Cubs

Look out Lakers: Paul dealt to Clippers

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Look out Lakers: Paul dealt to Clippers

From Comcast SportsNet

LOS ANGELES (AP)Chris Paul will supply the Los Angeles Clippers with so much more than alley-oop passes to Blake Griffin when he arrives in Hollywood on Thursday night.

A bold trade for New Orleans superstar point guard on Wednesday just might alter the entire sports worlds perception of the Clippers. After managing just six winning seasons in their first 41 years of existence, the bumbling Clippers suddenly look slick and scintillating after swinging arguably the biggest trade in franchise history, giving them two of the NBAs elite players and a capable supporting cast.

Outfoxing the Lakers and thrilling their long-suffering fans, Los Angeles on Wednesday traded high-scoring guard Eric Gordon, former All-Star center Chris Kaman, forward Al-Farouq Aminu and a first-round draft choice acquired from Minnesota for Paul, the four-time All-Star widely considered to be the NBAs best point guard.

We decided for a player of Chris caliber that it was just time to make the move and push all our chips into the center of the table, Clippers vice president of basketball operations Neil Olshey told the teams website. Were really happy about it. Chris is the kind of player that makes everybody around him better. Hes a general. He wins. Hes a warrior, and hes going to take this whole organization to the next level.

Even the Clippers themselves had trouble believing what their front office had just done in the moments after the trade was announced. Most of the players including the ones who were tradedwere on a holiday bus ride with season-ticket holders when their phones blew up with the news.

Griffins reaction was captured by television cameras after he chest-bumped center DeAndre Jordan: Lob city!

Its already a T-shirt in Los Angeles, and it should be a way of life when the playmaking Paul and the high-flying NBA Rookie of the Year get together.

While armchair analysts debate who won the trade and wonder whether the club can keep its newfound assets for the long term, its clear that suddenly the Clippers dont seem to be the modern archetype for sports ineptitude.

Sure, Los Angeles has missed the playoffs 13 times in the last 14 seasons, going 32-50 last spring in the Clippers 18th non-winning season in the past 19 years. The former Buffalo Braves have won just one playoff series since 1976.

And sure, the Clippers are still owned by Donald Sterling, the much-criticized real estate magnate who sometimes heckles his own players from his center-court seat. But the Clippers have been gathering momentum since Olshey replaced Mike Dunleavy in March 2010, patiently stockpiling good players around 2009 top pick Griffin while making runs at free agents such as LeBron James, who gave them a courtesy meeting last summer before heading to Miami.

When Paul made it clear he wouldnt sign a contract extension with the Hornets and was interested in playing in Los Angeles, the Clippers watched while the Lakers three-team trade for Paul was blocked by the NBA last weekand then they pounced, offering a deal that not even Commissioner David Stern could reject.

It was a pivotal moment for us, Olshey said. It took a long time to accumulate the assets for a deal like this.

The 26-year-old Paul is in his basketball prime after averaging 18.7 points and 9.8 assists in his sixth season in New Orleans, which he capped by almost singlehandedly throwing a scare into the two-time defending NBA champion Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.

Paul will earn 16.4 million this year, and hes expected to exercise his player option for the 2012-13 season, making 17.8 million. The Clippers are counting on it, hoping two seasons with Griffin will entice both players to form a long-term partnership.

For Paul, Wednesday nights trade means no more lame-duck practicesor ducking questionsin New Orleans. Hes headed from the Bayou backwater to the bright lights of North Americas second-largest market, teaming up with a forward whose finishing skills are a playmakers dream.

The deal required Sterns approval because the Hornets are owned by the leaguejust one of the many reasons Paul wanted out.

Paul nearly ended up in a different locker room at Staples Center. The Lakers had a deal in place to give up Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol for Paul, only to have Stern nix the trade in a widely criticized decision that gave another black eye to the NBA just as it emerged from a protracted, damaging lockout.

Stern told New Orleans general manager Dell Demps to scrap the Lakers deal because he thought the Hornets could get younger, better players and more enticing assets. Demps claimed he and Stern were acting hand in hand, even though Demps agreed to the deal with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, who voiced the 16-time champions fury to the league.

I knew we were doing the best thing for New Orleans, and that was my job, Stern said. You have to stick with what you think was right. I must confess it wasnt a lot of fun, but I dont get paid to have fun, even though I generally do.

At least the Hornets know who coach Monty Williams will have available when the season opens.

Gordon, who turns 23 on Christmas, averaged 22.3 points last season with a smooth jumper and scoring instincts honed by a stint with the U.S. national team. Aminu is a second-year pro who averaged 5.6 points and 3.3 rebounds as a rookie, making only a negligible impact, while the 7-foot Kaman is an eight-year veteran who averaged 12.4 points and seven rebounds last seasonand has a valuable expiring contract that will pay him 12.2 million this season.

With this trade, we now have three additional players who were among the top eight draft picks in their respective drafts as well as our own first-round pick and (another) first-round pick, Demps said. Aminu is a young talent with a bright future, Gordon is a big-time scorer and one of the best (shooting) guards in the league and Kaman is a proven center and former All-Star.

New Orleans also sent two 2015 second-round draft picks to the Clippers.

Paul showed up for Hornets training camp last Friday, but has not spoken to reporters since. He was excused from a normally mandatory media event Wednesday, hours before the trade went through, in which players pose for photos in uniform and talk about the upcoming season.

He should have plenty to say when the Clippers introduce him to Los Angeles.

We wanted to make sure that we got the best possible deal for a player of Chris caliber, and we feel great about the outcome, said Jac Sperling, whom Stern appointed as the Hornets governor after the league bought the team in December 2010.

MLB Source: Cubs 'got fat and happy' after World Series, culture must change

MLB Source: Cubs 'got fat and happy' after World Series, culture must change

Fact: The 2019 Chicago Cubs wildly underachieved, finishing with an 84-78 record and finishing third in the NL’s Central division. Fact: The Chicago Cubs didn’t fail because they didn’t spend enough money. The Cubs were 2nd in all of baseball in payroll finishing behind only the Boston Red Sox. Both of those teams failed to make baseball’s postseason.
 
Fact: The Cubs front office has done a lousy job acquiring players since winning the 2016 World Series and they have done a poor job in developing quality, big league caliber pitching through their minor league system.

But, it is also a fact that former manager Joe Maddon allowed his comfort level with players interfere with how much he held them accountable and the result was a team that paid little attention to detail and spiraled out of contention. That's the mess Maddon left the Cubs.
 
The reasons the Cubs are struggling are not mutually exclusive. There is no singular reason why they have seen their window of contending for another World Series start to close. But, for people to blame everything on either a lack of spending by ownership or a lousy job by the front office misses a main factor in the Cubs decline.

Multiple sources told me the Cubs have had a lack of attention to detail over the past three years. One person in the organization said, “on the field we got fat and happy and that cannot be allowed to continue.”

When I asked the front office about this perception, Theo Epstein and other members of the Cubs' front office praised Maddon. They have not taken any shots at their World Series winning manager, a first class move when it would be easy to make him the scapegoat.

"Sometimes it's just time. We're going through some transitions in various levels of the organization and think change will be good for this group," Epstein said at the end of the 2019 season.
 
So what does a lack of accountability mean? How does that get fixed?

It starts with every player coming into camp in better physical condition than they ever have been before. The vibe at the recent Cubs Convention is that players are working exceptionally hard and it happened in concert with the player development, strength and conditioning staff that the Cubs have spent the past six months upgrading. Anthony Rizzo for one looked like he is in the best shape I remember him being in since he came to the Cubs.
 
Yes, the Epstein and Jed Hoyer led front office have to be much better in upgrading the roster. Epstein can walk into any room and set his three World Series championship rings on the table and lay out his vision for the future and every owner in baseball would sign up for his plan.

But there is no short cut to fixing what ails the current edition of the Cubs. They have very little payroll flexibility and until the service time grievance of Kris Bryant is settled the Cubs cannot engage in substantive trade talks for him because they don’t know if they are trading one year or two years of team control.
 
And ownership has made a philosophical decision to reset the team’s luxury tax, so there is no magic pot of money Epstein and Hoyer can dip into to fix the multiple holes currently plaguing the roster.

New manager David Ross has to find a way to get more out of the roster than Joe Maddon did and that starts with holding his players far more accountable than Maddon did. When I questioned Maddon at the recent Winter Meetings about about dealing with his critics (most notably me) he said: “I am so self confident in what I do and how I do it, just because guys like you are wrong, I’m not gonna respond to that stuff when it happens.”
 
I neglected to tell Maddon during that interview that while I may have been hard on him at times, my primary criticism was that he did not hold his players accountable far too often. Maddon says I was wrong.

The Cubs effectively fired him and now he's the manager of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Maybe I wasn’t wrong. It sure seems like his bosses felt the same way.

Thank you for 2016 Joe. It was the thrill of a lifetime for all of Cubs Nation. It was time for a change too and that’s okay to admit.

Now it’s on Epstein, Hoyer and Ross to fix the Cubs without a bottomless pit of money. I hope they’re up to the task.

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Eric Ebron interacts with Akiem Hicks AFC Championship tweet, causing free agency speculation

Eric Ebron interacts with Akiem Hicks AFC Championship tweet, causing free agency speculation

Just as Bears fans were finally coming to terms with their disappointing 8-8 season, Akiem Hicks decided to pour some salt on the wound and take to Twitter, imagining what it would’ve been like if the Bears had made it to the NFC Championship game.

While we were all imagining how indeed “lit” it would’ve been to see the Bears play in the post-season at Soldier Field, Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron decided to quote tweet hicks with a thinking face emoji. Curious behavior.

Ebron has played for the Colts since 2018, having a stellar first season in Indianapolis, scoring 14 touchdowns. In 2019, Ebron’s season ended after 11 games due to an ankle injury. He scored three touchdowns, logging 31 catches for 375 yards. Colts GM Chris Ballad has said that the organization is likely to move on from Ebron in 2020, meaning he would be available in free agency. Tight end is one of the positions on the Bears long off-season do to list and Ebron seems he could be a potential fit. Judging by their Twitter interactions, Akiem Hicks and Tarik Cohen seem to think so.

Hicks replied to Ebron telling him he could hear Bears fans calling his name. Cohen echoed this sentiment in his own, albeit more cryptic tweet.

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