Bears

After slow start, Gibson plans quick turnaround

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After slow start, Gibson plans quick turnaround

Thus far in the young NBA season, Taj Gibson hasnt been the same Taj Gibson that Bulls fans have come to know and love. The Gibson that earned a long-term contract extension as the season opener was being played has been largely absent this season, but in the mind of his coach, hes beginning to reappear.

He started slowly, but hes picking it up. I think hes gotten a lot more comfortable over the last three or four games. His defense has been very good. And its not about individuals, its about how the team is functioning when hes on the floor, so thats where we have to have our focus, on the team and winning, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said following the teams morning shootaround Wednesday at the Berto Center.

Hes playing a lot with the starters, so he has to play with both groups and he has to play well, and the team has to function well and theres a lot of things that he brings that we need. High energy, great defense. His offense is coming around right now. He was very comfortable in the post at the end of last year. Weve got to get him in there more. Hes got to slow down a little bit, but I like the way hes played the last few games.

As for Gibson, while hes hard on himself, he doesnt attribute his decreased production 6.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game are down from his career numbers, though hes averaging a slight uptick in blocked shots, at 1.5 a night to the pressure of receiving a new contract. However, the fourth-year power forward does acknowledge that hes not playing up to his usual standards.

I just have to do more. I was just getting frustrated. I havent been able to shoot the ball well after putting in a ton of work this summer. Ive just got to work my way out of it. Im trying to just do other things, he said Wednesday. Try to be solid on defense, try to make plays for others, like I did last game. Just try to bring energy to help this team win.

Theres always pressure because youre wearing the Bulls jersey. Our bench is still is adjusting to the different schemes. Its not the same team it was last year, Gibson continued, referring to the Bulls revamped bench, of which he is the lone holdover who played significant minutes last season. I have to do a lot more on defense. I have to talk a lot more and I have to be more vocal, especially on offense. The coaching staff is telling me to keep working. Im putting in more work. Just got to keep working harder.

Can the Bears make enough plays to beat the Carolina Panthers?

Can the Bears make enough plays to beat the Carolina Panthers?

Everything changed for the Bears after going up 17-3 last week against the Baltimore Ravens. Mitchell Trubisky’s 27-yard touchdown to Dion Sims was immediately followed by Bobby Rainey running a kickoff back 96 yards for a touchdown, then the offense was bogged down with three fumbles (two lost) on three consecutive possessions. 

But Adrian Amos seemed to seal the game with his 90-yard pick six — that is, until Michael Campanaro ran Pat O’Donnell’s punt back 77 yards for what wound up being a game-tying touchdown after a two-point conversion.

The point is the Bears should’ve cruised to a comfortable win last week; a few critical mistakes didn’t allow that to happen. The Bears haven’t led at the end of the fourth quarter this year, a pretty strong indicator they haven’t played a complete game yet despite having two wins. 

The Carolina Panthers have road wins over the Detroit Lions and New England Patriots this year, and only lost to the Philadelphia Eagles by five points last week (despite Cam Newton throwing three interceptions). The bet here is the Bears keep things close on the backs of a strong defense, but either can’t make enough plays or make too many mistakes to win. 

Prediction: Panthers 20, Bears 16

Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio

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USA TODAY

Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio

"Of course," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said in the middle of the National League Championship — he would like his coaches back in 2018. Pitching coach Chris Bosio told the team's flagship radio station this week that the staff expected to return next year. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein didn't go that far during Friday afternoon's end-of-season news conference at Wrigley Field, but he did say: "Rest assured, Joe will have every coach back that he wants back."

That's Cub: USA Today columnist Bob Nightengale first reported Saturday morning that Bosio had been fired, the team declining a club contract option for next year and making a major influence on the Wrigleyville rebuild a free agent. Epstein and Bosio did not immediately respond to text messages and the club has not officially outlined the shape of the 2018 coaching staff.

Those exit meetings on Friday at Wrigley Field are just the beginning of an offseason that could lead to sweeping changes, with the Cubs looking to replace 40 percent of their rotation, identify an established closer (whether or not that's Wade Davis), find another leadoff option and maybe break up their World Series core of hitters to acquire pitching. 

The obvious candidate to replace Bosio is Jim Hickey, Maddon's longtime pitching coach with the Tampa Bay Rays who has Chicago roots and recently parted ways with the small-market franchise that stayed competitive by consistently developing young arms like David Price and Chris Archer.

Of course, Maddon denied that speculation during an NLCS where the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs in every phase of the game and the manager's bullpen decisions kept getting second-guessed.

Bosio has a big personality and strong opinions that rocked the boat at times, but he brought instant credibility as an accomplished big-league pitcher who helped implement the team's sophisticated game-planning system.

Originally a Dale Sveum hire for the 2012 season/Epstein regime Year 1 where the Cubs lost 101 games, Bosio helped coach up and market short-term assets like Ryan Dempster, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija. 

Those win-later trades combined with Bosio's expertise led to a 2016 major-league ERA leader (Kyle Hendricks) and a 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner (Jake Arrieta) plus setup guys Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. and All-Star shortstop Addison Russell.

Bosio helped set the foundation for the group that won last year's World Series and has made three consecutive trips to the NLCS. But as the Cubs are going to find out this winter, there is a shelf life to everything, even for those who made their mark during a golden age of baseball on the North Side.