The Bulls teamed up with the United Service Organization earlier today to throw a holiday party for 100 children, including 65 who either have a parent deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan or who have lost a family member during his or her time in service.
It was a special afternoon at the Berto Center, as members of the Bulls and its organization came out to spend time with the children, decorating cookies, signing autographs, taking pictures and coloring.
Each child also received a gift, personally donated by point guard Nate Robinson.
"It's great to have the kids here. I've been making cookies, putting smiles on kids' faces. It's a great event for the kids. They deserve it," Robinson said. "When I was a kid I didn't have a lot of toys. For them to have something they can get their hands on to play all day and all night, I thought it was a big deal for them."
It was also a special opportunity for a few soldiers, as loved ones brought along smartphones and used Skype to speak with players such as Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng, and general manager Gar Forman.
Forward Valadimir Radmanovic took part in the festivities, and said he can relate to the children because when he was drafted in 2001, he came alone from Yugoslavia and left his family behind.
"Holidays are always a great part of the year and having kids and the families of the troops is a pleasure," he said, "because my family wasn't with me, so I know what it means for them and what it means for me."
Kirk Hinrich, who injured his left elbow in Saturday night's 93-85 win over the Knicks, was also moved to see children who will be spending the holiday season without a loved one.
"It's real special to see all these kids. You think about a family member not being around for the holiday. The service they're doing hits home. Seeing these kids, you really think about how hard that would be," he said. "We let them know that we're here and we appreciate the sacrifice that they're making as well."
LOS ANGELES – The Cubs drafted and developed Ian Happ with the idea of turning him into a Ben Zobrist-type player who would move quickly through the farm system and surface as a versatile big-league contributor and/or legitimate trade chip.
With Zobrist sidelined because of a sore left wrist, the Cubs got their first look at Happ playing second base in The Show during Saturday’s 5-0 loss at Dodger Stadium. That kind of depth – plugging in a 2015 first-round pick while a World Series MVP rests – should ultimately propel the Cubs over the course of a 162-game season.
Even as the Cubs stutter-step through a 25-23 start, there are enough choices for the best defensive second baseman on the team and a National League Championship Series co-MVP (Javier Baez) to sit on the bench.
“We know that the talent’s there,” Zobrist said. “It’s not like having any one or two guys out of the lineup is a big drop-off for us because of the talent that’s there. And we know that just because we have a lot of young players doesn’t mean that they’re not extremely capable of doing the job as well.”
Zobrist – who’s reached base in 23 straight games and emerged as a new leadoff option with Kyle Schwarber struggling – felt something on an awkward swing in the first inning of Friday’s 4-0 loss to the Dodgers. Zobrist played through it that night and called it a “day-to-day thing” that didn’t require an MRI.
[MORE: Is Joe Maddon turning Kyle Schwarber into a platoon player?]
Facing Clayton Kershaw on Sunday after back-to-back shutouts will be a game-time decision.
“It’s tough,” Zobrist said. “We just haven’t strung together enough quality at-bats to score runs the last two games. It’s not just because of us. They’ve pitched well. Their pitchers are pretty hot right now. They’ve spotted up. They’ve gotten early strikes where they needed to and then gone to work pretty well on us.
“The task doesn’t get any easier tomorrow with Kershaw. We just got to keep trying to chip away.”