Bears

Look out Lakers: Paul dealt to Clippers

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Look out Lakers: Paul dealt to Clippers

From Comcast SportsNet

LOS ANGELES (AP)Chris Paul will supply the Los Angeles Clippers with so much more than alley-oop passes to Blake Griffin when he arrives in Hollywood on Thursday night.

A bold trade for New Orleans superstar point guard on Wednesday just might alter the entire sports worlds perception of the Clippers. After managing just six winning seasons in their first 41 years of existence, the bumbling Clippers suddenly look slick and scintillating after swinging arguably the biggest trade in franchise history, giving them two of the NBAs elite players and a capable supporting cast.

Outfoxing the Lakers and thrilling their long-suffering fans, Los Angeles on Wednesday traded high-scoring guard Eric Gordon, former All-Star center Chris Kaman, forward Al-Farouq Aminu and a first-round draft choice acquired from Minnesota for Paul, the four-time All-Star widely considered to be the NBAs best point guard.

We decided for a player of Chris caliber that it was just time to make the move and push all our chips into the center of the table, Clippers vice president of basketball operations Neil Olshey told the teams website. Were really happy about it. Chris is the kind of player that makes everybody around him better. Hes a general. He wins. Hes a warrior, and hes going to take this whole organization to the next level.

Even the Clippers themselves had trouble believing what their front office had just done in the moments after the trade was announced. Most of the players including the ones who were tradedwere on a holiday bus ride with season-ticket holders when their phones blew up with the news.

Griffins reaction was captured by television cameras after he chest-bumped center DeAndre Jordan: Lob city!

Its already a T-shirt in Los Angeles, and it should be a way of life when the playmaking Paul and the high-flying NBA Rookie of the Year get together.

While armchair analysts debate who won the trade and wonder whether the club can keep its newfound assets for the long term, its clear that suddenly the Clippers dont seem to be the modern archetype for sports ineptitude.

Sure, Los Angeles has missed the playoffs 13 times in the last 14 seasons, going 32-50 last spring in the Clippers 18th non-winning season in the past 19 years. The former Buffalo Braves have won just one playoff series since 1976.

And sure, the Clippers are still owned by Donald Sterling, the much-criticized real estate magnate who sometimes heckles his own players from his center-court seat. But the Clippers have been gathering momentum since Olshey replaced Mike Dunleavy in March 2010, patiently stockpiling good players around 2009 top pick Griffin while making runs at free agents such as LeBron James, who gave them a courtesy meeting last summer before heading to Miami.

When Paul made it clear he wouldnt sign a contract extension with the Hornets and was interested in playing in Los Angeles, the Clippers watched while the Lakers three-team trade for Paul was blocked by the NBA last weekand then they pounced, offering a deal that not even Commissioner David Stern could reject.

It was a pivotal moment for us, Olshey said. It took a long time to accumulate the assets for a deal like this.

The 26-year-old Paul is in his basketball prime after averaging 18.7 points and 9.8 assists in his sixth season in New Orleans, which he capped by almost singlehandedly throwing a scare into the two-time defending NBA champion Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.

Paul will earn 16.4 million this year, and hes expected to exercise his player option for the 2012-13 season, making 17.8 million. The Clippers are counting on it, hoping two seasons with Griffin will entice both players to form a long-term partnership.

For Paul, Wednesday nights trade means no more lame-duck practicesor ducking questionsin New Orleans. Hes headed from the Bayou backwater to the bright lights of North Americas second-largest market, teaming up with a forward whose finishing skills are a playmakers dream.

The deal required Sterns approval because the Hornets are owned by the leaguejust one of the many reasons Paul wanted out.

Paul nearly ended up in a different locker room at Staples Center. The Lakers had a deal in place to give up Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol for Paul, only to have Stern nix the trade in a widely criticized decision that gave another black eye to the NBA just as it emerged from a protracted, damaging lockout.

Stern told New Orleans general manager Dell Demps to scrap the Lakers deal because he thought the Hornets could get younger, better players and more enticing assets. Demps claimed he and Stern were acting hand in hand, even though Demps agreed to the deal with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, who voiced the 16-time champions fury to the league.

I knew we were doing the best thing for New Orleans, and that was my job, Stern said. You have to stick with what you think was right. I must confess it wasnt a lot of fun, but I dont get paid to have fun, even though I generally do.

At least the Hornets know who coach Monty Williams will have available when the season opens.

Gordon, who turns 23 on Christmas, averaged 22.3 points last season with a smooth jumper and scoring instincts honed by a stint with the U.S. national team. Aminu is a second-year pro who averaged 5.6 points and 3.3 rebounds as a rookie, making only a negligible impact, while the 7-foot Kaman is an eight-year veteran who averaged 12.4 points and seven rebounds last seasonand has a valuable expiring contract that will pay him 12.2 million this season.

With this trade, we now have three additional players who were among the top eight draft picks in their respective drafts as well as our own first-round pick and (another) first-round pick, Demps said. Aminu is a young talent with a bright future, Gordon is a big-time scorer and one of the best (shooting) guards in the league and Kaman is a proven center and former All-Star.

New Orleans also sent two 2015 second-round draft picks to the Clippers.

Paul showed up for Hornets training camp last Friday, but has not spoken to reporters since. He was excused from a normally mandatory media event Wednesday, hours before the trade went through, in which players pose for photos in uniform and talk about the upcoming season.

He should have plenty to say when the Clippers introduce him to Los Angeles.

We wanted to make sure that we got the best possible deal for a player of Chris caliber, and we feel great about the outcome, said Jac Sperling, whom Stern appointed as the Hornets governor after the league bought the team in December 2010.

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Low

Decisions to be made on: Christian Jones (free agent), John Timu (free agent), Jonathan Anderson (free agent); Jerrell Freeman has reportedly been cut

Possible free agent targets: Demario Davis, Preston Brown, Anthony Hitchens, Avery Williamson, Navorro Bowman, Derrick Johnson

How the Bears rate Nick Kwiatkoski will be the key to figuring out what this unit will look like in 2018. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio thought Kwiatkoski finished last season strong, but strong enough to rely on him in 2018 as the starter next to Danny Trevathan?

The thing with the Bears’ inside linebackers, though: Trevathan makes whoever is playing next to him better. The problem is Trevathan hasn’t been able to stay on the field — he missed time in 2017 with a calf injury and a one-game suspension, and missed half of 2016 after rupturing his Achilles’. Trevathan hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013, so durability is an issue for the soon-to-be 28-year-old.

So that leads to this question: Do the Bears need to find someone in free agency, regardless of how they value Kwiatkoski, who’s also missed time due to injuries in his first two years in the league?

Free agency could provide a few options. Demario Davis had a career high 97 tackles for the New York Jets last year and has never missed a game as a pro. Preston Brown had some decent production in Buffalo and also hasn’t missed a game since being drafted in 2014. Avery Williamson may not be a world-beater but has only missed one game in his four years in the NFL.

The Bears could also opt for someone who fits more of a rotational mold, like Dallas’ Anthony Hitchens, or try to lure a veteran linebacker like Navorro Bowman (who played for Vic Fangio in San Francisco) or Derrick Johnson (who Matt Nagy knows from his Kansas City days) to play next to Trevathan and/or Kwiatkoski.

The Bears could opt to keep the status quo and re-sign Christian Jones and John Timu for depth, and enter 2018 with Kwiatkoski and Trevathan as the team’s starters (Jerrell Freeman, who suffered a season-ending injury and then was hit with his second PED suspension in as many years, was cut on Tuesday). Signing a starting-caliber free agent isn’t out of the question, either, but there is a third option for the Bears if they appear to stand pat in free agency: Draft an inside linebacker in April. If that’s the route they go, Georgia’s Roquan Smith could be the guy. But again, those more pressing needs at other positions could mean the Bears don’t burn a first-round pick on an inside linebacker.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?