Deng continues to show off versatility

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Deng continues to show off versatility

CLEVELAND Bulls All-Star Luol Deng, the longest-tenured player on the team, is used to being utilized as a jack of all trades. Thats why on nights like Wednesday, when he struggled with his shot in the squads season-opening win over the Kings at the United Center, he doesnt panic.

Instead, he simply focuses on another weapon in his vast repertoire. In the victory over Sacramento, it was rebounding he snagged a dozen boards something he hopes to continue throughout the campaign.

I think I could help a lot in rebounding. I really want to focus on that. Last year, there were days that, with the schedule and everything, it was really tough, especially energy-wise, Deng told CSNChicago.com after the Bulls Friday-morning shootaround at Quicken Loans Arena. So, this year hopefully Ill have the energy and try to really focus on my rebounding.

Scoring will come. Its still early in the season. Im not worried about that at all. I will shoot the ball better, he continued. The first game is always the toughest, but its finding a way.

Deng could also be featured as a post-up scorer more, something displayed in the teams preseason finale, a win over Central Division rival Indiana. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau has used the tactic sparingly in the past, but with Derrick Rose currently sidelined, showcasing Dengs versatility and using his 6-foot-9 frame against smaller defenders could work to the Bulls favor.

We did it some at the end of last year and I thought it was very good for us, so I want to try to take advantage of that more, Thibodeau explained. I want us to play inside-out. I think the more that weve done that, the more effective weve been.

Added Deng: I think it will definitely help me get to the line more also.

Being aggressive, getting easy baskets, but also getting to the free-throw line, especially when a team is in the bonus.

Deng isnt an isolation-based scorer, so even with the increased attention that will potentially be paid to him in Roses absence, he should still remain productive on offense. In addition to posting up, Deng has greatly improved his long-range shooting over the years, he has a potent pull-up game, crashes the offensive glass and scores in transition, but cutting off the ball has also developed into a real strong point for him.

When you cut the way he does, you can draw fouls and I think your team can take advantage of that because it gets you into the bonus earlier, so Ive been pleased with our ability to get to the free-throw line thus far and I want to continue to do that, Thibodeau said. Hes been around a long time and hes shown that each year, hes gotten better and better, and I think he and Rip have great chemistry together. Then, I think theyre understanding now, too, the more we play through the post and going to Carlos and Joakim, it sets up your cutting game even more effectively.

Luols added a lot to his game. Hes added the three-point shot, which makes people come up to him more and so, then he can put it down on the floor and now hes using his cutting to get into the post more, and hes a very good random cutter from the weak side, so he can score a number of different ways and thats sort of what his strength is, his ability to read how the game is going, what the defense is doing and to play off those things.

WATCH: Blackhawks play Blues in NHL 17 ahead of Winter Classic showdown

WATCH: Blackhawks play Blues in NHL 17 ahead of Winter Classic showdown

For the third time since the event was created, the Blackhawks will participate in the Winter Classic, facing the St. Louis Blues on Jan. 2, 2017.

To build some hype for the Central Division showdown, which will feature two teams that find themselves battling for the top seed in the Western Conference, Ryan Hartman and Trevor van Riemsdyk of the Blackhawks squared off with Joel Edmundson and Robby Fabbri of the Blues in EA Sports' NHL 17.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Edmunson and Fabbri jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, but the finish would be determined in 3-on-3 overtime.

Check out who came out on top in the video below:

Tyson Ross could be one of the final pieces for Cubs’ offseason puzzle

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AP

Tyson Ross could be one of the final pieces for Cubs’ offseason puzzle

Tyson Ross could be one of the final pieces of the offseason puzzle as the Cubs try to defend their World Series title while still planning for the future.

The Cubs left this week’s winter meetings in Maryland still involved in the Ross talks, sources said, monitoring an intriguing pitcher they had targeted before the 2015 trade deadline.

The San Diego Padres didn’t really buy or sell during that pennant race and made another curious decision last week when they didn’t offer Ross a contract for 2017. MLB Trade Rumors projected Ross would have made $9.6 million during his final year in the arbitration system.

After issues involving his right shoulder wiped out almost his entire season, Ross underwent surgery in October to address thoracic outlet syndrome.

Ross was San Diego’s Opening Day starter during a 15-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but didn’t pitch again, clouding a future that once had him looking like a trade-deadline chip and one of the best pitchers in the free-agent class after the 2017 season.

That’s when Jake Arrieta will be looking for his megadeal and John Lackey might be in retirement and Jon Lester will be turning 34. That’s why the Cubs are so focused on pitching this winter and trying to balance out an organization tilted toward hitters.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

Kyle Hendricks proved he will be a pitcher to build around – and the Cubs believe Mike Montgomery can evolve from a swingman into a fifth starter and maybe something far more valuable – but depth is a real issue.

Ross made 30-plus starts in 2014 and 2015, when he earned an All-Star selection and accounted for almost 400 innings combined. He will turn 30 in April and is seen as a positive force within the clubhouse. He has a 6-foot-6 frame, a second-round-pick pedigree and a Cal-Berkeley education.

Reports have already linked the Texas Rangers and Pittsburgh Pirates to Ross and not completely ruled out a return to San Diego. During an offseason where the free-agent market is essentially devoid of reliable frontline starters, there could be sticker shock, even with a rehabbing pitcher.

Trading for Wade Davis meant the Cubs were out of the bidding for Greg Holland, another All-Star closer who helped turn the Kansas City Royals into World Series champions. Holland spent this year recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, but he will still be in position to capitalize after Mark Melancon, Aroldis Chapman and eventually Kenley Jansen reset the market for closers.

With Ross, the Cubs will have to get a better sense of the medical picture and the price for all that upside.

Beyond a winning culture, the Cubs can sell the pitching infrastructure that helped turn Arrieta into a Cy Young Award winner and transform Hendricks into an ERA leader and keep the rotation remarkably healthy.

“Those really talented pitchers are going to be in demand, even those that are coming off an injury,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said this week at National Harbor. “We’ll stay engaged on some of those guys, but they’ll have to be just the right talent.

“We’ll have to feel good about the medical and the return to play. And the fit on the club would have to be right, too. But the true elite guys have a real market, even if they’re coming off down seasons.”