Energetic Robinson tones down flash, remains effective

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Energetic Robinson tones down flash, remains effective

Something unexpected became very evident as the Bulls' preseason progressed: Nate Robinson, despite his reputation as a flashy, shoot-first point guard, has the discipline to not only control the tempo, make plays for his teammates and take care of the basketball, but the diminutive scorer also possesses the capacity to not let the aforementioned traits limit him from doing what he does best. In Friday's win over the rival Pacers--a term that Carlos Boozer, for one, slightly objects to, saying "rivalry's a strong word," when characterizing the divisional battles the Bulls have had with Indiana, seen by many as the Central Division favorites this season--on the campus of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., Robinson scored an efficient 21 points on 7-for-10 shooting, dished out eight assists and perhaps most importantly, notched only one turnover while playing starter's minutes in place of the injured Kirk Hinrich.

"I had that one, but as a team, I think were taking care of the ball. Throughout the game, nobodys going to go perfect with no turnoversa whole team, Ive never seen a game like thatbut its something that weve got to get better at, taking care of the ball. Trying to stay under 13, but keep being aggressive, as weve been doing," the irrepressible Seattle native said. "For me, I just try not to make the home-run play all the time. I just make the right play. Just pass, move, cut. The pass is there, hopefully they make the shot. If they dont, you live with it, get back on defense."

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau concurred: "We want 13 or less and so, the last two games have been very good. Making the simple plays, the balls moving, bodies are moving, good spacing. If we can sustain our spacing, we should be able to take care of the ball."

Robinson, who first crossed paths with Thibodeau when both were employed by the Boston Celtics, had an idea of what he was in for when he signed with the Bulls. However, it was reinforced during voluntary workouts in the offseason and throughout training camp--particularly after his off-the-backboard fast-break alley-oop to swingman Jimmy Butler was closely scrutinized by the basketball-purist coach--that Robinson would have to tone down some of his crowd-pleasing ways in order to properly execute Thibodeau's system, without losing too much of what's made him successful in his well-traveled NBA career.

"We run it so much in practiceIve got to say it again: Coach is big on repetitionso we run the plays over and over. He drills it in our head about running the play, getting guys in their sets where theyre supposed to be and I think we do a great job in the course of the game," Robinson explained. "Im here to fill in. Guys go down, Ill be ready. Starting, off the bench. My role, I know, is off the bench. Thats what Ive been doing my whole career and Im happy with it."

"When basketballs fun, it becomes easy, so Friday was fun. We had a great time out there," he added. "We just had fun, it flowed, everything was good. There were some mistakes that we made out there offensively, but overall, it was like kids in the playground, hanging out, having fun."

Fun to Thibodeau is winning via his five basic tenets (inside-out offense, unselfish play, strong rebounding, a commitment to defense and low turnovers), but Robinson's definition also involves playing with boundless energy, which, when properly harnessed, has proven to be effective. Already very popular among his new teammates off the court, the University of Washington product has earned their respect on the floor

"Nate plays high energy. He picks up 94 feet. Offensively, he pushes the ball every time. Its great for us because weve got some great athletes, great finishers, so if we run in transition, put the pressure on the defense trying to get layups and dunks, then we can always pull it back out and execute our offense in the half-court. He does a great job of pushing the rock. You saw his stat line was phenomenal tonight," Carlos Boozer said. "He plays with a lot of confidence, man. Its a big deal. I think as we get healthy, when we get everybody back, hes going to be monumental for our second group."

Directly next to Robinson in proximity in the Bulls' locker room is center Joakim Noah, previously the team's undisputed champion in terms of bringing electricity to the court. But the locker-room neighbors are now battling for the crown.

"I hope so. I dont know. Joakim says no, so I guess Ive got to do a better job," Robinson responded to the question of just how much energy he plays with, before moving on to a query about a comparison with his teammate, who is more than a foot taller than him "Him? Nah, Ive got way more energy than Joakim. Im taking that title, so he better move to the back of the bus."

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred open to idea of Cubs hosting All-Star Game at renovated Wrigley Field

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred open to idea of Cubs hosting All-Star Game at renovated Wrigley Field

PHOENIX – Rob Manfred is open to the idea of an All-Star Game at a fully renovated Wrigley Field, but the Major League Baseball commissioner won't make any guarantees about the 2020 target date the Cubs have proposed in a joint lobbying effort with Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office.

"I'm not going to get into specific years," Manfred said Tuesday during a Cactus League media event at the Arizona Biltmore. "Because there's a number of clubs – we're fortunate – that have interest in particular years. And I don't want to say anything that would suggest that I'm anywhere near making a decision."

During last month's Cubs Convention, president of business operations Crane Kenney expressed optimism in a Super Bowl-style bidding process, and not the old way of simply alternating the showcase event between the American and National leagues each year.

The Cubs will point to their starring role in a World Series that beat the NFL's "Sunday Night Football" in head-to-head TV ratings and saw more than 40 million people tune in for Game 7. By 2020, the $600 million Wrigleyville development is supposed to be finished, and Emanuel helped broker the deals that moved the NFL draft to Chicago the last two years after a long run at New York's Radio City Music Hall.

"I will say this: A renovated Wrigley Field would be a great location for an All-Star Game," Manfred said. "Chicago is a great city. And over time, we have tried to go to cities that would be great locations for the game – and to reward cities that had made substantial investments in either new or renovated facilities."

The Cubs still see potential roadblocks, needing City Hall's help with an increased security presence around an urban neighborhood ballpark that hasn't hosted the Midsummer Classic since 1990.

Kenney also acknowledged that All-Star Games have been used as bargaining chips in public negotiations in cities like Miami and Washington – Marlins Park (2017) and Nationals Park (2018) will make it four straight All-Star Games for NL stadiums – while the Ricketts family used private mechanisms to fund the project after striking out on other proposals. 

Nemanja Nikolic channels his inner MJ in jersey number

Nemanja Nikolic channels his inner MJ in jersey number

Jersey numbers can be a big deal in soccer. Who is the team's No. 10? Who is the No. 9?

Nemanja Nikolic, a forward who joined the Chicago Fire this offseason as a Designated Player, didn't have the choice of either number that is famously associated with marquee attacking players because both were taken by returning players on the Fire. Instead, he landed on a number more famous in Chicago sports than in soccer.

Nikolic will be wearing 23.

The Fire announced the jersey numbers for the 2017 season with Nikolic's 23 a part of the list. Every returning player kept the same number as last season.

It goes without saying that wearing the No. 23 in Chicago comes with an extra bit of notoriety. Ever since Michael Jordan donned the No. 23 for the Chicago Bulls, it has been a common sight to find the best player on a Chicagoland high school basketball team wearing No. 23. That doesn't translate to the world of soccer, but in Chicago fans will notice.

A spokesman for the club said the number was more coincidence than intentional MJ reference, but if Nikolic has a good season don't be surprised to see signs at Toyota Park referencing Nikolic's jersey number.

In the preseason some of the players have been wearing different jersey numbers from what they will in the regular season. Nikolic has been wearing No. 9 in preseason matches.

Here is a list of the other newcomers and the numbers they will be wearing:

Jorge Bava: 1

Dax McCarty: 6

Djordje Mihailovic: 14

Juninho: 19

Daniel Johnson: 20

Stefan Cleveland: 30