Bulls

Boden: Luongo to Hawks is a ludicrous idea

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Boden: Luongo to Hawks is a ludicrous idea

I have a lot of respect (and learn a lot) from many of the more prominent national reporters on the NHL beat. But after hearing an idea floated by a handful of them since the Canucks -- and then the Blackhawks -- were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, Im here to set the record straight on a theory that makes absolutely no sense.

Its as simple as this: Roberto Luongo is not coming to the Blackhawks.

Blackhawks management, and most Blackhawks fans, understand this makes absolutely no sense and would create another headache instead of solve the ones theyll try to address this offseason. I thought this blindfolded dart-throwing had run its course, but there it was again this week in the pages of Sports Illustrated magazine and on the television screen of NHL Network. Lets just count the reasons it wont happen:

1. If Luongo couldnt perform to his capabilities in a town that actually cheers for him, how would he handle things playing for a fan base that doesnt like him? How would he handle things playing for a team that added to his professional misery for three straight playoffs? And this isnt the hated Dennis Rodman coming to the Bulls with his championship rings from the hated Detroit Pistons as a final piece to another three-peat. Luongo has only a wedding ring.

2. The Blackhawks are not going to help the Canucks get a problem off their hands in trying to make Cory Schneider their goalie of the present and future.

3. The Blackhawks are not going to pay his 5.3 million Salary Cap hit through 2022. They only have roughly 6.8 million of Cap space for next year under the exisiting ceiling right now and that might decrease whenever a new CBA is reached. Oh, and Im sure Vancouver would want players, prospects or draft picks in return.

4. The opinion here is that theres just not a very high regard for Luongo as a goalie in the locker room or with most of those making player personnel decisions. This is not a fact, but a belief through observation over the past three years.

So those are the four main reasons it wont happen. There are probably a few other legitimate ones we could come up with as well. For those Hawks fans who do think the team needs someone better than Corey Crawford as their No. 1 netminder, feel free to speak up if you believe Luongos the answer.

I try not to come off as a flag-waving Crawford supporter, but it appears the organization is going to see how he bounces back from this past season, with Ray Emery again backing him up. Unless the team includes Crawford in a deal in which they get another goalie in return, he wont be going anywhere. Based on his rookie season, you know the capability is in there -- and if he is, in fact, still around whenever training camp begins -- this will be the season that shapes his career.

I dont remember a lot of people screaming last summer to let him go when he was a restricted free agent after taking over the starting role. He has two years remaining on that deal at a reasonable Cap hit (2.66 million), and if he regains that rookie form, Im sure most Hawks fans would be satisfied. For those wanting the Hawks to get an elite goalie, Ive asked who is elite and available, and what would a trading partner reasonably accept?

But this isnt about Crawford, really. Its about Luongo and about how hes definitely not an answer in Chicago. If Nikolai Khabibulin, Cristobal Huet and Marty Turco thought they had it tough living up to expectations in recent years here, what would Bobby Lu be in for?

The Canucks will have to find someone other than this rival to help ease their headache in the crease.

Lauri Markkanen celebrates 21st birthday with a spot on the NBA's All-Rookie First Team

Lauri Markkanen celebrates 21st birthday with a spot on the NBA's All-Rookie First Team

Lauri Markkanen’s celebration for his 21st birthday coincided with another major honor, being selected to the All-Rookie First team.

Markkanen received 76 of 100 possible first-team votes to join Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, Boston’s Jayson Tatum and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma on the first team. Mitchell and Simmons were unanimous selections and Tatum was one vote short of joining Mitchell and Simmons.

Markkanen, acquired on draft night in the package of players for Jimmy Butler, showed he was far more advanced than many expected. His 15.2 points per game ranked third among rookies and his 7.5 rebounds were first.

Markkanen was a constant in a topsy-turvy season for the Bulls, scoring 30-plus twice and hitting the 25-point plateau another three times. As a perfect fit in Fred Hoiberg’s offensive system, Markkanen had eight games where he hit four triples or more, including a game in New York where he drilled eight 3-pointers against the Knicks.

Only 15 rookies have hit more than 140 triples in NBA history, with Markkanen accomplishing the feat in 68 games—he was joined by Mitchell and Kuzma from this year’s star-studded class.

As the season progressed and Markkanen took hold of the power forward position, the Bulls began maneuvering personnel around him, trading disgruntled forward Nikola Mirotic and making a concerted effort to put Bobby Portis at center to pair Portis with Markkanen as a spread-shooting duo.

As the most impressive rookie the Bulls have employed since Derrick Rose, he’s also the first rookie since Taj Gibson in 2010 to make All-Rookie First Team.

Bears backfield ranked fourth-best in NFL

Bears backfield ranked fourth-best in NFL

The Chicago Bears have a really good problem in their backfield. Both Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen will demand touches in 2018 and are each starting-quality running backs. Howard is the more traditional first and second-down back while Cohen offers top-tier playmaking ability.

The duo is so talented that they were recently ranked the fourth-best backfield in the NFL.

The Chicago Bears' Jordan Howard has emerged as one of the NFL's top rushers. He finished his rookie season with 1,313 yards, second-most in the NFL. Last season, he rushed for 1,122 yards and 4.1 yards per carry even though Chicago had the league's least threatening passing attack (175.7 yards per game).

Howard isn't the only standout back on the roster, though. Tarik Cohen is a supremely talented runner and receiver and a perfect complement to Howard. Last season, he amassed 370 rushing yards, 53 receptions and 353 receiving yards.

The Bears' backfield was behind only the Rams, Saints and Chiefs.

Howard set Chicago's rookie rushing record with 1,313 yards in 2016 and became the first Bears running back to start his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He should be the Bears' primary back, but coach Matt Nagy expressed genuine excitement over Cohen's skill set which suggests he plans on getting him the ball quite a bit this season.

Regardless of how the touches play out, the Bears will present opposing defenses with one of the most challenging ground games in the NFL.