No more excuses for Cutler, Lovie


No more excuses for Cutler, Lovie

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. Jay Cutler has had a lot of excuses made for him even when he wasnt necessarily asking for them or making them for himself:

- He is on his (third? fourth? fifth? 23rd?) offensive coordinator in the past four yearsweekshours.

- He lacks good receivers.

- He lacks a good offensive line in front of him.

- He struggles in night games because of his diabetes.

His magic right arm got him a pass, literally and figuratively. The reasoning was that his talent was such that any problems couldnt be his fault.

Now he doesnt have any excuses, nor is he asking for them.

This is the most comfortable I think Ive been going into a camp with the offense and what were doing scheme-wise and the talent around me, Cutler declared as he arrived at his fourth Bears training camp (under his third different offensive coordinator, if anyone is counting).

Jeremy Bates, QB coach) has come in and installed some of the stuff I was comfortable with in Denver. Mike Tice has a good feel for what I like to do, how to put guys in position to be successful.

Im happy with it. Weve got some tweaking and stuff weve got to do so everyones on the right page but everything weve done in the offseason has put us in the right direction.

Cutler is in need of some right directions.

He has finished his last two seasons watching from the sidelines, with an NFC-Championship game knee injury in 2010, with a broken thumb in 2011.

Of Cutlers passer ratings over six NFL seasons, the two lowest (2009, 2011) have come in Chicago. That, too, is a must-reverse, along with a career-low completion percentage (58.0) last season.

Cutler, like coach Lovie Smith, is under contract through next season. Neither has the luxury of excuses anymore.

Its a win-now league. I think every year youre expected to win, win big, go to the playoffs and compete for a Super Bowl. I dont think its anything new to this group.

Lovies seems to be one of those guys they say is on the hot seat every year. We like having Lovie around and were going to do our best to keep him around here.

Bastian Schweinsteiger finally sees the field in Fire preseason


Bastian Schweinsteiger finally sees the field in Fire preseason

Coach Veljko Paunovic still went with a second-choice lineup to start the Fire's preseason match against USL expansion team Nashville SC on Wednesday, but the second half featured the first preseason action for Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Schweinsteiger came on for the second half, along with Nemanja Nikolic, Johan Kappelhof and a few other Fire regulars. The German sat out the first four preseason games, but looked sharp in his 45 minutes.

One of the highlights was this smooth move between two defenders:

Schweinsteiger also had an impressive switch pass to set up a shot for second-round pick Diego Campos in the final minutes of the game. Campos drilled the shot on target, but was unable to beat the goalkeeper.

The team did not say Schweinsteiger was injured despite the repeated absences in matches. The Fire have dealt with injuries to Matt Polster, Luis Solignac, Daniel Johnson and rookie Grant Lillard this preseason. None of those four, along with Dax McCarty, played in the 0-0 draw.

The Fire next play Saturday at Orlando in a final match in Florida before returning to Chicago. The Fire also play Tulsa, the team's USL affiliate, at Toyota Park on March 3 before taking on Sporting Kansas City in the season opener on March 10.

There are 600,000 reasons you won't hear Gar, Pax or Hoiberg discuss losing


There are 600,000 reasons you won't hear Gar, Pax or Hoiberg discuss losing

The Bulls made headlines on Tuesday when VP John Paxson announced that David Nwaba, Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Payne would be entering the rotation, thus continuing the youth movement in Chicago.

On the surface the moves make sense. The 24-year-old Nwaba, the 25-year-old Felicio and the 23-year-old Cameron Payne will be replacing 28-year-old Justin Holiday, 29-year-old Robin Lopez and 25-year-old Jerian Grant. The Bulls want to see what they have in these younger players who haven't played much; they already know what they have in Lopez and Holiday, and Grant (like the other two) is under contract through next year.

OK, got that? Here's why they're making the move: they're sitting 8th in the NBA Lottery standings and really want to move into the top-5 to give themselves a chance at what should be a loaded front-end of the draft class. It's pretty obvious, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either named Gar Forman, John Paxson or Fred Hoiberg.

And here's why: On Wednesday Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined a whopping $600,000 by the NBA for comments he made on a podcast regarding tanking. The Mavericks are currently 18-40, the third worst record in the NBA. This comes a season after they finished 33-49, netting them the No. 9 pick that turned into talented point guard Dennis Smith Jr.

So when Cuban was asked about the best interests of his Dallas team, which touts young talent but clearly isn't headed for the postseason in 2018, he said this on the House Call with Dr. J Podcast:

"I'm probably not supposed to say this, but, like, I just had dinner with a bunch of our guys the other night, and here we are, you know, we weren't competing for the playoffs. I was like, 'Look, losing is our best option. [Commissioner] Adam [Silver] would hate hearing that, but I at least sat down and I explained it to them. And I explained what our plans were going to be this summer, that we're not going to tank again. This was, like, a year-and-a-half tanking, and that was too brutal for me. But being transparent, I think that's the key to being kind of a players owner and having stability."

Cuban isn't wrong, and the Mavericks sure as hell aren't the only team tanking. But to come right now and admit that losing is the team's best option wasn't, as Cuban predicted, going to sit well with the league office.

Commissioner Adam Silver sent out a memo with the fine that said Cuban's comments "which concerned his perspective on the team's competitive success this season" were "detrimental to the NBA."

So while the Bulls are going about their business in trying to lose as many games down the stretch as possible, don't expect anyone to admit it's the reason behind their personnel moves. There are 600,000 reasons why.