Hitting the wall

Hitting the wall

Friday, June 18, 2010
3:20 PM

By Frankie O

I cant help but feel a void now that the NHL playoffs are over. Honestly, how could I feel any other way? Two months of every other day action featuring the two teams that I root for the most. For an emotionally vested fan, thats a lot. It takes over and wears on you. The payoff is if your team wins, and we both know that wasnt the case for me. Everyones asking how Im doing and I tell them that other than living every Flyers fans worst nightmare, Im great! Nothing like serving up beers to the celebrating masses during both the clincher and the parade, how lucky can one guy get? (I swear I didnt charge any one extra! Well, okay, maybe one or two!) It was definitely the strangest time Ive had behind the bar. At least I have a little time to regroup before they hoist the banner to the rafters at the United Center. Ill only have to look at that every time I go to a game there for the rest of my life. And every Hawks radio or TV broadcast will start with Your 2009-10 Stanley Cup Champions! Thats all right. Im not a hater. They earned it and every one of their fans should enjoy it, even if they joined the party a little late. In the big-picture view, an Original Six power is good for hockey and for me, its good for business. With the core together for the foreseeable future, Im guessing this wont be the only title that they win. This team is going to be good for a while and being a hockey fan in this town is going to be exciting.

But, for now, I need to decompress. Sports-wise, I guess watching a Game 7 in an NBA Finals is supposed to be exciting, but Im just not feeling it. I know I have to watch, but as a Philly guy, there is no way Im rooting for Boston, and L.A. isnt too far behind on that list. Of course now that L.A. has won, its time for the Kobe is the best love fest. I just want to say, Stop the Kobe is as good as Michael talk! No way! Stop smoking whatever it is that youre smoking. Kobe can win more than Michael, but he isnt Michael. Jordan is the best ever, end of story! And Mark Jackson? Kobe is a better Laker than Magic? Really? One other thing: I seem to remember when Pau Gasol was available two years ago, the local media saying for the Bulls not to go after him, that he was too soft. That dude is anything but soft. He also has two rings now.

And this is a perfect time for the U.S. Open, especially at Pebble Beach. I love watching golf, always have. The best thing is that there are any number of guys who can win and Ill be happy. Theres no emotional baggage with golf. Well all right, Watson losing in the British last year was like a kick in the groin, but how often does that happen? Golf always has a story, no matter who wins and thats part of what I like. Having the Open on scenic Pebble only makes it better. Im guessing Woods-Mickelson will be too much to ask for, but I always enjoy watching the final round on Fathers Day.

But the rest of my summer will focus on one thing: Baseball, or, more importantly, my roto baseball team. Not that I havent been following, (how are the Cubs and Sox doing by the way? LOL!) but now that the distractions are out of the way, its time to get focused. Ive missed out on a few waiver wire wonders because of my hockey preoccupation and that makes me a little hot! My boy Jonny Gomes though, is tearing it up! If Chase Utley ever hits again I could be dangerous. Will he hit? Should I trade him? These are the types of question that will be taking over my brain for the next three months. And unlike rooting for my hockey team, I wont get sucked in. I dont expect to do well in fantasy sports because of the luck involved. Just as easy to lose as it is to win. You can recite every lineup and stat, but when your 1 pick Utley is hitting .250, theres little you can do.

Baseball will be the soundtrack of my summer, along with the occasional NFL training camp update, and the LeBron saga. Im a box-score geek and love to read them every morning. And since I have the baseball package on DirecTv at work and home, the sweet sound of Vin Scully calling a Dodger game will be a highlight whenever I get a chance. Other than that, its a down-time in the sporting calendar, at least for those of us with rooting disorders. One comforting thought though, at least I wont have to worry about the Cubs or Sox playing the Phillies in the playoffs, it couldnt happen to me again could it?

Could star-crossed Derrick Rose be ready to call it quits?


Could star-crossed Derrick Rose be ready to call it quits?

I'll never forget watching the reaction of Derrick Rose after he found out his hometown Bulls had won the rights to draft first overall in the 2008 lottery. Rose was smiling from ear to ear as he imagined the possibilities of leading the team he rooted for growing up back to greatness. And, the fact the Bulls faced such long odds to win the top pick made the news even sweeter for the soft-spoken teenager from Simeon high school.

Rose took the NBA by storm, turning in the kind of highlight reel plays Bulls fans hadn't seen since the Jordan era. He was named Rookie of the Year and matched a record set by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar by scoring 36 points in his very first playoff game against the Celtics. The future couldn't look brighter for Chicago's hometown hero.

Rose really took off in his first season playing for Tom Thibodeau, averaging 25 points a game while leading the Bulls to a league-best 62-20 record, in the process becoming the youngest MVP in NBA history. The Bulls lost to Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals, but it appeared only a matter of time before Rose brought NBA championship to the city of Chicago.

But then came that fateful Saturday afternoon in April of 2012 when Rose ruptured his left ACL playing the meaningless final minutes of the Bulls' playoff opening win over Philadelphia. The Bulls would go on to lose that series while Rose headed off to a long and frightening rehab. The wunderkind suddenly robbed of his amazing gifts with one fateful misstep.

Rose sat out the entire 2012-13 season, drawing criticism from many fans and some media members who expected Rose to return after the mid-season All-Star break. Eleven games into the 2013-14 season, Rose was hurt again, this time with a season-ending right meniscus tear. Forget the flashy Adidas marketing campaign about Rose coming back better than ever, we would never see the explosive league MVP again.

Only Rose, his family and his trusted friends know the extent of the frustration that Derrick went through as he tried to prove to all the doubters he could still be one of the league's best players. Rose grew more combative with the media when questioned about trying to reshape his game given the new physical limitations. He would have one more knee surgery while a member of the Bulls, missing about six weeks in the 2014-15 season following another right meniscus tear.

Rose had one more heroic moment in a Bulls' uniform, banking in a three-point heave to give the Bulls a 2-1 series lead over LeBron James and the Cavs in the 2015 playoffs, but Cleveland would go on to sweep the next three games of the series, ending Rose's last chance to lead his hometown team to a championship.

Rose was traded to the Knicks in June of 2016 after the Bulls failed to make the playoffs, but after having a productive 2016-17 campaign in New York, Rose would suffer yet another knee injury, leading to another summer of rehab and doubt.

After talking openly with reporters about getting a shot at signing another max contract in September of 2015, two years before he would hit free agency, Rose could only land a veteran's minimum deal to hop on board with LeBron and the Cavs this season. He played fairly well in seven games, averaging 14.3 points on 47 percent shooting from the field, but then an injury sidelined him again, this time an ankle sprain.

Which brings us to Friday's bombshell that Rose was leaving the team to "re-evaluate his future in the NBA." Would the self-described "hooper" actually pull the plug on his NBA career at the age of 29? It seems like all the years of injuries, rehab and reduced effectiveness have taken a substantial physical and emotional toll.

In Rose's mind, he's still one of the league's elite players and should be held in the same regard as LeBron, KD, Steph, Russ and James Harden. Problem is, his body has already betrayed him, and the stat sheets that continually show more turnovers than assists are becoming too difficult to ignore.

Maybe some time away from the daily grind will convince Derrick he still loves the game and wants to get back with the Cavs to play whatever role is needed for a team with an excellent chance to get back to the Finals next June. Or maybe being with his son and family members during the holiday season will convince him that the cycle of injury and rehab is something he just doesn't want to endure anymore, even at the price of giving up the $80 million remaining on his shoe contract with Adidas.

Cavs coach Ty Lue says he's confident Rose will return to the team after some time away, and LeBron has been vocal in his support of Rose trying to re-establish his identity with a championship contender. My best guess is Rose will play again for the Cavs this season, but whether he wants to continue down the road of many injured stars, moving from city to city on minimum contracts, just might not be worth it anymore.

Can Cairo Santos be the kicker the Bears need?

USA Today

Can Cairo Santos be the kicker the Bears need?

Since the Bears inserted Mitchell Trubisky as their starting quarterback, they've had 12 drives end with a field goal — an average of two per game. Connor Barth hit nine of those dozen kicks, which had an average distance of 38.4 yards, but all three of Barth’s misses came from 45 yards or longer. 

Barth’s missed game-tying 46-yarder in the final seconds Sunday against the Detroit Lions was the last straw for someone who hadn’t been consistent in his one and a half years in Chicago. So enter Cairo Santos, who made 89 of 105 field goals (85 percent) from 2014-2017 with the Kansas City Chiefs. More importantly: Santos has made 73 percent of his career field goals from 40 or more yards; Barth made 52 percent of his kicks from the same distance with the Bears. 

(73 percent from long range isn’t bad, but it’s not great, either: Philadelphia Eagles kicker and Lyons Township High School alum Jake Elliott has made 88 percent of his 40-plus-yard kicks; Harrison Butker, who replaced Santos in Kansas City, has made 90 percent of his kicks from that distance. Both players are rookies who were drafted and cut prior to the season.)

Santos was released by the Chiefs in late September after a groin injury landed him on injured reserve (he played in three games prior to being released). The injury wasn’t expected to be season-ending, and Santos said he’s felt 100 percent for about two weeks before joining the Bears on Monday. 

“It was a long and difficult battle, but I was confident that it wasn’t going to be a serious injury, I just needed time,” Santos said. “I dealt with it in training camp, I was kicking really well, I was the only kicker in KC, and I didn’t have the appropriate time to heal. I tried to play the first three games and it got worse, so my main goal was to get 100 percent. I’ve been kicking for about a month now and finally the last week been able to come here and visit with the Bears. The muscle is in good shape to come and take a full load of a week’s practice and games, so thankful the opportunity worked out.”

For Santos, these next six weeks can be an audition for him to stick in Chicago next year. If the Bears can look optimistically at the improvements made by the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams with second-year top-drafted quarterbacks, they’ll need to figure out their kicking situation sooner rather than later. Bringing in Santos provides a good opportunity for that down the stretch. 

“He’s kicked in Kansas City, which is a similar climate,” special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers said. “Their field is similar to Soldier Field. He’s played in some big games, played in some important situations and he’s, by and large, been successful in those situations.”