Bears

Schanowski: Bulls need to think big this offseason

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Schanowski: Bulls need to think big this offseason

Watching the Conference Finals games over the last few days, I cant help but think about how the Bulls might stack up in future years against the Big 3s put together by Oklahoma City and Miami. Plus, there are a number of other young teams ready to take a jump in the standings next season like the Pacers, Grizzlies, 76ers, Nuggets and Clippers (yes, I know Vinny Del Negro is still coaching!).

So, the larger question is, have the Bulls already maxed out with the talent on the current roster, and should they consider making some major changes this summer to position themselves for a better chance to win the title in the 2013-14 season and beyond?

My friend Sam Smith at Bulls.com wrote an interesting column a couple weeks back basically saying that if Bulls management has decided theyve gone as far as they can with the current roster, they might want to consider trading one of their 10 million plus players for a lottery pick in the upcoming draft. Now, its obvious Derrick Rose is untouchable, and no team is going to touch Carlos Boozers contract (three years left at approximately 45 million), so that leaves Luol Deng and Joakim Noah.

Which teams might be interested in giving up cap space to acquire an All-Star caliber veteran player? Well, we can start with the Toronto Raptors. Their GM Bryan Colangelo had some interesting things to say in an interview with HOOPSWORLD. Colangelo thinks now is the time for the Raptors to add some veteran leadership to a roster loaded with lottery picks. He gave this response to a question about the teams plans for the 8 selection in round one, We are looking to increase the level of experience and thinking that you are going to get all of that at eight in this draft is probably not going to happen. Anything we take at eight is not going to have NBA experience so we are going to be looking at that in various other ways. We have the trade opportunities before July 1, trade opportunities and free agent options after July 1, so we have a lot of different balls up in the air with respect to the options that are going to be there for us.

Which brings us back to the Bulls. Would they be willing to trade Deng for that 8 pick, with back-up guard Jerryd Bayless possibly thrown in as a sweetener to fill in for Rose while he rehabs from knee surgery? The Bulls then could use the pick to grab one of the best college shooters available, like Floridas Bradley Beal, UConns Jeremy Lamb or Dukes Austin Rivers.

Okay, I know what youre asking, why would the Bulls trade an All-Star like Deng for a back-up point guard and a raw rookie? It all goes back to their salary cap situation. Just bringing back last years starting line-up would mean 61 million dollars in salary commitments, which already puts them over the cap for next season. And, when you add in the contracts of Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler and a likely 4-5 million offer sheet for Omer Asik, the Bulls are already up against the 70 million luxury tax threshold with only eight players on the roster. If Bulls management has resigned themselves to not being able to contend with a rehabbing Rose, maybe now is the perfect time to start re-tooling the roster, and getting the cap situation in a better place.

Right now, it looks like the Bulls will decline team options on the contracts of Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Watson for next season because of cap reasons. Getting the chance to replace two of them with 1st round draft picks would save the team a bundle of money, and possibly open up a mid-level exception deal to add a free agent for the bench.

If the Bulls dont trade one of their core players this summer, theyll probably try to find a short-term replacement for Rose by offering the mini mid-level of 2.5 million dollars to a veteran like Kirk Hinrich, Andre Miller or Jason Kidd or possibly go after a young player who doesnt get a big offer in free agency like Raymond Felton, Jonny Flynn or the aforementioned Bayless (RFA).

Then, the major roster changes would likely wait until after the 2013-14 season when Dengs contract expires, the amnesty provision could be used on the final year of Boozers contract, and the Bulls will probably be able to bring prospect Nikola Mirotic over from Europe. With only Rose and Noah on the books at that time with big money contracts, the Bulls would be a player for a major free agent in the summer of 2014 when several stars, including LeBron James could be available.

So, the choice for John Paxson and Gar Forman basically is this: Do you wait for Rose to rehab his knee and hope to make a late season run with the current roster? Or, do you see the possibility of several up-and-coming teams passing you buy while youre locked in with a maxed out roster, and make the decision to try to move a big contract (Deng or Noah) to get the salary cap situation in a better place.

Either way, it figures to be an interesting summer around the NBA, with the two winning-est franchises in league history, the Celtics and Lakers looking to make major changes, and a number of teams looking to pounce on the big name players who should be available like Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, Pau Gasol, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.

Bears rookie WR Riley Ridley motivated by older brother, family name

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USA Today

Bears rookie WR Riley Ridley motivated by older brother, family name

Bears fourth-round pick Riley Ridley knew what to expect coming into the NFL thanks to his older brother Calvin, the Atlanta Falcons wide receiver.

Their family bond kept them close even as they played for rival colleges and now competing professional teams, and they both take a lot of motivation from the name on the back of their jerseys.

The two receivers came together on camera for the Bears’ “Meet the Rookies” series.

“We do what we do, not just for the family, but for our name, our brand,” Riley Ridley said. “We want to take that as far as it can go. That Ridley name is strong, and that’s how we view it.”

Ridley opened up about growing up with his mother raising him and his three brothers. He said he’s going to be his own biggest critic and do everything he can to help his teammates.

His brother Calvin added some color to the image of Riley that’s starting to take shape.

“Very funny, really cool, laid back,” Calvin Ridley said. “He’s a different person on the field. I would say he has a lot of anger on the field — very physical.”

Matt Nagy should find good use for that physicality in the Bears offense, plugging Ridley in a wide receiver group already deep with young talent.

Ridley doesn’t seem like the type of player who will allow himself to get buried on the depth chart.

2019 NHL free agent focus: Five potential targets for Blackhawks

2019 NHL free agent focus: Five potential targets for Blackhawks

Stan Bowman has had a busy last couple weeks. He pulled off a pair of trades, landing defensemen Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan from the Eastern Conference. He drafted center Kirby Dach with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft that could turn into a franchise-changing player. And now he’s in the middle of negotiations with pending restricted and unrestricted free agents.

With the defensemen group starting to take shape, it appears free agency will be used to fill out the forward group. That could come via trades, also, but it really depends on the market.

So let’s identify five potential UFA targets for the Blackhawks ahead of Monday, when players are officially able to sign contracts:

1. Ryan Dzingel, LW

When Dzingel was with the Ottawa Senators, he was playing top-six minutes and earning power-play time because the Senators weren’t very deep. After getting traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the deadline, he struggled to be a fit there, didn't play much on the power play and was healthy scratched for one game in the playoffs.

But he still has value, although it may not be in an area that the Blackhawks need (penalty kill).

Dzingel, a Wheaton native, set a career high in goals (26), assists (30) and points (56) in 78 games this past season with the Senators and Blue Jackets. He can play in the top-six but might be more effective as a middle-six winger on a good team.

According to Evolving Wild, Dzingel is projected to earn a contract of four years with a $4.25 million cap hit. 

2. Anders Lee, LW

It’s a little surprising that the New York Islanders and their captain haven’t made any progress on a long-term extension. At the same time, it’s pretty clear that Lou Lamoriello is looking to make a big splash this summer in his pursuit of Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin, and needs financial flexibility to negotiate.

Lee is a perfect complementary top-six left winger who would look great next to Jonathan Toews or opposite Patrick Kane. He’s got size at 6-foot-3, 231 pounds, is reliable, scored 40 goals in 2017-18 and has a strong work ethic. Those qualities check a lot of boxes the Blackhawks are looking for.

Where it gets tricky is what his contract may look like. He's projected to receive in the range of a seven-year deal that carries a $6.5 million cap hit. The dollar amount is doable, but the term could scare the Blackhawks away as they prepare to sign Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome to long-term extensions next summer.

3. Gustav Nyquist, LW

The Blackhawks have been interested in Nyquist's services in the past, so they'll certainly look into him as a possibility now that he hits the open market.

Nyquist has scored at least 20 goals in four of his past six seasons, with 28 being his career high. But he's not known to be a goal scorer. He's a pass-first, playmaking-type winger and makes players around him better because of it. Nyquist is a consistent 45-55-point player.

His next contract is projected to be in the six-year, $5.6 million range, which — like Lee — is a fair dollar amount but the term may not be something the Blackhawks are crazy about. Bowman appears to be focused on free-agent forwards who can be signed on shorter-term deals.

4. Joe Pavelski, C/RW

Perhaps the most intriguing player on the free-agent market for the Blackhawks is Pavelski, who’s served as the San Jose Sharks captain but may not fit into their plans going forward because of their cap crunch.

Yes, he will turn 35 in July. And yes, he has a ton of mileage on his body. But he’s showing no signs of slowing down. 

Pavelski is a five-time 30-goal scorer who’s coming off a 38-goal season, can play both center and wing, and is an absolute gamer, a leader on and off the ice who shows up when the lights are shining brightest. He’s also not afraid to go to the dirty areas and is widely considered to be one of the best at deflecting pucks, which comes in handy on the power play.

What makes him an attractive piece is that Pavelski could be a player that makes an immediate impact but wouldn't require a long-term deal. He's projected to earn a three-year contract with a cap hit of $7.4 million. If the Blackhawks can get him at two years, that would be ideal. But like Patrick Marleau a few years ago in Toronto, his camp is probably looking for that third year.

5. Corey Perry, LW

Days after he was bought out by the Ducks, Perry’s name surfaced as a possibility for the Blackhawks. And it makes sense because the Blackhawks aren't looking to hand out long-term contracts.

Perry is 34 years old, a former Hart Trophy winner and 50-goal scorer, and is still a productive player when healthy. But that's the biggest concern. He missed 51 games this season with a knee injury, returned ahead of schedule and never looked the same on the ice.

Per the CBA, Perry can sign a one-year, bonus-laden deal and it appears that's what he'll do. A one-year contract in the $2-3 million with bonuses would be a low risk, high reward move for the Blackhawks.

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