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New Bears coach Trestman eager to work with Cutler

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New Bears coach Trestman eager to work with Cutler

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) Marc Trestman had it all mapped out, right up to the Chicago Bears' championship parade. It was there on the calendar.

In his first interview for their head coaching job, he had every day for the next 13 months filled in, detailing step by step how the Bears would get to the Super Bowl.

``He had every day accounted for, every time slot accounted for, every meeting accounted for,'' general manager Phil Emery said.

``Not only that, but he had included the provisions of our (collective bargaining agreement) in the states, which takes a nuclear scientist to figure out exactly what you can do. He had called so many people, his friends in the league, he knew all the parameters of the CBA.''

Now that he's been hired, Trestman can implement his plan.

He said the Bears' job is one of the best in sports and he can't wait to work with quarterback Jay Cutler.

``This is clearly a franchise that has the highest expectations for its team, where winning consistently is a standard,'' Trestman said Thursday at his introductory news conference.

He wasn't trying to be presumptuous or make any championship guarantees with that calendar. He was simply trying to make a point.

``It's a symbolic word, but the goal is the parade, right?'' Trestman said. ``How are we going to get there? If you don't know where you're going, how can you plan how to get there? That was my point to Phil. We have to fill in each day because they're all important to getting to that point.''

He sees a big opportunity in working with Cutler, a strong-armed and mobile quarterback whose talent has never been in question even as the results haven't always reflected that.

``I can't wait to get my hands on him,'' he said.

Getting the most out of Cutler would go a long way toward invigorating a stagnant offense and getting the Bears to the playoffs on a consistent basis after they missed the postseason for the fifth time in six years. Those issues led to Lovie Smith's firing, and the Bears turned to Trestman this week after an extensive search.

He spent the past five seasons coaching the CFL's Montreal Alouettes, leading them to two championships, and was a longtime NFL assistant who was known for his work with quarterbacks.

``Marc has a quietness to him, a quiet confidence, high level of intellect, those are attractive qualities,'' Emery said. ``The thing that was most remarkable that came out of his interviews and when discussing to people who Marc is was there is a heck of a football coach under all that quietness and confidence and intellect.

``Do not underestimate Marc Trestman as a competitor. He's as tough-minded and football-oriented than anybody I've been around in 31 years in this game.''

Emery confirmed Trestman beat out offensive coordinators Bruce Arians of Indianapolis and Seattle's Darrell Bevell for the job. All three were brought back for second interviews, and Bevell was the first eliminated from that group because he lacked head coaching experience.

Emery cited Trestman's flexibility and success at various stops in the NFL and CFL.

He was an offensive coordinator with Cleveland, San Francisco, Arizona and Oakland. He worked with Bernie Kosar as an assistant at the University of Miami and again when he was on the Browns' staff in the 1980s. Trestman helped the Raiders reach the Super Bowl at the end of the 2002 season with an offense he geared for Rich Gannon, the league's MVP that year.

One of Trestman's most immediate tasks will be to build a connection with Cutler. They actually spent time together for a few days in North Carolina when the quarterback was coming out of Vanderbilt in 2006.

Trestman, who in recent years worked as an NFL consultant and helped QBs entering the league, was asked about that.

``I had the chance to meet with Jay 10 years ago in a hotel room in Raleigh, N.C.,'' he said. ``It was raining. We had no facility, we had no receivers. So we basically sat in a room for two days and stared at each other. It was a difficult environment to try to get the most out of somebody. When I sat with him, I found out he had some very core capabilities. He was tough, he was smart, and he loved football. I had the opportunity to meet with him a couple days ago. He's a different guy. He's in tune to where he is and where he wants to go.''

Does he see Cutler as a franchise quarterback? Trestman sidestepped the question.

He said Cutler ``loves football'' and ``wants to do everything he can to help this franchise.'' He added they'll work with a ``sense of urgency to get him to be the guy that he wants to be and we want him to be.'' But he did not use that term - franchise quarterback.

``He wants Jay to earn that in his eyes,'' said Emery, who has called Cutler a franchise QB. ``That's OK, I'm good with that.''

Cutler has one year left on his contract, and the Bears have to decide if he can lead them to the top. Since he arrived in Chicago in 2009, he's taken a beating behind a struggling offensive line and lacked a go-to receiver until Brandon Marshall arrived this season.

He'll also be working in his fourth system with the Bears, with Trestman calling the plays and Aaron Kromer hired from New Orleans to replace Mike Tice as offensive coordinator and serve as line coach.

The Bears also brought in Joe DeCamillis from Dallas to replace Dave Toub as special teams coordinator. Now, they're looking for a new defensive coordinator to replace Rod Marinelli after he decided not to return.

They also announced Thursday night that they were letting Tice, Bob Babich (linebackers), Jeremy Bates (quarterbacks), Mike DeBord (tight ends), Darryl Drake (receivers), Tim Holt (offensive line) and Tim Spencer (running backs) go.

On defense, it's not clear if the Bears will switch from the 4-3 to the 3-4 formation. Trestman is open to change, but he also realizes the Bears' defense ranked among the league's best this past season.

``They have excellent football players and they've been well-coached,'' Trestman said. ``I don't know the personnel on our football team right now. So to answer the question is premature. If you ask me 3-4 months from now, I'll be in a much better position to answer that question.''

Another issue on defense: Brian Urlacher's future. The eight-time Pro Bowl linebacker has an expiring contract and missed the last four games with a hamstring injury after being limited by a knee problem.

``This guy's been a great player for this team,'' Trestman said. ``I recognize, certainly, what he's meant to this locker room and to the fan base of Chicago. When we get done here, we'll begin to try to answer some of those questions.''

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Free Agency Bracket: Noel Acciari vs. Marcus Kruger

Free Agency Bracket: Noel Acciari vs. Marcus Kruger

It is almost time for NHL free agency to begin, and the Capitals certainly have needs to fill and a limited budget. Who would be the best fit? Who would be the best free agent target for Washington to pursue? That’s what NBC Sports Washington wants to find out!

Our experts got together and made a bracket of the 16 best free agent fits. The bracket is divided into four regions: Third line forward, fourth line forward, depth defenseman and Caps’ free agent. Now we want you to tell us who you want to see rocking the red next year!

Every weekday we will match two free agents up against one another and present a case for each player. Then you get to vote and decide who advances!

Check out today’s matchup:

Region: Fourth line forwards

Noel Acciari vs. Marcus Kruger

 

2018-19 stats

 

Noel Acciari (27 years old):72 games played with the Boston Bruins, 6 goals, 8 assists, 14 points, 12:59 TOI

 

Playoffs: 19 games played with the Boston Bruins, 2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points, 13:10 TOI

 

Marcus Kruger (29 years old): 74 games played with the Chicago Blackhawks, 4 goals, 8 assists, 12 points, 10:25 TOI

 

Playoffs: None

 

Hockey-Graph contract projections

 

Noel Acciari: 2 years, $1,180,934 cap hit

 

Marcus Kruger: 1 year, $861,030 cap hit

 

The case for Noel Acciari

Plays a lot bigger than his 5-foot-10, 205-pound frame. A perfect fit at right wing on the fourth line for Washington. The native New Englander, who played at Providence, is a home-grown Bruin and might not want to leave home, but Boston also might not have the cap space to give an obvious fourth-line player a decent raise. The Capitals might not, either, but for now, they really only have to add in RFA Jakub Vrana’s new contract and figure out what they’re going to do with RFA Andre Burakovsky. 

 

Acciari is renowned for his character and toughness. He was a college captain for Providence and helped the Friars win an NCAA title in 2015. There’s never been a shot he’s unwilling to block. Acciari sustained a broken sternum in the second round against Columbus and a blocked shot with his right foot in Game 7 of the Cup Final left him in a walking boot.  

 

Acciari’s offensive upside is limited, but he did have 10 goals in 2017-18. He was a key player for the Bruins in the past two Stanley Cup playoffs and chipped in two goals in this year’s playoff run that came within a game of a championship. Acciari would help on Washington’s penalty kill, too. In 111:52 he was only on the ice for 11 power-play goals against. Only two Boston forwards were on the ice more short-handed.  

 

The case for Marcus Kruger

 

A different skill set here for the smaller Kruger (6-foot, 186 pounds). Don’t expect even double-digit goals from him, either. But Kruger will likely cost less than $1 million and can be a valuable penalty killer, where Washington needs help. That’s huge for a team that is now dealing with an $81.5 million salary cap, which is $1.5 million less than expected. Add in the overage bonus for defenseman Brooks Orpik from last season and you’re in trouble at just over $80 million.   

 

Kruger played seven seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks and one disappointing one with the Carolina Hurricanes. Kruger has plenty of Stanley Cup experience, too, playing for Chicago’s 2013 and 2015 Cup winners. He has 87 postseason games and a triple-overtime game-winner in the Western Conference Final to his name in 2015 in Game 2 of that series against Anaheim. 

 

A defensive specialist, only two Blackhawks forwards played more short-handed minutes than Kruger (132:46) last season. There is risk here. Kruger was traded to Carolina in 2017-18, but was placed on waivers after 48 games and spent the rest of the season in the AHL before being traded to Arizona and then back to Chicago. But part of that stemmed from how much he was making on a $3.08 million cap hit. At a bargain-basement price, Kruger is more palatable. 

 

Who’s your pick? Vote here.

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Rui Hachimura is a 'late bloomer' in basketball, but the Washington Wizards like that

Rui Hachimura is a 'late bloomer' in basketball, but the Washington Wizards like that

Rui Hachimura was introduced to the sport of basketball at 13 years old after spending his childhood on the baseball diamond, emulating Ichiro Suzuki, as many kids in Japan do. Just eight years later, Hachimura has charted his own path as the first Japanese-born lottery pick in the NBA after the Washington Wizards drafted him at No. 9 overall.

That trajectory is important to note when considering Hachimura's age. He is 21 years old, which is on the older side for an NBA draft prospect in the age of one-and-dones. But, you could say he's only eight in basketball years.

That's not a technical term used by NBA front office executives, but the fact Hachimura is a "late bloomer" was one of the biggest selling points for the Wizards. That's how interim team president Tommy Sheppard described him on several occasions the night of the draft and the day after. And even majority owner Ted Leonsis referenced it when asked about the pick in an interview with the Washington Times over the weekend.

While reason may suggest a younger player has higher upside, the Wizards are looking beyond simple age. In Hachimura, they believe they have a player who could benefit from not having the year-round strain of AAU basketball in his past.

"When you come to the game a little bit later, maybe you don't have some bad habits that you accumulate. You don't have a lot of extra miles," Sheppard said. 

"Those kinds of things resonate with us. You have to be healthy to play in the NBA, and there are so many players in this particular draft that for whatever reason, there are a lot of sad faces tonight because I think medical held a lot of people back. He has a clean bill of health, and that's exciting to us."

Sheppard could have been referencing any number of prospects who carried the label as an injury risk into draft night. With the ninth overall pick, the Wizards took Hachimura over Duke's Cam Reddish, who has several red flags, injuries among them. In the second round, they passed on Oregon's Bol Bol, who had a stress fracture in his foot, in favor of Admiral Schofield.

But health isn't the only potential benefit of picking up the game at a later age. Sheppard alluded to the development of bad habits. He thinks Hachimura is more of a blank canvas for the coaching staff and that could work in their favor long-term.

Sheppard made a comparison for Hachimura that was interesting for several reasons.

"With [Raptors forward] Pascal Siakam, you see what happens when guys come to the game a little late and what he was able to do. It's not the same, but if you ask me of someone who's story his reminds me of, it could remind you of something like that," Sheppard said.

Siakam's name was invoked over and over during the pre-draft process but more often to draw a parallel for Sekou Doumbouya of France. Sheppard was more so comparing the development track for Hachimura than the playing style, but it holds some weight.

There have been some famous cases of late bloomers in NBA history. Hakeem Olajuwon, Tim Duncan and Joel Embiid reportedly didn't start playing basketball until high school.

Duncan may be a good example of avoiding bad habits, as he is considered one of the most fundamentally sound players of all time. Olajuwon might be the most skilled big man in NBA history, and Embiid has a chance to become an all-time great.

What gives the Wizards hope that Hachimura will reach his potential and someday enjoy breakout success like Siakam has is his work ethic. The Wizards did deep background research on Hachimura, including through discussions with his college coach, Mark Few of Gonzaga.

They believe they found something in Hachimura that other teams may have overlooked.

"The things that you hope for and that you're optimistic about, they seem to be there. So, we're excited about that," Sheppard said. "It's really up to Rui and how bad do you want to be good?"

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