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Mike Kincaide

Mike Kincaide

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!).

Monday, 03 September 2012 20:20

New look Bears ready for rebuilding Colts

andrew luck

 

The Chicago Bears get set to start an all or nothing march to the Super Bowl. Expectations are very high, as the team comes in mostly healthy with an offense that has caught the eye of many NFL experts. The tandem of quarterback Jay Cutler and wide out Brandon Marshall have had great history together, and the numbers to back up the so-called experts beliefs. The Bears offer several other offensive weapons, including Matt Forte, Devin Hester, and back-up running back Michael Bush.

                The offensive line is so hit or miss each week it will be interesting to find out who shows up to start each week. The Bears made a very interesting move in trading fullback Tyler Clutts, leaving no true fullback on the roster, but giving the team a bevy of big, burly, blocking tight ends. Look for Kellen Davis to be a huge red zone target because of his size. Also look for rookie wide out Alshon Jeffery to get a lot of looks. Jeffery is in the same mode as Marshall, a lanky receiver who attacks the middle.

                While many believe once again the offensive line will be the biggest concern, it’s the other side of the ball that has brought the most attention this pre-season. Brian Urlacher’s knee injury last season has been a huge concern all summer long, with him making the decision not to have surgery immediately. Several other techniques have been tried, and Urlacher ended up with a sore knee and sitting out all pre-season games and most practices. Not good for a guy considered the franchise player AND a player going into his final year of his contract.

                Make no mistake, whether young, old, injured, or healthy Brian Urlacher is the best player on the Bears defense. He’s the vocal quarterback of the defense, not to mention plays at an unbelievable level. He’s a game-changer, and as shown in many games before, the entire defense changes when Urlacher is out of the game. The linebacker corp becomes pretty thin with Urlacher out, and that’s just the beginning of their issues.

                The Bears have a ton of potential on the defensive line that needs to be realized. Julius Peppers needs help, and that is suppose to come in the form of rookie Shea McClellin. McClellin has a high motor and a fierce reputation out of Boise St. Stephen Paea showed signs of being a break-out performer on the middle, but he’s a little banged up at the moment. Getting the double-team off Peppers and pressuring the QB has become the name of the game, while closing the middle and stopping the run is also a huge priority. This is where Melton and Idonje will need to be that anchor that Peppers needs game in and game out. The Bears had trouble with stopping the run the pre-season, then again the absence of Urlacher does change a few gameplans.

                With the safety position in shambles due to injuries look to see more cornerbacks on the field come Sunday. Major Wright still has his up’s and down’s, while Brandon Harden is already out for a few weeks. Chris Conte, a starting safety is also banged up but will try to play. Luckily the Bears have a quantity of quality and capable db’s, including DJ Moore, Kelvyn Hayden. Craig Steltz has also had a great summer so far.

So let’s get into it, shall we? The season starts Sunday for Bears fans!!!

               

The Indianapolis Colts begin the era of Andrew Luck and say goodbye to future hall of famer Peyton manning. It will be hard not to be better than last season’s 2-14 team. Luck has a lot of potential but very few weapons. Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, and Donald Brown are all potential home-run hitters, but that’s. They are super thin on offense. There’s also major issues defensively. Running on the Colts should not be a problem, as they have shown they can’t stop anyone. Their linebackers could either be very good or terribly horrific with Feeney and Mathis on the ends, and Angerer in the middle. Bad news, Angerer is out for a few weeks, and Feeney at linebacker is still something to see rather than believe. The secondary is a little more stable with Powers and Bethea being proven solid veterans at the safety and corner spots, while their partners have names more familiar to Bears fans – Vontae Davis and Tom Zbikowski will be taking over for the Colts in full time starting positions. But have unlimited potential and could provide this defense with the spark they’ve been missing.

                In the end the Bears should make mince meat out of the still-rebuilding Colts. But if the line doesn’t protect Cutler and the defense takes this team for granted it could be a very rude awakening to a team dreaming of going to the Super Bowl.

Remember when the Cubs were on pace to be the worst team in baseball? Well as we arrive to the end of the 1st half of the season with the Cubs finally climbing out of last-place in their division and haven’t lost a series since mid-June, could it be safe to say the dog days are over in Wrigleyville???

I know it’s not the pennant or anything, but any little victory these days is a big victory in Cubdom, and the victories have been piling up of late. So as we get set to start the 2nd half, here’s what’s going right for the boys in blue:

So who did manager Dale Sveum name as the team’s first half MVP’s? How about relievers Shawn Camp and James Russell. Camp was 2-4 with a 2.86 ERA and 1 save, while Russell was 2-0 with a 2.43 ERA. Carlos Marmol has become as adventurous as an attraction at Six Flags and extremely un-reliable, yet Sveum keeps trying to make chicken salad out of this kid, and in some ways it’s working. The pitching that has been the talk of the 1st half so far, with the exceptional performance of Ryan Dempster. His scoreless-inning streak is impressive, especially for a team that’s been in last place for most of the 1st half. With Kerry Wood gone, Dempster is the leader and face of the franchise, but you can’t build championship on blind loyalty, can you?

Also impressive is the emergence of Jeff Samardzija and the newly found fire of Travis Wood. Ait seems as if we’ve been waiting for the Notre dame grad to show more than he has in past seasons, and in his latest run as a starter he has done just that, leading the team in strike-outs and at one point becoming the team’s most dominant pitcher. While he’s peaked off a bit, look for Saradzija to have a great 2nd half, especially if the trades of Garza and Dempster do happen. Travis Wood has stepped into the spotlight recently, for his bat and his pitching arm. Going out and throwing 4 quality games before ending the 2nd half, Wood has been showing some of the promise the front office saw that led to the trade of top reliever and former Cub Sean Marshall for him.

And then there’s Rizzo. Ironically enough whenever I think of Anthony Rizzo arriving to the plate in the back of my mind I envision former WWE broadcaster Taz screaming “here comes the pain”, as man-child Brock Lesner makes his arrival. And since his arrival, Rizzo has “Brock Lesner’ed” all over the Cubs clubhouse and their opponents. As Jay-Z has said many times, numbers don’t lie kids. Rizzo has played in only 12 games, yet he’s on pace to lead the team in every offensive batting category. That’s how his numbers average out in comparison to the players who have been on the roster since opening day, including all-stars Castro and LaHair.

The Cubs have also gotten some big production from their super subs, Tony Campana, Joe Mather, Jeff Baker, Steve Clevenger, and Reed Johnson. And with the loss of Ian Stewart for the rest of the season, the super subs will be needed to fill a huge void at 3rd base. While Luis Valbuena has been a good stop-gap for now, one has to wonder at what point is it time to give prospect Josh Vitters a shot. He’s hitting over .300 and leading the team in doubles in the minors, yet he also leads the team with an alarming 15 errors.

Things play out good for the Cubs for the rest of July, as they come back home to battle to under-achieving teams in Arizona and Miami. If anyone is getting traded (Soriano, Johnson, Garza, Dempster) look for it to happen here. From this point it gets interesting…

See we all know the Cubs aren’t going to win the division, however we will get to see just what they are made of against the divisions top teams back to back with road series against Pittsburgh and St. Louis. From there its right back home against the same foes. That 12 game stretch should dictate just what the state of the Cubs truly is.

Buy? Sell? Fold? 3 years? Next year? Burn to the ground entirely? The start of the 2nd half will tell us a lot.

Remember when the Cubs were on pace to be the worst team in baseball? Well as we arrive to the end of the 1st half of the season with the Cubs finally climbing out of last-place in their division and haven’t lost a series since mid-June, could it be safe to say the dog days are over in Wrigleyville???

I know it’s not the pennant or anything, but any little victory these days is a big victory in Cubdom, and the victories have been piling up of late. So as we get set to start the 2nd half, here’s what’s going right for the boys in blue:

So who did manager Dale Sveum name as the team’s first half MVP’s? How about relievers Shawn Camp and James Russell. Camp was 2-4 with a 2.86 ERA and 1 save, while Russell was 2-0 with a 2.43 ERA. Carlos Marmol has become as adventurous as an attraction at Six Flags and extremely un-reliable, yet Sveum keeps trying to make chicken salad out of this kid, and in some ways it’s working. The pitching that has been the talk of the 1st half so far, with the exceptional performance of Ryan Dempster. His scoreless-inning streak is impressive, especially for a team that’s been in last place for most of the 1st half. With Kerry Wood gone, Dempster is the leader and face of the franchise, but you can’t build championship on blind loyalty, can you?

Also impressive is the emergence of Jeff Samardzija and the newly found fire of Travis Wood. Ait seems as if we’ve been waiting for the Notre dame grad to show more than he has in past seasons, and in his latest run as a starter he has done just that, leading the team in strike-outs and at one point becoming the team’s most dominant pitcher. While he’s peaked off a bit, look for Saradzija to have a great 2nd half, especially if the trades of Garza and Dempster do happen. Travis Wood has stepped into the spotlight recently, for his bat and his pitching arm. Going out and throwing 4 quality games before ending the 2nd half, Wood has been showing some of the promise the front office saw that led to the trade of top reliever and former Cub Sean Marshall for him.

And then there’s Rizzo. Ironically enough whenever I think of Anthony Rizzo arriving to the plate in the back of my mind I envision former WWE broadcaster Taz screaming “here comes the pain”, as man-child Brock Lesner makes his arrival. And since his arrival, Rizzo has “Brock Lesner’ed” all over the Cubs clubhouse and their opponents. As Jay-Z has said many times, numbers don’t lie kids. Rizzo has played in only 12 games, yet he’s on pace to lead the team in every offensive batting category. That’s how his numbers average out in comparison to the players who have been on the roster since opening day, including all-stars Castro and LaHair.

The Cubs have also gotten some big production from their super subs, Tony Campana, Joe Mather, Jeff Baker, Steve Clevenger, and Reed Johnson. And with the loss of Ian Stewart for the rest of the season, the super subs will be needed to fill a huge void at 3rd base. While Luis Valbuena has been a good stop-gap for now, one has to wonder at what point is it time to give prospect Josh Vitters a shot. He’s hitting over .300 and leading the team in doubles in the minors, yet he also leads the team with an alarming 15 errors.

Things play out good for the Cubs for the rest of July, as they come back home to battle to under-achieving teams in Arizona and Miami. If anyone is getting traded (Soriano, Johnson, Garza, Dempster) look for it to happen here. From this point it gets interesting…

See we all know the Cubs aren’t going to win the division, however we will get to see just what they are made of against the divisions top teams back to back with road series against Pittsburgh and St. Louis. From there its right back home against the same foes. That 12 game stretch should dictate just what the state of the Cubs truly is.

Buy? Sell? Fold? 3 years? Next year? Burn to the ground entirely? The start of the 2nd half will tell us a lot.

Friday, 22 June 2012 22:33

Rizzo's time is now!

rizzo
He's here, and there's nothing you can do about it
 
The Anthony Rizzo era is officially in full official GO! mode. When Cubs manager decided to switch David DeJesus to the everyday starting center-fielder role, making room in right-field for former starting 1st baseman Bryan LaHair that was the sign - much like the bat signal being shot into the moonlight to signal for the arrival of the dark knight. In this case, the role of Batman is being played by a 23 year-old from Parkland, Florida. So the wait is over, his time starts right now. let's get you all ready for the Cubs next "next big thing".
 
Anthony Vincent Rizzo, a lefty power hitter, was born in august of1989, a summer in which you were more concerned about doing the Wild thang with Tone Loc, Bustin a Move with Young MC, and wondering just who the hell Dr. Feelgood was more than who was doing what in Parkland, Florida. More fans spent more time in the movies than the ballpark as such blockbusters like Batman, Do the right thing, Ghostbusters 2, Leathal Weapon II, Weekend at Bernies and others were setting records worldwide. As for the Cubs, well they were tearing through the National League on their way to the play-offs and an ugly, disastourous ending at the hands of San Francisco.
 
Rizzo (also nicknamed "The Riz" by San Diego fans) is a 6th round draft pick by Boston in 2007 right out of Major Stoneman Douglas High School. Now you're probably wondering who is the most famous alum to come out of Douglas HS? Well the answer is former White sox shortstop Mike caruso - which ensures that Rizzo will be the most famous baseball player ever to come out of Douglas HS no matter if he never even hits a ball upon his arrival to Chicago.
 
"The Riz" was selected by then Boston executive Jason McLeod, who is now with the Cubs. it was Jed Hoyer who believed in Rizzo enough to draft him in Boston, and even brought him to San Diego when he became GM there. I guess it should come as no surprise that one of Hoyer's first moves as Cubs GM was bringing Rizzo to Chicago.
 
Rizzo hit the big leagues once he was traded to San Diego for power-hitter Adrian Gonzalez. He hit his first homerun against the Washington Nationals, but nevertheless struggled, hitting under .150 in his 1st stint in the big leagues. Despite being one of the Padres top prospects, Rizzo was passed on the depth chart by Yonder Alonso, the current strating Padres 1st baseman.
 
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer were on opposite ends of the Gonzalez deal that eventually brought Rizzo to San Diego, and over the winter they teamed up to bring him to Chicago for hard-throwing youngster Andrew Cashner.
 
In 2008 Rizzo was diagnosed with Hopkins lymphoma, which was successfully treated with chemotherapy. Current cubs teammate Tony Campana also had the same diagnosis when he was younger.
 
He currently leads the Pacific Coast league in home runs (23), slugging percentage (.721), nad OPS (1.143), while ranking second in RBI's (53) and forth in batting average (.363).
 
"I think he could become a Gold Glove first baseman", says his Triple-A Iowa manager Dave Bialas. "Not only does he have power and his hitting is for average, he has good instincts on the base paths, he really does a good job in going to first to third, reading the ball of the bat, and scoring from second base. He's really a complete player."
 
The Cubs have a serious lack of power in their line-up, one they hope "The Riz" can fill immediately. The Cubs are also hoping he brings a little excitement to the ballpark, as he will be looked upon as the face of the franchise from this point on for years to come. Can he carry the weight? We no longer have to wait to find out...it's in his hands now.
 
 
Tuesday, 15 May 2012 03:02

Is May too soon for Bears talk? Nope!

With both the Bulls and the Hawks both sitting out the next few months, and the Cubs and Sox both twirling in mid-card hell, its time to start giving our attention to the rightful champions of the city, The Bears. Is May too early to be excited about football? Nah...

So here's the good: You should be excited about the offensive depth this team has. Jay Cutler has had time to heal, get his mind and personal life in order, and has a weapon and a quarterback's coach he's familiar with. Plus there's an actual veteran NFL quarterback right Cutler on the depth chart (Jason Campbell), with a veteran and a rookie not so far in the background. Running back-wise the Bears added Michael Bush, who is a huge upgrade from the disaster that was....well, let's not speak his name. Let's just put that whole Denver/Tebow fiasco behind us, shall we? Bush is a 6'2 bruising 1st string runningback. Khalil Bell also showed promise last season and comes back at 3rd string, which gives the Bears some good depth.

Oh right, anyone seen Matt Forte? I think he still wants a new contract, asap.

The really good news comes at the wide reciever position. First off, let's forget about Johnny Knox. I love Johnny, he's a staple on my fantasy teams, however he's gonna need a lot of time to recover from that injury. If he comes back, tremendous, but for now let's move with what we got. The Bears have hit the media blitz hard in the different ways they can use Devin Hester on offense. I think we've heard this for the past four years and you know what, great. He's fast...he's really fast, but is he a number one reciever? No. But he is a weapon. Having the solid Earl Bennett to put along side gamebreaker Brandon Marshall is a huge bonus. Marshall and Cutler should vibe well together, much like Cutler and Bennett do. Their success in Denver wasn't a fluke, plus Marshall is a huge target with cougar speed. Marshall played well on bad teams with bad quarterbacks, so imagine how he could do with someone he's already hyad success with.Throw in reliable "Waddle-like" Dane Sanzenbacher and surprising rookie Alshon Jeffrey and things look promising. The Bears also signed veteran reciever Devin Thomas who has always shown potential. There's a new offensive coordinator in Mike Tice, who's schemes and plans are more conservative than the fly or die method of the former Mike Martz. This means less time on the ground for Cutler!!

Tyler Clutts is a block-first runningback, while tight end Kellen Davis seems to get better each year - hopefully this is a breakout year for him. It doesnt't hurt he's huge (6'7 300lbs), which plays along well with the also 6'7 Matt Spaeth. Big, blocking ends to add more protection and become big weapons in the red zone...another plus.

Need another big plus? Well how about on defense, where 1st round pick Shea McClellin seems to be the real deal. McClellin will be opposite Julius Peppers, moving Israel Idonije to the inside where he can be more effective. McClellin having any kind of impact creates problems for opposing offenses, as Idonije is big enough to cause a double-team, while Peppers automatically causes mis-matches. Corey Wootten will also be fighting for a spot, and if he shows any of the potential he did early on last seaons, then McClellin's assertion to starter won't come easy. Henry Melton and Stephen Paea both should tremendous upsides last season, and both have potential to make big strides inside next to Idonije. Plus McClellin can also play at linebacker, and a solid 3rd next to Urlacher and Briggs is a necessity. The Bears would love it if Nick Roach finally asserted himself and became that stud 3rd backer, however it's yet to happen. Bringing in Dom DiCicco and Geno Hayes only adds depth, yet McClellin is an actual threat to the position.

The Bears also upgraded on special teams. Despite losing Corey Graham, the Bears picked up solid former pro-bowler Eric Weems, and the consistant specialist Blake Costanzo. Plus in the 3rd round the Bears drafted Brandon Hardin, who was a gunner in college (first one down on punts and kick-offs making tackles). Hardin also fills a need at safety, which is still looking for a standout player betweent Major Wright, Craig Steltz, and Chris Conte. The Bears safety position is as frightening as the 1st row of a Joss Whedon signing, could the 6'3 Hardin be the answer? It didnt hurt that the Bears signed corner Kelvyn Hayden. Hayden, a solid veteran who spent many years in Indy, is not the dwarf 5'8 starting corner Tim Jennings is. Infact, all the cornerbacks the Bears brought in this year are all 5'10 and taller.

And here comes the bad, are you ready for this...did I ask you where Matt Forte was? Oh yeah...contract issues.

So there's that whole Forte issue. Plus realize the Bears have a brand new offensive coordinator (again), a new starting wide reciever (again), and there biggest name players (Urlacher, Cutler, Forte) are all returning from season-ending injuries. And let's just put it out there, the best chance the Bears have for a formidable offensive line features the names Spencer, Garza, Carimi, Williams, and Louis. That's a good, solid line...it becomes a grerat line if Ja'Marcus Webb gets his sh*t together.

Webb led the league in "oh crap the guy I was just guarding has just thrown my quarterback into the stands" moments, along with more false start calls than a high school boy at his prom after-party. Webb has the athletic ability and size to dominate at his position. However, he's led to the downfall of many offensive drives, and led to Cutler spending more time on the ground than Roger Baird (yup an inside Cubs reference, eat it up, folks!) It's almost safe to say that it all falls on Webb how well the offense does, as the Bears have to start him, talent-wise and potential-wise you just can't leave him on the side. But he's a drive killer. This is your time, Webb. Step up.

My main issue with the Bears comes with the new addition of quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates. Did you know Bates was once a top candidate for the offensive coordinator position? He decided to go to Seattle, which to put it nicely "didn't work out". Bates spent the last year out of football (wtf is up with the Bears hiring guys just sitting at home...Mike Martz anyone?) after being fired by Pete Carroll as his offensive coordinator. It's funny, because Carroll also had Bates as his OC at USC the year before. Bates is being brought in for the success he had with Cutler and Marshall when they were in Denver together. Ironically enough before that success gets mentions its the disagreements and shouting matches between the three that gets talked about. Plus when a nice guy like Pete Carroll doesn't like you, doesnt speak well of your character. The Seattle offense sucked under Bates, as players noticed he had the potential for short passes and mis-handling the running game. Plus Carroll never thought of Bates as long-term potential, and in this Lovie era, stability somewhere on offense would be great. Bates, who has the tendency to rub people the wrong way, was reportedly let go because he didnt see eye to eye with Carroll or the offensive line coach, plus I'm sure having an offense ranked 31st in the league and not producing a 100 yard game by a running back all season long didnt help his cause, either.

Oh well, you take the good with the bad sometimes... 

 

Tuesday, 24 April 2012 18:25

Bulls looking to to run past Philly.

There's nothing like the NBA play-offs. it seperates the boys from men, rats from mice, cats from kittens....I could go on, but I won't. The Chicago Bulls are entering the 2012 play-offs with a 50-16 record, having home-court throughout the East. They have been arguably the best team in basketball for the past two years, and this year is no different. The Bulls find themselves in a great position, with their team fairly healthy (except for Luo Deng's wrist), and their best player getting back into stride after resting a nagging injury. The numerous injuries has caused many of their bench to step up, and step up they have. Because of the injury to Derrick Rose and shooting guard Rip Hamilton, the Bulls have also gotten more scoring out of their post players, which includes big games from Carlos Boozer. Boozer has steeped it up alot, even if the numbers don't show it sometimes. His impact and energy on the court makes a huge difference to his teammates. The same can be said for Taj Gibson, who plays a very similar game to Boozer, yet is more explosive and possesses more energy. He also plays a more defensive game than Boozer, but it matches up well for both. The trio of Ronnie Brewer, Jimmy Butler, and Kyle Korver has also produced when called upon, and with Deng still a bit banged-up you can expect the same. The real surprise has come with the way both CJ Watson and John Lucas III have stepped up big time when called upon.  Both have played with confidence and delivered in in DRose's abscence.

But now its time for the talking to stop, and unfortunately Philadelphia is the team doing all the talking.

The Bulls will face Doug Collins' Philadelphia 76er's. For some reason Philly gives the Bulls fits, and it has more to do with just inuries. Elton Brand when motivated and healthy is a dominant low post scoring machine. He's a beast down low, which makes the attacking tweeners that the 76'ers feature very dangerous. Thaddeus Young, while 6'9, isnt a big down low. He's a small forward...a 6'9 small forward. He'll dunk on you and grab a rebound or 3 because he's 6'9, however he's not going to be throwing anyone out of the paint anytime soon. Everyone of their guards is looking to score, which is why no one is scoring over 15ppg, and they turn the ball over like a mofo. The 76er's move the ball well, and have tremendous guard depth. but thats it. Size wise, only center Spencer Hawes and Brand provide any length in the post, which means rebounds coming the 76'ers way comes out of luck. The Bulls are long and big, and should be able to dominate the 76'ers inside.

But its the guards that make this tricky. With DRose not playing up to his usual self, that could be trouble, as Iguogana and Williams both can light it up. Plus Evan Turner has played DRose well since their high school days. it doesn't fair well that Philly doesn't seem to respect the Bulls, so if they get hot they could get very cocky. They love to run and will shoot without warning, but outside of coach Collins, really have no heart. The Bulls should be able to push them around with or without Rose at 100%.

There's a good chance Phil Brooks is going to ride the Blue Line train to the All-State arena, beat up Cubs hat on head, headphones on, and giant gold and diamond WWE title belt right beside him. This isn't what is normally done. Super Bowl champs don't wear their rings and get on the Roosevelt bus to go to games. Derrick Rose isn't hoping on the Ashland 9 to get to the madhouse with his shoes in a backback. Even legendary wrestler Ric Flair took a limo everywhere he went, wether he was champion or not. Then again if you haven't heard Phil Brooks is not your normal wrestler/entertainer.

Brooks, or CM Punk returns home to defend his WWE title this Sunday at the All-State Arena on the WWE's Extreme Rules PPV. Punk will be defending against rockstar and entertainment god Chris Jericho in a rematch of their match from Wrestlemania, only this time things have been amped up a bit, with a heavy storyline and an amped up "No Disqualification" stipulation. For those who don't follow wrestling, you may know Jericho as a best selling author, or from "Dancing with the Stars", or maybe from his work in the music world with the band "Fozzy". He's also been a gameshow host and seems to have some sarcastic wit to share on any if not all of those VH1 top 100 thingy's. Those in the know of the wrestling world know him to be a tremendous wrestler, a high-flier, and someone who can wrestle at about any pace, any style, and tell a story like no other. Jericho is simply one of the best wrestlers in the world, who just so happens to be wrestling the man who is currently known as "the best in the world". He even has the shirt to prove it!!!

Currently Punk is carrying the ball for professional wrestling  as a whole, as he's not only the champion, but the choice of most fans across the globe. He was the "king of the indies", before making it to the WWE, and despite being buried and cartooned(hey Phil, can you be in John Cena's Wrestlemania entrance, dressed as John Dillenger?), and de-pushed so many times (he lost his first world title not in an actual match but from a kick to the head in a backstage promo, never actually 'losing" the title), he fought and climbed his way not only to the top of the wrestling food chain, but became it's hottest star. And what won the fans respect is he did it on his terms. Then again, when you're loud and proud about living the Straight Edge lifestyle in a world that's synonumous with heavy drinking, painkillers, and numerous other devices, you really are doing it on your own terms.

The Extreme Rules PPV also features a huge match-up between John Cena and returning phenom Brock Lesner. Lesner is no longer in UFC and has returned to the sport which made him famous, taking on the star that took his place when he decided to leave for greener (or not so greener depending on who you talk to) pastures. There is no bigger wrestler in the world than John Cena. There isn't a bigger name in wrestling or MMA than Brock Lenser. It's a main event match anywhere in the world - unless CM Punk is wrestling in Chicago.

There is no better crowd in wrestling than at the one at All-State, and if the crowd is as hot as it was when Punk last headlined a PPV here (last year's Money in the Bank) then Jerich will be at a huge huge disadvantage. Then again, chicago has been very good to Y2J, and Chicago fans appreciate a great wrestling match.

Punk is scheduled to sing the 7th inning stretch at Wrigley Field on May 8th, but will he do it with WWE title in hand will be determined this sunday!

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