Bulls

Schanowski: Cavs play last card in LeBron deck

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Schanowski: Cavs play last card in LeBron deck

Monday, May 24, 20104:50 PM

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

OK, so who didn't see this one coming? The Cavs fired head coach Mike Brown, and the only reason it took this long is that Brown would have been owed a lump sum payment if he had been fired within 10 days of Cleveland's elimination from the playoffs. In case you weren't counting, it's been 11 days since the Cavs were bounced by Boston in the conference semis.

So, what does this mean for Cleveland's chances of keeping LeBron? It's really the only move the Cavs could make to offer James a carrot to stay. Their roster is capped out, and aside from adding a veteran next season with their mid-level exception of around 5.5 million, the team that looked so bad against Boston will be pretty much the same team that takes the floor next season (minus Shaq). If you can't make any major roster moves, the only other incentive the Cavs can offer to LeBron is the chance to pick his next coach. While James usually avoided criticizing Brown publicly, analysts around the league wondered openly why Cleveland played such a slow-down style when they had the best open-court player in the league. Brown isn't the reason the Cavs lost to Boston in the playoffs, but with the future of the franchise at stake, firing the coach was a simple and obvious move to make.

We should learn over the next few weeks just how close LeBron is with University of Kentucky coach John Calipari. If LeBron wants Calipari as his next head coach, look for Cleveland to get that done at any price. Calipari was at a couple of Cavaliers' playoff games with LeBron's agent, Leon Rose, and my guess is Calipari will be at the top of Cleveland's list of candidates, unless they think they could have a shot at Phil Jackson. Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert won't be scared off by Jackson's salary demands of 10-12 million a season, although I find it hard to picture Phil leaving Malibu for the shores of Lake Erie.

In my last blog post, I wrote the Bulls should hire Calipari if it means a better chance at signing LeBron. Word out of the Berto Center is the Bulls will do whatever they can to recruit LeBron, but they won't be involved in any side deals that are against NBA rules, and they won't let James or his "team" of advisors pick the next Bulls' head coach.

Thibodeau could emerge as leading candidate for Bulls job

So, while the coaching search figures to be a long and drawn-out process, a few bits of information have come out. The Bulls met with Houston assistant coach Elston Turner during last week's pre-draft camp in Chicago, and they probably had a chat with Lawrence Frank as well. My friend K.C. Johnson of the Tribune reports the Bulls have requested permission to interview well-respected Boston assistant coach Tom Thibodeau. Thibodeau probably would have been a candidate for the job two years ago, but he wasn't able to interview while Boston was on its way to an NBA championship. This time, he should be able to meet with Bulls officials in the long break between the end of the conference finals and the start of the Finals.

Thibodeau is known around the league as a defensive guru, and he designed the schemes that frustrated Kobe Bryant two years ago in the Finals, and kept LeBron in check during Boston's recent series win over the Cavs. We know that Jerry Reinsdorf and John Paxson value defense very highly and that in itself will make Thibodeau an attractive option. But it's important to point out that the NBA is a players' league. How good did that Boston defense look against the Bulls in the '09 playoffs when Kevin Garnett was injured? All of Thibodeau's expertise was ineffective in trying to keep Derrick Rose out of the paint and Ben Gordon and John Salmons from raining jumpers over a collapsing Boston defense. The point is, hiring the right coach is important to the Bulls' future development, but it pales in comparison to the chance to sign a once-in-a-lifetime free agent like LeBron James. The Bulls would be well-served to keep the job open until July 1 and get a feel for which coaches LeBron would be most interested in playing for. No, they shouldn't allow any player to dictate who coaches the team, but getting James' preferences on style of play and coaching personalities is just good business.

The chances of getting James in a Bulls' uniform are still relatively slim when you consider the Cavs, Knicks and Heat also have attractive sales pitches to make. Right now, the Bulls need to get their best presentation ready to make to LeBron on July 1, and that will involve being active in the sign-and-trade market for other All-Stars like Chris Bosh and Joe Johnson. The Bulls' young talent makes them one of the most attractive options for this celebrated free-agent class, but there are no guarantees once the clock strikes midnight on July 1.

What do you think? Please post your comments in the section below, or send me an e-mail. We will answer some of your questions in the next post.

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

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

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AP

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.