Cubs

Chicago native Turner complimentary of hometown team

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Chicago native Turner complimentary of hometown team

PHILADELPHIA Back when they were high school seniors in Chicago, Derrick Rose and Evan Turner were rivals at basketball programs steeped with tradition. In the five years since Rose starred at Simeon Career Academy on the South Side and Turner led St. Josephs High School in suburban Westchester, Rose has had the higher profile.

But while the second-year swingman cant quite match the reigning league MVPs resume, he has his own impressive set of credentials national college player of the year at Ohio State, No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft and now plays an important role off the bench for 76ers, the top team in the Atlantic Division.

Turner was complimentary about his former prep rival when asked about him Sunday morning, following the Sixers shootaround.

The Bulls were good when they got Derrick, but once Derrick started playing they were even better, said the West Side native. Hes developed a long-range shot. Hes developed furthermore into a leader and hes always been a leader, but hes become an even bigger leader, putting his team at the top of the NBA. Hes always been a winner.

If Sundays game has the same outcome as the last time the Bulls visited Philadelphia a 16-point Sixers win dont expect Turner to be too boastful, even if he has bragging rights over Rose back in the Windy City.

I dont really speak to anybody from Chicago like that anymore to even brag, but its just another game, he said diplomatically. Youre thankful for it and grateful for the wins, so youve got to take advantage of every at-home opportunity because you know on the road, its not as easy.

Turner also spoke highly of the Bulls as a whole, particularly the wing players hell be matching up with Sunday evening.

Its always tough when you have to worry about more than one option and I think with Luol Deng and Rip Hamilton, Kyle Korver and Noah and Boozer, just having to pay attention to them, that helps D-Rose even more do the things that he loves to do, makes him successful, he said. Those are experienced wings. Rip and Luol Rips played in big games, Luol has, as well Kyle Korver has and Brewer, hes a capable guy. He knows how to play the game and everything, so thats rough, especially when they know the game and theyre smart players.

When asked about Philadelphias success this season, Turner made it sound simple.

We really focus on our defense and take pride in our defense, and it might not work the first five or 10 minutes, but we just keep trying to wear you down and make sure it goes in our advantage, he explained. Everythings very easy when youre winning.

Albert Almora Jr. gave another example of his all-around game

Albert Almora Jr. gave another example of his all-around game

Albert Almora Jr. might be in the middle of a breakout season. The 24-year-old outfielder continues to show his impressive range in center field and is having his best year at the plate.

In Sunday's 8-3 win against the Giants, Almora had three hits and showed off his wheels in center to rob Evan Longoria of extra bases. The catch is visible in the video above.

"Defensively, right now he's playing as well as he possibly can," Maddon said.

On top of the defense he has become known for, he is hitting .326. That's good for fifth in the National League in batting.

"He's playing absolutely great," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He's working good at-bats. His at-bats have gotten better vs. righties.

"The thing about it, is there's power there. The home runs are gonna start showing up, too."

There's also this stat, which implies Almora is having a growing significance on the Cubs as a whole:

There may be some correlation, but not causality in that. However, with Almora's center field play and growing accolades at the plate, the argument is becoming easier and easier that he is one of the most important players on the Cubs. That also goes for Almora's regular spot in the lineup, which has been up in the air with Maddon continuing to juggle the lineup.

Bears still see Dion Sims as a valuable piece to their offensive puzzle

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Bears still see Dion Sims as a valuable piece to their offensive puzzle

Dion Sims is still here, which is the outcome he expected but perhaps wasn’t a slam dunk — at least to those outside the walls at Halas Hall. 

The Bears could’ve cut ties with Sims prior to March 16 and saved $5.666 million against the cap, quite a figure for a guy coming off a disappointing 2017 season (15 catches, 180 yards, one touchdown). But the Bears are sticking with Sims, even after splashing eight figures to land Trey Burton in free agency earlier this year. 

“In my mind, I thought I was coming back,” Sims said. “I signed to be here three years and that’s what I expect. But I understand how things go and my job is come out here and work hard every day and play with a chip on my shoulder to prove myself and just be a team guy.”

The Bears signed Sims to that three-year, $18 million contract 14 months ago viewing him as a rock-solid blocking tight end with some receiving upside. The receiving upside never materialized, and his blocking was uneven at times as the Bears’ offense slogged through a bleak 11-loss season. 

“The situation we were in, we weren’t — we could’ve done a better job of being successful,” Sims said. “Things didn’t go how we thought it would. We just had to pretty much try to figure out how to come together and build momentum into coming into this year. I just think there were a lot of things we could have done, but because of the circumstances we were limited a little bit. 

“… It was a lot of things going on. Guys hurt, situations — it was tough for us. We couldn’t figure it out, along with losing, that was a big part of it too.”

Sims will be given a fresh start in 2018, even as Adam Shaheen will be expected to compete to cut into Sims’ playing time at the “Y” tight end position this year. The other side of that thought: Shaheen won’t necessarily slide into being the Bears’ primary in-line tight end this year. 

Sims averaged 23 receptions, 222 yards and two touchdowns from 2014-2016; that might be a good starting point for his 2018 numbers, even if it would represent an improvement from 2017. More important, perhaps, is what Sims does as a run blocker — and that was the first thing Nagy mentioned when talking about how Sims fits into his offense. 

“The nice thing with Dion is that he’s a guy that’s proven to be a solid blocker,” Nagy said. “He can be in there and be your Y-tight end, but yet he still has really good hands. He can make plays on intermediate routes. He’s not going to be anybody that’s a downfield threat — I think he knows that, we all know that — but he’s a valuable piece of this puzzle.”