Can Deng keep up early-season scoring pace?


Can Deng keep up early-season scoring pace?

The season is still young, but through the Bulls first two games, Luol Deng - not reigning league MVP Derrick Rose - is leading the team in scoring.

Now, thats likely to change - after Roses nine-turnover game against Golden State last season, he scored 36 points and with his pledge to be more aggressive after Mondays loss to the Warriors, the All-Star point will attempt to take out his frustrations on the Kings - but Dengs early-season contributions only illustrates how important the underrated small forward is to the Bulls.

The native of Sudan came under much criticism in the wake of his long-term contract extension and subsequent injuries, but after arguably the best campaign of his eight-year career last season -- in which he played in all 82 regular-season games -- he should garner more praise, which I did recently in a column on Dengs qualifications to be the teams secondary scorer.

Take a look at his outings in the season's first two games: Deng poured in 21 points (second on the team to only Rose's 22) as part of his clutch performance in the season-opening comeback win against the Lakers on Christmas Day, then followed that up the next night with a game-high 22 in the loss to the Warriors, where he was seemingly the lone Bulls starter not out of sorts on offense.

However, with the addition of shooting guard Rip Hamilton and power forward Carlos Boozers presence, where will Deng fall in the Bulls pecking order of scorers?

Chime in here on Bulls Talk at and share your opinion in the comments section below.

DeShone Kizer embraces high standards as he aims to pull Notre Dame out of tailspin

DeShone Kizer embraces high standards as he aims to pull Notre Dame out of tailspin

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Brian Kelly caused a social media stir after Notre Dame’s 38-35 loss to Duke when he said quarterback DeShone Kizer’s play was “not acceptable” and below standard. 

This was after Kizer threw for a career high 381 yards and accounted for three touchdowns (two throwing, one rushing) to lead the Irish offense to 35 points, which in reality should’ve been enough to beat a middling Duke side. Kizer made mistakes — Duke scored 10 points off his fumble and interception — but the point total speaks for itself. 

But Kelly’s standards, Kizer said, aren’t as high as the ones he sets for himself. So the redshirt sophomore quarterback didn’t have a problem with Kelly saying his play was substandard, because it wasn’t in his own mind. 

“I've always had very high standards for myself, and I'm never satisfied,” Kizer said. “That's the best part about playing the sport in general, the challenge that there's always something better you can do. There's no such thing as perfection in football. To a certain extent, standards are never met, unless you have a ring on and you're undefeated. That's kind of the only goal.”

So for Kizer, merely playing well isn’t enough. There were things he could’ve done better against Texas (like score after Jarron Jones’ miraculous blocked PAT) and Michigan State (like avoid that mid-game lull) that could’ve put Notre Dame in a better position to win both of those games. Against Duke, his fumble was a glaring mistake that led to a Blue Devils’ touchdown; his arm-punt from Notre Dame’s end zone was bad, but Duke still probably would’ve marched downfield for the game-winning field goal had that pass fallen incomplete and Tyler Newsmen punted. 

For almost everyone outside of the Guglielmino Athletics Complex — and, judging by Brian VanGorder’s firing on Sunday, some in it — the defense has been the problem for Notre Dame this year. Forcing Kizer to be as close to perfect as possible perhaps seems unfair, but he doesn’t necessarily think it is. 

“On the offensive side of the ball we have some really good stuff up and going, and we haven't come near where we can go, and that potential is what's fueling us to go out and compete and to get better each week,” Kizer said. “And to go out and put up five to six touchdowns a game knowing that you can go and put up four more is what allows us to go into practice Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday to do whatever we can to figure out how we're going to execute more this quarter every time we touch the ball. We don't want to punt the ball. We know we have the ability to score every drive, and we have the confidence that we are going to.”

Of course, having a quarterback with good-to-great statistics isn't always enough. Just ask 2009 Jimmy Clausen: He threw for 3,722 yards with 28 touchdowns (and only four interceptions) and was second to Tim Tebow in quarterback rating as Notre Dame skidded to a 6-6 season. More of the same from Kizer may result in an outstanding season and the Toledo native becoming a first-round draft pick, but it might not be enough to get Notre Dame to a bowl game. 

“If we are 4 and 0 right now, standards are met to a certain extent, because we won four games,” Kizer said. “If I throw for 500 yards, standards are met to a certain extent, but there's so many other things that go into that that we all see now that caused us to be below standard, and to sit here and find it and try to focus up on those would be a mistake on my part because by focusing up on things that aren't relevant to us winning a game is not good for the team. 

“All I need to do, my standard right now is to do whatever I can to help lead the offense to get a win. We're 1 and 3, and that's unacceptable, and my only goal right now, my only mission is to buy in to everything that's been said in this meeting room right here to get a W on the board because that's all that matters at this point.”

Kizer has proven to be one of the nation’s very best quarterbacks ever since he threw that heroic game-winning heave to Will Fuller in 2015 at Virginia. He’s made improvements to his game on a week-to-week and year-to-year basis — just look at how good Notre Dame’s been in the red zone this year for an example — and with those has raised his standards higher. They’re designed so he probably won’t meet them until he wins a College Football Playoff championship game or Super Bowl. 

But if he can meet Kelly’s standard, maybe Notre Dame will be good enough to overcome a shaky defense and win enough games to be bowl eligible. It shouldn’t have to be that way, but it is. 

“There is a standard that is set for a player, and that standard is based upon what he believes and what we believes should be acceptable for him, and turnovers and his ability to continue to grow as a quarterback sets that standard,” Kelly said. “If he was a first-time starter or he didn't set the pace that he had set last year, maybe the standard would be a little bit lower. But he has set a standard of play that we believe he needs to meet and exceed every time he goes out there.”

Report: White Sox will retain Robin Ventura as manager if he wants to return in 2017

Report: White Sox will retain Robin Ventura as manager if he wants to return in 2017

Robin Ventura has a job waiting for him next season if he wants it.

According to USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale, the White Sox have privately offered Ventura the managerial position in 2017.

Although nothing has been made official, general manager Rick Hahn reiterated earlier this month that he doesn’t plan to discuss the status of Ventura or any of his coaches until after the season.

Ventura is in his final year of a five-year contract, which he signed in 2012.

The White Sox (76-81) have to win all five of their remaining games to avoid their fourth straight losing season under Ventura.

His only winning season came in his first year on the job, going 85-77, but the White Sox failed to reach the postseason.

Ventura is 373-432 as White Sox manager.