“How am I keeping it real by keeping this sh*t to myself” is a lyric from Drake’s summer time hip hop anthem “Summer Sixteen.” With that in mind I’m inclined to get you all up to speed on the Chicago pro sports scene heading into the summer of 2016. It has been a wild ride up to this point with storylines like the preseason title contending Chicago Bulls completely missing the playoffs, the optimism surrounding the Bears after a critically successful draft, whispers of an all Chicago World Series, and the Blackhawks bid to finally go back to back, which ironically is the name of a another Drake hip hop anthem.
The 2015-21016 was pegged as one of promise for the Chicago Bulls. Ownership let go of coach Tom Thibodeau in search of a new voice to open the offense and maximize the glut of young offensive talent. Enter former NBA player and executive, Fred Hoiberg. Jimmy Butler was signed to a long term deal and along with Derrick Rose, expected to compete for the title of the best backcourt in the NBA. The Bulls boasted talent, depth, and the experience to challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers for Eastern Conference supremacy. That seems like such a long time ago. Alleged friction between Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler, injuries, specifically the season ending injury to Joakim Noah, coupled with the disappearance of anything resembling a defense reduced the Bulls to the dubious honor of possibly being the biggest disappointment in the NBA. The Bulls finished on the outside looking in of the playoff race after compiling a pedestrian 42-40 record. The Bulls head into summer with more unanswered questions than they can possibly handle. There are rumblings that either Derrick Rose and/or Jimmy Butler could be traded. While Rose’s value around the league may be low, whether or not a deal could get done or not, there is uncertainty as Rose is entering a contract season. What do you pay a former league MVP that hasn’t resembled his former self and played in approximately 150 games in 4 seasons (328 games). While Butler’s value is high, do you trade your best player? Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol are both free agents and could be gone. And there is no guarantee that Fred Holberg is the answer as the head coach. So while the salary cap is rising league wide with the inception of the NBA’s huge TV deal the Bulls will have money to spend. But with so much uncertainty, what is the major selling point to a potential free agent? More questions than answers for the Bulls and Bulls fans.
Bears fans though are excited even while the team hibernates. While the 6-10 record the 2015 Bears produced was nothing to throw a parade about, it was typical John Fox as the head coach’s first year in Chicago was marked with his calling card of being someone that can quickly turn a team around. There were numerous examples of a revitalized defense as the Bears were steady if not opportunistic on that side of the ball while Jay Cutler, the maligned Bears signal caller, played probably his best season in Chicago. All this with 2015 first round draft choice Kevin White sidelined for the entire season with a shin injury. The Bears struck early in free agency picking up one of the better defensive players on the market in Danny Trevathan, formerly of the world champion Denver Broncos. The Bears also addressed the need for defensive playmakers when they took DE Leonard Floyd, after trading up, with the #9 pick in the 2016 draft. The Bears were active in the draft and were graded as having one of the better drafts in the NFL. The glass is half full and the talk here in Chicago is that the team may compete for a playoff berth.
The optimism with the Bears is only matched by the fever pitch baseball fans in Chicago are working themselves into. The White Sox currently sit atop the AL Central. Their rotation is mowing down batters and the team is getting great production from a lineup that had produced questions on where offense would come from. For the last 100 years the White Sox play would’ve been celebrated but the preseason World Series favorite Cubs have answered the bell. The team currently has the best record in baseball and produced the 2nd best run differential in MLB history and are on a better pace than the 2001 Seattle Mariners that won 116 games. Jake Arrieta has been unreal. In his last 25 starts he has more no-hitters than losses. He is in a stretch that Major League baseball has never seen before and doesn’t look to be slowing. For over 100 years, the next year has been the year for the Cubs and for once it seems like this might be a special season. At least Las Vegas thinks so, as the Cubs are the prohibitive favorite.
With all the potential for the Chicago baseballs teams to make it to the promise land this season, the Chicago Blackhawks were trying to get back there as they were on a quest to repeat as champions. Their bid fell short after they lost to the St. Louis Blues in a thrilling seventh game after rallying from a 3-1 series deficit.
With the position of professional sports in Chicago resembling a spice rack in a fancy restaurant, displaying a lot of sugar and spice, it’ll be interesting to see how the summer goes. There will be a lot more answers to many questions of the teams. For example, how the Bulls address the identity of the team, can the Bears capitalize on the momentum they’ve built, are the Cubs for real, and will the Blackhawkss makes moves to resume their post as NHL champion every odd year. But this is why we watch. Stay tuned!
By Marcus Carter