Bears

LeBron leads the way with 3 ESPY Awards

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LeBron leads the way with 3 ESPY Awards

From Comcast SportsNet
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- LeBron James collected the biggest trophy of his career when the Miami Heat won the NBA championship. That title run netted him some more hardware at the ESPY Awards. James won a leading three individual trophies, including male athlete of the year, and shared in another at the 20th annual show celebrating the year's best athletes and moments in sports. He wasn't on hand to accept because he was in Las Vegas with the rest of the U.S. national team preparing for the upcoming London Olympics. James outpolled tennis player Novak Djokovic, Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in fan voting for male athlete honors. He also won in the championship performance and NBA player categories, while sharing in the best team award, with Juwan Howard and Mike Miller accepting for the Heat. "He's had a magnifying glass on him since he was 17 years old and I think he's handled himself really, really well," Miller said of James backstage. "Unbelievable teammate, unbelievable father, so those are the most important things. He's just a likeable guy. He's a great basketball player to boot." Baylor basketball star Brittney Griner won two trophies, including female athlete of the year in which she beat out French Open champion Maria Sharapova, skier Lindsay Vonn and soccer player Abby Wambach. Quarterback Robert Griffin III, who like Griner starred at Baylor, won male college athlete honors. Griner took female college athlete honors for leading the Lady Bears to a 40-0 record and the NCAA championship. "Just excited. I wouldn't be here without Title IX," Griner said backstage. "Everything is just coming together, and it feels good to be here." Los Angeles was well represented, with Kings goalie Jonathan Quick winning best NHL player after helping the franchise win its first Stanley Cup title, and Galaxy star David Beckham earning best MLS player honors. The Kings won for best upset after their run to the NHL championship as an eighth seed in the Western Conference. Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton won as best MLB player, while Rodgers earned best NFL player honors. Mario Gutierrez, who rode I'll Have Another to victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, won as best jockey. Skateboarder and snowboarder Shaun White won his fifth consecutive ESPY for male action sports athlete. Host Rob Riggle of "The Daily Show" and "The Hangover" fame zinged some of the famous faces in his opening monologue. He touched on the New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal in singling out quarterback Drew Brees, who won for record-breaking performance after shattering Dan Marino's single-season passing mark. Brees and the Saints are haggling over his contract with a Monday deadline looming. "If only the Saints had some sort of fund that they could pull extra cash from to reward people for doing things on the field," Riggle cracked as Brees looked down from his seat, and the crowd roared. Riggle teased Anthony Davis of Kentucky, the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft known for his connected eyebrows. Davis recently trademarked the phrases "Fear the Brow" and "Raise the Brow." "It looks like two caterpillars just making sweet love on your forehead," Riggle told Davis. "Is that like one of those Mr. Potato Head eyebrows you just take on and off?" Riggle skewered Jeremy Lin and the "Linsanity" he created playing for the New York Knicks, which won Lin the trophy for breakthrough athlete. "What a heartwarming story," he said. "It's so refreshing to see a young Asian kid graduate from Harvard, move to New York and make a ton of money." The Arthur Ashe Courage award went to former Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt, who revealed her diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's last August. She retired in April after 38 years. Summitt's son, Tyler, escorted her to the stage to accept the trophy from Denver quarterback Peyton Manning, who went to college at Tennessee, while the Nokia Theatre crowd stood applauding. "I am deeply touched," she told the crowd. "I'm going to keep on keepin' on I promise you that." The Jimmy V Award for Perseverance was given to former Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand. He is recovering from a spinal cord injury that ended his playing career. "My dream is to get back on my feet and walk again," he told the audience after a standing ovation. "You can best believe that I'll never give up."

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

John Fox on Friday sought to clarify some comments he made earlier in the week about Tarik Cohen that seemed to follow some spurious logic. Here’s what Fox said on Wednesday when asked if he’d like to see Cohen be more involved in the offensive game plan:

“You’re looking at one game,” Fox said, referencing Cohen only playing 13 of 60 snaps against the Green Bay Packers. “Sometimes the defense dictates who gets the ball. I think from a running standpoint it was a game where we didn’t run the ball very effectively. I think we only ran it 17 times. I believe Jordan Howard, being the fifth leading rusher in the league, probably commanded most of that. I think he had 15 carries. 

“It’s a situation where we’d like to get him more touches, but it just didn’t materialize that well on that day. But I’d remind people that he’s pretty high up there in both punt returns, he’s our leading receiver with 29 catches, so it’s not like we don’t know who he is.”

There were some clear holes to poke in that line of reasoning, since the question wasn’t about Cohen’s touches, but his snap count. Cohen creates matchup problems when he’s on the field for opposing defenses, who can be caught having to double-team him (thus leaving a player uncovered, i.e. Kendall Wright) or matching up a linebacker against him (a positive for the Bears). The ball doesn’t have to be thrown Cohen’s way for his impact to be made, especially if he’s on the field at the same time as Howard. 

“They don’t know who’s getting the ball, really, and they don’t know how to defend it properly,” Howard said. “… It definitely can dictate matchups.”

There are certain scenarios in which the Bears don’t feel comfortable having Cohen on the field, like in third-and-long and two-minute drills, where Benny Cunningham’s veteran experience and pass protection skills are valued. It may be harder to create a mismatch or draw a double team with Cohen against a nickel package. It's easier to justify leaving a 5-foot-6 running back on the sidelines in those situations. 

But if the Bears need Cohen to be their best playmaker, as offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said last month, they need to find a way for him to be on the field more than a shade over one in every five plays. As Fox explained it on Friday, though, it’s more about finding the right spots for Cohen, not allowing opposing defenses to dictate when he’s on the field. 

“We have Tarik Cohen out there, we're talking about touches, not play time, we're talking about touches so if they double or triple cover him odds are the ball is not going to him, in fact we'd probably prefer it didn’t,” Fox said. “So what I meant by dictating where the ball goes, that's more related to touches than it is play time. I just want to make sure I clarify that. So it's not so much that they dictate personnel to you. Now if it's in a nickel defense they have a certain package they run that may create a bad matchup for you, that might dictate what personnel group you have out there not just as it relates to Tarik Cohen but to your offense in general. You don't want to create a bad matchup for your own team. I hope that makes sense.”

There’s another wrinkle here, though, that should be addressed: Loggains said this week that defenses rarely stick to the tendencies they show on film when Cohen is on the field. That’s not only a problem for Cohen, but it’s a problem for Mitchell Trubisky, who hasn’t always had success against defensive looks he hasn’t seen on film before. And if the Bears are trying to minimize the curveballs Trubisky sees, not having Cohen on the field for a high volume of plays would be one way to solve that. 

This is also where the Bears’ lack of offensive weapons factors in. Darren Sproles, who Cohen will inexorably be linked to, didn’t play much as a rookie — but that was on a San Diego Chargers team that had LaDanian Tomlinson, Keenan McCardell and Antonio Gates putting up big numbers. There were other options on that team; the Bears have a productive Howard and a possibly-emerging Dontrelle Inman, but not much else. 

So as long as Cohen receives only a handful of snaps on a team with a paucity of playmakers, this will continue to be a topic of discussion. Though if you’re looking more at the future of the franchise instead of the short-term payoffs, that we’re having a discussion about a fourth-round pick not being used enough is a good thing. 

Are Blackhawks starting to find their early season form again?

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USA TODAY

Are Blackhawks starting to find their early season form again?

The goals came in bunches for the Blackhawks in their Oct. 5 season opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins. For the Blackhawks, it was a nice memory, albeit one that seems far away given they went from scoring at will through their first two games to not being able to buy a goal for a sizeable stretch.

As for the Penguins, well, you figure their memoires of that game means they’ll be more than a little ticked off when the Blackhawks arrive on Saturday night.

“We’ve been on the wrong side of a few losses like that,” Patrick Sharp said. “You certainly remember them more than other losses.”

This is kind of/sort of about the Penguins, who in the first meeting were clearly tired not only from two Stanley Cup runs but also from their season opener/banner raising the prior night. But it’s more about the Blackhawks who, after a lengthy scoring drought, are starting to get their offense going again (15 goals in their last three games).

And while they’d like to shore up their defense – they blew a 4-1 lead vs. New Jersey and just about did it again vs. the New York Rangers – overall they’re trending in the right direction. And just as they face the team against whom they played their best game of the season.

“I’m sure [the Penguins] will be excited about playing us and making things better. They’re playing well, winning some games. For [us], we’re looking for more consistency in our game with the puck and we’re generating some offense,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I still think it has some ways to improve. That was one night, whether it was the quality of the plays we made or [what], we seemed like we had the puck a lot and did some good things with it. We haven’t seen much of that lately so I think that maybe we can recapture a little bit of that with the puck as well.”

In the past three games the Blackhawks haven’t just reignited their offense, they’ve regained their confidence. Their lines are finding some chemistry. As frustrating as their scoring drought was, they’re hoping it’s behind them.

“At some point in the season I feel like every team goes through it, either in the beginning, the middle or toward the end. You just don’t want to have it right at the end of the season,” Ryan Hartman said. “You can look at it in in a positive way. Hopefully we got that part over with and now we’re just coming in confident and hopefully we put the puck in the net.”

The Blackhawks got off to a hot goal-scoring start against the Penguins by doing the right things: shooting, pouncing on rebounds, getting traffic in front of the net and capitalizing. As they head into their 20th game of the season, the Blackhawks are finally getting back to what worked so well in Game 1.

“Things dried up for a bit but I think we have a good rotation going here with the lines; the chemistry’s starting to fill in a little bit. Some guys are stepping up. [Artem] Anisimov had a big night and Brinsky’s [Alex DeBrincat] playing great. It’s good to see those guys step up. It makes you want to be that next guy who’s called up to step up in the next game,” Patrick Kane said. “It’s good to see some goals go into the net. More important, it’s good to see some wins. But we’re playing the right way and hopefully this will trend in the right direction for us.”