Bulls

Cubs wont get caught up in Ozzie Guillens media storm

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Cubs wont get caught up in Ozzie Guillens media storm

ST. LOUIS The Marlins wanted neon lights and art deco flash. They wanted the hurricane Ozzie Guillen would bring from the South Side, to create buzz and sell tickets. The celebrity manager would become the face of the (bleeping) franchise.

Guillen will return from his five-game suspension on Tuesday at Marlins Park, trying to repair his image after his comments to TIME magazine enraged Miamis Cuban community.

The Chicago media got used to his rapid-fire commentary in the White Sox dugout and loved his brutal honesty. But Guillen cant erase this quote: I love Fidel Castro.

By Sunday, Cubs manager Dale Sveum hadnt yet heard from Major League Baseball about any possible security details for the visiting team in Little Havana.

Im sure theres going to be protesters, Sveum said. Obviously, thats going to happen. Whether its a lot or a few, who knows?

All one player wanted to know was whether Snowflake made it to the new stadium. He walked across the room quoting Ace Ventura, while another immediately started squawking like a dolphin.

Yes, the Cubs are feeling pretty loose, walled off from the clubhouse distractions that have taken up so much oxygen across the past few years. And they get to enjoy an off-day by the beach on Monday in Miami.

Were not too worried about it, outfielder Reed Johnson said. We cant really assume whats going to happen there when Ozzie comes back. It could go a couple different ways. So we just got to go out and take care of our own business. Thats what were focused on right now.

Miamis new stadium features an aquarium behind home plate and a colorful sculpture in center field thats supposed to light up and twirl fish whenever the Marlins hit home runs. Its the scenery for a reality show filmed by Showtime.

The Cubs are happy to let another team become a three-ring circus.

As soon as Theo Epstein took over at Clark and Addison, the team president set out to change the culture. That meant sending Carlos Zambrano and more than 15 million to the Marlins for pitcher Chris Volstad.

Zambrano waived his no-trade clause to play for Guillen, his friend from Venezuela. There was no way he could return to this clubhouse after walking out on his teammates last August.

It would have been great theater, but Zambrano is not scheduled to face his old team in this three-game series. Hes got two no-decisions so far, a 3.75 ERA and a 10:8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 12 innings this season.

Its hard to comment, because I wasnt here, Sveum said. You see things and you hear about certain things. You hear what kind of good guy he was in the clubhouse. Guys liked him, but he would just obviously go off the handle a little bit once in awhile.

Personally, I cant even comment because I dont really know him that well, besides a phone call after I got the job. But, obviously, hes had some really good years and hes a heck of a pitcher.

The day after Zambrano cleaned out his locker in Atlanta, Ryan Dempster said: Hes made his bed. Hes got to sleep in it. Dempster will get the start on Tuesday, but he doesnt want to rehash the past or analyze what it will mean in Miami.

Dempster played parts of five seasons with the Marlins, including 2002, when Guillen was their third-base coach. Dempster knows what hell be asked about postgame, but right now hes concentrating on the Marlins lineup.

Ill take that challenge on first, and then worry about the other stuff after, Dempster said. To be dead honest with you, I know you might find that hard to believe, but I havent really been paying much attention.

Im trying to just narrow my focus down. Im doing what I can to get ready for my start. I havent been picking up papers or really watching much SportsCenter.

The Cubs should know that theyre stepping into a national media storm. At least this time they could be the calm at the center. Just ask the manager whose emotions always appear to be on a flat line.

Id imagine theres going to be a few extra people down there. Theres no question about it, Sveum said. Its an unfortunate incident that happened. Hopefully it goes away pretty quick, but its not going to go away when were there.

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

The final 25 games was supposed to be all about the development of the Bulls’ recent acquisitions and securing a record worthy of one of the last three envelopes at the NBA Draft Lottery.

Only Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn seemed to matter, with Cameron Payne and Cristiano Felicio being the perfect window dressing for development as opposed to just saying a team is tanking.

But Bobby Portis is making a case that he isn’t to be forgotten in the big picture, that his worth is more than just being a punchline to the jokes that followed his incident with Nikola Mirotic.

The only thing Portis didn’t do right in the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers was missing a point blank shot that would’ve given the Bulls an improbable and unwanted win, and it would’ve given him 40 points.

Instead he had to settle for a career-high 38 as Joel Embiid was bearing down on Portis when he caught a diagonal pass from Dunn with 1.1 seconds left, having the shorter T.J. McConnell on him and taking a power dribble to gather himself.

“If I could go back I would’ve just went up the first time off the glass like I always do,” Portis said. “We just have to try to close out games better.”

Embiid showed he’s worth all the trouble with his health problems, scoring 30 with 13 rebounds and five rebounds while Ben Simmons put up 32 with 11 assists and seven rebounds as the 76ers improved to 31-25, good enough for seventh place in the East.

In a game that featured remarkable resolve from a purposely undermanned Bulls team as they sat Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday, they put themselves in position to win after trailing by 18 early. After leading by five courtesy of a LaVine walk-down triple with 1:02 left, they made a couple critical errors that allowed the 76ers to steal a game the Bulls won’t mind them taking at the end of 82.

Denzel Valentine’s inbounds pass with 5.9 seconds left was intended for LaVine, but Embiid stepped in front for a steal as they were in position to make it a free-throw game the rest of the way.

Similar to the Bulls’ unlikely win over the Orlando Magic before the All-Star break, they returned the favor as 76ers rookie Ben Simmons made free throws after the steal to give the visitors a one-point lead, setting the stage for the final play.

If learning lessons is what the last 100 quarters of basketball is supposed to be about, the Bulls got a big-time lesson in a game that ultimately means nothing.

“These are learning opportunities for our team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I couldn’t be happier, the way we went out and competed. We dug ourselves an 18-point hold and (fought) our way back—have complete control of the game.”

Control was wrestled from the 76ers by Portis’ able and quick hands. Taking more of a scoring posture since Mirotic’s departure, Portis has never been shy about being aggressive.

But now he’s being encouraged in that department, playing a big part in the Bulls’ tying their franchise record of 18 triples with six of his own, scoring 21 in the first half and not backing down one step from the massive Embiid.

“I kind of struggled from (three) in the last six, seven games,” said Portis, who didn’t take much time off during the All-Star break. “I think I’ve shown this entire year, trying to stay consistent and be a spark off the bench.”

Counting the last two games before the break, Portis has been on the best scoring binge of his career—cementing his place in the league when just a few months ago, many were questioning if the Bulls should’ve actually picked up his player option following the Mirotic incident.

His 25.0 points in the last three, along with scoring in double figures for seven straight games are career-bests. With every flex, every energetic plea to the crowd and resourceful score underneath the rim, Portis is becoming a player the Bulls can’t afford to plan without.

The stage was set for a Portis breakout shortly after the incident, when he was serving his suspension to start the season. When the Bulls traveled to Miami and Orlando, he flew on his own to Orlando for dinner with his mentor, former NBA veteran and Magic assistant coach Corliss Williamson.

Williamson, a player who was not to be trifled with during his career, told Portis essentially, “this too shall pass”.

“Just play your game,” Williamson told NBCSportsChicago.com recently. “Don’t put any pressure on yourself about what’s gonna happen after this year. What’s got him here is hard work, how hard he plays in the game. He continues to do that, he’ll be successful.”

Portis recalled the dinner where he was finally able to confide and unleash after weeks of frustration. Calling Williamson a father figure dating back to their Arkansas roots, where Portis played on Williamson’s AAU teams in middle school, Portis put his trust in him and came back reinvigorated.

“We talked for hours about the whole situation,” Portis told NBCSportsChicago.com “He told me when I come back to come 10 times harder. When people play this game and play the right way, they forget about the other stuff. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Scoring 38 tends to remake a narrative.

“Bobby just continues to improve,” Hoiberg said. “He’s a confident kid that goes out and plays with a ton of swagger and toughness. You need that, to go out and play with that type of effort. He’s tenacious on the glass. He’s getting the crowd into the game.”

When speaking of Portis, Hoiberg’s face went from flush to beaming, knowing how far Portis has come in his three years—being a player who wouldn’t take 3-pointers with confidence to now unleashing them whenever a defender’s feet shows the slightest hint of leaning back.

No hesitation.

“Regardless if I’m making shots, I try to leave it all out on the floor,” Portis said. “It felt good making shots, being able to help the team. I wanted the win tonight.”

Portis helped make up for the Bulls not getting their usual production from Dunn, who struggled guarding the bigger Simmons and Lauri Markkanen, who missed all five of his 3-pointers and made just one field goal in 32 minutes.

“You can put he and Lauri together,” Hoiberg said. “It gives you two guys that can stretch the floor and space it, two guys that can rebound, two that can put it on the floor. It’s exciting to think about when Kris gets his rhythm back.”

And now, Williamson’s words have proven to be prophetic for his pupil, because if the Bulls aren’t seeing Portis as a key part of their future, there’s about 25 other teams who’ll be lining up for his services this summer.

“I told him don’t even worry about it,” Williamson said. “Let your game speak for itself. People who really know you, know what type of person you are. You start producing people will forget about it and love you for what you do on the court.”

His game is talking, even if the Bulls’ loss was one they’d rather have taken in silence.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Projecting the Bulls’ future

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Projecting the Bulls’ future

In the latest edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Mark Schanowski, Will Perdue and Kendall Gill recap the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, look at the continued growth of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn, and discuss if Bobby Portis is part of the Bulls’ long term future.

They also check in on LeBron James and the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers, discuss whether or not the Golden State Warriors can make another title run and the latest on the status of San Antonio Spurs guard Kawhi Leonard. The guys also discuss how Oklahoma guard Trae Young could look in a Bulls uniform if he’s available for them in the draft.

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.