Chicago Cubs

Here are all the NBA All-Stars

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Here are all the NBA All-Stars

From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- Tim Duncan was selected to his 14th All-Star game, Spurs teammate Tony Parker is joining him, and the Chicago Bulls also had two reserves chosen Thursday for next month's game in Houston.Joakim Noah and Luol Deng were picked from the Bulls, who have stayed in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race despite the season-long absence of point guard Derrick Rose. Noah is one of five first-time All-Stars for the East, along with New York's Tyson Chandler, Indiana's Paul George, Cleveland's Kyrie Irving, and Philadelphia's Jrue Holiday.Miami's Chris Bosh, picked for his eighth All-Star team, rounded out the East squad.West forwards David Lee (Golden State), LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland) and Zach Randolph (Memphis) all were picked for the second time. Houston's James Harden was chosen for the first time and joins former Oklahoma City teammate Russell Westbrook, headed to his third straight All-Star game.Duncan wasn't chosen last year for the first time in his career but has bounced back with a terrific season at age 36, averaging 17.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.7 blocked shots, his best statistics since 2009-10.The co-MVP of the 2000 All-Star game joined a group that includes Michael Jordan for fifth-most selections. Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett, both voted to start, and Shaquille O'Neal all were picked 15 times. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the career leader as a 19-time All-Star.The reserves were voted by the head coaches from each conference, who had to select two guards, three frontcourt players and two players regardless of position. They were not allowed to vote for players from their own teams.With centers Chandler and Noah, East coaches passed on Brooklyn's Brook Lopez, the leading scorer for a resurgent team that is right behind the Knicks for the Atlantic Division lead. Perennial All-Stars Deron Williams and Joe Johnson of the Nets also missed out, as did Boston's Paul Pierce.Lee gave the Warriors their first All-Star since Latrell Sprewell in 1997, but coach Mark Jackson and his team hoped for more. However, Stephen Curry wasn't selected despite averaging 20.9 points. He's the league's eighth-leading scorer and the highest one who won't be in Houston for the Feb. 17 showcase.Lee called his selection "bittersweet" because Curry -- the first person to send him a congratulatory text -- wasn't picked."In our practice facility, there's that All-Star chart and it stops at '97 and there hasn't been any since. So the whole team was really excited with the improved record this year and to get one or both of our guys on there," Lee said. "I'm really excited to be the one that goes and represents our team. I wish Steph could be a part of it and maybe he'll still be able to. I'm just very, very excited. It's been a long time for the Bay Area fans. Not only to have an All-Star, but to be winning games."Voted as East starters by fan voting along with Garnett were Miami's LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, New York's Carmelo Anthony and Boston's Rajon Rondo.The West starting five is Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard of the Lakers, Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, and Clippers teammates Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.The Clippers were hoping for a third All-Star, but sixth-man Jamal Crawford wasn't picked.Commissioner David Stern would choose the replacement if any players are injured.Randolph leads the NBA with 27 double-doubles and becomes the first Grizzlies player with multiple selections."It is truly an honor to be named by the NBA's coaches to the 2013 Western Conference All-Star team," he said in a statement. "I am grateful for this opportunity and look forward to playing with the best players in the world."The leaders of the teams with the best winning percentage in their conference through games of Feb. 3 will be the coaches. Miami's Erik Spoelstra has the inside track on the East spot, while San Antonio's Gregg Popovich and the Clippers' Vinny Del Negro are battling for the West honor since Scott Brooks, whose Thunder have the league's best record, is ineligible after coaching last year.Irving, the reigning Rookie of the Year, and Holiday were rewarded for outstanding individual seasons even though their teams are well below .500. Irving is the Cavaliers' first All-Star since James, the only other East player averaging at least 20 points and five assists."It's one of the best days of my life," Irving said Thursday night, shortly after also being honored as Cleveland's professional athlete of the year award at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards. "It's a big deal for me and it's a big deal for the city of Cleveland to be picked as an All-Star for the first time. I'm turning 21 on March 23 and to be with those guys, to see those names on TV, that was truly a blessing."The 22-year-old Holiday, the youngest All-Star in franchise history, is averaging 19.0 points and 9.0 assists but feared the 76ers' 17-25 mark would work against him."I thought so. I definitely thought so. I think anybody else probably would, too," he said while watching a Philadelphia Flyers game. "We're not getting on a winning streak or anything like that. I just tried to stay positive and not talk about it."

The Godfather, Anthony Rizzo, lays down new law in Cubs clubhouse

The Godfather, Anthony Rizzo, lays down new law in Cubs clubhouse

MILWAUKEE – Javier Baez broke the code of silence when he mentioned to reporters the latest thing for a Cubs team that designed a Party Room for their state-of-the-art clubhouse at Wrigley Field, turned Jason Heyward’s Rain Delay Speech into World Series mythology and interviews each other in the dugout for pretend TV segments after hitting home runs.

“He doesn’t know how the Italian way works,” Anthony Rizzo said. “There are supposed to be team things that stay with the team.”

Baez let it slip before Friday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers, replaying the dramatic 10-inning comeback victory from the night before at Miller Park. If you see the Cubs instantly disappear from the dugout, or a TV camera shows a shot of an empty dugout…    

“We got this new thing,” Baez said. “I don’t want to be the one saying it. I’ll just let him say it. But it’s really fun. When somebody’s mad, everybody walks in and we do some fun things that get us hyper. You guys ask Rizzo.”

The Godfather gave a cryptic response. Omerta is expected to be part of The Cubs Way.

“It’s a team retreat,” Rizzo said. “It’s not just me. It’s anyone who needs to let out some steam this late in the season. It’s a team thing. It’s a long season and you go through ups and downs. And there’s times where you get to that boiling point where you just want to kill anything in your way.”

Rizzo needed to vent and called his teammates into the visiting clubhouse on Thursday night after striking out with two runners on in the eighth inning of a tie game that could swing the National League Central race.

“Throughout the year, you go back in the tunnel probably 25 times,” Rizzo said. “You got to take it out somewhere. You can only stay sane so long. It’s September. It’s a team (thing) now.

“It’s worked. We’re 3-for-3 on it. But it’s not me gathering. It’s just whoever feels like it’s time – you’ll see the team rushing off the bench and going for a nice little retreat.”

In many ways, Rizzo sets the clubhouse tone with his laid-back vibe off the field and intense competitive streak on the field. Tom Verducci’s book, “The Cubs Way,” detailed a scene before last year’s World Series Game 7 where Rizzo got naked, played “Rocky” music, quoted movie lines and shadowboxed until reliever Hector Rondon joined “in on the hijinks, picked up an aerosol can of shoe cleaner and sprayed it in the direction of Rizzo’s groin.”

“This is strictly in-game,” Rizzo said. “You can’t do it, though, and be selfish and go on a nice little retreat when we’re winning. It’s got to be the right timing. It helps, too, because it’s been fun the last couple weeks since we started doing it.”

One obvious benefit: There are no annoying TV cameras. Like in late July when frustrated pitcher John Lackey bumped into Rizzo in the Wrigley Field dugout and exchanged words with the face-of-the-franchise first baseman.

“We’ve come together now,” Rizzo said. “It’s not about anyone. It’s about us. When things go wrong for a certain individual, we rally around him. And that’s what we got to keep doing from here on out.”

Javier Baez stars for Cubs while his mind drifts to Hurricane Maria and family in Puerto Rico

Javier Baez stars for Cubs while his mind drifts to Hurricane Maria and family in Puerto Rico

MILWAUKEE – Javier Baez tries to use baseball as an escape, but his thoughts inevitably drift toward Puerto Rico and the damage and destruction Hurricane Maria has inflicted on his beloved island.  

“I’ve been doing my best to stay in the game,” Baez said. “But, really, my mind has been over there, trying to find out about family, how they’re doing.”

Baez could compartmentalize enough in the ninth inning to deliver the two-out, two-strike, game-tying RBI single on Thursday night at Miller Park, setting the stage for a dramatic 5-3 comeback victory over the Milwaukee Brewers that created a huge shift in momentum for the Cubs in the National League Central race.  

But several Cubs have been distracted during this nightmare hurricane season, seeing the haunting images on TV and thinking about more than magic numbers. Baez finally made contact with his brother, Gadiel, before Friday’s game in Milwaukee.

“He finally found a spot that has service. Everybody’s disconnected,” Baez said. “It’s been really, really crazy over there. They say there’s no trees in Puerto Rico right now.

“It’s really bad. (But) there are still people smiling and trying to get through it. We got no (other) option. Our whole family is over there. I think if we work together, the process is going to be faster and the help is going to be (stronger). Hopefully, everybody stays together and just tries to help.”

Baez has been using his social-media platforms, asking for prayers and helping raise funds through the GoFundMe page started by catcher Rene Rivera’s family and supported by teammate Victor Caratini.

Known for his flash and highlight-reel moments, Baez is actually more of a low-key personality off the field, close to his family and developing into one of the most important and dependable players for the defending World Series champs.       

“Sometimes, when you are going through difficult moments,” manager Joe Maddon said, “getting out there kind of is that little island that you need just to park your brain for a couple hours.

“You keep reading about it. You’re talking four-to-six months without power. When you read those lines, you know it’s devastating. But live it.

“Again, as an athlete, when you’re going through difficulties outside of your occupation, sometimes it’s the best place to be for those couple hours. And then you go back to reality afterwards.

“Javy has been on the stage. He’s had the bright lights shining on him for a long period of time for a young guy. He’s learned how to handle this pretty well.”

Baez starred for the team that made it to the World Baseball Classic championship game in March. He could feel the pride and energy and what that meant to Puerto Rico during an economic crisis.

“Our whole island, they were there for us,” Baez said. “If we really work together, we can get through it faster, and everything’s going to be OK over there.”