White Sox

Bulls' collective effort holds off East-leading Knicks

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Bulls' collective effort holds off East-leading Knicks

In a flashback to the days of the Bench Mob finding improbable ways to win, an even more short-handed Bulls (11-8) team topped the conference-leading Knicks (14-5), 93-85, Saturday night at the United Center.

Led by the a myriad cast of characters playing with heart and selflessness, clutch play and of course, a stout defensive effort, it certainly wasnt pretty, but Bulls held off the best team in the East by exemplifying teamwork, just the way head coach Tom Thibodeau likes it.

A 6-0 Knicks run to start the contestincluding a jumper from former Bull Kurt Thomas, starting in place of the sidelined Carmelo Anthony, alongside another ex-United Center denizen, Ronnie Brewer, at the two forward spots for New Yorkmade it appear as if the hosts simply didnt have enough firepower to keep up with the Eastern Conference leaders.

However, the ever-present rebounding of Joakim Noah (10 points, 11 rebounds) and the three-point shooting of the Kirk Hinrich-Marco Belinelli (22 points, 4-of-6 three-point shooting) backcourt pairing allowed the Bulls to rapidly overtake their guests.

Belinellis outside marksmanship persisted throughout the opening period, but he was countered by the aggressive offensive play of Knicks point guard Raymond Felton (27 points)in the midst of a resurgence now that hes back in New York, after being shipped to Denver in the blockbuster deal for Anthony, then having a nightmare campaign in Portland last seasonand the visitors whittled away at the deficit. New York tied the contest at 23 apiece with seconds remaining in the first quarter after an improbable bank-shot three-pointer by veteran big man Rasheed Wallace, but Belinelli struck again, hitting a buzzer-beater from just beyond halfcourt to give the Bulls a 26-23 advantage at the conclusion of the frame.

Though Belinelli cooled downhow could he not, after scoring 15 first-quarter points?the Knicks did not, as they got contributions from reserves Wallace, sixth-man extraordinaire J.R. Smith (15 points) and sharpshooter Steve Novak, as well as Felton. But the Bulls managed to keep it a close-knit affair, as backup point guard Nate Robinson (14 points, eight assists, six rebounds) and Carlos Boozer (12 points, 10 rebounds) were sources of point production.

A surprise moment occurred when Taj Gibson, generally a happy-go-lucky, if hard-playing type, was whistled for a foul against Novak, then promptly got hit with two technicals in short succession on the way back to the Bulls bench and was ejected. Still, the hosts held it together as Luol Deng (22 points) came alive offensively toward the end of the half and at the intermission, the Bulls had a 43-41 lead.

After the break, the already short-handed Bulls became even more undermanned when Hinrich didnt start the third quarterRobinson filled in for himdue to a left-elbow injury. Behind forwards Deng and Boozer, however, the hosts soldiered on and played the visitors to a draw midway through the period.

Maybe Brewers presence inspired them, but the Bulls gutted out a gritty collective effort, similar to how the Bench Mob would dig deep in the absence of Derrick Rose or other injured stars over the past two seasons, with reserves Robinson and Jimmy Butler (eight points, seven rebounds) each making positive impacts, along with continued solid contributions from Belinelli, a trio the team doesnt absolutely count on to win games. Despite Feltons blend of scoring and playmaking still hurting them on the defensive end and center Tyson Chandler (14 points, 18 rebounds), the reigning league Defensive Player of the Year, controlling the paint, the Bulls headed into the final stanza ahead, 67-65.

Rookie Marquis Teague, who hasnt received meaningful playing time since prior to the Circus Trip, when he held his own against Celtics All-Star Rajon Rondo, had a brief, uneventful stint early in the fourth quarter. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau instead, stuck with his regulars and with Dengs quiet consistency as a clutch scorer, Noah mustering up the energy to make his presence felt late, Robinson, Butler and Belinelli making timely plays and a stout defensive effort forcing the quick-triggered Felton and his teammates into a woeful shooting night, the hosts somehow maintained their slight edge as the contest entered its stretch run.

A Noah layup with 56.1 seconds left made it a three-possession game, 89-82, and although the Knicks furiously attempted to make a comeback attempt, Robinsons ability to make free throws under pressure sealed the deal. Just like in the past, the Bulls collective effort outweighed anything they could have done on an individual basis.

Suspended catcher Welington Castillo working his way back to White Sox with minor league rehab stint

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USA TODAY

Suspended catcher Welington Castillo working his way back to White Sox with minor league rehab stint

With about a week until the end of his 80-game suspension, Welington Castillo his making his way back to the White Sox.

The veteran catcher joined Triple-A Charlotte for a rehab assignment Friday, in the Knights' lineup for their afternoon game.

Castillo has been serving his suspension since May 24, when Major League Baseball handed down its punishment for his testing positive for a banned substance. He's eligible to return Aug. 23, just nine days before rosters expand.

The White Sox added Castillo over the offseason after he had career years offensively and defensively with the Baltimore Orioles during the 2017 season. The hope was he could provide a veteran presence and help out with the development of the team's young pitching staff — and of course that his bat could help bolster the team's everyday lineup. A two-year contract with an option for a third meant that if all went well, Castillo could be around for the start of the team's transition from rebuilding to contending, a sort of bridge to top catching prospect Zack Collins.

Things obviously did not work out as planned, and Castillo has missed months of time working with the pitchers while he's served his suspension.

Still, his return will perhaps be a welcome help to young pitchers still learning how to succeed against major league lineups, guys like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, who have had inconsistent first full campaigns in the big leagues — not to mention any young pitchers who might be called up from the minor leagues over the season's final month and a half.

As for the team's catching situation, Omar Narvaez has done very well at the plate since taking over as the starting catcher when Castillo was suspended. Since the beginning of June, Narvaez is slashing .356/.433/.559, and his season batting average of .282 is one of the highest on the team. Kevan Smith, the No. 2 catcher, is hitting .283 on the season. Castillo will return with a .267/.309/.466 slash line in 33 games he played in before being suspended.

Power Rankings: #7 - Glenbard West

Power Rankings: #7 - Glenbard West

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Glenbard West

Head coach: Chad Hetlet

Assistant coaches: John Sigmund, Jon Schweighardt, Joe Kish, Chris Van Dyke, Rick Heckman, Mike Hofland and Tad Keely

How they fared in 2017: 9-2 (6-0 West Suburban Silver Conference). Glenbard West made the 8A state playoff field, defeated Bloom Township and then lost to Oswego in second round action. 

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 @ Maine South

Aug. 31 @ Proviso East

Sept. 8 vs Addison Trail

Sept. 14 @ York

Sept. 22 vs Downers Grove North

Sept. 29 vs Lyons Township

Oct. 5 @ Hinsdale Central

Oct. 13 vs Oak Park-River Forest

Oct. 19 @ Proviso West

Biggest storyline: Can the Hilltoppers get their swagger back in 2018?

Names to watch this season: RB Tyquan Cox and DE Mark Winters

Biggest holes to fill: The Hilltoppers will be a bit green on the offensive side of the football. Only three starters return from a season ago. 

EDGY's Early Take: Whenever Glenbard West head coach Chad Hetlet welcomes back experience on defense, expect the Hilltoppers to be strong. As mentioned, West’s offense will be a bit inexperienced. But senior RB Tyquan Cox is back from a strong junior season. He is a big play threat with every carry. The defense brings back seven returning starters from a season ago; they were a unit that improved greatly as the season wore on last season. Senior DE Mark Winters is a name to watch along with four returning starting linebackers in the fold from a season ago. If the offense can develop sooner rather than later, expect Glenbard West to again challenge for a state title in 2018.