It’s been a particularly soft market for running backs, and the top one on our list, Michael Bush, finally found a home: the Bears announced they reached a four-year deal with Bush on Thursday.The deal is worth $14 million. Frankly, that’s a steal, even if it’s for a guy who will now serve as the backup for Matt Forte, who was given the franchise tag this offseason.In four years with the Raiders, Bush has carried the ball 632 times for 2,642 yards, 21 touchdowns and a 4.1 YPC average. He also has 91 catches for 879 yards in that span.It’s a very nice signing for the Bears, whose running game struggled in 2011 after Forte went out with an injury. In fact, backup Marion Barber (who is likely to get cut) created one of the more “memorable” NFL moments of last season when he ran out of bounds during regulation and fumbled in overtime to let the Broncos steal a win over the Bears during the height of Tebowmania.Additionally, Forte wants to get paid, and Bush provides very nice, non-aggressive leverage when the Bears start talking with him about a longer contract. If Forte refuses to take a big paycut, the Bears could even conceivably let him walk after the franchise year and allow Bush to take over as the full-time back. Forte obviously sees the Bush signing as the Bears not-so-subtley addressing his contract status, or else he wouldn’t have tweeted … this:
ROSEMONT—The Rush will be hosting the Orlando Predators Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. in a matchup that pits arguably two of the most successful teams in AFL history against one another. Tickets are still available for this widely anticipated matchup, however if you have a ticket from the season-opening win against the Storm, be sure to redeem it at the Allstate Arena Box Office for an exclusive buy one get one half off ticket promotion.
Both of these teams are coming off week two byes. The Rush have not played since the March 10th, and Orlando has been inactive since March 9th; a 40-26 loss to the Pittsburgh Power. While it wasn’t the way the Predators were looking to begin the season, it came after a chaotic day of player transactions for both teams involved. This is the first game they will be playing with their entire official roster.
The Rush kicked off their 2012 campaign with a 70-48 victory over the Tampa Bay Storm. Quarterback Russ Michna is coming off a record-setting performance in which he threw for eight touchdowns. Defensively, linebacker Kelvin Morris is also coming off a career week in which he was responsible for three turnovers and two touchdowns. Both received awards from the league for their stellar performances.
As if Michna didn’t already have enough options, wide receiver Chad Lucas (6’2, 200, Alabama State) will be active for Thursday’s game after spending week one on the physically unable to perform list. In addition, the Rush have added defensive lineman Jeffrey Fitzgerald (6’4, 265, Kansas State) to their active roster.
The Predators will be adding a few additional weapons of their own for the game. Veteran receiver T.T. Toliver, linebacker Marlon Moye-Moore, and defensive back Travis Coleman are just a few of Orlando’s players who will be returning to action after being inactive week one. Look for Head Coach Bret Munsey to utilize all available players in order to get Orlando their first victory of the season.
These teams most famously crossed paths in ArenaBowl XX, a milestone victory for the Rush which saw them claim their only AFL Championship thus far. Fullback Bob McMillen was named “Ironman of the Game” in the 69-61 Rush victory, and will hope to replicate that same magic Thursday night. Overall, the Rush are 6-5 against the Predators; their last matchup resulted in a 55-42 Rush win in June 2010. In addition to the action down on the field, fans in attendance will receive a 2012 schedule poster. The game will also be available to watch online through webcast at http://www.ustream.tv/ChicagoRush.
Goals just keep finding their way into the net for Blackhawks rookie Andrew Shaw. He scored 2:42 into overtime to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday. Shaw was credited with deflecting Johnny Oduya‘s shot from the slot past Roberto Luongo. Oduya fired from between the circles after he trailed in late and took a feed from Dave Bolland on the left boards.
“It hit me in the shin, lucky left foot, I guess,” Shaw said. “They’re going to go off me and in. I just go to the net and work hard.”
Shaw, who has been earning added ice time, has four goals and two assists in his last three games. In 30 games this season he has 11 goals — including two game winners — and seven assists. Patrick Kane scored his 20th goal in the second period for the Hawks, who has won five straight and are 9-1-1 in its last 11 despite playing without captain Jonathan Toews. Jannik Hansen scored in regulation for Vancouver — on the first shot of the game — to break a 15-game streak without a goal. The Canucks lost their second straight, and have won just one of their last five.Canucks leading goal-scorer Daniel Sedin was injured in the game and did not return. He may have been hurt when he was elbowed in the head by Duncan Keith late in the first period.The Blackhawks and Canucks have squared off in emotional postseason series each of the past three years. And the feelings resurfaced Wednesday night.
“Everybody saw the head shot there, so [Sedin will be] re-evaluated tomorrow and I’ll know more from there,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said.
Vigneault called the hit a “deliberate, principal point of contact, everything you’re trying to take out of the game.”
Keith, the Blackhawks top defenseman and the 2010 Norris Trophy winner, received only a minor penalty on the play.
“I expected a major, and I got a minor, so we’ll let the league deal with it,” he added. “You saw the hit, you didn’t see a puck near the hit, you guys make the judgment call on that and the league will do what they have to do.I’m not trying to hurt anybody,” Keith said “I hope he’s OK. He’s one of their best players. He needs to be on the ice.”
Marcus Kruger also left the game with the usuall undisclosed injury. Luongo made 35 saves in his return after backup Cory Schneider had started Vancouver’s previous two games. Luongo was 0-3-0 and had given up 16 goals on 103 shots in his last four starts — including one no-decision where he allowed three goals on seven shots in the opening five minutes before being relieved by Schneider.Corey Crawford made 23 saves and in his fourth straight start. He has won five straight. The contest between the Western Conference rivals — their 35th over the past four seasons including regular-season and playoff games — was punctuated with penalties and skirmishes.The teams’ mutual dislike reached a boiling point midway through the second period when several wrestling matches erupted in front of the Hawks net. The Canucks appeared to be targeting Keith, who eventually tussled with Alexandre Burrows. Both players received roughing and misconduct penalties.Hansen scored the only goal of the first period just 27 seconds in.After gaining a step on Oduya, Hansen beat Crawford from the right circle. Crawford misplayed the rising shot, giving Hansen a wide gap on the stick side after dropping too quickly to the ice.Although the Canucks had all three power plays in the first, the Hawks outshot Vancouver 12-6. Luongo was sharp in the opening 20 minutes, stopping several tough chances, including a point-blank deflection by Marian Hossa midway through the period.Kane tied it at 1 at 3:12 of the second to cap a strong shift and crisp passing play with linemates Hossa and Andrew Brunette. After Brunette fed Hossa behind then net, Hossa feathered a centering pass to Kane, who lofted a shot past a diving Luongo from the slot.Kane scored 5-on-5, but then the Blackhawks failed on five power-play chances in the second.Crawford had to be sharp in the third as the Canucks began to dominate.After taking just nine shots through two periods, Vancouver loosed 14 in the third. Several were tough, close-in chances.
NOTES—Jonathan Toews missed his 15th game with a concussion, but has resumed skating without contact…..Jamal Mayers was ill and sat out. His spot was taken by C Brendan Morisson, who had been a healthy scratch the last 10 games….Vancouver D Sami Salo returned to the lineup after taking Monday’s 2-0 loss in Minnesota off as a planned rest…..Also back for Vancouver after being a healthy scratch in Minnesota was LW Mason Raymond….Canucks D Aaron Rome sat out with an undisclosed illness
TORONTO—John Lucas was disappointed with his performance in the first half. Called off the bench to start the fourth quarter, the Bulls guard made sure he delivered. Lucas scored all of his 13 points in the fourth, Luol Deng had 17 points and 10 rebounds, and the Bulls rallied to beat the Toronto Raptors 94-82 on Wednesday night. Lucas has reached double figures in three of the past five games after doing so just six times in the previous 44 games. Kyle Korver also came up big in the fourth, scoring all of his 10 points in the quarter as the Bulls came back after trailing by 12 early in the second half.Korver also praised the Hawks depth.C.J. Watson scored 15 points and Ronnie Brewer had 12 for the Bulls, who won their third straight. The League-leading Bulls (39-10) have won six of eight since an eight-game winning streak from Feb. 20 to March 7. The Bulls outscored the Raptors 32-13 in the fourth to win their sixth straight road game, improving to an NBA-best 20-6 away from home. The Bulls last road loss was Feb. 12 at Boston.The Bulls also won for the fourth time in five games without leading scorer Derrick Rose, who is still sidelined with a sore right groin. Thibodeau said Rose has not yet resumed running.DeMar DeRozan scored 23 points and James Johnson had 16 for the Raptors, who lost their third straight and have dropped seven of 10 overall. Andrea Bargnani made two of his 10 field goal attempts and finished with eight points. His six assists were one shy of a career high.Jose Calderon also struggled with his shooting, going 3 of 10. He had nine points and eight assists.Toronto made just four of 18 shots in the fourth.Lucas scored the Bulls first seven points of the final quarter, including a 3-pointer with 8:10 left, cutting Toronto’s lead to 72-69 and forcing the Raptors to call timeout.After Gary Forbes missed a shot, Lucas fed Korver for a game-tying 3. At the other end, Omer Asik blocked Linas Kleiza’s driving jumper, setting up Taj Gibson for a go-ahead dunk. Lucas and Korver each hit jumpers on the next two possessions and the Bulls didn’t trail again.Toronto’s only basket in the first 8 minutes of the fourth was a hook shot by Ed Davis, who converted the three-point play with 10:28 left. The Raptors, who missed 10 of their first 11 shots in the quarter, didn’t score again until a pair of free throws by Bargnani with 3:28 to play, by which time their 72-64 lead had become an 84-74 deficit.Raptors guard Jerryd Bayless, who was knocked out of Tuesday’s loss at New York after injuring his left hip in a collision with Carmelo Anthony, had to leave this one after playing just 1:29 in the opening quarter.Deng scored the Bulls first seven points of the game and had 10 in the first quarter as the Bulls led 27-23. Former Bulls center Aaron Gray had five rebounds and six points as Toronto outscored the Bulls 28-16 in the second to lead 51-43 at the half.DeRozan and Brewer each scored six points in the third as the Raptors took a 69-62 lead into the final quarter.
NOTES—The Bulls are 11-4 without Rose this season…..In their two meetings this season, the Bulls have outscored Toronto 53-25 in the fourth quarter…..The Raptors honored the Canadian Forces by becoming the first NBA team to wear camouflage jerseys, the first of four occasions they’ll wear them. More than 300 members of Canada’s military attended the game…..The Bulls are off until Saturday, when they host Toronto for the third and final meeting of the season.
COLUMBUS—Even without captain Jonathan Toews, the Blackhawks have been getting off to fast starts recently – which is helping them finish strong.Patrick Sharp scored two goals, Duncan Keith had four assists and Corey Crawford made 24 saves as the Blackhawks built a big lead to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-1 on Tuesday to sweep the season series.During a horrendous nine-game losing skid from Jan. 21 to Feb. 16, the Blackhawks had difficulty scoring much at all, let alone scoring early. Now they’re jumping on teams and coasting in a four-game winning streak heading into a big home showdown against rival Vancouver on Wednesday night.
“The losing streak that we were on after the All-Star break helped us out more than it hurt us,” Sharp said after collecting goals No. 29 and 30. “You never want to lose that many in a row, but it taught us a few lessons about playing the right way. The coaches have been preaching a certain style of play and now we’ve bought in.”
The Blackhawks, who started the night in sixth place in the West playoff race, outscored the Blue Jackets 31-10 in the six games. They won every game by at least three goals over Columbus, which has far and away the worst record in the NHL.Andrew Shaw and Marian Hossa each had a goal and an assist and Brent Seabrook also scored.Crawford maintained a shutout until Rick Nash tipped in a shot by Jack Johnson to get the Blue Jackets on the board with 7:29 left.The Blackhawks still do not have a shutout this season.The Hawks scored on both of theirs power-play opportunities and also hit five posts.The Blackhawks, with Toews missing his 14th game in a row with concussion symptoms, dominated from the outset, scoring three times on their first six shots.The Blackhawks opened the scoring 4:12 in when Bryan Bickell dug the puck out of the corner then skated past the Blue Jackets’ R.J. Umberger to toss a pass in front of the cage that hit off defenseman John Moore and went past a surprised Mason. Shaw, closest to the puck, was awarded the goal.Just over 2 minutes later, Sharp was at the bottom of the left circle when he threw the puck on net. It somehow slipped between Mason and the near post.The Blackhawks then made it 3-0 in a 4:10 span on the softest of goals. Seabrook was at the very corner of the blue line and the short boards, in front of the Blue Jackets bench, when he innocently flipped the puck 50 feet toward Mason. There were no Hawk players near the net, but the puck hit off of Columbus defenseman Aaron Johnson and by Mason.It could have been worse. A quick whistle prevented another potential goal late in the period.After a scoreless second period, Sharp picked up his second on a one-timer from the right circle off a drop pass from Hossa on the power play. Hossa then made it 5-0 by crashing the net to score thanks to a centering pass from Shaw.Sharp was denied a third goal on a breakaway in the final seconds.
NOTES—Quenneville said Toews skated back in Chicago earlier on Tuesday….Columbus was without front-line G Curtis Sanford (leg muscle tear) and former Hawk James Wisniewski (hit in the face by a puck). Sanford will likely miss the rest of the season….Sharp and Hossa extended their points streaks to six games, Stalberg and Seabrook to five games….Nash has eight consecutive seasons with at least 25 goal.
ORLANDO—If the Bulls are going to make a run at an NBA championship this season, they will need a healthy Derrick Rose to do it. For now, though, they continue to find a way to beat the top teams in the Eastern Conference without their most indispensable star.With the reigning MVP out nursing a sore groin for the fourth straight game, Rose’s teammates used a smothering defense and capitalized on a plethora of Orlando Magic turnovers in an 85-59 victory Monday night. Carlos Boozer picked up the scoring slack with 24 points and 13 rebounds — his third 20-point scoring effort against the Magic this season — and John Lucas added 20 points off the bench in just 21 minutes of action to lead the Bulls.
“The real story honestly is our defense,” said Boozer, whose team has beaten their next three chasers in the Eastern Conference in the past six days.”Our defense was … that was probably one of the best performances we’ve had this season.It was fitting because they kicked our butt in Chicago, [and] got a big win. For us to come back and do this … it’s a big win for us.”
The Bulls’ defense was indeed the thing to marvel at Monday, with the 59 points they surrendered setting a new franchise record for fewest regular-season points allowed.It was also a milestone night for coach Tom Thibodeau, who became the fastest coach in NBA history to earn 100 career victories. Thibodeau did it in just 130 games, one game faster than Avery Johnson when he set the previous standard in 2006.The Bulls won for the fifth time in six games. They also improved to 3-1 over the past four games playing without Rose, who continued to nurse a sore groin.Thibodeau gave credit to his “great players” for his coaching record, and they gave it back to him.Dwight Howard had 18 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Magic, who had 19 turnovers. Orlando had 11 in the first half, just two in the third quarter, but six more in the final 12 minutes.The Magic have lost three of their last four since posting a three-game win streak. They’ve also now gone six straight quarters without scoring at least 20 points.Turnovers were a factor in the Magic’s loss to the Bulls in early January and they again played a huge role Monday as Orlando’s miscues yielded 25 of the Bulls points. By comparison, the Bulls’ 16 turnovers only led to seven points for the Magic.Orlando trailed by double-digits for most of the second half, before cutting a 15-point Bulls’ first-half lead to 12 entering the fourth quarter as its early turnover issues began to subside.The Bulls’ offense was steady down the stretch, though, and Joakim Noah’s three-point play on a two-handed dunk over Glen Davis with 6:54 to play in the game put them up 72-52 to end any comeback hope.
“When you play the way we played tonight, this is a team-wide thing,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I’ve got to take responsibility.”
Van Gundy said there isn’t one singular issue ailing his team right now.
“I mean, it’s everything,” he said. “I really need to take a look at when we’re playing back-to-back games, and we’re just not creating any shots. Obviously, we played Chicago 11 days ago and we were able to create shots. We played Miami and we were able to create shots. This is clearly not satisfactory.”
NOTES—Rose missed his 14th game of the season after sitting just six games in his first three NBA seasons combined. He appeared in 81 regular-season games in two of those seasons. His status continues to be day-to-day…..Howard received his ninth technical of the season in the third quarter…. Van Gundy said that the focus for the Magic over their final 19 games would be on reducing turnovers and building better defensive habits. “We’re just not building solid habits and making good enough decisions,” he said. “And at the end of the day, you are going to hit the playoffs and you are going to be left with your habits. We’re running out of time. We have 5½ weeks and it’s time.”….The Magic dropped to 7-8 in the second game of back-to-backs this season….The Bulls did hold Utah to just 54 points in game three of the 1998 NBA Finals at the United Centger,but the 59 points scored by the Magic is the fewest thay have given up in a Regular Season game.
Rookie Andrew Shaw recorded his first two-goal game, and the Blackhawks defeated the Washington Capitals 5-2 on Sunday night for their third straight win.Viktor Stalberg, Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell also scored for the Hawks, who is 7-1-1 in its last nine despite playing without captain and leading goals scorer Jonathan Toews.Mike Knuble and Alex Ovechkin scored for Washington, which lost its second straight following a four-game winning streak.Corey Crawford made 16 saves and in his second straight start. Projected to be the Hawks top goalie this season, Crawford’s inconsistent play prompted Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville to start Ray Emery in five previous contests.Michal Neuvirth stopped 24 shots for the Capitals, who didn’t dress No. 1 goalie Tomas Vokoun due to an undisclosed injury.Shaw, who added an assist Sunday, has nine goals and six assists in his first 28 NHL games. The 20-year-old rookie made his NHL debut on Jan. 5, and then scored five goals in his first eight contests. After cooling off, Shaw was returned to Rockford of the AHL on Feb. 18, but was recalled again on Feb. 29.The Blackhawks dominated the first period, and took a 2-0 lead while outshooting the Capitals 12-3. The Hawks took 12 shots before Washington got its first, by defenseman Mike Green with 3:58 left.
MESA—Zach Stewart is trying his best to focus on pitching rather than listening to the rumors.A candidate to make the White Sox as a reliever and spot starter, Stewart gave up two runs and six hits in three innings for the Sox in a 7-5, 10-inning win over a Cubs split squad.Jordan Danks homered in the 10th inning for the White Sox.Dan Johnson hit a two-run shot and Gordon Beckham had a two-run single in a five-run sixth inning.White Sox pitchers, though, had trouble with control when it counted. They forced in two Cubs’ runs with bases loaded walks in the eighth.Down 5-3, the Cubs loaded the bases with nobody out – the key play was White Sox first baseman Jim Gallagher’s error on an infield roller to start the inning. Brett Jackson drew a walk off Leyson Septimo to force in a run.After Matt Szczur popped out, Josh Vitters drew a walk off Simon Castro to force in the tying run.Johnson homered off Andy Sonnanstine in the sixth to cut the Cubs lead to 3-2.Danks opened the 10th with a leadoff homer to right field. The White Sox added a run on a throwing error by Cubs shortstop Logan Watkins.Cubs pitcher Casey Coleman threw three scoreless innings. He gave up only two hits and struck out three.The Cubs put together four straight hits, including a two-run double by Alredo Amezaga, to take a 2-0 lead in the second off Stewart.In the fourth, Tony Campana’s squeeze bunt scored Josh Vitters, who had doubled. Campana was credited with a bunt single as the Cubs took a 3-0 lead.In the fourth, the Cubs’ Kerry Wood allowed two straight singles to Paul Konerko and Kosuke Fukodome, but then induced Alexei Ramirez to ground into an inning-ending double play.The game, attended by 12,469, was delayed 25 minutes at the start while the grounds crew worked on the rain-soaked field.Gavin Floyd was scheduled to start for the White Sox, “But with the rain, we didn’t want to chance bringing him over here and then starting and stopping,” manager Robin Ventura said.Instead, Floyd threw a five-inning simulated game at the team’s facility at Camelback Ranch. “He threw great.”
NOTES—The Cubs will play a “B” game vs. the Cleveland Indians at 10 a.m. Monday in Goodyear. Randy Wells will start for the Cubs. … The Cubs visit Peoria on Monday to play the Seattle Mariners. On Tuesday, they have split squads; they host the Texas Rangers and visit Phoenix Municipal Stadium to play the Oakland Athletics. … The White Sox host the Cincinnati Reds Monday then take Tuesday off.
The Bulls lost Friday night to Portland after beating the Heat without Rose on Wednesday.The Bulls have not dropped consecutive regular season games since Feb. 5-7, 2011, and back-to-back contests at the United Center since a five-game skid March 1-19, 2010.They beat Philadelphia 89-80 Saturday night.Jrue Holiday led the 76ers with 30 points. Philadelphia dropped its third straight and has lost seven of nine on the road. Holiday got little help as Andre Iguodala was held to seven points and Elton Brand to seven.Holiday attempted 27 shots, but he was the only offense the 76ers had going. Carlos Boozer made a pair of free throws to tie the game then Watson made a 3-pointer to give the Bulls their first lead, 52-49, in the third quarter. Omer Asik had a tip-in as time expired at the end of the quarter to increase the lead to 64-59.
“One of the things we struggle with is our halfcourt offense. They’re a very, very good defensive team. They got us ground down to a halfcourt game. And then I thought in the second half their size and rebounding became such a factor,” 76ers coach Doug Collins said.
Different players have been picking up the scoring slack with Rose out. On Saturday night, Watson kept the Bulls in the game. Watson just returned to the lineup after missing five games with a sprained left ankle.Kyle Korver made a jumper, and after Asik’s free throw, Korver made a 3 to increase the lead to 71-63. Things started to unravel for the 76ers as Spencer Hawes was called for a technical after an offensive foul and Evan Turner was also called for technical after he argued what he thought should’ve been a goaltending call.Holiday’s basket got the Bulls to 79-75 with 3:30, but the Bulls answered with a 10-2 run led by Noah, who had eight points in the span.The Bulls outrebounded the 76ers 53-39.The 76ers jumped out to an 11-0 lead. Holiday scored nine of Philadelphia’s first 13 points. The Bulls didn’t score in the first quarter until Boozer hit a jumper with 6:49 left. The Bulls couldn’t convert on its first seven shot attempts. Lou Williams’ layup gave the 76ers a 24-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.Ronnie Brewer’s layup as time expired at the end of the second quarter got the Bulls to 44-38. Holiday scored 15 points in the first half for the 76ers. Watson and Gibson led the Bulls with eight apiece.
NOTES—The Bulls wore green uniforms in honor of St. Patrick’s Day….Former Bull Andres Nocioni did not make the trip with the 76ers. Nocioni was with the 76ers in last night’s 84-78 loss to Miami, but did not play. According to a 76ers spokesman, Nocioni is still on the active roster, but the team is allowing him to explore other options. “His official status is that I don’t know if the paperwork is done, but we’ve worked out a deal with him to allow him to either go on with another team maybe, or if not, I talked to him last night, go to Argentina and get ready for the Olympics,” Collins said.
SEATTLE—Washington coach Lorenzo Romar was asked how he would try to stop the Huskies’ Terrence Ross. “Probably low-bridge him,” Romar said. What Northwestern tried didn’t work.Ross scored a career-high 32 points and top-seeded Washington beat fourth-seeded Northwestern 76-55 on Friday night in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.C.J. Wilcox added 20 points for Washington (23-10), the Pacific-12 regular-season champion. Washington is the first team to win a regular-season title in a power conference and get left out of the NCAA tournament.John Shurna led Northwestern (19-14) with 24 points. On Tuesday night, Washington will host the Oregon-Iowa winner Sunday.Ross had 3-pointers and also added eight rebounds. Washington started the second half on 13-4 run behind Ross. He made three 3-pointers during the spurt, equaling his career high of six 3-pointers with 15:02 left. Northwestern led by eight points in the first half, but Washington rallied for a 39-32 halftime lead. “We had a nice early lead, things were looking pretty nice, but their continued pressure in the half court defense-they got their hands on balls, forced a number of turnovers,” NU coach Bill Carmody said. “We had 11 turnovers in the first half and we only average 10 for a game. I thought that was really the difference. Their defense was just really good. And then, they beat us to so many balls. They’re quick and fast, but they’re also good basketball players.” The Wildcats shot 21.9 percent from the field in the second half after shooting 57.9 percent in the first.Washington outrebounded it 44-26, a total swelled by 20 offensive rebounds.