Cubs

Schanowski: Bulls need to think big this offseason

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Schanowski: Bulls need to think big this offseason

Watching the Conference Finals games over the last few days, I cant help but think about how the Bulls might stack up in future years against the Big 3s put together by Oklahoma City and Miami. Plus, there are a number of other young teams ready to take a jump in the standings next season like the Pacers, Grizzlies, 76ers, Nuggets and Clippers (yes, I know Vinny Del Negro is still coaching!).

So, the larger question is, have the Bulls already maxed out with the talent on the current roster, and should they consider making some major changes this summer to position themselves for a better chance to win the title in the 2013-14 season and beyond?

My friend Sam Smith at Bulls.com wrote an interesting column a couple weeks back basically saying that if Bulls management has decided theyve gone as far as they can with the current roster, they might want to consider trading one of their 10 million plus players for a lottery pick in the upcoming draft. Now, its obvious Derrick Rose is untouchable, and no team is going to touch Carlos Boozers contract (three years left at approximately 45 million), so that leaves Luol Deng and Joakim Noah.

Which teams might be interested in giving up cap space to acquire an All-Star caliber veteran player? Well, we can start with the Toronto Raptors. Their GM Bryan Colangelo had some interesting things to say in an interview with HOOPSWORLD. Colangelo thinks now is the time for the Raptors to add some veteran leadership to a roster loaded with lottery picks. He gave this response to a question about the teams plans for the 8 selection in round one, We are looking to increase the level of experience and thinking that you are going to get all of that at eight in this draft is probably not going to happen. Anything we take at eight is not going to have NBA experience so we are going to be looking at that in various other ways. We have the trade opportunities before July 1, trade opportunities and free agent options after July 1, so we have a lot of different balls up in the air with respect to the options that are going to be there for us.

Which brings us back to the Bulls. Would they be willing to trade Deng for that 8 pick, with back-up guard Jerryd Bayless possibly thrown in as a sweetener to fill in for Rose while he rehabs from knee surgery? The Bulls then could use the pick to grab one of the best college shooters available, like Floridas Bradley Beal, UConns Jeremy Lamb or Dukes Austin Rivers.

Okay, I know what youre asking, why would the Bulls trade an All-Star like Deng for a back-up point guard and a raw rookie? It all goes back to their salary cap situation. Just bringing back last years starting line-up would mean 61 million dollars in salary commitments, which already puts them over the cap for next season. And, when you add in the contracts of Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler and a likely 4-5 million offer sheet for Omer Asik, the Bulls are already up against the 70 million luxury tax threshold with only eight players on the roster. If Bulls management has resigned themselves to not being able to contend with a rehabbing Rose, maybe now is the perfect time to start re-tooling the roster, and getting the cap situation in a better place.

Right now, it looks like the Bulls will decline team options on the contracts of Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Watson for next season because of cap reasons. Getting the chance to replace two of them with 1st round draft picks would save the team a bundle of money, and possibly open up a mid-level exception deal to add a free agent for the bench.

If the Bulls dont trade one of their core players this summer, theyll probably try to find a short-term replacement for Rose by offering the mini mid-level of 2.5 million dollars to a veteran like Kirk Hinrich, Andre Miller or Jason Kidd or possibly go after a young player who doesnt get a big offer in free agency like Raymond Felton, Jonny Flynn or the aforementioned Bayless (RFA).

Then, the major roster changes would likely wait until after the 2013-14 season when Dengs contract expires, the amnesty provision could be used on the final year of Boozers contract, and the Bulls will probably be able to bring prospect Nikola Mirotic over from Europe. With only Rose and Noah on the books at that time with big money contracts, the Bulls would be a player for a major free agent in the summer of 2014 when several stars, including LeBron James could be available.

So, the choice for John Paxson and Gar Forman basically is this: Do you wait for Rose to rehab his knee and hope to make a late season run with the current roster? Or, do you see the possibility of several up-and-coming teams passing you buy while youre locked in with a maxed out roster, and make the decision to try to move a big contract (Deng or Noah) to get the salary cap situation in a better place.

Either way, it figures to be an interesting summer around the NBA, with the two winning-est franchises in league history, the Celtics and Lakers looking to make major changes, and a number of teams looking to pounce on the big name players who should be available like Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, Pau Gasol, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: