Preps Talk

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.

High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

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High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

High School Lites featured plenty of great action on Friday night as NBC Sports Chicago had highlights of many of the area's top matchups. Some playoff dreams came to fruition while others crashed and burned. 

Watch tomorrow as the IHSA playoff brackets are revealed tomorrow on NBC Sports Chicago+ at 8 p.m. Be sure to also follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for all of the latest IHSA football scores and highlights. 

DRIVE: Prairie Ridge: Episode 10

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Back of the Yards QB Jeremiah Harris

St. Xavier Team of the Week: De La Salle Meteors

Friday's Top 25 Games

No. 1 Lincoln-Way East 18, No. 19 Bolingbrook 14 

No. 2 Prairie Ridge 55, Dundee-Crown 14

No. 3 Maine South 56, Niles West 9

No. 4 Marist 42, Joliet Catholic 14

No. 5 Lake Zurich , Mundelein

No. 6 Phillips 53, Clark 0

No. 9 Homewood-Flossmoor 50, Sandburg 14

No. 10 Barrington 40, Conant 19

No. 11 Huntley 45, McHenry 7

No. 12 Naperville Central 35, Lake Park 21

No. 13 Hinsdale Central 42, Hinsdale South 14

No. 24 St. Charles North 35, No. 14 Batavia 28

No. 16 Wheaton North 20, Waubonsie Valley 10

No. 17 Crete-Monee 52, Cahokia 8

No. 18 St. Rita 47, Marmion 14

No. 20 Lyons 31, Oak Park-River Forest 14

No. 21 Nazareth 48, Marian Catholic 7

No. 22 Oswego 30, Plainfield Central 0

Mount Carmel 35, No. 23 Providence 34

Other Highlights

Tinley Park 29, Evergreen Park 0

T.F. South 21, Oak Forest 14

Glenbard North 24, Neuqua Valley 14

St. Edward 29, Wheaton Academy 28

Marian Central Catholic 44, St. Patrick 21

Saturday's Top 25 Games

No. 7 Loyola vs. Brother Rice

No. 8 Glenbard West vs. Proviso West

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Theo Epstein answered questions from the Chicago media for more than an hour on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field, but the most interesting part might have been what the Cubs president didn’t say, something along the lines of: These are our guys.

Or at least Epstein didn’t give the same full-throated endorsement of The Core that he delivered after engineering the Jose Quintana trade with the White Sox this summer, getting an All-Star pitcher without giving up anyone from the big-league roster.

Whether it’s the way the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs throughout the National League Championship Series that ended Thursday night, the inconsistencies and frustrations during a 43-45 first half of this season or the reality of losing 40 percent of the rotation, you walked out of that stadium club press conference thinking big changes could be coming.

“We’re going to pursue all avenues to get better,” Epstein said.

The Cubs already understood this would be a challenging time to dramatically reshape their pitching staff, with Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Big Boy John Lackey and All-Star closer Wade Davis about to become free agents.

The Cubs don’t really have many (any?) high-end, headliner prospects left to trade after borrowing heavily from their farm system to acquire Aroldis Chapman for last year’s World Series run and get Quintana to help solidify the rotation through 2020.

All of Major League Baseball is looking beyond this winter and preparing for the monster free-agent class that will hit the open market after the 2018 season.

Meaning it’s time for the Cubs to make some difficult decisions about all these young hitters they’ve collected.

“It may or may not be,” Epstein said. “Those choices, they’re not unilateral things. You can’t sit there and decide: ‘Hey, this guy, we’re moving him.’ Because you don’t know what the return might be. You don’t know how the different moving parts might fit together.

“I think going into the offseason prepared to make some tough choices and execute on them — and keeping an open mind to anything — is appropriate under the circumstances where we have some obvious deficits and we have some real surplus with talented players who are really desirable.”

Let’s assume All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo, MVP third baseman Kris Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras are essentially untouchable.

The Cubs used the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft on Ian Happ with the explicit idea that the college hitter should be on a fast track and could be flipped for pitching later: Is it time to sell high after the rookie just put up 24 homers and an .842 OPS?

During an exit meeting with Albert Almora Jr., Epstein said he couldn’t promise an everyday job in 2018, though the expectation would be more responsibilities: Think anyone else would be interested in a potential Gold Glove center fielder who’s already playoff-tested?

Do you want Addison Russell or Javier Baez as your everyday shortstop for the next four years? Is there an American League team willing to bet big that Kyle Schwarber will crush 40 homers a year as a designated hitter?

The Cubs have to ask themselves those types of questions, which could mean getting outside of their comfort zone and taking on some riskier pitching investments and sapping the strength that has turned them into the dominant force in the NL Central.

“We’ve really benefitted from having two or three extra — and ‘extra’ in quotes because they’re not really extra — starting-caliber players on the roster,” Epstein said. “That helped us win 97 games in ’15, 103 last year, 92 this year. That’s as big a part of the club as anything.

“Having an Addison Russell go down and being able to move Javy Baez to shortstop — that’s an obvious example of it. But those things show up every week for us. There’s a day where someone can’t make the lineup and someone else slides in and you’re still starting eight quality guys. That’s huge.

“Sooner or later, you reach a point where you have to strongly consider sacrificing some of that depth to address needs elsewhere on the club. There’s no sort of deadline to do that. But I think we’re entering the phase where we have to be really open-minded to that if it makes the overall outlook of the team and organization better.”

Translation: The Cubs are open for business. Make your best offer.