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Mike Kincaide

Mike Kincaide

And the D. Rose era part II officially starts NOW.

With the opening of media day for the Bulls you quickly learn just from the tone of many of the players that they not only can't wait to start the season, but have a huge chip on their shoulder. Quickly overlooked as one of the best teams in the league, it wasn't that long ago that the Bulls not only had the NBA's best player, but also the best record in the NBA. Even though the lost Rose to a knee injury all of last year, the Bulls still sent two players to the 2013 All-Star game, while having one of the better records in the Eastern Conference. On any given night the Bulls proved they could beat anyone, and often times seemed just one player away from taking their place among the elite. This is where all the D. Rose hate comes from...but as proven by many other athletes who have rushed back too soon after an injury (hey fantasy football league owners, how's the RGIII pick working out for ya right now?) sometimes its better to be safe than sorry. When many critics or so-called experts speak of who the best teams in the league are right now the Bulls are generally not one of the first teams mentioned. And that my friends lies the motivation for potentially a very exciting season. That else did we learn from media day?

Derrick Rose looks like the bigger, stronger version of D. Rose. Maybe its from doing some insane work-outs in LA this summer, or scrimmaging with ninjas and dragons (don't ask) in China, or maybe its from hitting the weights every day for the past two years. Whatever the case Rose made sure he got much stronger to avoid all those nagging injuries he got getting hacked while driving strong to the basket in the past. Plus when you're a little insecure about your legs after an injury, well you wanna make sure they are strong, healthy, and bigger than ever. And by the looks of things it might take Shaq himself falling of Rose to cause injury. He looks so much stronger than in the past, which, combined with a much improved 3 point shot, and that stealth-like quickness, its bad news for the rest of the league.

"I'm going to play the same way," said Rose at the start of media day. "The only thing that has changed is probably my jump shot, that I can shoot a little further. But the biggest thing is my confidence level. I'm way more confident in my game and in my craft.

"I worked the whole year, trained my body a whole year, and going out there and showing people that I'm the same player, a more efficient player, that's what I'm trying to prove.''

Just who will be your starting 2??? here lies the question of the Captain and the Butler. D Rose feels so much more comfortable running with Captain Kirk Hinrich, mostly because Kirk took care of Rose his rookie season. He's un-selfish, loves to play defense, and provides a veteran comfort level that Rose can appreciate. He also can shoot the ball well, which also gives his teammates confidence in him. The problem comes in the emergence of Jimmy Butler. Generally a 3 who can play the 2 according to match-ups, Butler proved at the end of last season and in the play-offs that he's hungry and ready for more. You couldn't get him off the floor in the  Miami series, and his defensive game took major strides toward All-Star worthy. Butler's game improved so much that Richard Hamilton and Nate Robinson both took a back seat to him in the play-offs, and became completely expendable this off-season whenButler showed he could knock down the corner 3 without hesitation. It's a matter of chemistry however, as Rose and Butler have never been paired together in a game so it's unsure just if they can work together. But with both's aggressive court nature it will be fun to watch and see what happens.. Oh btw, guess who Butler spent most of his summer in LA working out with?

Luo? Are you still with us? The Bulls announced that they will not be talking future contract until season ends with Luo Deng, the team's starting small forward and 2nd best player. This causes issues, many, many issues. First of all you don't need this type of media headache all season. The last thing Deng needs to be worried about is his contract all season. Plus, let's be honest, Deng is your 2nd best player and consistently best defensive player. Despite being banged up a lot the past two years, he rarely missed any games, and it took a damn spinal tap for him to miss those! For a team that doesn't offer many true scorers eliminating Deng from the equation so fast is not a good start, unless you plan on trading him.

How are the bigs? Playful, cranky, healthy, zen'ed out, skinnier....you decide which is which. The team is looking to take some of those heavy minutes off these guys by signing another big soon, besides center Narz Mohammad.  Joakim Noah comes into camp healthier than ever, no longer dealing with the foot issues that have plagued him the past 3 seasons.

"I'm 100 percent healthy and I'm so excited for this year," Noah said. "We've got a lot of work to do, but I feel like this is our time."

The talk of the afternoon was the possible addition of 6'9 forward Indiana product D.J. White coming into training camp, while last year's free agent signee Malcolm Thomas and Dexter Pitman will also be fighting for a spot. Thomas had a good summer camp, but let's see if that translate over to the regular season. The Bulls will also bring former Duke star Dahntay Jones, Kalin Lucas, and Patrick Christopher. They will need to sign just one more player to make the league requirement.

Did we rebuild the bench mob? Not quite, however it could be consistently one of the better bench's the team has had. Taj Gibson and Kirk Hinrich/or Jimmy Butler will be the first faces you see off the bench, along with free agent signee Mike Dunleavy jr. Hinrich can play the 1 or 2 easily. Dunleavy is a big dude. Like 6'9 big, and you don't realize that until you see him. Being able to play the 2 and 3 , plus with his size I'm sure a little bit of 4, Dunleavy provides help for a struggling 3 point game. Last season he hit a career high 43% of his 3's. Nice! The Bulls were one of the league's worst 3 point shooting team last season, yikes. Mohammad comes back as your back-up for Noah, and anything the rest depends on the youngsters.

What youngsters? Are the rookies really going to play? Again, the Bulls were one of the league's worst 3 point shooting teams, so they made sure to find some aggressive players in the draft who can put the ball in the basket. Tony Snell is an aggressive 2/3 who can shoot very well. While much won't be made of him, look for the rookie from Florida Erik Murphy to be a huge surprise this season. Not only can he bang down low but has surprising shooting range the team loves. Murphy mad waves in summer league and could be a big boost down low. Speaking of summer league, point guard Marquis Teague needs to make his stand this season as well. Teague looked out of place last season, however a strong summer has given the coaches some optimism that he could spell Rose a lot more this season. But the Bulls aren't completely sold on that, which is why they are looking to bring in some guard competition from Roger Mason jr, Mike James, and Chris Wright.

We'll get our first glimpse at part II of the D. Rose era and the 2013 Bulls on Oct. 5th as they open up the exhibition season on the road against division rival Indiana.

 Not even Dr. J can save this bunch.
 
That's a "The Fish who saved Pittsburgh" reference for all you youngsters out there. It's a basketball movie from  the 70's starring Dr. J. Who's Dr. J you ask? Ugh. Nevertheless the Steelers are in trouble. Big trouble. Big trouble Little China trouble.And they may be headin0g towards 0-3 with no help in sight.
 
The Steelers can't score. Check that, the Steelers won't score. Antonio Brown is supposed to be the number one reciever now, and he just had a huge confrontation with offensive coordinator Todd Haley about not getting the ball. speaking of confrontations, Haley and quarterback Ben Rothlisberger havent been on the same page since Haley got to town. The big issue here is the Steelers are loaded with talent! Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery are both talented recievers who could work off Brown very well. Tight end Heath Miller is still banged up, however the Steelers have an abundance of capable runningbacks. Isaac Redman is listed as the started as they wait for Le'Veon Bell to get back. They also have Felix Jones on the roster, who's as fast as some wide-outs. Unfortunately the Steelers can't seem to get the ball past the line of scrimmage. For all that talet their running game is non-existent.
 
The Steelers are solid on defense however. while they don't have the scary linebacking corp as in the past, they are still the 10th ranked defense in the league. carried by a strong secondary, it's defensive end Brett keisel and inside linebacker LaMarr Woodley that bring the pain in crunch time. The Bears will need a mistake-free game from quarterback Jay Cutler, which means no forcing balls to a double-teamed Brandon Marshall. Getting a big day from Matt Forte would make things alot easier, and if the Bears can move Forte past that second tier a few times, that would shake up that defense.
 
The bigger answers come on defense. Since the Steelers can't really move the ball through the air, keeping the running game contained will be a must for the Bears. It also helps that Steeler offensive lineman Mike Adams has probably had the worst season possible so far, being pancaked several times by the Bengals DE Michael Johnson. Adams has shown the technique of Bea Arthur so far this season, which is why a healthy, inspired Julius Peppers could have a huge day. As of now cornerback Peanut Tillman is doubtful, yet Tim Jennings is starting the year off like an all-pro. If they can continue to keep the Steelers in their scoring drought, and get kicker Robbie Gould some goood field postioning 3-0 just may be a touchdown  away.
Thursday, 12 September 2013 19:19

Bears ready to bury Vikings' hopes

Week one was not good to the Minnesota Vikings. Sure they can score. Sure AP got off to a great start. Unfortunately, by the end of the day the game showed more flaws than firepower, and another division loss to the Bears could drop them into dire straits.

While Adrian Peterson is still probably the best running back in the NFL, he's missing a key ingredient from last season, as his All Pro fullback Jerome Felton will be sitting on the sidelines instead of blocking. While he did tear out the gate for a 78 yard run his first time out, AP only finished with 98 yards. This should help the Bears contain AP somewhat, but they still need to contain! As for the passing game, well you'd think if you had one stud receiver you'd throw to him more, and they did, except it wasn’t their big money free agent pick-up Greg Jennings. Jennings caught 3 passes last week, which could mean he's looking for a break-out game. Unfortunately chances are he'll be matched up against Peanut Tillman, who only had two interceptions last week.

The Lions used running back Reggie Bush much like the Bears use Matt Forte, keeping the Vikings off-guard with passes and runs. The difference is Forte is a much more dominant runner, and with DT Kevin Williams still banged up that could open up some big holes for Forte. Linebackers Greenway and Henderson are staples from the past, nothing too exciting, just steady players. The Bears line gave up no sacks last week, plus KEY STAT HERE: Vikings lineman Jared Allen has never gotten a sack on Bears lineman Jerrod Bushmond. Never. The Vikings also have no cornerbacks. What does that mean? It means call tomorrow and you might get a try-out. It also means that that if the Bears offensive line gives Jay Cutler the same time they did last week then it could be a very big day for Bears receivers.

It's been yet to be proven if Christian Ponder is indeed a quality NFL starting quarterback. It didn't help that the Lions offensive line was garbage last week. Ponder went 18 for 28 with 3 sacks and 2 interceptions for only 248 yards against the Lions. Ponder spent most of the game on his back or running for his life, although he did find receiver Jerome Simpson for over 140 yards, yet no TD’s. Matt Cassell was signed just in case the Ponder experiment goes bad, and Julius Peppers matching up with a weak offensive line could make things go bad really quick. Many are expecting bigger things this week from peppers and inside tackle Henry Melton, so don’t be surprised to see an extra pep in their step.

Everything is in place for another Bears home victory on Sunday. Let’s just hope and Coach Trestman crew read the signs . And wouldn’t it be nice to see J’Marcus Webb make an appearance?

Ah, the miracles of televison. It's televison that can make the great look weak, the good look evil, and the mediocre look magnificent. Many feel thats what HBO's "Hard Knocks" tv show has done for the Cincinnati Bengals, albeit they have appeared in the play-offs the past two years. While it's great for exposure and story-telling, it also gives you an impression that they are better than they appear. The truth will come out when they open up against the Chicago Bears. Will the Bengals look as mighty as they appear on tv, or will this emperor appear without thou clothes.

As they prepare for their opening day battle against the Chicago Bears, here's how veteran coach Marvin Lewis' team stacks up against rookie coach Marc Trestman's Bears. It's a new era for the Bears...new coach, a new offensive line, and new team leader. As the face of the franchise, Brian Urlacher, now shows off that face in a broadcast booth, and for a a guy who barked at and despised the media for his entire career that will be some great tv in itself. With Urlacher's retirement it will be very interesting to see who steps up as the man on the Bears "D".

Anyways, HBO's "Hard Knocks" would have you believe that the Bengals offense is just a mish-mosh of speeders, led by the lively young arm of Andy Dalton. Dalton is a big, tough qb who can hit targets anywhere on the field, which is great if your recievers are just above average. Speedy, but just average. The Bengals are loaded with the same type of speedy receivers in Brandon Tate, Marvin Jones, and starter Mohamed Sanu - all putting up average numbers of 200 yards or less. They brought in the sure hands of former Bear Dane Sanzenbacher to sure up the recieving core, but he's more specialty than big time reciever. But the reason no one frets over these average receivers is because of All Pro A.J. Green. Green is a monster, he's Dalton's favorite target, and has game-changing speed. For Bears fans to understand, he's their Brandon Marshall.

Runningback-wise the Bengals will call on Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis to carry the load. Green-Ellis is a bulldozier, with two 1,000 seasons to his name, including one in pass-happy New England. He won't be much of threat in the pass game, plus he put the ball on the ground three times last season. Look for "Hard Knock's" star rookie Giovani Benard to get a lot of looks. Benard has quite the motor for a little guy, as he's as fast as some of the recievers on the team, and can also return kicks. The Bengals also feature two fast-striking tight ends in Jermaine Gresham and rookie Tyler Eifert, both big boys who can eat up yards in a hurry.

You history buffs know that the last time the Bears played the Bengals back in 2009 they ended up getting smashed 45-10. Things have changed since then, as the once laughed at defense of the Bengals is now one of the more feared "D's" in football. While left-end veterans Carlos Dunlap and Robert Geathers are big guys, they dont really make a huge impact defensively, just hold the fort, which is fine if the right side of your line features the 6'7 "Sharknado" Michael Johnson and his 12 sacks. The inside gets scarier with big rookie Margus Hunt, Devon Still, and Domata Pera stopping the run, made even better with the league's best interior defensive lineman, Geno Atkins. Believe the hype when it comes Atkins, he's the real deal.
Much like their receiving corp the Bengals have a bunch of average linebackers with speed, and then one gem of the bunch. Luckily for them that gem is one of the baddest men in football in James Harrison. While he's gotten up there in age, he's still healthy, bigger ansd stronger than most linebackers, and the look in his eyes to destroy any and every quarterback he sees. With his change of scenery he's ready to make a big impact this season for the Bengals.

The secondary is a steady bunch, with physical cornerbacks like Leon Hall and Terrance Newsome starting, along with Pacman Jones. All fast, all ballhawks, all very physical. Add to them with theeven more physical play of safties George Ilora, Reggie Nelson, and future star Taylor Mays, and it may be very difficult completing any long plays downfield.

As for game-planning, look for Bears QB Jay Cutler to attack the Bengals corners with their bigger recievers in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffreys. While marshall is one of the biggest and more physical receivers in football, it's jeffreys that has been tearing it up in training camp. Both big guys could over-power a defender in one on one coverage.That should take some pressure off the line and give Matt Forte some room to operate. The Bears did a lot to re-vamp their line in protecting Cutler, and seeing how well the rookies hold up will be important. The key here is Forte, as the Bengals are not a team you want to attempt to spend the day passing on. Leaving your quarterback back there as target practice for Johnson and Harrison is not a good idea. The Bears also have a huge advantage defensively, as the offensive line of the Bengals is already battered, as both starting tackles have knee issues, while the guards are big but still young. Plus the Bears "D" should be able to bully the Bengals receivers all day. Look for Julius Peppers and even 2nd year man Shea McCellan to have a good opening day.

"And baby It’s amazing I’m in this maze with you, I just can’t crack the code, one day you screaming you love me loud, the next day you’re so cold...."

Holy Grail

It was going to be hard for “The Legends of the Summer” tour to actually top the ultimate anticipation and expectations surrounding its build up, however when that tour includes the number one pop artist and the number one artist in rap, not to mention said artist both promoting new albums, you can see why expectations were high.

Here’s what you should know: Justin Timberlake is a tremendous pop artist. He’s a showman, a song and dance king. He’s been doing this thing before even he remembers. Justin can sing and dance and entertain in his sleep. Where he begs and pleads for approval, his tour-mate Shawn Carter basically demands it, un-apologetically. Trying to find a common comfortable ground, both played wingman throughout the night for each other. With large band in hand and a tremendous stage setting, the show opener “Holy Grail”, echo’ed throughout the 60,000 plus packed Soldier Field like anew generation sing a long anthem…and it’s fitting, in a music industry so fickle and built on stars who rise and fall within minutes, both artists were here, in this moment, with the biggest albums in the world, staring in the biggest concert tour of the year.

So let’s get to the show: Over 30 songs, all full of energy, had the crowd singing and dancing all night long. Their difference in styles comes off more as an Alpha/Omega relation, where as in past concerts Timberlake plays the same, he’s all over different instruments, commanding the crowd, and interjecting some very cool dance moves. Put him next to Jay Z however, and you notice how Jay commands a stage, while Justin fits easily into the sideman role. Jay Z has become one of the better live performers in music. While not built on movement or running and dancing around stage, Jay Z makes every move mean something, every verse, wether he emphasizes a line, a word, his voice…it commands the crowd.

There were the typical show-stoppers: Timberlake’s “Tunnel Vision”, “Pusher Love Girl”, “Mirrors”, “Love Stoned”, and “Cry me a river” put the crowd in the palm of his hands. Plus you’ll rarely find another song that gets a crowd moving and chanting like “Sexyback”. And while Justin was tremendous, it’s Jay Z who dominated the night. Commanding the Chicago audience to sing along to his NYC anthem “Empire State of Mind”, Jay Z rocked the crowd with hits such as “PSA”, “U Don’t Know”, “99 Problems” and “ Ni**as in Paris”.

After nearly three hours, as the clock approached midnight the two kings of music brought this epic night to a close, dominating the nights with hits, living up to most of the expectations fans had been counting on for months and months. Great show, great night.    

The NBA opens up the 2013 free agency season July 1st and if the Bulls are hoping to challenge the repeating-defending NBA champion Miami Heat, upgrading their roster this summer will be a start. Last off-season the Bulls re-constructed the "bench mob", and didnt quite get the minutes or production they've gotten in past seasons. So this year, with a healthy Derrick Rose ready to start the season and a solid draft to tighten up the back end of the bench, the Bulls look to answer several key free agent questions going into the upcoming 2013-2014 season.

On the homefront,  The Bulls have 8 returning players - Rose, Boozer, Noah, Gibson, Hinrich, Butler, Teague, and Deng. The Bulls made two solid draft picks in grabbing Tony Snell from New Mexico and Erik Murphy out of Florida. Snell is a very durable shooter with a 7-foot wingspan. Murphy is a 6'10 bruising big man who can also shoot very well, something the Bulls were desperate to add after the loss of Kyle Korver last season. They are quality upgrades on this depleted bench.

As far as their own free agents say goodbye to Daequan Cook and Vladimir Radmanovich. Both Cook could find a place on the end of the roster due to his hard work and loyalty, if he doesnt look for greener pastures elsewhere. The Bulls would do well to re-sign Mario Belinelli. "Hells Bellz" doesnt give you alot defensively, but his clutch shooting this season save the Bulls many times, not to mention he was consistantly the team's best 3 point shooter. A good guard to come off the bench or start in a pinch, answering this question involves also deciding what to do with Nate Robinson, as you can't have both anymore. And with both having tremendous seasons, they both may have played themselves into bigger contracts offering mnore years. The emergence of Jimmy Butler  could spell the end for both. Also expect Nazr Mohammad to return to fiull the big man spot.

So who are the top free agents that make sense for this Bulls team?

1. Andre Iguodala/Nick Young - Let's start with Iggy.  Not only is he an All-Defensive team and NBA All-Star player, but he was also a member of the 2012 Mens Basketball Olympic Team. "Iggy" is considered one of the top shooting guards in the league, matching his athletism with a strong defensive presence. It may cost more than what the Bulls can offer, however Iguodala is an Illinois kid, and may be willing to return home to play for a winner. ironically enough Young was brought to Philadelphia to take the place of Iguodla. Young is a 6'7 guard/forward who can score in bunches. He shoots the 3 very well, however isn't as defensively tough as Iggy. Still, Young is a quality starting guard who doesnt desire the ball as much as most scorers. Unless a miracle happen the Bulls probably can't affor these guys, however great they may fit.

2. Wesley Johnson/Xavier Henry - Both lottery picks, both can play the 2 or 3, and both on the market and desperate to prove their worth. The Bulls could take a flyer on either one, as both have a ton of potenial, both have a ton of athletism, and both can shoot the ball very well. Why not?

3. Mike Dunleavy jr./Chase Budinger - Budinger is a more athletic Kyle Korver, "White Men Can't Jump" in real time. A great leaper and great shooter, he's a huge bench upgrade for any team, especially the Bulls. He's young and and can play the post a bit, but more of a shooter. Remember he was in the dunk contest a few years ago. Dunleavy is a veteran with a ton of roots near by (Milwaukee). He's 6'9 and can play the 2 or 3. If you like Shane Battier (a close friend and college teammate of his) then you'll like Dunleavy, minus the Battier defense. He's a great shooter, and has consistently stayed at the .400 mark for 3 pointers. He's 33, and hasn't played over 80 games in a while, although he did reach 75 last year. He's the size of a 6'9 toothpick, however this versatile toothpick can shoot, drive and score, averaging over 10 points a game. Plus he's also a college teammate of Carlos Boozer.

4. Elton Brand/Jermaine O'Neil/Josh McRoberts - You can't keep throwing injured players out there, not for a long 82 game NBA season, and the Bulls missed size and minutes off the bench from the post position. Brand and O'Neil can give the Bulls exactly what they've been lacking, and don't require heavy minutes anymore. Both can play the 4 or the 5, filling out minutes with Gibson, Boozer, and Noah. McRoberts gives you a different look as he does have the capability to hit outside shots.

5. J. J. Redick - This almost happened. You need a 3rd guard, and while he plays defense like a dusty acoustic guitar, JJ can score. He's a tremendous shooter who can give you minutes at point if needed, and while many will say the Bulls already have a player like him in Hinrich, with the right guard beside him, and in the right system, Redick could be ready for a break-out season. He's also affordable.

I have been gone entirely too long, and I apologize kids....it's been one crazy ride the past few months. Let's just right in shall we? The Chicago Bears went into the 2013 NFL draft looking to fill the two biggest weaknesses on their roster, and the did just that. As draft weekend ended, there will be no more questions about the depth of the linebacking corp, nor will anyone doubt GM Phil Emery meant business when he said an upgrade on the offensive line was necessary.

Let's start with the overall health and safety of Jay Cutler, shall we? See everything starts with the quarterback, and the Bears have had so much trouble keeping Cutler on his feet that change was not only necessary, but mandatory. This is Jay's last season under contract, and the Bears will need to decide if he's the franchise QB they've been looking for, or is it time to start looking for the next best thing. Giving him a season on his feet with viable weapons will help that decision. The start came in free agency with the arrival of Jerom Bushrod, who will immediately start at tackle at protect Cutler's right side, something J'Marcus Webb couldn't seem to do if his job depended on it. The Bears then went out and drafted Kyle Long, a huge 6'7 tackle from Oregon and the son of NFL Hall of Famer Howie Long.

Depending on who you ask this was either a good pick by the Bears or a monumental mistake. Long has suspect talent according to some, as he was kicked out of Florida State and doesn't have alot of actual playing time beyond the past season at Duck U. Many also question his character, while the other side of the coin will tell you how versatile and athletic he is. One of the more athletically-gifted linemen in the draft, Long can play either tackle or guard, and at 6'7 311lbs he's big enough to the on some of the NFL's biggest threats. Plus he's been a beast in preparation for the draft, along with the upcoming season, which had trainer/UFC expert calling him "one of the meanest SOB's I've ever trained!" He's expected to be a started once training camp opens. The Bears also drafted tackle Jordan Mills in the 5th round to add depth to the line. He will push Webb for minutes while developing, while also making Gabe Carimi's spot very questionable. The Bears also brought in long snapper PJ Lonergan to develop in case Patrick Mannelly goes down again.

Did you know after the Urlacher fiasco went down the Bears only had two legitimate linebackers on their roster? With Brian Urlacher searching for a new home and Nick Roach relocating to Oakland, the Bears were left with All Pro Lance Briggs and super sub Blake Costanzo (Dom DiCicco we see you - we need more production!). Then they hit the free agent market, signing veteran James Anderson and oft-troubled DJ Williams, both good, solid pick-ups. The Bears spent their 2nd round pick on the beast known as Jon Bostic from Florida. Many feel in the next three years Bostic will be considered the best linebacker to come out of this draft. Bostic is an inside linebacker with great foot speed and ballhawk skills when it comes to finding the football. The Bears also drafted Khaseem Greene who plays in the same mold as Bostic, only on the outside position. Greene will easily field playing time this season.

Need more upgrades? The Bears drafted defensive end Corneilius Washington. A big, physical lineman with exceptional foot-speed, Washington could push for playing time, adding more depth to an already good, young DL unit. Along with veteran Corey Wooten, what these two do this year could mean a huge difference in the future contract situation of Julius peppers, who's paper deal is up next summer. Washington's development also makes last year's 1st round pick Shea McCellin's development even more interesting. He has lineman and linebacker ability, meaning you can put McCellin just about anywhere on the field. What this means for free agent Isreal Idonije remains to be seen.

The signing of veterans safeties Tom Nelson, hometown boy Tom Zbikowski and the return of a healthy Brandon Hardin, the Bears spent more time finding cornerbacks on the undrafted free agent market. They also added some size to the wide receiver position all in the mold of star all-pro Brandon Marshall. The Bears signed a bunch of wide-outs 6'2 or taller, including the 6'5 Terrance Tolliver, 6'3 Marquess Wilson, and Mark Harrison, who at 6'3 may be the best of the bunch. Harrison is a big receiver who doesn't have the greatest speed however is one of the more physical receivers on the field. He will be a good target for Cutler if he sticks. They also signed running back Michael Ford.

The Bears definitely got younger, bigger, and more athletic this off season, but let's see how that all translate with a new regime in place. Will the addition of new faces bring the Bears back to the top of the NFC, or will the subtraction of some of their key leaders have them spiraling to  rebuilding mode?

 

Monday, 15 October 2012 15:24

Worried About the Bulls?

derrick rose2012-wide

So just what are you worried about again? Yes, I understand MVP Derrick Rose is still recovering from knee surgery and possibly won’t play until later in the season (if at all). I get that. I understand that the infamous “Bench mob” has been disbanded. Got it. Yes the Eastern Conference has teams that may have upgraded a bit (Miami added Ray Allen, Phili got Andrew Bynum, Boston got younger and deeper, Jay-Z brought the new “Fab Five” to Brooklyn (not to mention a basketball team), while the Pacers stayed pact, and  Knicks got older.

So again I ask, what are you worried about?

I’m a huge jay-z fan, and one of the most important things I’ve learned from Mr. Z is that numbers don’t lie. It’s true, they don’t. The Bulls will open with a starting line-up of Kirk Hinrich, Rip Hamilton, Joakim Noah, Luo Deng, and Carlos Boozer…not much different than pasts line-ups, except Rip is finally healthy and of course the return of Captain Kirk. Hinrich is as steady as they come and has been in the past for the Bulls, with his best seasons coming in a line-up without any real low post threat. Hinrich averaged 16 points a game in the Bulls best years without Rose, with the team winning 47 and 49 games, respectively. Hinrich doesn’t need to score, and with Deng, Boozer, and Hamilton around he shouldn’t need to be. All he needs to do is play defense and hold down the fort, which is what he is more than capable of.

Hinrich can play both guard spots when or if Rose returns this year, and has helped rose develop as a player. Rose has said or more than one occasion how much he loves playing with Hinrich, while coach Thibs has mentioned several times how when he was with Boston they tried to trade for him, and wasn’t exactly excited about losing him a few years ago. In the years Rose and Hinrich ran together Hinrich deferred to the youngster, with Kirk’s scoring dipping (to around 10 points a game) while DRose’s average went from 17 to 21 ppg.

If Boozer plays like he’s capable of every game, and Rip and Luo stay healthy the Bulls will be fine. I consider Joakim much like Hinrich, very steady players, and not too worried about their defense or scoring necessity.

Occasionally you will hear some complaining about the Bench Mob being broken up. Well kids that is a good thing. While I like CJ Watson and Asik was a pretty good back-up center, this year’s bench is much more improved. Jimmy Butler is more athletic than Ronnie Brewer and can give you more scoring. The same can be said for Mario Belinelli, who can shoot the 3 like former bull Kyle Korver, yet won’t go MIA on defense, and can play two positions! Taj Gibson is still there, while Nazr Mohammad is actually an upgrade at the back-up center spot. Nate Robinson will fill Watson’s role as back-up point guard, and again is an upgrade from Watson. Despite his lack of height, Robinson has a ton of heart and even more talent. Plus he can light it up from outside, not to mention inside (former dunk champion anyone???)

So quit your worrying, everything is going to be fine. However if things just blow up and go to hell just keep in mind the2013 draft is expected to be loaded with big men and shooting guards, while the next big European Superstar (Nikola Mirotic) is under contract by the Bulls and should be headed to the US next summer.

Monday, 01 October 2012 22:13

Prince Live at United Center

prince-2

My introduction to music started back in 1983. The 80’s were a phenomenal era, and rock music was everywhere, every artist was different, pop music and r&b music had the same sound, and Michael Jackson ruled world. And then Purple Rain happened….changing everything I thought about music. Prince wasn’t like anyone. He didn’t sound like anyone. He didn’t want to be like anyone…and this movie, this movie was just cool. Here was a guy who was bad ass, didn’t care what you thought about what he wore or how he looked and was going to sing and play his ass off. The more I heard from him the more I realized that I need more. This bad ass could do no wrong. His music, not perfect, but provided hit after hit after hit. You couldn’t copy Prince, he was just too original. He was so un-realistic to me, that he didn’t exist in real life, just in music, stories, and the occasional television appearance. He toured, playing in other states, countries, and even here but pushing new material, which may have been good but wasn’t quite up to that standards of the Prince I wanted to see. I wanted the hits. I wanted prince at his best, no restrictions. Finally I got my chance when Prince hit Chicago for a 3 day stint at the United Center.

From top to bottom most people who attended the first show on Monday will tell you it was a disaster.  That won’t change hear. Prince is anything but perfect, yet seemingly a perfectionist. Let’s go on to the last show on Wednesday, which was short on the encore yet had the strongest opening of any of the concerts so far. I’ve seen many shows from some of the greatest artist of my time; nevertheless the opening to Prince’s final show was easily the best I’ve ever experienced. From starting with “Controversy”, Let’s go crazy” Delirious” “1999” “Little Red Corvette”….hit after hit after hit. Prince gave Chicago the proper ending his “Welcome 2 Chicago” stint deserved. With an incredible horn section, including some incredible work done by the legendary Maceo Parker. Prince also has a serious appreciation of the work his cousin Morris Day has done, as he ended the Wednesday show partying it up with fans to “The Bird” and “Jungle Love”.

So with the bad start, and the properly-fitting ending, its Tuesday’s performance that makes Prince’s stay at the UC memorable.

From the get-go Prince was determined to make up for the rough start that was Monday. With the stage set up in the round in the form of his love symbol, prince stomped all over the stage wearing a pair of heels better than most of the women attending the concert. Big on fan participation, Prince often let the crowd do the singing, if not the three lovely (not so) background singers who performed almost every song with him. The show kept a steady rhythm of hits until falling flat when Prince turned over the stage to his latest protégé Andy Allo. While she wasn’t bad, the crowd came specifically to see prince, not Allo, so the energy fell flat.

As if on cue Prince returned and picked up steam quickly, albeit, with a few slow songs. All crowd pleasers, he brought down the house with “Sometimes it snows in April”, Shhh (a song written for Tevin Campbell), and a slowed down version of “I could never take the place of your man”. The biggest reaction of the night came next, with the performance of “Nothing compares 2 u”, as midway through the first verse Chicago’s own Jennifer Hudson took the stage. With a voice bigger than the arena holding her, she owned her part of the duet, bringing tears to eyes and fans out of their seats. It was very funny watching Jennifer (wearing heels) tower over prince (also wearing heels) like Andre the Giant staring down at Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania III. Prince followed that performance with “Purple Rain”, a powerful and magical ending with included confetti and glitter and everything else you’d expect from a Prince performance of the song.

Prince had a lot to make up for on Monday, so four encores didn’t hurt. The fans weren’t leaving, and when they did it only made prince want to come out even more. Whether it was a one song encore, or a musical medley of over 10 songs, prince gave the crowd everything he got, even once screaming “you know how many hit’s I got? We’ll be here all night!”

The end of the night concluded much like Wednesday’s show with fans dancing on stage, with the houselights on (he did this frequently, wanting to see the crowd dance), jamming out to the Batman soundtrack rarity “Partyman”, a fitting song for a man who held the crowd in his hands since the rumors of a prince concert were mentioned. 

And just like that, Thursday morning it was over…like it had never happened, life was back to normal. But for the fans of Chicago who attended, whether the good, the bad, or the great, it was clear (using his own words) that “can’t nobody do it like Prince”.

 

The Tuesday Night Set-list:

(thunderstorm show intro)

Let's Go Crazy

Delirious

(with Let's Go Crazy)

1999

Shhh

Let's Work

U Got The Look

Sometimes It Snows In April

People Pleaser

She's Always In My Hair

Dreamer

I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man

Take Me With U

Raspberry Beret

Cream

Cool

(with Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough)

Nothing Compares 2 UP

(with Jennifer Hudson)

Purple Rain

Encore 1:

Controversy

How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore

 

Encore 2

When Doves Cry

Nasty Girl (instrumental)

Sign O' The Times

Hot Thing

Alphabet St. (instrumental)

Forever In My Life

Darling Nikki (instrumental)

Mr. Goodnight

I Would Die 4 U

Kiss

 

Encore 3:

Little Red Corvette

Encore 4:

Act Of God

What Have You Done For Me Lately

(Janet Jackson cover)

Which Way Is Up?

Partyman

Sometimes you have games like the one the Bears had against the Indianapolis Colts. And then there’s other days, well there’s days when the Empire Strikes back. Last Thursday the Green Bay Packers went Darth Vader all over the Bears. But have hope dear readers, the Jedi did return!

Who will play the role of Luke Skywalker this Sunday against the St. Louis Rams? Will Jay Cutler recover from his Lando Calrisian ways of throwing footballs to more Packers receivers than his own? Or more importantly shoving and pushing teammate J’Marcus Webb under the bus? Not that JWebb didn’t deserve it, however, there’s better ways of doing business, and one of those things is not being a tool to a teammate. Maybe it’s Webb’s turn to dawn the black glove and save the Ewoks. Or is it Brian Urlacher we’ve been waiting for. While Urlacher did play the entire game against the Packers, he played more like Nick Roach of old than the Urlacher we know. His impact wasn’t there, and that’s what the Bears need if they are to truly become a great defense.

It’s easy to point out what went wrong against the Packers, probably half of its mental considering Cutler seems to play his absolute worst when he gets to Green Bay. Plus exploiting Webb isn’t hard these days. To generally be the biggest player on the field almost every down, he also seems to be the worst player on the field on every down. Replace him you say? Well what does it say about the Bears past drafting when 2010 first round pick Chris Williams, who actually plays the left tackle position, can’t beat out JWebb!!! Yikes!

So here we are, week 3 against the St. Louis Rams. The Rams are in love with passing the ball, especially now that starting runningback Steven Jackson is injured. The Rams beat the Washington Redskins last week, totaling over 450 yards of offense. Sam Bradford had over 300 yards, with many of his passes going to receiver Danny Almendola, who set a franchise record for passes caught. Bradford also had 3 touchdowns, and isn’t too picky about which receiver to throw to.

Defensively, The Rams can’t stop traffic. In two weeks the rams have given up 23 points to Detroit and 28 to the Redskins. On the line Chris Long is a monster. Long had over 13 sacks last season and just hitting his stride. At linebacker James Lauranaitis is playing so well his uncle” Big Johhny” can’t help but be proud! James is the son of former pro wrestler “Road Warrioir Animal” and nephew to current WWE villain John Lauranaitis. James led the team in tackles for the 3rd consecutive season, while also leading the team in snaps played. The secondary features notorious bad guy Courtland Finnegan playing cornerback. Known as one of the roughest and dirtiest players in football, the small in stature Finnegan should match up interestingly against Brandon Marshall. If the line gives Cutler any kind of protection, and Jay doesn’t hold the ball longer than 6 seconds, the Bears could indeed torch the Rams secondary. Michael Bush will start in place of the injured matt Forte, and expect the bull-dozing back to punish the “soft as a Kenny G song” Rams defense.

Its redemption week for the Bears in general. Hopefully is less Jar Jar Binks and more Darth Maul (ok Im done with all the Star Wars talk. I don’t even like the last few movies, but the Lego video game is pretty cool…highly recommended by me!).

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