Blackhawks

Miami Heat add two veteran sharpshooters

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Miami Heat add two veteran sharpshooters

From Comcast SportsNet
MIAMI (AP) -- Ray Allen's role in Miami is yet to be totally determined. And that clearly doesn't bother the NBA's leading 3-point shooter. Allen and Rashard Lewis signed their free-agent contracts with the Heat on Wednesday, giving the NBA champions a pair of veterans who bring tons of experience and versatility to a lineup already featuring LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. And both wasted no time saying they want to adapt to the Heat way. "Whatever's going to be best for me in this situation is going to figure itself out," Allen said, flanked by Heat President Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra for his introductory news conference. "This team won a championship without me. I'm not going to come in and expect for coach to cater to who I am and what I do. I've got to make that work on the floor with my new teammates." Allen agreed to join the Heat on Friday, deciding to leave Boston after five wildly successful seasons and the 2008 NBA championship. Lewis agreed to terms with Miami on Tuesday. Allen will make just over 3 million this season. Lewis will earn about 1.35 million from the Heat, plus another 13.7 million after getting a buyout from the New Orleans Hornets earlier this offseason. "I'm at a point in my career where I've been on the All-Star team, played for 13, 14 years and I've made a pretty good amount of money over my career," Lewis said. "Everybody sets goals over their career and my next goal is obviously to try to win a championship. The ball can't bounce forever. I'm sure you all see the gray hair on my head." For Lewis, coming to Miami is a new beginning. For Allen, coming to Miami wraps up a month of unexpected twists and turns. The Celtics' season ended in Miami a little over a month ago, with a loss in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. Allen was unusually emotional after that defeat, then insisted that even after an injury-marred season -- he's recovering from surgery to remove bone spurs from his right ankle -- he has basketball left in his legs. Boston tried to keep him, offering him twice as much as he'll make per year in Miami. Nonetheless, Allen found himself drawn to the Heat. "You come into the summer, and you don't know what potentially can happen," Allen said. "And you take the process a step at a time, try to figure out what's best for you and your family. And here I sit." Allen said that Celtics coach Doc Rivers and general manager Danny Ainge were disappointed by his decision. Allen said he reached out to Kevin Garnett -- he was particularly close with Garnett and Paul Pierce in Boston -- when he began leaning toward Miami, telling Garnett in a text message that the move was likely. Garnett's responded by saying that he was sure Ainge would do whatever it took to keep Allen in Boston. Days later, Allen was signing in Miami. And on Wednesday, Allen downplayed the notion that the move came in part because of a perceived rift with Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo. "I can't say that it factored in my decision," Allen said. "As teammates, we were brothers. ... There's differences. We all have differences. Paul eats corn flakes. I might not like corn flakes. That's just part of kind of who we are as individuals." Lewis has already thought plenty about what it could mean to share the court with James, Wade, Bosh and Allen. In short, he knows defenses could be a bit confounded. "You've got to double-team LeBron. You have to double-team Dwyane Wade. You've got to double-team Chris Bosh. And then you think they're going to leave Ray Allen open?" Lewis said. "They've got to leave somebody open. So I have to go shoot a million jumpers tonight and be ready to knock them down." A few moments later, Lewis posed with Riley and Spoelstra, holding his new No. 9 jersey in Miami colors. "He's played in a great program already. He's been to the finals. He's a winner," Spoelstra said. "We've had some great battles against him." Spoelstra simply raved about Allen as well. "There's only a handful of players, really, in this league that absolutely strike fear into their opponent. And Ray is one of those players," Spoelstra said. Allen and Lewis were Seattle teammates for five seasons, from 2003 through 2007 -- and both figure to fit perfectly into Miami's plan to surround James, Wade and Bosh with even more shooters who can stretch defenses. Allen's 2,718 made 3-pointers are the most in NBA history, and Lewis ranks fifth among active players with 1,690 makes from beyond the arc. Slowed by a bone bruise in his left knee this past season, Lewis averaged 7.8 points in 28 games for Washington. For his career, he's averaged 16.1 points per game with Seattle, Orlando and Washington. "I think it's important, year in and year out, that you continue to try to add quality talent, experience and players who want to make a commitment to winning," Riley said. "And I think we found out the last couple of days how hungry Rashard is."

NHL Draft Profile: D Quinn Hughes

NHL Draft Profile: D Quinn Hughes

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Quinn Hughes

Position: Defenseman
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 170 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report:

"He's got the puck skills, is a good skater, and is a guy with some high-end offensive talent. He wants to get right in there and play where it's hard and where you get rewarded. When he gets that puck on his stick, he wants to bury it."

NHL player comparable: Torey Krug/Kris Letang

Fit for Blackhawks:

It's no secret the Blackhawks are looking to restock their pipeline with some high-end defensemen. Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell are on the way. But the former isn't a lock to be a full-time NHLer this season and the latter will continue playing in college for the 2018-19 season.

Hughes, who shined at Michigan and the IIHF World Championship with Team USA, would have the best chance of the three to crack the Blackhawks lineup first. The problem is, he likely won't be available at No. 8, so if Hughes is the guy they're locked in on, they'd need to trade up to grab him. 

If they did that, Hughes would give the Blackhawks a third blue line prospect they can get excited about. He's a left-handed shot, which evens out the balance in the system, and he would become a prime candidate to eventually replace Duncan Keith as the team's No. 1 defenseman.

The Cubs are in a way better spot than they were a year ago

The Cubs are in a way better spot than they were a year ago

ST. LOUIS — It's night and day watching the 2018 Cubs compared to the 2017 version.

Even with the injury to Javy Baez Sunday night, the Cubs are in a way better spot now than they were a year ago.

On June 17 of last season, the Cubs sat at 33-34 with a run differential of just +6.

They looked flat more often than not. "Hangover" was the word thrown around most and it was true — the Cubs really did have a World Series hangover.

They admit that freely and it's also totally understandable. Not only did they win one of the most mentally and physically draining World Series in history, but they also ended a 108-year championship drought and the weight of that accomplishment was simply staggering. 

The 2018 iteration of the Cubs are completely different. 

Even though they didn't finish off the sweep of their division rivals in St. Louis Sunday night, they're still only a half-game behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central and for the best record in the league. A +95 run differential paced the NL and sat behind only the Houston Astros (+157), Boston Red Sox (+102) and New York Yankees (+98) in the AL.

Through 67 games, the Cubs sat at 40-27, 13 games above .500 compared to a game below .500 at the same point last summer.

What's been the main difference?

"Energy," Joe Maddon said simply. "Coming off the World Series, it was really hard to get us kickstarted. It was just different. I thought the fatigue generated from the previous two years, playing that deeply into the year. A lot of young guys on the team last year.

"We just could not get it kickstarted. This year, came out of camp with a fresher attitude. Not like we've been killing it to this point; we've been doing a lot better, but I didn't even realize that's the difference between last year and this year.

"If anything, I would just pinpoint it on energy."

Of course the physical component is easy to see. The Cubs played past Halloweeen in 2016 and then had so many demands for street namings and talk shows and TV appearances and Disney World and on and on. That would leave anybody exhausted with such a shortened offseason.

There's also the mental component. The Cubs came into 2018 with a chip on their shoulder after running into a wall in the NLCS last fall against the Los Angeles Dodgers. They have a renewed focus and intensity.

But there's still plenty of room for more. The Cubs aren't happy with the best record and run differential in the NL. They know they still haven't fully hit their stride yet, even amidst a 24-13 stretch over the last five weeks.

"I think we've been pretty consistent," Jon Lester said. "We've had some ups and downs on both sides of the ball as far as pitching and hitting. But the biggest thing is our bullpen and our defense has been pretty solid all year.

"That's kept us in those games. When we do lose — you're gonna have the anomalies every once in a while and get blown out — we're in every single game. It's all we can do. Keep grinding it out.

"Our offense will be fine. Our defense and the back end of our bullpen has done an unbelievable job of keeping us in these games. And if we contribute as a starting five, even better. 

"You have the games where our guys get feeling sexy about themselves and score some runs. That's where the snowball effect and we get on that little bit of a run. I feel like we've been on a few runs, it just hasn't been an extended period of time. I don't have any concerns as far as inside this clubhouse."

Lester hit the nail on the head. The Cubs sit at this point with only 1 win from Yu Darvish, Tyler Chatwood struggling with command and low power numbers from several guys including Kris Bryant.

Throw in the fact that Joe Maddon's Cubs teams always seem to get into a groove in August and September when they're fresher and "friskier" than the rest of the league and this team is currently in very good shape for the remainder of the year. 

If they can get 3 wins away from the World Series after going 33-34, the sky should be the limit for a 2018 squad that's in a much better position 67 games in.