Bulls to celebrate championship anniversary

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Bulls to celebrate championship anniversary

Saturday, March 12, 2011
Posted: 11:08 a.m. Updated: 3:27 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Although he's a Chicago native, the face of the Bulls has a hard time recalling the franchise's first championship. Not because he was in a celebratory haze, but because "I was 2," Derrick Rose told reporters before Friday's win over the Hawks.

"To tell you the truth, it had to be when I was in grammar school, like fifth or sixth grade, just watching the Bulls, wanting to get Jordan shoes--I wasn't able to, but wanting to get them--but just being a fan. I wasn't an NBA fan or anything--I was a Bulls fan, of course--but most of the time, I was always in the parks, just playing basketball myself, so I wasn't that tuned in to every game that they played. But in the playoffs, you had to watch," recounted Rose about his memories of the era in general. "I remember watching games--everybody in my living room, watching big games--but I never paid attention to them."

"I just remember having a shirt on--after they won a championship, guys on the streets would sell shirts with the newspaper article on it--I remember having on one of those shirts."

At halftime of Saturday's matchup with the Utah Jazz--fitting, as the Jazz fell to the Bulls in the NBA Finals in Chicago's last two championships; additionally, it will be the first time Utah visits the United Center since three of its former players (Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and Carlos Boozer, who is unlikely to play in the contest because of a sprained left ankle) defected to Chicago over the summer--the organization will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the team's first title. Expected to be on hand are Scottie Pippen (the Hall of Famer is currently the team's ambassador), Horace Grant (the power forward sat courtside with Pippen at Friday's game) and others, including Michael Jordan, the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats.

Pippen previously told Bulls.com, "Of all my six championships, the first one is the one I treasure the most."

Perhaps that's because, unlike their vaunted 72-win season or any of their other fabled campaigns, the Bulls weren't expected to pull off the feat in the 1990-91 season. After years of playoff frustration against the Boston Celtics and hated Detroit Pistons, few truly believed the upstarts from Chicago could defeat the Magic Johnson and the heralded Los Angeles Lakers.

However, behind the transcendent talent of Jordan and the emergence of a young Pippen--while Jordan's legendary right-to-left soaring layup was the lasting image of the series, Pippen's defense against Johnson was considered the turning point--Bulls head coach Phil Jackson's team began its run of six championships. The current version of the Bulls, while certainly aware of the significance of the anniversary (although they'll likely miss the halftime celebration, as Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau plans to keep them in the locker room for the intermission), will use the festivities for motivation.

I know tomorrows going to be a big celebration, but whats the celebration if we lose? Were not trying to do that, said Rose after Friday's win. Were trying to focus on winning. The celebration is great, I hope that Im able to do that one day, but were just trying to focus on Utah.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

33 Days to Kickoff: Westmont

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33 Days to Kickoff: Westmont

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Jul. 31, we’ll unveil the @CSNPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 25.

School: Westmont

Head coach: Dan Woulfe

Assistant Coaches:  Dan McCulloch, Mitch Balek, Joe Helton, Scott Helton, Ryan Cahill

How they fared in 2016: 1-8 (0-5 Interstate 8 Small Conference), missed the 2016 IHSA state playoff field

2017 Regular Season Schedule:

August 25th @ Lake View

September 1st vs Chicago Tech Academy Charter

September 8th @ Wilmington

September 15th vs Seneca

September 22nd @ Reed-Custer

September 29th vs Peotone

October 6th @ Lisle

October 13th @ Streator

October 20th vs Plano

Biggest storyline: Can the Sentinels improve upon it's 1-8 season a year ago?

Names to watch this season:  Senior OL/DL Dustin Samoulis Senior QB Brenton Baldwin

Biggest holes to fill: The Sentinels will look to reload upfront on both the offensive and defensive lines this summer. 

EDGY's Early Take: Westmont first year head coach Dan Woulfe, who takes over for Hall of Fame head coach Otto Zeman this fall will look to get the Sentinels back on the winning track. Westmont welcomes back 9 starters (4 offense 5 defense) and the biggest key will be finding new linemen to step up this fall.

Confident Blackhawks youth ready to take the next step

Confident Blackhawks youth ready to take the next step

Ryan Hartman likes how he feels approaching this season, his sophomore stint with the Blackhawks. Scoring 19 goals, earning the trust of the coaches and gaining a good deal of responsibility in your rookie season will do that for you.

“It’s feeling like I should be there,” he said on Friday. “Maybe sometimes when you first get called up, you’re like, ‘Wow, I’m here,’ and you’re still thinking about that. Now it’s just feeling like hockey for me and how it’s always supposed to be.”

More confidence is there for Hartman, as well as a few other young Blackhawks players who cut their teeth last year. That’s good, because those guys, having shown what they can do, will likely get more responsibility this season.

That includes Nick Schmaltz, who will either get first crack at the second-line left wing vacancy or help the Blackhawks at center, which he says is his preference “but I’m fine with wing, too.” Schmaltz struggled to start last season but following a few games in Rockford, he returned a more confident player. He played well with Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik on the top line and filled in for Artem Anisimov later in the season.

“I was nervous coming in. I didn’t know if it was going to work and I gained confidence game by game and felt more comfortable,” he said. “I was making the plays I’m used to making.”

When Tanner Kero was recalled right before Christmas, it was because of Anisimov’s injury. But outside of a bye-week return to Rockford Kero turned that call-up into a full-time gig, giving the Blackhawks another bottom-six center option and earning himself a two-year contract. With Marcus Kruger and Dennis Rasmussen no longer here, Kero is expected to have that third- or fourth-line center role; thanks to experience gained last season, Kero’s more comfortable now.

“It was great,” he said. “Going in, you’re not sure. It’s day-to-day to start and you just want to prove yourself and get those opportunities, get trust and more ice time. As the season went on I got more confident, trusted my game more. Going into the season I’m going in with a lot more confidence.”

John Hayden felt fairly comfortable when he joined the Blackhawks last spring thanks to his senior season at Yale – “I needed that fourth year as a player and a person,” he said. Still, getting in some NHL games, getting a feel for the pro level and gaining familiarity with the Blackhawks will benefit him in September.

“It’s important considering it’s my first training camp and I’ll know a lot of the guys, which helps a ton. From an on-ice standpoint, I have that experience,” he said. “I’ve spent a ton of time addressing areas in need of improvement all in all I’m excited for training camp.”

But Hartman and others don’t see it as weight on their shoulders.

“I don’t think there’s pressure,” Hartman said. “When you look back you want to see improvements every year, you want to see yourself becoming a better hockey player. That’s something I want to do, I want to be able to look back and say I had a good career my first year but each year I got progressively better. That’s where my mindset is at.”

There’s more opportunity for the young players but Hayden says that’s true of everyone.

“I don’t really analyze opportunity. Regardless of the team, it’s going to be competitive,” he said. “Every summer you have to have a hard-working mindset and do what you can to show up in the fall in the best shape of your life.”

The Blackhawks’ young players have all set the bar at a certain level and will be expected to improve. It takes confidence to take that next step. Thanks to experience gained last season, they’re feeling good about taking it.