Preps Talk

Ask Aggrey: Should the Bulls sign Mike James?

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Ask Aggrey: Should the Bulls sign Mike James?

As we enter a challenging week for the Bulls -- Monday night features "Linsanity" and the Knicks, followed by a much-anticipated showdown with the Heat Wednesday, not to mention Kurt Thomas' return when Portland comes into town Friday and another showdown with the 76ers Saturday -- I'm a bit preoccupied. Not only does the NCAA Tournament start this week (I like the chances of both of my teams, alma mater Temple and hometown favorite Georgetown, though I wish they weren't in the same region), but the high school basketball season is coming to a close. I'll likely take the short trip to Chicago State Tuesday to see if Simeon can knock off Evanston for a shot to go Downstate and win a third straight Illinois 4A title; if you haven't seen Jabari Parker play yet, why are you procrastinating?

Anyway, there's still good old NBA basketball going on and the annual drama of the upcoming trade deadline, although I think this season's could be quieter than most. I could be wrong, but from conversations with a variety of people, it doesn't seem like any blockbuster deals (read: Dwight Howard trade) will go down. Bulls fans, in particular, shouldn't be overly concerned, as I truly believe they'll stand pat. Of course, by putting that on paper, I've probably jinxed it and will lose all credibility. Regardless, while I still have a shred of believability left, enjoy this week's edition of my answers to your questions.

Any chance the Bulls make a run at Ray Allen? -- David G.
David, slim to none. Now, I do think Boston will at least explore trading Allen, as well as Kevin Garnett -- Paul Pierce, the other member of the "Big Three," is a long-shot to be moved, while Rajon Rondo's reputation has reportedly scared off other teams -- but I don't think Chicago is a likely future destination for the sharpshooter. Bulls fans have been a bit panicky with Rip Hamilton's injury situation, but I believe the front office will stand pat at the upcoming trade deadline. If anything, a minor move for a backup big man could take place, but I can't see the Bulls being willing to trade enough assets to meet the Celtics' asking price for Allen, even if they were interested.

What do you attribute the regression of Omer's play to this year? Do you think he still has "starter" potential in the NBA? -- Benjamin N.
Benjamin, I'm probably one of Omer's biggest advocates and have consistently defended him all season, but even I have to admit that his offense has taken a step back, especially as of late. He just doesn't seem confident in the low post and has gone back to making mistakes (not protecting the ball, repeated pump fakes) that I thought he was starting to eliminate a while back. That said, he's still a defensive force, although that might not be noticeable to casual observers. The way he closes down the lane and has an intimidating presence shouldn't be overlooked. Additionally, his size off the bench is one of the Bulls' biggest advantages when looking at a potential playoff matchup with Miami. I think Omer's leg injury at the end of last season, combined with having to play almost immediately afterward for Turkey in the FIBA EuroBasket event, not having significant time to rehab the injury and rust from the lockout are all factors to his regression, but his youth and defensive acumen alone are traits other teams salivate over. This is no longer the Shaq-Ewing-Robinson-Olajuwon era of centers in the NBA (let alone guys like Dikembe Mutombo or even a Rik Smits), so yes, I do believe Omer still has starter potential, particularly on a team with a go-to scorer at power forward and a strong perimeter cast.
Do you think the Bulls should sign Mike James for the remainder of the season? -- @Wynton_Mohorn

Wynton, without a doubt. He's already familiar with both the system and his teammates, something I know Thibs values. Mike also adds toughness, experience, more size than John Lucas III, the ability, like C.J. Watson, to play on and off the ball and in this injury-riddled season, some insurance in the backcourt. I think it's a near-lock that he rejoins the team, as soon as later this week.

Who is your early pick for Rookie of the Year? -- Tyrone E.

Tyrone, with Ricky Rubio now out for the season after his unfortunate ACL injury, I think it's a no-brainer that Kyrie Irving takes home top-rookie honors. Although Rubio's impact in turning around Minnesota can't be denied, I already favored Irving because of the fact that he immediately became Cleveland's best player, while Rubio has help from the likes of Kevin Love and isn't counted on to score. It's doubtful that the Cavs make the playoffs, but the fact that they're even in contention, even in the top-heavy East, should be credited almost solely to Irving, who doesn't exactly have the strongest supporting cast and has had to battle without the services of the injured Anderson Varejao, the team's second-best player.

With the NCAA Tournament kicking off next week, what's your Final Four pick? -- Cooper W.

Cooper, I'm going with Kentucky, Syracuse, Missouri and...Georgetown. That last pick might seem suspect to some -- and I admit that I'm a life-long Hoyas fan, though I'll abstain from rooting if they somehow matchup with Temple, my alma mater; it's like picking between your children -- but I like their chances in a region with North Carolina, which is dealing with an ill-timed injury to defensive anchor John Henson, and Kansas, who Georgetown suffered a narrow loss to early in the season, before its young players had gotten the hang of things. If my Final Four predictions end up coming true, I think Georgetown can make it to the national-championship game, as I believe they'll get revenge over Syracuse in a Big East rematch. Speaking of Syracuse, I think they have a pretty favorable bracket, as their overall talent, zone defense, size and experience will make them a tough out. I believe Missouri's frenetic style of play will be too tough for anybody in their region and Kentucky is simply an overwhelming college squad. In fact, I think John Calipari will finally win his first NCAA title this season, led by Chicago native Anthony Davis.

Keep the questions -- whether theyre about the Bulls, the rest of the NBA, other levels of basketball or life in general -- coming. Youll get a much better explanation, though not as instant, than you would via Twitter with only 140 characters. You can submit a question by commenting on this article below or by clicking here.

Playoff drama highlights a busy week on High School Lites

Playoff drama highlights a busy week on High School Lites

High School Lites had a busy show as it was the final week of the regular season for IHSA boys basketball Class 3A and 4A. The Class 1A and 2A playoffs also tipped in boys basketball as the show has some thrilling regional titles that were decided in the final minute. And finally, the girls basketball Class 1A and 2A state semifinals were played on Friday as the state's top teams played in Bloomington.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for the latest news and scores for IHSA basketball.

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Richards wrestler Mia Palumbo

Saint Xavier Team of the Week: Simeon boys basketball

Highlights

Marshall shocks Leo in Class 2A regional final

Aurora Christian runs past Harvert Christian for 1A regional title

Buzzer-beater lifts Monticello over Gibson City for regional title

Jacobs goes unbeaten in Fox Valley with win over Dundee-Crown

West Aurora gets by rival East Aurora

Yorkville completes season sweep of DeKalb

Lemont escapes past T.F. North

Marshall needs OT to get past Teutopolis in girls 2A semifinals

Harlan takes down Eureka in 2A semifinals

Stockton runs by Okaw Valley in 1A

Schlarman races by Lebanon

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.