Bears

5 Questions with...Sun-Times' Lacy J. Banks

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5 Questions with...Sun-Times' Lacy J. Banks

CSN Chicago Senior Director of Communications
CSNChicago.com Contributor

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 everyones favorite local celeb feature entitled 5 Questions with...

On Wednesdays, 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 weeks guesta Chicago sports journalism giant whose passion for the city and teams he covers is only equaled by his passion for family and lifecalling him a fighter doesnt do this man justicehis health battles have been well-documented, which include on-going bouts with both brain & prostate cancer and congestive heart failure, but there is no stopping this manhe knows he has a lot more to give to our city and has no plans on stopping nowfrom the Chicago Sun-Times, here are 5 Questions withLACY J. BANKS!

BIO: Lacy J. Banks, 67, has been a Sun-Times sportswritercolumnist for close to 40 years and a Baptist preacher for 60 years. He has preached at more than 100 different churches in the Chicago area. A native of Lyon, Miss., Banks graduated from the University of Kansas with a B.A. in French and he served three years in the Vietnam War as a U.S. Naval officer. Lacy and wife, Joyce, have been married 42 years and have three daughters and five grandchildren. Among beats Banks has covered for the Sun-Times are the Bulls (including this NBA Playoffs run as well), along with the Fire, defunct Sting, Blackhawks, Wolves, Cubs, defunct Hussle, Rush, Sky, college football and basketball and pro boxing.

1) CSNChicago.com: Lacy, so happy to speak with you, especially since there was a terrible rumor that quickly spread around newsrooms in this city that you DIED on April 20! To say it was startling to hear that is an understatement, but you wisely and quickly took to Facebook to let everyone know that you are indeed alive andaccording to your most recent Sun-Times blog postdoing thankfully well all things considered. Is it fair to call you an inspiration to cancer and heart patients out there who aspire to keep on fighting they way you courageously have over the past three years?

Banks: When I attended junior and senior high school in Kansas City, Kan., I lettered in track by running on the 400-meter, 800-meter and 1600-meter relays teams. I don't remember me ever leading off or anchoring those relay teams. I ran the middle legs, meaning I'd receive the baton from a previous runner and pass it on the next one. Likewise, I'm glad to be an inspiration to cancer survivors and to those suffering serious heart problems just as others were inspirations to me. By the grace of almighty God, I'm just passing the baton, Jeff.

Other Chicago sports legends like Wendell Smith, Gene Siskel, Jack Griffin and Dave Feldman ran on my team before me. The same with my oldest sibling, my sister Mrs. Maude Lee Banks-Burrell, and my youngest, my brother Hansel Jordan Banks. God rest their souls. There and so many, many others who have inspired me to fight. But perhaps nobody has inspired me more than my contemporary fellow cancer survivor, Roger Ebert. Look at how cancer has viciously attacked him. Yet he has soldiered on long and strong with a smile on his face and magnificent movie reviews in his soul. Now there's a real giant Jeff. There's a real hero. His afflictions have not diminished his genius in any way, shape or form. And just as his wife, Chaz, has been by his side as his main support system, so has my wife of 50 years, Joyce. Thank you, Jesus.

2) CSNChicago.com: As you well know and as someone who knows the ins and outs of this team as well as anyone, this city has very high expectations for a deep playoff run for the Bulls. In your opinion, what are the three main on-court elements that MUST happen for this team to - lets just say it - reach the NBA Finals?

Banks: First, they must continue to play the same smothering defense that powered them to the best record in the regular season. Second, their star leader and sure-shot NBA MVP, Derrick Rose, must remain healthy and maintain his stellar all-round play. Third, they must have a consistent, balanced offense that will give Rose the support he needs for the first three quarters, rather than force him to pull them out of close games to victoryfourth quarter, after forth quarter, after fourth quarter.

Even Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Bill Russell had to have help. They finally paid the price Saturday when they spotted the Indiana Pacers a huge early lead and failed to pull it out despite another heroic finish. But they almost lost more than the game. When Rose twisted his left ankle in the first quarter, it was one scary moment because that twist looked awfully ugly on video replays. Thank God that it wasn't as serious as it looked. He stayed in the game and again almost saved the Bulls in the fourth.

3) CSNChicago.com: Youve now covered two of the greatest players to ever to put on a Bulls uniform: Michael Jordan and Derrick Rose. At this point in Roses stellar early portion of his career to MJs standout early years in the league, what would you say are some striking similarities & big differences between these two NBA titans?

Banks: They are both cold-blooded killers, but with different temperaments. Jordan's emotions ran hot and heavy. But he did not let them rattle him when he had to be focused at money time, when the pressures of the game were at their maximum. But Rose? He is incredibly calm and just as confident and competent. Jordan was obviously bigger at 6-6 than Rose at 6-3, but both are outstanding finishers and Rose is a better penetrator and glass-master than Jordan. Give Rose the slightest sliver of space and he'll slice and dice opponents off the dribble no matter how much those opponents pack the paint and pelt him with cheap shots.

4) CSNChicago.com: There was a time period when there was a long drought in this city between pro team championships (1963 to 1981 to be exact). That all changed in 81 when the now-defunct North American Soccer Leagues (NASL) Chicago Sting, a team filled with huge personalities and amazing skills to match, won the Soccer Bowl over the New York Cosmos. Many younger Chicago sports fans obviously wouldnt know how big that moment truly was in this city. As a beat writer for the Sting during those years, tell us what it was like to cover that team and how they captivated Chicago at that moment in time.

Banks: The Sting was something of an unwanted child because soccer was not that popular a sport in Chicago in particular or America in general. But the ownership of Lee Stern and the coaching of Willy Roy are the main reasons the Sting gave Chicago two major-league championships. Stern, a native of Chicago, was to Chicago as an owner what Derrick Rose, also a local native, is to Chicago as a player.

Quick note of trivia: can you remember another owner or player who was born in the same city he became its championship sports hero? Magic Johnson was not born in Los Angeles. Neither was Shaquille O'Neal or Kobe Bryant. Bird was not born in Boston. Neither was Russell. Jordan was not born in Chicago. Neither was Walter Payton or Ernie Banks. Tim Duncan was not born in San Antoniobut Dwayne Wade and Isiah Thomas were both born in Chicago before bringing NBA championships to Miami and Detroit respectively.

5) CSNChicago.com: In addition to being a veteran Chicago sports journalist, youre also a man of deep faith who has helped spread the word of God to thousands of parishioners over the past six decades. With the reported decline in church goers over the past decade or so in all faiths, what can be done in your opinion to bring them back?

Banks: A miracle. A cataclysmic miracle. Like an invasion of aliens from outer space. Of course, the return of Jesus Christ performing miracle as He did in His first coming could also do it. But the bible tells us that when Christ returns the second time, He is coming back to take what's left of His church dead and alive. The bible teaches that most of mankind, as in the past, still will never accept the faith in God that Jesus authored and finished. As prophesied in the bible, these are the "last days" when people will no longer endure sound doctrine. And the real essence of Christianity, the religion of which I am a redeemed member, or any other good religion, is a faith that will make us love each other as we love ourselves.

BONUS QUESTIONCSNChicago.com: Any final thoughts youd like to share Lacy?
Banks: I am seriously concerned about the destructive direction in which America is headed. Ninety-five percent of this nation's wealth is possessed by five percent of the population. Plus, too many of our congressmen are multi-millionaires, which means they are out of touch with the sufferings of the masses. Every previous great empire was destroyed more from within than without. People became more greedy, insensitive, ignorant, unloving and undisciplined. Our government is corrupted by congressmen who are in the pockets of special interest groups that are only interested in making money at any and all costs. Mis-prioritizing has resulted in the savaging of our environment and the deadly deterioration of our infrastructure. I believe that Republicans and Teapartiers, in essence, care nothing for the poor and the middle class. And they are full of hate and anger. I can understand anger. Our growing economic woes, greatly resulting from the abandonment of American workers, through out-sourcing of jobs to cheap labor abroad, are causing people to be angry about losing their jobs, their affordable health care, their homes and their retirement benefits. But we are at our worst when we start hating each other according to race, religion, sexual persuasion, social and economic status. What I'd like to promote most, Jeff, is love (which is God) and a government that will look out for the best interest of humanity in general and Americans in particular. After all, this IS America. And we ARE Americans.

Banks LINKS:

Lacy J. Banks official Sun-Times blog - Conquering Cancer and Heart Failurewith Jesus, doctors and common sense"

Lacy J. Banks Sun-TimesChicago Bulls coverage

Lacy J. Banks on Facebook

Bears, Top 10 draft scenarios get one last look, and a change at No. 8

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USA TODAY

Bears, Top 10 draft scenarios get one last look, and a change at No. 8

This member of the NBC Sports Chicago team has gone through the blizzard of mock drafts that are a rite of NFL spring, although with perhaps less clarity and certainty than in any draft season in 25 years of doing this.

Usually the requisite detective work of the job produces at least a fix on a player, or not that, then one position – in ’94, the Bears were going edge rusher (John Thierry) to replace Richard Dent; in ’95, they targeted running back (Rashaan Salaam) to upgrade from Lewis Tillman; in ’99, a quarterback (Cade McNown); in ’05, a back (Cedric Benson); in ’16, an edge rusher (Leonard Floyd); last year, a quarterback (Mitch Trubisky).

No, those were not all successful mock-draft calls (this reporter called Deshaun Watson last year). No, the point is that getting a sense of what’s behind the curtain has gotten exponentially more difficult as the Ryan Paces of the business have become so well practiced at maintaining veils and cones of silence over their intentions.

So late on the night before the draft, your humble and faithful narrator is continuing to scratch in the dirt for edible morsels (there’s no shortage of chaff, not so much wheat). Some things that come through the dust… .

Tremaine Edmunds remains the call for the Bears at No. 8. And I don’t like it. Not Edmunds; I like him more than Roquan Smith, my previous mock pick, for reasons of grade, player skillset, and need.

But the scratching around has uncovered that prominent voices in the Bears’ draft room are pushing for Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward at No. 8. Multi-year deals with a combined $36 million guaranteed for Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller notwithstanding, the Bears did immense work on Ward (Combine meeting, Ohio State pro day, pre-draft visit), who visited five teams drafting in the top 12 in addition to Pro Day evaluations.

The night before the 2018 draft, the order of Bears “probables” now stands at: 1) Ward, 2) Smith, 3) Edmunds, trade up for 4) Bradley Chubb (the Bears were one of only three teams to have him in for a pre-draft visit, 5) trade up for Quenton Nelson. And 6) trade down for Marcus Davenport (see below).

“4-gone” a Bears wish-list? Maybe not

Four quarterbacks going off the board within the seven picks before the Bears are on the clock at No. 8 has been cast as the best of scenarios for the Bears. And it would mean that the Bears, who don’t number a quarterback among the players in their cluster graded as worth that No. 8, would be in position to draft the de facto fourth-best player of the draft, certainly among non-quarterbacks.

But would that “4-gone” be the best of all possible Bears cases? Not necessarily.

One NFL insider suggested to NBC Sports Chicago that the Bears would be better off if THREE of the four top QB’s were gone and one was still there at No. 8. The Bears, claiming to have a cloud of guys that would comfortably allow them to trade back and still get an elite player, would then likely be fielding a call or calls from Miami, Buffalo and anyone else desperate for a quarterback.

As in: Josh Allen has fallen, still there at 8, and so are, say, Marcus Davenport, Tremaine Edmunds, Roquan Smith, Denzel Ward, any one of which would be a solid pick at No. 8. The Bills at No. 12 want Allen, Ryan Pace’s phone rings, and Pace slides back to 12, gets Buffalo’s No. 3 to replace the one he surrendered in the trade-up last year for Mitch Trubisky, and still gets one of the elites he would’ve drafted anyway at No. 8.

Robinson Cano sees superstar potential in Yoan Moncada

Robinson Cano sees superstar potential in Yoan Moncada

The greats know greatness.

Looking across the field this week at Yoan Moncada, 8-time All-Star Robinson Cano not only saw a lot of himself in the White Sox second baseman, he believes he was witnessing a future baseball star. 

“I can see a guy who’s going to be a superstar in this game,” Cano said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago on the White Sox Talk Podcast. “He can field, he can throw, he can hit. In the first game against us, he was a hit away from the cycle. He can hit right now. Imagine when he’s in the league two or three years and is facing the same guys for the last couple years. Then you have a different approach. The guy that I see, you just got to give it time and keep working hard because I think he’ll be a superstar.”

Cano had heard the comparisons between himself and Moncada, but until this week, he had never seen his protege play baseball in person.

The two of them hadn’t even met until Monday when they encountered each other at of all places—second base. Moncada had just doubled for his second hit of the night. That gave Cano a close look at the swing that happens to be identical to his.

“I was watching that the other day on second base and I was like, ‘Wow, it’s the same swing,’” Cano said.

Growing up in Cuba, Moncada idolized Cano. He didn’t just play the same position and copy his swing, he wore Cano’s jersey number and even named his son after him.

“It’s something you can’t describe because as a player it’s the first time that’s happened where you see a player name their kid after you,” Cano said.

Despite their similarities, Cano admits there are some differences that favor the young Moncada.

Who hits the ball harder?

“I would say him. He’s stronger.”

And speed?

“He’s got something I never have. He can run. I was slow, always.”

Moncada’s biggest problem right now is strikeouts. He has 38 this season, second most in baseball. Cano, who has only 14, provided some advice for Moncada.

“The only thing I can give him for that is making the game simple and try not to swing so hard,” Cano explained. "The thing is when we swing too hard and try to hit a homer, we chase pitches. When you try to stay simple, try to make contact and use the whole field that’s when you can minimize the strikeout.”

Cano was 22 in his rookie season. Moncada is currently 23. A player’s first few seasons in the majors is mainly about learning and maturing, which Moncada is essentially doing every time he comes to the plate. Often times his talent just takes over like it did on Wednesday when he homered in the first pitch he saw against Felix Hernandez. After that, he struck out three times.

Moncada’s offensive game has so far been quite boom or bust. Over time that should level out. When it does, look out. 

In the meantime, more wisdom from Cano:

“Sometimes as a kid, you want to go out and all you think is about putting out numbers compared to playing the game that you know how to play. You need to let the numbers come to themselves, not try to get a hit every time, or I’ve got to hit a homer or want to swing hard. Just go out and try to win a game.”

Cano didn’t learn this on his own. It helped having former Yankees teammates like Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield show him not just how to play, but how to win.

“When you have someone who can help you in this game, that’s the best thing to happen to a player,” Cano said. “When someone can be there for you and say, “In this situation I think you’re wrong.’ Someone who can tell you something you don’t want to hear.”

For Moncada, one of those players right now is Jose Abreu.

“Having a guy like (Abreu) who can help is good especially since they’re from the same country.”

At one point during Wednesday’s game, Moncada and Cano crossed paths between innings. They smiled at each other before going their separate ways. Cano to second base where the 35 year-old is in the twilight of his career. Moncada to the White Sox dugout where most of his career awaits.

“He’s going to be great in this game,” Cano said about Moncada. “He just needs to stay healthy and keep working hard. People don’t realize that this game is more about time.”

That was Cano's way of saying: be patient White Sox fans. A "superstar" is here. His time will come.