Bears

NBA's Executive of the Year is a name you know

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NBA's Executive of the Year is a name you know

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird was voted the NBA's Executive of the Year on Wednesday, becoming the first person to win that award, plus the MVP and Coach of the Year honors. The Pacers went 42-24 and are tied 1-1 with Miami in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Bird's moves to strengthen the team during the offseason included promoting Frank Vogel from interim to head coach and signing starting forward David West. He acquired point guard George Hill in a draft-night deal with San Antonio, and traded for Lou Amundson and Leandro Barbosa to fortify the bench for the Pacers, who earned the No. 3 seed in the East and had the fifth-best record in the league. "This is an honor for the Indiana Pacers, not an award for Larry Bird," Bird said in a statement. "Everyone in this franchise put in a lot of work and showed a lot of patience as we have tried to get this team to a level on and off the court the fans in Indiana can be proud of. You always believe, and hope, the players you get will fit into a plan and I'm very proud of what our guys and our coaches have accomplished so far this year." Bird was a three-time MVP as a Boston Celtics player, then guided his home-state Pacers to a 147-67 record in three seasons and their only finals appearance in 2000. He was the Coach of the Year in 1998 following his first season. He returned to the Pacers' front office in 2003 and became the full-time president in 2008 after Donnie Walsh left to join the New York Knicks. Bird received 88 points and 12 first-place votes from a panel of his fellow team executives Wednesday. San Antonio's R.C. Buford was second with 56 points and eight first-place votes, while the Los Angeles Clippers' Neil Olshey finished third with 55 points (six first-place votes).

It's a big week for HaHa Clinton-Dix to reflect – both on the past and the future

It's a big week for HaHa Clinton-Dix to reflect – both on the past and the future

As media members congregated (see: aggressively ran) towards Ha Ha Clinton-Dix’s corner locker, the Bears’ locker room burst to life. Anthony Miller and Allen Robinson, only a few feet away, started laughing and giving the safety a hard time for talking with so many cameras. Fellow safety Eddie Jackson stood just behind the scrum, jumping up and down to try to distract him. Tarik Cohen – and about 20 unidentified others – could be heard yelling “HaHa” as Clinton-Dix started fielding the first questions. 

“The vibe in this locker room is great,” he said with a grin. “The guys in here are pumped up, man. We’re just excited about the game coming up this week.”

It’s Packers Week for everyone, but the lead up to Sunday’s game is probably a little bit different for Clinton-Dix – whether he’ll admit it publicly or not. He was drafted by Green Bay back in 2014 and played there for four-and-a-half seasons. It’s where he was given Charles Woodson’s number, and where he made his only Pro Bowl (2016) so far. Sunday will be the first time he’s back, and “homecomings” always mean a little extra, right?

“Not a damn thing,” Clinton-Dix said, keeping a half-convincing poker face. It didn’t last long. 

“I’m just kidding, man,” he added. “It means a lot to be able to go back and play against guys that I’ve been with for the past five years. Getting to compete against your friends makes things more fun and more competitive.” 

“I'm sure he'll be fired up,” Matt Nagy added. 

It’ll be the first time he’s played Green Bay since being traded, but Clinton-Dix has already shown a knack for getting revenge on old teams. In the Bears’ Week 3 win over Washington, he had a touchdown, two interceptions, and two passes deflected. If that sort of performance comes against a team he played nine games for, imagine what he could do against a team he played for eight times as long. 

“If [Aaron Rodgers] decides to bless me and throw me the ball twice, I’ll be happy as hell,” he said. “Unfortunately [he] doesn’t work that way. He’s the best quarterback in the game, and we just have to go execute and make big plays.” 

Clinton-Dix swears he harbors no ill-will towards Green Bay, and says he’s under no illusions about the business side of professional football. According to him, he’s merely happy to have already suited up for two of the league’s flagship organizations. 

“Green Bay and Chicago are two of the most prestigious organizations in the business” he said. “High, top-quality places to play at. I’m blessed to be able to play for both.” 

There’s another business decision rapidly headed his way, though one he’s a bit more in control of. Clinton-Dix will be a free agent at the end of the season, and has clearly played well enough to earn more than the one-year, $3 million contract that the Bears’ signed him to as a prove-it deal. Even if some of the advanced metrics would disagree with his improved-season narrative, he’s put enough good plays on tape to warrant a longer-term deal. The Bears aren’t swimming in cap space and have the other star safety from Alabama to take care of, so the odds of running it back in 2020 don’t look great. But, as Clinton-Dix was quick to remind the eager media scrum, that’s a bridge to cross after Packers Week, and Chiefs Week, and Vikings Week. 

“Only thing I can reflect on is these next three games,” he said. “I’m going to give you the media answer, but I’m excited about this game – I can’t express it anymore. Like I said, I’ve got to finish this game strong. The next three games are important to me, and this one’s next on the list.” 

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Cardinals meet with Keuchel and Ryu as they look to fill out rotation, per report

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USA TODAY

Cardinals meet with Keuchel and Ryu as they look to fill out rotation, per report

The Cardinals met with the representatives of free agent starters Dallas Keuchel and Hyun-Jin Ryu at the Winter Meetings this week, according to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi.

St. Louis has an opening in their rotation, as longtime Cardinal Michael Wacha agreed to a one-year deal with the Mets Wednesday. They could address that vacancy internally, with candidates including Carlos Martinez, Alex Reyes, Austin Gomber and Daniel Ponce de Leon. Each comes with questions, however.

Martinez has dealt with shoulder problems the past two seasons and underwent a "small procedure" to address soreness in October. He moved to the bullpen in August 2018 as a result and was the Cardinals closer last season.

Reyes was once a top Cardinals prospect, but he’s pitched in just 17 games (six starts) since his 2016 — his rookie campaign. He underwent season-ending surgery in 2017 (Tommy John) and 2018 (torn lat).

Gomber posted a 4.26 ERA in 11 starts in 2018 while making 18 more appearances in relief. He didn’t pitch in the big leagues last season. Ponce de Leon started eight of his 13 appearances last season, posting a 4.15 ERA out of the rotation.

Keuchel or Ryu would be an upgrade over the uncertainty that comes with the four aforementioned candidates. Keuchel isn’t an annual Cy Young Award contender, but he holds a 3.77 ERA in 102 starts since winning the award with the Astros in 2015.

Ryu won the National League ERA title (2.32) with the Dodgers last season and holds a career 2.98 ERA in 126 games (125 starts). He’s dealt with a fair share of injuries in his career and underwent surgery on a torn left labrum in 2015. Teams will be wary of Ryu’s injury-riddled past, but he’s a frontline starter when healthy.

The Cardinals rotation is currently made up of Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas, Adam Wainwright and Dakota Hudson.

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