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GM Rick Hahn says White Sox poised to make jump

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GM Rick Hahn says White Sox poised to make jump

CHICAGO (AP) White Sox general manager Rick Hahn figured the first question would be about catcher A.J. Pierzynski. The last one caught him off guard.

As Friday's Q and A session with fans was wrapping up, a familiar figure stepped to the microphone and let this one rip: ``Do you think you're going to do a better or worse job than the last guy?'' Ken Williams asked as the crowd laughed.

``That's not fair, he had a better support staff,'' Hahn said.

Hahn is no longer in a supporting role. He's standing right there in the spotlight as the White Sox try to make a jump in the AL Central, even though they've made no flashy additions this offseason.

They even lost a link to their 2005 championship team.

Still, Hahn sees a squad in good shape after finishing second to Detroit last season, even if the White Sox don't look much different this year. Besides re-signing Jake Peavy and parting ways with Pierzynski, the biggest move during the offseason was Hahn getting promoted from assistant general manager to GM and Williams being bumped up to executive vice president.

Otherwise, there were no dramatic changes to the roster. There's a perception that this was a rather slow offseason for Chicago, and Hahn understands that.

It doesn't necessarily mean he agrees.

``Fundamentally, all of us in my department are fans,'' he said. ``We understand the reaction to a move or a lack of a move. Perfect example is the decision not to bring back A.J. All of us react to that on a fan level. All the guys from `05 hold a special place in our heart. ... All those guys will always have a special spot for each of us - not to mention a guy like A.J. who was with us for eight years and had a tremendous amount of success.

``All of us, I think, have that fan reaction when he winds up somewhere else,'' Hahn continued. ``Ultimately, though, it's on us to do what we feel is best in terms of maximizing wins over a longer period of time than responding emotionally or sentimentally. Yeah, it's something that we're aware of, but it's not going to be something that ultimately drives decision making, as much as what we feel is going to maximize our wins.''

He praised Pierzynski and said parting with the veteran catcher was tough but necessary if the White Sox were going to make a jump in the division. That's something Hahn believes they are in position to do after winning 85 games and spending 117 days in first place last season.

It won't be easy with Victor Martinez returning for the Tigers after missing all of 2012 with a knee injury, and Torii Hunter now in Detroit's outfield.

The White Sox can counter with a deep rotation that includes Peavy, who re-signed for $29 million over two years. Chris Sale is coming off a 17-win season and last year's opening-day starter, John Danks, is poised to return from left shoulder surgery.

Chicago also thinks Tyler Flowers is ready to take over for Pierzynski. That's one reason the 36-year-old catcher is now in Texas. He signed a $7.5 million, one-year contract with the Rangers after hitting 27 homers with 77 RBIs last season, both career highs.

Other reasons Hahn cited were the need to retain Peavy and to fill holes at third base and in the bullpen.

The White Sox addressed that need in the infield by signing Jeff Keppinger and brought in Matt Lindstrom to help in relief, a move they announced on Friday.

Splashy moves? Hardly.

But Hahn insisted they were moves that needed to be made. Throw in the organization's faith in Flowers, a solid defensive catcher, and Pierzynski was sort of the odd man out.

The question is, can Flowers hit? He batted just .213 in 52 games last season.

Another issue: The lineup is loaded with righties, one notable exception being Adam Dunn, particularly now that Pierzynski is gone.

Hahn said the White Sox are interested in adding a left-handed hitter if it's ``the right fit.''

``We're not going to make a move just because it looks good in January to say we addressed a perceived need,'' Hahn said.

Paul Konerko's future is also in question.

The veteran slugger enters his 15th season in Chicago and 17th in the majors with a contract set to expire after this year. As much as he would love to finish his career in Chicago, he's also seen the club part with mainstays such as Pierzynski and Mark Buehrle in recent years.

``There are so many moving parts to it all,'' Konerko said. ``You can't handicap or gauge how it's going to go. I don't know what's going to happen, how I'm going to feel seven months from now. There are a lot of heavy thoughts there. The main thing is just trying to go out and have a good season.''

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Bradley Beal makes most of his opportunity in first All-Star Game

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Associated Press

Bradley Beal makes most of his opportunity in first All-Star Game

Bradley Beal may have had a slow start in the three-point contest on Saturday night, but in Sunday's All-Star Game he worked quickly to make the most of his relatively small window of playing time.

Beal checked in for the first time with 5:45 left in the first quarter and less than 25 seconds later had his first points on a two-handed dunk assisted by LeBron James.

In his All-Star debut, Beal helped lead Team LeBron to a 148-145 victory over Team Stephen as the league utilizied a new format for the annual showcase.

RELATED: BEAL BOUNCED EARLY IN THREE-POINT CONTEST

Beal finished with 14 points and a steal in a productive night. He shot 5-for-10 from the field and an impressive 4-for-8 from long range. 

Beal also tried to get a travelling call from the refs on Karl-Anthony Towns. Yeah, that's not likely to happen in an All-Star Game:

Beal more than held his own and only played 16 minutes, which was good considering he has logged the fifth-most minutes of any player so far this season. A realistic best-case scenario was a strong showing and a short night and that's exactly what he got.

Not only does Beal play a lot of minutes, the Wizards need him now more than ever with John Wall's injury. He needs whatever rest he can get during this All-Star break.

Speaking of Wall, he was in the house despite being in the middle of his rehab from left knee surgery. Per usual, Wall was shining bright:

RELATED: BEST WIZARDS/BULLETS MOMENTS ON ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT

The All-Star Game wasn't all about Beal, of course. Here are some other things that stood out...

*The new format and increased financial incentive were intended to make the game more competitive and that's what happened late in the fourth quarter. Usually, that's how these things go where the players will start trying at the end. But this time it seemed to be up a few levels and it was fun to watch. 

Both teams scored in the 140s, so it wasn't exactly a defensive battle. No matter what the league does, the players will only try so hard for so long. The main goal of everyone's is to not get injured in a game that ultimately doesn't count for anything. Still, this was different and appears to have been a success.

*While everyone was focusing on the reunion of LeBron and Kyrie Irving the best beef was Joel Embiid vs. Russell Westbrook. Those two have traded waves to taunt each other at the end of wins in head-to-head matchups and it was clear on Sunday they still don't like each other. Westbrook tried to dunk all over Embiid in the first half, only to get blocked at the rim.

Westbrook's determination to dunk on Embiid was out of the ordinary for an All-Star Game. It was obvious what was on his mind:

*Irving's handles are simply ridiculous. Check out this fake behind-the-back move he pulled with Giannis Antetkounmpo guarding him. Yes, it didn't fool the defender but it was impressive nonetheless:

*LeBron is 33 years old, yet he was still running up and down the court faster than anyone and leaping above the rim to thrown down alley-oop after alley-oop. It is truly amazing and everyone should enjoy watching him while they can, regardless of whether they like the guy or not.

This was one of his dunks:

LeBron took home MVP with a game-high 29 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and a steal.

*The pregame show was quite bad. It was anchored by comedians Kevin Hart and Rob Riggle and, though they had some funny jokes, it lasted nearly 30 minutes. The whole thing was pretty much universally panned on social media. Fergie's national anthem was also roasted by the masses.

*The halftime show was much better. It began with N.E.R.D taking it back to their older days with 'Lapdance,' went to Migos performing 'Stir Fry' and swung back to N.E.R.D. who did their latest hit 'Lemon.' 

RELATED: LATEST 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT

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The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

Whoever put together the NBA All-Star Game player introductions has some 'splainin to do. 

The NBA introduced a kinda-full Staples Center to their 2018 All-Stars about an hour ago, and boy was it weird. There were a lot of dancers in different themed costumes. Kevin Hart was screaming. Rob Riggle was screaming. Ludacris showed up? Hey! Did you know that the Barenaked Ladies are still a band? The NBA would like you to know they're still around.  The whole thing was like when you're at an art museum and you're told that abstract piece in the corner is actually really meaningful but you gotta be honest, you don't get it. 

Anyways, the internet hated it. Here are some highlights from the internet hating it:

The lesson here is that you never need Kevin Hart and Rob Riggle. One will do.