Starting Five: Bulls at Rockets

Starting Five: Bulls at Rockets

Tuesday, Nov. 16, 20102:29 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

1) Brad Miller acknowledged Houstons injury issues, as well as the teams reputation for role players stepping up even when short of bodies.

It is what it is," he said. "That situation is a little bit of whatever. People always say Houstons always blessed with injuries at some point and I had mine. They said welcome to the team when I turned my ankle. It just seems like the curse of this team, but guys keep stepping up.

Youve got Kyle Lowry at point instead of Aaron Brooks, that changes the team -- Im not saying good or bad, just changes the team. With Yao not out there, it changes the team. So weve just got to be ready to play, like, 20 different styles with all the different lineups that we throw out there.

2) Ishmael Smith, an undrafted free agent out of Wake Forest (where the rookie played with Bulls forward James Johnson) isnt putting up gaudy numbers, but has opened some eyes with his game-changing speed in the absence of Brooks, the former Most Improved Player.

It has been an adjustment, the difference from college to the NBA ... its been going well so far," Smith, who earned a spot on the team by virtue of a strong summer-league performance in Las Vegas, told CSNChicago.com after Tuesdays shootaround. "Im just trying to work hard and continue to work on the things I need to work on and get better at the things I guess Im pretty good at.

You never hope injuries happen to anybody and we all hope Aaron comes back with a speedy recovery because were going to need him, but Im just trying to hold the fort, do it whatever it takes to get wins while Im out there and not do anything too crazy.

3) Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau is regarded as a key to Yao Mings early NBA development, as he spent countless hours with the center working on his game. Therefore, he better than anybody understands how the Rockets attack changes with the All-Star out of the lineup.

Yao has missed -- unfortunately for him and their team -- games, so I think they have gotten used to playing without him. I think the hardest thing for them at the start is readjusting, where Yao was only playing half the game because they were playing two different styles, said Thibodeau before Tuesdays shootaround. When you have a primary low-post scorer like Yao, it does kind of change the way you play. So now their bigs are up higher -- more in the high-post area -- so it sets up their cutting game, and theyre a great cutting team. Youve got to concentrate on your body position because the low blocks, at times, are not going to be occupied. If you dont have good body position, theyre going to get back cuts and layups, and you cant allow that.

4) With a seven-game road trip and eight newcomers on the team, the Bulls are using their off time spent together as an opportunity to bond.

People have video-game systems. I gave Taj my traveling Xbox. Its like a TV and an Xbox in a suitcase, so we could be playing that -- playing Call of Duty, whatever -- but somehow weve got to get closer, said Derrick Rose after Tuesdays shootaround.

Its going to be good," added Luol Deng. "At the end of the two weeks, well get tired of each other, but its really good for the team, spending a lot of time together.

5) Dont forget to follow me on Twitter at @CSNBullsInsider.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

With Ben Zobrist sidelined by sore wrist, Cubs move Ian Happ to second base

With Ben Zobrist sidelined by sore wrist, Cubs move Ian Happ to second base

LOS ANGELES – The Cubs drafted and developed Ian Happ with the idea of turning him into a Ben Zobrist-type player who would move quickly through the farm system and surface as a versatile big-league contributor and/or legitimate trade chip.

With Zobrist sidelined because of a sore left wrist, the Cubs got their first look at Happ playing second base in The Show during Saturday’s 5-0 loss at Dodger Stadium. That kind of depth – plugging in a 2015 first-round pick while a World Series MVP rests – should ultimately propel the Cubs over the course of a 162-game season.

Even as the Cubs stutter-step through a 25-23 start, there are enough choices for the best defensive second baseman on the team and a National League Championship Series co-MVP (Javier Baez) to sit on the bench.

“We know that the talent’s there,” Zobrist said. “It’s not like having any one or two guys out of the lineup is a big drop-off for us because of the talent that’s there. And we know that just because we have a lot of young players doesn’t mean that they’re not extremely capable of doing the job as well.”

Zobrist – who’s reached base in 23 straight games and emerged as a new leadoff option with Kyle Schwarber struggling – felt something on an awkward swing in the first inning of Friday’s 4-0 loss to the Dodgers. Zobrist played through it that night and called it a “day-to-day thing” that didn’t require an MRI.

[MORE: Is Joe Maddon turning Kyle Schwarber into a platoon player?

Facing Clayton Kershaw on Sunday after back-to-back shutouts will be a game-time decision.

“It’s tough,” Zobrist said. “We just haven’t strung together enough quality at-bats to score runs the last two games. It’s not just because of us. They’ve pitched well. Their pitchers are pretty hot right now. They’ve spotted up. They’ve gotten early strikes where they needed to and then gone to work pretty well on us.

“The task doesn’t get any easier tomorrow with Kershaw. We just got to keep trying to chip away.”

Morning Update: White Sox officially announce signing of Luis Robert, split doubleheader

Morning Update: White Sox officially announce signing of Luis Robert, split doubleheader

Here are the top Chicago sports stories from Saturday: 

Preview: Cubs look to avoid getting swept by Dodgers today on CSN

Preview: Knights look to bounce back tonight on CSN

White Sox courting of Luis Robert leads to 'Christmas in May'

Cubs blanked again by Dodgers

Tyler Danish gets win in first big league start as White Sox beat Tigers in first game of doubleheader

After getting shut down by Buck Farmer, White Sox ninth-inning rally falls short

Scott Boras fires back at Jake Arrieta’s critics and makes another Max Scherzer comparison

Blackhawks sign defenseman Michal Kempny to extension

Luis Robert will start journey through White Sox organization in Dominican Summer League

With Ben Zobrist sidelined by sore wrist, Cubs move Ian Happ to second base