White Sox

The NBA's most surprising team is the...

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The NBA's most surprising team is the...

From Comcast SportsNetOAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Mark Jackson received a congratulatory text message from Hall of Famer Reggie Miller that might have seemed a bit strange after his Golden State Warriors grinded out a win against the Western Conference's worst team.Big or small, no Warriors win goes unnoticed or is insignificant these days.David Lee had 26 points and nine rebounds, Klay Thompson scored 19 points and Golden State brought its surprising road run home with a 103-96 victory over the struggling New Orleans Hornets on Tuesday night."He congratulated us on the win, but he also said how impressive it was because of the first game being back at home after success for a young team," Jackson said of Miller, a longtime NBA friend and former broadcasting colleague. "For us, it could've been a setup game. But I've got a different group in there. They deserve a whole lot of credit."After going 6-1 on the season's longest road stretch, the Warriors built a 14-point lead in the second quarter and held off the Hornets late. Golden State (17-8) is off to its best start since the 1991-92 season, when the team began 21-8.A franchise that has missed the playoffs 17 of the last 18 seasons is suddenly starting returning to its winning ways."One of the hardest games in the NBA to play is your first game back at home after a road trip," Lee said. "I've been through too much losing to be disappointed in a win."Ryan Anderson scored 28 points off the bench and Anthony Davis had 15 points and 16 rebounds in his first start in a month for the Hornets, who lost their eighth straight to fall to 5-19 this season.Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack each scored 16 points to help Golden State hold off their former team, with each making a pair of free throws in the final minutes. New Orleans sent Jack to Golden State as part of a three-team deal with Philadelphia, and Laundry signed a free-agent deal with the Warriors.While Jack called facing the Hornets "just another game," Landry laughed off that notion."Not for me. And I don't think it was for him. Not at all, man," said Landry, who added nine rebounds. "Jarrett was extra amped-up and I was too, man. We didn't need a 5-hour (energy drink), we didn't need a speech, we didn't need nothing like that. We were ready to play yesterday."The Warriors hadn't played at Oracle Arena since Dec. 3 and treated fans to a video montage of the road trip during pregame introductions. They controlled the pace for most of the game, but the Hornets almost erased all the good vibes with a frantic fourth quarter rally.Davis caught a half-court pass from Greivis Vasquez and converted a layup over Landry for a three-point play that capped a 14-4 Hornets run to tie the game at 92. Landry answered with two free throws, Stephen Curry made a pull-up jumper and Jack added another pair from the line to put the Warriors ahead 98-92 with 1:24 remaining."It's just a tough loss for us, especially when you tie it up, you have a chance to win. All you need is a couple stops and a couple of buckets," Hornets coach Monty Williams said. "We just haven't found that closing mentality, a couple guys who can knock down a shot or even get to the free throw line."The Warriors extended the momentum from their East Coast trip -- which included a win at defending champion Miami -- and added some style points, too.Curry's left-handed pass off the dribble split two defenders en route to rookie Festus Ezeli, who tapped the ball to Lee for a dunk. And on the last play of the first quarter, Charles Jenkins brought an announced sellout crowd of 19,596 roaring to its feet with a buzzer-beating baseline jumper.Landry kept the surge going in the second quarter when he started a three-point play with a reverse layup over Roger Mason. He flexed his biceps in celebration and made the free to give Golden State a 38-24 lead.Williams had restructured the Hornets' starting lineup in hopes of shaking the losing streak. Anderson came off the bench and Robin Lopez moved from center to power forward to make room for Davis.Davis, the top pick out of Kentucky in June's draft, started for the first time since Nov. 17 at Milwaukee. He had come off the bench the previous four games after sitting out 11 games with a left ankle injury.The result remained the same."They just had some great plays at the stretch," Anderson said. "We were getting stops but we made some mistakes down the stretch, and we weren't running the plays right at the end. Just little things, a little slippage."NOTES:Lee's streak of consecutive double-doubles ended at seven games. ... Williams said he's still not sure when PG Eric Gordon will return from a right knee injury that has sidelined him all season. For now, he's trying to stay patient. "My pastor taught me something a long time ago called present discomfort for future gains," Williams said. "And that's what we're kind of going through as a team." ... A moment of silence was held before the game for the victims of the Connecticut elementary school shooting last week.

Rick Renteria wants you to be ready for the White Sox to win in 2020: 'People, have expectations'

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USA TODAY

Rick Renteria wants you to be ready for the White Sox to win in 2020: 'People, have expectations'

SAN DIEGO — Rick Renteria isn’t shy about what he wants for his White Sox.

No, he’s not out there on Twitter, demanding the front office adds Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Nicholas Castellanos and Dallas Keuchel. But every chance he gets, he talks about where he expects his team to be in 2020.

“We left the season last year, the last series of the year, talking about this year, what we were going to expect and what we wanted to do and the things that we want to accomplish,” the skipper said Tuesday at the Winter Meetings. “Obviously winning more games and being a part of a relevant season is important to us, so we're going to ask a lot of these guys.

“It's time. We talked about it being time. Guys are going to have to step it up. We've made tremendous strides, made growth, but we still have to continue to add pieces to put us over the top to give us an opportunity to be relevant.”

Don’t misconstrue those words as Renteria poking his front office. Rick Hahn & Co. know very well they’ve got more work to do in the wake of giving the richest contract in team history to free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal.

But a generally silent first two days at the Winter Meetings — there is a rumor suggesting the White Sox are trying to trade for Texas Rangers outfielder Nomar Mazara — have not lived up to the sky-high expectations of fans, who anticipated hearing the South Siders tied to the biggest names on the free-agent market.

Because the White Sox have been so quiet, it’s hard to figure out what new toys Renteria will have to play with in 2020. It’s hard to figure out if the White Sox will even be ready to leap into contender status by the time March rolls around.

That doesn’t seem to matter to Renteria, though, who was talking about the 2020 postseason while still wrapping up an 89-loss season in 2019. He’s instructing the fan base to start thinking the same way.

“People, have expectations,” he instructed. “Have them on me. Have them on our team. Have them on everyone.

“What scares me is if people don't have expectations. That scares me because then it means you're not striving to be better. We want to be better. We want our guys to improve.”

The idea that all the young White Sox who broke out in 2019 still have a good deal of growing and improving to do is what makes the future so bright on the South Side. And it’s what drew Grandal to sign with the team. It’s what Hahn says should make the White Sox a destination for all free agents.

Renteria agrees.

“There's no one, I don't think, that we've talked to, even toward the end of last year and even people that we've spoken to in terms of possibly coming here that don't see where we're at right now,” Renteria said. “I think there is an optimism and an excitement about the South Side right now that is legit. I don't think it's made up. It's not. It's real.”

As Hahn has alluded to for some time now, any skeptical fans out there likely won’t believe the White Sox have arrived as contenders until they see it, be it through the huge splashes of offseason additions or the fusion of the young core into a true force to be reckoned with. Rumors of reclamation-project outfielders and stopgap solutions in the starting rotation aren’t exactly bringing folks to Renteria’s level of excitement.

But any stretches of offseason inactivity shouldn’t make anyone forget about Yoan Moncada or Lucas Giolito or Tim Anderson or Eloy Jimenez or Luis Robert or Nick Madrigal. Or, you know, Grandal.

That’s what’s real. That’s what’s got Renteria so excited.

Playoffs? A Jim Mora style reaction to that question wouldn’t be unwarranted. But Renteria is asking you to dream bigger.

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Cubs still trying to break through on extension talks with current players

Cubs still trying to break through on extension talks with current players

SAN DIEGO — While the rest of the baseball world is occupying their time with free agent signings and trades, the Cubs have been waiting for their number to be called.

They've been trying to nail down extensions with key players that are only a couple years away from free agency, though nothing appears imminent on that front. 

Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber are all free agents after the 2021 season, leaving the Cubs two years to work out a deal or trade the player before losing them for nothing but a compensation pick. Willson Contreras is a free agent after 2022. Theo Epstein's front office reached a four-year, $55.5 million deal with Kyle Hendricks in spring training, extending his team control through the 2023 season.

The Cubs won't comment specifically on the current extension talks, but they'd ideally hope to wrap anything before spring training this year, so the players can focus solely on baseball by then.

"We always take the position of not commenting on extensions, but are we having those discussions? Yes," Jed Hoyer said Tuesday. "People focus so much on trades and free agent signings at these meetings, but all the agents are under the same roofs, also, and allows us to have those kinds of discussions. I'm not gonna specify who or what, but yeah certainly those conversations are ongoing."

Bryant has long been thought of as the toughest of the group to lock up long-term given that his agent, Scott Boras, typically advises clients to hit the open market and maximize their value. Boras reiterated Tuesday afternoon at the Winter Meetings he and Bryant are still open to extension talks with the Cubs.

Baez and Rizzo loom as the two most likely to extend their Wrigley Field stays, with the two emerging as the faces of the franchise in their own ways.

As the Cubs try to navigate an offseason where they're "serving two masters" (trying to compete in 2020-21 while also enhancing the long-term future of the franchise), a potential extension would check both boxes in a major way. If Hoyer and Theo Epstein knew Baez would be locking down shortstop and the middle of the lineup for the next six seasons, they could breathe a bit easier thinking about the big picture and long-term health of the franchise. 

At the same time, they can't operate as if anything is a certainty. Bryant could decide he likes the Cubs' offer and make Chicago his baseball home forever. Baez could conclude the opposite. 

It's what makes this particular offseason so tricky for the Cubs.

"We have to be able to have parallel tracks in our mind," Hoyer said. "We have to be able to do multiple things at once. It doesn't make it more difficult. We have a lot of really good players. We've had them for a long time. When we talk to these players about contracts, there's no player that we talk to that we haven't had a conversation with at some point before about a contract. 

"We've talked about these players for five years in some way, shape or form. When we sit down with these players, we're not covering a ton of new ground. We've already been over a lot of it. I think we're able to have parallel tracks."