Bears

McDonough never lost faith in Coach Q, proud of Hawks

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McDonough never lost faith in Coach Q, proud of Hawks

When the Chicago Blackhawks went through their awful nine-game winless streak through late January and early February, the sky was falling through the world of fandom and knee-jerk reactionary sports blogs.

Fire this guy, fire that guy, trade somebody, do something now. And as unpleasant as it all was, the team president said he had faith that the guys in charge, and the guys playing for them, would get through it.

Blackhawks president John McDonough said there was never a thought of getting rid of coach Joel Quenneville or trading anyone during the losing streak. And hes proud of how the Blackhawks came out of that mess to be back in the playoff race.

Absolutely not, McDonough said. We have great confidence in Joel. Hes been through these things before and won two Stanley Cups (one as an assistant with the Colorado Avalanche). Ive been in sports for 32 years; weve seen these losing streaks. Theyre not a lot of fun to go through but good teams figure a way to come out of them, which we did. Im proud of the organization. Theres no panic button here.

McDonough credited Joel with his work, as well as Stan Bowman. The general managers move to acquire defenseman Johnny Oduya at the trade deadline has paid big dividends, balancing a defense corps and giving it another needed veteran presence.

And McDonoughs also impressed with how the Blackhawks have fared without Jonathan Toews; the team is now 11-5-2 without their captain.

Im really proud of how they responded. Its a challenge to be without your captain for close to 20 games, but it speaks to the depth of the organization, the job Joel and the staff has done, the pickup that Stan made with Johnny Oduya. We still have a little ways to go, want to get that playoff berth nailed down ad hopefully that happens soon.

The playoffs are close to the Blackhawks grasp. McDonough said there was no doubt the team was going to stay the course, losing streak or not. And even if the Blackhawks go on a short playoff run, he doesnt foresee changes.

The knee-jerk reactions remain well outside the front-office walls.

Weve all been through this before. We have a very good team from top to bottom and we have one of the premiere coaches, McDonough said. Joel Quenneville has more wins than any active NHL coach. Were proud of what hes done here in Chicago, but we all had conversations on how to get out of it. The time and effort everyone put into that is really laudable.

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.