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Why Cam Reddish should be an option for the Bulls at No. 7

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USA TODAY

Why Cam Reddish should be an option for the Bulls at No. 7

Before Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett took over the college basketball landscape, there were three five-star, can’t-miss NBA prospects in the Duke recruiting class. And in that now-famous drubbing of Kentucky in the Blue Devils’ season opener, Cam Reddish scored an efficient 22 points on 14 shots, three 3-pointers and four steals. Five days later against Army he poured in 25 points just two fewer than Williamson and two more than Barrett. That performance included seven 3-pointers, seven rebounds, three assists and two more steals.

It appeared as though Coach K had himself a three-headed monster and, for our purposes, a shot at history with the first three selections in the 2019 NBA Draft. But then Reddish went cold. Sure, he had big lines against some non-conference opponents (23 points against Stetson, 16 points against San Diego State) and he had a few top-level performances in ACC play (25 points and the game-winner at Florida State, 22 points at Louisville, 50 points in two losses to North Carolina). But where Williamson and Barrett became the talk of college basketball, Reddish faded into the background.

He finished his only season with the Blue Devils averaging 13.5 points on 35.6 percent shooting (and 33.3 percent from deep), 3.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists. He plummeted down big boards and mock drafts in the process, the same kid who was ranked higher than Williamson on 247 and Rivals among 2018 college prospects.

So, how does this affect Reddish’s draft stock? There are two schools of thought: Reddish never really found his rhythm because Williamson and Barrett rightfully dominated the ball at Duke. That would lead one to believe that Reddish’s best basketball is in front of him as he learns to play more off the ball in what would initially be a secondary scoring role.

Or, opposing defenses were so focused on Williamson and Barrett that Reddish should have been the most effective third option in the country, and wasn’t even close to it.

We’ll take the easy way out and say it’s probably somewhere in the middle. Let’s start with the good. Reddish is a gifted scorer. His numbers didn’t reflect as much – though he did post a handful of monster lines – and his shooting numbers were awful, especially for a 6-foot-8 player with a 7-foot-1 wingspan who should have and could have lived inside.

But there were two promising aspects of Reddish’s game that came in small-ish sample sizes: He averaged 1.114 points per possession on 44 pick-and-roll actions, which ranked in the 96th percentile nationally. Reddish is an above-average ball handler who clearly took advantage of mismatches, something that will help him at the pro level.

He was also a natural on the move, scoring 0.903 points per possession on 62 off-the-dribble jump shots, which slotted him in the 71st percentile nationally. This, of course, is never going to be a major part of any player’s offensive game – unless your name is James Harden – but in looking for signs of potential, the two numbers above are certainly positive signs. Reddish’s skill set is that of a pure scorer, and he seems to pick and choose his spots well.

On the subject of shooting, it wasn’t all good. At all. Williamson and Barrett did draw plenty of attention which left Reddish unguarded, per Synergy Sports, on 45 percent of his catch-and-shoot attempts. And yet, he averaged .847 points per possession on those attempts, which placed him in the 27th percentile nationally. He was in the 33rd percentile on spot-up shots, and that came on a whopping 193 possessions. Reddish’s mechanics aren’t broken in the least, but his prolonged cold spells were problematic.

He was relegated to a shooting role for much of the season but certainly has more potential than that. He’s a good ball handler who looks comfortable driving to the basket and is able to make plays off that – his finishing was an issue, as he made just 51.2 percent of his shots at the rim, but getting there wasn’t. He’s much more versatile than he was able to show in Durham.

He certainly looks the part of a potential lengthy defender capable of switching. That can’t be understated at the next level, though he’s far from a finished product.

So, where does he fit in Chicago? Those pick-and-roll numbers are intriguing when considering the Bulls have a future roll man in Wendell Carter and a pop man in Lauri Markkanen. Reddish could really make teams pay on the wing. Ultimately, his initial value will be made as a shooter and slasher on the wing. To that point, Reddish struggled mightily in his freshman season. But he’s probably worth a gamble given his frame, skill set and attitude.

Betting on potential at this stage in the Bulls' rebuild could be the move. They've hit on Wendell Carter and Lauri Markkanen the previous two drafts in what could be described as expected picks. Reddish would be a high-risk, high-reward selection at No. 7.

How Michael Jordan reacted to Robert Parish taunting him at Bulls practice

How Michael Jordan reacted to Robert Parish taunting him at Bulls practice

Don’t mess with The Chief. Michael Jordan learned that lesson at a practice during Robert Parish’s lone season with the Bulls in 1996-97 — the last of his 21-year career.

Appearing on CLNS Media’s Cedric Maxwell Podcast, Parish told the story of him taunting Jordan (a rare sight at a Bulls practice in the ’90s), and the shock Jordan responded with. 

“We were scrimmaging, we played like six games going to five points. And so after the first two games, Phil (Jackson) put me with the second unit who I always played with. You know, my boys,” Parish told Maxwell. “We proceeded to kick their (the first unit’s) butts like four straight games. And Michael took offense to it, so I asked him, ‘How did he like that butt whooping?’

“He took offense to it because clearly no one ever manned up to him, you know, challenged him. So he said if I wasn’t careful, he was going to kick my ass. And I told him, ‘I’m not in awe of you. I’ve played with some of the baddest fellas there walking the court … And I’m supposed to be in awe of you?' You know, he’s looking at me like I had slapped his mug (laughs).”

Parish ended his career a four-time NBA champion — thrice with the Celtics (1981, 1984, 1986) and once with the Bulls (1997). He cited his experience playing with all-time greats from Larry Bird to Kevin McHale to Bill Walton to Maxwell as reason for not being intimidated by Jordan. 

Still, his gumption apparently sent shockwaves down the roster. 

“Derrick Dickey couldn’t believe that I talked to Michael like that,” Parish told Maxwell on the podcast. “Clearly, Michael was the alpha, you know, it was his team. He ran the ballclub and everybody kind of like got out of his way and let him do his thing.”

Parish added that he respected Jordan’s brazen leadership style, but that he preferred the manner in which Bird operated.

“Everybody got their own style, and the way they lead. Michael was in your face, he challenged his teammates,” Parish said. “Larry was our leader (with the Celtics), and he led by example. You know, he wasn’t a vocal leader, he let his play dictate how we should play. I think Larry’s style and philosophy makes the best leaders, because if you are a yeller and a screamer, after a while your voice fall on deaf ears and players just kinda tune you out, don’t hear what you got to say.

“I respect both leadership styles, but I prefer Larry’s style the best. Cause you know, some nights you don’t want to hear what he got to say, speaking of Michael. He all up in your face talking trash, you know, he might get a short right, man (laughs).”

Fair enough. Jordan’s abrasive ways weren’t for everyone. Surely, he’s content to let his six rings speak for themselves.

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Michael Jordan: 'I won't play' if Isiah Thomas is on Dream Team in new audio

Michael Jordan: 'I won't play' if Isiah Thomas is on Dream Team in new audio

The plot continues to thicken on the revived Michael Jordan-Isiah Thomas feud that has bubbled during and in the wake of “The Last Dance.” Tuesday, audio surfaced of Jordan admitting that he wouldn’t play for the 1992 Dream Team if Thomas was included on the roster.

The clip comes by way of the Dream Team Tapes podcast with renowned sports journalist Jack McCallum, who authored “Dream Team,” a book that chronicled the construction of the 1992 USA Olympics squad that took the world by storm.

 

Though a bit warbled, Jordan’s ultimatum is clear: "Rod Thorn called me. I said, ‘Rod, I won’t play if Isiah Thomas is on the team.' He assured me. He said, 'You know what? Chuck (Charles Barkley) doesn’t want Isiah. So, Isiah is not going to be part of the team.'"

That audio, according to the podcast, is from an interview McCallum conducted with Jordan for the book in 2011. McCallum reported the fruits of this conversation in “Dream Team,” which came out in 2012:

Rod Thorn, who as general manager of the Bulls in 1984 had drafted Jordan, was assigned the most important task: pulling the prize catch into the boat. Thorn called Jordan directly sometime during the summer, after the Bulls had won their first championship. (In fact, all of the invitations were extended directly to the athletes, not through agents…) So let’s be clear right now about what Jordan said in that first phone call.

‘Rod, I don’t want to play if Isiah Thomas is on the team,’ Jordan said.

I wrote that in Sports Illustrated at the time, not because Jordan confirmed it, which he didn’t, but because at least two reliable sources did. At the time, Jordan more or less denied that he would stand in Isiah’s way.

But he did confirm it to me in the summer of 2011. ‘I told Rod I don’t want to play if Isiah Thomas is on the team.’ That’s what he said.

Still, controversy framed as rumor continued to surround Thomas’ exclusion from the team, including in “The Last Dance.” In a present-day interview in the documentary, Jordan denied requesting Thomas be left on the roster. 

“It was insinuated that I was asking about him. But I never threw his name in there,” Jordan said. “Based on the environment and camaraderie that happened on that team, it was the best harmony. Would Isiah have made a different feeling on that team? Yes. You want to attribute it to me? Go ahead, be my guest. But it wasn’t me.”

In an interview on ESPN’s Golic & Wingo, Thorn, who chaired the USA Basketball Men's National Team Selection Committee in 1992, echoed Jordan’s version of events.

“When I called Jordan, his first inclination was he didn’t know if he wanted to play or not because, as he said, ‘I played on an Olympic team before (in 1988),’” Thorn said. “'It’s for the younger guys as far as I’m concerned.' 

“So we continued the conversation, and at the end of the conversation, he said, ‘You know something, I’ll do it.’ There was never anything in my conversation with him that had to do with Isiah Thomas. Period.”

But now we have audio that directly contradicts those accounts, and corroborates decades-old speculation (and McCallum's reporting) that Jordan played a specific party to Thomas being left off the team. Jordan's invoking Barkley also confirms that there was Dream Team-wide anti-Thomas sentiment. And funny enough, all of this comes from Jordan himself.

Thomas said in “The Last Dance” he didn’t know what went into the decision-making process for the Dream Team, but that he wasn’t selected in spite of, in his estimation, meeting the desired criteria.

If we didn’t know already, we now know for sure what led to his exclusion.

RELATED: David Robinson: Isiah Thomas shouldn’t be surprised about Dream Team snub 

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