Cubs

1993 Eastern Conf. Finals Game 4 win over Knicks airs tonight at 7:30

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1993 Eastern Conf. Finals Game 4 win over Knicks airs tonight at 7:30

Five things to watch in Comcast SportsNet Chicago's "Bulls Classics" broadcast of the Bulls' Game 4 Eastern Conference Finals win over the New York Knicks on May 31, 1993 (airing Monday night at 7:30 p.m.):

1) Another one of Michael Jordan's signature performances for the ages occurred, as the legend poured in 54 points to will the Bulls to a hard-fought, 105-95 victory. Jordan scored efficiently, shooting 18-for-30 from the floor, despite various Knicks defenders hanging all over him and when he ventured into the paint, having to soar past their malice-intentioned big men, who vigorously enforced the "no-layup rule." It wasn't as if Jordan could rest on the other end of the court either, as he had to defend relentless shooting-guard counterpart John Starks.

2) This series is considered one of the most testy affairs in NBA postseason history, as evidenced by the multiple on-court altercations and hard fouls exchanged between both squads. After conquering the Pistons in the past, the Bulls refused to be be bullied by the physical style of the Knicks. Regarded as a classic rivalry and involving two major media markets, the Bulls-Knicks clashes of the 1990s defined that era of the NBA.

3) The Knicks, coached by Pat Riley, never won a championship during the Bulls' reign, as they were often stymied by Jordan's brilliance, not to mention his outstanding supporting cast and Phil Jackson's strategy. However, they would advance to the NBA Finals during Jordan's brief first retirement, losing to Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets. New York always had players who developed a cult following in those times, with the likes of brawny ex-Bull Charles Oakley, fellow enforcer and native New Yorker Anthony Mason and grocery bagger-turned-Jordan antagonist Starks becoming local heroes in the Big Apple.

4) Patrick Ewing, arguably the greatest Knick of all-time, is regarded as one of the best players to never win a title. The top overall pick in 1985, the first year the NBA instituted the draft lottery -- a circumstance that made many observers believe the league was rigged -- went under-appreciated for much of his career, as New Yorkers lamented the fact that he didn't bring the franchise a championship. Playing in era with other great centers, such as David Robinson, a young Shaquille O'Neal and the aforementioned Olajuwon, let alone Jordan, Ewing's combination of dominant defense, traditional low-block post play and feathery jumper carried the team for years, despite never having a true secondary-scorer sidekick.

5) With all the stars in the series -- Jordan, Ewing and Scottie Pippen were all on the first Dream Team -- Doc Rivers flew under the radar. But the Chicagoland native and current Celtics coach started next to Starks in the Knicks' backcourt and fit the gritty style Riley emphasized to a tee. While Riley is probably better known for the fast-breaking, "Showtime" Lakers of the 1980s, his Knicks team were a rugged bunch, something that clearly influenced Rivers' coaching philosophy when examining his defensive-minded Celtics teams.

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: