White Sox

Simeon tops Evanston to head down state

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Simeon tops Evanston to head down state

By Dan Ruane
YourSeason.com
Simeon coach Robert Smith keeps warning people that his team will not win state unless it starts executing its offense better. But what Smith will acknowledge is that the Wolverines have been playing stellar defense.The top-ranked Wolverines continued to dominate in the Class 4A bracket with a 59-34 victory Tuesday over No. 9 Evanston in the Chicago State Supersectional.Simeon (31-1) will play No. 4 Bloom (28-3) at 8:15 p.m. Friday in the second Class 4A state semifinal. The Wolverines will be vying for an IHSA record sixth state championship and their fifth in the last seven years.There was too much selfishness with the ball in the first half, said Smith, whose team led 29-19 after two quarters. We cant just rely on Jabari (Parker) to get it done for us.Simeon took advantage of a nervous Evanston squad early on. They forced the Wildkits (21-11) into six early turnovers and two missed shots while racing to an 8-0 lead in the first three minutes of the game. A key play in that run was an alley-oop dunk by Kendrick Nunn that ignited the crowd. It was a sign of things to come for Nunn.Nunn is still young. He wont turn 17 till August, Smith said. He did a great job of wearing their shooter (Josh Irving) down.Nunn scored 13 points and had five assists. But it was his defense against Irving that made a difference. He forced Irving into shooting 3-for-14 from three-point range and held the senior guard to 10 points.I thought they were quicker to loose balls than us and got points off of that, Evanston coach Mike Ellis said. I thought we couldve had more opportunities inside. We didnt think aggressively enough to beat a team like Simeon.Parker had his usual strong game for the Wolverines. The junior, forward scored 19 points and had 10 rebounds and had six blocks. The Wolverine guards Nunn, Jaleni Neely, Reggie Norris, Jaylon Tate and Kendall Pollard held the Evanston trio of Irving, Jordan Perrin and Leonard Garrin to 6-for-28 shooting. This follows a pattern throughout the playoffs for Simeon of holding teams down in the second half while outscoring its opponents by an average of 23 points for the game.We were talking on the bus on the way down here about being happy anytime you can get Downstate, Smith said. We have added pressure this year because we are ranked nationally. But I liked the way that our guys didnt celebrate tonight. They know we have two more games to win.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Manny Machado fallout

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Manny Machado fallout

Mark Grote, Chris Bleck and JJ Stankevitz join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00 - The fallout continues from the White Sox' failure to sign Manny Machado. Are Sox fans right to be mad that their team would not do whatever it took to land a once-in-a-generation player?

10:00 - Pat Boyle joins the panel to talk about the Blackhawks recent hot streak and whether or not the team should be buyers at the deadline.

17:00 - The Bears clear up some cap space by cutting Dion Sims. Will they use that money for a kicker? Plus the panel discusses if they Bears will re-sign Adrian Amos and if they should have any interest in Le'Veon Bell?

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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With Lottery positioning just about set, Bulls can focus on progress in final 2 months

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USA TODAY

With Lottery positioning just about set, Bulls can focus on progress in final 2 months

One year ago the Bulls came out of the All-Star break with a 20-37 record and in a dead heat for the top Lottery odds. When play resumed on Feb. 22, here’s what those standings looked like:

Phoenix – 18-41 – 0 GB
Atlanta – 18-41 – 0 GB
Dallas – 18-40 – 0.5 GB
Orlando – 18-39 – 1 GB
Sacramento – 18-39 – 1 GB
Brooklyn – 19-40 – 1 GB
Memphis – 18-38 – 1.5 GB
Chicago – 20-37 – 3 GB

Eight teams separated by just 3 games, with the difference in odds for the top pick being 25 percent (No. 1) and 2.8 percent (No. 8) and the difference for a top-3 pick being 64.3 percent (No. 1) and 9.9 percent (No. 8).

There was a whole lot at stake, and the Bulls made sure they positioned themselves as best they could to “improve” their positioning by the end of the season. It included playing Cristiano Felicio 24.2 minutes per game, including 27.9 in the final seven games, and Cameron Payne 23.3 minutes per game after not playing a single minute prior to the All-Star break thanks to foot surgery.

Kris Dunn played the first 11 games after the All-Star break but was then shut down with a turf toe injury, missing the final 14 games. Likewise, Zach LaVine also missed the final 14 games with knee soreness. Lauri Markkanen finished the season averaging 24.3 minutes in his final eight games, down from 30.4 before his back spasms.

It was a nightmare. It was tanking. It did nothing to move along the rebuild and, worst of all, the Bulls went 7-18 after the break and wound up tied with the Kings for the seventh best odds on Lottery Night. We all know how that went down, though the Bulls are plenty happy with Wendell Carter Jr. as a consolation prize.

This season it’s different. The Bulls come out of the All-Star break with a 14-44 record and sit comfortably with the fourth worst record in the NBA. Here’s what the standings look like:

Phoenix – 11-48 – 0 GB
New York – 11-47 – 0 GB
Cleveland – 12-46 – 0 GB
Chicago – 14-44 – 2 GB
Atlanta – 19-39 – 7 GB
Memphis – 23-36 – 10 GB

We can forget about the Bulls “catching” either the Suns or Knicks. Phoenix has lost a whopping 15 in a row and the Knicks had lost 18 in a row before catching lightning in a bottle and beating the Hawks before the break. Even if the Bulls lost out (they won’t), it’s tough to see the Suns or Knicks winning three games the rest of the way.

There’s Cleveland, which has actually shown some fight the last two weeks and won three games after a 1-18 stretch. But no team understands the power of holding the top pick quite like Cleveland, and you can bet the tank will be on in full effect over their final 24 games. It’s hard to envision a scenario in which the Cavs win two more games than the Bulls to finish the season.

And below the Bulls (or above them, depending on how you look at it), the Hawks are cruising. They’ve got bona fide pieces in Trae Young, John Collins, Kevin Huerter and Taurean Prince. They’ve gone a respectable 5-7 over their last 12 games and certainly won’t be five games worse than the Bulls over the final two months.

So what does that all mean? That the Bulls are pretty much locked in to the No. 4 slot in the Lottery order. For those at home, that’s a 12.5 percent chance at the top pick and a 48.1 percent chance at a top-4 pick.

And that’s a good thing! True, moving into the top-3 is still coveted as it gives you the best chance at the top pick. But the new odds have made that less of a bonus – last season the jump from No. 4 to No. 3 was a 3.7 percent jump (11.9 to 15.6 percent).

The Bulls don’t need to scoreboard watch in the final two months. They can roll out their best players and watch them grow. Markkanen is playing his best basketball and LaVine has picked up the slack for a struggling Kris Dunn.

Sean Kilpatrick and Noah Vonleh don’t need to hoist up shots knowing they’re not part of the future. The Bulls can see what they have in players like Wayne Selden, Chandler Hutchison and Shaq Harrison as potential options for next season.

The Bulls have a good problem at hand. It’s difficult to see them moving up or down in the Lottery standings, and they’re doing so in a year where it doesn’t matter as much. Even if they got red hot and somehow passed the Hawks, their odds would move from 12.5 percent to 10.5 percent. Nothing massive, and if they were to pass Atlanta it probably means LaVine, Dunn and Markkanen are doing something special.

These final games matter for the rebuild. The Bulls entered this current season with little knowledge of how their core (LaVine, Markkanen, Dunn) worked together. It’d be ideal to have Wendell Carter Jr. in the fold, but even without him they can still improve as a whole.

Throw in Otto Porter Jr. to the mix and the Bulls can get 24 games with little expectation of needing to win (or lose). It’s cliché, but developing a winning culture – or something resembling it – could help entering next season. The Bulls have said all year that they need to learn how to win, and they could get their chance in the final 2 months without it affecting any Lottery balls.