Bulls wary of firepower of Del Negro's Clippers


Bulls wary of firepower of Del Negro's Clippers

LOS ANGELES How lucky is Vinny Del Negro? The Clippers' head coach, fired by the Bulls after the 2009-10 season, was hired by the other L.A. team, which happened to have a No. 1 overall draft pick in Blake Griffin the second top selection hes coached and then, prior to the beginning of last season, the organization acquired All-Star point guard Chris Paul, changing the fortunes of the long-troubled franchise.

But as talented as last seasons team was they advanced to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs, beating the Memphis Grizzlies in an upset of sorts, before losing to the San Antonio Spurs this years squad could be even better. While the drama surrounding the star-studded Lakers and their coaching situation has captivated fans, the Clippers might be the best team in the City of Angels, as well as the possibly the leagues deepest team.

Theyre explosive. When your leading scorer is coming off the bench, it says a lot," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau explained. "Jamal Crawfords playing great for them, but obviously their depths a huge asset. Six guys average in double figures, well-balanced. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan put a lot of pressure on you inside, and theyre skilled. Caron Butler, tremendous. Matt Barnes, energy. Ryan Hollins, energy off the bench. So, weve got to be ready for the challenge."

"Chris Paul, Eric Bledsoe, Crawford, those guys are going to put a lot of pressure on your defense because of their ability to break you down off the dribble and then, their ability to finish inside, but its well-balanced. Theyre moving the ball, theyre playing with great pace, so you have to get back, get your defense set, try to keep the ball out of the paint, challenge shots and then youve got to finish your defense. Youve got to rebound. Theyre tough on the offensive boards, as well."

"Chris Pauls been a great player in this league for a long time and theyve got guys that are still out. Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups. Theyre deep now theyre going to be deeper down the road, but Chris Paul, Bledsoe, even a guy like Willie Green. Willie Green has played great for them," continued the coach, whose team faces the Clippers at the Staples Center in a Saturday-night matchup. "Theres nothing that they dont have and defensively, the length up front, shot-blocking. You cant allow them to turn you over. They turn you over, theyre going to score easily in transition. Live-ball turnovers are a problem."

Were going to use everybody. Thats why you have a team. Well see how the game unfolds. But I feel good about our team. We just have to be ready to play. Youre on the road, so you have to be ready from the start. You have to set a tone. We know how good they are, we know how explosive they are. Their easy baskets theyre shooting as a team almost 50 percent, very unusual and theyre putting up over 100 points a game, so you cant let your guard down at all against them. Otherwise, they could get a 10-0 spurt against you in a minute, so youve got to make sure youre tied together in every aspect of your defense.

Indeed, with an elite playmaker like Paul, an athletic marvel like Griffin, an instant-offense scorer like Crawford, a former Bull, and an imposing, much-improved true center like Jordan, not to mention their incredible depth, the Clippers, who won an early-season showdown with the defending-champion Heat, do pose some matchup problems for the Bulls. While the teams by-committee approach has been successful, without the game-changing talents of the injured Derrick Rose, it will be an uphill battle.

Speaking of Rose, the superstar point guard is currently in Los Angeles, where he typically spends his offseasons as he continues his ongoing rehabilitation process. Thibodeau said the team has been contact with him since arriving in town Thursday and noted that Rose may attend Saturdays game.

The main focus for him is his rehab. We felt it was best for him to be here, in one place, doing his rehab. As I mentioned the other day, he started cutting and stuff, so hes doing fine, everythings going according to plan. He just has to keep doing what hes doing, he explained. I dont want him to be concerned with where we are with the team or anything like that. Hes doing fine and I want our guys here to be focused on improvement, and our next opponent.

Kris Bryant earns prestigious Hank Aaron Award as NL's top hitter

Kris Bryant earns prestigious Hank Aaron Award as NL's top hitter

CLEVELAND - The World Series isn't over yet, but the awards are already rolling in for the Cubs.

Kris Bryant was named the Hank Aaron Award winner Wednesday evening, an accolade for the best hitter in each league. Aaron was on hand at the World Series in Cleveland to hand the award to Bryant.

Bryant led the National League with 121 runs scored while also slugging 39 homers and driving in 102 runs. He hit .292 with a .385 on-base percentage and .554 slugging percentage (for a .939 OPS).

“Well, it’s ‘Hammerin’ KB,’” manager Joe Maddon said. “Just be a young player in KB’s shoes, and to win that award and then have that particular man present it to you, it’s impressive. It’s very impressive at a young age to be considered and then win it. There’s a lot of great competition out there."

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After winning Rookie of the Year honors last season, Bryant may also be in line for the NL MVP this year as the anchor of a 103-win Cubs team.

“An award like this for KB could absolutely galvanize his thoughts about himself as a Major League Baseball player," Maddon said. "It’s a great achievement for him. I’m very happy for him. And I know he will humbly accept it in the right way.”

Josh Donaldson was the American League winner last season while Bryce Harper took home the NL honors.

Bryant is the second Cubs player to win the award after Sammy Sosa in 1999 (the first ever Hank Aaron Award). That season, Sosa hit 63 homers with 141 RBI, 114 rusn and a 1.002 OPS.

MLB official: World Series Game 2 to 'start on time' despite potential rain

MLB official: World Series Game 2 to 'start on time' despite potential rain

CLEVELAND -- Game 2 of the World Series is on -- for now.

With rain forecast for late Wednesday night, Major League Baseball officials said they have a contingency plan in place to suspend the contest in case it is disrupted by weather. MLB has only suspended one other World Series contest, Game 5 of the 2008 edition between the Tampa Bay Rays and Philadelphia Phillies.

MLB already made an early decision Tuesday to move up Wednesday’s start time by an hour to 6:08 p.m. CST in order to improve chances of avoiding the weather. The current forecast calls for steady rain to start falling at 9 p.m. CST.

“The plan right now is to start on time,” said MLB’s Peter Woodfork. “Right now we hope it’s light, nothing heavy.

“As long as the field holds up, the integrity of the field, we’ll continue to play. If something happens and we can’t go, we’ll pull the tarp and see where we’re at. Most likely if it’s that heavy, we’re going to have to suspend the game and finish tomorrow.”

Woodfork said MLB wouldn’t announce a potential re-start for Game 2 until later Wednesday night, if necessary.

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Cubs manager Joe Maddon and utility man Ben Zobrist were part of the 2008 Tampa Bay squad that waited two days for Game 5 to resume. Maddon said the Rays had already checked out of their hotel in preparation for the return trip to Tampa Bay for Game 6 and didn’t find a new hotel until after 1 a.m.

“You just have to play the game,” Maddon said. “There’s not a whole lot you can do about it. It’s one of those uncontrollable components. The game in Philadelphia was pretty severe. I don’t think it’s going to be Philadelphia-like weather conditions tonight. That game was very awkward to play. The rain was horizontal. It was freezing. There was actually standing water on the field.”

Woodfork said the current plan calls for Game 3 to begin on time in Chicago on Friday regardless if Thursday’s travel day is wiped out by a resumed game.

“When you’re playing the World Series, the weather is secondary,” Zobrist said.