After slow start, Gibson plans quick turnaround

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After slow start, Gibson plans quick turnaround

Thus far in the young NBA season, Taj Gibson hasnt been the same Taj Gibson that Bulls fans have come to know and love. The Gibson that earned a long-term contract extension as the season opener was being played has been largely absent this season, but in the mind of his coach, hes beginning to reappear.

He started slowly, but hes picking it up. I think hes gotten a lot more comfortable over the last three or four games. His defense has been very good. And its not about individuals, its about how the team is functioning when hes on the floor, so thats where we have to have our focus, on the team and winning, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said following the teams morning shootaround Wednesday at the Berto Center.

Hes playing a lot with the starters, so he has to play with both groups and he has to play well, and the team has to function well and theres a lot of things that he brings that we need. High energy, great defense. His offense is coming around right now. He was very comfortable in the post at the end of last year. Weve got to get him in there more. Hes got to slow down a little bit, but I like the way hes played the last few games.

As for Gibson, while hes hard on himself, he doesnt attribute his decreased production 6.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game are down from his career numbers, though hes averaging a slight uptick in blocked shots, at 1.5 a night to the pressure of receiving a new contract. However, the fourth-year power forward does acknowledge that hes not playing up to his usual standards.

I just have to do more. I was just getting frustrated. I havent been able to shoot the ball well after putting in a ton of work this summer. Ive just got to work my way out of it. Im trying to just do other things, he said Wednesday. Try to be solid on defense, try to make plays for others, like I did last game. Just try to bring energy to help this team win.

Theres always pressure because youre wearing the Bulls jersey. Our bench is still is adjusting to the different schemes. Its not the same team it was last year, Gibson continued, referring to the Bulls revamped bench, of which he is the lone holdover who played significant minutes last season. I have to do a lot more on defense. I have to talk a lot more and I have to be more vocal, especially on offense. The coaching staff is telling me to keep working. Im putting in more work. Just got to keep working harder.

Cubs reportedly trade Jorge Soler to Royals for Wade Davis

Cubs reportedly trade Jorge Soler to Royals for Wade Davis

It appears as if the Cubs have answered two big questions surrounding Joe Maddon's team this winter.

With so many solid options in the fold to play everyday in the lineup, the Cubs now reportedly have one less guy to worry about in the outfield and one more pitcher to add into the late-inning mix.

USAToday's Bob Nightengale reported late Tuesday night the Cubs and Kansas City Royals had a deal in place with pitcher Wade Davis coming to Chicago and Jorge Soler acting as the return piece.

[RELATED - Wade Davis trade would give Cubs a proven October closer]

As Nightengale also said, the Cubs gave up a lot for Davis, who will become a free agent after the 2017 season and was limited to only 43.1 innings in 2016 due to forearm issues:

Before the deal can become official, both players would have to be examined by medical staff for each team to make sure Davis' forearm is fine.

Soler has struggled to stay healthy and cash in on his enormous potential during his two-plus years in the big leagues with the Cubs, but he is still young (he'll turn 25 in February) and won't become a free agent until after the 2020 season.

The main question with Soler entering 2017 was going to be where he would play — and how often — given Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward, Jon Jay and Albert Almora were already in the outfield mix and the anticipation Ben Zobrist would also see some time in the outfield with Javy Baez locking down second base.

It's no surprise to see Soler dealt this winter, but as David Kaplan said on Tuesday's CubsTalk podcast, Theo Epstein's front office is all about years of control, but if the deal goes through, they will have traded four years of control of a guy who was their top trade chip for only a year of control on a relief pitcher who has averaged only 61 innings per season the last three years.

However, if the 31-year-old Davis is truly the only return, he helps give the Cubs a boost in 2017.

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Davis — who spent the first four years of his big-league career pitching for Maddon in Tampa Bay — has emerged as one of the premier relief pitchers in baseball over the last three years.

In that span, Davis tallied a 19-4 record with 47 saves in 54 chances, a 1.18 ERA and sparkling 0.892 WHIP. He also struck out 234 batters in 182.2 innings while giving up just three homers. 

As the Cubs look to defend their first World Series title in more than a century, Davis would help shore up the bullpen and given his past experience, would figure to be able to pitch more than just the ninth inning come playoff time (if healthy). Davis would add another elite option alongside Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. in Maddon's remodeled bullpen.

Soler should benefit from a clear path to consistent playing time with the Royals, especially moving to the American League where he can slot in at designated hitter which may ultimately be his best position.
 

Hawks Talk Podcast: Marian Hossa keeps producing as Blackhawks find chemistry

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Marian Hossa keeps producing as Blackhawks find chemistry

In the latest episode of the Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle is joined by Steve Konroyd and Tracey Myers following the Blackhawks 4-0 shutout win over the Coyotes.

The crew breaks down how the Blackhawks keep finding ways to win, how Marian Hossa has remained a top-six forward and how the team seems to have finally found some chemistry without Jonathan Toews and Corey Crawford.

Listen to the latest episode below: