Pacers, Heat opine on effects of Rose injury, Bulls' future

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Pacers, Heat opine on effects of Rose injury, Bulls' future

INDIANAPOLIS--Just because the Bulls are out of the playoffs doesn't mean they're not a team on the minds of their rivals. Across the entire NBA, players felt sympathy for Chicago after Derrick Rose's devastating, season-ending torn left ACL injury at the end Game 1 of the Bulls' first-round playoff opener against Philadelphia, ultimately resulting in the top-seeded Bulls falling to the 76ers and Rose undergoing surgery, which will require him to miss between eight months to a year of action as he rehabilitates.

The team the Bulls eliminated from last year's playoffs, Indiana, and the team the Bulls were defeated by in the postseason, Miami, are perhaps the Bulls' biggest rivals and coincidentally, are currently locked into a second-round battle of their own, in which the Pacers hold a 2-1 series lead over the Heat, following Thursday night's win at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. While both squads are focused on the task at hand, the NBA is a brotherhood of sorts and rivalries aside, Rose is one of the most respected players in the league, so concern was expressed for both his future and there was empathy for the Bulls as a whole, in terms of their postseason fate, though the consensus was that the team will bounce back from Rose's injury and still be competitive through his prolonged absence next season.

"That misfortune was big," Pacers veteran swingman Dahntay Jones told CSNChicago.com. "You have one of the most dynamic players in the NBA going down and thats hard for them to rebound from and it was big for that series, but theyll find a way to get it together and be the force that they are."

Chimed in power forward David West: "They were the top team, basically in the NBA. Top one or two all year and you know the type of athlete and game that D-Rose has, and again, its hard sometimes to overcome that situation when you have one of the top-five guys in the world go out, especially in a playoff series, where guys can, especially defensively, lock in. Its just unfortunate that they got dealt that blow."

Heat power forward Udonis Haslem took a different tact, giving Philadelphia the benefit of the doubt, but also throwing in the fact that fellow University of Florida product Joakim Noah was also injured, suffering a severe ankle sprain in Game 3 of the first-round series.

"If Derrick was healthy, then they still would have had to get by the Sixers. Whos to say they would have still gotten by the Sixers, even if he was healthy?" wondered Haslem, whose Heat are dealing with a similar situation with All-Star Chris Bosh on the shelf after being hurt earlier in the series with the Pacers. "They also lost Noah in the playoffs, which hurt, so it could be a different series. Maybe if Noah doesn't get hurt, they still win that series."

Regardless, both teams, while not counting their eggs before they hatched, knew when the playoff seedings were set, the Bulls were a potential opponent. Indiana saw it as an opportunity to avenge last spring's postseason loss, while Miami viewed the matchup as a continuation of what has become a fierce rivalry.

"Nobody thought Derrick Rose was going to go down and we took it one series at a time, no matter who our opponent was, but in the back of our mind, yeah, we still have our memories of Chicago," Pacers swingman Paul George, who guarded Rose for much of last year's first-round series, told CSNChicago.com. "Theyre always going to be a rival for us. It just seems that thats always how it makes out to be in the regular season and when you play them in the postseason, so itll be a rivalry."

Added Haslem: "You never know, but I think everybody was anticipating us to match up with the Bulls, but right now, were in a fight with the Pacers and theyre home, so its not the situation everybody envisioned."

Some observers have already written off the Bulls next season, looking at it as a semi-rebuilding year without Rose and potentially fellow All-Star Luol Deng to begin the campaign, as well as tough offseason decisions with free agents C.J. Watson, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer, not to mention backup center Omer Asik, a restricted free agent. But based on Rose's underrated supporting cast, the team's track record without him in the lineup during the regular season and Tom Thibodeau's coaching acumen, their foes don't believe it's a foregone conclusion that there will be as much slippage as one might expect.

"Its hard to say. Theyre not a bad team without him. They played a lot of this year without D-Rose," Heat point guard Mario Chalmers, who's matched up with Rose since college, when his Kansas team topped Rose's Memphis Tigers in the NCAA national-championship game, told CSNChicago.com. "I still think they can contend for a title. Theyre still a great team. They have good players over there and they have a good coach, so its up to them."

Echoed Haslem: "Theyll figure it out. One thing that I know about Thibodeau, just by playing against him, is that hes a hell of a coach and hes going to have his guys prepared, and play well without him throughout the regular season."

NBA players aren't doctors, so their medical opinions should be taken with a grain of salt, but other than trained professionals in that field, they know better than anyone else how their peers might be able to recover from injuries that they themselves have endured. West is clearly a different type of player than Rose--the former All-Star is regarded as one of the better players at his position in the game, but certainly isn't a high-flying athlete--but he went through an excruciatingly long recovery process after tearing his own left ACL late last season and while he admitted that he only "turned the corner a month or so ago," he believes Rose will get through it, as it's more mind over matter, or even just hard work and heart--pointing to his chest for emphasis--something he believes Rose has plenty of.

"Well, I think as long as you dont get down on yourself, as long as you dont allow people around you to feel sorry for you, just understand that its just a bump in the road and you can get over it. Obviously the surgery and the rehab is tough. I never even wore a knee brace. Thats how far the rehab and things like that have come and hes got a good work ethic, so hell be fine. Hell get through it and hell return to himself. When youre built differently, in terms of insidenot so much physicallyyou can get through stuff like that."

So, while Chicago is still in an extended state of mourning for its favorite native son, not only do even the Bulls' biggest rivals not feel sorry for the team--though they do empathize with how the Bulls' playoff fate transpired, from a purely competitive aspect--they believe the long-lasting effects to the Bulls' run as a contender will be minimal. However, don't expect those feelings of kinship to last through next spring.

Theories on why Cubs haven’t played up to their defensive potential yet

Theories on why Cubs haven’t played up to their defensive potential yet

“That’s what we’re supposed to look like,” Joe Maddon said Monday night after a 6-4 loss where the San Francisco Giants scored the first six runs and Wrigley Field got loudest for the David Ross “Dancing with the Stars” look-in on the big video board, at least until a late flurry from the Cubs.

But for a manager always looking for the silver linings, Maddon could replay Addison Russell’s diving stop to his right and strong throw from deep in the hole at shortstop to take a hit away from Christian Arroyo. Or Albert Almora’s spectacular flying catch near the warning track in center field. Or Anthony Rizzo stealing another hit from Brandon Belt with a diving backhanded play near the first-base line.

The highlight reel became a reminder of how the Cubs won 103 games and the World Series last year – and made you wonder why the 2017 team hasn’t played the same consistently excellent defense with largely the same group of personnel.

“Concentration?” Jason Heyward said, quickly dismissing the theory a defensive decline could boil down to focus or effort. “No shot. No shot. It is what it is when it comes to people asking questions about last year having effects, this and that. But this is a new season.

“The standard is still high. What’s our excuse? We played later than anybody? That may buy you some time, but then what?

“The goals stay the same. We just got to find new ways to do it when you have a different team.”

FiveThirtyEight.com, Nate Silver’s statistical website, framed the question this way after the Cubs allowed the lowest batting average on balls in play ever last season, an analysis that goes all the way back to 1871: “Have the Cubs Forgotten How to Field?”

Even if the Cubs don’t set records and make history, they should still be better than 23rd in the majors in defensive efficiency, with 37 errors through 43 games. The Cubs have already allowed 28 unearned runs after giving up 45 all last season.

“We just got to stay on it and keep focusing and not let the miscues go to our head,” Ben Zobrist said. “We just have to keep working hard and staying focused in the field. A lot of that’s the rhythm of the game. I blame a lot of that on the early parts of the season and the weather and a lot of difficult things that we’ve been going through.

“If we’re not hitting the ball well, too, we’re a young team still, and you can carry that into the field. You don’t want to let that happen, but it’s part of the game. You got to learn to move beyond miscues and just focus on the next play.”

Heyward, a four-time Gold Glove winner, missed two weeks with a sprained right finger and has already started nine times in center field (after doing that 21 times all last season). Zobrist has morphed back into a super-utility guy, starting 16 games at second base and 15 in two different outfield spots.

[MORE CUBS: Have the Cubs found their new leadoff hitter in Ben Zobrist?]

Maddon has tried to drill the idea of making the routine play into Javier Baez’s head, so that the uber-talented second baseman can allow his natural athleticism and instincts to take over during those dazzling moments.

The Cubs are basically hoping Kyle Schwarber keeps the ball in front of him in left and setting the bar at: Don’t crash into your center fielder. Like Schwarber and Almora, catcher Willson Contreras hasn’t played a full season in The Show yet, and the Cubs are now hoping Ian Happ can become a Zobrist-type defender all over the field.

“I’m seeing our guys playing in a lot of different places,” Heyward said. “It’s not just been penciling in every day who’s going to center field or right field or left field. We did shake things up some last year, but we did it kind of later in the season. We had guys settle in, playing every day. This year, I feel like we’re having guys in different spots.

“It’s May whatever, (but) it seems like we haven’t really had a chance to settle in yet. Not that we’re procrastinating by any means, but it’s just been a lot of moving pieces.”

The Giants won World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014 with a formula that incorporated lights-out pitching, airtight defense and just enough clutch pitching. The Cubs are now a 22-21 team trying to figure it out again.

“Defense comes and goes, just like pitching,” said Kris Bryant, the reigning National League MVP, in part, because of his defensive versatility. “I feel like if you look at last year, it’s kind of hard to compare, just because it was so good. We spoiled everybody last year. Now we’re a complete letdown this year.”

Bryant paused and said: “Just kidding. Different years, things regress, things progress, and that’s just how it goes sometimes.”

White Sox fall to Diamondbacks in series opener

White Sox fall to Diamondbacks in series opener

PHOENIX -- The red-hot White Sox ran into Zack Greinke on Monday night.

He cooled them off in a hurry.

Greinke struck out 12 hitters and Daniel Descalso blasted a three-run home run off Miguel Gonzalez as the Arizona Diamondbacks sent the White Sox to a 5-1 loss in front of 18,333 at Chase Field. The loss snapped a three-game win streak for the White Sox, who had scored 24 runs in their final two games against the Seattle Mariners.

“(Greinke) keeps the ball down out of the zone a lot,” manager Rick Renteria said. “It’s kind of enticing. He keeps the ball in the hitter’s area and it ends up falling out. It’s one of those things that you’ve got to try to get him up. Our approach was to try to make him throw a lot of strikes. He ended up hammering the strike zone early and then finally he just came into a groove.”

Descalso’s three-run shot off Gonzalez was one of two pitches the White Sox right-hander would have liked back. After Gonzalez walked Chris Owings with two outs in the fourth inning, his only free pass of the night, he left the curveball over the middle and Descalso deposited it in the right-center field stands to break a scoreless tie.

He also left a pitch up to Paul Goldschmidt in the sixth inning and the All-Star first baseman ripped it for a solo shot.

But overall Gonzalez rebounded from his previous two starts when he walked nine batters. He was sharp for three innings as he faced one over the minimum. He just missed to Owings in the fourth, which brought up Descalso.

Gonzalez allowed five runs (four earned) and seven hits in five innings.

“You see what happens when you walk guys,” Gonzalez said. “That wasn’t in a good situation to walk the guy. You have to keep grinding, keep making my pitches. Really two pitches were the ones that hurt me tonight. A lot of positives. Nothing to worry about. Keep working hard and things are going to go my way.

“Sometimes things don’t go your way. Those two pitches, if I take those back, you never know. It’s a different ballgame.”

Not only did Greinke strike out a dozen hitters, he limited the White Sox to four hits in 8 2/3 innings.

Omar Narvaez had two hits, the first coming after Greinke opened the game by retiring seven straight batters. Leury Garcia homered off Greinke with one out in the fifth inning to break up his bid for a shutout.

It was quite the turnaround from when the White Sox bashed Yovani Gallardo and Chris Heston on consecutive days in Seattle. The White Sox scored a combined nine first-inning runs in winning three of four against the Mariners.