From Comcast SportsNetBOSTON (AP) -- Hawaiian Shane Victorino was so excited to arrive in Boston in the chill of December he ordered some New England clam chowder at dinner and sent a picture to his Twitter followers.That's when he got his first lesson."It's CHOWDA, Shane!" Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury corrected him."That was the first real message from Jacoby for Boston," Victorino said Thursday at a news conference to announce the 39 million, three-year deal he agreed to at the winter meetings. "I've got to learn the lingo."Victorino joins Ellsbury in the Red Sox outfield, with the opportunity to replace the 2011 AL MVP runner-up when Ellsbury's contract expires at the end of next season. In the meantime, Victorino is slotted for right field, where he has not played regularly since 2007."I always look at it as, I'm going to help this team win,'" Victorino said. "I came in as a right fielder. ... Don't get me wrong, I love center field, I want to be a center fielder, but I play right. I'm excited for the opportunity. I might wrap myself around that pole, but if I've got to go get the ball I've got to go get it."Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said adding a "center field-quality right fielder" was one of his goals for the offseason. It's also been important to add players who can improve the chemistry of a team that collapsed in September 2011 and never got in position to collapse in 2012."He fits perfectly into our short- and long-term plan," Cherington said. "He's been an outstanding performer for a lot of years in a tough place to play. He's been a big part of great teams. We're thrilled to add him to our team and to our clubhouse."Victorino said he followed the problems in Boston from afar, and he thinks the chemistry problems can be solved by winning."The last two years have definitely been tough for the Red Sox, the organization. But I look forward to 2013 and being the team we could be," he said, noting that he experienced his own disappointment this fall after making the playoffs five years in a row. "I fell short last year. It wasn't fun to be home at the beginning of October."Nicknamed the Flyin' Hawaiian, Victorino is a .275 hitter with 90 homers in seven full seasons. He came up to the major leagues with San Diego but played most of his career with Philadelphia before he was sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the July 31 trade deadline."I always said Fenway was one of my favorites-- there and Wrigley, because of the tradition," he said from an event room in the ballpark, where the scoreboard welcomed him to Boston. "To call this home for the next three years, I'm ecstatic."There is no convincing. It's Boston; that, in itself, says it all. It's the Red Sox. It's a historic franchise."Victorino said his experience with the demanding Phillies fans should also help prepare him for Boston."I'm hoping it's not worse than Philly," he said. "I hope it's not that tough because that was a very tough market. I played in Philly all those years. That was a trying experience."Also Thursday, Cherington said he had nothing to announce on Mike Napoli, the catcher-first baseman who also agreed to a 39 million, three-year deal during the winter meetings, pending a physical. That contract has yet to be announced."Our hope is that we'll be able to resolve the issues," Cherington said. "We're working on it."Cherington did not comment on negotiations with Ryan Dempster, who finished last season with the Texas Rangers. Later Thursday, the team reached an agreement with him on a two-year, 26.5 million deal, according to two people familiar with the negotiations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because the deal was pending a physical."We're engaged with a pitcher," Cherington said, without mentioning Dempster by name. "That's all I can say at this point."
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.”