Cubs

Rose cut from a different cloth than other superstars

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Rose cut from a different cloth than other superstars

Having to miss practice because of soreness after Mondays win over the Knicks, a 25,000 fine for criticizing officiating in the aforementioned game and getting rear-ended on the Kennedy Expressway, all sandwiched in between marquee matchups with star-studded opponents and potential playoff foes New York and Miami, wasnt an ideal way for Derrick Rose to spend his Tuesday afternoon. Those arent the type of headlines the reigning league MVP likes to make; hed prefer to let his game do the talking, like the previous week, in which he took home Eastern Conference player of the week honors for his stellar play.

In fact, he could do without all the fanfare in general his purchase of a 2.8 million condo in the Trump Tower included and just focus on the high-profile games themselves, showdowns he anticipated would be fun, a description that isnt uncommon when the 23-year-old is asked about so-called individual or team challenges. While the response may seem bland or generic, the look in the fierce competitors eye often gives away how he truly feels: Fun means a highly-competitive game, in which hell try to destroy the opposition.

As always, Rose tends to downplay things in his naturally understated ways, something that differentiates him from many of his superstar peers. While his on-court status makes him a must-have quote before and after games, rarely does he provide the media with inflammatory statements, although his candor occasionally makes for excellent insight.

Take last Wednesdays buzzer-beater to beat the Bucks in Milwaukee, already one of the signature moments in his young career. While he acknowledged that making a walk-off shot on the road was a childhood dream, there were no hints of either arrogance or overexuberance.

Afterward, teammate Brian Scalabrine who has played with Hall of Famers throughout his career, from Jason Kidd in New Jersey to Bostons Big Three told CSNChicago.com: Ive played with some great, great players and what makes him so different is he has the will to win, but he also has the skill to do it and he wants it. Hes not afraid of it. He wants that responsibility. Whether he makes it or misses free throws or something, he likes it. When you have that in your superstar, its the kind of guy you want to have.

Off the court, its the same. Rose has obviously endeared himself to fans worldwide with his combination of precocious basketball skills, remarkably explosive athleticism and extreme humility, but could some of that also be because he simply carries himself differently than the stereotypical NBA star?

In many ways, the NBA is like high school. With approximately 450 players on rosters and several friendships dating back to college, if not to their AAU days, the professional wrestling type of hype the media occasionally falls victim to using when promoting games between rival teams and players is different from reality, as current and former players often describe the league as a fraternity, in which players frequently socialize and stay in touch off the court, regardless of team affiliations or heated on-court occurrences.

That said, while theres a mutual respect factor for all players who make it to the highest level in the sport, as in every industry, natural friendships blossom and people of the same ilk tend to relate to others like them. While some players click with hometown or regional friends, college rivals, former teammates and just people they share commonalities with, there seems to be a growing number of superstar players that have formed a bond, whether formally or not.

Im way younger than those guys, so people that came in with me, Im by myself. Those guys are five or six years older than I am, so its totally different. Theyve been knowing each other for a very long time, playing against each other and with each other for a long time, Rose told CSNChicago.com days later. I stand alone a little bit, but Im a loner. Im used to it. I can be quiet all day. I dont need anyone to talk to. Thats just me.

Rose was talking about his experience at last months All-Star Game in Orlando, where he was criticized in some corners for not dancing on stage with the likes of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade Back to the real world, he said after the game, to refresh your memory. I dont care how I lookif you would have saw me out there dancing, you would have been looking at me different. Im just meI can dance, but I think theres a time and place for it, and I dont think it was right then and there on stage when the Eastern Conference starters were introduced. The soft-spoken point guard was too polite to directly make the connection, but the implication was clear: Rose is a different breed.

I just think its the way he was raised, man. hes not really a clique-type of dude," said teammate Carlos Boozer. "The people that you see around Derrick are the same people who have been around him since he was a young fella his brothers, his boy Randall Hampton, guys he grew up in his neighborhood, his mom the same people around him now. Hes an NBA superstar and every time we go out or we see him at dinner, its the same people hes been with, Boozer explained. His clique outside of the family he grew with is us. Were his brothers, his team. Thats what makes him so dope because he knows where he came from, stays to where he came from and at the same time, his brothers are the people he plays with outside of his family. Hes very different, but definitely true to his roots, man.

Hes not changing. Listen: He has the same mentality. You would have no idea he was some mega-superstar, which he is, if you just talk to him day to day. If you walk into a room, he might not say anything to you, you dont know who he is, but you see him on all the billboards and you see him on every SportsCenter highlight reel. Just a humble dude, man. I keep telling people, hes the most humble star that Ive ever met in my life, in any sport, he continued. The craziest thing Ive seen is most stars love the attention; D-Rose shies away from it. He doesnt want to talk to you all. Hed rather us talk for him. Hed rather go about his business, enjoy his life. That, to me, is crazy because most stars want all the attention. He doesnt.

Echoed Joakim Noah: I love the fact that hes comfortable with who he is, you know? He doesnt have to impress anybody and he doesnt have to be what hes not. Hes comfortable with who he is. Thats why I expletive with D-Rose.

Its fitting the James and Wade are in the Windy City Wednesday coming off an overtime loss to the seemingly confused Dwight Howard and Orlando as the contrast between them and Rose will be on full display. Not in their games, as each of the trio are all elite talents, but in their respective demeanors, as the way Rose comports himself particularly behind the scenes, amongst their peers, with no media in sight is simply cut from a different cloth.

Yes, Roses comments about the officiating Monday seem out of line with his usual humility, but he made them out of a sense of injustice, not hubris. And while he continues to be patient with the media and address repeated questions about the same topic day after day and night after night how many Most Valuable Players are available before and after games, let alone the occasional shootaround? he is obviously getting weary of the constant onslaught.

But this is still the same guy who, until teammates stepped in to put an end to the practice, was determined to sign every autograph for diehard Bulls fans at the airport when the team plane landed back in Chicago in the wee hours of the morning following a road game. Even with all of the attention he receives and success hes had, and will continue to enjoy, as well as the untold riches coming his way, could he ever change?

Its doubtful. In the words of Noah who did note that, outside of his teammates, Rose does hang out with the likes of Oklahoma City Thunder duo Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, as well as Minnesotas Kevin Love, in the offseason; he works out with Westbrook and Love Too many big brothers.

James is one thing, an anointed future Hall of Famer since he was 15-years-old, complete with a never-before-seen hype machine and even with some missteps along the way at least in the media, though even the most avowed LeBron hater cant say hes made bad judgments off the court that could lead anyone to the conclusion that hes an outright bad person, if not a modest one hes become the person, in his public perception, and player, hes supposed to be, clutch performances aside. But in Wades case, his evolvement from underrated South Suburban high school star, Final Four hero at Marquette and NBA champion to his image now has been jarring when looked at in its totality.

This isnt meant to simply bash the Heat, as there will be plenty of time for that later in the evening, from a variety of voices. Its actually a league-wide thing, where stars transform as their brands grow, is somewhat of a necessary evil, but with Rose, his brand, the reason adidas inked him to that mega-deal last month, is built upon him being the same person hes always been.

You pay attention a little bit, but I just try to stay in my own lane, where I just worry about myself, he said.

Scalabrine offered some additional perspective: Derrick wants to be great, so hes not worried about what he needs to do or trying to be something hes not. He just wants to be the best player Derrick Rose can be, which is probably the best player in the world.

That focus and mindset has allowed him to thrive, while his humility is the reason that any perceived negativity seems to bounce off him like its Teflon. From the SAT saga coming out of high school to the sting of last seasons playoff defeat, people seem to forget about the bad when it comes to Derrick Rose after watching him play the next game, interact with the media from touching moments involving his mother to his aw-shucks demeanor after yet another amazing feat and most importantly, his humble approach, which gives one the sense that as seriously as he takes the game. He knows that the world doesnt revolve around basketball, let alone himself.

With Derrick and with me also, its family and the people youre around," fellow All-Star Luol Deng said to CSNChicago.com. "Im not saying anyone has bad people around him, but its really when your brothers are the same way his brothers are the same way as him; down to earth, the same people he has no choice but to be that way. If his brothers were doing that, people in his family or friends he hangs out with, it would be really hard for him to stay the same way, but hes doing a good job of just being him and just knowing that this is a game we play, Deng said. This is not life. Youre going to finish at 30-something and then have another life, so I think staying humble and staying down to earth, and putting God first is what hes doing and thats what we all should do.

Javier Báez joins Cubs All-Decade Team at second base, where El Mago was born

Javier Báez joins Cubs All-Decade Team at second base, where El Mago was born

With the 2010s coming to a close, NBC Sports Chicago is unveiling its Cubs All-Decade Team, highlighting the players who made the biggest impacts on the organization from 2010-19.

There may not be a player in baseball more exciting to watch than Javier Báez.

Whether at the plate, in the field or on the bases, Báez is a human highlight real. He’s one of the most powerful hitters in baseball; he has a cannon for an arm, exemplary defensive range and is a tagging maestro. He’s a dynamic baserunner who uses his elite baseball instincts to go station-to-station while magically avoiding tags along the way.

Yeah, there’s a reason Báez is known as “El Mago.” It’s not a matter of if he’ll make an incredible play each game, but a matter of when. Things come easy for the 27-year-old full of flair who makes the most difficult plays seem routine.

Báez is a career .270/.310/.484 hitter who’s hit 110 home runs in parts of six big-league seasons. One of those long balls came in his big-league debut (Aug. 5, 2014), a go-ahead blast against the Rockies in the 12th inning. The legend of El Mago was born.

Báez is the Cubs starting shortstop, though that hasn’t always been the case. Starlin Castro was the starter in 2014; Addison Russell claimed the title from Castro in the second half of 2015, holding it down until late in the 2018 season. Russell hit the injured list that August as the Cubs simultaneously acquired Daniel Murphy in an attempt to jump-start the offense.

By the time Russell returned, Báez was a clear-cut NL MVP candidate. The latter still bounced around the infield from time-to-time, but with Murphy entrenched at second, shortstop became Báez’s primary position. He’s been the starter ever since.

Báez has played 2,646 2/3 career innings at shortstop compared to 1,856 at second base (and 629 1/3 at third). He’s exclusively a shortstop these days, but the El Mago second base days aren’t forgotten.

Báez was the co-recipient of the 2016 NLCS MVP award (along with Jon Lester) and has started back-to-back All-Star Games (2018 at second, 2019 at shortstop). He was the runner-up for the 2018 NL MVP award, posting career highs across the board: .290/.326/.554, 34 homers, 111 RBIs, 129 OPS+.

And yet, it feels like Báez is only getting started. Nevertheless, his career to date has more than earned him a spot on our Cubs All-Decade Team at second base. With that, we'll leave you with this:

Adam Boqvist's entry-level contract with Blackhawks officially kicks in

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AP

Adam Boqvist's entry-level contract with Blackhawks officially kicks in

The youth movement is underway in Chicago and it's happening quicker than expected.

Adam Boqvist played in his 10th NHL game of the season on Sunday, officially triggering the first year of his entry-level contract. That means he will become a restricted free agent at end of the 2021-22 season. If he appeared in nine games or fewer, his contract wouldn't have kicked in until next season, which would've bought the Blackhawks an extra year of Boqvist playing at a cap hit of $894,167.

"Maybe that was a discussion very early on but as far as coach perspective, we like him," head coach Jeremy Colliton said on whether he and GM Stan Bowman had conversations about burning Boqvist's first year. "I think he's played well and it's an opportunity with some injuries to give him some ice time. He's handled it well so far."

Boqvist is the second rookie on the Blackhawks this season to burn their first year, joining No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach. Whether the decisions were dictated by circumstances or not, the Blackhawks have seen enough of both of them to feel they can have an impact on the team in the short term without hindering their developments in the long term.

The number to watch now is 40. Like Dach, if Boqvist appears in 40 or more games this season, it will count as a full season and bring him one year closer to unrestricted free agency. Any player that's accrued seven full seasons or is at least 27 years old as of June 30 of that respective year can become an unrestricted free agent.

Boqvist appeared in six games for the Blackhawks during the month of November before getting reassigned to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League on Nov. 14 when Connor Murphy was ready to return from his groin injury.

But with Calvin de Haan (shoulder) expected to be out long term and Duncan Keith still out with a groin injury, the Blackhawks called up Boqvist for insurance and because they lacked defensemen with offensive upside. It appears he will remain with the big club for the time being and it serves as a chance for their No. 8 overall pick in 2018 to prove he can handle NHL minutes on a consistent basis during a desperate time for the Blackhawks.

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