White Sox

Scheyer finds a home in Israel

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Scheyer finds a home in Israel

After failing to find a home in the NBA and recovering from eye surgery, former Glenbrook North and Duke basketball star Jon Scheyer decided the best path to continue his professional career would lead him to Israel.

Last June, he signed a two-year contract for a reported 450,000 to play for Maccabi Tel Aviv, the European League's 2011 runnerup and five-time champion. He began playing for his new team on Oct. 1. A month earlier, Scheyer, who is Jewish, obtained Israeli citizenship.

"I am really excited to take the next step in my basketball career and go play for Maccabi Tel Aviv," he said. "I am looking forward to the opportunity to play for a team with such great tradition."

Scheyer's reputation preceded him. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard led Glenbrook North to the Class AA championship as a junior in 2005, finished as the fourth-leading scorer in state history with 3,034 points and was acclaimed as Illinois' Mr. Basketball. In one of the most celebrated performances in state history, he scored 21 points in 75 seconds in a quarterfinal game of the Proviso West Holiday Tournament, an entertaining clip that has been viewed more than 160,000 times on YouTube.

After choosing Duke over Illinois, Arizona and Wisconsin, Scheyer averaged 12.2, 11.7, 14.9 and 18.2 points per game in four years under coach Mike Krzyzewski. As a senior, he became the second player in Illinois history to win a state high school title and an NCAA title, following former Thornridge and Indiana star Quinn Buckner.

Despite his many awards and achievements -- he was a consensus second-team All-American, one of six finalists for the Bob Cousy award as the nation's top point guard, one of 10 finalists for the John Wooden Award as the nation's top player and the only player in Duke history to record at least 2,000 points, 500 rebounds, 400 assists, 250 three-pointers and 200 steals in his career -- Scheyer wasn't selected in the 2010 NBA draft.

Although Krzyzewski said he would be "a little bit surprised" if Scheyer wasn't on an NBA roster for the 2011-12 season, NBA scouts and coaches weren't convinced. Not physical enough, some argued. Not athletic enough to defend on the perimeter, others said.

Scheyer pursued his dream with the Miami Heat's summer league team, attended the Los Angeles Clippers training camp and played with the Houston Rockets' Developmental League team. But a serious, life-changing eye injury eventually led to surgery and, after originally turning down several offers to play overseas, he finally decided to go to Israel.

"We always thought that Scheyer had a legitimate shot at making the NBA due to his work ethic and basketball IQ. But we are not all that surprised that he is playing overseas instead," said recruiting analyst Roy Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye.

"Actually, that is where we thought he would end up and it is not a bad option at all. You can make good money, play against good international competition and live well.

"What is unfortunate is that Scheyer does not fit the mold of the prototypical NBA player in the eyes of professional scouts. While he is a smart player who is also skilled, he lacks the things that are perceived as being automatic ingredients for NBA stardom -- size and athleticism."

Glenbrook North coach Dave Weber, Scheyer's high school coach, believes the decision to play in Israel is a good step.

"He should be in the NBA. But he had eye surgery. He would have been in the NBA if he hadn't gotten injured," Weber said. "He is a smart point guard. He will fight through it. How good is he right now? How is he playing now? Maybe some day he will get to the NBA."

For the time being, Scheyer is enjoying his experience in Israel and battling to earn more playing time. Playing against Real Madrid, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Anadolu Efes and Partizan in Group C of the Euroleague might not sound like prime-time matches with North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio State and Kansas but Scheyer concedes it is a tough transition.

"Every team is coming at us every night. It's just like Duke," Scheyer told Tablet magazine in Tel Aviv last week. "When I was going to Duke, you know it's going to be such a high level. But you don't know what to expect until you get to your first practice. No matter how many times you watch or your teammates have told you, you just need to experience it. The game is played differently. It takes a little time to get adjusted."

Longtime Euroleague and Maccabi Tel Aviv observers point out that starring immediately in Tel Aviv would be akin to earning All-American honors as a freshman at Duke -- not even Scheyer did that -- and the transition to Israeli basketball hasn't been as glamorous as his Albert Pujols-hyped arrival. He has yet to play in Maccabi's two Euroleague games and he has averaged about 10 minutes per game in the Adriatic and Israeli leagues.

At 24, he knows he has time to put his game in order and achieve his goal of playing in the NBA.

Will the White Sox make a big splash at the Winter Meetings?

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AP

Will the White Sox make a big splash at the Winter Meetings?

SAN DIEGO — At the GM meetings last month in Arizona, White Sox vice president Kenny Williams teased that the team was going to do more business than usual.

We found out later that the White Sox met with Yasmani Grandal while out in the desert. And when the free-agent catcher got the richest deal in club history the following week, it was a sign the White Sox were serious about their intent to be aggressive and make some big splashes this winter ahead of a possible transition from rebuilding to contending in 2020.

The Grandal signing earned nothing short of rave reviews, but there’s still an awful lot on the to-do list for general manager Rick Hahn and his front office as the Winter Meetings get going here in Southern California. The White Sox have designs on adding a pair of starting pitchers to their rotation and landing an everyday right fielder. An everyday-type DH could also be in the cards, though Grandal’s arrival has at least provided a more realistic internal option in the form of a multi-player rotation. Bullpen help is never turned away.

Much of that could be addressed this week, with ample opportunities to cross those items off the list, even if in less headline-grabbing style. You’ll remember back to last year’s Winter Meetings, when the White Sox filled a hole in their rotation by trading for Ivan Nova.

But with no disrespect to Mr. Nova, most fans are waiting for a much bigger splash.

It’s what the White Sox tried to get done before they flew out to the West Coast. Just last week they reportedly made the highest bid in the Zack Wheeler sweepstakes, only for the 29-year-old free agent to take less money to play for the Philadelphia Phillies. Cries of “here we go again” from the fan base — still stinging from the way things played out with Manny Machado a winter ago — were quickly quelled by the financial details, and it sure seems there aren’t any more excuses for anyone to stick to the old talking point that the White Sox are unwilling or unable to spend. Wheeler’s deal, had he accepted it, would have broken Grandal’s weeks-old record for the most expensive contract in club history.

So will someone else actually take the White Sox money this week?

Certainly the possibilities are out there. Still searching for starting pitching, the White Sox could turn to Madison Bumgarner, who they’ve been connected to since Wheeler’s decision. The 30-year-old three-time World Series champ could play a Jon Lester type role in a different Chicago rebuild. Though plenty have expressed concerns over what effect his 1,948.1 combined regular-season and postseason innings will have moving forward. There are reasons to be skeptical, just as there are reasons to be optimistic.

If the White Sox don’t want to play at the tippy top of the starting-pitching market — they haven’t been heavily linked to either Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg — then Bumgarner is the biggest free-agent pitching splash out there. Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dallas Keuchel are in a similar strata of this free-agent market, but perhaps neither would generate quite as much buzz as arguably the greatest pitcher in World Series history.

The White Sox could also get splashy in their quest to fill the vacancy in right field. Nicholas Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna are the two biggest names on the free-agent outfield market, and either would slot into the middle of the White Sox order. Neither would make for an ideal defensive selection, considering Castellanos’ ugly defensive stats in right field (which might exaggerate that reputation) and the fact that Ozuna is a left fielder who didn’t play a lick of right during his two years with the St. Louis Cardinals. Both, however, could make a big offensive impact. Ozuna had a ludicrously good season playing for the Miami Marlins in 2017, while the White Sox are plenty familiar with what Castellanos can do after he bludgeoned them in recent seasons with the division-rival Detroit Tigers.

The White Sox could potentially go off the board and chase someone outside of their stated positional needs, Hahn leaving everything on the table when he discussed his offseason approach at length last month. But neither paying a huge sum for Anthony Rendon nor coughing up prospects for Mookie Betts seems too likely at the moment. The fun thing about the Winter Meetings, though, is what seems likely or unlikely can change in an instant.

Speaking of trades, while Hahn signaled the White Sox have little interest in dealing their prized prospects for short-term gain, that market could provide opportunities for heretofore unmentioned splashes. Who knows if the White Sox have any interest in the biggest names being speculated about — Betts, Francisco Lindor, Kris Bryant, etc. — but they’ve reportedly been chatting with the Los Angeles Dodgers about Joc Pederson. After supposedly trying and failing to get him in a trade last winter, his arrival on the South Side would probably be splashy enough, considering he had a career year at the dish in 2019 that included 36 home runs.

After last year’s Machado and Bryce Harper bonanzas, expectations have been raised. After the collective breakout of so many of the White Sox core players in 2019, expectations have been raised. The White Sox seem to have the ingredients to make their long-awaited transition from rebuilding to contending in 2020. Money allocated for free agents is one of those ingredients. While there’s more than one way to build a championship roster, including leaning heavily on the wealth of young talent already in the White Sox possession, those raised expectations have fans craving a splash.

So will the White Sox cannonball into the Pacific Ocean this week? Stay tuned.

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Bears' wild-card chances eroding after Week 14's results

Bears' wild-card chances eroding after Week 14's results

The Bears did their part to keep hope alive for a playoff berth in Week 14, defeating the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night and moving to 7-6 on the season. Unfortunately, they didn't get the help they needed around the league to enter Week 15's game against the Green Bay Packers with legitimate post-season juice.

The Minnesota Vikings, who currently hold the final NFC wild card that the Bears are chasing, handled their business against the Detroit Lions with their 20-7 victory in a game that was never close. Now 9-4, the Vikings' have a two-game lead over the Bears with one head-to-head matchup remaining in Week 17. Chicago needs to defeat Minnesota in the season finale and hope the Vikings lose one of their other two remaining games against the Chargers and Packers. Otherwise, it's on to 2020.

The bigger blow to the Bears' playoff hopes came in Los Angeles, where the Rams moved to 8-5 with their 28-12 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. This was a game Chicago needed the Rams to lose, considering they hold the head-to-head tie-breaker and play only one more game on their schedule that seems like a likely loss (49ers in Week 16). Los Angeles' other two games are against the struggling Cowboys and lowly Cardinals, and if they win both and end the year with the same record as the Bears, they'll have the advantage because of Chicago's loss in Week 11.

So what does all this mean? Week 14's results have the Bears' chances to make the playoffs at just 2%, according to FiveThirtyEight.  Essentially, nothing's changed, even after a win. Football Insiders is a little more optimistic; they have Chicago's chances at 4.4%.

Sunday's game against the Packers has meaning. The Bears are still alive, and a victory in Green Bay coupled with some upset losses by the Vikings and Rams could change the playoff picture quite a bit. If both Minnesota and Los Angeles lose, Chicago's playoff chances jump to 14%, per the New York Times' playoff predictor.

One game at a time. It's a mantra that's worked for the Bears over the last month of the season, and one they'll continue to preach until there's nothing left to play for.

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