Healthy Boozer quietly setting example

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Healthy Boozer quietly setting example

Even Tom Thibodeau will admit, the way Carlos Boozer introduced himself to Chicago didnt exactly endear him to the city. After tripping over a gym bag during training camp, the prized free-agent acquisition was forced to miss a huge chunk of the early season with a right-hand injury.

This season, its been a different story, as the power forward has been the only Bulls starter to play in all 50 of the first-place teams games this season. A big reason for that is that Boozer reported to training camp after the NBA lockout in much-improved physical shape.

Its huge. He got hurt early last year, but I think he came back in excellent shape, so I think thats helped him a lot and last year his injury was misfortune. Then, he had the turf toe at the end of the season and the ankle sprain, but that was probably from all the time that he had off and this year, hes just been ready, right from the beginning, said Thibodeau. Hes lighter and I think thats a very good point. Particularly for big guys, I think light and lean as they get older is critical.

I think its difficult to lead when youre injured and the team was new to him. You have to be playing to lead, really. Now that hes been here for two years, I think hes a lot more comfortable knowing his teammates, his teammates know him knowing the system. Its hard to lead when you get hurt in the first week, you dont know your teammates and you dont know the system. Carlos has been a terrific player in the league for a long time, he continued. Hes playing strong. Hes always had that strength. I think its made him quicker. I also think it helps to avoid injury.

Though Boozers numbers are down from a season ago, hes been efficient and a key cog in an overall relatively healthy big-man rotation featuring fellow starter Joakim Noah and backups Taj Gibson and Omer Asik. The quartet will have to play well Monday night against the deep, dangerous Nuggets at the United Center.

Theyre tough, said Thibodeau. Leading scorer and forward Danilo Gallinari being out makes them a little bit different, but theyre very deep. They have a number of guys on their second unit that are really starters. You look at Andre Miller, hes a starter in the league. Sixth man and veteran forward Al Harringtons a starter. Starting point guard Tywon Lawsons been terrific for them. Rookie forward Kenneth Faried is a high-energy guy. Center Timofey Mozgov is tough. Forward Wilson Chandler, of course, picking him up late after playing in China due to the lockout, hes still getting acclimated, but hes still a terrific player. And shooting guard Arron Afflalo has really established himself as a solid two-way player in this league, and each year, hes gotten better and better. Hes playing at a high level for them.

Recently acquired center JaVale McGee is another starter. Hes athletic, changes the game with his defense, can run the floor. This team flies up and down the floor, the balls in the paint, they can put it on the floor, theyre unselfish they probably dont get enough credit for that they make the extra pass and they have a lot of versatility to their lineup because they can play Lawson and Miller together. Chandlers the type of guy that can play three positions, Harrington can play four positions, so theres a lot of flexibility with the guys and theyre all hard-playing. They all play hard, he continued. "Nuggets head coach George Karl has been there a long time. Hes done a terrific job. I dont think people overlook them because theyre going to play fast, theyre going to play hard. Now, theyve taken on some injuries, so that sort of slowed them down a little bit, but theyre going to be playing with great urgency. Theres a bunch of teams that are fighting for those last spots in the West and theyre one of them, so theyll be ready to go.

Thibodeau is fortunate that the Bulls will have Noah in the lineup Monday, as the center avoided a suspension though not a league-imposed fine for being ejected from Saturdays eventual win over the Raptors after throwing a ball in the direction of an official.

Im disappointed with his frustration. I think Jo has grown quite a bit, in terms of his professionalism, and it was a tough game, said Thibodeau. As a team, we werent playing very well, but I do want him to control his emotions.

Thibodeau did let his guard down a bit when asked about the ongoing NCAA Tournament.

I follow it a little bit. I think itll be terrific. I think itll be a great Final Four. I think its a wonderful time of the year for college basketball, he said, giving his trademark politically-correct answer before being asked about whether Kentucky, led by Chicago native Anthony Davis, was the favorite to win the Final Four. They Kentucky are deep, but I tell you, I wouldnt overlook Louisville either.

That might not sit well with his star point guard, Derrick Rose, who played at Memphis for Kentuckys coach, John Calipari.

I havent talked to him since the tournament started. I dont want to jinx him or anything, so Im just going to wait until after they win it and Im just going to call him then, said Rose. Theyre a great team. If anything, I think Coach deserves it and theyre the team to do it.

SportsTalk Live: David DeJesus discusses time spent with Joe Maddon, World Series criticism

SportsTalk Live: David DeJesus discusses time spent with Joe Maddon, World Series criticism

"Be sexy."

That was one of two rules manager Joe Maddon told David DeJesus when the Tampa Bay Rays acquired him in 2013.

DeJesus appeared on SportsTalk Live on Wednesday to discuss his time spent with Maddon in Tampa Bay.

"Just be yourself out there," DeJesus said of Maddon when the Rays traded for him. "I want you to have fun and I want you to just have that ora of 'just don't worry, just go out there and play.' It kept the whole team loose."

DeJesus also shared his thoughts on Maddon's questionable managerial decisions in the World Series.

Hear that, and more, in the video above.

Between Cubs' victory lap and Hall of Fame vote, Sammy Sosa barely staying in the picture

Between Cubs' victory lap and Hall of Fame vote, Sammy Sosa barely staying in the picture

Sammy Sosa has stayed so far off the radar that his long-running absence from Cubs Convention didn't even come up during last weekend's Q&A session with ownership.

And the Cubs can't go viral all the time and dominate every offseason news cycle, with the National Baseball Hall of Fame revealing the election results on Wednesday and welcoming Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez as part of its 2017 class.

But it's become out of sight, out of mind for Sosa, who barely crossed the 5-percent threshold (8.6) needed to remain on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot for another year.

Sosa — a seven-time All Star, 1998 National League MVP and the franchise's all-time leader with 545 home runs (and 609 overall) — hadn't gained any traction at all during his first four years under BBWAA consideration, hovering between 12.5 and 6.6 percent.

It's complicated with Sosa, a diva personality who experienced a dramatic late-career renaissance and got named in a New York Times report that exposed him as one of the players who tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in 2003 (during what was supposed to be an anonymous survey).

The Cubs have undergone a complete makeover since Sosa walked out in 2004, leaving him without many allies in the organization. It's nothing personal, but in the past the Ricketts family has hinted that Sosa could mend certain fences and fill in some of the blanks he once left open during an unconvincing performance in front of Congress.

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The Cubs brought Hall of Famers Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and Ryne Sandberg to meet President Barack Obama during their Martin Luther King Jr. Day visit to the White House and keep adding former players to the front office. It's awkward after a World Series run where so many alumni showed up to do TV work, throw first pitches, spray champagne or simply watch a rare playoff game at Wrigley Field.

— If Sosa's looking for a roadmap, Manny Ramirez did his penance and cooperated with Major League Baseball to the point where Cubs president Theo Epstein shockingly hired him as a Triple-A Iowa player/coach in the middle of the 2014 season, something that would have been unthinkable during their clashes with the Boston Red Sox.

As a hitting consultant, Ramirez took a come-and-go-as-you-please arrangement, becoming a national story during the 2015 playoffs but largely staying away from the 2016 championship team, perhaps gearing up for his independent-ball comeback in Japan this year. Even after failing multiple drug tests, one of the greatest right-handed hitters of his generation still finished at 23.8 percent in his first year on the BBWAA ballot.

— Lee Smith (34.2 percent) — a drafted-and-developed Cub and the franchise's all-time leader with 180 saves — didn't come close in his 15th and final time on the BBWAA ballot. Smith had been grandfathered when the Hall of Fame narrowed the eligibility window to 10 years, possibly trying to squeeze Steroid Era symbols like Roger Clemens (54.1 percent) and Barry Bonds (53.8 percent).

— This will make Cub fans feel old: Kerry Wood and Carlos Zambrano are Hall of Fame-eligible for the first time in 2018, when based off this year's returns Trevor Hoffman (74) and Vladimir Guerrero (71.7) should be building momentum toward the 75 percent needed for induction into Cooperstown.