Ask Aggrey: Outside shooting still a weakness

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Ask Aggrey: Outside shooting still a weakness

Sixteen regular-season games left for the Bulls and all I can think about are the three games left in college basketball. Kentucky winning it all might not be quite the foregone conclusion that everybody thinks, but I think it's a strong possibility. Still, it's March Madness and anything can happen. The end of college basketball gets me thinking about the draft, not to mention the high school all-star game season, which starts, at least on the national level, with the McDonald's All-American Game this week at the United Center. Having seen him two summers ago, before everybody and their mother knew about him, I was fairly certain Chicago native Anthony Davis would be really good, but even I didn't expect him to be this good, this quick. His Kentucky teammate, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. another kid I've seen forever, is probably the second-best prospect in the college game. I know a lot of NBA fans can't get into college, let alone high school hoops, but the moral of the story is if you see these kids early, you won't be behind the curve when they're eventually tearing up the pro game. Even though their season is now over, I advise even casual fans, both locally and nationally, to check out Simeon's Jabari Parker while they have the chance to do so, since in about two years, they'll be paying a lot more for the privilege. Anyway, with no further adieu, enjoy this week's edition of my mailbag:

When it comes down to the overall rating on the Bulls players, is there one weakness that could jeopardize the Bulls run in the playoffs? -- Anthony J.

Anthony, even when Rip returns to the lineup, I think outside shooting will still be the aspect of the Bulls that other teams attempt to prey upon. We've seen it recently with Toronto playing a zone defense and when Derrick comes back, teams will try to trap him to get the ball out of his hands to force other players to make plays. Now, when it comes to making plays, I think the team in general has shown it's more than capable--that's the silver lining to Derrick's injury problems this season -- but even with Kyle, Lu, C.J. and JL3 proving they're more than capable three-point threats, opponents will try to make them show that they can knock down shots when it counts.

When should Rip Hamilton return? He should get some games in before playoff time so that he could get into game shape -- Whirl Wide IKhan

Whirl Wide (any relation to Wes?), I think Rip will be back sooner than people think. If I had to make an educated guess, I wouldn't be surprised to see him return when his former team, the Pistons, come to town Friday, giving him a game before the showdown in Oklahoma City next Sunday. I think both Rip and I agree that he needs to play for conditioning purposes, but being that he's always been the energetic type and Ronnie is basically a de facto starter, even when he's coming off the bench, even more important is continuing to build chemistry and attempting to learn the system inside and out. Rip and Thibs were huddled together watching video after practice last week, something Thibs did with Derrick last season, so he's trying his best to get up to speed for the long haul.

Could Rose still be named MVP in spite of his injuries? -- Truman D.

Truman, Derrick's MVP chances went out the window a long time ago because of the injuries, but even if he was still under consideration, the team's success without him has ruled him out. One could have made the argument that Bulls, at times, were a one-man gang--at least offensively -- last season, but there's no way to back that up this season with their 12-4 record without Derrick in the lineup. If anything, the team's MVP candidates this season have been their defense, the bench and Thibs. Give JL3 a couple more miracle games before he climbs into the top three.

Why do the Bulls do half pick and rolls? I always see picks but nobody rolls -- Tony M.

Tony, great question. When Carlos (I assume you're primarily talking about him, as Jo and Taj roll all the way to the hoop more frequently) first got healthy last season, Derrick talked about how playing with him was an adjustment because he didn't always roll all the way to the basket, like a lot of traditional big men do. The Bulls utilize that strategy to play to Carlos' strengths, which are mid-range jumpers, being able to take advantage of certain matchups in space and giving him good passing angles to find cutters, such as Lu and Ronnie. Also, the Bulls play a lot of high-low basketball with their bigs, so having Carlos with the ball at the elbow sometimes opens things up for Jo at the low block.

What did you think about that body check on Blake Griffin? -- Ryan .

Ryan, I think it was overblown. The refs made the right call and Jason Smith's reaction wasn't a good thing, but he apologized and was punished for it appropriately. That said, Griffin has to expect that, with the "Lob City" hype and his continued posterizations of opposing players. Nobody likes to be embarrassed and the word is out that if he gets frustrated, he can be thrown off his game. Maybe if he was a better free-throw shooter, he wouldn't take it so personally, since he'd know that he could get the two points back at the foul line.

Keep the questions -- whether theyre about the Bulls, the rest of the NBA, other levels of basketball or life in general -- coming. Youll get a much better explanation, though not as instant, than you would via Twitter with only 140 characters. You can submit a question by commenting on this article below or by clicking here.

After getting shut down by Buck Farmer, White Sox ninth-inning rally falls short

After getting shut down by Buck Farmer, White Sox ninth-inning rally falls short

The White Sox offense finally came alive in the ninth inning. But it came one run short of completing an epic last-ditch comeback.

The White Sox were silenced by Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Buck Farmer and went to the ninth inning down 4-0. But the South Siders woke up at the last minute for three runs, only to fall with the tying run on third base in a 4-3 decision at Guaranteed Rate Field, the second game of Saturday's doubleheader.

Down a quartet of runs heading to the bottom of the ninth, Jose Abreu led off with a double, and two batters later, Matt Davidson singled, putting runners at the corners with one out. Abreu came home when Tim Anderson singled up the middle, and Davidson and Anderson both scored on Yolmer Sanchez's triple into the right-field corner to make it a one-run game. But Todd Frazier and Adam Engel struck out with Sanchez 90 feet away to end the game.

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Prior to the late-inning dramatics, the White Sox couldn't do a thing offensively, mostly thanks to the efforts of Farmer, who struck out 11 in his 6.1 shutout innings. He allowed only three hits and two walks in his first appearance of the 2017 season.

White Sox starter Derek Holland allowed just one run and struck out eight but left trailing 1-0. The Tigers scored three more runs off the White Sox bullpen thanks to a sacrifice fly, a wild pitch and a Victor Martinez solo home run.

White Sox courting of Luis Robert leads to 'Christmas in May'

White Sox courting of Luis Robert leads to 'Christmas in May'

When he learned last November that elite talent Luis Robert could be available by June 15, Marco Paddy didn’t hold back: It was time for the White Sox make their move.

Much like with Yoan Moncada before, the team’s international scouting director had an extensive history scouting Robert, who on Saturday signed with the White Sox after he received a $26 million signing bonus. After watching him for five years, Paddy believed in Robert enough to recommend the White Sox pay several severe penalties to sign a player the franchise thinks could be an everyday center fielder with power.

By signing Robert, 19, the White Sox must not only pay a luxury tax of almost equal value to the bonus, but they’re also unable to sign any international prospect for more than $300,000 in each of the next two classes. But given the limited competition and the unique talent he saw, Paddy let the White Sox know Robert -- a potential top-30 prospect in baseball -- was a player they couldn’t afford to bypass. Thus begun the team’s courtship, one the Cuban cited as having a major impact on his desire to sign with the White Sox. Now, the White Sox not only have Moncada after trading for him in December, but they also have another potential cornerstone to build around.

“From the beginning we were very serious about it,” Paddy said. “Knowing we weren’t going to have 29 other clubs competing against us was a good thing for us because we knew our competition pool was a lot smaller. We went in it with everything we had and if we missed out on some guys that’s fine, that’s the risk you take.

“It’s a dream come true to be honest with you, having those guys with that kind of ability together. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done. But I saw Moncada about the same age I saw Robert and it’s like Christmas in May.”

The pursuit of Robert -- a player general manager Rick Hahn describes as a “dynamic, potential talent” -- began in December at the winter meetings at National Harbor, Md. Having learned that Robert would potentially be a late addition to the 2016-17 international class, Paddy asked for a meeting with Hahn, executive vice president Kenny Williams and chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. Paddy and Hahn had previously held several similar state-of-the-international-picture meetings to determine when to make a splash on the market.

This was different.

“Marco approached us and said, ‘This is the guy,’ ” Hahn said.

It was still a “what if” proposition because Robert not only had to establish residency, but he also had to receive clearance from Major League Baseball to be part of the 2016-17 class, a critical factor. Under the old Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams could spend whatever they wanted on a player as long as they paid a luxury tax. But under the new CBA, teams are limited to a maximum of $5.25 million for bonuses.

While the White Sox felt Paddy’s familiarity with Robert would give them a chance if he wasn’t eligible until July 2 (the next class), they knew they’d compete against fewer teams for his services under the old rules. Hahn said back in March the White Sox intended to be a player either way. On Saturday, he said it was Paddy’s initial determination that spurred him into action.

“Marco personally was willing to suffer the penalties that it has on his world for the betterment of the organization,” Hahn said. “Marco’s evaluation and presence and willingness to sacrifice potential future signings for this reinforced the notion that this was the right move to make.”

Then everyone else got involved and the White Sox went overboard to recruit Robert.

If Saturday’s pregame presentation is any indication, the White Sox pulled out all the stops.

As Robert was introduced for his press conference, he sat in front of banners featuring current and former White Sox from Cuba, including Alexei Ramirez, Minnie Minoso, Jose Abreu and Moncada.

Once he was on the field to throw out the first pitch, the team played a short video that was filmed Friday night on the scoreboard with numerous White Sox fans welcoming Robert to Chicago. As Robert trotted to the mound to throw his pitch to Abreu, team employees stood atop the home dugout with a sign that read “bienvenidos” and holding Cuban flags.

But the post-signing efforts were nothing compared to the team’s full-court press of Robert last month.

[MORE: Luis Robert will start journey through White Sox organization in Dominican Summer League]

Hahn and Williams brought several showstoppers with them when they traveled to the Dominican Republic for a private workout with Robert last month. Included were a power point production and an iPad with a video presentation that the White Sox communications department put together in six days, Hahn said. Manager Rick Renteria narrated the short video in Spanish and it included personal messages for Robert from Abreu, Moncada and Michael Ynoa, who shares the same trainer (Edgar Mercedes) and worked out with Robert in the offseason.

“It was a beautiful video,” Robert said through an interpreter. “The part (that stood out) the most was when Ricky Renteria was talking straight to me, saying they need me here to win several championships.”

But more than the video, Robert said the desire displayed by the White Sox made his decision easy. Hahn said the White Sox felt confident heading into the final 24 hours that they were in the lead for Robert. Not only had they bid aggressively, Hahn thought the White Sox made a strong pitch. That feeling only increased last Saturday morning when Robert changed his Instagram avatar to a picture of him wearing a White Sox cap.

“The video helps a lot, but the thing that made me make a decision was who was the team that showed more interest,” Robert said. “That was something that made me feel good.”

Paddy had seen enough in five years to feel confident in pushing the White Sox to be a player for Robert.

He first scouted Robert at the under-15 Pan American Championships in 2012 in Chihuahua, Mexico. Paddy’s interest in the 6-foot-3, 175-pound center fielder only grew as Robert matured physically. Paddy suspected that once Hahn and Williams would be on board once they saw the passion with which Robert played.

Robert described himself on Saturday as player who likes to fight and “give all that I have for my team.” Paddy said it wasn’t a difficult call to push Hahn when he considered the player’s tools and makeup, as well as the last opportunity to spend big on an international talent.

“You put all those things together, it becomes easy,” Paddy said. “As I watched him over the years grow, get stronger and get better, it became evident to me that if we had an opportunity to sign this guy, it would be a good thing for the organization.

“The level of ability, the tools that I saw that he had, and the past and now present, it’s something you don’t see every day.”