Preps Talk

Third time the charm for James, Bulls?


Third time the charm for James, Bulls?

Mike James is back, Tom Thibodeau announced, after the Bulls head coach ran down his laundry list of team health-status updates, a daily occurrence these days. With starting point guard Derrick Rose and his backup, C.J. Watson, both game-time decisions for Wednesdays clash with the Heat, the arrival of James -- who was signed to his second 10-day contract, but could very likely join the Bulls for the remainder of the season -- is just in the nick of time.

They always say, if somebody wants you, they leave you, come back, leave you, come back, James, who received interest from Oklahoma City and San Antonio, quipped. Well, when you come back, its supposed to be the charm the third time, so well see.

There were teams starting to talk, he continued. A lot of things were about to start happening after the trade deadline, but its a familiarity here, with the team, with the coach, with the system and so, its a blessing to be back and just ready to take advantage of the opportunity.

James may be utilized in Wednesdays contest, something hes ready for. With Rose and Watson being game-time decisions, hes even prepared to start.

I dont know, I just got here. Just like Coach gives DNPs and they give coachs decision, well, whoever starts tonight, thats going to be his decision, also, he joked. Ive been working. Its not like I was home, sitting back, just enjoying life. Ive been training, so Im ready. This isnt my first dance. Ive been thrown in the fire before, so if I get thrown in the fire, hopefully God will protect me again this time.

James connection to Thibodeau, which dates back to their time together with the Houston Rockets, is part of what makes him comfortable with the situation in Chicago.

Im thankful for it. I know my times in Houston, I always stayed in his office when he was an assistant coach with the Rockets. He grew fond of me when I was there and I always used to be in his office, venting, and always telling him, Lets go get in the gym, lets go get some work in. Days off, Id always call him, so there was always that respect factor, the 36-year-old veteran explained. I guess when he saw me and saw that I was still somewhat the same player that I was in Houston, and I had the same work ethic -- because you cant hide a work ethic -- and what he was used to seeing with me, if he would have seen anything different, he would have noticed it off the top because of how much time we spent when we were there together. So, he sees that I still have that work ethic and sees that I have that hunger and that chip on my shoulder, and I guess thats something as a head coach now, that interests him a lot about me.

He was a hard worker, he was always one of the first in the gym and hes just a genius. He has a lot of wisdom and knowledge of this basketball game, and its funny how they say hes always in the gym, all the time, he continued. Its like hes married to this game. This is his love and when someones that passionate about something, you have to respect their knowledge and wisdom as a coach.

Ironically, the journeyman has a similar connection with the opposing coach Wednesday, the Heats Erik Spoelstra, from his early NBA days in Miami. James was coached by Miamis current team president, Pat Riley, whose smooth talking is what he believes convinced the Heats Big Three to team up South Beach.

Spoelstra was my guy, also. It was the same thing with Coach Thibs. Id call Erik on days off, Lets go in the gym, lets go work. He was a video guy at the time when I was there, but he was always hungry, eager and he was always one of the first ones in the gym, and one of the last ones to leave and always ready to talk about basketball Whatever basketball knowledge there was to share, he was willing to share it, he recounted. Riley has a way with words. Even when I played there, our pregame speeches, as soon as he finished, your eyes get watery, your adrenaline is extremely high, youre ready to run for a wall then and there, just by his words. Thats why hes a great motivator and Im pretty sure Coach was able to say words to them, just to get them excited in that moment and they just got caught up in the moment. Coach Riley is good for that.

Stagg's Kyle Neputy leads through action during offseason

Stagg's Kyle Neputy leads through action during offseason

While many athletes talk about leadership and the importance of being a leader, others let their actions do the talking. One of them is Stagg senior quarterback Kyle Neputy (6-foot-4, 234 pounds).

Neputy, who is signed and will play this fall at Cornell, participated in last year's annual Franklin Middle School Charity Dodgeball tournament. The tournament had such a positive impact on Neputy and his fellow Charger teammates that they decided to rally together and support a worthwhile cause for a second straight year. 

I had a chance to catch up with the Kyle Neputy at the sixth annual Franklin Middle School Dodgeball Tournament in Wheaton. Proceeds from the event benefited the Northern Illinois Food Bank, Cammy Can, Jack’s Army and Franklin Middle School. 

Neputy shares why he and his Stagg teammates decided to support the event. He also had a chance to reflect on making the move to Cornell later this year.

Life was a lot different last time the Blackhawks missed the playoffs

Life was a lot different last time the Blackhawks missed the playoffs

For the first time in a decade, the Blackhawks officially will not be in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With a 5-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday night at the United Center, the Blackhawks will be sitting at home mid-April instead of looking to add to their trophy case.

Exactly 366 days before, the Blackhawks actually became the first NHL team to clinch a playoff berth, also the result of a game against the Avs:

The last time the Blackhawks missed the playoffs, Denis Savard was the coach and Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were just 19 years old in the midst of their rookie seasons.

The next year, Joel Quenneville took over as coach after four games and led the Blackhawks all the way to the Conference Finals.

Of course, the following year (2009-10 season) brought the first of three Stanley Cups.

For perspective on how incredible this stretch has been for the Blackhawks, here's how the other professional Chicago sports teams spent 2008:

—The Bears finished 9-7 in Matt Forte's rookie year (he's since retired) with Kyle Orton as the starting quarterback and Lovie Smith as head coach.

—The Cubs led the National League in runs scored en route to a 97-win regular season...before falling flat against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS. Lou Piniella was still the manager and Theo Epstein was still three years away from coming to Chicago.

—The Bulls found some incredible luck, pulling the No. 1 overall pick and selecting Chicago native Derrick Rose. He helped the Bulls to a 41-41 season as a rookie under coach Vinny Del Negro.

—The White Sox lost to Joe Maddon and the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS after winning the AL Central under manager Ozzie Guillen. Carlos Quentin enjoyed a breakout season (36 HR, 100 RBI) while Gavin Floyd won 17 games. 

The Blackhawks still have eight games left before the 2017-18 season ends April 7.