Cubs

Meet the Knicks' unlikely new star

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Meet the Knicks' unlikely new star

From Comcast SportsNet
GREENBURGH, New York (AP) -- Linsanity has taken over Madison Square Garden, and even Magic Johnson was captivated watching the New York Knicks' newest star. The only guy who doesn't seem impressed is Jeremy Lin. The new point guard refuses to get his own place to live, just in case the NBA team decides to cut him this week before his contract becomes guaranteed. He takes no satisfaction in proving he wasn't a one-hit wonder, because he could be "like a two-time wonder." And no, the first American-born NBA player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent doesn't consider himself all that smart, regardless of that Harvard education. "That's a stereotype," Lin said on Tuesday. "(Former Golden State teammate) David Lee would be the first to tell you, he always calls me the dumbest smart guy he knows. Depends on who you ask I guess." Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni knew Lin was intelligent. What he didn't know was whether Lin could play in the NBA, and for a while he was hesitant to find out. The Knicks struggled at the start of the season, and even though D'Antoni had seen glimpses from Lin, he worried this wasn't the time to turn to a guy who just recently was sent to the NBA Development League. "I was afraid to do anything, we're already in a little bit of a crisis and I just can't be, you know, pulling straws, just trying something, a whim. Other players would be looking at me like You crazy?' if it didn't work," D'Antoni said. "Now he just kept showing stuff a little bit, a little bit. When he got one opportunity, he took advantage of it." Lin scored 25 points last Saturday -- after crashing at teammate Landry Fields' place because his brother, with whom he normally stays, had company. He then scored a career-best 28 on Monday in his first NBA start, a victory over Utah as "Linsanity" was trending on Twitter in New York. "The excitement he has caused in the Garden, man, I hadn't seen that in a long time. The way he can penetrate, and can get in that lane, and either shoot it or dish it, has really made them a better basketball team," said Johnson, the Hall of Famer who watched both games. "When they started chanting last night MVP!' I fell out. It was really wonderful for the young man. When you get a spark a like this, especially in a season like this, this could carry them for a long time because they needed something to happen positive. Everything has been really negative." D'Antoni had already gone through three point guards this season while waiting for Baron Davis to become available. Despite having All-Stars Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, the Knicks struggled to score because they couldn't find anyone to properly run D'Antoni's pick-and-roll offense. The coach said it wasn't that difficult, but it takes some intelligence, something the economics major has plenty of along with some overlooked physical gifts. "First of all, he has really good speed. He gets into the lane, he gets by people," D'Antoni said. "But he has pace in the sense of setting the guy up, sensing where the openings are, and it's hard to teach. Some guys have it. You can teach certain aspects of it and get him better, but they have to be able to read and stuff, and he can do that." Lin wasn't selected in the 2010 draft and was eventually signed by the Golden State Warriors, not far from where he starred for Palo Alto High School. He split last season between the Warriors and the D-League, then was waived before this season. Houston claimed him but cut him two weeks later, and the Knicks claimed him, with D'Antoni recalling being impressed after seeing Lin work out a year earlier. It seems unlikely he'll be hitting the market again anytime soon, but Lin won't risk it. Contracts become guaranteed for the rest of the season if a player is still on the roster on Friday, so he'll wait for that before checking out the local real estate market. Even though he outplayed an All-Star in the New Jersey's Deron Williams on Saturday, he knows he can be the one looking bad on Wednesday against Washington by John Wall's speed. "The minute as athletes you get complacent, that's when trouble comes," Lin said. "So I'm just trying to stay ready." Lin is a natural draw in New York, where Stoudemire said fans love the underdog. But it's not the box office appeal that matters to his teammates, who saw a promising season slipping away because they had nobody to get them the ball. Lin's done that, and the Knicks might need another big effort on Wednesday, with both Anthony and Stoudemire expected to miss the game. But Lin guided the Knicks past Utah without them on Monday, a surprising victory over a winning team. Not as surprising as the undrafted Ivy Leaguer becoming the most important player on an NBA team. "You never know who can step up. It only takes one guy to step up and all of a sudden everything turns and I think that's the way we're feeling around here now," center Tyson Chandler said. "Jeremy stepped up and put guys back in their natural positions and all of a sudden our offense is flowing."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion

Carmen DeFalco (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Bernfield join Kap on the panel. Anthony Rizzo returns to the Cubs after an emotional weekend home while Tom Ricketts expects another World Series parade. Plus Hall of Famer Andre Dawson joins Kap to talk about his Cubs reunion and how the current crop unsigned free agents compares to his experiences with collusion. 

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

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AP

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

GLENDALE, Ariz. — On a day when Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada took live batting practice for the first time this spring, off in the distance was a lanky White Sox prospect standing in the outfield grass.

But Alec Hansen was doing more than shagging flies. He was watching both hitters very closely.

“I was looking to see how much pop they had,” Hansen said of Abreu and Moncada. “I kind of look at that to see the difference in power between minor league ball and the major leagues. It’s nice to see it’s not a huge difference. That makes me feel a bit more comfortable.”

At 6-foot-8 — actually 6-foot-8-and-a-half, according to his spring training physical — Hansen is a big man with big plans for his baseball career. He might be quiet on the outside, but he has booming expectations for himself on the inside.

“I want to be the best,” Hansen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

The best? The very best?

That’s what Hansen aspires to become, though later in our conversation, he did dial back a notch, settling for becoming “one of the best.”

Either is fine with manager Ricky Renteria, who is overseeing these uber-confident White Sox prospects and accepts their lofty expectations.

“I think their mindset is where it’s supposed to be,” Renteria said. “None of these kids are concerned or consumed with the possibility of failure. Much more they’re consuming themselves with the understanding that they might hit some stumbling blocks, but they’re going to have a way to avoid overcoming them and push forward and be the best that they can be.”

In his first full season in the White Sox organization, Hansen led the minor leagues with 191 strikeouts. He’s proud of that accomplishment but admitted something: He’s not that impressed because he didn’t do it where it really matters — in the major leagues.

When you watch Hansen pitch, it’s easy to see that the talent is there. His coaches and teammates rave about his ability. With his enormous size and power arm, he is loaded with strengths.  

Though there is one weakness that Hansen acknowledges he needs to work on.

“Sometimes I have a tendency to think too much and worry. I think worrying is the worst thing that I do just because I want to be perfect,” Hansen said. “I think everyone wants to be perfect, some more than others, and I worry about things getting in the way of achieving perfection.”

To Hansen, that doesn’t mean throwing a perfect game. He actually takes it one step further.

He wants to strikeout every single hitter he faces.

“I love striking people out,” Hansen said. “Not having to rely on anyone else and just getting the job done myself and knowing that the hitter can’t get a hit off me. That’s a great feeling. That they can’t put it in play. Like a line drive out. That’s terrible.”

At some point, Hansen will have to lower these impossible expectations for himself. This is an imperfect game. There’s no place for nine-inning, 27-strikeout performances. Players end up in the Hall of Fame because they learn how to succeed with failure.

In the meantime, Hansen is here in big league camp watching and learning anything and everything.

“I’m a good observer. I listen. I don’t really talk too much. I’m a pretty quiet guy. I like to sit back and observe and see how these guys go about their business. Just trying to be at their level, hopefully one day surpass them.”

Surpass?

“It’s kind of hard to surpass some of these guys. I mean, they’re at the tip-top, like the pinnacle of the sport,” Hansen said. “I guess you could say, to get on that level and then be one of the best in the league.”

He might be on his way.