Bears

Dwight Howard to sit out playoffs?

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Dwight Howard to sit out playoffs?

According to WKMGs Dave Pingalore, Dwight Howard does not want to play for Stan Van Gundy any longer and will likely sit out the postseason.

Howard, whos sitting out the rest of the regular season with a herniated disc in his lower back -- according to Pingalores story -- is still upset about Van Gundy choosing to tell reporters that the Orlando big man did indeed ask management that he be fired.

Already dealing with a herniated disc, it seems unlikely Howard could return in the playoffs and anywhere near the form he has been for most of the season and that could have nothing to do with Van Gundy.

Most believe that Van Gundy will be let go during the summer as the franchise wants to do everything in its power to keep the three-time Defensive champ happy as he will be in the final year of his contract next season.

Prior to Monday nights 113-100 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, Van Gundy told reporters; "Our approach is this is our team, the 13 guys that we have without Hedo and Dwight. If we get one or both of them back (before the playoffs) thats a bonus. We need to keep our focus on playing well enough each night to win. Thats a better mentality than just trying to hold down the fort until Dwight comes back because there really are no guarantees there with him."

Howard averaged 20.6 points, 14.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks this season.

NFL betting odds: Bears open as only slight favorites over 49ers in Week 16

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USA TODAY

NFL betting odds: Bears open as only slight favorites over 49ers in Week 16

The Bears are flying high as NFC North champions, riding back-to-back wins over the Los Angeles Rams and Green Bay Packers.

Now, they turn their attention to a potential first-round bye and deep playoff run.

With all of their recent success, it’s surprising that Las Vegas doesn’t see Chicago as a very big favorite over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 16.

As of Tuesday, the betting line stands at Bears by only four, according to Vegas Insiders.

The 49ers are coming off of a big, overtime win over the playoff-bound Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, but they still sit at just 4-10 on the season as they rely on No. 3 quarterback Nick Mullens.

The Bears were favored by more against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers last week and covered the spread, but oddsmakers evidently like San Francisco’s chances to keep things closer.

In terms of point total, Vegas is expecting one of the weekend’s lower-scoring games with the over/under set at 42.5 at most sportsbooks.

Vic Fangio’s defense has kept Chicago out of shootouts this season, and San Francisco hasn’t exactly lit anyone up in a while.

The Bears could be in for another slug fest on Sunday, at least that’s what Las Vegas seems to be predicting.

 

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State of the Cubs: Second base

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USA TODAY

State of the Cubs: Second base

As the Cubs maneuver through a pivotal offseason, we will break down the current state of the team by sectioning it off into position groups. Here is the fifth installment on the second basemen.

Second base was the only positon group the Cubs had close to starter-level at-bats available this winter, but that is probably no longer the case with Tuesday's signing of Daniel Descalso.

The Cubs entered December with only Ben Zobrist as a true second base option for 2019 with Daniel Murphy a free agent and Javy Baez sliding over to shortstop full time for at least the first month of the season (or longer if Addison Russell is not a part of the team's plans after his suspension).

The Descalso move changes the middle infield equation quite a bit:

Depth chart

1. Ben Zobrist
2. Daniel Descalso
3. David Bote
4. Addison Russell?

First, the Russell/Baez aspect. 

It's still not guaranteed Russell will be back on the active roster when his suspension is up in early May, which would create a larger hole on the middle infield depth chart.

But for right now, Russell is under contract and he may be a part of the active roster in the first week of May, so if he does return, how does that change the shortstop/second base rotation?

Speaking strictly about his on-field production, Russell's offense has left a lot to be desired over the last few years, but his defense has been elite. An active Russell on the roster would mean the Cubs could have arguably the best middle infield defense in the game with him at short and Baez at second. 

The Cubs could start Russell a few times a week at shortstop and play Baez over there the rest of the time. When Russell plays short, Baez can play second or he can go to third and move Kris Bryant to the outfield. On days Baez starts at shortstop, the Cubs can bring Russell off the bench to play shortstop and move Baez to one of the other spots to improve their late-game infield defense.

For the first month of the season, expect to see Descalso and Zobrist man second base a majority of the time. Zobrist will still only play 4-5 times a week as the Cubs look to continue the plan that made the veteran utilty guy one of the top comeback stories in the league in 2018, with a heavy dose of rest and some regular time in the outfield and away from the demanding position of second base.

Descalso's career splits are essentially the same, so even though he's a left-handed hitter, he can still draw starts against southpaws, allowing Zobrist to spell Jason Heyward or Kyle Schwarber in the outfield.

Either way, Ian Happ appears to be out of the second base equation for the Cubs. The young switch-hitter did not draw a start at second in 2018, playing only two games and 3 innings at the position.

What's next?

Probably not much, save for a few non-roster invitees that could surprise in spring training. The Cubs have next to no infield depth in the minor leagues at the moment, but that will change as the winter goes on.

The big-league roster does not have much room, though the big question mark that remains is Russell and where/if he is included from May on.

The Cubs could opt to keep Bote in the minors to start the year and add another veteran on the bench, but as of right now, Bote's league-minimum salary, versatility and stellar glove are awfully enticing.

The bottom line

The Cubs' second basemen are going to have an average age of 35 in 2018 (at least to start) with Zobrist (38) and Descalso (32) manning the position.

State of the Cubs: SP
State of the Cubs: RP
State of the Cubs: C
State of the Cubs: 1B
State of the Cubs: 2B

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