<![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-usTue, 28 Mar 2017 17:21:05 -0500Tue, 28 Mar 2017 17:21:05 -0500NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[NFL Draft Preview: Notable Third Overall Draft Picks]]> Tue, 28 Mar 2017 17:02:51 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-71308823.jpg The Chicago Bears own the number three overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, marking the highest draft position they've held in nearly 50 years. How have they done when picking third, and which NFL standouts have been selected with the pick over the years?

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<![CDATA[2018 Olympics: Viewers Can Watch All NBC Coverage Live]]> Tue, 28 Mar 2017 15:15:09 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/PyeongChang_Sign_PC.jpg

Viewers across the country will be able to watch all 2018 Winter Games all coverage live at the same time, NBC announced Tuesday.

The 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games are scheduled for Feb. 8-25, 2018, with the Opening Ceremony on Feb. 8. Between that and the Closing Ceremony Feb. 25, viewers from coast to coast will be able to watch all coverage, including prime-time, live for the first time. 

"Nothing brings America together for two weeks like the Olympics, and that communal experience will now be shared across the country at the same time both on television and streaming online," said Jim Bell, President of NBC Olympics Production & Programming in a statement. "That means social media won't be ahead of the action in any time zone, and as a result, none of our viewers will have to wait for anything. This is exciting news for the audience, the advertisers, and our affiliates alike."

The primetime Olympics broadcast will begin at 8 p.m. ET, 7 p.m. CT, 6 p.m. MT and 5 p.m. PT on most nights. That will be followed by local news, then Primetime Plus programming featuring more live coverage. 

Mike Tirico will host the primetime program, which had been hosted by Bob Costas since 1992.

The events will be broadcast across all NBC Universal networks and streamed live on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app on mobile devices.

Click here for more details on how to watch.



Photo Credit: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cubs Countdown: 5 Days to Opening Day]]> Tue, 28 Mar 2017 14:30:07 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-620693934.jpg

While it may not feel like baseball season in the Windy City yet, Opening Day is rapidly approaching for the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs, as we are just five days away from the first game of their title defense.

With under a week to go until the regular season begins, we figured it would be fun to start off a countdown of sorts to help fans get pumped up for the coming year.

5 in Cubs History

Out of all the numbers that Cubs players have worn over the years, it’s staggering just how short the list of impactful players who wore the number “5” is in team history.

The longest-tenured player that ever wore the number is Bob Ramazzotti, who donned the jersey for five seasons with the Cubs in the early 1950’s. Several managers have worn the number in recent years, including Jim Lefebvre and Jim Riggleman, with the latter wearing it for all five seasons that he was in Chicago.

Presently, the number is worn by Albert Almora Jr, and he may have already made a bigger impact on the team than any other player that has donned it, as he scored the go-ahead run in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series.

Notable “5’s” for the 2016 Cubs

5 – The number of Cubs hitters that struck out 100 or more times during the 2016 regular season. Kris Bryant led the team with 154 whiffs, but that was a significant drop from the previous season when he was punched out a team-record 199 times.

5 – The number of home runs the Cubs hit during their NLDS win over the San Francisco Giants. Cubs pitchers thanked the hitters for their power surge by allowing zero long balls in the series.

5 – Cubs relievers did a tremendous job in the NLDS, racking up five holds for the team. Five different guys performed that critical job, which helped Aroldis Chapman to get three saves in the series.

5 – A well-balanced offensive attack by the Cubs helped them past the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS, as Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez tied for the team lead with five RBI apiece.

5 – Bryant may strike out quite a bit, but he has an excellent hitting eye, and that was on full display in the World Series as he coaxed five walks against Indians pitchers to lead the team in that category.

5 – The number of starts that Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks each had during the 2016 postseason. Both pitchers had sparkling ERAs, with Hendricks leading the team at 1.42 and Lester finishing second with a 2.02 ERA.

5 – Four different Cubs players registered five doubles during the 2016 playoffs to lead the team in that category, with Dexter Fowler, Ben Zobrist, Rizzo, and Bryant each racking up a quintet of two-baggers.

Did You Know?

The Cubs’ history with the number five is scant, but they have had five Cy Young Award winners during the course of their history. Jake Arrieta was the most recent, as he took home the honors in 2015, and he joined hurlers Rick Sutcliffe, Greg Maddux, Fergie Jenkins, and Bruce Sutter in that exclusive club.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Blackhawks Playoff Watch: Race Tightens in West]]> Tue, 28 Mar 2017 13:35:03 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-657088664.jpg

While most people never want to leave Florida, the Chicago Blackhawks couldn’t get out of the Sunshine State fast enough after losing their second straight game on Monday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In two games there, the Blackhawks allowed a combined 12 goals and gained just one point in the standings as they try to secure the top seed in the Western Conference playoff hunt.

So where do the Blackhawks stand in relation to the Minnesota Wild? Which team are they in line to take on in the first round of the postseason?

To answer that question, we’ll delve into all the scenarios in this edition of Blackhawks Playoff Update.

Where Things Stand Now:

After getting a point against the Lightning on Monday night, the Blackhawks extended their lead over the Minnesota Wild to eight points for the top spot in the Western Conference. The Wild do have a game in hand, but with only seven games remaining on their schedule, they’ll have to push extremely hard to catch back up to the Blackhawks in the standings.

The Blackhawks are still within shouting distance of getting the top seed in the entire NHL (which would guarantee home ice advantage throughout the postseason), but they would have to really push to pass the three teams standing in their way. Both the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins are tied with the Blackhawks at 103 points, but both teams have games in hand on Chicago. Washington currently has a three-point lead on Chicago in the President’s Trophy race, and they also have two games in hand.

Who the Blackhawks Could Play in the First Round:

The race to play the Blackhawks is still wide open, with St. Louis and Nashville currently engaged in a dogfight for third place in the Central Division. Whichever team finishes in fourth will secure a wild card spot, and if they finish behind Calgary in the standings (the Flames currently have a two point lead on the Blues for the top wild card spot), then they would have to face the top-seeded team in the West, which is currently the Blackhawks.

Even though the Blues, Flames, and Predators are the three most likely teams to face the Blackhawks in the first round, the San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers are still in the mix, as both teams currently hold just a one point lead over the Flames in the race for division seeding.

What’s Next in the Race?

Minnesota has a tough home game on Tuesday night when they welcome the top team in the NHL to the Xcel Energy Center, as the Capitals head to the Twin Cities.

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks are off until Wednesday night, when they’ll have a tough game of their own as they head to Pittsburgh to take on the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Blackhawks Sign Iacopelli to 2-Year Deal]]> Tue, 28 Mar 2017 12:44:55 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-653376000.jpg

Chicago Blackhawks prospect Matheson Iacopelli may have seen his dreams of getting to the Frozen Four dashed over the weekend, but he has gotten a great consolation prize as he has signed a two-year entry level contract with the team.

Iacopelli, a third round draft pick of the Blackhawks in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, will report to the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs, and his entry-level deal won’t officially kick in until next season.

Iacopelli’s Western Michigan squad was eliminated from the NCAA tournament in the round of 16, scored 20 goals and dished out 16 assists in 40 games in his sophomore season. By signing a contract with the Blackhawks, Iacopelli will forego his final two seasons of eligibility and he will be able to make his way to the NHL team at the beginning of next season.

The Blackhawks have signed several of their prospects to ELC’s in recent weeks, including John Hayden and Anthony Louis. The moves are part of an effort to build the team’s depth at various positions as free agency and trades will likely take several of their players off of the roster for the start of next season, with Richard Panik and Marcus Kruger among the names most frequently mentioned as being in danger of being sent away.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bare Down: Cutler Exposes New Side of Himself in Candid Pic]]> Tue, 28 Mar 2017 11:55:15 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-137456316.png

*Editor's note: Content in this article may be unsuitable for some audiences.

A few weeks ago former Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was all bundled up as he played in the snow following his release from the team. Now, he has exposed a whole new side of himself and taken the term “Bear Down” to a whole new level.

Still on a tropical getaway with wife Kristin Cavallari, Cutler took in the sights and sounds of the ocean on Tuesday, and he made sure that he got the full experience.

(Just a hint: this image may not be suitable for work):

“Good times, no tan lines. Let the sea set you free,” Cavallari’s caption reads.

It’s been an eventful month for Cutler, who was released by the Bears in early March. After his snowbound adventures, the quarterback jetted off for a tropical vacation with Cavallari, and now he’s taken his freedom to a whole new level.

Needless to say, there’s no word yet on where Cutler will be playing, if at all, in the 2017 season, but unemployment doesn’t seem to be affecting him.



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[White Sox Send Peter Bourjos to Rays]]> Tue, 28 Mar 2017 11:24:58 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-163097622.jpg

The Chicago White Sox have plenty of question marks on their roster as they enter the 2017 season, and they added another one to the list on Tuesday as they traded outfielder Peter Bourjos to the Tampa Bay Rays.

In exchange, the White Sox will either receive a player to be named later or cash considerations.

The White Sox also made a pair of roster moves as they continue to cut down their big league roster, as they assigned pitchers Cory Luebke and Matt Purke to their minor-league camp.

Bourjos, who signed with the White Sox as a minor league free agent, had a solid spring for the team, with a .313 batting average with seven extra base hits. A Park Ridge native, Bourjos spent the first four seasons of his career with the Angels before making stops in St. Louis and Philadelphia over the last three seasons.

The trade is a bit surprising for the White Sox considering Charlie Tilson, that their primary center field option will not be available until late May or early June.  Acquired by the White Sox last season, the Wilmette native is dealing with a stress reaction in his foot, and the setback likely cost him the lead-off spot and the center field job to begin the season.

Now, with Tilson out and Bourjos heading to Tampa Bay, the White Sox will likely turn to either Jacob May, who is hitting .339 in spring training action this year, or Leury Garcia, who has made some solid plays in center field and has some Major League experience under his belt.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cubs Trim Happ, Zastryzny From Spring Training Roster]]> Mon, 27 Mar 2017 19:03:01 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-657841730.jpg

As the Chicago Cubs continue to pare down their roster before Opening Day, one of their top prospects is on his way to minor league camp after a fantastic spring with the squad.

That prospect is Ian Happ, who is one of three players that were sent down to the team’s minor league camp in a round of roster moves Monday. Happ has been bounding the cover off the ball all spring long, blasting five home runs and driving in 17 RBI to lead the Cubs in both categories. He also batted .417 for the team during the Cactus League season.

With a deep roster that includes a ton of players at both second base and left field, the positions where Happ has primarily played in the minors and in Arizona Fall League, making the team out of spring training was always a very slim possibility, but Monday’s move puts any speculation to an end.

According to Cubs G.M. Jed Hoyer, Happ will begin the season with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs, and there’s certainly a chance that he could make his way to the big leagues if injury necessitates it before the September call-up window.

Two other players were also sent down to minor league camp, as outfielder John Andreoli and catcher Taylor Davis were both trimmed from the Cubs’ roster. Andreoli, who starred for Team Italy during the World Baseball Classic, batted a paltry .167 in 19 games with the Cubs, striking out 14 times and hitting just one home run.

Davis had four RBI and three walks in 30 at-bats for the Cubs, and he batted an even .300 on the spring campaign.

Two more players were sent down to the Cubs’ Triple-A affiliate as well, including pitcher Rob Zastryzny. Zastryzny pitched for the Cubs during the 2016 postseason, but with a crowded bullpen and multiple options for long relievers and spot starters, he couldn’t quite beat anybody out for a job with the big league roster.

Spring hero Eddie Butler was also sent down despite being one of the best pitchers the Cubs have had in Cactus League play. Butler posted a 5-0 record in five appearances for the Cubs, striking out seven batters and posting a 0.95 WHIP in 14 innings of work.

The Cubs will need to finish cutting down their roster to 25 players by Sunday night, when they take on the St. Louis Cardinals in their first game of the regular season at Busch Stadium.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[2017 MLB Preview: NL East Predictions]]> Mon, 27 Mar 2017 17:09:59 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-614395556.jpg

The 2017 Major League Baseball season is nearly upon us, and around the sports world there is only one question on the minds of fans: who will win it all?

To help answer that question, we’ll be offering our predictions for which teams will make the playoffs in 2017, and which players will help them as they strive to get to the promised land.

1 Washington Nationals

2016 Record: 95-67

Key Additions: Adam Eaton, Matt Wieters

Key Losses: Danny Espinosa, Mark Melancon, Wilson Ramos

Summary:

The National League East has the look and feel of a two-way race, and we’re picking the Nationals to narrowly outpace the New York Mets. One would have to make an assumption that the team will try to bolster its bullpen at some point after the loss of Mark Melancon in the offseason, and players like White Sox hurler David Robertson will likely be at the top of their shopping list. In order to win, their offense will need better production out of Bryce Harper, and they’ll have to hope that Trea Turner doesn’t have a sophomore slump.

*2 New York Mets

2016 Record: 87-75

Key Additions: n/a

Key Losses: Bartolo Colon, James Loney

Summary:

Every team experiences at least some turnover in the offseason, but the Mets experienced a comically-small amount of it, as they didn’t add any players to their big league roster. Although that could conceivably be a scary thing in a league where teams are constantly remaking themselves trying to climb the standings, the Mets have a really strong roster, and they have to be optimistic that the injury woes that they were saddled with last year will be a thing of the past.

3 Atlanta Braves

2016 Record: 68-93

Key Additions: Bartolo Colon, RA Dickey, Jaime Garcia, Brandon Phillips, Sean Rodriguez

Key Losses: AJ Pierzynski

Summary:

Banking on the Braves to make a surge forward may seem like a fool’s errand, considering how bad the team has been in recent years, but there are plenty of young propsects like Dansby Swanson and a slew of new starting pitchers that should help the team get off to a more successful start in its new ballpark. Add Brandon Phillips and Sean Rodriguez to that mix, and suddenly the young and upstart Braves really do have a ton of veterans, and that group certainly won’t be satisfied with another last place finish.

4 Miami Marlins

2016 Record: 79-82

Key Additions: AJ Ellis, Edinson Volquez

Key Losses: Andrew Cashner, Fernando Rodney

With talented players like Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Dee Gordon in the mix, the Marlins should by all rights be a contender, but there are some serious rotation questions that need to be answered first. The death of Jose Fernandez really impacts the team on the field, and there really isn’t an heir apparent that is going to be able to come close to the electrifying presence that he helped inject into their rotation.

5 Philadelphia Phillies

2016 Record: 71-91

Key Additions: Howie Kendrick, Pat Neshek

Key Losses: AJ Ellis, Charlie Morton

Summary:

The big issues for the Phillies last season were that their bullpen couldn’t record outs, and their starting rotation couldn’t stay healthy. Adding players like Pat Neshek and Joaquin Benoit will certainly help with the former issue, but will the latter issue resolve itself as the team rebuilds a rotation around Jeremy Hellickson and company? That’s the big question that will dictate how successful the Phillies will be next season.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bears Mock Draft Roundup: Adams, Thomas Lead the Pack]]> Mon, 27 Mar 2017 14:36:56 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-614915986.jpg

For the Chicago Bears, this year’s NFL Draft is going to be a critical one for the continued rebuilding of their team, as they’ll pick higher in the first round than they have at any draft in recent memory.

Now, with the draft exactly one month away, there is one question on the minds of Bears fans all over Chicago: who will the team take with the number three overall pick?

To help answer that, we’ve perused a wide variety of mock drafts from all over the internet to see where NFL Draft experts predict the Bears will go with their selection when the draft begins on Apr. 27 in Philadelphia.

Bleacher Report’s Greg Davenport, CBS Sports’ Rob Rang, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr: S Jamal Adams, LSU

The Bears have a lot of needs on the field, but the one area of their defense that they have not sufficiently addressed over the last few seasons has been their secondary. Adrian Amos has been a decent player, and Quintin Demps has been brought in this offseason to help shore up the safety spot, but Adams is a potential home run hitter there, as he has a ton of athleticism and is ranked widely as the most polished defensive back in this year’s draft class.

SB Nation’s Dan Kadar, Windy City Gridiron’s Lester Wiltfrong, Jr: DE Solomon Thomas, Stanford

Thomas is looked at as a solid pass rusher in the draft class, but there are some concerns about his size when it comes to being productive at the NFL level. Is he long enough to be a strong pass rusher off the edge in Chicago’s 3-4 defense? Can he bulk up enough if the Bears want to kick him inside to help back up Eddie Goldman, or even to play tackle when the team switches out of their base package and runs a 4-3 defense?

Those questions will certainly need to be answered, but Thomas is definitely an interesting pick at this spot.

NFL Network’s Lance Zierlein: CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State

Four different draft analysts provided their opinions on the NFL’s website Monday, and two different analysts had the Bears taking Adams and one had them taking Thomas.

Zierlein, however, decided to send them Lattimore with the number three overall pick. The Bears have struggled in a big way to identify cornerbacks that can play on the outside, and although they have a plethora of strong candidates to play slot corner, they desperately need someone who can shut down one side of the field, and Lattimore is one of the big highlights in a very strong draft in terms of secondary talent.

WalterFootball.com: DE/DT Jonathan Allen, Alabama

Considered to be the second-best defensive lineman in the draft by many observers, Allen has some positional versatility and could be a great fit for a Bears team that has really beefed up its front seven in recent seasons. There are issues to be concerned about, especially with the potential for shoulder arthritis, but Allen is nearly universally viewed as a top-five talent and he could very well be on the Bears’ radar if all his medicals check out.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Raiders Move to Las Vegas Approved by NFL Owners]]> Mon, 27 Mar 2017 15:27:42 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/DIT_BAY_RAIDERS_032717-149064045515300001.jpg

The Oakland Raiders are moving to Las Vegas.  NFL owners voted to approve the move on Monday. The team plans to continue to play in Oakland in 2017 and 2018 while a $1.9 billion stadium is built in Las Vegas.

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<![CDATA[Cubs Countdown: 6 Days to Opening Day]]> Mon, 27 Mar 2017 13:53:28 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-181173628.jpg

While it may not feel like baseball season in the Windy City yet, Opening Day is rapidly approaching for the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs, as we are just six days away from the first game of their title defense.

With just under a week to go until the regular season begins, we figured it would be fun to start off a countdown of sorts to help fans get pumped up for the coming year.

6 in Cubs History

Unlike many other single digit numbers in Cubs history, this number actually had some solid players don it over the years. The most solid of the bunch was player and manager Stan Hack, who wore it for 11 seasons as a player and for three more as the leader of the team.

In more recent times, the number 6 has bounced around, with players like Glenallen Hill, Ron Coomer, Micah Hoffpauir, and Bryan LaHair all wearing the jersey for brief periods of time.

In terms of Cubs history, there are some very interesting factoids surrounding the number. Over the course of the team’s existence, they have played in six different ballparks, including their current home at Wrigley Field. They also played at a variety of locations all over the city, including West Side Park, which was located near the corner of West Taylor St. and South Damen Ave.

In addition to that, the Cubs have retired the numbers of six different players, as Ron Santo, Ernie Banks, Ryne Sandberg, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, and Greg Maddux have all had their jerseys retired by the team. For those who want to point out that only five numbers have been retired by the team, Jackie Robinson’s number 42 can be included for good measure.

Finally, the team has won six division titles in its history, including the National League East in 1984 and 1989 and the Central Division title in 2003, 2007, 2008, and 2016.

Notable “6’s” for the 2016 Cubs

6 – The number of hits that Javier Baez and Kris Bryant each had to lead the Cubs during their series win over the San Francisco Giants in the NLDS.

6 – Dexter Fowler had a strong regular season for the Cubs, but he struggled a bit as the playoffs opened as he struck out six times in 16 at-bats during the NLDS.

6 – Fowler made up for his NLDS struggles in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, scoring six runs to lead the Cubs in that category.

6 – The Cubs’ pitchers showed some pinpoint control in the NLDS, walking only six Giants batters in the four-game victory.

6 – The number of quality starts (starts of six or more innings and three or fewer earned runs allowed) that Cubs pitchers registered in the postseason. Kyle Hendricks and Jake Arrieta each had one, and Jon Lester made quality starts in four of his five times that he took the ball to start a game.

Did You Know?

When the 2016 World Series began, the Cubs not only had one of the youngest teams to ever suit up for the Fall Classic, but they also set a record thanks to Joe Maddon’s starting lineup.

When the series got underway, the Cubs’ starting lineup consisted of six players that were age 25 years or younger, which set a new record in that category. The young lineup, which featured players like Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, and Addison Russell made some big time contributions in the series as the Cubs ended a 108-year championship drought.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Former Star QB Jordan Lynch Back at Northern Illinois as Coach]]> Mon, 27 Mar 2017 14:27:37 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP_147857781600.jpg

These days in DeKalb, Northern Illinois University running back Marcus Jones can’t go far without being reminded he’s working under someone who’s kind of a big deal.

“I hear it all the time – how crazy it is that Jordan Lynch is our position coach,” Jones told NBC 5’s Mike Berman. “I tell them I’m excited, I’m ready to rock and roll.” 

Just five years ago, former quarterback Jordan Lynch led the Huskies to the Orange Bowl. Four years ago, he was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.

Now, after a short professional career in Canada, the Chicago native is hoping to get his alma mater back in the national spotlight as a coach.

“When I first got offered this job, I had to take a few weeks and think about it, because after I got done in the CFL with our season, I planned on going back the next year,” Lynch said. “But when an opportunity like this hits you in the face, you have to take it.”

When Rod Carey needed to find a running backs coach during the off-season, he quickly thought of his former quarterback. Carey could have called any number of guys with long resumes, but Lynch offered something the others didn’t. 

“Jordan Lynch can help us win as a coach. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have done it,” Carey said. “And it’s maybe not his knowledge at this point that’ll help us win … He will get that, and it’s coming every day very quickly like you’d expect for Jordan, but the intangibles. With the guys, on and off the field, and the attitude he brings every day on the field.”

In his first spring on the job, the 26-year-old is learning on the fly. One thing he’s quickly discovered? That it was a lot easier being a player.

“Now, I have to learn it, and recite it back to the players, so I really have to know my stuff,” Lynch said. “Playing, you can get away with getting lucky on the field, or you can go with the flow and athletic ability can take over. Now, my athletic ability can’t take over, so I need to know my stuff.”

Learning is made easier by the unique relationship Lynch shares with his boss. 

“I lean on those guys pretty heavily,” Lynch said. “Getting into coaching, there’s a lot of stuff I still need to learn. So whenever I need help or I have a question or I need something to be answered, I lean on these guys for advice.”

Lynch played for Carey, as well as others on the Huskies staff, so when he has questions, he’s comfortable seeking answers.

“I have a great relationship with him,” Carey said. “It’s more than just a co-worker relationship because I coached him too.”

Despite only knowing them for a short time, Lynch’s relationship with his players is great too. At 26 years old, they can relate to him, which, he says, is both good and bad.  

“They come at everything on me,” Lynch said. “They come at the hairline, they come at the shorts – my shorts come above the knees. It’s fun though, it keeps me young.”

Running back Marcus Jones was the first to admit he and his teammates enjoy giving Lynch a hard time.

“I always kid with him about how in the next two years, he’s going to be bald, so he needs to live it up right now,” Jones said.  

Lynch never envisioned his playing career ending as quickly as it did, but he always knew his future was in coaching. It turns out that future started earlier than expected, but exactly where he had hoped to be.

“It’s really special, my best years as a football player were at NIU,” Lynch said. “For me to come back and give back to that, it means a lot.”



Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Bulls Playoff Update: Chicago Closes Gap on Miami]]> Mon, 27 Mar 2017 10:50:38 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-651918204.jpg

Things have been going badly for the Chicago Bulls in recent weeks, but Sunday was actually a really good day for the team’s playoff prospects as they avoided a season series sweep at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks.

The game saw huge performances out of Nikola Mirotic, who scored 28 points, and Jimmy Butler, who set a new career high in assists with 14 in the 109-94 victory.

So where does that leave the Bulls’ playoff chances with only eight games remaining in the regular season? To answer that question, we’re taking a deep dive into the playoff scenarios to examine where the Bulls stand, and who they could possibly play in the first round of the postseason.

Where Things Stand Now:

Thanks to the Bulls’ victory, and thanks to Miami’s loss to the Boston Celtics, the Bulls are now just a half-game behind the Heat for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls are still within shouting distance of three other teams, as they trail Atlanta, Indiana, and Milwaukee by two and a half games.

The Bulls only have eight games to go in the regular season, but Miami has a game in hand on Chicago and has one fewer loss than the Bulls do, so they maintain a narrow edge in the standings as a result.

Who the Bulls Could Play in the First Round:

That situation is up in the air right now, and it depends on several factors. In all likelihood, if the Bulls get into the postseason it will be as the number eight seed in the East, barring a monumental collapse by one of the three teams that they trail by two and a half games in the standings.

If the Bulls finish in eight, they’ll likely play either the Cleveland Cavaliers, who they will play in a regular season tilt on Thursday night, or the Boston Celtics, who are now tied with the Cavaliers after their win over Miami on Sunday.

The Celtics have played two more games than the Cavaliers have, so Cleveland does have the chance to pick up a game in the standings if they can win both of those games in hand over Boston.

What’s Next in the Race?

The Bulls have a couple of home games coming up this week, as they’ll welcome a pair of teams with serious playoff aspirations to the United Center. First the Cavaliers come to town on Thursday for a nationally televised showdown, and then the Bulls will take on the Hawks on Saturday afternoon.

On Sunday the Bulls will complete the end of a tough back-to-back as they head to New Orleans to take on Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans.

Meanwhile, Miami has a relatively easy path through the next four games, as they’ll play Detroit and then take on the Knicks in a back-to-back set against one of the league’s worst teams. They’ll finish off the week with a home game on Sunday against the Denver Nuggets before embarking on a three-game road trip next week.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[NFL Approves Raiders' Relocation to Las Vegas]]> Tue, 28 Mar 2017 08:36:34 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/las-vegas-raiders.jpg

NFL owners on Monday gave the Oakland Raiders the green light to move from their current home in the East Bay to Las Vegas.

The relocation move was approved by 31 of the league's 32 owners during meetings in Phoenix.

"My father used to say that the greatness of the Raiders is in its future, and the opportunity to build a world-class stadium in the entertainment capital of the world is one opportunity that will give us the ability to achieve that greatness," Mark Davis, the owner of the Raiders, said.

Davis added that he has "mixed feelings" about the relocation, and he understands the anger that some fans of the Raiders most likely feel.

"I just hope that in the future as we play in Oakland this year that (the fans) understand it wasn't the players, it wasn't the coaches that made this decision, but it was me that made it," Davis said. "If they have anyone to talk to about it, it should be me. I will, in the coming days, try to explain to them what went in to making this difficult decision."

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf called Monday's announcement "very disappointing news."

"I'm very sad today for the 'Raider Nation,'" she said. "These are the most dedicated, passionate, good-hearted fans that any city could be proud to call theirs. That is what makes my heart so heavy."

With no stadium in place to greet them, it is not exactly clear at this point when the Raiders will pack their bags for Las Vegas. The Raiders maintain one-year stadium lease options in Oakland for the next two seasons. Davis added that the team could even still play in the East Bay during the 2019 campaign as well if the Las Vegas stadium is still in the works.

"We're still the Oakland Raiders and we are the Raiders and we represent the 'Raider Nation,'" Davis said.

Oakland season-ticket holders disappointed about the owners' decision will be allowed to refund their tickets if they so choose, Davis added.

The Raiders' proposal to the NFL included a $1.9 billion stadium plan in "Sin City." A total of $750 million in public funds via a Las Vegas hotel tax along with $500 million from the team and the NFL will be used to fund the construction of the domed arena. Bank of America, the Raiders' new chief financial backer, will also contribute funds.

The fact that no physical stadium location in Las Vegas had been officially determined and no stadium lease had been put into writing could have derailed the relocation proposal, but owners did not appear to find issue with those potential roadblocks.

In the days leading up to Monday's vote, Oakland went "all in" in hopes of enticing the franchise to stick with its original home.

Mayor Schaaf over the weekend backed a plan to construct a new $1.3 billion home for the Raiders on 55 acres of immediately available land just south of the Coliseum.

The East Bay city was slated to chip in $200 million to build the public infrastructure and pay for the preparation of the stadium site, according to Schaaf. Oakland's general fund would not have been tapped into to pay for the build. Rather, construction would have been paid off using revenue generated at the venue. Schaaf reiterated that $600 million in private funds would have come from the Fortress Investment Group and NFL Hall of Hamer and 49ers legend Ronnie Lott.

Mayor Schaaf on Monday once again stated that Oakland's stadium plan was a "fully financed, shovel-ready project."

The last-minute proposal was submitted to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last week, but it appears the effort was not enough to turn heads.

Over the weekend, Goodell wrote a letter, which was obtained by Bay Area News Group, to Schaaf indicating that the plan "does not present a proposal that is clear and specific, actionable in a reasonable timeframe, and free of major contingencies."

He backed that sentiment up Monday afternoon by claiming that the NFL worked "tirelessly" to resolve stadium issues in Oakland for roughly 10 years, but a substantial and well-rounded solution never materialized.

"The points that we always put back to Oakland were we need certainty on a viable plan that will work for the community and the team long term," he said. "It had to be actionable. We understand that contingencies sometimes occur, but major contingencies that put the entire project into doubt are just unreasonable in a case like this."

Davis added that Oakland did not do nearly enough to express its long-term commitment to the Raiders, especially after the Raiders were prevented from returning to Los Angeles last year.

"Oakland had the opportunity to come in and make a presentation to the league and they came in with a five-page piece of paper that had nothing to do with anything," he said. "They claimed that they would wait for us to lose the vote and come back and then they'd have all the leverage."

The Raiders came up short in that vote. The organization's leaders returned to Oakland and managed to negotiate a one-year lease at the Coliseum with two years of options, according to Davis. Both sides then planned to discuss long-term stadium ideas in the near future, but that never happened.

"A week later I got a call from one of the county board of supervisors telling me, 'Mark, I'm sorry, but the lease that we just negotiated, the three years of leases, are not going to be valid. We're going to raise the rent three times on you,'" Davis said. "At that point, we ended up signing that lease anyway, but then we decided we have to start looking elsewhere to see if we could find a long-term solution."

At that point, the Raiders and the city of Oakland halted communication with the exception of one meeting, according to Schaaf. She did admit that she understands Davis' frustrations with being unable to negotiate a long-term deal with Oakland for the past decade, but she also made sure to criticize him for not taking Oakland's latest stadium plan into consideration.

"I do think that the manly thing for him to do is at least admit that (Oakland) had a viable plan and that he made a choice," she said.



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area
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<![CDATA[Chicago Blackhawks' Playoff Tickets on Sale Today]]> Mon, 27 Mar 2017 06:08:05 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/United+Center+Playoffs.png

Single-game tickets for the Chicago Blackhawks' 2017 Stanley Cup Playoff run will go on sale Monday, the team announced.

Tickets for the first two rounds of potential home playoff games at the United Center will be released to the general public at 12 p.m. on March 27.

Fans can purchase the single-game tickets exclusively at Ticketmaster.com or by calling Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000.

Each customer will be limited to four tickets, the team said in the announcement. Refunds for any un-played games will be available at the point of purchase.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bears Cornerback Deiondre' Hall Arrested in Iowa]]> Sun, 26 Mar 2017 20:50:08 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-608569484.png

Bears cornerback Deiondre’ Hall was one of two NFL players arrested after an alleged fight outside a bar in Iowa early Sunday, according to police.

Just before 1 a.m., officers responded to an altercation outside Sharky's Fun House in Cedar Falls, where the University of Northern Iowa is located.

Hall was in the middle of the crowd, according to the Cedar Falls Police Department, “flailing his arms and yelling profanity at bar staff and patrons.”

Officers attempted to remove him from the crowd, but police said he refused to respond and attempted to escape. [[417137763, C]]

Authorities said Hall was “yelling and spitting in the face of the officers,” there was a strong odor of alcohol on his breath and he was slurring his speech.

Officers handcuffed Hall, who police said was argumentative, resisted arrest and refused to get into the squad car.

At that point, one of the officers used her stun gun on Hall’s left leg “in an effort to get him to comply with orders.”

Hall was charged with disorderly conduct, public intoxication, and interference, according to police.

During the incident, Green Bay Packers cornerback Makinton Dorleant, who played college football alongside Hall at Northern Iowa, attempted to grab Hall despite officers’ warnings.

Police said Dorleant approached three officers individually, “yelling and waving his arms in a threatening manner.” He was “admittedly ‘jacked up’ on adrenaline,” the criminal complaint against him reads.

Dorleant was also taken into custody and charged with interference, a misdemeanor.

The Bears selected Hall in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft, though he suffered an ankle injury in October that sidelined him for much of the season. 

When reached, a spokesman for the Bears declined to immediately comment. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[2017 MLB Preview: AL East Predictions]]> Sun, 26 Mar 2017 17:31:18 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-648824226.jpg

The 2017 Major League Baseball season is nearly upon us, and around the sports world there is only one question on the minds of fans: who will win it all?

To help answer that question, we’ll be offering our predictions for which teams will make the playoffs in 2017, and which players will help them as they strive to get to the promised land.

1 Boston Red Sox

2016 Record: 93-69

Key Additions: Mitch Moreland, Chris Sale

Key Losses: Yoan Moncada, David Ortiz, Koji Uehara

Summary:

The Red Sox were already a loaded team with their stellar offense, and they’re looking to be even better next season. Adding Andrew Benintendi to the mix could do huge things for an already potent-offense, and adding Sale to a rotation that already has Rick Porcello and David Price was an absolute coup for the Red Sox as they look to win a second straight AL East title.

2 Toronto Blue Jays

2016 Record: 89-73

Key Additions: Kendrys Morales, Steve Pearce

Key Losses: RA Dickey, Edwin Encarnacion

Summary:

The Blue Jays knew they were going to have a tough time holding onto both Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, but in the end they chose to keep their veteran right field and let Encarnacion go to the Cleveland Indians. Even with that loss, they’ve still got a solid offense, with Dalton Pompey hoping to add some pop to the mix in the outfield, but their pitching staff is a question mark, even with Marcus Stroman and J.A. Happ in the mix.

3 New York Yankees

2016 Record: 84-78

Key Additions: Aroldis Chapman, Matt Holliday

Key Losses: Nathan Eovaldi, Brian McCann, Mark Teixeira

The Yankees are looking to make some huge splashes over the next few years, whether it’s in free agency by potentially signing a guy like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, or with their own farm system, which has been restocked with a slew of trades as the Bronx Bombers have added players like former Cubs prospect Gleyber Torres to the mix.

Even with those moves meaning that the future is bright, the Yankees could still make a big step forward this season, and it will be a fascinating year to watch Joe Girardi’s squad continue to develop.

4 Baltimore Orioles

2016 Record: 89-73

Key Additions: Welington Castillo

Key Losses: Matt Wieters, Vance Worley

Summary:

The Orioles didn’t get any worse over the offseason, but they didn’t get much better, and in a division as tightly-bunched as the AL East, that could be a big issue to overcome. The Orioles have some solid prospects in their system, but they’ll need huge seasons from Machado, Adam Jones, and Mark Turmbo if they’re going to have another shot at playing baseball into October.

5 Tampa Bay Rays

2016 Record: 68-94

Key Additions: Wilson Ramos

Key Losses: Alexei Ramirez

The Rays are a team that has been searching for a new identity since Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon left the organization, and that quest is going to continue into the new year. They’ve got some solid players in Kevin Kiermaier, Corey Dickerson, and Evan Longoria, but they need to add some more pieces and get more consistent pitching before they can be considered a contender in a tough division.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Video: Rizzo Blasts Lead-Off Home Run]]> Sun, 26 Mar 2017 15:51:42 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-646064024.jpg

Before the Chicago Cubs took on the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday afternoon in Las Vegas, first baseman Anthony Rizzo made an unusual request of bench coach Dave Martinez.

The slugger asked if he could bat in the lead-off position in the game. Martinez agreed, and Rizzo immediately made him look like a genius by slugging a home run over the right field wall on the first pitch he saw:

In the initial lineup released by the team, the Cubs were going to have Kyle Schwarber bat first, which is something the team has planned to do all spring long. After Rizzo’s request, he and Schwarber flipped spots, with Rizzo occupying the lead-off role and Schwarber batting third:

That wasn’t the only offense that the Cubs were able to generate in the inning either. Kris Bryant slugged a double and Schwarber coaxed a walk, and then Albert Almora unloaded on a three-run home run to give the Cubs a 4-0 lead before the Reds were even able to record an out in the game.

When the regular season begins next week, the plan for the Cubs initially is to have Schwarber bat in the lead-off position, with Jon Jay taking over the job at times as well as the Cubs look for the long-term replacement for Dexter Fowler in the lineup’s top spot.



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Chicago Blackhawks Playoff Update]]> Sun, 26 Mar 2017 14:53:28 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-657089864.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks have had their playoff spot locked up for a little while now, but the identity of their first round opponent is still as unclear as ever.

With just seven games to go in the regular season, there are still at least four teams that could potentially draw the Blackhawks in the first round of the postseason, and things could get downright chaotic over the season’s closing weeks.

So who would the Blackhawks play in the postseason if the season ended today? What seed would they get?

To answer those questions, here is the latest installment of our Blackhawks Playoff Race Update.

Where Things Stand Now:

Even after their blowout loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday, the Blackhawks still hold a seven-point lead in the Central Division race with only seven games left to play in the regular season. The Minnesota Wild only gained one point on Chicago Sunday, as they lost in overtime to the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.

The Blackhawks’ lead over the Wild represents their lead for the best record in the Western Conference, meaning that if they maintain that position, they would secure home-ice advantage throughout the first three rounds of the postseason.

If they were to reach the Stanley Cup Final however, that advantage would go away. Three teams in the Eastern Conference currently have more points than the Blackhawks, with the Washington Capitals narrowly edging out the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins.  

Who the Blackhawks Could Play in the First Round:

If the season were to end today, the Blackhawks would play the second wild card team in the West, and that distinction currently belongs to the St. Louis Blues.

With how tight the race is in the conference, that could easily change. The Blues are currently just one point behind the Nashville Predators for the third seed in the Central, which would move them out of a matchup with the Blackhawks. They are also only two points behind the Calgary Flames, who currently hold the top wild card seed in the Western Conference.

There are currently three teams tied with 91 points in the Pacific Division, meaning that all manner of chaos could happen over the season’s closing weeks as Anaheim, San Jose, and Edmonton all jockey for position in the playoff hunt.

What’s Next in the Race?

The Blackhawks only have one of their final seven games against a Central Division opponent, but that doesn’t mean their path to the playoffs will be easy. Two more road games await them this week as they’ll take on the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins, and then they’ll head home to face a strong Columbus squad and a Boston Bruins team that is right in the thick of the playoff mix.

Things won’t be much easier for Minnesota, as they’ll have a home game against Washington on Tuesday and another home tilt against Ottawa Thursday. Then they’ll have a set of back-to-back games next weekend as they face Nashville in a pivotal road contest and then Colorado in a much gentler second half of the consecutive game set.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Jay Cutler Seems to Be Enjoying Free Agency]]> Sun, 26 Mar 2017 13:57:35 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-137456316.png

Former Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler may be out of a job for now, but he clearly isn't letting his uncertain future deter him from having a good time in the present.

In a photo posted over the weekend, Cutler and his wife Kristin Cavallari are seen enjoying some beach time and sunshine on vacation, and the former Bears quarterback looks like he doesn't have a care in the world.

If you think the sight of the couple enjoying a tropical vacation seems familiar - you're right. Cutler planned a surprise trip to Mexico for Cavallari's 30th birthday in January that she called "the best birthday of my life" in an emotional series of Instagram photos. 

Cutler, who was released by the Bears on the eve of free agency earlier this month, has been linked to several teams, but has yet to sign a contract. 

Teams like the New York Jets and Houston Texans have both been rumored to be interested in his services, but he still remains a free agent even as teams snap up quarterbacks.

While it's unclear where the couple may land, Cavallari revealed Monday how she feels about leaving Chicago, saying that she's "really gonna miss this place."



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Notre Dame Vies for Frozen Four Spot Sunday]]> Sun, 26 Mar 2017 12:55:24 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/20170326_1230351.jpg

The NCAA men’s hockey tournament is working its way toward the Frozen Four, and for the Chicago Blackhawks prospects participating in the postseason, it’s been a mixed bag of results thus far.

After Saturday’s action, only one Blackhawks prospect still has a chance to compete in the Frozen Four at the United Center next week, as Notre Dame will play for a berth into the national semifinal when they take on UMass-Lowell on Sunday afternoon.

Defenseman Dennis Gilbert will take the ice for the Fighting Irish in the game, and he’ll be looking to make more of an impact than he did in Saturday’s game against Minnesota, where he failed to register a shot on goal and was a plus-1 rating.

Two other Blackhawks prospects have already seen their postseasons come to an end this weekend. Western Michigan forward Matt Iacopelli had a strong game against Air Force on Friday, but his two assists weren’t enough as the Broncos fell to the Falcons.

Boston University defenseman Chad Krys was also bounced from the tournament, as the Terriers lost to Minnesota-Duluth on Saturday afternoon in the tournament quarterfinals. Krys did have a solid game as he notched an assist and a plus-2 rating, but it wasn’t enough as his team was eliminated.

Minnesota-Duluth and Harvard have already clinched berths in the Frozen Four, which will begin on Thurs, Apr. 6 at the United Center in Chicago. Two more teams will punch their tickets on Sunday, as the winners of the Notre Dame-UMass Lowell and Penn State-Denver games will each claim spots in the tournament’s final rounds.



Photo Credit: James Neveau]]>
<![CDATA[Cubs Countdown: 7 Days to Opening Day]]> Sun, 26 Mar 2017 13:44:59 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-468893890.jpg

While it may not feel like baseball season in the Windy City yet, Opening Day is rapidly approaching for the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs, as we are just seven days away from the first game of their title defense.

With just a week to go until the regular season begins, we figured it would be fun to start off a countdown of sorts to help fans get pumped up for the coming year.

7 in Cubs History

It’s not surprising that for a team whose history has been marked by unlucky breaks, the number “7” has hardly been a lucky number for players that have donned that jersey.

In fact, only a select few players have even worn the number for multiple seasons, as Augie Galan (1937-41), Frankie Baumholtz (1951-55), and Rick Monday (1972-76) share the distinction of having worn the jersey the longest as members of the Cubs, having worn it in five different seasons.

In more recent times, the number has bounced around quite a bit, with players like Mark DeRosa (who wore the number for the Cubs in back-to-back playoff appearances in 2007 and 2008), Arismendy Alcantara, and Todd Walker all putting it on their backs.

Outside of uniform number, the number “7” holds significance in a few areas for the Cubs. During the course of their history, the team has been owned by seven different people, starting with William Hulbert when the team was founded in 1876. Phillip K. Wrigley owned the team for nearly 50 years before the family sold it to the Chicago Tribune after his death in 1977, and is currently owned by the Ricketts family.

“7’s” for the 2016 Cubs

7 – The number of games it took the Cubs to win the World Series against the Cleveland Indians. During their entire history, the Cubs had never won a playoff series that had gone a full seven games, losing several World Series and the 2003 NLCS after those series went the distance.

7 – The number of home runs Jason Heyward hit after signing a seven-year deal with the Cubs before the 2016 season.

7 – The number of RBI that Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel had for the cubs in 2016, leading the team’s pitchers in that category.

7 – The Cubs specifically got Aroldis Chapman for his strikeout ability, and that paid off handsomely in the NLDS as he struck out seven San Francisco Giants to help secure the Cubs’ series victory.

7 – The number of home runs the Cubs gave up to the Indians in the World Series.

7- The number of Cubs players that appeared in all seven World Series games: Dexter Fowler, Javier Baez, Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Willson Contreras.

7 – The number of runs Rizzo scored in the World Series, leading the team in that category.

Did You Know?

Despite being one of the charter members of the National League, there is one thing that the Cubs have lacked over the years: hitters that have posted high batting averages.

Since 1900, the Cubs have won just seven National League batting titles, with their most recent coming in 2005 when Derrek Lee led the senior circuit in hitting. During that time, three different PLAYERS have won at least seven batting titles, with St. Louis Cardinals great Stan Musial (7), Pittsburgh Pirates legend Honus Wagner (8) and San Diego Padres star Tony Gwynn (8) all having achieved the feat as many times or more than the Cubs have.

To make matters worse, one of the teams with more batting titles than the Cubs is the Colorado Rockies, who already have 10 of them despite only coming into existence in 1993. To rub a bit of final salt into the wound, the last Rockies player to win a batting title was a former Cub, as DJ Lemahieu took home the title in 2016.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Blackhawks Make History in Blowout Loss]]> Sun, 26 Mar 2017 14:09:05 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-654434162.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks have been playing their best hockey of the season in recent weeks, but that was certainly not the case in a history-making blowout loss to Florida on Saturday night.

The Blackhawks, who have already clinched a playoff spot and hold an eight-point lead over the Minnesota Wild in the Central Division race, played the Panthers in a road matchup on Saturday and suffered a horrendous defeat, coughing up seven goals over the final 40 minutes of the game as they fell by a 7-0 margin.

That margin looks awful in print, but it’s remarkable how awful it is in terms of how this current team has done. Before Saturday, the Blackhawks had not lost a game by seven or more goals since they fell 9-2 to the Edmonton Oilers way back in November of 2011.

If fans want to find the last game the Blackhawks lost by a score of 7-0, they’d have to go back even further than that. For that game, Blackhawks fans would have to go all the way back to the heady days of 2001, when Chicago was blown out by a 7-0 margin in a home game against the San Jose Sharks at the United Center.

Needless to say, that season was not a successful one for the Blackhawks, as head coach Alpo Suhonen was dumped after one season when the squad missed the postseason for the fourth consecutive season.

The Blackhawks will have an opportunity to lick their wounds and move on Monday when they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning as their Florida road trip continues.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Is Bill Murray a Good Luck Charm? Twitter Seems to Think So]]> Mon, 27 Mar 2017 10:07:52 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-657091926.png

Bill Murray is having quite the year. It's always a good time to be the iconic 66-year-old 'Ghostbusters' actor, but it turns out that this is a pretty good time to be a fan of his favorite sports teams, too.

The Chicago-area native was front and center for his beloved Cubs’ first World Series victory in 108 years – singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game;" appearing on 'Saturday Night Live' with team members; calling for Mayor Emanuel to cancel school; and even making one fan’s dream come true. [[394285321, C]]

He crashed postgame interviews, victory celebrations and even a White House press briefing, all for the love of his Cubbies. Now Murray has his sights set on March Madness, and his support of bracket-busting Xavier University has led some to speculate that perhaps there’s a little something more to his diehard fandom.

The Musketeers came into the NCAA tournament as the 11 seed in the West Region, but those long odds didn’t stop them from winning three major upsets in a row. After taking out six-seed Maryland and three-seed Florida State in the first two rounds, Xavier toppled two-seed Arizona on Friday to head to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2008.

In the stands to see it happen was, of course, Bill Murray, whose son is an assistant coach of the Xavier men's basketball team. While the proud father's reaction to Xavier's shocking exit from the 2016 NCAA tournament quickly went viral, this year has so far been a very different story. [[417088723, C]]

A notoriously raucous sports fan, Murray's hair-tousling joy could put a smile on just about anyone's face – and it did not go unnoticed. [[417089043, C]]

"Entourage" actor Jerry Ferrara even tweeted that "tons of credit" goes to Murray, while sidelined Bulls star Dwyane Wade himself was in awe of Murray’s "power." [[417088703, C]]

That power even led some fans to change their allegiance—or hope that Murray could lend them a helping hand. [[417088793, C]]

Whether there’s some sort of magic to Murray's support remains to be seen, as Xavier is set to face their toughest test yet. The Musketeers take on one-seed Gonzaga Saturday evening, with both teams looking to secure a trip to their first-ever Final Four.



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[White Sox Announce Opening Day Starter]]> Fri, 24 Mar 2017 12:53:20 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-605723494.jpg

With Chris Sale gone from the South Side, the Chicago White Sox needed a new pitcher to take the ball on Opening Day, and on Friday Rick Renteria made his selection for the important job.

The White Sox announced that Jose Quintana will make the team’s Opening Day start when they welcome the Detroit Tigers to Guaranteed Rate Field on Monday, Apr. 3. Quintana, who had a 13-12 record with a 3.20 ERA last season, has been the subject of trade rumors all offseason, but it appears the Sox are poised to keep him at least for now as he starts their first game of the new season.

Quintana has had a spectacular spring both for the White Sox and for the Colombian squad in the World Baseball Classic. Against Team USA in that tournament, Quintana carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning of his start, and he replicated that feat in Thursday’s White Sox game against the Cincinnati Reds, as he baffled the team’s hitters throughout his start.

Quintana will be the fourth different pitcher to start an Opening Day game for the White Sox since Mark Buehrle started four consecutive openers. Sale started the first game of the season in 2013, 2014, and 2016, and Jeff Samardzija and John Danks each started the team’s opener during that stretch.

The White Sox will open the 2017 regular season with a home game on April 3 against the Tigers, with first pitch scheduled for 3:10pm at the newly renamed Guaranteed Rate Field.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cubs Unveil Special Home Opener Jerseys]]> Fri, 24 Mar 2017 12:26:29 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-620750418.jpg

The Chicago Cubs have a classic blue pinstriped look for their home uniforms, but for the team’s first home game since winning the 2016 World Series, fans are going to notice a pretty significant change.

According to a new video released by the team on Friday, their home uniforms for their games April 10 and 12 against the Los Angeles Dodgers will feature gold numbers and gold trim instead of the traditional blue as they unveil their championship banner and receive their championship rings at the Friendly Confines: 

The Cubs won’t be the first team to wear gold-tinted uniforms in celebration of a World Series title. The Kansas City Royals also wore similar uniforms in 2016 after their first title in over 30 years, and the St. Louis Cardinals have also donned uniforms with gold accents.

For fans who want access to the special championship gear, you’re in luck. The Cubs will be selling the merchandise at their team store and in their online shop beginning on Saturday morning.



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Bears Announce Signing of Veteran QB Mark Sanchez]]> Fri, 24 Mar 2017 08:40:39 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Mark+Sanchez.png

The Chicago Bears have signed veteran quarterback Mark Sanchez to a one-year contract, the team announced Friday.

Sanchez has appeared in 77 games, with 72 starts, over the eight seasons of his NFL career.

He was selected by the New York Jets with the fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft out of the University of Southern California and was named starting quarterback before the start of his rookie season.

[[417017833, C]]

After four seasons with the Jets, Sanchez was placed on injured reserve in 2013 after suffering a shoulder injury during the preseason. He then signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015, where he played sparingly until he was traded to the Denver Broncos on March 11, 2016, Bears senior writer Larry Mayer reports.

Sanchez is the third quarterback on the Bears roster. He joins Mike Glennon and Connor Shaw. Glennon, who spent the last four seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will make around $18.5 million in guaranteed money over the life of his contract with the Bears. About $16 million of that money comes in the first year, giving the Bears an easy exit out of the deal if he doesn’t live up to the paycheck.



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Blackhawks' 2016-17 Season in Photos ]]> Fri, 24 Mar 2017 15:24:45 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/hawks+thumb.jpg With the Chicago Blackhawks clinching their ninth straight playoff berth, take a look through photos of their 2016-17 season and re-live the highs and lows as the team eyes its chance for another possible Stanley Cup championship.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[NFL to Develop 'Educational Training Video' for Touchdown Celebrations]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 16:11:21 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-619305294_master.jpg

The National Football League wants to show players how they should celebrate touchdowns during a game.

The league is preparing a training video to show players which types of celebrations are allowed.

Troy Vincent, the NFL executive vice president of football operations, said on Twitter Wednesday that the league is developing an educational training video, with the goal of giving the players “clear examples of appropriate and inappropriate celebrations.”

[[416952903,C]]

Vincent, a former player, clarifies that the videos are not new celebrations rules but they are for "clarity and consistency for both the official and the player."

But not everyone is happy about the idea.

Former Cowboys player Martellus Bennett ripped NFL in a Twitter rant on Thursday.

He said the NFL wants the players to be robots and not individuals and compared the way NFL promotes logos to the way NBA promotes players.

[[416953133,C]]

Along with the training videos, the committee is also exploring ways to take dangerous hits out of the games.

"We'll communicate this to our coaches and players with video examples of flagrant hits that may result in ejection or suspension," Vincent announced in a series of tweets.



Photo Credit: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[White House Announces New England Patriots' Visit]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 14:11:18 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/what-ap.jpg

It's official: the White House has announced when the New England Patriots are visiting after the team's historic comeback Super Bowl win.

The Patriots will meet President Donald Trump on April 19, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced Thursday.

A number of star players have already stated they won't be visiting 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., including Martellus Bennett, Devin McCourty, LaGarrette Blount and Dont'a Hightower.

Before the team's Super Bowl win against the Atlanta Falcons, Bennett announced that he wouldn't go to the White House if the Patriots won.

"America was built on inclusiveness not exclusiveness," he tweeted.

Blount's announcement was made on "The Rich Eisen Show" after the Pats' win.

"I don't feel welcome in that house. I'll leave it at that," Blount said.

Running back James White said he was considering skipping the event, but would make a decision after the team was invited.

Star quarterback Tom Brady previously said his teammates are allowed to skip their trip to the White House, but added that they're missing "a great experience."

Brady missed his team's 2015 White House trip during the Obama administration, but said his absence "never was a political thing."

Trump has frequently mentioned his friendships with Brady, Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Patriots owner Robert Kraft, including on the eve of Election Night during a visit to New Hampshire.



Photo Credit: CSN Bay Area staff]]>
<![CDATA[Cubs' Epstein Tops Fortune's List of World's Best Leaders]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 20:53:49 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-618017652.jpg

Chicago Cubs President Theo Epstein has been named “The World’s Greatest Leader” by Fortune Magazine.

Epstein ranked higher than even Pope Francis in the magazine’s fourth annual ranking. 

The list was made up of nominations from a panel of “expert advisers” and features people the magazine says best taught three important lessons: Acknowledging reality and offering hope, bringing followers physically together and building bridges. 

Joe Maddon weighed in on the ranking while talking to reporters recently.

"Has the pope broken any 108-year-old curses lately?" he asked jokingly.

Epstein was noted as being famous among baseball fans as a data nerd, but “turns out, there’s much more to him than you think.” 

“Remember as you scan our list that we evaluate each leader within his or her own field of endeavor,” Fortune’s Geoff Colvin wrote on the list. “Someone leading a small organization effectively may rank above someone far more famous nudging global issues. Our point isn’t to declare that, say, No. 7 on our list is “greater” than No. 9. The point is that great leaders can be anywhere—at the helm of a giant corporation, running a rural college, or in a cramped office exerting influence through sheer personal energy.” 

Epstein was cited as being a “wunderkind executive who realized he would need to grow as a leader in order to replicate in Chicago the success he’d had with the Boston Red Sox.” 

He is followed by Jack Ma, the executive chairman of Alibaba Group, Pope Francis, Melinda Gates and Jeff Bezos, among other notable leaders. 

See the full list here.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[USA Dominates Puerto Rico to Win First WBC Title]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 05:38:16 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*127/AP_17082181722984.jpg

America's pastime is back in the hands of the United States.

Ian Kinsler hit a two-run homer and Marcus Stroman threw six shutout innings as the United States dominated Puerto Rico, 8-0, to win their first ever World Baseball Classic Title.

It was a patriotic night at Dodger Stadium as the Americans outplayed the undefeated Puerto Ricans in every facet of the game, avenging a 6-5 loss in the quarterfinals last Friday in San Diego.

"We were prepared since we've already played them once," said Pittsburgh Pirates' outfielder Andrew McCutchen. "They got us the last time, we made mistakes in that game, but today, no mistakes were made. That's something we keyed on and we were able to do it. We made history today."

Kinsler got the scoring started for the United States when the Detroit Tigers second baseman teed off on a four-seam fastball from Seth Lugo in the third inning to give the Stars and Stripes and early 2-0 lead.

Earlier in the day, Kinsler sounded off on how Puerto Rico and other Latin American countries play the game, telling The New York Times, "I hope kids watching the World Baseball Classic can watch the way we play the game and appreciate the way we play the game as opposed to the way Puerto Rico or the Dominican plays. That's not taking anything away from them. That just wasn't the way we were raised."

The United States didn't give Puerto Rico a chance to celebrate on Wednesday night as Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman had a no-hitter through six innings.

"I love pitching in these moments," said Stroman. "I love the atmosphere. I feel like the bigger the game, the more I'm able to get up, the more effective I am. I truly try to pride myself on being a big-game pitcher. This was probably one of the biggest if not the biggest game I've ever pitched in."

Stroman is of Puerto Rican descent, but ironically, opted to play for the United States over Puerto Rico in the WBC tournament. His mother, who is Puerto Rican, was harassed on social media earlier in the week for her son's decision to pitch for Team USA. 

"It definitely added a little fuel to the fire," said Stroman, who was named MVP of the tournament. "This is our first win. We've had a few early exits in the past. So each and every guy came into this with one goal, and that was to win it. I love these guys. It was an unbelievable experience, and I'll be back in four years to defend the title." 

Angel Pagan broke up the no-hitter with a double down the left field line to leadoff the top of the seventh. It was one of only three hits Puerto Rico would have on the night.

Andrew McCutcheon was 2-for-4 with two RBI and Brandon Crawford had a pair of RBI of his own as the U.S. hoisted the WBC trophy for the first time in it's fourth installment.

"It was a fun and great experience," said Crawford after the game. "Just to be on this team and around all these guys. They're All-Stars, Gold Glovers, Silver Sluggers, all that on this team. It was a lot of fun for me just to be a part of it, but the winning makes it even better."

The Americans relished their victory underneath a downpour of confetti on the field. Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer carried a bald eagle statue on the stage for the trophy celebration and acknowledged the team had their sights set on winning it all before the tournament began.

"We wanted to get the U.S. back on top of the baseball world," he said. "We did that."

Lugo, a New York Mets minor league pitcher, took the loss for Puerto Rico, allowing four runs on five hits with four walks and seven strikeouts in four innings. Entering the game, Lugo was 2-0 in the tournament, but Puerto Rico lost for the first time in eight games.

Before the game, Puerto Rico had printed up t-shirts that read "WBC Champions," and reportedly had plans for a return flight to San Juan and a parade pre-scheduled.

That preemptive arrogance irked Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones.

"Do you want the truth? Before the game, we got a note that there were championship shirts made, a flight, and a parade, and it wasn't for us," said Jones. "That didn't sit well with us."

Most of the 51,565 fans in attendance chanted "USA! USA! USA!" as they draped themselves in American Flags. After the game, United States' manager Jim Leyland said this would be the last time he would put on a baseball uniform and dedicated the game to our country's military

"This is for the men and women who serve our country."



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[NCAA Hockey Tournament Schedule Announced]]> Wed, 22 Mar 2017 16:46:46 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-542980078.jpg

The NCAA’s Frozen Four championship is coming to Chicago in early April, and we now know which 16 teams will be competing for spots at the biggest event in collegiate hockey.

The Frozen Four will take place on Apr. 6 and 8 at the United Center in Chicago, and will feature the four best college hockey teams in the nation. 16 teams have made the bracket for the tournament, but only four will make it to the Windy City.

Several Chicago Blackhawks prospects will be among those competing for the top prize in college hockey. Defenseman Chad Krys will join his Boston University teammates in the tournament, and he’s been having a strong season for the Terriers as he’s scored five goals and dished out five assists in his first season at the school.

Notre Dame defenseman Dennis Gilbert will also be participating in the tournament, and he’ll be looking to build on a strong 2016-17 season that saw him rack up 22 assists in 37 games for the Fighting Irish.

Finally there’s Matt Iacopelli, a right winger who will be suiting up for Western Michigan University in the tournament. He’s had a strong scoring year, with 20 goals and 14 assists to help his team into the tournament field.

Here is the full schedule of games (all times Central):

Northeast Regional:

First Round – Saturday

UMass-Lowell vs. Cornell, 11am

Minnesota vs. Notre Dame, 2:30 p.m.

Quarterfinal – Sunday

Semifinal Winners 2:30 p.m.

East Regional:

First Round – Friday

Harvard vs. Providence 3pm

Western Michigan vs. Air Force 6:30 pm

Quarterfinal – Saturday

Semifinal Winners 7:30pm

Midwest Regional:

First Round – Saturday

Denver vs. Michigan Tech 12pm

Union (NY) vs. Penn State 3:30pm

Quarterfinal – Sunday

Semifinal Winners 6:00pm

West Regional:

First Round – Friday

Boston University vs. North Dakota 2pm

Minnesota-Duluth vs. Ohio State 5:30pm

Quarterfinal – Saturday

Semifinal Winners 5pm

The Frozen Four will take place at the United Center beginning on Thurs, Apr. 6, with games taking place at 5pm and 8:30pm. The national championship game will take place on Sat, Apr. 8 at 7pm.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lopez, Ibaka Suspended One Game Apiece by NBA]]> Wed, 22 Mar 2017 16:02:07 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-646360066.jpg

Chicago Bulls center Robin Lopez and Toronto Raptors center Serge Ibaka have both been suspended for one game by the NBA for their roles in a fracas during Tuesday night’s game, the NBA announced Wednesday afternoon.

After a brief shoving match, both Ibaka and Lopez threw punches at one another, but neither connected before teammates and coaches were able to separate the two combatants.

The suspension means that Lopez will miss Chicago’s game on Wednesday night against the Detroit Pistons, a team that they’re trying to overtake in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The dispute happened after a made basket in the second half of Tuesday’s game, as Lopez and Ibaka got tangled up under the backboard. The two players began shoving one another, and as teammates began to intervene both players threw wild punches. Both players were ejected after the incident.

The Bulls, who had a 15-point lead in the game, ultimately went on to lose 122-120 in overtime, dealing another blow to their slowly dimming playoff hopes.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Reports: Dallas Green Dies at Age 82]]> Wed, 22 Mar 2017 16:12:00 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/ap_110216040979.jpg

Dallas Green, the main architect of the 1984 Chicago Cubs, who ended nearly four decades of playoff-less baseball on the North Side, has passed away according to a report out Wednesday.

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports and Meghan Montemurro of The News Journal reported the news of Green’s passing on Wednesday afternoon.

Green joined the Cubs in 1982 as the team’s executive VP and general manager, and he quickly went to work on rebuilding the team’s roster. He acquired star players like Ryne Sandberg, Rick Sutcliffe, and Dennis Eckersley, and thanks to his team-building the Cubs reached the 1984 postseason, making the playoffs for the first time since they’d made the World Series in 1945.

Unfortunately for the Cubs, they weren’t able to get back to the Fall Classic that year, as they blew a 2-0 series lead and ultimately lost three games to two to the San Diego Padres in the NLCS.

Even though the Cubs didn’t make the playoffs again in Green’s tenure with the club, he did oversee a farm system that churned out some incredible talent, with players like Rafael Palmeiro, Mark Grace, and Greg Maddux all joining the system and thriving under his leadership.

After his time in Chicago, Green rejoined the managerial ranks, taking the helm with the New York Yankees in 1989 and the New York Mets from 1993-96.



Photo Credit: AP Images]]>
<![CDATA[Anderson Discusses New Contract With White Sox]]> Wed, 22 Mar 2017 14:27:38 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-610209746.jpg

The offseason brought a lot of upheaval and change when it came to the future direction of the Chicago White Sox, but the team made it a point to cement one of its cornerstones into place on Tuesday when they signed infielder Tim Anderson to a six-year deal.

Anderson, who has just one year of MLB experience, adapted to the big league game quickly in his rookie season in 2016, hitting nine home runs and 30 RBI, and the team has rewarded him with a new contract that could be worth upwards of $50 million when all is said and done.

“I’m in a place where I want to be, and it’s a lot easier now,” he said. “There’s nothing like being somewhere where you want to be. This organization drafted me, and it’s been nothing but great things from them. For them to make this commitment to me is an honor and a blessing.”

The new deal will pay Anderson $25 million over the first six seasons, the most money ever given to a player with one year of big league experience. Two option years at the end of the contract could bump that number up significantly, and Anderson knows that the financial and time commitment shown by the team is an illustration of how important he is to their plans.

“It says a lot that they’re committing to me so early,” he said. “I’m definitely excited and pumped to move forward with things.”

Those young faces come as several older players went by the wayside. The White Sox fired former manager Robin Ventura after the season and hired Rick Renteria to replace him, and that was just the beginning of the rebuilding job engineered by G.M. Rick Hahn. Star pitcher Chris Sale was dealt to Boston in exchange for a boatload of prospects, including Yoan Moncada, and Adam Eaton was sent to Washington as players like Lucas Giolito made their way back to the Sox.

With so many new players around camp, Anderson is optimistic about the direction that the team is trending, and knows that he’s part of the youth movement that is being looked toward to give this team a chance at becoming competitive again.

“We have a lot of new faces, and this spring has been amazing,” he said. “To be able to get onto the field with some of the best young talent we have is an honor and I’m looking forward to achieving our ultimate goal, and that’s winning a championship here. They’re putting the pieces together to do that.”

With his new contract in place, Anderson will be looked at as a central figure on the roster, and it’s not a stretch to think about whether or not he might put too much pressure on himself. His manager, however, emphatically dismissed those concerns Wednesday.

“No,” he said.

For now though, Anderson has to focus on the little things in his game, like being more disciplined at the plate and being aggressive on the basepaths. Those things are good to work on in spring training, but there’s another thing he has to worry about: buying dinner for his teammates with his new contract.

“A ton of guys have asked about that, yeah,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve gotten a lot of jokes from a lot of teammates about that. But it’s been a lot of good stuff too. To have guys like this in your corner is great, because they’re like my brothers. I thank them a lot for their congratulations and support.”



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>