Sikma eyes NBA job, Hall of Fame

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Sikma eyes NBA job, Hall of Fame

When he was a skinny 6-foot-10 kid working on a family farm in St. Anne, long before anyone recognized his enormous potential as a basketball player, Jack Sikma was a dreamer. He isn't surprised at where he is or how he got there. He just took a path that few others had to trod.

Now, after starring in the NBA for 14 years and coaching in the league for 10 years, Sikma is ready and willing and, he believes, qualified to achieve two more milestones in his career -- to be a head coach and to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

His credentials? He was the No. 8 pick in the 1977 NBA draft by the Seattle SuperSonics. A seven-time All-Star, he scored over 1,700 points and grabbed over 10,000 rebounds. He was a key factor in Seattle's drive to the 1979 NBA championship. He is the only center to lead the league in free-throw shooting, converting 92.2 percent in 1987-88.

"I am happy for the number of people in my era who have been inducted in the last few years," Sikma said. "I hope the Hall of Fame finds me worthy at some point in time. Some people feel I should be there. I think I have the credentials."

At 56, Sikma feels he also is qualified to be a head coach in the NBA. He just completed his ninth year as an assistant with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He once operated a school for "big men" and feels he has the knowledge and experience to be successful.

"Hopefully, I soon will get an opportunity to interview for a job," he said. "I want to be a head coach in the NBA. I have applied and expressed interest. I interviewed at Houston last year. I hope to be able to get another interview or two this year. There will be some jobs open. I feel I am very prepared to step forward and run a team. I would love to have a shot at it. I would love to prove through the interview process that I am ready to go."

Sikma has come a long way. In Seattle, he lives in Bill Gates' neighborhood. He played in an era where the big man dominated the game in the post, before the 3-point line was drawn. He still can't understand how Seattle, with a great fan base, lost a franchise with a great tradition.

But he succeeded without much fanfare, playing for a tiny school that nobody ever heard of, without a scholarship to a major Division I school. Virtually nobody knew who he was until he surfaced at the 1973 Class A tournament in Champaign, scoring 100 points and grabbing 73 rebounds in four games while leading St. Anne to fourth place.

He received national publicity when a fast-thinking photographer snapped his picture while being interviewed by a television announcer who was standing on a box.

"I was a dreamer," Sikma said. "I loved sports and competition. There is a history in Illinois with basketball and small towns. It was the event for the weekend for everyone. The gyms were full of neighbors, family and friends. It started there.

"I knew I had a chance to grow and it happened. It just fit together. It was the first example of a situation where I had to make a major decision as a late bloomer in high school. I got on the recruiting boards for Big Ten schools. But I decided to go to Illinois Wesleyan, a Division III school, where my sister had gone."

When Sikma got on the map, after the state tournament, Illinois coach Harv Schmidt, who had been a great high school player at nearby Kankakee, came to visit. Purdue coach Fred Schaus was in his living room. Northwestern coach Tex Winter called. DePaul assistant Joey Meyer recruited him. Indiana State and Kansas State visited, too.

"I grew up watching the Big Ten Game of the Week on television," he said. "Illinois was struggling. I wanted to go to Illinois in some sense. In the end, I went back and forth, then came to a decision over time and felt good about it. I never regretted it."

Sikma chose Illinois Wesleyan because coach Dennis Bridges had made a personal commitment to him. Bridges was the first college coach to seriously recruit him. From the outset, Bridges told Sikma that he would be the best player ever to play at Illinois Wesleyan. He scheduled Division I opponents to give Sikma more exposure.

"If I was good enough, the NBA would find me, even a 6-foot-10 skinny kid who loved to play basketball as a 17-year-old out of St. Anne," Sikma said. "The point is he had seen me play 10 times before the state tournament. He helped me to develop my inside game. We played man-to-man all the time. I got to the NBA and knew how to play defense."

Since Division III schools can't offer scholarships, Sikma had to uphold his end of the bargain. Because he was a good student, he qualified for an academic grant. He worked in the summer to pay his room and board.

As Bridges promised, the NBA scouts found Sikma even though he never appeared on national television. After his junior year, he was invited to the U.S. Olympic trials. As a senior, he was invited to participate in all-star games in Hawaii and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

"The light bulb went on between my freshman and sophomore years at Illinois Wesleyan, which I developed my inside game. That's when I began to realize how good I was and how far I could go," he said. "At the Olympic trials, I missed making the team but I played against Tree Rollins and Mitch Kupchak and Tom LeGarde. I competed. I fit in. Some said I should have made the team. It put me on the map for everyone to see as a senior in college."

Sikma played in an era when the big man was dominant, when the game went through the post, through Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Artis Gilmore, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, Ralph Sampson, Robert Parish, Bob Lanier, Elvin Hayes and Moses Malone. And Jack Sikma.

"Then the rules changed. Along game the 3-point line and the understanding that a mix of 3-pointers gave you some better efficiencies with offensive possessions," Sikma said. "Now the bigs, even if they are the strongest players on the floor, have to face up and be able to understand how to pass out of the post on double teams.

"Andrew Bynum is the most dominant big man today. He must understand the value of the 3-point shot. Tim Duncan is the best example. In playoff games, you have to have a good post player who can draw double teams. That's where it pays off. Successful playoff teams and NBA championship teams have a post player who is effective enough to draw a double team."

Sikma would rather be playing, of course, but he enjoys the one-on-one relationships with players and other coaches. He believes his background as a post player, where offenses were run through him and he passed outside for pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops and three-point shots, affords him a broad experience for the coaching profession.

"The pro game is so fast. Strategically, you can do so many things on the move. The more you're in it, as a coach, you realize all the ways you can impact a game," he said.

"Sure, it draws on your patience. The raw talent continues to improve. The preparation and fundamental work that needs to be done to develop a complete player isn't done as much at the pro level as in the past. You cannot replace an experienced player's impact on a team when he is doing it the right way. You have to have a mix or you don't have stability."

He only hopes he soon will have an opportunity to put all of his knowledge into practice -- as a head coach in the NBA.

Cubs pay their respects to Vin Scully at Dodger Stadium

Cubs pay their respects to Vin Scully at Dodger Stadium

LOS ANGELES – There will never be another Vin Scully, who joined the Dodgers in Brooklyn as a kid out of Fordham University, moved to Los Angeles and became a face of the franchise, doing the one-man show that still connects and entertains generations of baseball fans.

The Cubs paid their respects to the legendary broadcaster before Friday night’s game at Dodger Stadium, with manager Joe Maddon and catcher David Ross visiting the Vin Scully Press Box for another photo op before the lyrical voice retires at the end of this season, at the age of 88.

“You’re ascending into the clouds to meet Mr. Scully,” Maddon said. “That’s like the window to the world up there when you sit in his booth and he talks about the purple mountain majesties on a clear day beyond the outfield fences here.”

The Cubs presented Scully with a green “67” scoreboard panel – to mark the number of seasons he’s worked Dodger games – as well as a Dodger banner from Wrigley Field. Maddon also gave Scully, who rocks the conservative coat-and-tie look on TV, several T-shirts from his collection, including “Try Not to Suck.”

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Maddon said he told Scully: “Maybe at the end of the year, sitting by your pool with the sandals on, you can put a T-shirt on where no one can see you and just be Vin.”

As the tributes pour in from around baseball, CSN Chicago will carry Scully’s third-inning call live during Sunday’s broadcast from Chavez Ravine.

“He makes you feel like he’s known you for the last 50 years,” Maddon said. “Just really kind and gracious. And you have to be all of that to survive that many years. Besides being good, it’s his authenticity and how he interacts with people that really (keeps) you on that stage that long.”

Chris Sale strikes out 14 but White Sox fall to Mariners

Chris Sale strikes out 14 but White Sox fall to Mariners

The White Sox couldn’t take advantage of a 14-strikeout performance by Chris Sale on Friday night or a number of chances against Felix Hernandez.

Despite putting the leadoff man aboard five times in eight innings against Hernandez, the White Sox only produced one run in a 3-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners in front of 25,651 at U.S. Cellular Field. Sale retired the last 16 batters he faced but it wasn’t enough as Hernandez and Edwin Diaz held the White Sox in check.

The White Sox had plenty of chances against Hernandez, none better than the bottom of the eighth inning. Avisail Garcia and Tyler Saladino singled on both sides of a J.B. Shuck fielder’s choice. Adam Eaton’s one-out walk knocked Hernandez out of the game.

But Diaz got Tim Anderson to hit into a fielder’s choice as Shawn O’Malley threw home on the slow roller for the force out. And Jose Abreu fouled out to leave the bases loaded.

Todd Frazier homered in the seventh inning of Hernandez for the team’s only run.

Hernandez erased Frazier and Shuck with pickoffs in the second and third innings. He also got out of a first-and-third jam in the fifth inning when Shuck lined into a double play.

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Diaz recorded five outs for the save.

Sale, who earned his 15th win in his previous start, allowed a run in the second, third and fourth innings. But after Adam Lind’s two-out RBI double in the fourth, Sale found an extra gear and retired 16 in a row. The stretch included six straight strikeouts and nine overall as the five-time All-Star afforded his teammates a chance to rally.

Two of Seattle’s three runs off Sale came on opposite-field drives as Lind doubled to left in the fourth and Franklin Gutierrez homered to right in the second inning. Sale struck out 14 and walked none, allowing five hits and three runs in nine innings. He threw strikes on 88 of 120 pitches. 

Fire look for another road win at D.C. United Saturday on CSN+

Fire look for another road win at D.C. United Saturday on CSN+

The Chicago Fire are back on the road and have a new face joining the team on the trip.

The Fire play at D.C. United on Saturday. The match will be televised on CSN+ at 6 p.m. with coverage beginning at 5:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live.

The new face joining the team is Armenian forward David Arshakyan. The Fire signed the 6-foot-4 Arshakyan from FK Trakai in the Lithuanian league on Aug. 3, but he didn’t get his visa and arrive in the country until Wednesday night. He was then shuttled to Toyota Park during the match against the LA Galaxy.

Arshakyan’s first training with the team was Thursday and he made the trip with the team to D.C. He could make his debut, but would likely have to do so off the bench.

Beyond Arshakyan’s potential debut, Saturday is a big match in terms of keeping the Fire’s playoff hopes alive. D.C. United (6-8-11, 29 points) is currently in the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Fire (5-11-7, 23 points) are six points back. A road win, which would be the Fire’s second straight, would bring the Men in Red within three points of D.C. with a game in hand.

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The Fire are undefeated in eight straight MLS home matches (3-0-5) and won the previous road match. The additions and integrations of Michael de Leeuw and Luis Solignac have boosted what had been a struggling attack and fewer injuries have helped create needed stability in the lineup.

“We finally feel like a team that can win (against) anyone in this league,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. “We always believe, we always said that, but finally you can see it. You can see it coming and you can see that this team is growing.”

D.C. features a pair of notable former Fire players in Patrick Nyarko, who scored when D.C. drew the Fire 1-1 in April, and Kennedy Igboananike, who made his first start for D.C. on Wednesday. Igboananike is yet to score for D.C. in four appearances since being traded from the Fire. Defender Kofi Opare will be suspended after earning a red card late in the match against Montreal on Aug. 24.

The Fire may have an injury concern relating to David Accam, who was seen favoring his left leg a bit and had ice around his thigh after Wednesday’s match against LA. Accam said it was an issue he had before the game and he didn’t think it was a major injury. Still, Accam is listed as questionable due to a left quad. Arturo Alvarez is also listed as questionable (groin).

Chicago Fire at D.C. United

When: Saturday 6 p.m. (coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live)

TV: CSN+

Where: RFK Stadium