Cubs

Deng back at practice; Rose fined for comments

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Deng back at practice; Rose fined for comments

In advance of Wednesdays showdown with the rival Heat, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau revealed some good news following the teams Tuesday-afternoon practice at the Berto Center: Luol Deng returned to the court.

Hopefully, Thibodeau responded when asked if the All-Star small forward would play in the much-ballyhooed contest. I want to see how he feels after practicing today, but he went through everything in practice and he felt pretty good.

Conversely, the teams other All-Star, point guard Derrick Rose, sat out of the practice, though Thibodeau said the reigning league MVP would be in action against Miami.

Just a little sore, rest, said the coach. Hes nicked up a little bit.

Wear and tear, so hopefully the rest will do him good.

The Chicago native watched video with Thibodeau after practice a familiar routine from last season but was unavailable for comment. It can be assumed that Roses soreness arose from Monday nights win over the Knicks, in which he took a few hard spills and afterwards, criticized the officiating, resulting in a 25,000 fine from the league Tuesday.

You guys know Derrick. Derricks not a complainer, so usually, if he says something, he has a point he wants to make, said Thibodeau. I thought he was driving the ball pretty hard and didnt get calls.

It comes with experience and I think that hes developing relationships with NBA referees. Hes a hard guy to officiate and sometimes, because of his speed and power, you dont recognize when he is being hit and usually, hell play through things and he doesnt say very much, but I think he was frustrated, so he made his point, he continued. Hes very respectful about making his points. I dont think he ever is at a point where he shows somebody up. When he has something to say, he says it.

Meanwhile, Roses understudy, C.J. Watson, continues to recover from his sprained left ankle.

Hes doing a little bit more and hes not quite there, but well see tomorrow after the shootaround, Thibodeau said of Watson, who was doing conditioning drills after practice. Theres a possibility. Hes doing running and shooting, and stuff like that.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Rick Monday Flashback and Lester Returns

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AP

Cubs Talk Podcast: Rick Monday Flashback and Lester Returns

Luke Stuckmeyer catches up with former Cub Rick Monday on the anniversary of his infamous flag-saving episode at Dodger Stadium in 1976 (2:15).

Rick takes us through the entire incident, and gives some insight into why he felt compelled to act on that day 43 years ago.

Then, we'll hear from Joe Maddon on what to expect from Jon Lester's 1st start since April 8th (10:40) before Luke is joined by David Kaplan to discuss Lester's return to the rotation after over two weeks on the injured list (11:30).

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Cubs Talk Podcast

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Is Jason Heyward fulfilling his 'destiny' with Cubs right now?

Is Jason Heyward fulfilling his 'destiny' with Cubs right now?

Wednesday night, Jason Heyward showed off the type of opposite-field power the Cubs touted when they signed him to that big free agent deal before the 2016 season.

Heyward's 3-run shot off Scott Alexander in the sixth inning Wednesday helped stake the Cubs to a 7-6 victory. It was also reminiscent of a blast he hit off Jake Arrieta and the Cubs in the 2015 National League Division Series while he was still with the St. Louis Cardinals — taking a pitch off the plate outside and sending it into the left-center bleachers with ease:

Here's the 2015 shot.

There were so many encouraging things for the Cubs on the one Heyward swing Wednesday night: a homer off a lefty, to the opposite field, it gave his team a lead a late-game lead and it was just another example of the veteran's hot start:

For perspective, Heyward has as many homers in the first month of the season as Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo combined.

Heyward is now on pace to hit 37 homers and drive in 103 runs in 2019 after totaling just 26 homers and 165 RBI in his first three years in a Cubs uniform.

Regardless of whether he's going to keep that power pace up or not, this is a brand new Heyward on an offensive run we've never seen from him before in Chicago.

"It's just been great," said Cole Hamels, who faced Heyward a lot when the two both called the NL East home. "Being able to see it in the offseason and the leadership type of role that he takes and the respect that he has in the clubhouse during spring training, this is what he's been destined to do.

"He's in his comfort zone. I remember playing against him in Atlanta and these were the types of games he could put in. He could do everything from the outfield — he's got a strong arm — and he's got ridiculous power. We were always very aware of that whenever we faced him, so it's nice to be a part of it and for him to be able to show this."

The homer is Heyward's only hit of the series, but it still ran his season batting line to .333/.450/.587 (1.037 OPS). He's also displaying an incredible awareness of the strike zone, walking 14 times against only 9 strikeouts to begin the campaign. 

Even with something of a resurgence last year, Heyward still had only a 93 OPS+, which essentially means he was 7 percent below league average as an offensive player.

This year, his OPS+ was 164 before the game-winning home run, and his teammates are loving the show.

"They're definitely fully supporting Jason," Joe Maddon said. "Jason does so much supporting of others, even when he's not going well. Whatever you put out there, comes back to you. It's coming back to him right now.

"He's that kind of guy. He's always there for everybody else, so now everybody's there for him."

Heyward doesn't like talking about himself and he refuses to get complacent or revel in the good times too much, even after this hot start following three years of offensive struggle. 

"A lot of work to be done," he said. "Get ready for every day. We got work to do — we got a tough division, we play great competition. Myself personally, just be ready to do whatever I can on a daily basis, whether that's coming through on the field, off the field, whatever it is.

"But it's awesome to be able to contribute for these guys because I know how hard everyone works and what we go through on a daily basis."

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