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Schanowski: Anxious times for Bulls fans

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Schanowski: Anxious times for Bulls fans

Monday, June 28, 2010
8:45 PM
By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

As the hours tick down towards the start of NBA free agency, how are you feeling about the Bulls prospects? Post your comments to relieve some of that anxiety in the section below.

Everything sounded good on Sunday when the New York Times ran a story quoting an unnamed NBA executive saying LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Chicago was pretty much a done deal. But then on Monday, long-time NBA writer Stephen A. Smith reported James and Bosh were a lock to go to Miami, according to his well-placed source. Appearing on a Chicago sports radio show, Smith even made the bold statement his information was factual, not just a rumor. And, if he was wrong, he would come back on the radio station to eat crow. Smith is a shameless self-promoter, but he is well-connected in NBA circles. So, it wouldnt be a good idea to dismiss his report out of hand. But if LeBron plans to follow through with his meetings with the five NBA teams with the salary cap room to offer maximum deals, youve got to believe hell listen to what they have to say before making his final decision.

So, where does that leave the Bulls? Can they convince the King hed be better off playing with an unselfish, humble point guard like Derrick Rose rather than with a former scoring champion who dominates the ball like Dwyane Wade? Can they demonstrate how his marketing opportunities in sports-crazy Chicago will be a lot more lucrative than what hell find in South Beach? And, can they sell him on supporting players like Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Luol Deng being able to help him get to championship status, instead of a gutted Heat roster filled with over the hill veterans and undrafted rookies playing on minimum contracts?

Lets hope Rose will be part of the Bulls traveling party for their audience with the King in Akron. LeBron has the utmost respect for Roses game, and he even phoned Derrick to talk about the possibility of playing together a short time after the Cavs were eliminated from the playoffs by Boston. Im sure Rose could describe the passion for winning that exists within the Bulls core of young players. Noah has been a winner throughout his career with two national titles at the University of Florida, and his willingness to challenge LeBron for his on-court antics in Cleveland was just another sign of his willingness to go to battle with anyone in the league. Jerry Reinsdorf, John Paxson and Gar Forman can do a great job selling the history of the franchise and the plans for the future, but I think having Derrick with them could make a real difference in trying to recruit LeBron.

But back to the initial point, who should we believe with all the rumors and informed guesses of where James is headed? It seems like everyone has an opinion, but the final decision is up to LeBron. Weve heard talk over the last couple years that teammates from the 2008 U.S. Olympic team spent time in Beijing speculating what it would be like to play together. But now that the time to choose is almost here, will James, Wade and Chris Bosh be willing to give up money and shot attempts to form a mini All-Star team in Miami? Wade told the South Florida Sun Sentinel that no final decisions have been made, and indicated he could be setting up meetings with the Bulls, Knicks and Dallas Mavericks to protect himself in case Miami isnt able to pull off the dream scenario of landing LeBron and Bosh. Various media reports have all of the top free agents penciling in visits with teams that have the most cap room, so is everyone waiting on LeBron, or will someone else get things rolling with an early commitment?

Weve heard reports Atlantas All-Star shooting guard Joe Johnson is particularly interested in joining the Bulls, but now comes word Knicks General Manager Donnie Walsh and Coach Mike DAntoni plan to visit Johnson in Los Angeles when the clock strikes midnight in the East on June 30th. The Knicks also plan to meet with All-Star power forward Amare Stoudemire during their brief time in L.A. before heading east for their audience with LeBron Thursday afternoon. DAntoni coached both players in Phoenix, and his fast-paced style is very appealing to most NBA players. What if the Knicks get early commitments from Johnson and Stoudemire and Miami is able to land the superstar trio of James, Wade and Bosh? Thats a terrifying thought for the Bulls front office, which would leave them sifting through the likes of Carlos Boozer and David Lee with their war-chest of free agent money.

Bottom line, the Bulls need to get an early read on where James stands and be prepared to move on with their contingency plans if it becomes clear hes headed to Miami. Last weeks bold trade of Kirk Hinrich to Washington for additional cap room put the organization in a great position to become instant title contenders. Well be hearing all kinds of rumors in the next few days, but you can count on Paxson and Forman to do a great job of selling the organization to James and the other top players. Then, its just a matter of seeing what really matters to this class of free agents. If James, Wade and Bosh decide they want to try to re-create their Olympic success over an 82 game regular season schedule, plus the playoffs, theres really not much anyone can do to convince them that it might not work.

Comcast SportsNet and CSN-Chicago.com will have expanded coverage of all the free agent developments. We invite you to join us Thursday, July 1st at 10:30 p.m. for a half-hour SportsNite special, featuring our expert analyst, Kendall Gill. Weve waited a long time to see where all the top free agents would land. That time is almost here!

Emotional return to the court for Quincy Pondexter after missing two seasons: 'The journey is worth it'

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USA TODAY

Emotional return to the court for Quincy Pondexter after missing two seasons: 'The journey is worth it'

Quincy Pondexter’s trade to Chicago makes him a newcomer. His birth certificate makes him a veteran. But it’s his story that makes him worth listening to.

Even in the eye of team chaos, Pondexter’s debut with the Bulls had such a special meaning that when he entered the game to start the second quarter, he thought he would come to tears.

Having been out of basketball the last two years after knee surgeries went bad, Pondexter came close to dying in a New York hospital in January when his organs began to fail after a MRSA infection.

Catching MRSA can often lead to death.

“It wasn’t looking good,” Pondexter said. “It was tough. I prayed. My family was there close to me. Being able to play basketball again in less than a year is crazy. It’s all God. This journey has been amazing.”

His journey took him from being in New Orleans, where his knee troubles started, to being an addition to the Bulls in a trade months ago when the Bulls picked up cash and a second-round pick from the Pelicans.

Pondexter joined high school teammate and close friend Robin Lopez on a team needing some leadership, and due to the punch Bobby Portis threw to Nikola Mirotic Tuesday afternoon, it put Pondexter in position to get on the floor as a backup power forward behind rookie Lauri Markkanen.

If the Bulls were smart, they’d probably put Pondexter in a room to talk to his teammates about his struggles, especially the two teammates who may have to share the same floor in several weeks.

“The competitive nature of our team has been really terrific and we wouldn't want to trade that for anything,” Pondexter said. “It hurts those two guys aren't here right now. But we love them and we love what they brought to this team.

“I think my age on my ID solidifies me as one of the veterans. When you do things the right way, that's what it means to be a veteran. Show up first, last one there. That's what it means to be a veteran. Establishing myself there and doing things that are right, the guys have followed and listened and embraced me and I love it.”

No word on whether Pondexter got teary-eyed when he got a breakaway steal and dunk for his first points since the 2015 playoffs, when the Pelicans were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual champion Warriors.

“I know I’m going to get emotional on the court later on and probably tear up,” Pondexter said after the morning shootaround. “I told Robin that a thousand times. People don’t know what you’ve been through. There are a lot of times they’re not there besides your close family and friends. I appreciate them carrying me through this whole process.”

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg can relate to Pondexter, with Hoiberg’s heart ailment cutting his career short. When the Bulls coach speaks about the frailty of the game and how precious things are in the NBA, Pondexter is living, breathing proof.

“I’m really really happy for Quincy. For a time there, his life was in danger with his infection. I know he’s really excited to get his career going again,” Hoiberg said. “I never got that opportunity to get back out there. I tell these guys to cherish it ever day. You never know when it can end. All of a sudden. For Quincy to get this chance, it’s awesome.”

Pondexter, with the straightest of faces, called basketball his “obsession” and he felt happy to get back on the floor, if even for a few minutes.

“I love it to death. It’s my life,” Pondexter said. “Basketball is what got me through it---my family and basketball. It was like, ‘How can I make this story even better? Do I quit?’ No. I watched so many inspirational movies, 'Hacksaw Ridge.' They get you through tough times because you say, ‘That’s going to be me.’ I’m going to be able to inspire someone down the road. That’s really helped me.”

A hamstring injury slowed Pondexter in training camp, which would explain his lack of explosive lift in the season opener.

No one was really sure if the Bulls would hold onto him for the season, but it’s clear he holds value beyond the box score. When he finished his media session, Lopez turned to Pondexter and said, “Now you’re stuck with me”, putting his arm around his teammate.

“Being able to play after two and a half years, it feels like hundreds of surgeries, getting traded to this organization. It's been a lot,” Pondexter said. “I wouldn't trade any of that for this moment right now and how I feel in my heart. I can't wait to get on this floor and play with my teammates and try to do something special. The journey is worth it.”

Bulls Talk Podcast: Trounced by Raptors in season opener

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Trounced by Raptors in season opener

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Will Perdue break down the Bulls season opener vs the Raptors. They’ll explain why Bulls fans should be very happy with the debut of rookie Lauri Markkanen and Kendall points out why he expects the Markkanen/Lavine combo to be great on the offensive end. They’ll also go over their concerns at point guard, and Will shares his story of how Greg Popovich dealt with a losing Spurs team in 1996-97.