Bulls

Why Danica Patrick won't run in Indy 500

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Why Danica Patrick won't run in Indy 500

From Comcast SportsNet
CONCORD, North Carolina (AP) -- Danica Patrick, the highest-finishing woman in the Indianapolis 500, will skip the race this season and instead enter NASCAR's longest event of the year. Patrick said Monday she's added the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway to her schedule. She'll drive for Stewart-Haas Racing, and team owner Tony Stewart said the decision to sit out the Indianapolis 500 was Patrick's decision. "We didn't tell her she couldn't run the 500. It was left up to her," Stewart said. "It shows how dedicated she is to making this transition." Patrick has left the IndyCar Series for a full-time move to NASCAR. She's running the second-tier Nationwide Series for JR Motorsports, and 10 races in the elite Sprint Cup Series for Stewart. She had previously announced eight Cup races, and the Coca-Cola 600 is her ninth announced event. She jokingly called the race "The Coke 6,000. It's quite long, I've been told," and said she's not ready to rule out the Indianapolis 500 forever. "I hope to do it in the future, the Indy 500 that is, and maybe it will be a double," she said. "But at this point in time, after a lot of conversations, it's just going to be the Coke 600 and I think it's going to be a big challenge. It's just is something that didn't work out, as far as the business-side of things. "I am hopeful to do it in the future, but for this year, it just didn't happen," Patrick added. Patrick led 19 laps and finished fourth in the Indy 500 as a rookie in 2005. She finished third in 2009. Both the Indy 500 and the Coke 600 are run on May 27. Stewart, Robby Gordon and John Andretti have all tried to run both events on the same day. Stewart, NASCAR's three-time champion, completed the double twice: In 1999, he was ninth at Indy and fourth at Charlotte, and in 2001, he was sixth at Indy and third at Charlotte. He's not tried Indianapolis since, and has let go of his childhood dream of winning the 500. He has twice won the Brickyard 400, NASCAR's race at the storied Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "The hard part for me was you make that decision when you sign up to do (NASCAR)," Stewart said. "The decision you make, you have to come to peace with yourself with saying I'm not going to do this.' That was my childhood dream anyway. It may be a different scenario and feeling for her. But it was hard knowing when I signed that (NASCAR) contract that I was writing off the opportunity to go race at Indy. "It's figuring out at the end of the day what do you really want to do. I guess that's the part that even though it was hard to watch opening day of practice at Indianapolis, I'm enjoying what I'm doing, too, and this is what I want to do at the end of the day," he continued. "It makes you want 30-hour days and 400-day years and we always want to do more than what we're capable of doing, but the reality is you have to pick at some point and choose your career path. This is what I've done and what she's doing now." But Stewart said so long as Indianapolis Motor Speedway makes it logistically possible for Patrick to attempt both races, she may eventually run the race again. He said he has no interest in fielding a car for her, citing how much he's already doing with all his other teams. Patrick has already set some of her expectations for NASCAR, and sounded Monday as if she expects her debut in the Daytona 500 next month to go as well as her debut in the Indianapolis 500. She tested there two weeks ago with new crew chief Greg Zipadelli, and after leading 13 laps at Daytona in last July's Nationwide race, likes her chances in the Feb. 26 season opener. "At Daytona, the cars are very fast, so I feel good about that race," she said. "I was lucky enough to get to run with Tony in the Nationwide race last summer and that went pretty good, so I feel good about Daytona and I think there's a real chance, if luck falls our way, to perhaps win. "I think it's a real chance. I mean a guy like Trevor Bayne last year showed that. Those are the expectations for the first race." Bayne, a rookie last season, was the upset winner of the Daytona 500, which Stewart said was proof that Patrick is a viable contender. "A rookie won it last year, why would you ever count yourself out?" he asked. "She's a talented driver. Our cars were really fast at Daytona. At that point, I'd have that confidence."

Lauri Markkanen's struggles are a daily storyline, but the solve isn't simple

Lauri Markkanen's struggles are a daily storyline, but the solve isn't simple

MILWAUKEE — When Thad Young played for the Pacers, this was, according to Young, that team’s scouting report on Lauri Markkanen:

“He’s a guy who can score in different levels of the game. He can shoot the midrange. He can take you off the dribble and do his hanging fade to get his shot off. Or he can step behind the line and tee up some 3s,” Young said. “So we tried to keep him seeing bodies so he wouldn’t take the ball from one side to the other.”

Markkanen’s struggles — and the Bulls’ usage of him — is becoming an almost daily storyline. It certainly dominated Monday’s postgame questioning after the Bulls dropped to 1-18 versus winning teams with a 111-98 loss to the Bucks.

For the second time in three games, Markkanen failed to score in the second half. Seven of his 11 attempts came from 3-point range — all of which he missed. His eight points came from two putbacks and four free throws.

That’s it.

“He missed some shots he normally makes. That happens,” coach Jim Boylen said. “I thought he was moving well. He had a couple great cuts to the basket, opportunities at the rim. That’s what we want from him — inside, outside.”

But that’s not happening enough. Fifty-three percent of Markkanen’s attempts this season have been 3-pointers. That’s up 11.5 percent from last season and 4.1 percent from his rookie season.

Too often, Markkanen is being relegated to playing as a stationary, 3-point shooter and not the dynamic, multifaceted scorer for whom Young’s Pacers teams prepared.

“Yeah, I think I can do a lot of good things besides just shoot threes,’’ Markkanen said. “Haven’t really been able to do that lately. Just have to figure out the way I can attack the rim more and get to the free-throw line. I need to figure out my spots.”

This is not meant to fully absolve Markkanen, who has indeed missed open looks consistently this season. For the second straight game, Markkanen joked about how Boylen called a play for him on the first possession, only for Markkanen to turn it over.

Markkanen also again acknowledged the sore left ankle he is playing through as he tries to reach his well documented goal of playing all 82 games. Markkanen called the ankle “not normal but getting there” and also shook off banging knees with Donte DiVincenzo that left him running hobbled for a few possessions.

Markkanen said he has no problem talking to Boylen about his usage and, as is his nature, looked inward.

“We’ve talked about it. He ran some plays for me. I turned it over. He does run some stuff for me. I just have to make the plays,” he said. “If you shoot the ball like [I have], you don’t really deserve touches. Can’t really complain.

“When you’re feeling it and actually making shots, it would be good to get closer to the rim and kind of keep it going. A lot of our plays I screen and pop.’’

The Bulls tied their franchise record with 48 3-point attempts. Boylen said that was the gameplan since opponents averaged 40 3-point attempts and 17.5 makes in the Bucks’ mere six losses.

Never mind that even if the Bulls hadn’t gone ice cold in the second half to finish with 14 makes that adding 3.5 more makes would’ve still left them on the losing end. The Markkanen problem is bigger than a math problem.

“I think the system complements him to the point where he has a lot of freedom to do different things,” Young said. “If he’s open, he takes a 3. If he’s not, he tries to make a play. He’s doing the best he can, just like me and any other guy on this roster. He has to continue to believe in what we’re doing.”

Markkanen now has nine single-digit scoring games after posting just four last season. He has nine 20-point games after registering 22 last season.

This is a huge season for Markkanen not only because his success is tied into the success of the Bulls’ rebuild but also because he’ll be eligible for an extension of his rookie contract following this season.

“I know he’s going to work. And he cares. He has high character,” Boylen said. “I believe in him. And our team believes in him.”

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Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich puts Nolan Arenado trade talks to bed

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USA TODAY

Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich puts Nolan Arenado trade talks to bed

Were you hoping the Cubs could pull off a miraculous deal for Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado? If so, at ease.

In an interview with Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post, Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich squashed any chance of Arenado getting dealt this winter.

“With the season coming up and spring training on the horizon, we are going to start focusing on that,” Bridich told Saunders. “We have listened to teams regarding Nolan and really nothing has come of it. We are going to move forward pretty much as we expected — with Nolan in the purple and black and as our third baseman.

“So, we can put this to bed and collectively look forward to the upcoming season and work toward that.”

There you have it.

The chances of the Cubs swinging an Arenado deal were always slim-to-none. The 28-year-old signed a lucrative contract extension with Colorado last February and is still owed $234 million through 2026. The Cubs have money coming off the books each of the next few seasons, but they would have had to clear payroll to acquire Arenado this offseason.

Furthermore, it’s questionable if the Cubs would have put together an enticing enough package for the Rockies. Chicago's farm system has grown barren through the years, and now that it’s slowly improving, it wouldn’t have made sense to trade prospects away.

Monday’s news isn’t completely bad for Cubs fans. The Cardinals were also reportedly interested in Arenado, and Bridich’s statement means St. Louis won’t be acquiring Arenado anytime soon, either.

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