Bulls open critical road trip in Milwaukee

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Bulls open critical road trip in Milwaukee

Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011
Posted 11:18 a.m. Updated 6:32 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

MILWAUKEEThursday nights home win in a marquee matchup over the Heat might have made league observers take the Bulls more seriously as true championship contenders, but to the team itself, it was just another game. Okay, maybe it wasnt that insignificant, but dont expect them to have a letdown performance in Saturdays contest against the Central Division rival Bucks.

Every game is important and I think that the last couple games just prove to you how difficult the NBA is. You beat a team like Miami; the day before, we lose to Toronto, Joakim Noah told CSNChicago.com before the teams morning shootaround at the Bradley Center. So, it just shows you have to be mentally prepared and you have to be ready for all obstacles.

Still, one would think preserving their perfect record against divisional opponents would be a motivating factor, right?

We didnt set out to do that. If we could, wed win every game. I think that were on a run right now. We came back from beating a good team. Weve got the opportunity to play a good team tonight to see how good we really are, said Derrick Rose, pooh-poohing that notion. Milwaukee has had a lot of injuries. A lot of their key players were out, banged up and that really can hurt your team. Trades and all that stuff, getting used to playing with each other, changing lineupsthats toughand they just havent had time to play with each other, really.

Rose professed that the Bulls remain an insular bunch, concerned with only their self-perception, winning games and continually improving.

We dont really care about what other people say. If anything, we knew in the beginning that we were going to be an all right team with the way that we work, the way that we practice and all that stuff. We go hard, so where were at right now or the way that were playing, were not surprised because we work so hard in practice and we trust in and have confidence in each other, said the All-Star point guard. Hopefully, but weve just got to continue to win. Winning takes care of everything. Youve got to notice us one day.

Concurred Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau: Each game, we just worry about the opponent were facing. All that stuffthe recordthat doesnt mean anything. To win tonight is whats important, so we focus on that. the big thing for us to have a good shootaround. This team is dangerous. Theyre getting guys back, theyre playing at a high level, so we know that we have to be ready right from the start of the game and establish a defensive identity to the game.

Not only is Thibodeau unconcerned with the fanfare garnered from the Heat win, the basketball lifer is truly preoccupied with how his squad will fare against the Bucks, who went from last years plucky Fear the Deer campaign to a disappointing, injury-plagued season thus far after being saddled with high preseason expectations.

That game is gone. I think you take it game by game and certainly analyze why you either win or why you lost, and then you move forward from there. The big thing is the improvement. If you keep looking back and youre not ready for this game, then it hurts you. If you learn from it, it prepares for your next game, then its good and thats what were trying to do, is each and every game, to move forward, to correct the mistakes that weve made in the previous game and keep adding, try to build the right habits. I think when we get to the playoffs, you want to make sure were building those habits that can make us successful down the road, said Thibodeau.

The big thing has been the injuries for Milwaukee. Bucks center Andrew Bogut had the big setback last year and hes continuing to work through it. To me, he still has great impact on the game because he anchors their defense, hes a great shot-blocker and hes a tough guy to stop when he gets good positioning. And then Brandon Jennings, when your point guard and your center get hurt, its tough to overcome and they have a lot of new guys. Swingman Carlos Delfino being out with his injury, that hurt them. But theyre dangerous. Theyre an extremely well-coached team, they have a defensive identity and now that theyre getting their players back, its a team thats hard to guard, they share the ball, the move the ball great. Its a great drive-and-kick team.

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.

Adam Engel making the most of his opportunity with White Sox

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USA TODAY

Adam Engel making the most of his opportunity with White Sox

Adam Engel is making the most of his second opportunity with the White Sox.

Engel had his best game of the season in Thursday’s finale against the Minnesota Twins, where he went 4-for-5 with three singles, a double, and two RBIs in the White Sox 9-0 win. He became the first White Sox outfielder with a four-hit game within their first 11 career MLB games since Harold Baines (10th game) on April 20, 1980, according to CSN stats guru Chris Kamka.

"Some days you hit it, some days you don’t," Engel said. "Yesterday was the day that I hit it.”

After nearly a five-hour rain delay, the White Sox came out hot right from the get-go on Thursday. In fact, by the time Engel was ready to bat for the first time, the White Sox were already leading 4-0 and Twins starter Nik Turley had been yanked from the game.

“It was awesome,” Engel. “(The) team is winning, getting some hits. It’s a great feeling. Obviously the goal is to try and help the team win.”

[Vivid Seats: Buy your White Sox tickets here]

Engel made his major league debut on May 27 and then was optioned back to Triple-A Charlotte on June 9. His wife Jaime had a child on June 12, and almost a week later, he was recalled again by the White Sox to replace an injured Leury Garcia.

Engel, who's hitting .344/.382/.406 entering Friday's game, will look to keep his hot streak going with his wife and newborn in attendance.

In Saad’s case, re-acquiring Blackhawks alumni is beneficial

In Saad’s case, re-acquiring Blackhawks alumni is beneficial

* “Don’t look to the past anymore. It’s great to think you can recapture the magic with former players but years go by and times change.”

The sentences you see above were written by yours truly after the Blackhawks were unceremoniously eliminated from the first round in April. And for the most part, I stand by the message. The Blackhawks kept going back to their alumni well for solutions but, for the most part, it wasn’t working. But there’s always an exception to the rule, always one asterisk that can be applied in every situation (as we’ve done here).

In this case, that exception is Brandon Saad.

This isn’t someone who played with the Blackhawks five or more years ago. This isn’t a player who’s in his 30s. This isn’t a player who’s at the end of his career. This is a player in his prime, a 24-year-old who has a whole lot of game remaining and a whole lot of familiarity with this group, especially captain Jonathan Toews.

By the way, anyone else struck by the irony that the same Saad deal that the Blackhawks couldn’t afford two years ago is now one that fits perfectly, and will be really beneficial in two seasons when they don’t have to worry about trying to re-sign Artemi Panarin, who will be an unrestricted free agent?

Anyway, back to revisiting the past. General manager Stan Bowman admitted that he was hoping to bring Saad back into the fold at some point, although talks for this particular deal didn’t heat up until the past few days.

“Certainly it was a tough move a couple of years ago to have to make that trade [of Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2015]," Bowman said. “Today my conversation had a much different tone. Brandon’s coming back and that chemistry is there right away and intensity and the way he plays. His all-around game is second to none.”

Saad said he wondered if he’d end up with the Blackhawks again at some point in his career.

“The day I was traded I talked with Stan and you part ways, but it’s a small league and there are always opportunities. It was definitely a thought in my mind possibly ending up in Chicago,” he said. “I didn’t think it’d happen this soon but that’s just the way it happened. It’s exciting to be back somewhere I’m comfortable, somewhere I know and an organization that’s had success.”

Yes, the Blackhawks went back to their alumni well. But instead of getting an aging veteran they’ve reacquired a kid in his prime. Every situation can come with an asterisk. This is one exception that will turn out well for the Blackhawks.