Blackhawks

Bulls eager for reunion with Brewer, showdown with Knicks

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Bulls eager for reunion with Brewer, showdown with Knicks

AUBURN HILLS, MICH. The second of the Bench Mob reunions the first at the United Center will occur Saturday evening. Former Bulls reserve swingman Ronnie Brewer, now a Knicks starter, makes his first visit to Chicago since being waived over the summer.

Brewer was a much-beloved figure in the Bulls locker room over the last two seasons and made valuable contributions as a versatile defender and underrated offensive player, helping the team to back-to-back league-high regular-season win totals. Understandably, the holdovers from last season are eager to see him again.

Its going to be great to see Ronnie again," Taj Gibson said. "I keep in contact with him throughout the season. He hits me up from time to time. We talk, were real close. That was my guy. That was one of the guys I hung out with a lot on this team, so Im happy for him, being on another good team, playoff-bound team and hes playing great. I think his role is even better. Hes a starter. Hes starting on that team, hes playing great defense, hes knocking down that three-pointer, which I know he can do hes been working on it, even when he was here hes playing with a lot of confidence and hes just adjusting to that role on that team, of being one of those good defensive stoppers.

He was a real veteran. He was one of those guys that was never too high, never too low, always encouraging, always had your back. You could always count on him, he was a great teammate and hes on another good team, and you could tell the way that theyre playing, that hes inspiring them to play good defense and its showing.

Carlos Boozer, who played with Brewer both in Utah and Chicago, added: Its just going to be good to see him. Weve been talking the whole season. Hes been playing great for them, starting, obviously doing the same thing he always does, trying to lock up the other teams best perimeter player. Tomorrow, Im sure hell be on Lu a lot. But having a great season. I look forward to seeing my brother, man.

Luol Deng chimed in: Itll be cool, man. Ronnie, Kurt Thomas. Its going to be good to see those guys. Its always good to see ex- Bulls players and play against them.

Even Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, usually not one to be overly sentimental, spoke about Brewer in glowing terms.

Ronnies just a great team player. Thats who he is. He plays to win, plays for the team, hard-playing, does a little bit of everything, can score, pass, play-make, play great defense and hes a great teammate. Very coachable, the coach said. He did a great job for us when he was here and hes doing a great job for the Knicks.

Of course, once the game starts, Thibodeau might not be feeling so charitable. New York is coming off a huge blowout road win over defending champion Miami without superstar Carmelo Anthony or the sidelined Amare Stoudemire, let alone Chicago-area native Iman Shumpert and is currently the top team in the Eastern Conference, using a mix of improved defense, a three-point shooting barrage, unselfish play and a deep, experienced roster, including the NBAs oldest player, Kurt Thomas, another former Bull of recent vintage.

Tomorrows huge. Theyre flying high. They played very well against Miami yesterday. Theyre going to be rested and ready to go tomorrow, Joakim Noah said. Theyre playing very well. Theyre playing probably the best basketball in the NBA right now. Its on us to come in ready.

Deng added: Its tough. Theyre already there in Chicago, theyre waiting. They played well, theyre feeling great. They won their last game, theyre at the top of the East. Theyre playing well, so their confidence is high right now and coming in tomorrow, its going to be a tough game, but were looking forward to it.

Boozer concurred: Theyve been playing great. We watched a little bit of it last night, when they played Miami. They played phenomenal without Melo and Amare, which is hard to do, especially playing one of the more talented teams in Miami, but theyre a three-point shooting team, they have the green light, they have a monster in the middle in Tyson Chandler and theyve got great leadership. Theyve got J-Kidd, theyve got other veteran guys, Kurt Thomas is there, Rasheed is there. Theyve got guys that have been through some wars, mixed in with a good group of young talent. That being said, its going to be a great challenge for us.

Coming off a big win over Detroit -- but perhaps tougher than necessary -- and flying back to Chicago overnight after a two-game road trip before taking on the top team in the East, Thibodeau, a former Knicks assistant coach is wary of his team's upcoming test.

Theyre on top of the conference, playing very, very well," he said. "Deep, talented, shooting the ball extremely well. Playing great defense, playing together, playing hard. Weve got to be ready.

Blackhawks stumble out of the gates against Blues: 'We were brutal'

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Blackhawks stumble out of the gates against Blues: 'We were brutal'

ST. LOUIS – The Blackhawks’ first tripping came barely a minute into the game. Then came another one. And another. And another. And another. Despite welcoming one of their fastest players back into the lineup, the Blackhawks were overall flat-footed and playing catch-up all night, be it on the ice or on the scoreboard, to the St. Louis Blues.

Nick Schmaltz returned but the effect on the second line and the Blackhawks overall wasn’t immediate. Instead the Blackhawks looked sluggish. Their offensive opportunities were few – a one and done here and there but no sustained zone time or pressure on Blues goaltender Jake Allen – their passing was off and they were on the defensive all night.

And then there were the tripping penalties. The Blackhawks’ penalty kill held up through it, nullifying all five Blues power-play opportunities. But the Blues found other ways to inflict their damage.

“They played well and we were brutal,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “That was a bad start, a bad middle and even [though] it was a little excited at the end it wasn’t very good. That’s as close to brutal as you can get.”

The Blackhawks’ last three games have common themes: they’re outshot for a good part of the game, they’re giving up a good amount of quality shots and then the urgency hits them midway through the third period. For the third consecutive contest the Blackhawks scored two goals late and in two of those three games it wasn’t nearly enough.

“Obviously it wasn’t good enough for two periods. If you take any positives out of this game, it’s the way we played in the third,” Patrick Kane said. “At least we know we can do it. Just gotta do it before our backs are against the wall.”

Why it’s taking the Blackhawks so long to get going, however, is the question. Obviously the Blackhawks’ late third-period pushes show how capable they are of producing when necessary. Said Alex DeBrincat, who assisted on Ryan Hartman’s goal late in regulation, “If we’re would’ve been crashing the net like that all game it may have been a different story.”

But they didn’t. The Blackhawks welcomed back a teammate that’s injected speed into their lineup but the team was once again stumbling out of the gate.

“We’re supposed to be out there, giving our all every minute we’re out there and every shift, go out there and take it a shift at a time and give it all you got every shift,” Hartman said. “We have four lines that can roll so there’s no excuse for not going out there and putting all your energy out there for a shift and getting ready for the next one.”

Joe Maddon not expecting a shake-up of Cubs coaching staff

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Joe Maddon not expecting a shake-up of Cubs coaching staff

Unless Joe Maddon gets blindsided by top-down changes or a personal decision, it sounds like the Cubs manager expects his entire coaching staff to return for the 2018 season, keeping together the group that has made three consecutive trips to the National League Championship Series.

“Of course,” Maddon said Wednesday at Wrigley Field, where the defending World Series champs were facing an elimination game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, on the verge of getting swept out of the NLCS. “Listen, the staff’s done a great job. Our staff’s been awesome. It’s a tightly-knit group. Really, there’s a lot of synergy involved.

“Nobody knows everything. Everybody helps everybody. There’s a lot of cross-pollination. Nobody’s on their own little island. I really like that.”

Pitching coach Chris Bosio – who would be an in-demand candidate after helping develop Jake Arrieta into a Cy Young Award winner and turn Kyle Hendricks into last year’s major-league ERA leader – also told WSCR-AM 670 that he believes the staff will remain intact.

Maddon – who only brought bench coach Dave Martinez over from the Tampa Bay Rays after the 2014 season – is a hands-off boss and a baseball lifer who did a lot of grunt work before becoming rich and famous.

“I don’t think any of them ever withhold saying something to me that they have on their mind, which I really appreciate,” Maddon said. “They don’t feel like they can’t say it. That’s the one thing I always wanted to build, that kind of a method where: ‘If you got something, say it. Don’t hold it back. Just say it. You know you can.’

“There’s nothing held against you for doing it. I think in some places that isn’t the case, so there’s a lot of positive messaging going on.”

This would be a connect-the-dots scenario, but Maddon ruled out the idea of hiring Jim Hickey, the longtime pitching coach who has roots in Chicago and parted ways with the Rays this month. Hickey’s influence helped turn the Rays into a viable small-market contender, coaching up young pitchers like David Price and Chris Archer.

“I called him to console a friend,” Maddon said. “We have not discussed (anything else). I just wanted to know how he was doing, purely because it kind of surprised me, and it surprised a lot of us. So I did talk to ‘Hick,’ but we talk all the time.

“He sends me texts when he’s driving over the causeways down there, because he knows how much I love looking for dolphins driving over the Howard Franklin or the Gandy Bridge. So he (texts): ‘I saw a couple dolphins this morning.’ And I try to get him to come to our parties – he’s a funny guy.

“We had a great relationship and he’s going to turn out just fine. He’s going to be well-sought-after.”