One of MJ's victims, Thibodeau favors Jordan in LeBron debate

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One of MJ's victims, Thibodeau favors Jordan in LeBron debate

"He caused a lot of pain in my life," joked Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau about a man whose number and championship banners he was most responsible for being hung across the Berto Center practice floor.

Thibodeau was talking about Michael Jordan and while his take on media-fueled debate on how reigning league MVP LeBron James measures up to the player widely considered the greatest in NBA history left some wiggle room, it appeared that he was simply being diplomatic.

"They're different, but I think with all those type of comparisons, those are tough to make because I don't think you can do it until LeBron's done, so to speculate now, I guess it makes for interesting conversation. But you have to wait. And they're both great, and what Jordan did was incredible, but who knows? Kobe's had a great career, LeBron's had a great career and LeBron's still young, so there's still a long way to go for him. But Jordan kept so much pressure on you in so many different ways and it's a different game now than it was. Back then, it was a lot more physical than it is today.

"Also, you couldn't play zone defense the way you can today, so in some ways, having the ability to play some zone and use some zone principles, I think, helps. It's still difficult to guard the great players, but it helps some and the flip side of that is not being able to be as physical hurts you some. When Jordan was playing, you could play a lot more physical. He took a beating and I think all the great players take a beating, but it was probably to an extreme in the '90s and I think the game is a lot better today because they've cleaned a lot of that stuff up," he explained.

"I would say Jordan was the toughest player to game-plan against, because of all the problems that he caused and the way he dominated, to win six championships and unfortunately, I was a part of the other end of that with the Knicks and those were some great battles, and I thought we had a great team in New York, but what he did was just incredible. But you can make a case for a lot of guys and like I said, we have to wait until a guy's career is over before we draw any comparisons."

Bulls veteran Nazr Mohammed, who grew up in Chicago during Jordan's reign, was dismissive of the topic at hand.

"I also think debates of guys from different eras is one of the stupidest things out there," said Mohammed, adding it to a personal list that includes the media's preseason prognostications. "You cannot debate guys who played in totally different eras. Debates of who's the best when you've got guys who played different positions are silly to me."

Being that this is a Chicago-based media outlet with many users hailing from in and around the Windy City or with ties to city's sports franchises, most of the answers will be predictable, but here goes: After finally getting the championship monkey off his back last season, is James making up ground on Jordan or is it still not even close?

Five things to watch during Bulls’ training camp

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USA Today Sports Images

Five things to watch during Bulls’ training camp

All the new guys: Last October, the Bulls entered camp with essentially the same roster that lost to Cleveland in the second round of the 2015 playoffs, save for then-rookie Bobby Portis. This time, there’s no Derrick Rose, no Joakim Noah, no Pau Gasol, no Mike Dunleavy, and no E’Twaun Moore.

That’s four starters (essentially) whose performances or presence has been counted on in some way, even through some of the uncertainty that surrounded a few of these guys.

Conceivably, the Bulls can have around five new players in the actual rotation who weren’t thought of this time last year, although last year’s product left a lot to be desired.

The adjustment time and chemistry building starts Tuesday.

Who starts at power forward: All other positions in the first five are set, especially with the new faces. But the pivotal decision for Fred Hoiberg, if it hasn’t been made already, is who will start alongside Robin Lopez at center. It could be Nikola Mirotic, or Taj Gibson or even Bobby Portis, depending on Hoiberg’s sensibilities.

Smart money says it’ll probably be Mirotic considering he’s the best perimeter shooter of the three and actually a decent defensive rebounder. Gibson being a great screener, finisher and defender makes him intriguing as an option, but offensive space will be limited if he’s out there with Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo. As for Portis, is he ready to take a step toward consistency in year 2?

The point guard: Rajon Rondo’s basketball intelligence is genius level, where he can master a gameplan and probably even devise one of his own that rivals his coaches. The man can counter a play before the opposing defense initiates an adjustment. That said, how will he and Hoiberg mesh this season? He clashed with Doc Rivers, had knock-down battles with Rick Carlisle in Dallas and George Karl didn’t have it in him to fight anybody in Sacramento, let alone Rondo.

Rondo likes playing the game at his speed, with his own feel and rhythm. Hoiberg will have to tailor his style for the new personnel he has, and luckily for him, isn’t a “my way or the highway” type of fellow that’s sure to rub Rondo the wrong way. Will Rondo embrace Hoiberg’s system and become an extension of the coach, or will Hoiberg give Rondo enough rope to explore Rondo’s intelligence to find a middle ground?

Will that even be enough?

The backup point guard: Just as intriguing as the starting power forward battle will be who backs up Rondo at point guard, although it’s likely that player won’t have to fill the traditional role of doing anything aside from walking the ball up and letting either Butler or Wade initiate the offense.

It’s likely Hoiberg will change his substitution patterns to have either Wade or Butler anchor second units in the second quarter, as a way to maximize the time he has with both while not having them invade each other’s space in the halfcourt. So who plays backup point could be more about who fits best next to the best player on the floor as opposed to who the best player is.

It seems to open the door for rookie Denzel Valentine since he can play three positions (although defense will be a task), along with Jerian Grant, Isaiah Canaan and Spencer Dinwiddie.

Grant was a first-rounder in 2015 who wants to show he’s worth that status, while Dinwiddie was projected as a lottery pick three years ago before tearing his ACL at Colorado.

It’s certainly not the most stressful decision Hoiberg will have to make, but a curious one.

Developing an identity: Does it happen in training camp? Who knows, but tones are often set as to what type of squad a team will be. Last season, Hoiberg believed he was building on a solid foundation after Tom Thibodeau’s defense first mentality, but signs of things crumbling began to show very early in the preseason.

This season, with so many new pieces, moving parts and overall uncertainty, there’s question as to what kind of team the Bulls will be. It’s intriguing, to say the least. But what will the Bulls hang their hats on come late October?

ESPN to broadcast Notre Dame-Syracuse, NC State kickoff still TBD

ESPN to broadcast Notre Dame-Syracuse, NC State kickoff still TBD

ESPN selected Notre Dame's road game at North Carolina State for a six-day option, meaning we won't know what time that contest will kick off until after Oct. 1's games. 

The other two ACC games selected as part of the six-day option are Virginia Tech at North Carolina and Florida State at Miami. Both FSU (No. 12) and Miami (No. 14) are ranked in the latest AP top 25, while Virginia Tech and North Carolina both received votes in the poll. Notre Dame and NC State did not receive any votes in this week's AP poll. 

Notre Dame's game against Syracuse at MetLife Stadium this Saturday will be broadcast by ESPN, the ACC also announced, and will kick off at noon E.T.