Cubs

Thibodeau returns to Boston with Bulls

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Thibodeau returns to Boston with Bulls

Friday, Nov. 5, 2010
Updated 4:08 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

The way some folks reacted to Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau not playing Joakim Noah (at all) and Derrick Rose (for the majority of) the fourth quarter in Thursday's home loss to the Knicks, one would think he defaced the Michael Jordan statue in front of the United Center. Still, the fact that the rookie NBA head coach's explanation for holding out his two best players (as well of Luol Deng) when Chicago had a chance to win the game didn't hold water is understandable. After the game, Thibodeau said the second unit got the team back into the game and he didn't want to overuse the starters' energy in closing out to New York's legion of three-point shooters.

Alternate theories include: "Thibs" was trying to teach his starters a lesson and instill more of a defensive mentality in a game where the Knicks hit 16 shots from long range; he didn't believe the Bulls truly had a chance to win the game and instead waved the white flag; Rose, Noah and Deng were being rested for Friday's game at Boston, the second leg of a back-to-back.

While all--or none--of the above lines of thinking could be true (or not), let's take a deep breath for a second. In his fourth game coaching the Bulls, Thibodeau--who was roundly heralded as a defensive guru and the answer from the often-underwhelming coaching strategies of Vinny Del Negro--is already being criticized for giving up. The same Tom Thibodeau who is typically referred to as a workaholic?

The NBA's regular season consists of 82 games, ladies and gentlemen, making it a marathon--not a sprint--as the old saying goes. Since he's certainly well acquainted with the competitive nature of Rose and Noah, it's safe to say that the tail end of Thursday's loss can be chalked up as a teachable moment (maybe for players and coach alike) and promises to at least aid Noah in his interior battles with Kevin Garnett and the aging O'Neals (Shaquille and Jermaine) and Rose with his premier-point matchup against Rajon Rondo.

Now, if the Bulls end up missing the playoffs by a game or get stuck with an unfavorable postseason pairing, we can all point back to this game. But if a guy has spent approximately 20 years waiting for an opportunity to be an NBA head coach, it would be highly illogical to believe he doesn't have big-picture plans to go along with his ideas for the short-term.

Complain about his rotation, his use of Kyle Korver, the team's disappointing defensive showing against the Knicks--anything other than his will to win. Just over a week into the season, it's way too early to throw that type of notion around.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

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: