Bulls

Is Dempster gearing up for Opening Day?

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Is Dempster gearing up for Opening Day?

MESA, Ariz. Dale Sveum speaks in a low, monotone voice and believes its a sign of weakness to show your emotions. But a reporter who keeps asking about the Opening Day starter got a reaction out of the Cubs manager.

Give it a rest, man, Sveum said Tuesday. I keep telling you the same thing. Youll be the first one to know.

It was the logical follow-up question during Sveums media session. The manager had just finished raving about Matt Garzas energy and loud personality. It will either be Garza who has Cy Young stuff, but hasnt quite put it all together yet or Ryan Dempster, a clubhouse leader and franchise ambassador beginning his ninth season in Chicago.

Its hard to believe that a coaching staff with a microscopic attention to detail and very specific ideas about the roster is really still debating the decision. Sveum seems to have pushed his timeline back, now saying that the announcement could come Friday.

Still, it would be a surprise if Dempster, who earned the assignment last season, doesnt take the ball on April 5 at Wrigley Field against the Washington Nationals. He stretched out to six innings during Tuesdays 6-2 loss to the Texas Rangers and looked sharp, giving up only a two-run homer to Dusty Brown.

Dempsters in line to make two more starts in the Cactus League, and the next fifth day would be April 4.

Well talk about that when it happens, Dempster said. I got work to do tomorrow and get ready for my next start.

For an organization that has undergone sweeping changes, there really arent many jobs up for grabs this spring. Sveum again confirmed that Paul Maholm will be in the rotation, and at this point it would be a shock if Jeff Samardzija doesnt make it.

The Cubs arent going to panic with first baseman Bryan LaHair, whos hitting .189 this spring and played in a minor-league game on Monday to get some extra at-bats. They arent going to rush Anthony Rizzo or Brett Jackson either.

Joe Mather has just about nailed down the final bench spot. Welington Castillo or Steve Clevenger will be the backup catcher. The bullpen is undefined, but its just a matter of who will get the ball to Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol.

Then again, everything can seem neat and orderly once you fall into the Arizona routine. Dempster looked great last spring and then put up a 9.58 ERA in his first six starts.

Youre still talking about April last year? Dempster said. Im just worried about this year. Ive forgotten all about that. I dont even think about (those) games. Im focused on getting everything as sharp as I can and just worry about executing pitches. Thats the difference between success and failure.

Hopefully, by the time the season starts, its right where I need to be.

Stories of Kobe Bryant share common themes, regardless of who tells them

Stories of Kobe Bryant share common themes, regardless of who tells them

On Monday, the world will bid the late Kobe and Gigi Bryant a final farewell in the form of a public memorial service. Bryant and Gigi’s specters have been omnipresent throughout the NBA and sports world at large since their passing, along with seven others, in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, CA on Jan. 26.

But even gone from this earth, Bryant’s memory has and will continue to live on in the legacy he leaves behind. That legacy is sustained by memories and reminiscences from those who knew him and were impacted by him, whether it be as a basketball player, father or person.

Former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau first encountered Bryant while serving as an assistant with the Philadelphia 76ers in the mid-90s. At the time, Bryant was still enrolled at Lower Merion High School in the suburbs of Philadelphia. 

“Whenever they would have a day off from high school — we practiced at St. Joes — [Bryant] would come over and he’d be there the whole day, he'd be the first one there,” Thibodeau told Tom Haberstroh during a live taping of The Habershow podcast over All-Star weekend in Chicago. “And that's how I got to know him. He would ask, 'Can you work me out?' then he'd want to play against the players, then he'd watch practice, then he'd lift, then he'd want to play against more players.

“He'd watch guys work out, then he'd go and ask them questions, so you could see how his mind was working.”

Bryant eventually parlayed that experience and work ethic into a fruitful 20-year NBA career that saw him win five championships and stack countless other accolades, including an MVP award, 15 All-NBA selections and 12 All-Defense selections. Ask Thibodeau, and that’s no surprise.

“The thing about Kobe, the way his mind worked, he was a planner, he was so well-organized, every step of everything he did was well planned out,” Thibodeau said. “He developed a plan and then he would just work the plan. He had a plan for what he was gonna do in high school and what he was gonna do in the pros.”

That quality carried over after Bryant's retirement from basketball, as well.

“And even, we were texting a month ago about, he was coaching his daughter's team and he was asking questions about that,” Thibodeau said. “We maintained our relationship all the way through. And he was always talking about his daughters, he loved everything about his daughters. Everything with what he was doing with them.

“And it was amazing what he was accomplishing in his post-playing career: To win an Oscar, to have the book series he was doing, everything was planned out. I went to New York with him to do a promotion for his book and I was just amazed by how at peace he was with being done playing. And I think for him he knew there was nothing left to give. He gave all that he had, he was already on to the next phase of his life.”

Sarah Kustok of the YES Network didn’t first meet Bryant until well after his playing days had ended, but picked up on a number of the same traits Thibodeau enumerated. The date was Dec. 21 and the Hawks were in Brooklyn to face the Nets. Gigi’s favorite player was Trae Young, so naturally, Bryant and her were in attendance. 

In fact, the prospect of meeting Gigi (“she’s a stud,” Kustok said) is what drew Kustok to introduce herself to both in the first place.

“We went over, said hi, talked to [Gigi], talked to [Kobe], got to watch them during the game and I will say… There was so many times during the game that I couldn't even necessarily focus on the game because I'm watching their interactions,” Kustok said at a live taping of the Bulls Outsiders podcast over All-Star weekend. “And I know we've seen so many pictures, videos and — but I'm like, no, this was happening the entire game. And just the engagement between the two of them and the realness and the genuine, like, love and interest was something that was such a beautiful sight to see.”

 

Bryant still had much wisdom to impart and will be missed dearly. Whether you knew him from the beginning or caught a glimpse of him towards the end, that much is evident.

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2020 NHL Trade Deadline Show: How to watch online and on the MyTeams app

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NBC Sports

2020 NHL Trade Deadline Show: How to watch online and on the MyTeams app

The NHLTrade Deadline is coming up but there have been some steady rumors surrounding Blackhawks players foreshadowing an active trade deadline.

NBC Sports' team of experts from around the country will be breaking down all the player swaps as the deadline comes and goes in a special streamed exclusively in the MyTeams App starting at 1:30 p.m. CT.  If the Blackhawks make a move, our insider Charlie Roumeliotis will be on the show to discuss in detail and provide analysis.

Blackhawks stars Brandon Saad and Erik Gustafsson have been the most notable names in rumors for an exit from Chicago. The team has admitted the rumors have weighed on their minds.

Fans can submit questions on social media using the hashtag #NHLtradeNBC and we will get answers on the show.

Here's how you can watch NBC Sports' NHL Trade Deadline Show online:

DATE: Monday, February 24, 2020
TIME: 1:30 p.m. CT
WHERE: MyTeams App

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.