Asik excited about facing former team on his new turf

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Asik excited about facing former team on his new turf

HOUSTONThis citys Houston good, Omer Asik said. A little bit hotter than Chicago.

Besides the change in weather, the former Bulls center is thriving on the court, averaging 10 points and 12.3 rebounds per game, albeit for a 4-7 team. His new squad, the Rockets, host the Bulls at the Toyota Center in a battle of two clubs trying to snap losing streaks two consecutive defeats for the Bulls, a trio of losses for Houston Wednesday night.

Im really excited. I spent two years with them and we had a really good team, and good friendships with everybody, Asik told CSNChicago.com after the Rockets morning shootaround. Its going to be really interesting to play against them.

Asik, a native of Turkey whose mastery of English is far better than he lets on, has fond memories of his time in Chicago, despite signing a three-year, nearly 25 million contract with the Rockets as a free agent over the summer.

Actually, it wasnt totally my decision either. Its just happened like that, whatever happened and Im just moving forward, he said, referring to the Bulls decision not to match Houstons back-loaded offer sheet, which included a 15 million salary for the final year of the deal. I had a really good coach, Thibs, and really good, experienced teammates that helped me a lot in my first two seasons and Im very happy that I started my NBA career with them.

I watch some Bulls games, but not much. But theyve been playing very good, like they always do, continued Asik, who noted that the Bulls are used to playing without injured superstar Derrick Rose, who missed 27 regular-season games last year. Of course, when you play without the MVP, its a little bit tough, but I think theyve been playing very good, especially on defense.

Asik shrugged off praise for his offensive development, but did refer to the challenges of playing with one of the NBAs youngest teams, led by the dynamic backcourt of James Harden and Jeremy Lin.

Im trying to play hard, like usual. Im just trying to win the games to help the team. Thats all I can do, try to get better, he explained. Lin and Harden are really talented and James played last season in the Finals, which is a good experience at a young age and playing with them, we dont know each other yet, but I think itll get better.

Added Rockets interim head coach Kelvin Sampson, who is filling in for regular head coach Kevin McHale while the Hall of Famer deals with a family issue: Sometimes when a guy I think he averaged 14 minutes a game prior to coming here theres always a little bit of a mystery factor. What would he do if he had 30 minutes or 35 minutes?

Hes one of a handful -- 10 guys maybe -- in the NBA, thats averaging a double-double. I think that Omer has to never forget who he is, though. Sometimes, theres a double-edged sword with working with guys on their offense. They want to go to games and start experimenting. Id rather you experiment in practice, hoss, continued Sampson, who was familiar with Asik from his time as an assistant coach with Milwaukee, a Central Division rival of the Bulls.

He needs to be more sure of whats going on come game time. But Omer is more of a facilitator for us than a scorer. I think thats part of his growth as he gets older and more experienced, that he hes going to get more comfortable with catching the ball and scoring. Hes not there yet, but hes trying. But we dont want him trying at the expense of getting other guys shots. Omer needs to run the floor, needs to set good screens.

Cubs will have Ian Happ one phone call away at Triple-A Iowa

Cubs will have Ian Happ one phone call away at Triple-A Iowa

MESA, Ariz. – After an impressive camp where he looked like the next homegrown Cubs hitter to roll off the assembly line, Ian Happ will go to Triple-A Iowa and get ready to make his big-league debut, or perhaps build his value for a trade-deadline deal.

Along with Happ, the Cubs assigned outfielder John Andreoli and catcher Taylor Davis to minor-league camp on Monday while optioning pitchers Eddie Butler and Rob Zastryzny to Iowa, cutting their roster to 31 as the Opening Night picture comes into focus.

Happ – the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft out of the University of Cincinnati – batted .417 with five homers, four doubles and 17 RBI in 24 Cactus League games.

"Offensively, what was there not to like?" general manager Jed Hoyer said. "I feel like he hit the ball hard every at-bat for six weeks. It's always fun to see a young guy like that come in and open a lot of eyes."

Happ, 22, is a switch-hitter who can play second base and the outfield, skills that could help him escape from Des Moines once the need arises on the major-league level.

[MORE CUBS: How Cubs came to fully believe in the legend of Kyle Schwarber]

Though there are questions about Happ's defense, Theo Epstein's front office and Joe Maddon's coaching staff clearly value versatility and trust young talent, moving Addison Russell to shortstop in 2015 and elevating rookie catcher Willson Contreras last season.

Stay tuned to see when/if the Cubs will have a spot at Wrigley Field, but Happ looks like he will be on a fast track.

"Whenever you're in Triple-A, you're always a call away," Hoyer said. "Sometimes it happens quicker than you think. We never expected Addie would be up in April of that year, and he was. I feel like with Willson last year, if you had asked me in spring training – would he be up in June? – I probably would have thought it would be more like a September call-up or something like that.

"You never know. Things happen. When you have good players in the minor leagues, sometimes it speeds up on you a little bit."

Derek Holland ends spring on strong note as White Sox down Dodgers

Derek Holland ends spring on strong note as White Sox down Dodgers

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Derek Holland ended a productive spring with his best outing to date on Monday afternoon.

Healthy and excited to officially kick off his White Sox career, Holland delivered six strong innings in a 5-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday. The left-hander allowed two earned runs and five hits in six innings pitched, walking two and striking out one. Holland is expected to pitch once more in Milwaukee on Saturday before pitching in the third game of the regular season.

“Definitely feel good,” Holland said. “Feel very confident with everything, very happy with how the spring went. I worked on what we needed to work on to get myself ready for the season and stay healthy and I’m very happy with that. But most of all when you get out there and pitch, the defense, you have to keep them on their toes, and I thought the last out was the perfect example of that.”

Holland was referring to a nice diving catch by Jacob May that prevented at least one run from scoring. The longtime Texas Rangers pitcher was pleased to have established his fastball early and mixed in his offspeed pitches and changeup.

“I wanted to make sure we were going the distance,” Holland said. “I didn’t want to have a setback, and I thought we did a great job.”

The White Sox appear to have narrowly avoided one setback on Monday and are awaiting word on another. An X-ray on the left wrist of infielder Tyler Saladino was negative after he was hit by a pitch while getting in work in a pair of minor-league games. Saladino has been diagnosed with a bruised wrist.

The team is still awaiting word on pitcher Jake Petricka, who took a comebacker off his pitching hand in the seventh inning. Petricka exited the game, got his hand wrapped in ice and left to take an X-ray.

The White Sox are also waiting to learn the results of Carlos Rodon’s second opinion. Rodon was scratched from Friday’s start with a tight bicep tendon and had a physical exam and took an MRI, both of which showed he had no structural damage. Rodon traveled to Los Angeles early Monday for the second opinion with Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

Even if he receives the all clear, the White Sox will remain cautious, manager Rick Renteria said. “It’s almost like you have to re-start the process a little bit,” Renteria said. “It would be foolish to try to anticipate or push him into any direction without first of all ultimately having whatever the diagnosis is or the validation or whatever it might be of the second opinion. Once we get that, we’ll know hopefully tomorrow how we can ultimately proceed. I wouldn’t think we’d try to ramp him up quickly.”

The club also expects to have more clarity on the status of right-handed pitcher Juan Minaya on Tuesday. Minaya, who has been out since March 15 with an abdominal tear, was re-evaluated on Monday. Minaya had a 3.18 ERA and nine strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings this spring.

Matt Davidson also had two hits in the White Sox victory and drove in a run. Melky Cabrera hit a solo homer, his first of the spring. Yolmer Sanchez blasted his third homer of the spring, a two-run shot.

Zach Putnam struck out two in a scoreless inning.