Bulls eager for reunion with Brewer, showdown with Knicks

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Bulls eager for reunion with Brewer, showdown with Knicks

AUBURN HILLS, MICH. The second of the Bench Mob reunions the first at the United Center will occur Saturday evening. Former Bulls reserve swingman Ronnie Brewer, now a Knicks starter, makes his first visit to Chicago since being waived over the summer.

Brewer was a much-beloved figure in the Bulls locker room over the last two seasons and made valuable contributions as a versatile defender and underrated offensive player, helping the team to back-to-back league-high regular-season win totals. Understandably, the holdovers from last season are eager to see him again.

Its going to be great to see Ronnie again," Taj Gibson said. "I keep in contact with him throughout the season. He hits me up from time to time. We talk, were real close. That was my guy. That was one of the guys I hung out with a lot on this team, so Im happy for him, being on another good team, playoff-bound team and hes playing great. I think his role is even better. Hes a starter. Hes starting on that team, hes playing great defense, hes knocking down that three-pointer, which I know he can do hes been working on it, even when he was here hes playing with a lot of confidence and hes just adjusting to that role on that team, of being one of those good defensive stoppers.

He was a real veteran. He was one of those guys that was never too high, never too low, always encouraging, always had your back. You could always count on him, he was a great teammate and hes on another good team, and you could tell the way that theyre playing, that hes inspiring them to play good defense and its showing.

Carlos Boozer, who played with Brewer both in Utah and Chicago, added: Its just going to be good to see him. Weve been talking the whole season. Hes been playing great for them, starting, obviously doing the same thing he always does, trying to lock up the other teams best perimeter player. Tomorrow, Im sure hell be on Lu a lot. But having a great season. I look forward to seeing my brother, man.

Luol Deng chimed in: Itll be cool, man. Ronnie, Kurt Thomas. Its going to be good to see those guys. Its always good to see ex- Bulls players and play against them.

Even Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, usually not one to be overly sentimental, spoke about Brewer in glowing terms.

Ronnies just a great team player. Thats who he is. He plays to win, plays for the team, hard-playing, does a little bit of everything, can score, pass, play-make, play great defense and hes a great teammate. Very coachable, the coach said. He did a great job for us when he was here and hes doing a great job for the Knicks.

Of course, once the game starts, Thibodeau might not be feeling so charitable. New York is coming off a huge blowout road win over defending champion Miami without superstar Carmelo Anthony or the sidelined Amare Stoudemire, let alone Chicago-area native Iman Shumpert and is currently the top team in the Eastern Conference, using a mix of improved defense, a three-point shooting barrage, unselfish play and a deep, experienced roster, including the NBAs oldest player, Kurt Thomas, another former Bull of recent vintage.

Tomorrows huge. Theyre flying high. They played very well against Miami yesterday. Theyre going to be rested and ready to go tomorrow, Joakim Noah said. Theyre playing very well. Theyre playing probably the best basketball in the NBA right now. Its on us to come in ready.

Deng added: Its tough. Theyre already there in Chicago, theyre waiting. They played well, theyre feeling great. They won their last game, theyre at the top of the East. Theyre playing well, so their confidence is high right now and coming in tomorrow, its going to be a tough game, but were looking forward to it.

Boozer concurred: Theyve been playing great. We watched a little bit of it last night, when they played Miami. They played phenomenal without Melo and Amare, which is hard to do, especially playing one of the more talented teams in Miami, but theyre a three-point shooting team, they have the green light, they have a monster in the middle in Tyson Chandler and theyve got great leadership. Theyve got J-Kidd, theyve got other veteran guys, Kurt Thomas is there, Rasheed is there. Theyve got guys that have been through some wars, mixed in with a good group of young talent. That being said, its going to be a great challenge for us.

Coming off a big win over Detroit -- but perhaps tougher than necessary -- and flying back to Chicago overnight after a two-game road trip before taking on the top team in the East, Thibodeau, a former Knicks assistant coach is wary of his team's upcoming test.

Theyre on top of the conference, playing very, very well," he said. "Deep, talented, shooting the ball extremely well. Playing great defense, playing together, playing hard. Weve got to be ready.

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.”