Bears

Hamilton getting closer to return from injury

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Hamilton getting closer to return from injury

ATLANTA -- Before the majority of his teammates were even onthe bus to take them to Philips Arena for the Bulls Wednesday-morningshootaround -- sans Brian Scalabrine, his workout partner -- Rip Hamilton waslaunching shots, going through drills and perhaps most importantly, gettingjostled and hit in his effort to return from a right-shoulder injury. However,despite his considerable progress as of late, its unlikely the veteranshooting guard suits up Wednesday evening against the Hawks.Im trying to get as many shots as possible and get myworkout, in addition to the stuff Ive been trying to do in practice, so Imjust trying to get acclimated, get more strength in my shoulders, Hamiltonsaid before the teams shootaround. Theres still some pain in there, but itsgetting better each and every day. Im able to shoot. That was the biggestconcern because its my right side. Im able to get my shot off and I thinkthats the thing that Im really happy with.Well see how it goes today. Today was actually thefirst time I did a little bumping. Thats what me and Scal were doing, himchasing me and bumping, and having a little contact. It was good because thatsthe biggest thingme getting hitnow, the contact, he continued. I definitelythink so. Im happy with my progress. I know that its not going to bepain-free. We just want to prevent me re-aggravating it, anything of that sort,but theres going to be pain. But as long as I can get my hand over my shoulderand be able to shoot the ball, Ill be fine.

Added Bulls head coach Tom Thibideau: Hes doing fine.Game-time decision. Doing more and more. Hes very close.Hes had some contact, he went on to say. His legs aregreat, so hes over all those injuries. We want to make sure the strength isthere in the shoulder. Were very encouraged. Hes doing great right now.The 13-year NBA veteran admitted that workout sessionsarent the same as actual games, but since he prides himself on hisconditioning, Hamilton believes hell get in the swing of things soon after hiseventual return.The games are always different than practice, but Itrain myself to be the best-conditioned athlete in the NBA. But I think thebiggest thing is rhythm, timing. I think theyre the biggest things, trying tocatch your second wind when youre out there for the first time, he said. Theschedules been crazy. I tell people that. Its no secret why everybodysgetting hurt. The back-to-back-to-back games, the traveling, its an adjustmenton everybodys body, but I feel as though when youre out there playing, youforget everything. You forget that youre hurt, youre injured, theres pain oranything like that. The only thing youre focused on is the game and trying toget a win.Today was the first day we actually took a littlecontact on it, so the more, the better and thats the one thing that wereall -- me, Thibs -- really trying to figure out. OK, whens the right time to reallypush it, because you cant dictate contact on the floor when youre playing,so were just trying to figure out when is the best time to really push it,continued Hamilton, who noted that hell wear something protective on hisshoulder when he returns to game action. The guys have been doing an awesomejob. The guys that have been coming off the bench and stepping up, and playingstarters roles have really been awesome. Ronnies been awesome, C.J.s beenawesome, Lucas, Kyle. Those guys have been doing an unbelievable job, so I givethem a lot of credit for playing the way they have been playing and doing whatthey have been doing the last couple weeks.As far as the Bulls other currently-sidelined startingguard, Derrick Rose, the leagues reigning MVP is also on the road to recovery,though unlike Hamilton, he hasnt participated in full-contact drills yet.Hes doing more. Again, game-time decision tonight,said Thibodeau. Hes running now, on the court, so that parts good. Doingmore shooting, more moving. Hes coming along.Injuries aside, Thibodeau has other concerns -- specificallyrebounding and defense -- heading into Wednesdays game, coming off the seasonsworst loss to the Nuggets at home Monday.Weve been a great rebounding team all year. I thinkits one of our strengths. We gang rebound, really. Weve got to get everybodygoing and the more you go, the more you get, so youve got to make the effortto go and youve got to fight for the ball. Hopefully we can correct that, heexplained. Its not any one particular thing and your offense is also tiedinto it, so right now, were not playing with energy and intensity andconcentration. So, weve got to get that part back first and thats in allareas, and theres stretches in those games where weve played very well. Everygame tells you something and we have to correct the things were not doingwell, clean those things up and then strive to be more of a 48-minute team. Toplay with consistency and intensity is so important in this league. I think wewill respond well.

Bears coaching upheavals portend inevitable stumbles

Bears coaching upheavals portend inevitable stumbles

Call it a small Bears reality check, if not a full wake-up call, then at least a nudge in the night. And this sort of thing should be expected, not just in OTAs, not just in training camp or preseason, but when it all counts.

And it should serve as a lesson of sorts. Because some of the underlying reasons are worth a little highlighting and patient understanding around a team that has spent its offseason and millions of dollars refashioning an offense, beginning with coach Matt Nagy and coordinator Mark Helfrich, and that offense wasn’t particularly good on Wednesday.

In a sport where the operative cliché is “just get better each and every day,” the Bears didn’t, but as far as their coach is concerned, “there’s two ways to look at it,” Nagy said. “Whether you say on our side, on offense, trying to see a bunch of different looks a defense can give you, is it too much or not? It’s good for us. It’ll help us out in the long run. It’s good for our players and they’ve handled it well. There’s going to be mistakes but they have it on tape to be able to look at. “

This is about more than just a few bad reps or missed assignments. It’s part of the good-news-bad-news reality that a sea change brings to a team.

The good news is that the Bears have a new coaching staff on offense.

The bad news is that the Bears have a new coaching staff on offense.

The Bears defense is predictably ahead of the offense, hardly a surprise, given that most of the core of the top-10 unit has remained in place. That said, you do have to like the attitude of the barely-above-rookie No. 1 quarterback challenging that assessment Wednesday, with a “Who says that?”

This while the offense has myriad moving and new parts, and interceptions, blown plays and such were occurring for an offense that, like Halas Hall, is a massive building work in progress.

“Well, today was a bad ‘build,’ but that’s to be expected,” Helfrich acknowledged. “We’re adding a chunk each day, I thought today was the first day where we had somebody do something that just like, ‘wait, OK’ – a few positions here and there, a few new guys, obviously a few veterans here and there that it’s all new to, hit the wall.”

It’s a “wall” that arguably is inevitable with a coaching change.

Not to make excuses, but….

For a sense of perspective, scroll back to Jay Cutler, who went through offensive coordinators perhaps faster than he went through socks: a year with Ron Turner, two with Mike Martz, one with Mike Tice, two with Aaron Kromer, one with Adam Gase, one with Dowell Loggains, who at least was a holdover from the Gase year. (Whether Cutler’s failure to match potential with production was the cause of or because of that turnover, this humble and faithful narrator leaves to you, the reader).

More than a few current Bears can only dream of that kind of “stability.” And because of that, the 2018 pre- and regular seasons may be bumpier than the optimism surrounding the Nagy hire was anticipating.

Guard Kyle Long, still not practicing full-go while he rehabs from surgeries, is on his fifth offensive-line coach in six NFL seasons. Center Cody Whitehair, who has started every game since the Bears drafted him in the 2016 second round, has had three different line coaches in as many seasons: Dave Magazu for 2016, Jeremiah Washburn for 2017 and now Harry Hiestand. Left tackle Charles Leno was drafted in 2014, making Hiestand Leno’s fourth O-line coach.

And this is the offensive line, the unit that most engenders use of the term “continuity.”

“Each coach brings in a little bit, different techniques,” Whitehair said. “There’s a lot of time for us to hone in and get to know what he’s trying to teach us. But in the end it’s still football.”

Kevin White is entering his fourth NFL season. He is on his fourth receivers coach (Mike Groh, Curtis Johnson, Zach Azzanni, Mike Furrey) and third different season-starting quarterback (Jay Cutler, Mike Glennon, Mitch Trubisky), not including offseason battery mates ranging from Jimmy Clausen, Brian Hoyer, David Fales and Connor Shaw, depending on how much rep time he spent with which unit at various times during his training camps.

“It doesn’t matter,” White said. “Roll with the punches, come here and do my job every day.”

Regardless of how many bosses you’ve reported to.

White Sox catcher Welington Castillo will reportedly be suspended 80 games for use of PED

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USA TODAY

White Sox catcher Welington Castillo will reportedly be suspended 80 games for use of PED

For the first time since new rules came into effect in 2005, the White Sox will reportedly see a major league player suspended for violating baseball’s ban on performance-enhancing drugs.

Welington Castillo, the team’s biggest offseason addition, will be suspended for 80 games, according to a pair of reports.

The veteran catcher was brought in over the winter to help the rebuilding White Sox in the short and long term. He had a career year offensively and defensively in 2017, and he was acquired to help develop a young pitching staff featuring big pieces of the future like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, and also to swing a solid bat and help this young team learn how to win.

If Castillo proves productive over the course of his two-year deal, the White Sox have a team option that could keep Castillo on the South Side for the 2020 season. That could make him a piece of the puzzle for when the rebuild reaches its apex and the team is ready to start contending for championships. But this news has the potential to change that dramatically.

Zack Collins and Seby Zavala are both having strong offensive seasons at Double-A Birmingham and figure to be the long-term answers behind the plate. But Castillo’s absence from any long-term picture could leave the White Sox without a veteran safety net in the years ahead, depending on how the team decides to react to this news in the coming seasons.

Castillo’s absence for the next 80 games could also have an impact on the development of aforementioned pitchers like Giolito and Lopez. Lopez, in particular, has been throwing really well this season, and Giolito has control issues to work through, as he leads the American League in walks. Without the veteran catcher brought in to help those guys transition to the major league level, how will the transition continue for those two pitchers?

As for who could take Castillo's place on the major league roster, the options are limited. Kevan Smith, who was edged out by Omar Narvaez for the backup-catching job in spring training, is on the disabled list at Triple-A Charlotte, placed there Tuesday. The aforementioned Zavala is also injured at Double-A Birmingham, and it seems far too early to rush Collins to the big leagues. Alfredo Gonzalez is a catcher on the roster at Charlotte. A spot on the 40-man roster would need to be freed up to bring him to Chicago.