Try as they might to focus

Try as they might to focus
12 pa 2018 - 08:12:07
CHICAGO ? As the NBA?s regular season draws to a close Authentic Sam Darnold Jersey , both the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons approach their final game looking ahead to what?s ahead. And in both cases, a fair amount of uncertainty exists.

The Bulls head into Wednesday?s season finale against the Pistons having lost 10 of their past 13 games ? including three straight ? hoping to still have a shot at a prime lottery slot in this summer?s draft.

Detroit, meanwhile, faces another year without a playoff berth, which has left the future of coach Stan Van Gundy in question.

Still, with one seemingly meaningless game remaining, both the Bulls and Pistons ? regardless of the difficulties they have faced this season ? won?t concede anything.

Chicago (27-54) enters Wednesday?s game with the league?s seventh-worst record. The Bulls dropped a 114-105 decision to the Brooklyn Nets on Monday and finished the loss off with a collection of young talent that remains in the evaluation phase as Chicago continues to rebuild around the core of rookie Lauri Markkanen and guards Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine.

Still, despite this year?s struggles, coach Fred Hoiberg is quick to point out that he appreciates the effort he continues to get from his team despite the fact by now the Bulls are merely aiming to improve their draft position the best they can.

?I thought we really went out and competed at a high level,? Hoiberg told reporters after Monday?s loss, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. ?I thought we had great effort for 48 minutes.

?We?re obviously putting a lot of guys in a lot of different positions that they have not been in during the course of the year, but I thought each and every guy that stepped on the floor competed at a high level. That?s what it?s all about right now.?

The Pistons are coming off a 108-98 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Monday when Detroit (38-43) relinquished an early 17-point loss. The Pistons played without starters Blake Griffin (right ankle bruise), Reggie Bullock (sore left knee) and Andre Drummond (sore Achilles tendon) and are likely to again be short-handed Wednesday against the Bulls.

The changes that could be coming after a disappointing season could be arriving sooner rather than later.

Pistons owner Tom Gores told reporters Monday that he will meet with Van Gundy next week to discuss what needs to change following a campaign in which the Pistons failed to make the playoffs for the third time in the past four years.

Van Gundy has one year remaining on his five-year, $35 million deal.

?I?m just not sure what they are and he?s been working the whole season so I need to hear from Stan,? Gores told reporters, according to the Detroit Free Press. ?I can tell you he?s an extremely dedicated man so I think he?s been good for our franchise.?

Still, Van Gundy understands the reality of the situation and knows that the Pistons only winning 38 games after winning 14 of their first 16 games won?t go unnoticed when it comes to the decision Gores has to make.

?It?s fine, I have no problem,? Van Gundy told reporters before Monday?s game, according to the Free Press. ?Our record is what it is you?ve got to accept that and the judgment that goes with that.?

?I have great confidence the team will be good, but you still got to own the 38 wins right now. You can?t run from that.?

Henrik Lundqvist got an early glimpse into the New York Rangers? rebuilding future.

It?s not pretty.

Lundqvist roiled with frustration after a rookie defensemen left an opponent wide open for a tying goal that led to New York?s 44th loss of a lost season. As Zen-like as he was earlier in the day about the new organizational direction toward youth and away from trying to win now , the face of the franchise for more than a decade was bothered by a mistake caused by inexperience that?s sure to be repeated over the coming years.

?So frustrating,? Lundqvist said.

When general manager Jeff Gorton committed the Rangers to a roster refresh that laid waste to 2018 playoff hopes and set the stage for pain that could last longer than Lundqvist?s prime, the star goaltender battled his own internal conflict. The 36-year-old from Sweden had never played in an NHL game with no chance of making the playoffs.

?As a competitor, you want to win, and I never experienced that before where you?re like, `We can?t go for this,?? Lundqvist said Wednesday, hours after the Rangers were eliminated from contention but several weeks since it became clear they wouldn?t make the postseason. ?It was definitely a new experience. But we?re all on board in this.?

Lundqvist and his veteran Rangers teammates have two choices: get on board or be tossed overboard. When it became apparent this team didn?t have the stuff to compete for the Stanley Cup, Gorton traded captain Ryan McDonagh and forwards Rick Nash, J.T. Miller and Michael Grabner before the deadline and set a course for the future.

With three years left on Lundqvist?s contract at $8.5 million per season, how far away that future is remains painfully unclear. After 11 playoff appearances and a trip to the final with Lundqvist as the backbone, the Rangers may not get within reach of the Cup in his prime or even his career ? but even current players see the need for change.

?I think it?s good for this organization to get some fresh air and some new young players and go from there,? 30-year-old winger Mats Zuccarello said. ?But it?s going to be a process.?

The process began last summer with the trade of veteran center Derek Stepan to Arizona for the seventh overall pick that turned into Lias Andersson and the selection of Filip Chytil later in the first round. Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider and Brady Skjei are young building blocks already in place, and there?s hope that free agent addition Kevin Shattenkirk and trade acquisition Vladislav Namestnikov become part of the long-term solution.

When the Rangers played at Washington on Wednesday night in their first game with no hope of playoffs since 2004, they dressed 15 players age 26 and younger. New York?s future is its present, which can mean blunders like Neal Pionk?s missed assignment in front, along with the excitement and potential of prospects like the 22-year-old defenseman, Andersson and Chytil.

?When you see the progress of the group, especially the young players, that gives you hope for what?s ahead of us Adidas Evgeny Kuznetsov Jersey ,? Lundqvist said.

With a full no-movement clause and the equity he has built up with the Rangers, Lundqvist can choose his future. Others, like Zuccarello and coach Alain Vigneault, aren?t so fortunate.

In February, when he announced plans to go young, Gorton didn?t want to answer a question about whether Vigneault would be back next season other than to praise his coaching and say, ?We?re all responsible in some way here for what we?re seeing.? This spring will be the first time in a decade Vigneault hasn?t coached in the playoffs, a tough turn for the 56-year-old who almost certainly will be behind an NHL bench somewhere next season.

?A tough decision was made for the long-term future of this organization and you have to respect it and you have to do your jobs,? Vigneault said Wednesday. ?That?s what I?m trying to do, that?s what my staff is trying to do and that?s what the players are trying to do.?

Try as they might to focus on the final few games of the season, the Rangers feel the threat of drastic change that hangs over them. Lundqvist said ?now is not the time? to talk about the bumpy road ahead.

Describing one of the most successful runs in franchise history, Zuccarello used words like lucky, fortunate and even spoiled. In a sport with a salary cap, it?s difficult to remain among the top teams for even this long, and now everyone is bracing for the uncertainty of what?s next.

?This is a new situation for most of the guys that have been here for a while, but you have to buy in, you know?? Zuccarello said. ?It is what it is. It?s nothing you can do about it. ? Hopefully I have some good years ? five, six good years ? left and can be part of the rebuild and come to the good times again.?




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