For Lovie Smith, accountability looms

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For Lovie Smith, accountability looms

The light at the end of the tunnel may indeed be an oncoming freight for Lovie Smith.

The Bears are playing Smith into job jeopardy, with obvious complicity of Smith and his staff. Coaches do matter; how much is another discussion.

None of this may matter if the Bears beat the Green Bay Packers, make the playoffs, win the last three games, pick your scenario. And even a 9-7 finish out of the playoffs may not be fatal.

But the problem bearing down on Smith is that he simply has no wiggle room if the 2012 season continues its death spiral. Less than zero wiggle room, actually.

Heres why:

Throughout this offseason, GM Phil Emery has emphasized that the coaching and personnel staffs have worked in a close relationship. That means that Smith carries significant accountability for the talent level as well as the performances of that talent.

Jerry Angelo was fired chiefly for failing to develop a talent base competitive with the Green Bay Packers. Ironically, Smith will be held to some of the same standard now. Not that he would expect any, but he has no excuses open to him.

Smith and his staff always have borne a share of responsibility for the roster stocking. The past year has ramped that up, however.

It was Smith who strongly endorsed JMarcus Webb last offseason. It was Smith who declared that Kellen Davis was an answer at tight end. When the Bears completely passed on investing a draft choice on the offensive line, it was not Emery shoving the existing group (plus Chilo Rachal) down the coaching staffs throat.

The team needed an elite wide receiver? A top-shelf No. 2 quarterback and running back? They were all supplied. Now whats the problem?

The contract catch

Smith has one year remaining on his contract at about 5.5 million. The fact that the organization would have owed the better portion of two years at that price if it had fired Smith along with Angelo worked in Smiths short-term favor; no business likes eating 11 million (minus whatever Smiths new employer would have paid him).

But the Bears dont have to do anything contract-wise with Smith after this season, regardless of outcome.

The Carolina Panthers gave John Fox a five-year extension in 2006, in the 5 million range. As fortunes in Carolina faded, the Panthers simply let Fox coach out the 2010 season, the last under his contract, and then just moved on to Ron Rivera.

Fox went to Denver and had the Broncos in the playoffs last year with Tim Tebow as his rescue quarterback.

No coach or player likes being a lame duck, and they arent, if they rebound and win. Smith comes back in 2013 and winsnew paper happens.

Business-wise, why would the Bears be pressured into anything?

Sunk by offense

No two seasons are identical but the current one has begun to carry ominous echoes of 2011. That one was 7-3 and the Bears collapsed with injuries at quarterback and running back.

Now there has been a collapse from 7-1 to 8-5 and that is largely with the quarterback and running back healthy, just not playing very well. The offense had very little to do with the Bears reaching 7-1 this year.

The problem for Smith is that he simply cannot make a change at the top of the offense. He went one year with Terry Shea, five with Ron Turner, two with Mike Martz and now one with Mike Tice. Youre only allowed so many tries.

Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

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AP

Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

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Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

It was a gift and the Bulls weren't going to look it in the mouth as Dwyane Wade was poised to finish off another one of his sterling defensive plays with a breakaway dunk with the game tied and Arron Afflalo and DeMarcus Cousins trailing.

Lightly touched by the small of his back by Cousins, Wade miscalculated his liftoff and missed the dunk but was bailed out by the refs for a foul with 14 seconds left.

Then, he bailed the Bulls out.

Wade had his fifth fourth-quarter defensive play, stripping Cousins on a steal on the ensuing possession with the Sacramento Kings having a chance to win, leading to a Michael Carter-Williams dunk and finishing a 102-99 win Saturday night at the United Center.

It was a clock-turning performance for Wade on both ends of the floor, even if his missed dunk is a reminder that he is 35 years old. 

"I took off too far as I look at the instant replay," Wade said. "I should've took maybe one more dribble. Can't say I felt 35, I just took off too far (laughs). But hey, sometimes you get calls, sometimes you don't. I'm a person who hasn't gotten a lot all year so I'm not gonna apologize for nothing."

Stripping Cousins on his spin move was the finale, but he swatted an Arron Afflalo corner triple in the fourth, smothered Ty Lawson at the rim twice for blocked shots to end the third and tortured Lawson again in the fourth for another steal that led to him following up a Jimmy Butler missed layup with a follow and foul.

"Just a read," said Wade on stripping Cousins. "We knew he was gonna go to DeMarcus at that point. Once we forced him left, I knew he had to come back to the right hand. And being in the right place at the right time, the ball was right there for me."

Wade played like a desperate and motivated man, putting up 30 with six rebounds and four assists on the second night of a back-to-back is proof positive he took Friday's loss to Atlanta personally and used his play to back up those feelings.

He took to twitter to apologize for the poor effort against the Hawks, producing his best all-around performance as a Bull.

"We've been good in desperate moments," Wade said. "We haven't been good in non-desperate moments, when we win three in a row or playing a team that we should beat. But (in) the desperate moments I like us."

He scored 13 in the fourth, along with the last of his four blocked shots and all three of his steals took place in the final 12.

"I thought he was terrific," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He was aggressive all game long, taking the ball to the basket, getting to the line 15 times. He came up with two big plays."

Hoiberg threw out different lineups and rotations, playing Paul Zipser as a sixth man and having the second-round draft pick close the game. Zipser took advantage, hitting three triples and scoring 13 points.

"I thought it was night and day from last night," Hoiberg said. "Our energy was really good all night long. We got just enough stops to find a way to win."

Cousins dominated the game with 42 and 14 rebounds in 35 minutes, the only Kings player in double figures all night.

"He was pretty much unguardable for the majority of the game, Taj did a solid job on him," Hoiberg said. "When Robin was on him, they put him on the perimeter and let him shoot threes. He's a monster."

Back-to-back triples from Cousins gave him 40 and tied the game at 97, as a third one rimmed out with a little under two minutes left.

Cousins dominated the start of the third quarter, hitting midrange jumpers over Lopez and taunting the Bulls bench after hitting a jumper to put the Kings ahead, 70-63 midway through the third.

But the Bulls stayed close, with Hoiberg choosing to sit Rajon Rondo for the second half after playing him six minutes in the second quarter, using Wade as a point guard and going with Carter-Williams for defense, along with Zipser, who didn't look scared of the moment.

"I like the wrinkle coach put in there, putting him in early," Wade said. "He gave him an opportunity and he helped us big time."

Butler scored 23 with seven assists and five rebounds in 39 minutes, didn't have to play the hero for once and made fun of Wade's apology tweet.

"He was due for a big night," Butler said. "He can tweet again if he can come out again and give us 30 and some big steals and big dunks."

"I think that's what called of him, to score baskets and guard. It's kinda sneaky. You never really expect it until it happens."

It looked like the worst was over when the Bulls made a short run to end the third, surviving the onslaught from Cousins — and surviving their own experimenting with Zipser instead of going with Denzel Valentine, switching things up altogether.

But the tone was set by the leaders, who can only manufacture but so much urgency on a nightly basis.

"I like this team when we're desperate," Wade said. "A desperate team, we're not bad."