The Starting Five: Bulls vs. Cavs

The Starting Five: Bulls vs. Cavs

Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010
12:38 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
1. Bulls center Joakim Noah concurred with his coach's opinion about Wednesday's game.

"The Bulls are just trying to get a win. It's an important game for us. They're still in our division and they're very capable. They have a lot of offensive firepower and they're very well-coached. We've just got to come with the right energy and the right focus," Noah told CSNChicago.com before the team's shootaround Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena. "The goal is always the same. It's to try to win a basketball game. That's what we're here to do and we've got to come with the right mindset and get ready to play."

2. Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer spent his first two NBA seasons in Cleveland after the Cavaliers selected him in the second round of the 2002 NBA Draft. Prior to Wednesday's shootaround, Boozer spoke to CSNChicago.com about his favorite memories of his experience in Cleveland.

"Just getting drafted. Sitting there and got that phone call from Cleveland that they were going to draft me. I actually played for Bulls reserve point guard John's Lucas III dad former NBA player and coach John Lucas. That's how I know 'Luke' so good. His dad drafted me and I had chance to come here and get to the NBA, so I've always got great memories here and a great level of respect for the organization," said Boozer. "I wanted to prove to everybody that passed me up in the first round that I was good enough to be at this level and I still wear that chip on my shoulder today, to be honest with you. I was proud that the Cavs drafted me. They gave me an opportunity to get down, so for me, I took the pride every night to prove that I was good enough to be here."

3. Thibodeau's opposing coach in the matchup, Byron Scott, has a reputation for turning moribund squads around as a head coach.

"To me, he's an excellent coach. He prepares his team well, they always play hard, they play unselfishly and they'll get better as the season goes along," said Thibodeau of Magic Johnson's former backcourt mate with the Showtime-era Lakers, who took the lowly New Jersey Nets to two NBA Finals with Jason Kidd at point guard and briefly made the New Orleans Hornets a Western Conference contender with Chris Paul running the show.
4. Thibodeau highlighted third-year power forward Hickson as a player to be watched carefully.

"He's got great quickness at his position, so his reaction to the ball is excellent. He can face up, he can drive the ball hard, he's got a good low-post game, get to the jump hook. If he gets deep post position on you, he can hurt you and he's quick -- he can out-quick people -- so you've got to be down and ready on the catch. He's getting better and better as a young player," said Thibodeau. Averaging 11.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in his first season as a full-time starter -- he started in Shaquille O'Neal's absence and prior to Cleveland's trade deadline acquisition of Antawn Jamison, but was demoted prior to the playoffs, a questionable move since the Cavs' front office was loath to include him in a potential trade for Amar'e Stoudemire -- Hickson is regarded as the team's player with the best long-term potential, although his rebounding and defense has been criticized by new coach Scott.

5. Don't forget to follow me at @CSNBullsInsider.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's 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.

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?


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.