Blackhawks

Delle Donne, Sky ready for home opener vs. Fever

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Delle Donne, Sky ready for home opener vs. Fever

(AP) - A trip to the WNBA Finals last season has left Elena Delle Donne and the Chicago Sky hungry for more.

The Sky had never won a playoff series before last year when they advanced to the finals. The Sky managed to get into the postseason as the four seed with a 15-19 record. Chicago got healthy at the right time to make its run.

"We were able to taste that championship and obviously we fell short, but we learned a lot from last season and hopefully that can get us a lot further this year," Delle Donne said.

The third-year star is the key to Chicago's success this season, which begins Friday night at home against the Indiana Fever.

Delle Donne had a disappointing season last year that was plagued by injuries. First there was a flare-up of her Lyme Disease that forced her to miss nearly half the season. Then a back issue hampered her during the playoffs.

"I'm 100 percent right now," Delle Donne said after the Sky played two exhibition games in Connecticut. "It's never gone, but definitely feel like it's controlled. Hopefully it will continue all season to be controlled."

The Sky didn't stand pat in the offseason, acquiring Chicago native Cappie Pondexter from the New York Liberty for Epiphanny Prince. Pondexter won two titles with Phoenix and was the MVP of the finals in 2009.

"We had a great season last year, this year it's a different squad," Delle Donne said. "There's some big names that aren't in the locker room. The addition of Cappie puts a target on our back. I welcome that, it means we put together a few good seasons now. You don't want to be the underdog for life."

Pondexter was thrilled for the chance to return home.

"It's a good atmosphere, my teammates are amazing, we know what direction we want to go in," Pondexter said. "We have something special with the pieces which are already in place."

One piece that isn't there for the Sky right now is center Sylvia Fowles. The All-Star asked to be traded in the offseason, but the team hasn't been able to meet her demands.

"We focus on who is here and not worry about who isn't," coach and general manager Pokey Chatman said.

Stephanie White took over as coach of the Fever when Lin Dunn retired after last year. The Indiana native will try and guide the team to an 11th straight playoff appearance.

"I've definitely come full circle," White said. "I felt that way when we won the championship. I was part of the first team and part of the first championship. I'm the first coach to play for that franchise, it's really pretty unbelievable."

White won't have Shante Zellous to begin the season. The six-year veteran is playing for Croatia in the Eurobasket tournament, which runs from June 11-28. Zellous, who averaged 11.0 points for Indiana last year, recently became a nationalized citizen of Croatia to help that team compete for an Olympic spot.

Zellous and Tamika Catchings led the Fever to the Eastern Conference finals last season following a 16-18 regular season. Catchings is back after averaging a team-high 16.1 points and 6.4 rebounds in 2014.

Click here to see the entire 2015 Chicago Sky schedule

 

 

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Reacting to Round 1 of NHL Draft

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Reacting to Round 1 of NHL Draft

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis recap Round 1 of the 2018 NHL Draft.

They discuss the pair of puck-carrying defensemen that the Blackhawks selected on Friday, Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin. When can we expect to see these first-round picks play in the NHL?

Boyle also goes 1-on-1 with Boqvist and Beaudin. The guys spoke with Stan Bowman and Joel Quenneville on Friday.

The guys also share their biggest takeaways from those interviews, which includes your daily Corey Crawford update and Quenneville appeared excited that the team has plenty of cap space to spend in free agency.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

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USA TODAY

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

The preseason expectations and the results have been drastically different for Lucas Giolito.

Expected to be the best pitcher on the White Sox starting staff, Giolito hasn’t come too close to that title, instead heading into Friday’s doubleheader with the most earned runs allowed of any pitcher in baseball. His walk total has been among the highest in the game all year long, too. And the calls from social media to send him down to Triple-A haven’t been at all infrequent.

But Friday, White Sox fans got a glimpse at what they expected, a look at the guy who earned so much hype with a strong September last season and a dominant spring training.

It wasn’t a performance that would make any reasonable baseball person’s jaw drop. But it was the best Giolito has looked this season. He still allowed four runs on seven hits — as mentioned, not a Cy Young type outing — but he struck out a season-high eight batters. Prior to giving up the back-to-back singles to start the eighth inning that brought an end to his evening, he’d surrendered just two runs.

Most importantly he walked just two guys and didn’t seem to struggle with his command at all. That’s a big deal for a pitcher who had 45 walks to his name prior to Friday.

“You know it was a tough eighth inning, but throughout the whole game, I felt in sync,” Giolito said. “(Catcher Omar Narvaez) and I were working really well, finally commanding the fastball the way I should. Definitely the best I felt out there this year, for sure. Velocity was up a tick. Just felt right, felt in sync. Just competed from there.”

Confidence has never left Giolito throughout the poor results, and he’s talked after every start about getting back on the horse and giving it another try. Consistently working in between starts, things finally seemed to click Friday night.

“It all worked today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “(Pitching coach Don Cooper) says that every bullpen has gotten better, from the beginning to this point. He sees progress. The velocity that he showed today was something that Coop was seeing in his work. You can see that his delivery is continuing to improve. He was trusting himself, really attacking the strike zone, trusted his breaking ball today when he need to and just tried to command as much as he could. Did a nice job.”

Giolito went through this kind of thing last year, when he started off poorly at Triple-A Charlotte with a 5.40 ERA through his first 16 starts. But then things got better, with Giolito posting a 2.78 ERA over his final eight starts with the Knights before getting called up to the big leagues.

This was just one start, of course, but perhaps he can follow a similar formula this year, too, going from a rough beginning to figuring things out.

“I’m not trying to tinker or think about mechanics anymore,” he said. “It’s about flow, getting out there and making pitches. We were able to do that for the most part.

“I’ll watch video and see certain things, and I have little cues here and there. But I’m not going to go and overanalyze things and nitpick at certain stuff anymore. It’s about going there and having fun and competing.”

Maybe that’s the secret. Or maybe this is simply a brief flash of brilliance in the middle of a tough first full season in the bigs.

Whatever it was, it was the best we’ve seen of Giolito during the 2018 campaign. And it was far more like what was expected back before that campaign got going.