Urlachers legacy should be on the field, not TV

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Urlachers legacy should be on the field, not TV

The brouhaha over Brian Urlachers comments after the Bears' 21-13 loss to the Packers on Sunday has to be set aside and a bigger picture considered.
The final chapter and epilogue for Urlachers career as a Chicago Bear cannot be a popped hamstring late in the Seattle game and some frustrated mutterings last Sunday after watching his team lose and his teammates vilified by elements of the fan base.

MORE: Should fans continue booing the Bears at home?

Two things here:
One is that Urlacher doesnt need (or particularly want) anyone speaking for him or whatever. But this is Christmas. Cut the guy some Yuletide line. If you need a reason, maybe just because theres enough rancid going around in the world and life already.
The media doesnt like him because hes short with them, increasingly terse as the years have gone on and its difficult to feel fuzzy toward someone you know holds you in the same high regard as lint.
But Urlacher is more than his tackle totals or publicized personal life. Ill share a story with you here, from someone I met last week completely away from football:
The same guy who said he doesnt care what fans think or say not that long ago was in downstate Illinois for family time. He had agreed to be back in Chicago to help with a friends event for kids. No money, just something he said hed do.
A blizzard hit. Urlacher was good to his word. He got in his SUV and drove four hours through the driving snowstorm, made it and was all apologetic for being 20 minutes late. He then stayed to sign things and visit until the last kids were gone.
I dont particularly care what Brian Urlacher thinks of me. He doesnt talk to me, so were even there. But the legacy shouldn't be a fit of pique on some TV show or at some podium.
The proper ending
The second item here is what needs to happen next for Urlacher.
He probably isnt going to be sufficiently over the hamstring by next Sunday in Arizona. But the Bears have not placed him on injured reserve the way defensive tackle Matt Toeaina and running back Michael Bush were.
The game in Detroit could loom as the last grasp at the playoffs, assuming a Bears win over the Cardinals. The Bears desperately need a positive charge ... like the kind that Hall of Fame center Willis Reed once gave the New York Knicks in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals. Reed was out with a severe thigh injury but stunned the Los Angeles Lakers and the basketball world by running out of the tunnel in uniform. He started, hit the first two shots of the game for the Knicks, who rode the emotion to a win over Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and the Lakers.
It wont be in Soldier Field. But Bears fans travel and have turned places like Ford Field into virtual home fields for the team.
Urlacher trotting out with the No. 1 defense, hamstring taped up to ensure he can play a couple snaps -- best guess is that not just the defense would be energized.
Count on it: Urlacher would do that for Lovie Smith if he were sure it wouldnt hurt the team.
If that turns out to be Urlachers final game as a Bear, hes earned the honor of being carried out on his shield, if he can manage it at all. And if that gives the Bears a boost and they win their way into the playoffs or more, not a bad statement for being back another year, possibly with Smith.
That is how Brian Urlachers 2012 should end. Not on a TV set.

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott wasn’t exactly hunting for his first shot, but the first time he touched the ball in an NBA game in nearly a month wasn’t the optimal situation for him to let one fly.

It wasn’t in transition where he runs to an opening behind the 3-point line, nor was it a drive-and-kick situation where the help defense collapsed and left him open. It was a regular, simple, pass to the perimeter and McDermott’s defender was in reasonable proximity with 3:23 left in the first quarter.

He launched and the crowd soon roared its approval as his sweet jumper was sorely missed by the Bulls bench brigade—and moments later when he ran the floor for a fearless layup that caused Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to call a timeout, McDermott showed he missed the United Center crowd too, calling for more noise on his way to the bench.

“Anytime you have a guy like Doug, he comes back and makes his first 3, that’s hard to do,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He stepped up with confidence on that first shot. I’m sure he had a lot of nerves getting back out there.”

Missing 12 games and suffering two concussions, McDermott looked right at home in 25 minutes of run Thursday as the Bulls were able to rely on their reserves in some form in their 95-91 win over the previously perfect road warriors known as the Spurs.

“We defended and kept them off the foul line,” McDermott said. “Coach (Jim) Boylen was with them, so we feel we know them and I think all this time they were missing my defense.”

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The last statement was certainly tongue-in-cheek, but the Bulls’ bench production was certainly missing in action while he was out with the concussion protocol. So much so that his return prompted the Bulls’ coaching staff to call out the reserves in the morning shootaround, demanding more.

“It’s definitely Dwyane (Wade) and Jimmy (Butler) and (Rajon) Rondo (but) the coaching staff kinda called out our bench like, we gotta have you tonight, bench,” McDermott said. “We took that to heart, we were really locked in.”

Seemingly his presence aided the Bulls’ spirits and production, as the Bulls’ bench had the least effective scoring bench in the NBA since Nov. 13, the day after McDermott hit the unforgiving floor against the Wizards for his second concussion this season.

Their net rating ranks ahead of only the Wizards, Mavericks and Nets, who are a combined 17-45 this season. Their effective field goal percentage, which takes into account 3-pointers, is worst in the league in that span (42.3 percent).

When McDermott was healthy for that smaller sample size, the Bulls’ bench ranked fifth in offensive efficiency, seventh in net rating, and fifth in efficient field goal percentage. Whether McDermott – and his absence – was directly related to those numbers, it’s clear the Bulls are better when they have their best reserve – and only true floor spacers on the second unit – on the court.

“We’re all professionals and we want to help the guys who are busting their butts in the first unit to get us the leads,” McDermott said. “Tonight we did a great job of sustaining it. We take it personal when teams come back on us.”

[MORE: Pau Gasol relishes consistency with Spurs he couldn't find with Bulls]

Nikola Mirotic was four of eight from the field, and Cristiano Felicio seems to be back in Fred Hoiberg’s good graces as he’s carved out a rotation spot for himself with nine points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes.

It seems as if Hoiberg will stick with this rotation of players, at least for a little while until Michael Carter-Williams returns from his injuries. If McDermott is the mark of the Bulls’ bench going from bottom feeder to adequate, it should show this month.

“When he’s out there on the floor and we get him coming off screens, it forces the defense to shift as another person they need to be aware of,” Hoiberg said. “It opens up driving lanes for our guys. It was great to have Doug back with us.”

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

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