Preps Talk

Ask Aggrey: Rose's outburst came as no surprise


Ask Aggrey: Rose's outburst came as no surprise

ORLANDO -- I know I should be focused on Derrick Rose's health status and how Dwight Howard plays after committing to stay with the Magic, but come on. It's March Madness. I can't say it's been the best NCAA Tournament I've ever seen (perhaps my terrible bracket predictions have clouded my view), but even in the midst of another stellar Bulls regular-season run, I'm consumed with college teams and players. Upsets like Norfolk State over Missouri and Lehigh over Duke were amazing to see -- well, at least bits of pieces of them between quarters of NBA games -- and players like Iowa State's Royce White, as well as Kyle O'Quinn and C.J. McCollum of aforementioned Norfolk State and Lehigh, respectively, have truly opened eyes. The thrill of so-called elite teams getting beat in the one-and-done format is a great respite from the grind of the pro game, even watching from afar, despite my beloved Temple Owls losing to South Florida. Regardless, the remainder of the tournament should be a blast and from players to media, it's a hot topic of conversation in locker rooms around the league as teams enter the stretch run of the regular season. With that, on to this week's mailbag.

Hey Aggrey, why do the Bulls keep signing Scalabrine when they could use that spot for another big? -- Craig T.

Craig, Scal is Thibs' guy. Nothing more needs to be said. Seriously, what Scal lacks in talent, he makes up for with his basketball I.Q. and knowledge of the system. With Kurt Thomas and Keith Bogans jettisoned from last season's squad, it's hard to make the argument that he was re-signed simply for chemistry purposes. However, along with Rip, he's the only Bulls player with championship experience and scoff if you want, but he was a valuable contributor in his younger days with the Nets and Celtics. True, his best days are behind him, but his function as a de facto assistant coach adds value and he's popular in the locker room. Also, even with Mike James' return, the Bulls still only have 14 players on their roster, so Scal's presence doesn't prevent the front office from adding another big man.

Were you surprised to hear Derrick speak out against the refs? -- Scott E.

Scott, in the time I've been around Derrick, I've learned that he's a principled type of guy, as evidenced by his unwillingness to recruit players to Chicago. Thus, while his timing and choice of words could have been better, the fact that he spoke up about something he believed was unfair didn't surprise me in the least. As much as he gets to the line, there are calls that are missed when he drives to the basket, something Thibs attributes to his blend of speed and power. Although Derrick certainly wasn't happy about losing 25,000 to the league, if he and the Bulls benefit from more fouls being called, it would be well worth it. Additionally, people tend to forget that he's 23 years old now. This is no longer the wunderkind from Simeon, but a grown man with lots of responsibilities, so if he feels justified in saying something other than the typical athlete-speak, personally, I welcome it. Some might not appreciate him referring to himself as a "superstar."

Are you surprised how the Dwight Howard saga ended (at least for not)? -- T.J.

T.J., I can't say I'm all that shocked. I've had the chance to sit down with Howard on a couple of occasions and one thing that I took from those interviews is that he likes to make people happy, for better or worse. In the end, I believe the pressure of being a villain was too much for him, but I also think he came to his senses and realized Orlando is the third-best team in the East, something highlighted by the Magic's win over the Heat prior to the trade deadline. Looking at a situation like the Nets, he had to realize that maybe the grass isn't greener elsewhere and although it remains to be seen if Orlando's front office will put the pieces around him to win a championship within the next year, at least they have more time on the clock to do so. As an aside, I wonder when superstars will see the light and realize it's not the best idea to broadcast their future intentions, let alone have a season-long circus counting down their eventual fate. Howard cares about his image and likely realized his drawn-out situation wasn't exactly endearing himself to fans, major market or not.

How's your NCAA Tournament bracket doing? -- Ted G.

Ted, my bracket is pretty much broken, I have to admit. I pride myself on my college hoops acumen and have won a fair share of tournament pools in my life, but I've really struggled this year. Part of it is due to a friend of mine, Anthony Evans, whose Norfolk State team knocked out Missouri in the opening round. Missouri was one of my Final Four picks, but I can't be too disappointed, since my friend's professional success outweighs me winning a pool. However, I can't say the same for Georgetown, a program I've loved since childhood. I acknowledge that I picked the Hoyas to advance to the semifinals -- I think they would have matched up well with a banged-up North Carolina team (even before Kendall Marshall broke his non-shooting wrist, John Henson's injury gave me hope) and I thought they'd get revenge on Kansas for a narrow early-season defeat -- with my heart more than my head, but I never expected them to lose so early in the tournament. After Florida State's loss to Cincinnati (yes, I jumped off the Syracuse bandwagon after Fab Melo was ruled ineligible), I'm down to just one of my Final Four teams, Kentucky. I picked the Wildcats to win it all, so I'll have a bit of redemption if they pull it off. Like the Bulls have said throughout this injury-riddled campaign, no excuses, but due to the condensed NBA schedule, I've watched less college basketball this season than any time in recent memory. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

The Heat certainly didn't look good against the Rose-less Bulls. Was it just an off-night for them or do you think the Bulls could be the top team in the East when its all said and done? -- Xander S.

Xander, I would call it more of an off stretch for the Heat, as they were coming off a tough game against Indiana, followed by an overtime loss to the Magic the night before they played the Bulls. Miami seems to have reverted to the buddy-ball style of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade taking turns on offense, which isn't conducive to postseason success, as defensive-minded teams, such as the Bulls, are equipped to subdue the effects of that approach, especially if Chris Bosh is reduced to being a spectator. A lack of size in the middle still hurts them, designated sharpshooter Mike Miller's health status doesn't help the situation, veteran Shane Battier, while still a valuable defender and spot-up shooter, appears to have lost a step, and after a strong start to the season, the point-guard duo of starter Mario Chalmers and rookie backup Norris Cole looks to be pedestrian more often than not. At the same time, they're still the defending Eastern Conference champions, as Thibs likes to remind people, and with three All-Stars, I wouldn't write them off just yet. Both the Bulls and Heat have issues to address, so as of right now, I'd have to say it's a toss-up, even taking the impressive win last week under consideration.

Keep the questions -- whether theyre about the Bulls, the rest of the NBA, other levels of basketball or life in general -- coming. Youll get a much better explanation, though not as instant, than you would via Twitter with only 140 characters. You can submit a question by commenting on this article below or by clicking here.

Stagg's Kyle Neputy leads through action during offseason

Stagg's Kyle Neputy leads through action during offseason

While many athletes talk about leadership and the importance of being a leader, others let their actions do the talking. One of them is Stagg senior quarterback Kyle Neputy (6-foot-4, 234 pounds).

Neputy, who is signed and will play this fall at Cornell, participated in last year's annual Franklin Middle School Charity Dodgeball tournament. The tournament had such a positive impact on Neputy and his fellow Charger teammates that they decided to rally together and support a worthwhile cause for a second straight year. 

I had a chance to catch up with the Kyle Neputy at the sixth annual Franklin Middle School Dodgeball Tournament in Wheaton. Proceeds from the event benefited the Northern Illinois Food Bank, Cammy Can, Jack’s Army and Franklin Middle School. 

Neputy shares why he and his Stagg teammates decided to support the event. He also had a chance to reflect on making the move to Cornell later this year.

Life was a lot different last time the Blackhawks missed the playoffs

Life was a lot different last time the Blackhawks missed the playoffs

For the first time in a decade, the Blackhawks officially will not be in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With a 5-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday night at the United Center, the Blackhawks will be sitting at home mid-April instead of looking to add to their trophy case.

Exactly 366 days before, the Blackhawks actually became the first NHL team to clinch a playoff berth, also the result of a game against the Avs:

The last time the Blackhawks missed the playoffs, Denis Savard was the coach and Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were just 19 years old in the midst of their rookie seasons.

The next year, Joel Quenneville took over as coach after four games and led the Blackhawks all the way to the Conference Finals.

Of course, the following year (2009-10 season) brought the first of three Stanley Cups.

For perspective on how incredible this stretch has been for the Blackhawks, here's how the other professional Chicago sports teams spent 2008:

—The Bears finished 9-7 in Matt Forte's rookie year (he's since retired) with Kyle Orton as the starting quarterback and Lovie Smith as head coach.

—The Cubs led the National League in runs scored en route to a 97-win regular season...before falling flat against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS. Lou Piniella was still the manager and Theo Epstein was still three years away from coming to Chicago.

—The Bulls found some incredible luck, pulling the No. 1 overall pick and selecting Chicago native Derrick Rose. He helped the Bulls to a 41-41 season as a rookie under coach Vinny Del Negro.

—The White Sox lost to Joe Maddon and the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS after winning the AL Central under manager Ozzie Guillen. Carlos Quentin enjoyed a breakout season (36 HR, 100 RBI) while Gavin Floyd won 17 games. 

The Blackhawks still have eight games left before the 2017-18 season ends April 7.