Bears

NBA All-Star has the game of his life

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NBA All-Star has the game of his life

From Comcast SportsNet
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (AP) -- Deron Williams really wanted to make his tee time Monday morning in Miami. Knowing coach Avery Johnson would be giving his team the day off if they won, Williams took matters into his own hands and scored a franchise-record 57 points to lead the New Jersey Nets to a 104-101 victory Sunday night over the Charlotte Bobcats. "I had an 11:39 tee time, so I had to make sure I'd make that," said Williams, an avid golfer. "So I wanted to contribute." The Nets needed just about every point they could get from Williams to fend off the pesky Bobcats, who led by as many as 16 in the first half. "The first half was pretty pitiful," Williams said. Williams had 17 points in the first half before erupting for 22 in the third quarter to help the Nets battle back from an eight-point halftime deficit and take the lead. He added 18 points in the fourth quarter, including a pivotal shot late in the game to give the Nets a four-point lead. Johnson called Williams' effort unbelievable. "He really was focused," Johnson said. "He was well-rested. He made a lot of shots yesterday in our mini-practice and it carried over into tonight's game. We were going back and forth on whether to have a shootaround this morning and we opted for rest. And he was pretty fresh." Williams' eyes grew a little wider when he realized early on that the Bobcats weren't double-teaming him off pick and rolls. It's something he hadn't seen all season. "I'm used to getting double-teamed on those," Williams said. "It's kind of refreshing not to be." The 57 points are the most in the NBA this season and breaks the Nets' previous team record of 52 shared by Mike Newlin and Ray Williams. It was the second-most points scored against the Bobcats, one shy of Kobe Bryant's 58 in 2006. Williams, who came in averaging 21.7 points, shot 16 of 29 from the field and hit all 21 of his free throws. He did miss one attempt at the line, but the Bobcats were called for a lane violation and Williams hit the second chance. Williams said he was a little surprised when a teammate told him he had 39 points at the end of the third quarter, three shy of his personal career best set April 6, 2010, against Oklahoma City. "You really don't pay attention to it," Williams said. "It's just one of those games where you start feeling good and let it go." Added teammate Sheldon Williams: "When someone is hitting like that you want to keep going to the well until it runs dry. It never did tonight." However, not all went right for the Nets on this night as starting center Brook Lopez rolled his right ankle and left the locker room on crutches. Lopez, who made his season debut Feb. 19 after missing the Nets' first 32 games while recovering from a broken right foot, had an X-ray but will be reevaluated on Monday, according to Johnson. "It's a tough situation for him, especially coming back from the foot situation," Johnson said. "We're going to get him checked out tomorrow. We'll know more when we find out." Afterward, Bobcats coach Paul Silas wasn't apologizing for his team's approach to defending Williams. "You can do one of two things: You can try to stop him and double him and leave other players wide open or guard everybody," Silas said. "I thought that's mainly what kept us in the game. Nobody else was doing anything (for them). It gave us a chance." Corey Maggette had 24 points and Gerald Henderson added 15 for the Bobcats, who've now lost five straight and 21 of 22. Williams did just about everything right, adding six rebounds and seven assists. He also converted a four-point play after getting fouled while knocking down a 3-pointer from the wing. With the Nets leading 96-94 with 1:04 remaining, Kris Humphries missed two free throws but Sheldon Williams got a key momentum-turning rebound and called timeout. Deron Williams hit a big jumper to give the Nets a four-point lead and Sheldon Williams followed by converting a three-point play off a pretty pass from Jordan Farmar. The Bobcats would cut the lead to two with 3.5 seconds left, but MarShon Brooks knocked down one of two free throws with 1.7 seconds left. The Bobcats had a final chance to tie the game but Augustin's off-balance heave from 20 feet didn't hit the rim. "We didn't give up," Silas said. "That was a great thing. In the last 1.7 seconds, we didn't execute that play particularly well. But we did have a chance. That shows me that we are getting there. It's certainly not there yet. But we are striving to get there. At least we're not just giving up and letting teams just run over us. If we continue to do this, we'll be OK."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

Seth Gruen (Bleacher Report/”Big Ten Unfiltered” podcast), Chris Emma (670TheScore.com) and Matt Zahn (CBS 2) join Kap on the panel. If the Bears lose badly to the Lions, should Sunday be John Fox’s last game? 

Plus Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill joins the panel to talk Bulls as well as the Niko/Portis cold war.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

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.