<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Sports]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/sports http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.comen-usThu, 23 Feb 2017 11:06:20 -0600Thu, 23 Feb 2017 11:06:20 -0600NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Cubs Give Fans Chance to Win Free Tickets Today]]> Thu, 23 Feb 2017 08:26:47 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/cubs+tickets.png

The Chicago Cubs are surprising fans with the chance to win free tickets Thursday. 

To win the tickets, fans have to visit the team’s pop-up mobile ballpark that will be set up from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. at the south promenade in Millennium Park. 

Fans who hit a home run at the event will be given a free pair of 2017 Cubs tickets. Game tickets may include opening night and opening week, key match-ups, promo item games and more, the team said in an announcement on the event.

To bring a taste of the Friendly Confines to Millennium Park, the Cubs’ Mobile Ballpark Wiffle Ball Home Run Derby will also have food and drinks from Giordano’s, Vienna Beef, Fannie May and Red Bull. 

Updates will be posted to the team's Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts throughout the morning. The Cubs’ mascot, Clark will be at the event as well as Cubs’ Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Colin Faulkner, who will serve as spokesperson. 

If you would rather wait, single-game tickets go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. and will be available on www.cubs.com, the MLB.com Ballpark app or by calling 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827).

Photo Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Tom Brady Compiles Hilarious 'Suspect Board' of Possible Jersey Thieves]]> Wed, 22 Feb 2017 13:50:14 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/brady-jersey-GettyImages-485055278.jpg

Tom Brady has remained fairly quiet about the investigation into his missing Super Bowl jersey that was reportedly stolen from his locker.

The jersey — valued at $500,000, according to a Houston Police Department report — was worn by the star quarterback during the New England Patriots’ 34-28 comeback victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Feb. 5.

Brady noticed his No. 12 jersey was missing from his bag in the team's designated locker room inside NRG Stadium after the game. He told a team equipment manager he remembered putting it in his locker and that "someone stole it."

And while the Texas Rangers are on the case to find the jersey caper, Brady has compiled his own list of possible suspects.

In a Facebook post Wednesday, Brady posted a photo of a “suspect board” of possible culprits. The prime suspect: Julian Edelman, who Brady calls a “sneaky lil squirrel.”

[[414510473, C]]

The hilarious board also lists Gollum from J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit,” the "guy who stole Khaleesi's egg" on the HBO series "Game of Thrones,” Lady Gaga, Steve Carrell's character from "The Office,” Michael Scott, Brady's dog Scooby ("always steals Fluffy's food), film shark “Jaws” ("takes things without asking," "violent history”), the Pokemon character Gary Oak ("bad kid!”), the O'Doyle brothers from the Adam Sandler film "Billy Madison,” the clown who stole "Air Bud" ("who steals a dog from a kid?") and even Brady himself. The quarterback pinned his infamous "deflategate" courtroom sketch photo on the board, with the caption "Creepy Me.”

    Photo Credit: Getty Images
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    <![CDATA[Blackhawks Fan Marries Wild Fan Before Game]]> Wed, 22 Feb 2017 13:06:34 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/wild+blackhawks+wedding.png

    Before the goal horn blared at Xcel Energy Center for Tuesday’s game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild, the sounds of wedding bells were in the air as a pair of fans had a wedding ceremony at center ice.

    The groom, wearing a Blackhawks jersey, and the bride, wearing a Wild jersey, were hitched before Tuesday’s game, and fortunately for those of us with romantic souls, there is a video titled 'Forbidden Love' of the occasion. [[414511993, C]]

    As the video plays, several things are running through the minds of Blackhawks fans, with the most important question of all being this: why on Earth was the groom wearing a Wild hat and tie?

    We get that the wedding is taking place in Minnesota and that the Wild allowed them to tie the knot at the arena, but it seems like an egregious violation of fan protocol to mix the logos together like that.

    Fortunately for the groom, his divided loyalty was not punished by the hockey gods, as the Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-3 and gained two points in a tight divisional race.

    Photo Credit: FOX Sports North
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    <![CDATA[Bears Announce 3 Coaching Staff Hires]]> Wed, 22 Feb 2017 12:49:18 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-630768468.png

    The Chicago Bears retained most of their coaching staff over the offseason, but they did have some openings to fill, and they hired three new coaches on Wednesday.

    Zach Azzanni will serve as the team’s new wide receivers coach, Brandon Staley will coach the outside linebackers, and Derius Swinton II will be the new assistant special teams coach serving under Jeff Rodgers.

    Azzanni has spent his career as a coach at the college level, working at a slew of universities over a nearly 20 year caraeer. He has spent the last four seasons at the University of Tennessee, where he has been the passing game coordinator for the Volunteers.

    The new coach replaces Curtis Johnson, who left the Bears earlier in the offseason and ended up signing on with the New Orleans Saints as their wide receivers coach.

    Staley was also a college coach, most recently working at John Carroll as the team’s defensive coordinator. He has also worked at Northern Illinois, Tennessee, and James Madison during a career that has spanned the last decade.

    He will replace Clint Hurtt, who left the Bears and joined the coaching staff of the Seattle Seahawks to coach their defensive line.

    Swinton, who was a coach with the Bears, moved to the San Francisco 49’ers for the 2016 season, where he served as a special teams coordinator under head coach Chip Kelly. Swinton was let go after the season ended, and he has rejoined the Bears in the same assistant’s role that he had before he departed.

    The Bears-49ers connection is in place again for the man Swinton is replacing, as Richard Hightower is the new special teams coordinator in San Francisco under new head coach Kyle Shanahan.

    Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
    <![CDATA[Guess Who: Cubs Players Try to Decode Fans' Tweets]]> Wed, 22 Feb 2017 11:48:28 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/cubs+quiz+challenge.png

    The Chicago Cubs have a well-earned reputation for social media savvy, and on Wednesday some of the team’s star players played a unique guessing game thanks to some fan-tweeted comments.

    The players involved included Kris Bryant, who was repeatedly praised for his handsomeness, Jake Arrieta, whose beard was a frequent target for compliments, and Anthony Rizzo, whose love of Italian cuisine took center stage.

    Here is the full video:

    Jon Lester had some great zingers in the video, calling teammate John Lackey a “wuss” and agreeing with one commenter’s stance that he was the best “tweeter” on the roster.

    Other highlights included Addison Russell dabbing (as he did at the White House during the team’s presidential ceremony last month) and Mike Montgomery executing a unique version of a mic drop, crumbling up a piece of paper and dropping it to the ground after a fan had expressed doubt he could get the last out of the World Series.

    Photo Credit: Twitter/ChicagoCubs
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    <![CDATA[Toews, Blackhawks Make History in Win Over Wild]]> Wed, 22 Feb 2017 11:32:50 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP_17053143442658-toews-blackhawks-hat-trick.jpg

    The Chicago Blackhawks got two critical points in the standings with their win over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday, but they also made some remarkable history thanks in large part to the efforts of Jonathan Toews.

    The Blackhawks’ captain scored his fourth career regular season hat trick in the victory, including an empty net goal with a minute remaining that sealed the game.

    By doing that, Toews helped the Blackhawks to tie a franchise record for consecutive road victories, as the team has now won seven games in a row away from the United Center.

    The Blackhawks won't have an opportunity to break that record for at least a little while, as their next four games are on home ice. They'll next hit the road on March 4 when they travel to Nashville to take on the Predators in a Central Division showdown.

    Not only did Toews help the Blackhawks make history, but he also made some history of his own. According to Christopher Kamka of CSN Chicago, Toews is the first Blackhawks player to notch points on all five of his team’s goals since Gary Suter accomplished that feat in 1995 with a one goal, four assist outing.

    Toews wasn’t the only one who made history on Tuesday either. By gaining the victory, head coach Joel Quenneville reached the 400-win plateau with the team, making him only the second coach in Blackhawks history to reach that milestone.

    Quenneville will have to coach at least a few more seasons to catch the top name on the list, as Billy Reay still holds the team record with 516 career victories in 1012 career games as the man behind the Blackhawks’ bench.

    Photo Credit: AP]]>
    <![CDATA[Cubs Photo Day Pictures Are Here - And They're Awesome]]> Wed, 22 Feb 2017 18:54:37 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/cubs+spring+photo+day+221.png The reigning World Series champs are working hard in preparation to defend their title, but that doesn't mean they can't have a little fun during spring training.

    Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
    <![CDATA[Cubs Announce 2017 Promotional Giveaway Schedule]]> Tue, 21 Feb 2017 15:04:18 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-630588602.png

    Tickets for Chicago Cubs games at Wrigley Field are going on sale this week, and on Tuesday the team announced what fans can expect in terms of souvenir giveaways for the coming year.

    In total, the Cubs announced more than 40 giveaways throughout the season, including items for adults, kids, and fans of all ages. There are the usual assortment of bobbleheads (including bobbleheads featuring players like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Jon Lester), hats, and t-shirts, and fans will have a wide variety of items to choose from when they pick out their ticket dates.

    So which items are the coolest? You can find a full list of giveaways on the Cubs’ website, but here are our five favorites that the team will be giving away.

    April 15 vs. Los Angeles Dodgers: Cubs Replica World Series Trophies

    The opening week of the season at Wrigley Field is loaded with giveaways, including replica World Series banners and magnetic schedules, but the first 10,000 fans attending this game will receive a replica of the championship trophy. Make sure to get to Wrigley Field early for that one.

    May 20 vs. Milwaukee Brewers: World Series Final Out Bobblehead

    Bobbleheads are always tough to get at the Friendly Confines, but this one is going to be an even bigger challenge, as the final out of the 2016 World Series will be immortalized in this one-of-a-kind item.

    June 20 vs. San Diego Padres: Confetti Globe

    It isn’t often that a person can get a snow globe in the heart of the summer, but that isn’t going to stop the first 10,000 Cubs fans through the turnstiles for this game. The Confetti Globe features a model of the Cubs’ championship parade buses and a large amount of red and blue “confetti” to swirl around in the water, so this should be an awesome addition to any mantelpiece.

    August 1 vs. Arizona Diamondbacks: Jim Beam Ice Molds

    Have you ever poured yourself a glass of your favorite adult beverage and wished that you could let memories of the Cubs’ championship wash over you? Thanks to Jim Beam, you can, as the first 10,000 adults to enter Wrigley for this game will get ice molds that feature the Cubs’ championship logo.

    August 31 vs. Atlanta Braves: Anthony Rizzo Emoji Cap

    Rizzo is one of the most popular Cubs players without question, and this should be a very interesting item to be sure. A picture of the Rizzo cap isn’t available yet, but we’d imagine that he’ll have a big grin on his face.

    Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
    <![CDATA[Magic Johnson Takes Lakers Reins Amid Front Office Shakeup]]> Wed, 22 Feb 2017 11:53:55 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/lakers-shakeup.jpg

    Lakers legend and NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson has been named president of basketball operations in a major front office restructuring for the storied franchise.

    General manager Mitch Kupchak and executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss, team president Jeannie Buss' brother, have been relieved of their duties, the Lakers announced Tuesday. The restructuring comes during the worst four-year stretch in franchise history.

    "Today I took a series of actions I believe will return the Lakers to the heights Dr. Jerry Buss demanded and our fans rightly expect," Jeanie Buss said. "Effective immediately, Earvin Johnson will be in charge of all basketball operations and will report directly to me."

    Kupchak had been the 16-time NBA champion franchise's GM since 2000, when Jerry West left the club. He had been in the front office for three decades, including the last 17 as general manager -- the league's longest current stretch as front office chief. 

    Jim Buss had been in the team's front office for 19 years. 

    The team has already started a search for a new general manager, the result of which will be announced in "short order," Jeanie Buss added.

    Johnson, a beloved fan-favorite who guided the team to five league titles during his 13 NBA seasons, said he hopes to restore the franchise's mystique fter four straight losing seasons.

    "It's a dream come true to return to the Lakers as President of Basketball Operations working closely with Jeanie Buss and the Buss family," said Johnson. "Since 1979, I've been a part of the Laker Nation and I'm passionate about this organization. I will do everything I can to build a winning culture on and off the court. We have a great coach in Luke Walton and good young players. We will work tirelessly to return our Los Angeles Lakers to NBA champions." 

    The Lakers are 19-39 this season after an encouraging start under first-year head coach Walton. They finished 17-65 last season, a franchise low in the last year of Kobe Bryant's two decades with the team.

    The Lakers clinched back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010, but then descended to the depths of the NBA -- a dramatic reversal of fortunes for one of the NBA most popular and successful franchises. After an extraordinary trade for Pau Gasol propelled the Lakers to three straight NBA Finals appearances, Kupchak and Jim Buss made a series of high-profile personnel moves that did not pan out. 

    They made a pricey trade for Dwight Howard, who fled the franchise after one year, and another deal for Steve Nash, who barely played thanks to back woes. The Lakers are still feeling the effects of that deal, which will cost them their first-round pick this summer if it isn't in the top three.

    The front officer moves come two days before the league's trade deadline. 

    This will be Johnson's first foray into a decision-making NBA executive role, but he has been a successful businessman and investor since his playing career ended. He also briefly coached the Lakers, but dropped his ceremonial title as a team vice president last June after his frequent criticisms of Jim Buss and former coaches.

    He sold his ownership stake in 2010.

    The Lakers' recent ineptitude didn't hurt their place as Los Angeles' most beloved sports franchise and a worldwide brand, but Jeanie Buss finally tired of the apparent lack of progress. The Lakers have a talented young core with D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram and Jordan Clarkson, but haven't been able to translate that potential into wins despite playing an exciting style under Walton.

    The team also parted ways with Vice President of Public Relations John Black.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

    Photo Credit: Getty Images
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    <![CDATA[Montero, Maddon Grab Drinks After Offseason Controversy]]> Tue, 21 Feb 2017 12:02:48 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/maddon+montero.png

    In a clubhouse marked by cohesiveness and fun, the tension between Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon and catcher Miguel Montero presented an odd situation during the offseason, but it appears that all is well in Cubdom as spring training begins.

    Montero, who was critical of Maddon’s handling of his playing time during the postseason, posted a picture on his Instagram feed on Monday night of the duo hanging out at an Arizona nightspot, and they were all smiles as they shared a drink:

    The controversy started just a few days after the Cubs won the World Series last November, as Montero went on a Chicago-area radio show and complained about his lack of playing time and the lack of communication that he had with Maddon over the decision.

    “I think the toughest part for me is they never communicated with me,” he said. “I’m a veteran guy. I expected to be treated a little better. I was expected to get communication. I never understood what my role was going to be.”

    Maddon responded a few days later to the comments, saying that he “didn’t realize I hurt his feelings” and that he wished Montero had approached him directly instead of discussing the issue in the public sphere.

    Since then, the two have publicly said that they’ve worked things out and that there are no issues going forward, but Montero is going to have to get used to diminished playing time, as Maddon has said that Willson Contreras will be the team’s primary catcher for the 2017 season.  

    Photo Credit: Jon Durr/Getty Images
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    <![CDATA[Police Value Tom Brady's Stolen Super Bowl Jersey at $500K]]> Tue, 21 Feb 2017 12:16:30 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-634604296.jpg

    Houston police have released an official report for the theft of the jersey New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady wore during Super Bowl LI.

    The jersey — valued at $500,000, according to the report — was reportedly stolen after the Patriots' 34-28 comeback victory over the Atlanta Falcons in overtime on Feb. 5.


    Brady, who was named the game's MVP, noticed his No. 12 jersey was missing from his bag in the team’s designated locker room inside NRG Stadium after the game. He told a team equipment manager he remembered putting it in his locker and that "someone stole it."

    After searching, Brady told the team's owner Robert Kraft that the jersey had been stolen. Kraft replied, "You'd better look online."


    While Brady walked to the team bus, a reporter asked the quarterback if he had recovered the jersey. Brady later joked with a reporter that it would "be on eBay at some point."

    Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick asked the Texas Rangers to help the Houston Police Department locate the jersey.

    "Tom Brady's jersey has great historical value," Patrick said in a statement. "It will likely go into the Hall of Fame one day. It is important that history does not record that it was stolen in Texas."

    Photo Credit: Getty Images
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    <![CDATA[Michael Jordan's Top Sports Moments]]> Sat, 18 Feb 2017 08:11:52 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/TITLEMJ.jpg Air Jordan turns 54 today. From the unforgettable "double nickel" game at Madison Square Garden to the iconic "Flu Game" against the Utah Jazz, take a look back at some of Michael Jordan's greatest moments on the NBA hardwood.

    Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS]]>
    <![CDATA[Gymnastics Doc Used Hide-and-Seek Games to Molest: Accuser]]> Fri, 17 Feb 2017 12:11:04 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/gymnasticsdoctormolestor.jpg

    A woman who says the disgraced team doctor for USA Gymnastics molested her as a child testified Friday that he turned games of hide-and-seek in the basement of his home into abuse sessions, NBC News reported.

    "Almost every time I was there for a couple of years, something occurred," the woman, a former family friend, said during a preliminary hearing before a judge ordered disgraced doctor Larry Nassar to stand trial on state sex-abuse charges.

    Nassar, 53, is also charged in federal court with possession of child pornography — more than 37,000 images, including Go Pro video he allegedly made himself.

    Photo Credit: AP]]>
    <![CDATA[Twitter Skewers Jimmy Butler's All-Star Fashion Choices]]> Fri, 17 Feb 2017 12:08:40 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-620893754.jpg

    Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler is making his third straight appearance in the NBA All-Star Game this weekend in New Orleans, but before he even takes the floor he’s making waves with his fashion choices in the Big Easy.

    On Friday, Butler arrived in New Orleans for the game sporting a very interesting shirt:

    Naturally, the denizens of the Twitterverse were very understanding of his fashion choices, and they responded in very kind and compassionate fashion.

    (We’re kidding. They were delightfully witty):

    Butler should be the one having the last laugh however. After all, he is the one getting to play in yet another All-Star Game. He’s also averaging 24.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game this season, all of which would be career highs if he keeps up that pace for the remainder of the season.

    Photo Credit: Getty Images
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    <![CDATA[Rizzo Discusses Whether Cubs Will Become Hated Franchise]]> Fri, 17 Feb 2017 10:43:51 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-612437090.png

    After the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, there was plenty of talk about the team forever shedding its “lovable losers” moniker, but does that mean that the team will become hated thanks to its newfound success?

    At least one Cubs player doesn’t think so.

    That player is first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who is coming off a Gold Glove-winning season with the Cubs. He has been one of the team’s leaders over the last few years, and even though his team now has the proverbial target on their backs as the best team in the game, he still doesn’t think public sentiment is going to turn against the Cubs very quickly.

    “I had an older man in the gym tell me he’s a big Red Sox/Patriots fan,” Rizzo recounted during a press availability Thursday. “He goes: ‘Yeah, congrats, you guys won one, but you haven’t done anything until the whole country hates you.’ In a way, it’s true.

    “I think this team has a lot of good personalities where it’s going to be tough, but it’s the way it goes. You got to go out and play. And if we just respect the game, we’ll just make it hard for people to not like us.”

    With players like Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javier Baez in the mix, the Cubs certainly seem to have a good group of guys around, but the first baseman’s comments do raise an interesting question: will the Cubs become like the Red Sox, the Patriots, and the New York Yankees and become a hated franchise?

    Naturally, the question becomes moot if the Cubs don’t have sustained success after their 2016 title, but whatever the future may bring, Rizzo seems like he’ll accept any outcome..

    “It is what it is,” he said.

    Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
    <![CDATA[White Sox Spring Training: Five Players to Watch]]> Fri, 17 Feb 2017 07:57:58 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/abreu+GettyImages-607869286.png

    The Chicago White Sox are entering a brand new world as they begin preparations for the 2017 season, with the roster in flux and with a clear mandate to rebuild coming down from the front office.

    As a result, some of the biggest names on the team are already gone, with Chris Sale jettisoned to the Boston Red Sox and Adam Eaton shipped to the Washington Nationals, and more are expected to follow before all is said and done.

    With all of the movement of players, a new crop of youngsters is ready to take their turn at the wheel, and the 2017 season and beyond will be more about those who aren’t in the show yet instead of those that are.

    Even still, there are still some veterans worth keeping an eye on this spring along with the youngsters. To that end, we have picked five players of varying ages and roles to keep an eye on during Cactus League play as the White Sox prepare for the beginning of a new era.

    Jose Abreu

    After getting off to a sluggish start last season, Abreu really picked up his performance in the second half of the year, posting a .293 batting average with 25 home runs and 100 RBI as he had a third consecutive strong season at the plate for the White Sox.

    This season, Abreu will certainly be a player that teams could eyeball for another power bat in their lineup, but it will be up to him to play through the distractions and to help a young team find its footing by providing a stabilizing presence in the lineup.

    Tim Anderson

    As one of the top young players in the team’s system, Anderson is going to be looked to as a building block for the future, and he gave fans plenty of reason for optimism in his rookie season. He racked up 37 extra base hits in 410 at-bats, and he posted a slash line of .283/.306/.432 in his first season in the big leagues.

    Now, Anderson will need to take some steps forward in his sophomore season. The key to his success will be in finding more discipline at the plate (he walked only 13 times and struck out 117 last season), and in continuing to develop as a fielder, as the White Sox team defense needs to dramatically improve if the team is going to start their rebuild off on the right foot.

    Yoan Moncada

    Wherever Moncada ends up on the diamond, the White Sox got one of the top prospects in all of baseball when they landed him in the Chris Sale trade. Moncada has a powerful bat, blinding speed, and an ability to hit for average, and while he’ll likely start the season in the minors, it’s going to be very tempting to call him up if he is hitting the cover off the ball.

    Even still, White Sox fans have plenty of reason to pay attention to Moncada in the spring. As one of the crown jewels of the organization, Moncada’s development is going to play a huge role in the team’s future success, and getting off on the right foot with a solid spring training could add a breath of fresh air to a fan base in desperate need of it.

    Jose Quintana

    After Chris Sale was traded, Quintana slid into the ace role in the Sox rotation, and it’s a well-deserved promotion for one of the most underrated pitchers in all of baseball. Quintana has thrown 200 or more innings in each of the past four seasons, posting an ERA of 3.52 or better in all four, and he’s racked up 781 strikeouts in 951 innings of work at the big league level.

    Even with those gaudy numbers, Quintana’s days in Chicago may be numbered. Many teams, including the Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Pirates, and New York Yankees, have been sniffing around, and if one of them suffers an injury to their pitching staff, they could blow Chicago’s socks off with an offer (all puns intended).

    With that in mind, it will be interesting to see how Quintana will not only handle his new role as the team’s ace, but also whether he’ll be able to handle being trade bait as the season gets underway.

    Carlos Rodon

    If Quintana ends up getting dealt at some point, then it will be up to Rodon to step up and fill his sizable role in the rotation.

    Rodon has been solid in his first two seasons in the majors, with an 18-16 record and a 3.90 ERA in 51 starts, but he’ll be looking to take a step forward in the new season. Working closely with Don Cooper, Rodon is actively working on sharpening his command on his pitches while also trying to increase his workload, and both of those processes will be worth monitoring during the preseason.

    Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
    <![CDATA[Video: Bulls Win Thanks to Controversial Foul Call]]> Fri, 17 Feb 2017 07:34:27 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-642160646.jpg

    The Chicago Bulls played the last NBA game before the All-Star break on Thursday night, and a controversial call stole all of the headlines as they beat the Boston Celtics 104-103 at the United Center.

    The call came in the final second of the contest, when Jimmy Butler was fouled by Celtics forward Marcus Smart on a last-second shot attempt. Butler ended up making both free throws to put the Bulls ahead by a point, and the Celtics were steamed after the game.

    Here is the video of the play in question:

    “We won this game,” Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas told the media. “We had it won. A great defensive stop by Marcus Smart and the referee called a horrible call. That was bad.”

    Understandably, Butler disagreed with the Celtics’ frustrations, saying that the official made the correct call on the floor.

    “A foul’s a foul,” he said. “He hit my elbow. I don’t care what nobody says. I think I’m making it if he don’t alter it like that.”

    The victory vaulted the Bulls into the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference standings, and puts them just one game below the .500 mark heading into the All-Star break. Butler will represent the Bulls over the weekend in the game, which will take place in New Orleans on Sunday evening.

    Photo Credit: Getty Images
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    <![CDATA[Chris Long Reacts to Criticisms of Declined White House Invite]]> Fri, 17 Feb 2017 07:12:12 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-609375094.jpg

    In an era where athletes are taking to social media to weigh in on a variety of issues, there is always inevitable pushback when a player takes a controversial stand, and New England Patriots defensive lineman Chris Long is finding that out after his decision not to attend the team’s ceremony at the White House.

    Long, whose brother Kyle plays for the Chicago Bears, won the Super Bowl with the Patriots earlier this month, but he is one of many players on the team that will not be attending the yet-to-be-scheduled ceremony at the historic mansion.

    Ever since he made the decision not to go, Long has predictably been inundated with tweets, with some fans praising his decision and others jeering him for not going.

    On Thursday night, the lineman responded to the criticisms of his decision, sending out a lengthy series of tweets detailing some of the critiques that he’s heard and his responses to the barbs from fans.

    Here are some of the more notable ones:

    [[414063483, C]]

    Long is just one of many Patriots players who will not be attending a White House ceremony. Players like running back LeGarrette Blount, tight end Martellus Bennett, and defensive back Devin McCourty have also said they will not be attending due to their disagreements with the policies of President Donald Trump.

    Photo Credit: GettyImages
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    <![CDATA[Butler In, Wade Likely Out vs. Celtics Thursday]]> Thu, 16 Feb 2017 12:21:52 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/jimmy+butler4.png

    The Chicago Bulls will play their final game before the All-Star break when they welcome the Boston Celtics to the United Center, and although their injury situation still isn’t great, it sounds like they’ll get at least some good news for the contest.

    After the team’s shootaround Thursday morning, it was revealed that Jimmy Butler will play for the second straight game, and that he will have “no restrictions” following a battle with a nagging heel injury. Butler had missed four of the six games on the Bulls’ recent road trip with the injury, but he came back and played 38 minutes in the team’s victory over the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night.

    Butler isn’t the only Bulls player that will be in the mix for the final game of the season’s first half. Forward Nikola Mirotic, who has missed the Bulls’ last two games with a back issue, will likely be back in the lineup for Thursday’s game, according to Hoiberg.

    Unfortunately, the news isn’t all good on the injury front. Dwyane Wade, who has been hobbled by wrist issues in recent weeks, is unlikely to play Thursday night as he’s dealing with an illness. The guard has missed the Bulls’ last two games and three of their last four, and the team looks like it will simply let him get an extra jump on the All-Star break over the weekend.

    Finally, Paul Zipser has been formally ruled out of the game as an ankle injury continues to hamper his progress toward a return to the floor.

    Tip time of Thursday’s game against the Celtics will come at 7 p.m. Central time, and the game will air nationally on TNT and locally on Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

    Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
    <![CDATA[Shields: 'I Have Nothing to Prove' After Dismal 2016 Season]]> Thu, 16 Feb 2017 11:47:01 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/shields.png

    After posting a 4-12 record with an ERA of nearly seven last season, Chicago White Sox pitcher James Shields could be forgiven for wanting to leave that kind of performance in the past, but he went a step further with how he described his attitude toward his struggles.

    During a press availability on Thursday at the White Sox complex in Glendale, Arizona, Shields said that he wanted to forget about his struggles, but insisted that he had nothing to prove about his abilities as a pitcher.

    “I have nothing to prove, man,” he said. “Nothing to prove. I think my career speaks for itself. I definitely want to prove to the Chicago White Sox fans who I really am, when I was facing them. I want to go out and compete this year and do well.”

    Shields, who made $21 million last season and is still due at least another $42 million over the next two seasons ($22 million of which will be picked up by the San Diego Padres), won’t have a very high bar to clear as he tries to improve on his performance in 2016. In 114 innings of work, Shields walked 55 batters and gave up a staggering 31 home runs, which nearly matched his 2015 total in 88 fewer innings.

    Despite those struggles, Shields is confident that he can bounce back, working with pitching coach Don Cooper on a few mechanical changes and trying to stay focused on staying healthy over the course of a 162 game season

    “I had a really bad season in 2010 and came back and had a really good season in 2011,” he said. “So we’ll see what happens.”

    <![CDATA[Video: Cubs Say Goodbye to Travis Wood With Touching Tribute]]> Wed, 15 Feb 2017 19:20:21 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-522263266+%281%29.png

    Over the course of the last five seasons, only a handful of players have ridden with the Chicago Cubs through the highs and lows the team has seen under the leadership of Theo Epstein, and on Wednesday the organization sent a heartfelt goodbye to one of the players that had.

    That player was pitcher Travis Wood, who signed a two-year contract with the Kansas City Royals this week. The hurler officially signed the deal Wednesday, and the Cubs’ Twitter account sent out a heartwarming video about his time with the organization.

    Whether it was slugging a grand slam against the White Sox, making an insane catch up against the ivy in left field, or singing “Go Cubs Go” while shirtless during the team’s championship rally in Grant Park, Wood’s unique style is one that fans of the team will surely miss, and the admiration goes both ways apparently.

    Wood’s wife Brittany posted a photo of the camo-sporting reliever walking off the field at Wrigley after the team’s World Series celebration in November.

    Wood was traded to the Cubs by the Cincinnati Reds before the 2012 season. During his five seasons in Chicago, Wood made the All-Star Game, rode through some of the worst seasons in franchise history, and was a big part of the bullpen as the Cubs made their surge to the NLCS in 2015 and to a World Series title in 2016.

    Along the way, he posted a 3.94 ERA with 574 strikeouts in 691 innings of work, proving to be a versatile weapon both in the rotation and in the bullpen.

    Photo Credit: Getty Images
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    <![CDATA[Could Blackhawks Lose Top Prospect to Free Agency?]]> Wed, 15 Feb 2017 16:27:17 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP_115273738223.jpg

    The Chicago Blackhawks have had to deal with losing college free agents to other teams before, but in the case of prospect John Hayden, Hawks fans could be getting some welcome news soon.

    According to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, teams were hoping that Hayden would choose not to sign a contract with the Blackhawks and hit unrestricted free agency instead, but now they are “losing hope it will happen.”

    Hayden, who plays collegiate hockey at Yale University, has been one of the team’s top scorers this season, racking up 16 goals and 12 assists in 25 games for the Bulldogs. He was a third-round pick of the Blackhawks in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, and if he isn’t signed to a contract by the time August rolls around, he would become an unrestricted free agent.

    A similar situation happened during the last offseason, when Jimmy Vesey opted to become a free agent instead of signing with the Buffalo Sabres. Vesey was a rumored target of the Blackhawks during the free agent derby that followed, but he ultimately signed with the New York Rangers instead.

    The Blackhawks also have had a player opt not to sign with them before, as collegiate star Kevin Hayes decided not to sign with the team after being drafted in the first round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Hayes instead signed with the Rangers during the summer of 2014, and he’s continued to play with the team ever since.

    If Hayden does decide to go elsewhere, the Blackhawks would get a compensatory pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.

    Photo Credit: AP]]>
    <![CDATA[Cardinals' Star Prospect to Miss Entire 2017 Season]]> Wed, 15 Feb 2017 16:16:33 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Alex+Reyes+cardinals.jpg

    The Chicago Cubs are looking to win a second straight National League Central title this season, and one of their biggest rivals for that distinction just suffered a massive loss to their pitching staff.

    That team is the St. Louis Cardinals, and the pitcher that they’ve lost for the season is young phenom Alex Reyes. Reyes, who was ranked as one of the top 10 prospects in baseball by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, will undergo Tommy John surgery on his pitching arm, and the procedure will sideline him for the entire 2017 season.

    Reyes made his big league debut last season with the Cardinals, and he immediately grabbed the attention of the baseball world. He posted an impressive 1.57 ERA and a 4-1 record in five starts, and he struck out 52 batters in 46 innings of work.

    With Reyes out of the mix, the Cardinals’ pitching rotation loses the depth that they had built in by having six usable starters on their roster. It will also increase the pressure on guys like Adam Wainwright and Carlos Martinez to stay healthy in the coming year, and they’ll also have to hope that there’s no leftover resentment on the part of Michael Wacha after a lengthy contract stalemate ended with the pitcher losing his arbitration case against the Cardinals.

    Even before Reyes went down, the Cardinals were still facing a bit of an uphill battle to catch the Cubs in the Central. Finishing well off the pace last year, the Cardinals were only projected to win 76 games by Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA tool, well off the 91 wins that the Cubs are projected to rack up.

    Photo Credit: Jon Durr/Getty Images]]>
    <![CDATA[Bulls Ranked as One of NBA's Most Valuable Franchises]]> Wed, 15 Feb 2017 15:30:14 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-632001052.png

    The Chicago Bulls haven’t had a lot of success on the court over the last year, but off the court the team is still on firm financial footing, according to a new valuation of NBA franchises.

    The math, done by Forbes Magazine, reveals that the Bulls are currently the fourth-most valuable franchise in the NBA. According to Forbes, the Bulls are worth $2.5 billion, a nine-percent increase over last season’s total. The magazine says that the Bulls made a profit of $45.5 million last season, and that the team raked in $232 million in total revenue.

    Unfortunately for Jerry Reinsdorf, that wasn’t enough to get his team to the top of the list. That honor belongs to the lowly New York Knicks, who have held onto the top spot despite being one of the worst teams in the league in recent years. They are currently worth $3.3 billion, a 10 percent increase over last season.

    The Los Angeles Lakers are in second place at $3 billion, the Golden State Warriors check into third place with a worth of $2.6 billion (a staggering 37 percent increase over last year), and the Boston Celtics round out the top five with a valuation of $2.2 billion.

    Even with the increase in value, the Bulls still aren’t the most valuable team in Chicago. That honor still belongs to the Bears, who as of Forbes’ last valuation of NFL teams checked in with a $2.7 billion value.

    Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
    <![CDATA[Lawsuit Against Lance Armstrong Can Go Ahead: Judge]]> Wed, 15 Feb 2017 06:35:18 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/lancearmstrongmara.jpg

    A federal judge has allowed a civil lawsuit brought by the U.S. government against disgraced former pro cyclist Lance Armstrong to proceed, tossing aside Armstrong's arguments that the case should be dismissed, NBC News reported.

    The Justice Department alleges in the lawsuit, made under the False Claims Act, that Armstrong, a seven-time Tour de France winner, defrauded the government by doping while sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service. The Justice Department declined to comment Tuesday.

    From 2000 to 2004, the Postal Service paid Armstrong's team, the aptly named U.S. Postal Service Pro Cycling Team, a little more than $32 million, most of which went to Armstrong because he was the team's star rider, according to court filings.

    But the government is seeking damages nearing $100 million, about three times what USPS paid in sponsorships to the Postal Service Team during periods that fall within the False Claims Act's statute of limitations.

    Photo Credit: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File]]>
    <![CDATA[How the Bulls Are Changing the Social Media Game]]> Tue, 14 Feb 2017 19:15:04 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/BENNY+THE+BULL+STOP+MOTION.png

    Every tech-savvy sports fan knows that following your team on Twitter gives you access to solid stats and shareable gifs. But last season, the Chicago Bulls decided to step it up a notch. The result was a stop-motion video series that is not only the first of its kind, but has racked up millions of views and even won an award from the league. 

    Last year, they produced 10 videos with longtime sponsor BMO Harris Bank on the now-defunct platform Vine, the social network dedicated to six second looping video clips.

    As the #BMOVineaBulls took off, they adapted the videos to post on other platforms – a prescient idea, as Vine was shut down exactly one year after their first stop-motion video was posted – but not before the Bulls won the NBA’s first-ever Team Digital Content of the Year Award for their work.

    With Vine no longer in the picture, the videos are now the #BMOLoopaBulls on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and the creative team is free to create clips longer than six seconds. Take this one, of iconic mascot Benny the Bull hopping through the team’s schedule: 

    Or this video of Benny celebrating Thanksgiving in a way that only he can:

    There’s a good chance these videos graced your social feeds, and if you caught one, your first thought (after "Whoa") was likely, "How in the world did they pull this off?"

    Earlier this month, they gave NBC 5 an exclusive look behind the scenes of their latest creation, and it turns out that the answer includes tons of hard work and even more patience.

    For this particular shoot, four of the Luvabulls dancers performed a highly-choreographed routine while lying flat on the ground. Sound strange? It gets weirder - they did it moving just inches at a time, over the course of several hours, as a drone took photos from above.

    As director and editor Travis Rime Brooks explained, each video requires an incredibly labor intensive process that he likened to "animating people":

    Filming alone took more than four hours on Wednesday, but that can barely hold a candle to the video of Benny on the calendar, which was a seven hour shoot. That time commitment? Well worth it to the Bulls' digital content manager Luka Dukich. 

    "The product we get out of these shoots is content that people have never seen before, and people really respond to that," Dukich said. "So even though they're ambitious, very time-consuming, technical, at the end of the day, it's all worth it." 

    But what about the dancers themselves? You'd think Luvabulls captain Ariana Rosado would be exhausted. Not quite, but she explained just how different this kind of experience is:

    So why does the team behind these videos do it? As Dukich explains, it's all for you, if you're part of the second-largest social media following of any sports franchise in North America: 

    Perhaps just as cool as the project itself is how it came together, and how important Chicago's artistic community is to the success of the series. In its early stages, Dukich was looking for a creative mind to push the envelope, searching on Vine until he found Brooks - a Bulls fan who lives about a mile from the United Center. 

    The team's latest creation, a stop-motion video of the Luvabulls dancing, was released on Valentine's Day.

    Photo Credit: Chicago Bulls]]>
    <![CDATA[Cubs Spring Training Continues]]> Tue, 14 Feb 2017 18:37:40 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000022116950_1200x675_877314627520.jpg

    The Cubs have started their quest for a World Series repeat. NBC 5 Sports' Mike Berman reports from Mesa, Arizona. 

    <![CDATA[Cubs Lay Out Spring Training Plans for Schwarber]]> Tue, 14 Feb 2017 13:39:55 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/schwarber1.png

    The Chicago Cubs are going through their first workouts of the spring in Arizona on Tuesday, and after his improbable return from a torn ACL during the World Series, all eyes are on Kyle Schwarber as preparations for the season begin.

    Schwarber, who tore the ACL during the opening week of the 2016 season, was able to come back and serve as a designated hitter in the World Series, batting .412 in those games. Now, with an offseason to rehab the knee, he is taking fielding drills and is looking to take the next steps in his recovery.

    While there were questions coming into spring training about whether or not Schwarber would be able to catch this season, it appears that the team plans to at least let him try to. [[413744013, C]]

    According to manager Joe Maddon and Cubs President Theo Epstein, Schwarber will be examined by team doctors Tuesday, and if he’s cleared, he’ll begin catching one or two days a week during the team’s stay in Arizona.

    Schwarber will also wear a knee brace all season long, he told reporters, and will primarily focus on playing left field even if he’s medically cleared to catch.

    For the Cubs, the key with Schwarber will be patience, as the first pitch of the 2017 season is still over six weeks away.

    “We’ll walk before we squat,” Epstein deadpanned.

    Photo Credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
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    <![CDATA[Charles Oakley's MSG Ban Lifted, But He Wants an Apology]]> Tue, 14 Feb 2017 14:04:32 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/oakley+dolan.jpg

    Charles Oakley is allowed back in Madison Square Garden, though the former New York Knicks star says he wants an apology before he would return. 

    MSG chairman James Dolan banned Oakley last week, two days after the former power forward had an altercation with security guards while attending a game and was arrested. 

    But the sides reconciled, helped by a meeting Monday at NBA headquarters with Commissioner Adam Silver and Hall of Famer Michael Jordan. Jordan and Oakley were teammates in Chicago before Oakley was traded to New York, where he became a fan favorite with the Knicks from 1988-98. 

    Dolan then decided Oakley is welcome back at the arena, a person briefed on the discussions told The Associated Press on Tuesday. ESPN.com first reported the decision. 

    Oakley later told ESPN: "It's not about being at the Garden. It's about the fans. I want them to apologize to the fans. I told the commissioner I want them to apologize to the fans." 

    Oakley was asked on "The Dan Le Batard Show" if he would attend Madison Square Garden as Dolan's quest. 

    "Right now, no," he said. "I told him yesterday." 

    "I have never asked for nothing," Oakley added. "I love the fans in New York. They've been supportive. One of the things I told the commissioner, I want to have a press conference and I want him to apologize to me and the fans. They've had my back and they've felt the pain. I really appreciate the people all around who've had my back." 

    The Knicks said they had nothing to add beyond a statement issued Monday by Silver, who said both sides were apologetic about the rift and thanked them for working toward a resolution. 

    Oakley was a popular player in New York but his relationship with Dolan became strained after his criticisms of the team and its management. The Knicks stopped providing him with complimentary tickets and inviting him to team functions. 

    Oakley still attended a few games a year on his own, including last Wednesday's, when he was seated a few rows behind Dolan and was surrounded by security in the first quarter. He shoved a couple of security officials before he was pulled away and handcuffed. 

    Dolan announced the ban during an interview with ESPN Radio on Friday, though he said he hoped to see Oakley return someday. Dolan said he believed Oakley had anger or alcohol issues he first needed to address. 

    The Knicks are on the road this week for their only game before the All-Star break. They don't play at home again until Feb. 25. 

    Dolan welcomed back another estranged former Knick, Latrell Sprewell, on Sunday for the team's most recent game. Sprewell hadn't been back at MSG since 2004 following his falling out with the owner.

    Photo Credit: AP/Getty]]>