Bears

NBA labor talks hit a major wall

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NBA labor talks hit a major wall

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- Three days and 30 hours' worth of talks couldn't produce a new labor deal, so NBA owners and players walked away without knowing when they will meet again. That's happened a few times during the lockout, but this one felt different. There was a nasty tone, including accusations of lying, and an acknowledgement from Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver that he misjudged just how far apart the sides were. More games seem sure to be canceled, and the entire season could be in jeopardy. "I hate to use the expression gloves are off.' But for all intents and purposes, the gloves are off," players' association vice president Maurice Evans said. "With the press conference that they had -- don't want to get into he said, she said, but that just wasn't very accurate. It's evident of the time we spent in the room that we were here, we were bargaining, we were making progress. For it all to suddenly end -- that should speak volumes in itself." The sides remained divided over two main issues -- the division of revenues and the structure of the salary cap system. The dollars were the obstacle Thursday, after the system caused most recent breakdown. "We understand the ramifications of where we are," Silver said. "We're saddened on behalf of the game." Both sides had said there was progress on minor issues in the first two days in the presence of federal mediator George Cohen, and Silver said he brought more optimism than usual into Thursday's session. "But obviously I was disappointed and sort of maybe overestimated where it turns out we were," Silver said. Without a deal, NBA Commissioner David Stern, who missed Thursday's session with the flu, almost certainly will decide more games must be dropped. The season was supposed to begin Nov. 1, but all games through Nov. 14 -- 100 in total -- already have been scrapped, costing players about 170 million in salaries. Stern said previously that he thought games through Christmas were in jeopardy without a deal this week. Silver said the labor committee would speak with Stern on Friday about the future schedule, though no further cancellations are expected yet. Union officials were upset with Silver and Spurs owner Peter Holt's account of the events and felt owners were never serious about trying to make a deal, with union executive director Billy Hunter saying the lockout was "preordained." "They knew when they presented what they were presenting to us that it wasn't going to fly," Hunter said. The union said owners essentially gave it an ultimatum to accept a 50-50 split of revenues. Attorney Jeffrey Kessler said the meeting was "hijacked." "We were shocked," he said. "We went in there trying to negotiate and they came in and they said you either accept 50-50 or we're done and we won't discuss anything else." Both sides praised Cohen and had honored his request not to speak about the process after the first two days. But it was clear by the time talks broke down that there were bad feelings. "We've spent the last few days making our best effort to try and find a resolution here. Not one that was necessarily a win-win. It wouldn't be a win for us. It wouldn't be a win for them. But one that we felt like would get our game back ... and get our guys back on the court, get our vendors back to work, get the arenas open, get these communities revitalized," union president Derek Fisher said. "And in our opinion, that's not what the NBA and the league is interested in at this point. They're interested in telling you one side of the stories that are not true and this is very serious to us. This is not in any way about ego. There are a lot of people's livelihoods at stake separate from us." Hunter said the union made "concession after concession after concession ... and it's just not enough." "We're not prepared to let them impose a system on us that eliminates guarantees, reduces contract lengths, diminishes all our increases," he said. "We're saying no way. We fought too long and made too many sacrifices to get where we are." Previously each side had proposed receiving 53 percent of basketball-related income after players were guaranteed 57 percent under the previous collective bargaining agreement. Silver said the league formally proposed a 50-50 revenue split Wednesday. The union said its proposal would have been a band that would have allowed it to collect as much as 53 percent but no less than 50, based on the league's revenues. "Hopefully, we can get back to the table, but certainly a tough day, a very tough day," said Holt, the labor relations committee chair. Asked whether the players would drop to 50 percent, Holt said he didn't think it was that big of a jump but that the union did. He said the league would not go above 50 percent "as of today. But never say never on anything." Hunter said Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert told players to trust that if they took the 50-50 split, the salary cap issues could be worked out. Hunter's response? "I can't trust your gut. I got to trust my own gut," he said. "There's no way in the world I'm going to trust your gut on whether or not you're going to be open and amenable to making the changes in the system that we think are necessary and appropriate." Owners and players met with Cohen for 16 hours Tuesday, ending around 2 a.m. Wednesday, then returned just eight hours later and spent another 8 hours in discussions. The sides then met for about five hours Thursday, before calling it quits. "Am I worried about the season, per se? Yeah. But I'm more so worried about us standing up for what we believe in," New Orleans Hornets guard Jarrett Jack said. "I think that's the bigger issue at hand." Cohen didn't recommend that the two sides continue the mediation process as they weren't able to resolve the "strongly held, competing positions that separated them on core issues." Though the sides have said they believe bargaining is the only route to a deal, the process could end up in the courts. Each brought an unfair labor practice charge against the other with the National Labor Relations Board, and the league also filed a federal lawsuit against the union attempting to block it from decertifying. Union officials, so far, have been opposed to decertification, a route the NFL players initially chose during their lockout. However, Hunter said Thursday that "all of our options are on the table. Everything."

Alex Bars is ready to take his shot with Harry Hiestand and the Bears

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USA Today

Alex Bars is ready to take his shot with Harry Hiestand and the Bears

Alex Bars was cleared to practice last week, allowing him his first chance to put on a helmet since tearing his ACL and MCL Sept. 29 while playing for Notre Dame. The undrafted guard was able to participate in veteran minicamp, allowing him to shake off some rust before his real push for a roster spot begins in training camp next month. 

Many speculated Bars would’ve been as high as a mid-round draft pick if not for that devastating knee injury. It didn’t take the 6-foot-6, 312 pound Bars long, though, to decide where he wanted to go after not being picked in April’s draft. Call it the Harry Hiestand effect. 

Bars played under Hiestand’s tutelage at Notre Dame from 2014-2017, and said he always wanted to wind up with the Bears to work with his former coach — just as 2018 top-10 picks Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey hoped to as well. 

“I remember talking about that, because they both wanted to play for him,” Bars said. “They understand where he can take you and how phenomenal a coach he is, so they both wanted that. And I’m just the same way.”

While Nelson transformed the Indianapolis Colts’ playoff-bound offensive line and McGlinchey showed plenty of promise with the San Francisco 49ers, the reunion of Bars and Hiestand carries some intriguing possibilities for the Bears. Bars has always had upside — he was a four-star recruit out of Nashville in 2014 — and getting to work with Hiestand may be the best way to tap into that potential. 

“He knows me very well, I understand his technique very well,” Bars said. “So having that connection, that player-coach connection all four years through college is huge.”

Hiestand called Bars after his injury last fall and offered some words of encouragement, which only furthered Bars' wish to play for his former college coach in the NFL. 

"That meant everything," Bars said. "He cares so much off the field as well as on the field. That’s who he is."  

Bars wasn’t able to participate in OTAs or rookie minicamp, but Hiestand doesn’t see that as putting him in a tough spot to make the Bears' 53-man roster. And there will very much be an opportunity for Bars to make a push during training camp, given 10-year veteran Ted Larsen only has $90,000 in guaranteed money on his one-year contract. 

It may not be the more eye-catching roster battle during training camp, but the Bears hope they can find interior offensive line depth through competition in Bourbonnais. And Bars, now cleared to practice, will get his shot. 

“He’ll have the chance because he’s smart, he understands the technique, he knows what to do,” Hiestand said during OTAs, when Bars hadn’t practiced yet. “He’s learning the offense even though he’s not doing it. But when we put the pads on that’s when you make or don’t make the team.” 

It’s often unfair — yet far too easy — to place high expectations on undrafted free agents. For every Cameron Meredith or Bryce Callahan who gets unearthed, there are dozens of anonymous players who struggle to stick on an NFL practice squad. 

But Bars is among the more important undrafted free agents on the Bears given his connection with Hiestand and the position he plays. While Kyle Long is healthy, he hasn’t played a full season since 2015, underscoring the Bears’ need for depth on the interior of their offensive line in the immediate future. 

And the Bears would save a little over $8 million against their 2020 cap if they were to make the difficult decision to cut Long in a year. If Bars develops into the kind of player plenty in the NFL thought he could be before his knee injury, that would make releasing Long a little easier to swallow at Halas Hall. 

For now, though, Bars is just hoping to make the Bears. Anything else is a long ways away.

“I’m excited to be here, thrilled for this opportunity and it’s all about productivity,” Bars said. “Just need to be productive and prove you belong on this team.”

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2019 NHL Draft Profile: C Trevor Zegras

2019 NHL Draft Profile: C Trevor Zegras

From June 10-20, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile one top prospect per day — 11 total — leading up to the 2019 NHL Draft as the Blackhawks prepare to pick third overall.

Trevor Zegras

Position: Center
Height: 6-foot-0
Weight: 169 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report from Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley:

"Trevor is a high skilled centerman, very good skater, very, very creative, comfortable and creative with the puck."

Zegras describes his own game:

On his creativity: "I think growing up, watching a bunch of guys in the NHL like Patrick Kane mess around the ice, just something I’ve always done as a little kid. Maybe I rolled into the driveway and work on fun passes. It’s what I’m really good at."

NHL player comparable: Patrick Kane

Fit for Blackhawks:

Talk to any player on USA Hockey's National Team Development Program and they'll say Zegras was the most offensively gifted player of the group, which is saying a lot when you consider some of the names he's up against (Matthew Boldy, Cole Caufield, Jack Hughes, Alex Turcotte, to name a few).

At the NHL scouting combine, Zegras mentioned Kane several times as somebody he tries modeling his game after. The vision, the passing, the skating, the playmaking ability, the hockey IQ. He has it all offensively, and also doesn't get enough credit for his two-way game.

Zegras is somebody that has quickly been rising on draft boards, and it's because he has the potential to be a 90-point player in the NHL as a center. His name has been discussed by the Blackhawks at No. 3 and he's certainly a tempting option. Pair Zegras with Kane for the next decade and it's scary to think about the numbers the two could put up together.

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