Bulls

Unhappy WR returns to Vikings

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Unhappy WR returns to Vikings

From Comcast SportsNet
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -- The sun was bright, the breeze was blowing and smiles were abundant as the Minnesota Vikings wrapped up their offseason program. Percy Harvin was back on the field Thursday morning, laughing with teammates and participating fully in the last practice of minicamp. That frustration with the organization he described sternly but vaguely earlier in the week was not apparent by his demeanor. Harvin's request to be traded, followed by his absence Wednesday afternoon from the mandatory session, was shelved for a while even if it's unresolved. "It's a new day today," head coach Leslie Frazier said, ever eager to try to avoid talking about his star wide receiver's still-unexplained discontent. "The fact that he was engaged and working to help us win, that's where my focus is. Just glad that he was participating in what we're doing. You move forward." Harvin declined to be interviewed as he jogged to the locker room -- "talk later," he said -- but tweeted an hour later to say, "I'm really clueless on the crazy reports." Harvin went on to declare Thursday's practice "great" and told his fans he'd see them in Mankato, where the Vikings report to training camp July 26. He wasn't specific about his promised arrival, but he sure made that sound like he's not planning to hold out. "I just assume that he'll be here," quarterback Christian Ponder said. "It's not my job to handle it. The front office will handle it, and they're going to do a great job. We know that Percy is a heck of a player, and we like being around him, and he's been out here practicing like nothing's wrong, and that's what we like to see. He still cares about being here." Ponder said he and Harvin spoke about getting together in Florida over the next couple of weeks, joking to reporters he'll do whatever he can to keep Harvin happy, including dinner, a movie or bowling. "Everything seemed normal. This kind of came out of nowhere, so I'm not really sure what the issues are. But I'm sure they'll get worked out," Ponder said. Frazier said he spoke briefly with Harvin but again declined to explain exactly why the hard-nosed, multi-skilled, fourth-year player is unhappy. General manager Rick Spielman said Wednesday the Vikings have no interest in dealing Harvin, who has two seasons left on his rookie contract. Harvin said on Twitter Wednesday that his situation is not about money. But the way Spielman, Frazier and Harvin's teammates have spoken about addressing and resolving this made it sound like at least some of it is. Harvin is recovering from supposedly minor shoulder surgery, and Frazier also said the team kept him off limits from contact so he didn't fall and aggravate the joint. "He leaves going home feeling confident that things are moving in the right direction. We feel confident things are moving in the right direction," Frazier said. "So that was really good to see." Just what the "right direction" means is open to interpretation. "He wants the same thing that we want. We all want to bring a championship to Minnesota. He wants that in the worst way, and that's one of the most important things, that we all want the same thing," Frazier said. Frazier also said he expects "100 percent" participation from his team when training camp starts and that he still has a solid relationship with Harvin. "There will always be things you have to work though. I think that will always be the case with players and coaches," Frazier said. The rest of the receiver group is largely unsettled or at least unproven, which made Harvin's complaints this week more jarring. Michael Jenkins has a reliable track record as a complementary player, but he's coming off a season-ending knee injury. Greg Childs and Jarius Wright bring potential, but they're fourth-round draft picks. Jerome Simpson has shown a lot of ability since signing with the Vikings in April, but he'll be suspended for the first three games. This makes Ponder's second-year development that much more important. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's goal for him in these spring practices was a 75 percent completion rate on first and second downs, and Ponder said he thinks he surpassed that mark this week. He's up to 233 pounds, from 212 at the start of offseason workouts, so he plans to lose a few before training camp so he doesn't sacrifice mobility. "For me the biggest improvement I saw was picking up blitzes and learning how to do that and recognizing things a lot better," Ponder said. "I think the game's really slowed down ... for me."

Lauri Markkanen nearly 'Finnishes' in Skills Challenge against former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie

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USA TODAY

Lauri Markkanen nearly 'Finnishes' in Skills Challenge against former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie

Los Angeles—Lauri Markkanen called himself “The Finnisher” when asked what the movie of his life would be called.

Apparently, that moniker didn’t apply to the All-Star Skills challenge as he took down the best big men but couldn’t close against a former Bull, Spencer Dinwiddie, in the final.

The contest highlights players’ ability to dribble around cones shaped like NBA logos, throwing a chest pass into a net while having to complete a layup and then 3-pointer before their opponent does.

Markkanen took down Detroit’s Andre Drummond and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid before facing off with Dinwiddie. He held a pose after hitting a triple to beat the uber confident Embiid, in what will likely be used as a memorable gif following the weekend.

His confidence doesn’t come across as blatantly as Embiid’s, but that snapshot shows he’s no humble star in the making. He didn’t even practice for the contest, by his own admission.

“I heard some of the guys did,” Markkanen said. “I didn’t do much, just before the competition, I did a little warm-up.”

Missing on the first pass attempt into the circular net in the final, it gave Dinwiddie the advantage he wouldn’t relinquish, hitting on his second 3-point attempt before Markkanen could make it downcourt to contest.

“It’s a lot harder than I’ve seen,” Markkanen said. “I thought it was gonna be super easy but it was kind of tough. Maybe I need to hold my follow through (on the pass).”

“I saw he missed (the first shot) and I started going. I thought he would’ve missed it too. I think I would’ve gotten it on the third shot.”

Being one of the multi-dimensional big men in today’s game who can be adept on the perimeter as well as the interior, it almost seems like the contest was made for Markkanen. Although he doesn’t do much handling in Fred Hoiberg’s offense, it’s clearly a skill he will develop as time goes on.

The last two winners of the skills challenge were Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis, and Markkanen was well aware of the recent trend.

“The last two years the bigs have won,” Markkanen said. “I’m kind of pissed that I couldn’t keep the streak going after (those two). I think there’s a lot of guys who can do that now, it’s why they changed the format to bigs versus smalls.”

For Dinwiddie, who was discarded by the Bulls last season after a promising start in the preseason so they could pick up R.J. Hunter, he’s taken advantage of an opportunity with Brooklyn.

“I think for Chicago it was just another series of unfortunate events,” he said. “They were in win-now mode. I was an unproven guard on a non-guaranteed contract and they felt Michael Carter-Williams gave them a better shot to win.”

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.”