White Sox

Ibaka's offensive rhythm bad news for rest of NBA

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Ibaka's offensive rhythm bad news for rest of NBA

Serge Ibaka is beginning to find his rhythm on offense, and thats bad news for the rest of the NBA.

The 6-foot-10 power forward, who scored 14 or more points in just 11 of 66 games last year, has now done so in three straight for the Thunder after a 21-point effort in a 97-91 win over the Bulls Thursday night.

Ibaka wasted no time getting going against Chicago, scoring nine points in the first quarter, including three made baskets in successive possessions midway through the opening period.

He even hit a 3-pointer, his first of the season and third of his career, to help the Thunder stay close to a Bulls team that shot nearly 58 percent in the first quarter.

Guys can get hot, especially if theyre getting a number of shots up, Taj Gibson said. We were closing out to him, but he got an easy-going pace real early the way his jump shot was flowing early, and he just played a phenomenal game.

Ibaka has always had the talent offensively -- he averaged 9.1 points per game last year -- and range to hit from 15-feet out, but the last two years has had to pick and choose his scoring opportunities wisely while watching Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant go to work.

It seems this year may be different. James Harden is gone, and while Kevin Martin replaces Harden in the sixth man role, it feels as though Ibaka can be the third scorer in Oklahoma City. He attempted 15 shots, one off his career-high, and has now attempted at least seven shots in all five games. His 10.2 shot attempts per game in 2012 is well-above his 6.6 attempts-per-game average entering the season.

He said extra work in the gym on his offensive game this offseason has paid dividends, and people are beginning to notice.

My teammates did a great job finding me, trusting me and getting me the ball when I was open because they know I work on my shot any time during practice, Ibaka said. I keep working in practice and I keep showing my teammates and coaches I can do it. Thats why it gives me confidence.

Ibakas offensive night didnt take away anything from his defense, either. He still managed to grab nine rebounds and block four shots in 37 minutes, helping to hold the Bulls to 34 points in the paint.

In his fourth season in the NBA, Ibaka is still just 23 years old. That talent as a complete player is starting to round out at the perfect time for the Thunder, as they continue to try and mesh without Harden. If Ibaka continues to shoot like he has been through five games, that transition period should go much smoother.

He didnt do much in the second and third quarters, but stayed efficient by scoring six points of 2-of-4 shooting and grabbing three offensive rebounds. He then proceeded to score four points in the final quarter on 1-of-2 shooting (and two free throws), capping off a brilliant night as a No. 3 scorer against a feisty Bulls front court.

He can score around the basket and he can score around the perimeter, he can even shoot 3s, head coach Scott Brooks said. Serge is a good player. Hes not only a defensive guy, he can score.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Class A manager Justin Jirschele, youngest manager in professional baseball

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Class A manager Justin Jirschele, youngest manager in professional baseball

27-year-old Justin Jirschele made quite an impression in his first season as manager of the White Sox Class-A affiliate in Kannapolis. He helped lead the Intimidators to the South Atlantic League championship, and was named White Sox Minor League Coach of the Year. Jirschele came on the podcast to speak with Chuck Garfien about how he went from playing minor league baseball with the White Sox to coaching in their system. He talks about how growing up with a dad who was coaching minor league baseball helped mold him as a manager who is wise beyond his years. Jirschele also gives a report on some of the top White Sox prospects he managed last season such as Jake Burger, Alec Hansen, Dane Dunning and Miker Adolfo.

Zach LaVine cleared for contact practice

Zach LaVine cleared for contact practice

The Zach LaVine comeback is one step closer as the shooting guard was cleared for contact practice after checking with his doctors in California. 

LaVine will go through a step by step process over the next few weeks and the Bulls will gauge his progress to see when the best time for his return will be. 

But, given the nine-month process from his ACL injury he suffered in February, he's right on track and there doesn't appear to be any setbacks. 

"There’s no real timeframe, I guess," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said at practice Monday. "It’s really going to be on how he feels. We’ll try to do a little more every day with him. We did a little bit, got him some light contact today just to get the process started.

"He’ll be able to play a little two-on-two with not a lot of practice time these next 10 days. But we’ll throw him out there and continue to try to get him feeling better. There’s going to be a mental hurdle that he’s going to have to clear as well. I know he’s excited. His teammates are excited and the coaches are obviously excited as well."

LaVine's recovery has gone as planned since his arrival in Chicago from the Jimmy Butler trade on draft night. Targeting a mid-December return seems realistic but of course, the Bulls will take every precaution to make sure he's healthy for the long term, both for LaVine and the franchise, as he's a restricted free agent this summer--and they have no plans on letting him walk. 

LaVine told NBC Sports Chicago recently that he wants to get on the floor immediately but the Bulls know they'll have to protect him from himself in the meantime. 

"He’s going to have to string together a lot of really good days, and he knows that," Hoiberg said. "He understands that. The important thing is he’s right on track from where it was said after the injury. He’s been doing a great job with his rehab. He’s on time. He’s doing everything that’s asked of him. His strength numbers are where they’re supposed to be. I’m confident he’s going to keep making progress. But we’ll absolutely monitor it daily and hopefully it’ll just continue to get better."

The Bulls aren't sure if they'll send LaVine to the G-League but it's certain they have plans on not only how to use him when he steps on the floor but also a regimen they've stuck to, to ensure there are no real setbacks. 

Hoiberg has been salivating over having a true scorer at that position since trading for him, and LaVine has been eager since his arrival to prove to the Bulls and fans that he is a franchise player. 

Prudence in the moment of progression, though, appears to be the approach taken by both sides.