Lakers GM responds to Kobe's criticism

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Lakers GM responds to Kobe's criticism

From Comcast SportsNet
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Mitch Kupchak says he must explore every opportunity to improve the Los Angeles Lakers, even if Kobe Bryant doesn't like it. The Lakers general manager issued a statement Monday night in response to Bryant's criticism of the club brass over the haze of uncertainty surrounding Pau Gasol. The 7-foot Spanish star is having the lowest-scoring season of his career amid rampant speculation about his departure in a trade ever since the Lakers attempted to move him for Chris Paul before the season. After Sunday night's loss at Phoenix, Bryant said he wanted Kupchak to decide whether Gasol would be traded or not. Kupchak responded with a terse one-paragraph statement before Monday's game against Portland. "As a former player, I understand how the days leading up to the trade deadline can be nerve-wracking for an NBA player," said Kupchak, a former Lakers center. "Nonetheless, as General Manager of the Lakers, I have a responsibility to ownership, our fans and the players on this team to actively pursue opportunities to improve the team for this season and seasons to come," Kupchak said. "To say publicly that we would not do this would serve no purpose and put us at a competitive disadvantage. Taking such a course of action at this time would be a disservice to ownership, the team and our many fans." Bryant said Sunday he hopes the Lakers won't trade Gasol, who is averaging 16.6 points and 10.7 rebounds while failing to make the All-Star team for the first time in four years. Although the Lakers were 18-13 and sitting in fifth place in the Western Conference heading into the Trail Blazers' visit, they've been inconsistent in their first season under coach Mike Brown, with a 5-11 road record and several embarrassing losses along the way. Bryant is the NBA's leading scorer with 29 points per game, but he's worried about Gasol, saying it's tough for the four-time All-Star to "immerse himself completely into games when he's hearing trade talk every other day." Gasol doesn't want to leave Los Angeles, and he acknowledged he's thinking about the March 15 trade deadline. He hasn't spoken directly to Kupchak about his future since the Lakers' preseason attempt to deal Gasol to Houston in a three-team trade for Paul was rejected by the NBA. Yet Gasol's numbers are only slightly lower than last season's averages, and Brown attributes much of that slight decline to the improvement of center Andrew Bynum, who made his first All-Star team while averaging 16.3 points and 12.5 rebounds. "I know there's been a surge from Andrew Bynum that wasn't there in the past, so Pau does not get the same amount of touches in the post that he has in the past," Brown said. While Bryant and Kupchak addressed each other through the media, Brown professed ignorance about the latest kerfuffle in Bryant's rocky relationship with the Lakers' management, saying he hadn't even read Bryant's comments. The new coach had no interest in getting involved, either. "I don't plan on going to talk to him," Brown said. "That discussion is done between Mitch and Kobe. ... It's not my place to address Kobe about trades. I don't have much to do with trades on this team." Even with this round of public sparring, the Lakers have won seven of 11 since late January. Although Bryant might be bothered by the Lakers' machinations, he was angry in previous years when the Lakers didn't make trades to improve the club, even demanding a trade himself in 2007. A few months later, the Lakers acquired Gasol and immediately made a run to three straight NBA finals and back-to-back league titles. Metta World Peace is no stranger to displeasure about trade rumors. Back when he was Ron Artest, he sparred with the Indiana Pacers' management over rumors about his eventual departure to Sacramento. "You can't really question (Kupchak), because he's looking out for the Lakers, and he does a great job," World Peace said. "That's his job, and we're supposed to go play."

Why Cubs felt like they had to trade Jorge Soler now

Why Cubs felt like they had to trade Jorge Soler now

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Before making the blockbuster Aroldis Chapman trade with the New York Yankees, the Cubs checked in with the Kansas City Royals about Wade Davis and found the asking price to be Kyle Schwarber. 

The psychology and the supply-and-demand dynamics are different in July. Schwarber had been damaged goods, still recovering from major knee surgery and months away from his dramatic return in the World Series. Davis also could have impacted two pennants races for his new team instead of one.
 
By the time a $10 billion industry reconvened this week outside Washington, D.C., for the winter meetings, the small-market Royals could compromise with Jorge Soler, betting on his long-term upside and facing the reality that their World Series closer could have been part of a mass exodus of free agents after the 2017 season.

The Cubs also checked into the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center knowing that Soler is a diminishing asset for a loaded team at a time when his best attribute – right-handed power – could be found on the free-agent market in sluggers like Edwin Encarnacion and Mark Trumbo.  
     
“I think there’s some great baseball ahead for him,” team president Theo Epstein said Wednesday night after the Cubs finalized the Soler-for-Davis trade. “I think it’s more likely that he reaches his ceiling now than it was 24 hours ago, because he’s got a chance to play every day.” 

Soler became a top priority within the first weeks of the Epstein administration as Cubs officials scouted the Cuban defector in the Dominican Republic before Thanksgiving 2011, picturing him as a building block for future playoff teams at a renovated Wrigley Field. 

Even chairman Tom Ricketts met with Soler’s camp during a trip to the Dominican Republic before the Cubs won the bidding war and the prospect signed a nine-year, $30 million major-league contract in the summer of 2012. 

Years later, manager Joe Maddon would describe Soler as Vladimir Guerrero with plate discipline, the kind of talent who would be drafted No. 1 overall if he had been born in South Florida. 

Soler showed flashes of superstar potential. He absolutely crushed the St. Louis Cardinals during the 2015 playoffs (2.341 OPS) and will get a well-deserved World Series ring. But he didn’t look like a complete player or an athlete the Cubs could count on to stay healthy, profiling more like a designated hitter in the American League.

“When George was playing sporadically, he became a little bit more of an all-or-nothing power threat,” Epstein said, “because it’s hard to get into a good rhythm and you’re not seeing pitches as much. You’re not recognizing spin the same way. 

“When he’s locked in, he can work really good at-bats. And he’s a hitter – not just a power hitter. So I think it’s more likely now that his potential gets unleashed at some point. We’re rooting for him.”

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Maybe Soler – who still hasn’t turned 25 yet – can avoid some of the leg injuries as a part-time DH and put it all together in Kansas City as the Royals try to balance the present, the future and their financial realities. But the Cubs are a win-now team that believes Davis could get them the final out of the 2017 World Series. 

An October legend (Schwarber) and a $184 million Gold Glove defender (Jason Heyward) would keep blocking Soler at the corner spots in Wrigley Field, where a National League MVP (Kris Bryant) and a World Series MVP (Ben Zobrist) can move away from the infield. Javier Baez is another versatile, well-rounded player who would continue to marginalize Soler. 

“It became tough for us,” Epstein said, “with Schwarber looking like he’s destined to play quite a bit of left field. Not ruling catching out as an option to some extent, but he’s going to play a lot of left field. 

“And with Javy’s emergence – and what that means for Zobrist’s possible role in the outfield as well at times – it just became tougher and tougher to see George getting regular at-bats with us. 

“We felt like he needed to play – and it would have been a tough fit.”

It would have been even tougher to trade a spare outfielder during his fourth season in the big leagues. Stashing Soler – who has 27 career homers in less than 700 big-league at-bats – at Triple-A Iowa wouldn’t have been the answer. 

The Cubs saw this day coming. Schwarber wrecked his knee in early April and Soler injured his hamstring two months later and wound up missing two months.

“He just couldn’t quite stay healthy enough,” Epstein said, “and kind of slumped at the wrong time and started to get hot right before he got hurt.

“That was kind of how we envisioned it: ‘Hey, if there’s an opportunity, this guy can take the job and run with it – and then we have an even more valuable trade chip – or we’ve got an everyday leftfielder/middle-of the-order bat.’ It just didn’t quite come together. 

“But I think this trade – despite that – recouped a lot of his value. It made sense for him, for us and for the Royals.”

Brandon Marshall doesn't remember 3 TD game from Bears-49ers in 2014 because he was on pain pills

Brandon Marshall doesn't remember 3 TD game from Bears-49ers in 2014 because he was on pain pills

Remember back in 2014 when the Bears rallied from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the 49ers 28-20 in San Francisco on Monday Night Football?

Well, Brandon Marshall doesn't.

And he had three of the four touchdown catches, two of them coming in the last quarter.

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The former Bears wide receiver, who had been dealing with a high ankle sprain, said he took pain pills before the game and doesn't recall much of it, including the incredible one-handed grab that went viral.

"I don't really remember much about that game because I worked really hard to get back from a high ankle (sprain)," Marshall said during a conference call Wednesday. "I'll say it, I took a couple pain pills that masked the pain. I really wasn't supposed to play. I came back from a high ankle (sprain) within 10 days. I was supposed to be out four to six weeks. I don't remember much from that game. I just remember catching those balls. And that was pretty much it."

If only Bears fans could forget that season entirely, which ended in a 5-11 record and the end of the Marc Trestman era.