Cubs

76ers teammates Allen, Wayns have long-term connection

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76ers teammates Allen, Wayns have long-term connection

One started at center for the 76ers, scoring 10 points and pulling down eight rebounds in 33 minutes of action in the teams loss to the Bulls. The other is Philadelphias backup point guard and scored a modest two points in just over nine minutes of playing time Saturday night at the United Center.
But second-year big man Lavoy Allen and rookie point guard Maalik Wayns are more than just Sixers teammates. The duo has known each other for years, having been in the same Philly basketball circles since they were teenagersthey even played for the same AAU program, for the older brother of Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, though in different age groupsand were college rivals in the historic Big Five, as Allen starred for Temple and Wayns played at Villanova.
Both have also had unconventional roads to their current positions in the league, with Allen being a second-round pick in 2011he played in France during the lockout and was thought to be a long shot to make the Sixers rosterand Wayns not even being drafted this past June, then using an impressive NBA summer-league outing in Orlando to find his way back to his hometown.
More importantly, both are in the rotation and play vital roles for Philadelphia.
Those two guys have done a good job for us, 76ers head coach Doug Collins said before Saturdays game. If you look at it, Lavoy was the 50th pick in the draft, I think was voted last year, at the start of the season, the worst player in the NBA by ESPN and we had him on the floor, in many instances playing against Kevin Garnett in the Eastern Conference semis, so he made a huge jump. Friday night had a good game for us, tonight we really count on him.
Maalik, undrafted. We think he brings speed, he can score, gives us some nice juice off the bench, so its nice, continued the former Bulls head coach, himself an Illinois native. Not only that, theyre great kids. They want to win and you said that they had the local ties, and they want to play for the team that they grew up watching, so its pretty fun.
Allen had his coming-out party in the playoffs, faring well against the Bulls and if not shutting down Garnett, a future Hall of Famer known for verbally abusing rookiesthat tactic didnt work with the 6-foot-9, well-built Allen, who has the same, laid-back demeanor on and off the courtat least making him work on both ends of the floor.
Asked about his playoff experience against the Bulls, the Bristol, Penn., product, who signed a multi-year contract extension over the summer, a reward for being such a pleasant surprise in his debut campaign, instead broke down the changes in the team.That was last year, so I dont really reflect on that. Whenever I go out there, I just try to play the best I can, he told CSNChicago.com. Without Derrick Rose? Less screen-and-rolls. Its more posting up, Rip or Luol or Carlos Boozer. More isolation plays.
Allen, having experienced both the joys and challenges associated with playing for ones hometown team, is able to counsel Wayns about some of those pitfalls. The stocky, quick, 6-foot-2 floor generalbuilt just like Lowry, his mentor and fellow ex-Villanova star, and equipped with a similar style of playhas earned a role backing up Jrue Holiday, one of the leagues rising young stars and a player Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau described as one of the games elite point guards, even prior to the contest.
Its great, man. Its an experience. Just being a Sixers' fan before it all and now, being able to play for the Philadelphia 76ers, its a great experience. Just taking it all in, he told CSNChicago.com. He dealt with the same situation last year. Being home and playing in the NBA for the first time, dealing with people, dealing with your family, dealing with ticket situations, so hes helped me a whole lot.
Joked Allen: Its being teammates with Wayns not really that fun at all, actually.
Its cool, just having somebody that I grew up around, went through the same stuff and same area, so Im happy for him. He made it, he continued. Its going to take a lot of rest with all these games. Even when youre not playing, stay in shape. You never know how many minutes youre going to play the next game.

CubsTalk Podcast: How new coaching staff will help ensure Maddon's tactics won't get stale

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USA TODAY

CubsTalk Podcast: How new coaching staff will help ensure Maddon's tactics won't get stale

ESPN’s Jesse Rogers stops by the CubsTalk Podcast to chat with Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki about his new book on Joe Maddon. The trio also debate whether Maddon’s tactics get stale and how the new coaching staff will affect the season.

Plus, who should hit leadoff? Fans are all in on Albert Almora Jr., but that might not be the best option. And whose side do you take in the Willson Contreras-Yadier Molina tiff?

Listen to the entire podcast here:

Who should lead off for Cubs in 2018?

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USA TODAY

Who should lead off for Cubs in 2018?

The Cubs' offseason has been hyperfocused on pitching, pitching and more pitching.

But what about the offense? Specifically: Who's going to hit leadoff for the 2018 Cubs?

That question seems to be one of the hot topics surrounding the team as they strive to make Even Year Magic a Chicago thing and win another World Series in 2018.

Before we get into who SHOULD lead off, I'll tell you who shouldn't: Albert Almora Jr., who is a popular choice among fans to fill in for the ghost of Dexter Fowler atop the order.

That's not a knock on the young outfielder, who seems primed for a breakout in 2018 when he should be playing on a regular basis and seeing a lot more time against right-handed pitching. 

This will only be Almora's second full season in the big leagues and given he was in a platoon for most of last year, he still only has 411 career plate appearances in the majors. 

So he's not much more experienced than Kyle Schwarber was when he was penciled into the leadoff spot for the Cubs to kick off 2017 and we all know how that experiment went. Leading off is a tough position to put players in, especially those that are still growing in their big-league skin.

Plus, Almora simply doesn't see enough pitches. He swings at the first pitch often (more than 11 percent of the time) and saw only 3.45 pitches per plate appearance in 2017. That mark was good for 29th on the Cubs behind eight pitchers (Dylan Floro, Kyle Hendricks, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Eddie Butler, Jose Quintana, Jake Arrieta and Hector Rondon), though the pitchers obviously have a small sample size of plate appearances.

Still, that's a shockingly small number for a position player. Almora would've been tied for 143rd out of 145 position players in baseball in pitches per plate appearance if he had enough at-bats to qualify.

But as for who SHOULD lead off, my choice is Ian Happ, though I would like to see Kris Bryant get some run up there and maybe even another Anthony Rizzo stint as "The Greatest Leadoff Hitter of All Time."

Here are my Top 5 suggestions if Joe Maddon were writing out the lineup today:

1. Ian Happ
2. Kris Bryant
3. Ben Zobrist
4. Jason Heyward
5. Anthony Rizzo

Here's more on the reasoning behind that:

Hot Stove - Cubs Leadoff Hitters/2021 White Sox Predictions

Who should be the Opening Day leadoff man for the Cubs? What will the 2021 White Sox lineup and rotation look like? We make our predictions and want to hear yours NOW on Hot Stove Live!

Posted by NBC Sports Chicago on Wednesday, January 17, 2018