Cubs

Knicks head coach resigns suddenly

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Knicks head coach resigns suddenly

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- Mike D'Antoni resigned as coach of the New York Knicks on Wednesday, a person familiar with the decision said. Yahoo Sports first reported the surprising news, which comes with the Knicks in the middle of a late-season slide that could cost them a playoff spot. New York has lost six in a row for the second time this season and has fallen into a tie for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. The decision came just hours after star Carmelo Anthony denied there was a rift with D'Antoni. The Knicks have struggled since Anthony returned from a groin injury 10 games ago. There was speculation that he and D'Antoni did not get along, though the All-Star forward said Wednesday he supported the coach "100 percent." D'Antoni put the Knicks through a morning workout Wednesday, seemed in good spirits and said players were, too. He acknowledged the media frenzy around the sinking team but believed the Knicks would handle it. "You battle against it and I think we're cohesive enough to battle through this and we expect to do that," he said. He was preparing to coach the Knicks against the Portland Trail Blazers later Wednesday, but Mike Woodson is expected to handle that role instead. And certainly there's already speculation that the Knicks will try to lure a big-name coach such as Phil Jackson or Kentucky's John Calipari next season. D'Antoni's departure comes less than a month after he seemed rejuvenated by the emergence of Jeremy Lin, the undrafted point guard from Harvard who came off the end of the bench and proved to be the player who could properly run the offensive system. But the success didn't last once Anthony returned, with the Knicks going 2-8 in a season that D'Antoni said should see them contend for a championship. Never able to duplicate his success in Phoenix, D'Antoni was headed to his third losing season since signing a 24 million, four-year contract in 2008 that made him one of the NBA's highest-paid coaches. He never won a playoff game in New York, where the Knicks were focused on the future during his first two years and made numerous changes that didn't give him much of a chance to compete. But they spent big this season, bringing in Tyson Chandler to play between Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, while adding players such as Baron Davis and JR Smith during the season, and D'Antoni acknowledged Wednesday morning it was his responsibility to make everything work. New York returned to the playoffs last season for the first time since 2004 and had its first winning record in a decade, losing to the Boston Celtics in the first round. But the Knicks radically changed the team in the offseason, waiving point guard Chauncey Billups through the amnesty clause to free up salary cap space to sign Chandler, and they sputtered through January while trying three point guards to replace him. D'Antoni finally turned to Lin on Feb. 4 and the Knicks took off, winning seven games in a row and looking like a threat to the top teams in the East. But it all came to a halt when Anthony returned, reinforcing the notion that his desire to get the ball in isolation didn't fit in D'Antoni's offense that focused on pick-and-rolls and quick ball movement. D'Antoni averaged 58 wins in four full seasons in Phoenix before he was hired to replace Isiah Thomas on May 13, 2008. The Knicks got off to a quick start in his first season but broke up the team three weeks into it, trading Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford in separate deals on the same day. New York would make a series of moves over the first two years, all with an eye toward clearing salary cap space for the summer of 2010. D'Antoni always supported the plan, even as it came at the cost of his won-loss record. He was 267-172 when he arrived in New York but went 121-167 here. The Knicks finished in the top 10 in scoring in each of his first three seasons while racking up the three highest 3-pointer totals in team history. But his offense-first style was never a natural fit in New York, where fans craved the hard-nosed, defense-first approach of the 1990s teams of Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, Anthony Mason and John Starks. Worse for D'Antoni, he lost his biggest backer in the front office when team president Donnie Walsh opted not to return after last season. D'Antoni became a coaching star in Phoenix, reaching two Western Conference finals. He won a Coach of the Year award and was named an assistant coach to Mike Krzyzewski with the U.S. national team. But the Suns let him talk to other clubs about their jobs after losing to San Antonio in the first round of the 2008 playoffs. He chose the Knicks over the Chicago Bulls, citing his comfort with Walsh, who had just been hired, and his desire to live in New York. After two years in transition, the Knicks appeared to be a team on the rise after landing Stoudemire in the summer of 2010 to give New York its first superstar since Ewing. But the Knicks didn't stop there, trading four of their top six players to acquire Anthony from Denver last February before the trade deadline. The high price, paid when Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan reportedly overruled Walsh, put enormous pressure on D'Antoni and Anthony to make it work, and they never really could. Anthony was shooting a career-low 40 percent and at times his frustration was evident, such as Monday's loss in Chicago. Asked about that Wednesday, D'Antoni said: "I'm sulking over on the bench, too. So I can understand the frustration. We've just got to a better job of blending things that we want to do and we haven't done that." Now someone else will.

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: