Noah's return finally makes Bulls whole

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Noah's return finally makes Bulls whole

Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011
12:17 a.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com
TORONTOLadies and gentlemen, with no further adieu30 missed games was more than enoughJoakim Noah is back. After having surgery on his right thumb in December, the center will return to the Bulls lineup Wednesday evening at the Air Canada Centre, ironically the last place he played.

Noah was brief with the media after the conclusion of the teams shootaround Wednesday morning.

Its tough. Last year I missed some games with plantar fasciitis, as well. Very different situation. I think that were playing very good basketball, were a very competitive ballclub and Im very happy to be back, said Noah, who added that his only goal for Wednesdays game was to get a win.

Its just been a tough time. I had to be very patient. Thirty games is a long time, but Im very excited to be a part of it because our ballclub is very competitive and we feel like when were playing at our best, we can compete against anybody, he continued. But we obviously have a lot of work to do and I know I have a lot of work to do. I havent played a game in a long time.

I dont have many expectations. I dont really worry about the expectations. My only expectation is to go out there and give it all Ive got.

Noah has been diligently working to get himself back into shape and during his layoff, could often be seen working out before games and practices with either Bulls assistant coach Rick Brunson or going one-on-one with veteran reserve forward Brian Scalabrine. Still, there will be a difference between conditioning, taking contact and even full practices, and actual games.

Hell be back and hes going to start. Quality big man and he adds a lot in a number of different areas, in terms of how well he passes the ball, how well he rebounds the ball and his energy, so those are where his strengths are and again, I think it adds another quality big to what we have up front, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, who told reporters that Noah would likely play in six to eight-minute intervals Wednesday. I just want him to go as hard as he can, right from the start, for as long as he can. Itll be similar to what Carlos Boozer went through. Hes been out for a long time. Hes been out for much longer than Carlos was.

Until he gets out there, we wont quite know, but I think his rebounding, his passing, his energy, those are all things I want him to bring, and then if we have to get him out a little bit earlier, well do that and gradually get him back to his starters minutes," continued the coach, who said Noah would start the game matched up with versatile Raptors big man Andrea Bargnani, a player capable of stretching the defense.

For Carlos, it was quicker," Thibodeau continued. "But Carlos was out a shorter amount of time. But Im not anticipating it being very long. Jos got a great motor, so I think hell adapt very quickly. He did a great job with doing all the conditioning he could possibly do when he was out.

Even with all of the anticipation about Noahs return, however, his teammates arent counting on him to be at top form immediately. Noahs intangibles will make an impact, even in limited doses, but with the Bulls finally whole, chemistry will be something that has to build again.

Were not trying to look at it like that. It could be hard because Jo missed 30 games. Just getting back to playing with him, it could take a little minute. Like tonight, were going to see how it goes tonight, said All-Star point guard Derrick Rose, who has consistently expressed his optimism that the Bulls will get back to being more of a fast-break team. Hes a guy thats going to help us, though, with a lot of energy, rebounding, tipping the ball, doing extra stuff on the court. Its going to help us, but were going to see how it goes tonight.

Thibodeau talked about his big-man rotation, with veteran Kurt Thomas and rookie Omer Asik now having to split minutes at backup center.

Thats a hard read right now, until we see Jo out there and I can see how many minutes he can handle. I think we also have to keep in mind where were going for the playoffs and adding to the rotation right now would be difficult, but Im not ruling it out either, said Thibodeau. Whoever does play, I like the depth that we have up front and a big part of it will be the matchups.

Without saying it, Thibodeau implied thats more of a good problem to have than a drastic concern. With a full roster and in the thick of the chase for a No. 1 playoff seed in the East, the supposedly under-the-radar Bulls could be flying even higher very soon.

Perhaps Noah summed it up best: The potential is definitely there, but its all about putting the pieces together and playing our best basketball at the right time. I think its going to take a little time. Im just really excited about being able to get back on the court.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

White Sox pitching staff nearly complete with prospect Zack Burdi headed to Triple-A

White Sox pitching staff nearly complete with prospect Zack Burdi headed to Triple-A

GLENDALE, Ariz. — With Zack Burdi headed for the minors, the White Sox 12-man pitching staff is all but set.

The Opening Day roster won't be finalized until Sunday and the White Sox hypothetically could find an attractive candidate to claim off the waiver wire over the weekend. But barring that, it looks as if veteran Anthony Swarzak and second-year reliever Michael Ynoa have made the team after Burdi said Wednesday morning that he'd start the season at Triple-A Charlotte. 

The No. 7 prospect in the organization, according to MLBPipeline.com, Burdi finished the spring with a 6.75 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 12 innings. Burdi finished his Cactus League on a high note with three strikeouts over an inning on Tuesday, including one of Kansas City four-time All-Star catcher Salvador Perez. 

"Man, it's been crazy," Burdi said. "Coming in and being the young guy in the locker room and then just progressing and showing a little bit more (comfort) around the guys and the veterans and then just being able to pick their brains and go out every day and try to progress. You get to the innings and you are facing guys you've watched your last 10 years of your life. It has been crazy and definitely something I won't forget."

Burdi lasted the longest this spring out of the cache of highly-touted prospects the White Sox brought to big league camp. Prior to escaping a first-and-third, one-out jam Tuesday, Burdi looked like he would allow a run in a third straight game after a hot start to camp (he only allowed a run in one of his first 10 appearances). But Burdi battled back and struck out Perez on three pitches, one of two straight strikeouts to strand both runners.

Pitching coach Don Cooper has been impressed by Burdi throughout the spring. But he also wants to see the Louisville product continue to work on command in the minors.

"You can't not see his stuff," Cooper said. "Everybody gets excited when you see 99, 100, 101. But whether you throw it 101 or 83 like [Mark] Buehrle you have to throw it to the glove with command, change speeds and all that stuff. But he's a big part of our future going forward. He's one of the names."

Burdi said he plans to operate like he has already spring and not pay attention to any of the hype. Though he'd like to play in the majors, Burdi is excited to play alongside the likes of Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer in Charlotte.

"Once you get a feel for all this stuff and you feel how cool it is to be in the locker room with all these guys and play with them, of course you want to get back up here," Burdi said. "But at the same time, a lot of my really good friends are on Charlotte and I couldn't be more excited to go down there and play with them and make the most of the season down there."

Bears Chairman George McCaskey sets 2017 demands for Ryan Pace, John Fox

Bears Chairman George McCaskey sets 2017 demands for Ryan Pace, John Fox

PHOENIX — When the 2014 season concluded, with all its drama, poor play and internal dysfunction, Bears Chairman George McCaskey passed along the unvarnished mood of Bears matriarch and owner Virginia McCaskey:
 
"She's pissed off," George McCaskey declared.
 
The 2016 season ended worse record-wise (3-13) than 2014 (5-11) but Bears ownership sees arrows pointing up, not down as they appeared after 2014, occasioning the jettisoning of the general manager and coaching staff.
 
"[Virginia] sees the progress, but like any Bears fan, she wants results," George McCaskey said, chuckling at the recollection of relaying his mother's mood. "That's the quote that won't go away."
 
"Progress" and "results" are vague terms, and sometimes relative. But Bears ownership is not setting a public fail-safe point for either general manager Ryan Pace or head coach John Fox to remain in place, although no scenario could presumably consider four wins actual "progress" from three.
 
"We want to continue to see progress, see the building blocks but there isn't any sort of particular threshold," McCaskey confirmed. "We're not on any particular timetable that somebody else is wanting to set for us. We're wanting to see continued progress toward our goal of sustained success."
 
"Sustained success" is not beyond the scope of possibility, assuming that a talent core can be established and includes a quarterback, which the personnel department under Pace believe it is on the brink of putting in place, whether around Mike Glennon, Mark Sanchez or a player to be drafted or traded for later.

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GM Phil Emery adopted the buzz phrase of "multiple championships," but current leadership does sound less grandiose and more grounded. And where Emery drafts proved disastrous, the Pace administration has had clear hits, injuries notwithstanding, as recently as the 2016 class, which McCaskey mentioned in the context of Pace building the roster exactly the way ownership prefers.
 
"We have confidence in Ryan and John," McCaskey said. "We want to build through the draft. Ryan said that in his interview when he said he was interested in coming to the Bears and we like how he's stuck to that plan. We saw it last year when we had three rookies on the Pro Football Writers of America all-rookie team; Cody Whitehair, Leonard Floyd and Jordan Howard.
 
"And that's what we need to keep doing; keep building through the draft. I told Ryan he should get ripped this time of year every year for not being more active in free agency and that's because we're developing our own guys and rewarding our own guys."
 
McCaskey supported the actions, or lack of same, by Pace in the pursuit of max-dollar free agents this offseason. The Bears dropped out of sweepstakes for cornerback Stephon Gilmore and safety Tony Jefferson, among others, when prices spiked far beyond the parameters set by the Pace staff.
 
"I've been very impressed with [Pace] as a leader, as an evaluator of talent," McCaskey said. "And one of the things I've been most impressed by with him is the discipline he's shown just as recently as this free agency period. He didn't want to overpay guys. Too often, I think, you overpay guys who don't come through for you and then you have a big hole in your salary cap and you're behind the 8-ball. So I like the discipline he has shown, the restraint he has shown in free agency."