Preps Talk

Bulls face challenge in retaining free agent Asik

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Bulls face challenge in retaining free agent Asik

The Bulls pledge to match any offer for free-agent center Omer Asik will be severely tested. The opening of the NBAs free-agency period saw the Houston Rocketswhose general manager, Daryl Morey, posted a message to Twitter prior to meeting with the Turkish backup centerand Portland Trail Blazers reportedly meet with Asik in Los Angeles.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau was also in Los Angeles to meet with Asik, but the combination of an increased paydayin the wake of similarly offensively-challenged center DeAndre Jordan re-signing with the Clippers for approximately 10 million last summer, theres already a baseline for Asiks servicesand a starting role, something Asik privately desires, the Bulls pitch to retain the defensive-oriented big man might not seem quite as appealing. Complicating the process is the fact that while the Bulls can pay Asik 5 million in the first year of his new deal with a slight percentage raise the following seasonpart of the Gilbert Arenas provision of the new CBA, allowing teams to have a better chance at keeping second-round picks that command big offers in free agencyother teams with more cap space can present the center with a back-loaded offer that the Bulls, already featuring four players with eight-figure contracts.

Asiks return to Chicago would solidify the Bulls big-man rotation, their perceived advantage over conference rival Miami, but if hes deemed too expensive to keep in the fold, the organization will have to consider other options, including the possibility of a sign-and-trade, something that may be amenable to Houston, in particular, as the Rockets currently have an unbalanced rosterfeaturing a staggering number of power forwards, as well as long-rumored Bulls trade target Courtney Lee, a restricted free-agent shooting guard, who could be expendable with the drafting of Connecticuts Jeremy Lambreportedly put together for a chance to acquire Orlando center Dwight Howard. It isnt clear who the Bulls would target as a potential replacement big man, though former Celtics power forward Leon Powe will reportedly reunite with Thibodeau for the Bulls summer-league team in Las Vegas later this month, according to CSN New Englands Jessica Camerato.

Another former Thibodeau disciple who has a chance at joining the Bulls is former Rockets point guard Rafer Alston, whose addition to a group of players working out at a Bulls free-agent mini-camp next week was first reported by the Chicago Tribune. However, while Alston, who wasnt in the league last season, and first-round draft pick Marquis Teague will provide depth at point guard, neither is considered a starting-caliber player in the wake of Derrick Roses likely absence at the outset of next season.

Erstwhile former Bull Kirk Hinrich is a primary target, though the Bulls are unlikely to offer him a full mid-level exception deal, something he could potentially command from other suitors. This summer features a deep free-agent point guard crop, led by All-Star Deron Williams and former league MVP Steve Nash and while the Bulls could take a gander at upper-echelon veteran types like Andre Miller and Jason Kidd, their lack of financial flexibility could lead them to lower-tiered players, such as Delonte West.

Backup C.J. Watson is regarded as a longshot to return to Chicago and while the Bulls would be interested in keeping fan favorite John Lucas III, the combination of Teague being drafted and another teams potential willingness to offer him a multi-year deal for more than the veterans minimum after his career season could spell the end of his time in a Bulls uniform. As far as other floor generals, well-traveled point guard Jonny Flynn, who split last season between Houston and Portland, reportedly has the Bulls on his list.

As far as other perimeter players, retired former All-Star Brandon Roy will reportedly meet with the Bullsthough other franchises, such as Minnesota, could be willing to offer him a multi-year deal in the neighborhood of 5 million per year, even with his knee issues and the fact that he didnt play last seasonwhile Warriors swingman Brandon Rush is reportedly a target, though Golden States front office previously indicated theyd like to keep the athletic sharpshooter in Oakland. In other Bulls news, Matt Lloyd, the teams director of college scouting, has moved on to Orlando, where he will work under new general manager Rob Hennigan as the Magics assistant general manager.

While Thibodeau traveled to Los Angeles to help the organization attempt to retain Asiks services, his own contract extension is still in limbo, as reported by the Tribune. While the Bulls indeed officially picked up his option for the 2011-12 season, progress in negotiations for a long-term deal has been a slow-moving process.

Perhaps the reportedly imminent deal for Thunder head coach Scott Brooks to remain in Oklahoma City helps clear things up, for better or worse. Brooks reported deal would put him in the upper third of NBA coaches as far as salary11 NBA head coaches made at least 4 million in 2011-12, reported NBA.coms David Aldridgeand it is believed that Thibodeau is seeking a long-term deal making between 4 million and 5 million per season, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

The Bulls also picked up options on at least some of Thibodeaus assistants, though at least one could depart for another team. Steve Clifford, an Orlando assistant coach under fired Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy, could be an option to fill that void.

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.