White Sox

Are the Kings actually moving to Seattle?

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Are the Kings actually moving to Seattle?

From Comcast SportsNetSEATTLE (AP) -- Investor Chris Hansen has contacted the Maloof family about buying the Sacramento Kings, setting up the possibility of the NBA's return to Seattle.Hansen's interest was confirmed Wednesday by people with knowledge of the situation. They spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because no deal has been reached.One person said the Kings could sell for more than 500 million. The Kings' future in Sacramento has been uncertain because the Maloofs and the city haven't been able to come up with a long-term arena solution.Yahoo! Sports first reported the discussions between the Kings and Hansen. Yahoo! reported a possible sale could land the Kings in Seattle for the 2013-14 season, where the team would play at KeyArena as a temporary home until a new arena is constructed."I know as much as you do," Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said when asked about the situation. "If it's true, ain't it cool?"His counterpart in Sacramento thought the news anything but cool. At an afternoon news conference, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said Wednesday was significant because for the first time Kings fans know the team is for sale. Johnson said he would do all he could to try to find a buyer with a Sacramento connection to possibly purchase the team and keep it in California's capital city."We're going to fight, and we're used to being in this situation," he said.Hansen, a Seattle native and San Francisco-based investor, reached agreement with local governments in Seattle last October on plans to build a 490 million arena near the city's other stadiums, CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field. As part of the agreement, no construction will begin until all environmental reviews are completed and a team has been secured.Hansen's group is expected to pitch in 290 million in private investment toward the arena, along with helping to pay for transportation improvements in the area around the stadiums. The plans also call for the arena to be able to handle a future NHL franchise. The remaining 200 million in public financing would be paid back with rent money and admissions taxes from the arena, and if that money falls short, Hansen would be responsible for making up the rest. Other investors in the proposed arena include Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer and two members of the Nordstrom department store family.Hansen's goal has been to return the SuperSonics to the Puget Sound after they were moved from Seattle to Oklahoma City in 2008. Asked in September if he could envision a team being in Seattle for the 2013 season, Hansen was cautious about finding an option that quickly.The NBA had no comment. Representatives for Hansen did not return messages seeking comment. Any franchise looking to relocate must submit its plans to the NBA by March 1 and the move must be approved by the league."As we have said for nearly a year, we will not comment on rumors or speculation about the Sacramento Kings franchise," Maloof family spokesman Eric Rose said when contacted Wednesday by the AP.The Kings' asking price would top the NBA-record 450 million the Golden State Warriors sold for in July 2010. Johnson said he's had past discussions with more than one group about possibly stepping forward as owners if the Kings were up for sale."All indications that I have seen and read and heard is they are exploring opportunities to sell the team, and that is public and that is the first I have ever heard," Johnson said. "We need to put ourselves in a position to find an ownership group and buyers to keep the team here in Sacramento."Johnson said he had not spoken with any members of the Maloof family or NBA Commissioner David Stern on Wednesday.News of the discussions came a day after officials in Virginia Beach, Va., announced they were dropping their efforts to build a new arena. Virginia Beach had been reported as a relocation option for the Kings.The Maloofs backed out of a tentative 391 million deal for a new downtown arena with Sacramento last year, reigniting fears the franchise could relocate. Johnson and the Kings broke off all negotiations in the summer with the Kings, saying the deal didn't make financial sense for the franchise.In 2011, the Kings appeared determined to move to Anaheim before Johnson convinced the NBA to give the city one last chance to help finance an arena. At one point, Johnson seemed so certain the team was gone he called the process a "slow death" and compared the city's efforts to keep the Kings a "Hail Mary."Johnson made a desperate pitch to the NBA Board of Governors in April 2011, promising league owners the city would find a way to help finance a new arena to replace the team's current outdated suburban facility. That pitch bought the Kings time, before the brokered deal between the city and the Maloofs fell apart last year.Johnson said the Maloof family still must repay a 77 million loan to the city and other lenders.While some players around the league took to Twitter on Wednesday to express their excitement about the possibility of the NBA returning to Seattle -- especially those players from the Puget Sound area -- others were more reserved."There's a part of me that's disappointed because Sacramento, I've enjoyed my times. I think Sacramento is a great town," said current Denver coach and former Seattle coach George Karl. "I'm not going to lie -- I'm happy that Seattle is going to have a team more than Sacramento. But I am disappointed that Sacramento can't keep their team."

Winter Meetings wrap: The White Sox pursuit of Bryce Harper is for real and all part of the rebuilding plan

Winter Meetings wrap: The White Sox pursuit of Bryce Harper is for real and all part of the rebuilding plan

LAS VEGAS — The White Sox were the talk of the Winter Meetings.

Imagine that a year ago. Heck, imagine that a couple months ago.

They’re coming off a 100-loss season, not expected to contend for a playoff spot in 2019 and remain in the thick of their rebuilding effort. But that hasn’t stopped the White Sox from being uber aggressive this winter. It hasn’t stopped them from trying to sign not just a free agent but the free agent, Bryce Harper, to a monstrous contract that could be the biggest baseball has ever seen.

But here’s the biggest thing worth learning about the White Sox right now: This is all part of the plan.

"We're excited to be discussing impactful moves for the long term,” general manager Rick Hahn said Thursday, the final day of these Winter Meetings. “We've made no secret, it's been a tough couple years on everyone associated with the White Sox, an understandably tough couple of years given what we're trying to accomplish for the long term. And it's good to have a seat at the table on some large, impactful moves.

“Now it doesn't necessarily mean that anything's going to come together. We still have a fair amount of work to do, and even if we are able to convert on something big, there's still going to be work behind it over the coming years to get us where we need to be."

A quick glance at the situation, at the win-loss record might make it seem like the White Sox have lost interest in rebuilding, that they’ve decided to completely flip the script in one winter by backing a dump truck full of money up to Harper’s driveway here in Vegas and saying, “Come make us a winner right now because we are sick of losing.”

But that’s not what’s happening.

Is there frustration over a combined 195 losses in the last two seasons? You betcha. But the courtship of Harper — and that of his fellow mega free agent, Manny Machado — isn’t an act of desperation. It’s a step in this process that Rick Hahn and his front office began at these Winter Meetings two years ago, when they traded Chris Sale and Adam Eaton for the first of many highly touted prospects.

While those prospects have always been the foundation and the majority of the roster of the future, there were always going to be “finishing pieces,” as Hahn calls them, players that would have to be brought in from outside the organization to vault the White Sox from rebuilders to contenders. And those pieces were always going to have to fit with the long-term plan, with the bright future, with all those prospects.

Harper and Machado are exactly that, even though the timeline might be a bit wonky. Either 26-year-old superstar would provide a centerpiece for the young talent to grow up around, and all combined, the plan is they would develop into the perennial championship contender this process was designed to create.

Why now, though? Well, it comes down to opportunity. Harper and Machado won’t be free agents next winter. This is when the White Sox have the opportunity to get one of them, and they’re trying to take advantage. Does it mean they’ll be a playoff team next year? No, probably not. But the pitch is that over the course of what could be a decade-long contract, there will be multiple playoff appearances and a chance to win multiple championships alongside Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, Luis Robert and plenty of others.

If the rebuilding process is a years-long to-do list, one of the items is bringing in a player like this — or trying to, at the very least.

It still might seem surprising, but jumping into the Harper and Machado derbies with both feet does nothing to take the White Sox off the track they set for themselves two years ago.

“It’s good that there’s excitement,” Hahn said. “At the same time, we are taking an approach where we will remain consistent with what our vision has been for this team for the long term. If something or somethings come together in the coming weeks that reinforce that long-term vision, you know we will act on it.”

But it’s equally important to remember that the White Sox rebuild does not hinge on the decision of Harper or Machado. Harper could wind up in Philadelphia, Machado could wind up in New York, and the White Sox bright future won’t be dimmed. Jimenez could wind up being just as impactful when he arrives early on in the 2019 campaign. And then there’s another loaded free-agent class next winter. And there’s the possibility of trading from a position of prospect strength for an elite talent.

The pitch seems to be working.

Obviously, money is going to play a huge factor and the financial flexibility the rebuild has created might end up making a bigger difference than the attraction of playing alongside this collection of young players for the next 10 years.

But the White Sox are in this position because of what they’ve done over the last two years. In cultivating a bright future and positioning themselves financially, they’ve become a team that is, at the very least, worth considering as a destination for baseball’s best players. That’s great news for White Sox fans who keep up to date with all the latest rumors. It’s even better news for the White Sox, no matter how this Harper sweepstakes turns out.

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Beating Aaron Rodgers this weekend could well be the Bears' biggest hurdle of the season

Beating Aaron Rodgers this weekend could well be the Bears' biggest hurdle of the season

Talk to anyone at Halas Hall and you can tell that the Bears' Week 1 heartbreaker is still fresh in their mind. 

Fast forward 14 weeks and the Bears are firmly in the drivers seat, looking to clinch a NFC North title for the first time since 2010, and to do so at home for the first time since 2006. 

Standing between the Chicago and a division title just happens to be Aaron Rodgers, who, to put it gently, has had the Bears' number over his career. It's been three years since Rodgers lost to the Bears. In the 20 games he's played against them, the QB is 16-4 with a 108.3 QB rating. He's thrown 45 touchdowns against them, the most of any team he's played. So what makes him so consistently able to send Bears fans home unhappy?

"Well, his talent level is extremely high," defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. "His experience level is extremely high, and all of his experiences have come in the same scheme, so when you combine talent, NFL experience, scheme experience, that’s what you get."

"He just refuses to lose, he refuses to go down," linebacker Danny Trevanthan added. "He refuses to let a play just be a play.  He wants to extend it and make it a great play each time he gets the ball. He does a good job with his legs of getting guys open. He does a great job of creating situations where they work at and practice it some. We just have got to be on our Ps and Qs. We know what he likes to do. We know that if we let him get started he can really tear you up."

This Sunday's matchup, however, brings a new and interesting wrinkle into recent Bears-Packers history: it'll be the first time that Bears see Rodgers without the scheming of head coach Mike McCarthy, who was fired two weeks ago after an unflattering home loss to the 2-9 Arizona Cardinals. Despite the unusually tumultuous season in Green Bay, the QB's play has remained consistent - no one has less interceptions than Rodgers, who threw his first of the year last week against Buffalo. 

New starting nickle corner Sherrick McManis, when asked how Rodgers has kept his interception numbers so low, had the best response:

"I have no idea." 

"He’s a great quarterback," cornerback Prince Amukamara said. "You don’t even want to call him conservative, he just takes calculated chances and he’s very precise and the receivers help him out in not throwing picks, also. So we’re going to have to do a good job and continue to do a good job of getting the ball, somehow." 

Between a Bears team that leads the NFL in turnover differential and a Green Bay QB who now owns now owns the NFL record for most consecutive pass attempts (368) without an interception, something's got to give, right?

"That doesn’t excite me, 368 passes, I’ll tell you that," head coach Matt Nagy said. "He protects the football. And he has extreme confidence in how he does it. And he’s been doing it for a long time. So the No. 1 thing we have to do is try to break that. But there’s a reason why it’s so hard and why he does that. He has seen a lot of different defenses come at him. He has obviously seen our defensive scheme.

"... it’ll be a big-time challenge for us. But I think our guys will be up for it coming off of the way they just played against the Rams. Their confidence will be high."