LeBron or not, Thibodeau won't overlook Cavs


LeBron or not, Thibodeau won't overlook Cavs

Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010
Posted: 12:05 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam

CLEVELAND -- Tom Thibodeau isn't one to dwell on the past. While he empathizes with Cleveland fans in the aftermath of losing homegrown superstar LeBron James to free agency, in the mind of meticulously-prepared rookie NBA head coach, he sees a competitive Cavaliers team. He might be alone in possessing that line of thinking.

That might be a little extreme, but since last Thursday's return of James to Cleveland -- and subsequent Heat rout, which may have set the necessary fire under the much-ballyhooed squad to perform up to their potential -- the Cavs have been awful by all accounts. The team's current five-game losing streak, includes blowout losses to similarly moribund Minnesota (by a whopping 34 points) and Tuesday night, Philadelphia.

Still, Thibodeau maintained Cleveland is at least a threat to be reckoned with.

"I'm concerned because I don't worry about guys who aren't here. I just worry about the guys who are here and when I look at their team, I see a lot of guys who are very explosive, that could have big nights. So, we have to be ready for the start of the game. We can't allow these guys to get going early. They've got guys who can shoot the ball extremely well, they're good off the dribble, they've got high-energy guys up front, so we've got to be ready," said Thibodeau prior to the Bulls' shootaround Wednesday morning at Quicken Loans Arena. "They have a new team, so they're adjusting. Some night they look great and when you look at the strengths of their team and you see the capabilities, they have some guys who can shoot the three extremely well.

"Mo Williams, you can't give him space. Anthony Parker, can't give him space. Daniel Gibson's shooting the ball extremely well. You can't allow those guys to shoot open threes and when you're coming in off the bench with guys like Antawn Jamison and Ramon Sessions, those are two other guys that are capable of having big nights," he continued. "When you look at J.J. Hickson and Anderson Varejao up front, those are high-energy guys. You've got to match their intensity. Joey Graham's doing a really good job at the small forward, so they have some weapons. They could put points up on the board against you."

Thibodeau's positivity in evaluating opponents is equal parts respect and paranoia, but one thing is for certain: James isn't on his mind.

"The guy is from Cleveland and he had a great run here and so I'm sure there's disappointment, but that's part of pro sports. The way it is today with free agency, players leave. They don't stay with one team. It's unusual when a player stays with one team throughout his entire career. Sure, you feel for them," he said. "We have to approach it the same way we approach every game. Have a great shootaround, be focused, be ready for the start of the game and understand that in this league, everybody's capable of having a big night. You've got to be ready."

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

The door has officially been closed on the 2017-18 season for the Chicago Bulls, and the word that most comes to mind is “unfulfilling.”

Or maybe even “indistinguishable.”

Draft night was supposed to be a culmination of a painful seven-month stretch that only had occasional yet costly moments of light.

Death lineup? Meet Death March. And Death April, while we’re at it.

The Bulls brass sold everyone on a full rebuild after trading Jimmy Butler one year ago, with an unspoken promise that this draft would bear franchise-changing fruit—hence the general feeling of angst or even indifference with the solid selection of Wendell Carter Jr. and their not-so-secret affection of Chandler Hutchison.

It was why fans believe the Bulls got cold feet about trading to move up, and why they believe the Bulls weren’t being pragmatic in staying away from Michael Porter Jr.

Porter, some believe, has star written all over him given his prep ranking this time last year and the Bulls were in position to speed up this process without having to go into a painful Process.

They were desperate for a star, believing the tankathon had produced so much suffering it had to be something on the back end.

There was the fight (or the punch).

The aftermath.

The miserable 3-20 start.

The 14-7 streak that produced the audacity of hope.

The reality that 14-7 was damaging enough to the lottery chances that a 3-11 finish couldn’t rectify.

And finally, the coin flip that cost them five spots in the lottery one month ago.

So that empty feeling has less to do with Carter and Hutchison, who’ve done nothing to earn the “blah” reaction from the fan base and some media. It has everything to do with the unanswered questions over the last 82 games and lack of clarity over the three hauls from draft night last year.

It’s not that Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn underperformed individually last season, but the lack of cohesiveness due to injuries and circumstances has led to the varying thoughts.

LaVine is approaching restricted free agency and by all accounts is taking his continuing rehab in Washington very seriously.  Markkanen has added plenty of muscle since the offseason began, appearing as if he can play Michael B. Jordan’s in-ring foil in the next installation of “Creed” as Ivan Drago’s long lost son.

And despite the report about Dunn not working as hard on the floor this offseason, that would be more of a concern if this were late August, not June.

The last time they were seen together on the floor, they looked no closer to a pecking order than the day they arrived.

What we know is that they’re productive NBA players, capable of putting an individual tattoo on a game at a moment’s notice, skillful enough to take your breath away.

And for whatever reason, the expectations changed once the three displayed they could be dynamic on their own—a star needed to be anointed and groomed to go with the star they believed was coming their way after the season.

Management is fully behind Markkanen, but Paxson’s strong words about LaVine at the season-ending news conference illustrated how much it feels LaVine has to prove next season.

With his restricted free agency status looming, the Bulls’ initial offer will show how much they value him until and if he gets a better deal on the market.

And the fact the Bulls weren’t afraid to draft Trae Young while having a healthy debate about Collin Sexton on draft night has to show they have at least some skepticism about the future at point guard.

But stars—developing stars, acquired stars, drafted stars—have to do it on their own. No amount of promotion or prodding from management will validate their faith, if that’s the route the Bulls choose to go.

This has to be a meritocracy or it won’t work and, honestly, it’s time for a reality check.

All the worry about the Bulls getting back to title contention sooner rather than later seems like folks getting ahead of themselves.

The front office has taken its share of shots from media and fans, so some questioning is earned but they’re right about one thing. Rebuilds aren’t completed in a day or 12 months.

Expecting some magic potion to arrive in the form of a top draft pick isn’t going to cure what ills this roster, and it doesn’t seem likely all the cap space will result in a free agent choosing the Bulls over the usual suspects.

However, methodical building can look like complacency if not done with a sense of urgency.

And with urgency in mind, this past season was unsatisfying to say the least—heading into the next phase with two more young pieces to develop while the first three are still in the evaluation stage.

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Donte Ingram's 2018 keeps getting better and better.

The March Madness hero, who buried a game-winning 3-pointer in the first round of Loyola's win over Miami, will play on the Bulls' Summer League team.

Ingram, a Simeon Academy graduate, had himself an incredible senior season with the Ramblers, who advanced all the way to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.

In five NCAA Tournament games Ingram averaged 7.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Ramblers. He also had 18 points in the MVC Conference Championship Game to secure the Ramblers' March Madness berth.

He'll join first-round draft picks Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison on the Las Vegas Summer League team, which will begin play early next month.