Nichol(s) Slots: Bear down, Playoffs? Icehogs?

The Bears are 4-1. There’s plenty of Hawks players to go around in Rockford and baseball season is over in Chicago. Here’s another tale of what I like to call Nichol(s) Slots.

THE MINT —  Apologies for not posting sooner. Prep season at the Herald is in full swing and it has consumed most of my time. But I have been paying attention to things, so let’s pull the knob on a new Nichol(s) Slots.

Happy Birthday — It’s October 8 so a birthday shout goes out to one of my best friends Craig Janowiak, the Jan Man turns 26 today. As Yao Ming says it best brother, Happy Birthday, Kenny. You’ll see the video later.  God Bless you, buddy.

Bear down! 

History somehow finds a way to repeat itself and both Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman showed shades of Mike Brown, a la 2001, while actually creating some history of their own yesterday.

After last week’s performance in Big D where the veteran defenders haunted the Cowboys with pick-6’s each, the Jags were no exception to Briggs and Tillman on Sunday and again returned interceptions for touchdowns as the Bears spanked Jacksonville 41-3, as Briggs and Tillman became the first set of teammates to intercept and return for touchdowns in back-to-back weeks.

Tillman also became the all-time Bears leader in defensive touchdowns with eight.

The Bears improved to 4-1 going into the bye by scoring 38 unanswered points in the second half and Brandon Marshall had the kind of game everyone in Chicago expected when he was acquired from Miami for a couple of third-rounders with 12 catches for 144 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline in the third quarter.

That, and Jay Cutler who was 23 for 39 for 292 yards and two touchdowns, seem to compliment Matt Forte, who rushed 22 times for 107 yards and a defense who recovered a fumble and scored twice, a trend going for the Bears.

Going into the bye at 4-1 is more than what you could have asked from the Bears five weeks ago and with Indy taking down the Pack 30-27, the Bears hold a two-game lead over Green Bay and kept pace with the Vikings, who won against Tennessee. The Lions were idle and get the Bears in two weeks at Soldier Field, where the Bears could really space between.

The Bears have been relatively healthy and that’s one of the keys to a successful season.

And although now it seems the division race looks as if it’ll be Minnesota and the Bears, with the North-favorite Packers now two back, how many of you would still change the outcome of the game against Seattle?

Bull rush 

Adidas’ spots on Derrick Rose are definitely inspiring. To see Rose training and hearing he’s ahead of schedule makes me wonder if the Bulls will have a shot this year after all. And if not, it makes you love Rose even more. How about him crying? LeBron James can learn from him.

We all know management won’t rush the 2011 NBA MVP along — and rightfully so, this is Jordan all over again in 1986 — but I can’t help to think that if he returns quicker than anticipated, possibly around all-star break, the Bulls might have time to adjust, make a late season run and put some steam together for the playoffs.  It’s possible. The Bulls without him should be middle of the pack in the East and his boost could jump them to a No. 3 or 4 seed, barring any competition from Indiana in the division. Let teams sleep on the Bulls. It could work for them this time instead of jumping out to 60-win seasons the past two years.

The echoes of a No. 2 man will ring loud and clear for the Bulls to beat Miami, if the teams were to meet in the playoffs. But before Rose tore his ACL in Game 1 against Philadelphia, many critics pitted the Bulls to beat Miami, even with Chicago’s only superstar in Rose. If the Bulls are having a decent season without him and he’s ready to go, this might be something to watch for.

And don’t count out this bench. It may not be the Bench Mob, but to believe the Bulls are just a 40-45 win team without Rose is a slap in the face to the rest of the team. Don’t count them out.

May be next year… 

With over 100 losses in the books in 2012, the Cubs will turn their attention to 2013 and what better way to do so by installing new front row seats!

The Cubs are installing 46 new seats behind home plate, which means they’ll be moving up the brick wall by three feet. I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures on Twitter of personnel measuring the distance from the wall to home plate.

How about may be fixing the grand stand? Building that triangle building? I think the LED board worked out so well, they might want to do the same in left, in all seriousness.

I’m sure adding more seats plays out perfectly for both the fans and the players. First thing — foul balls will have less distance to travel which will prolong counts and balls hitting the backstop have a better chance of being closer to the plate.

For the fans who want to sit that close, they’ll pay an even steeper dime, all to see a bad team go deeper in counts on occasion.

I guess that’s Theo’s five-year plan, right?

By the way, Josh Hamilton is more than welcome to come swing on the North Side, again. I did hear Hoyer explain the Cubs would be active in free agency. But it’ll probably be pitching.

Ace Ventura 

I will say this about the White Sox. Ken Williams made a great move with Robin Ventura. And had the White Sox not collapsed down the stretch, he may have been a great candidate for Manager of the Year. I was severely skeptical of the move at the beginning of the year and so was everyone else. But Ventura knows how to manage well and give him a couple of years with a team to his liking and the Sox are going to stay competitive for a long time.

Or, they can always re-hire Ozzie. To mow the lawn or something. At least he’s got the t-shirt!

Around the bases in MLB… 

So far three of the four teams who have home field advantage and began series on the road in the newest playoff format this weekend all came away with victories. All except the Oakland A’s, who lost not one both games in Detroit.

I know the Detroit Tigers didn’t plan on having a season as they did this year, where they really never had a grasp of that division till the very end. But their mediocrity this season actually turned golden based on how MLB restructured the postseason due to travel arrangements.

Last year’s format was that the home field advantage went to the team with the better record. Plugging Oakland into last year’s format, Game’s 1 and 2 would have been played in the Bay — not literally — with 3 and 4 in Detroit and Game 5 in Oakland if necessary.

The A’s will get Game 5 at home, but will it matter now? Oakland isn’t guaranteed three-straight in the Bay with the Tigers leading 2-0. And I can’t help to feel bad for Oakland, who came back to win the AL West but now are seemingly on the brink.

If MLB really wanted to create more revenue, they could avoid all this nonsense if they made the Divisional Series a best-of-seven, going to the 2-3-2 format, the format of the World Series.

The 2-3 format isn’t new. In fact, the ’84 Cubs know that format very well. It was used in the past. But if you’re going to add games to make more revenue because we need to force craziness and need to see more Discover or insurance adds, at least try to keep some continuity with the season, since in my opinion a five-game series really doesn’t do justice to the 162 you just completed.

Triple crown 

Do you know how you solidify an MVP award? For starters, you can sort of win the Triple Crown. And that’s exactly what Miguel Cabrera did. I’m sure Mike Trout had a hell of a year. But when you win the AL Triple Crown it’s suffice to say you’re the MVP. And Cabrera could be a champion in the same year. How’s that for crowns?

It’s the season to do it for Cabrera, since the team is in contention. I always hate when guys have monster years and their team doesn’t make it to the postseason. Sort of like Alfonso Soriano this season. Great year. Bad team. Real bad.

And don’t try to tell me some breakout rookie deserves it more when he doesn’t lead the AL in home runs, RBI and batting average, let alone is sitting at home during the postseason. Do you know how hard that is? Even when Barry Bonds was busy breaking Hank Aaron’s home run record (and juicing at the same time), Bonds couldn’t achieve that.

The Roundball Rock preseason edition 

My Eastern Conference and Western Conference previews will be out shortly for the NBA, but here’s some early things that’s got my blood going for basketball’s return later this month (and there’s plenty more things I’m excited about).

1. Derrick Rose’s return

I’m from Chicago, can you blame me? I’d like to see this kid comeback in the meanest way possible and somehow lead the Bulls to an NBA championship. I’m sure whatever is motivating D Rose will surely be displayed upon return.

2. Can the Lakers beat the Bulls 72 wins?

Metta World Peace (Ron Artest) put it out there that the Lakers can win 70 games this season and with a lineup of Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and World Peace, it’s definitely possible. Then again, World Peace is always drinking the Kool-Aid.

The Lakers are going to the Princeton offense and from what I hear it’s the Triangle Offense’s cousin. It’s a good thing the Lakers don’t play in the South.

3. Can Miami repeat and who will stop them?

The Heat are the reigning champs. It’s sad to say their plan worked. And even sadder is that there’s a good shot it could work again. They’ve even added Ray Allen. But if Rose returns and revitalizes Chicago, that could be something to watch. The Celtics looked dead, but now seem to be alive once again. Their roster is scary good. Brooklyn has a new pieces and it’s contending. The Knicks and 76ers are all improved.

And don’t forget the Thunder are a year more mature and the Clippers will have a better chance out West.

This season will be very different obviously since games aren’t crammed. Guys will be fresher.

4. Kevin Garnett and the Celtics take on Miami.

Garnett was so pissed that Allen left for Miami, he’s cut off all contact and seemingly forgotten his number. Good for KG. He’s an old school 90’s guy who wants to win and takes things personally. I hope Boston looks at Allen as a trader. I saw Rajon Rondo saying he hates everybody in the league, that’s how competitive he is. Points for Rondo, he’s become a favorite of mine now. It’s good to see this because I’ve always noted that the league is too friendly and it needs to go back to the way Michael Jordan viewed guys on the court in the 90’s: enemies.

5. The Brooklyn Nets.

Is it just me, or are the Nets cool all of a sudden? I don’t know if it was a Jersey thing, but I love the move to Brooklyn and I’m eager to see Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace try their run as a poor man’s Big Three. Kim Kardashian’s old flame Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez should be formidable inside and the Nets will have some big shoes to fill being New York’s second team. They should fill them quite well in their first season, as they project to be a playoff team.

6. For the Spurs to just finally fall out from contention.

I love Tim Duncan but their time is up. They’re boring and I wish they’d not make the playoffs. In fact, if we could move the Spurs to Seattle, I’d be all for that.

7. Carlos Boozer amnestied after this season. Are you with me Bulls fans?

Rockford Icehogs

Have you seen the Icehogs’ roster lately? You should, especially if you’re a hockey fan or more importantly, a Hawks fan. Take a look at the household names you’ll see, especially the ones currently locked out of the NHL. You’ll find Marcus Krueger, Nick Leddy, Andrew Shaw, Brandon Bolig, Ben Smith, Brandon Pirri, Jimmy Hayes, Dylan Olsen, Brandon Sadd and Kyle Beach — all except Beach — would be on the Hawks roster by now if the owners hadn’t locked its doors on its players.

I can’t imagine hockey players going without pay for far much longer and the threat of the NHL losing its big revenue game at the Big House in the Winter Classic which seats more than 100,000 people with two Original Six teams in Detroit and Toronto in action.

But for about $20, it might go very far as getting a ticket in Rosemnot this weekend to see the ‘Hogs and the Wolves in action.

Other things I have my sights on

1. Can Notre Dame stay undefeated until its trip to USC? What a game that would be in the Coliseum. But there’s still about 6 more weeks until that happens and knowing Notre Dame, they’ll blow that opportunity.

2, How many times players in the NBA will get fined for flopping. Apparently, the refs will take care of Shane Battier, so he doesn’t have to worry. Can they go back and fine Vlade Divac for all the flops he acted out during his time? Vlade would be bankrupt like Europe.

3. Inside the NBA on TNT. Although Shaq isn’t very good on commentary — actually, he stinks — more antics like pushing Christmas trees over on him and stuff like that makes watching the show even more entertaining.

4. Some NCAA team to stop West Virginia’s offense. And I don’t think it’s possible. I hope they get into the title game against an SEC team and they get the win 60-54. Or 100-95. Something ridiculous, let’s put it that way.

5. For some team other than Chicago to sign A.J. Pierzynski so he can get the hell out of town. Another irritating Sox player who’s worn out his welcome.

6. A Mac Book pro. And an new HDTV. And that iPhone 5. And not in that order. Please help!

7. The League makes its season debut October 11. The way last season ended, this should be an exciting year. Gotta love that Taco and Mr. McGibblets.

8. A Washington Nationals/New York Yankees World Series. I see blockbuster. And if not, how about Detroit and Cincinnati?

That’s it for now. Most posts on the way during a crazy, jammed-pace high school football season. Cary-Grove is the real deal and I suggest if you’re a fan of football, especially high school football, you go check out the Trojans at some point during their playoff run, which will begin in three weeks.

SN

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