Cubs

NBA All-Star has the game of his life

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NBA All-Star has the game of his life

From Comcast SportsNet
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (AP) -- Deron Williams really wanted to make his tee time Monday morning in Miami. Knowing coach Avery Johnson would be giving his team the day off if they won, Williams took matters into his own hands and scored a franchise-record 57 points to lead the New Jersey Nets to a 104-101 victory Sunday night over the Charlotte Bobcats. "I had an 11:39 tee time, so I had to make sure I'd make that," said Williams, an avid golfer. "So I wanted to contribute." The Nets needed just about every point they could get from Williams to fend off the pesky Bobcats, who led by as many as 16 in the first half. "The first half was pretty pitiful," Williams said. Williams had 17 points in the first half before erupting for 22 in the third quarter to help the Nets battle back from an eight-point halftime deficit and take the lead. He added 18 points in the fourth quarter, including a pivotal shot late in the game to give the Nets a four-point lead. Johnson called Williams' effort unbelievable. "He really was focused," Johnson said. "He was well-rested. He made a lot of shots yesterday in our mini-practice and it carried over into tonight's game. We were going back and forth on whether to have a shootaround this morning and we opted for rest. And he was pretty fresh." Williams' eyes grew a little wider when he realized early on that the Bobcats weren't double-teaming him off pick and rolls. It's something he hadn't seen all season. "I'm used to getting double-teamed on those," Williams said. "It's kind of refreshing not to be." The 57 points are the most in the NBA this season and breaks the Nets' previous team record of 52 shared by Mike Newlin and Ray Williams. It was the second-most points scored against the Bobcats, one shy of Kobe Bryant's 58 in 2006. Williams, who came in averaging 21.7 points, shot 16 of 29 from the field and hit all 21 of his free throws. He did miss one attempt at the line, but the Bobcats were called for a lane violation and Williams hit the second chance. Williams said he was a little surprised when a teammate told him he had 39 points at the end of the third quarter, three shy of his personal career best set April 6, 2010, against Oklahoma City. "You really don't pay attention to it," Williams said. "It's just one of those games where you start feeling good and let it go." Added teammate Sheldon Williams: "When someone is hitting like that you want to keep going to the well until it runs dry. It never did tonight." However, not all went right for the Nets on this night as starting center Brook Lopez rolled his right ankle and left the locker room on crutches. Lopez, who made his season debut Feb. 19 after missing the Nets' first 32 games while recovering from a broken right foot, had an X-ray but will be reevaluated on Monday, according to Johnson. "It's a tough situation for him, especially coming back from the foot situation," Johnson said. "We're going to get him checked out tomorrow. We'll know more when we find out." Afterward, Bobcats coach Paul Silas wasn't apologizing for his team's approach to defending Williams. "You can do one of two things: You can try to stop him and double him and leave other players wide open or guard everybody," Silas said. "I thought that's mainly what kept us in the game. Nobody else was doing anything (for them). It gave us a chance." Corey Maggette had 24 points and Gerald Henderson added 15 for the Bobcats, who've now lost five straight and 21 of 22. Williams did just about everything right, adding six rebounds and seven assists. He also converted a four-point play after getting fouled while knocking down a 3-pointer from the wing. With the Nets leading 96-94 with 1:04 remaining, Kris Humphries missed two free throws but Sheldon Williams got a key momentum-turning rebound and called timeout. Deron Williams hit a big jumper to give the Nets a four-point lead and Sheldon Williams followed by converting a three-point play off a pretty pass from Jordan Farmar. The Bobcats would cut the lead to two with 3.5 seconds left, but MarShon Brooks knocked down one of two free throws with 1.7 seconds left. The Bobcats had a final chance to tie the game but Augustin's off-balance heave from 20 feet didn't hit the rim. "We didn't give up," Silas said. "That was a great thing. In the last 1.7 seconds, we didn't execute that play particularly well. But we did have a chance. That shows me that we are getting there. It's certainly not there yet. But we are striving to get there. At least we're not just giving up and letting teams just run over us. If we continue to do this, we'll be OK."

Glanville: Fall to Spring - A player’s offseason changes meaning with each changing season

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USA TODAY

Glanville: Fall to Spring - A player’s offseason changes meaning with each changing season

A few weeks after the we (the Cubs) were eliminated from the 2003 playoffs, I got a phone call from my college professor. Since it was officially the off-season, I was in the early stages of a break from following a pocket schedule to tell me where to be every day for nearly eight months.

But this was a man I could not refuse. I chose my college major to go into his field of transportation engineering and he was calling because he needed a teaching assistant to accompany him on his trip to South Africa.

One minute I could barely move off of my couch in my Chicago apartment after losing Game 7 against the Marlins. The next minute, I would be standing within miles of the Southern most point in Africa at the Cape of Good Hope. Why not? I needed the distraction so I agreed to go.

The offseason is its own transition. Leaving the regimen of routine, of batting practice and bus times, to an open ended world that you have to re-learn again. When I finished my first full major league season in 1997, I lived in Streeterville at the Navy Pier Apartments.

That offseason, I decided to stay an extra month in Chicago only to wake up panicked for the first two weeks because I thought I was missing stretch time for a home day game. A major league schedule becomes etched in your DNA after a while.

It is also a time that you get to reflect. The regular season does not give you a moment to really get perspective on what was just accomplished, what it all means, what you would change. I always joked about the T-shirt I wanted to a sell that listed all of the things a major league player figures out during the off-season. From the perfect swing to the ex-girlfriend you need to un-break-up with next week.

It all becomes so clear when a 96 MPH fastball isn’t coming at you.

For years, I would arrange a training program to follow, but I quickly learned that I had to mix it up. There was only so much repetition I could stand in the off-season. So some years, I moved to the site of spring training and worked out early with the staff, other years I found a spot at home where I grew up or wherever I played during the season, to train.

I was single when I played, but now with a family, I have a better understanding of the challenges my teammates would express as they were re-engaging as a daily father again after this long absentee existence.

To keep it fresh and spicy, when I got older in the game, I enrolled in a dance studio and took a winter of dance lessons. Salsa, Foxtrot, Rumba, you name it. On Thursdays we had to dance for an hour straight, changing partners in the room every song change. Dancing with the Stars had nothing on me.

Of course, not every offseason is fun and games. There were years when I wasn’t sure I would have a job the next year, or I was in the throes of a trade rumor. In 1997, I was traded from the Cubs to the Phillies two days before Christmas. In 2002, my father passed away on the last game of the season, leading the offseason to be a time of mourning.

By my final season in 2005, I thought I was officially on my couch forever. I was going to fade away into oblivion like many players do. No fanfare, the phone just would stop ringing and I would just let the silence wash over me. The Yankees had called earlier in that off-season, acting like they were doing me a favor which I turned down, then they called back later with a more open tone, seeing me as a potential key piece in their outfield with Bernie Williams slowing down quite a bit at that point.

I did get off that couch for that call, only to get released the last week of camp, so I was back on the couch, with a fiancé and some extra salt in the wounds after that final meeting with Brian Cashman and Joe Torre, who boxed me into the coaches office to tell me I was released. Released? Come on. Never had that happen before.

The Cubs players will go through all of this if they have the good fortune of playing a long time. The wave of uncertainty, the meaning of age in this game spares no one. Each offseason is a time to reset, a period where you get away, seemingly adrift from the game, then as spring gets closer, the shoreline comes up in the horizon once again, magnetically drawing you to its shores for another season.

Amazingly, you don’t always know your age and what it has done to your body. 34 can’t be that old, right? I can still run, or throw 95. Then those 23-year-olds in camp are the wake up call, or maybe you are that 23-year-old and can’t believe your locker is next to Ryne Sandberg’s.

Then you blink, and you are advising Jimmy Rollins about etiquette and realize you have become that guy, the seasoned vet, preaching about locker room respect.

For the 2018 Cubs, they fell short of their goal to repeat their 2016 magic. Failed to meet their singular destination that meant success over all else. Yet, those who come back for 2019, will not be the same player, the same person, that left the locker room at the close this season. They will have grown, changed, aged, wizened up, rehabbed, hardened. All of which means that new perspective is the inevitable part of this time off, whether you like it or not.

Baseball is a game that has this unique dynamic. The highest intensity rhythm of any sport. Every day you are tested. You are pushed to the brink by sheer attrition. According to my teammate Ed Smith, who was playing third base at the time when Michael Jordan reached third, Jordan, after playing well over 100 games in a row, said to him “Man, I have never been this tired in my entire life.”

The grind.

Then it stops on a dime. Season over. Only on baseball’s terms.

But you may be granted another spring. Another crack at it. Until one day, the baseball winter never ends and its time for you to plant your own spring.

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

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AP

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center on Sunday:

1. Blackhawks on wrong side of history 

Earlier this year the Blackhawks made history by appearing in five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team in NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB history has ever done.

But Sunday they found themselves on the wrong side of it after allowing 33 shots on goal in the second period alone. It tied a franchise high for most given up in a single period — March 4, 1941 vs. Boston — and is the most an NHL team has allowed since 1997-98 when shots by period became an official stat.

"It's pretty rare to be seeing that much work in a period," said Cam Ward, who had a season-high 49 saves. "But oh man, I don't even know what to say to be honest. It's tough. We know that we need to be better especially in our home building, too. And play with some pride and passion. Unfortunately, it seemed like it was lacking at times tonight. The old cliche you lose as a team and overall as a team we weren't good enough tonight."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was a tough, tough period in all aspects. I don’t think we touched the puck at all and that was the part that was disturbing, against a good hockey team."

2. Alexandre Fortin is on the board

After thinking he scored his first career NHL goal in Columbus only to realize his shot went off Marcus Kruger's shin-pad, Fortin made up for it one night later and knows there wasn't any question about this one.

The 21-year-old undrafted forward, playing in his his fifth career game, sprung loose for a breakaway early in the first period and received a terrific stretch pass by Jan Rutta from his own goal line to Fortin, who slid it underneath Louis Domingue for his first in the big leagues. It's his second straight game appearing on the scoresheet after recording an assist against the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

"It's fun," Fortin said. "I think it would be a little bit more fun to get your first goal [while getting] two points for your team, but I think we ... just have to [turn the page to the] next chapter and just play and be ready for next game."

3. Brandon Saad's most noticeable game?

There weren't many positives to take away from this game, but Saad was certainly one of them. He had arguably his best game of the season, recording seven shot attempts (three on goal) with two of them hitting the post (one while the Blackhawks were shorthanded).

He was on the ice for 11 shot attempts for and five against at 5-on-5, which was by far the best on his team.

"He started OK and got way better," Quenneville said of Saad. "Had the puck way more, took it to the net a couple of times, shorthanded."

4. Special teams still a work in progress

The Blackhawks entered Sunday with the 29th-ranked power play and 25th-ranked penalty kill, and are still working to get out from the bottom of the league in both departments. In an effort to change up their fortunes with the man advantage, the Blackhawks split up their two units for more balance.

They had four power-play opportunities against Tampa Bay and cashed in on one of them, but it didn't matter as it was too little, too late in the third period — although they did become the first team to score a power-play goal against the Lightning this season (29 chances).

"Whether we're looking for balance or we're just looking for one to get hot, I think our power play has been ordinary so far," Quenneville said before the game. "We need it to be more of a threat."

Four more minor penalties were committed by the Blackhawks, giving them eight in the past two games. That's one way they can shore up the penalty kill, by cutting back on taking them.