Bulls

Rookie woes: Bears 2012 class struggling to stay healthy, make impact

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Rookie woes: Bears 2012 class struggling to stay healthy, make impact

NFL teams hope for impact contributions from the top of their rookie classes each year. One of the reasons Jerry Angelo is no longer general manager was a decided lack of impact or even modest contributions by too many individuals selected in Angelo drafts first three rounds.

Those hopes for the first draft class of GM Phil Emery are still on hold.

The Bears kept the top four of their six draft choices. Presuming Shea McClellin is forced to miss next Monday in San Francisco because of a concussion suffered against Houston, all four will have missed games with injuries, a combined 17 so far, including the nine by one on IR.

No. 1 Shea McClellin

No. 1 pick McClellin was gone with the concussion in the first series of the Houston game. Like Jay Cutler, his return is only a guess at this point.

Shea McClellin also is getting better, which you would like to happen, said coach Lovie Smith. Alshon Jeffery, hes been out for a while, hes getting better. So cant wait to get on the practice field and see exactly where we are.

No. 2 Alshon Jeffery

The second blow came in Jacksonville with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery breaking his hand and missing the last four games after playing his way into the starting lineup.

Whether Jeffery is fit to return for the San Francisco game on Monday is problematic but he was No. 2 in receptions at the time of the injury and still is behind only Brandon Marshall in touchdown catches (two). Only Marshall and tight end Kellen Davis have caught touchdown passes since Jefferys injury.

No. 3 Brandon Hardin

The group had a setback in preseason when No. 3 pick Brandon Hardin suffered a neck injury that cost him this season. But the cornerback-turned-safetys main work projected to be on special teams this season, depending upon the play of Chris Conte and Major Wright, which has been a significant positive through the years first half.

No. 4 Evan Rodriguez

Evan Rodriguez, selected in the fourth round as a pass-catching tight end out of Temple but turned into a blocking fullback to start the season, suddenly looms as a spot of much-needed hope for a struggling offense.

Rodriguez, the first of the rookies to crack the starting lineup, missed games with a knee injury and didnt play in the next two. He was back for Tennessee but is yet to catch a pass, although his role as a receiver is expected to increase in the wake of poor production from Davis and Matt Spaeth against Houston.

Davis will say it wasnt his best game, Smith said. Its as simple as that. Hell come back this week.

Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

Is there any better way to break in your new Black Friday television than Bulls-Warriors tonight? We think not. Coverage starts at 9 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live, and the game is also available to stream via the NBC Sports app

Here are three things to keep your eye on: 

1. Not the score. Let's be honest: the Bulls probably won't sneak out a win at the Oracle. In fact, ESPN's matchup predictor only gives Fred Hoiberg's young squad a 2.9 percent chance to come up victorious. UIC has three times better odds against juggernaut Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Sunday, in case you needed some context.  

With the talent gap in mind, though, it will be important for the Bulls to come out with high energy. The Warriors will likely take the contest lightly in the first half, so starting off strong reflects well on the coaching staff and starters. Stay within 10 points by the half, and that's considered a massive triumph. 

2. Lauri Markkanen vs. Draymond Green? Assuming the Dubs start out with Green on Markkanen, this will be rookie's biggest test of the season. Green is an elite defender, capable of wrecking gameplans from the tip. He's physical, quick and athletic. 

Markkanen is coming off two duds on the West Coast trip, but his aggressiveness hasn't wavered. It'll be important for him to continue to attack even with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year hounding him. 

3. Steph, KD and Klay doin' work. The Bulls offense hasn't exactly been a thing of beauty through the first 16 games. Their offensive rating is a brutal 94.4, ranked last in the NBA. Golden State, on the other hand, sits at the top with a rating of 113.1. 

Take some time to admire the skills of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson because when it comes to working cohesively on offense, they've set the gold standard. 

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.