Blackhawks

Anibaba shocked by 'unprofessional' discipline

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Anibaba shocked by 'unprofessional' discipline

The suspensions handed out to Fire coach Frank Klopas and defender Jalil Anibaba by the Major League Soccer Disciplinary Committee were reluctantly accepted on Tuesday. Still, the whole scenario was a strange one.

Neither Klopas nor Anibaba anticipated disciplinary action after Saturdays 2-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders at Toyota Park. Anibaba didnt learn hed received a red card until Sunday night.

"I found out from our PR personnel yesterday," he said following Tuesdays training session in Bridgeview. "He asked if Id been told I received a red card. I said no, but we checked on line and they said I got one for fighting. Actually, I heard three different things -- one was for fighting, one was for starting a fight and one was for the challenge. So, Im not too sure."

According to MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday, Anibaba drew his first-ever MLS booking for his hard challenge on Seattle defender Leo Gonzalez in the seventh minute of second half stoppage time. A scuffle involving most players on both teams followed as referee Michael Kennedy whistled the game to an end.

"It was a bit unprofessional that I had to find out about my red card elsewhere (and not from a match official)," said Anibaba. "But, at the end of the day, it is what it is. Emotions were high. Both teams were trying to protect their own players. There was nothing malicious from any party. Its just unfortunate that we got the short end of the stick."

Klopas joined in the melee and was dismissed by Kennedy for "abusive language toward an official," according to the game report. Klopas also didnt know about the dismissal from Kennedy until long after the Sounders arrived back in Seattle.

"I was a little surprised, but I respect the decision the league has made," said Klopas. "Weve got to move forward. Thats all I can say."

The Fire considered appealing the suspensions, which will keep Anibaba out of Friday nights road match against Chivas USA in Los Angeles and Klopas off the sidelines.

"Theres an appeal process, but for me to appeal, what for?" said Klopas. "There was a lot of emotion in the game, and I said some things to the referee. Unfortunately it was in the heat of the moment, and I cant take that back."

Seattle escaped suspensions for its part in the post-game activities, but forward Eddie Johnson was handed an undisclosed fine on Tuesday for an "inappropriate gesture" made toward fans as he left the field.

The Sounders, perhaps because they won, stayed calm for the most part during the melee. Seattle coach Sigi Schmid remained on the sidelines and told MLSsoccer.com that he went to Arne Friedrich, the Fires German defender, and asked him - in German, no less -- how hes been enjoying his stay in the U.S.

"He had this bewildered look on his face," said Schmid. "I figured Id try to take a little air out of the balloon."

Schmid also decided to have a post-game team meeting on the field, in front of a small band of Seattle fans who sat in one corner of Toyota Park. That gave the Fire players a chance to leave the field first and avert further confrontations between the clubs. Seattle midfielder Brad Evans said the scuffle was good for team bonding.

"Thats one of our rivals, Chicago is," said Evans. "It gets you fired up a little bit more."

Fire assistant coaches Mike Matkovich and Leo Percovich will share coaching duties in Klopas absence on Friday, but Klopas will make the trip. He just wont be on the sidelines. Rookie Austin Berry will make his MLS debut as Anibabas replacement on the field.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: After 20 games, do we know the identity of this Blackhawks team?

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: After 20 games, do we know the identity of this Blackhawks team?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast Tracey Myers and Jamal Mayers join Pat Boyle to discuss the teams wins over the Rangers and Penguins.  Have they figured some things out and what is the identity of this team after 20 games?

Jammer weighs in on Artem Anisimov’s big week and are there enough Hawks committed to net front presence?  They also discuss the surging play of the blue liners and did the Hawks fail to send a message to Evgeni Malkin, after he kneed Corey Crawford in the head?

Lauri Markkanen, Lonzo Ball making rookie history as they prepare to face each other

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USA TODAY

Lauri Markkanen, Lonzo Ball making rookie history as they prepare to face each other

It'd be a stretch to say that any rookie is having a better or more impactful season than Philadelphia's Ben Simmons. The Sixers are 9-7, and Simmons looks like a 10-year veteran with his decision making, athleticism and all-around feel for the game. He's the frontrunner for MVP, but there are two other rookies vying to catch Simmons and win that title. And they'll face each other tomorrow night in Los Angeles.

Lonzo Ball was the second pick in June's NBA Draft, and fellow Pac-12 freshman standout Lauri Markkanen went five picks later to the Bulls, who had traded up as part of the Jimmy Butler trade. Both players were drafted to rebuilding franchises - the Lakers still working out the kinks in the post-Kobe era, and the Bulls beginning their rebuild after dealing Butler - and were expected to make immediate impacts on their franchises.

Ball's was more pronounced, as the Lakers dealt D'Angelo Russell to the Nets on draft night to free up space at the point for their prized No. 2 pick. Markkanen's came more abruptly, as the 20-year-old was thrust into the starting lineup after Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic's fight put Mirotic in the hospital and Portis on paid leave. However they got there, both players have been impressive in their early NBA careers.

Starting with Markkanen, the Bulls knew the 7-foot stretch forward was a perfect build for the modern NBA. He set freshman 3-point and rebounding records that, since 1992, only some guy named Kevin Durant had reached. After a successful summer in Eurobasket he was set for a large role with the Bulls, and he's succeeded in just about every aspect. His 15.6 points per game are third only to Simmons and the other Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma, and his 8.1 rebounds are second to Simmons. And his 2.6 made 3-pointers per game are most among rookies, and well past No. 2 on the list (Utah's Donovan Mitchell, 1.9 per game).

In fact, Markkanen would become the only rookie in NBA history to average at least 8.0 rebounds and 2.5 3-pointers per game. The 2.5 3-pointers would break a rookie record currently held by Damian Lillard (2.3 per game). The closest a rookie has ever come to reaching those marks was Stephen Curry, who averaged 4.5 rebounds and 2.1 3-pointers per game as a rookie. Allen Iverson also met the 4/2 threshold, but that's a far cry from Markkanen's 8/2.5 mark. Paul Pierce's rookie season saw him average 6.4 rebounds and 1.8 3-pointers.

But that's not all. If he kept those averages up he would be just the fifth player EVER to accomplish those thresholds. The others are James Harden, Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins and Antonie Walker, who naturally did it twice.

So, yeah, Markkanen is having quite a rookie year.

So, too, is Ball. While he's had some real issues with efficiency, slashing .313/.228/.462 and has committed 2.6 turnovers per game, his counting stats have been outstanding. Ball is averaging 8.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 7.1 assists, and that puts him in equally impressive company.

Simmons has reached those numbers this season, too, averaging 18.1 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.0 assists. You may have heard of the other two players, named Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson.

The two future Hall of Famers averaged these numbers:

Robertson: 30.5 points, 10.1 rebounds, 9.7 assists (missing averaging a triple-double for the season by 20 assists)

Johnson: 18.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.3 assists

Ball is also averaging 0.9 blocks, and no other rookie guard has ever accomplished that. It might not always look pretty for Markkanen and Ball as they feel their way out in the NBA, but just remember watching these two that they're in the midst of making history in the new era of the NBA.