Dream Team vs. '12: How many can get to Hall of Fame status?


Dream Team vs. '12: How many can get to Hall of Fame status?

The 2012 U.S. men's Olympic basketball team is already making headlines, but most of it has come from their talk off the court instead of their play on it.
Two weeks before the start of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, 2008 gold medal winner Kobe Bryant sparked a massive debate by comparing the current team to the 1992 Dream Team.

Bryant told reporters last week that the current Olympic team, which defeated the Dominican Republic 113-59 in their first pre-Olympic tune-up last night, could defeat the 1992 Dream Team, had the two teams been able to play in their prime.
That 1992 team, of course, consisted of 11 eventual Hall of Famers, headlined by Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Magic Johnson, Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing and Charles Barkley.
David Robinson, Chris Mullin, John Stockton, Karl Malone and Larry Bird were also future Hall of Famers on the roster. Christian Laettner of Duke was the lone amateur on the team, which defeated their opponents by an average margin of more than 51 points.
Bryant's comments elicited a response from Jordan, who told Associated Press reporters Thursday that there was "no comparison" between the two teams, and that he would "like to think that we had 11 Hall of Famers on that team, and whenever they get 11 Hall of Famers you call and ask me who had the better Dream Team."
So if that's what Jordan needs to begin the discussion, that 11 players from the 2012 team one day be elected to the Hall of Fame, the question would then become: How close can the 2012 team get to 11 Hall of Famers?
At this point in their careers, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James can be considered surefire Hall of Famers. James could not retire today and be a lock for Springfield like Bryant could, but it's a safe assumption that James' career path eventually will lead him there.
And while Kevin Durant is just 23 years old, the three-time reigning scoring champion and three-time All-Star has already made one NBA Finals appearance and should make at least a few more. Should he remain healthy, the odds are with Durant on him being. Still, at 23 years old it's a near impossible projection.
The next players with a chance to make the Hall of Fame are Chris Paul,Russell Westbrook, and Carmelo Anthony.
Paul has established himself as one of the game's best all-around point guards, and is just entering the prime of his career at 27 years old. A five-time All-Star, Paul has averaged 18.8 points and 9.8 assists for his career, has led the league in steals four times and assists twice.
Like Durant, Westbrook is just 23 years old and is locked into a long-term deal with the Thunder. And like his teammate, Westbrook seems to just be tapping into his potential, and if he is able to team up with Durant and win multiple championships, Westbrook could be Hall-bound.
Anthony has established himself as one of the game's best scorers, but it's unknown if he will ever possess the leadership ability to take over games and get past the hump and into the NBA Finals. Anthony has a post-season record of 16-38, including 0-8 with the Knicks. Still, a five-time All-Star and All-NBA selection, the 28-year-old Anthony has plenty of time to improve his resume to potential Hall status.
Kevin Love and Deron Williams each have outside chances, with the former having the better shot at just 23 years old. It wouldn't be fair to project 19-year-old Anthony Davis' career path, although this year's No. 1 overall pick's future looks bright.
The rest of the 2012 team (Andre Iguodala, James Harden, Tyson Chandler) do not have any real shot at the Hall of Fame, meaning an absolute best-case scenario would give the 2012 Olympic team nine Hall of Famers, two short of the dream team.
Some argue a truer comparison would be if the 2012 team would have had injured stars Derrick Rose (ACL), Dwight Howard (back) and Dwyane Wade (knee) on its roster, but as Comcast SportsNet's Stacey King points out, the 1992 Dream Team did not have Shaquille O'Neal or Isaiah Thomas, either.
But more so than anything, it's worth noting that nine players on this year's team couldpotentially make the Basketball Hall of Fame. Eleven from the 1992 team didmake it.
If the above players enjoy the same successes they have thus far in their careers for the next 10 seasons, only then will they enter the discussion to one day enter the Hall of Fame. For all but one player on the 1992 Dream Team, there is no discussion. They are cemented as 11 of the greatest basketball players to ever play the game.
And while the number of Hall of Famers a team possesses may not be the difference between winning and losing a single game -- as Jordan argues -- between two entirely different eras of athletes, the argument the Dream Team being more dominant in their respective era is hard to argue.

Alec Mills gave the Cubs what they needed, but they still couldn't find a way to win

Alec Mills gave the Cubs what they needed, but they still couldn't find a way to win

Someone capable of mixing pitches and having success without a high-velocity fastball delivered a stellar start for the Cubs on Friday. Sound familiar?

No, it wasn’t Kyle Hendricks’ turn in the rotation – though he did throw an 81-pitch, complete game shutout against St. Louis back in May. Rather, it was Alec Mills who stymied the Cardinals offense this time around.

Mills was thrust into action in place of Cole Hamels, whose turn in the rotation was skipped due to left shoulder fatigue. Despite being pressed into action, the 27-year-old Mills delivered, tossing 4 2/3 shutout innings, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out six.

“He was outstanding. He gave us everything we needed,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said after the game, a 2-1 Cubs loss and fourth-straight. “[He] pitched really that well, like we’ve been talking about the whole time.

“He really demonstrated what he’s made out of.”

Mills has been emerging as a quite a contributor for the Cubs as of late. He now holds a 0.84 ERA over his last four outings, which also includes two scoreless innings against the Reds on Tuesday.

Friday, he looked Hendricks-esque, making up for a lack of fastball velocity – he averaged 89.9 mph with his four-seamer – with a stellar slow curveball and sweeping slider. His curveball averaged 67.7 mph, even touching 65 mph at times.

Such fastball velocity might seem more hittable than something in the upper 90s. However, as opposing teams have seen time and time again with Hendricks, 89 looks a lot different when blended in with effective breaking pitches.

“I think every at-bat, I’m trying to be something different, cause I don’t have the stuff to just say ‘Here you go, here’s what it is,’” Mills said postgame. “If I can be something that keeps them off balance every at-bat, it’s what I want to do.”

Mills got four called strikes and four swinging strikes, respectively, with his curveball on Friday. None of those were for strike three, but when the Cardinals actually put Mills’ curve in play, they went 0-for-4.

“It’s one of those things where I feel like I can throw it for a strike at any point,” he said postgame about the pitch. “It’s something I can lean on when I need it, so it’s nice.”

Despite his personal success, Mills kept things in perspective after the game. Not only does Friday’s loss drop the Cubs to five games back of the Cardinals in the NL Central, but also 1.5 games back of the second Wild Card spot. This is pending the outcome of Friday night’s Brewers-Pirates, though.

“It’s always nice to throw well, but at the end of the day, a win is all that matters at this point,” he said. “Obviously a lot of guys are upset, but it’s one of those things where it’s definitely not over.

“I don’t think there will be an ounce of quit in here. We’re just going to come tomorrow ready to play and go for a win.”

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Cubs playoff race: Where is the offense?

Cubs playoff race: Where is the offense?

After a 2-1 loss Friday, the Cubs have dropped the first two games of this crucial series while giving up only 7 runs total across the 19 innings.

The Cubs are now 5 games behind St. Louis in the NL Central with only 8 games to play, essentially putting any thoughts of a division title to bed. It also means they will once again wake up Saturday morning out of a playoff spot.

This is the first time the Cubs have lost four straight home games since May 2018.

Quick thoughts

—Where is the offense?

The lineup that averaged 13.75 runs per game and hit .393 as a team in the first four games of this homestand is suddenly nowhere to be found. They're hitting just .180 total over the last four games and that mark dips to .111 with runners in scoring position (they hit .553 with runners in scoring position during the first four games of the homestand).

Outside of the 3-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning Thursday, the Cubs have scored just 6 runs in the other 36 offensive innings since Monday.

"I've been saying it all year — the run's gonna be in the offense," Joe Maddon said. "Today, 1 run. Yesterday, we lost by 1 run and the two losses vs. Cincinnati were low-run scoring games for us, also. Whereas Pittsburgh, we pounded in that first game.

"We have to somehow get more consistent offensively. When the opportunities come up, we have to take advantage of them. We've had some good at-bats in those moments without any kind of luck, but we gotta figure it out.

"Obviously we are running out of time. To catch [the Cardinals] is becoming more difficult, but there's still a solid opportunity to be a playoff team. But you gotta keep playing the game as though you're going to catch St. Louis. You gotta go out there with that attitude."

The Cubs walked more than they struck out (4 to 3) Friday and one of those whiffs was by pitcher Alec Mills, so there’s definitely an element of bad luck at play here.

They hit into four double plays, including Kyle Schwarber bouncing into a twin killing with the bases loaded to end the third inning. He also watched his bunt single to lead off the eighth inning get erased by Willson Contreras' double play on the very next pitch.

Even Anthony Rizzo's return atop the order has not been enough to spark this offense and the lineup is continuing its Jekyll and Hyde ways at the absolute worst time.

Why is this offense so inconsistent? It's hard to make heads or tails of it. Even they have no answers for it, especially after out-hitting the Cardinals 9-4 on Friday.

"I mean, it's just one of those things," Nicholas Castellanos said. "I don't think there's really a rhyme or reason for it. I don't even know how many hits we got, but we got a lot more than they did. It's baseball."

"We have to figure it out somehow," Maddon said. "There's no question about it."

—Yadier Molina continues to come up with big hits against the Cubs.

The Cardinals didn't muster up much offense of their own Friday afternoon, going only 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position. But that one hit was a big one — a 2-run single from Molina in the sixth inning after a pair of Cubs relievers (David Phelps, Steve Cishek) combined to walk the first three hitters of the inning.

—Alec Mills pitched well once again, this time in spot start duty while Cole Hamels deals with an ailing shoulder.

Mills tossed 4.2 shutout innings and now has a 2.90 ERA this season. He's been extremely effective in limited big-league duty over the last two seasons, posting a 3.31 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 10.3 K/9 across 49 innings (15 appearances).

Maddon has compared him to Kyle Hendricks a couple different times and it's easy to see the comparison, especially when Mills is spinning a 66 mph curveball, 79 mph changeup and 91 mph fastball.

Next season is a long way off, but Mills has certainly pitched himself into the conversation for a spot in the 2020 rotation or bullpen.

—The Cubs bullpen walked 7 batters in 4.1 innings of work.

The back-to-back-to-back walks in the sixth inning wound up being the dagger, but overall, this was not the best performance from a unit that entered the day with the best bullpen ERA in the big leagues this month.

What's worse is the Cubs utilized eight different pitchers after Mills left the game, including most of the team's top relievers. That could leave some slim pickings for Saturday's game, especially considering Rowan Wick (32 pitches Friday) may be unavailable.

Brewers update

The Brewers host the Pirates Friday night and hold a 1.5-game lead on the Cubs for the second Wild Card spot.

Milwaukee lost Christian Yelich 10 days ago and their offense has been very similar to the Cubs over that entire time, but they're still somehow finding ways to win games:

Nationals update

After an off-day Thursday, the Nationals are back in action Friday against the 99-loss Marlins in Miami.

The Nationals currently own a 1-game lead for the top Wild-Card spot, meaning they're 2.5 games ahead of the Cubs at the moment to host the one-game playoff.

What's next?

The Cubs and Cardinals play another afternoon matinee game Saturday at Wrigley Field with Jose Quintana and Dakota Hudson facing off.

Quintana will be working on an extra day of rest after the Cubs opted to move him back to Saturday and inserting Mills into the rotation for a spot start.

If the Cubs thought the earlier games were "must-win," these next couple become even more important as they have now dug themselves quite the hole.

"That's all you can do," Rizzo said. "It's not gonna be easy, but you can't think about what's gonna happen and different outcomes. You just gotta come in tomorrow and win. That's what we'll be focused on doing."

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