Deng's talents appreciated in Philadelphia

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Deng's talents appreciated in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA Not that he isnt appreciated in Chicago, but if Luol Deng ever needs a pick-me-up, maybe he should just catch a quick flight to Philadelphia. Doug Collins, the 76ers head coach and father of Chris Collins, an assistant coach at Duke, where Deng played in college threw heaps of praise upon the first-time All-Star following his teams Sunday-morning shootaround at the Wells Fargo Center.

We did not see Rip or Luol the last time. Lus having a terrific year. Hes really shooting the ball well, his three-point shooting is up, which really makes it difficult to guard Lu because hes such a slasher and a cutter, said Collins. What Rip has done and a little what Luol has done they were great mid-range shooters and they added some length to their shot to, I think, keep you a little bit more honest.

With Lu, he was such a slasher and a cutter, I think the one year Ive got to go back and look at my notes but when I was broadcasting, the one year he took quite a few threes and then, he came back the next year and really cut down on those threes. His shooting percentage went way up and then, little by little, he started adding the three more into it and when you play with a guy like Derrick Rose, he elevates your offensive rebounding because hes on top of the rim all of the time and your bigs are helping, so thats why Joakim and Booz and Gibson and Asik are on top of the basket rebounding. Then hes going to get you open shots because he penetrates, draws people and hes going to kick that ball, and hes very, very unselfish, continued the detail-oriented coach, not unlike, if more outgoing, than the Bulls Tom Thibodeau. You want to be able to surround him with shooters and thats why when I think Lu was 4-for-4 the other night against Cleveland; it looked they were all from the same spot when I was watching the tape you add that to your game, now you close out, now you can drive and you just expand your game. So, Rip has done that and both Lu.

Dengs former Bulls teammate and current Sixer Andres Nocioni also spoke highly of his fellow small forwards development, as well as the teams continual improvement.

Theyre doing great and theyre doing a lot. I think theyve got more experience, theyre playing really well every night and you know they have Derrick Rose, the MVP, and you know Luol is stepping up his game. Hes playing hard, too, so its really fun to watch their games and I think theyre doing a great job, said Nocioni, who was traded from Chicago to Philadelphia during Roses rookie season. Deng is playing really well right now. I think he deserved to be an All-Star. Hes the kind of guy who works hard every night and hes proud to be a Chicago Bulls player, and I think hes doing a great job.

Injury Report: White Sox, Cubs weekly update

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Injury Report: White Sox, Cubs weekly update

Each week, CSNChicago.com takes a look at the injury report from both the Cubs and White Sox, presented by Service King.

WHITE SOX

- Catchers Alex Avila (strained hamstring) and Kevan Smith (back) were sent to the 15-day disabled list on April 24. On Friday, Avila started his rehab assignment in Triple-A Charlotte. Smith is in Glendale, Ariz. rehabbing his injury.

- Daniel Webb went to the 15-day DL on April 29 for right elbow flexor inflammation.

- Jake Petricka hit the 15-day DL with a right hip impingement.

CUBS

- Matt Szczur was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday with a strained right hamstring.

- Miguel Montero is eligible to return from the DL next Tuesday but Joe Maddon isn't sure if he needs a rehab stint. Montero landed on the DL on April 25 with back stiffness.

Zobrist's hot streak continues as Cubs blast past Scherzer, Nationals

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Zobrist's hot streak continues as Cubs blast past Scherzer, Nationals

Don’t touch Ben Zobrist right now. The guy is straight fire.

Zobrist was smoking hot coming into Friday’s game against the Washington Nationals and ace hurler Max Scherzer, but he cranked his personal thermostat up another level with a pair of home runs off the one-time Cy Young winner, leading the Cubs’ four-homer onslaught in an 8-6 win that showed what this lineup can really do now that summer has arrived on the North Side.

“It’s exciting to finally play here with the wind blowing out a little bit here today. It was great,” Zobrist said after the Cubs’ 22nd win in 28 games this season. “Any time you start feeling good at the plate, it makes the game a lot more fun, especially with a nice, warm day, the wind blowing out. I think probably a week ago, both of those balls I hit today would’ve been caught, but fortunately for me today they were blown out a little bit. Just feeling good right now, and I think we’re playing great baseball.”

In just the last three games, Zobrist has hit four home runs and driven in 11 runs. He’s the first Cub to drive in three or more runs in three straight games since Sammy Sosa. His numbers over the last 12 contests: 15-for-42 with five home runs, two doubles, 20 RBIs, 11 runs scored and 10 walks.

So, you know, pretty good.

Cubs skipper Joe Maddon has seen this before, of course. Zobrist played for Maddon in Tampa Bay and made two All-Star teams during his tenure there. His most powerful season came in 2009, when he hit 27 homers and drove in 91 runs for the Rays, both career highs.

After Friday’s outburst, Zobrist has five home runs and 24 RBIs through 28 games this season.

“It’s so nice to see this power resurgence because I’ve seen it,” Maddon said. “He’s getting pitches, he’s not missing them.”

“That’s the great thing about this game is you get to play every day,” Zobrist said. “And when you start getting comfortable you get to try again the next day and see if you can keep it going. Hopefully keep it going the rest of the weekend.”

Zobrist’s multi-blast day and ongoing torrid stretch demanded the game’s biggest headlines, but he wasn’t the only one knocking Scherzer around the yard.

After John Lackey gave up two early runs to put the Cubs in a rare hole, the offense raced to his rescue, Tommy La Stella smacking a two-run, game-tying homer in the second and Anthony Rizzo and Zobrist clubbing back-to-back jacks in the third. Add in Zobrist’s second long ball, a three-run shot in the fifth, and the Cubs roughed up the Nats’ front-of-the-rotation starter for seven runs on seven hits in just five innings.

It was a far cry from the way Scherzer sliced up the Cubs last season, striking out 13 hitters over seven shutout frames.

“I saw some pitches in the middle of the plate. I’m sure he would not have wanted them in the middle of the plate,” Zobrist said. “And I think that was probably the key, getting the ball there and putting good swings on the ball. We took advantage of that. I think Rizz hit a tough pitch down and in for a home run, but outside of that, I think a lot of other ones were just kind of left over the middle. … Not his best day, but I’ve faced him when he’s been lights out, as well, and you don’t take it for granted.”

“The huge story was our guys being able to score runs off a great pitcher in Scherzer,” Lackey said. “They’ve really done well. It’s fun to be on their side.”

The Cubs have the type of offense that can do this any day, and the lack of summer heat didn’t seem to slow the bats down over the season’s first 27 games, when they posted an outrageous plus-96 run differential.

But there was certainly something different about Friday’s warm-up, which came with an outward-blowing wind.

“I know the hitting coaches (felt good to see the wind blowing out). They felt a lot smarter before the game today,” Maddon said. “Really, you feel so different. We’ve hit so many balls well this year that have been outs that today were not. That’s just the way it plays.”

“Being here, it’s the ultimate love-hate relationship with this field,” Rizzo said. “There’s a few us that would have a lot more extra-base hits if it was blowing out, the wind, but today was nice and we took advantage of it.”

This weekend’s four-game set between the teams with the two best records in baseball has been considered an NLCS preview by some, and Scherzer is a guy the Cubs could face in Game 1 should these teams get a chance to play for the pennant come October.

After Friday’s home run derby, the Cubs don’t seem as if they’ll be intimidated by any pitcher this time around.

Well-traveled Khaly Thiam settling in with the Fire

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Well-traveled Khaly Thiam settling in with the Fire

Khaly Thiam's still young soccer career had already taken him to multiple countries and continents. When he joined the Chicago Fire earlier this week he added another country and continent to that list.

The Fire officially added the 22-year-old Senegalese midfielder on loan on Wednesday. His first training session with the team was on Thursday. The club hopes he will be available in the May 11 match in Vancouver, pending getting his visa to go through in time.

“I am getting on with everybody," Thiam said. "It is football and everything, but this team they are really great guys. I am friendly with the coaches, the players, everybody is helping me to integrate into the team.”

Thiam learned English through a private teacher in Senegal and speaks with a British accent, but said he wasn't able to practice the language until he moved to Europe. He first joined the Novara Primavera, the Italian Serie B club's youth and reserve team. He then moved to Hungary, where he had been since 2012.

“I first went to Italy for one tournament there," Thiam said. "One month in the Primavera with Novara when I played this tournament. Then I went to Hungary for a first division team. From there I got my first professional contract.”

The Fire acquired Thiam's MLS discovery rights from the Columbus Crew. If Thiam starts 12 matches or the Fire make the move permanent, the Fire will send general allocation money to the Crew. If neither of those happen, the Fire will give the Crew a second round pick in the 2017 draft.

Thiam has not yet been able to check out Chicago or explore and he won't have much of a chance for a while either. The Fire leave for a three-game road trip on Tuesday and will not return until after the May 18 match at the New York Red Bulls.

After growing up in Africa and beginning his professional career in Europe, coming to the U.S. is another new adventure for Thiam. Thiam took the chance to join the Fire after hearing good things about MLS.

“I came here for the soccer because now I see the soccer is building up and the level is coming up," he said. "I came here to see what was going on here.”

Thiam will be a welcome addition to a Fire midfield which has struggled to keep possession, the Fire are currently last in MLS in that category. He also comes at a time when the roster is dealing with a number of nagging injuries in the midfield and attack ahead of a crowded schedule featuring two midweek games in the next two weeks.

David Accam and Alex Morrell worked out separately from the rest of the team on Friday. Gilberto, who has a hamstring injury, did some running on the side. Matt Polster, who missed the 1-1 draw against D.C. United on April 30 with a calf injury, left practice early.

“Gilberto, Morrell, Polster they are in the final phase (of recovery)," Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. "Accam also, but we also have to work on Accam’s fitness because he was out longer. We have to take care of his fitness. We don’t want any new issues with him. We have to be smart and manage the load, minutes and everything once he is ready."

John Goossens was not at practice and could still be out for a few weeks after suffering a sprained LCL just before the D.C. match.