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Harry made me do it!

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Harry made me do it!

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com
As usual for me this time of year, I find myself reflective about the namesake of the world-famous eatery for which Im employed. Not that his influence is ever far away, but with the 14th Annual Worldwide Toast to Harry Caray yesterday, its even more so. Hard to believe that hes been gone for fourteen years. Fitting is our tribute in raising a glass in his honor on the anniversary of his birth. This year would have been number 98.

Many people loved Harry and for many reasons. The Harry conversations never get old for me, night after night at the bar, and thats because the conversation usually ends with a laugh and smiles all around. The connection, I feel, was due to his genuine nature, not to mention the fact that he was rolling-on-the-floor funny.

My favorite part was that he was able to do this while offering his opinions on just about everything, filter be dammed. Its in this spirit that I tend bar. Anyone can put a drink in front of you, I think Harry would have expected a little more. So, why wouldnt the flagship of his restaurant empire be inhabited by someone who wants to keep the conversation, and the fun, going? In fact, when it gets really animated I blame my inner Harry every time!

Who would have thought that the process in which a specimen sample is handled would be the hot topic this week? There have been many rumors flying around as to why Ryan Braun failed his drug test taken after a playoff game last season. Exceedingly high levels of a synthetic testosterone dont just magically appear in a urine sample. Or do they? I remember when Floyd Landis proclaimed his innocence of the same transgression for 4 years before he finally came clean. That I think is in the back of everyones mind in this case. How did it get there? I dont think that anyone is buying the smear campaign that Braun and his lawyers have started against the test collector Dino Laurenzie Jr. What would be his motive? He is a highly respected veteran of his field. That is why he was chosen to perform his function during a playoff game. Was he going to reap millions by blackmail? Or did he go to elaborate means because he did not like Braun, when it appears they had never met before that fateful night? I understand that because Laurenzie was in the possession for longer than the allotted time, but what was he supposed to do? Leave it at a FedEx office where its treatment would be unmonitored for 2 days before it shipped? Brauns defense reminds me of Lloyd Christmas response in Dumb and Dumber when he was asking Lauren Hollys character of the odds of their getting together: One in a million? So youre saying theres a chance! Its really hard to believe Braun at this point. Thats sad, since he appeared to be one of the good guys.

Something that got me a little hot while I was driving into work the other day was listening to the discussion about the diss of Derrick Rose that was made by ESPNs Skip Bayless. Now, usually what Bayless says really doesnt affect me one way or another, I mean, consider the source. Hes the high and mighty type. Didnt he used to write for a paper here in Chicago before he was asked to leave? More to the point, it seems that since Jay Marriotti is gone, that he wants the man who everybody hates crown. He can wear it to parties with all of his friends, then talk about them behind their backs. D-Rose is a fraud MVP? Does he watch basketball? Last years Bulls team wins 41 games last year without him. They won 62 and had the best record in basketball. End of story! I know that there has to be someone that wears the black hat. Were never going to avoid negative attention seekers, but get your facts straight. Still hold some Chicago grudges Skip? You and LeBron deserve each other. Ill take D-Rose anytime!

Speaking of my boy, why is his not playing the fool a story? Hes not a dancer or show-boater. I get it that the introductions are the only interesting part of the NBA All-Star Game to watch, because the basketball is awful, but that type of look at me thing is not in his makeup. Honestly, who does look good dancing? The number is a lot less than those who think they do, trust me. Personally I learned there are much easier ways for me to embarrass myself in public. Red-bow-tie boys dancing was put away a long time ago. D-Rose is a quiet, humble, focused, no-nonsense, leave-it-on-the-floor, win-at-all-cost, put-me-back-in-the-game, cold-blooded assassin on the court. Thats all I need. Leave him be! Man I love that kid!

Time for the baseball purists to lose their minds again, thats right, Buds at it again. Sorry, but this is one time when I agree that we all win. There is no dispute that wild-card playoff teams were added so MLB could make more money. But so what? I love playoff baseball! And more of anything I love is a good thing! And, dont forget, the more teams that are in means, the more teams that might get in. Pete Rozzelles model of brilliance is at work once again: If everyone thinks their team has a chance, the more people who will care and watch. The other, not as apparent benefit, is that this might actually help the teams with the best records since in the one-game playoff for the wild card, teams will have to use their aces before entering a 5-game series against a division winner. At least thats what Im telling myself. It sure seems like my Phillies are destined to lose the first NL game, so as to continue their incremental playoff decline since winning the World Series in 2008. Damn you, Cliff Lee! 4-0! At home! What can I say? Im a bitter man!

When I say Wilt Chamberlain at the bar, 2 numbers come to mind and you can only imagine the conversation that ensues, and youre going to have to, since I can only talk about one of those numbers here. Today is the 50th anniversary of The Big Dippers 100 point game. Still today that number boggles my mind. 714, 56 and 100 were the numerical holy grails for any fan of my age. They wereare mythical. Wilts 100 even more so since because there was no TV there to document what he did. If you can, read every account about it that you can find. I have already done that and have learned things that I have never heard before, such as about the radio broadcast and final assist, and Ive heard about this game my most of my life. I just went over Wilts career stats and was amazed once again. In the 61-62 season, he averaged 50.4 points a game! Now that is ridiculous! For his career he averaged 30.1 with 22.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists a game. All this while averaging 45.8 minutes played a game. (What? Was Thibs his coach?!!) The only other career stats that caused me such awe were those of Babe Ruth. The thing is, Wilt did this while having a major flaw: he shot free-throws like Shaq, averaging an appalling 51.1 from the line for his career. Ouch! In fact, the key to his 100 pointer was that, on this day, he went 28-32 from the line. Bet you didnt know that. Maybe after you peruse the Dippers accomplishments, you can come into the bar and well have the best-player-ever conversation again. Good clean fun. That is, as long as you dont give me 20,000 reasons why someone else was better.

Since spring is almost here, I cant wait for baseball to get started. For one thing I can end the hiatus and get along with my fantasy sports addiction again. Im almost done my draft prep! And the other is that we can talk about results rather than expectations. This must be the year of Frankie O since I have, forever, used as one of my go-to lines at the bar, sarcastically, the saying that the key to life is lower expectations. Who knew that both baseball teams here in Chicago would take my joke to heart? There is an obvious culture change happening on both sides of town. After last season, especially, we can all agree it was very much needed. But besides the promise to play the right way the message we fans are getting is to take it down a notch. Now as much as I understand that there is nuance to be appreciated, I also want to feel like time watching baseball is well spent. (Dont ask the wife about that one!) A lot of this space in the 8 months is going to be about baseball and I dont want to sound like a Bayless when I write about it. (We wont even get into the economic side of paying to watch growth, at least at this time.) The operative word for both sides of town is: If. We will spend our whole summers starting every sentence of every conversation about the teams here with that word. Im going to be Mr. Positive here and say that doesnt mean that the summer has to be a long one. For one, stranger things have happened and the competiveness on the Southside might surprise. For the Northside, it might hurt a little more. At the very least though, this should get my blue-clad brethren a few games added to their total in their Cubs-Sox wagers. But this team is only about the future. So there, Im all-in and I have one vision. If I can have a discussion at the bar about Sale, Beckham, Jackson and Rizzo and its in a good way, this year will be a success indeed. I told you it was the key!

And finally, (Youre welcome!) there have been rumors for longer than I have worked there that the building at 33 W. Kinzie Street is haunted. There are people who work there right know who will swear to it. And you know what? I believe them. Im sure there are those from another dimension that are around us. But instead of saying haunted, I prefer to use the word alive. Alive with the spirit of Harry and hes there every day. Just come in to see for yourself and, of course, raise a glass!

ICYMI: Craig Kimbrel's next steps; White Sox reportedly promoting Zack Collins; Six thoughts on Olli Maatta

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USA TODAY

ICYMI: Craig Kimbrel's next steps; White Sox reportedly promoting Zack Collins; Six thoughts on Olli Maatta

The Cubs mapped out the next steps for closer Craig Kimbrel, the White Sox are reportedly promoting Zack Collins from Triple-A and how does the Anthony Davis trade affect the Bulls? Here's what you may have missed from the weekend in Chicago sports:

Cubs

Craig Kimbrel will officially join Triple-A Iowa this week, the latest development in his buildup towards joining the Cubs' 25-man roster.

A small change in interactions with his teammates has paid huge dividends for Kyle Hendricks. However, Hendricks landed on the 10-day injured list Saturday due to shoulder inflammation.

The Cubs wrapped up another tough road trip, finishing 2-5 against the Rockies and Dodgers this week. They did pick up a huge victory on Saturday behind Yu Darvish, however.

Brandon Kintzler joined Kelly Crull on the latest Cubs Talk Podcast to discuss his ongoing prank war with Steve Cishek, his growing role as a leader and mentor inside the clubhouse and more.

White Sox

According to a report, the White Sox are promoting top catching prospect Zack Collins from Triple-A Charlotte, adding another piece to their rebuilding puzzle.

The Eloy Jimenez Show is headed to the North Side this week, as the first act of the Crosstown Classic commences at Wrigley Field. In Jimenez and Lucas Giolito, the faces of the White Sox franchise might just be emerging. Jimenez even got a rave review from Yankees All-Star Gleyber Torres.

Although the White Sox are on the rise, learning to win also means the team has to learn how to lose.

Yoan Moncada's ongoing back issues continued this weekend.

Blackhawks

The Blackhawks acquired defenseman Olli Maatta from the Penguins for forward Dominik Kahun. Here are six thoughts on the deal and what's next for the Blackhawks.

NBC Sports Chicago's Blackhawks beat writer Charlie Roumeliotis answers fan questions in the latest Blackhawks mailbag.

Roumeliotis discusses how Matthew Boldy and Kaapo Kakko would fit with the Blackhawks in his latest NHL Draft profiles.

Other

The Bulls weren't part of the Anthony Davis trade to the Lakers, but the deal could have an effect on the NBA Draft. And while the Bulls don't currently have salary cap space to sign a max player, here's how they can make room for one.

The Bears are on summer break for the next five weeks. Here's what they'll be up to.

How the Bulls can land a max-salary free agent

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USA TODAY

How the Bulls can land a max-salary free agent

The Bulls will enter free agency with approximately $20 million in cap space. That’s far short of the amount needed to sign a max-salary player, but there is a path for the team to land a star — if one chooses to play in Chicago. With rumors out of Brooklyn that D’Angelo Russell would be on his way out if the Nets sign Kyrie Irving, coupled with the uncertain futures of both Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant, Bulls fans are wondering “what if.” I’ll let much wiser people debate if the Bulls should extend an offer to any of these players; I’ll outline how it could happen.

In terms of this discussion, it’s very important to note that not all free agents are eligible for the same max salary. The league has three tiers of max free agents, broken up by years of service. Players with 0-6 years of service are in one tier, 7-9 years in another, and 10+ years of service in the last.

Players in the more experienced tiers can get a much larger contract over players coming off their rookie contracts. The wonderful Larry Coon explains this in detail in his CBA FAQ. The exact 2019-20 salary cap will be announced at the end of the month. It’s currently projected at $109 million, and for this scenario, we use that number. Essentially, tier 1 players can get 25 percent of the cap, tier 2 30 percent and players with 10+ years of experience can get 35 percent of a team’s cap.

Russell would fall into the 0-6 years tier, earning him a first year salary (the one that matters in terms of cap space) of approximately $27.2 million. Klay Thompson has eight seasons of experience and is eligible for a first-year salary of about $32.7 million. His teammate Kevin Durant can sign a max deal starting at $38 million.

Step 1- Get medical waiver on Omer Asik’s $3 million cap hit.

The Bulls will find out by June 30 if the league approves their waiver request on Asik. The former Bulls big has a $3 million cap hit of guaranteed money on the books for the 2019-20 season. The team waived Asik back in October and it looks like his NBA career may be over after dealing with arthritis and Crohn’s Disease. The NBA is likely to approve the Bulls request, and they’ll get that money back in cap space for free agency.

Step 2- Waive and stretch Cristiano Felicio

The league allows teams to waive players and stretch their contracts over several years to lessen the immediate cap hit a team takes. Felicio is owed approximately $15.7 million over the next two seasons. The stretch provision means teams can spread out the cap hit of a waived player twice the years remaining on the deal, plus one. This translates to a cap hit of approximately $3.1 million over the next fives years instead of the amount he’s owed. This means the Bulls would gain an additional $5 million in cap space this summer.

Accomplishing steps 1 and 2 will clear enough cap space for the Bulls to sign a 0-6 year free agent, so if Russell wants to play for the Bulls and the front office feels he’d be a good fit, it would only take these two steps to sign him. It gets more complicated for the more experienced free agents.

Step 3- Trade Kris Dunn for a 2nd round pick.

Dunn is owed $5.3 million for the 2019-20 season. Trading him for a second round pick would net the Bulls a cap saving of $4.4 million. The reason the Bulls don’t get to keep the full amount is that teams have to account for a roster spot against the cap when they go below 12 players. Trading Dunn would get them into the 7-9 years tier and allow them to sign Klay Thompson (or any of the other free agents at that tier).

Step 4A- Trade out of the first round of the 2019 draft

Here is where it gets a lot more difficult for the Bulls if they want to sign a 10+ year free agent. They have to clear about $5 million more in cap space. Let’s safely assume they aren’t going to trade Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen or Wendell Carter for pennies on the dollar just to clear cap space. Otto Porter’s contract makes him a very unlikely trade candidate as well. Trading the No. 7 pick for a future first nets them another $4.4 million, close enough to get to that max slot with other small moves.

The major flaw with this is the draft is June 20 and free agency starts 10 days later. You’re not going to get a commitment from any superstar worth this amount until June 30, so essentially this option is off the table.

Step 4B- Trade Denzel Valentine and Chandler Hutchison for second round picks

This option is a lot more likely if the Bulls can sign a superstar in the 10+ years tier. Hutchison showed promise in his rookie season, and despite missing all of last season, Valentine should be able to get you something (especially if packaged with Hutchison). I doubt the team wants to punt on Hutchison after one season, but they'd have to, if this was the only thing in the way of signing a franchise changing star.

If you want to dream for the Bulls, our friends at NBC Sports Boston put together a list of the top free agents available. The likelihood is that the Bulls will use their cap space to sign a few veteran free agents to give them some much needed depth, but should they dream big, there is a path to be in play for a star.

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