Bulls

After brief hiatus, Griffin returns to Bulls' staff

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After brief hiatus, Griffin returns to Bulls' staff

At 37 years old, Adrian Griffin walked away from a plum position as an NBA assistant coach with the Chicago Bulls, the team with the NBA's best regular-season record last season, in early July, citing responsibilities to his family and an interest in pursuing a career in the ministry.

Only a few months later, Griffin, known for his determination, toughness and defensive acumen during his playing career, is back on the Bulls coaching staff.

"I just needed a little time to take care of what's really important and that's family and getting everybody on the same page," Griffin told CSNChicago.com Wednesday at Herbert Elementary School on the West Side, where he joined other Bulls employees in a pep rally, in which the organization donated school supplies to an auditorium full of appreciative students.

"The Bulls were great about giving me some time to attend to my family and everything worked out, and I'm back to work and it's like I never left, so I'm just excited. I know things will work out for the better."

Griffin admitted that stepping down was a difficult decision, but the religious Wichita, Kan., native never questioned his thought process.

"It was, but at the end of the day, you have to put your priorities in line," Griffin explained. "It worked out where I'm able to be back at work and do the thing that I do love, and that's to coach. I do have aspirations of eventually being a head coach, but at the end of the day, your family's important and you just have to make sure that everything's OK on that end."

Griffin said the organization welcomed him back with open arms.

"Oh yeah, they were great. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, general manager Gar Forman and the entire coaching staff, they were very supportive," said Griffin, who played a key role in the successful season of one-time teammate, small forward Luol Deng. "We're a close-knit group and it was just good to have their support."

The transition was perhaps eased by the ongoing NBA lockout, as the Bulls didn't have any pressure to immediately hire a replacement or promote from within, although Griffin couldn't himself comment on the work stoppage, per league rules.

"I went right back to work," said Griffin, in a nod to Thibodeau, the reigning NBA Coach of the Year's relentless work ethic. "It was fun and I was looking forward to it after being off so long."

Griffin was joined at Wednesday's Kia Motors-sponsored event by fellow former Bulls players Scottie Pippen, Bob Love, Sidney Green and Randy Brown, as well as play-by-play announcer Chuck Swirsky and mascot Benny the Bull.

"It really puts things in perspective. This is what life is all about," reflected Griffin. "We were all here at one point, little kids wondering what we wanted to do with our lives."

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Anyone who lived through the Michael Jordan Bulls remembers those games when he was putting up tons of points, but the Bulls were still struggling overall.

Steve Kerr referenced one of those games to give advice to Kevin Durant during Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. The TNT broadcast caught the conversation and aired it late in the third quarter.

"When MJ was with the Bulls, we had a playoff game," Kerr began the story. "He kept trying to score and he was scoring, but we weren't getting anything going. Phil Jackson said 'Who's open?' He said, 'John Paxson.'"

Paxson famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch the series. Kerr, who later hit his own championship-winning shot on an assist from Jordan in 1997, was trying to get to get his teammates involved.

"I want to trust your teammates early," Kerr said. "What you're doing is you're getting to the rim and then you're trying to hit him. I want you to trust the first guy and then move. Still attack, still look to score, but trust these guys, OK?"

Watch the video above to see the interaction.

Durant scored 29 points in Game 5 to lead the Warriors, but Houston took a 3-2 series lead with a 98-94 win.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

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USA TODAY

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

John Calipari's 2017 recruiting class featured five McDonald's All-Americans and Hamidou Diallo, a former five-star recruit who nearly jumped to the NBA the previous year. It also included a lanky 6-foot-6 point guard named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And for the first part of the 2017-18 season, the Toronto native who played his final two high school years in Tennessee, appeared to be a nice fit off the bench for Calipari.

But something flipped. Gilgeous-Alexander was inserted into the starting lineup for good on January 9 and never looked back. He played his best basketball beginning in late February to the end of the season, a span of 10 games against eight NCAA Tournament opponents. In those games Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 19.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists. He shot 51 percent from the field, 50 percent from deep and 84 percent from the free throw line, and added 1.4 steals in nearly 38 minutes per game for good measure. He was one of the best players in the country, and on a team with five McDonald's All-Americans, he was Calipari's best freshman.

"I knew with how hard I worked that anything was possible," SGA said at last week's NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. "It was just a matter of time before it started clicking and I started to get it rolling."

That stretch included a 17-point, 10-assist double-double against Ole Miss, a 29-point showing against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament, and 27 more points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Buffalo. Even in his worst game of the stretch, a 15-point effort against Kansas State in the Tournament, he made up for 2 of 10 shooting by getting to the free throw line 12, converting 11 of them.

It made his decision to make the jump to the NBA an easy one - that, and another loaded Calipari recruiting class incoming. He stands taller than just about any other point guard in the class and might have as good a jump shot as any. He's adept at getting to the rim, averaging 4.7 free throw attempts per game (that number jumped to 5.6 after he became a starter, and 7.5 in those final 10 games of the season. He isn't the quickest guard in the class, but he uses his feet well, is able to find open shooters due to his height and improved on making mistakes on drive-and-kicks as the season went on.

"I think I translate really well to the next level with there being so much more space on the floor and the open court stretched out," he said. "It only benefits me and my ability to get in the lane and make plays."

There's something to be said for him being the next in line of the Calipari point guards. The ever-growing list includes players like Derrick Rose, John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Murray and DeAaron Fox. It's the NBA's version of Penn State linebackers or Alabama defensive linemen. The success rate is nearly 100 percent when it comes to Calipari's freshmen point guards; even Brandon Knight averaged 18.1 points over a three-year span in the NBA.

"That’s why guys go to Kentucky," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "It prepares them for the next level. Coach (Calipari) does a really good job, especially with point guards, getting them ready for that next level in a short amount of time."

Gilgeous-Alexander didn't test or play in the 5-on-5 scrimmages, but he still came out of Chicago a winner. He measured 6-foot-6 in shoes with a ridiculous 6-foot-11 1/2 wingspan, a full three inches longer than any other point guard at the Combine. He also added, rather uniquely, that he watches of film Kawhi Leonard playing defense. Most players don't mention watching film on different-position players; most players aren't 6-foot-6 point guards.

"(It's) obviously a more versatile league and playing small ball. And with me being able to guard multiple positions, a lot of teams are switching things like the pick and roll off ball screens, so me being able to switch and guard multiple positions can help an organization."

Gilgeous-Alexander's arrow is pointing way up. He appears to be teetering near Lottery pick status, though that could go one way or the other in private team workouts, especially if he's pitted against fellow top point guards like Trae Young and Collin Sexton. But if his rise at Kentucky is any indication, he'll only continue to improve his game, his stock and eventually his draft position.