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.

Carl Edwards Jr.'s special tie to Memorial Day

Carl Edwards Jr.'s special tie to Memorial Day

For Carl Edwards Jr., Memorial Day has a special meaning.

That's because the Cubs reliever has a very close tie to the armed services. 

Edwards met his fiance, Nette Smith, before her deployment in Afghanistan. Throughout her active service, Edwards kept in touch by writing her letters. Their relationship eventually blossomed, and now the couple has a one-year-old child. 

With Smith's army commitment finished, she views Memorial Day as a time to appreciate all those who serve. 

"To me, Memorial Day is a day set aside for me to remember some of the people I have met who sacrificed everything," Smith said. 

Watch the couple's entire story in the video above. 

Morning Update: White Sox power past Tigers; Dodgers sweep Cubs

Morning Update: White Sox power past Tigers; Dodgers sweep Cubs

Here are the top Chicago sports stories from Sunday:

Stranger than fiction: Dodgers sweep Cubs as Lester vs. Kershaw doesn’t live up to expectations

Miguel Gonzalez throws six perfect innings as White Sox take series against Tigers

Joe Maddon has no choice but to ignore the noise and put his faith in young Cubs lineup: ‘If you want to freak out, freak out’

Two days out, White Sox already excited about facing former teammate Chris Sale

Fire midfielder Dax McCarty named to U.S. national team roster

Jose Abreu relishing opportunity to help mentor Luis Robert, White Sox newest Cuban addition

How patient will Cubs be with Ian Happ and the rookie learning curve?

Takuma Sato holds off Helio Castroneves to give Andretti another Indy 500 win

Sky continue early season struggles in loss to Sun

Honda Road Ahead: Cubs offense looks to build off showing against Clayton Kershaw