Bulls welcome Warriors to United Center

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Bulls welcome Warriors to United Center

Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010
Updated 12:01 PM
By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Throughout the league, it seems that every other team made a massive offseason roster overhaul designed to make them an instant contender (whether it's playoffs or championship) and reinvigorate their fan base as a contribution to the most anticipated NBA campaign in recent memory. Golden State is no exception.

The Warriors, however, had a much different summer than most teams in the aforementioned category. The addition of power forward David Lee--acquired in a sign-and-trade scenario with New York--got them the requisite big-money free agent, albeit one with a lower profile than some of the others on the market. But the Bay Area squad also got new ownership, headed by former minority Celtics owner Joe Lacob (which was somewhat surprising, considering fellow bidders included 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison) fired the winningest coach in NBA history, Don Nelson, just before training camp.

New head coach Keith Smart (yes, the same Keith Smart that led Indiana to the 1987 NCAA Championship over Syracuse with his now-legendary jumper in the clutch) pledged to implement a more defensive-oriented brand of basketball than Nelson's run-and-gun regime, but with little time to steep the team in his methods, no major style changes have yet occurred. Instead, Golden State (6-2) is winning games with the same familiar attack, but with a more traditional lineup and at least a conscience on the defensive end.

Lee, with center Andris Biedrins again playing significant minutes after a falling-out with "Nellie," constitutes a legitimate post-player duo, and while free-agent swingman Dorell Wright isn't a big name, his inclination to defend certainly make them less porous against the legions of scoring wings in the NBA. Meanwhile, the backcourt of scoring machine Monta Ellis and second-year point guard Stephen Curry appears to be co-existing peacefully, and more important, productively.

One of the league's most potent guard pairings, Ellis opened the season with a 46-point outburst after reports of him getting his personal life in order after marrying in the summer. Curry, last year's Rookie of the Year runner-up, is regarded as one of the league's top players at pick-and-roll basketball, a top sharpshooter and an underrated playmaker, something no doubt enhanced by his summer with USA Basketball.

The Warriors bench isn't much to write home about, with former D-League call-up Reggie Williams their most consistent offensive threat and the organization still crossing its fingers that ex-lottery pick Brandan Wright develops after numerous injury-prone season; history could repeat itself with current rookie and fellow big man Ekpe Udoh, the No. 6 overall pick who has yet to suit up--not even in summer league--due to a wrist injury. Still, whether or not their hot start persists, the culture seems to be changing, and despite having to give up reliable swingman Kelenna Azubuike, defensive stalwart Ronny Turiaf and high-upside youngster Anthony Randolph to the Knicks in order to get Lee (scorer Corey Maggette was also dealt, to Milwaukee for essentially role-playing reserves), thus far, it looks to be worth it.

It will take time before Golden State is a contender--or even a team that makes noise in the playoffs, like the beloved Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson-led bunch that dramatically upset the defending finalist and top-seeded Mavericks in the 2007 playoffs--but with Ellis' beginning to the year, he's now reportedly off the trading block and there's a core group from which the front office can build upon moving forward. But with a fresh face on the sidelines, a committed owner and the pieces in place to spread some optimism among some of the most passionate fans in the league, the future looks a lot brighter than it did a few months ago.

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.

Sub-.500 Hawkeyes on four-game losing streak after home loss to Omaha

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USA TODAY

Sub-.500 Hawkeyes on four-game losing streak after home loss to Omaha

Things are not going too well in Iowa City.

The Hawkeyes saw their losing streak stretch to four games Saturday with an upsetting 98-89 home loss to Omaha.

Iowa has been a high-scoring team this season, entering the weekend with the Big Ten's No. 2 scoring offense at 85.6 points a game, but it's also been the league's worst defensive team, allowing an average of 85 points a game. And that's before the Mavericks nearly hit the century mark on Saturday.

The Hawkeyes were out-rebounded, including a big advantage for the Mavericks on the offensive boards, where they turned 19 offensive rebounds into 20 second-chance points. Omaha's bench outscored Iowa's bench, 37-9, and the Mavericks had a 40-26 scoring edge in the paint.

Trailing by six after allowing 53 first-half points, the Hawkeyes led for just 18 seconds over the game's final 21-plus minutes.

Peter Jok, the Big Ten's leading scorer, poured in 33 points in this one, though efficiency was not his strong suit, going 8-for-21 from the field. He added 10 rebounds for a double-double.

Iowa's losing streak stands at four, the loss to Omaha linking with losses to Virginia, Memphis and Notre Dame. In the last three games, the Hawkeyes have surrendered an average of 96.7 points. In four of their five losses on the season — the heretofore unmentioned one coming against Seton Hall — opponents have scored at least 91 points.

The Hawkeyes' only wins this season have come against Kennesaw State, Savannah State and Texas-Rio Grande Valley.

Iowa has five more non-conference games — including a date with ranked in-state rival Iowa State — prior to the start of Big Ten play at the end of the month.

Illini defense dominant in capping bounce-back week with win over VCU

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USA TODAY

Illini defense dominant in capping bounce-back week with win over VCU

What a difference a week makes.

Last week was a nightmare for Illinois, with a home loss to Winthrop followed by back-to-back double-digit losses to West Virginia and Florida State in Brooklyn.

But things went much differently this week, with Tuesday's win over North Carolina State paired with a Saturday victory over VCU to make for a bounce-back stretch for a team that looked lost just a handful of days ago.

Saturday's win in Miami came in convincing fashion, Illinois victorious by a 64-46 score over a team that's been to six straight NCAA tournaments.

The Illinois defense held VCU to its lowest scoring output since 2005. The Illini held the Rams to just 30.2-percent shooting and 2-for-18 shooting from 3-point range.

The Illini fell behind early in this one but countered VCU's opening success with a 19-3 run that put them ahead by eight in the closing minutes of the first half. That run featured seven points from Leron Black and five from Maloclm Hill, the start of huge games for both guys. A Hill buzzer-beater at the half gave Illinois its biggest lead of the opening 20 minutes at 10.

VCU scored 11 straight points in the early stages of the second half to chop a 12-point Illinois lead all the way down to one. Things stayed close until a 10-3 run by the Illini — featuring eight points from Jalen Coleman-Lands — stretched the Illinois edge back out to double digits, an 11-point lead with about three minutes to go. After a pair of VCU free throws, Hill knocked down a 3-pointer with two and a half minutes left to seal the game, establishing a 12-point advantage the stretched to nearly 20 by the final horn.

Black finished the game with a career-high 18 points, coming close to a double-double with eight rebounds. Hill had 16 points and filled the stat sheet with five assists, three rebounds, two steals and a block. Coleman-Lands was an unusual oh-fer from 3-point range but still scored in double figures with 12 points. Tracy Abrams was a perfect 3-for-3 from deep, accounting for all nine of his points, and had six rebounds and four assists.

Illinois sits at 6-3 on the season, two games better than it was a week ago after back-to-back wins against name opponents. Four more non-conference games are on the docket — against IUPUI, Central Michigan, BYU and Missouri — before the start of Big Ten play at the end of the month.