Bears

Dempster trying to keep Cubs from the breaking point

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Dempster trying to keep Cubs from the breaking point

MINNEAPOLIS Ryan Dempsters time horizon is five days out, not looking beyond his next start. But this Cubs season is slowly coming into a historical focus: Worst. Team. Ever.

Thats not exactly fair, because the expectations are low, theres still 63 percent of the schedule left and Theo Epsteins front office is looking at a bigger picture of the next five or 10 years.

But manager Dale Sveum chuckled and didnt dismiss the idea when it was suggested on Sunday morning before Dempster went out and threw eight shutout innings in an 8-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.

That still left the 20-40 Cubs on pace to lose 108 games, which would break the record for a franchise that began play in 1876. The magic number is 103, which was put up by Cubs teams in 1962 and 1966.

Hopefully, you have to change the pace, Sveum said. You laugh about it, but its definitely there. Its a reality. You dont want any kind of label like that. You better back it up pretty quick, anyway, if you get that label. But, hey, sometimes you bite the bullet on things. Thats just the way it is, unfortunately.

On an everyday basis, yeah, everybody wants you to snap and yell and scream. (But) Ive already done that once, so what are you going to do? Are you going to keep doing it? That doesnt make any sense when the guys are busting their (butts) and preparing every single day. Its not like were throwing balls all over the place.

Sveum wouldnt go into details about his breaking point, but this 10-game road trip wore everyone out. Within the past three weeks, the Cubs have played 16 of 19 games on the road and traveled 6,770 miles through the air.

We just have to be like more relaxed and do the job, Alfonso Soriano said, not try to put too much pressure on ourselves and just let it happen.

Im very surprised where we are, the way we play. Its not the talent. Its the confidence that we lost, and now we got to work to get (it) back.

Soriano got things started with a two-out RBI double in the first inning, and went 6-for-13 with three homers as the designated hitter during this three-game interleague series against the Twins (24-35).

Dempster, who has thrown 15 consecutive shutout innings, also showcased himself, winning both games on this 2-8 road trip.

Were doing good, Dempster said. I mean, as good as can be expected.

Dempster has a 2.31 ERA through 11 starts and would be a positive addition to any clubhouse. The Cubs anticipate this being a sellers market.

We all know what Dempster is, Sveum said. The professionalism and the hard work and obviously the stuff he has on the mound to be one of the top tier guys all the time. (Given) his makeup and his work ethic and his veteran leadership, theres not too many guys like him around that have that whole package.

What will this look like once the Cubs start selling off parts? Well, their hard luck figures to even out a little bit in close games. Anthony Rizzo should eventually give this lineup a jolt, though theyll have to deal with more growing pains once the promotions are made from Triple-A Iowa. The people in the dugout cant think that way.

We just got to get better in certain areas, Sveum said. Thats the way it is. We know that, but unfortunately, that mark is there after 60 games to (bleep) break a lot of records. (Bleep), we got to start winning some baseball games.

Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7

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USA TODAY

Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7

The Bears were not at their best against the New England Patriots on Sunday. They made plenty of mistakes on all three phases and gave Tom Brady too many opportunities to control the game.

It wasn’t all bad from Chicago, though. Trey Burton emerged as a new favorite weapon of Mitchell Trubisky, and the tight end was the Bears’ highest-graded player in the game by Pro Football Focus.

Burton had a career high 11 targets, nine catches and 126 yards with a touchdown, giving Trubisky a 144.7 passer rating when targeting his top tight end.

Seven of Burton’s targets and six of his catches traveled 10 or more yards in the air, according to PFF.

Defensively, safety Adrian Amos led the pack with a 74.6 overall grade. He did not miss a tackle after missing a career-high five last week, and he allowed only one catch for eight yards against the Patriots.

On the bottom of the scale, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd received the second-lowest grade of his career (38.9 overall) for his performance. He did not record any pressure on the quarterback in 13 pass rushing snaps, and he allowed two catches for 13 yards and a touchdown in coverage against running back James White.

Wide receiver Allen Robinson had a career-low grade as well at 44.9 overall. He was clearly limited by his groin injury, targeted five times with one catch for four yards and a dropped pass.

Overall, the Bears were able to stick with one of the top teams in the AFC while also leaving a lot of room for improvement. It’s a step in the right direction from where Chicago was in recent seasons.

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

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AP

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

Don't tell Wendell Carter Jr. the center position is a dying breed.

The 19-year-old rookie hasn't exactly been able to ease into the NBA, finding himself up against a handful of All-Stars and powerful frontcourts just five days into his career.

It culminated Monday night with a date against Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan, and once again the seventh overall pick held his own. It was much of the same as it was against Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Detroit's Andre Drummond last week (and Nikola Jokic in the preseason finale): some good, some bad, plenty of poise and zero backing down. The NBA is unforgiving, but this could very well be the toughest stretch Carter faces all season.

"He’s playing against top level centers now," Fred Hoiberg said before Monday's game. "It’s a great experience for him. He’s going to learn and get better and he plays within himself, we will continue to look for him to be more aggressive."

He was as aggressive as the Bulls have seen him against Jordan and the Mavericks. He blew by the 20 and 18 minutes he played in the first two games of the year, totalling 32 minutes. His final line won't tell the story - 4 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a block - of a Carter who defended well at the rim, picking and choosing his spots on when to attack shots and when to simply use his verticality.

He wasn't credited for a block but he contested a Jordan dunk that turned into a Bobby Portis dunk on the other end. Plus-minus isn't always a good indicator of a player's worth, but Carter was a +5 in a 14-point Bulls loss. He even attempted a corner 3-pointer early in the shot clock, showing no hesitation. Carter's had his moments, but it's also apparent he's got a 19-year-old body going up against veterans each night. That'll come with time in the weight room. For now the experience is 

"I appreciate the fact I’m able to play against these very talented bigs early in my career," Carter said after the loss to the Pistons. "What I need to work on is I have to get stronger; that’s the first thing I recognize; just being up against the best. I love the competition. It’s always a great feeling going against the best."

What the Bulls are finding out is they have a player mature beyond his years. As he progresses he'll continue to get more difficult assignments. He had his rookie moment late in Monday's loss, committing a turnover in the backcourt after the Bulls had cut the deficit to five with 35 seconds left. The fouls are also an issue, as Carter has committed 10 in three games (after committing 17 in five preseason games).

That doesn't necessarily seem important for a Lottery-bound team, but considering the continued struggles of Robin Lopez (and Cristiano Felicio is entirely out of the rotation) it is. Lopez had 2 points and 1 rebound in 10 minutes while committing five personal fouls. In three games he has 11 personal fouls and 11 points, and also has more turnovers (five) than rebounds (four). If the Bulls are going to compete until Lauri Markkanen returns, Carter will need to hover around the 32 minutes he played Monday.

He'll get a much easier test on Wednesday when the Charlotte Hornets arrive in town. Cody Zeller doesn't exactly have the credentials of a Jokic or Embiid, meaning Carter may have a little more room to work. 

The Bulls know they have something in Carter. It'll be abother month until they can deploy him alongside Markkanen, but if the first three games are any indication, Carter won't have any problems matching up with some of the league's best.