Blackhawks

Kap: Cubs didn't maximize return for Dempster

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Kap: Cubs didn't maximize return for Dempster

The drama surrounding the trade deadline and the Chicago Cubs is over and after trading three players on Monday night the Cubs made an additional move on Tuesday, trading pitcher Ryan Dempster to the Texas Rangers for two prospects.

Pitcher Kyle Hendricks and third baseman Christian Villanueva are both in Single-A and are considered just average prospects by several evaluators that I spoke with this afternoon.

"Hendricks is an okay pitcher who projects as a back-of-the-rotation starter or middle reliever. He has outstanding command and a plus curveball, but the rest of his pitches are just okay. He does not have a lot of upside as a high-end starter, but he should make the big leagues," one scout who has seen him multiple times told me.

As for Villanueva, he comes with better credentials, but he is not a big-time prospect either. The scouts I spoke with are unsure if he will have the offensive credentials to make it as an everyday player on a contending team.

"Villanueva has a very good glove, but he is a bit undersized for a third baseman and I am not sure he can be an everyday guy on the type of team that Theo is trying to build there in Chicago. He should make the big leagues but I see him as more of a utility guy or a third baseman who always leaves you wanting more," one scout told me.

A former GM I spoke with was fairly critical of what the Cubs received back in the deal, but empathized with the position that Epstein and Jed Hoyer were put in when Dempster blocked a deal to the Atlanta Braves.

"To go from getting Randall Delgado to two Class-A prospects who are big question marks is a major setback for the Cubs front office," he said. "It isn't their fault because they made a great deal with Atlanta but the 10-and-5 rights killed the trade and they got a lot less back from Texas. Randall Delgado would have been pitching in the big leagues and there is no guarantee either guy they traded for from the Rangers will ever make it. This is a lopsided deal for Texas."

One other evaluator I spoke with also understood the position that the Cubs front office was in, but feels that the aborted trade with the Braves is a significant loss for a team as starved for pitching as the Cubs are.

"This is absolutely a huge difference in the quality of the two deals," he said. "Delgado would have been an impact starter and a major addition with huge upside, and instead the Cubs get two maybes who are a long way away. At least they still have Garza, who they absolutely have to move this off season to add in multiple players who could make an impact.

"Theo had his hands tied and while the Yankees were interested, they weren't offering enough and the Dodgers were unwilling to meet the Cubs' price so Theo sent him to Texas."

Niklas Hjalmarsson gets standing ovation from United Center crowd in Chicago return

Niklas Hjalmarsson gets standing ovation from United Center crowd in Chicago return

Niklas Hjalmarsson played for the Blackhawks for 10 years and won three Stanley Cups with the team so his return to the United Center was a big deal.

The defenseman, now with the Arizona Coyotes, made his return to Chicago in Thursday's game. The Blackhawks had a tribute video for him during the game and the crowd gave him a standing ovation after the video.

He was teary-eyed after getting the warm reception.

Hjalmarsson was traded by the Blackhawks to the Coyotes for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin after the 2016-17 season. He played against the Blackhawks on Oct. 21 and again on Feb. 12 last season, but both games were in Arizona.

Injuries limited Hjalmarsson to 48 games last season and he missed Arizona's only trip to the United Center last season, which came in December.

Watch the video above to see Hjalmarsson's tribute and reaction.

Five observations from Bulls-Sixers: Well, at least the first quarter was good

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USA TODAY

Five observations from Bulls-Sixers: Well, at least the first quarter was good

Here are five observations from the Bulls' season-opener loss to the Sixers on Thursday night.

1. How about that first quarter?

In what could wind up being the most exciting quarter all year, the Bulls began the year with a 41-point explosion. The Bulls shot 63 percent in the quarter, at one point scoring on an absurd 11 consecutive possessions. Bobby Portis scored 13 points and hit all five shots, while Zach LaVine added 15 of his own. The ball was moving, they played quickly and caught Philadelphia out of position at times and took care of the ball. The fun times didn't last, but it wound up being the highest scoring first quarter in a Bulls season opener. It was fun. The other three quarters? Well, the first quarter was fun.

2. The defense is as bad as we thought it was

Granted, Kris Dunn is far and away the Bulls' best defender and was out while attending the birth of his baby boy. But this was still about as bad a defensive performance as the Bulls could have had, even against an offensive juggernaut like the Sixers. Communication was off almost from the start, and they always looked two steps behind. The Sixers got just about anything they wanted in transition, meaning it was a moot point that they struggled from beyond the arc. From Jabari Parker to Zach LaVine, it wasn't pretty. They're going to struggle all year long. Dunn isn't going to make enough of a difference. Shoutout to Wendell Carter's block on Ben Simmons, the lone defensive highlight of the night

3. Bobby Portis' bet is off to a good start

Portis was guilty of an ugly defensive performance, as Dario Saric posted a monster line by out-hustling his counterpart much of the night. But offensively Portis continues to shine after a great preseason. Portis, now officially in a contract year, went for 20 points and 10 rebounds and added a steal, a block and three 3-pointers in 29 minutes. Without Lauri Markkanen he's the Bulls' No. 2 scorer behind LaVine. We'll add her, too, that LaVine continued to look smooth on offense. He had 29 points on 19 shots and had seven of the Bulls' 12 free throw attempts.

4. The backup point guard job is up for grabs

Cam Payne's leash is incredibly long. He's the best option for now once Kris Dunn eventually returns, but it's probably time for Ryan Arcidiacono and Tyler Ulis to get a look. Payne finished 0-for-4 with five assists and a turnover in 22 minutes. No one was expecting Payne to match Ben Simmons stat for stat (Simmons went for his third career-triple double in four games against the Bulls). But the ball routinely stopped when it got into Payne's hands, and he didn't seem to know where to go once he pushed in transition. His speed is a positive, but once he gets to his spot he struggled to make the right play. And he's a clear negative defensively. Arcidiacono and Ulis aren't exactly Gary Payton, but they deserve looks at some point in the near future. Arcidiacono had 8 points, 4 rebounds and 8 assists in 28 minutes. That came against Philly's second unit, but he was decidely better.

5. Jabari Parker will want a do-over

Friday feels like forever ago. For all Portis did well to close the preseason, it was gone on Thursday. Parker's final line is a bit misleading because of the points he scored when the game was well out of reach. The truth was Parker's shot selection early was awful, and his defense was a real liability. It was the "cons" side of his scouting report played out on the court. There's still hope he can improve, of course, and Hoiberg will need to find the right combinations to make him successful. But we can probably rule out him at small forward if he's having trouble staying in front of power forwards.