Cubs

Ask Aggrey: Should the Bulls sign Mike James?

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Ask Aggrey: Should the Bulls sign Mike James?

As we enter a challenging week for the Bulls -- Monday night features "Linsanity" and the Knicks, followed by a much-anticipated showdown with the Heat Wednesday, not to mention Kurt Thomas' return when Portland comes into town Friday and another showdown with the 76ers Saturday -- I'm a bit preoccupied. Not only does the NCAA Tournament start this week (I like the chances of both of my teams, alma mater Temple and hometown favorite Georgetown, though I wish they weren't in the same region), but the high school basketball season is coming to a close. I'll likely take the short trip to Chicago State Tuesday to see if Simeon can knock off Evanston for a shot to go Downstate and win a third straight Illinois 4A title; if you haven't seen Jabari Parker play yet, why are you procrastinating?

Anyway, there's still good old NBA basketball going on and the annual drama of the upcoming trade deadline, although I think this season's could be quieter than most. I could be wrong, but from conversations with a variety of people, it doesn't seem like any blockbuster deals (read: Dwight Howard trade) will go down. Bulls fans, in particular, shouldn't be overly concerned, as I truly believe they'll stand pat. Of course, by putting that on paper, I've probably jinxed it and will lose all credibility. Regardless, while I still have a shred of believability left, enjoy this week's edition of my answers to your questions.

Any chance the Bulls make a run at Ray Allen? -- David G.
David, slim to none. Now, I do think Boston will at least explore trading Allen, as well as Kevin Garnett -- Paul Pierce, the other member of the "Big Three," is a long-shot to be moved, while Rajon Rondo's reputation has reportedly scared off other teams -- but I don't think Chicago is a likely future destination for the sharpshooter. Bulls fans have been a bit panicky with Rip Hamilton's injury situation, but I believe the front office will stand pat at the upcoming trade deadline. If anything, a minor move for a backup big man could take place, but I can't see the Bulls being willing to trade enough assets to meet the Celtics' asking price for Allen, even if they were interested.

What do you attribute the regression of Omer's play to this year? Do you think he still has "starter" potential in the NBA? -- Benjamin N.
Benjamin, I'm probably one of Omer's biggest advocates and have consistently defended him all season, but even I have to admit that his offense has taken a step back, especially as of late. He just doesn't seem confident in the low post and has gone back to making mistakes (not protecting the ball, repeated pump fakes) that I thought he was starting to eliminate a while back. That said, he's still a defensive force, although that might not be noticeable to casual observers. The way he closes down the lane and has an intimidating presence shouldn't be overlooked. Additionally, his size off the bench is one of the Bulls' biggest advantages when looking at a potential playoff matchup with Miami. I think Omer's leg injury at the end of last season, combined with having to play almost immediately afterward for Turkey in the FIBA EuroBasket event, not having significant time to rehab the injury and rust from the lockout are all factors to his regression, but his youth and defensive acumen alone are traits other teams salivate over. This is no longer the Shaq-Ewing-Robinson-Olajuwon era of centers in the NBA (let alone guys like Dikembe Mutombo or even a Rik Smits), so yes, I do believe Omer still has starter potential, particularly on a team with a go-to scorer at power forward and a strong perimeter cast.
Do you think the Bulls should sign Mike James for the remainder of the season? -- @Wynton_Mohorn

Wynton, without a doubt. He's already familiar with both the system and his teammates, something I know Thibs values. Mike also adds toughness, experience, more size than John Lucas III, the ability, like C.J. Watson, to play on and off the ball and in this injury-riddled season, some insurance in the backcourt. I think it's a near-lock that he rejoins the team, as soon as later this week.

Who is your early pick for Rookie of the Year? -- Tyrone E.

Tyrone, with Ricky Rubio now out for the season after his unfortunate ACL injury, I think it's a no-brainer that Kyrie Irving takes home top-rookie honors. Although Rubio's impact in turning around Minnesota can't be denied, I already favored Irving because of the fact that he immediately became Cleveland's best player, while Rubio has help from the likes of Kevin Love and isn't counted on to score. It's doubtful that the Cavs make the playoffs, but the fact that they're even in contention, even in the top-heavy East, should be credited almost solely to Irving, who doesn't exactly have the strongest supporting cast and has had to battle without the services of the injured Anderson Varejao, the team's second-best player.

With the NCAA Tournament kicking off next week, what's your Final Four pick? -- Cooper W.

Cooper, I'm going with Kentucky, Syracuse, Missouri and...Georgetown. That last pick might seem suspect to some -- and I admit that I'm a life-long Hoyas fan, though I'll abstain from rooting if they somehow matchup with Temple, my alma mater; it's like picking between your children -- but I like their chances in a region with North Carolina, which is dealing with an ill-timed injury to defensive anchor John Henson, and Kansas, who Georgetown suffered a narrow loss to early in the season, before its young players had gotten the hang of things. If my Final Four predictions end up coming true, I think Georgetown can make it to the national-championship game, as I believe they'll get revenge over Syracuse in a Big East rematch. Speaking of Syracuse, I think they have a pretty favorable bracket, as their overall talent, zone defense, size and experience will make them a tough out. I believe Missouri's frenetic style of play will be too tough for anybody in their region and Kentucky is simply an overwhelming college squad. In fact, I think John Calipari will finally win his first NCAA title this season, led by Chicago native Anthony Davis.

Keep the questions -- whether theyre about the Bulls, the rest of the NBA, other levels of basketball or life in general -- coming. Youll get a much better explanation, though not as instant, than you would via Twitter with only 140 characters. You can submit a question by commenting on this article below or by clicking here.

Chili Davis after being ousted by Cubs: 'There were multiple players in there I didn't connect with'

Chili Davis after being ousted by Cubs: 'There were multiple players in there I didn't connect with'

Chili Davis didn't go all scorched earth on the Cubs in a recent interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, but he had quite a lot to say after being ousted by the organization after just one year as the hitting coach.

The Cubs made Davis the scapegoat for an offense that faded down the stretch, struggling for the entire second half and scoring just 1 run in three of the final four games of the year.

When he was hired a year ago, Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon talked up Davis' impressive resume that includes a 19-year MLB career, two separate stints as a successful hitting coach with the Oakland A's and Boston Red Sox and a philosophy that they hoped would withstand the test of time in the game today, preaching more contact and using the opposite field.

Throughout the 2018 season, Maddon often commended Davis for his ability to communicate with players, particularly in the area of mental approach to each at-bat.

Now that the dust has settled a bit on his firing, Davis felt he had some issues getting through to some Cubs players.

I learned a lot this year," Davis told the Sun-Times' Gordon Wittenmyer. "I learned that the next situation I get in, before I say yes to a job, I need to make sure I know the personnel I'll be dealing with in the clubhouse. I hope the next guy connects better with the players, because I felt that there were multiple players there I didn't connect with. It wasn't that I didn't try; it just wasn't there.

The Cubs hired Anthony Iapoce as their new hitting coach Monday afternoon. Iapoce comes over from the Rangers and has a direct link to John Mallee, who was the Cubs' hitting coach for three seasons before being let go when Davis became available last winter. 

Iapoce also spent three seasons with the Cubs as a special assistant to the GM, overseeing the organization's minor-league hitting from 2013-15. Presumably, he found a way over those years to connect with the Cubs' top young hitting prospects — guys like Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber and Willson Contreras that are now leading the big-league lineup.

Hopefully he has better success at this than I did," Davis said of Iapoce in the Sun-Times article. "But regardless of who's there, certain players there are going to have to make some adjustments because the game's changed and pitchers are pitching them differently. They're not pitching to launch angles and fly balls and all that anymore. They're pitching away from that. They're going to have to make that adjustment whether I'm there or not.

Davis had a whole lot more to say on the matter and I encourage you to read the full interview with Wittenmyer over at ChicagoSunTimes.com.

A healthy Bryant very likely could've changed everything for Davis and the Cubs' 2018 lineup. Contreras hitting like he's capable of in the second half would've made a huge difference, as well.

But the end result is a finish to the 2018 campaign that was viewed universally as a disappointment — particularly in the offensive department — and the Cubs are left with their third different hitting coach in three seasons.

Anton Forsberg on uncertain future with Blackhawks as Corey Crawford nears return

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USA TODAY

Anton Forsberg on uncertain future with Blackhawks as Corey Crawford nears return

The Blackhawks are preparing for Corey Crawford to make his season debut this week after recovering from a concussion since Dec. 23, 2017, when he last made his appearance between the pipes.

That means a decision has to be made on Anton Forsberg, who's serving as the backup to Cam Ward but ranks third on the organizational depth chart in goal with a healthy Crawford. The challenging part of the situation is that Forsberg requires waivers if the Blackhawks want to try sending him down to the American Hockey League and keep him within the organization. But it's beyond his control.

"I have no idea and I don't want to think that way either,” Forsberg told NBC Sports Chicago. “I just want to be focused on getting better every day and try to work hard and put in the work, so hopefully when [my chance] comes, I've done everything I can.”

There are several layers to this, mostly questions: Can the Blackhawks find a trade partner for Forsberg? Would he clear waivers if he's put on there? And if he does, what happens to Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen, both of whom the Blackhawks are looking to take next steps in their development?

One thing is for certain: The Blackhawks do not plan on carrying three goaltenders. But maybe that’s an option for the short term until they see how Crawford handles the load since they have a six games in nine days stretch starting on Thursday.

“Organizationally, he’s one of our group of goaltenders,” coach Joel Quenneville said of Forsberg. “That’s where it’s at. We know the importance of depth in that area is always going to get challenged over the course of a season and we know the importance of the position. We’ll see how that plays out.”

In any profession, it's hard not to think about your future when there's uncertainty regarding your position. But Forsberg is trying to block all that out, no matter how difficult it may be.

"Sometimes it is, but at the same time it's the life of hockey,” he said. “Everybody has been, at some point, in their career probably in that situation. At the end of the day, it's always about yourself and how you can get better and all that. So that's what I'm trying to do.

"I try to come in here every day with a smile on my face. Hockey is the best thing in the world, so I just try to come in here and have fun and do my job. That's it."

If Crawford is ready to return on Thursday, that probably means Forsberg will be placed on waivers Wednesday. If he does get claimed, Forsberg must be on the NHL roster for at least 10 games and/or 30 days before being eligible to go through the waiver process again. So he cannot be stashed in the minors if claimed by another team.

That means his fate really depends on whether an NHL team is in need of an everyday backup goaltender.

"I really have no idea,” Forsberg said of whether or not he believes he would get through waivers. “It all depends on the situations and other teams, where other teams like me, I don't know. I don't want to focus on it. I just want to do my best right now to be prepared for whatever happens."