Bulls wrap up preseason in South Bend on CSN

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Bulls wrap up preseason in South Bend on CSN

The Bulls know that for the first time in two seasons they may not be the favorites in the Central division. But that doesn't mean they're buying into the hype surrounding the othercontender for the division title.
And the chip the Bulls will wear on their collective shoulder this season perhaps begins tonight, when Tom Thibodeau's group takes on the Indiana Pacers in South Bend on Comcast SportsNet at 6 p.m.
NBA.com surveyed all 30 general managers last week, and 24 predicted the Pacers would win their division this season. Only six chose the Bulls. While it's just a preseason game, and many teams are shutting their players down on the last day before the regular season, Tom Thibodeau is insistent on playing his regulars to win each contest. A win over the expected Central division winners could go a long way toward gaining momentum heading into the games that do count.
The question hanging over the Bulls is point guard Kirk Hinrich's health. Hinrich went down with a groin injury in Tuesday's win over Oklahoma City, and is listed as a game-time decision tonight. With little on the line, there's a good chance Hinrich sits this one out to give himself eight days of rest before the Bulls open the season against Sacramento on Halloween.
The Pacers also are dealing with a slight injury concern at the point, as George Hill missed Tuesday's game against the the Cavaliers with a hip pointer. Mike Wells said Indiana head coach Frank Vogel "did not sound optimistic" Hill would play tonight. If he can't, the Pacers will roll out free agent acquisition D.J. Augustin and Sundiata Gaines in his place.
Hill, who could be ready for the regular season, was one of two major decisions the Pacers made this offseason. Hill reached an agreement on a five-year deal with the Pacers over the summer. Indiana then matched a max offer sheet the Portland Trail Blazers signed center Roy Hibbert to. Following a 42-24 record and second round playoff appearance a year ago, the Pacers opened their pockets to keep pace in the improving Eastern conference. Hill and Hibbert, combined with Danny Granger and rising young star Paul George give the Pacers a mostly-home grown core certainly ready to compete for the Central title.
Aside from Hinrich, who did not need an MRI on his "tweaked" groin, the Bulls enter their final 48 minutes of preseason play relatively healthy. With Thibodeau expected to play his regular rotation for most of the game, the Bulls will look to play well from start to finish, something that eluded them Tuesday.
A lackluster second half against Oklahoma City erased a 14-point third quarter lead before the Bulls hung on late. Richard Hamilton, the Bulls leading scorer this preseason, said part of that is the team's newcomers still feeling out each other and their own individual roles. Improvement in that department can be seen, as the Bulls have won three straight after a 1-2 start. But it won't be easy against an Indiana team that should give the Bulls their toughest test of the preseason (Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook sat for OKC).
Tonight's matchup, being played at Notre Dame's Joyce Center, won't officially count for anything, but it could act as a small gauge as to who reigns supreme in the Central Division until the teams meet on Dec. 4.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred open to idea of Cubs hosting All-Star Game at renovated Wrigley Field

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred open to idea of Cubs hosting All-Star Game at renovated Wrigley Field

PHOENIX – Rob Manfred is open to the idea of an All-Star Game at a fully renovated Wrigley Field, but the Major League Baseball commissioner won't make any guarantees about the 2020 target date the Cubs have proposed in a joint lobbying effort with Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office.

"I'm not going to get into specific years," Manfred said Tuesday during a Cactus League media event at the Arizona Biltmore. "Because there's a number of clubs – we're fortunate – that have interest in particular years. And I don't want to say anything that would suggest that I'm anywhere near making a decision."

During last month's Cubs Convention, president of business operations Crane Kenney expressed optimism in a Super Bowl-style bidding process, and not the old way of simply alternating the showcase event between the American and National leagues each year.

The Cubs will point to their starring role in a World Series that beat the NFL's "Sunday Night Football" in head-to-head TV ratings and saw more than 40 million people tune in for Game 7. By 2020, the $600 million Wrigleyville development is supposed to be finished, and Emanuel helped broker the deals that moved the NFL draft to Chicago the last two years after a long run at New York's Radio City Music Hall.

"I will say this: A renovated Wrigley Field would be a great location for an All-Star Game," Manfred said. "Chicago is a great city. And over time, we have tried to go to cities that would be great locations for the game – and to reward cities that had made substantial investments in either new or renovated facilities."

The Cubs still see potential roadblocks, needing City Hall's help with an increased security presence around an urban neighborhood ballpark that hasn't hosted the Midsummer Classic since 1990.

Kenney also acknowledged that All-Star Games have been used as bargaining chips in public negotiations in cities like Miami and Washington – Marlins Park (2017) and Nationals Park (2018) will make it four straight All-Star Games for NL stadiums – while the Ricketts family used private mechanisms to fund the project after striking out on other proposals. 

Nemanja Nikolic channels his inner MJ in jersey number

Nemanja Nikolic channels his inner MJ in jersey number

Jersey numbers can be a big deal in soccer. Who is the team's No. 10? Who is the No. 9?

Nemanja Nikolic, a forward who joined the Chicago Fire this offseason as a Designated Player, didn't have the choice of either number that is famously associated with marquee attacking players because both were taken by returning players on the Fire. Instead, he landed on a number more famous in Chicago sports than in soccer.

Nikolic will be wearing 23.

The Fire announced the jersey numbers for the 2017 season with Nikolic's 23 a part of the list. Every returning player kept the same number as last season.

It goes without saying that wearing the No. 23 in Chicago comes with an extra bit of notoriety. Ever since Michael Jordan donned the No. 23 for the Chicago Bulls, it has been a common sight to find the best player on a Chicagoland high school basketball team wearing No. 23. That doesn't translate to the world of soccer, but in Chicago fans will notice.

A spokesman for the club said the number was more coincidence than intentional MJ reference, but if Nikolic has a good season don't be surprised to see signs at Toyota Park referencing Nikolic's jersey number.

In the preseason some of the players have been wearing different jersey numbers from what they will in the regular season. Nikolic has been wearing No. 9 in preseason matches.

Here is a list of the other newcomers and the numbers they will be wearing:

Jorge Bava: 1

Dax McCarty: 6

Djordje Mihailovic: 14

Juninho: 19

Daniel Johnson: 20

Stefan Cleveland: 30