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Sam: Is LeBron Chicago-bound, overrated?

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Sam: Is LeBron Chicago-bound, overrated?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010
5:05 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

LeBron James is overrated. The NBA's MVP is a quitter. His elbow may or may not be as injured as much as observers assume, and is wrongly being used as an excuse for his poor performance against the Celtics. LeBron is tanking the Cavaliers' title hopes and will leave Cleveland--for Chicago--as soon as humanly possible. At least that's what some would have you believe after the superstar's struggles in the Cavs' Game 5 blowout defeat at the hands of Boston.

There's no question that James hasn't played up to par in the second round of the playoffs. After Tuesday night's 30-point loss, Cleveland trails Boston, three games to two, and is on the brink of going on summer vacation if they can't get it together Thursday evening in Beantown, bringing the series back to Ohio. James' 15-point, three-for-14 shooting night--and an overall lack of aggressiveness that has haunted him all series, sans Game 3--is a major reason the league's top regular-season team is in this boat in the first place. However, while the reigning two-time MVP is unquestionably the straw that stirs Cleveland's drink (as well as the glass and the drink itself), his lack of support has also been as issue. Newfound LeBron bashers will say he's equipped with his best supporting cast--including Shaquille O'Neal, Antawn Jamison and Mo Williams--he's ever had. Even Cavs owner Dan Gilbert grumbled that he's done all he can to put the team in the best situation possible.

But it simply could be that the veteran Celtics--who everybody had written off due to their lackluster regular season--have finally gotten healthy, found the necessary cohesion and with point guard Rajon Rondo taking his game to a new level, be the better team? Besides James (matched up with longtime All-Star Paul Pierce, no slouch himself, at small forward), where do the Cavaliers have a clear advantage? For all of Jamison's experience and ability, he hasn't exactly had a lot of postseason success. Even with Williams making the All-Star team last season, he certainly came up short when it counted last spring. As far as Shaq--who was the best Cav on the court in Game 5--he can still get it done in stretches, but his days of carrying a team are long gone.

That said, James' play can't be excused. He's been downright awful against Boston. Seemingly unfocused, passing up scoring opportunities, rarely asserting his will on the game as he did against the Bulls in the first round--it's hard to imagine that his elbow isn't more serious of an issue than he's making it out to be. And while his lack of personal accountability in his postgame comments was a bit appalling at this stage in his career, to interpret anything going on this series--including the courtside presence of James' agent, Leon Rose, with University of Kentucky head coach John Calipari--is a huge leap of faith. James is still an intense competitor, and as much as his desire to be a global icon motivates him, winning consumes him more, or he at least understands the correlation between success on the court with success off of it.

Now, regarding the rumors that he's not only leaving Cleveland, but is headed to Chicago, much still remains to be seen. While James' inner circle does wield some influence over him, at 25 years old, he's no longer the preps-to-pros kid that needs others to make decisions for him. In fact, as he's taken strides in the boardroom (regardless of how much business acumen some perceive him to have), sources admit he's attempted to become much more of an independent thinker, regarding trusted associates he once thought of as advisers as colleagues these days, especially as his LRMR marketing venture has taken shape.

Sure, his high regard for Chicago's young talent has to be encouraging, but the whole big-market theory doesn't as much weight when James' Akron roots are considered. Forget living in the shadow of Michael Jordan--James' desire to be the best, to carve out his own path, to be a pioneer--those things make it possible for even the likes of the Clippers and Nets (let alone the Heat and Knicks) to attempt to sell him on relocating, granted they add the necessary pieces to accompany him. As for potentially hand-picking his next coach, the person that should be most concerned right now is probably Mike Brown. The aforementioned Gilbert has proven that money is no object when it comes to placating James and bringing a championship to Cleveland, so if Calipari (a Pittsburgh native who may not want to again compete for attention in the big city when he can rule a smaller fiefdom like Cleveland, Memphis or Lexington, Ky.) is available and James wants him, the defensive-minded, offensively-challenged Brown, who has earned criticism for his perceived lack of leadership and in-game adjustments, may be out of his prized gig.

The chances of Gilbert simply adding "Coach Cal" and further tweaking the Cavs' roster to James' liking are probably higher--at this point, at least--than the Bulls modifying their decades-long culture by adding the personality-laden Calipari (who didn't experience much success in his stint coaching New Jersey and likely has more of an itch to dominate in-state rival Louisville and nemesis Rick Pitino, win a college national title and coach the top incoming prospects he has set to arrive in Lexington than get back to the NBA), who, additionally, wouldn't come cheap. Furthermore, the thought of losing James to a Central Division rival would lead Gilbert and Cavs general manager Danny Ferry to not only seek out a sign-and-trade scenario (which James would likely agree to, as Cleveland signing him would earn him the biggest potential contract; he could always leave on his own), but almost completely gut Chicago's roster, putting the superstar back to square one, albeit with probably both Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah by his side.

To make a long story short, not only is the Boston-Cleveland series not over yet--statistics are great, but betting against a likely fired-up James isn't necessarily a wise move--but July 1st is a long ways away. Let's just take first things first and see what happens before jumping to conclusions. Of course, a lot could change by the end of Thursday night's game.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms 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.

Carlos Boozer says Nate Robinson was one of his favorite teammate because 'he would bring snacks to every flight'

Carlos Boozer says Nate Robinson was one of his favorite teammate because 'he would bring snacks to every flight'

Carlos Boozer and Nate Robinson only played one season together with the Bulls. But oh, what a memorable campaign it was.

And it produced a friendship that still lasts to this day. Cupcakes and snacks will do just that.

Boozer retold a story to NBC Sports Chicago on Tuesday of Robinson and his daughter, Navyi, baking cupcakes for Bulls players on road trips.

"We had so much fun. Me and Nate hit it off right away," Boozer said. "We're both very animated, we're both very loud, we talk a lot, we're great teammates. We love playing passionately, we compete.

"Nate is one of the best teammates I ever had. I played my whole life, I've been playing a long time and he's the only teammate that would bring snacks to every flight. And we'd travel on the road, he would bake us cupcakes for every road game. I never had that before.

"Him and his daughter, Navyi, would bake the cupcakes before every road game. So every road game we'd get to the plane and Nate would hook us up with cupcakes.

"Just a great teammate. He'd go through a brick wall for you, never complained, practice every day, play every day, ready to come and give it his best."

Boozer and Robinson will face off against each other during the Big3 Tournament, which begins this weekend in Houston. The league will travel to Chicago and the United Center on June 29.

"I'm looking forward to being in Chicago," Boozer said. "We've got a lot of great fans out there. I miss the (United Center), miss that Chicagotime summer weather and looking forward to getting back out there in a couple weeks."

Boozer's Ghost Ballers and Robinson's Tri-State team won't square off against one another until Week 5 in Miami. But it's sure to be a fun matchup for the two friends and snack buddies.

"He's one of my brothers, one of my closest friends," Boozer said. "Nate has been training like an animal and he's gonna use this platform to show everybody how much skills he has, also to get back into the NBA. Nate's a great talent and I'm looking forward to seeing him get down."

Boozer's team includes co-captains Mike Bibby and Ricky Davis, which gives them a pretty solid trio heading into the event. But no teammate, NBA or Big3, can match Nate Rob and his cupcakes.

Check out more on the Big3 right here.

Scottie Pippen's injury history sheds light on what could be ahead for Michael Porter Jr.

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USA TODAY

Scottie Pippen's injury history sheds light on what could be ahead for Michael Porter Jr.

By now you probably know the story of Michael Porter Jr.'s back. Right as his college basketball career was starting—two minutes in to be exact—he had to sit out with back pain, which eventually developed into Porter undergoing a microdiscectomy of the L3-L4 spinal discs. The general consensus has been simple: if Porter's medicals are clean then he is a potential top-five pick, but if there is a lack of medical information or any indication that lingering issues persist, he will be available at picks six through the late lottery. Regardless of how his medical records look, what we do know is that Porter was the top-ranked player in his high school class before the eventual re-classification of Marvin Bagley. With this in mind, any team in need of serious star power—hello Bulls!—should have no problems spending a high pick on Porter, and Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen is a big reason why.

In July of 1988, Pippen has disc surgery following a rookie season that was plagued by constant back pain. During that rookie season Pippen played just over 20 minutes a night and played in a total of 79 games.

While the late 80's didn't have the help of NBA Twitter to breathe doubt into fans, there was still a running sentiment that Pippen may not be effective as he was during his initial NBA season. But in his sophomore NBA year, he almost doubled his scoring total while raising his free throw percentage from 57.6 percent to 66.8 percent. On top of this, Pippen also increased his workload by playing 33.1 minutes per game. Altogether he increased his field goal and free throw percentage each of his first four seasons in the league, all following his rookie year back surgery.

This however, should not come as a shock. In an interview with SB Nation, Dr. Charla Fischer, a spine surgeon at NYU Langone Health, stated: "Most patients tell me they feel at least 50 to 80 percent better immediately after the surgery." 

Players typically take two seasons to return to form following herniated disc surgery, and that is right in line with Pippen's first All-Star appearance in 1990, about one and a half seasons following his procedure. When you relate this back to Porter, a clearer picture of what to expect forms. Because Porter has already missed an entire season of basketball (at Missouri), it figures to take about a year for him to totally regain the explosivness that he showcased at the high school level. 

Pippen averaged 14.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.1 apg, along with a combined 1.9 stl/blks per game in the season following his back procedure. Now it would be unreasonable to expect Porter to come into the NBA performing at that level, but more so because of his lack of all-around polish more than anything else. And that is what makes Porter such a conundrum. He is a player whose game—as of now—is totally based on scoring, and his scoring is directly tied to how close he is to 100 percent. So again, developing the rest of his game in terms of passing and defense will take on everlasting importance, regardless of if he ends up with Chicago or another team. 

And while it is true that Pippen's injury history eventually caught up with him, leading to another back surgery in 1998, this was six NBA championships later. Pip went on to play six more seasons following his 1998 procedure. This included four seasons with Portland where the team routinely won around 50 games, and had a legendary battle with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2000 Western Conference Finals.

So no matter what, Porter's first year should be looked at as one very, very long training camp. He will be in the best position to succeed if he is selected by a team willing to look at him as a long-term piece, rather than a 6-foot, 11-inch savior.