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Chicago Bulls Taught Valuable Lesson In Loss To Heat

Posted by sportsmaven on May 26, 2011

Following their Game 5 and the NBA Eastern Conference Finals series loss to the Miami Heat, the Chicago Bulls hopefully learned some valuable lessons. Like the Oklahoma City Thunder, the youth and inexperience of Bulls ended up being their undoing. Nobody thought the Bulls would get this far in the playoffs, never mind finishing the regular season with the NBA’s best record. But the Miami Heat did to the Bulls what the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks couldn’t do: capitalize on the flaws of this particular Chicago team. So what did the Bulls learn from this series?

1. More balanced scoring is needed from this team. A reliable two guard is an immediate need, inside scoring is a secondary need.

2. Young teams like the Bulls and Thunder won’t get the same calls as the Heat and the Dallas Mavericks. One look at the foul differentials is all you need to see. In Game 5 alone, the Bulls had 15 more FG attempts, 5 more FG made, 1 more made 3 pointers, 5 more offensive rebounds, 6 more assists, 1 more steal, and 5 fewer turnovers than the Heat. The only significant stat the Heat exceeded the Bulls was FT attempts (+12) and FT made (+10) and the Bulls were at home. In an 83-80 loss, this was significant and the officiating in this series was questionable at best.

3. Derrick Rose can’t do it alone. He needs some serious help. This team is so close but yet so far. Gar Forman and John Paxson have some work to do.

4. What are we to make of Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah spending significant minutes on the bench in the 4th quarter of playoff games? That’s a about $30 million in talent sitting out crunch time. That’s a HUGE concern, Boozer in particular. On the NBA’s biggest stage, Boozer was a major disappointment, both offensively and defensively, and is now the biggest question mark for the Bulls going into the offseason.

5. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau is an outstanding coach, but he’s not a magician. He couldn’t make the adjustments needed to keep up with the Heat, mostly because the Bulls lacked the firepower of the Heat. The only questionable move was why Kurt Thomas didn’t get more playing time earlier in the series, but ultimately that debate is insignificant to the final outcome of this series.

While I don’t want to take anything away from the Miami Heat, they had to play on top of their game and play all out to beat the Bulls. And they did just that. Despite the Game 1 result, the remaining games were all close games. One more made shot, one more foul for or against was the difference between these two teams.

The Bulls are not far away from being a perennial contender for NBA championships for years to come, but this offseason may be as significant as last offseason in terms of advancing to the next level. Talent ultimately wins in the long run. The Heat had more talent than the Bulls this year and it showed. So where do the Bulls go from here? More to come on this question.

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Chicago White Sox Still Have Some Big Time Problems

Posted by sportsmaven on May 23, 2011

If you were one of the 25,081 that watched today’s Chicago White Sox game against the financial juggernaut Los Angeles Dodgers, you have to be fully aware that after 48 games, the Sox still have some big time problems. Sure, the Sox have had a really nice run over the past few weeks, but despite having to hide all the valuables in advance of a visit from Dodgers owner Frank McCourt this past weekend, the Sox still have some high profile “glitches” on the championship bandwagon, most notably:

Starting pitching, especially John Danks receives little support from the hitters and even less support from the bullpen.

The outfield defense has been a hot mess, just witness Juan Pierre’s left field adventures.

The Sox biggest acquisition (literally) 1B/DH Adam Dunn is hitting just .190 approaching June, including an 0-30 against left-handers for the season.

Closer? Anyone find a closer in that clusterf&$k of a bullpen? Sergio Santos was the latest sacrifice to the Gods of Closers. Apparently his scoreless innings pitched streak was the only casuality of the May 21st Rapture.

Despite all the issues, the Sox are closing ground like Animal Kingdom on a dirt track, as its May 22nd, they are only nine games out of first, two games out of second and looking at their nemesis the Minnesota Twins fading badly in their rear view mirror. If the Sox could only play inter league schedule all year. They would be 43-5 by now.

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UPDATE: Questions Surround Chicago Cubs As Annual Fan Convention Starts

Posted by sportsmaven on May 23, 2011

Loyal Chicago Cubs fans arrive in town today to kick off the 26th Annual Cubs Convention at the Chicago Hilton and Towers. Besides the obvious challenge on how to effectively market a 5th place baseball team, the failed attempts of ownership to get the public to finance upgrades to Wrigley Field, and finding a classy and respectful way to honor a Cubs folk hero after the death of Cubs legend Ron Santo, questions surround the team on and off the field after an offseason that receives a mixed review to date. Some of the questions i’m sure will be brought up this weekend include:

Why Mike Quade over Ryne Sandberg when hiring Lou Piniella’s replacement as Cubs manager?

Why did Carlos Pena hit only .196 last season and was that worth the $10 million salary that was given to him to play 1B for the Cubs? (By the way, what was the deal about deferring half his salary? Are the Cubs in such a financial state that they have to start deferring salary on a player with a 1-year contract? Will he hit over .200 playing half his games in Wrigley this season?

Will you ever find mid-season homes for Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez and Kosuke Fukudome when the Cubs hit double digits in games behind in the division standings? When do the Cubs start calling up kids from the minors?

How did Cubs P Kerry Wood turn down reported 2 year, $10 million contract offers to accept a 1-year, $1.5 million Cubs offer, including the infamous “Cub for life” clause that was rumored to include broadcasting for the Cubs after he retires. How do you become a Cub for life off a 1-year contract?

Was Cubs P Matt Garza worth the 5 players he was traded for? Do you think any of those 5 players will eclipse the career that Garza has (and will) put together as a Cub? Is he the front of the rotation talent that required 5 minor league prospects to close the deal?

Who will step up in the rotation after Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano and Garza? Does a rotation of Dempster, Zambrano and Garza even scare anyone other than Cubs fans?

Will the strong back end of the bullpen ever get into some meaningful games this season? Will Carlos Marmol, Sean Marshall, and Wood continue to dominate?

Will young talent Starlin Castro, Tyler Colvin, and Andrew Cashner continue their ascent in becoming cornerstones of a revived Cubs farm system that appears to be on the verge of regularly developing major league quality talent? Who will be this season’s Starlin Castro?

Off the field, there are even bigger challenges facing the Ricketts family:

Are last season’s empty seats an aberration or a indictment from fans on the quality on the field?

Will Crane Kenney and Jim Hendry survive another abysmal season as the Cubs top on-field and off-field management?

Will this be the year that the fruit of Cubs Director of Scouting Tim Wilken’s tree starts blossoming?

Will we ever see a Cubs Triangle Building and more investments in infrastructure of Wrigley Field with the Ricketts footing the bill, instead of the taxpayers?

Stay tuned as I will update this post with a progress report around mid-season/All-Star break.

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The Chicago Bulls Have NO Chance Of Beating The Miami Heat

Posted by sportsmaven on May 22, 2011

You heard it here first if you already haven’t witnessed it firsthand tonight. The NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals are over. The Chicago Bulls have no chance of winning against this Miami Heat team. Not in a seven game series. Not when the Bulls vaunted defense is neutered by NBA referees when they decide to play defense. Not when the Bulls don’t follow their game plan. Not when the Bulls again can’t make a basket. Not when the Bulls are bullied, pushed around, out-muscled, out-hustled and out-classed. Not if they play defense like they did tonight.

Believe what you want about the Bulls, but know this: The Bulls are in the midst of learning a serious lesson and if they don’t get their act together soon, their season will be over. When you turn on your TV tomorrow, I can almost guarantee that you will hear ESPN’s Skip Bayless say the series is over and he won’t be the only one that holds that opinion.

ESPN, TNT and Comcast Sports Net, analysts have all talked about the benches being a factor, but they are absolutely wrong. What it comes down to is Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh vs. Derrick Rose, and the level of defense each team plays and that’s it. The rest is all coffee house chatter. The problem with this Chicago Bulls team is that I don’t trust them. Not in these playoffs. They have played two good games in a lackluster first round matchup against an inferior Indiana Pacers team. They played two somewhat dominant games in the second round against a very beatable Atlanta Hawks team that played even less physical than the Pacers. The Bulls played their most dominant game of the post-season in Game 1 of the Conference Finals and haven’t shown up since.

For the last three days leading up to Game 3, I’ve heard the Bulls talk extensively about wanting to push the pace, attack before Miami sets up their half-court defense, be aggressive. What I saw tonight was the Bulls walking the ball up nearly every possession, settling for jump shots, no movement of the ball, and no drive, kick and shoot. Too many missed shots under the basket. As for the Bulls players, what happened to Joakim Noah and Luol Deng? Kyle Korver’s shot still MIA. Carlos Boozer offensive game appeared tonight, but as usual, his defense was atrocious.

On defense, the Bulls had too many breakdowns, bad or no rotations, little help defense and virtually no aggression. Nobody in a red jersey touched Chris Bosh tonight and it showed. Little intensity, passion and desire in the 4th quarter equals yet another winnable loss. Miami seemed to get to all the loose balls and seemed to have all the bounces go their way.

As for the Heat, give them credit, they executed their game plan. They let go of Game 1, made their adjustments and cranked it up a notch. They executed the Bulls game plan better than the Bulls did while they were at it. They played defense the way the Bulls have played defense the entire season, something the Bulls have seemed to forget to play at times throughout the playoffs.

Now that the Heat have figured the Bulls out, shut down Derrick Rose and wrestled home court advantage away from the Bulls, how will coach Tom Thibodeau and his young team respond? So far, the Bulls have had absolutely no answers for the Heat’s adjustments, nor have they matched the Heat’s intensity and hustle. Game 4 becomes critical, the most important game of the season. And by the way, all the pressure is squarely on the Bulls. I can guarantee you this, the Bulls will learn a lesson on Tuesday night. Only time will tell if they are mentally strong enough to learn the lesson now, next year or if they will ever learn it.

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The Chicago Bears Mistreat Nationally Televised Football Games

Posted by sportsmaven on October 4, 2010

In case you are wondering why the Chicago Bears get very little if any respect from the national sports media, then you haven’t been watching tonight’s game against the New York Giants. Opportunities to get a nationally televised game on your schedule are few, and yet with the exception of last Monday night’s game against the Green Bay Packers, the Bears have treated those opportunities to quote the NFL Network’s Warren Sapp, “like a blind dog in a meat house”. Now I don’t know what that means exactly, but it doesn’t sound too good to me.

Respect is something that is earned on the field of play. For the Bears defense, they played their hearts and souls out all night and deserve all the game balls that any team has to offer a unit. Conversely, the Bears offense, and the offensive line in particular, have put the Bears national reputation back in the proverbial trash can, overshadowing all the good things the Bears have done this season. You think the Giants went off on Bears QB’s tonight? Wait until you hear how the national media tees off on the Bears.

The offensive line is a disaster from the top down. the Bears line gave up 10 sacks tonight…9 in the FIRST HALF! If Jerry Angelo is not bringing in a parade of offensive lineman to Halas Hall starting tomorrow, he would be as neglectful a manager as the captain of the Titanic, the guy who was noticeably absent as his ship rammed into the iceberg that would take it straight to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. I don’t want to pin all the blame on the lack of blocking. Jay Cutler didn’t do his lineman any favors and neither did Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

The longer this game continues, the more inept the offensive line looks. There may not be any more room in Lovie Smith’s doghouse after this game for those who truly belong. Somewhere, a vindicated Dennis Green is watching this game and telling his dog how right he was about these Chicago Bears.

I have spoken all week about this game being the season for the Bears, and not in the same manner of desperation of which this game is the season for the New York Giants. Playing on the national stage of NBC’s Sunday Night Football, this game was supposed to be a defining moment for a Bears team that many have had doubts about since the opening game of the season. Unfortunately for the Bears, this game has cemented the many opinions of those outside of Chicago, that the Bears are more pretenders than contenders.

In the coming weeks, the commentary will be that the Bears beat the Detroit Lions on a rules technicality, beat the Dallas Cowboys by pure luck, and won the Packers game because the Packers decided to commit 18 penalties to beat themselves. The Bears were considered by many to be the worst 3-0 in the NFL, maybe in NFL history.

Let’s make no mistake, the Bears didn’t lose to a good team tonight. Outside of the outstanding front 4, this Giants team is horrendous. This is a bad loss for the Bears, a loss that can send even the best of seasons spiraling downward. We’ll see if the Bears can recover from this disaster. Now next week’s game against the Carolina Panthers becomes the new season defining game…..

Update: This post was the first post of the Sportsmaven blog written exclusively on the Apple iPad.  I used the WordPress app, which is pretty good, but still in it’s developmental stages.  The writing experience has been very good and I used the touch keyboard, which I found quite reponsive.  While I had no major issues with typing on the type pad, I know some people do.  I will continue to use the iPad to write blog entries going forward.

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