High School Lites Preview

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High School Lites Preview

Call it the Diamonds In the Rough edition of High School Lites, if you will. We will head out to two basketball powerhouses that you may not have heard of in 2012. Herscher and Immaculate Conception are part of a select few Illinois programs in that have put together 20-win seasons. Well bring you highlights of their games, along with conference duels in the DuPage Valley and Catholic North. And will Simeon or Curie claim the Chicago Public League trophy Friday night? Here is a snapshot of each game that we will cover on this Fridays edition of High School Lites. All rankings reflect the CSN Top 20, sponsored by The Marines:

FRIDAY GAMES

3 Curie (24-1) vs. 1 Simeon (24-1), 7:00pm (Public League Championship at Chicago State)

Its the rematch that Chicagoland -- and especially Public League -- basketball fans have waited for since the holiday tournament season. Simeon, coming off a 61-51 victory over Orr in the semis, took down Curie in the championship game in Pontiac thanks to a healthy rebounding edge and solid performances by Jabari Parker and Steve Taylor. Will Curie respond in the rematch? They held off Bogan on Wednesday night and will need sophomore center Cliff Alexander and senior guard Devin Foster to help contain one of the most talented teams in the nation.

8 Downers Grove South (19-4) @ 2 Proviso East (22-0), 6:00pm

The West Suburban Gold conference is up for grabs in Maywood. If Proviso wins, they take the league title outright. East, behind Paris Lee, Paris Burns, Trashaun Carroll, Keith Carter and Sterling Brown have been unstoppable this season. As for the 8 Mustangs, Jerron Wilbut is back from a suspension, but don't overlook Jordan Cannon, Kevin Honn and Jamall Millison, who have stepped up nicely in the Wilbut's absence. A win makes DGS the co-champ and it'll ease the pain of a 78-70 loss to the Pirates back in January.

16 St. Rita (14-8) @ St. Joseph (15-8), 7:30pm

The Catholic North figured to be a three-headed monster this season, with St. Rita, St. Ignatius and De La Salle fighting for the top spot in the conference. But St. Joseph is enjoying a huge late-season push, thanks to senior Reggie Johnson and sophomore Paul Turner. St. Rita has played a rigorous out-of-state schedule and is also 8-1 in conference. They have star-power in guard Tony Hicks. He scored 24 points for the Mustangs in the previous meeting between the two schools, won by St. Rita, 60-44.

Walther Lutheran (14-10) @ Immaculate Conception (22-3), 7:30pm

Many recall the winter of 1967 as a time when two feet of snow blanketed Chicagoland. Others recall this time as when the first Super Bowl took place. But for the folks at ICHS, it was the last time the boys basketball team won a conference title. Until now. Everybody is looking up at the Knights, the 2012 Suburban Christian-Gold champs. Forward Brian Harvey and guard John Cheng are tough to contain. As for Walther, 5-9 senior guard Patrell Green is the centerpiece of the Bronco attack.

West Aurora (19-4) @ Naperville North (17-6), 7:30pm

Expect a raucous Friday night in Naperville. The Huskies will have a chance to earn at least a share of the DuPage Valley conference with a win on their home floor. North, who hasn't won the DVC in 14 years, will look to senior forward Mike Keane and sophomore guard Anthony Rehayem to lead the way. However, the Blackhawks are more than battle-tested. Talented senior forward Juwan Starks is one of their go-to guys. West Aurora, who can tie North for the DVC lead, fell to NN 53-51 back on January 7th.

Peotone (10-14 TUES) @ Herscher (23-1), 7:00pm

Herscher has dominated teams in the Interstate Eight conference -- not to mention the Kanakakee Valley area in general -- rather thoroughly this season. They are part of only a handful of teams in Illinois who have won 23 games on the season. Ben Wenzelman, Justin Ruckman and Jordan Ruckman pace the Tigers. Peotone will have some momentum on their side though, after a 48-38 win over Grant Park Tuesday night.

4 Warren (20-2) @ Libertyville (14-10), 7:30pm

Everybody has talked about the success of Warren's Darius Paul and Nathan Boothe this season. But JoVaughn Gaines is another player in the Blue Devils' arsenal that can create mismatch issues for opponents. The 6-5 forward tallied 14 points in Tuesday's 60-38 Warren victory over Lake Zurich. Libertyville has been good in stretches. Senior guard Griffin Pils has had a solid season for the Wildcats. Warren took a 77-53 decision in Gurnee earlier this season.

Mundelein (21-6) @ Stevenson (15-9), 7:30pm

Both teams are in the meaty part of the upper half of a tough basketball conference, the North Suburban-Lake. The visiting Mustangs, who beat Stevenson 59-51 in Mundelein earlier in the year, feature talented guard Robert Knar. He is the son of head coach Richard Knar. The Patriots will be a tough out, though. They have standouts in Michael Fleming and up-and-coming sophomore Matt Morrissey.

Every Friday night, High School Lites will bring you scores and highlights from around Chicagoland. Our Muscle Milk Team of the Week is Immaculate Conception. This Elmhurst school just won their first conference championship in 45 years. But the Knights goals are much higher in the postseason. Our Kip Lewis has their story. Also, Mark Schanowski catches up with a legend on the girls basketball circuit who has reached the 700-win mark: Maine Wests Derril Kipp. Plus, well take a drive down Memory Lane in our Flashback segment, and well have in-depth coverage of the Simeon Wolverines, who will be featured in our Drive segment, sponsored by Greater Than.

High School Lites streams live every Friday on CSNChicago.com.

We invite you to share your story ideas as well. Check us out at: csnchicagowebsite@comcastsportsnet.com

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bulls build around All-Star Jimmy Butler?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bulls build around All-Star Jimmy Butler?

David Haugh (Chicago Tribune) and Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000) join Kap on the panel. Jimmy Butler is an All-Star starter. Is he a superstar now meaning the Bulls have to build around him? The guys pose that question to Bulls great Horace Grant.

The Raiders want to move to Las Vegas. If your NFL team moved, should you keep rooting for them? Plus should the Cubs help Sammy Sosa out as his Hall of Fame chances get smaller?

Check out the SportsTalk Live Podcast below.

NBA Buzz: Chris Paul hurt, the Bad Boy Warriors and some bummer draft news for the Bulls

NBA Buzz: Chris Paul hurt, the Bad Boy Warriors and some bummer draft news for the Bulls

It's become the newest trend in the NBA. Players 6-foot-10 and taller wandering out to the 3-point line to launch jump shots (or set shots), hoping to draw their defenders out of the paint.

Yes, we know the NBA has become a 3-point shooting league thanks to the long-range talents of players like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, James Harden, J.J. Redick and Damian Lillard. Advanced analytics have shown coaches and front-office executives the value of that extra point from beyond the arc, and every team is working to develop 3-point shooting range with just about all the players on their rosters, including 7-foot centers.

Robin Lopez has been watching his twin brother Brook join the 3-point craze. Brook had only launched 31 shots from 3-point range in his previous eight NBA seasons, but this season he's put up 191 3s heading into play on Thursday and made 66 for a more than respectable 34.6-percent success rate.

Naturally, Robin says he can do anything his twin brother can do and told reporters it's only a matter of time before he gets the green light to shoot the 3 ball.

"It's something I've been working on this season. I don't know if it's game-ready yet, maybe that's a little more of a confidence issue. Coach Pete (Myers) has me shooting corner 3s before games. The way the NBA is going, I don't see why not. If Brook can do it, I can definitely do it."

Taj Gibson knocked down a corner 3 against the Wizards last week and said the coaching staff is encouraging him to shoot more of them in games. Gibson spent time after practice on Thursday working on his long-range shooting with assistant coach Mike Wilhelm, then told reporters, "I try to take two a game, but when you get out there, you don't really realize how far it is until you're lined up and the crowd is yelling 'shoot it, shoot it.' Your teammates are behind you. It's fun. I hopefully look forward to finally make some in the future."

Gibson added his 3-point shooting has already become a big topic of conversation around the team.

"My teammates are making little jokes about what I'm going to do when I make it. You gotta make some kind of signal or something. But one day at a time."

In case you haven't noticed, some of the best young big men in the game like Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns and DeMarcus Cousins have made the 3-point shot a staple in their offensive arsenals. And Robin Lopez says there's no reason why centers shouldn't expand their games behind traditional low post battles.

"I think it's wonderful for the game. I think there's a real premium on skill at all positions on the court. I think that's really going to continue. You're going to have more versatile big men."

Fred Hoiberg joked with reporters he might have to call a play to get Robin a 3-point try down the line, but he understands the value of having power forwards and centers who can shoot from long range.

"It's obviously a huge part of today's game. The 3-point shot, having multiple player that can stretch the floor. Those teams are really hard to guard."

So, with the Bulls currently ranking dead last in the NBA in 3-point shooting at just under 32 percent, Hoiberg is searching for more options, even among the tallest players on his roster.

Here are a few stories from around the Association that have caught my attention.

Paul's injury big trouble for Clippers

Bad news for the L.A. Clippers, who will have to get along for the next six to eight weeks without floor leader Chris Paul, who tore a ligament in his left thumb defending Russell Westbrook on Monday. Just the latest in a series of untimely injuries for Doc Rivers' team.

The good news? Paul will be healed in time for the playoffs, and the Clippers do have a deep group of veteran guards, including the aforementioned Redick, Raymond Felton, Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers. But with Blake Griffin already on the sidelines recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, the Clippers could have a tough time holding off Utah, Memphis and Oklahoma City in the race for home-court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.

The larger question involves the direction of the franchise going forward. Under terms of the new CBA, Paul is eligible to sign a five-year contract this summer in excess of $200 million, while Griffin is also set to sign a new max deal. Will the Clippers tie up their payroll for years to come around the talented but oft-injured duo? Or are they better off cutting ties with at least one of their All Stars to keep some degree of cap flexibility going forward?

Since Rivers is the coach and president of basketball operations, that decision will largely be his to make in consultation with deep-pocketed owner Steve Ballmer.

Melo wants to stay in New York?

Speaking of franchise direction, what's next for the floundering Knicks, who've sunk to 11th place in a weak Eastern Conference?

Carmelo Anthony met with team president Phil Jackson earlier this week to clear the air about an article written by Jackson confidante Charley Rosen that suggested Anthony has perhaps outlived his usefulness in New York and that the Knicks should consider trading him. Anthony reaffirmed to Jackson he wants to stay and win in New York and that he has no intention to waive his no-trade clause.

So for now the uneasy alliance between Anthony and Jackson will continue, but the Knicks will be hamstrung by the Melo and Joakim Noah contracts for the next few years, likely preventing them from making any major moves to improve the roster.

Sixers reaping rewards of The Process

At the other end of the spectrum is the Philadelphia 76ers, who are finally starting to reap the benefits of acquiring so many high draft picks in recent years. Joel Embiid is already a star in his first NBA season, looking like he could be the league's best center in very short order. Embiid's sensational rookie campaign means the Sixers will be able to trade either Nerlens Noel or Chicago native Jahlil Okafor for a veteran backcourt player to balance out the roster.

And we still haven't seen 2016 No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons, who's being brought back slowly from a broken foot suffered in a preseason game. Former general manager Sam Hinkie might not have been allowed to stay on to see "The Process" completed, but he deserves a lot of the credit for staying the course when other front-office execs would have bailed.

The Bad Boy Warriors

Who could have imagined the Golden State Warriors being mentioned in the same breath as the Bad Boy Pistons? Facing statement games this week against the Cavs and Thunder, Golden State took a page out of Bill Laimbeer's book, flattening LeBron James and Russell Westbrook with flagrant fouls. Now, James certainly embellished the hit he took from Draymond Green with one of the all-time soccer-style flops, but there's no arguing Green plays with an edge and physicality that borders on dirty.

Watching Zaza Pachulia stand over Westbrook after a deliberate smack down indicates Pachulia is more than ready to take on the enforcer role in what could be a much-anticipated third straight Finals matchup between the Warriors and Cavs. After watching tape of Wednesday night's incident, Westbrook had this to say about the team's next meeting Feb. 11 in Oklahoma City: "I'm going to get his ass back. Straight up."

Bummer draft news for Bulls

Sorry, Bulls fans. That future first-round pick Sacramento owes the Bulls (top-10 protected) from the Luol Deng trade years ago is almost certainly going to become a second-round pick this June. The Kings just went 1-6 on their longest homestand of the season, and now head out on the road for eight straight games. Even worse, they just lost their second best player, Rudy Gay, to a season-ending Achilles injury. Under the terms of the Deng trade, if the first-round pick owed to the Bulls isn't conveyed by this year's draft, it converts to a second-round pick. And after losing Gay for the season, the Kings are a lock to finish in the bottom 10.

So a chance for the Bulls to add a low lottery pick to their roster this summer just went out the window.

Stat of the week

Thanks to my friend Nick Friedell, who tweeted this gem from Jacob Nitzberg of ESPN Stats and Information: Tuesday night's game against Dallas marked Jimmy Butler's 16th game this season with 10-plus free throws made, which ties him with Chet Walker for the 10th-most such games in a single season in franchise history. Only Michael Jordan has more games in a season with 10-plus free throws made in franchise history.

And Russell Westbrook's incredible season continues as he looks to become the first NBA player to average a triple-double since the great Oscar Robertson back in 1961-62.

NBA season leaders in triple-doubles since Westbrook's rookie season (2008-09):

Season Player Triple-doubles Total NBA triple-doubles
2008-09 LeBron James 7 30
2009-10 LeBron James 4 23
2010-11 LeBron James 4 37
2011-12 Rajon Rondo 6 18
2012-13 Rajon Rondo 5 42
2013-14 Lance Stephenson 5 46
2014-15 Russell Westbrook 11 46
2015-16 Russell Westbrook 18 75
2016-17 Russell Westbrook 21 53 (through Jan. 18)

Quote of the week

Congratulations to Jimmy Butler on being named an Eastern Conference All-Star starter for the Feb. 19 game in New Orleans. Last week, Butler told reporters he really didn't care about whether or not he made the team, saying he'd be relaxing on a beach somewhere if he wasn't selected.

That prompted this response from Taj Gibson: "He's lying, he's lying so much. You never know what you're going to get from Jimmy. I know, definitely, he wants to make the All-Star team. He's been putting in a lot work in for it."

No question about it, Taj, Butler deserves to be in the East starting lineup as he continues to rise up the rankings of the top players in the game. Now the challenge for the Bulls is finding more athletes and shooters to put around him.