Kobe calls for changes to the struggling Lakers

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Kobe calls for changes to the struggling Lakers

From Comcast SportsNetCHICAGO (AP) -- Kobe Bryant couldn't restrain himself after this one.It wasn't just that the Lakers lost again. It was how they did it, where they did it, and he was simply seething.He even put out a call to ditch Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo style and post up more after Pau Gasol got moved into a reserve role."We're going to have to look at some things," Bryant said after Los Angeles lost 95-83 at Chicago on Monday. "We're going to have to change something. Probably going to have to post the ball a lot more, slow the game down a lot more. That's just my intuition, but that's my gut right now. I have to take a look at the film again, but we're definitely going to have to change something."Kirk Hinrich scored a season-high 22 points, Marco Belinelli added 15 points, and the Bulls pulled away down the stretch to beat the struggling Lakers.Belinelli came up big in the closing minutes, scoring eight points during an 18-4 run that broke a 75-75 tie and sent the Lakers to their ninth loss in 11 games.He started it by hitting two free throws after getting fouled by Dwight Howard with 6:54 left in the game and wrapped two 3-pointers around a layup by Los Angeles' Earl Clark, making it 89-79 with 2:27 remaining.The Lakers have now dropped six straight on the road, and this one came after D'Antoni made that lineup switch. He replaced Gasol with Clark, but the slide continued on a night when Bryant and Howard were mostly nonfactors."Very, very tough, very, very frustrating, trying to keep my cool," Bryant said. "It is embarassing. It is not even embarassing. I am a big history guy. Playing here in this arena with these incredible fans, you're in the house of MJ, Pippen, PJ (Phil Jackson) built, to put this kind of brand of basketball on the floor is just not acceptable."Hinrich hit 9 of 11 shots and nailed three 3-pointers. Belinelli and Nate Robinson (11 points) also hit three, and the Bulls were 9 of 17 overall from long range.Joakim Noah added 13 rebounds and a season-best six blocks after sitting out the final 22 minutes, 53 seconds of Saturday's loss to Memphis. He blamed himself for the benching the other night, saying, "That was all me."Noah was angry at coach Tom Thibodeau for taking him out of the game and acknowledged saying some things he should not have. He wouldn't say if he and Thibodeau discussed the incident, but he made it clear he had no one to blame but himself."I admit it," he said. "It was my fault. I shouldn't have said the things that I said."Carlos Boozer chipped in with 14 points and six rebounds. Richard Hamilton scored 13, although he shot just 6 of 18. Jimmy Butler, making his second straight start with Luol Deng (sore right hamstring) sidelined, scored 10 while trying to guard Bryant. And Chicago won this one in regulation after playing three straight overtime games.Steve Nash led the Lakers with 18 points, but Bryant finished with just 16 on 7-of-22 shooting. That ended a run of 24 games with 20 or more points."Most of the looks I had tonight were tough shots," Bryant said. "Some of the credit goes to the young fellow, Butler did a good defensively. A lot of that is on me and us, having to try to manufacture something 30 feet from the hoop with a low shot clock is tough."Howard, meanwhile, had just eight points and nine rebounds while picking up five fouls. Clark and Metta World Peace scored 12 apiece, and Gasol added 15 points and 12 rebounds in his new reserve role.D'Antoni made the switch because he wanted a quicker lineup. Even so, it was an eye-opening move, considering Gasol scored 25 at Toronto on Sunday."It isn't against him, it's better for us right now," D'Antoni said before the game. "We're going to try to work through it and see what we can do. Things do change, things happen, I can't see the future but we're ready to go forward."Clearly, Gasol wasn't thrilled by the switch. He said he's "not excited" about it, and the move caught him off guard. He's not sure about his future in Los Angeles, either."I have no idea," he said. "I can't really worry about something that is out of my hands so I am just going to stay positive and do my best, but it is not something I am too thrilled about. I wasn't expecting it. But right now we have bigger things to worry about as a group. As a team player that's what I'm most concern about."NOTES:Thibodeau said star PG Derrick Rose is "very close" to starting full contact drills in practice, the next step in his recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Could it happen this week? "Yeah -- it could," Thibodeau said. Is it scheduled to happen this week? Thibodeau said, "It could." He also said Rose will have to go through full-contact drills "for an extended amount of time" and that he won't be playing after "one or two days of contact."

Wade Davis' impact on Cubs goes far beyond his eye-popping numbers

Wade Davis' impact on Cubs goes far beyond his eye-popping numbers

Wade Davis may not light up the radar gun like Aroldis Chapman, but the veteran closer has still had a similar impact shortening games for the Cubs.

Davis is 10-for-10 in save opportunities in his first year in Chicago, providing Joe Maddon and the Cubs with peace of mind as an anchor in a bullpen that has thrown the eighth-most innings in baseball (and ranks No. 8 in ERA with a 3.45 mark).

Davis just surrendered his first runs of the season Wednesday night on a Mac Williamson homer that snuck into the right-field basket.

Yet Davis still wound up preserving the victory by buckling down and turning away the Giants in the ninth. It was the first homer he's allowed since Sept. 24, 2015 and only the fourth longball he's given up since the start of the 2014 campaign, a span of 201 innings.

Even with Wednesday's outing, Davis boasts a microscopic 0.98 ERA and has allowed just 14 baserunners in 18.1 innings.

With 24 whiffs on the season, Davis is striking out 34.8 percent of the batters he's faced in a Cubs uniform, which would be the second-highest mark of his career (he struck out 39.1 percent of batters in 2014 as the Kansas City Royals setup man).

The 31-year-old nine-year MLB veteran is showing no ill effects from the forearm issue that limited him to only 43.1 innings last season.

[RELATED: How Wade Davis transformed into an elite pitcher by simply not caring]

But his impact isn't restricted to just on-the-field dominance. In spring training, Justin Grimm said he spent as much time as he could around Davis in an attempt to soak up all the knowledge he could.

"It's the stuff that you see — obviously he's really good," Maddon said. "He knows how to pitch, he's a very good closer, he's very successful. But he's a really good mentor to the other guys.

"Oftentimes, I'll walk through the video room and he'll be sitting there with a young relief pitcher or a catcher. There's a lot of respect. A lot of guys come to me and say, 'Listen, Wade's really great to be around.'"

Maddon was the manager with the Tampa Bay Rays when Davis first made his big-league debut in 2009 and the now-Cubs skipper credits the Rays organization with teaching Davis the right habits.

Davis also began his career as a starter before moving to the bullpen full-time in 2014 and reinventing himself as one of the best pitchers on the planet.

"He's grown into this," Maddon said. "He was raised properly. He comes from the organization with the Rays — really good pitching, really good pitching health regarding coaching. And then some of the veteran players that were around him to begin with.

"He's passing it along. The obvious is that he's got a great cutter, slider, fastball, curveball, whatever. He's very good with everybody else around him."

Davis needed 34 pitches to work around a couple jams and get the save Wednesday night. That's his highest pitch count in an outing since June 2, 2015.

Wednesday was also Davis' first time working in a week as the Cubs have not had a save situation in that span.

Maddon said he sees no link between the week off and Davis' struggles in Wednesday's outing and the Cubs manager also has no hesitance going to his closer for more than three outs.

However, Maddon doesn't see a need to extend Davis at this point in the season and would prefer to keep the Cubs' best reliever fresh for the stretch run and what the organization hopes is another shot at a World Series title.

Bears' makeover continues with salsa dancing ex-Giants WR Victor Cruz

Bears' makeover continues with salsa dancing ex-Giants WR Victor Cruz

The 2017 veteran makeover of the Bears’ wide-receiver position group continued on Thursday with the signing of former New York Giants wideout Victor Cruz to a one-year deal, a fourth move this offseason fitting an intriguing pattern in Bears roster construction.

Cruz “announced” the move on his Instagram account, declaring, “The Giants will forever be family,” Cruz wrote. “But for now, Bear down!!!” He becomes the fourth free-agent wide receiver signed by Bears and coming in with no fewer than four seasons of NFL experience.

The Bears have been about the business of shoring up their receiver group virtually since the 2016 season ended, adding depth in addition to filling in the vacancies created by Alshon Jeffery leaving for the Philadelphia Eagles via free agency, and the subsequent release of veteran Eddie Royal.

In their places, the Bears have added Cruz, Rueben Randle (Jan. 10), Markus Wheaton (Mar. 10) and Kendall Wright (Mar. 11), in addition to having Joshua Bellamy, Daniel Braverman, Cameron Meredith, Deonte Thompson and Kevin White in place.

Cruz, whose trademark Salsa dance to celebrate touchdowns has been an NFL staple over his six seasons with the Giants, for whom he started 53 of 70 career games after signing with the Giants as an undrafted free agent out of Massachusetts in 2010. Cruz has caught 303 career passes for 4,549 yards and 25 touchdowns, earning a Super Bowl ring with the Giants and earning selection to the 2012 Pro Bowl.

Cruz has not played a full 16-game season since 2012, when he caught a career-best 86 passes for 1,092 yards and 10 touchdowns. He missed all of 2015 after rehabbing from a torn patellar tendon in the 2014 season and then suffering a calf injury that eventually required surgery. The Giants released Cruz in early February this year.