Bulls playoffs: A test all around

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Bulls playoffs: A test all around

There will be no grades handed out for this year's playoffs--it will only be passfail for the Bulls. Anything less than an Eastern Conference title will be considered a failure. But, the test doesn't extend just to the players and whether or not they have what it takes to win it all. This will be a test for coach Tom Thibodeau who, despite being in the running for his second straight Coach of the Year award, may be feeling the most pressure. His intensity has helped the Bulls to the top overall seed two years running, but the question remains if his approach translates into championships, and at this point, that's all that matters.

A story surfaced last month that the second year Bulls coach was unhappy the team hadn't offered him a contract extention yet. Thibodeau's current deal includes a team option for 2012-2013. While the report was downplayed, don't think Thibs is a lock to return, this year's playoffs could be his passfail test.

As for the players, Derrick Rose's increasing unhappiness may be amplified depending on how the Bulls perform in the playoffs. The effects of that are unknown, but changes could be in store if the Bulls make an early exit.

The test for Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah is to redeem themselves from last year's poor performances. The two have to prove that they not only can be reliable, but they can be difference makers in the playoffs. If not, Bulls GM Gar Forman will be forced to consider his options.

Now that he's healthy, Richard Hamilton has an equal amount of pressure on him since he was brought in as the so-called missing link, the one who was going to make the difference between a series win over the Heat or another disappointing ending. If Rip can't shine the way the Bulls expected him to when they signed the former Piston over the winter, the passfail falls to Forman and his ability to upgrade the team from last year.

The fates of CJ Watson, Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver could all ride on the postseason. All three have team options for next year, and all three could be gone.

So, as college students across the country cram for final exams in the month of May, the Bulls will be taking their test every other night with the stakes arguably higher.

Cubs release Munenori Kawasaki and keep the door open for his return

Cubs release Munenori Kawasaki and keep the door open for his return

MESA, Ariz. – The Cubs released Munenori Kawasaki on Tuesday, allowing the popular, high-energy Japanese infielder to see what's out there while still keeping the door open for his return.

The timing would also allow the Cubs to avoid paying the $100,000 retention bonus to Kawasaki, who's played parts of five big-league seasons with the Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays and last year's World Series team.

"Hopefully, we get a chance to sign him back," manager Joe Maddon said at the Sloan Park complex. "A guy like him needs to take advantage of how well he's playing and possibly see if there's a chance to get a major-league job."

With that move, the Cubs cut the roster to 30 players on their second-to-last day in the Cactus League this spring. Between Addison Russell, Ben Zobrist and Javier Baez – and prospects like Ian Happ and Chesny Young – the Cubs would appear to be covered up the middle for now. 

"You can never have enough middle infielders," Maddon said. "I'd love to have him, no question. Hopefully, he's going to be back. Again, this is one of those things where the word 'release' is a very harsh word, but I think it can be rectified possibly. I hope he comes back to us."

Kristin Cavallari shows off her favorite NFL tight end: A nude Jay Cutler

Kristin Cavallari shows off her favorite NFL tight end: A nude Jay Cutler

Kristin Cavallari continues to chronicle husband Jay Cutler's life as a free agent in the most epic way possible.

With a revealing Instagram photo Tuesday morning, she may have hinted at a position change for the former Bears QB...to tight end! (Get it?)

For the NSFW version, head to KCavs' Instagram page.

Smokin' Jay takes on a whole new meaning now.

It's still apparent Jay Cutler just "DOON'T CAAAREE."

There are so many Bears jokes and puns to be made here:

Bare Down. 

Once a bare, always a bare?

Bare at heart?

Looks like he's in some bare weather.

We know who KCavs' tight end sleeper is in fantasy football this year. No ifs ands or butts about it.

Ummm...

OK I'm out.