Need a winter warm-up? Let me spring these on you

Today’s column from The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.)

Need a winter warm-up? Let me spring these on you


Feb. 12, 2011

So, we’re supposed to have a heat wave this weekend.

Temperatures in the 30s.

Heck, I’m almost tempted to hit North Avenue Beach.

While last week’s historic blizzard was a you-had-to-be-there event for Chicagoans – ironically, I’ve had former city residents who have fled to warmer climes tell me they wish they’d gotten to experience it – we’re all a little snow-weary and a lot cold-worn by now.

And we’re ready for spring.

So, today, I wanted to direct an eye towards just that – springtime (and even summer) – by sharing with you the developments I’m most interested in seeing among local sports teams as we barrel ahead toward hotter days.

Soon, I hope.

The Bulls

When he was just a sophomore in high school, I saw Derrick Rose throw down the most stunning fastbreak dunk I’ve ever witnessed in person during a game at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament.

I knew that day Rose would be great.

And, this spring, during the NBA Playoffs, I’m looking forward to finding out just how great the Bulls’ 22-year-old point guard has become. I happen to think he’s become so great that you could tell me right now that he’s already the best player in the NBA.

And I really wouldn’t argue with you.

Illini Basketball

Illinois basketball is a lost cause. Or it’s just lost. Either way, the current crop of Illini seniors – Demetri McCamey, Mike Tisdale, Mike Davis and Bill Cole – simply has not gotten it done this season.

Rarely am I happy to see senior classes depart – the surly Shaun Pruitt and chronically injured Brian Randle Class of’ ’08 being a notable exception – but I think it will probably be a positive development for the Illini program when this class finally sees its eligibility expire.

They’re good guys, but there’s greater skill and strength in Illinois’ underclasses. The heat will be on for Bruce Weber to maximize it.

The Cubs

With the additions of Matt Garza, Kerry Wood and Carlos Pena, the Cubs had a better offseason than I expected. But the key to the Cubs’ season likely still rests on the arm – and head – of Carlos Zambrano.

I’m curious to see if Big Z’s strong finish last season was a sign of good – and calmer – things to come, or just a lull before another inevitable storm.

The White Sox

Ozzie Guillen has always been something of a time bomb. But is his clock with the White Sox still ticking?

In January, the Sox picked up Guillen’s 2012 option, putting to rest questions about whether their controversial manger will be entering a lame duck season. But it didn’t really put to rest questions about his future with the organization.

With the Sox having invested heavily this offseason, they appear poised to contend in the AL Central. But, with the relationship between Guillen and general manager Kenny Williams still prickly, I do wonder how secure Guillen’s job will be if the team doesn’t perform as expected.

Or if his son continues to Tweet.

The Bears

The NFC Championship game and its subsequent fallout did something that I didn’t think was possible: It made Jay Cutler interesting.

And when the Bears roll into Bourbonnais this summer for training camp, what I’m most interested in is how the Bears’ embattled quarterback handles himself on the field with the team, off the field with the fans and in the press tent with the media.

The criticism of Cutler regarding his knee injury – most of it wholly unfair – turned the mopey QB into a fascinating figure. And it will be interesting to see what Cutler will have rehabbed harder by camp – his knee or his image.