Bulls

Schanowski: Can Bulls contend for title this season?

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Schanowski: Can Bulls contend for title this season?

Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011
12:02 p.m.

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

With Derrick Rose putting up an MVP-worthy season at the age of 22, some NBA observers are wondering if the Bulls might be ahead of schedule in their plan to build a title-contending team. Even with the long-term injuries suffered by Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, the Bulls have the 3rd best record in the Eastern Conference, and already own victories over both Boston and Miami. Question is, could they beat either of these teams in a best of 7 series? What do you think? Please post your comments in the section below.

Noah surprised reporters by announcing hes hoping to return to action before the NBAs All-Star weekend, which starts on February 19th. That would give the Bulls almost two full months to get their team fine-tuned for the start of the playoffs. Amazingly, the Bulls have gone 15-6 since Noah went out with a torn ligament in his right thumb, which leads everyone to wonder just how good this team can be at full strength. Kurt Thomas has done an excellent job of holding down the center position in Noahs absence, but once Joakim returns, the Bulls will have the kind of frontcourt depth and versatility that few teams can equal.

Of course, there is that nagging lack of production at the shooting guard position, but dont look for the Bulls to make a major move before the February 24th trade deadline, unless Detroit decides to buy out Richard Hamilton, which isnt likely. With the league facing a difficult round of collective bargaining in the off-season, the Bulls and most other teams dont want to be stuck with long-term salary commitments for past their prime veteran players.

If David Stern and the owners are successful in instituting a hard salary cap in the new collective bargaining agreement, many teams could be forced to trade or release players just to get their rosters to comply with new league rules. And, with the Bulls planning to offer Rose a contract extension before next season, they need to make sure their roster isnt overloaded with long-term, big money deals. Adding another 8 million plus per year contract like Hamilton, Jamal Crawford or Stephen Jackson could actually prevent the Bulls from working out a new contract with Rose, and obviously, that would not make any sense for the future of the franchise.

So, the next time you wonder why Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer are failing to provide the offense youd expect from the shooting guard position, just remember building a championship roster isnt normally done in just one season. The Bulls decision makers know they need to add another reliable shooter to the mix, but because of the labor issues, it probably wont happen this season. Rest assured, Gar Forman and John Paxson are making their calls around the league, trying to find creative ways to improve the roster. But the reality is, any big move isnt likely to happen until next year, when the Bulls will have more roster flexibility.

Now, that doesnt mean the Bulls couldnt add another shooting guard before the trade deadline. Moderately priced players like Anthony Parker and Courtney Lee might be available, as well as guys in the 5 to 7 million range like Mikeal Pietrus, J.R. Smith and Leandro Barbosa. The problem is, any team talking trade with the Bulls is likely to ask for Taj Gibson as part of the package coming back. And, with the injuries suffered by Boozer and Noah this season, plus the inexperience of Omer Asik, it would be tough to give up such a valuable frontcourt reserve.

Its always difficult to be patient, especially with the Bulls exceeding pre-season expectations at this point. But if the Bulls could potentially add another All-Star caliber player at next years trade deadline, or in the summer of 2012, maybe patience is the best course right now.

As always, we appreciate your feedback and suggestions. Should the Bulls wait until they have the cap room to make a major upgrade at the shooting guard position, or would you like to see something done before February 24th? And, can the Bulls contend for a championship this season, or do they still need more talent and experience? Please post your comments in the section below.

Ill see you Friday at the United Center when the Bulls get another litmus test against Dwight Howard and the new-look Orlando Magic.

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNet Central, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10 p.m.

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 scored 10 of 12 points for the Bulls during a fourth quarter run in Game 5 of the 1991 NBA Finals, the series clincher, and famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch that 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.