All posts by Josh Buckhalter

Chicago Bears Make True Feelings on Justin Fields Crystal Clear

This offseason is going to be chock full of the hottest takes with many pundits set to suggest that the Chicago Bears use the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft (April 27) on a quarterback and move on from Justin Fields. In fact, former New York Jets general manager Mike Tanenbaum has already said he would do just that for Bryce Young of Alabama.

Sitting in the pole position of the annual selection process does come with its fair share of perks. Not the least of which is the ability to take the best passer in the class if need be.

And yet, there was Bears general manager Ryan Poles to all but shut the door on that.

“We’re going to do the same as we’ve always done we’re going to evaluate the draft class,” Poles asserted before hedging. “I would say this, I’d have to be absolutely blown away to make that type of decision.”

Ryan Poles Sends Strong Message On Justin Fields’ Future With Chicago Bears

Justin Fields ‘Did a Good Job…Has to Improve’

Some may hear that Poles is still on the fence about Feilds. But he could also be playing it close to the vest. The more teams that think he may take a quarterback, the higher the asking price for the pick.

Of course, that is not to say that the No. 1 pick will not be used to take Young or another quarterback in Will Levis of Kentucky or Fields’ fellow Ohio State alum C.J. Stroud. It just did not sound like the Bears are too keen on being the team that does it judging from Poles’ comments on the quarterback he inherited.

“I thought Justin did a good job,” Poles offered. “I thought we changed a lot we adapted, we tried to put him in a position to be successful. He showed the ability to be a playmaker, be impactful. He can change games quickly. Does he have room to grow? He does. He has to get better as a passer and I’m excited to see him take those steps as we move forward.”

Fields and the Bears set good and bad records this season both breaking the franchise single-season rushing record and producing its fewest passing yards since 2005.

The second-year passer and former 11th overall pick threw for 2242 yards with 17 passing touchdowns to 11 interceptions. As was evident on the field, his season can be split in half at the Bears’ Week 6 12-7 loss to the Washington Commanders.

Fields spoke of being “tired” of the offense getting close and not finishing.

He went from averaging 144 passing yards per game on 54.8% completion over the first six weeks with four touchdowns and five interceptions to 162 yards per game on 67% completion with 12 touchdowns and five interceptions over his next eight starts before the wheels fell off the offense in Week 17 against the Detroit Lions.

Signs of Justin Fields’ Growth

Even more encouraging for Poles and fans is that more than one-third of Fields interceptions came in two games. Two came in a Week 3 win over the Houston Texans and two more in the Week 13 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Fields did not have any other multi-interception games, though fumbles remained an issue.

He led the league with 16 fumbles but he only lost two and had just five in the final eight weeks of the season despite sustained heavy use in the run game.

“I’m excited for the direction he’s going,” Poles said. He knows where he has to improve – I think he mentioned that the other day. So we’re excited about his development and where he goes next. He showed ability to be impactful with his legs, there’s flashes with his arm. Now, if we can put that together, I think we have something really good.”

How can Fields improve?

“Just for things to slow down mentally. And then, be able to react and anticipate quicker. Obviously, with that, we have to continue to build around him so that he can do that consistently as well.”

Ryan Poles Must Do His Part

The Bears spent less than any other team this season while carrying the fourth-largest dead cap hit. All of that has set them up to be major players in free agency if they so choose. They did send out a second-round pick for Chase Claypool whom Poles remains high on and Fields is giving them a reason to do whatever it takes to put even more weapons around him. That includes a front five that had just two members start more than 12 games.

Fields’ bad throw percentage dropped precipitously after Week 7 as his passing attempts rose, going from 4.0 bad throws in 19.9 pass attempts per game (20.1%) over the first eight weeks to 3.2 bad throws in 22.7 attempts(14.3%) across his final eight appearances.

That may be the best sign that his future is bright and that the game is indeed slowing down for him. But, as Poles stated, it is imperative that they put the proper pieces around him creating the proper environment for that to occur. And it doesn’t mean they will focus only on the offense in the draft or free agency.

The defense also allowed the most points in franchise history. This offseason was already critical to the organization’s success, potentially for the next decade if they do it properly.

4-Time Champion Reveals Damning Info About Bulls Exec

The fans deserve an answer. Even if that answer is not the one they want to hear – and at this point, it seems clear it would not be – they should hear it from the proverbial horse’s mouth. In the Chicago Bulls‘ (11-18) case, the “horse” is vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas.

Charged with taking over a team that had just one playoff appearance in the previous five seasons.

He got them back into the postseason with a flurry of changes, moving all but two players.

Chicago’s quick ascension has been followed by an even quicker, steeper descent into a team others are waiting to pounce on in trades. To this point, the Bulls have been rumored to be hesitant to go the full “tank” route but are open to making some tweaks to the roster – at least that is what we have been told they think.

AKME in Hiding?

“I know that the media as a whole has asked to speak with management, and that has been declined” former Bulls big man Will Perdue said during ‘Bulls Postgame Live‘ on NBC Sports Chicago. “But at some point, I feel like that they have to respond to what’s going on.”

Perdue began his point by reciting comments Karnisovas made on media day about heightened expectations for this season relative to last year.

Karnisovas made it clear that he expected a step forward.

The Bulls have now lost four straight games and seven of their last nine outings. They have just two wins in the telling month of December. But Karnisovas has not spoken publicly since an October 4 appearance during a 129-125 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, something Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times points out goes against the Bulls boss’ stated ethos.

“My professional philosophy is knowing players,” Karnisovas said when he was hired reminds Cowley, “constant communication, roster balance, and deal-making creativity.”

Cowley went on to point out that general manager Marc Eversley has spoken even less.

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Bulls Exec

Anthony Davis’ Injury Puts Onus on 38-Year-Old LeBron James

Unfortunately, it almost felt inevitable. The way Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis was playing just felt unsustainable even for a player as talented as he is. But it isn’t a cold spell that is his undoing, it’s once again his body that seems to have betrayed the eight-time All-Star, four-time All-NBA selection, and 2020 NBA champ.

Davis has been diagnosed with a right foot injury that will keep him sidelined for at least a month, per Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The injury comes amid the Lakers’ recent stretch of above-.500 basketball.

That doesn’t seem like much for the 16-time world champs but it is a far cry from where they were to begin the year. It also highlights just how significant of a loss this is as they now lean on LeBron James for the foreseeable future.

Los Angeles Lakers Receive Devastating Update on Anthony Davis

Davis Out Indefinitely

“Davis underwent an MRI on Saturday after leaving Friday night’s victory over the Denver Nuggets and was still undergoing more evaluation Sunday with a specialist,” report Dave McMenamin and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The 6-foot-11 big man had averaged 33.7 points on 73% true shooting over the six games prior to going down after just over 17 minutes in Saturday’s win over the Denver Nuggets.

L.A. has rallied from a 2-12 start to sit just 1.5 games out of the Play-In Tournament field.

“An extended absence for Davis could have a devastating impact on the Lakers’ postseason chances,” explain McMenamin and Wojnarowski.

Davis is tied with rookie Max Christie – who has just 118 qualifying minutes – for the highest net rating on the team at plus-10.2, per Cleaning The Glass. When he has been at center, something he resisted for years, the Lakers are outsourcing opponents by 1.5 points per 100 possessions, good enough to rank in the 64th percentile.

But when they have him at his preferred power forward position, they are plus-41.4 points per 100 possessions.

Put simply, they need him to sustain their current level of play.

Can LeBron Still Carry L.A.?

Wherever one may stand on the NBA’s all-time G.O.A.T. debate, we should all appreciate what James has been able to do. That he is still effective at this advanced stage of his career speaks volumes about his longevity.

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Phoenix Suns Star Makes Bold Statement With Monster Performance

From out of the ashes, the Phoenix Suns arose like a, well, Phoenix – the mythical bird after which their city gets its name. Down 24 points to the (at the time) Western Conference-leading New Orleans Pelicans, it would have been easy for the Suns to pack it up and focus on their next tilt on Monday against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Instead, they got a monster performance from their best player, Devin Booker, who went off for 36 of his 58 points in the second half with 16 coming in the second quarter.

It’s a new season high and the second time this year (the fifth time in his career) that he has gone for at least 50 points in a game. Booker had 51 points in three quarters in a blowout of the Chicago Bulls on November 30.

He also has a 49-point effort against the Utah Jazz on November 18 under his belt.

Devin Booker Makes Bold Statement With Performance in Suns’ Win

Suns Needed This From Devin Booker

“I was just making shots,” Booker said per Duane Rankin of Arizona Republic. “I’ve been in a bit of a slump and just have to keep shooting. That’s what I live by. I was put in the right situations to make the right plays. I usually just want to make the right play every time, but once I get it going a little bit, shooting over a hand – it’s the right play.”

Booker is a three-time All-Star and an All-NBA selection last season. But he was averaging just 14 points on 37.9% true shooting over his previous four outings with a two-game absence sprinkled in.

Still, he is 10th in the NBA averaging a career-best 28 points per game on 58.5% true shooting.

But snapping his personal slump was not his only focus in his postgame presser. Booker acknowledged just how crucial the win was. This was Phoenix’s second straight win following a five-game slide.

“It’s important,” Booker said noting two prior losses to the Pels this season. “A potential matchup for the playoffs, and we understand that, so just want to come out and set the tone.”

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Bears QB Justin Fields Gets Honest About Teammates

Week 15 ended just as the previous six have for the Chicago Bears (3-11). That is minus Week 14 when they had their bye, of course. They lost yet again. This time to a Philadelphia Eagles team that boasts the best record in the NFL on top of being the top-scoring offense in the league. The Bears, meanwhile, find themselves on the other end of the spectrum at 3-11 and rank 19th in scoring.

But the vibe in the locker room wouldn’t suggest a team that has seemingly become averse to victories after starting the season 2-1.

They are a team that has hope, thanks in large part to the man under center in Justin Fields.

After the game, he spoke about wanting to come back late. His team was down two scores despite suffering an apparent injury that sent him to the locker room for a key possession.

Justin Fields Gets Honest About Chicago Bears Teammates

Bears QB Sounds Off on Teammates

“It was important,” Fields said of returning to the game following what turned out to be cramps but still had the second-year passer limping to the sideline before going down to the ground. “Every time I get a chance to play, I’m going to want to be out there with my guys. I know they fight and, like I said before, they’re the only reason I play.”

Fields’ leadership has been a constant light at the end of the tunnel. Especially for the moribund Bears team even as they were at their lowest this year.

It was a postgame answer from Fields after a Week 6 loss that sparked an offensive turnaround.

And it is Fields who will determine just how well this Bears’ rebuild will turn out granted the front office does for him what Philadelphia Eagles general manager did for Jalen Hurts who was highly complimentary of Fields ahead of Sunday’s showdown.

Fields punctuated his sentiment if there were any doubts, saying, “I play for [my teammates] and God and really nobody else.”

It’s a very strong message from a player just finding his own way in this league.

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Proposed Blockbuster Trade Sees Bulls Land R.J. Barrett

With each loss, anxiety mounts among the Chicago Bulls’ fan base. The team has dropped three games in a row and has gone 3-5 so far in what could be a season-defining month of December.

Increasingly at the center of those growing frustrations is Zach LaVine who, if he was not already, certainly assumed the mantle of the face of the franchise in signing a five-year, $215 million max extension this past offseason. Even if DeMar DeRozan has been the more consistent player, LaVine’s contract is the largest in history.

As it stands, the Bulls are considering the two-time All-Star “off-limits” in trade talks, per ESPN‘s Adrian Wojnarowski. But teams are continuing to monitor the deteriorating situation.

With that comes speculation and hypothetical trade scenarios including some involving LaVine.

Flight 8 to The Big Apple?

LaVine is averaging 21.8 points per game on 55.5% true shooting – both the lowest since his first season in Chicago –with 4.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists as he continues to work his way back from offseason knee surgery. He is still scoring but not in the ways we have become accustomed to seeing including averaging 3.9 free-throw attempts per game.

The last time he averaged fewer attempts at the charity stripe was in 2017. That was his final season with the Minnesota Timberwolves before being traded to the Bulls.

His lack of explosion has been a common theme throughout this campaign.

Despite that, the 27-year-old would figure to be a hot commodity on the trade market if the Bulls made him available. That much is evidenced by the hypothetical package the Bulls would get in a deal proposed by Lee Escobedo of SB Nation’s Posting and Toasting.

Bulls Get:

Knicks Get:

  • Zach LaVine

“LaVine…has the game and the attitude to make MSG his home and duel with any superstar who comes in thinking otherwise.” Escobedo told colleague Kento Kato. “In the end, it would depend on the package, but he is someone for whom I would absolutely consider giving up a fair portion of our asset capital.”

Bulls Blockbuster Trade Bulls Blockbuster Trade

Bulls Star DeMar DeRozan Calls Out Team After Latest Performance

At some point, the Chicago Bulls (11-17) have to decide that enough is enough. Another loss — the Bulls’ third in a row with each of the last two coming against the New York Knicks — has left a dark cloud over the locker room.

Head coach Billy Donovan noted the “high character” of the players on the roster; one of the traits pushed as a benefit of roster continuity this past offseason.

After falling to the Knicks 128-120 in overtime on Wednesday, they were run off the floor in the second half of the second meeting getting outscored 27-16 in the fourth quarter alone ultimately falling 114-91. It was enough to elicit an expletive-punctuated answer from 13-year veteran forward DeMar DeRozan.

“We played like s***,” DeRozan said, per NBC Sports Chicago‘s Bulls insider K.C Johnson.”

DeRozan Rips Bulls’ Effort

The Bulls came out stronger in the second outing, leading the visiting Knicks 32-29 after the first quarter. They trailed 29-28 after the opening frame in the first meeting. But they lost the turnover battle 20-10 while also losing the battle on the glass 50-39 and getting outscored 14-0 in second-chance points.

A Knicks squad that has now won six games in a row scored 24 points off those giveaways to 10 points for Chicago.

“We didn’t have a sense of urgency,” DeRozan told reporters in the Bulls locker room postgame. “We didn’t do nothing. That goes back on us having to look in the mirror and start with each and every one of us. If you’re a competitor, you gotta play a full game.”

DeRozan finished the outing with 14 points, four assists (to four turnovers), four rebounds, and one steal. This is just the latest occurrence of DeRozan trying to be a guiding light for an embattled bunch that has looked more like the team we saw in the second half of last season rather than the first.

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Atlanta Hawks star Bogdan Bogdanovic makes bold claim on desired role

You love to hear about guys being all-in for the greater good of the team. In a league increasingly dependent upon team chemistry as on-court fit, the need for “glue guys” cannot be overstated. It helps when those players are as effective as Atlanta Hawks swingman Bogdan Bogdanovic is whenever he steps on the floor.

The Hawks eviscerated the Charlotte Hornets 125-106 in hostile territory to snap their two-game skid and notch their third win in eight tries in December.

Bogdanovic, drawing his first start of the season and the first since a 113-110 loss to the Detroit Pistons last season on March 7, delivered as usual. He finished with 28 points and nine rebounds which set a new season high.

After the game, he got honest about being a starter versus coming off the bench.

Bogdan Bogdanovic sounds off on role with Atlanta Hawks

“Everybody likes to start right here,” Bogdanovic said per Lauren L. Williams of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “But I like to finish the games more. Honestly.”

That was definitely true last season when the 30-year-old swingman averaged 17 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.3 assists in 36 games as a reserve compared to a 12.5/3.8/2.7 line in his 27 appearances as a starter. Surprisingly, though, it has not really mattered either in his career as a whole.

Bogdanovic averages just 0.1 more points and 0.5 more assists when he starts opposed to coming in with the backups.

Head coach Nate McMillan was trying something different amid extenuating circumstances.

“I just wanted to add some know-how out there,” McMillan said of starting Bogdanovic over impressive rookie AJ Griffin. “With all the injuries, we’ve been playing our young guys, I’ve been bringing Bogi off the bench to try to keep some balance. The restriction was taken off for him and just felt like I needed to put some know-how out there in that starting lineup.”

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Hawks Bogdan Bogdanovic

Bulls Urged to Replace Lonzo Ball With $43M Former MVP

At this point, the focus of the Chicago Bulls season has – or at least should have – turned from contention to reflection in the wake of their third straight loss and sixth in the last eight games. The back-to-back losses to the New York Knicks brought both of those ideas together.

Knicks guard Derrick Rose returned to the floor for the first time in 15 games after being removed from the Knicks rotation in favor of second-year guard Miles “Deuce” McBride. He was met by a chorus of cheers from a United Center crowd with very little reason to cheer as the Bulls were trailing by 28 points with 3:31 to go when he entered.

“It was amazing,” Rose said per NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson. “I tried to hold it in. But always getting acknowledged like that, it means a lot. We did a lot here. I’m happy I was able to get in.”

Perhaps that was a signal to a front office that should be searching for answers.

Bulls Should Bring Rose Home

“Forget honoring him, maybe the Bulls should trade for him,” argues Jon Greenberg of The Athletic. “Rose is making $14 million so it wouldn’t be easy. But a source close to the team floated that idea Friday night…In truth, other teams probably have the same idea. He’ll play again this year.”

Rose was drafted first overall in the 2008 NBA Draft and helped lead the Bulls to seven straight postseason appearances and even became the youngest MVP in league history at 22 years old in just his third NBA season.

“It would be awesome to see it,” the Chicago native said of one day having his jersey retired by the Bulls, “but it’s years away from that right now,”.

The Bulls can go a step further in ensuring it happens on the best of terms.

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Bulls Lonzo Ball

MVP Frontrunner Sends Strong Message on Bears’ Justin Fields

Before this season began, we posed a hypothetical scenario. It saw the Chicago Bears emulating the 2021 Philadelphia Eagles and finding their way into the playoffs. Ahead of their Week 15 showdown, the Eagles are first in the NFC while the Bears were eliminated from the postseason before going into the bye last week.

Still, the Bears have followed much of the blueprint laid out by the Eagles last season. They turned their campaign around following a mini-bye after Week 7. Head coach Nick Siriani re-vamp the entire offense around dual-threat quarterback Jalen Hurts.

Chicago used a mini-bye after a Week 6 loss to the Washington Commanders to re-tool their offense around Justin Fields.

As comparisons between the two passers are sure to fly, remember how they got here.

Eagles Jalen Hurts Sends Strong Message on Bears Justin Fields

From Justin Fields to Jalen Hurts

“He’s always been a player that I’ve had a lot of respect for,” Hurts told reporters, “at Georgia, at Ohio State, coming into the Bears and doing what he’s been able to do in a short time…we have to be prepared for him.”

It is important to note that Hurts averaged 245 passing yards with 10 touchdowns to four interceptions through the first seven weeks last season adding another 51 yards per game and five scores on the ground. He averaged 178 passing yards and 52 rushing yards after Siriani’s schematic switch.

Hurts’ quarterback rating actually went down as a result.

Fields’ trend has been more noticeable in part because of where he was at the beginning of the season. He’s gone from 144 passing yards per game with four touchdowns to five picks and 47 rushing yards per game with a score through six weeks, to 171 passing yards per game with nine scores to five picks and 103 rushing yards per game with seven scores in his last six games.

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