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'Linsanity' continues in heroic fashion

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'Linsanity' continues in heroic fashion

From Comcast SportsNet
TORONTO (AP) -- Already writing the NBA's best story, Jeremy Lin has now scripted a thrilling finish. Nothing about the kid from Harvard should be a surprise anymore. When he launched a 3-pointer in a tie game with a half-second left in Toronto on Tuesday night, the result seemed obvious. "I knew it was going in," Knicks guard Iman Shumpert said. Who would doubt it at this point? Lin's 3-pointer capped his finishing flurry of six straight points to close the game as the Knicks rallied for a 90-87 victory over the Raptors, extending their winning streak to six. Their season sputtering just two weeks ago, before Lin escaped the bench, the Knicks (14-15) can get back to .500 with a victory over Sacramento on Wednesday. And with Lin running their show, that's exactly what they expect. "He continues to impress every night," New York's Jared Jeffries said. "Every game he plays better, he does more and more to help us win basketball games. You can't ask any more of a kid coming into this situation." Huge in New York, Linsanity was even bigger in Toronto, whose international community couldn't wait for a look at the NBA's first American-born player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent. A season-high crowd of 20,092 was only the Raptors' second sellout of the season, and some 75 reporters and 16 cameras packed a Tuesday morning press conference to hear Lin speak. "Are we in the playoffs now?" coach Mike D'Antoni joked as he made his way to the front of the room. Not yet, but they sure have a shot now with Lin. The reigning Eastern Conference player of the week scored 27 points and added a career-high 11 assists, shaking off a sloppy first half to carry the Knicks down the stretch. Toronto led 87-82 with less than two minutes to go when Shumpert stole the ball from Jose Calderon and drove in for an uncontested dunk. After a missed shot, Lin completed a three-point play, tying it at 87 with 1:05 left. Leandro Barbosa missed a 3 for Toronto and, at the other end, Shumpert missed a jumper but Tyson Chandler grabbed the rebound. Lin took the ball near midcourt and let the clock run down to 5 seconds before driving and pulling up against Calderon to bury the decisive shot. "You just watch and you're in awe," D'Antoni said. "He held it until five-tenths of a second left. He was pretty confident that was going in, no rebounds, no nothing. That ball was being buried." Lin, cut by both Golden State and Houston in December, struggled early. He didn't score for the first eight minutes of the game, then turned the ball over on three straight possessions early in the second quarter and Toronto took advantage with a 6-0 run, widening its lead to 13 points. That was long forgotten by the end. "When he hit that shot it was simply amazing, we were hugging at midcourt like we'd won a championship," said Amare Stoudemire, who scored 21 points after missing four games following the death of an older brother in a Florida car crash. Scouts and general managers may have missed Lin when he went undrafted two years ago, but people all over the NBA are watching him now. The reaction to his winner on Twitter was similar to one of LeBron James' or Blake Griffin's huge dunks. "It's crazy!" Phoenix guard Steve Nash wrote. "I'm watching Linsanity hoping every shot goes in. Hope I never grow up." But Lin deflects the praise to his teammates, even though they were going nowhere until he started getting real minutes on Feb. 4. "It's not because of me, it's because we're coming together as a team," Lin said. "We started making these steps earlier but we were still losing close games and so obviously it wasn't fun. But when you win, that solves a lot of problems. We've been winning and we've been playing together."

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

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USA TODAY

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

Families gather and people talk about things they are thankful for on Thanksgiving, but what are Chicago sports fans happy for now?

Raised expectations on the North Side

Got to be thankful that a “disappointing” season is winning the division and losing in the NLCS. The expectations have skyrocketed, and that’s thanks to a ridiculous nucleus of bats and a steady front office. Not many clubs can say that. Also, though, it’s important to be appreciative of the Wrigley bar stretch. They may charge $8 for a Miller Lite, but it’s always a damn good party.

Javy tags, too. Don't forget Javy tags.

Rebuild sparking hope in White Sox fans

Where to begin? Obviously, be thankful for the plethora of young talent that will soon take over the South Side. Be thankful for Avi Time (while you still can). Be thankful that taking your friends or family to a game won’t cause you to take out a second mortgage. Be thankful for the 2020 World Series and, of course, 2020 MVP Eloy Jimenez. But most importantly, be thankful that Rick Hahn’s phone stays buzzing.

Eddie O back in the booth for the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are having a rough start to the season, but at least Eddie Olczyk is back in the booth. The longtime Blackhawks broadcaster returned to the booth on Oct. 18 after missing time while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer.

With some of the key names from the Blackhawks’ title runs either leaving or being unable to play this season (in the case of Marian Hossa), Blackhawks fans are probably thankful to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice during games.

Lauri Markkanen leading the Bulls rebuild

OK, there’s not much to be thankful for about the current Bulls team. At 3-13, the Bulls are tied for the fewest wins in the NBA (maybe in the long-term that’s something to be thankful for as well). However, Zach LaVine’s pending debut after his eventual return from injury should help create some excitement.

The thing Bulls fans really should be thankful for this year is the play of rookie Lauri Markkanen. The 20-year-old leads the team in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounds (8.3 per game) while shooting at a high percentage (34.2 percent on threes and 50.6 percent on twos). It’s only the beginning of the Bulls’ rebuild, but Markkanen is a good start.

Mitchapalooza

If a few things broke the Bears’ way, Chicagoans could have been grateful that the team was finally out of the cellar. Instead, we’ll settle for the fact that there seems to be some building blocks already in place. Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks seem to fit that category. Also, some may be thankful that this is likely John Fox’s last season at the helm.

Fire ending a playoff drought

After finishing dead last in MLS in 2015 and 2016, the Fire were one of the most improved teams in the league in 2017. After posting the third best record in the league, the Fire made a first playoff appearance since 2012.

The playoff run didn’t last long with the Fire losing a play-in game at home, but the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the league’s leading goal-scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, helped fill the stadium with six sellouts and gave Fire fans something to cheer for.

With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

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USA TODAY

With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

The Bears placed Leonard Floyd on injured reserve Thursday morning, ending the second-year outside linebacker’s season following a knee injury suffered Sunday against the Detroit Lions. Floyd suffered an MCL and PCL injury and will have surgery in the next week, coach John Fox said, and the Bears do not have a timetable for his recovery yet. But that Floyd didn't suffer damage to his ACL is potentially good news for Floyd's recovery timetable. 

Still, with Floyd on injured reserve and out for the season, the Bears’ current outside linebacker depth chart consists of two veterans (Pernell McPhee and Sam Acho) and two practice squad signees (Isaiah Irving and Howard Jones). These final six games of the 2017 season could serve as auditions for all four players for roles on the 2018 Bears. 

If every team needs at least three good pass rushers, the Bears can count on Akiem Hicks and Floyd for 2018, provided Floyd comes back healthy. But who’s the third?

The Bears could save about $7.5 million in cap space if they release McPhee in 2018; if they were to cut ties with Willie Young, who’s on injured reserve right now as well, it would provide $4.5 million in cap relief. McPhee will be 29 in December, while Young will turn 33 next September. 

The Bears won’t necessarily need the cap relief next year, and could certainly decide to keep both players, who’ve shown they’re still productive when healthy. But even if both players are back, the Bears may need to add another outside linebacker via free agency of the draft — remember, the team could’ve began the season with Floyd, Young, McPhee, Acho and Lamarr Houston as their outside linebackers; an injury Houston suffered in the fourth preseason game ended his time in Chicago. 

Needs at wide receiver and cornerback are pressing, but outside linebacker may need to be in that same conversation. If the Bears have a top-10 pick for the fourth consecutive year, plus some cap space, they perhaps could have the ability to address all three needs in March and April. 

That may be looking a little too far into the future, though. The best-case for the Bears is McPhee finishes the season strong and Irving and/or Jones shows something in the opportunities they receive in these final six games (Jones, for what it’s worth, had five sacks as a rookie with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015). But the worst-case — and perhaps the most realistic — is that the Bears go into the offseason needing to fill at least one pass-rushing spot.