Bulls

Changing sides of rivalry still surreal for Liriano

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Changing sides of rivalry still surreal for Liriano

MINNEAPOLIS -- New pitcher Francisco Liriano was still in on shock on Monday, a little less than 48 hours after the White Sox acquired him in a trade.

As he addressed the media from the visiting dugout at Target Field, Liriano, who will start here against the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night, couldnt get over the surprising nature of a trade that sent him from one side of an American League Central rivalry to the other.

Liriano said he was about to fall asleep on Saturday night in preparation for a Sunday start against the Cleveland Indians when the phone rang to inform him he had been traded. Liriano stayed in Minneapolis on Sunday and merely moved his belongings down the hall at Target Field to meet his new teammates.

Everything feels weird, Liriano said. Its just surprising. I was ready to go to bed and got the phone call around 10:30 (p.m.). I was in shock, I wasnt expecting it to get traded, the night before the game and get traded to the same division was weird, too. But things happen.

Lirianos new catcher understands what his pitcher is experiencing.

A.J. Pierzynskis move to the White Sox came more than a full season after he was traded by the Twins to the San Francisco Giants. Pierzynski had an offseason to adapt to the idea but admits it still felt funny at first.

When I first walked into SoxFest after I had signed, I remember looking at my wife and saying This is weird looking at all the White Sox stuff, Pierzynski said. But once I got to know the guys and the organization it was a pretty easy transition after that.

Pierzynski said he plans to speak with Liriano after Mondays game to start a plan for Tuesday, when Liriano faces the only major league team for whom he has ever pitched just to ease him in.

Im sure well talk probably tonight after the game, what he likes to do and how he likes to pitch, Pierzynski said. Hes been an All-Star, hes thrown a no-hitter, hes been good against us so well focus on the positives and go from there. He can be a factor in this race.

Liriano said he doesnt plan to change anything he has done on the mound. After a difficult start in April, one he attributed Sunday to putting too much pressure on himself, Liriano believes he is better than his 3-10 record and 5.31 ERA indicate. Liriano has struck out a 9.81 batters per nine innings this season, his highest since 2006, which would indicate his stuff isnt an issue.

He estimates he knows seven of his new teammates well, including Orlando Hudson, Philip Humber and Jesse Crain, all of whom played with him in Minnesota. Now he needs to focus on contributions and familiarizing himself with a new club even though the transition will be strange.

I havent done my game plan yet, Liriano said. It feels so weird. I faced the White Sox so many times. So weird. Nothing I can do about it, just do my job and try to fit in.

Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

Is there any better way to break in your new Black Friday television than Bulls-Warriors tonight? We think not. Coverage starts at 9 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live, and the game is also available to stream via the NBC Sports app

Here are three things to keep your eye on: 

1. Not the score. Let's be honest: the Bulls probably won't sneak out a win at the Oracle. In fact, ESPN's matchup predictor only gives Fred Hoiberg's young squad a 2.9 percent chance to come up victorious. UIC has three times better odds against juggernaut Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Sunday, in case you needed some context.  

With the talent gap in mind, though, it will be important for the Bulls to come out with high energy. The Warriors will likely take the contest lightly in the first half, so starting off strong reflects well on the coaching staff and starters. Stay within 10 points by the half, and that's considered a massive triumph. 

2. Lauri Markkanen vs. Draymond Green? Assuming the Dubs start out with Green on Markkanen, this will be rookie's biggest test of the season. Green is an elite defender, capable of wrecking gameplans from the tip. He's physical, quick and athletic. 

Markkanen is coming off two duds on the West Coast trip, but his aggressiveness hasn't wavered. It'll be important for him to continue to attack even with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year hounding him. 

3. Steph, KD and Klay doin' work. The Bulls offense hasn't exactly been a thing of beauty through the first 16 games. Their offensive rating is a brutal 94.4, ranked last in the NBA. Golden State, on the other hand, sits at the top with a rating of 113.1. 

Take some time to admire the skills of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson because when it comes to working cohesively on offense, they've set the gold standard. 

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

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USA TODAY

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

Families gather and people talk about things they are thankful for on Thanksgiving, but what are Chicago sports fans happy for now?

Raised expectations on the North Side

Got to be thankful that a “disappointing” season is winning the division and losing in the NLCS. The expectations have skyrocketed, and that’s thanks to a ridiculous nucleus of bats and a steady front office. Not many clubs can say that. Also, though, it’s important to be appreciative of the Wrigley bar stretch. They may charge $8 for a Miller Lite, but it’s always a damn good party.

Javy tags, too. Don't forget Javy tags.

Rebuild sparking hope in White Sox fans

Where to begin? Obviously, be thankful for the plethora of young talent that will soon take over the South Side. Be thankful for Avi Time (while you still can). Be thankful that taking your friends or family to a game won’t cause you to take out a second mortgage. Be thankful for the 2020 World Series and, of course, 2020 MVP Eloy Jimenez. But most importantly, be thankful that Rick Hahn’s phone stays buzzing.

Eddie O back in the booth for the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are having a rough start to the season, but at least Eddie Olczyk is back in the booth. The longtime Blackhawks broadcaster returned to the booth on Oct. 18 after missing time while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer.

With some of the key names from the Blackhawks’ title runs either leaving or being unable to play this season (in the case of Marian Hossa), Blackhawks fans are probably thankful to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice during games.

Lauri Markkanen leading the Bulls rebuild

OK, there’s not much to be thankful for about the current Bulls team. At 3-13, the Bulls are tied for the fewest wins in the NBA (maybe in the long-term that’s something to be thankful for as well). However, Zach LaVine’s pending debut after his eventual return from injury should help create some excitement.

The thing Bulls fans really should be thankful for this year is the play of rookie Lauri Markkanen. The 20-year-old leads the team in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounds (8.3 per game) while shooting at a high percentage (34.2 percent on threes and 50.6 percent on twos). It’s only the beginning of the Bulls’ rebuild, but Markkanen is a good start.

Mitchapalooza

If a few things broke the Bears’ way, Chicagoans could have been grateful that the team was finally out of the cellar. Instead, we’ll settle for the fact that there seems to be some building blocks already in place. Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks seem to fit that category. Also, some may be thankful that this is likely John Fox’s last season at the helm.

Fire ending a playoff drought

After finishing dead last in MLS in 2015 and 2016, the Fire were one of the most improved teams in the league in 2017. After posting the third best record in the league, the Fire made a first playoff appearance since 2012.

The playoff run didn’t last long with the Fire losing a play-in game at home, but the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the league’s leading goal-scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, helped fill the stadium with six sellouts and gave Fire fans something to cheer for.