Cubs

Bulls face off against Rockets on CSN

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Bulls face off against Rockets on CSN

The Bulls continue their five-game circus road trip tonight when they travel to Houston to take on the new-look Rockets on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at 6:30 with Bulls Pregame Live.

Houston's core is perhaps as different from a year ago as any team in the league, as three newcomers have paced the way for a team that comes into tonight having lost three straight on a recent West coast road trip.

Chicago will match up with a familiar foe, but may not recognize his game when Omer Asik tips off. The 26-year-old center received a 25 million offer sheet from the Rockets this offseason, one the Bulls did not match. The two-year pro averaged a mere 2.9 games in two seasons with the Bulls, acting more as a defensive stopper with the second unit. He scored in double-digits six times in 148 games with the Bulls, but in his expanded role has done so seven times in 11 games with the Rockets. He also has crashed the glass well, ranking third in the NBA with 12.3 rebounds per game.

His career year has been matched by Joakim Noah, who will square off against his former complement in the front court. The fifth-year Noah is averaging career-highs in points (14.8), free throw percentage (80.7 percent), assists (4.0), blocks (2.0) and steals (1.3). It's a sure bet that Noah will want to win tonight's matchup, both to get the Bulls back on track and to knock Asik's confidence down some.

Asik isn't the only Rocket who has succeeded in a bigger role, as James Harden ranks fourth in the NBA in scoring (24.2 points per game). Out of the shadows of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Harden has exploded in a leading role, as his numbers across the board are as good as they've been in his four-year career. He has cooled down from his red-hot start to the season, when he scored 37 and 45 points to start the season. He'll be on the Bulls' radar, and Jimmy Butler may once again be asked to make Harden work for his shots.

The Rockets' other posion-pill offer sheet was to Jeremy Lin, who signed with Houston after New York declined to match in the offseason. Lin has produced mixed results through 11 games. His numbers are down from his magical season a year ago, but he's still producing as a passer (6.6 assists) and is seventh in the league at 2.0 steals per game. His shooting numbers are way down, and Kirk Hinrich's defense should prove to be a tough task, as Lin has shot better than 40 percent from the field just twice.

The Rockets are 10th in the league in points per game, but just 24th in field goal percentage. They make a living from beyond the arc, hitting 8.7 3-pointers per game. Lin and Harden have contributed, but second-year small forward Chandler Parsons leads the team with 2.3 makes per game. The Bulls rank 8th in defensive 3-point field goal percentage, making this an aspect of tonight's game to keep an eye on. If the Bulls can hold the Rockets from beyond the arc, it will go a long way toward a victory.

Having scored 80 and 94 points their last two games -- both losses -- it's apparent the Bulls' road trip is beginning to take its toll. But the Rockets are allowing more than 100 points per game, 27th in the league, so the Bulls have a chance to get back on track tonight on Comcast SportsNet.

Cubs officially hire Jim Hickey as pitching coach, fill other coaching vacancies

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USA TODAY

Cubs officially hire Jim Hickey as pitching coach, fill other coaching vacancies

Joe Maddon's 2018 coaching staff came into focus Tuesday, with the Cubs officially announcing three moves.

The Cubs made Jim Hickey the team's pitching coach, making official what has been assumed for a while, that Maddon's former pitching coach with the Tampa Bay Rays would take over for Chris Bosio on the North Side.

Additionally, Brandon Hyde was moved from his role as the team's first base coach to become Maddon's bench coach, taking over for Dave Martinez, who is the new manager of the Washington Nationals.

And the Cubs announced that Will Venable will be the new first base coach after he was recently named a special assistant to president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer.

Hickey, a Chicago native, spent the past 11 seasons as the Rays' pitching coach, presiding over a litany of young arms during and after Maddon's tenure as the manager there, including James Shields, Matt Garza, David Price, Chris Archer and Alex Cobb. Hickey was the pitching coach for a pair of World Series teams: the 2005 Houston Astros and the 2008 Rays.

Hickey's relationship with Cobb could be of particular interest this offseason, as the free-agent pitcher could be a target for the Cubs' front office.

Hyde has served as the Cubs' bench coach before, filling the role on Rick Renteria's staff in 2014. He spent the past three seasons as Maddon's first base coach, part of a staff that appeared in three straight National League Championship Series and won the 2016 World Series.

Venable spent nine seasons in the major leagues, wrapping up his playing career in 2016 after playing for the San Diego Padres, Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers.

In addition to these moves to lock in Maddon's coaching staff, the Cubs also announced the addition of Jim Benedict as a special assistant. Benedict was most recently the vice president of pitching development for the Miami Marlins and has also worked for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees.

Potential top pick in 2018 NBA Draft Michael Porter Jr. will likely miss entire freshman season

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USA TODAY

Potential top pick in 2018 NBA Draft Michael Porter Jr. will likely miss entire freshman season

The Bulls will be keeping a close eye on the best young talent the loaded 2018 NBA Draft will have to offer. But they likely won't be seeing much of Missouri's Michael Porter Jr.

The school announced Tuesday that their freshman forward, the top recruit in the country, will miss the remainder of his freshman season.

Porter played all of 100 minutes for the Tigers, amassing 2 pioints and 2 rebounds in the Tigers' win over Iowa State.

The injury isn't to say Porter won't declare for the 2018 NBA Draft, or that it will affect his stock at all. He's still considered a legitimate franchise player and certainly someone all teams drafting in the top 5 will have their eye on.

But there will be competition. Players like Luka Doncic, Marvin Bagley, DeAndre Ayton and Mo Bamba make up what could be one of the best draft classes in recent memory.

For now the Bulls will have to wait until the spring or summer to see Porter Jr. work out, while doing due diligence on the rest of the class.