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The Largest Selection of Wholesale Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Products in Chicago

When it comes to trying new, exciting cuisine, few foods hit the spot like a deliciously fresh Mediterranean meal. However, we know that it can be very difficult to find authentic Mediterranean grocery wholesalers in Chicago, IL. Having lived in metro Atlanta for years, we realized that our customers needed an easy way to find quality wholesale Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food in bulk. That is why we created Nazareth Grocery Mediterranean Market - to give everyone a chance to enjoy tasty, healthy food, desserts, and authentic Mediterranean gifts at wholesale prices.

Founded in 2009, Nazareth Grocery has become one of Chicago's leading international wholesale grocery stores. We are very proud to serve our customers and do everything in our power to give them the largest selection of high-quality wholesale goods available.

If you're looking for the freshest, most delicious Middle Eastern wholesale products and ingredients, you will find them here at the best prices in the state. We encourage you to swing by our store in Marietta to see our selection for yourself. We think that you will be impressed!

The Nazareth Difference

At Nazareth Grocery Mediterranean Market, our mission is simple: bring you and your family the largest selection of wholesale Mediterranean products in Chicago. When coupled with our helpful, friendly staff and authentic Middle Eastern atmosphere, it's easy to see why we are the top Middle Eastern grocery wholesaler in Chicago, IL. We're proud to carry just about every kind of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern product that you can think of, from prepared meals and hookahs to fine seasonings and sweets. We're here for our customers and want each one of them to have a unique, one-of-a-kind experience when they shop with us.

Our loyal customers love our selection of the following wholesale foods and gifts:

  • Fresh Breads
  • OlivesOlives
  • HummusHummus
  • CheesesCheeses
  • SaucesSauces
  • Savory-FoodsSavory Foods
  • DessertsDesserts
  • DrinksDrinks
  • HookahsHookahs
  • TobaccoTobacco
  • SaucesGifts
  • Much More!Much More!

Our Service Areas

Most Popular Wholesale Mediterranean Foods

There is so much more to Mediterranean food than pizza and pasta. The perfect climate combined with delicious foods and amazing wine makes the Mediterranean incredibly irresistible. That's why our customers absolutely love to buy this kind of cuisine in bulk. Every country in this region has its own set of specialties and delicacies, each with its own flavors and styles of preparation.

Mediterranean countries include:

  • France
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Turkey
  • Syria
  • Egypt
  • Israel
  • Libya
  • Morocco
  • Tunisia
  • Spain
Mediterranean Grocery Chicago, IL

So, when it comes to the most popular wholesale Mediterranean products in Chicago,
what are we talking about?

 Mediterranean Supermarkets Chicago, IL

Feta Cheese

Feta cheese is a classic Mediterranean dairy product that is often enjoyed on its own, in Greek salads, on bread, or mixed with zucchini. Depending on where the feta is sourced and produced, the cheese can be made from cow, sheep, or goat milk, or even a combination of the three. Regardless of the animal it comes from, this delicious cheese is a crowd favorite.

 Mediterranean Grocery Store Chicago, IL

Baba Ganoush

This Levantine dish is one of the most well-known Mediterranean dishes to eat in the United States. It typically comes in the form of a dip, served with pita or another kind of dipping bread. Commonly served before dinner as an appetizer of sorts, it usually features tahini, eggplant, garlic, spices, and sometimes yogurt. This tasty cuisine works great as a spread on a sandwich, or you can even eat it with a spoon, all on its own.

 Middle Eastern Grocery Chicago, IL

Baklava

If you have never tried authentic baklava before, get ready to have your mind blown. This dessert is a traditional Mediterranean food that will have your taste buds craving more and more. Once you open a box of baklava from our Mediterranean grocery wholesaler in Chicago, IL, you won't want to stop eating! Baklava is made with layers of thin filo dough, which is layered together, filled with chopped nuts (think pistachios), and sealed with honey or syrup. Baklava is so good that its origins are debated, leaving many wondering which country invented the dessert. Everyone from the Turks to the Greeks and even Middle Easterners hold unique takes on baklava. Try each one to discover your favorite!

Most Popular Wholesale Middle Eastern Foods

Fresh, healthy, aromatic, rich: it's no wonder that the popularity of Middle Eastern cuisine and products has skyrocketed in the United States. This genre of cuisine features a large variety of foods, from Halvah to Labneh. If there were one common theme throughout all Middle Eastern food, it would be the bright, vibrant herbs and spices that are used. These flavorings help create rich, complex flavors that foodies fawn over. Typically, Middle Eastern food is piled high for all to eat, with enough food for an entire republic to put down.

 Mediterranean Food Stores Chicago, IL

Tabbouleh

This refreshing, healthy dish is chock-full of greens, herbs, tomatoes, and bulgur (or cracked wheat), creating a memorable, bold flavor. This dish may be eaten on its own or paired with a shawarma sandwich or helping of falafel. It's best to buy your ingredients in bulk to make this dish because it tastes best freshly made with family around to enjoy. Just be sure to bring a toothpick to the tabbouleh party - you're almost certain to have some leafy greens stuck in your teeth after eating.

 Middle Eastern Market Chicago, IL

Shawarma

We mentioned shawarma above, and for good reason - this dish is enjoyed by men and women around the world, and of course, right here in the U.S. Except for falafel, this might be the most popular Middle Eastern food item in history. Shawarma is kind of like a Greek gyro, with slow-roasted meat stuffed in laffa with veggies and sauce. The blend of spices and the smoky meat mix together to create a tangy, meaty flavor that you will want to keep eating for hours. For western-style shawarma, try using beef or chicken. For a more traditional meal, try using lamb from our Middle Eastern grocery distributor in Chicago, IL.

 Greek Grocery Store Chicago, IL

Hummus

Traditionally used as a dip meant for fresh pita, hummus is a combo of chickpeas, garlic, and tahini, blended together until silky, smooth, and creamy. You can find hummus in just about any appetizer section of a Middle Eastern restaurant menu. That's because it's considered a staple of Middle Eastern food that can be enjoyed by itself, as a spread, or with fresh-baked pita bread. Hummus is also very healthy, making it a no-brainer purchase from our grocery store.

Benefits of Eating a Mediterranean Diet

If there's one diet that is most well-known for its health benefits, it has got to be the Mediterranean diet. In 2019, U.S. News & World Report listed the Mediterranean diet as No. 1 on its best over diet list. This incredible diet has been cited to help with weight loss, brain health, heart health, diabetes prevention, and cancer prevention.

Whether you already love Mediterranean food or you're looking to make some positive changes in your life, this "diet" is for you. Eating cuisine like Greek food, Persian food, Turkish food, and Italian food is healthy and tastes great. Even better than that? At Nazareth Wholesale Grocery, we have many staples of the Mediterranean diet for sale in bulk so that you can stock up on your favorites at the best prices around.

So, what exactly is the Mediterranean diet?

It is a way of eating that incorporates traditional Greek, Italian, and other Mediterranean cultures' foods. These foods are often plant-based and make up the foundation of the diet, along with olive oil. Fish, seafood, dairy, and poultry are also included in moderation. Red meat and sweets are only eaten in moderation, not in abundance. Mediterranean food includes many forms of nuts, fruits, vegetables, fish, seeds, and more. Of course, you can find at them all at our wholesale Mediterranean grocery store!

Here are just a few of the many benefits of eating a healthy Mediterranean diet:

Reduced Risk of Heart Disease

Reduced Risk
of Heart Disease

Many studies have been conducted on this diet, many of which report that Mediterranean food is excellent for your heart. Some of the most promising evidence comes from a randomized clinical trial published in 2013. For about five years, researchers followed 7,000 men and women around the country of Spain. These people had type 2 diabetes or were at a high risk for cardiovascular disease. Participants in the study who ate an unrestricted Mediterranean diet with nuts and extra-virgin olive oil were shown to have a 30% lower risk of heart events.

Reduced Risk of Stroke for Women

Reduced Risk
of Stroke for Women

In addition to the heart-healthy benefits of a Mediterranean diet, studies have shown that eating healthy Mediterranean and Middle Eastern foods can reduce the chances of stroke in women. The study was conducted in the U.K., which included women between the ages of 40 and 77. Women who stuck to the Mediterranean diet showed a lower risk of having a stroke - especially women who were at high risk of having one.

Benefits of Eating a Mediterranean Diet

First and foremost, purchase your Mediterranean and Middle Eastern wholesale foods from Nazareth Grocery - we're always updating our inventory! Getting started on this healthy, delicious diet is easy.

Try these tips:

Try these tips

1.

Instead of unhealthy sweets like candy and ice cream, try eating fresh fruit instead. It's refreshing, tasty, and often packed with great vitamins and nutrients.

2.

Try eating fish twice a week, in lieu of red meat. Fish is much healthier and doesn't have the unfortunate side effects of red meat, like inflammation.

3.

Try planning out your meals using beans, whole grains, and veggies. Don't start with meats and sweets.

4.

They're tasty, but try to avoid processed foods completely.

5.

Instead of using butter to flavor your food, use extra virgin olive oil instead. Olive oil contains healthy fats and tastes great too.

6.

Try to get more exercise and get out of the house. The Mediterranean lifestyle is an active one, best enjoyed in the beautiful sunshine when possible.

Why Buy Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Products Wholesale?

Buying wholesale and retail are quite different. When you buy products from a wholesaler, you're essentially buying from the middleman between a retail establishment and the manufacturer. Wholesale purchases are almost always made in bulk. Because of that, buyers pay a discounted price. That's great for normal buyers and great for business owners, who can sell those products to profit. This higher price is called the retail price, and it is what traditional customers pay when they enter a retail store.

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 Middle Eastern Store Chicago, IL

Latest News in Chicago, IL

University of Illinois at Chicago Faculty Members Strike

(American Federation of Teachers)University of Illinois at Chicago faculty members began striking Tuesday after their union said 12 hours of negotiations with administrators on Martin Luther King Jr. Day didn’t produce an agreement.“We passed proposals back and forth with the management team from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m., when they passed us a counter that indicated that they had no interest in resolving our differences,” the union, UIC United Faculty, wrote ...

(American Federation of Teachers)

University of Illinois at Chicago faculty members began striking Tuesday after their union said 12 hours of negotiations with administrators on Martin Luther King Jr. Day didn’t produce an agreement.

“We passed proposals back and forth with the management team from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m., when they passed us a counter that indicated that they had no interest in resolving our differences,” the union, UIC United Faculty, wrote on its website.

“While they did send a message to the UIC community reaffirming a commitment to student mental health, they continue to ignore our concrete proposals on [student] disability assessment and including faculty in ongoing conversations about expanded mental health resources,” the union wrote. “They remain stuck on an annual annual [sic] raise of 4.25 percent, and a minimum starting salary of $54,000.”

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The strike continues. Charitianne Williams, a senior lecturer in the university’s English department and a bargaining team member, said negotiations are scheduled to resume sometime this afternoon.

“I am looking forward to this strike ending and getting back in the class with my students,” Williams said. “But in the meantime, we’ll be out here as long as it takes.”

Williams said she couldn’t say how many classes were canceled Tuesday.

“There are still classes going on,” she said. “Graduate students and adjunct faculty, so folks that just teach like one or two classes, are not protected by our contract, so they’re not allowed to strike. It’s really impossible to say. Our union represents, you know, 1,500 bargaining unit members. Of that 1,500, over 850 are union members. I would expect that all of those union members are observing the strike.”

With chants sounding behind her during a phone interview, she said, “I can tell you that I’m standing in the middle of the quad right now, looking around, and I don’t see any classes in session.”

The university declined to provide an interview Tuesday.

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In a joint statement, Javier Reyes, interim campus chancellor, and Karen Colley, acting provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, wrote that “this work stoppage is disappointing and not in the best interest of the university or our students. However, UIC fully respects the rights of its employees under the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act and other applicable laws.”

They said the union members have the right to work or to strike, but those who choose to strike will not be paid during it.

“Classes and labs will be held as scheduled in the Colleges of Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy and School of Law, as the bargaining unit does not represent faculty in those areas,” they said in the statement. “Teaching assistants are expected to hold their regularly scheduled classes, labs and office hours. In addition, if there are interruptions in class and lab schedules during a strike, make-up arrangements must be implemented to ensure that the instructional objectives are met.”

The union said its contract with the university expired in August. Negotiations began in April, and federal mediation began Oct. 31.

The local union—which says it represents faculty who are tenured, tenure track and full-time non–tenure track—urged all members to join picket lines from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m., and a noon rally on the quad.

The union is affiliated with the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers. Tuesday’s quad rally featured AFT national president Randi Weingarten, and AFT streamed the event online.

“Freedom means real freedom, means intellectual freedom, means academic freedom,” Weingarten shouted to the crowd, saying faculty should be treated like “freedom fighters.”

And she said the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on student mental health is “everybody’s business in this city. Of course it’s your business, and that is what bargaining for the common good means.”

UIC, which enrolled about 34,200 students as of last fall, said on its website that the Martin Luther King Jr. Day meeting was its 31st with the union and the 12th including the federal mediator.

In response to the union’s request for expanded student mental health resources, the university’s website said it “announced an approved $4.47 million plan to enhance student mental health services and continues to insist that a clause regarding student services does not belong in a faculty employment contract.”

The union is requesting, among other things, a $61,000 minimum salary for non-tenure-track faculty and $77,000 for tenure track, and a $3,000 base salary increase for all faculty in the first year of the contract, Williams said. In the last contract with the bargaining unit, the minimum salary for non-tenure-track faculty was $50,000 and the minimum for tenure track was $65,000.

The university is offering a $54,000 minimum salary for non-tenure-track faculty that would grow to about $58,400 by the fourth and final year of the proposed new contract, and a minimum $67,600 for tenure-track faculty that would grow to $70,300 by year four.

So, even in four years, the minimum salary would be below the union’s current request.

The university is also offering a one-time, $4,000 lump sum payment during the four-year contract, instead of the $3,000 base salary increase for all faculty. The union is also pushing for a three-year contract, while the university says it wants a four-year one.

The university says it and the union have reached “tentative” agreements on various issues, starting in May, shortly after negotiations began, but ending with the last tentative agreement in mid-December.

“The sides have reached a tentative agreement on 17 of 23 items,” the university wrote.

Williams, however, said, “The management team has been stalling from the beginning.”

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Ryan Quinn

This is each team's coolest current jersey

The best-selling MLB jerseys tend to belong to superstars. But anyone can rock Mookie Betts’ No. 50 or Aaron Judge’s No. 99. You see those everywhere. The trick is to have a jersey that nobody else has. The trick is to have a hipster jersey.You know the hipster jerseys. They’re the jerseys of the players that the diehards know but the casual fan might not, the underground hit that the mainstream hasn’t caught on to yet, the quiet fan favorite only the real heads know about … the hipster jerseys....

The best-selling MLB jerseys tend to belong to superstars. But anyone can rock Mookie Betts’ No. 50 or Aaron Judge’s No. 99. You see those everywhere. The trick is to have a jersey that nobody else has. The trick is to have a hipster jersey.

You know the hipster jerseys. They’re the jerseys of the players that the diehards know but the casual fan might not, the underground hit that the mainstream hasn’t caught on to yet, the quiet fan favorite only the real heads know about … the hipster jerseys.

So, today, we take a look at a hipster jersey candidate for each team. Remember: You were down with these guys before it was cool to be down with these guys.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Blue Jays: Danny Jansen (No. 9) The other young exciting catcher on the Blue Jays, alongside Alejandro Kirk, was the subject of some trade rumors this offseason. But Toronto kept him, and for good reason. Did you realize he had the highest slugging percentage on this team last year?

Orioles: Félix Bautista (No. 74) He’s a 6-foot-5 closer who can hurl 100 mph heat and enters to Omar’s “Farmer in the Dell,” from The Wire. Why don’t you have his jersey already?

Rays: Pete Fairbanks (No. 29) You could make an argument that every Rays jersey is a hipster jersey, but Fairbanks is the most Rays pitcher who ever Rays’d. The 29-year-old emerged as a force during the team’s 2020 postseason run and was lights-out when healthy last year (1.13 ERA in 24 games).

Red Sox: Matt Barnes (No. 32) Did you realize that this right-hander has been in the organization since 2011? And is now third in franchise history in games pitched (429)? The Connecticut native has seen every possible permutation of the Red Sox over the last decade-plus … just like the fans have.

Yankees: Harrison Bader (No. 22) You can make an argument that no Yankee can have a hipster jersey, but by the end of his first full season in the Bronx, all your nieces and nephews who are Yankees fans are going to be repping Bader. Better get ahead of the curve.

AL CENTRAL

Guardians: Triston McKenzie (No. 24) The 25-year-old righty hasn’t quite put it all together yet. But he’s going to, and perhaps soon. If he gets on a run, he could become the face of this franchise nearly as much as José Ramírez is.

Royals: Vinnie Pasquantino (No. 9) Maybe the most hipster jersey of all the hipster jerseys in the league, befitting of a slugger whose stellar rookie campaign lived up to his “Italian Nightmare” nickname. You should get one of these even if you’re not a Royals fan.

Tigers: Akil Baddoo (No. 60) Think of this as a sort of post-hype sleeper version of the hipster jersey. It was very cool to have this jersey two years ago, when Baddoo went from Rule 5 Draft pick to key contributor, then less so during a difficult sophomore campaign. Just about the perfect time for it to come back.

Twins: Griffin Jax (No. 22) Don’t be surprised if he’s picking up all the saves for his team by season’s end. And this is kind of a cool name to have on the back of your shirt.

AL WEST

Angels: Shohei Ohtani (No. 17) He doesn’t really fit with the rest of this list, but sorry, this one is Ohtani, for whatever team he’s on, forever. (We also would have accepted Brett Phillips’ No. 8 for a true hipster pick.)

Astros: Luis Garcia (No. 77) You really could pick any of the young Astros starters, but a Garcia jersey is the one your friends are least likely to already have, despite his success the past two seasons.

Athletics: Esteury Ruiz (TBD) It might not pay off, given his 6-for-35 start in the Majors. But if it does, thanks to his elite speed and ability to steal bases, it will pay off magnificently.

Mariners: Julio Rodríguez (No. 44) Until he’s the top-selling jersey in the sport as he probably should be, his jersey is an underappreciated, and thus hipster, pick. (But Matt Brash’s No. 47 isn’t bad, either).

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Rangers: Jonah Heim (No. 28) He was quietly one of the best all-around players on this team last year, as well as one of MLB’s top pitch-framers, and he’s still only 27.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Braves: Michael Harris II (No. 23) These things might be outselling Ronald Acuña jerseys by the end of the year, considering the splash the NL Rookie of the Year made as a 21-year-old.

Marlins: Jazz Chisholm Jr. (No. 2) At some point, the Marlins should consider just putting JAZZ on the back of his jersey.

Mets: Brandon Nimmo (No. 9) What better way to honor the most perpetually underrated and underappreciated Met than to wear his jersey? (Bonus points for if you got it for 50 percent off when he hit free agency.)

Nationals: Sean Doolittle (No. 63) The bearded lefty is still in the organization, albeit as a non-roster invitee to Spring Training, and as long as he’s still in the organization, it has to be him.

Phillies: Alec Bohm (No. 28) There have been lots of highs and lows for Bohm so far in Philly (even in the same game), but he seems to have endeared himself to the fanbase despite the struggles and missteps.

NL CENTRAL

Brewers: Rowdy Tellez (No. 11) Admittedly, it’d be better if it said ROWDY on the back.

Cardinals: Brendan Donovan (No. 33) A scrappy, hustling utilityman with a great batting eye whose helmet falls off his head every time he sprints around the bases? Where have you been all these Cardinals fans’ lives, Brendan?

Cubs: Christopher Morel (No. 5) He changed the whole vibe of every Cubs game he was in last year as a rookie while playing five positions and showing some loud tools.

Pirates: Oneil Cruz (No. 15) You are, of course, totally forgiven for busting out that old No. 22 Andrew McCutchen shirsey instead. But Cruz’s ability to light up Statcast could make him the Pirates’ future.

Reds: Alexis Díaz (No. 43) Bonus points if you wear it while playing a different trumpets song than his brother gets.

NL WEST

D-backs: Corbin Carroll (No. 7) We’ve said this before: Get this jersey now, because it kind of feels like no one is going to wear No. 7 for this team again. That’s how good this NL Rookie of the Year favorite looks.

Dodgers: Dustin May (No. 85) You don’t have to wear a red wig with this, but it wouldn’t hurt. The right-hander should be fully healthy in 2023 and has the lights-out stuff to become a star.

Giants: LaMonte Wade Jr. (No. 31) Even after taking a step back from his breakout 2021 campaign, he’s still the guy who might best represent what this Giants regime does so well.

Padres: Nabil Crismatt (No. 74) On a team stacked with big names, why not go with the fun of “Nabil Crismatt?” Last season’s 2.94 ERA is a nice bonus.

Rockies: Kris Bryant (No. 23) Injuries wiped out much of his debut season in Denver, but that makes this something of a “buy low” opportunity, jersey-wise.

WNBA free agency rumors: Breanna Stewart to meet with four teams; Candace Parker to choose between Sky, Sparks

Getty Images The 2023 WNBA free agency period is now open, as starting Jan. 21 teams are allowed to meet with players and offer contracts. Nothing can be officially signed until Feb. 1, however. With ...

Getty Images

The 2023 WNBA free agency period is now open, as starting Jan. 21 teams are allowed to meet with players and offer contracts. Nothing can be officially signed until Feb. 1, however. With multiple future hall of famers on the market, and various teams boasting significant cap space, the next few weeks figure to be a thrilling time for fans across the league.

As the action heats up, here are some updates on the biggest names:

Stewart to meet with four teams, has interest in playing with Vandersloot

For the second year in a row, Breanna Stewart is the unquestioned top free agent. Already an all-time great at 28 years old, she has her choice of destinations and has narrowed it down to four teams, according to Ramona Shelburne. Stewart will meet with the Seattle Storm, New York Liberty, Minnesota Lynx and Washington Mystics.

Stewart, who is from Syracuse, New York, notably met with the Liberty last winter during free agency before signing a one-year deal to return to the Storm, the only franchise she has ever known. During her end-of-season press conference in October, she made it clear that she would explore free agency again before making a decision on her future, so it's no surprise that she's taking multiple meetings.

The most interesting note is that Stewart has an interest in playing with Courtney Vandersloot, per Shelburne. Vandersloot, one of the league's best-ever point guards, is expected to meet with the Chicago Sky, Storm, Liberty and Lynx, and there are signs that point to them being a package deal.

At this point, the Storm and Liberty would seem to have the upper hand, though no further details have been reported. Stewart has spent her whole career with the Storm, has won two titles there and loves playing with Jewell Loyd, while Vandersloot is a Washington native. The Liberty, meanwhile, have a previous relationship with Stewart from last year, recently traded for Jonquel Jones and play in her home state.

If Stewart and Vandersloot do end up playing together, it would turn whatever team they pick into an instant title contender and also sink the fortunes of at least one other club.

Parker deciding between Sky and Sparks

Candace Parker is also an unrestricted free agent this winter, and like Stewart could pretty much play wherever she wants. However, per Annie Costabile, the decision will come down to the Chicago Sky and Los Angeles Sparks despite interest from numerous teams.

Parker, of course, spent the first 13 seasons of her career with the Sparks before making a dramatic homecoming to Chicago, where she led the Sky to the first title in franchise history in 2021. On some level, it would be a surprise for her to leave home so soon after returning, but nearly the entire core of last season's Sky team is hitting free agency. Parker, now 36, has publicly flirted with retirement and wants to play for a winner at this stage of her career. If she sees the writing on the wall for this Sky group and believes she'll have a better chance to compete for a title elsewhere, perhaps she'll leave.

It's notable that the Sparks are reportedly the only other team she's seriously considering. That franchise has undergone a total rehaul since she left a few years ago, and now boasts new head coach Curt Miller and nearly $1 million in cap space. Heading back to Southern California to team up with her good friend Nneka Ogwumike again -- assuming Ogwumike returns to the Sparks herself -- could be enticing.

Sky facing uncertain future

The Sky have spent the past few seasons near the top of the league, but their time as a perennial title contender may be coming to an end. Parker, Vandersloot, Emma Meesseman, Azura Stevens and Allie Quigley are unrestricted free agents, and it seems unlikely that all of them will be back.

Parker and Vandersloot are, obviously, the two most important players in that mix. The former's situation, as already noted, is rather simple, per reports. She'll either stay with the Sky or go back to the Sparks. Vandersloot, however, seems intent on exploring free agency and perhaps teaming up with Stewart. If she does the latter, it will not be in Chicago, and could also inform Parker's decision.

As for some of the other players in the mix, Stevens, who is coming off another solid season as a spot starter, has received interest from eight different teams, including the Lynx, per Costabile. She could stick with the Sky but may look to go elsewhere if that would come with a bigger role.

There hasn't been much in the way of reports about Meesseman's future, but it's worth noting that this is a EuroBasket Women summer, and she is Belgium's key player. She sat out of the 2021 WNBA season to focus on the international game; would she do so again? If not, her versatile and complementary skills will make her a target for countless WNBA teams.

Quigley, meanwhile, could be a package deal with her wife, Vandersloot. We'll have to wait and see on that front.

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The Seattle Storm announced on Thursday that the organization will retire legendary point guard Sue Bird's jersey on June 11 ahead of their game against the Washington Mystics. Bird will be the second player in franchise history to have their number retired, joining Lauren Jackson.

Following the team's season-ending loss in Game 4 of their thrilling semifinal series against the Las Vegas Aces last season, Bird addressed the Seattle crowd for one last time as a player.

"It's sad," Bird said after the 97-92 loss. "Obviously so thankful for 20 years here. I'm gonna miss it so much. I'm not going anywhere, but I'm gonna miss it. I wish we could have done a little bit more to get to the Finals, but I'm so proud of this team, this year. I'm so, so, so, proud to be a member of the Seattle Storm. It has been my honor to play for this franchise, to play for these fans. I don't know what else to say."

WNBA

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Thank You, Sue Bird!

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Selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 WNBA Draft, Bird spent her entire career with the club, playing 19 seasons over 21 years. The franchise leader in games played, points, assists and steals, just to name a few, Bird has either scored or assisted on 27.5 percent of every basket ever made by the club.

During her remarkable career, Bird played 580 games, racked up 6,803 career points, 3,234 assists, 1,001 made 3-pointers and 724 steals. She is the all-time leader in games played and assists, seventh all-time in scoring and second all-time in 3-point field goals. Her lead on the assist record is so large that the only active player within even 1,000 assists is Courtney Vandersloot, who is 847 behind.

Other accolades for Bird include, but are not limited to four championships (she is the only player to win titles in three different decades), 13 All-Star appearances (another record), eight All-WNBA appearances (tied for the sixth-most all-time) and spots on the 10th, 15th, 20th and the 25th anniversary teams.

A temperature check on the Wizards’ playoff chances

The Washington Wizards are a team built to win, much to the chagrin of a sizable portion of the fanbase. Whatever your feelings about the team’s construction, Ted Leonsis and Tommy Sheppard have assembled a unit that is — at least on paper — a playoff contender.This season, parity in the NBA is at an all-time high. The way I see it, that means there are three tiers of teams in each conference — the playoff locks, the teams fighting for the playoffs and the tanking teams. Today I want to go through all the teams...

The Washington Wizards are a team built to win, much to the chagrin of a sizable portion of the fanbase. Whatever your feelings about the team’s construction, Ted Leonsis and Tommy Sheppard have assembled a unit that is — at least on paper — a playoff contender.

This season, parity in the NBA is at an all-time high. The way I see it, that means there are three tiers of teams in each conference — the playoff locks, the teams fighting for the playoffs and the tanking teams. Today I want to go through all the teams in the East that are fighting for the playoffs to analyze the Wizards’ chances at making a playoff push this season. I’m excluding the following teams: Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers (playoff locks); Charlotte Hornets, Detroit Pistons (tanking teams).

Please note that all records, statistics and standings are as of Jan. 20.

The Miami Heat started the season with a 2-5 record and have hovered a few games above or below .500 ever since. The team that came within seconds of the NBA Finals last year has been shockingly inconsistent, largely due to Jimmy Butler missing 14 games and PJ Tucker signing with the Philadelphia 76ers in the offseason. Reigning Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro has been scoring the ball well, and Bam Adebayo is averaging a solid 22 points and 10 rebounds per game, so the Heat should be back to form when Butler is fully healthy.

The Heat will probably finish above the Wizards in the standings.

The New York Knicks have been in the same position as the Wizards since the turn of the millennium, consistently underperforming and capping out as a second-round exit. Now it looks like, for the first time in a while, fans in New York have a team they can be excited about.

Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes are breaking out as legitimate two-way threats, RJ Barrett is penciled in for 20 points on any given night and Julius Randle is posting nearly identical stats (other than three-point shooting) to his 2020-21 All-Star and All-NBA campaign.

Oh, and have you heard of this guy the Knicks signed this offseason? His name is Jalen Brunson.

The Knicks were scrutinized for giving Brunson a four year, $104 million contract this offseason; most fans and pundits viewed this as an overpay that would make a mediocre team marginally better. Through 43 games with the Knicks, Brunson is proving all doubters wrong. He is averaging a career-high 22.6 points per game and a career-high 6.3 assists per game on efficient 47/39.8/85.6% shooting splits for a team that has only experienced the joys of above-.500 basketball a handful of times since 2000.

In the month of January, Brunson is on a scoring tear — he is averaging 31.7 points per game in 2023, and has only scored below 30 points four times in this span. The last time he scored below 20 points was December 23rd.

The Knicks will definitely finish above the Wizards in the standings.

The Atlanta Hawks are just a game above .500 right now, but there is little reason to believe they will not improve given their dramatic midseason turnarounds the past two years that propelled them into the playoffs. The experimental pairing of Trae Young and Dejounte Murray has not worked out so far, but once Young’s shots start falling (his field goal percentage of 42.4% is his lowest since his rookie year), the Hawks should start seeing improvement.

The Hawks will definitely finish above the Wizards in the standings.

The fact that the Indiana Pacers are currently weathering a five-game losing streak and still maintain a .500 record is a miracle. After all, they were my preseason pick to have the worst record in the Eastern Conference.

Much of this unexpected success can be attributed to Tyrese Haliburton, who looks primed to usurp Chris Paul as the NBA’s next Point God. In his third season, Haliburton is already the best player from the 2020 draft class, and he is averaging 20.2 points and 10.2 assists on shooting splits just shy of 50/40/90.

Haliburton’s stellar play is supported by three other Pacers averaging over 17 points per game — Buddy Hield, Bennedict Mathurin and Myles Turner. Mathurin, the recent sixth pick in the 2022 Draft, is particularly impressing. His resume already includes a number of thirty point games on good efficiency for a rookie. He would win Rookie of the Year in any year that didn’t include Paolo Banchero, who is already a contender to make the All-Star Game.

The Pacers will probably finish above the Wizards in the standings.

Halfway through last season, the Chicago Bulls looked like borderline title contenders. Now it looks like the days of DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vu?evi? are numbered. The Bulls’ season outlook is entirely dependent on the Feb. 9 trade deadline. Will the Bulls keep their three stars, or will they ship them off and enter a rebuild?

With DeRozan’s consistently stellar play and LaVine’s gradual return to form after a slow start to the season, the Bulls front office could reasonably delude themselves into believing they have something special on their hands (sound familiar?). Alternatively, they could have an entirely different roster in just three weeks. The Bulls are the team to watch at the trade deadline.

I have no idea whether the Bulls will finish above the Wizards in the standings.

This season thus far has been nothing short of a disaster for the Toronto Raptors. Despite Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby all being top ten in minutes per game this season, their nightly exhaustion often proves fruitless as the Raptors sit six games below .500. Toronto is in dire need of depth if they want to compete, especially since Otto Porter, Jr., underwent a season-ending surgery. Playing their top guys almost 40 minutes per night is not working, so the Raptors need to think long and hard about hitting the reset button.

Like the Bulls, the Raptors are the team to keep an eye on before the trade deadline.

The Raptors may or may not finish above the Wizards in the standings.

By now, we all know the story of the Washington Wizards’ season. With ownership and a general manager refusing to blow up the team, the fanbase can only hope the Wizards brass is active at the trade deadline. And they need to be active.

The roster needs some serious upgrades. Rui Hachimura is almost certainly out the door, and Will Barton should be too. Depending on other teams’ interest, the Wizards cannot afford to cling on to players like Deni Avdija and Johnny Davis if other teams are selling at the deadline.

Realistically, Hachimura will be the only player out the door, and my prediction is that the rumored deal with the Phoenix Suns for a forward other than Jae Crowder is completed. That, unfortunately, is not a big enough swing to catapult this team to anywhere higher than the lowest spot in the play-in tournament. The Wizards need to seriously test the market for Avdija, Davis and Corey Kispert and see what win-now pieces they can acquire from whatever team blows it up at the deadline. The Wizards roster now contains top-15 picks from four consecutive drafts that are, at the moment, average role players at best (Hachimura, Avdija, Kispert and Davis). It is in the best interest of both the Wizards and those promising young players that at least two of them move on to new teams.

Don’t look now, but the Orlando Magic are coming. They’re 11-12 over the last two months and have been playing some really solid basketball behind Rookie of the Year frontrunner Paolo Banchero.

Here’s a stat for you: the Magic’s starting five is one of the best five-man lineups in the NBA, with a net rating of +23.2 (per @NBA_University on Twitter). Is that something you would have guessed?

THREAD Best 5-man lineups from every team in order of greatest net rating. Check the thread to find your team! (Minimum 150 non-garbage-time possessions) WHAT STANDS OUT? pic.twitter.com/Z2g8pWx27P

— NBA University (@NBA_University) January 19, 2023

Obviously the Magic are in a rebuild, but they are a bit ahead of schedule. While they are not a playoff threat by any means, they are just two games out of the play-in tournament right now. If they manage to get there, they just need to win two games to make the playoffs. Just something to think about.

The Magic will probably not finish above the Wizards in the standings.

By my estimates, the Wizards will finish as either the best team outside of the play-in or the worst team in the play-in. If they do end up making a major move at the deadline, they have the potential to be a tad higher. Out of the teams mentioned, I predict they finish lower than the Heat, Knicks, Hawks and Pacers, and it’s a coin flip whether they finish above the Bulls and Raptors. At least they will (probably) finish higher than the Magic.

What did you think of my analysis? Let me know down below and I will respond to as many comments as I can to keep the discussion flowing.

How White Sox pitching coach Ethan Katz plans to optimize pitching staff additions

Free of the lockout and able to communicate with pitchers, White Sox pitching coach Ethan Katz is much more in his element this offseason. Rather than idly hoping a player might post a video on social media, he can request it. Or he can call and check in with how his pitchers’ offseasons are going, and “try to gain as much information as possible and bother them all the time.” He saw ...

Free of the lockout and able to communicate with pitchers, White Sox pitching coach Ethan Katz is much more in his element this offseason. Rather than idly hoping a player might post a video on social media, he can request it. Or he can call and check in with how his pitchers’ offseasons are going, and “try to gain as much information as possible and bother them all the time.” He saw Michael Kopech Thursday in Arizona continuing his rehab at the White Sox spring training facility — “he’s still rehabbing the knee, so we’re still building him up,” Katz said — and called The Athletic on Friday while en route to look in on Lucas Giolito’s progress in loosening up his arm action at Chapman Baseball Compound in California.

“When a guy feels like they’ve had a good offseason, it’s always encouraging,” Katz said. “I’m assessing.”

But the crux of this call was the team’s three most prominent pitching acquisitions of the winter, all of which not coincidentally had previous ties to the White Sox pitching coach.

“Where he was in his career and where we’re hoping we can get him to, that’s a No. 1 or No. 2 in your rotation,” said Katz of free-agent signing Mike Clevinger, whom he coached in Single A in the Angels organization. As a prospect, what stood out most about Clevinger to Katz was his command, which extended to both his breaking balls. Knowing Katz’s preference for incorporating secondary pitches more when possible, he indicated it’s highly possible that Clevinger’s pitch mix looks more diversified than the fastball-slider approach that defined his prime — if they get everything working.

That’s a bit further down the road. With Katz in Chicago and Clevinger in Florida, there hasn’t been the in-person work they will have in spring, but the focus has been on what needs to change on the physical side. While 2022 was Clevinger’s first season after Tommy John surgery, Katz viewed the worst ERA since Clevinger’s rookie season, a poor second half and declining velocity down the stretch as directly correlated to an injured right knee. Clevinger said upon signing that he had received a platelet-rich plasma injection in the knee, and Katz said it’s presently “not a factor” in his preparation for the season. Their focus is on returning Clevinger’s delivery to what it looked like before the knee hampered him.

“We broke down some biomechanics stuff after we signed him to kind of show him the differences,” Katz said. “Where he was different in all aspects of his delivery, which was probably in correlation to the knee. Some of the things (that we showed him) were about trying to get him back to where he was. Now that he is healthy, he is working on it. His bullpens and the videos that I have seen, there’s been no kind of restrictions or anything that’s slowed him down from being able to be aggressive on that back leg.”

Katz has a history with Clevinger that he can draw upon as they build a rapport throughout the year. But the reference point for his prescribed improvements is not a decade-old A-ball season, but rather the litany of conversations he had with people around the league to get their take on his new pitcher. Opposing hitters keyed in on a visible difference in his delivery that made him easier to pick up, and also could be easily tied to altered movement profiles on a fastball-slider combination that was dominant back in 2019, but saw diminished swing-and-miss rates in 2022.

“The deception that he had disappeared a little bit,” Katz said. “His front side was getting lower and his (arm) slot was a little bit different. It was a little bit lower than where he had been. Where in the past the front side had been a little bit higher, his arm slot had been a little higher. With that higher front side, there was more deception to him. That’s what the hitters were picking up a little bit easier on him. So, trying to get him back to where that was, where things were jumping on hitters because he has really good extension and how he’s hiding the ball from guys.”

This isn’t a process Katz expects to be complete by the first bullpen Clevinger throws at Camelback Ranch, but he doesn’t sound fazed by the idea of undertaking this in a single offseason. Primarily, because after injury rehab occupied his last two winters, sights like Clevinger throwing at the Wake Forest pitching lab recently are a testament that he is healthy enough to work through improvements. Katz said there will be points in the season where they will need to be cognizant of how few innings Clevinger has logged in the past few years, and apply that knowledge to his workload. But he has no current restrictions in working on what needs to improve. The White Sox’s investment in Clevinger is rooted in this.

“This is his first normal offseason in a couple of years,” said Katz. “It’s going to be a different spring for him coming into it, and all the reports and the back and forth we’ve had has been very positive from a physical standpoint.”

The other two pitching additions to the White Sox 40-man roster so far this offseason did not require as deep of a dive into Katz’s career history. Both a small trade for hard-throwing 23-year-old reliever Gregory Santos and selecting Nick Avila in the Rule 5 draft simply required Katz to draw upon his two seasons in the Giants organization, 2019 and 2020. His prescriptions for the two right-handers are sort of two sides of the same coin.

Santos can threaten triple-digits on the radar gun, but his strikeout numbers (23 percent rate in Triple A last year) have indicated it’s not as overpowering to opposing hitters as it looks on the scoreboard. His upper-80s to low-90s slider is more regularly accepted as a plus pitch by league scouts, to the point where Santos often throws it more than 50 percent of the time. Maybe that will remain the case while working single innings out of the bullpen, but Katz feels more can be wrung out of Santos’ velocity by abandoning the idea of it being a typical four-seamer.

“Yes, it’s upper-90s,” Katz began. “But the fastball metrics in how it played and how it cut and how it moved, remembering that from San Francisco and thinking that we can switch that to a sinker, or leverage more of a cutter at some point, would probably be the course of action for him. He actually tapped into that slightly at the end of the season last year; switching his four-(seam) to a two-seam with that slider, I think we have a really good pairing.”

Both Santos’ scant 5 2/3 innings of major-league work and his time in Triple A have been troubled by elevated walk rates. Katz feels like it’s a little early in the process to start talking about a fastball shape change improving his command, and thus paving the path to Santos contributing to the White Sox bullpen more significantly. But he also noted that he felt Santos’ first-pitch strike-throwing ability was already strong, so it was more about refining what he does to try to expand hitters out of the zone afterward, hopefully with tools that are more viable to challenge hitters with.

“It’s about what is he trying to do after strike one,” Katz said. “Is he trying to strike everybody out and embarrass them. How is he going about his mentality, pitch-to-pitch, after he gets strike one? Our goal is to get him in the zone. But obviously until you have those conversations about how they’re trying to approach pitches and do things … We’ll find out more. We have some ideas how we’re going to keep him in the strike zone with his elite weapons, and we’ll go from there.”

Somewhere very, very far down the list of priorities in response to the news of Liam Hendriks’ illness is that the White Sox will have one more bullpen spot open for competition than anticipated. Upon selecting Avila in the Rule 5 draft, general manager Rick Hahn already stated that the 25-year-old would have to win a spot outright on merit, despite his roster status. If he doesn’t, the Sox either have to return him to the Giants or work out a separate deal to keep him. But it seems to help Avila’s Opening Day chances that the Sox are profiling him for a multi-inning, long relief role that would already seem suited to the last roster spot in the bullpen.

There’s the language of someone with a history in player development when Katz talks about Avila. He praised the makeup he witnessed when he coached Avila previously, talked about the long-term potential of someone who can command a four-pitch mix (mid-90s heater, cutter, slider, curveball) to both sides of the plate with minimal platoon splits, and the potential to have six years of team control if they can keep Avila after spring training. But whereas Santos needs to refine his process after getting strike one on hitters, Katz described Avila as “an elite strike-thrower” who can afford to make the opposition chase more in their search for hard contact.

“The thing that he needs to kind of focus on is with his elite strike-throwing ability is expand a little bit more when he gets to a two-strike count,” Katz said. “He does have to come into spring and earn a spot. So the sense of urgency is there, but the weapons are there and the opportunities are there.”

And unlike last spring, when signings like Vince Velasquez openly lamented that a lockout and compressed spring training didn’t offer a lot of time for installing prescribed fixes, Katz has more time to enact improvement plans for pitchers he has prior ideas about.

“I’m significantly busier,” Katz said. “Which, I like.”

(Top photo of Mike Clevinger: Lindsey Wasson / USA Today)

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