Cubs

Bulls open critical road trip in Milwaukee

268130.jpg

Bulls open critical road trip in Milwaukee

Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011
Posted 11:18 a.m. Updated 6:32 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

MILWAUKEEThursday nights home win in a marquee matchup over the Heat might have made league observers take the Bulls more seriously as true championship contenders, but to the team itself, it was just another game. Okay, maybe it wasnt that insignificant, but dont expect them to have a letdown performance in Saturdays contest against the Central Division rival Bucks.

Every game is important and I think that the last couple games just prove to you how difficult the NBA is. You beat a team like Miami; the day before, we lose to Toronto, Joakim Noah told CSNChicago.com before the teams morning shootaround at the Bradley Center. So, it just shows you have to be mentally prepared and you have to be ready for all obstacles.

Still, one would think preserving their perfect record against divisional opponents would be a motivating factor, right?

We didnt set out to do that. If we could, wed win every game. I think that were on a run right now. We came back from beating a good team. Weve got the opportunity to play a good team tonight to see how good we really are, said Derrick Rose, pooh-poohing that notion. Milwaukee has had a lot of injuries. A lot of their key players were out, banged up and that really can hurt your team. Trades and all that stuff, getting used to playing with each other, changing lineupsthats toughand they just havent had time to play with each other, really.

Rose professed that the Bulls remain an insular bunch, concerned with only their self-perception, winning games and continually improving.

We dont really care about what other people say. If anything, we knew in the beginning that we were going to be an all right team with the way that we work, the way that we practice and all that stuff. We go hard, so where were at right now or the way that were playing, were not surprised because we work so hard in practice and we trust in and have confidence in each other, said the All-Star point guard. Hopefully, but weve just got to continue to win. Winning takes care of everything. Youve got to notice us one day.

Concurred Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau: Each game, we just worry about the opponent were facing. All that stuffthe recordthat doesnt mean anything. To win tonight is whats important, so we focus on that. the big thing for us to have a good shootaround. This team is dangerous. Theyre getting guys back, theyre playing at a high level, so we know that we have to be ready right from the start of the game and establish a defensive identity to the game.

Not only is Thibodeau unconcerned with the fanfare garnered from the Heat win, the basketball lifer is truly preoccupied with how his squad will fare against the Bucks, who went from last years plucky Fear the Deer campaign to a disappointing, injury-plagued season thus far after being saddled with high preseason expectations.

That game is gone. I think you take it game by game and certainly analyze why you either win or why you lost, and then you move forward from there. The big thing is the improvement. If you keep looking back and youre not ready for this game, then it hurts you. If you learn from it, it prepares for your next game, then its good and thats what were trying to do, is each and every game, to move forward, to correct the mistakes that weve made in the previous game and keep adding, try to build the right habits. I think when we get to the playoffs, you want to make sure were building those habits that can make us successful down the road, said Thibodeau.

The big thing has been the injuries for Milwaukee. Bucks center Andrew Bogut had the big setback last year and hes continuing to work through it. To me, he still has great impact on the game because he anchors their defense, hes a great shot-blocker and hes a tough guy to stop when he gets good positioning. And then Brandon Jennings, when your point guard and your center get hurt, its tough to overcome and they have a lot of new guys. Swingman Carlos Delfino being out with his injury, that hurt them. But theyre dangerous. Theyre an extremely well-coached team, they have a defensive identity and now that theyre getting their players back, its a team thats hard to guard, they share the ball, the move the ball great. Its a great drive-and-kick team.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's 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.

Theo Epstein brushes aside rumors: 'There's essentially zero trade talks involving the Cubs'

Theo Epstein brushes aside rumors: 'There's essentially zero trade talks involving the Cubs'

No, the Cubs are not currently talking to the Baltimore Orioles about bringing Manny Machado to the North Side of Chicago.

So says Theo Epstein, the Cubs president of baseball operations who met with the media at Wrigley Field ahead of Friday's series opener with the San Francisco Giants.

Epstein vehemently shot down the notion of trade talks and specified the major diffence between trade rumors and trade talks, while refusing to comment on Machado in particular.

"I'm not addressing any specific rumor or any player with another team," Epstein said. "I would never talk about that in a million years. The simple way to put it is there's been a lot of trade rumors involving the Cubs and there's essentially zero trade talks involving the Cubs.

"There's a real disparity between the noise and the reality and unfortunately, sometimes that puts a player or two that we have in a real tough circumstance. And that's my job to clarify there's nothing going on right now.

"We have more than enough ability to win the division, win the World Series and we really need to focus on our roster and getting the most out of our ability and finding some consistency. Constant focus outside the organization doesn't do us any good, especially when it's not based in reality right now."

The Cubs have presented a united front publicly in support of Addison Russell, whose name has been the one bandied about most as a potential leading piece in any move for Machado.

After all, the Cubs have won a World Series and never finished worse than an NLCS berth with Russell as their shortstop and he's only 24 with positive signs of progression offensively.

Trading away 3.5 years of control of Russell for 3-4 months of Machado is the type of bold, go-for-it move the Cubs did in 2016 when their championship drought was well over 100 years.

Now, the championship drought is only one season old and the window of contention is expected to remain open until through at least the 2021 season.

Epstein likes to point out that every season is sacred, but at what cost? The Cubs front office is still very much focused on the future beyond 2018.

"Everybody's talking about making trades in May — the first part of the season is trying to figure out who you are," Epstein said. "What are the strengths of the club? What are the weaknesses of the club? What's the character of the club? What position is the club gonna be in as we get deeper in the season? What's our short-term outlook? What's our long-term outlook? What's the chemistry in the clubhouse?

"All those things. It's a process to get there and figure it out. If you rush to those kinds of judgments, you can oftentimes make things worse. I think it's important to figure out exactly who you are and give guys a chance to play and find their level and see how all the pieces fit together before you make your adjustments."

So there's no chance we could see the Cubs once again jump the market and make an early deal like they did last year for Jose Quintana or five years ago for Jake Arrieta? Will they definitely wait another five weeks until July to make a move?

"It's just the natural order of things," Epstein said. "We wouldn't be opposed to doing something, but that's not the case right now. It's not happening."

New Trier's Duke Olges gives Northwestern verbal commitment

duke_olges_247_sports.jpg
247 Sports

New Trier's Duke Olges gives Northwestern verbal commitment

New Trier junior three-star ranked athlete Duke Olges (6-foot-5, 260 pounds) gave Northwestern his verbal commitment last Sunday yet waited until Friday morning to make his decision public via his Twitter page.

Olges, who was recruited by the Wildcats as a defensive tackle, felt pressure to make a decision since the Wildcats already had one defensive tackle verbal commitment in Clear Springs Texas Jason Gold while another defensive tackle with an offer was making an on campus visit later that day.

“I didn’t know if it was the right decision, to be honest. It was impulse more than anything,” Olges told WildcatsReport.com's publisher Louis Vaccher. “But what comforted me is after having a couple days to think about it, I felt a sigh of relief. It would have hurt me too much to let that scholarship go. As much as I wanted to go and visit other schools, losing that scholarship would have hurt more than anything else.”

Olges is now the 10th known verbal commitment in the Wildcats Class of 2019  and the second in state pledge along with Bolingbrook junior DB Cameron Mitchell. 

Olges, who was holding 26 scholarship offers this spring, was planning to make summer visits to Iowa, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Virginia and Duke before giving the Wildcats his verbal commitment.