Monday's Mailbag: Breaking down the Bulls

986745.png

Monday's Mailbag: Breaking down the Bulls

What's just a day off work for some and a moment of historic importance for many others is a smorgasbord of basketball on all levels, as professional, college and high school (such as Chicago's Simeon Career Academy, which beat perennial national power Oak Hill Academy of Virginia in an afternoon game taking place in Springfield, Mass., the home of the Basketball Hall of Fame) games being played and televised all over the nation for fans, hopefully with a reprieve from their jobs, to enjoy. In the NBA, the Bulls host the Lakers in the league's nightcap affair Monday on the league's Martin Luther King Day slate of games, after playing the matinee game in Memphis -- where Derrick Rose attended college--the last few seasons.
In many ways, the two teams are having opposite seasons, as the Lakers were thought to be a title contender after acquiring Dwight Howard and Steve Nash in the offseason, while the Bulls were considered an afterthought by many, given Derrick's absence.
Instead, the Bulls are in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference, while the dysfunctional Lakers, struggling with injuries and on their third coach of the season, are currently out of the Western Conference playoff picture.
Regardless of what happens this season, it just goes to show that preseason predictions, supposed mindset into the psyche of locker rooms and advanced statistics can't account for what occurs on the court, as the games still have to be played. Sure, the Lakers could go on a run and get back into postseason contention and the schizophrenic Bulls could potentially take a nosedive, especially if Luol Deng misses extended time with his recent hamstring injury.
But those scenarios are unlikely. Either way, whether you've been using the day to think about Dr. King's legacy or simply choose to spend the day watching hoops, it's a time that can be used for reflection.
On to the mailbag:
Do the Bulls regret drafting Marquis Teague, or is it still too early to tell?
Terry, it's way to early to tell. First of all, let's remember that Marquis is only 19, the team's third-string point guard -- fourth on the depth chart upon Derrick's return -- and has had limited opportunities to play. The Bulls knew all of that coming into the season and when he's seen action, I'd say that he's acquitted himself fairly well for a rookie who doesn't get a lot of reps besides individual drills. Playing for Thibs, Marquis isn't allowed to make mistakes and when he's received extended minutes, he's shown flashes of his potential, especially considering that he's held his own against the likes of Boston's Rajon Rondo, Brooklyn's Deron Williams and Philadelphia's Jrue Holiday, all top-tier point guards.
At this point, I think the Bulls are at least satisfied with what they've seen, particularly when one considers that many, including myself, thought he could be relegated to the D-League after his mediocre summer-league showing. Looking ahead, the Bulls could potentially have a top-tier backup point guard and with his speed on the floor, the possibility of having him on the court with Derrick simultaneously is very intriguing, a la Chris Paul and Eric Bledsoe with the Clippers.
Is it a stretch to call the Bulls the favorite in the East if a healthy Rose returns?
Jack, I'd say so. Miami is still the defending champion and although the Heat have been underwhelming at times and still need to solve their interior issues, they do have the game's top player, as well as two other All-Stars. After Miami, however, it's a bit of a toss-up, as none of the Knicks, Pacers, Nets, Hawks and Bucks are truly intimidating. In a seven-game series, I have a hard time decisively picking any of those teams to beat the Bulls as presently assembled and assuming Derrick is at least a semblance of his old self, the chemistry is still strong and they can develop more consistency, specifically at home, they have as good of a chance of anybody in the East to dethrone the Heat.
How will Kirk Hinrich's and Nate Robinson's minutes shake out when Rose returns? When he's healthy (no minutes restriction?)
Conor, only Thibs knows the answer to that question, but I'll take a guess. Honestly, I don't know if Derrick will be cleared for a heavy workload this season and I can't say if Nate will be back next season. Hypothetically though, if there's no overly restrictive minutes limit by season's end, let's pencil Derrick in for 30 a night, though I suspect it could be less. I could see Thibs utilizing Kirk and perhaps Nate in the backcourt with Derrick for short stretches, though he's not a huge fan of having two small guards on the floor together at the same time. Let's say that against teams that go small, he does that for a three-minute period, just to showcase a different look, as well as to give himself a strategic exercise for those late nights and early mornings at the Berto Center.
I'd assume that Kirk would get that handful of minutes, as well as serving as Derrick's primary backup, the role he was signed for, as many people seem to forget. I'd think that Kirk would play the bulk of the remaining 15-plus minutes per game at point guard, with Nate on the fringe of the rotation, not playing some nights and being used as a situational substitute or when the offense needs a boost.
Given the intensity of the Boston game Friday, who right now is the Bulls biggest rival?
Luke, the Celtics are definitely one of the Bulls' top rivals, given the recent history between the teams, not to mention Thibs' ties to Boston. Indiana, being so close geographically, a Central Division foe and a team that greatly desires to unseat the Bulls, is also up there. The Knicks should also be considered, as the Bulls have links to New York -- almost the entire coaching staff either worked for the Knicks or is from New York, not to mention Taj and Jo being from the Big Apple, the fact that players just get up for games at Madison Square Garden and the past battles of the Jordan-Ewing era -- and this season's matchups have been extremely competitive. However, Miami has to be the team the Bulls view as their biggest rival and I'd suspect that the Heat, if pressed, would say the same thing, at least when it comes to Eastern Conference opponents. The sting of the playoff defeat two years ago hasn't faded away yet and even since then, virtually every Bulls-Heat game has been an absolute dogfight.
What is the difference between Rose and Shumpert injuries?
@paulconner33, Derrick and Shumpert, a native of nearby Oak Park, Ill., were hurt the same day. But while they both suffered torn ACL injuries, Shumpert had his surgery 10 days before Derrick had his, something that was done to reduce the swelling before the procedure. Beyond that, however, no two injuries are exactly the same, no two players heal exactly the same way and no two medical staffs have the same approach. Also, I'm not saying the Knicks are putting Shumpert in any danger by letting him return to the floor prior to Derrick, but although the second-year guard is seen as a major part of New York's future, he's not the face of the franchise like Rose is to the Bulls. As impatient as people are to see Derrick playing again, the caution exercised by the Bulls is prudent, especially after seeing Minnesota point guard Ricky Rubio experience back spasms after he returned to action, whether his ailments were related to his surgically-repaired ACL or not.

Wake-up Call: Miggy gets the boot; Rodon's rocky debut; More bad news for Cubs?

miguel_montero_cubbies.jpg
AP

Wake-up Call: Miggy gets the boot; Rodon's rocky debut; More bad news for Cubs?

Where it all went wrong for Cubs and Miguel Montero

White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

Kris Bryant’s sprained ankle is more bad news for Cubs: ‘You can’t cry about it’

Can Leonard Floyd break out in 2017? The Bears like the early signs

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: What's next for Blackhawks as free agency looms?

Preview: Cubs wrap up series with Nationals today on CSN

Preview: White Sox host Yankees tonight on CSN

Bulls Talk Podcast: An NBA gone wild and Zach LaVine sit down interview

How Rick Renteria has tried to help White Sox players combat travel fatigue

What pushed Theo Epstein over the edge in making Miguel Montero decision: ‘It screamed out’

 

White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

The two fastballs that soared to the backstop on Wednesday night should give you a strong indication that Carlos Rodon was far from perfect.

But in making his first start of the 2017 season, the White Sox pitcher also offered his team plenty of signals that his health isn’t going to be an issue.

Rodon returned to the mound for the first time since last September and brought the goods that made him one of baseball’s top pitching prospects several years ago. Given he’d missed three months with bursitis in the left shoulder and the potential value he offers to a franchise only half a season into its first rebuild in 20 years, that was plenty for the White Sox to overlook the rust Rodon showed in a 12-3 White Sox loss to the New York Yankees at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“He started a little rough early obviously, got some high pitch counts,” manager Rick Renteria said. “And then he kind of settled down.

“Having him back in the rotation and getting him back out there on the big league field, coming out of there feeling good, healthy. I'm sure he will continue to get better as he continues to get out there and move forward.”

Renteria said he wasn’t surprised that Rodon struggled with his command as much as he did against the Yankees. The issues the pitcher displayed in uncorking a pair of wild pitches, walking six batters and throwing strikes on only 41 of 94 pitches were also present during Rodon’s four rehab starts in the minors.

But as long as the stuff was there, the White Sox would be OK with any issues that accompanied the performance. Rodon began to alleviate those concerns immediately when he earned a called strike on the game’s first pitch with a 93-mph fastball to Brett Gardner. Featuring a four-seamer with an absurd amount of movement and a nasty slider he struggled to control, Rodon checked all the boxes the White Sox hoped for from a pitcher they believe will be a frontline starter for years to come. Rodon also was pleased by how he felt before, during and after the contest.

“I was pretty excited,” Rodon said. “I was going a little fast in the first. But it was good to be out there. Next time out, it’ll hopefully be a little better. Arm feels good, body feels good, all you can ask for.”

Well, it’s not ALL you can ask for, but it’s pretty damn good out of the gate given how slow Rodon’s return took. His four-seam fastball averaged 94.9 mph according to BrooksBaseball.Net and touched 97 mph. His two-seamer averaged 94.4 mph and touched 95. And his slider, though he couldn’t control it, nor locate it for a strike, averaged 86 mph.

“You could see (Omar Narvaez) going over to try to catch some balls that were having tremendous run,” Renteria said. “That's (Rodon). He's got some tremendous life, he's just trying to harness it the best that he can and being able to execute where he wants to get as many strikes as possible.”

[VIVID SEATS: Get your White Sox tickets here]

The strikes were about the only thing Rodon didn’t bring with him. He walked Gardner to start the game and issued two more free passes after a Tim Anderson error allowed a run to score and extended the first inning. Rodon threw 37 pitches in the first, only 15 for strikes.

He also reached a full count to each of the batters he faced in the second inning. Rodon walked two more with two outs in the third inning after he’d retired six batters in a row.

And there were those pesky first-inning wild pitches that resembled something out of ‘Bull Durham.’

But all in all, Rodon and the White Sox ultimately saw enough in the first outing to be pleased.

“Great stuff, great life, but the goal is to put it in the zone and let them swing it to get guys out early,” Rodon said. “That’s not what happened. I’ll get back to that.”

“It’s a tough loss, but it’s better to be with the guys out on the field grinding than sitting on the couch and watching, for sure.”