Pacers, Heat opine on effects of Rose injury, Bulls' future

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Pacers, Heat opine on effects of Rose injury, Bulls' future

INDIANAPOLIS--Just because the Bulls are out of the playoffs doesn't mean they're not a team on the minds of their rivals. Across the entire NBA, players felt sympathy for Chicago after Derrick Rose's devastating, season-ending torn left ACL injury at the end Game 1 of the Bulls' first-round playoff opener against Philadelphia, ultimately resulting in the top-seeded Bulls falling to the 76ers and Rose undergoing surgery, which will require him to miss between eight months to a year of action as he rehabilitates.

The team the Bulls eliminated from last year's playoffs, Indiana, and the team the Bulls were defeated by in the postseason, Miami, are perhaps the Bulls' biggest rivals and coincidentally, are currently locked into a second-round battle of their own, in which the Pacers hold a 2-1 series lead over the Heat, following Thursday night's win at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. While both squads are focused on the task at hand, the NBA is a brotherhood of sorts and rivalries aside, Rose is one of the most respected players in the league, so concern was expressed for both his future and there was empathy for the Bulls as a whole, in terms of their postseason fate, though the consensus was that the team will bounce back from Rose's injury and still be competitive through his prolonged absence next season.

"That misfortune was big," Pacers veteran swingman Dahntay Jones told CSNChicago.com. "You have one of the most dynamic players in the NBA going down and thats hard for them to rebound from and it was big for that series, but theyll find a way to get it together and be the force that they are."

Chimed in power forward David West: "They were the top team, basically in the NBA. Top one or two all year and you know the type of athlete and game that D-Rose has, and again, its hard sometimes to overcome that situation when you have one of the top-five guys in the world go out, especially in a playoff series, where guys can, especially defensively, lock in. Its just unfortunate that they got dealt that blow."

Heat power forward Udonis Haslem took a different tact, giving Philadelphia the benefit of the doubt, but also throwing in the fact that fellow University of Florida product Joakim Noah was also injured, suffering a severe ankle sprain in Game 3 of the first-round series.

"If Derrick was healthy, then they still would have had to get by the Sixers. Whos to say they would have still gotten by the Sixers, even if he was healthy?" wondered Haslem, whose Heat are dealing with a similar situation with All-Star Chris Bosh on the shelf after being hurt earlier in the series with the Pacers. "They also lost Noah in the playoffs, which hurt, so it could be a different series. Maybe if Noah doesn't get hurt, they still win that series."

Regardless, both teams, while not counting their eggs before they hatched, knew when the playoff seedings were set, the Bulls were a potential opponent. Indiana saw it as an opportunity to avenge last spring's postseason loss, while Miami viewed the matchup as a continuation of what has become a fierce rivalry.

"Nobody thought Derrick Rose was going to go down and we took it one series at a time, no matter who our opponent was, but in the back of our mind, yeah, we still have our memories of Chicago," Pacers swingman Paul George, who guarded Rose for much of last year's first-round series, told CSNChicago.com. "Theyre always going to be a rival for us. It just seems that thats always how it makes out to be in the regular season and when you play them in the postseason, so itll be a rivalry."

Added Haslem: "You never know, but I think everybody was anticipating us to match up with the Bulls, but right now, were in a fight with the Pacers and theyre home, so its not the situation everybody envisioned."

Some observers have already written off the Bulls next season, looking at it as a semi-rebuilding year without Rose and potentially fellow All-Star Luol Deng to begin the campaign, as well as tough offseason decisions with free agents C.J. Watson, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer, not to mention backup center Omer Asik, a restricted free agent. But based on Rose's underrated supporting cast, the team's track record without him in the lineup during the regular season and Tom Thibodeau's coaching acumen, their foes don't believe it's a foregone conclusion that there will be as much slippage as one might expect.

"Its hard to say. Theyre not a bad team without him. They played a lot of this year without D-Rose," Heat point guard Mario Chalmers, who's matched up with Rose since college, when his Kansas team topped Rose's Memphis Tigers in the NCAA national-championship game, told CSNChicago.com. "I still think they can contend for a title. Theyre still a great team. They have good players over there and they have a good coach, so its up to them."

Echoed Haslem: "Theyll figure it out. One thing that I know about Thibodeau, just by playing against him, is that hes a hell of a coach and hes going to have his guys prepared, and play well without him throughout the regular season."

NBA players aren't doctors, so their medical opinions should be taken with a grain of salt, but other than trained professionals in that field, they know better than anyone else how their peers might be able to recover from injuries that they themselves have endured. West is clearly a different type of player than Rose--the former All-Star is regarded as one of the better players at his position in the game, but certainly isn't a high-flying athlete--but he went through an excruciatingly long recovery process after tearing his own left ACL late last season and while he admitted that he only "turned the corner a month or so ago," he believes Rose will get through it, as it's more mind over matter, or even just hard work and heart--pointing to his chest for emphasis--something he believes Rose has plenty of.

"Well, I think as long as you dont get down on yourself, as long as you dont allow people around you to feel sorry for you, just understand that its just a bump in the road and you can get over it. Obviously the surgery and the rehab is tough. I never even wore a knee brace. Thats how far the rehab and things like that have come and hes got a good work ethic, so hell be fine. Hell get through it and hell return to himself. When youre built differently, in terms of insidenot so much physicallyyou can get through stuff like that."

So, while Chicago is still in an extended state of mourning for its favorite native son, not only do even the Bulls' biggest rivals not feel sorry for the team--though they do empathize with how the Bulls' playoff fate transpired, from a purely competitive aspect--they believe the long-lasting effects to the Bulls' run as a contender will be minimal. However, don't expect those feelings of kinship to last through next spring.

Woj: Bulls still pushing for Jahlil Okafor trade with Philadelphia 76ers

Woj: Bulls still pushing for Jahlil Okafor trade with Philadelphia 76ers

According to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Bulls are continuing to go after Chicago native and Sixers center Jahlil Okafor.

According to Wojnarowski, the Bulls are trying to persuade the Sixers to entertain Nikola Mirotic as part of the pacage they would send to Philadelphia.

Okafor has been linked to the Bulls dating back to last month, when CSN Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill reported that the Bulls were going after the 21-year-old center.

 

After winter of taking heat, Cubs still have Joe Maddon's back

After winter of taking heat, Cubs still have Joe Maddon's back

MESA, Ariz. — It only took 21 minutes into spring training — or the first press conference on the day pitchers and catchers officially reported to Arizona — before Joe Maddon listened to another question about all the heat he took for his World Series Game 7 decisions.

More than 2,000 miles away at Yankee camp in Florida last week, Aroldis Chapman told the Chicago Sun-Times that he "was just being truthful" when he used the conference call to announce the biggest contract ever for a closer — five years and $86 million — to inform the New York media that Maddon misused him during the playoffs. Nothing lost in translation there.

Miguel Montero finally declared a ceasefire on Monday night, getting the sit-down meeting the Cubs felt should go longer than the standard meet and greet after the veteran catcher's jarringly critical comments on WMVP-AM 1000 (if only because it happened on the same day as the championship parade and Grant Park rally).

"It's such an unusual situation," general manager Jed Hoyer said, "because we won the World Series, and theoretically you think that people would be really happy."

As ex-Cub manager Dale Sveum might say: "Ya think?"

Ending the 108-year drought might lead Maddon's Hall of Fame plaque someday, but it also led to waves and waves of second-guessing and speculation about how it might impact his clubhouse credibility. But with Maddon and Montero declaring their Andreoli Italian Grocer summit a success, gonzo strength and conditioning coordinator Tim Buss cruising onto the field in a Ferrari for the first wacky stunt of 2017 and Cactus League games beginning on Saturday, it's time to remember that the Cubs still have their manager's back.

"Everyone says they don't see or read anything," pitcher Jake Arrieta said. "We see and hear a lot of the stuff. But I just think that critics are going to find holes in something always.

"Joe was our leader all year last year. He obviously set the tone in spring training and gives us all these freedoms that help us play the way we played. So the people that matter — and know what Joe's about — are on the same page with his philosophies.

"The way he expresses himself to us is the most important thing. And we stand behind him. We trust that he's going to do what's in our best interest. And we know that any decision he makes is geared towards trying to help us win."

Within the last two seasons, the Cubs have won 200 games, five playoff rounds and their first World Series title since the Theodore Roosevelt administration. Maddon readily admits that the scouting and development wings of Theo Epstein's front office did most of the heavy lifting and credits the strong coaching staff he largely inherited. Spending more than $475 million on free agents like Jon Lester and Ben Zobrist certainly helped.

But all this doesn't happen without Maddon and the environment he created. The Cubs Way absolutely needed a ringmaster for this circus.

Arrieta developed into a Cy Young Award winner. Kyle Hendricks transformed into an ERA leader. Kris Bryant burst onto the scene as a Rookie of the Year and the National League MVP. Addison Russell became an All-Star shortstop by the age of 22. Maddon didn't prejudge Javier Baez, immediately appreciating the dazzling array of skills and super-utility possibilities.

Surprised by the Maddon backlash?

"Yes and no," All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "Because there needs to be a story. But what he did — people who are real involved know that since Day 1, he came in and he set the tone.

"He completely flipped the way people think, the way we believe, and everyone has bought into it. The credit he deserves — he gets a lot of it — but I don't think he gets enough of it. Because he lets me be me. He lets Javy be Javy.

"Willson (Contreras), Kris and Addie — everyone has their different personalities. He understands that. And it's not easy to do."

It's such an impossible job, at times, that even Cubs officials and players have acknowledged their frustrations with some of Maddon's in-game decisions and communication gaps. This can't just be written off as a media creation. But imagine the grumbling if the Cubs didn't have a leader with seven 90-win seasons and three Manager of the Year awards on his resume.

"We have a competitive group of guys," Hoyer said. "Every guy wants to be on the field at the right time. Every guy wants to be on the roster. Every guy wants to pitch in winning games.

"That's not realistic sometimes. It comes from a great place. It doesn't come from a place of selfishness. It comes from a place of: 'I want to contribute to winning.'

"The meetings we've had have been awesome. Our camp is unbelievably focused. We are just as focused as last year. I really don't look at it as a negative."

The last word from Maddon, who turned 63 this month and has a $25 million contract, a wide range of off-the-field interests and the championship ring that will make him a legend in Chicago forever, no matter what kind of heat he took this winter.

"Stuff like that doesn't bother me at all," Maddon said. "Regardless of what people may have thought — like any other game that I worked all year long — I had it planned out like that before the game began. So it wasn't anything I tried to do differently game in progress. Had I not done what I thought I was supposed to do — then I would have second-guessed myself.

"So, no, I have no problem with that. I really don't mind the second-guessing from anybody. I kind of encourage it. Please go ahead and do it, because I'll take that kind of second-guessing after winning a World Series on an annual basis. Thank you very much."