Preps Talk

Konerkos slogan for 2012

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Konerkos slogan for 2012

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The next time the White Sox need a new marketing campaign, I suggest they save the time and effort and just go straight to Paul Konerko. The longtime captain always has a way with words, and he did again on Thursday after the teams final workout before the season opener.

I asked Konerko what this White Sox team will be about in 2012, and what fans can expect to see.

He took all of a millisecond to come up with the answer.

Doing it right, Konerko said. Thats just the one thing that goes through my head more than anything is that everybody is in a mode right now, whatever their job is, to not even be concerned with the outcome or whats going to happen out there. Just doing it right.

Some might perceive this as Konerko lowering expectations, saying that as long as the White Sox play the game the way its supposed to be played, that will be good enough.

Far from it. Dig a little deeper.

Last year when the White Sox went All-In, it was all about the outcome Konerko mentioned. Win or lose. Period. That was the theme for 2011.

Thats great if you have a team like the 1927 Yankees who can just beat peoples brains out from April through October. It also works when you have a team where very little goes wrong. Case in point: the 2005 White Sox.

But last year, a lot went wrong. And when the ship started sinking, in many cases it was every man for himself.

Team baseball? Fundamentals? Everyone pulling from the same rope?? It might have been in the White Sox handbook, but it was often missing on the field.

That wont be the case this year.

If youre at the plate with guys in a certain situation, you know that your job is to do it as right as possible, and get that job done, Konerko said. If youre in the infield on defense, at that moment youve got a job to do. Everybody is really focused on that kind of stuff. Thats the way to go about it. If you do that and you have the talent, it will come out in the results.

Kenny Williams was laughed at when he toyed with the idea this offseason of having Konerko be the teams player-manager. It was more of a creative thought than anything else. But as Robin Ventura begins his managerial career on Friday, hell be comforted with the knowledge that he basically has another manager out there on the field, wearing a No. 14 jersey.

Outside of their own clubhouse, not much is expected from this White Sox team. The players dont need to be reminded. Theyre asked about it everyday.

How would you react if you were constantly asked about your shortcomings from last year, how SI.com is predicting 95 losses, how the Tigers are going to run away with the division, how you no longer have Mark Buehrle, Sergio Santos and Carlos Quentin, etc, etc, etc?

If youre an athlete, or just a living, breathing human being, eventually its got to tick you off.

Say this, the 2012 White Sox already lead the league in having something to prove. That includes proving the doubters wrong.

If everything goes as we plan on it, theres going to be a lot of people crawfishing a little bit, backpedaling on where they have us right now, said John Danks who gets the Opening Day nod, as well as a clean slate after starting last year 0-8.

We obviously underachieved greatly last year. I think thats the reason why people arent talking about us, which could be a good thing, said Adam Dunn, who after his disastrous season is probably looking forward to the new year more than anyone.

So what kind of year will it be? Dont listen to the critics, because nobody knows the answer.

If Im going to listen to anyone, its Konerko.

Hes not predicting 90 wins and a playoff spot, nor is he calling for a rebuilding year where everything goes to pieces.

He calls it like it is, which in April is never black and white -- more like several shades of gray. It's a long season. There are 162 games ahead. What can we expect?

I feel like this team, whatever the results end up being as far as wins and losses, will be what this team is, Konerko said. I think were going to go about it correctly all the time. Theres always going to be a slip-up here and there, but for the most part were going to go about it right all the time, and well see how that bears out in the end.

IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show Roundup

IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show Roundup

CLASS 1A

Revealing the Class 1A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 1A Bracket

CLASS 2A

Revealing the Class 2A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 2A Bracket

CLASS 3A

Revealing the Class 3A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 3A Bracket

CLASS 4A

Revealing the Class 4A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 4A Bracket

Predicting Class 1A-4A

CLASS 5A

Revealing the Class 5A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 5A Bracket

CLASS 6A

Revealing the Class 6A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 6A Bracket

CLASS 7A

Revealing the Class 7A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 7A Bracket

CLASS 8A

Revealing the Class 8A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 8A Bracket

Class 7A and Class 8A Predictions

 

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

Keeping the game simple is often a tough task for rookies entering the NBA, but it seems Lauri Markkanen has been a quick learner in that aspect.

Through two games he’s probably the lone bright spot, especially after the Bulls’ cringe-inducing 87-77 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in their home opener at the United Center.

Jumper not falling? Okay, go to the basket.

“It wasn’t falling so I tried to get to the rim a couple times,” Markkanen said. “At the end, I was like let’s do it and I connected on a 3-pointer, I felt more open just because I was at the rim. I think that helped.”

He was asked what the difference was in the second game of his career compared to the first.

“I mean the crowd was chanting for us (tonight),” Markkanen said, referring to Thursday in Toronto.

He wasn’t attempting to display any dry wit but applying common sense seems to work for him, even though he’s been thrust into a situation after an incident that doesn’t make any sense.

With Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic out for the foreseeable future, playing a game-high 37 minutes will be more common than anomaly.

“Whatever your minutes are, you gotta play them to the best of your ability,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s being allowed to play through some mistakes right now. He’s gonna play heavy minutes every night.”

He only shot five of 14 but achieved his first double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds after a 17-point, eight-rebound debut against the Raptors Thursday.

No, someone didn’t open a door for a draft to come into the United Center on that three-pointer that went wide left, but it didn’t stop him from being assertive and continuing to look for his shot.

There was plenty of muck, easy to see on the stat sheet. The 38 percent shooting overall, the lack of penetration, the 29 percent shooting from 3-point range and 20 turnovers.

It’s not hard to imagine what Markkanen will look like with competent and effective NBA players around him, along with a true facilitating point guard that will find him in this offense.

“Markkanen is a wonderful player,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s aggressive, he’s smart and obviously, he can shoot the ball. He’s just going to get better and better as he figures things out.”

He received a crash course, facing the likes of Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay Saturday night. On one instance, Gay drove baseline and made Markkanen buckle with a 3-point play.

Aldridge had 24 shots in 32 minutes as a new focal point with Kawhi Leonard out with injury.

So he’s not getting treated with kid gloves, nor is he backing down from the assignments.

“He didn’t shoot the ball well but he battled,” Hoiberg said. “He had a tough assignment with Pau, who’s gonna be in the Hall of Fame one day. Good experience. He guarded Aldridge, Rudy Gay some. He battled, he fought them.”

Even with the airball, had the moment that gives the Bulls fans hope, when he drove on Gasol, spun and hooked a lefty layup while being fouled by the veteran in the first half—giving the United Center faithful something to have faith in for a moment.

“Sometimes you get labeled as a shooter. That’s the label Lauri had,” Hoiberg said. “But he really is a complete basketball player. He’s versatile, he can put in on the deck. He slides his feet very well for a guy that’s seven feet tall, someone his age. Yeah, he’s learning on the fly. He’s gonna have ups and downs, as young as he is. He’s gonna have some struggles at times. But he’s played pretty darn well for everything he’s been through, understanding two days ago he’s gonna be in the starting lineup.”

And for all the bad air around the Bulls right now, from the on-court product to the off-court drama that seems to follow them around like Pigpen, it would be even worse if Markkanen’s first two games had him looking like a corpse, or someone who would be a couple years away from reasonably contributing to an NBA team.

“He’s good, he’s very good,” Gasol said. “I like him. I like his game.”