Bulls

Fire to kick off season in Montreal

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Fire to kick off season in Montreal

When MLS says Bienvenue to its 19th franchise, Le Feu will be there.

The Fire will start its season on St. Patricks Day in Montreal according to the 2012 schedule released by the league Thursday. The Impact makes the jump from NASL to MLS and the Men in Red will be their first opponent at Olympic Stadium. (No word as to whether or not Youppi will be in attendance.) The Fires home opener is one week later when the Union visits Toyota Park.

With the leagues membership now at an odd number, the clubs 34-game unbalanced schedule will feature 25 matches against Eastern Conference rivals but theyll play each Western Conference team just once. The best news with this schedule is that the Fire wont have to visit raucous Qwest Field in Seattle where theyve only earned one point from three league matches and lost the U.S. Open Cup there last year. They will instead host the Sounders April 28th. David Beckham, Landon Donovan and the MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy visit Toyota Park on Sunday, July 8th. The Brimstone Cup will be up for grabs in Bridgeview May 23rd when FC Dallas pays visit. On Oct. 3rd, the club will celebrate the 15th anniversary of its founding when former Fire midfielder Peter Nowak brings his Union side back to Chicago on Oct. 3rd.

The Fire are scheduled to appear 13 times on national television, including 5 matches on the brand, spankin new NBC Sports Network (shameless corporate plug!!!) beginning with an April 21st date at Toronto FC. The Men in Red will make their first ever appearance on NBC Saturday, Oct. 6th when they visit Thierry Henry and the New York Red Bulls. The Fire will have to save its best for last with the last 12 matches of the season against Eastern rivals ending with a home date against DC United Oct. 27th on NBC Sports Network. (You should watch that channel, you REALLY REALLY should!)

The entire schedule is below. Plan your travel accordingly, Section 8.

DATEOPPONENTTIMETVSat., March 17
at Montreal1:00 PM
Sat., March 24
vs. Philadelphia
7:30 PM
Sunday, April 1
at Colorado
6:00 PM
GalavisionSunday, April 15
vs. Houston
6:00 PM
GalavisionSaturday, April 21
at Toronto FC
2:30 PM
NBCSNSaturday, April 28
vs. Seattle
7:30 PM
Friday, May 4
at Chivas USA
10:00 PM
ESPN Deportes
Wednesday, May 9
vs. Real Salt Lake
7:30 PM
Saturday, May 12
vs. Kansas City
7:30 PM
Sunday, May 20
at Portland
6:00 PM
GalavisionWednesday, May 23
vs. FC Dallas
7:30 PM
Saturday, May 26
at Columbus
6:00 PM
GalavisionSaturday, June 2
at New England
6:30 PM
Sunday, June 17
vs. New York
4:00 PM
NBCSN
Saturday, June 23
vs. Columbus
7:30 PM
Friday, June 29
at Kansas City
7:00 PM
NBCSNTuesday, July 3
at Houston
7:30 PM
Sunday, July 8
vs. Los Angeles
2:00 PM
ESPNSaturday, July 14
vs. Vancouver
7:30 PM
Wednesday, July 18
at New York
12:00 PM
Saturday, July 21
at Toronto FC
3:00 PM
Saturday, July 28
at San Jose
9:30 PM
Saturday, Aug. 4
vs. Toronto FC
7:30 PM
Sunday, Aug. 12
at Philadelphia
6:00 PM
GalavisionSaturday, Aug. 18
vs. New England
7:30 PM
Wednesday, Aug. 22
at DC United
6:30 PM
Sunday, Sept. 2
vs. Houston
6:00 PM
GalavisionSaturday, Sept. 15
vs. Montreal
7:30 PM
Saturday, Sept. 22
vs. Columbus
7:30 PM
Friday, Sept. 28
at Kansas City
7:30 PM
NBCSNWednesday, Oct. 3
vs. Philadelphia
7:30 PM
Saturday, Oct. 6
at New York
2:30 PM
NBCSaturday, Oct. 20
at New England
6:30 PM
Saturday, Oct. 27
vs. DC United
6:30 PM
NBCSN

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

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USA TODAY

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

John Calipari's 2017 recruiting class featured five McDonald's All-Americans and Hamidou Diallo, a former five-star recruit who nearly jumped to the NBA the previous year. It also included a lanky 6-foot-6 point guard named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And for the first part of the 2017-18 season, the Toronto native who played his final two high school years in Tennessee, appeared to be a nice fit off the bench for Calipari.

But something flipped. Gilgeous-Alexander was inserted into the starting lineup for good on January 9 and never looked back. He played his best basketball beginning in late February to the end of the season, a span of 10 games against eight NCAA Tournament opponents. In those games Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 19.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists. He shot 51 percent from the field, 50 percent from deep and 84 percent from the free throw line, and added 1.4 steals in nearly 38 minutes per game for good measure. He was one of the best players in the country, and on a team with five McDonald's All-Americans, he was Calipari's best freshman.

"I knew with how hard I worked that anything was possible," SGA said at last week's NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. "It was just a matter of time before it started clicking and I started to get it rolling."

That stretch included a 17-point, 10-assist double-double against Ole Miss, a 29-point showing against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament, and 27 more points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Buffalo. Even in his worst game of the stretch, a 15-point effort against Kansas State in the Tournament, he made up for 2 of 10 shooting by getting to the free throw line 12, converting 11 of them.

It made his decision to make the jump to the NBA an easy one - that, and another loaded Calipari recruiting class incoming. He stands taller than just about any other point guard in the class and might have as good a jump shot as any. He's adept at getting to the rim, averaging 4.7 free throw attempts per game (that number jumped to 5.6 after he became a starter, and 7.5 in those final 10 games of the season. He isn't the quickest guard in the class, but he uses his feet well, is able to find open shooters due to his height and improved on making mistakes on drive-and-kicks as the season went on.

"I think I translate really well to the next level with there being so much more space on the floor and the open court stretched out," he said. "It only benefits me and my ability to get in the lane and make plays."

There's something to be said for him being the next in line of the Calipari point guards. The ever-growing list includes players like Derrick Rose, John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Murray and DeAaron Fox. It's the NBA's version of Penn State linebackers or Alabama defensive linemen. The success rate is nearly 100 percent when it comes to Calipari's freshmen point guards; even Brandon Knight averaged 18.1 points over a three-year span in the NBA.

"That’s why guys go to Kentucky," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "It prepares them for the next level. Coach (Calipari) does a really good job, especially with point guards, getting them ready for that next level in a short amount of time."

Gilgeous-Alexander didn't test or play in the 5-on-5 scrimmages, but he still came out of Chicago a winner. He measured 6-foot-6 in shoes with a ridiculous 6-foot-11 1/2 wingspan, a full three inches longer than any other point guard at the Combine. He also added, rather uniquely, that he watches of film Kawhi Leonard playing defense. Most players don't mention watching film on different-position players; most players aren't 6-foot-6 point guards.

"(It's) obviously a more versatile league and playing small ball. And with me being able to guard multiple positions, a lot of teams are switching things like the pick and roll off ball screens, so me being able to switch and guard multiple positions can help an organization."

Gilgeous-Alexander's arrow is pointing way up. He appears to be teetering near Lottery pick status, though that could go one way or the other in private team workouts, especially if he's pitted against fellow top point guards like Trae Young and Collin Sexton. But if his rise at Kentucky is any indication, he'll only continue to improve his game, his stock and eventually his draft position.

Danny Farquhar to throw out the first pitch before White Sox game on June 1

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AP

Danny Farquhar to throw out the first pitch before White Sox game on June 1

In another example of how amazing Danny Farquhar’s recovery has been, the pitcher will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the White Sox game on June 1.

Farquhar suffered a brain hemorrhage from a ruptured aneurysm during the sixth inning of the team’s April 20 game against the Houston Astros. But his recovery has been astounding, and he was discharged from the hospital on May 7. Farquhar’s neurosurgeon expects him to be able to pitch again in future seasons.

Farquhar has been back to visit his teammates at Guaranteed Rate Field a couple times since leaving the hospital. June 1 will mark his return to a big league mound, even if it’s only for a ceremonial first pitch with his wife and three children. Doctors, nurses and staff from RUSH University Medical Center will be on hand for Farquhar’s pitch on June 1.

The White Sox announced that in celebration of Farquhar’s recovery, they will donate proceeds from all fundraising efforts on June 1 to the Joe Niekro Foundation, an organization committed to supporting patients and families, research, treatment and awareness of brain aneurysms.