Thibodeau finishes second in Coach of Year voting

745118.png

Thibodeau finishes second in Coach of Year voting

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is the NBA's 2011-12 Coach of the Year, the league announced Tuesday. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau finished second in the voting, receiving 27 first-place votes to Popovich's 77.

Thibodeau was considered an early frontrunner to win unprecedented back-to-back honors in his second season as an NBA head coach, but the team's relative April struggles and the Spurs' strong regular-season finish likely played a part in the decision-making of voters. The Bulls and Spurs finished tied for the league's best regular-season record at identical 50-16, but the Bulls earned home-court advantage throughout the playoffs by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Spurs, as the Bulls won at San Antonio shortly after the All-Star break, in the two teams' lone matchup of the season.

Both teams won their playoff openers over the weekend, but Thibodeau's best player, reigning league MVP Derrick Rose, is now out for the remainder of the season after suffering a devastating torn ACL injury in his left knee late in Saturday's Game 1 win over the 76ers at the United Center. Popovich, who has won the award once before, in 2003, has won four NBA championships while coaching future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan and his strategy of rebuilding through young, unheralded players--Popovich also has an extensive say in the Spurs' personnel decisions -- as well as managing the minutes of veterans Duncan, All-Star point guard Tony Parker and sixth-man extraordinaire Manu Ginobili, while shifting to a more run-and-gun style compared to their previous half-court, defensive-oriented system has been widely lauded across the league.

Frank Vogel of the Bulls' Central Division rival Indiana finished third in the voting, winning seven first-place votes. Lionel Hollins of the Grizzlies and Thibodeau's former boss, Boston's Doc Rivers, were the only other two coaches to receive first-place votes.

Thibodeau frequently downplays individual honors, but it can be argued that without Rose for approximately half of the regular season, starting backcourt mate Rip Hamilton for the majority of the campaign and All-Star Luol Deng also missing significant time, the coaching job he did was even more impressive than last season, in which the Bulls also had the league's best regular-season record in Thibodeau's first shot at being an NBA head coach. While Thibodeau has faced criticism for leaving Rose in Saturday's game with the Bulls up by double figures and under two minutes to play, that didn't factor into the award, as voters had to submit their choices by last Friday, a day before the contest.

WATCH: Blackhawks play Blues in NHL 17 ahead of Winter Classic showdown

WATCH: Blackhawks play Blues in NHL 17 ahead of Winter Classic showdown

For the third time since the event was created, the Blackhawks will participate in the Winter Classic, facing the St. Louis Blues on Jan. 2, 2017.

To build some hype for the Central Division showdown, which will feature two teams that find themselves battling for the top seed in the Western Conference, Ryan Hartman and Trevor van Riemsdyk of the Blackhawks squared off with Joel Edmundson and Robby Fabbri of the Blues in EA Sports' NHL 17.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Edmunson and Fabbri jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, but the finish would be determined in 3-on-3 overtime.

Check out who came out on top in the video below:

Tyson Ross could be one of the final pieces for Cubs’ offseason puzzle

tysonross12916.png
AP

Tyson Ross could be one of the final pieces for Cubs’ offseason puzzle

Tyson Ross could be one of the final pieces of the offseason puzzle as the Cubs try to defend their World Series title while still planning for the future.

The Cubs left this week’s winter meetings in Maryland still involved in the Ross talks, sources said, monitoring an intriguing pitcher they had targeted before the 2015 trade deadline.

The San Diego Padres didn’t really buy or sell during that pennant race and made another curious decision last week when they didn’t offer Ross a contract for 2017. MLB Trade Rumors projected Ross would have made $9.6 million during his final year in the arbitration system.

After issues involving his right shoulder wiped out almost his entire season, Ross underwent surgery in October to address thoracic outlet syndrome.

Ross was San Diego’s Opening Day starter during a 15-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but didn’t pitch again, clouding a future that once had him looking like a trade-deadline chip and one of the best pitchers in the free-agent class after the 2017 season.

That’s when Jake Arrieta will be looking for his megadeal and John Lackey might be in retirement and Jon Lester will be turning 34. That’s why the Cubs are so focused on pitching this winter and trying to balance out an organization tilted toward hitters.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

Kyle Hendricks proved he will be a pitcher to build around – and the Cubs believe Mike Montgomery can evolve from a swingman into a fifth starter and maybe something far more valuable – but depth is a real issue.

Ross made 30-plus starts in 2014 and 2015, when he earned an All-Star selection and accounted for almost 400 innings combined. He will turn 30 in April and is seen as a positive force within the clubhouse. He has a 6-foot-6 frame, a second-round-pick pedigree and a Cal-Berkeley education.

Reports have already linked the Texas Rangers and Pittsburgh Pirates to Ross and not completely ruled out a return to San Diego. During an offseason where the free-agent market is essentially devoid of reliable frontline starters, there could be sticker shock, even with a rehabbing pitcher.

Trading for Wade Davis meant the Cubs were out of the bidding for Greg Holland, another All-Star closer who helped turn the Kansas City Royals into World Series champions. Holland spent this year recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, but he will still be in position to capitalize after Mark Melancon, Aroldis Chapman and eventually Kenley Jansen reset the market for closers.

With Ross, the Cubs will have to get a better sense of the medical picture and the price for all that upside.

Beyond a winning culture, the Cubs can sell the pitching infrastructure that helped turn Arrieta into a Cy Young Award winner and transform Hendricks into an ERA leader and keep the rotation remarkably healthy.

“Those really talented pitchers are going to be in demand, even those that are coming off an injury,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said this week at National Harbor. “We’ll stay engaged on some of those guys, but they’ll have to be just the right talent.

“We’ll have to feel good about the medical and the return to play. And the fit on the club would have to be right, too. But the true elite guys have a real market, even if they’re coming off down seasons.”