Harden trade draws reaction from Bulls, entire NBA

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Harden trade draws reaction from Bulls, entire NBA

Tuesday is opening night of the NBA's regular season, but there's already been a trade that's shocked the basketball landscape. Late Saturday evening, the Oklahoma City Thunder dealt reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden to the Houston Rockets, along with reserves Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward for a package that included veteran scorer Kevin Martin, rookie Jeremy Lamb, two first-round draft picks and a second-round pick.

Immediately, the trade was buzzing throughout the league, with everyone from fans and the media to league executives -- one told CSNChicago.com via text message, "OKC made out" -- chiming in. It was no secret that Harden sought a max-level contract from the Thunder and while it was reported that he turned down offers from the franchise leading up to the trade, almost nobody expected him to be swapped, at least not before the February trade deadline.

Harden and the All-Star duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, gold medalists in London all, were viewed as a triumvirate for the future, a close-knit group that would somehow remain together, despite Oklahoma City committing an eight-figure contract extension to fellow youngster Serge Ibaka, the league's top shot-blocker last season, over the summer. If anything, maybe Harden would depart next summer as a restricted free agent, but most observers, if not all, believed general manager Sam Presti would keep the squad's core intact for another attempted run at the NBA Finals and, potentially, a title.

Instead, the bold decision-maker -- who can forget his surprise move of dealing forward Jeff Green, another close friend of the young bunch, as well as a childhood buddy of Durant's, to the Celtics for center Kendrick Perkins, who himself was rumored to be an amnesty candidate next summer in order to afford Harden -- made a prudent and savvy choice. While Harden's peers were shocked by the trade, they understand better than perhaps anybody the nature of the business.

"I was happy for him. It's rough. It's the business part of the NBA. I know he didn't really want to leave that team, but he's got a new home in Houston. That's the business side of basketball," Taj Gibson, who's in the same boat as Harden as a fourth-year player seeking an extension prior to Wednesday's deadline, said.

Gibson, whose representative, Chicago-based agent Mark Bartelstein, is reportedly 8 million apart from the Bulls' front office over the course of a four-year deal according to the Chicago Tribune, has known Harden, a college rival since the pair's AAU days in California. Like Harden, who wasn't eager to talk about his ongoing negotiations when in town for the Bulls' preseason game against the Thunder last week, Gibson prefers to focus on basketball and not contract talks.

"I hope so. I'm just getting tired of getting asked questions about it, people worrying about it. I just want to get back to playing basketball and focus on the season, and helping this team win games," he said. "I'm just focused on the Sacramento Kings, looking forward to getting things rolling the right way and just focused on a good season."

Bulls backup center Nazr Mohammed, a former Thunder player, was a bit more conflicted about the deal, given his ties to Oklahoma City, but in the end, was supportive of Harden.

"James is a friend of mine, so it's sad not to see him in Oklahoma City, but this is a business. People want to think about loyalty, and franchises having loyalty to players and players having loyalty to franchises. It doesn't exist. It's a business," he explained. "The business has to do what best for them and the player has to do what's best for them. You hope that both of them are on the same page and you come together for what's best for both, but it is what it is.

"I'm sad to see him not with those guys because I love those guys. I wanted to see those guys together for a long time, but I'm with James, too, as far as him trying to do what's best for him and his family, and I never question what a guy is trying to do for him and his family," he continued. "The last thing is we all hear about might have been offered and what might have been turned down; we don't know. No one really knows but James and Sam, the people in that room because we're not there. We can speculate all we want, but we don't know -- until Sam says, 'We offered him this,' and James says, 'I wanted this' -- it's all speculation.

"Playing for the Thunder was a lot of fun. When you get a group of 22 and 23-year-olds who understand the league and play hard, and sacrifice on the court, like brothers off the court, hang out with each other, it's a great experience and I know James is going to miss it. I know they're going to miss James, but it's part of the business. It's not the last time we're going to see it."

Mohammed also dismissed the notion of all NBA players seeking to play in major markets.

"You guys give us a little bit too much credit. The superstars, they're probably thinking more so about markets and 'Where can I kind of get my name out there?' But most of us other guys, we just want to go out there, make as much as we can for our family and get a chance to play. Sometimes, most of us guys think about playing more than the money sometimes, so no one's thinking about big markets and small markets. I've had success in both. San Antonio is unbelievable; it's a small market. I played in New York. It's a big market, and I enjoyed it and played well there, so we just want to go with the right situation and make as much as we can, and be happy."

Regardless, Harden is now in Houston -- not New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, but clearly a much bigger metropolitan area than Oklahoma City -- and instead of playing for a contender, he now joins an equally-young rebuilding effort that also includes former Bulls center Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, last season's phenom.

Harden last carried a team's offensive burden as a college star at Arizona State, but by some accounts, he was uncomfortable with the idea of doing that in the NBA -- some believe his success has more to do with facing off with overmatched second units and then benefiting from the defensive attention Durant and Westbrook receive -- and now, likely soon to be armed with a max contract from the Rockets, who have been pursuing a superstar since Yao Ming's retirement, he'll be every opponent's primary focus in a fan-favorite backcourt.

For Oklahoma City, as beloved as Harden was within the organization, the notion that they might be better off in the future exists, immediate chemistry aside. Martin is a proven scorer, who was clearly frustrated with Houston's rebuilding efforts, and if he can buy into Harden's old sixth-man role -- former Bull Thabo Sefolosha will likely remain the Thunder's starting shooting guard -- it could pay major dividends for both the organization and player.

Of course, Martin is on an expiring deal, so that doesn't hurt Oklahoma City financially; if things work out this season, don't be surprised to see Oklahoma City attempt to retain him, albeit for less than he's currently making. Lamb, on the other hand, jibes with the organization's ongoing youth movement and while he isn't Harden -- actually, Lamb is far more athletic and maybe a better pure shooter -- the former University of Connecticut star has tremendous upside, not to mention a rookie contract.

Lamb and the three draft picks -- Houston's, which will probably be a lottery pick; Toronto's via the Rockets, which is top-three protected and should have Thunder fans rooting for the Raptors to miss the playoffs, but not be completely awful; Charlotte's second-round selection, the equivalent of a late first-round pick, as the Bobcats will again likely be among the NBA's worst teams -- are major assets for the future for an already young team that happens to be a title contender, both before the trade and after it. Lamb supposedly suffers from the same issue as fellow Thunder rookie Perry Jones III--extremely talented players who are thought to lack great motors -- but that's an issue that should be cured by playing alongside workaholics like Durant and Westbrook.

In fact, Jones' training-camp progress, according to a source, is a small reason the Thunder was willing to trade Harden and with Presti's track record, that shouldn't be discounted. In the new NBA, in the aftermath of the collective-bargaining agreement that ended the lockout, teams have to be creative in order to build long-term winners, whether in major markets or smaller ones, and so far, Oklahoma City, an organization that takes calculated, if unpopular risks, appears to be the model franchise.

Honda Road Ahead: White Sox get set to battle Royals, Orioles

Honda Road Ahead: White Sox get set to battle Royals, Orioles

Siera Santos, Dan Hayes and Bill Melton discuss the White Sox upcoming games in this week's Honda Road Ahead, sponsored by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda dealers. 

Winners of six of the last seven games, the White Sox look to stay scorching when they open up a three-game set against the Kansas City Royals on Monday.

The Royals, who struggled at the plate in April, will be looking for revenge after being swept on the south side last week. 

Following their matchup with the Royals, the Sox wrap up their extended road trip against the Baltimore Orioles. 

The White Sox have been an early suprise in the A.L. Central. As of Sunday, they sit a half-game back of the Cleveland Indians for first place. 

Watch the panel break down the upcoming slate of games in the video above. 

 

White Sox six-game winning streak snapped with series finale loss to Tigers

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AP

White Sox six-game winning streak snapped with series finale loss to Tigers

DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Tigers got two things they needed Sunday afternoon.

They put up big runs, got four scoreless innings from their bullpen and ended a four-game losing streak with a 7-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox.

"We've been quiet with the bats, but we got two in the ninth yesterday, so maybe that was the turning point," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "We were much better today, and the pitching held on for us."

Jordan Zimmermann (3-1) picked up a sloppy victory, allowing three runs on seven hits and two walks in five-plus innings. He struck out five and gave up one homer.

Miguel Gonzalez (3-1) allowed seven runs on a career-high 14 hits in six innings. He walked one and struck out one as the White Sox lost their six-game winning streak.

"I was up with every pitch, and they were barreling up every mistake I made," he said. "I just need to flush this one and move on."

The White Sox took a 1-0 lead in the first on Jose Abreu's RBI triple

Justin Upton's fifth homer tied the game in the second. He then led off the fourth with a single, moved to second on Alex Avila's hit and scored on Jim Adduci's double to left-center field.

John Hicks made it four straight hits with an RBI single off Gonzalez to make it 3-1, and Adduci scored when Iglesias grounded out. Nick Castellanos finished the inning with an RBI single to make it a four-run game.

Melky Cabrera answered with an RBI single in the fifth, pulling the White Sox within 5-2, but Iglesias' two-run double in the bottom of the inning put the Tigers up by five.

Todd Frazier led off the sixth with a long homer, but Chicago couldn't score against Blaine Hardy and three other relievers.

TRAINER'S ROOM

White Sox: RHP James Shields, on the disabled list for the first time in his career, threw on Saturday and reported no problems with his strained right lat. After playing light catch for about 40 throws, he said that the way his arm reacts will determine if he will need a rehab start before joining the White Sox.

Tigers: CF JaCoby Jones went 1 for 7 in a rehab doubleheader for Triple-A Toledo on Saturday. Jones, who went on the disabled list on April 23 after being hit in the mouth by a pitch, was making his first rehab appearances.

RENTERIA SAVES GARCIA FROM HIMSELF

Renteria decided to pull Avisail Garcia in the fifth inning, knowing his right fielder wouldn't ask to come out of the game. Garcia has been dealing with groin tightness throughout the series.

"It was pretty wet out there after the rain early in the game, and he only knows how to play at top speed," Renteria said. "I just decided to be safe and get him out of there before it became a problem. Right now, I don't see any reason he wouldn't play tomorrow."

DOING QUICK DAMAGE

The Tigers brought nine batters to the plate in their four-run fourth inning, but faced just 14 pitches from Gonzalez. Every hitter either got a hit or made an out on the first or second pitch of their at-bat.

"We just kept barreling up balls early in the count - there wasn't any plan to attack him," Avila said. "It just happened that way. We knew we needed to get Zimm a lead, and we had a great inning."

IN THE RACE AFTER ONE MONTH

Sunday's loss meant that the White Sox finish May a half-game behind Cleveland in the AL Central, but that's higher than almost anyone predicted for them.

"We're excited, because we're playing well as a team," Gonzalez said. "We lost today, but we won two of three here, and now we want to go to Kansas City and win another series. We believe that we can keep doing this."

UP NEXT

White Sox: RHP Dylan Covey (0-1, 6.91) faces Kansas City LHP Jason Vargas (3-1, 1.40) in the first of a four-game series at Kauffman Stadium. The White Sox swept the Royals earlier this week in Chicago.

Tigers: LHP Daniel Norris (1-2, 4.71) takes on Indians RHP Trevor Bauer as Cleveland comes to Comerica Park for four games.