Cubs

Without Hamilton, Bulls 'have more than enough to win'

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Without Hamilton, Bulls 'have more than enough to win'

MILWAUKEE When Rip Hamilton came off the United Center floor early in Mondays win over the Pacers, following a collision with Indiana center Roy Hibbert, the first thought of fans and members of the organization alike was, Here we go again. A day later, his right-shoulder injury was termed a contusion and mild sprain" and his status was listed as day-to-day. Prior to the Bulls Wednesday-morning shootaround at the Bradley Center, the 13-year veteran shed some light on his situation.

Its sore. It still hurts. When I first did it, I felt it pop, but when I ran downcourt, I could still move my hands, so I knew that it wasnt broken. But it was a lot of pain just to lift my arm up, he said. Sometimes you say, Why you? but thats a part of the game you have to deal with. It comes with the territory. Its just tough for me because Ive never been like this my whole career, especially one minute and 20 seconds into the game. All these little freak things. Its crazy, man.

I want to be out there. I want to play. Its crazy because even when I was out there and I was getting limited minutes, for it to happen so freaky like that, its crazy. Ive just got to stay mentally strong, mentally tough and keep trying to prepare myself to get better, he continued. Im just trying to lift my arm up. Aint no miracle going to happen tomorrow or anything like that, so just trying to get the swelling out, just trying to get my range of motion back, so its going to be a minute.

I thought, at first, that it was just a stinger. Like, Bam! I got hit. OK, Rip. I always tell myself, Dont fall, get up. I thought it would loosen up by the time I got down to the other end of the floor and it didnt. Thats when it kind of scared me.

Added Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau: You never can tell with those things. Youre just hopeful that its not serious. It wasnt, so were encouraged by that.

You never know how theyre going to feel tomorrow and thats the way that I want them to approach it. Put a lot of work into your rehab, do as much as you can and when youre ready to go, youre ready to go, he continued. Weve had injuries throughout the year. Were disappointed for him because he put a lot of work into it, but we feel good about all the guys that we have. We have more than enough to win with. Ronnies played extremely well as a starter, so we feel good about that and our bench has played great all year long.

Thibodeau said that while Hamiltons injury history was considered before signing him, the pros outweighed the cons.

You look at everything. You look at what hes done throughout his career and I think the good certainly outweighs anything negative, so we felt good about it from the start, he explained. Hes had misfortune this year. Its an unusual year for everybody and hopefully hell be back quickly.

Hamilton believes the leagues condensed schedule has a great deal to do with the rash of injuries throughout the NBA, not just his, but has taken comfort in how supportive the Bulls have been.

From the whole leagues standpoint, you see guys going down. All the back-to-back games, the travel. People dont look at it, but it has an effect. Weve seen it in football. You dont want to say it, but its one of those things where your bodys not accustomed to going this way all of the time, but it is what it is. You have to deal with it, he said. The Bulls have been great. Theyve been awesome. I spoke to general manager Gar Forman last night and the biggest thing is, in speaking to my teammates, on one side, Im shaking my head, like Why? weve had so many injuries this year on this team and on the other side, Im saying, Hey, you know what? Just get right, man. Just get right and come back, so we can do what weve got to do.

It could be an eventual positive that Hamilton will at least be fresh when the postseason arrives, but he didnt take solace in that notion.

That could be a bright side, but you dont think about it right now, he said. Your motivation is to be out on the floor, to be out there battling with your teammates, so its really hard to even think about stuff like that.

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.