White Sox

NBA trade deadline circus begins

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NBA trade deadline circus begins

The first domino before the NBA's annual circus of a trade deadline fell--and it wasn't Dwight Howard. Golden State and Milwaukee executed a trade Tuesday, with the Warriors shipping scorer Monta Ellis and big men Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown to the Bucks, in exchange for sidelined center Andrew Bogut and veteran swingman Stephen Jackson.

Ellis was a perennial deadline-deal suspect, but with the likes of Pau Gasol, Josh Smith and of course, Howard--in fact, Ellis was rumored as a potential addition to the Magic as a sidekick to Howard, while the Warriors were supposedly putting in a big to acquire the All-Star center themselves--reportedly on the trading block, the All-Star snub had been flying under the radar a bit. Now in Milwaukee, Ellis joins a Bucks team in desperate need of offensive firepower, as well as a legitimate playoff contender.

Milwaukee is currently in the East's eighth spot, ahead of the free-falling Knicks. All-Star Carmelo Anthony, after expressing his frustration with New York's current state, reportedly told sources close to him that he's open to being traded, just one year after a drawn-out saga that brought him to the Big Apple--and with the high-powered backcourt of Ellis and point guard Brandon Jennings, along with the recent strong play of emerging force Ersan Ilyasova and fellow big man Drew Gooden in the frontcourt, it's not a stretch to say the Scott Skiles-coached Bucks are a potentially dangerous team and makes the Central Division that much more competitive. It doesn't hurt that the two players they traded away, Bogut and Jackson, were sidelined, due to either injuries, personality clashes with Skiles or a combination of both.

For Golden State, the size-challenged Warriors finally have a defensive anchor in the middle, assuming Bogut can get healthy again, and the backcourt logjam is cleared up, as point guard Stephen Curry is the clear-cut primary ballhandler and scorer, with rookie Klay Thompson next to him on the wing. Jackson, ironically, teamed up with Ellis the last time the Warriors were in the postseason, on the "We Believe" Warriors team that historically upset the top-seeded Mavericks in the first round back in 2007.

While many observers believed this year's trade deadline would be a quiet one, league scuttlebutt has several more impactful deals on the table. Following his team's win over Miami in overtime Tuesday, Howard gave the Magic a tentative vote of confidence, but with him never indicating that he intends to stay in Orlando for the long term, it is thought that he could still be on the move.

One place he's unlikely to end up is Chicago, though multiple reports have the Bulls interested in Gasol, although the Lakers are reportedly unwilling to take back more salary and for the two teams to complete a deal, Carlos Boozer would probably have to be included. As a result, a third team would need to be willing to help facilitate a trade, as the Lakers reportedly desire a star-quality player, in addition to a starting-caliber point guard, if they were to lose Gasol.

It would seem far-fetched that the Bulls, sporting the league's best record, would be willing to break up their chemistry in the middle of the season, but with a chance to potentially upgrade at a position where they would hold an advantage over the Heat--their opponent Wednesday night and whether head coach Tom Thibodeau wants to admit it or not, their measuring stick--it can't be ruled out. It's the trade deadline, after all, so until 3 P.M. Eastern time Thursday, expect the unexpected.

After last season's personal tragedy, Tim Anderson ready to unleash real self

After last season's personal tragedy, Tim Anderson ready to unleash real self

GLENDALE, AZ --  There’s a different Tim Anderson at White Sox spring training this year.

You can see it on his face  You can hear it in his voice.

“I’m busting out of the shell. I’m talking more,” he said as he sat down for an interview with NBC Sports Chicago (in the video above).

It’s not the new Tim Anderson. It turns out, it’s the real one that’s been there all along.

“This is me. It’s always been me. I never knew how to express myself. I feel like I’m being a lot more open,” Anderson explained. “That’s what I want to give to fans. Let them know the real me. You’re cheering for me. Why not know me? I’m being open and kind of let fans into my life.”

The White Sox shortstop has learned a lot about life in the past year. It all started in May when the White Sox were in Baltimore to play the Orioles. Anderson received a phone call at 4 a.m. It was news from back home.

It was the worst phone call of his life.

His best friend Branden Moss had been murdered in the parking lot of a Tuscaloosa, Ala., bar after helping the victim of a fight.  

The two were like brothers. Anderson is the godfather to Moss’s young daughter. Moss was the godfather to Anderson’s 2-year-old daughter.

“It was heartbreaking,” Anderson said.

While Anderson grieved, playing baseball seemed like it would be a perfect escape for his pain. Only it wasn’t. Far from it.  Baseball might have made things even worse.

In fast-paced sports like football and hockey, players don’t have much time to think. It’s react, react, react. Whatever might be happening off the field feels like a million miles away.

Not in baseball.

The game moves at a much slower speed. There’s plenty of time for your mind to wander. Thoughts kept going back to Anderson’s lost friend, taken from him in an instant.

At 23, he didn’t have the tools to deal with the emotional pain and excel at baseball at the same time.

“The year was rough. I wasn’t having fun in between the lines. I was making the game harder than it was. I was thinking too much. I was feeling sorry for myself and the list can go on. When my friend died it definitely took a lot out of me. I had a dark moment,” Anderson said. “Some days I didn’t feel comfortable coming to the ballpark because I knew it was going to be a bad day.”

Making matters worse, there were many nights when Anderson didn’t sleep. Not a wink. Still, he dragged himself to the ballpark and somehow tried to play.

The results weren’t pretty. On June 22, Anderson already had 16 errors at shortstop, most in the majors. At the plate, he was hitting .256/.284/.374 with six home runs and 19 RBIs.

He knew he was better than that. He also knew something else: He needed help.

In July, Anderson started meeting with a therapist who was able to unlock the pent up thoughts and emotions that he was burying inside him.

The therapist would write down everything that Anderson was feeling on paper and then read it back to him.

“Just going in and talking and pouring everything out of you. It lets you hear what you’ve been going through,“ Anderson said. “When she did it, it was a lot. I took what she read to me, balled it up and threw it away. I got lighter. It was a brightening. Those counseling sessions definitely helped me.”

Soon, Anderson was back to being himself both on and off the field.

In the month of August, he had 8 doubles, 5 home runs and 16 RBI.

“Woof. I was hot,” he said after hearing those stats. “That’s Tim. That’s more Tim that we need to see.”

In September, he batted .327 with 3 home runs and 9 stolen bases.

“We need a lot of that this year. That’s the way I want to go. That’s the way I want to go about it. Get back to what got me here.”

There was still an issue with his plate discipline. He had 32 strikeouts and only 1 walk in September.

“We play a tough sport as it is. They’re going to come,” Anderson said about the walks. “I mean, when I walk more, what are you going to tell me? ‘Start swinging more?’ It’s one of those things. It’s a give and take. We’ll see what happens.”

In 2017, Anderson received a crash course in adversity. What did he learn from all that pain and misery?

“Tough times happen, but they don’t last forever.”

Now that he’s survived the personal storm from last season, he wants “another shot at it. I feel like last year went left. This is new season.”

So, what does he envision for himself in 2018?

“Having fun, smiling a lot, picking up my teammates, hugging on the coaches and players. A lot of love, more so than stats,” Anderson said. “I’m fired up. I’m excited. I feel like I’m ready to lead this pack. We got a great group of guys. We’ve got a chance to do something special.”

Injuries affecting Fire's preseason with season three weeks away

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USA TODAY

Injuries affecting Fire's preseason with season three weeks away

It may be a good thing that the Fire’s originally scheduled season opener March 3 at Colorado got moved back.

The Fire’s preseason has been riddled with injuries to key players and the extra week may end up being needed to get the team ready for the season. Four players (not counting the already known long-term injuries to Michael de Leeuw and Djordje Mihailovic) sat out Saturday’s game against Florida Gulf Coast University due to injury: Daniel Johnson (a right ankle injury suffered in a game against Philadelphia on Feb. 8), Grant Lillard (left knee), Matt Polster (left knee) and Luis Solignac (left hip).

Polster’s injury is especially notable because he has had recurring left knee problems since first suffering a sprain in the 2016 season finale at Toronto. Polster missed the first nine games of 2017 due to the injury and missed three more in August due to a related injury.

The 24-year-old, who is now the longest tenured player on the team and the only player remaining from before general manager Nelson Rodriguez’s tenure began at the end of the 2015 season, arrived with the Fire after playing with the U.S. national team in January. He played all 90 minutes on Jan. 28 against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Bastian Schweinsteiger still hasn’t played in the preseason and the team hasn’t listed him as injured.

All the absences, combined with rest for some of the team’s regulars, resulted in a starting lineup against Florida Gulf Coast that featured two players who have appeared in an official match with the Fire. Three trialists and four draft picks started.

Four of the Fire’s seven scheduled preseason matches are in the books. The Fire lost 2-1 to Montreal on Feb. 14. One of the bright spots was a rare set piece goal after the Fire trailed the Impact 2-0. Dax McCarty headed in a free kick from Diego Campos. Campos has been dangerous on set pieces, hitting the post with a free kick and assisting a goal from a corner kick in Saturday’s 2-0 win against Florida Gulf Coast.

Next up is a match against USL expansion team Nashville SC on Feb. 21. Next Saturday the Fire play at Orlando to finish up play in Florida.

The Fire close out the preseason March 3 against the team’s USL affiliate, Tulsa, at Toyota Park before the season opener on March 10.