Blackhawks

Kobe calls for changes to the struggling Lakers

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Kobe calls for changes to the struggling Lakers

From Comcast SportsNetCHICAGO (AP) -- Kobe Bryant couldn't restrain himself after this one.It wasn't just that the Lakers lost again. It was how they did it, where they did it, and he was simply seething.He even put out a call to ditch Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo style and post up more after Pau Gasol got moved into a reserve role."We're going to have to look at some things," Bryant said after Los Angeles lost 95-83 at Chicago on Monday. "We're going to have to change something. Probably going to have to post the ball a lot more, slow the game down a lot more. That's just my intuition, but that's my gut right now. I have to take a look at the film again, but we're definitely going to have to change something."Kirk Hinrich scored a season-high 22 points, Marco Belinelli added 15 points, and the Bulls pulled away down the stretch to beat the struggling Lakers.Belinelli came up big in the closing minutes, scoring eight points during an 18-4 run that broke a 75-75 tie and sent the Lakers to their ninth loss in 11 games.He started it by hitting two free throws after getting fouled by Dwight Howard with 6:54 left in the game and wrapped two 3-pointers around a layup by Los Angeles' Earl Clark, making it 89-79 with 2:27 remaining.The Lakers have now dropped six straight on the road, and this one came after D'Antoni made that lineup switch. He replaced Gasol with Clark, but the slide continued on a night when Bryant and Howard were mostly nonfactors."Very, very tough, very, very frustrating, trying to keep my cool," Bryant said. "It is embarassing. It is not even embarassing. I am a big history guy. Playing here in this arena with these incredible fans, you're in the house of MJ, Pippen, PJ (Phil Jackson) built, to put this kind of brand of basketball on the floor is just not acceptable."Hinrich hit 9 of 11 shots and nailed three 3-pointers. Belinelli and Nate Robinson (11 points) also hit three, and the Bulls were 9 of 17 overall from long range.Joakim Noah added 13 rebounds and a season-best six blocks after sitting out the final 22 minutes, 53 seconds of Saturday's loss to Memphis. He blamed himself for the benching the other night, saying, "That was all me."Noah was angry at coach Tom Thibodeau for taking him out of the game and acknowledged saying some things he should not have. He wouldn't say if he and Thibodeau discussed the incident, but he made it clear he had no one to blame but himself."I admit it," he said. "It was my fault. I shouldn't have said the things that I said."Carlos Boozer chipped in with 14 points and six rebounds. Richard Hamilton scored 13, although he shot just 6 of 18. Jimmy Butler, making his second straight start with Luol Deng (sore right hamstring) sidelined, scored 10 while trying to guard Bryant. And Chicago won this one in regulation after playing three straight overtime games.Steve Nash led the Lakers with 18 points, but Bryant finished with just 16 on 7-of-22 shooting. That ended a run of 24 games with 20 or more points."Most of the looks I had tonight were tough shots," Bryant said. "Some of the credit goes to the young fellow, Butler did a good defensively. A lot of that is on me and us, having to try to manufacture something 30 feet from the hoop with a low shot clock is tough."Howard, meanwhile, had just eight points and nine rebounds while picking up five fouls. Clark and Metta World Peace scored 12 apiece, and Gasol added 15 points and 12 rebounds in his new reserve role.D'Antoni made the switch because he wanted a quicker lineup. Even so, it was an eye-opening move, considering Gasol scored 25 at Toronto on Sunday."It isn't against him, it's better for us right now," D'Antoni said before the game. "We're going to try to work through it and see what we can do. Things do change, things happen, I can't see the future but we're ready to go forward."Clearly, Gasol wasn't thrilled by the switch. He said he's "not excited" about it, and the move caught him off guard. He's not sure about his future in Los Angeles, either."I have no idea," he said. "I can't really worry about something that is out of my hands so I am just going to stay positive and do my best, but it is not something I am too thrilled about. I wasn't expecting it. But right now we have bigger things to worry about as a group. As a team player that's what I'm most concern about."NOTES:Thibodeau said star PG Derrick Rose is "very close" to starting full contact drills in practice, the next step in his recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Could it happen this week? "Yeah -- it could," Thibodeau said. Is it scheduled to happen this week? Thibodeau said, "It could." He also said Rose will have to go through full-contact drills "for an extended amount of time" and that he won't be playing after "one or two days of contact."

Do the Blackhawks have room to sign John Tavares?

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USA TODAY

Do the Blackhawks have room to sign John Tavares?

The NHL Draft is over. Farm systems have been restocked and now the focus has shifted to free agency, where the fun is just beginning.

The biggest fish on the market is John Tavares, a franchise-changing center in the heart of his prime. For a little bit, it seemed like the loyal New York Islanders captain was ready to move on after they took another step back by missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

But then Lou Lamiorello became available and was snatched up by Long Island. His first order of business was relieving GM Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight of their duties, the first real sign that significant changes were coming. The next was securing Barry Trotz as head coach after he couldn't agree to terms on an extension with the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.

For the first time in a while, there appears to be structure in the front office and coaching staff.

Yet, Tavares has remained committed to visiting with reportedly five teams in Los Angeles during the free agent negotiating window that opened Sunday. And he's absolutely earned that right. San Jose and Toronto are believed to be two of the teams. The rest is unclear.

When asked by NBC Sports Chicago's Pat Boyle at the end of the draft on Saturday, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman wouldn't confirm nor deny that they were one of the teams scheduled to meet with Tavares.

"I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise, right?" Bowman said with a smile.

Whether or not they are, could the Blackhawks realistically even make it work?

They actually have the cap space to do it. Or at least they can make room without shuffling too many cards.

As of Sunday, the Blackhawks have $9.225 million in open cap space to fill out six roster spots. If you can find a trade partner for Marian Hossa's contract, that creates an extra $5.275 million, which brings the total up to $14.5 million. That's without subtracting any real bodies from the roster. 

Tavares is likely to command in the $10 million range for average annual value over the next seven years, and the latter part is key. While it would certainly be challenging to have three players eating up at least $10 million each in cap space — with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews at $10.5 million — they could make it work in the short term.

But signing Tavares to a seven-year deal would probably get in the way of the Blackhawks' longer-term goals, which includes re-signing Alex DeBrincat and Nick Schmaltz when their entry-level deals expire and even Vinnie Hinostroza when his new two-year contract ends.

Are the Blackhawks willing to risk that?

For Tavares, maybe. But Toews is 30, Kane is 29 and Tavares will be 28 by the time this upcoming season starts. At some point, an infusion of youth would be required to remain competitive for the long term.

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa's 18th homer of June and 31st of the season came off the Tigers in the Cubs' brief 2-game Interleague series in Detroit. 

Sosa connected in the first inning off Tigers starter Seth Greisinger, going back-to-back with Mickey Morandini. 

The Cubs wound up getting out to a 5-0 start in the game but still lost 7-6 on a Gabe Alvarez single in the bottom of the 11th.

The aforementioned Morandini homer was only the 3rd of the season for the Cubs second baseman. He finished with 8 homers on the year and 224 total bases on 172 hits in what was a very good offensive season. Yet it paled in comparison to Sosa, who had nearly 200 more total bases (416) and a slugging percentage nearly 200 points above Morandini's (.647 to .471), a testament to how truly incredible Sosa's season was.

Fun fact: Tony Clark was the Tigers' cleanup hitter that day. Clark is now the head of the MLB Players Union.

Fun fact No. 2: Paul Bako was the Detroit catcher in the game. He later became the Cubs backup catcher in 2003 and 2004, when he posted a .611 OPS in 119 games over the two years.