Bulls

Fire can't overcome pair of Sounders goals

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Fire can't overcome pair of Sounders goals

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Michael Gspurning extended his shutout streak to 337 minutes before allowing a late goal, and David Estrada and Eddie Johnson scored in the Seattle Sounders' 2-1 victory over the Chicago Fire on Saturday night.Seattle improved to 4-1-1 with its sixth straight victory on the road going back to last season. The road winning streak is one off the MLS record held by Los Angeles and D.C. United. Chicago dropped to 2-2-2.Estrada opened the scoring in the 39th minute. His low kick caromed off Fire defender Arne Friedrich and past goalkeeper Sean Johnson. Johnson made it 2-0 67th minute. Jhon Kennedy Hurtado half-fanned from 8 yards out, and Johnson ran up and finished it off.Chicago's Marco Pappa scored in the 89th minute, curling a corner kick in off the left post to end Gspurning's shutout streak.Pappa appeared to have tied it at 1 in the 63rd minute, but two Chicago players were ruled offside, including Dominic Oduro, who collided with Gspurning as Pappa's shot flew by.Gspurning's last big save came on Jalil Alibaba's point-blank stop in the sixth minute of extra time. A shoving match after the final whistle was broken up with no punches thrown.
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Why the Bulls should take Charles Bassey with the No. 38 pick

Why the Bulls should take Charles Bassey with the No. 38 pick

This is the first entry in our "8 for 38" series, where will be looking at eight different under-the-radar NBA prospects that the Bulls could snag with their No. 38 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Charles Bassey/ 6’11’’/ 275 lbs./ Freshman/ Western Kentucky  

Bassey is a a well-regarded five-star recruit from Nigeria, who played his college ball at Western Kentucky University. He is a physical force on the court but definitely is a raw prospect at this stage of his development.

Bassey came into the season as an assumed first round talent, however, his stock has dropped after his impressive freshman season still revealed holes in his game that will definitely be exploited at the NBA level. All that being said, he was quite the prospect at WKU.

Strengths:

In his lone season at WKU, Bassey averaged 14.6 points and 10.0 rebounds per game on 62.7 percent shooting from the field. His impressive double double average was built on his insane dominance inside the paint.

He shot an astounding 77.4 percent on shots at the rim and that number is even higher on non-post up shots around the basket. Bassey has a rudimentary hook shot that he can hit over his left shoulder but his postgame isn’t the hub of his offense. He generates most of his points by finishing on pick-and-rolls and using his faceup game.

Bassey’s physicality leads to him setting hard screens, and when he doesn’t set a hard screen, he slips to the basket quickly where he takes advantage with his soft touch when looking to score. It is tough for help defenders to knock Bassey off his path when he is rolling to the rim, as his immense lower body strength allows him to displace smaller players.

When Bassey faces up from 15-feet and in, he uses the aforementioned soft touch to convert on 40.8 percent of his 2-PT jump shots per Hoop-Math.com. On top of that, he generally has the speed to blow by most big men.

Bassey’s biggest strength from day one in the NBA will be his motor. He clearly gets fired up for big matchups, as he showcased when he dominated Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ, who ended up winning the 2019 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award, given by the Basketball Hall of Fame to the country’s best center. In their late December matchup, Bassey helped hold Happ to a very inefficient 20 points on 23 shots.

In that same game Bassey finished with 19 points (7/8 FG, 5/5 FT), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 4 blocks. He has arguably had better games, but the all-around versatility showcased in the stat line above is outstanding.

Bassey has flashed the ability to make nice passes before:

Since Bassey’s NBA offense will be centered around pick-and-roll plays, further developing his decision making on the short-roll will be a boon to whatever team drafts him.

On defense, Bassey already shows the ability to be an asset in the right system. When he is allowed to play in a traditional defensive system that has the center dropping back in pick-and-roll coverage, he swallows up shots with his 7-foot-3 wingspan.

Weaknesses:

The gigantic weakness Bassey showcased this season was an inability to function as a switch defender. He was great when it comes to protecting the rim--he averaged 2.4 blocks per game-- but he was consistently beat off the dribble by guards.

Of course it is rare to find any center--let alone a young one--that has the legitimate ability to function at a high-level when it comes to switching on to smaller, faster players. But that is precisely what makes Bassey the exact type of center you can find easily.

This is why a player of his talent level can slip into the second round.

Another big issue for Bassey is hands, or more specifically, the inability to hold on to passes when diving to the rim. As mentioned above, pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop basketball is how Bassey will carve out a niche in the league. But he occasionally struggled to hold on to the ball on throws that many would not even consider to be “tough passes”.

In the above strengths section it is mentioned how Bassey has some untapped potential as a passer, but he will never cash in on that potential if simply possessing the ball is a difficulty for him. He isn’t as explosive as usual if there are multiple defenders crowding him and raking at the ball, which happens often.

Over 1,067 minutes Basey amassed 24 assists as compared to a whopping 97 turnovers.

Long term outlook:

I believe Bassey will have a long NBA career due to his finishing in the paint and ability to block shots.

Bassey ran roughshod over his mostly Conference USA opposition on the season.

His 62.7 percent shooting from the field and 3.0 blocks per 40 minutes were a few of the many things that showed that Bassey is at least ready for the physicality of the NBA.

But to become much more than a solid journeyman center, Bassey will have to hone his perimeter jump shot to the point that he can become a solid 3-point threat. He shot 45 percent on a very limited 20 attempts from 3-point range and converted on 76.9 percent of his free throws, an enticing set of numbers that show the type of player he could be in the future.

Whether or not Robin Lopez stays, the Bulls will be short on center depth next season.  After Wendell Carter Jr. went down for the remainder of the 2018-19 season, we saw the Bulls play ultra-small lineups that got beat up on the glass often as Jim Boylen was still reluctant to play Felicio more than 15 minutes per game.

Adding a high-upside prospect like Bassey helps Boylen and co. avoid over-using lineups with Lauri Markkanen at center, which helps keep Markkanen fresh and theoretically improves the overall team defense. 

Remember That Guy: Rob Mackowiak

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AP

Remember That Guy: Rob Mackowiak

Not too many players from the Chicagoland area make it to the Majors. Oak Lawn’s Rob Mackowiak did. And he even made his way to the South Side to play for the White Sox.  

After attending South Suburban College in South Holland, he was a 53rd round pick of the Pirates in 1996. That’s something that could never exist today. The MLB Draft capped at 50 rounds in 1998, then lowered again to 40 rounds for 2012.

Mackowiak, primarily an outfielder but also occasionally seeing infield duty, worked his way through the minors from 1996-2001. He suited up for the Lynchburg (VA) Hillcats, the Augusta (GA) GreenJackets, the Altoona (PA) Curve and the Nashville Sounds before debuting for Pittsburgh May 19, 2001 at PNC Park against the Brewers. His first career at-bat a strikeout against Ben Sheets. He collected his first career hit a few days later at Veterans Stadium off the Phillies’ Robert Person. His first home run came May 30th in Pittsburgh off the Marlins’ Braden Looper.

He hit .266 in 83 games in 2001, then hit 16 home runs in his first full season the following year. 2003 started out rough, hitting .183/.280/.256 through 44 games before he was able to find his groove at Triple-A Nashville. When he returned to the Pirates on August 20, he went 4 for 5 with 2 home runs. From that point on, he hit a scorching .348/.400/.609 in 100 plate appearances to finish the season.

He had as good a day as you could possibly imagine on May 28, 2004. Early that morning, his son Garrett was born. Then with the hospital band still on his wrist, he headed to the ballpark for a doubleheader against the Cubs. In Game 1, he hit a walkoff grand slam off Chicago closer Joe Borowski. In Game 2 he came off the bench in the 7th inning and hit a game-tying 2-run home run in the 9th off LaTroy Hawkins. If that wasn’t enough, he came back to terrorize the Cubs once again the next day going 2 for 4 with a home run and 5 RBI. A three-game total of 4 for 10 with a double, 3 home runs and 11 RBI (with a walk). He was named co-NL Player of the Week from May 24-30, sharing the honor with teammate Daryle Ward. He finished the year hitting .246/.319/.420 but racked up career highs in home runs (17) and RBI (75). In 2005, his final season in western Pennsylvania, he rebounded with a .272 average and .337 OBP but took a step back in the power numbers (9 HR, 58 RBI).

In 2006 he joined the White Sox in a deal sending Damaso Marte to the Steel City and hit .290/.365/.404 – career highs in BA and OBP. His first home run in a White Sox uniform was a memorable one. On May 22, 2006 the Oakland Athletics visited US Cellular Field. It was the first time Frank Thomas played a game against his formal team, and the Big Hurt delivered with a pair of home runs. Oakland was poised to win the game with a 4-1 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth inning. After Jermaine Dye homered to cut the deficit to 4-2, Juan Uribe doubled which caused manager Ken Macha to summon his closer Huston Street. Ozzie Guillen countered by taking down Brian Anderson and sending up Mackowiak, who delivered a pinch hit 2-run homer to knot the game at four. Pablo Ozuna won the game for the Sox in the 10th with a walkoff bunt scoring A.J. Pierzynski from third.

What was a solid hometown run ended at the 2007 trade deadline when the Sox sent Mackowiak to San Diego for reliever Jon Link. He finished the season with the Padres and played 38 games with the Nationals in 2008 before being released in June. He tried to catch on with minor league stints with the Reds, Mets & Indians in 2008-09 but he never made it back to the show.  He did hit .323/.418/.545 with 14 HR in 82 games with the independent Newark Bears to finish 2009.

Rob Mackowiak’s 8-year MLB career featured a respectable .259/.332/.405 slashline with 64 home runs and 286 RBI in 856 games. In 197 games with the White Sox, he hit .285/.360/.411 with 11 HR and 59 RBI. After his baseball career Mackowiak briefly worked as the hitting coach for the Windy City Thunderbolts (Frontier League). Later, he coached his son’s little league teams and worked as an instructor at Elite Baseball Training in Chicago.

A 53rd round pick. An unforgettable introduction to fatherhood. A Chicago Major League homecoming. Rob Mackowiak’s story is a special one.