Bulls

5 Questions with...Chicago Tribune's Chris Kuc

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5 Questions with...Chicago Tribune's Chris Kuc

By Jeff Nuich
CSN Chicago Senior Director of Communications
CSNChicago.com Contributor

October 14, 2009

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the citys most popular personalities on the spot with a new weekly feature entitled 5 Questions with...

Every Wednesday exclusively on CSNChicago.com, its our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This weekwell-respected Chicago Blackhawks beat writer for the Chicago Tribunea man who recently became a first-time dad who is currently contemplating when to put his newborn son on skateshere are 5 Questions withCHRIS KUC!"

BIO: Chris Kuc clearly remembers his first Blackhawks game. He grew up in the western suburbs and his father, recently retired veteran Chicago sports broadcaster Jerry Kuc, took him to Chicago Stadium on Feb. 20, 1980 when Tony Esposito and the Hawks downed the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2.

His most vivid memories of the night are Esposito taking a slap shot to the head and collapsing, sending the crowd of 9,322 into a stunned silence. After a few minutes, the Hall of Fame goaltender stood up, received a standing ovation and finished the game.

It was also the night the United States Olympic hockey team defeated West Germany 4-2 en route to a meeting with the Soviet Union and an eventual gold medal. When the score was announced, the crowd broke into a chant of "USA! USA! From that moment, Kuc was hooked on hockey.

He started working at the Tribune while still in high school at Hinsdale South and has been a copy editor, page designer, high school sports editor and now a beat reporter for an Original Six team. He recently made the move from downtown Chicago to the burbs with his wife and newborn son.

1) CSNChicago.com: Chris, the resurgence of the Blackhawks in terms of marketing and team performance over the past two seasons has been nothing short of amazing. Last years team exceeded many critics expectations when they reached the Western Conference Finals. Now, this year, numerous media outlets are picking them to reach or even win the Stanley Cup Finals. Youre around this roster day in and day out, do you think that kind of pressure is too much, too soon for this young team?

Kuc: Nope. Remember, this is a team with Jonathan "Mr. Serious" Toews as its captain. Which I guess makes him "Captain Serious. At 21, Toews has the poise and determination far beyond his years and it rubs off on his teammates. When I was his age, I considered it an accomplishment if I could find my car keys each morning.

The Hawks may be young but they know how to win and have come to expect it game in and game out. There's a good mix of youthful enthusiasm, veteran know-how and the belief great things are just around the corner. I believe it too.

2) CSNChicago.com: The new Blackhawks leadership with Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough and Jay Blunk at the helm has certainly brought this team back to the spotlight by marketing its stars better than anyone in the league. As far as the NHL is concerned, outside of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, the average sports fan isnt really familiar with other players around the league. In your opinion, is the NHL doing enough in terms of marketing its players and the game itself on a national level?

Kuc: It tries, but until the NHL can be seen on a major television network with regularity, it's fighting an uphill battle. Every season there seem to be more and more charismatic young stars, such as the Hawks' Patrick Kane, and the league needs to do a better job of putting their faces into the mainstream. Too many NHL franchises are plodding along in obscurity and the league has to figure out a way to get teams like Nashville, Columbus, Phoenix, Tampa, etc. noticed. I wouldn't be surprised if some of those franchises look at the model the Hawks' hierarchy has developed and follow suit.

3) CSNChicago.com: Youve covered the Blackhawks for a while now and have traveled to all the major cities in North America. Name the city you most look forward to visiting each year and what city visit makes you want to turn the plane around and head back to Chicago?

Kuc: I look forward to visiting Vancouver more than any other NHL city. It's among the most beautiful cities in the world and has a terrific party scene (from what they tell me). I told David Kaplan on "Chicago Tribune Live" recently that it was the most beautiful city in North America and I got smoked for listing it over Chicago. I love my hometown, but Vancouver is just amazing. If you ever go there, make sure you enjoy the view out the plane window on the way in. It's breathtaking.

If I could play a mulligan each season and skip a city, it would be Columbus. Boring and dull. Did I mention it's boring? Oh, and Detroit. I'm getting sick of Detroit.

4) CSNChicago.com: The legendary hockey film Slap Shot still has a huge following some 33 years later after its release in 1976. Explain the phenomenon of why this particular movie has become a sports film classic?

Kuc: Beyond the fact Paul Newman was terrific as Reggie Dunlop, I believe the Hanson brothers putting on the foil and trying to listen to the anthem is what makes the movie a classic. Great stuff.

5) CSNChicago.com: Congrats on being a new dad Chris. Hows the adjustment to fatherhood been for you so far and, speaking of dads, hows your dad, veteran and recently retired sports broadcast journalist Jerry The Cooker Kuc, doing these days?

Kuc: So far, so good with my son Adam. He came into the world at 8 pounds, 15 ounces so he seems destined to be a defenseman. I keep putting things in his left hand with the hopes he'll become the left-hander the White Sox need in a couple of decades.

My dad is doing well and living the retired life in Southern California. I bet there are still reporters in press boxes across the nation who miss smelling the smoke from his pipe.

BONUS QUESTIONCSNChicago.com: Outside of your regular visits to Comcast SportsNet for Chicago Tribune Live, anything else you want to plug? Whats the latest

Kuc: I'm big on the radio in Western Canada. Those guys talk so much hockey they turn to me every other day to fill dead air, it seems. I recently interviewed some Hawks for a piece about pond hockey that will run in a Tribune special section about things to do in winter so keep an eye out for that. Between blogging, Facebooking, tweeting and finding the occasional moment to write for the paper, I really don't have much else going on.

Kuc LINKS:

Chicago TribuneChris Kucs Icing blog

Chris Kuc on Facebook

Chris Kuc on Twitter

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Kevin Anderson react to a breakout game from Kris Dunn against the Hornets Friday night. They’ll discuss his development and how it impacts rookie Lauri Markkanen. Plus just how long will both the Wolves and Bulls be judged on the Jimmy Butler trade? Is Dwight Howard a hall of famer? And a new era in Philly with Simmons and Embiid. That and more on this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast.

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Kris Dunn did it: You can’t play that position without an edge, without some form of “basketball killer” in you. Kris Dunn showed at the very least, he has that in his DNA in his best game as a Bull with a career-high 22 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

Leave it to Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg to point out a forgotten stat: one turnover in 26 minutes.

“That’s the biggest thing I’m proud of,” Dunn said. “Everyone knows I’ve had a lot of careless turnovers in the season. It’s one thing I’ll take credit for.”

Dunn scored 13 with six assists in the fourth quarter alone as the Bulls outscored the Hornets 40-28 for the comeback victory. More than anything, it was his competitive spirit and aggressiveness that stood out. Kemba Walker stood across the way and gave Dunn—and the Bulls—every bit of 47 points.

“He tested my conditioning, for sure,” Dunn admitted. “He’s a great player. He’s been in the league for so long. It was good to go out there and compete with him.”

It could’ve went a different way had Walker not been bothered by Lauri Markkanen’s challenge at the rim, blowing a layup that would’ve given the Hornets the lead back with seconds remaining but he missed it and the narrative changed at least for a night.

And when teams are talking about learning experiences, it’s good to have them in a win every now and again. Markkanen’s challenge at the rim followed by his closing free throws right after, along with a quietly effective 16 points and seven rebounds, proved huge on this night.

Dunn finally having a confidence booster was imperative.

Dunn scored but it wasn’t an easy 20 or a smooth 20. It was an attacking 20, a necessary 20. He did hit some elbow jumpers, especially in the fourth as the defense laid off him.

But his biggest basket was a slithering drive to the rim for a layup with 2:24 left, because he attacked and was under control.

“That’s huge growth for Kris,” Hoiberg said. “He made the right play darn near every time he had the ball in his hands. Rose up with confidence, knocked down huge shots. Defensively got them going, got steals.”

What a relief: Nobody wanted to say it, but it bore out on the floor, the sheer desperation the Bulls played with.

Coming in with a five-game losing streak and headed out west to for four games in the next week, they were staring in the face of a possible double-digit losing streak to end November.

Confidence was sparse after three bad losses, and it’s a dangerous time for a team that will struggle to win games all season.

The United Center crowd got into it, particularly late when the Bulls began climbing back into contention to start the fourth quarter. The fans wanted this win too, even with the eyes being on a larger prize coming in mid-2018.

The relief was written all over Hoiberg’s usually-stress ridden face and he even cracked a couple jokes that weren’t aimed in his direction, as self-deprecation is normally his escape of choice.

“It is important but I asked the guys: is it hard to play with that type of effort? When you play with that type of energy and effort and swagger, it’s fun,” Hoiberg said. “When you play low energy and hang your head, it’s a drag. It’s hard to play at this level with that mentality.”

Starting change: Justin Holiday returned after his quick leave with his wife delivering a baby girl recently and his game-high 27 points showed he missed the Bulls as much as they missed his shooting, hitting four triples and going 10 for 15 from the field.

“Guys were serious about getting their jobs done,” Holiday said. “It was a lot of energy, a lot of energy, competitiveness. That’s how we have to play every night for our team to do well.”

Denzel Valentine, although he didn’t want to say it, wants to be a starter. Hoiberg chose Quincy Pondexter over him recently and then made the change Friday to insert Valentine for more scoring.

Valentine scored 18 with six assists and five rebounds in 32 minutes of run—and with those two starting as scoring options, the Bulls surpassed that seven-point first-quarter mark really early and scored 26 overall.

He hit a big triple in the fourth with 2:49 left to give the Bulls a 110-109 lead on a set play the Bulls actually executed between Valentine, Dunn as a setup man and Robin Lopez as a screen to pop Valentine open.

If he continues to hit 3-pointers at a 40 percent clip, especially with the way the Bulls have struggled to start games, he’ll have the right to feel he belongs in the first five.

“It’s definitely more confidence,” Valentine said. “You feel you’re an NBA starter, you get to go in and feel it out for a second and bring some energy to start the game.”

He didn’t mince words about starting, with a little honesty saying, “I think it’s huge being a starter.”

When asked if he felt validated by his performance and the result being a high-scoring win, it was just as telling.

“I think I deserve…I think I deserved a starting role,” Valentine said. “At the same time it’s different combinations, different people that need to be on the floor at certain times, so if he feels like I don’t need to start, I won’t start. But I feel very comfortable starting as well.”

Hack-a-Dwight: It could be Hack-a-Dwight, hack-a-Drummond, hack-a-Wilt or Shaq or Charles Shackleford.

The Bulls went to it and Howard went two of four from the line but it took a little rhythm from the Hornets and probably slowed Kemba Walker down just enough before he got cooking in the last 90 seconds and almost pulled a win out of his keister.

But…

I hate it. Get it out of the game completely.