Chicago Blackhawks

Kobe calls for changes to the struggling Lakers

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Kobe calls for changes to the struggling Lakers

From Comcast SportsNetCHICAGO (AP) -- Kobe Bryant couldn't restrain himself after this one.It wasn't just that the Lakers lost again. It was how they did it, where they did it, and he was simply seething.He even put out a call to ditch Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo style and post up more after Pau Gasol got moved into a reserve role."We're going to have to look at some things," Bryant said after Los Angeles lost 95-83 at Chicago on Monday. "We're going to have to change something. Probably going to have to post the ball a lot more, slow the game down a lot more. That's just my intuition, but that's my gut right now. I have to take a look at the film again, but we're definitely going to have to change something."Kirk Hinrich scored a season-high 22 points, Marco Belinelli added 15 points, and the Bulls pulled away down the stretch to beat the struggling Lakers.Belinelli came up big in the closing minutes, scoring eight points during an 18-4 run that broke a 75-75 tie and sent the Lakers to their ninth loss in 11 games.He started it by hitting two free throws after getting fouled by Dwight Howard with 6:54 left in the game and wrapped two 3-pointers around a layup by Los Angeles' Earl Clark, making it 89-79 with 2:27 remaining.The Lakers have now dropped six straight on the road, and this one came after D'Antoni made that lineup switch. He replaced Gasol with Clark, but the slide continued on a night when Bryant and Howard were mostly nonfactors."Very, very tough, very, very frustrating, trying to keep my cool," Bryant said. "It is embarassing. It is not even embarassing. I am a big history guy. Playing here in this arena with these incredible fans, you're in the house of MJ, Pippen, PJ (Phil Jackson) built, to put this kind of brand of basketball on the floor is just not acceptable."Hinrich hit 9 of 11 shots and nailed three 3-pointers. Belinelli and Nate Robinson (11 points) also hit three, and the Bulls were 9 of 17 overall from long range.Joakim Noah added 13 rebounds and a season-best six blocks after sitting out the final 22 minutes, 53 seconds of Saturday's loss to Memphis. He blamed himself for the benching the other night, saying, "That was all me."Noah was angry at coach Tom Thibodeau for taking him out of the game and acknowledged saying some things he should not have. He wouldn't say if he and Thibodeau discussed the incident, but he made it clear he had no one to blame but himself."I admit it," he said. "It was my fault. I shouldn't have said the things that I said."Carlos Boozer chipped in with 14 points and six rebounds. Richard Hamilton scored 13, although he shot just 6 of 18. Jimmy Butler, making his second straight start with Luol Deng (sore right hamstring) sidelined, scored 10 while trying to guard Bryant. And Chicago won this one in regulation after playing three straight overtime games.Steve Nash led the Lakers with 18 points, but Bryant finished with just 16 on 7-of-22 shooting. That ended a run of 24 games with 20 or more points."Most of the looks I had tonight were tough shots," Bryant said. "Some of the credit goes to the young fellow, Butler did a good defensively. A lot of that is on me and us, having to try to manufacture something 30 feet from the hoop with a low shot clock is tough."Howard, meanwhile, had just eight points and nine rebounds while picking up five fouls. Clark and Metta World Peace scored 12 apiece, and Gasol added 15 points and 12 rebounds in his new reserve role.D'Antoni made the switch because he wanted a quicker lineup. Even so, it was an eye-opening move, considering Gasol scored 25 at Toronto on Sunday."It isn't against him, it's better for us right now," D'Antoni said before the game. "We're going to try to work through it and see what we can do. Things do change, things happen, I can't see the future but we're ready to go forward."Clearly, Gasol wasn't thrilled by the switch. He said he's "not excited" about it, and the move caught him off guard. He's not sure about his future in Los Angeles, either."I have no idea," he said. "I can't really worry about something that is out of my hands so I am just going to stay positive and do my best, but it is not something I am too thrilled about. I wasn't expecting it. But right now we have bigger things to worry about as a group. As a team player that's what I'm most concern about."NOTES:Thibodeau said star PG Derrick Rose is "very close" to starting full contact drills in practice, the next step in his recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Could it happen this week? "Yeah -- it could," Thibodeau said. Is it scheduled to happen this week? Thibodeau said, "It could." He also said Rose will have to go through full-contact drills "for an extended amount of time" and that he won't be playing after "one or two days of contact."

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Shots and slashes

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Shots and slashes

It’s preseason: you don’t need a lot of build-up. Let’s just delve right in, shall we?

1. Lots of shots, but…

The same Joonas Korpisalo that the Blackhawks’ youngsters scored five goals against on Tuesday was on top of his game on Saturday. The Blackhawks peppered him with 54 shots but only two got through, and the second was a 6-on-4 power-play goal in the final two minutes.

“I thought we could have gotten a little more traffic in front of him," Nick Schmaltz said. "I thought we were playing along the outside. I mean we had some great looks. He made some big saves. Some nights you get the bounces and some nights you don’t.”

2. Bérubé’s Blackhawks debut.

Jean-François Bérubé had a tough sequence early in the second period, when he gave up two goals in a 28-second span. This was against a Columbus team that didn’t send many of their top players. He also didn’t see a ton of action in this one; the Blue Jackets fired just 21 shots his way.

3. Growing pains.

Alex DeBrincat had his up and down moments on Saturday night. His turnover led to Columbus’ first goal, he took a slashing penalty and he fought the puck quite a bit. You still saw glimpses of that skill, though, especially with his quick release. Hey, he’s a 19-year-old guy getting his first taste of the NHL. Nights like this are going to happen.

“We all make mistakes,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “You gotta be safe in certain areas and you learn from that.”

4. Slash-o-meter.

Four more were called on Saturday night. Don’t be surprised if that number starts dwindling sooner rather than later, though, because the edict has apparently changed already. Sportsnet’s John Shannon reported earlier on Saturday that the league told officials to ease up on slashing and faceoff violations. But we all figure that’s going to happen once the regular season begins anyway, right?

5. Notre Dame bound.

The destination is familiar but the Blackhawks threw it into their second week of camp this season. It’ll be bonding time for the Blackhawks, who will send a smaller group for several practices there this week. Quenneville figures it’ll be a productive time. “We’ll get some bonding in, play golf together, have a nice outing, couple of road games and a nice campus.”

Nick Schmaltz's confidence, hold on second-line center, continues to grow

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USA TODAY

Nick Schmaltz's confidence, hold on second-line center, continues to grow

Nick Schmaltz seemed to be everywhere the puck was on Saturday night. Great pursuit of the puck, great passes to Patrick Kane or Alex DeBrincat and an all-around confidence that’s becoming more apparent by the game.

So has coach Joel Quenneville seen what he’s needed to from Schmaltz at second-line center?

“And more.”

It’s been a pretty impressive showing for Schmaltz this month. The 21-year-old has played in all three of the Blackhawks’ preseason games and keeps getting better in each one. The uncertainty Schmaltz understandably showed as a rookie is gone; the NHL game no longer feels uncomfortable.

“I feel like the game’s slowing down for me, just seeing plays,” Schmaltz said. “I know what I’m doing with the puck before I get it. It feels good and just trying to get better every day.”

Schmaltz and his fellow second liners didn’t connect for goals in the Blackhawks 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The three combined for 12 of the Blackhawks’ 54 shots on goal – Kane and DeBrincat each had five – and the chemistry continues to build between the three.

Jonathan Toews talked on Saturday morning of how much more relaxed Schmaltz looks with the puck now, and that was evident again later that night.

“He’s really starting to get comfortable physically at this level,” Toews said. “He thinks the game so well, puts himself in good spots, much like Kaner where he can skate with the puck and use his speed. He has his head up so he backs guys off. Those two were making great plays tonight and Brinksy was fitting in well. They couldn’t buy a goal but Schmaltzy’s getting better and better, and you’re’ seeing that calm poise that he has really come out the more he gets comfortable.”

Schmaltz was likely getting a second-line audition in some capacity this fall; the original thought was at left wing in the wake of Artemi Panarin’s trade. But Schmaltz has always felt at his best at center. He’s showing that. And more.

“It’s always fun to play no matter if it’s preseason or regular season," he said. "I’m always happy to play, especially when you’re playing with great players. I feel like I’m more comfortable in the middle, able to use my speed a little bit more, create more offense that way.

"I think it’s going well. Wherever I end up, I’ll be happy.”