Bulls, Wizards have little in common


Bulls, Wizards have little in common

The Bulls' opponent Wednesday night at the United Center, the Wizards, share a few commonalities. The two franchises were the only team Michael Jordan ever played for and both feature explosive point guards who were former No. 1 overall draft picks after being coached in college for a season by John Calipari. That's where the similarities end.

Washington comes to Chicago with a 1-8 record, following Tuesday night's victory over the Raptors. An awful team last season, their performance was chalked up to youth and being a rebuilding year. But the Wizards have outdone themselves this season, as head coach Flip Saunders has basically accused the team of not playing hard or paying attention to scouting reports on opponents, while the players have admitted to playing too much one-on-one basketball.

John Wall, their second-year point guard, has been accused of regressing in his sophomore campaign. I've known Wall since he was an unknown high-school prospect, so I'm admittedly biased, but I know his work ethic (and witnessed it last summer, as he gallivanted across the country in search of competition and workouts to improve his game) and competitive spirit. Clearly, some of the blame has to fall upon his shoulders, as the organization's franchise player and starting point guard, but the Wizards' lack of veteran leadership (reserve swingmen Mo Evans and Roger Mason are quality role players and solid locker-room presences, but it's hard to make your opinion heard when you don't get the opportunity to impact the outcome of game's much) is severely lacking and with Andray Blatche and Nick Young, holdovers from a past, undisciplined and selfish era still aboard, Wall isn't exactly getting great mentoring on a daily basis.

Saunders appears to have lost his team already and will probably follow ouster Kings head coach Paul Westphal as the next NBA coach to be fired, but at least some of the fallout should affect the status of team general manager Ernie Grunfeld, who presided over the rise and fall of the organization in the wake of former All-Star guard Gilbert Arenas' fall from grace. While Grunfeld wasn't allowed to have contact with Wizards players during the lockout, it seems that he was wholly unprepared to make moves that could benefit the organization.

For example, it was well-known that Young, a restricted free agent, wanted out of Washington and one of the team's midseason acquisitions last year, fellow shooting guard Jordan Crawford, looked ready to fill the void, based on a solid end to his rookie campaign. But after other teams showed little to no interest in Young, the Wizards brought him back for his fourth season on a qualifying offer, a move that likely disappointed Young because of the financial ramifications and also won't help the team, as the noted gunner, in a second consecutive contract season, will likely stunt Crawford's development and focus on his individual success at the expense of a team he didn't want to return to.

Then, you have Blatche, who is certainly talented, but hasn't come close to living up to his multi-year contract extension, obtained after a breakout season and preceded by an offseason weight gain and injury. Another promising player, JaVale McGee -- Chicago fans might remember him from his late-game attempts to get a triple-double in the waning moments of a blowout loss against the Bulls last season -- is a rare true center and an athletic freak, whose pure athleticism rivals that of Dwight Howard's, hasn't developed much over his young career.

It isn't yet a lost cause for Wall or the Wizards -- rookies Chris Singleton and athletic Euro big man Jan Vesely both have potential, while second-year players Crawford and workhorse power forward Trevor Booker have excellent motors, if some limitations, and although it's hard to see a high-profile free agent signing with a team so down in the dumps, stranger things have happened to teams with cap space -- but with the direction the team is going in, they'll already have a great shot at the No. 1 overall pick in a loaded upcoming draft, so now is the time to clean house. Saunders is unlikely to finish the season in Washington, but Grunfeld should follow him out of the door and either the remaining personnel staff or whoever is hired to run their basketball operations needs to quickly evaluate who, besides Blatche and Young, doesn't deserve to stay.

But while hope springs eternal, it's unlikely to shine through for the Wizards at the United Center, as a focused Bulls team, even in the third game of their only back-to-back-to-back of the season, won't look to let up after seeing another young team in the Timberwolves, nearly shock them Tuesday night in Minnesota. One thing is for certain, though: when Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson talk about how miserable it was to be a .500 team and barely sneak into the playoffs as an eighth seed just a couple of years ago, all they have to do Wednesday is look at the visitors' bench to know the definition of real misery.

Making of a Chicago legend: A look back at Jabari Parker's decorated Simeon career


Making of a Chicago legend: A look back at Jabari Parker's decorated Simeon career

From the moment Jabari Parker started his local basketball career, he's been a special talent who has produced at every level. Parker's signing with the Chicago Bulls this offseason brings back a lot of memories of his decorated four-year high school career at Simeon.

For Bulls fans who didn't follow Parker before Duke or the NBA, here's some of the notable moments from four years in the Public League.

As a freshman with the Wolverines, Parker was seen as one of three big incoming freshman in the area for the Class of 2013, along with forward Alex Foster and center Tommy Hamilton. Although all three players had the size and skill level to be varsity contributors, it was Parker who was special from his debut game.

Coming off the bench for a top-5 Simeon team against a top-10 Thornton team at Chicago State, Parker had 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting with two 3-pointers as the Wolverines went on to win in his first game in high school. Eventually becoming the first Wolverine freshman to start on varsity, Parker piled up high-major scholarship offers and national acclaim, as he was the team's second-leading scorer behind Brandon Spearman.

But Parker was hurt on the eve of the IHSA Class 4A state championship weekend and was on the bench injured as Simeon went on to surprisingly win the state title after some late-season slip-ups. Parker contributed heavily to Simeon winning the state title during his first season, however, as he was leading scorer in six games during that season.

During his sophomore season, Parker blossomed from a prospect into a full-blown star as Simeon once again captured a state title. By this point in his career, Parker was a consensus top-5 national high school prospect in his class as he regularly led a loaded Simeon team in scoring. Parker eventually averaged 15.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game as he won ESPN High School 2011 Sophomore of the Year national honors, while also Simeon won a title at the prestigious Pontiac Holiday Tournament.

The summer of 2011 saw Parker become a contender for No. 1 in his class -- and regardless of class at the high school level -- as he dominated the summer circuit against his peers and older players.

Making the 2011 USA Basketball U16 team, Parker won MVP honors at the FIBA Americas U16 Tournament as the USA team captured a gold medal. Parker also had big performances at the Kevin Durant and LeBron James Skill Academies before winning the MVP at the Nike Global Challenge in August against mostly older players.

Before entering his junior season at Simeon, some national scouts believed Parker was the best prospect in either the junior or senior national classes. With Parker garnering so many accomplishments as an underclassman, he had a huge reputation already as Simeon was an established national powerhouse.

Parker helped the Wolverines capture a third straight state title, a city title and another title at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament, as they went 33-1. Simeon didn't lose to an Illinois opponent Parker's junior year (they only lost to nationally ranked Findlay Prep) with Parker setting a school record of 40 points in only 21 minutes against Perspectives on Dec. 19. For his junior season, Parker put up 19.5 points, 8.9 rebounds per game as he became the first non-senior to win Mr. Basketball in Illinois honors.

Gatorade also declared Parker the national boys basketball Player of the Year for that high school season as he became only the fourth non-senior to win that award. Sports Illustrated put Parker on its cover and proclaimed him as the best high school basketball player since LeBron James.

Facing an enormous amount of pressure during his senior year, Simeon played a national schedule and went 30-3, winning a fourth consecutive IHSA state title with Parker as he put up 18.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.

Becoming the only player besides Sergio McClain to start on four straight IHSA state title teams, Parker secured back-to-back Mr. Basketball in Illinois honors while also making the McDonald's All-American Game, Jordan Brand Classic and the Nike Hoop Summit. Parker played all over the country during his senior season, with nationally-televised games and packed crowds filled with fans.

Reclassifications and the emergence of other contenders, coupled with Parker's foot injury before his senior season, dropped Parker below the No. 1 ranking to end his high school career. But he still finished as a consensus top-5 prospect in the class who eventually rose to the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft in 2014.

Now that Parker has signed with the Bulls, he has a chance to resurrect his career in Chicago, the place where he had his most basketball success.

Would Wendell Carter Jr. be picked higher if the NBA Draft was today?

Would Wendell Carter Jr. be picked higher if the NBA Draft was today?

According to Bleacher Report, Wendell Carter Jr. would be taken fourth overall by the Memphis Grizzlies if the NBA were to redraft this year’s class based off of Summer League performances.

It may sound like a crazy concept (and it is), but Carter Jr. averaged the second most points, 14.6, through five July games in Las Vegas. He also averaged 9.4 rebounds and shot 55 percent from the field while averaging 28.8 minutes in his glamorous first-stint with Chicago. Those numbers are even more striking if you consider Carter Jr.’s 42.9 percent shooting from behind the three-point line.

Carter Jr., the real seventh overall pick of this year’s NBA Draft, looked like the all-around player the Bulls were hoping to get this offseason. He made his blocking abilities as a center known from the moment he stepped on the court in Summer League.

In their re-draft, Bleacher Report had Chicago using the No. 7 pick on the New York Knicks’ Mitchell Robinson, who was actually taken 36th overall in last month’s Draft.

Robinson, a center, averaged 13 points and 24.8 minutes per game over five Summer League contests. He was the best rebounder on his team with an average of 10.2 in the five games that the Knicks played.

The 20-year-old took the second most shots on the Knicks and had the highest field goal percentage at 67 percent, but Robinson did not have any three-point attempts.  What made his recent production seem even more surprising was the fact that the 7'1'' big man did not play a single minute of college basketball.

But would Robinson fit in the Bulls’ system?

Chicago has taken on an offense-first mentality, so Robinson would not be as great of a fit in the Bulls lineup as Carter Jr., but he would still be an impact player. He can be compared to the Bulls’ current center Robin Lopez, who averaged a similar amount of points per game (11.8 points in 26.4 minutes) last season as Robinson’s Summer League average (13 points in 24.8 minutes). And like Lopez, Robinson will likely be most effective around the basket and in the pick-and-roll.

Robinson would also have to learn the defensive concepts that a veteran like Lopez has mastered over his 10-year career.

Next season, the Bulls will have an exciting scoring trio of Jabari Parker, Lauri Markkanen and Carter Jr. in the frontcourt. And the fact that Carter Jr. is getting so much love in the national spotlight is yet another reason for Bulls fans to be excited about this upcoming season.