NBA veterans influence evident in Rose, Wall

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NBA veterans influence evident in Rose, Wall

Saturday, Nov. 13, 2010
Updated 3:22 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

As if their ridiculous explosiveness and other similarities weren't enough, Derrick Rose and John Wall - facing off Saturday night at the United Center for the first time in the regular season - both had a shared advantage upon entering the professional ranks: during their lone years in college basketball, the point guards were each tutored by 17-year NBA veteran Rod Strickland.

Strickland, an All-American at DePaul in the late 1980s and regarded as one of the league's best floor generals during his playing days, was an assistant coach at Memphis when Rose led the Tigers to the national-championship game and guided Wall last season at Kentucky. A pass-first playmaker who once led the league in assists, Strickland was also one of the NBA's best finishing point guards, although he lacked the elite athleticism of his proteges.

"They both had that finishing ability even before they got to college. As far as finishing, you've just got to go in there and be aggressive, but they're so athletic and they're physical, so it comes easy to them," Strickland told CSNChicago.com. "As far as their jump shots, even if you're not a great shooter coming out of high school or college, your shot gets better if you work hard on it. They don't have to necessarily be great shooters, they just have to get to spots and make shots to make people think that you can shoot sometimes.

"The hardest thing sometimes when you come into the league is playing against guys you look up to. Now, you've got to be the guy that turns dudes down and makes decisions. That could be a big adjustment for a young PG," continued Strickland about his advice to the two No. 1 picks. "I just told them both to basically go at everybody, always be aggressive, always compete."

A frequent point of comparison for Rose and Wall is concern about their outside shooting - something Rose has started to rectify in his third season and an area in which Wall may be better than advertised - but Strickland believes developing a strong leadership presence and overcoming adversity are more integral to pro success.

"For me it was different, because they the New York Knicks had Mark Jackson Strickland's rookie year. I was more like 'D. Rose' - kind of quiet, got people in spots because of the flow of the game. 'J. Wall,' he's a talkative type, he's going to tell everybody what to do and where to go, real outgoing. It's funny because when 'D. Rose got in the league, I thought that would be adjustment for him, but 'J. Wall,' he's just an outgoing person. 'D. Rose' was one of those guys that might point or slow things down. 'D. Rose' seems to have gotten more outspoken," said Strickland, who also coached last season's Rookie of the Year, Tyreke Evans, at Memphis, as well as Clippers rookie point guard Eric Bledsoe - who's seen an uptick in his minutes under former Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro while starter Baron Davis is sidelined - at Kentucky as collegians.

"With their games, their work ethic, me and everybody around them knew they'd be successful right away and be able to fight through the bad times," continued Strickland. "I'm sure it's tough - coming from a winning program, then losing a lot of games - competitors keep at it. Those guys just make it another challenge. I don't necessarily believe in that - the 'rookie wall.' I never thought I hit it when I played. I thought it was just a mindset. Those guys are competitive enough and their work ethic is great, so even when they struggle - and everybody does over the course of an 82-game season - they'll get past it."

Added Strickland: I'm not surprised about anything either one of those guys does because of their work ethic and way they went about their business in college. You would hear stuff, but I see them every day and I've been in that league and I know what that league's about. The court opens up so wide for them - guys can't leave them and they're playing with better players every night - that what they're doing is not surprising to me at all. They become different people when they get on the court. They love the lights. What Derrick has done, what John is doing so far, I expected that."

Rose talked about Strickland's influence on him after Friday's Bulls practice.

"Spending hours in the gym with him after practice, going over things, just working on my finishing moves and stuff, he helped me out a lot and I appreciate him for that," said Rose. "I still don't know how to finish like he does, but he was one of the greatest finishers in the NBA. I'm still learning."

As for the matchup with Wall, Rose, as always, prefers to focus on the game from a team standpoint.

"He's a good player, a good young player. He's got good vets over there that are helping him out. But I'm not too worried about the matchup. It's all about winning games and that's all I'm trying to do right now, trying to put my team in a position to win every time we step on the court," said Rose. "Every point guard brings something new. He brings quickness and strength. Saturday's going to be an exciting night."

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

American sweep and European rally at Ryder Cup

American sweep and European rally at Ryder Cup

CHASKA, Minn. (AP) -- Even with the first opening-session sweep in four decades, the Americans were reminded anew Friday that no lead is safe in the Ryder Cup.

Not after one session. Not after one day.

And based on the last Ryder Cup on American soil, not until it's over.

Europe battled back from a 4-0 deficit behind its best tandem, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose, and capped off a long and rowdy day at Hazeltine when its best player, Rory McIlroy, holed a 20-foot eagle putt and then mocked the crowd by taking a bow.

The American celebration turned into a consolation.

They had a 5-3 lead, the margin after the first day at Medinah four years ago that ended in another European victory. They lost a chance to really put Europe in a hole.

"It's frustrating not to come out a little bit more ahead," U.S. captain Davis Love III said.

Love could not have scripted a better start - a symbolic one, too.

To honor Arnold Palmer, who died Sunday night, Ryder Cup officials placed on the first tee Palmer's golf bag from when he was captain of the 1975 Ryder Cup team. Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed then set the tone with a 3-and-2 foursomes victory over Stenson and Rose, and the Americans delivered the first sweep of the opening session since that 1975 team at Laurel Valley.

Phil Mickelson, feeling more pressure than usual because of his influence on changes and on this team, also produced big shots. His wedge into 5 feet that Rickie Fowler converted was key in the Americans winning three straight holes for a 1-up victory over McIlroy and Andy Sullivan.

"With everything going on - me not having a point and Phil being a big part of getting the players a lot more involved to Arnie passing and him being a huge part of the week, this is big for us," Fowler said.

It just didn't last.

"The guys were disappointed with the way they played this morning and the way they performed," European captain Darren Clarke said. "But they showed tremendous bravery and heart and desire to go out and play the way they have done this afternoon."

Beaten for the first time, Rose and Stenson went right back out against Spieth and Reed and handed the American duo its first Ryder Cup loss. The Europeans made nine birdies in 13 holes for a 5-and-4 victory in an afternoon session in which the board was filled with European blue.

Sergio Garcia, who along with Martin Kaymer made only one birdie in a foursomes loss, teamed with fellow Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello to dismantle J.B. Holmes and Ryan Moore. McIlroy and Pieters never trailed against Johnson and Kuchar, handing them their first loss in four Ryder Cup matches.

The lone American point in the afternoon came from Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka, who had no trouble against Kaymer and Danny Willett.

Willett had a little trouble with the crowd, especially when they lampooned him around Hazeltine with references to hot dogs and his brother, Pete, who had written a column in a British publication disparaging American galleries.

"It was anticipated," Willett said. "Coming to America is a tough one, just like when the Americans come to Europe. They gave me a little bit more. I think it was exactly what we thought it was going to be."

It wasn't just directed at Willett, however.

The crowd was loud and boisterous from the opening tee shot in misty conditions. There were a few rude comments, not unusual in America for a Ryder Cup. McIlroy had a 20-foot birdie putt to halve the morning foursomes match against Mickelson and Fowler when a fan from across 100 yards away shouted, "Get an American to putt it for you." That was a reference to McIlroy and Rose losing a playful $100 bet to an American fan who made a putt in Thursday's practice session.

Most striking was how quickly the crowd cheered bad shots for Europe. Typically, there is the slightest delay. Not on Friday. Sullivan, one of six rookies for Europe, hit his tee shot into the water on the 17th that put Europe 1 down and effectively ended the match. The crowd cheered before there was a ripple.

That's what inspired McIlroy in the final match of the day. He and Pieters were 2 up on the 16th hole, with Kuchar already in for a birdie, when the four-time major champion drained his 20-foot putt. Turning to the crowd, he bowed twice and screamed out, "C'mon!"

"I wanted to put an exclamation on that session for us," McIlroy said. "I thought about that celebration before I hit the putt."

More than a celebration, it was a message from McIlroy to what he felt was a hostile crowd.

"I'm not fazed by anything said by the crowd," McIlroy said. "And I'm not fazed by anything the U.S. throws at us."

Joe Maddon keeping thoughts on Cubs’ playoff rotation to himself

Joe Maddon keeping thoughts on Cubs’ playoff rotation to himself

CINCINNATI – After Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price dropped 77 F-bombs on reporters during an epic rant that went viral last year, Joe Maddon explained his dealing-with-the-media philosophy by saying: “At the end of the day, we’re not trying to conceal weaponry being sold to Iran.”

Maddon’s had a clear understanding of how the Cubs want to align their playoff rotation for about a week now, but the manager who will thoughtfully answer just about any misinformed or off-the-wall question doesn’t want to reveal those plans yet.  

“We have an idea of what we want to do,” Maddon said Friday at Great American Ball Park. “But we haven’t had that final conversation with Theo (Epstein) and Jed (Hoyer) and everybody else (in the front office) and all of our coaches.

“What I like to do under these circumstances is talk to the players first before they have to read about it in the newspaper.”

Do the pitchers already know?

“They’re not stupid,” Maddon said.

That type of scenario sparked Price’s meltdown last April, when it looked like one of Maddon’s former players – they worked together in 1985 and 1986 in Midland, Texas, at a Double-A affiliate for the California Angels – could get fired midseason. Price survived 98 losses, and even with the team heading toward another last-place finish this season, the Reds announced a one-year contract extension with a club option for 2018 before Friday’s game against the Cubs.   

Where the manager’s hot seat used to be the dominant storyline around this team at this time of year, the Cubs have now lined up Jon Lester (19-4, 2.28 ERA) and Kyle Hendricks (16-8, 1.99 ERA) for Games 161 and 162 this weekend, giving them two leading Cy Young Award candidates for the front of their playoff rotation.

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Maddon indicated the opponent – whoever emerges from the three-team battle among the New York Mets, San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals and wins the National League wild-card game – won’t change how the Cubs set their pitching matchups.

In theory, the Cubs can also rearrange Jake Arrieta (18-8, 3.10 ERA) and John Lackey (11-8, 3.35 ERA) in a different order for Games 3 and 4, but it sounds like the brass has already made that decision, whatever it is. 

“You could if you wanted to, but I don’t anticipate that,” Maddon said. “Again, I want to make sure before we make that announcement.”

However it shakes out, Arrieta and Lackey will have to wait almost two full weeks from their last regular-season start until their first playoff action on Oct. 10-11, on the road, in a best-of-five series where anything can happen.   

“That’s always been the major complaint I’ve heard,” Maddon said. “It’s just up to us to handle it properly. Now, of course, it may be difficult or rusty or whatever you want to call it. I don’t know. And then again, the rest might just do somebody really good. It just depends on the individual. These are the kind of things that are kind of outside of your control.

“You do your best in order to meet the challenge. That’s it. And you don’t make excuses. You don’t cry about it. You just do it, because, in advance, you know this is how it is set up.

“Otherwise, there’s nothing you can do about it, man.”

The Cubs have first-division problems, avoiding the major arm injuries that decimated the Mets. The Giants would have to burn a Madison Bumgarner start in the one-game playoff. The Cardinals are in this precarious position because their rotation has been so inconsistent.

“We are where we are because of our starters,” Arrieta said. “Our offense has been, obviously, spectacular, (but) we’ve all pitched really well throughout the year. I think we’re in a situation where we should be able to enjoy that for a little while.

“We’ll be ready for the first round.”