Cubs

Noah improving, but unlikely to play in Game 5

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Noah improving, but unlikely to play in Game 5

DEERFIELD, ILL. A sight for sore eyes was at the Berto Center Tuesday morning: Joakim Noah, in practice gear, shooting free throws. Now, dont read too much into that, as Noah, coming off a badly sprained ankle in Fridays Game 3 loss in the Bulls' first-round series against the 76ers, hasnt done any running yet.

In fact, when asked about the centers progress, teammate Kyle Korver quipped, He pedaled really well. Looking real strong on those pedals.

While Noah was limited to just the stationary bike during the Bulls Tuesday-morning shootaround, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau called him a game-time decision for Tuesday evenings Game 5, a potential elimination game.

Moving around a lot better, said the coach, who noted that Omer Asik would again start at center. Well see. Maybe he gets better from now until tonight.

Its highly unlikely that Noah suits upthough with his heart and passion, dont completely rule it out just yet, as Korver echoed: I hope so. I dont know. It was a pretty bad sprain, but Jos a pretty tough guybut that doesnt mean the Bulls have given up hope.

Thibs had a thing on the wall the other day. It said weve won three games in a row 57 times over the last two years. You guys didnt know that stat, right? So we can do it for sure, but weve got to play really good basketball, said Korver, in a surprisingly jovial mood, given that his season could end in mere hours. Weve got to play inspired basketball, weve got to make hustle plays, weve got to get the crowd into it.

But Korver acknowledged that the Bulls miss both Noah and Derrick Rose, particularly the duos ability to manufacture easy baskets via the transition game, something theyve struggled with against Philadelphia.

For the most part defense has been fairly solid, but Derrick and Jo are two of the guys, when they get the ball, we go out and run, he said. Were not getting fast-break points, were not getting into our sets very quickly, so were having to take a lot tougher shots...I think thats where we miss them. We miss them in a lot of ways, but we miss them a lot in our ability to get out and run. Weve got a deep team, weve got a lot of bodies and one of our strengths all year has been getting out and running, and we havent been able to do that in this series.

Added Thibodeau, when asked about Noahs absence: Hes got an unusual skill set. He runs the floor, he playmakes, he can shoot, he can post. Theres a lot of things he can do. Big-time offensive rebounder. With that being said, weve got more than enough to win with.

We just have to play well. Everyone has to do their job. Emotions part of it, but I think you just have to concentrate on doing your job and you have to do it for 48 minutes, he continued. Im concentrating on our next game and then, whenever the season is over, which I dont want to think aboutIm just thinking about the gamebut thats lessons learned from the season something, at the conclusion of every season, you go through every aspect of the team and I dont think you can draw conclusions until everything is done. Hopefully you learn from every situation. Youre always trying to improve, so thats the way we approach things.

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

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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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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.