Bulls

A new leader in payroll among MLB teams?

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A new leader in payroll among MLB teams?

From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- The Los Angeles Dodgers are on track to become only the second major league team with a 200 million payroll and could end the New York Yankees' streak of 14 years as baseball's biggest spender.The Dodgers are at 214.8 million for 21 signed players next season, according to a study of their contracts by The Associated Press. That follows last weekend's additions of free agent pitcher Zack Greinke for a 147 million, six-year contract and South Korean pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin for a 36 million, six-year deal."Creating a lot of buzz, that's for sure," Greinke said. "And you do wonder when things are going to stop."Crediting the 3.9 million Boston is paying Los Angeles next year as part of last August's trade and not counting the portions of signing bonuses for players obtained from the Red Sox, the Dodgers' 2013 payroll currently is at 207.9 million.The Yankees have led each year since the Baltimore Orioles edged them by 200,000 in 1998, and New York has been at 200 million-plus every season since 2005. The record opening-day payroll of 209.1 million was set by the Yankees in 2008."I don't that there's anybody that can keep up with what the Dodgers are doing," Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers said.Los Angeles, almost certain to pay the luxury tax next year, has joined the high rollers since the Dodgers were bought in May by Mark Walter's group, which also includes Magic Johnson and Stan Kasten."When we took over the team we said we were going to spend money and I guess you guys are seeing that we're trying to do that," Johnson said. "We're not messing around. We're not talking about it, we're doing it."Under outgoing owner Frank McCourt, they started the season with the 12th-highest payroll at 94.7 million. They boosted spending with the midseason acquisitions of Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Brandon League.The Dodgers finished 86-76 last season, eight games behind the eventual World Series champion San Francisco Giants in the NL West. The Dodgers haven't reached the World Series since winning the title in 1988.In addition to their players with agreements, the Dodgers have two players eligible for salary arbitration: catcher A.J. Ellis and right-hander Ronald Belisaro."We're here to win. I can't tell you if we're stopping or not," Johnson said.New York's 2013 payroll is at 176 million for 13 players, including a 12 million deal for third baseman Kevin Youkilis that hasn't been finalized. Four Yankees are eligible for arbitration: pitchers Phil Hughes, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan.The deals for Greinke and Ryu contain numerous complicated provisions and perks.Greinke gets a 12 million signing bonus, of which 7 million is payable by Dec. 31 and 5 million on Feb. 1, 2014. He gets a 17 million salary next year, 24 million in 2014, 23 million in 2015, 24 million in 2016, 23 million in 2017 and 24 million in 2018.He can opt out of the final three years of the contract within three days of the final game of the 2015 World Series.While Greinke doesn't have a no-trade provision, if he's dealt during the season he can decide within three days of the end of the World Series whether to terminate the contract. And if he's traded during the offseason, he gets an extra 3 million and has the right to end the deal immediately.In addition, for the 2018 season only, he gets 1 million for winning the Cy Young Award and 500,000 for finishing second through fifth. Greinke also has the right to purchase four premium tickets for all home games.Ryu gets a 5 million signing bonus, half due on April 1 and the rest on April 1, 2014. His salaries are 2.5 million next year, 3.5 million in 2014, 4 million in 2015 and 7 million in each of the following three seasons. He can earn an additional 1 million annually in performance bonuses, 250,000 each for 170, 180, 190 and 200 innings.If he has 750 innings pitched from 2013-17, he can opt out of the final season. If he wins the Cy Young Award, his salaries for remaining seasons would increase by 1 million. They would go up by 750,000 if he finishes second, 500,000 if he finishes third and 250,000 if he finishes fourth or fifth.He has the same opt-out rights as Greinke, but without the 3 million payment, and he can't be sent to the minor leagues without his consent.Ryu gets a 30,000 moving allowance, eight annual first-class round-trip tickets from Los Angeles to South Korea, an employee assigned to Korean media needs, and interpreter, a personal trainermassage therapist, English lessons and payment for immigration fees.The contract gives him the right to wear No. 99 and allows him access to purchase premium tickets. He gets a suite on the road but pays the difference between the cost of a suite and a regular room.

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

The Bulls and Bobby Portis were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension by today’s deadline, which will make the power forward a restricted free agent next offseason.

According to The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson, Portis’ agent Mark Bartelstein and Gar Forman had “lengthy face-to-face negotiations” on Monday prior to the deadline. The two sides weren’t able to come to an agreement.

The negotiations – and lack of a deal – come after a summer and training camp in which Portis continued to show progression. After beginning the preseason coming off the bench Portis quickly played his way into the starting lineup alongside rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Portis finished five preseason games averaging 17.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals in just 22.4 minutes.

Portis, the 22nd pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, has seen his role increase each of his three seasons. He made a jump last season in Year 3, averaging 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in 22.5 minutes. He was one of three players, including DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love, to average 21 points, 10 rebounds and 1.5 3-pointers per 36 minutes.

Though the Bulls certainly had the room to sign Portis to an extension, there were obvious reasons on both sides to wait on a deal. For starters, the Bulls will still be able to match any deal Portis receives in free agency next July, much like what happened with Zach LaVine and the Sacramento Kings. The Bulls maintain their abundance of cap space for the 2019 offseason, when they’ll be able to offer a max contract to the top-tier free agents, and they get to see if Portis makes another jump.

For Portis, it’s a case of him betting on himself. If the Bulls came in with a number he wasn’t satisfied with – to help keep their max cap space – he now finds himself on a contract year playing for his next contract. Still only 23 years old, Portis should cash in in July.

Two players from Portis’ draft class were able to cash in. Pacers center Myles Turner signed a reported four-year, $80 million extension and Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. agreed to a four-year, $45 million deal. Portis likely would have fallen somewhere in between those two deals had an agreement occurred.

The Bulls are hardly in an easy situation with Portis. Though they value the versatile power forward, Lauri Markkanen is entrenched at the position for the foreseeable future and the team just spent last year’s No. 7 overall pick on center Wendell Carter Jr. Portis realistically is stuck behind both those players, though he certainly has starting level NBA talent.

Drilling further down on Matt Nagy after Bears OT loss to Miami Dolphins

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USA TODAY

Drilling further down on Matt Nagy after Bears OT loss to Miami Dolphins

The 31-28 overtime Bears loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday had myriad authors on the Chicago side of the ledger. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky correctly assessed the defeat as a team loss, which is pretty much the case in any NFL loss, but particularly so in this case.

“Growing pains” only goes so far in explaining the variety of problems that befell all three Bears phases in the heat of south Florida. And while devastating mistakes are inevitable for young, inexperienced head coaches and players, it falls to those coaches and players to demonstrate that Sunday in Hard Rock Stadium was an anomaly.

Because after five 2018 games, it is not clear that the Miami missteps are indeed exceptions, on the parts of players or coaches, both in fact. Regardless of whether the fault lies with offense or defense (special teams get a pass; Sunday should never come down to Cody Parkey needing to make a field goal from 53 yards).

The Bears have gone into four 2018 fourth quarters with leads and lost two of those games. The late-game defensive collapses at Green Bay and Miami should suffice to put a sock in mentions of the ’85 Bears defense and the ’18 iteration in the same conversation.

And the fact that the Bears offense has not scored more than 7 points in any of the five 2018 fourth quarters says that more than just the defense lacks a consistent finishing kick.

Coaching not to lose?

There is a fourth “phase,” and not the one (fans) that Lovie Smith once cited. It is coaching, which is intricately interwoven with each of the three main units but is its own phase. How well this fourth phase performed in Miami is a matter of some hazy perspectives.

“I’m a big boy; I can handle criticism,” Nagy said Monday. “You talking about the 53-yard field goal? No, I’m fine with that. I have no issue at all with the criticism. That’s where people are? That’s their own opinion. I felt good with what we did and, shoot, we’re all in this thing together and I trust our guys.”

Beginning with relative minutiae: Two flags were thrown (one declined) in Miami for illegal formations, in both cases for leaving the right tackle uncovered. A delay-of-game penalty on a second-and-3 at the Miami 44, led to a punt when the offense only made up seven of the resulting eight yards. That sloppiness pointed to issues on the sideline rather than in the huddle.

On multiple occasions coach Matt Nagy strongly defended Trubisky during training camp when interceptions occurred, the coach considering those acceptable temporary losses in the greater quest for his quarterback learning to stay aggressive in learning his limits and capabilities.

Yet in more than one situation Sunday, it was Nagy who dialed back the aggressive edge that he’s spoken of seeking to install in his quarterback and team. It left at least a small question as to whether Nagy lacked confidence in himself or his quarterback or his team to deliver in a critical moment.

Did Nagy second-guess himself the morning after? “Nope.”

Shaky confidence?

Whether the Bears were properly prepared coming into Sunday was an issue. A team on a three-game high came out of an off week with its poorest first-half performance of the season.

But it is what happened, or didn’t happen, later that warrants the some scrutiny.

As in: Nagy’s playcalling with the game there for the winning – the overtime possession starting from the Chicago 20, needing only a field goal for a win.

The point is not second-guessing a specific call or calls, but rather what may be at work with Nagy’s overall thinking and propensities.

After a short, high-percentage throw to Trey Burton on first down, Nagy called five straight runs. The first two, runs of 19 and 15 yards by Jordan Howard, worked. Howard went out for a two-snap break, then was back for a final run on third-and-4, which failed, leaving the ball at the Miami 35, Nagy’s minimum for attempting a field goal.

Beyond the obvious conservatism, the overall put the Bears in position of not only needing to convert a 53-yard field goal, but also leaving the Dolphins with field position at their 43 if the kick missed, which it did, although NFL kickers convert from 50-plus yards at a rate approaching 62 percent.

“To me, that 35-yard line [was the minimum], a 53-yard field goal, I have ultimate trust in [kicker Cody Parkey] making that,” Nagy said. “But at the same time, every yard that you get brings the percentage up a little bit.

“We just hit a [19]-yard run, we just hit a 15-yard run, and then we had a couple more runs right behind that. That’s just the decision we ended up making. Now, [if] he makes that kick and we’re good. He doesn’t and it’s ‘could you get a little bit closer?’ It would have helped, but at the same time I think Cody would be the first to tell you that he knows he can make that.”

One problem: Were Nagy’s defense playing at the level it had in the three previous games, he could be excused for trusting his defense to deliver a stop even with the Miami starting point. But the Dolphins had pushed the defense backwards for 344 total yards over the prior six possessions. There should have been no reasonable expectation that the defense, which already had driven backward 74 yards before a fumble on the first overtime possession, would suddenly rise up for a stop.

Nagy’s tactics also hint a lack of convinced confidence that his quarterback and offense could pull off an aggressive, under-control possession at that point. Exactly what Nagy is likely to stay in-house. His offense had scored touchdowns on four of its first five possessions of the second half, when the Bears never punted.

But Trubisky had thrown an inexplicable interception from the Miami 13 and Tarik Cohen had lost a fumble at the Chicago 45 on the fourth-quarter possessions on either side of the final Bears touchdown. So by the time the overtime possession arrived, Nagy had seen turnovers by all three principle members of his backfield – Cohen, Howard and Trubisky.

Whatever his reasoning, Nagy flashed defensive in the face of questions on his calls – “You go ahead, you throw it and then [media] are here asking me why you took a sack” – a response loosely suggests that Nagy either cares what people think (unlikely) or that he was mad at himself and/or his players (more likely).

That Nagy alluded to Trubisky taking a sack recalls sacks that the quarterback has taken that cost his team yardage before a missed field goal (Arizona) and other sacks incurred trying to force a play. Nagy sidestepped a question as to whether he would play that situation differently at such time as when Trubisky and his offense are more mature.

An erudite non-answer answer.

Fatigue factor

Running back Tarik Cohen mentioned his own failure to deal sufficiently with fatigue in Sunday’s second half, mentioned it in connection with his lost fourth-quarter fumble. Whether fatigue being allowed to reach a red-line level falls on coaches or player is debatable; players owe coaches honest self-assessments, and coaches had balanced snaps reasonably well for Cohen (34) and Howard (36) for the game.

Cohen is a young player. Nagy and most of his staff are young, and heat-management is not usually at the top of game-planning sheets. The last time (1994) the Bears played a day game in Miami, Cohen was still a year away from being born and Howard was two weeks old. Trips to Tampa the past three years don’t qualify for carryover conditioning; besides, one of the three was in December, a second in November.

But in the absence of player restraint/moderation/discretion/whatever in the face of in-game physical decline, it falls to Bears staff to monitor conditioning. The clear fall-off by the defense was more than apparent in the form of ebbing effort, missed tackles and generally flagging performance.

“I want to say that I’m not sure that our training staff and sports science staff could have done a better job in that situation,” Nagy said. “It was absolutely phenomenal. They were unbelievable, with how they handled the hydration and the cramping with our players. It was unreal. And so, that’s a credit to them for being prepared and getting our guys right.

“That was a long game. And when you play an extra period, or extra quarter in that heat, that’s a lot. For our guys to do that, that’s another part of the challenge that they battled through and that was everybody collectively — not just the players, but our staff as well.”