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NBA not only game making noise this time of year

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NBA not only game making noise this time of year

Monday, April 4, 2011Posted: 4:00 p.m.

By Aggrey SamCSNChicago.com
While the Bulls were making quick work of the Timberwolves in Minnesota last Wednesday, basketball fans at the United Center were treated to a glimpse of the future. The 2011 McDonald's All-American Game was held in Chicago for the first time in two decades and judging from the sellout crowd, it won't take as long for the annual high school all-star game to return to the Windy City.

The East team knocked off its West counterparts, 111-96, but as it goes in these type of affairs, the talent on hand was more important than the final result. New Jersey native Michael Gilchrist, a 6-foot-7 Kentucky-bound small forward that has drawn Scottie Pippen comparisons and James McAdoo, a skilled 6-foot-9 power forward from Virginia who's headed to North Carolina--like his famous uncle, former NBA scoring champion and current Miami Heat assistant coach Bob McAdoo--earned game co-MVP honors.

Perhaps the most impressive player, however, from a potential standpoint, was a Chicago resident. Anthony Davis, who attends Perspectives--a charter school that's far from a city basketball powerhouse--is a versatile forward with the rebounding and shot-blocking ability of the big man combined with perimeter skills of a guard.

In fact, the 6-foot-10 Kentucky recruit--the Final Four team had four players in the game, with Indianapolis point guard Marquis Teague (brother of Atlanta Hawks reserve Jeff) and Oregon forward Kyle Wiltjer joining Davis and the aforementioned Gilchrist--actually was a guard until an eight-inch junior-year growth spurt transformed him from a run-of-the-mill high school player into one of the nation's top prospects, especially after he dominated summer All-American camps and AAU tournaments. With Davis' length, athleticism, non-stop motor and tremendous upside--he's often compared to a young Kevin Garnett--some observers believe he's an early favorite to be the top pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.

Davis scored 14 points, grabbed six rebounds and blocked four shots Wednesday.

Another Chicago prospect, 6-foot-5 Wayne Blackshear of Morgan Park High School, also participated in the game. Despite suffering a shoulder injury in the practices leading up to the main event, the Louisville-bound swingman started the contest, although he only scored two points in limited minutes.

Another player in the game with Windy City ties was Austin Rivers, regarded by many as the nation's top overall prospect. An exciting 6-foot-4 scorer, the Duke recruit is the son of Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers.

The elder Rivers--who sat courtside at the game--participated in the event himself during his days as a prep standout at Proviso East High School in nearby Maywood, which also produced former NBA player Michael Finley, Lakers guard Shannon Brown and Kansas State star Jacob Pullen.

Michigan State recruit Branden Dawson, an athletic, 6-foot-5 wing from nearby Gary, Ind., also played in the game.

McDonald's has hosted a girls game for some time now and this year's event featured one local prospect, Ariel Massengale from Bolingbrook High School. The three-time state champion and Tennessee-bound point guard was Illinois' Ms. Basketball, and only added to her long list of accolades by leading the East to a 78-66 victory over the West Wednesday night.

Her counterpart for the boys "Mr. Basketball" award--shared with Stanford recruit Chasson Randle of Rock Island--Ryan Boatright of East Aurora High School, was a surprise snub in the minds of many observers. An electrifying 5-foot-10 guard with an incredible knack for scoring, jaw-dropping leaping ability, tremendous ballhandling skills and the speed of a sprinter, the Connecticut-bound showman was the biggest attraction in the Chicagoland area this past high school season.

At UConn, he will attempt to fill the big shoes of another small guard with a huge heart, All-American Kemba Walker. Walker's entire season--particularly his run from the Big East Tournament to Monday night's NCAA championship game--has been awe-inspiring. A big-time scorer this season, NBA personnel types are quick to forget that his point production on an inexperienced Huskies team is out of necessity; he was a playmaking, defensive-minded point guard prior his first two years in college, something that should aid his transition to the next level.

One of Walker's young teammates, freshman wing Jeremy Lamb, has been receiving rave reviews throughout the postseason, in which he has emerged as an excellent secondary scorer. At 6-foot-4, with excellent athleticism, length and range, he has shot up the boards as a prospect, although his slender frame may make at least another year in the college game in his best interests.

UConn's championship-game opponent, Butler, is no stranger to the big stage--the Bulldogs also made it to the finale last season, losing to Duke after current Utah Jazz rookie Gordon Hayward's halfcourt heave rattled out at the buzzer--and pro scouts are likewise familiar with their star junior guard Shelvin Mack. But while a significant amount of time throughout the season is spent evaluating college prospects, NBA executives are only human, leading to Mack's potential pro stature suddenly rising, albeit in a shallow pool of a guard class.

Mack's teammate, senior forward Matt Howard fits the NBA prototype even less--mainly due to his lack of explosiveness--but his skill, strength, ability to knock down jumpers, toughness and various intangibles have also been winning scouts over as of late, despite a collective insistence that clutch performances in the "Big Dance" don't make a difference come draft day.

March Madness, indeed.

Coby White focused on development, winning for Bulls, not All-Star weekend

Coby White focused on development, winning for Bulls, not All-Star weekend

On Friday, Coby White will find out if he makes the Rising Stars Challenge as part of All-Star weekend in Chicago.

“It would mean a lot,” White said Tuesday. “Hopefully, I’ll be one of the ones selected. But like I always say, if not, it's not the end of the world for me. I won't let it define who I am. But to represent Chicago in Chicago for All-Star weekend, it would be a big deal for me. It would be a blessing for sure.”

White said he hasn’t spoken to Lauri Markkanen or Kris Dunn about the experience, which pits prominent first- and second-year players in a Team USA vs. Team World format. Both of those Bulls have played in the contest, which is scheduled for Feb. 14.

“We’re just trying to focus on winning right now,” White said.

White has produced several memorable scoring binges this season, although the Bulls drafted him with the No. 7 pick in last June’s draft to eventually play a lead guard role. Coach Jim Boylen said White’s decision-making is “developing,” which is typical for young players.

“I’ve seen some terrific improvement from Coby in his decision-making, his ability to get us organized,” Boylen said. “We all know that he knows he has room to grow there. But he has focused on it, he’s been pounding the film. He watches the film with the assistant coaches and then he watches film with me before every game. We have about a 20-minute spot on game day that him and I sit and watch film, talk about situations.’’

Bulls' Jim Boylen on Victor Oladipo's return: 'It's good for the league'

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USA Today

Bulls' Jim Boylen on Victor Oladipo's return: 'It's good for the league'

One year and six days after rupturing his right quad tendon, Victor Oladipo is scheduled to make his return Wednesday against the Bulls.

The Pacers All-Star guard was averaging 18.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists when he went down.

“I'm very happy for him. He's a terrific kid, a terrific guy. That injury he had was a really tough one. I'm sure he's worked as hard as anybody, from what I know of him,” Bulls coach Jim Boylen said. “As I've said before, injuries in this league are heartbreaking. But he's a competitive guy and it's good for the league that he's back.”

The Pacers not only surprisingly weathered the storm of losing Oladipo to win 48 games and qualify for last season’s playoffs, they currently sit fifth in the Eastern Conference at 30-17.

The Bulls, who are vying for their first three-game win streak of the season, are two games out of the playoffs as they begin a three-game trip.

“We had a moment in Orlando where we were playing a team that was close to us in the standings, that we were trying to catch, and we fell short in that moment,” Boylen said of a Dec. 23 road loss. “Now we're going to be in another situation where, first we've got a division opponent, then we have a team that we're chasing in the standings. So we'll see how we handle those situations.

“The beauty of this is we have a young group that's going to play some meaningful game. That's what we hoped for, that's the situation we're in and we'll see how we handle it. I expect this group to play hard and play together and we'll see what happens.” 

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