From Comcast SportsNetOKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The Oklahoma City Thunder signed All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook to a multiyear contract extension on Thursday. Westbrook was set to become a restricted free agent at the end of the season, meaning the Thunder would have had to match any offer he received from another team. Instead, they locked him up with a new deal 15 games into this season. Terms were not disclosed. Oklahoma City has the best record in the Western Conference, with Westbrook averaging 20.5 points, 5.5 assists and 5.0 rebounds. He was chosen as an All-Star for the first time last season. "We are thrilled to solidify Russell's future with the Thunder," general manager Sam Presti said in a statement. "Since we arrived in Oklahoma City, Russell's work ethic, persistence, character, and involvement in our community have helped us establish the standards that we are committed to on a day-to-day basis. He is a valued member of our organization and we look forward to his continued contributions on and off the floor." Westbrook made the All-NBA second team last season after averaging 21.9 points, 8.2 assists and1.9 steals -- ranking among the top 15 in the league in all three categories. The Thunder made it to the Western Conference finals last season, losing to the Dallas Mavericks. He scored a season-high 36 points in Oklahoma City's 105-102 loss at Washington on Wednesday night. The Thunder had an off day Thursday during a three-game East Coast road trip and Westbrook was not immediately available for comment. They play Saturday night at New Jersey and the team plans a news conference after returning to Oklahoma City.
Cole Hamels took a step towards his return to the Cubs on Tuesday, but showed he is still working his way back to full strength.
Hamels made his first rehab start with Triple-A Iowa. It was his first game action since leaving with an oblique injury during a start on June 28.
For the Iowa Cubs, Hamels went 2 1/3 innings without giving up a run, but he struggled to throw strikes. Hamels threw 17 of his 35 pitches for strikes. He had two strikeouts, three walks and allowed one hit.
If Hamels is only throwing 35 pitches and not having much command, he isn’t that close to a return. It has been about three and a half weeks since his injury.
Alec Mills made two starts for the Cubs after the all-star break, including one on Monday, with Hamels out. Mills was sent down before Tuesday’s game in San Francisco. Lefty reliever Tim Collins took his spot on the roster.
The Cubs have off days on Thursday and Monday so they could skip a spot in the rotation, buying more time until Hamels is ready to rejoin the rotation.
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The Ringer ranked the NBA's best young cores, organizing the best foundations in the league of players under 25.
The idea was to form concrete rankings based on FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO player projections and the WAR (Wins Above Replacement) statistic, and The Ringer's list certainly has some star power at the top with Zion Williamson's Pelicans, Nikola Jokic's Nuggets and Luka Doncic's Mavericks all ranking in the top five and the Bulls made the top half of the list for their collection of young talent.
The Ringer's Zach Kram has the Bulls ranked 14th in the young core rankings, with Lauri Markkanen contributing heavily to the Bulls favorable placement.
Markkanen was rated as the best young player on the Bulls as a result of his WAR being the highest (10.8) among the Bulls young players.
The team amassed an overall WAR of 33.1 (14th in the league) right behind the Miami Heat and ahead of the San Antonio Spurs.
All of the rankings are based on the aforementioned advanced stats—WAR and CARMELO—but the Bulls specifically were both helped and hurt by the fact that they have a stable of young, potential-filled players rather than one central, clear-cut star.
The Bulls core group of players fit together better than many young groups, which gave Kram and The Ringer some confidence in their long-term outlook.
...at the very least, the Bulls roster features a reasonably complementary set of young players around which to build.
The fact that the advanced stats like Markkanen as the Bulls best player isn't extremely shocking, as his sophomore season was unequivocally a success. Over 52 games in the 2018-19 season, "The Finnisher" averaged 18.7 points and 9 rebounds per game while posting a career-best 106.8 offensive rating (per NBA.com).
Of the five teams (weighted by production) with an average age under 25-year-old last season, the Bulls had the 3rd most wins (22) behind the Kings and Nuggets.
Chicago will be looking to build a winning culture this upcoming season and having their talented youngsters now surrounded by competent veterans will certainly help make this a much easier feat for Jim Boylen and co. to accomplish.