Somber Rose sets tone for Bulls

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Somber Rose sets tone for Bulls

If ever there was a time for Derrick Rose to put on his happy face it was Tuesday night at the United Center.

Rose needed to muster the best acting performance of his career when he limped to center court to present the game ball before Game 2. While he tried, Rose's face looked somber as he walked off the court. The impression left on the sell-out crowd -- and his teammates -- seemed to set the tone for the evening.

Then to tug on our heart strings even more, Rose, who is sidelined for the rest of the postseason and beyond with a torn ACL, was seen sitting in his family's suite by himself. Thankfully, his mother, Brenda, and others arrived to take the edge off the melancholy that permeated the building.

At one point, I even spied Rose laughing with his mom as he watched his teammates play competitive ball in the first half. I had a glimmer of hope that things would get better. Sure, the Bulls allowed the Sixers to shoot 53 percent from the field in the opening two quarters, but they had the lead at halftime and all seemed right with the world.

Until the third quarter began.

The Bulls spent a lot of time before Tuesday's Game 2 finding motivation in Rose's absence on the court by wanting to prove the doubters wrong and play hard for their teammate whom they think of as a brother. Kyle Korver wrote a note of encouragement on his Facebook page. Scottie Pippen penned an open letter to the team on the Bulls' website. Both had the message of fighting through adversity and believing in each other.

Even Philadelphia was bracing for a double dose of Bulls energy.

Its going to be a lot of emotion (to start the game), noted Elton Brand before the game. The city has been following this (Rose injury). Ive got a lot of friends here and theyve been telling me. The team is going to want to show, Hey, we love Derrick. We have his back. Were playing for him. We can still win a championship. There will be a lot of emotion in the building.

There was a lot of something in the building Tuesday night, but it's not what we were expecting. The Bulls were supposed to be riding a wave of inspiration, instead they looked emotionally broken. Afterwards, Bulls players said they were shocked by the outcome. Angry, disappointed and emabarrassed were a few of the other words bantered about in the locker room.

The Bulls will have to move beyond sentiment now and get back to playing the type of basketball they managed for 27 games without Rose in the regular season. Inspirational speeches and letters are nice, but they don't make the ball go in the basket. Instead of fighting through adversity, the Bulls buckled under it.

Maybe a smiling Rose a center court wouldn't have changed a thing. Maybe we all need to set our feeling-sorry-for-the-kid emotions aside and focus on the task at hand.

As Luol Deng said emphatically after the game, "Derrick's not here! We're a new team now." Only they need to play like the old team come Game 3 Friday.

What a flat salary cap in 2017-18 could mean for Blackhawks

What a flat salary cap in 2017-18 could mean for Blackhawks

For the first time since the 2009-10 season, the NHL's salary cap could stay flat next year, reports ESPN's Craig Custance.

Commissioner Gary Bettman revealed at the latest NHL's Board of Governors meeting that the projected ceiling for the 2017-18 campaign could be an increase between zero and $2 million, which isn't exactly encouraging considering the projection at this time of year is normally an optimistic one.

That means the salary cap may be closer to — or at — the $73 million it's at right now.

In the last four years, the cap has increased by $4.3 million in 2013-14, $4.7 million in 2014-15, $2.4 million in 2015-16 and $1.6 million in 2016-17. The number continues to descend, and it affects big-budget teams like the Blackhawks the most.

It makes it especially difficult for the Blackhawks to navigate because they own two of the highest paid players in the league in Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, both of whom carry a $10.5 million cap hit through 2022-23. It's a great problem to have, though.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

According to capfriendly.com, Chicago currently has $60.6 million tied up to 14 players — eight forwards, five defensemen and one goaltender — next season. If the cap stays the same, that means the Blackhawks must fill out the rest of their roster with fewer than $13 million to work with and still have to sign Artemi Panarin to a long-term extension.

And they may need to move salary to do it, with the potential cap overages crunching things even more.

On the open market, Panarin would probably be able to earn Vladimir Tarasenko money — a seven-year deal that carries a $7.5 million cap hit — but if he prefers to remain in Chicago, the contract would likely be in the range of Johnny Gaudreau's six-year deal with an annual average value of $6.75 million.

With the expansion draft looming, the Blackhawks know they're going to lose a player to Las Vegas in the offseason. The two likely candidates, as it stands, are Marcus Kruger and Trevor van Riemsdyk, and the former would free up $3 million in cap space while the latter $825,000.

If that won't get the job done, the Blackhawks may be forced to part ways with a core player such as Brent Seabrook and his eight-year, $55 million contract, although he has a full no-movement clause until 2021-22 and it would be very hard to imagine since you're trying to maximize your current championship window.

Anything is possible, however, after seeing promising young guys like Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw shipped out of Chicago due to a tight budget.

It's a challenge general manager Stan Bowman has certainly already been thinking about, and a stagnant salary cap doesn't make things any easier.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Toews still out, Bulls pull out win over Spurs

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Toews still out, Bulls pull out win over Spurs

In the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Mark Grote (670 The Score) and Mark Carman (WGN Radio) join Kap on the panel. Jonathan Toews is still not back at practice. Is it time to panic?

Meanwhile, the Bulls beat the Spurs. And Rajon Rondo compliments the coaches? Is all well in Bulls-town?

Plus, Dexter Fowler is Cardinal. Should Cubs fans be angry?

And finally, is it good idea for Jordan Howard to get the ball less for the rest of the season?

Check out the SportsTalk Live Podcast below: