Cubs

Proviso West adds eight more teams to holiday tournament

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Proviso West adds eight more teams to holiday tournament

Who's next? Who will be the last eight teams fill out the 32-team field for the 2012 Proviso West Holiday Tournament? Chicago Public League? Chicago Catholic League? Downstate? Out-of-state?

"We added eight suburban teams. Now we can focus on non-suburban schools...city, private, Downstate and out-of-state," said tournament director Joe Spagnolo after announcing eight new schools that marks the first expansion of the state's premier holiday basketball event since it went from eight to 16 teams in 1962, a year after it was founded by then athletic director Walt Sawosko.

"We never have had an out-of-state team, either from Indiana or Missouri or Iowa or Wisconsin. And we wouldn't invite a prep school. We like to have geographic balance. For example, in the Public League, we'd like to have two from the north, two from the south and two from the west. We have three now--Morgan Park, Von Steuben and Brooks. We like the first group of teams we have gotten."

Downers Grove South, Glenbard East, Maine South, Nazareth Academy, Oswego, St. Charles East, Stevenson and Wheaton Academy will participate in next December's inaugural six-day, 32-team event.

They will join this year's 16 teams--Proviso East, Proviso West, Benet, St. Patrick, New Trier, Brooks, Fenwick, Glenbrook North, Hillcrest, Hinsdale Central, Morgan Park, Morton, Homewood-Flossmoor, Rockford Auburn, St. Joseph and Von Steuben.

Downers Grove South and Maine South played at York last month. St. Charles East and Wheaton Academy played at Glenbard West, Oswego and Glenbard East played at Bloomington, Nazareth played at Hinsdale South and Stevenson played at Wheeling.

"We had to wait until other tournaments were over before officially making this announcement," Spagnolo said. "We didn't solicit teams. We talked in the summer that if we expanded and an opening came up, would you be interested? But we didn't want to take too many teams from any one tournament, not more than two."

Spagnolo said he received letters and inquiries from several schools over the summer. He knows some desirable schools are committed. Simeon coach Robert Smith has made it clear that his team will play at Pontiac "for as long as they will have us." De La Salle will play in Florida. And Blue Island Eisenhower is leaving Hinsdale South for Centralia.

He said the response to Proviso West's new 32-team, six-day format has been largely positive. "People like the the atmosphere and the idea of seeing different teams. We ran the idea before our workers because we made the final decision, the ones who have to take the brunt of the expansion, and we got few complaints. They are all basketball fans," Spagnolo said.

But who will he persuade to fill the last eight spots? Possibilities are Farragut, which was a great attraction in the mid-1990s when future NBA star Kevin Garnett and Ronnie Fields were there, St. Rita, Orr, North Chicago and Crane.

In fact, the addition of the GarnettFields team was a stroke of luck. In 1994, Collins dropped out and Proviso West was looking for a team and ended up getting Farragut at the last minute, before Garnett made his decision to transfer from South Carolina to Farragut for his senior year.

"Sometimes you get a diamond in the rough," Spagnolo said. "You don't want to move too quickly to fill the last few spots because something can open up or kids transfer at the last minute. Summer basketball has turned into free agency. There always are diamonds in the rough that come up in the summer."

He said he plans to announce a few more schools before the state tournament begins, then complete the 32-team field during the summer. He has gotten interest from out-of-state schools in the past so he isn't in a big hurry to fill the last few spots.

Meanwhile, Spagnolo has forged ahead to make preparations for the 2012 tournament. He already has filled all 183 officiating assignments for the six-day, three-officials-per-game, 61-game event.

"Traditionally, we are the first holiday tournament to announce our assignments (on Jan. 1), before anyone else," he said. "It gives other tournaments an opportunity to contract their officials."

And he is in the process of renting two wooden portable floors, portable scoreboards, NBA baskets and seating for 1,000 spectators for the 18 consolation games that will be played in the adjacent fieldhouse. All first-round and championship round games will be played in the main gym.

His biggest fear? Now that the tournament has been expanded from four to six days, there is more chance of being affected by bad weather. The tournament will start on Saturday, Dec. 22 with play continuing on Dec. 26-29 and the championship being conducted on the afternoon of Monday, Dec. 31.

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

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USA TODAY

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

Families gather and people talk about things they are thankful for on Thanksgiving, but what are Chicago sports fans happy for now?

Raised expectations on the North Side

Got to be thankful that a “disappointing” season is winning the division and losing in the NLCS. The expectations have skyrocketed, and that’s thanks to a ridiculous nucleus of bats and a steady front office. Not many clubs can say that. Also, though, it’s important to be appreciative of the Wrigley bar stretch. They may charge $8 for a Miller Lite, but it’s always a damn good party.

Javy tags, too. Don't forget Javy tags.

Rebuild sparking hope in White Sox fans

Where to begin? Obviously, be thankful for the plethora of young talent that will soon take over the South Side. Be thankful for Avi Time (while you still can). Be thankful that taking your friends or family to a game won’t cause you to take out a second mortgage. Be thankful for the 2020 World Series and, of course, 2020 MVP Eloy Jimenez. But most importantly, be thankful that Rick Hahn’s phone stays buzzing.

Eddie O back in the booth for the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are having a rough start to the season, but at least Eddie Olczyk is back in the booth. The longtime Blackhawks broadcaster returned to the booth on Oct. 18 after missing time while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer.

With some of the key names from the Blackhawks’ title runs either leaving or being unable to play this season (in the case of Marian Hossa), Blackhawks fans are probably thankful to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice during games.

Lauri Markkanen leading the Bulls rebuild

OK, there’s not much to be thankful for about the current Bulls team. At 3-13, the Bulls are tied for the fewest wins in the NBA (maybe in the long-term that’s something to be thankful for as well). However, Zach LaVine’s pending debut after his eventual return from injury should help create some excitement.

The thing Bulls fans really should be thankful for this year is the play of rookie Lauri Markkanen. The 20-year-old leads the team in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounds (8.3 per game) while shooting at a high percentage (34.2 percent on threes and 50.6 percent on twos). It’s only the beginning of the Bulls’ rebuild, but Markkanen is a good start.

Mitchapalooza

If a few things broke the Bears’ way, Chicagoans could have been grateful that the team was finally out of the cellar. Instead, we’ll settle for the fact that there seems to be some building blocks already in place. Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks seem to fit that category. Also, some may be thankful that this is likely John Fox’s last season at the helm.

Fire ending a playoff drought

After finishing dead last in MLS in 2015 and 2016, the Fire were one of the most improved teams in the league in 2017. After posting the third best record in the league, the Fire made a first playoff appearance since 2012.

The playoff run didn’t last long with the Fire losing a play-in game at home, but the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the league’s leading goal-scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, helped fill the stadium with six sellouts and gave Fire fans something to cheer for.

With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

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With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

The Bears placed Leonard Floyd on injured reserve Thursday morning, ending the second-year outside linebacker’s season following a knee injury suffered Sunday against the Detroit Lions. Floyd suffered an MCL and PCL injury and will have surgery in the next week, coach John Fox said, and the Bears do not have a timetable for his recovery yet. But that Floyd didn't suffer damage to his ACL is potentially good news for Floyd's recovery timetable. 

Still, with Floyd on injured reserve and out for the season, the Bears’ current outside linebacker depth chart consists of two veterans (Pernell McPhee and Sam Acho) and two practice squad signees (Isaiah Irving and Howard Jones). These final six games of the 2017 season could serve as auditions for all four players for roles on the 2018 Bears. 

If every team needs at least three good pass rushers, the Bears can count on Akiem Hicks and Floyd for 2018, provided Floyd comes back healthy. But who’s the third?

The Bears could save about $7.5 million in cap space if they release McPhee in 2018; if they were to cut ties with Willie Young, who’s on injured reserve right now as well, it would provide $4.5 million in cap relief. McPhee will be 29 in December, while Young will turn 33 next September. 

The Bears won’t necessarily need the cap relief next year, and could certainly decide to keep both players, who’ve shown they’re still productive when healthy. But even if both players are back, the Bears may need to add another outside linebacker via free agency of the draft — remember, the team could’ve began the season with Floyd, Young, McPhee, Acho and Lamarr Houston as their outside linebackers; an injury Houston suffered in the fourth preseason game ended his time in Chicago. 

Needs at wide receiver and cornerback are pressing, but outside linebacker may need to be in that same conversation. If the Bears have a top-10 pick for the fourth consecutive year, plus some cap space, they perhaps could have the ability to address all three needs in March and April. 

That may be looking a little too far into the future, though. The best-case for the Bears is McPhee finishes the season strong and Irving and/or Jones shows something in the opportunities they receive in these final six games (Jones, for what it’s worth, had five sacks as a rookie with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015). But the worst-case — and perhaps the most realistic — is that the Bears go into the offseason needing to fill at least one pass-rushing spot.