Bulls eager for reunion with Brewer, showdown with Knicks

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Bulls eager for reunion with Brewer, showdown with Knicks

AUBURN HILLS, MICH. The second of the Bench Mob reunions the first at the United Center will occur Saturday evening. Former Bulls reserve swingman Ronnie Brewer, now a Knicks starter, makes his first visit to Chicago since being waived over the summer.

Brewer was a much-beloved figure in the Bulls locker room over the last two seasons and made valuable contributions as a versatile defender and underrated offensive player, helping the team to back-to-back league-high regular-season win totals. Understandably, the holdovers from last season are eager to see him again.

Its going to be great to see Ronnie again," Taj Gibson said. "I keep in contact with him throughout the season. He hits me up from time to time. We talk, were real close. That was my guy. That was one of the guys I hung out with a lot on this team, so Im happy for him, being on another good team, playoff-bound team and hes playing great. I think his role is even better. Hes a starter. Hes starting on that team, hes playing great defense, hes knocking down that three-pointer, which I know he can do hes been working on it, even when he was here hes playing with a lot of confidence and hes just adjusting to that role on that team, of being one of those good defensive stoppers.

He was a real veteran. He was one of those guys that was never too high, never too low, always encouraging, always had your back. You could always count on him, he was a great teammate and hes on another good team, and you could tell the way that theyre playing, that hes inspiring them to play good defense and its showing.

Carlos Boozer, who played with Brewer both in Utah and Chicago, added: Its just going to be good to see him. Weve been talking the whole season. Hes been playing great for them, starting, obviously doing the same thing he always does, trying to lock up the other teams best perimeter player. Tomorrow, Im sure hell be on Lu a lot. But having a great season. I look forward to seeing my brother, man.

Luol Deng chimed in: Itll be cool, man. Ronnie, Kurt Thomas. Its going to be good to see those guys. Its always good to see ex- Bulls players and play against them.

Even Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, usually not one to be overly sentimental, spoke about Brewer in glowing terms.

Ronnies just a great team player. Thats who he is. He plays to win, plays for the team, hard-playing, does a little bit of everything, can score, pass, play-make, play great defense and hes a great teammate. Very coachable, the coach said. He did a great job for us when he was here and hes doing a great job for the Knicks.

Of course, once the game starts, Thibodeau might not be feeling so charitable. New York is coming off a huge blowout road win over defending champion Miami without superstar Carmelo Anthony or the sidelined Amare Stoudemire, let alone Chicago-area native Iman Shumpert and is currently the top team in the Eastern Conference, using a mix of improved defense, a three-point shooting barrage, unselfish play and a deep, experienced roster, including the NBAs oldest player, Kurt Thomas, another former Bull of recent vintage.

Tomorrows huge. Theyre flying high. They played very well against Miami yesterday. Theyre going to be rested and ready to go tomorrow, Joakim Noah said. Theyre playing very well. Theyre playing probably the best basketball in the NBA right now. Its on us to come in ready.

Deng added: Its tough. Theyre already there in Chicago, theyre waiting. They played well, theyre feeling great. They won their last game, theyre at the top of the East. Theyre playing well, so their confidence is high right now and coming in tomorrow, its going to be a tough game, but were looking forward to it.

Boozer concurred: Theyve been playing great. We watched a little bit of it last night, when they played Miami. They played phenomenal without Melo and Amare, which is hard to do, especially playing one of the more talented teams in Miami, but theyre a three-point shooting team, they have the green light, they have a monster in the middle in Tyson Chandler and theyve got great leadership. Theyve got J-Kidd, theyve got other veteran guys, Kurt Thomas is there, Rasheed is there. Theyve got guys that have been through some wars, mixed in with a good group of young talent. That being said, its going to be a great challenge for us.

Coming off a big win over Detroit -- but perhaps tougher than necessary -- and flying back to Chicago overnight after a two-game road trip before taking on the top team in the East, Thibodeau, a former Knicks assistant coach is wary of his team's upcoming test.

Theyre on top of the conference, playing very, very well," he said. "Deep, talented, shooting the ball extremely well. Playing great defense, playing together, playing hard. Weve got to be ready.

Reports: Joakim Noah likely to join Derrick Rose, sign with Knicks

Reports: Joakim Noah likely to join Derrick Rose, sign with Knicks

Multiple reports indicated that former Bulls center Joakim Noah will join Derrick Rose and sign with the New York Knicks.

Both the Washington Post and ESPN report that Noah is very likely to sign in New York, his hometown. ESPN's Marc Stein went so far as to say that other teams have already accepted that Noah is all but a done deal to sign with the Knicks.

And according to Tim Bontemps from the Washington Post, Noah's deal with the Knicks will have "a starting salary somewhere in the $18 million per year range," a large but not insane number considering the league's salary cap explosion this summer.

The Vertical's Shams Charania added that Noah will meet with Phil Jackson and the Knicks when free agency begins Friday night.

Noah would fill a void at center left by the Knicks' trade for Rose, which shipped center Robin Lopez back to Chicago. Noah averaged 4.3 points and 8.8 rebounds in 29 games last season before season-ending shoulder surgery in January. Noah spent the first nine seasons of his NBA career with the Bulls and was named Defensive Player of the Year just three short years ago.

But he fell out of grace with Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg, who opted to bring Noah off the bench for the first time in his career. It was largely assumed that both Noah and Pau Gasol would not return to a Bulls team that missed the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons.

Teams can start negotiating with free agents on July 1, and can sign free agents beginning July 6.

James Shields earns first victory as White Sox top Twins

James Shields earns first victory as White Sox top Twins

James Shields received his first standing ovation of the season at U.S. Cellular Field as he headed to the dugout on Wednesday night.

The White Sox starter settled in after another shaky start and his offense kicked it into high gear in a 9-6 victory over the Minnesota Twins in front of 18,571. Shields limited the Twins to a leadoff solo homer in the first inning and pitched into the seventh to earn his first win for the White Sox.

Brett Lawrie, Tyler Saladino and Todd Frazier all homered for the White Sox, who had to pitch themselves out of trouble in a wild ninth to win for the sixth time in nine games. Nate Jones earned a one-out save after Matt Purke and Dan Jennings combined to allow five runs. Purke was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte after the game. A corresponding move will be announced on Thursday morning.

“(Shields) got back into a rhythm,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I think this is the best that he looked as far as just feeling comfortable. He was getting ahead. He started really using his fastball and he located it. I think after that, there was some offspeed stuff and he got guys swinging through it. This was a nice little thing to see. I'm sure it's a breath of fresh air for him.”

For a second it looked as if another stinker was in the cards.

Two pitches into the contest, Shields trailed by a run when Eduardo Nunez ripped an 0-1 changeup for a solo homer.

Shields, who had a 21.81 ERA in his first three starts with the White Sox, two of which resulted in him being booed off the mound at home, found even more trouble. He recorded a pair of outs, but walked Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe singled him to third. But similar to his last start in Boston, Shields took another big step forward and got out of trouble.

Two innings later, Shields made his biggest pitch of the night when he induced a double play off Joe Mauer’s bat after allowing consecutive singles to start the third. Dozier’s bunt attempt resulted in a comebacker and Shields escaped unharmed.

Adam Eaton assisted Shields in a big way in the fifth inning when he easily threw out Kurt Suzuki at home. Suzuki, who started the play on first, was forced home as Nunez nearly caught him speeding into third after hitting a liner off the right-field fence.

But Shields stranded Nunez in scoring position as well as another runner in the sixth. He recorded two more outs before giving way after a Byron Buxton double.

“We know what type of pitcher he is and he went out and did what he’s supposed to do,” Eaton said. “I think the proof is in the pudding. He goes out and throws well. We hit and we are going to be pretty good.”

As he exited, Shields was showered with applause from the appreciative crowd.

He allowed a run and eight hits in 6 2/3 innings, striking out five and walking one. Shields threw strikes on 61 of 93 pitches to earn his first victory since May 12th.

“It feels good,” Shields said. “It’s something to build off of.

“It was a tough stretch. It’s nice to get off the schneid there and get a win, but I don’t really focus on that kind of stuff. I’ve been around this game for a long time. My main focus is to win games for this team right now.”

One night after they couldn’t provide for Jose Quintana, the White Sox offense went overboard for Shields. Lawrie’s opposite-field solo homer with two outs in the second inning off Ricky Nolasco tied the game at 1. J.B. Shuck then singled, stole second and scored on an RBI single by Avisail Garcia.

The White Sox never looked back as Saladino’s solo shot in the fifth made it a 3-1 game.

Frazier started a five-run sixth inning with a solo homer -- the team’s 13th consecutive solo homer. Saladino singled in a run with two outs to chase Nolasco and make it 5-1. Tim Anderson’s two-run single made it a blowout and Eaton singled him in to make it 8-1. Shuck added a sac fly in the seventh for the White Sox, who went 5-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

“It was nice,” Frazier said. “It was a little different. (Shields) got out there not worrying about anything. Gave up the homer in the first batter. Nothing really fazed him after that. He has to understand, he’s going to give up runs here and there, and just relax from whatever happens from there. He pitched an exceptional game today.”

Denzel Valentine: Bulls' versatility will 'make us so dangerous'

Denzel Valentine: Bulls' versatility will 'make us so dangerous'

The Bulls are undergoing a "retooling" in their backcourt after dealing Derrick Rose to the Knicks, drafting Denzel Valentine and attempting to re-sign E'Twaun Moore in free agency.

That, combined with Jimmy Butler, the addition of Jerian Grant and an already versatile frontcourt will give Fred Hoiberg plenty of options that Valentine believes will make the Bulls "dangerous" in 2016-17.

"I think that's going to make us so dangerous this year, is we are versatile with our guards," He said on Wednesday night's White Sox broadcast. "And in those three positions I feel like we're going to be able to guard and do a lot of things offensively and throw a lot at you when we're coming down on offense. And the defensive end, too.

"I think we're going to have a really good team this year with all that we have, and I'm glad to be part of the building year, or whatever you want to call it."

On paper the Bulls will have more versatility than a year ago. Valentine is capable of playing either wing position and can handle the ball, though he doesn't project as a point guard. Butler can play and defend four positions, and Grant is capable of playing either guard spot. Bringing back E'Twaun Moore would benefit that versatility greatly, as he's capable of playing on or off the ball.

In the frontcourt, the Bulls will need to replace Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah, neither of whom provided much versatility. Robin Lopez is entrenched at center, which will give the Bulls' stretch forwards Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis more room to roam the perimeter.

Wherever Valentine plays, and however Hoiberg uses him in Year 1, the Michigan State rookie said he's ready to do what's asked of him from a franchise known for winning.

"My job is to just come in, do what I can do best and just work on my game and try to lead as best as I can," he said on SportsTalk Live (in the video above). "I'm not coming in to step on anybody's toes but I'm going to do what I can to lead and be a good teammate and try to win some games."