Blackhawks

Ex-DePaul, NBA star Strickland optimistic about protege Teague's future

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Ex-DePaul, NBA star Strickland optimistic about protege Teague's future

Rod Stricklands been here before. A young, explosive point guard he mentored for a year in John Caliparis program, drafted by the Bulls after a freshman season that concluded with the final game of the NCAA Tournament.

Of course, Marquis Teagues lone college campaign ended with a championship, he wasnt the first overall pick in the NBA Draft and hes not carrying the hopes of an entire city on his back. But Strickland, a former DePaul standout, longtime top-notch NBA floor general and current University of Kentucky assistant coach, believes that although Teague went lower than projected in last weeks draft, its a blessing in disguise that he ended up in Chicago, where he can learn from the tutelage of Derrick Rose.

Its great for Marquis because hell get to go to a winning team, a defensive-oriented team, a great coach whos going to demand a lot out of you, like Coach Calipari did to him last year, so I think hell improve. Then, youve got D-Rose there to be by your side, give you tips and kind of show you the ropes, and show you how to be a professional, Strickland told CSNChicago.com, adding that its incredible how Rose has grown and matured so much since his less-vocal college days at the University of Memphis. If I was Marquis, Id be right on D-Roses coattails. Id try to take as much from him and whenever he was working out, Id be there with him because thats what its going to take. But I think hes got a great opportunity to be around that organization, a winning organization.

Strickland, who scored over 14,000 points and dished out over 7,000 assists in a 17-year NBA career following reaching All-American status with the Blue Demons, isnt saying Teague will make the same immediate impact Rose did upon entering the league, but he does think the Indianapolis native is a bit underrated after posting less-than-gaudy statistics he averaged 10 points and 4.8 assists per game on a squad featuring five other draft picks, including the first two overall selections, Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and will eventually flourish on the next level.

I think youll see a different Marquis Teague in the NBA. I think hell open up a little more. Plus, the court gets wider. Youre playing with even better players when you get in the league. The court opens up a lot and hell be able to use his quickness, Strickland explained by phone from Venezuela, where hes assisting Calipari with coaching the Dominican Republic mens basketball national team in a qualifying event for the upcoming Olympics in London. I think hell play better as a pro. I think the court opens up once you get to the league. The defense is different. Theyve got to concentrate on other players. Youre not the main focus.

Theyre going to demand a lot from him, both offensively and defensively, as far as running the team and being that leader, and defensively, what Marquis can do is he can get up in people, he can pressure the ball. He has a toughness about him. I think all those things can be brought out even more with the Bulls.

"Then, youve got D-Rose there. I think thats big-time for him, to teach him what it takes to be a professional and stay in that league for a long period of time, he continued. I think hes capable of being a very good defender. He can get in the ball. Hes strong and quick enough, so I think he can be very good in that.

Teagues transition from a top-10 prep prospect because of his scoring ability to a distributor in college had its ups and downs, but by the end of the season, he found a balance between remaining aggressive, yet limiting his turnovers and keeping his fellow future NBA peers happy by spreading the wealth.

He had to fall back a little bit and Im sure there were times when that was frustrating. He had to get used to that, he had to adjust to it and I think thats probably why he struggled in the beginning," said Strickland. "Hes playing with very good to great players. I think that was an adjustment. In high school, he was the man, he did everything, he just took over and he just played his game. I think some of his instincts were taken away because he had so many great players. As a floor leader, he became better and better as the season went on.

"In the beginning, he struggled with it. When he came in, he had a scorers mentality, but then he realized that wasnt going to be able to be the way he played at Kentucky and it wasnt going to help us succeed, and he changed. He became that floor leader as a point guard, he became more vocal as the year went on. He just grew and matured as a player and a person as the year went on and at the end, he had us under control and he ran the team.

Thats the biggest thing that happened to him. He kind of transformed into a pass-first point guard. Marquis, I think hes a real competitive kid. Tough, hard-nosed kid. Wants to win, wants to compete, he added. When the game gets a little physical and tight and close and a little chatty, he likes that. He enjoys that.

Teague is still a work in progress, but with his ability to get into the paint and push the ball in transition, a focus on pressuring the ball defensively and improvement on his inconsistent outside jumper, he could provide the Bulls with another dimension and in time, a change-of-pace guard behind Rose. And at a time when teams in the league are increasingly going to small-ball, dual point-guard sets think Denvers use of veteran Andre Miller and young speedster Ty Lawson or how former Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro played All-Star Chris Paul and another Strickland protg at Kentucky, Eric Bledsoe, together with the Clippers his potential becomes evident.

But any visions of how Tom Thibodeau utilizes the duo has to be taken with a grain of salt, as Roses ongoing recovery is still first and foremost in the minds of observers, though Strickland is optimistic about how the former league MVP will respond.

Knowing D-Rose, hes chomping at the bit right now, probably pissed off hes got to sit out and cant get on that court, so Im sure hes doing everything hes got to do to get ready. I see him coming back as D-Rose. I dont see anything being different, he said. I think he loves challenges. I hate that he got injured like that, but Im expecting to see D-Rose when he gets back on the court. Thats the only thing I know from him.

Blackhawks deal Michael Kempny to Capitals for conditional third-round pick

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks deal Michael Kempny to Capitals for conditional third-round pick

The Blackhawks dealt defenseman Michael Kempny to the Washington Capitals for a third-round pick. Kempny had seven points in 31 games this season.

Kempny, 27, recorded 15 points in 81 career games for the Blackhawks. He tallied an assist in Saturday's 7-1 victory over the Capitals.

Kempny signed a one-year extension through the end of this season back in May.

Anthony Rizzo declines role as an activist, says trip to Florida 'was the hardest thing I've ever had to do'

Anthony Rizzo declines role as an activist, says trip to Florida 'was the hardest thing I've ever had to do'

MESA, Ariz. — Anthony Rizzo’s gone above and beyond for his community in the wake of one of the worst mass shootings in United States history, when 17 people lost their lives last week at Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida, Rizzo’s alma mater.

His actions and words have carried plenty of weight in the last week, but Rizzo’s comments upon returning to Arizona were more focused on the general need for change rather than specific actions related to the issue of gun violence in America.

The Cubs’ first baseman, who returned to spring training on Monday after spending several days being with his community in Florida, repeatedly voiced the opinion — though it’s ridiculous to think there’s a counter argument that could actually qualify as someone’s opinion — that these mass shootings need to stop happening with such an incomprehensible amount of frequency.

But he stopped short of taking a full step into the national debate on the issue, clarifying that his comments made on Twitter the day of the shooting were not referencing gun control or that specific debate at all.

“Obviously, there needs to be change,” Rizzo said. “I don’t know what that is, I don’t get paid to make those decisions. I can sit back and give opinions, but you just hope somewhere up the line of command, people are thinking are thinking the same things that a lot of innocent kids are thinking: ‘Why? Why am I scared to go to school? Why am I scared to say goodbye to my son or daughter?’ God forbid someone was in an argument with someone they loved that day, how bad — it’s a bad time right now in the country with what’s going on with all these shootings.

“My opinion is my opinion. I don’t think it’s fair to my teammates and everyone else if I come out and start going one way or the other. I think, my focus is on baseball. My focus is definitely on Parkland and the community there and supporting them and whatever direction that they go. But for me it’s hard enough to hit a baseball, and it’s definitely going to be hard enough to try to be a baseball player and a politician at the same time.”

Rizzo has no more of an obligation to be a spokesman on this issue than any other American does, and his presence at his old school last week, his words at a vigil for the victims of this tragedy were powerful. Rizzo has established himself as a remarkable member of his community in Chicago, and he won the Roberto Clemente Award last season for his charitable efforts off the field. His willingness to leave Arizona and be with members of his community was reflective of the type of person Cubs fans and Chicagoans have gotten to know.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Just going back, you don’t what to say. There’s nothing you can say,” Rizzo said. “When people get shot, you’re grateful that they’re alive. When they pass away, you’re grateful that you knew them, to look at the bright side of things if you can. But just to see how real it is, it’s sad.

“The more I just sat and thought about it, I felt helpless here. That’s where I grew up, in Parkland. I got in trouble there, I succeeded there, I learned how to be who I am because of Parkland, because of Stoneman Douglas. So to be across the country and not be there and then to find out some very close people have lost loved ones, to be there to help them and support them was very important to me.”

Rizzo repeatedly said how proud he is of the students of Stoneman Douglas, who have been outspoken on social media, directing their comments toward the president and other members of the government and sharing their opinions that gun control is necessary for the violence to stop.

But Rizzo refrained from wading into that debate and even chastised those who mischaracterized his Twitter comments as a call for gun regulation.

“To be very clear I did not say the word ‘gun’ one time,” he said. “Anyone out there who wrote gun control, saying I called for gun control, I think is very irresponsible and I did not say that once.

“I don’t know what needs to be done, I don’t know. I don’t know enough about it. I know there are a lot of shootings. I know they are done with a specific make, but I don’t know what needs to be done. But something, some type of change needs to happen for the better because I’m sure people in here have kids. No one right now feels very comfortable on a daily basis sending their kid to school and not knowing if they’re going to see them again.”

That kind of message might not be as declarative as some would have hoped. But it remained a powerful one, showing that even if he wasn’t ready or willing to declare himself an activist, Rizzo shares the feelings of many Americans who are simultaneously numb to the news of these shootings and completely and entirely fed up with their frequency and the lack of action taken to stop them.

“As a human being, probably everyone in here when they first the initial (reports of a) shooter, I took my next golf swing, because that’s how numb this country is to it,” Rizzo said. “Until something crazy happens, when you hear ‘open shooter’ nowadays, it’s like, ‘OK,’ take your next breath and keep going. Then I found out it was at Douglas, you get a little more concerned, ‘OK, what’s going on.’ At first it’s a few people injured, then you found out it was what it was, and it’s just — it’s gut-wrenching. You just go numb.

“I stand behind my community, and I’m really proud of how everyone’s coming together. Obviously I said there needs to be change, I don’t know what the change needs to be. I’m just really proud of those kids and how they’re coming together and becoming one in Parkland. It’s really inspiring to see, and it makes me proud.”