Chicago Fire

Free agency: Williams, Terry, Nash, Roy updates

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Free agency: Williams, Terry, Nash, Roy updates

Point guard Deron Williams signed a five-year, 100 million extension with the Brooklyn Nets yesterday. The 28-year-old Williams likely was enticed by the Nets' trade with Atlanta that brought in All-Star Joe Johnson.

Unrestricted free agent Steve Nash and the New York Knicks are closing in on a sign-and-trade that would bring the 38-year-old point guard to the Big Apple. In exchange, the Suns would receive guards Iman Shumpert and Toney Douglas and center Dan Gadzuric.

The Boston Celtics are proving they still want to contend, agreeing with shooting guard Jason Terry to a three-year, 15 contract. The Celtics signed Kevin Garnett last week for three more years, and reportedly still want Ray Allen to return.

Eric Gordon and the Phoenix Suns agreed to a maximum offer sheet (four years, 58 million) Tuesday, but Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski said the Hornets plan to match the offer, meaning the shooting guard will stay in New Orleans.

The Golden State Warriors want to set up a second meeting with free agent shooting guard Brandon Roy. The Warriors and Mavericks have been going after the 27-year-old the hardest, but the Bulls and Pacers remain potential destinations for the former retiree.

The Toronto Raptors and restricted free agent shooting guard Landry Fields agreed to a three-year, 19 million contract yesterday. The Knicks reportedly will have a tough time matching the deal, so it's likely that Fields will wind up in Toronto.

The Brooklyn Nets are finalizing a sign-and-trade with the Los Angeles Clippers for power forward Reggie Evans. The Clippers will receive a future second round pick in exchange for the veteran forward, who will receive a three-year, 5 million contract.

The Houston Rockets withdrew their qualifying offer to shooting guard Courtney Lee, making the 26-year-old shooter an unrestricted free agent. Sources said the Bulls, Pacers, Clippers, Mavericks, Suns, Wizards, Grizzlies and Hawks have all shown interest in Lee.

The Los Angeles Clippers offered a contract to shooting guard Jamal Crawford, but he has not signed with the team. The Timberwolves, 76ers, Suns and Grizzlies have all shown interest in the unrestricted free agent.

Ersan Ilyosova has a four-year contract offer to play in Europe, and the Milwaukee Bucks have countered with a five-year offer of their own. The Nets are reportedly interested in his services as well.

Injuries racking up and causing chaos for the Fire

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USA TODAY

Injuries racking up and causing chaos for the Fire

It wasn’t that long ago that it seemed everything was breaking the Chicago Fire’s way.

The Fire’s 11-match unbeaten run from April into early July featured of plenty of impressive performances from the Fire, but also a few lucky breaks. Dallas rested most of its starting lineup when it came to Toyota Park, Atlanta brought its two best players off the bench when it played in Bridgeview, New England couldn’t get a result against the Fire despite pouring on 24 shots.

It seems that luck is evening out a bit. The Fire dropped a fourth straight game on the road on Wednesday in Montreal and, while sloppy play was evident for the second game in a row, a rash of injuries to the back line played a role in the loss.

Left back Brandon Vincent has been out since picking up a quad injury in the warmups before a July 5 game in Portland. Right back Matt Polster suffered a left knee injury this week in training and did not travel to Montreal. On top of that, Joao Meira, who was listed as questionable for the game with a calf injury, left five minutes in with an injury. That’s not a recipe for success.

Christian Dean, acquired by the Fire seven days ago, had to make his debut as an injury replacement five minutes into a game. His center back partner, Jonathan Campbell, was making his first start since April 8. Johan Kappelhof had slid over to right back to fill in for Polster.

The resulting chaos shouldn’t come as a surprise. Dean’s first touch as a Fire player was a clearance that he didn’t cleanly hit. Ignacio Piatti blocked it with his chest and was suddenly open in the box for an early goal.

A Matteo Mancosu penalty and an incredible curling shot from outside the box by Piatti within a minute of each other put the game away before the first half was over. It finished 3-0.

Injuries aren’t things that have good timing, but this definitely qualifies as poor timing as far as the Fire are concerned. Being shorthanded against a Montreal team that may be playing as well as it has all season wasn’t good. On top of that, the Fire host league-leading Toronto.

That game against Toronto had been circled by MLS fans as a meeting of two of the top teams in the league, but the Fire’s recent slide (four losses in the last five matches) has taken some of the luster off it. Toronto is six points ahead of the third-place Fire.

In one final note, Wednesday’s game was the first MLS start for 18-year-old Djordje Mihailovic. He played 82 minutes before being subbed out.

The last time the Cubs faced Homer Bailey, Anthony Rizzo became the face of the franchise

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AP

The last time the Cubs faced Homer Bailey, Anthony Rizzo became the face of the franchise

How's this for a #WayBackWednesday?

Homer Bailey — the Cincinnati Reds' starting pitcher Wednesday night — has dealt with arm injuries the last few years, meaning the last time he faced the Cubs was July 10, 2014.

The only holdover from that lineup three years ago is Anthony Rizzo:

The full lineup:

1. Chris Coghlan - LF
2. Arismendy Alcantara - 2B
3. Anthony Rizzo - 1B
4. Starlin Castro - SS
5. Luis Valbuena - 3B
6. Ryan Sweeney - CF
7. Nate Schierholtz - RF
8. John Baker - C
9. Kyle Hendricks - P

Yep, that was Mr. Hendricks' MLB debut. He gave up four runs in six innings before a bullpen combination of James Russell, Pedro Strop, Neil Ramirez, Hector Rondon and Blake Parker shut down the Reds to give the Cubs a 6-4 victory in 12 innings.

But that's not all. 

That was the same day Anthony Rizzo tried to take on the entire Reds roster after Aroldis Chapman struck out Schierholtz with a 103 mph pitch close to his head:

Rizzo emerged as a leader that day, willing to take on an entire team to back his own roster and stick up for his guys. That was the year before the Cubs made the playoffs and to that point, Rizzo had only been a part of losing teams. But he put the Cubs on his back starting that fateful day in Cincinnati, the last time Bailey faced the Cubs.

Alcantara — who is now in the Reds system and was just outrighted to Double-A this week — had four hits and drove in three runs in that game while Valbuena drove in the winning runs with a two-out triple in the top of the 12th. The Cubs finished 73-89 in 2014 under Ricky Renteria, who got a World Series ring from the Cubs last month for all the work he did in 2014.

Since that day, the Cubs have ended their championship drought (obviously) thanks in part to Chapman and Rizzo has become the unquestioned face of the franchise and one of the top players in baseball.