[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]

Their issues were game-long and have been seasonlong as the Mavericks were supposed to absorb a shellacking from a Bulls team that felt a 25-point beatdown in Texas last month.

Instead, they would've been happy with settling for an escape when Butler rose up over his college teammate Matthews for a 20-foot wing jumper with 22.8 seconds left.

Butler nearly added a triple-double and clutch moment to his growing resume with 24 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds but was dogged by Matthews all night, the defender who wouldn't give him airspace, went chest-to-chest and even earned a technical foul when he felt Butler exaggerated some contact in the third quarter.

"He took away my space, wouldn't let me get to my spot," Butler said of Matthews. "Good for him. I should've did something different."

Wade missed 13 of his 21 shots, scoring 17 with five rebounds on his 35th birthday

With scoring at a premium, Robin Lopez had a season-high 21 points being guarded by Dirk Nowitzki — and they were necessary considering the Bulls were without Taj Gibson (ankle injury) and Doug McDermott couldn't repeat his 30-point showing from Sunday in Memphis.

Rick Carlisle has long been regarded as one of the top strategic coaches, and though he doesn't have the usual personnel from the Mavericks' salad days, he had enough tricks up his sleeve to throw the Bulls off.

Six Mavericks scored in double figures, led by Harrison Barnes' 20 points and Seth Curry's 18, as Barnes, Matthews and Curry combined for eight triples — spreading the Bulls out and picking them apart defensively.

The Mavericks started Nowitzki at center, going to an almost all-small lineup. And though Lopez scored 14 points in the first half, trying to feed him seemed to take the Bulls out of it in the second half.

The energy was tardy to the party, as they shot just 41 percent in the first half but woke up a little in the third quarter — continuing their all-too familiar trend of half-hearted efforts against lesser teams.

And it looks like the ever-optimistic Wade is dishing out some realism, probably something that comes with the perspective of turning 35.

"You can't keep getting stressed out or frustrated. We've been going through this all year. We'll get back in in the morning.

"Once you realize who you are, you're better off. I sleep better at night. Once we want to be a better team and start winning games, we will. I'm not mad, I'm not frustrated, I'm not stressed. Just taking the hits."