NBA MVP: No more salary cap

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NBA MVP: No more salary cap

From Comcast SportsNet
HONOLULU (AP) -- Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose has established himself among the elite NBA players in just three seasons. His salary, however, doesn't come anywhere near the top in the league, let alone his own team. Because of rookie salary scale restrictions, the league's reigning MVP earns about 5.5 million a season -- far less than other NBA stars. The scale is on the table between the league and players' association during its extended labor dispute that could result in more games being canceled and might wipe out the season. Rose, in Hawaii this week visiting military personnel as part of the Hoops for Troops USO Tour, will undoubtedly earn a lot more when he becomes a free agent at the end of his four-year, 22.5 million contract, depending on the new agreement, of course. "I wish it was back like where it was in the old days where there wasn't a cap," Rose told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "Back in the day, they were giving guys coming out of college with multimillion-dollar contracts, so why stop it now? The game is growing. There's no need to stop it." The union would like players to get out from the rookie salary scale quicker than five years. On Monday, union executive director Billy Hunter mentioned Rose and Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin during an hour-long podcast with ESPN.com as examples of players who are underpaid because there are still locked into their scale figures. The league said it has proposed a new bonus pool for top-performing rookie scale players who earn league honors as such as MVP or are on the All-NBA first, second or third teams. Rose said the labor strife is about getting an agreement that's fair. "Greed is not on our side," Rose said. "We're not greedy. ... What they're trying to do to us is dead wrong." The sides met for three days with a federal mediator before talks broke down Thursday after players said owners insisted they commit to a 50-50 split of revenues before any further discussions about the salary cap system could continue. Though staffs from the sides have met since, no full bargaining sessions have been held and the NBA is expected to announce soon that more games will be canceled. "I know that everybody is waiting for us to play, but it has to be on the right terms." Rose said. Rose has been waiting and spending most of his time training in Los Angeles with other NBA players, including Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford, who also is in Hawaii. "We owe it to ourselves and others like the guys who are coming up to have a good deal," Horford said. "I felt like in the past, the players have given up a lot to the owners and I just feel like it's excessive that way they're trying to do it ... At the end of the day, if you look at who's asking for money and all that, it's the owners. They're the ones that want to make all the drastic changes to all these things that haven't really been an issue." Rose, who turned 23 this month, is the youngest MVP in NBA history and joined Michael Jordan as the only Bulls player to earn the honor. "The most difficult part is, every day you wake up and you see games canceled," he said. "The fans are fiending for it. I know we're itching to play. And I know that it'll hurt the game because our fans are loyal and for us not to be playing, I think it'll hurt them more." He is coming off a season where he averaged 25 points and 7.7 assists, while leading the Bulls to a league-high 62 wins and the Eastern Conference finals. The Miami Heat overwhelmed the top-seeded Bulls by dominating the fourth quarters, with LeBron James containing the Bulls' point guard. Rose said he couldn't wait to get back on the court to silence some of his critics and test some of the things he's been working on since the playoffs, such as conditioning, isolation skills, going against bigger players and learning how to get fouled. "I put a lot of work into my game. I take my basketball life very serious. That's just my life," he said. "For people to still talk negative about you, I think that's just life, period. You just go with it. But I feed off of it." As far as his first trip to the islands, Rose said he was humbled by his welcome and meeting the troops. Rose and Horford are joined by Atlanta's Joe Johnson, Charlotte's D.J. Augustin, Sacramento's Tyreke Evans, New Jersey's Brook Lopez, Phoenix's Robin Lopez, Washington's JaVale McGee and Miami's Mike Miller. They are scheduled to visit military families, hold clinics and play games at an Army, Navy and Marine Corps bases. Earlier this week, they met with some soldiers wounded in action. "They're around my age and younger than I am," Rose said. "Just seeing that they're fighting for us, I just let them know we're not taking them for granted."

Illini's Malcolm Hill breaks backboard with practice dunk

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Illini's Malcolm Hill breaks backboard with practice dunk

One of John Groce's goals for his team this offseason was to improve the Illini's strength.

Things seem to be going nicely.

Malcolm Hill broke a backboard in the Illini's practice gym on Monday, and there's photo evidence to prove it.

Take a look at these tweets from Hill and Illinois strength and conditioning coach Adam Fletcher.

Hill was already the team's best player in numerous facets. He led the Illini with 18.1 points and 3.3 assists per game and ranked second with 6.6 rebounds per game.

Now he's shattering glass with some mean slams. It could be a crazy senior year for Hill.

Bullpen's ridiculous performance bails out Cubs in win over Dodgers

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Bullpen's ridiculous performance bails out Cubs in win over Dodgers

The Cubs' MLB-leading starting rotation has gotten plenty of buzz this season, but the bullpen had their breakout game on Memorial Day.

With Jason Hammel limited to only two innings because of hamstring cramping, the bullpen stepped up big time, tossing seven perfect frames in the Cubs' 2-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in front of 41,470 fans at Wrigley Field.

Hammel allowed just a bloop single with two outs in the first inning on a ball that fell between Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward in shallow right field, wind-aided and sun-aided base hit for Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner.

Hammel walked the next hitter and that was it.

No other Dodger reached base after Adrian Gonzalez walked with two outs in the first inning. 

Hammel and four relievers combined to set down 25 straight to end the game, the first time a Cubs pitching staff has done that since May 15, 1960.

Travis Wood was the standout performer from the bullpen, coming in on short notice in the third inning and tossing four perfect innings with four strikeouts, throwing just 43 pitches.

When Maddon sat down for his standard postgame press conference, he said the Chicago media should really be talking to Wood first.

"Oh my God," Maddon said. "I'm really trying to decide when to take him out of that game. ... My goodness. You throw like 20 pitches after two innings.

"He was so pitch-efficient, he permitted us to do what we did. It comes down to that. Pure and simple. Forty-three pitches in four innings. He was spectacular."

Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon followed Wood in order, each throwing an inning and combining for four strikeouts and only 36 pitches.

"The rest of the guys came in and they were very efficient 'cause they saw Travis go out there and do it," Maddon said. "So then here comes Grimmer and here comes Stroppy and here comes Ronny. 

"They all were really, really efficient. Good pitches, good location, good stuff. But Travis set the tone for the whole day."

"I love our bullpen," said David Ross, who caught the whole game. "Those guys are very impressive to me."

Wood picked up his third victory of the season on a day where he entered the game just seconds after sitting on the couch in the Cubs clubhouse. When he saw Hammel go down, he knew he might be needed, so he dashed out to the dugout and sure enough, he got the call to go into the game.

Maddon and the Cubs always claim Wood has a rubber arm, and he needed only 15 or so pitches to warm up before his four perfect innings. 

"[I was just focusing on] each hitter at a time and try to get the outs," Wood said. "Those are freak situations that happen - a guy gets hurt or in Hamm's case, it was just a cramp.

"So you're just out there to get outs for as long as they want you to. And then take it from there."

The Cubs got on the board in the fifth inning when Zobrist led off with a single and wound up on third after Dodgers right field Yasiel Puig booted the ball.

Heyward plated Zobrist on a 60-foot chopper down the first-base line, reaching safely for an infield single. He then came around to score the game's final run on Anthony Rizzo's double to right field two batters later.

The Cubs have won six straight games and have allowed just one hit to the Dodgers in their last 18 head-to-head innings dating back to last season.

Now the Dodgers have to contend with Jake Arrieta - who no-hit them on national TV the last time he faced them - Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.

Cubs breathing a sigh of relief after Jason Hammel's leg cramp

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Cubs breathing a sigh of relief after Jason Hammel's leg cramp

Before anybody really knew what happened, Jason Hammel was sitting on the ground behind the pitcher's mound at Wrigley Field surrounded by Cubs trainers and coaches.

The veteran starting pitcher had just come out to warm up for the top of the third inning after he and Ben Zobrist struck out to strand the bases loaded for the Cubs in the bottom of the second.

He eventually got up and tried to throw a few more warmup pitches, but Cubs manager Joe Maddon and pitching coach Chris Bosio ultimately decided to roll with Travis Wood, removing Hammel from the game after only 39 pitches.

Two innings later, the Cubs announced Hammel was being evaluated for right hamstring cramping.

After the game, Joe Maddon sounded optimistic about Hammel's status.

"It seems to have just been a cramp," Maddon said. "We just couldn't wait for it to settle down. You just don't know in that particular moment if it is a cramp. 

"We thought it was a cramp, but you just can't stand out there for 15 minutes and wait for it to dissolve or whatever. So we had to move it along at that point."

Maddon said the Cubs feel Hammel should be ready to go for his next start in five days.

Hammel - who said he's never dealt with a cramp like that before - iced and massaged his leg after being removed from the game and took an anti-inflammatory. 

But he felt good enough to joke after the game about how he gave up the only hit before the Cubs bullpen combined for seven perfect innings of relief.

"I blew the no-hitter!" Hammel said. "It makes me feel really small. I obviously wanted to stay in there. It just sucks. Something like that where it's on and off.

"I felt like after I stretched it and it was down on the ground and I threw the first pitch, I felt fine. Then the next pitch, it was back. It would've taken us six hours to get through the game if I stayed in there."

After two shutout innings Monday, Hammel now has a 2.09 ERA and 1.16 WHIP on the season and has been a revelation in helping the Cubs to the best starting rotation in baseball slotting behind Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and John Lackey.

Hammel was pitching at an All-Star level (2.89 ERA) before running into a leg injury in early July last season. He was never the same after, posting a 5.03 ERA in his final 15 starts.

Over the winter, the 33-year-old Hammel responded by shedding some weight and rededicating himself to a training regimen designed to help take some pressure off his lower body.

After the hamstring/calf issue last July, Maddon had a quick hook with Hammel, who expressed his frustration at various points throughout the end of last year. 

But after the cramp popped up Monday, Hammel saw the big picture and wasn't upset with Maddon, who wanted to play it safe with the Cubs thinking World Series or bust.

"Made the right move," said Hammel, who bounced the ball on the mound in frustration after being removed from the game. "We're all stubborn when we're out there. We want to compete and finish what we started. But the end game is basically to make sure we're staying healthy and it doesn't really do any good to push it there. 

"I honestly felt like I drank the equivalent of Lake Michigan last night. Once it starts to get pretty humid and hot here, I always hydrate really well. I drank so much water last night. I really don't understand why I cramped. We'll figure it out."

If Hammel is forced to miss any time, Maddon said he would turn to Wood or Trevor Cahill for a spot start.

When asked if he feels ready for a spot start, Wood responded simply:

"I feel so. I'm always ready to take the ball."