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5 Questions with...CSN's David Kaplan

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5 Questions with...CSN's David Kaplan

By Jeff Nuich
CSN Chicago Senior Director of CommunicationsCSNChicago.com Contributor

November 25, 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 weekEmmy-award winning host of Comcast SportsNets Chicago Tribune Live (Monday-Friday from 5:30-6:30 PM) and host of WGN AM 720s Sports Central (Monday-Friday from 7:00-9:00 PM)hes a multimedia superstarhes the Kapmanhere are 5 Questions withDAVID KAPLAN!

BIO: Veteran Chicago radio sports reporter David Kaplan joined Comcast SportsNet in 2008 as the primary host of Chicago Tribune Live. He recently was honored with an Emmy for hosting CTL by the ChicagoMidwest Chapter of NATAS. Along with his duties for Comcast SportsNet, Kaplan is the host of Sports Central on WGN Radio AM 720. He has earned six Achievement in Radio awards and was named Newsfinder of the Year by the AP for breaking several stories. Kaplan also works as a college football and basketball play-by-play commentator for ESPN. Before coming to WGN Radio in 1995, Kap was midday host on WMVP-AM in Chicago after the station adopted an all-sports format in November of 1993. He is a former college basketball coach at Northern Illinois University (1982-86) and was a scout for both the Indiana Pacers and the Seattle Supersonics of the NBA.

In 1988, Kaplan was the Player Personnel Director for the Chicago Express of the World Basketball League (WBL). His duties included drafting and signing all players, as well as trades and contracts. Kaplan has appeared as a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and appears in the movie Hoop Dreams, which is a story of the dream of two Chicago area prep stars to reach the NBA.

Raised in Skokie, IL, David attended Hamline University in St. Paul, MN, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in English and played both football and baseball. He also earned the "First Decade" award for the most outstanding performance by a Hamline alum in their first 10 years out of college. Kaplan was also named "Father of the Year" by the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative.

David and his wife Mindy reside in the northern suburbs. He is the father of four teenage boys (son Brett and stepsons Nicholas, Alex and Garret). He also has three of the greatest dogs in the world: a miniature Goldendoodle named Studly, a Yellow Labrador named Rocky and a mixed breed named Yoshii, who was adopted at a Chicago Wolves game in February of 2008. He is an avid golfer and still plays baseball as a member of the 35 and over Chicago North Panthers of the Men's Senior Baseball League (MSBL).

1) CSNChicago.com: Kap, the majority of your fans know you as the host of Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet and host of Sports Central on WGN AM 720, but many people may not be aware of your expertise in the sport of basketball. As a former college coach, an NBA scout and the operator of a highly-heralded basketball recruiting service, what specific attributes did you look for in a player you scoutedrecruited and, a quick follow-up question, what separates a good player from a great player?

Kaplan: Whenever I scouted a player, whether it was at the HS level when I was coaching at Northern Illinois or when I was scouting the college ranks for both the Seattle Sonics or the Indiana Pacers, the first thing that I looked for was athletic ability. No matter how good an athlete you are, you also have to have a great basketball IQ because too many players can jump out of the gym or can make shots but they don't have an understanding of how the game is played. Very few players combine basketball savvy with the athleticism necessary to star in either college basketball or the NBA. Obviously, Michael Jordan is the perfect example of a player who had the whole package but look at Derrick Rose in today's game. He is a great athlete and he has a very high basketball IQ. I truly believe that he will be a huge star as the Bulls continue to surround him with more talent.

2) CSNChicago.com: Youre no doubt one of the top multimedia threats in town with your extensive work on television, radio and the internet. Tell us what specifically interested you about the sports media biz to the point of making career out of it and who would you say are your mentors in our industry?

Kaplan: I always wanted to work in sports since I was a child. I remember making a microphone out of a paper towel roll and announcing the Chicago sports scores, especially the Cubs and the Blackhawks, which were my two favorite teams growing up. During my 20 years in the media, I have been very fortunate to have a few tremendous mentors who took an inexperienced guy and helped me to learn the business the right way. The guys who I consider mentors include Thom Brennaman, who is a superstar in baseball and football. Doug Collins, who I met when I was coaching his son Chris on a basketball team, was great to me when I started doing color on college basketball games. He would let me bring my game tapes over to his house and he would break down my analysis so I would understand the right way to call a game. You can also add in Tom Dore and Steve Stone to that list. However, Coach John McDougal, who hired an unknown 21 year old kid as his assistant basketball coach at NIU in 1982, is probably the biggest mentor of my professional life. He took a chance on me and he taught me how to understand not only the game, but how to carry yourself as a professional. I call him my second father because of how important he has been in my life. I love him dearly.

3) CSNChicago.com: As one of the biggest Cubs fans in the city who knows this team inside out, what would be your top three organizational recommendations to new Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts and, for Cubs Vice PresidentGeneral Manager Jim Hendry, what would be your top three off-season team recommendations going into next season?

Kaplan: For Tom Ricketts, my first recommendation would be to be very visible to the fan base, especially during his first season. He and his brothers and sister need to know what Cubs fans are thinking. I would also create an e-mail address for fans to submit ideas. Ozzie Guillen answers e-mails from fans and he has said that he will even try some of the ideas that are sent in to him. The Ricketts family can learn the needs and concerns of their fan base if they take the time to listen to them. From meeting the family, I believe that, as die hard Cubs fans, they want to improve the experience for a fan at Wrigley Field and they will indeed do all they can to make the Chicago Cubs the premier organization in Major League Baseball. Second, I would hire a baseball expert such as a former manager or player who has a tremendous understanding of how the game should be played to be his assistant so that he has a great handle on the inner workings of the sport from an on field perspective. Third, I would also add in some family friendly and kid friendly things such as letting kids run the bases after a weekend game.

For Jim Hendry, I would do these three things:

1) Move Ryan Theriot to 2B: That is where his long term future is with the Cubs so why not get him comfortable there now?

2) Add a 1 starter: Roy Halladay is available and he immediately makes your team a legitimate contender. Starting pitching is the most important quality in building a championship team. The Cubs have a questionable rotation with Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells definitely back. Ted Lilly is coming off of shoulder surgery and has to be considered a question mark. Add in very average starters in Sean Marshall, Tom Gorzelanny and Jeff Samardzija and you do not currently have a rotation that looks like it is of world championship caliber. They have to add another top flight starter.

3) Get on base!: The Cubs have to emphasize on base percentage more than they have in the past. They need to add more speed to the lineup and a top flight on base machine who can help ignite rallies is a must to upgrade the lineup.

4) CSNChicago.com: What do you think you would be doing in your career if you were not involved in sports broadcasting? (Note to Kap: anything basketball or sports-related in general is not an option.)

Kaplan: My late father was a lawyer and a huge sports fan. He is the reason that I am doing what I am doing for a living. However, I was accepted into law school after college, so I guess I would be practicing law if I wasn't in sports. However, my entrepreneurial spirit might have led me to running my own business of some sort. I was not cut out to sit behind a desk from 8-5 everyday. No way!

5) CSNChicago.com: Congrats to you and the staff on the big Emmy win for Chicago Tribune Live. What has been your personal highlight so far as host of the show and who would you say is that one elusive guest that youre still trying to corral for a live in-studio appearance?

Kaplan: Thanks for the kind words. Winning the Emmy was a testament to the tremendous group of people we have who work incredibly hard on the show each and every day. Executive producer Lissa Christman, show producer Jeff Nelson and booking producer Ezra McCann are incredible professionals who do all they can to make our show so timely and creative. Our director Terry Cortez is the best in the business and our editor Eric Greenamyre is extremely good at making the show look great.

My personal highlight was taking the show on the road throughout the Blackhawks playoff run last spring. It was unbelievable to have guys like Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Tony Esposito and Denis Savard on our shows and to cover such an exciting team. The one dream panel that I want to host? Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama talking about how sports played such a great role in their lives. That would be an awesome experience!

BONUS QUESTIONCSNChicago.com: Anything you want to promote Kap? Tell us, CSNChicago.com readers want to hear about it

Kaplan: I have a special needs son, Brett, who has Fragile X Syndrome, which is on the Autistic spectrum. If anyone can make a donation to the National Fragile X Foundation, it would be most appreciated. He is a wonderful kid who works extremely hard everyday in school and has made tremendous strides over the past few years. Also, check out my blog on chicagonow.comkap, which I update all the time. Also, please follow me on Twitter @thekapman. I am always working to break stories in the sports world!

Kaplan LINKS:

Comcast SportsNetChicago Tribune Live page

WGN AM 720Sports Central page

Kaps Corner blog on ChicagoNow.com

David Kaplan on Facebook

David Kaplan on Twitter

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime loss to Oilers: Connor McDavid adds to highlight reel

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USA TODAY

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime loss to Oilers: Connor McDavid adds to highlight reel

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night:
 
1. Shake-up on power play doesn't work.

Joel Quenneville spruced up his power play units before Wednesday's game in an effort to snap a dry spell, but the Blackhawks had no luck in that department in the second of a back-to-back.

The Blackhawks went 0-for-5 on the man advantage against an Oilers team that was ranked dead last in penalty kill percentage going into the contest, and failed to capitalize on a 5-on-3 opportunity for 56 seconds in the opening minutes of the season period.

They're getting off a fair amount of shots, but the quality of them isn't there.

2. Ryan Hartman fine after brief exit due to illegal hit.

It was a physical game between the Blackhawks-Oilers, but a line was crossed at the 4:59 mark into the second period when Zack Kassian delivered a huge hit on Hartman, who went face-first into the boards.

Kassian was given a two-minute minor penalty for boarding, a call that didn't sit well with the sold-out United Center crowd of 21,444. Hartman went to the locker room to be checked out after the hit despite getting up quickly and showing no visible signs of distress, but he fortunately returned a few shifts later.

It was a dangerous hit by Kassian, and an avoidable one too. 

Quenneville admitted Hartman getting up quickly perhaps may have "helped" keep it a minor penalty and not a five-minute major, but the Blackhawks coach wasn't focused on that after seeing the result unfold.

"I saw how hard it looked," Quenneville said. "But Hartzy getting up right away, that helped. You don't even measure it anymore after that. That's the one thing you're hopeful for right off the bat."
 
3. Connor McDavid adds another play to highlight reel.

We're only two weeks into the season, but the 20-year-old reigning Hart Trophy winner submitted an early entry for Assist of the Year.

Late in the first period, McDavid flew from his own end into the offensive zone, made a spin-o-rama move on two-time Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith and backhanded a perfect pass to Patrick Maroon, who tapped in a goal at the doorstep.

It looks impossible to defend from anyone watching, and Keith pretty much felt the same way.

"When he gets the speed in the other end there and he's able to skate all the way down, it's tough to stop a guy especially when he's that fast," Keith said. "He's just flying through the middle. I'm just a sitting duck there at the other end of the ice waiting for him to come full speed. It's a hard play to defend against."
 
4. Anton Forsberg sharp again.

It's a small sample size, but the Blackhawks' backup goaltender has looked really sharp in practically every start he's had in a Chicago uniform, including preseason.

He deserved a better fate in his regular season debut last week in Toronto when he stopped 39 of 43 shots in an overtime loss, and the same applied here.

Forsberg tied a career-high with 40 saves, and seemingly got better as the game went on.

"I for sure felt more comfortable, felt like I was more used to the speed," Forsberg said. "It's tough again to lose in overtime, obviously I wanted a win and that's kind of frustrating."

"Excellent games, both games," Quenneville said of his goaltender. "Would've been nice to get him a win tonight."
 
5. Jordan Oesterle keeps it simple in debut.

The Blackhawks' crowded blue line has made it difficult for Quenneville to give all eight defensemen a fair amount of playing time, but Oesterle took advantage of his season debut.

He logged 15:01 of ice time, registered three shot attempts (two on goal), and blocked two shots.

"I liked him," Quenneville said. "Moves the puck."

Said Keith: "I thought he was good. Tough situation for him, he hasn't played all year in a game but I thought he played good. He's got good poise, he's smart back there."

Emotional return to the court for Quincy Pondexter after missing two seasons: 'The journey is worth it'

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USA TODAY

Emotional return to the court for Quincy Pondexter after missing two seasons: 'The journey is worth it'

Quincy Pondexter’s trade to Chicago makes him a newcomer. His birth certificate makes him a veteran. But it’s his story that makes him worth listening to.

Even in the eye of team chaos, Pondexter’s debut with the Bulls had such a special meaning that when he entered the game to start the second quarter, he thought he would come to tears.

Having been out of basketball the last two years after knee surgeries went bad, Pondexter came close to dying in a New York hospital in January when his organs began to fail after a MRSA infection.

Catching MRSA can often lead to death.

“It wasn’t looking good,” Pondexter said. “It was tough. I prayed. My family was there close to me. Being able to play basketball again in less than a year is crazy. It’s all God. This journey has been amazing.”

His journey took him from being in New Orleans, where his knee troubles started, to being an addition to the Bulls in a trade months ago when the Bulls picked up cash and a second-round pick from the Pelicans.

Pondexter joined high school teammate and close friend Robin Lopez on a team needing some leadership, and due to the punch Bobby Portis threw to Nikola Mirotic Tuesday afternoon, it put Pondexter in position to get on the floor as a backup power forward behind rookie Lauri Markkanen.

If the Bulls were smart, they’d probably put Pondexter in a room to talk to his teammates about his struggles, especially the two teammates who may have to share the same floor in several weeks.

“The competitive nature of our team has been really terrific and we wouldn't want to trade that for anything,” Pondexter said. “It hurts those two guys aren't here right now. But we love them and we love what they brought to this team.

“I think my age on my ID solidifies me as one of the veterans. When you do things the right way, that's what it means to be a veteran. Show up first, last one there. That's what it means to be a veteran. Establishing myself there and doing things that are right, the guys have followed and listened and embraced me and I love it.”

No word on whether Pondexter got teary-eyed when he got a breakaway steal and dunk for his first points since the 2015 playoffs, when the Pelicans were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual champion Warriors.

“I know I’m going to get emotional on the court later on and probably tear up,” Pondexter said after the morning shootaround. “I told Robin that a thousand times. People don’t know what you’ve been through. There are a lot of times they’re not there besides your close family and friends. I appreciate them carrying me through this whole process.”

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg can relate to Pondexter, with Hoiberg’s heart ailment cutting his career short. When the Bulls coach speaks about the frailty of the game and how precious things are in the NBA, Pondexter is living, breathing proof.

“I’m really really happy for Quincy. For a time there, his life was in danger with his infection. I know he’s really excited to get his career going again,” Hoiberg said. “I never got that opportunity to get back out there. I tell these guys to cherish it ever day. You never know when it can end. All of a sudden. For Quincy to get this chance, it’s awesome.”

Pondexter, with the straightest of faces, called basketball his “obsession” and he felt happy to get back on the floor, if even for a few minutes.

“I love it to death. It’s my life,” Pondexter said. “Basketball is what got me through it---my family and basketball. It was like, ‘How can I make this story even better? Do I quit?’ No. I watched so many inspirational movies, 'Hacksaw Ridge.' They get you through tough times because you say, ‘That’s going to be me.’ I’m going to be able to inspire someone down the road. That’s really helped me.”

A hamstring injury slowed Pondexter in training camp, which would explain his lack of explosive lift in the season opener.

No one was really sure if the Bulls would hold onto him for the season, but it’s clear he holds value beyond the box score. When he finished his media session, Lopez turned to Pondexter and said, “Now you’re stuck with me”, putting his arm around his teammate.

“Being able to play after two and a half years, it feels like hundreds of surgeries, getting traded to this organization. It's been a lot,” Pondexter said. “I wouldn't trade any of that for this moment right now and how I feel in my heart. I can't wait to get on this floor and play with my teammates and try to do something special. The journey is worth it.”