Iverson to host lockout tourney in Vegas

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Iverson to host lockout tourney in Vegas

From Comcast SportsNet

LAS VEGAS (AP)Former NBA star Allen Iverson is set to host a two-day professional basketball tournament in Las Vegas.

Iverson is working with the Justice Entertainment Group on the four-team Las Vegas Superstar Challenge slated for Nov. 12-13 at the Thomas and Mack Center.

He is to appear at a news conference Wednesday to announce captains and players for each team.

Iverson has been out of the NBA since 2010 and spent part of last year playing in Turkey. He was the NBA MVP in 2001, when he led the Philadelphia 76ers to the NBA finals.

With the NBA in a lockout, the leagues top stars have been playing in charity and exhibition games.

The Cubs Way could become bludgeoning your opponent with AL East-style lineup

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The Cubs Way could become bludgeoning your opponent with AL East-style lineup

PITTSBURGH – Beating Gerrit Cole in last year’s National League wild-card game became a landmark victory for The Plan. A young Cubs lineup didn’t panic or play tight and you have to wonder what the Pittsburgh Pirates are thinking right now. Because this looks like a vastly superior version of the team that won 97 games and silenced the blackout crowd at PNC Park.

The Cubs didn’t even need a superhuman effort from Jake Arrieta, who walked the first two Pirates he faced on Tuesday night before throwing seven scoreless innings and cruising to a 7-1 victory in front of a half-empty stadium.

While the Cubs (19-6) have used a pitching-and-defense formula to create the best record in baseball – and what they hope will be a better blueprint for October – this offense still isn’t close to clicking on all cylinders yet.

Not that Pittsburgh’s Jonathon Niese – who couldn’t crack the playoff rotation for the New York Mets last year – would notice after giving up six runs, nine hits and five walks across five innings in a drama-free game that didn’t create more fireworks in a rivalry that’s heating up.

But the difference is dramatic enough that Cubs manager Joe Maddon keeps having flashbacks to his time with the Tampa Bay Rays and trying to take down the superpowers in Boston and New York.

“Right now, you’re seeing a group of guys playing the game today who have one thought – and that is to wear this pitcher down collectively,” Maddon said. “You’ve seen it in the past – I saw it in the early 2000s with the Red Sox and the Yankees in the American League East – they would definitely wear you down. They would get in your ‘pen, and then they'd bludgeon you at that point.”

Getting into the bullpen doesn’t exactly mean batting practice in an age of specialization, information overload and multiple options approaching triple-digit velocity. But this is a snapshot of the Cubs entering Tuesday: Ranked second in the majors in runs scored (146) and on-base percentage (.361) while leading everyone in walks (129) and dropping to 24th in strikeouts (188).

Even with Kyle Schwarber recovering from knee surgery, Miguel Montero resting his back on the disabled list and Jason Heyward (zero homers, .573 OPS) getting treatment for a sore wrist.

“We want to hit strikes,” said catcher David Ross, who won a World Series ring with the 2013 Red Sox. “We’re not out there taking pitches (just to take them). Guys are looking for their pitch.

“I see maturity in the approach from a young, talented group, which is completely different than Boston, which was more of an established veteran group that had been around the block. (But) I’m seeing that kind of approach with this group.”

Among all qualified NL hitters, five Cubs ranked between 14th and 50th in terms of pitches seen per plate appearance: Dexter Fowler (4.20); Addison Russell (4.12); Heyward (3.98); Anthony Rizzo (3.96); and Ben Zobrist (3.85).

“A lot of times when you see a positive jump in moments like that, it’s probably because of new personnel,” Maddon said. “I’ve always talked about: If you want walks, buy walks. If you want less strikeouts, buy less strikeouts.

“I also think about the maturity. Addison is a classic example of a guy that’s really matured in regards to not expanding the strike zone. Even ‘Javy’ (Javier Baez) has definitely shown a different attitude at the plate. For the most part, (Jorge) Soler is not chasing like he did for a period of time last year. So it’s the maturation of the hitter plus the acquisitions definitely help.

“You talk philosophy or theory with groups and everybody listens. But do they really hear what you’re saying?

“You have to get a buy-in from everybody. (And) these guys all believe that’s the right way to do things."

That’s becoming The Cubs Way.

Jake Arrieta stellar again as Cubs roll past Pirates

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Associated Press

Jake Arrieta stellar again as Cubs roll past Pirates

PITTSBURGH – This time, the Cubs didn’t need to consult their no-hitter protocol with Jake Arrieta, who walked the first two Pittsburgh Pirates he faced on Tuesday night at PNC Park before slicing up that lineup again with surgical precision.

Arrieta returned to the scene of his shutdown performance in last year’s National League wild-card game, giving up only two singles across seven scoreless innings in a 7-1 victory before the Cubs pulled the plug at 99 pitches with a six-run lead.

Arrieta (6-0, 0.84 ERA) is clearly going to do everything he can to defend his Cy Young Award. The Cubs (19-6) have now won Arrieta’s last 19 regular-season starts, opening up a five-game lead in the division and going for the sweep on Wednesday afternoon with Jon Lester on the mound.

White Sox react to John Danks’ departure

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White Sox react to John Danks’ departure

John Danks has called Chicago his home since 2007. But after nearly 10 years on the South Side, the White Sox have decided to part ways with their longest tenured player.

Danks will be designated for assignment later this week, the team announced Tuesday, ending his time with the White Sox.

“It’s always tough,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You don’t really know what’s out there, but at this point, we’re going in a different direction.”

Entering Tuesday, the White Sox held the best record in the American League at 18-8. Danks started in four of those contests, but all resulted in losses in which he had an ERA of 7.25.

That was enough for the White Sox to make a change.

“It’s just one of those things how we’re doing so well and he didn’t get a win. That’s just the way it goes sometimes,” Todd Frazier said. “I’m sure he could’ve came around in his next start or maybe the next one after that. But he’s a bulldog.

“He’s a guy that wants to contribute and he has. He’s done it for years and just cause he hasn’t gotten a win in the first three or four starts that he’s had doesn’t signify what he’s done in the past.”

The success Danks had in the past convinced the White Sox to sign him to a five-year, $65 million contract extension prior to the 2012 season.

Danks struggled to find consistency with his game from 2012-16, going 25-48 with a 4.92 ERA in 97 starts.

His results ultimately proved that he didn’t live up to his contract.

But off the field, the impact he had on his teammates is something you can’t put a price on.

“Everybody loves him, he’s a great teammate, he’s a great pitcher,” catcher Dioner Navarro said. “Just going through a tough stretch right now. Part of life, I guess it’s part of him going home, reflecting on things and seeing what he wants to do.”

When Frazier arrived to Chicago during the offseason after being acquired by the Cincinnati Reds, Danks was one of the guys who helped him get acclimated to the Windy City.

“We became real close quick,” Frazier said. “Great guy. We’re about the same age. He came up a lot earlier than me. I know he’s had some really good years. Just one of those guys you really look up to. We’re gonna miss him. I’m especially gonna miss him.

“He kind of taught me a little bit about the Chicago Way. He’s just one of those guys who’s going to be in the back of your mind a little bit every couple days just thinking about how he’s doing.”

In addition, Danks used his experience to mentor young players like 23-year-old starter Carlos Rodon. The two would often hang out most of the time during games, and sometimes away from the diamond.

“It was huge,” Rodon said of Danks’ presence. “A veteran like that, you'd figure a young guy coming here, kind of would ignore him or wouldn't really be around for him. He was different, a different guy. He took me under his wing and taught me a lot of stuff about this game.”

For the White Sox, the clubhouse will be a bit unusual not having that familiar face that’s been around for so many years.

But as the White Sox learned earlier this season, adapting to change is something that comes with the game.

“The game will go on, but our thoughts and prayers go out to him, his wife and his future family,” Adam Eaton said. “Saying goodbye to him was tough for all of us, but like I said it's part of the game. It's sad to see him go.”