Hey, hey! I’m back for week two.
More importantly, so are you.
Let’s have ourselves a week.
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Jets 3, Blackhawks 2
Thus concludes the road trip from hell. Playing their fifth game in eight days, the Hawks didn’t have enough in the tank to catch the Jets late. They went 1-4 in their journey through Canada and are six back of a playoff spot. Back in the UC on Wednesday to face the Rangers.
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From Chicago, with love
I know I spent a lot of Friday’s newsletter griping over this All-Star weekend being a reminder that the Bulls are terrible. I wasn’t alone. There were Bulls fans chanting “Fire GarPax” during a Zach LaVine interview on ESPN and Chance The Rapper looking like he’d rather talk about his canceled tour than answer a question on “the state of the Bulls.” Saturday’s botched dunk contest didn’t help matters.
But then the lights went up on Sunday’s TNT broadcast and all of our bitching and moaning was suddenly and severely muted.
Because that was freaking awesome.
To recap, Chicago hosted a legendary All-Star Game in 1988, patiently waited 32 years for it to return and then stuck the landing all over again. It was like the basketball gods saw our suffering over the past 20 years and rewarded us in the best way possible.
And oh, that floor … 😍
The night opened with a love letter to Chicago featuring everyone from Michael Jordan to Buddy Guy to Barack Obama. Then Common came in with a love letter to Chicago basketball, a comprehensive and winding work that dropped MJ and Derrick Rose in one breath, Ronnie Fields and Mac Irvin in the next.
Know that comforting feeling when you walk out of a cold Chicago winter night and into a warm high school gym to hear the sound of dribbling basketballs? That’s how I felt after Common started weaving his way around Chicago’s hoops history.
No joke, if anyone in the future tries to tell you that New York or Philly or LA is a better basketball town, all you have to do is forward them this …
It would have been easy for the Bulls and the NBA to make the night all about the legend of Michael Jordan (who turns 57 today) and the dynasty-era Bulls. They instead chose to position him as the brightest star in the Chicago hoops universe while giving plenty of attention to the many other stars around him. It was the right approach and I loved it.
Chicago didn’t have as much to do with the other best part of the night — the actual game. NBA commissioner Adam Silver will be taking a victory laps all week and deservedly so because the new format changed everything we thought we knew about All-Star games.
The fourth quarter was played commercial-free with both teams playing toward 157 points— a final target score that was 24 points more than the 133 Team Giannis ended the third quarter with. As Team LeBron inched closer to the lead and winning $200K for their appointed charity, we saw actual defense being played in an All-Star Game. Then, at the end of the game, the league’s 10 best players were on the floor as everyone in the United Center stood. It was great.
Other people might try and tell you otherwise, but that the game ended on a made free-throw by Anthony Davis didn’t really spoil anything. Students representing Chicago Scholars spilled out onto the floor after an entire night of sitting behind one of the baskets and giving the game a high school atmosphere.
Team LeBron 157
Team Giannis 155
All the digits in the final scores added up to 24, Kobe Bryant’s jersey number.
It was the perfect end to a perfect night.
It’s going to be awhile before Chicago experiences something like this again. With 30 teams in the league, the Bulls are again at the back of the line. MJ will be nearing 90 the next time it comes around. The game may look entirely different, perhaps in part due to the excitement we saw on Sunday night.
But that’s OK. For one night in 2020, Chicago was back being the center of the basketball universe.
And it sure didn’t waste its turn.
The Bulls weren’t completely out of the news over the weekend. KC Johnson and Joe Cowley both reported that Michael Reinsdorf used the opportunity to start looking for a new GM with a “louder voice.” (Note to Michael: I’ve been told I speak loudly and I’m also available for employment. Call me.)
The news would reportedly be a mixed bag for angry Bulls fans looking for scorched earth in the front office: Gar Forman would pay the price and be demoted to the scouting duties with the addition but John Paxson would keep his power.
Two of the Cubs biggest stars held court over the weekend. Kris Bryant said he didn’t hold any hard feelings toward the Cubs after losing his grievance hearing but he does seem angry at the Astros. Javy Baez said he’s going to work harder this season and that talks of an extension with the Cubs have been “up and down.”
Luis Robert met with the White Sox media and talked about expectations for his upcoming rookie season, which will start on Opening Day thanks to the six-year deal he signed this offseason. He also revealed that the tattoo on his neck means “warrior” in Chinese.
• Congratulations to the great Paul Sullivan, who’s taking over the “In The Wake Of The News” column in the Chicago Tribune. Sully is just the 18th person to hold that spot in the 172-year history of the paper. To put that in perspective, there have been 34 U.S. presidents in the same time span. (Twitter)
• Tracy Swartz has all the All-Star weekend restaurant sightings you want. Though no word on if Patrick Mahomes asked for ketchup at Chicago Cut. (Tribune)
• Marcus Randle El, the brother of Antwaan Randle El, was arrested in Janesville, Wis., on Saturday on two counts of first-degree intentional homicide. (ESPN)
• The DePaul women’s basketball team clinched at least a share of its sixth Big East title in the last seven seasons. Here’s my friend Maggie Hendricks on the coach behind it all, Doug Bruno. (The Athletic)
• Maggie on the Sky trading Katie Lou Samuelson over the weekend after last year’s No. 4 pick struggled to get playing time her rookie season. (The Athletic)
• Michael O’Brien on Simeon’s 10th city league title, won with an 81-76 victory of Morgan Park at a packed Jones Armory on Sunday. (Sun-Times)
• Patrick Catezone on Illinois’ loss at Rutgers on Saturday, a 15-point defeat that occurred without Ayo Dosunmo on the floor and will likely bump the Illini out of the top 25. (The Champaign Room)
• Thanks to Arthur Arkush and Rick Camp for having me on The Score Friday night to talk a little about the Astros controversy and the launch of Midway Minute. If you missed it, you can listen here. (670 The Score)
• A Mamba and Mambacita mural, right here in Chicago. Awesome.
• The Blackhawks-Blues game on March 8 will be broadcast and produced by an all-female crew in honor of International Women’s Day. Details here. (NBC Sports)
• OK, which one of you owes the Jewels an apology? (CWB Chicago)
Thank you for being a #frentofthenewsletter. Have an excellent President’s Day and see you back here tomorrow.
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