Tuesday, September 30

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Blackhawks Mon Sep 29 2014

Blackhawks Look to Trim Roster/Cap as Preseason Rolls On

Thumbnail image for GB blackhawks icon.png Measuring quality talent can be a tough test for any coaching staff, especially with as much of it that has come through the Blackhawks' organization in recent years. A mixture of key draft picks and trades have rebuilt a franchise, which captured two of the last five Stanley Cups and the imagination of a city.

With a nice balance of youth, speed and hockey awareness, it becomes a difficult situation -- a good problem to have, mind you -- to decide who makes the final 23-man roster and who heads to Rockford. The roster currently sits at 40, after a few young hopefuls were given the IceHogs assignment last Friday. That leaves 17 more tough decisions to make before opening night, Thursday, October 9, when the Hawks begin the season in Dallas.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

White Sox Mon Sep 29 2014

White Sox Send Off Konerko with Deserved Love Fest

Sox_200.pngPro sports are all about the franchise player. Management searches for one, players work to become one, analysts judge prospects who can be one. Fans idolize and support one.

The White Sox had one for the last 16 years in Paul Konerko.

Before the team's 5-4 win over the Royals on Saturday, the club honored Konerko with a touching tribute. Hawk Harrelson said a few words, a video montage ran on the scoreboard, former teammates attended. A nice statue was unveiled, and next year the Sox will retire his No. 14. Konerko thanked the fans and the fans thanked him. This was the highlight of the 2014 season.

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Mike Chamernik / Comments (0)

Bears Fri Sep 26 2014

Get to Know the Bottom of the Bears Roster

Thumbnail image for GB bears icon.pngWhen an NFL team is ravaged by injuries like the Bears have been early this year, the bottom of the roster becomes an unsafe place if you're a player that resides there. Perfectly good and healthy guys get cut all the time because a team may have more of a need at another position. Sometimes, those decisions are made late enough in the week that the Bears end up paying game checks out to more guys than the roster maximum available on Sundays.

Some of those players added mid-week have even seen game action due to regulars and backups getting hurt in-game -- even playing some of the most important downs that have keyed the Bears 2-1 start. Here are the guys that have been added to the roster since the season began, how they've done, and what their future holds.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Bears Tue Sep 23 2014

It's All about Pressure for the Bears Defense

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for GB bears icon.pngWhen Phil Emery was tasked with upgrading the bad half of his team during the offseason, the defensive line was obviously the place to start. With injuries crippling the Bears in 2013, he needed to throw money and draft picks at a problem area directly responsible for the worst run defense in franchise history.

Lamarr Houston and Willie Young were the top targets for the Bears, and the reasons are were obvious. Both players ranked in the top 15 among of 4-3 defensive ends last season according to Pro Football Focus (a website the Bears subscribe to for unbiased individual grades), and while Houston is the better run defender, and Young is the better pass rusher, neither are slouches when it comes to the other duties. The only critique from Bears fans were about their sack numbers. Despite being ranked so highly, the pair combined for ten total sacks in 2013 -- two less than the outgoing end combo of Julius Peppers and Shea McClellin.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Mon Sep 22 2014

Blackhawks Hit Camp While Cap Adjustments Loom

Thumbnail image for GB blackhawks icon.png All was quiet on the South Bend campus of Notre Dame Friday morning. Students headed off to class with steam beginning to appear with each exhale; fall was yet a few days away despite a few leafs already beginning to change color.

Their eighth-ranked football team was going into a bye week, yet the energy in the air was still present. Later that day, the Chicago Blackhawks would arrive to open training camp in hopes to make good on a season that ended a little too early with so many expectations riding into it.

The Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup last season for the second time in three seasons, which had many prognosticators asking which of these two teams was the more dominant in the post-cap era. The Hawks and Joel Quenneville will look to address that this upcoming season, but first need to answer a few questions of their own regarding a young phenom, the team's ability to hold a lead and exactly how they'll be able to shave $2.2 million in the next month.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Bears Fri Sep 19 2014

You Can Buy Alshon Jeffery Stock, but Should You?

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for GB bears icon.pngPortfolio diversification is important when it comes to managing risk with your investments. Launched in 2013, Fantex, Inc. is a company that allows you an opportunity buy and sell stock of an individual player -- legally. And Alshon Jeffery is their newest client. Fantex has reportedly agreed to buy 13 percent of Jeffery's "brand value" for a price of $8 million, appraising the talented third-year wide receiver around $61 million total.

The deal works like this: Jeffery gets the $8 million up front, which is nearly double the amount he's making from his four-year, $4.55 rookie contract with the Bears that isn't even fully guaranteed. In return, 13 percent of all future earnings, including contracts, sponsorships, paid appearances, or any other football-related money he receives during and after his NFL career has ended, goes to Fantex (including things like post-NFL television work related to football, etc).

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

White Sox Thu Sep 18 2014

Fans Effectively Evaluate White Sox Defense

Sox_200.pngWhen Gordon Beckham was on the White Sox, the case was made that Beckham's defensive impact was overrated.

Everyone -- roughly meaning, Chicago baseball writers, Sox fans and people who had any sort of take on Beckham -- said that while he wasn't a hitter, he was a good fielder; one of the better second basemen in the league. The argument was made in this space that the advanced defensive metrics didn't back up that subjective evidence. Stats like his UZR and dWAR were average at the very best. Everyone, according to the numbers, was wrong.

But are they?

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Mike Chamernik / Comments (0)

Bulls Tue Sep 16 2014

Chicago Bulls Unveil Advocate Center

Bulls_200.png The Chicago Bulls hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony for the team's new downtown training facility, the Advocate Center. In June 2012, the Bulls announced their decision to relocate their training facility to Chicago in an effort to improve player convenience while helping collaboration between the team's basketball operations and front office staff. Within the next year, the Bulls selected a site location and broke ground across from the United Center on South Wood Street between Monroe and Madison Streets. In June 2014, the team announced an expanded multi-year agreement with Advocate, which included naming the training facility the "Advocate Center."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel was on hand to take part in the opening of the Advocate Center. He talked about how this investment by the Chicago Bulls will help drive the revitalization of a great neighborhood.

Approximately 60,000-square-feet in size, the Advocate Center features a "saw-toothed fa├žade" on the west side of the building. The north side of the building features a glass wall, allowing Bulls fans to view the team's six championship banners hanging from the building's rafters as they walk along Madison Street.

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Josh Williams / Comments (0)

Fire Mon Sep 15 2014

Chicago Fire: Of Cold Weather and Tough Hearts

GB fire icon.pngThere may not exist such a thing as a universal experience, but in Chicago the winter is the great leveler of all peoples. Perhaps only those residents of high rise buildings with heated garage spots are exempt from the ignominy of this greediest of seasons, showing up early and hanging around long after its welcome has been worn out.

With the winter comes that recurring tradition wherein a thick, calloused sheath forms around the hearts of Chicago sports fans, inuring them against the perfecta of both supporting their teams outdoors, in the cold, and having the team in question do precious little to justify enduring such conditions. This protective tissue is akin to the peritoneum, the membrane surrounding the vital organs in the abdomen, or like the fat of a confit, insulating against that which would otherwise spoil the contents. How else to explain the routinely disappointing Bears seasons compared to the number of fans willing to weather elements that are positively Shackletonian?

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Benjamin Cannon / Comments (0)

Bears Mon Sep 15 2014

Kyle Fuller Delivers Improbable Road Victory for Bears

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for GB bears icon.pngPhil Emery's job two summers ago was to fix the offense. He did so by bringing in four new linemen, Martellus Bennett, and getting a breakout season from his 2012 second-round pick in Alshon Jeffery.

After watching the defense get annihilated throughout the 2013 season, Emery had to transform the defense in the same way. Willie Young, one of the Bears' top free agent targets has had two monster games so far, but draft picks are the key to the team's present and future. First-round picks in the NFL are expected to produce immediately, and Kyle Fuller has done just that.

"We knew it since day one," Jay Cutler said. "Day one he came out there and was manning up B [Brandon Marshall] and Alshon."

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

White Sox Fri Sep 12 2014

Gillaspie Helping Sox, Fans to Remember His Name

Sox_200.pngThere was a great moment during Wednesday night's White Sox game, and it was only seen by the 15,000 people in attendance at Sox Park.

A lady was on the big screen doing the "Guess the Lineup" game. After nailing the first three batters -- Eaton, Ramirez and Abreu -- she got tripped up and completely blanked on camera. She paused, accidentally said Abreu again, and then as time expired she said what sounded like "Gill-ah-sop-pee."

Say what? Of course, she meant third baseman Conor Gillaspie. While he's not household name status, Gillaspie's play this season makes him a little more well-known within this team.

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Mike Chamernik / Comments (0)

Bears Thu Sep 11 2014

Mel Tucker is Wrong about Bears' Success vs. Zone Reads

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for GB bears icon.pngAfter the injuries to Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman and a few of their teammates along the defensive line, the way to beat the Bears in 2013 was simple. Snap the ball, and have the quarterback turn around to hand it to the running back. The back would stuff it down the Bears' throat, and the game would end 60 minutes later.

Phil Emery did a nice job acquiring talent along the defensive front in free agency, but he failed to make any significant upgrades in the linebacker and safety cores. Though the defense appears to be better physically in 2014, the discipline breakdowns that plagued the Bears last year are just as bad.

When Buffalo played from under center, or threw the ball from the shotgun, the Bears did a fairly good job containing their Week 1 opponent. But when Buffalo ran plays that required multiple Bears defenders to stick to their gaps and corral one of the best rushing teams in football, all hell broke loose.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (1)

Cubs Wed Sep 10 2014

Recent Losses Are Helping Cubs' Free Agent Plans

Cubs_200.pngStop me if you've heard this before: the Cubs losing games right now is actually good for their future plans. Yeah, yeah, you've read and heard the same thing for a few years now. Lose games now, better draft picks, more prospects, blah, blah, blah. Well if there's one thing the front office has proven, it's that they can spot good young talent and develop those players all the way to the majors.

The Cubs losing five in a row after winning 12 of their previous 18 and sweeping the Brewers is really the best thing for not only a better draft pick, but for their free agency plans. Why does a team's season record matter for free agency? Because MLB's rules are a bit idiotic, but that discussion is for another day.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Bulls Tue Sep 09 2014

Derrick Rose and Team USA Looking to Improve

Bulls_200.pngIf you've been following the FIBA World Cup, Team USA has beaten every opponent by double digits but haven't really played to their full potential. One player in particular fitting that description is Derrick Rose. Of course, Rose isn't really needed to play huge minutes and be the leading scorer, but we all can see the signs of rust the Bulls point guard has shown after missing all of the 2012-2013 season and majority of the 2013-2014 season with knee injuries.

In Team USA's victory over Mexico, Rose went scoreless for the first time in the FIBA World Cup shooting 0-for-5 from the field with three turnovers in 15 minutes of action. Shooting just 21.6 percent from the field through Team USA's first six games, should this be cause for concern or just going through the motions of shaking the cobwebs off? Well not to worry Bulls fans, the big picture is Rose getting valuable time back on the court in a competitive atmosphere. Everyone knew Rose would have times when he's not explosive and can't finish at the rim, but that all will come in time. By the time Bulls training camp comes around, Rose should already be in good basketball shape and having his timing almost all the way back.

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Josh Williams / Comments (0)

Bears Mon Sep 08 2014

Bears Offense Sputters in Overtime Loss to Bills

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for GB bears icon.pngAfter two possessions, Bears fans were on top of the world. The revamped defensive line had stuffed two runs on the Bills opening drive, and the Bears responded with a four-play touchdown drive that featured a perfect deep ball from Jay Cutler along with the use of the team's top four offensive weapons. Too bad they don't give out Super Bowl trophies after four minutes.

The sped-up pace Marc Trestman wanted the offense to have was on full display. Plays were being called in quickly after the whistle, and Cutler had plenty of time to look over the defensive alignment before deciding exactly where he wanted to attack. The plan was a good one, but the execution from the guy under center left a lot to be desired.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

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