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Cutler realizes Bears need offense to step up

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Cutler realizes Bears need offense to step up

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) Jay Cutler understands the Chicago Bears need help to get to the playoffs, and they could use more than just an assist from archrival Green Bay.

How about getting that offense to pitch in?

It hasn't in recent weeks, and that's one reason the Bears (9-6) are in danger of missing the playoffs for the fifth time in six years. The struggles on offense have played a big role in their free-fall after a 7-1 start, and even if they win at Detroit in the season finale on Sunday, there's no guarantee they'll make it.

They'll still need Green Bay to beat or tie Minnesota. They could also get in with a tie if the Vikings lose.

``This is a big game,'' Cutler said. ``I think last week was a big game. We've got to win. There's nothing else to be said about it. And quarterback play, these are games you've got to have.''

After dropping five of their previous six, the Bears are coming off a 28-13 win over Arizona thanks to two defensive touchdowns. Starting running back Matt Forte's status for this week is in question after he injured his right ankle for the third time this season.

He came through with one of his better performances, running for 88 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries before leaving the game.

He did not practice Wednesday.

``His ankle is looking pretty good,'' coach Lovie Smith said. ``It's a big football game. They're all big. You always play guys when they're healthy and ready to go. Hopefully, that'll be the case with Matt. He's pretty encouraged by what's happened.''

That's good news for an offense that hasn't delivered much in recent weeks.

If Forte isn't ready, the Bears would turn to Kahlil Bell and Armando Allen with backup Michael Bush on injured reserve.

Injuries on both sides have mounted with the losses, but the defense at least has been doing its part. The Bears got back to their ball-hawking ways against an anemic offense last week, with Charles Tillman returning an interception for a score and Zack Bowman returning a fumble recovery one yard for another touchdown.

But the offense again had trouble finding the end zone.

The Bears have just three touchdowns rushing and eight passing over the past seven games and had only one of each against the Cardinals.

Cutler completed 1 of his first 11 passes and finished with 146 yards after throwing for just 135 the previous week in a loss to Green Bay that left the Bears looking for help to get to the playoffs rather than controlling their own destiny.

The offense did click in the two-minute drill just before halftime against Arizona, with Brandon Marshall hauling in an 11-yard touchdown pass.

``It wasn't (that) we were doing anything different or they were doing anything different,'' Cutler said. ``We were just making plays. Running good routes, guys were snagging the ball, the line played well all day. I think we just have to have a sense of urgency on every play and just get up there, like the call and go out there and execute it.''

One thing that's encouraging for the Bears is Cutler's history against Detroit. He's 6-2 against the Lions with 1,565 yards, 11 touchdowns and one interception.

But he also realizes Detroit would love to knock out the Bears.

How Chicago's offense performs could go a long way toward preventing that. The Bears rank 28th in that area and simply haven't clicked the way they envisioned after bringing in Marshall and reuniting him with Cutler.

They've been banged up, and their offensive line has been a mess all year, struggling with injuries and poor play in general. That group actually held its ground last week.

``They're grown men and they get embarrassed,'' offensive coordinator Mike Tice said. ``They don't want to be the group that's screwing it up for everybody. They've taken their turns doing that. We all have.''

Notes: Bears DT Henry Melton teed off on the Lions, calling them a ``dirty team'' that's going to take liberties. ``Oh, they're going to be looking for cheap shots and all that mess. We've just got to hold our composure and play the game we know.'' There have been issues between the teams in recent years, and Brandon Marshall called out Ndamukong Suh on Twitter for what he thought was a dirty hit on a violent sack of Cutler during the Bears' win over the Lions in October. Cutler insisted at the time there was nothing illegal about the hit. ... Besides Forte, Brian Urlacher (hamstring), Tillman (ribs, elbow), S Chris Conte (hamstring), RB Armando Allen (knee) and LB Blake Costanzo (calf) did not practice.

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Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

The Wizards' selection of Troy Brown of the University of Oregon with their first round pick has been met with a strong reaction among fans, many of whom argue he doesn't play a position of need, that it was a luxury pick when other areas could have been addressed, most notably in their frontcourt. Big man Robert Williams of Texas A&M, for example, was still on the board. 

The Wizards, though, did address needs by picking Brown. And really, they arguably filled more pressing needs in the short-term than those at power forward and center.

Though the Wizards clearly need some help at big man in the long-term, as both of their starting bigs are on expiring deals, they need help immediately at both shooting guard and small forward. Brown, though he is only 18 years old and offers no guarantees to contribute right away, can play both of those positions.

Shooting guard is where he can help the most. The Wizards have one backup shooting guard in Jodie Meeks and he is due to miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season while serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Even when Meeks was available this past season, he only helped so much. He shot just 39.9 percent from the field and 34.3 percent from three. Head coach Scott Brooks often chose to rely more on starter Bradley Beal than go to Meeks as his replacement. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any player in the NBA.

More depth at shooting guard will help relieve Beal of some of that workload. That would be great for keeping him fresh throughout the season and help him be at his best when they need him most in the playoffs.

The Wizards also have some urgency at small forward. It is their strongest position in terms of one-two on the depth chart, but they have no logical third option. That was magnified in the playoffs once Otto Porter got injured. They were left with Kelly Oubre, Jr. and had to trot out Tomas Satoransky, who has limited experience at the position.

Brown can play both shooting guard and small forward, giving them much needed depth. If he can play well enough to earn a rotation spot, the emergency situations the Wizards encountered last season could be avoided in 2018-19.

The Wizards still need to find long-term solutions at power forward and center, but they were going to need to find answers at shooting guard and small forward as well. Both Meeks and Oubre have one year left on their deals. Brown helps solidify the long-term outlook at wing.

Now, there's no denying the Wizards already had considerable talent at both shooting guard and small forward with Beal, Porter and Oubre. That begs the question of how much Brown can offer particularly in the first year of his career. But the Wizards would like to play more positionless basketball and to do that requires depth at wing.

The Boston Celtics have helped make positionless basketball famous and their roster shows that the one player-type you can't have enough of is similar to Brown. Boston has Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris. All are around 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8 and offer versatility on both ends of the floor.

The Wizards also now have four players of that size and with positional versatility in Brown, Porter, Oubre and Satoransky. They can roll out different combinations of those guys and possibly have an advantage on defense with the ability to switch seamlessly on screens.

In the age of positionless basketball, players of Brown's ilk have become major assets especially for teams that have many of them. There is such a thing as having too many point guards or centers because they can't coexist on the floor. Versatile wings, in most scenarios, can play together in numbers.

It's different but in a way similar to certain positions in other sports. In baseball, you can have too many catchers but you can't have too many talented pitchers and utility players. In football, you can have too many running backs or tight ends, but you can't have too many defensive linemen. 

Brown gives them options from a roster perspective in the long-term. Oubre has one year left on his contract and if he continues his trejectory with a strong 2018-19 season, he could price himself out of Washington. Brown could move up the depth chart as his replacement one year from now. The Wizards also now have the option to consider trades at the position given their depth.

The problem, one could argue, with drafting Brown over a Williams-type is that it limits their options at center in particular. Drafting Williams would have made it easier to trade Marcin Gortat, for instance, because they would have had depth to deal from. Now, it's more difficult to trade Gortat, whom they have shopped on and off for months, without a plan to replace him. Finding a Gortat substitute in free agency with the limited resource they have would not be easy.

But big man wasn't their only need and in Brown the Wizards may have found a solution at other areas where they clearly needed help.

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

The first round of the NBA Draft played out expectedly for what the Wizards had planned for the night. In Troy Brown, they clearly got the guy they wanted all along, seeing as there were many interesting prospects they passed on to choose him.

The second round was a bit more chaotic. Team president Ernie Grunfeld said there were a few players picked just ahead of them at No. 44 that they had their eyes on. They contemplated trading up, but no perfect deals were presented.

So, they decided to think long-term, like really long-term. In choosing Ukrainian point guard Issuf Sanon, the Wizards understand it may be years before he plays in the NBA.

"We hope to have him developed in a few years," Grunfeld said.

Sanon, just 18, plays for Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia. He may stay in Europe into his 20s before he comes to the United States.

The Wizards have utilized the draft-and-stash model with other players. Their 2015 second round pick, Aaron White, has been playing in Europe for the past three seasons.

Sometimes those players never convey and contribute for the Wizards. But sometimes they do and Grunfeld pointed to a player already on their roster as a model to consider.

"We drafted Tomas [Satoransky] at an earlier age, he went overseas [and] he played at the highest level and it got him ready for the NBA," Grunfeld said.

The difference between now and then is that the Wizards have a G-League franchise starting this fall, the Capital City Go-Go. Because of that, it seemed more likely going into the draft that the Wizards would use the second round pick on a guy who can play there right away. 

Grunfeld, however, opted for roster flexibility. By keeping Sanon in Europe, the Wizards can have another open roster spot. They could either fill that spot, or leave spots on the end of their roster open as they did for much of last season.

"We want to preserve a roster spot, so just because you draft someone in your second round, if you sign him, he still has a roster spot even if you let him play for the GoGo," Grunfeld said.

Sanon may have a bright future. He is a 6-foot-4 point guard with impressive athleticism who doesn't turn 19 until October. He said he models his game after Russell Westbrook, as a guard who can score the ball.

The Wizards passed on several interesting prospects to pick Sanon. Still on the board were Keita Bates-Diop of Ohio State, Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky and Svi Mykhailiuk of Kansas, three players they brought in for pre-draft workouts. But instead, they went with a long-term investment, hoping they found the next Satoransky.

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

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