Bulls

Schanowski: Is Thibodeau hiring linked to LeBron?

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Schanowski: Is Thibodeau hiring linked to LeBron?

Sunday, June 6, 2010
7:11 PM

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

What do you think of the Bulls decision to hire Boston Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau to a three-year, 6.5 million dollar contract to be their next head coach? Please post your comments in the section below, or send me an e-mail with your thoughts.

Personally, Im fine with the hire. Thibodeau is a veteran of 18 years as an assistant coach in the NBA, and his teams have finished in the top ten in defensive statistics in 15 of those seasons. Hes worked with some excellent head coaches, including Jeff Van Gundy and Doc Rivers. No, he doesnt have any head coaching experience, other than one season at his alma mater, Salem State, but hes certainly paid his dues. Talk to any player or coach whos worked with him, and they praise his tireless work ethic and defensive expertise. They also talk about how well he relates to players, and an underrated sense of humor. All of those qualities will serve him well in Chicago.

The other factor that bears watching is Thibodeaus relationship with the Creative Artists Agency, which also represents LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Noted NBA talent broker William Wesley, a.k.a. Worldwide Wes, is a newly certified coachs agent with C.A.A. And, Wes is telling everyone who wants to hear that LeBron is leaning towards signing with the Bulls when the free agent period arrives on July 1st.

Maybe its just a coincidence that John Paxson and Gar Forman jumped on a plane and traveled out to Los Angles on the day before the start of the Finals to interview Thibodeau. But given the fact they had permission to speak with him for some time and didnt seem to be in any hurry, the sudden trip to L.A. suggests that just maybe they got a tip from LeBrons team that hiring Thibodeau would be a positive in their bid to recruit James. Dont underestimate the influence of LeBrons closest advisors in how the final decision plays out. If LeBron decides to pull the plug on his Cavs career, hes looking for the ideal situation to win championships. And, if Thibodeaus defensive expertise, combined with the young nucleus of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Taj Gibson makes the Bulls more attractive to LeBron, then getting the coach wrapped up early was the right thing for the Bulls to do.

Also, did you watch the interview LeBron did with Larry King last week? LeBron might have said Cleveland has the edge in retaining his services, but he sure didnt look like a man who was planning to stay when talking about the upcoming free agent recruiting period. James said he couldnt wait until July 1st , and wishes it was already here. He was smiling from ear to ear when he talked about being the ring-leader for the greatest class of free agents the NBA has ever seen. He also talked about wanting to go to a team that gave him the best chance to win multiple championships, and that hardly describes the situation in Cleveland.

The Cavs did make a couple of moves to appease LeBron by firing head coach Mike Brown and General Manager Danny Ferry. Assistant G.M. Chris Grant was promoted to replace Ferry, and no doubt the Cavs will give LeBron veto power over all personnel moves if hes willing to stay. And, dont be surprised to hear the name of Kentucky coach John Calipari as a possible replacement for Brown. Calipari is tight with LeBron, and it might be the last desperate move the Cavs can make to keep the two-time M.V.P. in Cleveland.

Bottom line, the pursuit of James and the rest of the free agent class is already underway. The Bulls fired the first salvo with their hiring of Thibodeau, and you can count on a lot of trades during draft night June 24th as teams try to get their payrolls and rosters in order to do some serious free agent shopping. Well keep you updated every step of the way.

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

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AP

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

Don't tell Wendell Carter Jr. the center position is a dying breed.

The 19-year-old rookie hasn't exactly been able to ease into the NBA, finding himself up against a handful of All-Stars and powerful frontcourts just five days into his career.

It culminated Monday night with a date against Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan, and once again the seventh overall pick held his own. It was much of the same as it was against Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Detroit's Andre Drummond last week (and Nikola Jokic in the preseason finale): some good, some bad, plenty of poise and zero backing down. The NBA is unforgiving, but this could very well be the toughest stretch Carter faces all season.

"He’s playing against top level centers now," Fred Hoiberg said before Monday's game. "It’s a great experience for him. He’s going to learn and get better and he plays within himself, we will continue to look for him to be more aggressive."

He was as aggressive as the Bulls have seen him against Jordan and the Mavericks. He blew by the 20 and 18 minutes he played in the first two games of the year, totalling 32 minutes. His final line won't tell the story - 4 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a block - of a Carter who defended well at the rim, picking and choosing his spots on when to attack shots and when to simply use his verticality.

He wasn't credited for a block but he contested a Jordan dunk that turned into a Bobby Portis dunk on the other end. Plus-minus isn't always a good indicator of a player's worth, but Carter was a +5 in a 14-point Bulls loss. He even attempted a corner 3-pointer early in the shot clock, showing no hesitation. Carter's had his moments, but it's also apparent he's got a 19-year-old body going up against veterans each night. That'll come with time in the weight room. For now the experience is 

"I appreciate the fact I’m able to play against these very talented bigs early in my career," Carter said after the loss to the Pistons. "What I need to work on is I have to get stronger; that’s the first thing I recognize; just being up against the best. I love the competition. It’s always a great feeling going against the best."

What the Bulls are finding out is they have a player mature beyond his years. As he progresses he'll continue to get more difficult assignments. He had his rookie moment late in Monday's loss, committing a turnover in the backcourt after the Bulls had cut the deficit to five with 35 seconds left. The fouls are also an issue, as Carter has committed 10 in three games (after committing 17 in five preseason games).

That doesn't necessarily seem important for a Lottery-bound team, but considering the continued struggles of Robin Lopez (and Cristiano Felicio is entirely out of the rotation) it is. Lopez had 2 points and 1 rebound in 10 minutes while committing five personal fouls. In three games he has 11 personal fouls and 11 points, and also has more turnovers (five) than rebounds (four). If the Bulls are going to compete until Lauri Markkanen returns, Carter will need to hover around the 32 minutes he played Monday.

He'll get a much easier test on Wednesday when the Charlotte Hornets arrive in town. Cody Zeller doesn't exactly have the credentials of a Jokic or Embiid, meaning Carter may have a little more room to work. 

The Bulls know they have something in Carter. It'll be abother month until they can deploy him alongside Markkanen, but if the first three games are any indication, Carter won't have any problems matching up with some of the league's best.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Moral victory for the Bears?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Moral victory for the Bears?

David Schuster, Adam Jahns and Patrick Finley join Kap on the panel.

0:00- Dave Wannstedt joins the panel to discuss the Bears 38-31 loss to the Patriots? Was it a moral victory? Is Matt Nagy crazy to say Mitch Trubisky didn’t play that bad?

13:00- Joe Girardi pulls his name out of the Reds managerial search and Jon Heyman reports that industry sources believe he might wait to see if there’s an opening in Chicago. What are the chances that he replaces Joe Maddon?

14:30- Adam Amin joins Kap to preview the Bulls/Mavericks game and discuss the lack of defense in the NBA.