Cubs

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

626604.png

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.

On a mistake-filled afternoon, Javier Baez does what he does best and saves the Cubs

7-20javybaez.jpg
USA Today

On a mistake-filled afternoon, Javier Baez does what he does best and saves the Cubs

Consider the Cubs’ starting middle infield in Saturday’s 6-5 win over the San Diego Padres to be comprised of two extremes. 

On one end of the spectrum was Addison Russell, who started at second base. Russell was doubled off second base on an Albert Almora line drive in the second inning — a ball hit hard enough where, had it fell in for a hit, he wouldn’t have scored. There was no spinning Russell drifting far enough off second base to be doubled up; it was simply bad baserunning. 

Russell, too, was thrown out at home on an Almora ground ball in the fourth inning. He appeared to lose a pop fly in the sun, too, which fell in for a double in the third inning. 

Manager Joe Maddon was willing to excuse the pop-up double — “The sun ball, there’s nothing you could do about that,” he said — but sounded frustrated with Russell’s far-too-frequent baserunning gaffes. 

“He’s gotta straighten some things out,” Maddon said. “He has to. There’s no question. I’m not going to stand here — he’s got to, we’ve talked about his baserunning in the past. 

“… The baserunning, there’s some things there — we’re making too many outs on the bases and we’re missing things on the bases that we can’t to be an elite team.”

Russell’s mistakes were part of a larger sloppy showing by both teams. As Cubs reliever Brandon Kintzler put it: “No lead was safe. It was really just who was going to survive and not make so many mistakes.”

Javier Baez ensured the Cubs would survive by not merely avoiding mistakes, but by coming up with two massive plays. 

Baez’s three-run home run in the fourth inning gave the Cubs’ the lead for good, and he fell a triple short of the cycle. He’s homered in consecutive games, and Maddon senses the 26-year-old is emerging from a slump that dropped his OPS to .853 after Wednesday’s game, his lowest mark since the small-sample-size landscape of mid-April. 

But it was Baez’s masterful tag in the bottom of the ninth inning that captured most of the attention around Wrigley Field, reminding everyone in the dugouts and stands just how incredible “El Mago” can be. 

Craig Kimbrel walked Wil Myers to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning, and after budding superstar Fernando Tatis Jr. inexplicably bunted (he popped out), Myers took off to steal second base. Kimbrel sailed a fastball high and inside, and Victor Caratini’s throw was well to the left of second base. Myers appeared to have the base stolen until Baez gloved the ball and rapidly snapped a tag onto Myers’ left leg:

”We needed a play made, and he made it,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “It’s what he does.”

Baez’s home run increased the Cubs’ win expectancy by 35.7 percent; his tag on Myers upped it that mark from 83.3 percent to 96.5 percent. This is why the Cubs’ mantra, even when Baez is in a lull, is to let Javy be Javy. 

One player can’t carry a team forever — Baez had his best season as a pro in 2018, only to see the Cubs crash out of the Wild Card game, of course. But it’s hard to not think about the kind of plays Baez can conjure up when the Cubs need them the most in 2019’s playoff race. 

After all, stuff like that tag on Myers — the Cubs have come to expect that from Baez. 

“You saw a lot of plays today, they weren’t baseball plays,” Maddon said. “The game is clamoring for baseball players who know how to play this game, and he’s one. He is one. He’s got the biggest hard drive, the most RAM, he’s got everything going on every day. 

“He sees things, he’s got great vision. Technically, he’s a tremendous baseball player. He’s going to make some mistakes, like everyone else does, but what he sees and sees in advance — it’s like the best running back, it’s the best point guard you’ve ever seen. It’s all of that. As a shortstop, that’s what he is.

“… We needed him to be that guy today and he was. And again, it’s not overtly surprising.” 

41 Days to Kickoff: Wilmington

41 Days to Kickoff: Wilmington

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 Aug. 5, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 30.

School: Wilmington

Head coach: Jeff Reents

Assistant coaches: Barry Southall, Rob Murphy, Chad Farrell, Robert Bolser, Drew Tyler, Mark Langusch, Mike Bushnell, Andy Peterson and Mike Lenton

How they fared in 2018: 6-4 (2-2 Interstate Eight ‘Small’ Conference). Wilmington made the Class 3A IHSA state football playoff field and lost to Monmouth-Roseville in opening round action. 

2019 regular season schedule:

Aug. 30 vs Evergreen Park
Sept. 6 vs. Oak Lawn
Sept. 13 @ Streator
Sept. 20 vs Manteno
Sept. 27 @ Lisle
Oct. 4 vs Herscher
Oct. 11 vs Reed-Custer
Oct. 18 @ Coal City
Oct. 25 vs Peotone

Biggest storyline: The Wildcats have made the playoffs 23 seasons in a row. Can they keep up their winning ways in a new conference (Illinois Central Eight) in 2019?

Names to watch this season: OL Hunter Doherty (Sr.) and RB/LB Jake Rodawold (Sr).

Biggest holes to fill: The Wildcats bring back a ton of experience with 14 returning starters but the overall numbers and depth can always be improved upon this summer. 

EDGY's Early Take: The Wildcats and head coach Jeff Reents had a rare early exit from the state playoffs in 2018. Look for this year’s team to rely on a more experienced lineup on both sides of the football. The new Illinois Central Eight conference home is a very familiar collection of teams that Wilmington has competed with for several years, so expect them to fare just fine here.