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Candidates, connections and ‘Canandaigua’: The Chicago Bears coaching and GM searches have reached the in-person phase — and outside intrigue is peaking



Candidates, connections and ‘Canandaigua’: The Chicago Bears coaching and GM searches have reached the in-person phase — and outside intrigue is peaking

The video surfaced late Monday night, a little before 11 p.m. Undercover, of course. And shared on social media by Eric Bohn, whose Twitter bio identifies him as “your trusted resource for Chicago’s Northside and the North Shore residential real estate market.”

In this case, he was moonlighting as an impromptu P.I. — with his cellphone ready.

This, after all, is what we do in 2022. See, share, then open the floor to reaction.

Bohn’s covert video documentation of what certainly appears to be Chicago Bears Chairman George McCaskey strolling through O’Hare airport with who certainly appears to be Kansas City Chiefs executive director of player personnel Ryan Poles, a finalist for the Bears general manager job.

Finally! In the third week of the Bears’ hunt for a new GM and head coach, we had eyes on the process, evidence of McCaskey, with boots on the ground, meeting Poles at the airport and bringing this all-important search party into a new in-person stage.

By Tuesday morning, Bohn’s video had more than 700 likes and close to 300 retweets. Many of the replies went as you’d expect.

There was predictable sarcasm. From @puttinonfoil: “Wow. George running an Uber now.”

There were jump-to-conclusions responses. From @Eric11Lackey: “Personally, I love this. Ryan Poles is our next GM as long as he accepts. George is adding that extra personal touch, him picking him up saying ‘you’re my guy, When you’re my guy, you’re family.’ This is a huge sign of respect to the candidate.’

And then, naturally, there were social media sleuths who froze the video, zooming in and seeking clues to figure out something. About anything.

Wait … Was that, in McCaskey’s right hand, a chauffeur sign that reads “Canandaigua”? Wasn’t Poles a football star once upon a time at Canandaigua Academy in the New York town of his birth? What a clever and clandestine way to welcome a prospective hire to Chicago! (Except McCaskey, in a pair of jeans and gym shoes, was also wearing a Bears mask and a Bears jacket.) So much for a stealth operation.

Still, what did all this mean exactly? And where do we go from here?

Making progress

For starters, the Bears have advanced forward in their searches, moving past the virtual interview phase with Poles becoming the first candidate to meet with the team at its headquarters in Lake Forest. His second GM interview began Tuesday.

According to league sources and multiple national reports, the Bears are also expected to conduct second interviews with GM candidates Eliot Wolf and Monti Ossenfort while working to schedule in-person meetings with potential coaches Dan Quinn, Matt Eberflus and Jim Caldwell as well.

It’s unclear if either of those lists might expand and, if so, by how much. But it’s also worth noting the number of moving parts that still exist as the Bears, like seven other NFL teams, work to fill important jobs in either the GM or head coaching realm. (The Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars and Las Vegas Raiders are still working to fill both spots.)

Poles, for what it’s worth, is scheduled to meet with the Minnesota Vikings this week for a second time, a finalist for that organization’s GM job as well. That’s something McCaskey and the search committee must remain aware of. Up in New York, meanwhile, the Giants’ coaching search is heating up quickly after they hired Joe Schoen as their new GM Friday. Schoen spoke with the Bears about their GM opening Jan. 16. He also has close ties to the one head coaching candidate many Bears fans are pining for most: Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who now appears to be emerging as a top target for the Giants.

It’s entirely possible Daboll will follow Schoen to the Giants. And while that will hardly register as a knockout punch for the Bears, Daboll landing a new gig anywhere outside Chicago will leave a chunk of the fan base feeling jilted.

Similarly, some Bears fans figure to feel a certain level of disappointment when they realize Rick Smith, the former Houston Texans GM and executive vice president of football operations, never interviewed here. Smith, according to one league source, privately expressed interest in learning more about the Bears’ future plans as early as December, before it was known what exactly the organization planned to do with then-GM Ryan Pace or team president/CEO Ted Phillips.

A separate source with close connections to the Bears indicated in the first week of the GM search that Smith was “definitely on the radar” as the franchise cast a notably wide net. But for whatever reason, nothing came of any of that.

At the same time

This is all simply part of the deal, the way searches often evolve and change. And the Bears now are narrowing their focus and trying to make good on one of McCaskey’s biggest vows. As he emphasized Jan. 10: “We prefer to hire the GM first.”

That strategy has always made sense. The Bears, McCaskey indicated, would look to lock in a new general manager before moving on to secure a coach. And they remain positioned to do just that. Yet for more than two weeks, the team pushed through the first phase of virtual interviews for both jobs simultaneously, meeting with at least 10 head coaching candidates while concurrently speaking with at least 15 GM prospects.

Bill Polian has been assisting with the searches. And presumably, he came in with a master plan on how to help the Bears smoothly handle the two respective hunts. “With Bill’s guidance,” McCaskey noted, “we’re going to be able to find a partnership of GM and coach that will work.”

Still, some around the league emphasize that if the Bears are promising their next GM will have complete oversight of the football operation, that also means allowing him to conduct his own coaching search via his own methods with his own list of candidates.

That’s where the team’s push to schedule second interviews with head coaching candidates before hiring a GM has caused a bit of head-scratching in pockets of the league. At the very least, it’s something McCaskey and Phillips will have to explain.

Until a GM is locked in and has his own opportunity to express a vision and offer an update on the coaching search, so much of what the Bears are doing and accomplishing remains under the radar.

Perhaps as early as this week, Chicago will get its definitive answer on who the Bears’ next GM will be. For now, with the intrigue elevating and speculation rising to a fever pitch, much of the city has been left to play an advanced game of “Clue,” trying to piece the mystery together.

On Monday night, that meant in-depth scrutiny on a 4-second airport speedwalking video.

Could it really mean what we think it could mean?


Winderman’s view: Jimmy Butler makes his stand, plus other Heat-Celtics thoughts



Winderman’s view: Jimmy Butler makes his stand, plus other Heat-Celtics thoughts

Observations and other notes of interest from Friday night’s 111-103 NBA playoff victory over the Boston Celtics:

– Yes, Jimmy Butler had to call it a night at halftime of Game 3.

– Yes, he hardly was his typical aggressive self in Game 4 and 5.

– No matter what the Heat did, or did not, offer on their injury report, the issue there is real.

– The knee, or something connected to the knee, has not been right.

– But this effort also showed plenty of who Butler is and what he is for this team.

– With his team facing elimination, he mustered.

– In the scoring column.

– On the boards.

– With his passing.

– And on the defensive end.

– The 2020 bubble seemed to be the height of playoff Jimmy, in that Heat run to the NBA Finals.

– But what these efforts, particularly Friday’s, show is that there still is plenty there.

– Even as some point to his age.

– Or the remaining years on his contract.

– He remains a force.

– LeBron James once walked into this arena in must-win Game 6 and showed out.

– Considering Butler’s bum knee, the mere fact he showed up with this type of effort showed plenty.

– Too many years left on a contract that run through the 36th birthday?

– Not an argument on this night.

– Just a study in perseverance.

–True to his word at the morning shootaround, Heat coach Spoelstra stayed with his starting lineup of Bam Adebayo, P.J. Tucker, Butler, Kyle Lowry and Max Strus.

– Even with Lowry slowed by his hamstring strain.

– Even with Strus arguably entering amid his worst NBA slump.

– With the start, Tucker moved past Giannis Antetokounmpo for 99th on the NBA all-time playoff list.

– With their starts, Butler and Lowry moved past Buck Williams for 77th on the NBA all-time playoff list and tied Kevin Johnson for 76th.

– With his start, Adebayo tied Shaquille O’Neal for seventh on the Heat all-time playoff list.

– The Celtics opened with their when-healthy usual of Al Horford, Robert Williams III, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart.

– A pair of quick Tucker fouls had Caleb Martin entering as the Heat’s first reserve.

– Gabe Vincent then followed.

– Then Duncan Robinson, in the wake of the Heat’s 5-of-8 start from the field.

– With Victor Oladio entering at the start of the second period, making it nine deep.

– Which left Dewayne Dedmon again removed from the equation, as also was the case in Game 5.

– Lowry’s first assist came 71 seconds in. He did not have one in Wednesday night’s Game 5.

– He then converted a 3-pointer with 9:02 to play in the opening period, his first points in two games.

– Lowry’s first assist moved him past Sam Cassell for 45th on the NBA all-time playoff list. His third moved him past Julius Erving for 44th.

– Butler’s second point moved him past Sam Perkins for 77th on the NBA all-time playoff list.

– Butler’s first 3-point attempt moved him past former Heat guard Mario Chalmers for 76th on the NBA all-time playoff list.

– Butler’s third assist moved him past Pau Gasol for 71st on the NBA all-time playoff list.

– Butler’s 17th point moved him past Hal Greer for 75th on the NBA all-time playoff list.

– Butler’s second free-throw attempt moved him past Chris Paul for 59th on the NBA all-time playoff list.

– Spoelstra was asked pregame about the success of the Celtics with the short roll of guard Derrick White.

– “Yeah, you just have to have ultra-awareness on the weak side,” he said. “It’s almost like you have to visualize that he’s a 7-footer. You would never allow a 7-footer just to go untouched through the lane. So it’s just a different dynamic.”

– Spoelstra added, “We’ve been able to manage that before. Most teams eventually do get to that against us, particularly in the playoffs.”

– Considering the Celtics were down 3-2 before eliminating the Bucks in the previous round, Celtics coach Ime Udoka was taking nothing for granted.

– “We’ve been in this position before, Game 6 against Milwaukee,” he said pregame. “We understand Miami’s mindset coming out. Have to match that intensity, sense of urgency and physicality they’re going to bring.”

– He added, “We’ve talked about being the hunted – the hunter, earlier in the series against Milwaukee. Now we’re on the other side.”

– Udoka did not exactly reminisce pregame about being in 11th place in the East as late as Jan. 16, but he did take time to reflect.

– “We weren’t even thinking that far down the road honestly. We were thinking about getting healthy, understanding the system we were trying to put in place,” he said. “We always had glimpses of success. We were just trying to be consistent for the most part, understanding that we were really good defensively all along. Offensively trying to get our guys on the same page, get them to understand what we needed from them. That was the goal at that point.”

– He added, “But we did see good things early on at times. Just up and down, inconsistent a little bit. But we were always optimistic if we got healthy and our defense would carry over, offensively we’d continue to improve. The good signs were we played really good against the big teams. We had some poor losses against some of the lesser teams. For the most part we were competing against the best teams. That bodes well for the future.”

– David Ortiz was among those in the crowd.


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Carlos Correa finds missing power in Twins’ 10-7 victory over Kansas City



Carlos Correa finds missing power in Twins’ 10-7 victory over Kansas City

Carlos Correa started Friday’s game against Kansas City having reached base in 16 straight games, raising his batting average from .200 to .280.

“I’m getting my walks, I’m getting my base hits,” the Twins shortstop said before the game. “It’s just the power that’s missing a little bit.”

He took care of that on Friday while extending his on-base streak to 17 games.

Correa broke a 4-4 tie with a 432-foot home run into the Twins’ half of the bullpen to lead off the fourth inning, and Nick Gordon and Gio Urshela each drove in a pair of runs with two-out hits as Minnesota snapped a two-game skid with a 10-7 victory over the Royals in front of 21,841 at Target Field.

The Twins broke open a 6-5 game in with four runs in the eighth inning — three with two out — to extend their American League Central lead to five games over idle Chicago. Correa’s homer was his third this season, and first since May 4.

After resting his sore right ankle for three straight games, second baseman Jorge Polanco started the scoring with a two-run home run in the first inning — part of the Twins’ 15-hit attack — and Trevor Larnach drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the fourth. Luis Arraez, batting leadoff while Byron Buxton rested his sore right knee, went 2 for 5 with a walk, run scored and RBI.

After Yennier Cano gave up two runs in the ninth on MJ Melendez’s solo home run and a run-scoring double by Emmanuel Rivera, Emilo Pagan struck out Nicky Lopez for his team-leading seventh save. Twins starter Bailey Ober lasted only three innings, leaving with a 4-3 lead after throwing 60 pitches. Trevor Megill (1-1) pitched 2⅔ innings for the victory.

Brad Keller (1-5) took the loss, giving up six earned runs on 11 hits and three walks in four innings.

The Twins broke out big in the first inning. Arraez singled sharply to right to start. Correa followed with a rocket to deep left-center that was tracked down by Andrew Benintendi, but Polanco followed with a towering home run into the plaza in right field for a 2-0 lead.

After Max Kepler grounded out to second, Gary Sanchez singled and Trevor Larnach walked ahead of Urshela, who singled to center to score Sanchez and sent Larnach to third. Nick Gordon, playing center field in place of Buxton, then slapped an opposite-field single to left to score Larnach and make it 4-0. The Twins, however, left the bases loaded when Arraez struck out.

Ober set the Royals down in order in the second, two on strikeouts, before the Twins loaded the bases with two out in the second on singles by Max Kepler and Sanchez and a walk by Larnach, but Urshela grounded out to first to end the threat. The Royals quickly took advantage.

After putting runners at first and second on one-out singles by Nicky Lopez and Whit Merrifield, Bobby Witt Jr. doubled off the scoreboard in left-center to plate two, and Witt Jr. scored on a single by Hunter Dozier to make it 4-3.

Ober never came out for the fourth, leaving after throwing 60 pitches with a drop in his typical velocity. Left-hander Danny Coulombe, fresh off the injured list, allowed the first three batters he faced to reach on a single to Ryan O’Hearn, walk to Rivera and a game-tying single by Lopez.

Lopez stole second before Merrifield lined out to Urshela at third – he lept high to stab a rocket bound for the left-field corner – and Benintendi reached on a walk to put runners at first and third. Baldelli replaced Coulombe with Trevor Megill, and the big right-hander coaxed a 5-4-3 double play grounder by Witt Jr. on his first pitch to keep the game knotted.

Correa then homered to start the Twins half of the fourth, and Polanco scored on Larnach’s sacrifice fly to give the Twins a 6-4 lead.

Twins right-hander Joe Smith started the seventh and gave up a leadoff home run to Witt Jr. to make it 6-5, then walked Dozier before getting a 4-6-3 double-play grounder from Melendez. He then walked Carlos Santana, bringing left-hander Caleb Thielbar to pitch to lefty O’Hearn. The designated hitter popped to first baseman Arraez on the first pitch he saw to end the inning.

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Jimmy Butler conjures his LeBron James with 47 as Heat force Game 7 with 111-103 win in Boston



Jimmy Butler conjures his LeBron James with 47 as Heat force Game 7 with 111-103 win in Boston

The Miami Heat did not want it to end, and certainly not in a sea of green.

More to the point, Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry did not want it to end, even when it seemed their bodies were getting the best of their 30-something selves.

So make it a Game 7 Sunday at 8:30 p.m. at FTX Arena to settle these Eastern Conference finals.

Staving off elimination with a 111-103 victory Friday night, the Heat, like the Celtics, are now one victory from an appearance in the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors.

Much like when LeBron James scored 45 a decade earlier in a needed victory when the Heat entered TD Garden down 3-2 in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals, Butler took his game to a higher level, closing with 47 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, in the wake of previous struggles with knee pain.

Butler said a text message from friend and Heat icon Dwyane Wade provided additional inspiration.

Pushing through a hamstring strain, Lowry added 18 points and 10 assists, before fouling out with 2:18 to play in a 99-99 tie.

Also stepping up was guard Max Strus, with 13 points, on a night the Heat bench was limited, with sixth man Tyler Herro sidelined for a third consecutive game due to a groin strain.

For the Celtics, there were 30 points from Jayson Tatum, 22 from Derrick White and 20 from Jaylen Brown.

Five Degrees of Heat from Friday’s game:

1. Closing time: Up two at halftime, the Heat moved to a 13-point lead in the third quarter, the game’s biggest lead to that stage, and took an 82-75 advantage into the fourth.

But the Celtics kept coming, tying it on an Al Horford 3-pointer with 5:31 to play and moving to a 97-94 lead on a Derrick White 3-pointer with 4:42 left.

A Lowry 3-pointer followed to tie it, with a pair of Lowry free throws then putting the Heat up 99-97.

But after the Celtics tied it 99-99 on a pair of Marcus Smart free throws, Butler drove for an and-one layup and 102-99 Heat lead with 2:06 left. Heat forward P.J. Tucker followed that up with three free throws to make the lead 105-99 with 1:25 to play.

A Tatum second-chance layup cut the lead to 105-101 with 71 seconds left.

But then, at the expiration of the shot clock, off an inbounds play with 2.2 seconds left on the 24-second clock, Butler drained a 20-foot jumper for a 107-101 Heat lead.

Two Tatum free throws with 40 seconds left cut the Heat lead to 107-103.

Video review then reversed a blocking foul on the Heat’s Bam Adebayo to a Brown charge with 12.1 seconds left, effectively ending it.

2. Finding a way: Butler showed more lift than any of the previous three games, up to 21 points, nine rebounds and six assists by halftime, when the Heat led 48-46.

Included in that effort was a 3-for-3 start from the 3-point line, with another 3-pointer following later.

It wasn’t exactly full-contact Butler early on, not getting to the foul line until 6:49 remained in the second period, but it became something far more than the Butler who got to the line for only six free throws the previous three games.

3. Lowry, Strus, too: After the Heat’s starting backcourt went 0 for 15 in Game 5, both Lowry and Strus had revivals.

After playing Game 5 without a point or a turnover, Lowry was back to his pesky self, both with his playmaking and his scoring.

Limited by a hamstring strain for most of this postseason, Lowry showed far more mobility, which also helped with the lift on his shot, closing 4 of 9 on 3-pointers.

Strus, who had shot 0 for 16 the previous two games, found both his 3-point shot and aggression, up to 13 points going into the fourth.

At one point in the third quarter, Strus reacted with such emotion after a 3-pointer that he spit out his mouthpiece in his exuberance.

Strus closed 3 of 8 on 3-pointers.

4. Fresh start: The Heat addressed several of their Game 5 ills early.

After shooting 7-of-45 on 3-pointers Wednesday night, they closed the first quarter 5 of 8.

Lowry had five points and two assists in that opening period.

And after scoring 13 points in Game 5, Butler had 14 in an opening period that ended with the Heat up 29-22

5. No Tyler Herro: Ultimately, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the team could not risk Herro’s groin strain, even with the stakes that were in place.

“These are not easy conversations or decisions,” Spoelstra said 90 minutes before tipoff. “He’s definitely made progress, but he’s not quite ready, you know, to step into this kind of intensity of a game.”

Spoelstra declined to say whether Herro’s injury would have been measured in days instead of weeks had this been the regular season.

“I think it’s irrelevant to get into all the details,” he said. “He’s not able to play tonight, you know. As badly as he wants to get out there, you know, this is the most responsible decision for us.”


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