Blackhawks

Wait, what? LeBron not ruling out return to Cavs

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Wait, what? LeBron not ruling out return to Cavs

From Comcast SportsNet
CLEVELAND (AP) -- LeBron James could picture returning one day to the place where his NBA journey began, making an unlikely return to the Cleveland Cavaliers. After practicing in a gym where he refined his game for seven seasons, James said Thursday he would not rule out a return to the Cavaliers, a team he carried to the brink of a title before he spurned adoring fans by leaving as a free agent in 2010 to chase a championship with Miami. Asked if he could play for the Cavs again, James initially paused before giving his answer. "It would be great," he said. "It would be fun to play in front of these fans again. I had a lot fun times in my seven years here. You can't predict the future and hopefully I continue to stay healthy. I'm here as a Miami Heat player, and I'm happy where I am now, but I don't rule that out in no sense. "And if I decide to come back, hopefully the fans will accept me." James' comments may have been calculated, coming one day before the Cavs host the Heat for the third time since the superstar's messy exit from Cleveland. In mentioning a possible reunion, he may be trying to soften the negative response he'll get Friday from fans who haven't forgotten what he did to them. James said he has made no attempt to patch things up Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who harshly criticized James in a scathing letter to Cleveland's fans. Gilbert promised to win a title before James, questioned his character and told The Associated Press he felt James quit on the Cavs during the playoffs. James said he has no bitterness toward Gilbert. They have not spoken since James met with the Cavaliers on July 3, 2010, when they were one of several teams courting him to sign with them. "I don't have any hard feelings. He said what he said and I've moved on," said James, who is under contract with the Heat for two more seasons. "But there's been no attempt to patch things up." James, however, said he can envision being friends again with Gilbert. "I don't hold grudges," he said. "I hold them a little bit, but I don't hold them that long. He said what he said out of anger and he would probably want to take that back. But I made a mistake, too, and there are some things I would want to take back as well. "You make mistakes and move on." It wasn't clear if by "mistake" James meant the way he announced his departure from Cleveland or joining the Heat. He insists he's happy in South Florida and committed to winning a title with the Heat, who lost to Dallas in the finals last season. James acknowledged he's changed and enjoying hoops the way he once did. "I'm back to how I was in Cleveland, having fun with the game, appreciating the game, loving the game and playing at a high level," he said. "I got away from that last year. It was a difficult year for me last year, making the whole transition, on and off the floor, going through everything I went through. "I just got back to how I got to this point, back to playing the way I know how to play." James' comments about a return to Cleveland -- albeit unlikely -- caught former teammate Antawn Jamison off guard. "It surprises me that he's saying that now," said Jamison, who played 25 games with James in 2010 after coming over in a trade. "Three years down the road it wouldn't surprise me if he entertains the idea. But hey, after the first go-round, I don't think anything would surprise you as far as scenarios taking place." Cavs guard Daniel Gibson can't envision Cleveland fans ever receiving James warmly again. "I don't think he'd be welcome," Gibson said. "Not with the way that went down. It was a pretty tough situation. I'm sure they wouldn't feel comfortable with that at all." For the moment, and for at least the next two seasons, James is with the Heat. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra has seen a renewal in James, who he believes will one day be warmly recognized by Cavs fans for his time in Cleveland. "Time heals a lot of things and LeBron had many special years here," Spoelstra said. "There probably will be a time in the future where he will be embraced and acknowledged for the great run that they had here. It's a new chapter for their organization and they've got a bright future ahead." James knows what's coming on Friday. He's prepared for a rough reception, but not as hostile as the one the seven-time All-Star got on Dec. 2 last season. James expects to hear boos, but maybe not as many obscenities. "It doesn't sting anymore," James said. "The booing isn't as bad as it was last year so it's not even a big deal."

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night:
 
1. One too many penalties.

The Blackhawks flirted with danger in the first period when they handed the Lightning three straight continuous power plays, a four-minute double minor high-sticking penalty from John Hayden and a Jonathan Toews hooking call that resulted in a 5-on-3 opportunity for Tampa Bay for 43 seconds. 

The penalty kill unit that ranked fourth in the league entering the matchup, however, killed off all three of those penalties against the NHL's top-ranked power play, and did so in commanding fashion.

The Blackhawks went 5-for-5 on the penalty kill in regulation, but couldn't stop the sixth one — a questionable slashing call on Nick Schmaltz —  in overtime when Brayden Point buried the winner on a 4-on-3 opportunity.

It was also interesting that Jon Cooper elected to go with four forwards (Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Point and Steven Stamkos) and zero defensemen during that man advantage, putting all of his offensive weapons out on the ice. It's something more teams should do in that situation.

2. Patrick Kane gets going.

After scoring just one goal in his previous 10 games, Kane found the back of the net twice in the opening frame against Tampa Bay and stayed hot against a team he historically plays well against. And he nearly netted a hat trick in overtime but couldn't cash in on a breakaway opportunity.

Kane has 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 14 career regular-season games against the Lightning, and extended his point streak to five games. He has three goals and four assists over that stretch.

We wrote about how important it is for the Blackhawks' superstars to get going again with the offensive contributions mainly coming from role players as of late, and Kane getting into a groove is a perfect step in that direction.

3. How about that goaltending battle?

Corey Crawford and Andrei Vasilevskiy showed us exactly why they belong in the Vezina Trophy discussion, and as of this moment, it's hard not to include both of them as finalists. They put on a goaltending clinic, seemingly topping the other as the game went on.

The two teams combined for 71 scoring chances, and Crawford and Vasilevskiy came up big when their teams need them the most.

Crawford finished with 35 saves on 38 shots (.921 save percentage) in the loss while Vasilevskiy stopped 29 of 31 (.935 save percentage), and improved to 15-2-1 on the season. 

4. Missed opportunities.

You couldn't have asked for a better start for the Blackhawks. They scored the first goal 3:49 into the game and the second on the power play at 15:54, killed off three penalties, including a 5-on-3, had 24 shot attempts (13 on goal) compared to the Lightning's 16 attempts (11 on goal) and led in even-strength scoring chances 9-6.

It was a different story the rest of the way.

The Blackhawks took their foot off the gas pedal a bit and let the Lightning back in the game by getting away from what they do best, and that's control the puck. Obviously, you expected the league's best offense to push back and it's certainly not an easy task to keep them off the scoresheet all together. 

But the Blackhawks had their chances to stay in front or retake the lead and just couldn't bury them. Tampa Bay had 50 shot attempts from the second period on while the Blackhawks had only 32, and finished with 44 scoring chances compared to Chicago's 27.

5. Richard Panik in the doghouse?

Joel Quenneville didn't go to his line blender in this one, but he did shorten some leashes. Panik, most notably, had a season-low 12:28 of ice time in the loss and had 15 shifts, which was second-fewest only to Ryan Hartman (13) on the team.

Panik had a prime chance to break a 2-2 tie in the third period but was denied by Vasilevskiy, who made a remarkable left-pad save. Instead, Panik extended his goal drought to 12 games and didn't get a shift in overtime.

He's certainly better and will get his scoring chances when playing on the top line with Toews and Brandon Saad, but the missed opportunities are magnified in tight losses. It doesn't look like a move down in the lineup is coming given the success of Alex DeBrincat, who gives the Blackhawks an offensive weapon on the third line, but perhaps it should be considered.

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

On the second (turkey) leg of a back-to-back, the Bulls didn't bring much energy in a 110-80 loss to the Utah Jazz. 

Instead of diving into the nitty-gritty of the uninspiring effort, though, we decided to just serve you up a Thanksgiving meal of highlights. Here are the top blocks from Wednesday's game: 

5. Derrick Favors is no Rudy Gobert -- that we know -- but imitation is the highest form of flattery. 

4. Are Bobby Portis chase down blocks the new LeBron James chase down blocks? Let's not get carried away... yet. We'll chalk it up to just a real nice hustle play by Bobby. 

3 and 2. Speaking of hustle plays... Jonas Jerebko isn't exactly known as a dominant defender. He sure made it hard for the Bulls on what should of been an easy fast-break bucket in the third quarter, though. First, he silenced Kris Dunn's reverse. Then, he met Lauri Markkanen at the rim and sent the rookie packing. The Baby Bulls 2.0 can blame it on fatigue, but they just handed Jerebko a highlight tape for years to come.   

1. In fairness, Jerian Grant had to get up a shot as the quarter was coming to a close. It is as vicious as it looks, though.