Chicago product Kendrick Nunn shows out in return home for All-Star weekend

USA Today

Chicago product Kendrick Nunn shows out in return home for All-Star weekend

For Kendrick Nunn — born and bred on the South Side of Chicago — there’s simply no place like home.

Even now, years removed from the time he says he fell in love with basketball in his backyard and at Simeon Career Academy, that rings true. As a member of the Miami Heat, he dropped 21 points on 8-for-14 shooting in his first NBA game at the United Center on Nov. 22. Tonight, back there again, he posted a cool 16 on 7-for-11 in Team USA’s 151-131 drubbing of Team World in the Rising Stars Challenge with a slew of close family in attendance.

“It’s very special,” Nunn said the morning of the game about the chance to represent his city. "Representing Chicago, the South Side, myself, my family. I'm representing a lot, and it feels good just to be here and represent those things and what I'm about."

That’s not just said for show. On Thursday, when Nunn first got into town, he paid a visit to Simeon and spoke to players and coaches, who he says are preparing for a championship game on All-Star Sunday. Ask those that came up in Chicago, and that community and commitment to legacy is unique to the city.

“Chicago basketball means a lot. Obviously you have the culture here, a lot of great guys coming from Chicago, a lot of players and things like that,” Nunn said. “Just a legacy that we like carrying on and we like playing with.

“I'm just putting on for the city and where I'm from.”

That legacy, Nunn said, is carried by playing “relentless.” On All-Star Saturday, Patrick Beverly — whose trash-talking Nunn lauded — will get a chance to showcase that. On Sunday, during the All-Star game itself, former Bull Jimmy Butler takes the stage for Team Giannis and Englewood native Anthony Davis for Team LeBron. 

But on night one, Nunn shined alongside a Team USA starting lineup of all top five picks in Trae Young, Ja Morant, Zion Williamson and Jaren Jackson Jr. Admittedly, he didn’t receive the most raucous ovations of the night (that was reserved for such dazzling moments as Luka Doncic’s near-halftime-buzzer-beating half court shot and the pseudo-dunk contest that broke out in the game’s final minute), but the ones he got struck a chord.

“Everybody did,” Nunn said when asked if anyone nudged him to step up in his return home, though he shot down any talk of nervousness. “Coming back to my hometown, Chicago, playing in the Rising Stars game is big for me, everybody wanted me to show out.”

Of his 17 points, the two loudest came on a thunderous tomahawk slam in the third quarter.

“Going in the lane, getting some dunks,” Nunn said with a smile of his favorite moments from the night. And of the reception: “I definitely heard it. I don’t know how loud it was.”

There’s just something about being home.

“It’s everything. I dreamed of it. It’s a dream come true,” Nunn said. “Growing up in Chicago, I went to the United Center watching Bulls games, and I never really envisioned myself playing on the floor until years ago, when I realized I can do this.” 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Simeon defensive back Chau Smith commits to Wyoming

Nick Lucero/Rivals

Simeon defensive back Chau Smith commits to Wyoming

Simeon senior three-star ranked defensive back recruit Chau Smith (5-foot-11, 175 pounds) decided today to end his recruiting process and give the University of Wyoming his verbal commitment. Smith discusses his college decision here.

"I'm really happy about my decision," Smith said. "I had a great visit this weekend to Wyoming and the visit really sealed the deal for me."

Smith, who had recently narrowed his top schools list to the Cowboys along with Toledo, NIU, Colorado State and Temple, filled us in on what stood out to him on his weekend official visit to Wyoming.

"The coaching staff at Wyoming is great," Smith said. "Coach Rich (John Richardson) is nothing less than real and I can't emphasize that enough. I also know that head coach (Craig) Bohl has my best interest at heart. He has made a commitment to me that I will leave Laramie with my college degree. My family loves that and they also loved it at Wyoming and I loved it at Wyoming. Just the whole vibe at Wyoming is great and I feel I will be pushed to become a greater player and that the coaches will push me to do great things."

Earlier in the week Smith had no official visit plans set. He decided at the last minute to take an official visit to Wyoming.

Jabari Parker says he has moved on from his rough stint with the Bulls


Jabari Parker says he has moved on from his rough stint with the Bulls

Jabari Parker's stint with the Bulls was an intriguing one, filled with some nice highlights but mostly drama once he was taken out of Jim Boylen's rotation. Of course, Parker started the 2018-19 season with Fred Hoiberg as his head coach. Once the Bulls fired Hoiberg and moved on to Boylen, it quickly became clear that Parker wasn't going to be in the long-term plans for the Bulls who, for better or worse, were going through a big-time culture change.

Parker—now an Atlanta Hawk—returned to Chicago to play the Bulls on Wednesday and in comments made to ESPN, he made it clear that while he (says he) holds no ill will towards the franchise, he feels the city of Chicago will always have his back.

"I just had to move on, but that never changed about how I feel about my city."

Indeed, Parker is known around Chicago for — outside of the obvious, like being a former No. 2 overall pick in the NBA Draft and one of the greatest high school basketball players in Simeon's and Illinois' illustrious hoops history —  the many free basketball camps he holds around the city, which provide an opportunity for the Chicago youth to get some great basketball tutelage and stay out of trouble, all without placing further financial strain on families. 

What has been impressive about Parker in regards to his philanthropic efforts throughout Chicago is the consistency. Parker has been active in the Chicago community since his time at Simeon, during his years with the Bucks, and has even stayed connected to the city during his stint with the Washington Wizards and his current time with the Hawks. 

Parker surely wasn't pleased with how things ended in Chicago, stating in different interviews since then that all he ever wanted was an "opportunity to play". The situation worked out in the long run for both sides, as the Bulls trade that sent Parker to Washington netted them valuable 3-and-D wing Otto Porter Jr. and Parker got to play over 27 minutes a night with the Wizards, playing well enough to land a two-year, $13 million contract with the Hawks.

Atlanta is in the midst of their own rebuild, affording Parker just over 27.8 minutes per game, his highest average since the 2016-17 season. He wasn't able to get a "revenge victory" over the Bulls on Wednesday night, scoring 11 points on 5-for-10 shooting as the Bulls ran away with a 34-point win. But his comments before the game were heard loud and clear: Parker may feel that he has no connection at all to the franchise that he only played a mere 39 games for but like his father (Chicago hoops legend Sonny Parker) did before him, Parker will continue to do his best to bring positive change to Chicago communities, be it as a Chicago Bull or not. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.