Cubs

Thibodeau-Bulls rift truly headline-worthy?

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Thibodeau-Bulls rift truly headline-worthy?

An ESPN.com report quoted Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau as being "dismayed" about the lack of progress in reaching a new contract extension. While it may be new to you, this isn't news.

After winning the NBA's Coach of the Year award in his first season as an NBA head coach, it's only natural Thibodeau would want to be rewarded for his service. However, Thibodeau is currently in the second year of his contract and the Bulls have the option to bring him back for a third year, something that's universally expected to occur.

"I don't know where that's coming from and I'm not worried about any of that stuff," Thibodeau said after Friday's win over the Pistons. "I'm under contract and I'm fine with everything here."

What else would you expect him to say? Let's be logical, folks: Thibodeau is known as one of the most focus and intense people in the business, so at this late juncture in the season--or even earlier in the campaign, when a New York media outlet first reported his frustration about his contract situation--do you think he would strategically leak his concerns, taking away from the Bulls' goal of winning a title?

Highly unlikely. Sure, Thibodeau is probably disappointed that the Bulls haven't already addressed the issue, as well as the fact that he's one of the league's lowest-paid head coaches, but knowing the potential of this team and being a student of the game, on and off the court--specifically the Bulls' track record of dealing with coaches' contracts as an organization, with Phil Jackson and Scott Skiles as two examples--he surely can't be surprised at the process.

He's also very likely aware that the grass isn't greener elsewhere. Looking around the league at possible upcoming vacancies, New York comes to mind with Mike D'Antoni starting the season as a lame-duck head coach and Mike Woodson as an interim coach--albeit a successful one, thus far--and with Thibodeau's history as a Knicks assistant, it would seem like just the opportunity to lure him away.

But even if the Knicks were interested, Thibodeau knows that he's already put his stamp on this Bulls team, he won't ever find a more coachable superstar than Derrick Rose, he wouldn't find a more ideal supporting cast and even taking into consideration the amount of talent on New York's roster, the relentless competitor would actually be taking a step back in his quest for a championship. Does that sound like a move the ever-calculating tactician would make?

Don't fret, Bulls fans: Thibodeau's contract situation will be resolved in due time. Even if they appear to be dragging their feet in doing so--and like any fiscally-sound operation, they're being prudent in waiting to pay him the big bucks, to Thibodeau's consternation, at least for the time being--the Bulls' braintrust understands there's not really an upgrade from Thibodeau available on the market, as long as Phil Jackson stays retired (and the triangle offense isn't exactly a perfect fit for Derrick Rose's skill set) and not to mention, they wouldn't want to chance of alienating their players.

"Of course--I'm not going to give you guys the answer I'm supposed to say--but not just for me, but for this organization and what he's done, and if we don't bring him back, somebody's going to take him. He's that good," said Luol Deng, who has developed into an All-Star under Thibodeau and along with Rose, has probably benefited the most from his tutelage. "I didn't even know there's a situation. He's not the type of guy who's going to talk to us about it. We're not the type of team that's going to talk about it. I think we all want to see him stay here for many years to come, but that's not up to me."

Deng will likely get his--and Bulls' fans--wish, but thinking about far-fetched scenarios, like arguably the league's top coach simply walking away due to lack of interest, makes for good headlines in the meantime. It hasn't been a perfect world under Thibodeau's reign, as his laser-like focus can rankle people to a degree, but nobody questions his work ethic, intent and most importantly, results, all of which make the likelihood of the Bulls not bringing him back and even after 20 years as an assistant before getting a shot, perceived anger and impatience at the slowness in getting his first extension as a head coach, a tad overblown.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

It was a tough day for the North Siders.

The Cubs got obliterated by the Cardinals as Matt Carpenter had a three-homer, two-double day. Ben Finfer, Seth Gruen and Maggie Hendricks join David Kaplan on the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast to talk about the blowout.

Was Jon Lester due for this kind of terrible outing? And do the Cubs have enough to swing a big trade before the deadline?

Plus, the panel discusses Matt Nagy’s first training camp practice in the rain and Roquan Smith’s absence in Bourbonnais.

You can listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Could Bears improve and still lose ground? The MMQB's Albert Breer weighs in on tough NFC North

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USA TODAY

Could Bears improve and still lose ground? The MMQB's Albert Breer weighs in on tough NFC North

NBC Sports Chicago’s John "Moon" Mullin talked with The MMQB's Albert Breer, who shared his thoughts on where the Bears stand — and if they’ll be able to compete — in a highly competitive NFC North.

Moon: The Bears have made upgrades, but they’re in the NFC North and not many divisions are tougher, given the strength at quarterbacks.

Breer: Yes. You look at the other three teams, and they all very much believe they’re in a window for winning a championship. The Packers are going through some changes, but they’ve gotten Mike Pettine in there as defensive coordinator and a new general manager who was aggressive on draft day. I know that internally they feel that’s going to give them a boost, and bringing Aaron Rodgers back obviously is the biggest thing of all.

Minnesota, all the things they did this offseason, signing (quarterback) Kirk Cousins, (defensive lineman) Sheldon Richardson, and they were knocking on the door last year.

The Lions have been building for two years under (general manager) Bob Quinn and (new coach) Matt Patricia, who lines right up with the general manager — the two of them worked together in New England. They really believe that Matthew Stafford is ready to take the sort of jump that Matt Ryan made in Atlanta a few years ago, where you see that mid-career breakthrough from a quarterback that we see sometimes now.

It’s one of the toughest divisions in football, and every team in the division believes that it’s in the position to contend right now.

Moon: We didn’t see a lot of Mitch Trubisky — 12 games — so it sounds possible that the Bears could improve and still lose ground.

Breer: The Lions were pretty good last year. The Vikings were in the NFC Championship game. And who knows where the Packers would’ve been if Rodgers hadn’t broken his collarbone. The biggest change is that Aaron Rodgers will be back, and that’s the best player in the league. It was a really good division last year, and you’re adding back in a Hall of Fame quarterback.

As far as the Bears, there’s going to be questions where the organization is going. It’s been seven years since they were in the playoffs. I think they certainly got the coach hire right. This is a guy who I know other organizations liked quite a bit and was going to be a head coach sooner or later.

And I think he matches up well with Mitch. I think the Bears are in a good spot, but as you said, they’re competing in a difficult environment, so it may not show up in their record.

Moon: A lot of love for the Vikings after they get to the NFC Championship and then add Kirk Cousins.

Breer: A lot of people look at Minnesota and think Kirk Cousins’ll be a huge improvement. And maybe he will be. I think he’s a very good quarterback, top dozen in the league. But Case Keenum played really, really well last year, so it wasn’t like they weren’t getting anything out of that position last year.

The NFC right now is clearly the strength of the league. If you picked the top 10 teams in the league, you could make a case that seven or eight of them are in the NFC. I think there will be NFC teams that miss the playoffs who could be in the Super Bowl coming out of the AFC. There’s a little bit of an imbalance there.

Moon: Trubisky projects as part of a wave of new quarterbacks league-wide, a sea change in the NFL.

Breer: The interesting thing is that this is probably as stable as the league has been at quarterback in a long time. There’ve been questions where the next great quarterbacks will come from, but I don’t know that there’s a team right now in the NFL like you looked at the Jets or Browns last year, where you say that team is definitely drafting a quarterback in 2019.

Everyone either has a big-money veteran or former first-round pick on their roster. One team that doesn’t is the Cowboys, but they’ve got Dak Prescott who’s played really well. Every team in the league has some stability at the position. I think the position is as healthy as it’s been in a long time, and you’ve got a lot of good young prospects.