Noah gets upper hand on rookie Butler in college clash


Noah gets upper hand on rookie Butler in college clash

Even though hed probably like to see more minutes on certain nights, like any competitor, Bulls rookie swingman Jimmy Butler has been pretty upbeat about his debut NBA season, as he should be, playing on the team with the leagues best record.

But after Fridays practice, the Marquette product was in a state of mourning, as his alma mater fell to teammate Joakim Noahs beloved Florida Gators in the NCAA Tournaments Sweet 16 Thursday night.

It was tough. They played hard, didnt make any shots, didnt guard the way I thought they were going to guard and it didnt help that I had Jo in my ear, in my face, doing his pistols when he didnt make any shots, said Butler, who watched the game with Noah.

It was back-and-forth and then they pulled out the lead in the second half, and I got quieter and quieter. I threw in a remark here and there when they hit a big shot, but Florida came down and countered it. Theyre a really, really good team, but I really wanted to win. I was talking too much trash for like two straight weeks, as some of the media know, but they didnt pull it out. Thats all right. Theyre still my guys.

Countered a smug Noah: Im really proud of the Gators. Great team effort yesterday. I watched the game with Jimmy. Ive never seen a guy with such emotion. His ups and downs yesterday were unbelievable. I was concentrating, focused on the game and he was distraught afterwards, and I let him know about it.

Were family, but it was definitely tough for little Jimmy yesterday, he added. He played with a lot of those guys, so not being able to be in there, in the fire, that was tough for him. Being an old Gator boy, Im very proud of those young guys. I was there for a while this summer, so I know those guys very well.

Still, Butler took the loss in stride, knowing that Noah, a two-time college national champion, had earned bragging rights for the time being.

Ill take the trash-talking from Jo any day. I knew I was going to hear it this morning. I didnt know as soon as I walked into the door, everybody was going to give it to me this morning, said Butler. Jo had a great history there and they have really great players there now, so they deserved to win the game.

I was so into it, he continued. I was calling out Marquette senior guard and Big East scoring leader Darius Johnson-Odoms moves because we worked on a lot of moves together, so I know his game. I know Jaes Crowder, Marquette senior forward and Big East player of the year game, Vander Blue, Marquette sophomore guard. It was good to see those guys out there competing and in the Sweet 16. Thats big and Im so proud of them.

Butler believes the aforementioned Johnson-Odom and Crowder can follow in the footsteps of himself and Dwyane Wade, among others.

They can do it. Just grind. I tell them that draft workout process, its tough. Its like a mini-NBA schedule, when youre going from city to city, but I tell them to get their rest, what Marquette products Wes Matthews, Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard, Lazar Hayward, Minnesota Timberwolves swingman preached to me. Its a grind, but night in, night out, youre going to be playing against the best type of competition, he said. Theyll be here, Ill spend more time there at Marquette, located in Milwaukee on a day off.

Although Butler hasnt seen consistent playing time this season, hes played well when he does get minutes, but he feels the most significant part of his rookie year has been the knowledge hes received.

Ive learned so much about this game. With the lockout, I didnt get the chance to learn the plays and the NBA-type style of game, but its a learning curve for me. Its a learning process and I feel like Ive learned so much from Lu, from Ronnie, from all of these guys, mentally and physically, he explained. I feel like its a mental grind more than it is physical. Youve just got to be prepared for any situation that Im going to be thrown into.

Manchester City brings Premier League trophy to Chicago ahead of preseason game in Soldier Field

NBC Sports Chicago

Manchester City brings Premier League trophy to Chicago ahead of preseason game in Soldier Field

Manchester City is coming off a season in which it dominated the English Premier League to the tune of a record 100-point season.

City is kicking off the preseason of its title defense in Chicago. City takes on Borussia Dortmund at Soldier Field on Friday night.

The last time the reigning Premier League champions were in Chicago was when rivals Manchester United came to Soldier to take on the Chicago Fire in 2011.

The Citizens won’t have the full arsenal of stacked stars for its U.S. tour, which also includes stops in New York and Miami as part of the International Champions Cup. Many of the team’s best players are getting a break after playing in the World Cup. Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne, one of the stars of the tournament, is one of six Man City players to reach the semifinals.

Paul Dickov, who played for City for nearly 10 years between 1996 and 2008, is on tour with the team and talked about City’s preparations.

“The reason the clubs want to come to the States and play in International Champions Cup is the facilities are fantastic, the training facilities, the hotels, the treatment they get and just give them the best preparation going into what’s going to be a hard season,” Dickov said. “Nobody has won the Premier League back-to-back titles for nearly 10 years now so it’s going to be tough. Coming here and being able to prepare the way they can in the United States is going to put them on a long way to regain the title again.”

City brought the Premier League trophy to Wrigley Field on Thursday for the Cubs-Cardinals game. Dickov got to throw out the first pitch. The Scotsman threw a strike, much to his relief.

“I was quite calm beforehand, but I must admit when I got out there and I had to walk out there both hands started getting a bit sweaty,” he said. “I managed to make it and I got a fantastic reception off the Chicago Cubs fans so thank you to everybody at Chicago Cubs for having me there. It was great. Something I’ll never forget.”

Dickov compared Cubs fans to City fans in the way both teams struggled for a long time before finding success.

“They stuck by us through thick and thin when things weren’t as great,” Dickov said of Man City fans. “I suppose it’s a little bit like the Chicago Cubs here in Chicago. The fans turn out, they get 30-40 thousand, great atmosphere, back their team.”

While promoting the game, the Premier League trophy made multiple stops in Chicago, including with the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on an off day.

City also took the trophy and new signing Riyad Mahrez, who just joined Man City from 2016 champions Leicester City, to Haas Park in Logan Square. Haas Park includes a soccer field donated by Manchester City and the American embassy of the United Arab Emirates in 2012.

“The outcome of it has been great,” Dickov said. “Thousands of children and families benefiting, not just from the soccer part of it, but the education program as well. To be down there the other day for the full day and seeing the joy in the kids face seeing soccer here and the other activities that are on is great because, yeah, football is fantastic, soccer is fantastic and when you’re out there and you play you want to win, but it’s important, especially from Manchester City’s point of view, the city and the community. The stuff that they do off the field is second to none and it’s giving something back.”

Joe Maddon is liking the look of Cubs 'backwards' lineup

Joe Maddon is liking the look of Cubs 'backwards' lineup

No matter how much people complain and Tweet, Joe Maddon will never go with a set lineup every game.

But that doesn't mean he won't let certain spots in the lineup settle in for a couple weeks in a row.

That's what may be occuring right now with Anthony Rizzo holding serve as the "Greatest Leadoff Hitter of All-Time" once again.

Rizzo made his 5th straight start atop the Cubs order Friday after collecting a pair of doubles and a walk in Thursday's 9-6 victory.

Initially, moving Rizzo from the heart of the order to the top was in part to help the Cubs first baseman get going. Maddon is a big fan of hitting guys leadoff to help them reset mentally and find their stroke again.

But it is working — Rizzo entered play Friday 8-for-16 with 5 doubles, 3 walks, 3 runs and 3 RBI in the leadoff spot over the last week. The promptly reached on a hit-by-pitch and walk his first two times up Friday.

He's also been the team's biggest cheerleader:

So how long will Maddon keep this unconventional lineup?

"I don't know," he said, smiling and shaking his head. "I don't know. He came up again in crucial moments [Thursday]. He looks really good out there. I don't know. That's my exact answer."

Yes, Rizzo is looking good in the leadoff spot, but his insertion atop the order has given the Cubs lineup a new dynamic. 

With Rizzo first and Kris Bryant second, the guys that are historically the Cubs' top two run producers are hitting atop the order and "behind" the pitcher's spot. 

But they're also the Cubs' top two on-base guys and Maddon is liking the look of Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist — two high-contact guys — following Bryzzo in the order, as they have done recently. (It doesn't hurt to have the NL leader in RBI — Javy Baez — hitting cleanup, either.)

"It's almost a backwards way of doing this right now that I'm finding fascinating," Maddon said. "So I'm just gonna let it play for just a little bit and see where it takes us."

It's taken the Cubs on a 4-game winning streak endcapping the All-Star Break, though the Cardinals got up big early Friday afternoon.

For a team that leads the NL in just about every important offensive category, it's going to be a huge key moving forward if Rizzo gets going on a consistent basis in the second half.