5 Questions with...Sun-Times' Neil Hayes

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5 Questions with...Sun-Times' Neil Hayes

By Jeff Nuich
CSN Chicago Senior Director of CommunicationsCSNChicago.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 guestone of the hardest working beat writers in town who covers one of the best, if not THE best team in the NBA: the 2011-12 Chicago BullsBulls fans are hoping this guy keeps covering games for the next two months as the Bulls strive to bring the city its first NBA title since the Jordan erawhat are we waiting for, its playoff time for crying out loud!...get ready for 5 Questions withNEIL HAYES!

BIO: Neil Hayes returned to his native state in 2006 after spending 15 years covering the San Francisco Bay Area sports scene. Since being hired at the Sun-Times, he has covered Northwestern football, Notre Dame football, the Bears & Bulls, while also producing features and columns on other local and national sports stories. He is the author of When the Game Stands Tall: The Story of the De La Salle Spartans and Footballs Longest Winning Streak. His book inspired the ESPN documentary, 151: The Greatest Streak, which he also wrote. Hayes is also the co-author of The Last Putt: Two Teams, Two Dreams and a Freshman named Tiger. In 2005, he was named one of the Top Ten sports columnists in the nation in the 100,000-250,000 circulation category by the Associated Press Sports Editors.

The Northern Arizona University and Rochelle Township High School graduate grew up in a home where Bears Sundays were sacred. He also spent countless summer nights trying to make out shadowy White Sox players in what appeared to be a snowstorm on UHF Channel 44.

1) CSNChicago.com: Neil, with NBA Playoff time upon us once again, the thrilling prospect of another NBA championship returning to Chicago is on everyones mind, especially within the legions of die-hard Bulls fans in our city and around the globe. Optimism runs high among fans this time of year, especially with the teams solid starting line-up and very deep bench. Simple question: should we be optimistic about them winning it all this year? Your thoughts.

Hayes: After what this franchise has been through since Michael Jordan retired, youd be crazy not to. The Bulls, Heat, Spurs and Thunder are all championship contenders in my mind with the Celtics, Lakers and Pacers being potential dark horses. The Bulls are going to need some sort of advantage to get past the Heat, whether it be a Heat player being slowed by poor performance or injury or some lights-out shooting by Kyle Korver andor Rip Hamilton, but it can definitely be done. Derrick Roses health is the key, obviously, and Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer will have to step up as well. Coach Tom Thibodeau also needs to find a way to use his bench as effectively in the postseason, when rotations are shortened, as he has during the regular season.

2) CSNChicago.com: If the stars align and both teams advance through the first two rounds as they are expected to, an Eastern Conference Finals re-match against LeBron & Co. seems very likely to occur once again. What are your top 3 on-court key elements that the Bulls need to accomplish to get past the Heat this year?

Hayes: They are going to have to match the Heats physicality. That was an issue in the regular-season finale between these two teams, when the Bulls were bullied by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Assuming Rose is healthy, they will also need Carlos Boozer to win his matchup with Chris Bosh, not only when it comes to scoring, but rebounding as well.

The Bulls ability to dominate the boards is a great equalizer, and they were out-rebounded in the last game in Miami.

Finally, they are going to need the Bench Mob to really step up and make a difference, by which I mean make some shots. It may be Taj Gibson, who can make an impact on both ends of the court, or perhaps Korver, as I mentioned earlier, or even John Lucas III hitting some timely threes. Omer Asik was injured in the Eastern Conference Finals last season. Many inside the Bulls organization believe not having Asik to defend the rim when Noah was on the bench was a huge factor in that series.

3) CSNChicago.com: As youve naturally already read, GQ recently published an interview with Bulls superstar Derrick Rose. In that interview, Rose stated hes still not used to the limelight and all the well-deserved attention he receives on a daily basis. He also discussed how Michael Jordans six titles with the Bulls drives him and makes him work even harder. In your opinion, is it even fair to put that kind of pressure on D-Rose at this early point in his career to compare him to MJ?

Hayes: I dont think anybody puts that pressure on Derrick. He puts it on himself. Hes a very driven individual and that drive is largely responsible for where he is today. It defines who he is. As far as handling fame, Derrick is one of the most unique athletes Ive ever covered. Ive never meet anybody -- inside or outside of sports -- who is as genuinely humble and sincere. Thats why the story about him going to management and asking them to trade Carlos Boozer for Pau Gasol earlier this season didnt make sense to me. If you know Derrick, even a little bit, you know hes not capable of that type of manipulation. Hes just not wired that way. Hes an introvert in a very extroverted world. He will grow more accustomed how he will have to live his life, but he will never be comfortable being the center of attention anywhere other than a basketball court.

4) CSNChicago.com: As someone who has interviewed countless pro athletes in the NBA, NFL and many other sports over the years, whos been your favorite athlete to interview and why?

Hayes: Interesting question. I used to have great conversations with ex-49ers quarterback Steve Young. He was the most down-to-earth superstar Ive been around. He was one of the highest paid athletes in sports and was living in a loft he was remodeling himself. He even changed his own oil. I remember a long conversation with him about handling fame. He said, Fame is an elaborate hoax the world plays on you. He went on to say if an athlete wants to get noticed, hell wear the most expensive clothes, sunglasses and be ushered into private dining rooms with his entourage. He found the best way to go unnoticed was to put his name on the restaurant's waiting list, sit down and wait like everybody else. I thought that was a refreshing perspective.

As far as Chicago guys, Paul Konerko is everything you think he is. Hes as thoughtful and humble as it gets. his Bulls teams might be the best collection of athletes in one locker room Ive ever worked with, and that extends to general manager Gar Forman and vice president John Paxson. What they say about hockey players is true, too. Most come from blue-collar backgrounds and are amazingly level-headed and easy to deal with. For the most part, they dont worry about spinning things. They are the most accountable group of athletes youll ever be around.

5) CSNChicago.com: Lastly, and this one is hard-hitting Neil so get ready: tell us your favorite basketball-themed movie(s) of all-time. Interviewers note: TVs The White Shadow is an acceptable answer.

Hayes: I loved "The White Shadow" as a kid. I never missed an episode. Ironically enough, Thomas Carter, who played James Hollywood Hayward during the three-year series run, is now a Hollywood director who has signed on to direct a movie based on my first book, When the Game Stands Tall. I havent yet had a chance to pick his brain about his days on the set of "The White Shadow," but I will. Im also a sucker for "Hoosiers." Its not only a great basketball movie, but one of the great sports movies of all time. Hoop Dreams was also excellent.

Hayes LINKS

Chicago Sun-Times Sports official home page

Neil Hayes on Facebook

Neil Hayes on Twitter

Former North Lawndale star Jonathan Mills killed in shooting

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Former North Lawndale star Jonathan Mills killed in shooting

Former local high school basketball star Jonathan Mills was shot to death on Monday in North Lawndale, a source confirmed to CSN.

A Class 2A state champion and city champion who played high school ball at North Lawndale and college basketball at Southern Miss, Mills was shot multiple times in the 4100 block of West Roosevelt at 1:27 p.m., police told the Chicago Sun-Times.

The 26-year-old Mills was pronounced dead at the scene. He is survived by two daughters. 

Mills became a West Side legend in Chicago basketball circles as one of the hardest-working rebounders the city has seen in the last decade. Taking North Lawndale to two state semifinals and winning a Class 2A state championship in 2008, the 6-foot-5 lefty wasn't particularly skilled as an undersized forward, but he was relentless in his pursuit of the ball and a rugged defender.

In his first varsity season at North Lawndale as a junior, Mills averaged 16.8 points and 13.7 rebounds per game as he led the Phoenix in rebounding 31 of 33 games during a state title run. In a Class 2A sectional title game against Englewood, Mills had a legendary performance as he had 22 points and 23 rebounds in a two-point win. 

During his senior season, Mills averaged 14 points and 13 rebounds per game in helping the Phoenix win the school's first city championship. Beating Hyde Park in overtime for the city title, Mills had 13 points and 23 rebounds in a 54-51 win as he secured the game-clinching rebound off of teammate Terry Johnson's missed free throw. 

After playing two years of junior college ball at Eastern Utah, Mills played his final two seasons of college basketball at Southern Miss in Conference USA. Mills earned third-team All-Conference USA honors as a junior while also making the All-Defensive Team as he averaged 9.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. During his senior year, Mills was once again on the Conference USA All-Defensive Team as he put up 9.3 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.

On Monday, Twitter was filled with memories of Mills from coaches, players and reporters that watched him play. 

CSN and CSNChicago.com to provide daily coverage of Bears Training Camp 2016

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CSN and CSNChicago.com to provide daily coverage of Bears Training Camp 2016

Coverage begins Wednesday, July 27 with Ryan Pace & John Fox’ LIVE press conferences beginning at 2:00 PM CT

Team coverage to include daily reports from Bourbonnais for ‘SportsNet Central’ and ‘SportsTalk Live;’

CSNChicago.com’s Bears “Insider” John ‘Moon’ Mullin to provide daily online & on-air updates and up-to-the-minute video reports

Chicago, IL (July 25, 2016) -- Comcast SportsNet, the television home for the most extensive and comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Bears, will provide viewers with expanded on-air and digital coverage of Chicago Bears Training Camp 2016 presented by Abt Electronics, Appliances and More featuring daily reports on SportsNet Central presented by Comcast Business at 6:30 PM CT, GMC SportsNet Central at 10:00 & 10:30 PM and SportsNet Central presented by CLR at midnight, along with reports on the network’s signature weeknight sports talk show, SportsTalk Live presented by The Chevy Silverado (Monday-Friday at 5:30 PM) with host David Kaplan.

** Coverage kicks off on Wednesday, July 27 as Comcast SportsNet will carry Bears General Manager Ryan Pace and Bears Head Coach John Fox’ LIVE press conferences beginning at 2:00 PM CT.

Starting July 27, and every day throughout the duration of training camp, SportsNet Central’s Kip Lewis, Chris Boden, along with CSNChicago.com’s Bears “Insider” John ‘Moon’ Mullin will provide viewers with the very latest training camp breaking news, players/coaches interviews, video highlights, injury updates and much more from Bourbonnais, IL for both SportsNet Central and SportsTalk Live

In addition, CSNChicago.com also has Bears training camp covered 24/7 from a daily digital perspective with up-to-the-minute breaking news updates, roster moves, free agent signings, interviews and much more at CSNChicago.com’s Bears team page (csnchicago.com/bears).  CSNChicago.com will also produce daily digital “Bears Talk” reports offering detailed, position-by-position player analysis, as well as numerous features, interviews and commentary.

Fans can also look forward to up-to-the-minute breaking news Twitter updates from Mullin (@CSNMoonMullin), Lewis (@KipLewisCSN) and Boden (@CSNBoden), along with the network’s main Twitter handle (@CSNChicago) and ‘Bears Talk’ handle (@CSNBears) for feeds of Bears training camp news articles and features.

Plus, CSNChicago.com digital Bears producer Scott Krinch (via @CSNBears) will provide live reporting coverage via Bears Talk on CSNChicago.com – including real-time news stories, player interviews, behind-the-scenes photos, fan interviews, videos and live Tweets.  CSNChicago.com Bears Training Camp content will also be featured on NBCSports.com, ProFootballTalk.com, Yahoo! Sports, Rotoworld and NBCChicago.com.

CSN to televise, live stream IHSAA State Championship Tournaments

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CSN to televise, live stream IHSAA State Championship Tournaments

Beginning this scholastic year, CSN Chicago and the Iowa High School Sports Network will team up to bring viewers in-depth coverage of the Iowa High School Athletic Association's (IHSAA) State Championship Tournaments.

The partnership gives audiences access to over 85 hours of live football, wrestling and basketball coverage. 

All IHSAA events will be broadcasted in high definition and available via live stream at csnchicago.com. 

The 2016-2017 season will kickoff on Aug. 25 with the 4th annual Channel Seed Ag Bowl between the Northeast Rebels and Central Dewitt Sabers. 

Check out the full broadcast schedule here.