Bulls hold off Kings in opener

929739.png

Bulls hold off Kings in opener

Kicking off the regular season on Halloween, the Bulls (1-0) got a scare from the Sacramento Kings (0-1) Wednesday night at the United Center, but managed to pull out a 93-87 victory to start their 2012-13 NBA campaign.

The new-look squad wasnt spectacular in its opener, but the constant of stout defense was an important aspect in their success, coupled with balanced offensive play and the emergence of Joakim Noah as a legitimate scoring threat, Rip Hamiltons return to his previous form and Carlos Boozer embracing big moments down the stretch.

The outset of the game likely featured too many turnovers for either coachs taste, though both squads were effective in pushing the tempo and converting transition opportunities. When the Bulls faced Sacramentos set defense, the veteran duo of Hamilton (19 points) and Boozer (18 points, eight rebounds) carried the offensive load, with Kirk Hinrich (seven assists) setting the table via his playmaking ability and Noahs (23 points, 10 rebounds, three blocked shots, career-high five steals) typically high activity level also sparking the team.

For the Kings, fourth-year guard Tyreke Evans (21 points, eight rebounds) the former Rookie of the Year is in the same boat as Bulls reserve Taj Gibson (four blocks), a fourth-year player who hasnt yet inked a long-term contract extension, for which there is a league-imposed 11 p.m. Central time deadline started off strong, showcasing an improved outside jumper to go along with his driving ability, and received interior help from talented big man DeMarcus Cousins (14 points, seven rebounds).

The score see-sawed back and forth during the opening period, but at the conclusion of the frame, the Bulls held a 25-23 advantage.

In the second quarter, the Bulls clamped down on the defensive end and although the second unit struggled to produce points, the hosts maintained their slight edge.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau provided a glimpse into his rotation for the season, as Luol Deng (12 rebounds) played for approximately a quarter-and-a-half before getting a rest, while Noah was on the court for the games first 15 minutes or so.

As the games pace slowed and the contest settled into more of the grind-it-out affair that the Bulls have thrived in under Thibodeaus watch, with or without the injured Derrick Rose, it became clear that the home team would have to endure periodic offensive droughts and persevere through determined defense and a scoring-by-committee approach.

Sacramento, buoyed by points off turnovers, flirted with overtaking its hosts, but at the intermission, the Bulls clung to a 44-38 lead.

After the break, the Bulls went on a 12-2 run, fueled by Hamilton and Noah, in particular. The volatile Cousins picked up a technical foul during this stretch, but probably more infuriating to the Kings was their hosts stifling defense, as Sacramento struggled to produce offense, leading to a double-digit deficit.

But the Bulls themselves hit their own offensive lull and led by the play of starting guards Evans and diminutive floor general Isaiah Thomas, as well as instant-offense reserve scorer Marcus Thornton (15 points), the guests quickly narrowed the gap and climbed back into the game. Heading into the final stanza, the Bulls remained ahead, 69-63.

To start the fourth quarter, the Bulls suddenly found themselves in a barn-burner, as they continued to struggle to contain the potent scoring ability of Thornton and Evans. On the other end, backup point guard Nate Robinson sparked them offensively for a stretch and Carlos Boozer also began to find his rhythm.

Boozer took on the role of closer for the Bulls and either asserted himself as a scorer or used his underrated passing ability to find others for easy opportunities, while on the defensive end, Taj Gibson made his presence felt as a shot-blocker and Deng, who struggled with his shot all game, made key hustle plays and corralled big rebounds late.

But the Kings kept things close down the stretch, with Evans making it a one-possession affair with under a minute to play and after Deng split a pair of attempts from the charity stripe with 35.6 seconds left, Sacramento was hit with a five-second violation on the ensuing inbounds play following a timeout and the hosts, specifically Noah, closed things out with a parade to the foul line.

Bears QB Mike Glennon makes his role emphatically clear: ‘This year is my year’

Bears QB Mike Glennon makes his role emphatically clear: ‘This year is my year’

Mike Glennon stuck to an emphatic mantra during his first meeting with the media since the Bears drafted Mitch Trubisky last month: “This year is my year.”

It wasn’t a surprising line — what else was he supposed to say? — but it was telling in the sense that Glennon didn’t appear to be rattled by the presence of Trubisky, the franchise’s presumptive quarterback of the future. Unofficially, Glennon said some version of that line a dozen times in just over 10 minutes. 

“They brought me here to be the quarterback this year and nothing has changed,” Glennon said. “So in my mind, I have to go out and play well, and I know that, and that’s basically the bottom line.”

Will Glennon work with Trubisky, the No. 2 overall pick and presumptive quarterback of the future? Yes. But is that his main focus? No. The job of developing Trubisky falls on offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone, not the guy who the Bears committed tens of millions of dollars to to play quarterback. 

Glennon said general manager Ryan Pace called him about 10 minutes after Roger Goodell announced Trubisky’s name in Philadelphia April 27 to reassure him that he would still be the Bears’ starting quarterback in 2017. Like most everyone — including Trubisky — Glennon was surprised the Bears made the pick, but the 27-year-old said he quickly re-trained his attention back on preparing for the upcoming season. 

“I’m not worried about the future,” Glennon said. “I’m not worried about the past. I’m worried about the present and right now this is my team and that’s where my focus is.”

Glennon’s three-year, $45 million deal is structured so the Bears could cut him after the 2017 season and absorb only a $2.5 million cap hit, $500,000 more than the team took on when Jay Cutler was released in March. His contract was set up that way before the Bears snuck into Chapel Hill, N.C. for a surreptitious dinner and workout with Trubisky — he’s a bridge quarterback with an opportunity to show he’s greater than that label. 

“Even if I were to (look in hindsight) I would still have came here,” Glennon said. “Like I said, this is my year. There are no guarantees in the NFL. The majority of guys in the NFL are playing year-to-year. I’m here to prove myself that I can me the quarterback this year and going forward. But right now my focus is on winning games this year.”

“… I can only say it so many times, this year has been fully communicated that it's my year,” Glennon said. “I’m not going to worry about the future. As long as I play well, it will all work out.’ 

In wake of first-round playoff sweep, Patrick Kane talks about the Blackhawks' 'reality check'

In wake of first-round playoff sweep, Patrick Kane talks about the Blackhawks' 'reality check'

It’s been just over a month since the Blackhawks were eliminated from the playoffs in swift fashion. And as Patrick Kane told WGN Radio on Tuesday morning, the bitter taste hasn’t gone away.

“I think a lot of us didn’t figure we’d be in the situation we’re in right now,” Kane told Steve Cochran and Dave Eanet on Tuesday. “All of us can work this offseason to get better. It’s a long time to wait to get back to that opportunity to play in the playoffs again, so we’ll have a sour taste in our mouth for a while.”

The Nashville Predators, who made quick work of the Blackhawks in the first round, eliminated the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night to earn the first Stanley Cup Final appearance in franchise history. Kane told WGN he’s been watching the playoffs and said Nashville “has a pretty good system going.”

“They come at you, they play aggressive. I don’t think any of us would be a big fan of the way they defend in the neutral zone, just sitting back and playing that 1-3-1. But at the same time they come at you,” said Kane, who added that the Blackhawks “weren’t even close in that (first-round) series.”

“Maybe we had a chance in Game 3 when we were up 2-0, but it was a clean sweep and that’s probably how it should’ve been,” he said. “So now it’s time to regroup.”

When the Blackhawks had their wrap-up media session on April 22, general manager Stan Bowman was asked if some players, having won three Stanley Cups since 2010, had lost some of the hunger. Bowman didn’t buy that and neither did Kane.

“Four sounds a lot better than three, right?” he said. “It’s a long time away and a lot of work, but sometimes you go through those situations and you realize you won three Cups and it’s almost like you’re going to be there again. That’s where the reality check is for us now, realizing how hard it is to get back in that situation, how hard it is to win a Cup or go deep in this league. There’s a lot of work to be done.”