<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Sports]]>Copyright 2016http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.comen-usThu, 30 Jun 2016 20:17:31 -0500Thu, 30 Jun 2016 20:17:31 -0500NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Three Positions the Blackhawks Should Address in Free Agency]]> Thu, 30 Jun 2016 15:48:39 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Brian+Campbell+5112011.jpg

The NHL’s free agency period starts on Friday morning, and teams will be looking to fill in gaps as they pursue a Stanley Cup championship next season.

As is usually the case, the Blackhawks won’t be big spenders in the free agent market, focusing instead on adding pieces to give their roster depth rather than adding high-profile players. Their last major free agent signing was Marian Hossa way back in 2009, and although they’ve made additions such as Brad Richards during that span, none of them have ever come close to matching the yearly salary or term that Hossa received on his 12-year deal.

Even with that in mind, the Blackhawks will still be looking to add a few veterans, and we’re previewing the positions that they’ll need to address as the free agent signing period begins.


The Blackhawks have already made an addition in this area over the offseason, bringing in Czech-born defenseman Michal Kempny on a deal, but they’ll still likely be looking for a veteran puck-mover to help bolster their blue line for the coming year.

That’s where Brian Campbell comes in. The defenseman has gone on record saying that he would love to return to Chicago, and although he would have to take a pay cut to do so, the Hawks do have $5.2 million in cap space to play with, and he would certainly help the team offensively and give Brent Seabrook a reliable partner to play with on a nightly basis.

Scoring Winger

The Blackhawks had to part ways this season with Teuvo Teravainen, and it seems highly unlikely that the team will be able to bring back Andrew Ladd on a new contract. Add to that the fact that Joel Quenneville will likely be cautious about breaking up Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane, and that the team will likely try to ease Nick Schmaltz into the lineup instead of throwing him straight into the fire, and there is certainly an argument to be made that this area presents a need.

Players like Kyle Okposo will be out of the Blackhawks’ price range, but a player like Thomas Vanek, who was just bought out by the Minnesota Wild, could conceivably be a fit. A player like P.A. Parenteau could also be a possibility depending on how much a Campbell contract would cost, but the Hawks would have to be very careful on how much money they dedicate to this position.

Veteran Bottom Six Winger

The Blackhawks are going to hit the market needing to replace guys like Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise in their bottom six, and it seems unlikely that they’ll want to just go into the season with players like Vincent Hinostroza and Ryan Hartman as the players filling those roles.

A reunion with Weise is possible, but with the way Quenneville approached his usage last season, it’d be hard to blame him for not wanting to come back into the situation. A player like Chris Stewart could also be an intriguing option, but he seems to be a player that a team will overpay for in the belief that he could still be a serviceable top-six forward rather than a depth player. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Joakim Noah Likely Heading to New York: Reports]]> Thu, 30 Jun 2016 11:31:08 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/joakim+noah+getty.jpg

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah isn’t thrilled with the direction the team is going, and on Thursday reports began swirling that he has chosen his new destination.

According to a report by ESPN’s Marc Stein, NBA teams have dialed back on their pursuit of Noah because they have learned that his preferred destination is New York to rejoin Derrick Rose with the Knicks:

“The New York Knicks have emerged as the strong favorite to sign free-agent big man Joakim Noah, according to league sources.

“Sources told ESPN that multiple teams interested in Noah have all but conceded that the Knicks are his runaway preferred destination.”

As for price on a contract, Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post had some details, reporting that Noah is expected to sign a deal worth around $18 million per season.

The money is high, but with the NBA’s salary cap expected to take two giant leaps forward over the next two seasons, players at every skill level should expect to receive massive pay bumps as the league really starts to see the impact of their new television contracts with Turner Sports and ESPN.

As for what all this means for the Bulls, the answer is that they’re already prepared for Noah to be playing elsewhere. The team did acquire Robin Lopez in the trade with the Knicks that sent Rose to the Big Apple, and they’ll likely target another big man in free agency, which officially kicks off at 11 p.m. Thursday night. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cubs Make Even More History With Wild Win Over Reds Tuesday]]> Wed, 29 Jun 2016 13:54:09 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-543507598.jpg

Making history has become a routine practice for the Chicago Cubs this season, and on Tuesday night they struck again in a 15-inning thriller against the Cincinnati Reds.

Not only did the game feature six different players (including three pitchers) play left field, but it also saw a blown save, a five-run 15th inning, and some dominant pitching by Jon Lester as the Cubs beat the Reds 7-2 in extras.

The win itself was historic, as the Cubs won their 50th game of the season in just their 76th contest. The victory means that the Cubs have gotten to 50 wins faster than they have in nearly a century, when they started out the 1918 season with a 50-20-1 record. In that season, the Cubs ended up reaching the World Series, but they ultimately lost to the Boston Red Sox in that Fall Classic.

That five-run 15th inning also came with some history attached as well. Javier Baez socked his first career grand slam in that inning, but even more impressive is the fact that it is the latest grand slam that a Cubs player has ever hit in a game. The previous record was a grand slam in the 14th inning by Cliff Johnson in May of 1980.

To cap off the history making evening, the Cubs’ strategy of using three different pitchers to play left field is something that hasn’t happened in over a century. According to the Cubs’ gameday notes, the last time that the team used three pitchers to play defense in the same game was in 1904, when Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown, Bob Wicker, and Frank Corridon all did so. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Serena Williams 'Sad' Some Athletes Skipping Rio Over Zika ]]> Wed, 29 Jun 2016 11:59:58 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP_16133484327092.jpg

Tennis star Serena Williams said she will be attending the Olympics in Rio despite concerns about the spread of Zika and is "sad" some have pulled out because of the virus.

"[That’s] something that's been on my mind," Williams told USA Today over the weekend. "I'm really just gonna have to go super protected maybe. I don't know."

Last month, 150 doctors, scientists and bioethicists from more than a dozen countries wrote a letter urging the World Health Organization to put pressure on Olympic officials to move or postpone the games because of global health concerns over the Zika virus.

The letter's authors wrote that Rio's public health system is too weak to make a serious push to rid the city of the mosquito that transmits the virus.

Since the letter was sent, several athletes have announced they will be skipping the Rio games over Zika fears, including golfers Rory McIlroy and Vijay Singh and cyclist Tejay van Garderen. Other athelets have pulled out, citing injuries, need for rest and other reasons. 

Williams told USA Today it's "sad" that some athletes are choosing to stay home.

"At the same time I obviously understand where they're coming from and how they feel," she said. "Part of me feels that way, too, which is why I'm going in, you know, with a whole mindset of how do I protect myself, how do I prevent and also raise awareness for this. That's kind of how I'm looking at it."

Zika, though primarily transferred through mosquitoes, can be sexually transmitted. The virus has been found to cause serious cognitive defects in newborn babies when contracted during pregnancy. It has also been linked to neurological disorders in adults.

This will be William's fourth time competing in the Olympics. She will be defending her champion title in both singles and doubles. Williams also won doubles gold with her sister Venus in 2000 and 2008.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Nike Tennis Dress Courts Controversy at Wimbledon]]> Wed, 29 Jun 2016 12:02:16 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-543416436.jpg

Nike has come under fire over the tennis dress it designed for its sponsored female athletes at this year's Wimbledon tournament.

The Championships at the All-England Club started Monday, and the dress named "Premier Slam" immediately courted controversy after players were spotted wearing them.

The dress, retailing for $100 on Nike's website, is standard Wimbledon white, but its loose fit and length has some players and fans complaining it reveals too much. Some players have also complained that the dress flies above the waist and gets in the way during plays, NBC's  "Today" show reported.

During qualifying rounds, Britain’s Katie Boulter used a headband as an impromptu belt to try to keep the dress in place. 

German player Sabine Lisicki, speaking at a press conference Tuesday after her 6-1, 6-3 win over Shelby Rogers, said she didn't feel comfortable "showing that much" and opted to wear a more conventional skirt-and-shirt set.

"For me, the most important thing is to feel comfortable and not to think about anything, and with this I feel great," Lisicki added.

But not all players were concerned with the mini. Eugenie Bouchard posted a photo of herself in the garb, with the caption "Short & Sweet." 

According to "Today," Nike has set up an alterations shop at Wimbledon so that players can make adjustments to their dress.

In a statement to "Today" Nike spokesman Matthew Kneller said the alterations are not part of a "recall" to the dress.

"The product has not been recalled and we often customize products and make alterations for athletes as they compete. We work closely with our athletes to provide them with product that helps them perform and feel their best on the court," Kneller wrote.

Wimbledon's famously strict dress code — which defines white as not inclusive of "cream or off-white" — does not specify a length for female players' skirts or dresses, only that it adhere to "common standards of decency."

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Scottie Pippen Lists North Suburban Mansion]]> Thu, 30 Jun 2016 06:17:37 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/pippen+house+0628.jpg

The north suburban home of former Chicago Bulls player Scottie Pippen is now on the market.

The Hall of Famer and his wife, Larsa, listed the five-bedroom, 10,000 square-foot home on a 2.9-acre lot in Highland Park Monday for just under $3.1 million.

Built in 2003, the Pippen family purchased the home for a little over $2.22 million in 2004, according to real estate site Redfin.com. The house boasts an outdoor pool, a wine cellar, and of course, a basketball court with a large rendering of Pippen’s Bulls jersey on the wood floor.

Pippen joins former teammate Michael Jordan in having a home on the market in Highland Park. Jordan originally listed his home in the northern suburb for $29 million in 2012. But four years later, the asking price for the 9-bedroom, 17-bath estate with ‘23’ on the front gate has dropped to $14.9 million.

Photo Credit: Redfin.com]]>
<![CDATA[Faces You Won't See in Rio]]> Wed, 29 Jun 2016 11:01:43 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/skipping_rio_header.jpg Some athletes are opting out of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, citing injuries or concern about the Zika virus, among other reasons.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chicago-Area Swimmers Compete in Finals, 3 Qualify for Rio]]> Wed, 29 Jun 2016 08:11:38 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/ChicagoSwimmers-line.jpg

Chicago was well represented at the final events in the U.S. swimming trials Tuesday night, with four local athletes competing for a spot in Rio, and two emerging victorious. 

Conor Dwyer, of Winnetka, Matt Grevers, of Lake Forest, Olivia Smoliga, of Glenview, and Sean Lehane, of Naperville, all raced in final events in the U.S. swimming trials. In each race, the top two finishers qualified for a spot on the U.S. team. 

Dwyer already qualified for the Games after a second-place finish in the 400-meter freestyle final Sunday, marking his second consecutive Olympics representing the U.S. team in the event.

Dwyer led the 200 free prelims with a time of 1:46.66, then came in second Tuesday night with a time of 1:45.67, just behind Townley Haas with 1:45.66. 

On Monday, Smoliga beat out defending Olympic champion Missy Franklin, one of America’s biggest stars at the London Games four years ago, finishing first in the semifinal for women’s 100 backstroke. Franklin finished in seventh, barely qualifying for Tuesday’s final.

On Tuesday, Smoliga finished first once again with a time of 59.02, qualifying for the event in Rio. Kathleen Baker came in second with a time of 59.29.

Two Chicago-area natives competed in the men's 100-meter backstroke Tuesday. 

Defending Olympic champion Grevers finished third in the finals, falling just short of qualifying with a time of 52.76. And Sean Lehane finished in seventh place, with a time of 54.72. Ryan Murphy and David Plummer finished in 52.26 and 52.28, respectively, earning their spots on Team USA. 

Kevin Cordes, of Naperville, qualified for the men's 100-meter breaststroke Monday night, finishing first in the final round with a time of 59.18. This will be his first Olympic games. 

Photo Credit: AP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chicago Marathon Organizers Announce New 5K on Race Weekend]]> Tue, 28 Jun 2016 17:18:40 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chicago+marathon+GettyImages-492245948.jpg

Every year, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon welcomes thousands of runners from all 50 states and more than 100 countries to a 26.2-mile course through the streets of Chicago.

But this year, runners, fans, friends, and family alike can take part in a new, slightly shorter race on marathon weekend.

The first-ever International Chicago 5K will take place on Saturday, October 8, organizers announced Tuesday. The 3.1-mile race will take place largely along the lakefront and through the city’s Loop, just one day before the iconic Chicago Marathon steps off.

The race starts at 7:30 a.m. at Daley Plaza, and ends in Grant Park near the Chicago Marathon finish line. Registration costs $35, and participants will receive a knit finisher hat. For more information or to register for the race, visit Chicago5K.com.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bryant Lauded for 'Old School' Approach to 3-Home Run Game]]> Tue, 28 Jun 2016 13:33:02 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Kris+Bryant1.png

On Monday night, Chicago Cubs fans in Cincinnati were treated to quite a show by third baseman Kris Bryant, as the slugger blasted three home runs and drilled two doubles in a victory over the Reds.

After Bryant’s third home run of the game, which made him the youngest Cubs player to ever achieve that feat, his teammates playfully urged him to take a curtain call for the numerous Cubs fans in attendance.

Bryant refused to do so.

“I’ve never been the type to show up an opponent, or anybody,” he told media members after the game. “And I don’t think that’s ever happened in baseball. And I definitely didn’t want to be the first. I’m just not that type of player.”

Bryant is one of the big personalities on a team known for their out-of-the-box characters, but he is a dedicated practitioner of old-school baseball. He rarely gawks at home runs and is willing to play any position he is asked to play, and those qualities have endeared him to manager Joe Maddon.

“He enjoys the moment when it occurs but he doesn’t go over the top with it,” he said. “He doesn’t flamboyantly dunk the basketball, he doesn’t spike the football, and he doesn’t flip the bat. He’s a man for all ages.

“I loved everything, obviously, that he did and how he handled the whole day,” he added.

Bryant’s hot hitting against the Reds is nothing new this season. Thanks to Monday’s outburst, the slugger now has a .471 batting average with 13 runs, seven home runs, and 17 RBI against Cincinnati this season in just eight games. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Toews Says Goodbye to Bickell, Shaw on Instagram]]> Tue, 28 Jun 2016 13:03:01 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Toews5.png

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews took to Instagram to say goodbye to a pair of former teammates Monday night. 

“Really gonna miss these two,” he wrote alongside a picture with Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw. “You guys are unbelievable teammates and friends. The locker room as well as the whole city of Chicago will feel your absence.” 

Bickell and Shaw were traded last week. 

Reports has swirled that Shaw was seeking a contract worth $4.5 million per season, and with the Blackhawks hard up against the salary cap, it was decided that they couldn't afford to give in to his contract demands, sending him to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for two second round draft picks

The Blackhawks now own three second round draft picks in this year's draft, with the 39th, 45th, and 50th selections all in their possession. They acquired the 50th overall pick in the trade that sent Bickell and Teuvo Teravainen to the Carolina Hurricanes

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[5 Stunning Facts From Kris Bryant's Historic Monday]]> Tue, 28 Jun 2016 13:22:18 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/169*120/GettyImages-542870698.jpg

All eyes were on Jake Arrieta as he returned to Cincinnati for the first time since throwing a no-hitter there earlier this season, but Kris Bryant stole the show for the Chicago Cubs in a dazzling 11-8 win.

That’s because Bryant set a slew of records in the game, hitting several historic milestones as he pounded three home runs and drove in six RBI in the victory for the Cubs.

Double the Pleasure

Bryant’s three home runs were impressive enough, but he collected two doubles in the game as well, making him the only player in the game’s modern era (since 1900) to hit three homers and two doubles in the same game.

Versatility, Thy Name is Kris

Bryant has been a jack-of-all-trades for the Cubs this season, and on Monday he showed his defensive versatility again as he played both left and right field after starting the game at third base. According to ESPN’s Stats and Info, Bryant is the only player in the last 100 years to hit three home runs and play at least three different positions in a single game.

Move Aside, Mr. Cub

Ernie Banks was just 10 days away from retaining his title as the youngest Cubs player to ever hit three home runs in a game, but Bryant had other ideas on Monday night. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Bryant now holds that title, accomplishing the feat at 24 years and 175 days old. Banks was 24 years and 185 days old when he socked three dingers in a game during the 1955 season.

Gimme Five!

Bryant’s five extra base hits in a game were impressive in their own right, and he became the second Cubs player to ever reach that milestone. The last one? George Gore, who played for the Cubs all the way back in 1885. In a game in July of that year, Gore socked three doubles and two triples for the team, back when they were still known by their original name: the Chicago White Stockings.

Déjà vu for Mr. Arrieta

The last time a player had 16 or more total bases in a game was back in May 2012, when Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton clubbed four home runs and a double to rack up 18 total bases. The first two home runs and the double that Hamilton hit on that remarkable day came off of a familiar face for Cubs fans, as Jake Arrieta was the unlucky pitcher on the hill that day for the Baltimore Orioles. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Pat Summitt's Storied Coaching Career in Photos]]> Tue, 28 Jun 2016 13:33:13 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-73800271.jpg

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Iconic Chicago Bears Coach Buddy Ryan Dies]]> Tue, 28 Jun 2016 11:10:09 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Buddy+Ryan.png

Buddy Ryan, a legendary NFL coach known for masterminding the iconic defense of the 1985 Chicago Bears, has died after a long battle with cancer. 

His agent James Solano confirmed the death to ESPN and NFL Media on Tuesday morning.

Ryan was the Chicago Bears defensive coordinator and architect of the famed "46 defense" that helped the team destroy the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX. 

“Buddy Ryan was the architect of the greatest defense our league has seen. He was brilliant when it came to the X’s and O’s of the game, but what made him special was his ability to create an unwavering confidence in the players he coached," Bears Chairman George H. McCaskey said in a statement. "From the day he was hired in 1978, his defenses bought into more than the scheme, they bought into him and took on his personality. Buddy was brash, intelligent and tough. He was a perfect match for our city and team, which is why George Halas took the extraordinary step of keeping him at the behest of his defensive players while transitioning to a new coaching staff in 1982. We will always be grateful for Buddy’s contribution to the Bears. He is one of the team’s all-time greats. Our prayers are with his family.”

Ryan also helped lead the New York Jets to the team's only Super Bowl victory in 1969 as a defensive line coach.

Ryan served as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals during his 35 seasons coaching in the NFL.

His sons, Rex and Rob Ryan, coach the Buffalo Bills. Rex Ryan was also the former head coach of the Jets.

This story is developing. Check back for details.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[A Look Back at the Legendary Basketball Career of Pat Summitt]]> Wed, 29 Jun 2016 08:26:01 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-136040800-summitt.png Pat Summitt was the winningest coach in Division I college basketball history and during her 38-year career at Tennessee, she brought the Lady Vols to eight national championships. She died at age 64 after fighting Alzheimer's Disease.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[2016 Rio Olympic Games: Swimming]]> Wed, 29 Jun 2016 12:14:44 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP_16117516881811-rio-olympic-park.jpg

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Bulls' Denzel Valentine Has Big Celebrity Fan]]> Mon, 27 Jun 2016 20:26:44 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-542655888.jpg

Denzel Valentine and Denzel Washington may share the same first name, but that is no coincidence. 

The 6-foot-5 versatile guard shares a special connection to the famous actor, his parents said.

“Denzel is named after Denzel [Washington],” his mother Kathy Valentine said. “And why? Because we knew he’d be handsome.”

Well, that name clearly paid off when Denzel Washington, who is a big basketball fan, called the young player earlier this year. 

“We got to talk for a second and it was an honor,” Valentine told NBC Chicago. “I mean he sounded just like the guy in the movies.”

Washington confirmed the phone call in a video posted to TMZ Sports' YouTube page Monday, saying, "I tracked him down cause how many Denzels do you meet?" 

It's not clear if Valentine's new sports home means Washington will now become a Bulls fan.

When asked in the video, the celebrity actor responded with, 'Oh, is that our car there?" He then smiles and walks away. 

Washington and Valentine have been confused numerous times during Valentine's basketball career.

The Associated Press accidentally tweeted in March that Denzel Washington was named its College Player of the Year. It later corrected the error in a separate tweet, saying, "Sorry Denzel Washington. We do love you, but Denzel Valentine is actually AP Player of the Year."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Arrieta Looks to Replicate No-Hit Magic vs. Reds Monday]]> Mon, 27 Jun 2016 14:53:52 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/238*120/ap-cubs-jake-arrieta_0.jpg

The Chicago Cubs are reeling after losing six of their last seven games, but they’ll hope to get things turned around on Monday as Jake Arrieta takes the hill at the Great American Ballpark.

Of course, Cubs fans will recognize that the game means just a bit more than just another day at the ballpark. That’s because in Arrieta’s last start against the Reds, the Cubs’ ace struck out six batters and threw his second-career no-hitter in a 16-0 demolition of Cincinnati.

Throwing 119 pitches, Arrieta did walk four batters, but it didn’t matter as he blanked the Reds and reaffirmed his status as one of the game’s best pitchers.

Now, with the two teams set to do battle again at the scene of one of Arrieta’s greatest performances, the Reds are eager to try to get revenge against the hurler.

“Anyone with any pride would like to face him again,” Reds manager Bryan Price told reporters on Monday. “We’re chomping at the bit to get another opportunity to beat him.”

Arrieta has made six career starts against the Reds, and needless to say, he’s been successful. Reds batters have hit a paltry .148 against him in those games, and Arrieta is sporting a solid 2.81 ERA against the team. His 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings is his third-best against any team in the league, and he has walked just 13 batters in 41 and two-thirds innings of work. 

Photo Credit: Associated Press]]>
<![CDATA[Valentine to Don Familiar Number for Bulls Fans]]> Mon, 27 Jun 2016 13:37:38 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Denzel+Valentine.png

The Chicago Bulls unveiled their newest player on Monday morning as they introduced guard Denzel Valentine to the media, but before he even sat down at the podium, the player made some waves.

That’s because of the uniform number that he will wear when he first steps on the floor at the United Center this fall. When Valentine is introduced, he will don the number “45,” which astute Bulls fans will surely recognize as having belonged, albeit briefly, to the greatest player to ever play for the organization.

When he came back from retirement in 1995, Michael Jordan opted not to bring down his iconic “23” from the rafters at the United Center, and instead wore the number “45,” a throwback to his high school days.

Eventually he did go back to the number 23, but his brief stint wearing 45 was certainly the most memorable one for a Bulls player donning that uniform. Others like Rasual Butler and Ed Nealy have worn it, but Valentine will hope to kick off a new era with the digits this season.

Aside from his choice of number, there was one other notable theme that emerged during the press conference introducing Valentine to the media: his versatility. As a 6-foot-4 guard, Valentine isn’t a traditional point guard, but the Bulls’ coaching staff is confident that he will adapt to whatever they ask him to do.

“You can use him in a lot of different ways,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s a downhill guy and get into the paint and make plays. He can shoot. Denzel attacks, and the more guys you can get into the paint the better. He’s a smart player. You don’t have to have a pure point guard if you have multiple ballhandlers, and that’s a role that Denzel can fill.”

During his four years at Michigan State, Valentine was coached by legendary bench boss Tom Izzo, and the winning culture that the Spartans have created was also praised by Hoiberg.

“He’s going to go out there and he’s going to fight,” he said. “He’s been in so many high pressure games. For a guy who played in a Final Four and made big play after big play, that translates. He’s been part of a winning culture, and that’s huge. That will move onto his teammates.”  

Above all else, there is one thing that Valentine prides himself on: playing through adversity and injury.

“Winning is key for me, and I hate letting my team down,” he said. “If I can play, I can play.”

<![CDATA[Shamier Little Breaks World Record in 400-meter Hurdles]]> Mon, 27 Jun 2016 12:42:59 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/NUP_171785_1891.jpg

Expect big things from Olympic track and field hopeful Shamier Little.

The Chicago native ran 53.51 seconds in the 400-meter hurdles at the NCAA tournament in early June, making her the world-leader in the event for the 2016 season.

Little won her third consecutive NCAA Championship on June 11. According to the Team USA website, this is the second consecutive time Little has held the world-leading time. In the 2015 NCAA tournament, Little ran the 400-meter hurdles in 53.74.

“The day of [the race] I visualize it … I’m just too nervous,” Little said in a recent interview with NBC. “I visualize every scenario [and] at the end of the day it’s all about bringing it home. I just visualize getting out and maintaining and being able to come home strong.“

Little's weekend record ranks her as the second all-time collegiate athlete in the event. Standford University’s Kori Carter holds the leading collegiate record of 53.21 set in 2013.

Little brought her talent to Beijing in the August 2015 International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships where she won silver in the 400-meter. In 2014, Little won gold at the U.S Junior Outdoor Championships also in the 400-meter.

Little said the World Championships are very different from the NCAA tournament.

“It’s like the NCAA, but it’s people who have won NCAA two, three years back and they’re all here for [the] World Championship,” Little said. “It’s amazing. It’s ten times better than the NCAA.”

Track and field final trials for the Rio Olympics are July 1-10.

“It’s all starting to hit me now. I’m like ‘Wow, this is happening!,’ said Little. “After looking over my season and then coming here (Rio), it’s like ‘Okay, they have hopes in me.’ Maybe I should have a lot of hope in me too.”

Photo Credit: NBC]]>
<![CDATA[Conor Dwyer Lands Spot on Olympic Swimming Team]]> Mon, 27 Jun 2016 13:00:01 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Conor+Dwyer.jpg

The USA Men’s Olympic Swimming team now has a suburban Chicago native added to its roster.

Conor Dwyer, who hails from Winnetka, finished second in the 400-meter freestyle final Sunday in Omaha to qualify for the Games. This marks his second consecutive Olympics representing the U.S. team in the event.

In the 2012 Olympic trials, Dwyer finished second in the 400-meter freestyle, also earning him a spot on the Olympic team in London. Dwyer finished fifth in the event overall in the Olympics that year.

According to USA Swimming, Dwyer was the national champion in the 400-meter freestyle in 2015 at the AT&T Winter Nationals.

As a 6-year-old who began swimming just for fun, the now 27-year-old has made it further than he could have dreamed.

In an interview earlier this year with NBC, Dwyer reflected on his potential bid for the Rio Olympics.

“I always had that dream watching it [Olympics] as a kid at like age six,” Dwyer said. “I didn’t really realize I had an actual shot until I grew like six inches in college. Then I became a NCAA swimmer my junior year in college, so it kind of hit me later on. But I always was working toward that dream even when I was 5-foot-6, 125 pounds. I was getting the hardest work in on my team, but maybe I was the smallest guy.”

Dwyer said he put in some of the best training of his career for the Rio Olympics and was excited to see these past three years of hard work pay off.

“Pretty much my goal right now is the Olympic trials and being the best I can be there,” Dwyer said. “That event, Olympic trials, I thought sometimes even more challenging than the Olympics itself. Right now I’m trying to be the best American swimmer I can be and then once I get on that team, it’ll be fun and getting to represent your country is easier than the part of trying to make it.”

Following this past weekend, Dwyer will have accomplished his goal and be representing the United States yet again, this time in Rio. 

<![CDATA[Jake Arrieta Loses Tattoo Bet With Tommy La Stella]]> Mon, 27 Jun 2016 11:10:34 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/ap-jake-arrieta-chicago-cubs.jpg

Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta is proud of the time he spent as a hurler for the TCU Horned Frogs, but his loyalty to his alma mater is coming at a hefty price this week.

According to a report from Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago, Arrieta is going to be getting a new tattoo after TCU lost to Coastal Carolina in the semi-finals of the College World Series. Coastal Carolina, who will play the University of Arizona this week for the championship, is the alma mater of Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella, and he won a bet with Arrieta that will see the loser get the tattoo of the opposing team in the game.

“When we get back to Chicago, we’ll get him tatted up for life,” La Stella said in the afterglow of his victory.

Unfortunately for La Stella, he didn’t get away unscathed in the friendly wagering. He will have to dress up as the Horned Frogs’ mascot since TCU did beat Coastal Carolina in a game earlier in the tournament.

Arrieta already has some sentimental ink, with tattoos honoring his kids and his wife Brittany, but this trip to the tattoo parlor will be a decidedly less happy affair for the star pitcher. 

Photo Credit: The Associated Press]]>
<![CDATA[Oregon Track and Field Star Pierced in Eye With Javelin ]]> Sat, 25 Jun 2016 17:15:04 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/ambulance-shutterstock_565683792.jpg

An Oregon track and field athlete’s eye was pierced with a javelin after he tripped and fell onto the spear during a meet Friday, NBC News reported. 

Parker Kennedy, 18, was competing at the USA Track & Field Oregon Championships when he fell face-first into the javelin, Hood River Valley High School track and field coach Donnie Herneisen said. 

Kennedy was hospitalized, where he was upgraded from serious to stable condition. 

Kennedy is a star athlete and won the State Pole Vault Championship in May. Kerneisen said the athlete was signed to compete for the University of Washington.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Blackhawks Look to the Future with NHL Draft Picks]]> Sat, 25 Jun 2016 11:48:17 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chicago+blackhawks+GettyImages-496336432.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks finally got their first chance to select a player in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft on Saturday morning, as they drafted scoring machine Alex DeBrincat.

DeBrincat, whom the Blackhawks took with the 39th overall pick of the draft, was one of only two players in this year’s draft class that scored 50 goals at the junior level. With the Erie Otters of the OHL, DeBrincat scored 51 goals and dished out 50 assists in 60 games, and he added eight more goals in 13 playoff contests.

The American-born forward was the 21st-ranked North American skater, according to NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings issued earlier this spring.

The Blackhawks also had two other selections in the second round, taking defenseman Chad Krys out of the US National Team Development Program and forward Artur Kayumov out of Russia.

Krys, a Philadelphia-native and the second consecutive American drafted by the Blackhawks, is a great puck-mover, with 26 assists in 53 games for the US National Under-18 team this season. Kayumov scored 12 goals and dished out 19 assists for Team Russia’s Under-18 club in Russia’s junior hockey league.

The Blackhawks went down the board a bit in the third round, taking Belgian goaltender Wouter Peeters. Peeters, who will play for Jokerit in the KHL next season, is widely viewed as a physically imposing talent that will need some serious polishing, as his 3.80 goals against average for EC Salzburg last season would indicate.

In the fourth round, the Blackhawks had two different selections, drafting Swedish defenseman Lucas Carlsson with the 110th overall pick and center Nathan Noel with the 113th pick. Carlsson, a 6-foot-0 defenseman with some offensive punch, had four goals and five assists in 35 games with Brynas IF in the Swedish Hockey League this season.

Noel, who played for the Saint John Sea Dogs in the QMJHL, scored 21 goals and had 36 assists in 61 games, and although he takes a lot of penalties (he racked up 94 penalty minutes this season for the Sea Dogs), the Blackhawks are hopeful that he can continue to develop his scoring touch to go along with his 6-foot-0 frame. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>