From Comcast SportsNetCHICAGO (AP) -- Starlin Castro was barely out of his teens when he made his big league debut. Now it looks as though he'll still be donning Cubbie blue when he hits his 30s.The Chicago Cubs and their young shortstop agreed to a seven-year contract with a club option for 2020, the team said Tuesday. The deal could keep Castro in Chicago until after his 30th birthday."Only the most talented players get to the big leagues at 20," said Cubs general manger Jed Hoyer. "I'm sitting here with a 22-year-old veteran right now. That was a big part of our decision."The way it was looking, Starlin was going to be a free agent way too early. He's a big part of our future. We have four years of control with him after this year. By doing this deal, we now have eight."Castro is a two-time All-Star in just his second full major league season, and he led the National League in hits with 207 last season. Since making his major league debut on May 7, 2010, Castro has more hits than any player in the NL with 486."I want to be here for a long time and winning," Castro said. "My family (will) change, but nothing (will) change for myself. (The money is) not going to stop me from working hard every day on the field."Castro was originally signed by the Cubs as a non-drafted free agent on Oct. 25, 2006. Terms of the new deal were not released by the team, but published reports have placed the guaranteed money at 60 million over the duration of the extension, a figure Castro was asked about in Tuesday's press conference."It's big, especially for my family, coming from very poor people," Castro said. "Now my family is going to be better, their lives changing."Castro motioned toward his father, who was standing nearby, and said, "My dad wanted me to play baseball every time. He got me here."While Castro's raw talent has always been evident, things have not always gone smoothly for a player who skirted with trouble off the field and suffered well-publicized mental lapses on it. He was accused of sexual assault following the 2011 season, though Cook County prosecutors declined to press charges, citing insufficient evidence.Castro's on-field focus has also been questioned, most notably during a nationally-televised game last season when cameras captured him with his back to the plate as a pitch was being delivered.Despite the occasional bouts with immaturity, the Cubs feel Castro is going to be a foundation player for a club just beginning its rebuilding process under a new front office regime headed by vice president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and Hoyer."It's been fun getting to know Starlin as a person, but also watching him play every day," Hoyer said. "Shortstop is a really hard position to fill in today's game, especially with someone who can provide it with offense."There is no question in my mind that he can play shortstop in the big leagues on a championship team."Castro whet the appetite of Cubs fans from the start, homering in his first career at-bat and setting a big league record with six RBIs in his debut. He was taken in by Cubs veteran Alfonso Soriano, a fellow Dominican who helped mentor Castro at the beginning of his career."He's very important," Castro said of Soriano. "When I first got here, he took me to live in his house. He talked to me about baseball and how important baseball is for you and your family."Castro, a career .296 hitter, was batting .276 this season with 12 homers and 63 RBIs before Tuesday night's game against Milwaukee. He's struggled recently and admitted he might have been slightly distracted by the negotiations between the Cubs and his agent, Paul Kinzer."It'll be interesting to see if there is any change now that this thing is behind him and he'll be here for a long time," said Cubs manager Dale Sveum. "When you get that first contract, you can relax and realize that there really is only one thing to play for and that's winning the World Series."
The bigget emphasis on the offensive end under coach Scott Brooks, since training camp and through seven preseason games, is spacing. Whether Bradley Beal is running the offense or John Wall has them flow into pick-and-rolls before calling a set, the ball doesn't move so effortlessly if the floor is congested.
That's where Otto Porter comes in. Going into his fourth season, and second as the starter at small foward, this is where he should flourish. Porter doesn't thrive standing still in the corner for catch-and-shoot three-pointers. He prefers to be moving to the ball, and the off-ball movement and spacing that creates the avenues for the passes from the guards allows him to maximize his skill-set.
"We can get anything we want as long as everybody keep moving, everybody keep sharing the ball," said Porter, who had the tendency to disappear during long stretches of games or multiple games under Randy Wittman.
Center Marcin Gortat is optimistic by what he sees overall. In the Wizards' last preseason game, a win over the Toronto Raptors, they had 33 assists on 49 field goals. Beal had nine assists and no turnovers.
"We’re moving the ball much better than we’ve been moving the last few years," Gortat said. "We run completely different drills in practice. … We have a lot of options."
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Gortat is one of the top five screening big men in the NBA, and Brooks has his guards doing more screening as well. Taking advantage of defenses watching the ball when Wall has it with backdoor cuts for slip passes is more common.
"The perimeter guys are doing a good job of finding open cuts to the basket. Otto was one of the best at doing it," Brooks said. "We have to continue to work on our spacing. Sometimes we don’t want you to cut. You have to space out."
The change is welcomed for Wall who doesn't have to do everything all the time with defenses loading to him on the ball. Porter can be a more effective third scorer. With more players touching the ball it will keep them engaged and in theory make them more productive.
"With our offense, he just wants movement," Wall said of Brooks' philosophy. "I talk to guys about cutting at certain times. I think Otto, he’s one of the best cutters in the league when he has the opportunity to do it. When we’re penetrating and driving there’s so much attention on us we have guys like (Markieff Morris) that can pass and (Gortat) who can knock down shots. It’s about cutting and getting the timing down pat. Our starting five is a free-flowing offense.”
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Sporadically, John Wall would post up smaller guards last season. It didn't become a staple of his game, however, and Bradley Beal didn't do much of it either when he was being defended by them.
Scott Brooks is trying to change that immediately. In seven preseason games, that was one of many focal points for the offense.
Wall is a big point guard at 6-4 and physically strong. Beal isn't exceptionally big for a shooting guard, but he has gotten more size and grown an inch taller than his backcourt mate. When 6-footers such as Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors have to switch onto Beal, the Wizards are getting the ball to him quickly at the rim to force a rotation from a second player to help or clear out for Beal to go to work.
“As we all evolve we’re going to have to push ourselves to play different spots on the floor. John has great size at his position," Brooks said. "For him to post up and be a playmaker from that spot, defenses are not used to that. There are not a lot of pure point guards who can post up. He has the strength and he has the quickness and obviously he has the passing ability. With Brad, they have to make a decision. Are they going to put a bigger guy on John? We’re going to have that opportunity with Brad also."