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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

As Dunn, Markkanen break out of respective slumps, consistency becomes next factor

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USA TODAY

As Dunn, Markkanen break out of respective slumps, consistency becomes next factor

Whether the Bulls earn wins against other bottom feeders or rack up losses to improve their positioning in the Zion Williamson sweepstakes, continued progression from their core will be important over the final three weeks of the regular season.

With Otto Porter nursing a shoulder injury for the second consecutive game and Zach LaVine a late scratch with a thigh bruise, all eyes were on Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn as both attempted to break out of slumps against a porous Wizards defense.

Both players made good on their opportunity, shining in high-usage roles that helped the Bulls knock off the Wizards in overtime, 126-120. Markkanen broke out of a long shooting slump and made two critical plays in the final minute of regulation, while Dunn scored eight points in an overtime period and provided some stifling defense on All-Star Bradley Beal to secure the victory.

Not all slumps are created equal, but it was nice to see both Markkanen and Dunn play well with the Wizards defense honed entirely in on them. They attempted 45 of the Bulls’ 106 shot attempts and combined for 58 points, 19 rebounds, 18 assists and just three turnovers in 78 combined minutes.

For Markkanen, his slump from beyond the arc had been a puzzling one. Dating as far back as Jan. 6, Markkanen was making less than 34 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. Even in February, when he was an Eastern Conference Player of the Month finalist, he made just just 35 percent of his triples in 10 games. In March, that percentage had dipped to a lowly 28 percent.

But he was a different player on Wednesday night. He buried his first triple in the opening minutes and didn’t slow down after that, connecting on 5 of 8 from beyond the arc; it was the most triples he had made in a game since Feb. 6 and his best percentage on seven attempts or more all season.

“When you go 5 for 8 from the 3 that helps his game,” Jim Boylen said. “Moving him around, get him coming off the baseline, we get him going downhill, turning a corner. But I think when that 3 ball starts going down for him it all kind of comes together for him. I think for him, when he rebounds the ball he plays well.”

Past the outside shooting, Markkanen had broke a nine-game stretch without scoring 20 points after doing so 10 straight times in February. He scored 32 points, his most since Feb. 23 against the Celtics, and grabbed 13 rebounds, his most since March 5 against the Pacers.

Markkanen said he continues to watch film to improve his shooting – he noticed he was fading away on some 3-pointers that caused him to come up short – and is looking for new ways to attack defenses differently to remain consistent.

“Last year I was able to shoot the ball and surprise some teams,” he said. “Not surprising anybody this year so I kind of have to figure it out how to get around different coverages and stuff like that. You play a lot of games in this league so it’s tough to be consistent but you’ve got to be mentally tough.”

Even during Markkanen’s “slump” he was averaging 15.9 points and 8.4 rebounds in March. But he’s aware of what’s being asked of him as the 21-year-old face of the Bulls rebuild and knows that a consistent effort that produces results will take him to the next level.

“My confidence is up there and I obviously have a long way to go but I was playing better in February and I was kind of thinking that I can play like that in the future consistently,” he said. “I’ve got ways to go but my confidence is definitely up there.”

In Dunn’s case, baby steps still count as progress. His 26-point, 13-assist night was his best performance in months, and it continued a trend of him playing well with LaVine out of the lineup. With the Bulls’ shooting guard in the lineup Dunn is averaging 10.3 points on 40 percent shooting with 5.9 assists. In the nine games LaVine has missed that Dunn has been active, Dunn is averaging 17.1 points on 49 percent shooting and 7.1 assists.

He’s shown consistency as the lead ball handler when LaVine is out of the lineup, but of course that won’t be very often heading into the future.

Instead, Dunn’s consistency needs to come on learning to play with the ball-dominant LaVine and excel in other areas when he isn’t constantly the initiator on offense. Shooting 3 of 7 from beyond the arc was a good start, and although his 10 of 24 from the field was ugly, he was aggressive, played downhill and opened up plenty for the Bulls offense, which shot 47 percent from the field and made 12 triples. he also played excellent defense late on Bradley Beal. The combination of Dunn and Shaq Harrison forced Beal to go 4 of 13 with 12 points after halftime.

“It’s a learning thing as we go,” Boylen said of Dunn learning to play with LaVine, Markkanen and Porter. “I don’t really have the answer for that. I think it’s a feel, playing together and obviously in those moments when they’re in the game you have to be really efficient with your shots and what you’re doing because there’s other guys out there.

“But if anything tonight was a confidence booster to hang in there and stay the course, man. Keep grinding. Believe in yourself and it’ll turn for you.” 

Allen Thomas, Alek Thomas share a precious father-son moment after son homers against dad's White Sox

Allen Thomas, Alek Thomas share a precious father-son moment after son homers against dad's White Sox

Every father loves seeing their son hit a home run in a game, but White Sox director of conditioning Allen Thomas had a different perspective of his son’s home run on Wednesday.

Thomas’ son, Alek Thomas, was drafted in the second round of the 2018 draft by the Diamondbacks and is still in big league camp with Arizona. He homered against the White Sox in the ninth inning of a Cactus League game.

Alek, an 18-year-old Mount Carmel grad, went through the normal celebrations with his teammates, but soon after wanted to get dad’s attention. He was waving in dad’s direction as if to say, “Hey dad, did you see that?”

At first, Allen was trying to play it cool and not draw attention to the fact that his son just homered off his team. Eventually, they made eye contact and had a precious interaction caught in a split screen on the NBC Sports Chicago broadcast.

Both son and father saw the clip on social media and interacted as you expect father and son to do.

 

Watch the video above to see the home run and the full interaction between the two.

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