Cubs

Hawks, Jazz play longest NBA game in 15 years

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Hawks, Jazz play longest NBA game in 15 years

From Comcast SportsNet
ATLANTA (AP) -- Joe Johnson was exhausted by the time the Hawks and Utah Jazz had dragged each other into a fourth overtime -- in Atlanta's third game in three nights, no less. "It was unbelievable," he said. "I just had to laugh it off. I've never played in a game like that." Johnson scored 37 points, Josh Smith added 22 and the Hawks ended Utah's six-game winning streak with a 139-133 victory Sunday night in the NBA's first quadruple-overtime game since 1997. The four overtimes tied for the third-longest game in NBA history. It was the ninth NBA game to go four OTs and the first since Phoenix beat Portland 140-139 on Nov. 14, 1997. Al Jefferson finished with 28 points and 17 rebounds, and Paul Millsap had 25 points and 13 boards for the Jazz before both players fouled out in the final overtime. "We'll take a moral victory out of this one," Millsap said. "This was a good ball team we played tonight. They played excellent defense. We just didn't get it done." Atlanta has won four straight and six of seven. The Hawks improved to 30-20 and moved one-half game ahead of Indiana for fifth place in the Eastern Conference. "It would happen on the third (straight night), but it shows the toughness of this ballclub to be able to push through that many overtimes and come out victorious," said Smith, who fouled out with 1:57 left in the first overtime. "It was a special win, and I think we'll probably appreciate this win more so than any other win during the season thus far." Johnson ended the first quarter with 18 points after going 8 of 8 in the period. He missed eight of his next nine shots, including a potential game-winning runner with 3 seconds left in regulation, before hitting a 3-pointer that forced the third overtime. With 16.9 seconds remaining in the fourth OT, Johnson's 20-foot jumper over C.J. Miles gave the Hawks a 135-131 lead. "I got some great looks in that first quarter," Johnson said. "I got into a rhythm early and for whatever reason it took me a little while to get that rhythm back, but other guys stepped up and made plays." Jeff Teague, who had 18 points and nine assists, added a pair of free throws with 13 seconds to go to make it 137-133. Johnson's two free throws sealed the victory with 5.5 seconds remaining. Zaza Pachulia, who pulled down 20 rebounds, hit a short jumper in the final seconds of the second quarter that gave the Hawks a 17-point lead, their biggest of the game. Utah rallied with a 27-9 run, giving the Jazz their first lead since early in the opening period. Millsap's 16-footer made it 65-64 with 3:23 left in the third. Jefferson gave the Jazz their biggest lead of the game when his turnaround 12-footer made it 109-104 in the third OT, but Utah never went ahead in the final two periods. "It's over with," Jefferson said. "We've just got to get ready for tomorrow. That's why you get in shape. We can't make any excuses. It was their third game in three nights. They found a way to pull it out in the end." The Jazz, who have won only one road game when they trailed after three quarters, fell to 7-17 away from home. They began the day as one of six teams separated by only 1 12 games for the final five playoff spots in the Western Conference. "We showed a lot of character and fight," Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said. "That's what we need on the road in the second half to win. We've got to make sure we understand that's what's going to make us have a chance." Utah's biggest lead in regulation came when Gordon Hayward's two free throws made it 93-89 with 5:31 left in the fourth. Hayward scored 19 points and Devin Harris handed out 10 assists for the Jazz. Not surprisingly, Johnson was delighted when Jefferson and Millsap both picked up their sixth foul in the last OT. "I was so happy when they fouled out, man, you wouldn't even believe it," Johnson said with a smile. Notes: The teams were a combined 2 of 16 from the field in the first OT, and their combined four points tied for 2nd-fewest in NBA history in an overtime period. ... Utah dropped to 1-16 when trailing on the road after three periods. ... The lead changed hands 14 times. ... The score was tied 19 times. ... Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said that G Raja Bell is still waiting for results of a second opinion on a strained left adductor that's sidelined him for the last six games.

Would trading Kyle Schwarber begin to solve pitching issues that run much deeper than Chris Bosio?

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USA TODAY

Would trading Kyle Schwarber begin to solve pitching issues that run much deeper than Chris Bosio?

The Cubs now apparently believe they are a stronger organization without Chris Bosio, firing a pitching coach known for his strong convictions, brutal honesty and bottom-line results in a move that doesn’t seem like an actual solution.

Hiring Jim Hickey – who has a good reputation from his years with the Tampa Bay Rays, a close friendship with Joe Maddon and what looks like a slam-dunk interview lined up for Monday – might make the manager feel more comfortable and less isolated.

But the new-voice/different-direction spin doesn’t fundamentally address the pitching issues facing a team that needs to replace 40 percent of the rotation and find an established closer and has zero expectations those answers will come from within the farm system.

This is an operation that won a seven-game World Series last year without a homegrown player throwing a single pitch.     

If the Cubs can say thanks for the memories and dump “Boz,” what about “Schwarbs?”

Advancing to the National League Championship Series in three straight seasons doesn’t happen without Bosio or Kyle Schwarber. But the fastest way for the Cubs to dramatically improve their pitching staff isn’t finding someone else who thinks it’s important to throw strikes. It could mean breaking up The Core and severing another emotional attachment.   

Theo Epstein saw Schwarber play for Indiana University and used the Fenway Park frame of reference, envisioning him as a combination of David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia with his left-handed power and energizer personality.

Epstein wasn’t the only Cubs official to develop a man-crush on Schwarber, but he’s the only one with ultimate control over baseball operations. Epstein’s style isn’t pounding the table as much as the ability to frame questions in the draft room, gather as many opinions as possible before the trade deadline and at the winter meetings, trying to form a consensus.

“I will say that it’s really an organization-wide evaluation of this player, but I’m not skirting responsibility,” Epstein said. “I’ll happily endorse him as the type of player that we want to win with here at the Cubs, and have won with. I don’t know, the fact that he hit 30 bombs in a bad year is a good start.

“But power is not everything. I think he fell into this year becoming more of a slugger and less of a hitter than he really is. It’s important for him to get his identity back as a dangerous hitter. Honestly, I think we feel he has the potential to be an all-around hitter on the level of an Anthony Rizzo. When he reaches his prime, that’s what he could be.”

Where will that be? As a designated hitter in the American League? That’s obvious speculation, but Schwarber has improved as an outfield defender – his strong throw at Dodger Stadium led to another NLCS Maddon Moment where the manager compared the Buster Posey Rule to the Chicago soda tax.      

A 43-45 record at the All-Star break also exposed some of the weaknesses in the clubhouse and downsides to Maddon’s methods. The Cubs flipped a switch in the second half, got hot in September and had the guts to beat the Washington Nationals in the playoffs. But that doesn’t completely wipe away the concerns about a group that at times seemed too casual and unfocused and didn’t play with enough edge. For better or worse, Schwarber approaches the game like a blitzing linebacker.

“He’s got a certain toughness and certain leadership qualities that are hard to find,” Epstein said, “and that we don’t necessarily have in surplus, in abundance, running around in this clubhouse, in this organization.

“A certain energy and grit and ability to bring people together – that’s important and we rely on it. But the biggest thing is his bat. We think he’s the type of offensive player that you build around, along with a couple other guys like him.”

Maddon would never admit it, but was the Schwarber leadoff experiment a mistake?

“I’ll judge that one based on the results and say yeah,” Epstein said. “I think we can talk about the process that went into it. Or in an alternate universe: Does it pan out? But those are just words. It didn’t work.

“Everything that went into Kyle’s really surprising and difficult first half of the season, we should look to correct, because that shouldn’t happen. He’s a way better hitter than that. What he did after coming back from Iowa proves it.”

In the same way that Maddon should own what happens with the next pitching coach, Epstein will ultimately have to decide Schwarber’s future.

Schwarber didn’t complain or pout when he got sent down to Triple-A Iowa this summer, finishing with 30 homers, a .782 OPS, a .211 batting average and a 30.9 strikeout percentage.    

Trading Schwarber would mean selling lower and take another team having the same gut instincts the Cubs did in the 2014 draft – and offering the talented, controllable starting pitcher that sometimes seems like a unicorn.

Is Schwarber still the legend from last year’s World Series? An all-or-nothing platoon guy? An intriguing trade chip? A franchise player? Eventually, the Cubs are going to find out.

“We have to look to do everything we can,” Epstein said, “and more importantly he has to look to do everything he can to get him to a point where he’s consistently the quality hitter and tough out and dangerous bat in the middle of the lineup that we know he can be.

“He wasn’t for the first half of this year – and he knows it and he feels awful about it. He worked his tail off to get back to having a pretty darn good second half and getting some big hits for us down the stretch.”

And then the offseason was only hours old by the time the Cubs showed they will be keeping an open mind about everything this winter, not afraid to make big changes.

Jake Arrieta shaved his beard again and he keeps looking younger

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USA TODAY

Jake Arrieta shaved his beard again and he keeps looking younger

It's become a tradition that Jake Arrieta shaves his beard after the season ends.

The 31-year-old did it again days after the Cubs were eliminated from the 2017 postseason, and it's still a sight we'll never be used to seeing.

Check it out:

Weird, right?

Here's how he looked following the Cubs' World Series win in 2016:

And again in 2015:

It's crazy how much younger he looks.