Bull hope to continue home success vs. Knicks

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Bull hope to continue home success vs. Knicks

Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010
9:41 AM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Heading into the last offseason, all the scuttlebutt had the Knicks making a big splash in free agency. New York was able to lure All-Star power forward Amar'e Stoudemire to the Big Apple, but fell short of its goal to add a LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or even Joe Johnson to form a dynamic duo, instead bringing on the likes of point guard Raymond Felton, former Warriors Ronny Turiaf and Anthony Randolph (both via sign-and-trade for the departed David Lee), ex-Bull Roger Mason Jr. and Russian center Timofey Mozgov.

In head coach Mike D'Antoni's third year with the team, patience is running thin, with fans in the city that never sleeps expecting to at least be a playoff squad by this season. The Knicks reportedly remain a prime candidate in the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes (whether through trade or free agency next summer) and have been linked to superstar point guard Chris Paul after an infamous summer toast at Anthony's summer wedding. However, another alleged object of the team's desire, Tony Parker, is now off the board after inking a multi-year extension to stay in San Antonio. This is all evidence that the team is far from being the envisioned contender they intended to be after a seemingly decade-long rebuilding process.

This version of the Knicks features the virtually-anonymous Landry Fields (the rookie swingman was a second-round draft pick out of Stanford) and the aforementioned Mozgov starting alongside offseason acquisitions Felton and Stoudemire, as well as Italian sharpshooter Danilo Gallinari, who is off to a not-so-stellar start to the season, after a promising previous campaign. That is significant because "Gallo" is reportedly a key piece to a potential Anthony deal and if the 6-foot-10 small forward is struggling, Denver would almost certainly look elsewhere for a more suitable swap, if they indeed opt for an in-season trade of its franchise player.

Meanwhile, Stoudemire has so far embraced the New York scene with boasts of bravado and while he is putting up sufficient numbers early in the season, it appears he is finding the going a bit more difficult without Steve Nash spoon-feeding him easy buckets. That's not to say Felton isn't acquitting himself well (Larry Brown would probably love to have him back in Charlotte), but as his playoff struggles against Orlando's Jameer Nelson last spring proved, he isn't a top-tier NBA point guard.

The aforementioned Randolph, regarded as having some of the best potential in the league by some observers, has been sidelined due to injury, but reports out of the preseason somehow pegged him as possibly a bad fit for D'Antoni's up-tempo system, despite his talent and versatility. Mozgov was pretty much an unknown, and while like Fields (who had an excellent senior year at Stanford), he might be a diamond in the rough, but isn't considered a starting-caliber player for a postseason contender at this point.

Bench players like the rugged Turiaf, backup point guard Toney Douglas, a Madison Square Garden fan favorite, and slashing wing Wilson Chandler may be the team's saving grace. In a shallow Eastern Conference--it's obviously very early, but the top six teams appear to be Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Milwaukee, Orlando, with a steep drop-off after that group--New York may have just enough firepower to sneak back into the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

That said, it's a long season and the Knicks could overachieve, even completely flop or simply live up to expectations. But outside of acquiring a superstar like Anthony in a dramatically roster-altering deal before February's trade deadline, it's unlikely the end result will be enough for impatient New York fans eager for a return to past glory.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Jose Quintana on Tuesday opponent Chris Sale: 'He was the best teammate I ever played with'

Jose Quintana on Tuesday opponent Chris Sale: 'He was the best teammate I ever played with'

The majority of the talk surrounding Tuesday night's pitching matchup at Guaranteed Rate Field will be focused on the guy pitching against the White Sox.

Chris Sale returned to the South Side for the first time since being traded to the Boston Red Sox this past offseason, and he'll take the mound against his former teammates Tuesday. But the White Sox, who traded away one of the best pitchers in baseball, will be sending another All-Star hurler to the mound to oppose Sale.

Jose Quintana gets the ball for the White Sox, and while the attention will be squarely on Sale — and the emotions he does or does not show and the reaction he receives from the fans — Quintana will have his own emotional roller coaster going on, pitching against a guy who served as a mentor of sorts for the first five seasons of his career.

"Throwing on the same day will be a different feeling for me because he was the best teammate I ever played with," Quintana said. "It will be a different feeling watching him go against me after the last four years when he was my teammate. We talked last night. He said, ‘Hey, I’m in town. I can’t wait to see you guys.’ So I’m excited to play against him."

Sale had a few years on Quintana in major league service, but the duo looked like they would be a near-untouchable 1-2 combo at the front of the White Sox pitching rotation for years to come.

They both represented the White Sox at the All-Star Game last season and both finished in the top 10 in voting for the American League Cy Young Award.

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Sale was shipped to the Red Sox to start the White Sox rebuilding effort, breaking up that duo leading the staff. But as is often the case, it's not the performances and the statistics that Quintana misses the most about Sale but rather the qualities he brought as a teammate.

"I learned from his focus on the game and his passion for baseball," Quintana said. "We talked a lot over the years. But the first thing I learned from him was focus.

"I miss him. He was one of my best teammates ever that I played with. I understand it was part of the game. It’s a business and that happens. ... I miss his energy. We have a lot of guys here with energy too, but I miss the energy he had every time we talked in the dugout, watching the game."

Sale is having one of the best campaigns of any pitcher in baseball through the season's first two months. And while Quintana's start has been shaky at times, he's still the White Sox ace. It's that standing, though, that has had his name the subject of plenty of trade rumors during the offseason, spring training and since Opening Day. There is an expectation, warranted or not, that he will soon join Sale in departing the White Sox for a big prospect haul.

Until then, though, Quintana is taking over for Sale as the team's No. 1. The two old mates will go head to head Tuesday night in a monumental matchup, and Quintana is already projecting that focus he learned from Sale.

"I have just one game, and I have my focus on throwing the ball well for my team, to get a 'W.' That’s my focus every time, to do my job," Quintana said. "It will be a different feeling because I’m pitching against him, but I don’t want to pay attention to the other team. I just want to do my job."

Chris Sale has 'no hard feelings' as he returns to face White Sox

Chris Sale has 'no hard feelings' as he returns to face White Sox

Though he had a “couple blips on the radar,” including a few high-profile instances last season, Chris Sale has no regrets about his White Sox tenure.

The former pitcher returned to Guaranteed Rate Field as an opponent for the first time on Monday morning and said the majority of his White Sox memories are fond. The five-time All-Star takes the mound for the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night in a highly anticipated matchup against former teammate Jose Quintana. Despite an, at times, intense final campaign that included a five-game suspension imposed by the club for destruction of team property, Sale wouldn’t change anything about his six seasons with the White Sox.

“It got me to where I am today,” Sale said. “Can't change the past, just try to become better in the future. Appreciative of my time here, the people I met here, the relationships I built, most of the things I did here, too. I'm appreciative of everybody involved that got me to this point right here. Without a lot of people in this building I wouldn't be sitting here right now, that's for sure.”

Sale’s current seat is atop the world.

Not only does he pitch for a perennial contender at “buzzing” Fenway Park, Sale has thrived. He’s 5-2 with a 2.34 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 73 innings over 10 starts. During those 10 turns Sale tied the major league record he already shared with Pedro Martinez with at least 10 strikeouts in eight consecutive starts.

It’s all part of a transition he has found easier than he expected. Sale spent spring training at home because the Red Sox train in Florida. He also has liked working with Boston pitching coach Carl Willis and appreciates a fresh set of eyes.

“It wasn’t as crazy as I thought,” Sale said. “Boston has been nothing but great to me.”

If Sale holds any ill will toward the White Sox front office, he wasn’t letting on.

The 2010 first-round draft pick is still highly thought of within the White Sox clubhouse and known as a great teammate. Quintana and James Shields both called Sale one of the best teammates they’ve played with in their careers. Nate Jones described Sale as a “model citizen” who stood up for what he believed in. Those beliefs led to Sale erupting twice publicly during the 2016 campaign, including a lengthy rant in spring training directed at executive vice president Kenny Williams after Adam LaRoche’s abrupt retirement. In July, Sale objected to the team wearing throwback uniforms and cut them to pieces during batting practice, which led to a five-game suspension for insubordination.

[MORE: Jose Quintana on Tuesday opponent Chris Sale: 'He was the best teammate I ever played with']

But Sale sounds as if he has moved on.

“There's no hard feelings,” Sale said.

He admits there could be a few strange moments on Tuesday night when he sets foot on the mound. Sale had already experienced some abnormal emotions when he set foot in the building he called home for seven seasons for the first time since last October. Aside from a brief visit following a 2015 brawl with the Kansas City Royals, Sale set foot in the visiting clubhouse for the first time -- “a little longer walk,” he said. He wouldn’t be surprised if there’s more in store when he faces some former teammates on Tuesday.

“It's going to be hard not to crack a couple of smiles out there, just because I spent a lot of time with these guys,” Sale said. “These guys were my teammates for a handful of years, some of them. We've had some good times together so it would be hard not to smile out there.”

Sale looks forward to Tuesday’s atmosphere and has thought about how he’ll be received by White Sox fans. He said he feels like he run into more White Sox fans since he’s left than when he played on the South Side. While he’ll be a little nervous, Sale said he expects he’ll have fun with the experience.

“I just want to let everyone know that I appreciated my time here,” Sale said. “There’s a couple of blips on the radar amongst a lot of really good times. So more times than not it was great. I appreciated it.  I always had good teammates. I always had a great coaching staff. I’m appreciative of that so I don’t want to lose sight of that.”