Nichol(s) Slots 11-16-11

The Bears are once again contenders. Say goodbye to the NBA for this season. And the Hawks have the best record in the NHL. Except for those Bulls, I’d say it’s a pretty good time right now in Chicago. Here’s Nichol(s) Slots for Nov. 16.

If the NBA players would have accepted the latest labor deal proposed on Monday, the 2011-2012 season would have started exactly a month from now in a crammed, but doable 72-game season. The playoffs and NBA Finals would have been pushed back by a week and the NBA All-Star game would have went as planned.

Since it takes the players until at least late December or January to kick it into high gear and the fact some complain about the length of season already, it wasn’t a big problem to lose games through Christmas.

Instead the players rejected the deal of a 50/50 BRI split, decided to disband from the union and now what seems to be the NBA’s nuclear winter has arrived; the season is spinning out of control. Unless there is some sort of miracle, look to the 2012-2013 season as the next time you’ll see Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls unless you want to track Kobe’s play in Italy, literally, by yourself, backpacking Europe on that horrible Euro.

Even though this is an owner’s lockout and the owners ultimately put the players out on the street, this was a deal Billy Hunter and the rest of the union was familiar with for nearly two years. The players knew they had to come down from a 57/43 BRI split.  The owners weren’t going to budge. Something had to give.

Nobody wanted to, which is sad even given this country’s current economic model. Give David Stern some credit for trying his best when some owners were shrieking at the fact of 50/50 to begin with.

Blame the players. Blame the owners. In a pointing-the-finger game, whomever you point at is to blame and you win, except the NBA which is sitting out. Billy Hunter never learned from the 1999 lockout, David Stern wins a publicity battle that he didn’t keep the players from action and here we are, talking antitrust lawsuits and court cases.

The players will go to court and sue. If the players win the antitrust lawsuit, they’ll gain more leverage. If they lose, the owners are going to dominate the negotiations and the players would have wasted so much time getting to somewhere they were at months ago.

The clock is ticking. We saw how a 50-game season went in 1999. It was ugly. 72 was their best shot and if the players don’t win this antitrust case, I’ll be really pissed off of what a 72-game season could have been and what both sides truly are: greedy.

Is it just me, or are the Bears getting better and better, and better?

I’d say so, especially after picking off Matthew Stafford four times in their win on Sunday against Detroit. The Bears have beaten their opponents by 65 points in those four games and credit that “D.”

If you could personally thank Julius Peppers for the recent success with the rush, do so immediately. Jay Cutler is doing the necessary things to win (also is becoming a leader and seeing Kristin Cavalleri again) and Mike Martz using his strength: the running back position.

Matt Forte is having a sensational year and the fact the Bears are winning games lately by interceptions, turnovers and special teams – that’s a typical Bears team I can get behind. That’s the Bears I know. That’s how they win: running the football, defense and special teams phenomenon, a.k.a., Devin Hester.

As for Detroit, they might be as dirty as advertised. But let ’em play dirty, they’ll see themselves out of the playoffs if they keep it up.

A 6-3 Bears team with seven to play, including the entire AFC West to play, Seattle, Minnesota and Green Bay, Da Bears have an inside track on at least a wildcard position, a path that narrowing each week after beating Philadelphia and Detroit.

The Bears win in Philly practically knocked the Eagles out. The TKO for Philly really came against Arizona on Sunday. Check off Vick and company as a team not to worry about.

Since beating the Bears on Monday Night Football, Lion is 1-3 and the trend looks disturbing for Stafford, who doesn’t have a run game to compliment. Head coach Jim Schwartz  has leadership abilities he found on a matchbook and he might not have an answer for better teams who are doubling up on Calvin Johnson – who still gets his yards, somehow.

Bears have Cowboy and Falcon behind them but I can see a situation unfolding where Atlanta drops out of the race and Dallas jumps into control of the NFC East. The Bears do have a tie-breaker over Falcon.

Then the Bears would battle out with the Lions and Giants for two wildcard spots and the Lions as of now look like they’d be on the outside looking in come January.

And definitely by January, or even February, if Matt Forte isn’t paid a substantial amount of money for this season, Jerry Angelo’s an idiot. Again.

I’ve got a funny feeling the Bears might be able to slip into the NFC championship, again.

But give me their fifth-straight over Charger. Book it.

NFL Notes 

I give Atlanta head coach Mike Smith a lot credit in the guts department, but going for it on 4th and inches in OT against New Orleans was one of the dumbest calls I’ve seen. You don’t go for it in your own territory with a chance to tie for the division while the game is in overtime. I’m sorry, but you punt.

Did he just pull a Belichick?

Losing Matt Schaub for the season will be a major test for Houston, who might be having their best season ever. But when is an injured offensive player not of news for the Texans? Running back Arian Foster missed a few to start the season, Andre Johnson has missed a portion of the middle-half and Schaub will miss the end. Houston, even with injury, has a problem, but has impressed me with the notion they can win without their stars. May be something for Philadelphia to learn?

And are they already saying Favre to the rescue? Give me a break!

Give me a break… break me off a piece of that Kit Kat Bar. Or whatever they’re eating in Green Bay. May be cheese?

Somebody give Aaron Rodgers his MVP trophy, now. As Peter King from SI said, “it’s his to lose.”

So is the Super Bowl for the Packers.

Who wants the Packers to go undefeated this year? It’s a possibility. If they’re Super Bowl hopefuls again, obviously they’d have to win three games in the postseason. Two in the NFC picture and the Super Bowl. So it’s these last seven games that will not so much put the pressure on Green Bay, but allow us to see if may be, there’s a chance to repeat what the 2007 Patriots did and could not finish.

Say goodbye to the dream team in Philly. And say hello to San Francisco, but be rather shy.

Niner got a big win over Howard Schlossberg’s New York Football Giants to make it 8-1 but I still think they’ve benefited from an easy schedule. And I don’t know how Alex Smith is doing it. Frank Gore??? I guess it’s that defense.

Didn’t Mike Singletary say he couldn’t win with them? I guess the Niners’ feeling was mutual.

The fact about the NFC West is that if San Fran was 5-4, they’d still be in first place.  Scary. How they do against teams like Baltimore and Pittsburgh will prove to me if they’re a contender or not. To me, it doesn’t matter they’re a one-loss team.

Speaking of Baltimore, are they the most frustrating team to watch? Draft fantasy players from? They beat the good teams and lose to teams like Jacksonville and Seattle. It’s losses like that make me root for the Jets to have a bad season and come to play in the playoffs.

By the way… the Jets are repeating last season again. And the season before that.

What will you do if Tebow leads a Denver playoff charge? It’s possible. And it might piss you off. The AFC West is a rich man’s version of the NFC West, except it doesn’t have a team streaking out to an 8-1 record.

I’ve been very disappointed in San Diego. The Charger offense looks like its been on a low battery all season. With the talent they have, Rivers shouldn’t have more interceptions than touchdowns thrown, among other offensive miscues. They’re just lucky everyone in their division is just as bad as them.

Oh, and David Nelson — props on the girlfriend and touchdown celebration. But what the hell are you doing in Buffalo?

How fun is it to watch the Blackhawks so far this season? 

At 11-4-3 – and it’s still early – the Hawks are at the top of the West and that’s with a depleted power play which ranks 24th in the league.

I’m not pleased at all with Corey Crawford this season. He has to kick it up a notch between the pipes, where he poses a 8-4-2 record and a goal allowed average of 2.72, good for 23rd-best among goalies.

What alarms me on Crawford is that he ranks 27th in save percentage at a whopping 90.5 percent. That’s 34th out of 40 goalies. He’s allowed 39 goals. Hefty contract hangover?

But don’t you worry, Roberto Luongo is worse in save percentage and have given up three-less goals. We’ll see him tonight.

And let’s not ignore the job Ray Emery is doing as Crawford’s backup. I just hope we don’t have backup goalie part III on our hands again.

But besides Corey Crawford and the power play which is too dismal to talk about although it’s improving, I’m extremely pleased with our depth. Our new guys Steve Montador, Daniel Carcillo and Andrew Brunette have done a solid job — we’re aren’t the gritty team I think most hoped for — but the most pleasing aspect of the Hawks this season is Patrick Kane. Kaner going to the center position was pure genius.

I’ve been hearing a lot of chatter that once this move was made, many coaches and GM’s were scared out of their minds about it. With his ability to maneuver and squeeze through with his speed and puck handle, it’s creating problems for opposing defenses. Not to mention it’s beefing up our lines and separating Jonathan Toews and Kane.

Kane’s a plus-11 overall and his 13 assists has guys like Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp benefiting.

Kane’s also 11th in the league in points (19). Hossa’s right behind him with 18 and Sharpie is right behind Big Hoss with 17.

Posing a plus-13 overall, Hossa has the second best plus-minus in the league. Anything to do with Kane? Sharp’s also a plus-10.

When these guys are on the ice, things are happening. The defense looks good. As long as the Hawks work on that power play, their own penalty kill, stay healthy and guys like Viktor Stalberg and Nick Leddy continue their stellar play, the sky’s the limit for the mighty Blackhawks.

The Cubs should hire… 

I still say Terry Francona is the best man for the job, no matter what you hear, say, think, going to think, going to say and going to hear.

And of the five candidates GM Jed Hoyer said would probably make up the field, Terry Francona is better than all five combined. That’s even minus the whole Boston meltdown in September.

Epstein won two World Series championships with Francona with that “Boston” model. How many did the Cubs win in a 103 years? I’m all for making this Boston-West if it means a title. These guys know how to win.

When Francona’s name came up, which was practically automatic when Theo came over, Epstein’s said Francona wouldn’t have to even interview for the job. That’s a job for Francona to lose, not win.

But while both also agreed weeks ago it might not be the right fit, Francona now wants it. His heart is in it. Adding that, the previous success and the fact Tito needs no interview, it’ll come down to if Epstein and Hoyer wants either Sandy Alomar Jr., Pete Mackanin, Dale Sveum or Mike Maddux more than Tito.

But if they do decide to go without Francona, my money is on Alomar.

And that’s regardless of certain broadcasters saying the Cubs want to go in a new direction without Francona. Did they have Francona to begin with? Last I checked, Quade was their last skipper…

Carlos Zambrano will pitch for the Cubs for 2012…

Because Theo Epstein needs pitching. And Carlos would be paid too much to be sitting having a child’s timeout. Plus Carlos has that 10/5 rule and an incentive that can give Big Z a lot of money (around $16-18M) with a player option in 2013… see how money talks?

Epstein was adamant that the Cubs needed pitching and whether you want to believe Zambrano’s a child or not, he can still pitch effectively. I’m hearing Hoyer saying you can’t go 17-7 without being good or something? That is true. But Carlos will have to earn his spot back.

I think you can bet on seeing Zambrano on the roster than Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder.

Quickly… I’d call this Chalk Talk but that segment is coming later this week… 

Congrats to Coach K on win No. 903. It’s always good to see someone from Damen Avenue to make history. My roots are Damen and Augusta, which are identical to Krzyzewski’s upbringings. How cool is that?!

Jerry Sandusky is in complete denial — and Bob Costas put it beautifully on NBC SportsTalk on Versus last night.

When I signed into Yahoo! Sports today, on my schedule it reads: Your Lakers should have been playing today

The Bulls are my No. 1 team, with the Lakers my No. 2 (West team of mine, plus I love Kobe), but that’s just an hilarious reminder and also cold. Very cruel Yahoo!

I’ve been trying to figure out the color suit LeBron James wore for Game 6 of the 2011 NBA Finals. It’s of bluish tint. And it’s made by Ralph Lauren. How do I know that? I just do. OK?

Anyway, I contacted Ralph Lauren and instead of telling me the color of the suit — I love the color — they want my phone number, mailing address and dress size.

Earth to RL: I don’t want to buy your $2000 suit. I just want to know the color, so I can go to the Men’s Wearhouse and get a quality suit for about 95 percent less.

I guarantee it.

Justin Verlander is the AL Cy Young. Great. Shocking. Shock me more with giving him the MVP award.

I’m sick of this caddy Steve Williams, or whatever the name of Tiger’s old caddy. Does it matter? He’s a caddy. Tiger made you rich. He’s trying to turn his life around. Shut up and enjoy the money Tiger Woods won you.

Big cable news: I’ve switched to AT&T U-Verse. The switch goes into affect Dec. 12. Faster internet. More channels. NFL Network. I’m excited. Will it increase the amount of blogs I post? Probably not. But it’ll make surfing that much better.

College basketball just doesn’t excite me. Keeping track with it for March Madness is one thing. It’s another thing when lately the rankings have shuffled more than LMFAO’s Party Rock Anthem. How many No. 1 teams have had the top spot the last few seasons and teams like UConn come away with championships? I guess that’s the beauty of college ball, which I do like. Sometimes though, I just like watching it for pure entertainment instead of trying to figure it all out.

I’ll just say Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan State in the Final Four. Ask me tomorrow, I’ll give you Florida, Ohio State, Arizona and Pitt.

May be on Friday I’ll say Illinois, DePaul, Northwestern, UIC and Loyola. Hey wait, that’s five?! Yeah, I had to combine UIC and Loyola. That’s how bad our colleges are.

I heard a report on WBBM AM 780 that the lockout is hurting businesses, but one ticker broker suggested an alternative to the Bulls is a college game.

YEAH, RIGHT.

College hoops are non-existent in Chicago. There is no way Bulls fans are going to beef up attendance at those games. Especially NU, UIC, DePaul or Loyola.

Here’s an idea: go find a high school near you. Those are great games to watch. Get your kids enrolled in their camps and develop them into wonderful basketball players. Then go watch them at Duke or Kentucky.

Although, go Sammy Sutter (South Elgin alum) on UIC.

And finally…

Quotes that make you wonder from the weekend: 

“I like to punish running backs for them trying to make plays on my defense. Whether it’s dirty or aggressive or whatever that may be, we’re going to continue to play that way and make sure we stand up and make sure teams don’t run over us.”

– Ndamukong Suh, Lions defensive tackle

Hey, Ndamukong, um… yeah… what was the score of your game against the Bears? I dare you to stop Aaron Rodgers with that attitude.

I dare you.

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