Chicago Cubs

Frustrated Thibodeau wants Bulls to stay the course


Frustrated Thibodeau wants Bulls to stay the course

HOUSTONBulls' head coach Tom Thibodeau is between a rock and a hard place. For all of his coaching mastery and motivational ability, Thibs cant simply conjure up a recipe for success for his team right now.
Faced with the first three-game losing streak of his young, brilliant head-coaching career, while the Bulls played at least a semblance of the defense that has made them so successful over the previous two seasons, it broke down late and on top of that, the turnover issues, lack of chemistry and inability to execute in late-game situations plagued them once again in Wednesdays 93-89 loss to Houston, which snapped its own three-game skid. For this group, its not about not wanting it bad enough, but clearly theres a disconnect between the discipline Thibodeau attempts to impart on a daily basis and what occurs on the court.
Hard-fought game, came down the stretch. Couldnt get key stops and had some turnovers late. Hurt us, a frustrated Thibodeau curtly explained afterwards in the bowels of the Toyota Center, his old stomping grounds as a former Rockets assistant coach. I thought we did some good things for most of the game and then, our defensive discipline got us at the end of the game.
Thibodeau didnt single any one player outone of his most admirable qualities is that he refuses to publicly throw any of his players under the busbut a couple of hours before it officially became Thanksgiving, it was obvious that he was most thankful for a flight back to Chicago, so he could retreat to his lair at the Berto Center (in his pregame availability, Thibodeau stated this himself) to study, prepare and devise a way to cure whatevers currently ailing his team.
But then, he listed, in true basketball-purist fashion, the litany of woes that ail his team.
Everyone has a responsibility in your team scheme, pick-and-roll defense, so we have to stay disciplined and we have to stay attached, and we cant make things up and so, the fourth quarters different. Your intensity is higher and we have to stay disciplined on the defensive end, and understand on the offensive end, everythings going to happen quicker, so you cant try to thread the needle in those situations. Youve got to make the first, simple pass. We have to know what our looks are in order, okay? And thats something weve got to work on, he said.
"Right now, Im not as concerned with the streakand obviously, I hate the losing part of itIm more concerned with us doing things the right way and focusing in on our improvement, so theres a lot of things that go into winning and you have to do things the right way, and thats what we have to understand and we have to be able to do that for 48 minutes. We cant pick and choose. We have to be tied together the entire time. We have to be aware, we have to be alert, we have to make multiple effort, we have to stay on bodies, okay? We cant do the easy thing. Weve got to do the tough thing," he added.
When you look at it, these games are hard-fought and theyre going to be one or two possessions down at the end, and youve got to make tough plays. Got to make tough plays and usually, its hard to win on the road and the first thing you have to do is eliminate all the ways in which you beat yourself, so you start right with your defense. The rebounding is okay, its average at best. The turnovers are high. Its difficult to win, particularly when youre short-handed. We have to play real hard, we have to play real smart and weve got to be tied together.
"And I think you have to understand how the game is going, and whats a good three, whats a bad three, okay. The rhythm of the offense. Is it coming off a quick swing, is it coming off inside-out, okay? When is it coming? And I think thats a big part of understanding your teammates, the offense and what youre trying to get accomplished. I think, as the ball moves, you have to understand what your looks are, in order. Everyone has to fulfill their responsibilities, you have to stay disciplined, you have to be able to sustain your spacing through a second or third option, particularly late in the game, okay? So, thats when your decision-making is critical and all those things go into winning, he added.
It doesnt take a basketball mad scientist like Thibodeau to break down things that go into losing, something the Bulls were previously not accustomed to, at least on this recent skid and to be honest, even before the team left for the Circus Trip. Its easy to get seduced into thinking that simply because previous editions of the Bulls gutted out ugly wins and overcame supposed deficiencies, that this seasons squad could do the same.
The aforementioned intricacies Thibodeau mentioned are indeed accurate, but its also simpler than that, as a lack of outside shooting, poor decision-making, less than dominant rebounding and shaky chemistry on both ends of the floor stand out in both Bulls wins and losses. The good news is that like those past teams, this group also has a burning desire to win games.
The bad news is that, at the moment, they havent learned how to transform that into the consistent collective approach that made the Bulls so successful in the past. However, the season is still young and with a returning core of players who have witnessed Thibodeau work his magic, it isnt too late for the buy-in process to startalthough it better happen quicklyand make this current three-game losing streak a distant memory.

Cubs lose Pierce Johnson on waivers


Cubs lose Pierce Johnson on waivers

The Cubs have parted ways with the first pitcher drafted by Theo Epstein's front office.

The Cubs designated Pierce Johnson for assignment last week when they purchased the contract of Jen-Ho Tseng to make his first MLB start against the New York Mets.

Now Johnson is with a new organization.

The San Francisco Giants claimed Johnson off waivers Wednesday. He was initially selected in the supplemental first round in 2012 with the 43rd pick, 37 spots behind Albert Almora Jr.

Johnson is now 26 and just made his first — and only — big-league appearance May 19 this spring.

In Triple-A Iowa, Johnson had a 4.31 ERA in 43 games, including one start. He struck out 74 batters in 54.1 innings, but also walked 27 batters and had a 1.454 WHIP. 

Johnson spent six years in the Cubs minor-league system, going 29-21 with a 3.24 ERA, 1.305 WHIP and 9.3 K/9, working slightly more than half the time as a starter (74 starts, 56 relief appearances).

With the Cubs taking Johnson off their 40-man roster in mid-September as opposed to promoting him with expanded big-league rosters, it clearly shows he was not a part of their long-term pitching plans.

Why Ben Roethlisberger's perspective on young QBs (like Mitchell Trubisky) is worth keeping in mind

Why Ben Roethlisberger's perspective on young QBs (like Mitchell Trubisky) is worth keeping in mind

If Mitchell Trubisky takes over as the Bears’ starting quarterback this year and has some success, keep Ben Roethlisberger’s perspective in mind: It’ll take a couple of years before he’s solidly established in the NFL. 

Roethlisberger said even after his rookie year — in which he won all 13 regular season games he started — he still was facing defensive looks he hadn’t seen before in Year 2 and 3 as a pro. So saying someone is and will be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL after a productive first season is, for Roethlisberger, too early. 

“I think it takes a couple years,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s why I’m always slow to send too much praise or anoint the next great quarterback after Year 1. I think people in the media and the 'professionals' in some of these big sports networks are so quick to anoint the next great one or say that they’re going to be great; this, that and the other. Let’s wait and see what happens after two to three years; after defenses understand what you’re bringing; you’re not a surprise anymore. 

“I think it takes a few years until you can really get that title of understanding being great or even good, because you see so many looks. In Year 2 and 3, you’re still seeing looks and can act like a rookie.”

The flip side to this would be not panicking if Trubisky struggles when he eventually becomes the Bears’ starting quarterback. For all the success he had during preseason play, most of it came against backup and third string defenses that hadn’t done much gameplanning for him. Defensive coordinators inevitably will scheme to make things more difficult for a rookie quarterback with normal week of planning, and it may take Trubisky a little while to adjust to seeing things he hasn't before. 

“They’re not going to line up in a 4-3 or a 3-4 base defense, they’re going to throw different looks at you, different blitzes to try and confuse you,” Roethlisberger said. “The confusion between the ears part is really one of the biggest keys to it.”

The “it” Roethlisberger referred to there is success as a rookie. The former 11th overall pick was lucky enough to begin his NFL career with a strong ground game headlined by Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis, a balanced receiving corps featuring Hines Ward, Plaxico Burress and Antwaan Randel El and a defense that led the NFL in points allowed (15.7/game). Trubisky, as the Bears’ roster currently stands, won’t be afforded that same level of support. 

Roethlisberger, though, had a chance to meet and work out with Trubisky before the draft (the two quarterbacks share the same agent) and, for what it's worth, came away impressed with 

“I thought he was a tremendous athlete,” Roethlisberger said. “I thought he could throw the ball. I thought when he got out of the pocket and made throws on the run, his improvising. I got to watch some of his college tape. Just really impressed with the athleticism. The ease of throwing the ball; it just looked easy to him when he was on the run, when it wasn’t supposed to be super easy. So I thought that those were the most impressive things that I got to see; obviously not sitting in a meeting room and knowing his smarts or things like that, but just the athleticism.”