Chicago Sports Exchange: Bulls, Bears Look To Shift Narratives This Week

By Drew Stevens (@lookwhatdrewdid)

It’s as simple as this, Aaron Rodgers.

If you no longer want any part of an organization whose general manager has begun to dig your grave even as you continue to withstand the rigors of professional quarterbacking with flying colors, then you should most certainly look for a change of scenery. You see how well things are working out for Tom Brady after he ended his longterm relationship with New England, right?

He found greener — and far warmer — pastures in Tampa Bay. Now while it may be tempting to move across country where friendlier climates and your childhood favorite 49ers play, remember, that team blew its chance with you years ago. Besides, the coldest dish of revenge you could serve that bay green and cheese gold-colored front office would be aligning yourself with its sworn enemy, the Chicago Bears.

That’s how you retaliate against Brian Gutekunst, who had the audacity to trade up to select Jordan Love in last year’s NFL Draft, and head coach Matt LaFleur, who was a little too eager to co-sign that move and chose Mason Crosby’s leg, not your invaluable arm, when it mattered most. After all, when you have a chance to really stick it to your ex you don’t date a stranger. You round the bases with the best friend.

Think about it.

Not only would you move from the hallowed ground at Lambeau Field to that at Soldier Field, but you’d also go from being one of the city’s most hated visitors to one of its most beloved residents a la Dennis Rodman.

Plus, you love it here. Or at least that’s what I took from how you talked about the chills you feel before game time listening to both Jim Cornelison belt out the national anthem and Bears fans equally resounding reaction. “Those tingles over the years have made that place a really special environment,” you said in December. “And I do have a lot of respect for the organization, the fan base, their team.”

And we for you, albeit begrudgingly.

But you can’t really blame us for that though, can you? I mean, you did author a 35-16 beat down with your 240 yards and four touchdowns just a few days after speaking so highly of practically all things Chicago. Not to mention that was the 10th victory of your career in the Windy City in the 13 times you’ve played here. Hard feelings are even harder to shake when they’re mixed with the envy of watching your arch-rival swap one hall-of-fame signal caller for another while our carousel of mediocrity at that position continues to turn nonstop.

You can change that. You can rip that ride from its lousy rails. It’ll take some convincing, maybe even a little acting on your part. You’re pretty believable in those State Farm commercials. How good are you at faking or threatening retirement?

As far as compensation goes, tell Gutekunst we can offer the 20th overall pick in this year’s draft and future first-round picks in each of the next two as well. There figures to be a nice crop of blue chip offensive lineman this summer. Something for him to keep in mind given his franchise left tackle, David Bakhtiari, will be playing the rest of his career on a surgically-repaired knee. Also, considering how Kevin King had two touchdowns scored on him and drew a crippling defensive pass interference penalty that essentially robbed you of the chance to play in your second Super Bowl, it seems an upgrade at cornerback is in order. We’ve got a promising one in Jaylon Johnson he might be interested in, too.

If that package doesn’t move him, perhaps we can throw in the tag-and-trade of Allen Robinson. We’d much rather have the two of you here, but if we must sacrifice our most lethal offensive threat then so be it. You’re that special to us. Even today, just a handful of months from beginning your 17th year in the NFL.

Look. Breaking up is hard. There’s no two ways about it. But once you finish sopping up the best comfort food our city has to offer, you’ll adjust. You’ll see that while the sum of the Bears’ current weapons don’t yet compare to that of Davante Adams, Aaron Jones and Robert Tonyan, you’ve had far less to work with in your career than David Montgomery, Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney.

None of this is to say you’d find the type of immediate success that Brady’s found with the Buccaneers. What it does mean is your arrival would, quite frankly, send an already rabid fanbase over the moon; push our mockery of a front office into credible standing; and our overworked defense into more favorable situations.

If nothing else, how satisfying would it be to flip the league’s oldest rivalry on its head, to force Gutekunst and LaFleur to forever rue the day they chose Love?

In Green Bay you had to escape the shadow of Brett Farve — who, against conventional wisdom, was cast out to the Jets of all teams after reaching near-deity status as a Cheeshead, his association with the Packers being the only one that can rival yours post-Bart Starr. Here, in Chicago, you’d cast a shadow as far as our franchise’s list of starting quarterbacks is long before you even threw your first pass in dark navy and orange.

The offseason is long. Our patience for a player your caliber has been woefully longer.

Just give it some thought.

Ok?

And so begins a week that could have short-term ramifications for our city’s football team while providing further insight into the path being forged for our basketball team. 

Following tonight’s showdown with the Minnesota Vikings, the Chicago Bears will, win or lose, limp into their bye week. Mostly winnable games await them on the other side as the 2020 NFL season reaches its climax, yet none of their remaining opponents can be taken for granted. Not with their unsightly blemishes. Even with a newly expanded playoff format, victories are at a premium with the magic number likely nine to secure a wild-card berth.

Meanwhile, Arturas Karnisovas will begin his most important work to chisel away at the image of the Chicago Bulls as an NBA afterthought while crafting a new, winning form he wishes to create. Wednesday’s draft will mark just the fourth time in franchise history that the Bulls select fourth in the draft (previous picks: Eddy Curry, Marcus Fizer and Tom Boerwinkle).

Of course, Karnisovas could have other, more shrewd, ideas in mind, and that No. 4 pick could just be an offering for something even more trans-formative.

BUY – Bulls Don’t Lack Options, Expect New Talent To Impress

There’ll be no stage on which to showcase their individualized je ne sais quoi (i.e. loud suits), but this year’s batch of NBA Draft prospects will at last have their shining moment Wednesday — albeit via video conferencing and five months later than previously expected. 

As unpredictable as any draft in recent memory, odds are James Wiseman, LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards will have all heard their names called before the Chicago Bulls are officially on the clock. 

Karnisovas has vowed to use his first pick as Bulls executive Vice President of basketball operations on the best player available. With a tendency to keep his plans close to the vest and a projected steep drop-off in star power between the aforementioned trio and the rest of the field, who Karnisovas actually has in his sights is speculative at best. 

That said, with a core that includes Wendell Carter Jr., Lauri Markkanen, Coby White, and Zach LaVine, a facilitating guard the likes of Tyrese Haliburton, Killian Hayes or Kira Lewis Jr. could be in order.  

Or, perhaps a wing the likes of Isaac Okoro or Deni Avdija. Either one could serve as a short-term insurance policy and eventual replacement for the oft-injured Otto Porter Jr., who is expected to exercise his $28.5 million player option. Or maybe Karnisovas sees in Wiseman, Edwards or Ball someone worthy of trading picks and assets to acquire. Possible, still, is Karnisovas trading down to snag a veteran, additional draft capital — the Bulls also own the 44th pick — or both.

Suffice it to say most everything appears within the realm of possibility, especially with the league’s moratorium on trades ending today. 

Given his hand in selecting both the dynamic duo of Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic as well as key contributors Bol Bol, Michael Porter Jr. and Monte Morris during his time as an exec with the Denver Nuggets, Karnisovas’ track record should inspire unbridled confidence and enthusiasm for whatever reality he sculpts for Bulls fans.

BUY – Bears Will Show Fight Again In National Showcase

The Chicago Bears, in the midst of a not-so-slow but very much painful free fall back toward reality, are in danger of completely leveling out at .500 before next week’s bye — a fourth straight loss could be at hand if the wrong things happen in tonight’s nationally-televised tilt with Minnesota. 

Each of the Bears’ 2020 losses (arguably, the wins too) have ended up as referendums on both Matt Nagy’s inability to play to his team’s strengths and the person who gave him an offensive line that renders his desired style of play impractical in the first place, Ryan Pace. 

To his credit, on Friday, Nagy finally touched down on the other side of the line he’d ever so slowly tiptoed closer to crossing and relinquished play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Casting aside the go-between Nick Foles and the coordinator who, in Philadelphia, oversaw his best statistical season shouldn’t hurt matters. Neither will Cody Whitehair’s expected return to manning snaps nor the fact that Minnesota surrenders the eighth-most points and fourth-most total yards a game.  

Together, each could prove suitable antidotes for a flailing Bears offense. That is, so long as Foles is given more than the blink of an eye’s length-of-time to properly survey the field. 

Chicago’s defense remains stalwart, holding bruising and league-leading rusher Derrick Henry in check last week. Now they’ll look to slow his closest competitor to a league rushing title, Dalvin Cook, who in the last two games since returning from a groin injury, nearly ran for more yards (369 to 472) and scored more touchdowns (4 to 2) than anyone out of the Bears’ backfield this entire season.

Cook may be an unstoppable force, but the Vikings’ defense is very much a movable object.

For a Bears team that musters only 19 points a game and has been grossly dependent on its defense, it would be ballsy to shade in any more victories with anything that doesn’t easily erase moving forward. 

Pencil the Bears in for their sixth “W.” 

HOLD – Embarassment Grips Hold of White Sox While Abreu Shows Franchise At Its Best

Jerry Reinsdorf seems determined to disprove the notion that any publicity is good publicity. Either that, or he’s unabashedly taken the lyrics to Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” to heart.

Many Chicago White Sox fans found it discouraging enough that the chairman hired fellow Silent Generation product and old pal Tony La Russa to manage his multi-cultural team of exuberant personalities two weeks ago. That Reinsdorf did it with the knowledge that the 76-year-old Hall of Famer had been charged with driving under the influence in Arizona a day earlier added insult to his injurious decision making. 

With La Russa’s case still pending, the White Sox weren’t expected to release a long-winded statement. Even so their first stab at catching up to the story that’s sprinted to national headlines left much to be desired. 

“Once this case reaches resolution in the courts, we will have more to say,” their statement read Thursday. “The White Sox understand the seriousness of these charges.”

Understand?

His questionable fit as skipper of a brash team and return to a game he left nine years ago aside, not even La Russa’s second such arrest was deemed reason enough to seriously entertain other candidates. His friendship with Reinsdorf clearly ruled throughout the hiring process and will continue to in the days ahead. 

“You’ve got troubles, and I got ‘em too,” indeed. 

In two coincidental breaks from controversy, Jose Abreu became the first South Sider to earn American League MVP since Frank Thomas, the announcement breaking shortly after news broke of La Russa’s February arrest. The 33-year-old first baseman led MLB with 60 RBIs and 148 total bases. 

A day later, former White Sox intern and baseball lifer Kim Ng made history when she was named general manager of the Miami Marlins. Ng is the first female to hold that position in a major North American men’s professional sports league. 

BUY – Fire Extinguish Again, Act Quickly To Add Off-season Talent

A loss to NYC FC back on November 8th left just one point between the Chicago Fire and their second playoff berth in eight years. 

That 12 of the Fire’s 23 matches ended in losses of one score, or in a draw, while frustrating, leaves reason to believe things can bounce differently next season. Not having to grapple with the turnover that led to nearly half of its roster arriving after the start of the preseason potentially stokes the flame even more. 

Sporting Director Georg Heitz expects to sign a few more players in the coming months, with a premium on the injection of youth. Twenty-year-old Nigerian forward Chinonso Offor from Latvian first division Club FK Rigas Futbola Skola became the first such acquisition Friday. 

“We want to be a winning side,” Heitz said. “We have to work on our winning spirit, this is clear. I didn’t have the impression we were outplayed in many games, we had quite good performances. But definitely, there are areas we have to improve.”

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