Bears

Word on the Street: Derrek Lee agrees to deal with Orioles

Word on the Street: Derrek Lee agrees to deal with Orioles

Friday, Dec. 31, 2010
CSNChicago.com

D-Lee agrees to deal with Baltimore Orioles

Former Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee has reached a verbal agreement on a one-year contract with the Baltimore Orioles, pending a physical.

The 35-year-old split time in 2010 between the Cubs and Atlanta Braves, totaling 19 home runs and 80 RBIs in 148 games. (sportsillustrated.com)
Homefield Disadvantage for the Bears?
Pro Bowl middle linebacker Brian Urlacher thinks that may just be the case, as the Monsters of the Midway have ensure homefield advantage for their first playoff game.

Normally, homefield advantage is a great thing, but Urlacher is worried about the footing at Soldier Field, indicating the Bears' defense needs to be quick to execute their schemes perfectly.

"I don't know about the beat-up part, but the footing at Soldier Field has been horrible," Urlacher said Thursday at Halas Hall. "We've all seen that. You watch us on film. Our D-line slipped. It's hard. We're a fast team. I think when you get us on a (Soldier Field) surface like that, it kind of takes a little bit of our speed." (Chicago Tribune)

Boozer misses practice

Carlos Boozer, who missed the start of the 2010-11 season for the Bulls with a broken hand, did not practice Thursday. However, it was just personal reasons and head coach tom Thibodeau called the absence "excused" and indicated Boozer should be back and good to go Friday for the Bulls' game vs. the Nets. (Chicago Tribune)

Should the Cubs sign Freddy Garcia?

According to BleacherReport.com, the Cubs should get some depth in their starting rotation and as such, Freddy Garcia might just fit that bill. Garcia, who spent last season with the White Sox (his second stint with the SouthSiders), went 12-6 last year. (BleacherReport.com)

Rose trailing Wade, Rondo in All Star voting

Derrick Rose, the star point guard for the Chicago Bulls, is narrowly losing to Celtics' guard Rajon Rondo in votes for the All Star Game (777,310-721,122). The Miami Heat's Dwayne Wade is the leading vote-getter with 938,402 votes.

Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah are on the ballot, but both are further down on the votes and neither figure to wind up in the exhibition contest. (Chicago Tribune)
Nets' Farmar doubtful against Bulls
Jordan Farmar, the New Jersey Nets point guard, is doubtful for the game against the Chicago Bulls on New Year's Eve. Farmar had an MRI Thursday on his injured knee, but the Nets have not gotten the results of the test yet. (NJ.com)

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Low

Decisions to be made on: Christian Jones (free agent), John Timu (free agent), Jonathan Anderson (free agent); Jerrell Freeman has reportedly been cut

Possible free agent targets: Demario Davis, Preston Brown, Anthony Hitchens, Avery Williamson, Navorro Bowman, Derrick Johnson

How the Bears rate Nick Kwiatkoski will be the key to figuring out what this unit will look like in 2018. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio thought Kwiatkoski finished last season strong, but strong enough to rely on him in 2018 as the starter next to Danny Trevathan?

The thing with the Bears’ inside linebackers, though: Trevathan makes whoever is playing next to him better. The problem is Trevathan hasn’t been able to stay on the field — he missed time in 2017 with a calf injury and a one-game suspension, and missed half of 2016 after rupturing his Achilles’. Trevathan hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013, so durability is an issue for the soon-to-be 28-year-old.

So that leads to this question: Do the Bears need to find someone in free agency, regardless of how they value Kwiatkoski, who’s also missed time due to injuries in his first two years in the league?

Free agency could provide a few options. Demario Davis had a career high 97 tackles for the New York Jets last year and has never missed a game as a pro. Preston Brown had some decent production in Buffalo and also hasn’t missed a game since being drafted in 2014. Avery Williamson may not be a world-beater but has only missed one game in his four years in the NFL.

The Bears could also opt for someone who fits more of a rotational mold, like Dallas’ Anthony Hitchens, or try to lure a veteran linebacker like Navorro Bowman (who played for Vic Fangio in San Francisco) or Derrick Johnson (who Matt Nagy knows from his Kansas City days) to play next to Trevathan and/or Kwiatkoski.

The Bears could opt to keep the status quo and re-sign Christian Jones and John Timu for depth, and enter 2018 with Kwiatkoski and Trevathan as the team’s starters (Jerrell Freeman, who suffered a season-ending injury and then was hit with his second PED suspension in as many years, was cut on Tuesday). Signing a starting-caliber free agent isn’t out of the question, either, but there is a third option for the Bears if they appear to stand pat in free agency: Draft an inside linebacker in April. If that’s the route they go, Georgia’s Roquan Smith could be the guy. But again, those more pressing needs at other positions could mean the Bears don’t burn a first-round pick on an inside linebacker.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?