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Lance Briggs would obviously like to win a Super Bowl, who wouldn’t? He would also like to play in another Pro Bowl this season as well.
“Everybody wants to play in a Super Bowl, its been awhile since I have played in a Pro Bowl,” Briggs said after practice on Thursday when asked about this seasons expectations. He was then asked if he thought the Pro Bowl was a realistic goal.
“I don’t know. I’ve lost a couple of steps,” Briggs said, “Now sometimes I have to fall into a tackle. If I’m lucky, a tackle will fall, and I’ll put my hand on him and get credit for it. That’s where I’m at in [this] stage of my career.”
All joking aside, Briggs has been one of the franchises all-time great linebackers and all around football players. He made seven straight pro bowls between the 2005-2011 season and has become a fan favorite in Chicago, a city in which he has made home.
“I’m a true Bear. This is Year 12. I’ve given my blood, sweat and tears and my heart to the city and playing for this team,” Briggs said. “When it’s all said and done, I’ll retire a Bear.”
After playing along-side Brian Urlacher for ten seasons, Briggs took over the play calling duties for the first time last season. Briggs had a tremendous start to the year, recording 75 tackles, two sacks, and two forced fumbles in the first seven games of the season. However, he suffered an injury October 20th against Washington and would miss eight weeks with a shoulder fracture.
Head coach Marc Trestman knows that if the Bears hope to improve defensively, they will need Briggs at full speed. “If Lance is playing at full-strength the way he started last season, we’re going to be a much better football team all around,” Trestman told the media Friday.
With a healthy Briggs, the Bears will have one less position battle to worry about this training camp, now if they could just figure out who will be playing next to him.
The setting was impressive (even though the announced crowd of 10,603 wasn’t) on a beautiful summer evening on the shores of Lake Ontario. The view of the city skyline provided a great background for the game, which followed the usual script of touring teams during their off-season as they prepared for their upcoming league seasons. Toronto is a very cosmopolitan city, with large Italian and Greek communities. The two cultures were very evident as the respective fans came out to support their teams and their respective nations, with pride.
Both teams sat some of their stars (most noticeably AC Milan sat their star striker and World Cup participant Mario Bolatelli and both teams substituted freely (both used 20 players) and while the game had its moments of excitement, for the most part it was played at a slower pace than one would expect from world class teams. Although both teams had their chances, only Olympiakos took advantage of their chances, resulting in goals from Alexandro Chori Dominguez, Dimitris Diamantakos and the best goal of the night from Andreas Bouchalakis which sealed the game in the 78th minute with a 20 yard strike that would have beaten almost all world class goalkeepers.
Summer tours never result in the top class soccer we would like to expect and there are many reasons. Some of the stars don’t play, some only play a small portion of the game and some players don’t take the tours as seriously as they should. At the press conference after the game, both managers spoke with the assistance of translators. AC Milan Manager Filippo Inzaghi mentioned that while Olympiacos was definitely the better team and deserved the win, he felt that the fact that his team had only arrived in Canada on Monday and had had little opportunity to train before the game was a major factor in the below par performance. His counterpart, Michel was very gracious in victory, indicating that while he was pleased with his team’s effort and the result, he didn’t think that the difference between the two teams was not as wide as the final score indicated.
The first game of any off-season tournament is hardly ever a good barometer for what is to come. Let’s look forward to an exciting final in Miami next month.
Big Ten Media Day took over the Hilton in Chicago on Monday and Tuesday, and just in case you didn’t have over eight hours to catch the action on the Big Ten Network, here is the breakdown of some of the main storylines.
THIS WILL BE THE FIRST SEASON WITH THE NEW “COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF”
Now, every game matters even more. The new playoff preserves the excitement and significance of the college football regular season where every game will count. The selection committee will choose the top four teams for the playoff based on the body of work, strength of schedule, head to head results, comparison of results against common opponents, championships won, and other factors. It will also place teams in other New Years bowls.
So now, New Years’ Eve and New Years’ day will have back-to-back triple headers with two semifinals, and four other premier bowl games. Semifinal games will rotate among six different bowls. Our girlfriends/wives will be so happy!!!!!
The championship game will be on a Monday every year, and every FBS team will have equal access to the playoff based on its performance. No teams will qualify automatically.
MARYLAND AND RUTGERS JOINED THE BIG TEN
Yeah I don’t quite understand how this happened either. Anyway, Rutgers has become one of the nations top programs in developing players for the NFL. 86 of the Scarlet Knights have signed NFL Contracts since 2000.
Head coach Kyle Flood explained how he felt about joining the Big Ten. “It feels right,” Flood told the media Monday. “I dont think there is any other conference in the country that we would want to play in, the premier academic athletic confrence that the Big Ten is, and I don’t think theres any better choice the Big Ten could have made than to add Rutgers University.”
The Big Ten made another big choice by bringing in Maryland as well. Maryland Head Coach Randy Edsall talked to the media about the change ahead. “We have 10 new opponents that we have to prepare for,” Edsall said. “So, the spring and summer have been a whirlwind for us coaches from the standpoint of getting to know the teams here in the Big Ten that were going to be playing against”
COACH FITZ IS LOOKING FOR A BOUNCE-BACK SEASON.
Northwestern Wildcats Head Coach, Pat Fitzgerald, will enter his ninth year at the school, where he has led the program to five bowl games in the last six seasons. The Wildcats are coming off a disapointing campaign, however they will have 18 returning starters this season, including quarterback, Trevor Siemian, (who has made the Wildcats “his team” this offseason), and Venrik Mark, (who is coming off an injury).
Coach Fitzgerald commented on his up and downs while at NU. “The last two years have been interesting,” Fitzgerald said at the podium Monday. “2012 we were very fortunate, had great sucess and stayed relativley healthy. Last year we didn’t achieve the sucess we expected in Evanston.”
The Wildcats are coming into the 2014 season looking to bounce back and build the same excitment that was felt when “ESPN’S COLLEGE GAME DAY” paid their first visit to the school before last seasons matchup with Ohio State. Unfortunately, after the loss to the Buckeyes, the Wildcats were bitten by the injury bug and fell apart. Coach Fitz won’t let last season’s collapse or this off-season’s union push get in the way of returning to the top of the Big Ten.
“Looking at 2014, we have 18 returning starters,” Fitz reiterated. “We have a quarterback [Siemian], who has thrown for going on 3500 yards and 20 touchdowns, it starts and ends with the quarterback position.”
Click below for more of coach Fitzgeralds press confrence at Mondays Big Ten Media Day.
THE SPARTANS “ARE THE HUNTED, NO LONGER THE HUNTERS”
Michigan State Head Coach, Mark Dantonio, told that to a room full of reporters and TV cameras on Monday morning. The Spartans are coming off a magnificent season in which they won the Big Ten Championship and the Rose Bowl (defeating Stanford 24-20).
The Spartans welcome back junior quarterback, Connor Cook, who was the offensive MVP of last years Rose Bowl after completing 22-36 passes for a career 332 yards and two touchdowns.
“Cook’s first season was successful,” Coach Dantonio said. “So it gives him a lot of confidence moving forward, its a major factor in where we are as a football team.”
The Spartans will play in one of the most anticpated college football games of the year, when they travel to Oregon, to play the Ducks on September 6. However coach Dantonio is not over hyping the matchup.
“That game is just one game. If we don’t take care of the rest of the schedule and we win that game, it really means nothing.”
Michigan State begins the year ranked #3 in the AP Poll, and bring back defensive studs Marcus Rush, (7 sacks), and Shilique Calhoun, (Big Ten Defensive player of the year candidate).
For more on Michigan State click the link below:
URBAN MEYER NEEDS TO PROTECT BRAXTON MILLER
He may have tried to sugar-coat it on Monday, but Urban Meyer is worried about his offensive line. Braxton Miller is coming off surgery on his throwing shoulder and does not plan on changing the way he plays the game. “I wont change, I like to compete,” he told me on Monday at the player podium. Meyer discussed Millers health as well.
“He is ready to go,” Meyer said. “He’s full speed, best shape he’s ever been in his life.” “Concern No. 1, that’s it,” Meyer said of the offensive line. “There’s a bunch of concerns, A-X, whatever it is. The No. 1 on the list is developing the offensive line (to protect Miller). I don’t want to say that’s where all of our focus is, but a good portion of it.”
There is a reason Miller’s health is so vital to the teams success. The senior is a leading contender for all major national awards, and already the holder of nine school records. Miller is also on pace to become just the ninth player in Division I history to rush for 40 touchdowns and pass for 40 touchdowns.
The Offensive Line will definitely have to mature by the start of the season, especially with a tougher schedule and a bulls-eye on their backs in the new-look Big Ten.
“I think they’re hungry,” Meyer said of the unproven Line. “I wanted to see a little more growth [in the spring]. And it’s so easy to coach hard, we have coached them real hard all the way through”
A NEW ERA BEGINS FOR PENN STATE
Thats the slogan on the front page of the Nittany Lions yearbook. New head coach James Franklin signed a six-year deal worth $25.5 million in total guaranteed compensation, with a buyout starting out at $5 million and gradually decreasing to $1 million by the last year os his contract.
Franklin came to Penn State from Vanderbilt, where he had been the head coach since 2011 and led the school to three straight bowl games for the first time in schools history. He will take over a team that features the 2013 Big Ten freshman of the year in Christian Hackenberg.
Hackenberg threw for 2,995 yards and 20 touchdowns while completing nearly 60 percent of his passes. He also broke one school record and 12 freshman game for season records last year.
WISCONSIN LOOKS TO RUN BEHIND GREAT O-LINE (Go figure.)
Is it really ever a surprise when Wisconsin has a great runningback following a great offensive line? They will continue that tradition with Melvin Gordon, who will be an early season Heisman canidate. Badgers head coach Gary Andersen talked about his team’s strengths on Monday.
“Obviously Melvin is the running back, he is tremendous,” Andersen said. “The offensive line is healthy, I feel great where they are sitting, we look to be 8-9 deep and in a good position there.”
WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT FROM DEVIN GARDNER?
Michigan quarterback/offensive weapon, Devin Gardner accumulated over 3,443 total yards and 32 total touchdowns last year for the Wolverines. However, many have criticized his sometimes “out of control and unorthodox” play during critical parts of games. This will be his year to prove the doubters wrong.
Gardner had a monster game in a 42-41 loss to Ohio State last season, in which he threw for 451 yards and four touchdowns (with a broken foot). He will have to have to get the job done this year to make sure Wolverines’ head coach, Brady Hoke, doesn’t feel the pressure of being on the hot seat. “The only pressure is, every day, preparing those guys for life after football. Hocke said when asked about the pressure of leading Michigan back to the top of the Big Ten and the national polls.”
Players to Watch
ILLINOIS- Jon Davis, Austin Teitsma
Indiana- David Cooper, Nate Sudfeld, Shane Wynn
IOWA- Carl Davis, Mark Weisman
Maryland- C.J. Brown, Stefon Diggs
Michigan- Devin Gardner, Jake Ryan
Michigan State- Shilique Calhoun, Connor Cook
Minnesota- David Cobb, Cedric Thompson
Northwestern- Collin Ellis, Trevor Siemian
Purdue- Sean Robinson, Ryan Russel
Penn State- Mike Hull, Sam Ficken, Bill Belton
Ohio State- Braxton Miller, Michael Bennet, Jeff Heuerman
Wisconsin- Melvin Gordon, Michael Caputo
Nebraska- Ameer Abdullah
After two days of shorts and helmets, The Chicago Bears put the pads on and went to work on Sunday in front of an estimated 9,500 fans at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnias IL. While you would figure the highlight of the day would have been a big hit, or even a nice block, the biggest ovation from the crowd actually came from a punter.
Bears’ rookie punter, Pat O’Donnel, became an instant fan favorite and even received “MEGA–PUNT” chants after every kick. One punt had an unofficial time of 5.1 seconds, while another appeared to go about 55 yards. Nothing too shocking when you consider the Bears used a sixth-round pick on the former Miami punter who averaged 47.1 yards per punt.
“I didn’t know what the crowd was saying,” O’Donnel said. “Its definitely a good feeling because usually the punter doesn’t get a lot of attention.”
While the kicking and punting have both looked solid in practice, other areas in the special teams have not been so hot. With the retirement of the always reliable, Bears long snapper, Patrick Mannely, the team has tried out both Chad Rempel and Brandon Harston. Neither have showed enough to win the job after a series of a miscues the first weekend of practice.
“We need to work through the process and find out who our guy is going to be,” Bears special teams coordinator, Joe DeCamliss, said after practice. “I wouldn’t say we are concerned. I have been in this position before with young guys.”
The Bears did have a better showing on offense on Sunday after a few rough moments on Saturday. Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey both continue to impress as usual, while Martellus Bennet is still a huge target who is having a solid camp. Also, quarterback Jay Cutler has been working with the second team of receivers and backs. Eric Weems, Chris Williams, and Marquess Wilson have all made plays and will look to compete for time on the field throughout camp and preseason. Matt Forte has looked good and will look to stay healthy throughout camp. Backup running back Michael Ford has seen a good amount of work with the second team, while rookie back KaDeem Carey has seen limited reps. I would guess he would see most of his action-carries in the preseason where he should get a hefty work-load.
Here are some other notes from Sundays first day of full pads for the Bears
- Alshon Jeffrey and Kyle Fuller battled in 1-on-1 receiver and Defensive back drills again today. Fuller looks very NFL-ready and only allowed one catch to Jeffrey, while batting down a few balls, to a huge ovation from the crowd. #23 is the real deal.
- Tim Jennings returned to practice on Sunday after sitting out on Saturday due to sore quadriceps, but would pull himself after his first 1-on-1 drill to be safe.
-Defensive end Willie Young participated in practice. Safeties Chris Conte (shoulder), and Craig Steltz (groin), are still out. However, Conte may be back sooner than expected. Receiver Terrence Toliver was also held out due to a toe injury.
- Defensive lineman Nate Collins, who is coming off a torn ACL last season, looked very impressive during 1-on-1 drills.
- Jordan Palmer looked better Sunday than he did the first two days. Jimmy Clausen appears to be the early favorite and more suitable backup to Cutler.
The Chicago Bears spent this offseason adding playmakers on the defensive side of the ball, including the No.14 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Kyle Fuller, who instantly became a fan favorite on the opening day of practice in Bourbonnais.
Fuller intercepted both Jordan Palmer and Jimmy Clausen during an 11-on-11 scrimmage Friday. However, what was even more impressive was the fact that it was his first day of training camp in the NFL.
” I feel like I handled it pretty well” Fuller said, ” Definitely a confidence booster, you have to continue to work hard, and come out here and get better every day”
While it was only the first day of practice, and there were no pads, it was still pretty evident that Fuller will be able to make an immediate impact for a Chicago Bears defense, which already features two, veteran,Pro Bowl caliber defensive backs (Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings).
Another impressive observation about Fuller— was that even when he was not making plays, he was always in good position. The Bears are hoping he will be able to play in the nickel package and move inside and cover the slot.
Some fans were shocked when the Bears did not draft a safety with the 14th overall pick in the draft. However, Fuller showed the same ball-hawking tendencies on Friday that he did at Virginia Tech, where he broke up 34 balls, and had six interceptions, while logging 42 career starts. He was also a team captain at Virgina Tech, where he played on the same team as his brother Corey. ( now with the Lions)
“It was a good start for Kyle,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said.“That was a terrific play he made in the first series of the day. The second one we had the wrong route, but he was in the right place and made the play.
Click below to hear Kyle Fuller discuss his first day of practice at Bears
The Chicago Bulls came into this summer’s blockbuster free agency period with one big target on their minds, unfortunately for them, they came away with a “Plan B operation.” While it was disappointing not to land one of the most proficient scorers of the past decade, it may go down as the best alternate plan in Chicago basketball history.
The Bulls challenged Carmelo Anthony to turn down more money than most of us will ever see in our lives for the opportunity to contend for a championship with a former MVP, the 2013-14 Defensive Player of the Year, and a top five head coach. New York Knicks president Phil Jackson challenged Anthony to return to New York where he will play on a brutal team, BUT, with a nice fat paycheck coming his way.
Most realistic fans and analysts knew the chances of Anthony coming to Chicago were slim, however some thought maybe, just maybe, there was a possibility Melo wanted to silence his critics who say, “he will never be the best player on a championship team.”
However, it was not meant to be, and Anthony returned to the Knicks with a five-year, $124 million deal, which left Bulls fans wondering why [the Bulls] aren’t able to land the big free agents.
A valid question when you consider the front office’s failures throughout the last decade to lure top free agents to Chicago, instead settling for consolation prizes such as Eddie Robinson, Ron Mercer, and most recently Carlos Boozer.
So, with Melo following the money back to New York, what would the Bulls do next? What was their plan B? In the time it took for Anthony to make his decision most of the smaller fish free agents were already scooped up.
The Bulls decided to move on to their alternate plan, which included the 34-year old, 7-foot Spanish Forward, Pau Gasol. Gasol, a four time All-Star, had spent the last 6 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers and won two championships with the team, while also becoming one of Kobe Bryant’s all-time favorite teammates. Rumors of mutual interest between him and the Bulls had been swirling for about five years.
On Friday, the Bulls officially welcomed Gasol to Chicago with a press conference where he discussed how excited he is to compete for a championship in the new look Eastern Conference.
“It was a gut feeling. I thought Chicago was going to be the best fit for me,” said Gasol. “It’s a great challenge, but I’m driven by challenge. I look forward to it.”
While it was a solid pickup for the Bulls, would it be enough to make them the favorites in the new look East?
The Bulls, even without former MVP Derrick Rose, managed to win 48 games and make the playoffs for a sixth straight season last year. However, they once again struggled to find scoring at the end of games which was made loud and clear in their playoff series loss in 5 games to the Washington Wizards.
The good news for Bulls fans is that Gasol is an upgrade over Carlos Boozer. When the Bulls signed Boozer away from the Utah Jazz they had expected him to be a force, executing the pick-and-roll with Rose, much like he had been in Utah with then Jazz point guard, Derron Williams, running the show. The problem with that was Boozer had gotten older, lost a step, and instead settled for 16-18 foot jumpers.
With Gasol, the Bulls will not have to worry about finishing at the rim. Gasol is 3-inches taller, so he will be able to finish against bigger and stronger defenders, something Boozer struggled to do in Chicago. Gasol can also knock down mid-range jumpers and is able to keep defenders honest.
The Bulls are also excited about Gasol’s passing game. While Boozer and Bulls’ center Joakim Noah worked well together down low, Boozer averaged 2.9 assists per 100 possesions, Gasol averaged 5.2 and has not dipped below 3.0 since the 2003-04 season.
So, why were so many fans upset? Well, first of all Gasol is not really a guy who can create his own shot, and he is not going to average 28 points per game, even in his prime that would be unrealistic. Gasol is also 34 years old, and is coming off a season in which he battled foot injuries throughout the year. Also, while Gasol is a force defending under the rim (1,1484 career blocks), you would still figure it would be Taj Gibson and Noah closing out games at the 4 and 5, because they are tremendous defenders and work well together as rim protectors. But, the players who start and finish the game are the least of the veteran’s worries.
“I don’t know how it’s going to unfold,” Gasol said, “you know, who will be the starter, who’s finishing? Maybe we change as we go. We’re going to see once we get everyone out there together. We’re always going to do what’s best for the team.”
Bulls head coach, Tom Thibodeau, was not ready to discuss minutes just yet either. “It should be good,” Thibodeau said. “Pau is conflicted. One minute he wants short minutes, one minute he wants long minutes. We’ll find the right amount.”
The Bulls did not find their shot creator, so instead they have attempted to build a team similar to this seasons NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs beat the Miami Heat and LeBron James without having a “Melo” type player. They won with floor spacing, ball movement, and surrounding point guard, Tony Parker, with great three-point shooters.
With a healthy Derrick Rose playing the part of Parker, the possible return of sharp-shooter Mike Dunleavy, (at this time he is still with the team), second-year player Tony Snell, (who struggled at times last season, but has been looking improved in summer league), and the rookie, Doug McDermott, the Bulls hope to be a mirror image of last years Spurs team and improve on last seasons .348 three-point shooting percentage which was the worst in the league.
To add to the lineup they have been preparing, the Bulls also introduced European star, Nikola Mirotic, on Friday. Mirotic, (who was acquired by the team in a draft-day deal in 2011 from the Houston Rockets), signed a three-year, $18 million deal to play with the Bulls. Since it has been three years since he has been drafted, he does not have any obligations to a rookie contract.
While it is unclear how long it will take for Mirotic to pick up the NBA game and earn Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeaus trust, Bulls management is very confident in his ability to space the floor and knock down shots from the perimeter as a “stretch four”. On Friday, Thibodeau acknowledged Mirotic as being a real fit for the Bulls.
“He’s a big who is extremely skilled,” Thibodeau said. “He’s a spacing 4 who shoots the 3 very well. He’s versatile in that he can play inside or outside. He has a high basketball IQ and a good motor.” Last season, Mirotic shot 50.8% from the field and 46.1% from three-point range in 31 games with Real Madrid of the Lega ACB last season.
The Bulls offseason may not have gone exactly the way their managment and fans had hoped, but the team will still begin the 2014-2015 campaign as one of the favorites to come out of the East. While the Bulls will be much improved this season it will all come down to Derrick Rose staying healthy, and if he stay healthy throughout the season and be prepared for the playoffs, the Bulls will go as far as he will take them.
Full Audio from Fridays Press Confrence
It’s crazy to think that the duo has been together for seven years already, as we have pretty much watched them grow up right before our eyes. Toews is known for being a trusted leader and always maintaining a serious attitude, while Kane is known as a cool, confident, party animal that loves to have a good time.
Throughout the years the duo has became the NHL’S “odd couple.” Two buddies that pretty much came up together and that continue to push each other to always be at their best.
“I think we have a friendly competition that, as long as we’re together, that competition’s gonna keep getting greater and greater,” Kane said on Wednesday when asked about playing another 8 years with Toews.
While both Kane and Toews could have probably made more money by splitting up and going to different teams they know that they have something special here in Chicago and are not satisfied yet, even with two Stanley Cups in seven years.
Toews said the pair agreed on the contracts because they were paid what they thought they deserved and it gives the front office enough money to try to keep the teams core together for another Stanley Cup run.
“I think there is a balance there,” Toews said. “I think as far as looking at the team that we have; I guess the truths that do exist as far as trying to keep a solid, successful team together with a lot of key parts that go beyond just the two of us. Like we said, we’re very conscious of that and the success we’ve had as individuals on this team has a lot to do with the great teammates we’ve had along the way. We’re very conscious of what goes into that as far as keeping this team together.
So while it has been fun watching Kane and Toews grow up the last seven years, the next 8 may prove to be just as exciting.
Below is the full audio from Weds Press Conference at the United Center
In what looked like a match made in Heaven, the Denver Nuggets drafted Doug ” McBuckets” McDermott with the 11th pick in Thursday night’s 2014 NBA Draft.
The Nuggets are known for their run and gun style, high scoring, and lackadaisical defense. McDermott is known for his offensive instincts, terrific 3 point shooting, and at times, well lackadaisical defense.
The Chicago Bulls, who are known for being a gutty, hardworking, defensive minded team, saw something special however, enough to package picks 16 and 19 as well as a 2015 second-round pick for the rights to McDermott, who general manager Gar Foreman grew very fond of over the past few seasons.
“What excites us about Doug is we feel he’s more than a shooter,” Forman said. “He’s a guy who is crafty with the ball, can create his own shot, can go in the post some, has a quick release whether it’s from the perimeter or outside.”
McDermott finished his career as one of only three men in NCAA history with 3,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in his four years at Creighton, where he also played for his father.
While many people have ripped McDermott for his defensive efforts, most of that could be a reflection on just how much of the offensive load he had to carry at the college level. “McBuckets”,as nicknamed by fans, quickly became a fan favorite not only at Creighton, but with the Bulls organization as well.
Coach Tom Thibodeau worked with McDermott last summer for USA Basketball and saw much more than just a long range shooter
“If you view him as strictly a shooter, you’re not casting the proper light on him,” Thibodeau said Thursday night.
On paper the Bulls solved one of their biggest needs by drafting a shooter, (the team shot an awful 42 percent from the field, and an even more disgusting 33 percent from 3 point land) but the trade for McDermott, as well as possible moves to come, all serve as part of the “big picture plan”
The Bulls are planning on doing everything in their power to acquire free agent Carmelo Anthony, but other moves need to be made before this is possible.
The Bulls would possibly only free about $11 million of cap space, if they used the amnesty provision on Carlos Boozer. So more transactions, and lucky bounces will have to occur this summer for the Bulls to add another superstar.
In the second round the Bulls selected Cameron Bairstow from New Mexico, who averaged 20.4 points per game last season, and will attempt to follow in former Bull and fellow Australian big man Luc Longley’s footsteps.
Below is all of the audio from Tom Thibodeau, Gar Foreman, and new Bulls forward Doug McDermott.
NEW YORK, June 4, 2014 – The Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant, the 2013-14 Kia NBA Most Valuable Player and winner of four scoring titles in five seasons, highlights the 2013-14 All-NBA First Team. Durant was the lone unanimous selection, appearing on all 125 ballots as a First-Team pick while LeBron James of the Miami Heat garnered 124 First-Team votes.
Joining Durant and James on the First Team are Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers, James Harden of the Houston Rockets and Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls. Harden and Noah captured First Team honors for the first time in their careers. Paul is an All-NBA First Team selection for the fourth time. Durant makes his fifth appearance on the First Team, while James earned his eighth All-NBA First Team nod.
Durant averaged a career-best 32.0 points to go with 7.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists, also a career high. In capturing his fourth scoring title, he joined Jordan (10), Chamberlain (seven), Gervin (four), and Allen Iverson (four) as the only players in league annals to win at least four scoring titles. He shot .503 from the field, .391 from three-point range, and .873 from the free throw line, leading all players in free throws made (703) and attempted (805). Durant authored two 50-point games, topped the 40-point mark on 14 occasions, and turned in 17 games with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds.
James shot a career-high 56.7 percent from the field this season, marking the seventh consecutive season he has improved his field goal percentage. He connected on 116 three-point field goals, the second straight season he has made over 100 three-point field goals while shooting at least 55 percent from the field. He posted his ninth 2000-point season, becoming only the fourth player in NBA history to accomplish this feat, joining Karl Malone (12), Michael Jordan (11) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (9).
Noah, who appeared in 80 of Chicago’s 82 games, ranked sixth in the NBA in rebounding (11.3 rpg), 12th in blocks (1.51 bpg) and added 1.24 steals. He was one of just three players (Detroit’s Andre Drummond and New Orleans’ Anthony Davis) to average at least 10.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals. Behind Noah, the Bulls held opponents to a .430 field goal percentage, second-stingiest in the league.
Paul led the NBA in assists (10.7 apg) and steals (2.48 spg), while averaging 19.1 points and 4.3 rebounds as the Clippers won a franchise-record 57 games. Paul became the seventh player in NBA history to top the 6,000-assist plateau before the end of his ninth season. He’s only the fourth player in NBA history to reach 6,000 assists before his 29th birthday, joining Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas and John Stockton.
Harden finished fifth in the NBA in scoring (25.4 ppg), and added 6.1 assists and 4.7 rebounds. He was one of only two players (LeBron James) to average at least 25.0 points, 6.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds. He finished second in the NBA in free throws made (576), topped the 30-point mark in 24 games and registered two 40-plus outings. Harden also ranked fifth in the NBA in minutes (38.0 mpg).
The All-NBA Second Team consists of guards Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs and Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, forwards Blake Griffin of the Clippers and Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves and center Dwight Howard of the Rockets.
The All-NBA Third Team includes the Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard and the Phoenix Suns’ Goran Dragic at guard, the Indiana Pacers’ Paul George and the Trail Blazers’ LaMarcus Aldridge at forward and the Charlotte Hornets’ Al Jefferson at center.
For the first time this season, complete media voting results for each NBA annual award will be posted on nba.com/official following the announcement of each winner. The All-NBA Teams were chosen by a panel of 125 sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada. The media voted for All-NBA First, Second and Third Teams by position with points awarded on a 5-3-1 basis. Below are the results of the voting for the 2013-14 All-NBA Teams, with First Team votes in parentheses. The balloting was tabulated by the independent accounting firm of Ernst & Young LLP.
2013-14 ALL-NBA FIRST TEAM
Position Player, Team (1st Team Votes) Points
Forward Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City (125) 625
Forward LeBron James, Miami (124) 623
CENTER JOAKIM NOAH, CHICAGO (101) 551
Guard James Harden, Houston (73) 502
Guard Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers (86) 540
2013-14 ALL-NBA SECOND TEAM
Position Player, Team (1st Team Votes) Points
Forward Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers (5) 350
Forward Kevin Love, Minnesota (2) 237
Center Dwight Howard, Houston (9) 226
Guard Stephen Curry, Golden State (65) 489
Guard Tony Parker, San Antonio (14) 210
2013-14 ALL-NBA THIRD TEAM
Position Player, Team (1st Team Votes) Points
Forward Paul George, Indiana (4) 171
Forward LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland (2) 159
Center Al Jefferson, Charlotte (4) 191
Guard Goran Dragic, Phoenix (1) 115
Guard Damian Lillard, Portland (2) 115
Other players receiving votes, with point totals: Carmelo Anthony, New York,86 (1 First Team vote); John Wall, Washington, 70; Tim Duncan, San Antonio, 63 (1); DeMar DeRozan, Toronto, 56; Anthony Davis, New Orleans, 40 (1); Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas, 37 (1); Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City, 32 (1); Kyle Lowry, Toronto, 29; DeAndre Jordan, L.A. Clippers, 21; Roy Hibbert, Indiana, 17; Marc Gasol, Memphis, 16 (2); DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento, 14 (1); Kyrie Irving, Cleveland, 7; Dwyane Wade, Miami, 6; Mike Conley, Memphis, 4; Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City, 4; Zach Randolph, Memphis, 4; Joe Johnson, Brooklyn, 4; Lance Stephenson, Indiana, 3; Ty Lawson, Denver, 2; Paul Millsap, Atlanta, 2; Chris Bosh, Miami, 1; Andre Drummond, Detroit, 1; Monta Ellis, Dallas, 1; Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio, 1.
For the HERO and ZERO of the week, we’ll go with 3 local Women’s Coaches!
When the Women’s bracket was announced, Duke coach Joanne McCallie quickly voiced her displeasure with the parings, which I believe had Duke as the #2 seed in the same region where UConn was #1. She said they must not want Duke in the Final Four at all, to put them in UConn’s region.
I realize all of the “Coach-speak” about playing one game at a time gets old, but McCallie was a complete ZERO for thinking Conn. was the only threat keeping Duke out of the Final Four. Duke was promptly bounced—on their homecourt—by #7 seed DePaul! Maybe she meant putting DePaul in Duke’s bracket showed they did not want Duke in the Final Four. It seems the sense of entitlement that is evident in the Duke men’s program is shared by the Women’s program as well.
Meanwhile, UNC made it to the Final 8, losing to Stanford—on Stanford’s homecourt, in the Regional Final. Despite playing several freshmen a majority of the time, (and in Women’s program, hardly anyone leaves early, so they were playing against mostly upperclassmen), they had a good run in the Tournament, despite a somewhat inconsistent regular season.
They beat Duke twice in the season, but lost enough games to finish SIXTH in the league standings! Then they beat 3 seed Maryland, (which as you know advanced to the Final Four), before losing a very close game to Duke in the ACC tourney semifinals.
Making UNC’s run even more amazing, was of course the fact that for the entire season they were without their Coach, Sylvia Hatchell, who is battling leukemia. We’ll choose not only Hatchell, but also long-time Assistant Andrew Calder as HERO(s) of the week. He did a great job, with a very young team, while all of the time crediting Hatchell for the success. He even said after their loss the other night, “Having a Hall-of-Fame Coach on the sidelines may have made a difference.’
Assuming Diamond Deshields [daughter of former MLB player Delino DeShields] or none of the other freshmen leave early, UNC should have a very good Women’s team for years to come!
The Spurs are an offensive powerhouse. No player on the Spurs averages over 18 points per game, yet the team ranks seventh in scoring. No player averages more than 6.5 assists per game, yet the Spurs are first in assists per game. No player has gaudy statistics because everyone knows their role. Players like Marco Bellinelli, Boris Diaw, and Patty Mills thrive for the Spurs because they play in a system that emphasizes their respective strengths. For example, the Spurs have engineered their system to create open three-point opportunities in the corners. Marco Bellinelli, an excellent three-point shooter, has been put in the position to shoot these corner shots. He has taken advantage of this opportunity, hitting 46% of his corner three attempts.
In addition to taking advantage of the strengths of their roster, the San Antonio’s offense has used crisp ball-movement to dominate offensively. The Spurs are an unselfish team that is maniacal about creating the best scoring opportunity possible on every possession.Watch in this clip as the Spurs whip the ball around to generate an open look.
While the shot was missed, one can see how the Spurs adept passing can get the defense caught in problematic rotations. Their ability to move the ball is aided by a roster that features big men who are quality distributers. Tim Duncan and Boris Diaw are both above-average passing bigs. The Spurs can thus run an offense that takes advantage of Duncan and Diaw’s passing abilities to create scoring opportunites. San Antonio’s offense features a lot of off-ball cutting action. As you can see in this clip, the Spurs will use one of their bigs in the high-post to pass to open cutters.
San Antonio’s passing prowess creates open looks that increase offensive efficiency. The Spurs are the best three-point shooting team in the league at 39.8%. They also have the second highest true shooting percentage at 57.4%. The Spurs’ offensive percision and potency leaves opponents searching for ways to slow them down. To this point, no one has discovered the formula.
The Spurs ultimate success relies on several players who are advanced in age. Consequently, Head Coach Greg Popovich will probably elect to sit certain players before the playoffs begin, likely bringing an end to the streak. Still, one does not need to rely on a winning streak to realize how dominant the Spurs can be. Streak or no streak, the Spurs have established themselves as the elite team in the NBA.
Forget Christmas and the day the kids go back to school. This is one of the two most wonderful days of the year. It used to be New Year’s Day and all the Bowl games, but that has been whittled down as the good games are now spread out over the entire week.
That delectable honor now goes to the first two days of March Madness 2014.
I will either find myself glued to the easy chair in front of the big screen TV (and nowadays with tablet and smartphone in tow) or as sometimes happens, I hit the road when the hoops circus comes to town. The NCAA first round, now known as the second round, arrives with hurricane force winds at either Chicago or Milwaukee on a semi regular basis. ESPN gets credit for the staggered start times, and CBS/Turner gets kudos for making every game available on TV and the Internet.
It’s never a problem to forgo the multiple screen experience to watch live post season college hoops. NCAA tournament games are one of the few places that still seat more than a handful of media at court side. Given the number of journalists that only focus on one team, a real court side seat can be had if you get lucky. Sometimes we get that. On Thursday I was booked into the 200 section, but I found an unoccupied seat right at the corner of the hardwood, across from the home team’s bench in game one. I wedged myself between a writer for the Arizona Republic and Dianna Russini, (@NBCDianna) an NBC sports anchor from Washington, DC, covering the Eagles.
The hometown favorite Wisconsin Badgers used a late first half spurt to pull away from the American University Eagles, and kept padding their lead in the second half en route to an easy 75-35 victory. It was by far the most lopsided win of the day. The men in red shot a blistering 58% from the field in the final twenty minutes. Ben Brust outshone his supremely talented team mate Sam Decker, hitting 4-7 threes, and scoring seventeen points. Guard Traevon Jackson from Westerville, OH added 18 as the Badgers improved to 11-2 in their last 13 tourney openers.
Badgers coach Bo Ryan was asked about the second half blowout in his post game press conference. He replied, “You know, to go on a 40-6 run, no, you can’t imagine that. It doesn’t usually happen. Our guys took care of each possession and that’s what you have to do, whether you’re up or down.”
About the only thing remarkable regarding the Eagles was that one of their players shot his free throws one-handed.
Only on the hardwood can a duck take down a cougar.
Using speed, agility, and their physicality around the basket, Oregon dismantled Brigham Young 87 to 68. The ducks took advantage of BYU’s poor shooting to jump ahead 39-31 at halftime. The Cougars were content to sit back in a zone and let Oregon shoot over them, which they promptly did. Yet, at times, Oregon was still able to feed the ball inside. Key moment in the game: OU called timeout as BYU cut their lead from 12 points to three with 12:01 left. Smart move, as the Ducks pushed their margin back above ten. With four minutes left it was 83-61 Oregon. BYU kept trying to push the ball up court, but missed too many shots and follow ups (32.8% FG.) By the time the Cougars shifted to a man to man defense, it was too late. Oregon sent out its scrubs in with 1:14 to go, up by 23. The Ducks had ten players who logged at least five minutes of court time and were led by Forward Elgin Cook, a red-shirt sophomore playing in his hometown, and netting 23 points.
In the second round, the arena crowd is cleared out after game two, while the media retreat to cover the post game interviews, talk to players in the locker room, or grab a meal. As usual the NCAA steps up to the plate, literally, with a sit down lunch/dinner (it was before 5 PM after all) of chicken wraps, cheese quesadillas, salad, and soup. The theme must have been Tex-Mex as they served churros, the popular Latin fried dough, for dessert.
In game three, the closest that the Wafford Terriers got to the Michigan Wolverines was when the two schools were knotted at 4 apiece. Even when the partisan Badger fans, which seemed to comprise about eighty percent of the fans in the Bradley Center, began cheering loudly for Wofford, as they managed to pull within seven with 8:34 to go, it was to no avail. Michigan responded with a 13-4 run of their own to seal the deal in their 57-40 victory. Karl Cochran led all scorers with 17 points in a losing effort. Michigan’s super soph Nik Stauskas paced his team with 15 points, including 3 of 6 from three point land.
As you see, the recaps get shorter as the evening progressed. After three games. I’d had enough, knowing full well that the culmination of the day’s games would probably be the most closely contested. Nonetheless, either middle age got the better of me, or I can rationalize and say the six days out in California that ended Wednesday evening, led to overtiredness, and I headed back to Chicagoland, just in time to see the last ten minutes of Arizona State – Texas. True to form, the game nearly went to overtime, save for a last second put back by Cameron Ridley of an errant Longhorn shot with no time left on the clock leading to Texas’ 87-85 win.
All that action culminates in two #2 vs #7 contests on Saturday. Michigan and Texas battle at 4:15 CT, and Wisconsin plays host to Oregon, in what will be another hostile Bradley Center crowd.
I predicted my top seeds for the NCAA Women’s Bracket on my Facebook Token Female page. Guess what they were…..Oh, never mind…..I’ll tell you:
- UConn (34-0) #1 all year on the AP Poll
- Notre Dame (32-0) #2 all year on the AP Poll
- Tennessee (27-5) #3 or 4 all year
- Baylor (29-4) #4 to end the regular season
Your Token Female was right on three counts. The fourth? Dead wrong. Where was Baylor? They’re a #2 seed, right under undefeated Notre Dame. I forgot the Gamecocks! There they are, at the top of the NCAA Women’s Bracket. Damn you, South Carolina! How could you sneak up on me like that? Aleighsa Welch, Tiffany Mitchell, and Alaina Coates, you surprised me!
Well, here’s how they got to the top of the Stanford Region:
- South Carolina (27-4) had won its most games in 34 years and earned its first-ever SEC regular-season title.
- It’s South Carolina’s third straight trip and 11th overall to the Big Dance
I didn’t think they were going to be a top seed…maybe #2 or #3, because they lost to their better competition in the University of North Carolina Tar Heels and the Tennessee Volunteers during the regular season. They lost in the SEC Conference Tournament to Kentucky. Credit their coach, Dawn Staley. She’s making her ninth NCAA appearance as a coach. The Hall of Famer led Virginia to three Final Fours as one of the game’s best players. They will open up against Cal State Northridge in the first round in Seattle. Stanford, who lost early in the Pac-12 tournament, still managed a #2 seed. They’re coming to the home of the ketchup and mustard of Iowa State in Ames to play the first two rounds. Penn State is the #3 seed and North Carolina, #4. Closer to Home….
Every time I hear someone say “There’s no Illinois team in the NCAA’s!” I JUST WANT TO FUME. For the 12th straight year, the No. 23/22 DePaul women’s basketball team is heading to the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Demons are one of just nine programs to appear in each of the last 12 NCAA Tournaments. They are joined in this elite category by Connecticut, Duke, Georgia, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Stanford, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. A dozen times, they’ve been in the BIG DANCE. What are they…chopped liver? The DePaul women are the only basketball program – men or women – from the state of Illinois represented in the NCAA Tournament field this season. And it was a well-deserved honor. DePaul had one of the most successful seasons in recent history and set programs records for points scored (2,763), 3-pointers (285), assists (654) and its 27 wins ties for the second-most in school history. I thought their #7 seed was a bit low, but they will face No. 10 Oklahoma on Saturday, March 22 at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C. DePaul and Oklahoma’s first-round game will be played 30-minutes following the Duke vs. Winthrop game which is scheduled to tip at 10:00 a.m. (CT). Both games will air on ESPN2. Duke was chosen as the No. 2 seed and Winthrop is the No. 15 in the Lincoln, Nebraska Region. The winners of Saturday’s first round games play on Monday. DePaul (27-6) is making its 19th NCAA Tournament with its first appearance coming in 1990. As readers of Token Female noted last week, the Blue Demons earned the Big East’s automatic bid after capturing the league’s tournament title last week. #10 Oklahoma (18-14) reached the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament this season and is making its 17th NCAA Tournament appearance. The Sooners are 4-6 in their last 10 games and are 0-1 in neutral site games this season. The Sooners started their season by making the championship game of the Preseason WNIT The Blue Demons and Sooners are meeting for just the second time ever. The two schools last played when they opened the 2006-07 season in Norman, Oklahoma. The Sooners won the game 105-71. DePaul is 10-18 all-time in NCAA games and reached the Sweet 16 in 2011 and in 2006. The Blue Demons have reached the second round eight times, including in two of the last three seasons. Stay tuned for updates throughout the big dance. I’m expecting a serious dosey-doe.
The DePaul Blue Demons) are ready to step up and lead the Big East”
Coach Doug Bruno, DePaul Blue Demons
Welcome to a new era in Big East athletics.
No more UConn. No more Geno Auriemma. No more Notre Dame. So long, Hall of Famer Muffet McGraw.
Hello, Coach Doug Bruno. You’ve been crowned.
After sweating it out year after year for NCAA selection and seeding, the Blue Demons can take it easy on St. Patrick’s Day, aka Selection Monday for women’s basketball.
In winning the Big East Conference, the Blue Demons also punched their ticket to their 12th consecutive NCAA tournament.
This time, it’s an AUTOMATIC bid.
It seems like it’s all coming together…finally…for the DePaul Lady Blue Demons. They secured their first Big East regular-season title ever, and enter the NCAA Tournament with a 27-6 record. They’ve won 16 of their last 17 games, and are ranked 23/22 in the nation.
“This was one of the best moments of my life,” said senior forward Jasmine Penny. “To see us work so hard all season and accomplish this is just amazing.”
Going into the Big East Conference tournament as the #1 seed, they battled Georgetown, Marquette, and finally, #2 seed St. John’s to take the Big East Tournament title on March 11. It was the first women’s championship game for the realigned Big East since powerhouses Connecticut and Notre Dame departed last year for the American Athletic and Atlantic Coast conferences, respectively.
From the opening tip, the Blue Demons were intent on scoring inside along with attacking the basket. A back-and-forth first half ended with the Blue Demons on top, 30-29.
But as they approached crunch time, DePaul held the Red Storm off, maintained a five-to-seven point lead, until Brittany Hrynko‘s reverse layup gave DePaul a 53-46 edge with over four minutes to go.
Hrynko was aggressive from the opening tip as if determined to impose her will on this championship game no matter what.
“I came out ready to play,” Hrynko said. “I wanted to attack the basket. Once I got into the lane, I was patient looking for my teammates cutting to the basket.”
Senior forward Jasmine Penny was voted the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, and junior guard Brittany Hrynko was voted onto the all-tournament team. Megan Rogowski chipped in with 14 points while Megan Podkowa came up big with 12 points, nine rebounds, two steals and two blocks.
And now…it’s time for a party!
Join the DePaul women’s basketball team on Monday, March 17 for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Selection Special. Coach Doug Bruno and his team will gather at McGrath-Phillips Arena to watch the selection show on ESPN on DePaul’s big screen at 6 p.m. (CT). The event is open to the public and doors open at 5 p.m.
The selection show party includes food and soda while admission is free. Parking is available for $6 next door to the Sullivan Athletic Center at the 2335 N. Sheffield parking facility. Fans that plan on attending the selection show should RSVP to Katie Ramsey at (773)325-7504 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Northwestern wrapped up their 2013-14 home schedule on Thursday evening in disappointing fashion losing to Penn State 59-32 at Welsh Ryan- Arena , the outcome was not what they had hoped for as the Wildcats were ran out of the gym from the opening tip.
Drew Crawford, Nikola Cerina and James Montgomery were all recognized before the game as part of the “Senior Night Ceremony” but even the pumped up crowd there to celebrate could not get the Wildcats (12-18, 5-12) into the game as they would trail 32-15 at the half, after shooting just 6-27 from the field (22%).
Crawford, (who is the Wildcats all time leader in both games played and games started) struggled from the start, finishing with only 6 points in 38 minutes on 2-9 shooting from the field. He exited the game with 74 seconds to play and received a nice ovation from the crowd and his new head coach Chris Collins who couldn’t have been more proud.
“I’m sad I only got a chance to coach him for one year,” Collins said about Crawford in his post game press conference.
“More than anything, I just said, ‘Hold your head high,’” Collins continued. “Because he should. He’s one of the great players to play in this program but not even just the way he’s played, the way he’s carried himself. … He’s the model of what I want this program to be about.”
Penn State ( 15-15, 6-11) was led by D.J Newbill who scored 12 points on 5-8 shooting in 30 minutes. Tim Frazier and Brandon Taylor also chipped in 11 points for the Nittany Lions.
Next up for Northwestern will be a road matchup against Purdue and unless they can pull off the victory they will be looking at the number 12 seed in the Big Ten Tournament next week.