Bulls get Boozer going in preseason win over T'Wolves

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Bulls get Boozer going in preseason win over T'Wolves

In a tune-up for the regular season, the Bulls (3-2) showed that theyre making progress as the real thing approaches, easily defeating the Timberwolves (3-2), 92-81, Friday night at the United Center, avenging last weeks loss in Minneapolis.

Playing in the fashion familiar to fans who saw them go 18-9 without Derrick Rose a year ago, the Bulls balanced play on both ends ensured they took another step toward being one of the leagues sleeper teams in the upcoming campaign.

Perhaps they were still smarting from last Saturdays defeat in Minneapolis, but the Bulls came out playing inspired basketball. With Rip Hamilton (15 points, five rebounds) and Carlos Boozer (24 points, nine rebounds, four assists) as the offensive focal points, and their usual stout defense leading the way, a 12-0 run early in the opening period set the tone for the hosts.

The visitors, sparked by fill-in starter Dante Cunningham All-Star Kevin Love was again sidelined against the Bulls; this time, as opposed to the two teams first meeting, its with a long-term injury, a broken right hand that will keep him out for six to eight weeks eventually got things going and trimmed the deficit as the frame waned on. Still, the Bulls, who were also aided by the unselfishness of Kirk Hinrich (eight assists) and scoring contributions of All-Star Luol Deng (14 points), claimed a 23-17 advantage at the conclusion of one quarter.

Backup center Nazr Mohammeds strong preseason play continued, helping the Bulls push their lead back to double digits, with Taj Gibson (12 points, 11 rebounds), second-year swingman Jimmy Butler and budding fan favorite Nate Robinson also helped the squads cause. Playing pressure defense, the Bulls got out into transition and converted fast-break opportunities, except when facing Minnesotas set defense, against which they used their size to be a factor on the offensive glass.

While Timberwolves shooting guard Brandon Roy ensured the gap didnt grow too large, Boozers scoring helped the Bulls keep their distance from their guests. At the intermission, the home team led, 50-35.

After the break, Boozer, Hamilton and Deng continued to be effective as scorers, but Hinrich also got into the act and despite battling first-half foul trouble, Joakim Noah made his presence felt on the boards. Minnesotas Andrei Kirkilenko like the aforementioned Roy, his fellow former All-Star, back in the NBA after a hiatus; Roy temporarily retired due to knee issues, while Kirilenko played professionally in his native Russia got it going for the visitors, though it wasnt enough to chip into the hosts comfortable winning margin.

Offensive execution remained at a high level for the Bulls and as Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau filtered in his second-unit players, the selflessness of the team continued to be a strong suit, something thats a positive omen for a regular season in which the squads superstar and only player truly capable of creating a shot for himself or his teammates at will is on the shelf. Heading into the final stanza, the Bulls were ahead, 70-59.

Led by Gibsons inside play, the playmaking of Robinson, Mohammeds post presence and Deng providing stability, the Bulls again maintained their steady double-digit advantage at the outset of the fourth quarter.

Balanced play, solid overall defense and a strong rebounding effort on both ends of the floor, hallmarks throughout the game, persisted for the home team and seemingly wore down the visitors, though Timberwolves head coach Rick Adelman inserted his reserves for the games stretch run, as opposed to his counterpart Thibodeau.

The starters minus Noah, as Thibodeau elected to leave Gibson, the lone holdover reserve from last season, in the contest at center began to salt the game away for the Bulls, as Boozers scoring and Gibsons interior presence were significant factors.

It wasn't perfect, as Thibodeau surely would agree with, but concerns about the sky falling with Rose out of the lineup continue to be allayed with every game.

Fire midfielder Dax McCarty named to U.S. national team roster

Fire midfielder Dax McCarty named to U.S. national team roster

The Chicago Fire are one of the hottest teams in Major League Soccer and Dax McCarty has been rewarded with a spot on the U.S. national team ahead of the squad's World Cup qualifiers.

McCarty will join the U.S. as part of a 27-player roster for a friendly and a pair of 2018 World Cup qualifiers in June.

Things start with a friendly against Venezuela June 3 at Rio Tinto Stadium, the home of Real Salt Lake. Five days later is the first qualifier, which will take place at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo., against Trinidad and Tobago. The U.S. will conclude the stretch of games June 11 at Mexico in the famous Estadio Azteca.

McCarty was also a part of the roster for the last two World Cup qualifiers, but did not play in either game. He would likely miss two Fire games, June 4 at Orlando and June 10 against Atlanta.

McCarty has already joined the team in Denver.

U.S. MNT Roster By Position (Club):

GOALKEEPERS (4): Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge/BEL), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (11): DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin/GER), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna/MEX), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana/MEX), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER)

FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Bobby Wood (Hamburg/GER)

Jose Abreu relishing opportunity to help mentor Luis Robert, White Sox newest Cuban addition

Jose Abreu relishing opportunity to help mentor Luis Robert, White Sox newest Cuban addition

Call it the White Sox latest Cuban connection.

When news came out of the team pursuing 19-year-old Cuban outfielder Luis Robert, it was pretty easy to guess that Jose Abreu, the franchise’s previous big-time, free-agent signing from Cuba, would be involved.

But not only was Abreu involved in the White Sox courting of Robert, sending a personalized message as part of the team’s video pitch, he’s been a willing participant. And now that Robert is officially signed after Saturday’s much-hyped introduction, Abreu is ready to take on a mentorship role, much like he has with another one of the organization’s Cuban prospects, Yoan Moncada.

In the lead up to Saturday’s press conference, it was Abreu touring Robert around Guaranteed Rate Field, chatting with him in the dugout and taking pictures on the infield.

“I was very excited to have him here, and I’m very happy right now because he’s signing with the team,” Abreu said through a translator ahead of Sunday’s series finale with the visiting Detroit Tigers. “He’s a very good player. I just told him that he has to keep working hard and keep doing the things to get here as soon as he can. He’s a nice guy.

“I’m excited to have that opportunity (to be a mentor). That’s something that I like to do. I like to advise the guys and tell them what to do for their best like I am doing right now with Moncada. I’m just waiting for that opportunity to happen with (Robert).”

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While Abreu arrived on the South Side an older, more experienced player who was ready for the big leagues, Robert’s journey to the majors will be a much different, much longer one. Abreu recognizes that and talked about how tough the transition will be. He also has confidence Robert, who has received glowing scouting reports comparing him to perennial All Stars, can succeed.

“It’s not an easy thing to do to come here straight to play in the majors because this is a very high level and a tough one to play,” Abreu said. “I think the best for him is the decision that he’s making for him, to have some games in the minors and let him develop there. He’s had a long time without playing baseball. Baseball in Cuba is good, but it’s not as good as baseball here in the U.S. and you have to adjust. I think that process for him is going to be perfect in the minors.”

Saturday, Robert talked about the White Sox tradition of Cuban players, mentioning how it helped motivate him to sign with the team. Abreu has been one of the franchise’s most successful Cuban players, a list that includes the legendary Minnie Minoso as well as more recent players like Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo and Moncada in the minor leagues.

While that tradition might not be the entire or even main reason Robert is now a part of the organization, general manager Rick Hahn talked about how it’s created an environment that will help Robert develop. Banners featuring Minoso, Abreu, Ramirez and Moncada flanked the table where Robert signed his contract.

Abreu said it’s a tradition he’s very proud to be a part of.

“That made me feel happy and proud. Not just for this organization that I’m a part of, but also for my heritage because I know that this is a very good organization and they are trying to take care of the Cuban players,” Abreu said. “I also feel a huge respect for Minnie Minoso because he was the first one who opened this door here with the White Sox.”

Through his mentoring, Abreu could keep that tradition going into the future. Robert and Moncada are huge pieces of the White Sox rebuilding puzzle, and Abreu is helping put those pieces together for the White Sox.