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

Jabari Parker unafraid of history, expectations that come with Chicago's homegrown stars: "There's no fear"

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USA TODAY

Jabari Parker unafraid of history, expectations that come with Chicago's homegrown stars: "There's no fear"

The Chicago sunlight followed Jabari Parker as he walked through the East Atrium doors of the United Center, facing Michael Jordan’s statue before meeting with the media, introduced as a Chicago Bull for the first time.


For his sake, the brighter days are ahead instead of to his back as he’ll challenge the perception of being the hometown kid who can’t outrun his own shadow.


Parker re-enters Chicago as the No. 2 pick in the draft that the Milwaukee Bucks allowed to walk without compensation despite holding the cards through restricted free agency, damaged goods on the floor but not giving the Bulls a discount to don that white, red and black jersey he’s always dreamed of wearing.


“There were other teams but as soon as I heard Chicago, I just jumped on it,” Parker said.


It took a two-year, $40 million deal (2019-20 team option) to get Parker home, along with the selling point that he’ll start at small forward—a position that’s tough to envision him playing with on the defensive end considering three of the game’s top six scorers occupy that space.
It was a dream come true for his father, Sonny Parker, and high school coach, Simeon Academy’s Robert Smith, who both couldn’t hide their joy following the first question-and-answer session with the media.


“This is where he wanted to be,” Sonny Parker said. “His family’s happy, the support is there. All I know is the United Center will sell out every game. He can’t wait.”


“Normally guys get drafted here. He signed to come here. He had a couple offers from other teams but he wanted to come here.”


The biggest examples of Chicagoans who arrived with outsized expectations for this franchise had varying results, but Derrick Rose and Eddy Curry both came away with scars of sorts that had many wondering why any hometown product would willingly choose to play for the Bulls.


The risk seems to far outweigh the reward; the emotional toll doesn’t seem worth the fare. And with the roster makeup not being ideal for Parker, no one could blame him for going to a better situation—or at least one more tailored to his skills rather than his heart.
“I think every situation is different. Derrick was excelling,” Bulls executive vice-president John Paxson said to NBCSportsChicago.com. “MVP of the league in his hometown before the injury. Eddy was just a young kid who didn’t have the savvy Derrick had. I think every situation is different. Jabari is such a grounded, solid person that he’s gonna be just fine.”


“You don’t have to spend a whole lot of time with him to figure out he’s got it together. He knows who he is. Comfortable in his own skin. A quiet guy. Hopefully he’ll thrive here. The goal is it works great for him and works great for us.”


It seemed like he was bred to be a pro—and not just any pro, but the type Chicago demands of its own when a covenant to play 82 nights a year has been reached. If the constant prodding from his father didn’t break his façade, or older brother Darryl doing everything he could to coax emotion from the most gifted of the Parker clan couldn’t do it, two ACL surgeries on his left knee may pale in comparison.


The numbers from Parker’s recent stint with the Bucks don’t bear it out, but Smith sees a player who’s back on track to being what his talent has always dictated he should become.


“Even watching him work out lately, it’s like whoa,” Smith said. “But of course, everything with Chicago period you have to be cautious. With his family and the support system he has, this thing is about winning basketball games and giving back to the community.”


“He’s had that (target) on his back since he stepped on the court at Simeon, coming behind Derrick and being one of the top five players as a freshman and No. 1 player as a junior. I don’t think it’s a huge problem, it can help him a little bit. If he has those moments if something doesn’t go right, he has someone to help him.”


Parker is more known for his restarts than his unique skill set in his young career, but even at 23 years old speaks with a sage of someone 20 years his senior, unwilling to tab this portion of his journey as a fresh start.


After all, it would be easy to envision his career beginning from the moment he left Simeon as a phenom followed by his one season at Duke—having two games where he totaled just 24 minutes with just two points to start the Bucks’ first-round series against the Boston Celtics isn’t typical of a star’s story if he sees himself that way.


“I don’t. I don’t want to forget all the hard work I had,” Parker said. “To forget I hurt myself and came back is to discredit my success. That in of itself is something outside the norm. I want to always remember the setbacks and failures I’ve had in my career so far. I want to use that as a sense of motivation.”


Bringing up his awkward pro beginnings in Milwaukee, where Giannis Antetokounmpo’s ascension to an unexpected strata mirrored thoughts he might’ve had of himself before his injuries, didn’t cause him to growl.


“I’ve never got jealous a day in my life. That’s why it wasn’t hard because I wasn’t jealous,” Parker said to NBCSportsChicago.com. “My journey is my journey. I gotta be proud of that and be patient. I took that and I move forward.”


The mention of his defense didn’t make him defensive, either, as he definitively pointed out the truth as he saw it, that today’s game is far more offensive-minded than the bruise-fests of the previous decades. Telling by his words in subsequent interviews, the best defense is a great offense and when he’s right, there aren’t many who can get a bucket as easily and with as much diversity as himself.


The only time Parker broke serve was at the notion he’d be following in the footsteps of Rose’s perceived failures, the setbacks Rose suffered when his knees began to fail after reaching inspiring heights players like Parker wanted to emulate.


At the podium for all to see, he corrected a question formed around Rose’s “rise and fall”, a sound byte copied and pasted by a couple Chicago-bred NBA players on social media in support of Parker’s words and feelings.


“Derrick had no lows. He didn’t. He still maintained. Derrick’s a legend, no matter what…no rise and falls. Injuries are part of life. Derrick is one of the best icons in Chicago. He accomplished his duty already.”


And later, he wanted to set the record straight again, drawing a line from how the media has presented Rose compared to how the people of Chicago see him, and vice-versa.


“We didn’t turn on Derrick, the media (did),” Parker told NBCSportsChicago.com. “We’re hometown. I speak for everybody, we love our hometown.”


The love of Chicago meant more than the prospect of not being able to live up to a glorious prep past, even though he should be well aware wanderlust can turn to villainy in a heartbeat—or the wrong step.


“There’s no pressure for me,” Parker said to NBCSportsChicago.com. “I’m just happy I get to play with some young guys, and I don’t harp on the negative. Anybody and everybody is gonna have an opinion. I value more my dreams than their opinions.”


And the dreamer steps forward, with a confident gait, eyes wide open and a city hoping it doesn’t repeat the same mistakes of its past.


“There’s no fear,” Parker said. “I haven’t faced any other pressure than bouncing back. I’m back on my feet and moving on.”


“When you struggle more, you succeed more.”

Sports Talk Live Podcast: With Jabari Parker in the mix, are the Bulls playoff contenders?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: With Jabari Parker in the mix, are the Bulls playoff contenders?

David Haugh, Patrick Finley and KC Johnson join Kap on the panel. Jabari Parker is officially a Chicago Bull. So does that make the Bulls a playoff team? And who will play defense for Fred Hoiberg’s young team? Vincent Goodwill and Mark Schanowski drop by to discuss.

Plus with Manny Machado now a Dodger, are the Cubs no longer the best team in the NL?

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: