Cubs

Starting Five: Bulls at Lakers

Starting Five: Bulls at Lakers

Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010
5:18 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

1. Bulls power forward Taj Gibson expects to play in tonights game against the Lakers after aggravating a foot injury Sunday and missing the teams practices that day and Monday. I think I should be able to playWe worked on it all morning, the last couple hours, the day before, said Gibson, who claims he was told by doctors that he couldnt further aggravate the injury by playing. Im feeling a lot better. Once they figured out what it was, that helped it heal faster. When they saw the MRI, did the check-up to make sure I was okay, they said he should treat the injury with some ice and stim electronic stimulation.

Continued Gibson, who said the injury was unrelated to the plantar fasciitis that troubled him since last season: Even if Im a little down, when the game comes, everything just changes. Im looking forward to trying to play; looking forward to playing, actuallyIm just happy that there werent any tears or anything. When we were looking at the film, they the doctors were all shaky-faced; their faces were all screwed-up. Its just a little aggravation. Thibodeau chimed in, He said hes feeling a lot better today, so its encouragingWe didnt think it was anything major, but we were cautionary Mondaygoing to the doctor, see how he feels tonight before the gameand if hes ready to go, he goes.

2. Reserve forward Brian Scalabrine, another USC product, expressed much stronger sentiments about practicing at his rival school. Ill tell you what: I dont have good nights here. I feel like we should have went to SC the University of Southern California, his alma mater or even maybe the Staples Center at shootaround, but I can come in this gym UCLAs Student Activity Center. I dont really have any hatred toward this place right here. I mean, I have some hatred of Pauley Pavilion, UCLAs home gym. Listen, Im not going to hide it: I hate UCLA; thats just the way it is. I like USC, I hate UCLA. I want them to lose, I want USC to win, said Scalabrine before shootaround.

We battled, but Im not like the guys nowadays that have friends and stuff like that at other places. When we were there, we hated UCLA; I wanted them to lose every game. I dont know how they felt about us, but thats just how it is. Added Scalabrine: I played one time in the vaunted summer pickup games at UCLA. They argue too much. Magic Johnson, manhe cheats. You cant ever get any games going. I come to work; I dont come to argue. I could argue at home if I wantbut top-notch runs here.

Scalabrine also opined about the Bulls opponent tonight and whether they were an improved team with the additions of free agents Matt Barnes and Steve Blake, the improvement of Shannon Brown and Kobe Bryants hot start. I think theyre a better team, but for thema team like thatthey won a championship; you dont know how all that is going to work in June. It might work in June. All sights point to them maybe working in June, but you just never know, said Scalabrine.

You never know. In 08, we Boston won the championship and the next year, K.G. Kevin Garnett has the knee thing and we were out in the second round vs. Orlando. You never know whats going to happen. We thought we were poised to win that championship, just like we thought we were poised to win last years championship. I dont think you never know how thats going to play out. Especially in the playoffs, I think the cream rises to the top, and clearly they have guys that have performed at that level and have done well, but the other guys have stuff to prove.

3. After Sundays practice at the Staples Center, Derrick Rose discussed the underrated Lamar Odom, his teammate from the FIBA World Championships gold medal-winning USA Basketball squad. Hes Odom a good dude. Works hard, loves the game, really helpful to his teamhes going to eat offensively. Rebounds, tip-ins, push the ball up the floor. If theres an advantage, hes going to drive the ball, get to the line. Hes going to ball when hes on the floor, said Rose.

When youve got a guy thats been playing the power forward spot for numerous years and you put on a team USA Basketball where hes got to play centerhe started for us at center, so he had to stick Luis Scola and all the other great European centers over thereso that was kind of weird and he took that challenge. Rose went on to talk about Odoms intense pregame preparation. You could just tell Odom was a champion by the way he prepared for the games. He does a whole body workout before a game. I call it a prison workout. Hell be in the locker, the coach will be talking and hell do million little workoutspush-ups, sit-ups. Everybody was laughing like, Man, here he goes with his workout. Put his towel down and do a whole bunch of workouts. But the way he prepares for games in unbelievable. Thats why hes where hes at right now.

Rose also noted his alma mater, Chicagos Simeon Career Academy, being ranked as the preseason top team in the city and No. 10 nationally, with speculation the perennial prep powerhouse could be better than his back-to-back state championship squads. Theyve Simeon got a chance to do it. Theyve got a lot of young talent, good coaching staff there and it would be great if they could have another team like that his own team, said Rose.

4. Thibodeau talked about his history with Bryant after Sundays practice, which goes back to the superstars days as a high school phenom at Lower Merion High School in suburban Philadelphia. He was so driven. He was a high school kid and when he had a day off from school, and hed be in the gym from eight in the morning until eight at night. He was trying to play against the pros and watch everything, lift weights. You know his talent. In high school, when he was playing against pros, he looked like he belonged with them. You knew he was going to be special, but I think his drive is what he really separates him.

When you combine that drive and his intelligence with his talent, hes top of the line, recalled Thibodeau, who joked that his knowledge of Bryants game hasnt helped me very much. His dad former NBA player Joe Jellybean Bryant was coaching at La Salle and John Lucas was the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers. They had known each other for a long time and we were practicing at St. Joes St. Josephs University. In Philly, everyone was around. High school players, college players, you had prosthey were all in the same gymbut you could just tell. The way he would study everything was amazing for a high school kid.
5. Dont forget to follow me on Twitter at @CSNBullsInsider.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Glanville: Fall to Spring - A player’s offseason changes meaning with each changing season

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USA TODAY

Glanville: Fall to Spring - A player’s offseason changes meaning with each changing season

A few weeks after the we (the Cubs) were eliminated from the 2003 playoffs, I got a phone call from my college professor. Since it was officially the off-season, I was in the early stages of a break from following a pocket schedule to tell me where to be every day for nearly eight months.

But this was a man I could not refuse. I chose my college major to go into his field of transportation engineering and he was calling because he needed a teaching assistant to accompany him on his trip to South Africa.

One minute I could barely move off of my couch in my Chicago apartment after losing Game 7 against the Marlins. The next minute, I would be standing within miles of the Southern most point in Africa at the Cape of Good Hope. Why not? I needed the distraction so I agreed to go.

The offseason is its own transition. Leaving the regimen of routine, of batting practice and bus times, to an open ended world that you have to re-learn again. When I finished my first full major league season in 1997, I lived in Streeterville at the Navy Pier Apartments.

That offseason, I decided to stay an extra month in Chicago only to wake up panicked for the first two weeks because I thought I was missing stretch time for a home day game. A major league schedule becomes etched in your DNA after a while.

It is also a time that you get to reflect. The regular season does not give you a moment to really get perspective on what was just accomplished, what it all means, what you would change. I always joked about the T-shirt I wanted to a sell that listed all of the things a major league player figures out during the off-season. From the perfect swing to the ex-girlfriend you need to un-break-up with next week.

It all becomes so clear when a 96 MPH fastball isn’t coming at you.

For years, I would arrange a training program to follow, but I quickly learned that I had to mix it up. There was only so much repetition I could stand in the off-season. So some years, I moved to the site of spring training and worked out early with the staff, other years I found a spot at home where I grew up or wherever I played during the season, to train.

I was single when I played, but now with a family, I have a better understanding of the challenges my teammates would express as they were re-engaging as a daily father again after this long absentee existence.

To keep it fresh and spicy, when I got older in the game, I enrolled in a dance studio and took a winter of dance lessons. Salsa, Foxtrot, Rumba, you name it. On Thursdays we had to dance for an hour straight, changing partners in the room every song change. Dancing with the Stars had nothing on me.

Of course, not every offseason is fun and games. There were years when I wasn’t sure I would have a job the next year, or I was in the throes of a trade rumor. In 1997, I was traded from the Cubs to the Phillies two days before Christmas. In 2002, my father passed away on the last game of the season, leading the offseason to be a time of mourning.

By my final season in 2005, I thought I was officially on my couch forever. I was going to fade away into oblivion like many players do. No fanfare, the phone just would stop ringing and I would just let the silence wash over me. The Yankees had called earlier in that off-season, acting like they were doing me a favor which I turned down, then they called back later with a more open tone, seeing me as a potential key piece in their outfield with Bernie Williams slowing down quite a bit at that point.

I did get off that couch for that call, only to get released the last week of camp, so I was back on the couch, with a fiancé and some extra salt in the wounds after that final meeting with Brian Cashman and Joe Torre, who boxed me into the coaches office to tell me I was released. Released? Come on. Never had that happen before.

The Cubs players will go through all of this if they have the good fortune of playing a long time. The wave of uncertainty, the meaning of age in this game spares no one. Each offseason is a time to reset, a period where you get away, seemingly adrift from the game, then as spring gets closer, the shoreline comes up in the horizon once again, magnetically drawing you to its shores for another season.

Amazingly, you don’t always know your age and what it has done to your body. 34 can’t be that old, right? I can still run, or throw 95. Then those 23-year-olds in camp are the wake up call, or maybe you are that 23-year-old and can’t believe your locker is next to Ryne Sandberg’s.

Then you blink, and you are advising Jimmy Rollins about etiquette and realize you have become that guy, the seasoned vet, preaching about locker room respect.

For the 2018 Cubs, they fell short of their goal to repeat their 2016 magic. Failed to meet their singular destination that meant success over all else. Yet, those who come back for 2019, will not be the same player, the same person, that left the locker room at the close this season. They will have grown, changed, aged, wizened up, rehabbed, hardened. All of which means that new perspective is the inevitable part of this time off, whether you like it or not.

Baseball is a game that has this unique dynamic. The highest intensity rhythm of any sport. Every day you are tested. You are pushed to the brink by sheer attrition. According to my teammate Ed Smith, who was playing third base at the time when Michael Jordan reached third, Jordan, after playing well over 100 games in a row, said to him “Man, I have never been this tired in my entire life.”

The grind.

Then it stops on a dime. Season over. Only on baseball’s terms.

But you may be granted another spring. Another crack at it. Until one day, the baseball winter never ends and its time for you to plant your own spring.

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

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AP

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center on Sunday:

1. Blackhawks on wrong side of history 

Earlier this year the Blackhawks made history by appearing in five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team in NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB history has ever done.

But Sunday they found themselves on the wrong side of it after allowing 33 shots on goal in the second period alone. It tied a franchise high for most given up in a single period — March 4, 1941 vs. Boston — and is the most an NHL team has allowed since 1997-98 when shots by period became an official stat.

"It's pretty rare to be seeing that much work in a period," said Cam Ward, who had a season-high 49 saves. "But oh man, I don't even know what to say to be honest. It's tough. We know that we need to be better especially in our home building, too. And play with some pride and passion. Unfortunately, it seemed like it was lacking at times tonight. The old cliche you lose as a team and overall as a team we weren't good enough tonight."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was a tough, tough period in all aspects. I don’t think we touched the puck at all and that was the part that was disturbing, against a good hockey team."

2. Alexandre Fortin is on the board

After thinking he scored his first career NHL goal in Columbus only to realize his shot went off Marcus Kruger's shin-pad, Fortin made up for it one night later and knows there wasn't any question about this one.

The 21-year-old undrafted forward, playing in his his fifth career game, sprung loose for a breakaway early in the first period and received a terrific stretch pass by Jan Rutta from his own goal line to Fortin, who slid it underneath Louis Domingue for his first in the big leagues. It's his second straight game appearing on the scoresheet after recording an assist against the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

"It's fun," Fortin said. "I think it would be a little bit more fun to get your first goal [while getting] two points for your team, but I think we ... just have to [turn the page to the] next chapter and just play and be ready for next game."

3. Brandon Saad's most noticeable game?

There weren't many positives to take away from this game, but Saad was certainly one of them. He had arguably his best game of the season, recording seven shot attempts (three on goal) with two of them hitting the post (one while the Blackhawks were shorthanded).

He was on the ice for 11 shot attempts for and five against at 5-on-5, which was by far the best on his team.

"He started OK and got way better," Quenneville said of Saad. "Had the puck way more, took it to the net a couple of times, shorthanded."

4. Special teams still a work in progress

The Blackhawks entered Sunday with the 29th-ranked power play and 25th-ranked penalty kill, and are still working to get out from the bottom of the league in both departments. In an effort to change up their fortunes with the man advantage, the Blackhawks split up their two units for more balance.

They had four power-play opportunities against Tampa Bay and cashed in on one of them, but it didn't matter as it was too little, too late in the third period — although they did become the first team to score a power-play goal against the Lightning this season (29 chances).

"Whether we're looking for balance or we're just looking for one to get hot, I think our power play has been ordinary so far," Quenneville said before the game. "We need it to be more of a threat."

Four more minor penalties were committed by the Blackhawks, giving them eight in the past two games. That's one way they can shore up the penalty kill, by cutting back on taking them.