White Sox

Ex-DePaul, NBA star Strickland optimistic about protege Teague's future


Ex-DePaul, NBA star Strickland optimistic about protege Teague's future

Rod Stricklands been here before. A young, explosive point guard he mentored for a year in John Caliparis program, drafted by the Bulls after a freshman season that concluded with the final game of the NCAA Tournament.

Of course, Marquis Teagues lone college campaign ended with a championship, he wasnt the first overall pick in the NBA Draft and hes not carrying the hopes of an entire city on his back. But Strickland, a former DePaul standout, longtime top-notch NBA floor general and current University of Kentucky assistant coach, believes that although Teague went lower than projected in last weeks draft, its a blessing in disguise that he ended up in Chicago, where he can learn from the tutelage of Derrick Rose.

Its great for Marquis because hell get to go to a winning team, a defensive-oriented team, a great coach whos going to demand a lot out of you, like Coach Calipari did to him last year, so I think hell improve. Then, youve got D-Rose there to be by your side, give you tips and kind of show you the ropes, and show you how to be a professional, Strickland told CSNChicago.com, adding that its incredible how Rose has grown and matured so much since his less-vocal college days at the University of Memphis. If I was Marquis, Id be right on D-Roses coattails. Id try to take as much from him and whenever he was working out, Id be there with him because thats what its going to take. But I think hes got a great opportunity to be around that organization, a winning organization.

Strickland, who scored over 14,000 points and dished out over 7,000 assists in a 17-year NBA career following reaching All-American status with the Blue Demons, isnt saying Teague will make the same immediate impact Rose did upon entering the league, but he does think the Indianapolis native is a bit underrated after posting less-than-gaudy statistics he averaged 10 points and 4.8 assists per game on a squad featuring five other draft picks, including the first two overall selections, Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and will eventually flourish on the next level.

I think youll see a different Marquis Teague in the NBA. I think hell open up a little more. Plus, the court gets wider. Youre playing with even better players when you get in the league. The court opens up a lot and hell be able to use his quickness, Strickland explained by phone from Venezuela, where hes assisting Calipari with coaching the Dominican Republic mens basketball national team in a qualifying event for the upcoming Olympics in London. I think hell play better as a pro. I think the court opens up once you get to the league. The defense is different. Theyve got to concentrate on other players. Youre not the main focus.

Theyre going to demand a lot from him, both offensively and defensively, as far as running the team and being that leader, and defensively, what Marquis can do is he can get up in people, he can pressure the ball. He has a toughness about him. I think all those things can be brought out even more with the Bulls.

"Then, youve got D-Rose there. I think thats big-time for him, to teach him what it takes to be a professional and stay in that league for a long period of time, he continued. I think hes capable of being a very good defender. He can get in the ball. Hes strong and quick enough, so I think he can be very good in that.

Teagues transition from a top-10 prep prospect because of his scoring ability to a distributor in college had its ups and downs, but by the end of the season, he found a balance between remaining aggressive, yet limiting his turnovers and keeping his fellow future NBA peers happy by spreading the wealth.

He had to fall back a little bit and Im sure there were times when that was frustrating. He had to get used to that, he had to adjust to it and I think thats probably why he struggled in the beginning," said Strickland. "Hes playing with very good to great players. I think that was an adjustment. In high school, he was the man, he did everything, he just took over and he just played his game. I think some of his instincts were taken away because he had so many great players. As a floor leader, he became better and better as the season went on.

"In the beginning, he struggled with it. When he came in, he had a scorers mentality, but then he realized that wasnt going to be able to be the way he played at Kentucky and it wasnt going to help us succeed, and he changed. He became that floor leader as a point guard, he became more vocal as the year went on. He just grew and matured as a player and a person as the year went on and at the end, he had us under control and he ran the team.

Thats the biggest thing that happened to him. He kind of transformed into a pass-first point guard. Marquis, I think hes a real competitive kid. Tough, hard-nosed kid. Wants to win, wants to compete, he added. When the game gets a little physical and tight and close and a little chatty, he likes that. He enjoys that.

Teague is still a work in progress, but with his ability to get into the paint and push the ball in transition, a focus on pressuring the ball defensively and improvement on his inconsistent outside jumper, he could provide the Bulls with another dimension and in time, a change-of-pace guard behind Rose. And at a time when teams in the league are increasingly going to small-ball, dual point-guard sets think Denvers use of veteran Andre Miller and young speedster Ty Lawson or how former Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro played All-Star Chris Paul and another Strickland protg at Kentucky, Eric Bledsoe, together with the Clippers his potential becomes evident.

But any visions of how Tom Thibodeau utilizes the duo has to be taken with a grain of salt, as Roses ongoing recovery is still first and foremost in the minds of observers, though Strickland is optimistic about how the former league MVP will respond.

Knowing D-Rose, hes chomping at the bit right now, probably pissed off hes got to sit out and cant get on that court, so Im sure hes doing everything hes got to do to get ready. I see him coming back as D-Rose. I dont see anything being different, he said. I think he loves challenges. I hate that he got injured like that, but Im expecting to see D-Rose when he gets back on the court. Thats the only thing I know from him.

With Michael Kopech out for the year, should the White Sox try to bring James Shields back for 2019?

With Michael Kopech out for the year, should the White Sox try to bring James Shields back for 2019?

Michael Kopech's recovery from Tommy John surgery put an unanticipated item on this offseason's to-do list for Rick Hahn's front office: The White Sox now need to fill a 2019 rotation spot that was supposed to belong to Kopech.

There are numerous ways to fill that hole in the rotation, though are any more attractive, perhaps, than simply bringing James Shields back for another season on the South Side?

Shields' third year in a White Sox uniform has undoubtedly been his best. After he posted a 5.60 ERA and allowed a combined 67 home runs during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, the 13-year major league veteran has done impressive work this season. After six innings of two-run ball Thursday night in Cleveland, Shields has a 4.48 ERA in 2018.

Of course, that's not a number that will have fans picketing Guaranteed Rate Field if the White Sox opt to move on from Shields this winter. But don't let that one figure overshadow how reliable Shields has been during the campaign. Thursday night marked his 19th quality start of the season, and he ranks in the top 10 in baseball in innings pitched.

Detractors have some statistical ammunition, too, however. Shields is one of three White Sox starting pitchers ranking in the top 10 in the game in walks (74 after three on Thursday), and his 33 home runs allowed are the second most in baseball (back-to-back jacks by the Indians accounted for pair of runs he gave up Thursday).

But Shields, it should be noted, has plenty of value independent of the kind of numbers he's posted during his White Sox tenure. He is a veteran mentor to the team's young pitchers. That includes Lucas Giolito, whose locker has been next to Shields' all season — or rather it was until Kopech became Shields' new locker buddy when the organization's No. 1 pitching prospect got his promotion to the big leagues. That placement, by the way, was Shields' request. While Kopech will be in recovery mode during the 2019 season, bringing Shields back would allow him to continue to help Giolito and act as a resource for Kopech.

This team is young and will continue to be young next season. Having a few reliable veterans around to guide the youngsters is a valuable thing.

Plenty, though, might not be sold on the idea, a reasonable reaction as the team moves toward contention mode and might need to free up spots in a rotation that could soon star some of the young arms developing in the minor leagues. But what are the alternatives for plugging Kopech's empty spot in the 2019 rotation? And if Shields doesn't come back, that makes two holes that need filling.

There isn't a wealth of major league ready options within the organization. Dylan Covey has a 5.33 ERA after his 19 starts this season. At the Triple-A level, Spencer Adams and Jordan Guerrero would figure to be the next-best options. Adams had a 3.19 ERA in 15 starts at Charlotte, and Guerrero had a 3.46 ERA in 12 starts. Though it's possible the White Sox could want them to receive some more conditioning in Triple-A. Jordan Stephens' 4.71 ERA in 21 starts and Carson Fulmer, who was moved to the bullpen after getting sent down to Charlotte earlier this season, are less appealing options.

Of course, the White Sox could go outside the organization, and that would seem to be the most likely course of action. But whether that's via free agency or a trade, wouldn't the still-rebuilding White Sox rather do that once than twice? And while there's nothing to say that the White Sox can't spend big this offseason with a loaded free-agent class, is the time right to do so? Does spending big this winter line up with the timeline of this rebuilding effort? In simpler terms: Would signing a pair of free-agent starting pitchers be the kind of win-now moves that Hahn has tried to avoid during this rebuild?

The most attractive free-agent options include the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Dallas Keuchel, Patrick Corbin and Charlie Morton. But those big names could be looking for instant contention or a gigantic contract that could put the White Sox out of the running. Going lower down the wish list, you'll see names like Chris Tillman, Wade Miley, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Anibal Sanchez, Jeremy Hellickson, J.A. Happ, Garrett Richards, Nathan Eovaldi, Tyson Ross and Gio Gonzalez.

It's quite possible that even with Shields brought back, the White Sox will need to sign one of those guys. Here's the question: Are two of those guys — and the contracts they'll command — better than one of them and Shields?

Another thing to think about: With Kopech on the mend until spring 2020, how close could the White Sox get to contention by the time he returns? And if the team has reached the contention stage, could they afford any growing pains that Kopech could have during his first full season in the majors? Remember that Kopech's first start in 2020 will be just his fifth big league start. That could affect the approach the White Sox take this offseason, perhaps hoping to acquire a pitcher who could be around for a while — not just as a bridge to Kopech but as a safety net for him, as well.

So does a Shields return make sense? Given that the White Sox might still be playing the waiting game next season, having a reliable arm to save the bullpen and a veteran presence to help the still-developing young pitchers could be an attractive option this offseason.

Bears have 6 players ranked in Top 5 by Pro Football Focus through 2 games

Bears have 6 players ranked in Top 5 by Pro Football Focus through 2 games

The Bears are off to their best start since 2014, and the team seems to be playing well together through two games of the season.

The offense is finding creative ways to put points on the board early, and the defense has emerged as one of the top units in the league so far. It’s only resulted in one win, but Chicago seems to be on the right track for more success this season.

The analysts over at Pro Football Focus like what they’ve seen, and their grades are high on a number of individual Bears players. Six of them rank in the top five of their respective positions so far this season.

Khalil Mack, Kyle Long and Charles Leno are all the second highest-graded players among their peers, Jordan Howard has the third-highest grade for a running back, Akiem Hicks is tied for fourth among defensive linemen, and Pat O’Donnell is the fifth-ranked punter.

Just missing the cut is Bryce Callahan, who currently ranks sixth among cornerbacks with an 81.8 overall grade. As a whole the Bears have PFF’s highest-graded defense, while the offense ranks 21st.

It’s clear the team has had a lot of individual success on both sides of the ball, and the next step is converting that into team success with more wins on Sundays.