Will Rose be Bulls' lone All-Star again?

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Will Rose be Bulls' lone All-Star again?

AUBURN HILLS, MICH. The entire Bulls starting lineup point guard Derrick Rose, shooting guard Rip Hamilton, small forward Luol Deng, power forward Carlos Boozer and center Joakim Noah made the Eastern Conference NBA All-Star Game ballot, the league announced Wednesday.

The inclusion of all five starters shows how much higher in stature the Bulls, coming off a season in which they won a league-high 62 regular-season games have risen.

However, its highly unlikely that all five players will be selected to play in the game, let alone be starters.

Rose, the reigning league MVP, is a lock to be a starter for a second consecutive year, and it wouldnt be a shock to see him challenge to be the NBAs highest vote-getter in fan balloting.

Noah might be the next most popular Bull in Chicago, but his lack of gaudy statistics probably will prevent him from making the game, although he was in line to make his first All-Star appearance last season, until injuries sidelined him.

Boozer, a polarizing figure in Chicago and throughout the league, is also an unlikely candidate for the game, despite being a former All-Star in the Western Conference.

Hamilton, another former All-Star, isnt likely to put up statistics worthy of candidacy in his first season with the Bulls, not to mention the fact that the veterans best years could be behind him.

That leaves Deng, whose strong start to the campaign, following arguably his best all-around professional season, could garner nominations from the leagues coaches, although the fans probably wont vote him in as a starter, due to his lack of NBA-wide name recognition.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau stumped for Deng to make both the All-Star Game and the leagues all-defensive team last season to little success, but with a Coach of the Year award under his belt, perhaps hell have more sway this time around.

Furthermore, after the teams successful 2010-11 campaign, in which Rose was Chicagos lone All-Star, Deng could be the second All-Star player on one of the leagues consensus upper-echelon teams.

Morning Update: Cubs pick up win No. 101, Sale leads White Sox past Rays

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Morning Update: Cubs pick up win No. 101, Sale leads White Sox past Rays

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John Lackey sees Cubs lining up for World Series run: ‘It’s all here’

John Lackey sees Cubs lining up for World Series run: ‘It’s all here’

PITTSBURGH — The Cubs have so much going for them, all this blue-chip talent, a clubhouse mix of young players and grizzled veterans, arguably the best manager in the game, an impactful coaching staff and a front office that blends scouting and analytics as well as anyone.

So, no, John Lackey is not at all surprised by the way this clicked into place, 101 wins and counting for the machine built with October in mind.

“Not really,” Lackey said after Tuesday night’s 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. “I had some pretty good offers from other people, and I chose this one for a reason. It’s all here.”

But to win the World Series — and get the jewelry Lackey talks about — you still need some luck, good health and the guts to perform in those Big Boy Games. That reality of randomness and matchups made a pregame announcement some 250 miles away from PNC Park so telling.

Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos tore the ACL in his right knee, ending his MVP-caliber season. The National League East champions will lose a .307 hitter with 22-homer power from the middle of their lineup and a veteran presence for a playoff rotation that will likely be without injured ace Stephen Strasburg (right elbow) in the first round.

“That’s a tough one when you lose your catcher, a guy who’s that significant for the pitching staff,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Think about the pitching staff — it’s so different when you know the guy back there is your guy and he knows what’s going on. The communication’s different. The trust factor, all that stuff is different.”

[SHOP CUBS: Get your NL Central champions gear right here]

Within that big-picture context, the Cubs survived as Lackey limited the checked-out Pirates (77-80) to one run across five innings in his fifth start since recovering from a strained right shoulder and coming off the disabled list. Maddon then used six different relievers — staying away from Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon and Aroldis Chapman — during a three-hour, 49-minute game that felt more like the Cactus League.

After defecting from the 100-win St. Louis Cardinals team the Cubs bounced out of last year’s playoffs, Lackey finished the regular season at 11-8 with a 3.35 ERA and 188 1/3 innings.

“I’m going to get to 200,” Lackey said.

Beyond wins and losses, Lackey called this season his career best in terms of “those numbers that they’ve made up in the last few years” like WHIP (1.04) and opponents’ OPS (.646) and whatever. And, no, he doesn’t know his WAR, either: “Not even close.”

Yes, the Cubs got the old-school attitude they wanted when they signed Lackey to a two-year, $32 million deal before the winter meetings. For all the talk about the pitching deficit and the New York Mets after their young guns swept the Cubs out of last year’s NL Championship Series, the Cubs are getting their money’s worth with a guy who will turn 38 in October.

The amazing Mets have lost three of those frontline starters — Matt Harvey (thoracic outlet syndrome), Jacob deGrom (nerve damage in his right elbow) and Steven Matz (bone spur in his left elbow) — and are still holding onto the first wild-card spot, which says something about this playoff field.

This doesn’t guarantee anything in October, but the Cubs are just about as close to full strength as they could reasonably hope now. Instead of the silence that would have come with losing an irreplaceable player like Ramos, the sound system in the postgame clubhouse blasted Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Notorious B.I.G. after their 101st win.

“Yeah, we lost Dexter (Fowler) for a bit,” Maddon said. “We lost (Kyle) Schwarber all year. Otherwise, when a couple pitchers got banged up, whether you’re talking about Rondon or Strop, I don’t think that our injuries have been as magnified because we’ve covered them pretty well.

“We still had our moments, like everybody else has. But when you get to right now, we’re getting well, and hopefully that trend continues. But to lose somebody of that magnitude for them, that’s got to be difficult.”