Bulls surprisingly getting out and running

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Bulls surprisingly getting out and running

DEERFIELD, ILL.Offensively, this seasons edition of the Bulls have put an emphasis on execution, ball movement, players moving without the ball and of course, head coach Tom Thibodeaus rigid stance on inside-out playat least when theyre in a half-court set.
However, theyve also made a concerted effort to push the pace in transition.
Its only three games into an 82-game season, but through the preseason and the NBAs first week, one of the teams strengths has been fast-break basketball. In the admittedly small sample size, they are tied for sixth in the league in transition points, at 16.7 points per game.
That might not seem like much, but consider the fact that they only averaged an identically middle-in-the-pack 13.4 the last two seasons, when they had the services of one of the games most explosive talents, Derrick Rose. Sure, most coaches start each season with the intent to play at a faster tempo, a mission that often dissolves early, but the Bulls, with few players observers would consider elite in the open court, seem committed to getting up and down the floor in a hurry.
We work on it every day in practice. Thibs has got us running up and down, trying to get easy plays and easy layups, and we want to try to use our speed., Rip Hamilton said. We dont want to play a half-court game for 48 minutes. We want to try to get as many easy baskets as possible.
Joakim Noah added: For us, I think its all about getting out on the break, getting steals and just being able to run to the open spots, and just knowing what your teammates strengths and weaknesses are.
Im not going to be the kind of guy thats going to catch lobs and stuff like that, so Id rather my teammates just throw a little bounce pass or something like that.
One would think that a coach with the mindset of Thibodeau, so concerned with ball security, wouldnt want to loosen the reins enough to give his players the freedom to run, especially with a roster that doesnt seem suited for the task. But upon closer inspection, the Bulls do have the personnel equipped for a decent transition game.
Hamilton, while older, was never an elite athlete, but is regarded as one of the fastest and more well-conditioned players in the league, traits that lend themselves to sprinting the floor for layups and uncontested pull-jumpers on the break. His bookend wing, Luol Deng, is in similar shape and while he isnt an above-the-rim player either, his size enables him to finish at a high level.
Noah, as he himself acknowledged, doesnt necessarily catch many alley-oops or possess a lot of flash as a finisher, but he is one of the best players at his position in the NBA at running the floor, as well as one of the few centers who can both starthis uncanny ball-handling ability and passing skills have earned Thibodeaus trustand finish a transition opportunity. Fellow big man Taj Gibson also runs the floor better than most of his peers and is one of the few Bulls who is known as a pogo-stick type of athlete.
Meanwhile, Carlos Boozer showed up to training camp in much better shape; besides losing weight over the summer, hes also running the floor a lot better, which allows him to keep up on fast breaks and even when he doesnt see the ball, the power forward has been able to frequently carve out early and deep post position. Among the reserves, swingman Jimmy Butler offers an exciting and athletic, if seldom-used presence, while sharpshooter Marco Belinellis playmaking skills, slashing ability and solid size for his position have yielded signs of also being effective in transition.
But the key to the Bulls early success as a fast-breaking team has been the play of their point guards, Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson. Both have employed significant ball pressure to opposing floor generalsthe Bulls rank seventh in opponents turnovers per game, at 18.3 a nightand whether its off a foes miscue or defensive rebound, the duo has been racing up the floor in search of easy opportunities.
Hinrichs style is more about making a hit-ahead pass to a streaking wing player or big man filling the lane, while the diminutive Robinson prefers to keep it in his own hands and making a drop-off to a finisher or kick-out pass to shooter. But whether its the starters more traditional hoops sensibilities or the backups speed-demon tendencies, the Bulls have been effective as a transition team.
They have not, however, been consistent with the approach. All too often, the team will start a game and establish a fast tempo, then fall into its grind-it-out habits as the game wanes onor, alternately, not push the pace early and adjust to playing faster after halftimean inconsistency Thibodeau would love to see disappear.
We want to get the ball up the floor quickly, Thibodeau said after the Bulls season-opening win over Sacramento. I thought we ran effectively early in the game, and I think weve got to do a better job running late.
Without Rose, the Bulls will need to manufacture points any way they can. While the offense-by-committee philosophy against set defenses is laudable when it works, on nights when it doesntlike Saturdays home loss to New Orleanstheyll need to speed things up, in order to avoid getting bogged down.

Connor McDavid believes Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat will succeed in NHL: 'He's a special player'

Connor McDavid believes Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat will succeed in NHL: 'He's a special player'

Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat is putting up video-game numbers in the Ontario Hockey League.

He ranks first among all players with 49 goals and 104 points, and has done so in only 50 games. That's an average of more than two points per game.

DeBrincat, the Blackhawks' second-round draft pick (No. 39 overall) in 2015 thanks to the Andrew Shaw trade, became the Erie Otters' all-time leading goal scorer earlier this year and on Saturday, he tied Brad Boyes for second on the team's all-time points list with 309. The only player he's chasing now is teammate Dylan Strome, who has 329 and counting.

Connor McDavid, who ranks fourth in Otters history with 285 points, was there for DeBrincat's rookie season when he scored 51 goals and 50 assists. The 20-year-old Oilers captain very much still pays attention to the Otters, and isn't surprised by the heightened success of his former teammate.

"He’s having another amazing season," McDavid said. "No surprise there."

It was easy to suggest DeBrincat's numbers were inflated because he benefited from having a player like McDavid centering his line. But McDavid insists that wasn't the case.

"Honestly, we helped each other," McDavid said. "It was not a one-way street by any means. He finds a way to score goals. My year they were saying, 'Oh, he was just playing with me.' Then the other year, he’s playing with (Strome). He’s playing with Stromer again. To score 50 three seasons in a row is absolutely incredible no matter who you’re playing with or what you’re doing. Absolute credit to him."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The numbers back it up, too.

DeBrincat's points per game average has increased in each of the last three seasons: 1.53, 1.68 and 2.08, a significant jump from his second to third season. It's especially impressive when you factor in that he's scored only eight of his 49 goals on the power play this year after combining for 34 goals on the man advantage in his first two. 

Initially, McDavid was a little skeptical when informed that newly-signed winger DeBrincat, who's now listed as 5-7, 170 pounds, would be his new linemate. It didn't take long for that to change.

"He kind of just came out of nowhere," McDavid said. "I remember us signing (him) and looking, and it said he was 5-2, 140 pounds, whatever. The GM at the time, Sherry Bassin, said 'I found you a new winger.' I’m like, ‘That guy is going to play with me?’ Sure enough, he comes in and we kind of have that chemistry right away.

"He knows where the net is. He finds a way to score basically every night. He’s got a great shot. He’s one of the feistiest guys I’ve ever played with. It’s really remarkable about what he’s been able to do."

Size is surely to be the biggest concern for DeBrincat at the NHL level, but players such as Cam Atkinson (5-7), Johnny Gaudreau (5-8) and Mats Zuccarello (5-7) are proving that you can be among the league's best despite being undersized. And the game is evolving into more of an up-tempo style where teams built on speed is becoming the new norm.

DeBrincat's willingness to stick his nose into dirty areas combined with his offensively-gifted ability is a big reason why McDavid believes his former linemate will succeed at the highest level.

"I think well," McDavid said when asked how DeBrincat's game will translate into the NHL. "He’s just got such a drive and such a nose for the net that I don’t think he’s going to be stopped. He takes on guys much bigger. I don’t really know how he does it.

"Especially when he was a rookie and I was playing with him, he’s going into scrums against guys that are 6-5, and you’re on the ice thinking, ‘How the hell am I going to help you?’ He definitely picks his fights. He’s a special person and special player."

CSN's Dan Hayes meets the White Sox Dan Hayes

CSN's Dan Hayes meets the White Sox Dan Hayes

Is the White Sox clubhouse big enough for two Dan Hayeses?

We're about to find out this spring training as CSN White Sox Insider Dan Hayes covers the team, which includes first base prospect Danny Hayes.

The Sox prospect Hayes battled .250 with 10 homers and 42 RBIs in 55 games for Charlotte last season.

The big-league hopeful and White Sox beat reporter spoke with CSN's Chuck Garfien about the similarities the two (don't) have.

No word yet on whether they'll battle the two Rougned Odors and Geovani/Geovany Sotos to an Anchoman-style duel.

Check it all out in the hilarious video above.