White Sox

Thibodeau, Bulls ready for opener with healthy Hinrich

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Thibodeau, Bulls ready for opener with healthy Hinrich

DEERFIELD, ILL.First, the good news. Starting point guard Kirk Hinrich will play in the Bulls regular-season opener, apparently with no limitations in the wake of the strained right-groin injury he suffered in the preseason, according to Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.

Hes fine, the coach said after the teams Tuesday-morning shootaround at the Berto Center. Hes been fine the last two days in practice, so hes good.

Thibodeau has been pleased with how Hinrich has picked up a system thats changed since his original stint in Chicago. Although he was sidelined for two exhibition contestshe also missed a game with a right-thumb injuryHinrich appeared rejuvenated in his return to the Bulls during the preseason.

You judge your point guard by how the team is functioning and so, I thought he set the tone on offense and defense for us. The ball pressure was good, his help defense was good, he kept us organized, he played with a good pace, his willingness to read matchups, read the extra pass, the ability to understand what everybodys strengths and weaknesses are. I thought he had a very good preseason, Thibodeau said. Hes been around. Hes hard-working, hes tough. He gets in early, he stays late. Hes done a good job.

Now, the negative situation surrounding the Bulls on Halloween. The organization has an 11 p.m. Central time deadline to reach an agreement with valuable reserve Taj Gibson on a long-term contract extension.

The desire for Gibson to remain in Chicago is mutual, but the two sides have had a gap when it comes to closing the deal, though it should be noted that the Bulls would be able to match opposing offers next summer, if the fourth-year player were to hit the open market. Thibodeau believes Gibson is doing a good job of not letting the ongoing negotiations between the franchises front office and his Chicago-based agent, Mark Bartelstein, affect his play.

Hes handled it well. Hes just focused on playing, Thibodeau said of Gibson, whose peers in the 2009 draft class have found it hard to get extensions, though Golden States Stephen Curry reportedly reached a deal Tuesday morning and Denvers Ty Lawson, another point guard, agreed to terms Monday. Thats the business side and his agent will take care of that for him. Hes done a good job in practice and getting ready.

As for the Bulls opponent Tuesday, the Sacramento Kings, Thibodeau isnt underestimating the young team. Despite a mediocre record last season and low expectations for this campaign, Thibodeau lauded their talent and depth.

Theyre dangerous. They can put a lot of points on the board and they have a lot of weapons. DeMarcus Cousins skill set is unique. Jason Thompson is very underrated. Former Bull James Johnson has gotten better every year in the league, he said. Former NBA Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans can hurt you off the dribble, in the post, catch and shoot, athletic, runs the floor. Fellow Seattle native Nate Robinsons protg Isaiah Thomas, big-time scorer, had a great year as a rookie last year and they added Aaron Brooks, whos started a lot of games. Marcus Thornton is a big-time scorer off the bench. Travis Outlaws been a very good player in the league. Chuck Hayes is one of those guys I dont think you can ever measure him statistically; he can guard all five positions, hes a terrific passer, great rebounder. Thomas Robinsons a good young player.

This team, theyre very talented. Theyre talented, theyre deep and they can score. Were going to be challenged. We have to be ready.

While Evanswho is in the same boat as Gibson, but is reportedly seeking a max-level contract and is unlikely to receive onewas viewed as the future of the Kings after he drew Oscar Robertson comparisons as a rookie, Cousins has taken over that role. The volatile big man, who played alongside Gibson in July with the USA Select Team in Las Vegas, has quietly developed into one of the leagues top young post players.

Theres not much he cant do. He can face you up and he can shoot, he can post, he can pass. You dont realize how quick he is and athletic. On ball reversal, if youre not careful, hell jump out in the passing lane. He can handle the ball. Hes a basketball player, praised Thibodeau, using one of injured superstar Derrick Roses go-to phrases to describe a well-rounded player. Ive been very impressed with him.

While Thibodeau was pleased with some of his teams progress during the exhibition season, he still feels the team has a long way to go, regardless of its 5-2 preseason mark. The coach didnt go as far as using the old axiom that the preseason doesnt matter, but hes been focused on the Bulls being consistent.

Each game reveals something to you, but it doesnt stop. We want to keep evolving as it goes along, so youre going to learn more about how guys function together, what gives us our best chance, he said. That never ends and I think youre constantly studying and evaluating the team, and the game tells you the things youre doing well and the things youre not doing well, and for us, I dont want us to change what were doing. I want us to concentrate on improvement. I think we have an understanding of what we have to do to be successful and I want to make sure were moving in that direction every day.

Dane Dunning left minor league start with 'moderate' elbow strain

Dane Dunning left minor league start with 'moderate' elbow strain

Dane Dunning has been nothing but consistent since joining the White Sox organization in the Adam Eaton trade before the 2017 season.

He has performed well at three different levels in the minor leagues and has stayed healthy. That second part is currently in question after he left a start for Double-A Birmingham on Saturday with elbow soreness.

Dunning left in the fourth inning in what was developing into one of his worst starts of the season. He had four strikeouts, but also walked four and gave up two runs (one earned). The four walks matched a season high.

Here is how things went down on his final pitch:

It's too early for a full diagnosis, but Dunning is expected to have an MRI in the next few days. White Sox manager Rick Renteria talked about Dunning's injury before Sunday's game against the Athletics.

"I think everybody considered it a very moderate strain," Renteria said. "Nobody is at this point too concerned. They still have to re-evaluate more. We won’t know more until they get further evaluation and at that point everybody will know where he’s at. Right now he still has to be re-evaluated."

Dunning, 23, began the season at Single-A Winston-Salem where he posted a 2.59 ERA in four starts with 31 strikeouts against three walks in 24 1/3 innings. The Florida product then was promoted to Birmingham where he has a 2.76 ERA. In 11 starts with the Barons, Dunning has 69 strikeouts and 23 walks in 62 innings.

Dunning is one of the top pitching prospects in the White Sox farm system along with Michael Kopech and Alec Hansen.

Chris Kuc contributed to this report.

61 Days to Kickoff: Maine West

61 Days to Kickoff: Maine West

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Maine West

Head coach: Jason Kradman

Assistant coaches: Steve Piha (Def. Coordinator), Mike O'Brill (DB/ST Coordinator), Tony Manicke (LB/Head JV Coach), Dan Wilson (OL) Russ Swenson (TE) Ryan Willett (QB) Matt Boswell (DL) Trent Greco (WR) Kyle Prater (WR) Mike Smith (Head Frosh Coach) Joe Duszynski (Frosh Asst.) and DJ Frey (Frosh Asst.).

How they fared in 2017: 7-3 (4-1 Central Suburban North Conference). Maine West made the Class 7A state football playoff field. The Warriors lost to Benet Academy in opening round action.

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 vs Mundelein

Sept. 1 @ Fenton

Sept. 7 vs Elk Grove

Sept. 14 @ Hersey

Sept. 21 vs Glenbrook North

Sept. 28 @ Maine East

Oct. 5 vs Vernon Hills

Oct. 12 vs Highland Park

Oct. 19 @ Deerfield

[MORE: 65 Days to Kickoff - Elmwood Park]

Biggest storyline: Will history repeat itself? Can the Warriors post back-to-back IHSA state playoff appearances? If so, it'd be a first for the Des Plaines high school.

Names to watch this season: RB/LB Jake Bellizzi, FB/LB Krystian Garbicz and WR/DB Ely Grimmer

Biggest holes to fill: The Warriors will need to replace standout TE Matt Kentgen (now at Butler). He was a multi-year starter and team leader last fall.  

EDGY's Early Take: Maine West, coached by Jason Kradman, has been one of the area's better success stories. Kradman took over the Warriors program in 2014 and guided the Warriors to their first state playoff appearance since 2002. With 13 returning starters back from a season ago (seven offense, six defense) and a program-wide boost in overall numbers and excitement, look for the Warriors to have a good shot at playoff football once again this October.