Bulls

Berry, Pause awarded MLS honors

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Berry, Pause awarded MLS honors

The Fires playoff run may be over, but Mondays start of Major League Soccers awards began with two honors given to Chicago.

The Fire won the first two individual awards, with defender Austin Berry named Rookie-of-the-Year and captain-midfielder Logan Pause earning the Individual Fair Play Award.

Berry, out of the University of Louisville, beat out a former college teammate to become the third Rookie-of-the-Year in Fire history. Nick DeLeon of D.C. United was the runner-up, but wound up far behind Berry in the voting.

"Nicks a very special player," said Berry. "It was good to see a buddy do just as well in the league. We had a friendly competition."

Berry was the sixth player in Fire history to be a finalist for Rookie-of-the-Year, but the only two to win it before him were defender Carlos Bocanegra in 2000 and striker Damani Ralph in 2003. Bocanegra went on to play for some top clubs in Europe and captain the U.S. national team. Ralph moved to a Russian club after playing for the Fire, but his career has been hampered by injuries.

As for Berry, hes ready for a break with the Fire done with its brief postseason training period after the club was eliminated by the Houston Dynamo in the Knockout Round of the playoffs.

"Ill be taking a long break, maybe a couple weeks, but its up in the air as to when," said Berry. "As a rookie youre not ready for this many games. Basically a college season is three-four months."

With the Fire, though, the season started with preseason training in January and encompassed 34 MLS regular season matches, one U.S. Open Cup match and two international friendlies before coming to a competitive close on Oct. 31. Jalil Anibaba, a fellow defender and first-round draft choice in 2011, alerted Berry as to what his first professional season would be like.

"He gave me advice because he went through the same thing," said Berry. "With the season so long, it was mentally draining."

Berry figured to play behind two veterans with international experiences in Cory Gibbs and Arne Friedrich when the season started. Gibbs, however, was lost to season-ending knee surgery in the third game and Berry was thrust into a starting role. He immediately proved worthy of it, scoring a goal in his first start.

Finalists for the awards, which will be presented periodically leading into the MLS Cup final rematch between the Los Angeles Galaxy and Dynamo on Dec. 1, were determined by votes from media, MLS players and MLS club management based on regular season performance. Three rookies were finalists, with Berry and DeLeon going one-two and Vancouver forward Darren Mattocks finishing third. Berry garnered more than half the votes.

Berry was the third Fire rookie to score in his first start and he played every minute of his 28 games, breaking the club record for consecutive starts by a rookie set by Bocanegra.

Pause, meanwhile, took the Individual Fair Play Award, which was based on objective criteria such as fouls committed, cards received and games and minutes played as well as subjective evaluation of sportsmanlike behavior.

In his 10th MLS campaign, Pause was a starter in 31 of his 32 appearances. He committed only 11 fouls and had no cards. He missed just two matches after suffering two broken ribs and pneumothorax in a match against Philadelphia on Aug. 12.

The MLS Humanitarian-of-the-Year in 2009, Pause also served on the board of the directors for the Chicago Fire Foundation, the non-profit arm of the club.

Unfortunately, these will be the last individual awards the Fire will receive in 2012. The club had no other finalists in the other categories.

Observations from Bulls-Lakers: Jabari's back in the rotation and Lakers fans get no tacos!

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USA TODAY

Observations from Bulls-Lakers: Jabari's back in the rotation and Lakers fans get no tacos!

The Bulls have now lost eight straight. The most recent defeat came in Los Angeles against a LeBron-less Lakers team, and there's not a whole lot to take from it. But we tried to find three items.

1. It was just one game, but Jabari Parker looks reinvigorated

Jabari Parker looks like he's back in the rotation to stay - or until he's traded - and while it was just a one-game sample size, he sure looks like he wants to remain there, too.

Parker's statline won't jump out in the box score but he made a few plays defensively and was arguably the Bulls' best offensive player. He hit a couple tough jumpers, made an important hustle play in the fourth quarter and finished with a jam. He wasn't outstanding defensively but played a few passing lanes and contested a few shots inside.

All isn't forgiven, and he isn't going to give Rudy Gobert a run for his money for Defensive Player of the Year, but it's about baby steps with Parker. Whether it's to help the Bulls progress as a young team, or to showcase his talents (we're using that word liberally) for a potential trade, these are seriously important games for Parker and the Bulls.

Part of his night came in that frantic stretch in the final minutes of the game (see below) and he finished with a team-high 18 points on 7 of 10 shooting, a pair of 3-pointers, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals in just 17 minutes.

The better Parker plays, the more interest there is in him around the league. His contract still makes him a minimal asset and the Bulls can't expect to get much in return for him, but it beats him rotting on the end of the bench or taking minutes away from Markkanen or Bobby Portis.

2. Shaq Harrison rips out the heart of 21,000+ at Staples Center

If you're a true #AuthenticFan and stayed up through the end of the Bulls game you saw an incredible fourth quarter run in which the Bulls....denied Lakers fans free tacos.

Staples Center and the Lakers run a promotion where if the team wins and holds its opponent under 100 points, all fans in attendance get free tacos from Jack In The Box.

Fans looked to be in good shape as the Bulls had just 83 points with 2:19 remaining. From there, the Bulls' possessions went: 2 made free throws (85), layup (87), 3-pointer (90), dunk (92), one free throw (93), layup (95), 3-pointer (98). There were just 35 seconds remaining at that point, when Jabari Parker missed two free throws and gave the ball back to the Lakers.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope split a pair of free throws with 19.2 seconds left. And on the Bulls' presumably final possession, Shaq Harrison missed a 3-pointer, but Ryan Arcidiacono grabbed an offensive rebound and found Harrison on the left wing, who pump faked and drew a foul on Ivica Zubac.

Harrison made the first two free throws to give the Bulls 100 points and send fans home hungry. The entire sequence was amazing.

3. It doesn't get any easier for the Bulls

The Bulls have now lost eight straight games, four more than the second longest losing streak in the league (New York). And the road isn't getting any easier.

They'll finish this difficult West Coast road trip on Thursday against the Denver Nuggets, who were just embarrassed by the Warriors on their home floor. You can bet the West's top seed is going to come out and play with some serious passion. That spells trouble for the Bulls.

On Saturday the Bulls return home to face the Heat, who are all sorts of a mess right now. But that first game after a road trip is a seriously difficult one. That could easily be a loss.

Then the Zion Bowl occurs on Monday: Bulls-Cavs.

It's the Cam Payne revenge game and it's going to be glorious. The Bulls should win that one, but then again....the Cavaliers beat the Lakers in L.A. on Tuesday and the Bulls couldn't do that.

Joe Maddon states that Bryce Harper on Cubs "not going to happen"

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USA TODAY

Joe Maddon states that Bryce Harper on Cubs "not going to happen"

Per Jesse Rogers of ESPN, after being asked if the Cubs would sign mega-free agent Bryce Harper, Cubs skipper Joe Maddon replied “Not going to happen”.

This retort from Maddon falls in line with the stance that ownership has reportedly taken in the Harper sweepstakes.


The Cubs could no doubt use some help to boost their up-and-down offense but it looks like it won’t come in the form of Harper. As of now, the Phillies still sit as the front-runners for the mega-free agent after reports of a 5-hour meeting between the two side arose