Bulls

Sam: Pippen clarifies Jordan-LeBron talk

554524.jpg

Sam: Pippen clarifies Jordan-LeBron talk

After causing a firestorm during last spring's NBA playoffs with his statement that was interpreted as suggesting Miami Heat star LeBron James could become better than former teammate Michael Jordan, Bulls legend Scottie Pippen clarified his comment last week. Pippen, currently the Bulls team ambassador, spoke with CNBC's Erin Sharoni at a launch party for the new NBA 2K12 video game and explained his thought process.

"My position is still the same. Youre talking about a very young kid who came to the game at a very young age. Statistically, he will probably be the best player at the end of the daybased on the number of years he can get in, James is a super athlete, very versatile in a lot of ways," said Pippen, who also clarified his postseason comments via Twitter following the initial tempest. "My comment was not meant to belittle the greatest player in the gamehe has truly made his mark with his style, with his charisma, with his brandbut from a statistical standpoint, I think James has great potential to be recognized as the best.

Pippen is right about one thing--James' potential, by the numbers, is off the charts, partially due to his youth when he made his NBA debut. However, regardless of the number of championships the Heat star wins, James' status among fans and impact on the game is unlikely to ever rival Jordan's, even if he makes good on last summer's infamous promise of "not five, not six, not seven" championships.

Deng honored

Teammate Derrick Rose might have taken home league MVP honors, but he has a long way to go before catching up with Luol Deng. The Bulls small forward, a native of Sudan who spent much of his childhood in London after his family was exiled during the country's civil war, is one of four notable individuals featured on the "Brixton Pound," a complementary currency to the British pound.

"I am honoured to be featured on the new Brixton Pound notes," said Deng in a statement released on his foundation's website. "I grew up in Brixton as a young teenager playing basketball for the Brixton Topcats which marked the beginning of my career. So it is with great pleasure that I am helping to support the local community that played a vital part in getting where I am today."

Deng joins Lenford Kwesi Garrison, Violette Szabo and rocker David Bowie as faces appearing on the money. This summer, the Duke University product competed for Great Britain, the host country for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, in the FIBA EuroBasket tournament, leading the event in scoring during first-round play.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Just as we all predicted, two rookies stole the show in L.A.

Just as we all predicted, two rookies stole the show in L.A.

There's not often hype surrounding a game between two of the NBA's worst teams, but Tuesday's Bulls-Lakers matchup was intriguing to many because it offered a chance to see a pair of top rookies compete. 

Oh, but you didn't think we meant Lonzo Ball and Lauri Markkanen, did you?

Nah, it was two different, less-touted first-year players that ended up stealing the spotlight at the Staples Center. 

Kyle Kuzma and Antonio Blakeney may not be household names, but they sure played like they were in the Bulls' 103-94 loss. 

Kuzma, the Lakers rook drafted 27th overall, has been a spark for Luke Walton's squad all season long. Boasting a terrific scoring arsenal, the Utah product carried the load for the Lakers' offense in the first half, dropping 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting. He finished the game as L.A.'s leading scorer with 22 in 40 minutes. But if you still need a more in-depth scouting report on Kuzma, just let Lonzo break it down:  

More importantly for Bulls fans, though, was the play of their undrafted guard who's signed to a two-way deal. 

Blakeney, the unofficial Summer League MVP, came off the bench on Tuesday and immediately left his mark on the game. The 21-year-old out of LSU posted 15 in the first half, finishing through contact as well as connecting on outside jumpers. 

Blakeney's shooting isn't reliable quite yet, but his energy has clearly influenced Hoiberg's rotation. The guard went from playing one NBA minute in the Bulls' first 11 games to playing 75 in the last four. Given that his two-way deal allows him to only spend 45 days with the team, it'll be fascinating to see how creative Gar Forman and John Paxson will get with his contract if this type of production continues. 

In a season that's obviously going to have its share of rough moments, an offseason flyer hitting is a huge plus for the rebuild. 

As for the recognized rookies, Lonzo's shooting woes persisted and Markkanen had maybe his worst offensive performance of his young Bulls career. Combined, they finished 7-for-30 with 21 points. Not ideal. 

Zach LaVine cleared for contact practice

Zach LaVine cleared for contact practice

The Zach LaVine comeback is one step closer as the shooting guard was cleared for contact practice after checking with his doctors in California. 

LaVine will go through a step by step process over the next few weeks and the Bulls will gauge his progress to see when the best time for his return will be. 

But, given the nine-month process from his ACL injury he suffered in February, he's right on track and there doesn't appear to be any setbacks. 

"There’s no real timeframe, I guess," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said at practice Monday. "It’s really going to be on how he feels. We’ll try to do a little more every day with him. We did a little bit, got him some light contact today just to get the process started.

"He’ll be able to play a little two-on-two with not a lot of practice time these next 10 days. But we’ll throw him out there and continue to try to get him feeling better. There’s going to be a mental hurdle that he’s going to have to clear as well. I know he’s excited. His teammates are excited and the coaches are obviously excited as well."

LaVine's recovery has gone as planned since his arrival in Chicago from the Jimmy Butler trade on draft night. Targeting a mid-December return seems realistic but of course, the Bulls will take every precaution to make sure he's healthy for the long term, both for LaVine and the franchise, as he's a restricted free agent this summer--and they have no plans on letting him walk. 

LaVine told NBC Sports Chicago recently that he wants to get on the floor immediately but the Bulls know they'll have to protect him from himself in the meantime. 

"He’s going to have to string together a lot of really good days, and he knows that," Hoiberg said. "He understands that. The important thing is he’s right on track from where it was said after the injury. He’s been doing a great job with his rehab. He’s on time. He’s doing everything that’s asked of him. His strength numbers are where they’re supposed to be. I’m confident he’s going to keep making progress. But we’ll absolutely monitor it daily and hopefully it’ll just continue to get better."

The Bulls aren't sure if they'll send LaVine to the G-League but it's certain they have plans on not only how to use him when he steps on the floor but also a regimen they've stuck to, to ensure there are no real setbacks. 

Hoiberg has been salivating over having a true scorer at that position since trading for him, and LaVine has been eager since his arrival to prove to the Bulls and fans that he is a franchise player. 

Prudence in the moment of progression, though, appears to be the approach taken by both sides.