Will Urlacher play in the Bears' opener?

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Will Urlacher play in the Bears' opener?

From Comcast SportsNetLAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) -- Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher returned to practice Monday for the first time since July 31, hoping to play in Sunday's season opener.Urlacher did not stop to talk to reporters, but coach Lovie Smith said the eight-time Pro Bowl player looked good considering he had arthroscopic surgery to his left knee Aug. 14."He had a good first day back," coach Lovie Smith said. "He's got to get in shape. I'm sure he'll tell you that and a few other things like that. But we didn't have any trouble with him today. He's right on schedule."Urlacher did talk to Fox TV before Monday about his condition and said, "I'm playing Sunday. That's a done deal."However, Urlacher also said the knee will not be 100 percent. "I will be as close to it as I can be," he said. "I have been doing some things. I've been in the pool. I have been running with our trainers and stuff on the side. But it's hard to get in shape in a week of practice. It's not possible. But I will get as close as I can to it."Bears players liked what they saw of Urlacher in practice."He's back in the flow," linebacker Nick Roach said. "We're still a long way away from Sunday, but just having him back is definitely positive."With Urlacher back, defensive players returned to their normal routine. Roach moved from the middle back to his regular starting spot on the strong side.Beyond Urlacher, the Bears also had starting defensive tackle Stephen Paea back from an ankle injury and starting safety Chris Conte returning from a shoulder injury. Defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, who signed early Monday, worked, and defensive tackle Brian Price was cut when Okoye signed.Okoye had four sacks for the Bears last year, but left in free agency for Tampa on a one-year, 2 million contract. He had arthroscopic knee surgery in June and reached an injury settlement when he was cut by the Bucs on Friday. The Bears gave him a physical and are convinced he can help as a backup to Henry Melton."Amobi is one of our guys," Smith said. "There was disappointment when he signed with the Bucs. He's a young football player."Everybody was excited about getting him back. I know he's been injured before down there, but he had a good day of practice today."Okoye said his knee has healed completely after he tried to come back too soon. He immediately felt a part of the Bears' defense."It fits like a glove," he said. "Being here last year and knowing what I like to do, and what this defense asks of me to do, it's perfect."The Bears had acquired Price from Tampa Bay in July for a 2013 draft pick. But he struggled coming off a leg injury and sustained a head injury in the final preseason game -- the latest blow for a player who's had a rough time.Two brothers were killed in shootings in Los Angeles while he was growing up. His sister died in a car accident in May, and he and his wife decided to adopt her children. There were also reports of a fight with rookie safety Mark Barron -- a first-round pick this year -- in a team meeting room, an altercation that occurred a few weeks after Price was hospitalized for several days for mental and physical exhaustion following his sister's death.A second-round pick in 2010, Price, 23, played in 20 games with the Bucs, producing 27 tackles and three sacks.

Mazz: Is David Price the Peyton Manning of MLB?

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Mazz: Is David Price the Peyton Manning of MLB?

After a rough start to the season Tony Massarotti is starting to wonder if David Price has struggled due to the cold weather early in the season, and if he should be considered the Peyton Manning of MLB.

Gauging the stock of Thon Maker, the NBA draft's mystery man

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Gauging the stock of Thon Maker, the NBA draft's mystery man

BOSTON – There’s a certain amount of mystery surrounding most players when they enter the NBA draft.

And then there’s 19-year-old Thon Maker, the 7-foot-1 Sudan-born basketball player who successfully challenged the NBA’s rule restrictions placed on high school players entering the league.                                                  

Maker reclassified academically in 2015 but elected to stay at Orangeville District Secondary School in Orangeville, Ontario for an additional year which was later deemed a “post-graduate” year.

In doing so, he satisfied the NBA’s rules regarding draft-eligible players being one year removed from their graduating high school class as well as the league’s age requirement.

This will be the second straight draft where there will be at least one player who played their prep basketball in North American who did not play in college or professionally overseas prior to entering the draft.

Last season, the Dallas Mavericks selected Indian-born Satnam Singh in the second round with the 52nd overall pick. The 7-foot-2, 290-pound center played his prep basketball at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

To be in such select company alone makes Maker’s journey to the NBA unique.

But in this narrative, that becomes more of a footnote as Maker’s path towards pro basketball has already taken him to three different continents (Africa, Australia and most recently North America) in which he has played for at least five different institutions.

CSNNE.com spoke to two different scouts, a league executive and an NBA assistant who was among those to see him play during a Basketball Without Borders event in 2015.

Their opinions of Maker’s chances of playing at the NBA level are kind of like the places Maker has played basketball – all over the map.

“There is no way this kid should be in this year’s draft,” one Eastern Conference scout told CSNNE.com. “He’s nowhere close to being ready to play or make any kind of impact that will help a team anytime soon. He’s one of those two years away from being two years away kind of players. If you take him near the end of the second round, he’s worth it. But a first-rounder? I just don’t see it.”

Another executive with a Western Conference team offered a similar assessment of Maker.

“He’s going to have to show some things that we haven’t seen yet, in workouts,” the executive told CSNNE.com. “Every draft has a player or two that you draft because he has upside, but he’s a project. That’s Thon Maker; a project with upside, the kind of upside that you’re probably not going to really see or really be helped by for years down the road.”

A second scout added, “He’s not ready for the NBA. Not even close. But this league drafts on potential and because of that, somebody will take him. It may not be until the second round, but he’ll be drafted by someone.”

However, one current NBA assistant had a chance to see him play at a Basketball Without Borders tournament and came away with a very different opinion of Maker.

“You immediately saw the separation of talent, of God-given ability,” the assistant coach told CSNNE.com. “He’s a multi-faceted player, a willing learner.”

Originally from Sudan, Maker was discovered by Edward Smith whose guidance has taken Maker on a basketball odyssey across the globe with stops in Louisiana, Virginian and most recently, Ontario.

During each stop, Maker's potential was evident.

But most of his best work came against questionable competition, the kind of thing that tends to raise eye-brows among NBA decision-makers.

As impressed as the assistant coach was with Maker, he too wonders how the 19-year-old will fare against bigger, stronger, more seasoned competition.

"We'll find out soon enough," the assistant coach said. "He's in the draft now. His skills, the good ones and the ones that need some work, will be on display for all to see."

Maker burst on the scene as an internet sensation a couple of years ago with a YouTube video that drew immediate comparisons to former Celtic Kevin Garnett.

But as more folks began to watch him play, the flaws to his game became more pronounced.

He is a 7-1 wing player with a lithe frame whose physical strength leaves a lot to be desired. While he has shown a great work ethic according to most scouts, he doesn’t have a true feel for the game in large part because he is so relatively raw.

And maybe most telling is how he has been on the floor with other above-average competition and more often than not, has done little to stand out as one of the better players competing.

Throw in the fact that he bypassed college altogether and it stands to reason that collectively there are more questions about his game than answers right now.

In an interview with Draft Express shortly after announcing he would enter this year’s draft, Maker shed some light on his controversial decision.

“When I found out I had the opportunity to enter this year's draft it was a no brainer to me,” Maker told Draft Express last month. “I've always had the dream of playing in the NBA and I feel that I am ready.”

Maker added, “When I had the chance to enter the Draft, I started of thinking about College versus Pro. The NBA game, talent, spacing, rotations, terminology, clock and practice time is so much more different than college. I watch a lot of ball, both games and practices. I felt that if I could do this full time, it would be great. If I went to college I could not see myself not taking my academics seriously. I would want to take serious classes and do well in them. I would have to split time in my focus. My approach is to always go all out and try to be the best if I'm going to do something.”

That’s why his decision to turn pro is not something that he says he will not have a change of heart about.

Players who enter the draft can pull out as late as May 25.

But listening to Maker, that doesn’t seem to be an option he’s giving any thought.

“I'm all in,” he said. “If you're doing something you have to be confident in your choice. This process is not a game. I've played with NBA players before and their approach is business like, even though they are having fun out there.”
 
When pressed on whether he would consider withdrawing from the draft if he doesn’t like the feedback he’s hearing during the pre-draft process, Maker reiterated his position.

“As I said, I’m all in,” Maker said.

“He wants to be a star,” the assistant coach said. “He wants to be a star and I think he will be. I don’t want to put too much on the kid before he gets a chance to get out there and show what he can do. But as of right now, in my heart of hearts I feel the kid is going to be a special player.”

Time for struggling David Price to fix what's been ailing him

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Time for struggling David Price to fix what's been ailing him

BOSTON -- It’s safe to say the “David Price Experience” has been eerily similar to the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Through his first six starts, he’s had three good outings and three towards the other end of the spectrum. He’s maintained the sequence of good-bad-good throughout the process, with Sunday night being his most recent poor performance.

Additionally (as Red Sox Insider Sean McAdam pointed out in Sunday’s postgame press conference) all three of his rough starts have been at home -- in a park where he was known for pitching well prior to 2016.

“I haven’t executed in this ballpark as well as I know that I’m capable of,” Price said. That’s frustrating, but that’s something I can fix. I felt better today than I did my last start [at Fenway] for sure. But it doesn’t matter how good you feel; you’ve got to be able to execute and that’s what I didn’t do.”

Now, yes, he did keep his team in striking distance -- with just a little help from his offense – and allow John Farrell avoid the bullpen until it was Koji Time, followed by Jonathan Papelbon 2.0. That was a sign that Price is a true ace, especially when Farrell kept the ball in his hands to face Alex Rodriguez in the seventh after giving up two big hits to the righty in previous at-bats.

“He asked me if I was going to really make good pitches in that situation and I told him absolutely,” Price said about his mound conversation with Farrell before he faced Rodriguez.

But in looking at the numbers, Price has only looked like half an ace to start the year. Yes, April has traditionally been his worst month, but his first start in the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry came in the first day of May.

So clearly Price has adjustments to make and can’t just switch things off and on whenever he pleases.

After Sunday night’s game, he expressed how execution was his biggest problem, with no better evidence that the home run and double he gave up to Rodriguez.

On the home run, Christian Vazquez called for a fastball down and in, but Price missed up in the zone down the heart of the plate with his first pitch. Then the next time up, Price threw a fastball right down the middle, again -- this time when the count was 1-and-2 – resulting in the two-base hit, which was nearly another home run.

The lefty explained how those pitches were a result of not “getting on top” of the ball enough, making his misses costly.

“If you’re going to miss, miss down not up,” Price said. “And that’s what I haven’t been able to do so far.”

He appears to be aware of the issue. Now's the time for him to adjust.