Chicago Fire

Thibodeau doesn't buy weakened Thunder theory

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Thibodeau doesn't buy weakened Thunder theory

Don't include Tom Thibodeau amongst the skeptics. There have been mixed opinions about the blockbuster trade that sent reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year and early-season league leading scorer James Harden from Oklahoma City to Houston for Kevin Martin, but the Bulls head coach isn't buying that the Thunder are any less dangerous or have changed very much because of the deal.

"Not a whole lot. Harden's a great player and Martin's a great player, but that team is a lot deeper than just one guy. It's built on team play. You've got Russell Westbrook, who's an Olympian. Kevin Durant, an Olympian. So, you've got some guys who are very, very talented. Kendrick Perkins has won a championship. Serge Ibaka keeps getting better and better. He can shut down the lane as well as anybody and former Bull Thabo Sefolosha. That team is put together extremely well, they're extremely well-coached, so they're tough," Thibodeau explained after Wednesday's practice at the Berto Center. "I think it's the nature of the league and there's a lot of change, and it's how quickly you can adapt to that change and that's the challenge that everyone faces, so I think the fact that the core of their team is basically the same, I think that helps. Martin's been around for a while. He's got a lot of experience, so I think the transition has been seamless for him."

"They're deep, they can hurt you a lot of different ways. Obviously Westbrook, Durant, Ibaka. But it's a lot deeper team than just that. Their bigs are tough. Ibaka and Perkins give them a physical presence inside and they come off with Nick Collison and Hasheem Thabeet, so they're big and active. Collison's one of the most underrated players in the league. Of course, Eric Maynor comes off the bench also and he's healthy, and explosive. Sefolosha is a guy that can guard five positions and one of those intangible guys, just knows how to win. So, they're hard to guard, extremely well-coached. We have a great challenge for us," he continued. "The thing is about Martin, too, you can't overlook how good this guy is. The guy has the ability to get 20 points on a few shots, great ability to draw fouls, get to the free-throw line, so it's a team that's very, very deep. When you're bringing a guy like Kevin Martin off the bench, that says a lot, and a Collison and a Maynor, those guys are starters, and Thabeet has played well for them, so this team, there's not much that they're lacking and they're a young team that's gained a lot of experience. So, they're good on offense and they're very good on defense."

As for the Bulls' strategy against Oklahoma City, Thibodeau made it clear that his team will have to execute Thursday evening, regardless of the widespread knee-jerk reactions about the Thunder struggling with Harden, who leads the NBA in scoring at this early juncture of the season. The defensive guru admitted that there is no easy solution in terms of strategy when guarding the firepower of Durant and Westbrook, in particular, especially considering how the Bulls were massacred in a road loss when the two teams matched up for the only time last season.

"It's very difficult. You're not going to guard them individually. You're going to guard them collectively with your team and even that being said, any time you have to put two on the ball, you're opening up another area and great players still have the ability to score. You just have to try to make them work for your points, and we can't gift them points with foolish fouls and reckless gambles, and things of that nature. We have to stay disciplined and if they make a tough shot that's defended well, you have to have the tenacity to come back and do it again, and again and again, and you've got to try to make them play in a crowd," the coach explained. "We've got to get easy baskets, but for us, we want to be well-balanced. We want to try to get misses, rebound the ball well, get out into the open floor, get as many easy baskets as we can. We want to try to attack. They're very good at getting back, so you have to recognize they have three or four defenders back. Now, you have to flow into your secondary offense, keep the ball moving, get bodies moving. They have great length, so you can't keep the ball on one side of the floor. You have to execute, you have to screen well, you've got to make quick decisions, keep the ball moving."

While starter Luol Deng will start out with the assignment, second-year swingman Jimmy Butler could see some action guarding Durant and potentially even Westbrook. Although Butler is excited about the challenge, he also acknowledged the Thunder's star power.

"Great team with great players. We're going to have to go out and play hard, and play the Chicago, tough basketball that we know we have to do, key in on a few players. Also, when we key on those few players, they've got a lot of other players who can make shots and get to the basket, as well, so we're going to study and just going to go out, and try to get the win," he said. "Durant does a lot of different things for his team and he's a great player. He does a lot of things great--not just well--so it'll be an interesting matchup and hopefully, Chicago can come out on top."

Former Mexican youth international goalkeeper Richard Sanchez sees joining Fire as 'great opportunity'

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USA TODAY

Former Mexican youth international goalkeeper Richard Sanchez sees joining Fire as 'great opportunity'

When Jorge Bava’s elbow injury required season-ending surgery, the Chicago Fire suddenly needed another goalkeeper.

In his place, the Fire signed Richard Sanchez. The 23-year-old is a product of the FC Dallas academy and signed with the club as a homegrown player.

Internationally, Sanchez has represented Mexico at the under-17 and under-20 levels, including El Tri’s triumph in the 2011 U-17 World Cup in Mexico. On the club level, he was most recently under contract with Tigres in Mexico’s Liga MX.

“My contract ended with Tigres over in Monterrey,” Sanchez said. “We didn’t agree to some terms so now my contract runs out and I was a free agent. I was training on my own, kind of doing gym sessions and personal training on my own with some other goalkeeper coach. I also trained with FC Dallas before and was kind of getting ready for whatever was to come.”

What came was Sanchez signing with MLS and going through the league’s allocation process for returning players. It’s one of the more confusing mechanisms in MLS, but the end result was the Fire sending a third round pick in next year’s draft to Portland to move up in the allocation order and then using that spot to sign Sanchez on Aug. 11.

Sanchez said his intention was to come back to MLS to get playing time and experience after his Tigres contract ran out.

“I thought I can grow and look for some minutes and that’s kind of the opportunity that popped up in Chicago,” Sanchez said. “Through the allocation process and the re-entry process of MLS, it’s kind of weird is probably the word that you can use, but hey, it gave me a great opportunity here in Chicago. They picked up my rights so I’m glad to be here and I’m glad to be a part of this team.

“Everybody has been good so I’m just adapting now to the city, to the people here and hoping to help the team.”

Sanchez said he likes coach Veljko Paunovic’s style of focusing on possession and building out of the back. That is what Sanchez said he was used to from his time in Mexico.

Professional minutes have been hard to come by for Sanchez, who didn’t make any appearances for Dallas or Tigres. His only first-team appearances have come on loans to lower tier leagues. Regardless, Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez said he likes Sanchez’s resume and skillset.

“Richard gives us a player who knows the league, who knows pressure moments, who’s experienced in division one football,” Rodriguez said last week. “Whether or not that translates to a longer stay with us, again we’ll have to feel that out a little bit, see how much he likes Chicago and what our program is about and then see if it remains a fit for him.”

Sanchez joins starter Matt Lampson and rookie Stefan Cleveland as the Fire’s goalkeepers. For now, Sanchez is still integrating into the team and the system, but if he impresses enough he could be competing for playing time next year.

“Obviously you want to compete for the job and what they look for is that competitiveness within the group so of course I think that’s the expectation they have for me is to bring some good competition within this group, add to what they’ve already built up to this moment and in my case, a goalkeeper’s case, just help out Lampson and Stefan to be better," Sanchez said. "That’s kind of what I’m here for.”

Mitch Trubisky takes first-team reps in Bears practice, but 'no change' in QB depth chart

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Mitch Trubisky takes first-team reps in Bears practice, but 'no change' in QB depth chart

Mitch Trubisky took reps with members of the Bears' first-team offense on Wednesday, the first time the No. 2 overall pick worked with the team's top unit in practice since being drafted in April. 

The Bears have, to this point, been steadfast in giving all first-team reps to Mike Glennon, who signed a three-year, $45 million contract in March. But while Trubisky received those first-team reps Wednesday, Glennon will still be the team's starter against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. 

Coach John Fox said there's been "no change in our quarterback depth chart."

Trubisky will play with the first-team offense in the all-important third preseason game this weekend, though. Glennon will play the first half, while Trubisky will begin the third quarter with the rest of the first-team offense. 

Fox said the Bears want to get a "true evaluation" of Trubisky and added this plan is something the team discussed for a while. Mark Sanchez remains the Bears' backup, per Fox.