'Lockout League' convenient for Bulls' Watson

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'Lockout League' convenient for Bulls' Watson

Friday, Sept. 9, 2011
Posted: 12:03 p.m.

By AggreySam
CSNChicago.com Bulls Insider Follow@CSNBullsInsider
As the old saying goes, "It's not where you're from, it's where you're at." Or is the opposite true?

Either way, C.J. Watson has the good fortune of both interpretations applying to him. The Las Vegas native has been in his hometown this summer, spending time with his family and working out with noted basketball trainer Joe Abunassar and the numerous NBA players who flock to "Sin City" in the offseason.

Watson and first-round draft pick Jimmy Butler -- who wasn't able to play in NBA summer-league competition because of the ongoing lockout -- are the two Bulls committed to playing in the Competitive Training Series, reportedly the brainchild of Phoenix Suns forward Jared Dudley. Starting Sept. 12, Abunassar's Las Vegas-based Impact Basketball will host a two-week session featuring training and games for NBA players.

"It's NBA players coming out and playing on teams to stay shape because of the lockout," Watson explained to CSNChicago.com in a recent phone interview from Las Vegas. "A lot of players just come to Vegas, so it's good."

According to a Thursday press release from Impact Basketball, over 70 NBA players, including longtime Abunassar client Chauncey Billups of the New York Knicks and Washington Wizards star John Wall, will participate. While optimism can be derived from recent reports during negotiations between the league and the union in New York this week -- perhaps putting on hold tentative plans to have Competitive Training Series sessions in subsequent months -- the benefits of playing in a structured environment with training, referees, NBA rules and competition (games will be open to the public) during the work stoppage are clear.

Never before in the offseason have so many great players come together to train and play. I am thrilled to be able to provide our world-class training environment and system to so many great players," Abunassar said Thursday in a statement released by Impact Basketball. "This will be an experience of a lifetime for our Impact Academy students. Everything we do at Impact is built from our experiences of training great pros and all-stars over the past 15 years. This will certainly enhance our entire program for all of our athletes."

Added Billups: "This will be an amazing two weeks for all of us NBA players who have been working and training hard all summer to get together and have a chance to really get after it on the court against some of the best players in the league. I have trained with Joe for 14 years and Impact continues to be the worlds elite place to train and improve your game. This will be a great two weeks for everyone."

Meanwhile, Watson, who had foot surgery earlier this summer leading him to miss out on the rash of exhibition games, summer leagues and pro-am events, is sticking to his usual offseason regimen.

"It's been good. I've been getting back into, getting back in shape and playing basketball, really," said the University of Tennessee product. "Actually, my days are just like any other summer. I wake up in the morning, go work out, come back home, then I go to the gym at night to shoot," he continued. "I'm just working on my shooting, passing, getting to the basket, everything. Not just one aspect. I'm trying to do it all."

Watson wasn't definitive about whether more of the Bulls would join him. Derrick Rose, Kyle Korver and Taj Gibson all spend time training in Southern California, a hop, skip and a jump from Vegas, in the offseason. Watson did note that he's kept in touch with his teammates during the offseason. Although he's soft-spoken, he is popular on the close-knit squad. In his first season in Chicago, he gradually found his groove as time progressed, beginning with a 39-point November outburst in Denver as a starter in Rose's lone absence of the 62-win regular season.

"I love Chicago. The only bad part for me is the traffic," quipped Watson. "Last year was great. It was an adjustment for me at first to have new players, a new coach, the style of play that he wants to play. After a while, I just started to be more comfortable with the players and the coaches and the style of play.

"It's a great feeling to know that my teammates are doing well. I hope they stay healthy and continue to get better and keep improving," he continued, referring to the performances by Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Omer Asik in the ongoing EuroBasket tournament in Lithuania.

"We've just got to come out, make sure everybody's healthy first off, but come out with more focus and more drive. We know what it takes to get to where we got, but that's not what we want, so hopefully we can go a little further and do better than last year."

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.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Bulls welcome Cavaliers to town

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Bulls welcome Cavaliers to town

In the latest installment of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, the panel previews the Bulls' matchup against the Cavaliers. 

Luke Stuckmeyer is joined by Mark Carman (WGN Radio), David Schuster (670 The Score) and Kendall Gill to break down the keys to a Bulls win. Later, Vincent Goodwill (CSNChicago.com) joins Luke to discuss the team's progress. 

Finally, LeBron James pays off his World Series bet and the entire media world is there to see it. 

Check out the SportsTalk Live Podcast below: 

LeBron James pays off bet, rocks Cubs uniform to the United Center

LeBron James pays off bet, rocks Cubs uniform to the United Center

One month after the Cubs were crowned World Series champions for the first time in 108 years, fans witnessed something else they assumed they’d never see in their lifetime.

LeBron James made good on his lost bet to Dwyane Wade, donning a head-to-toe Cubs uniform prior to the Cavaliers’ tilt against the Bulls on Friday. Wade won the bet after the Cubs came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Cleveland Indians in the World Series.

Wade met James inside the United Center tunnel after the Cavs’ team bus arrived, with a swarm of media contingent elbowing for a glimpse of James. Even Clark the Cub was in attendance to see James complete his end of the losing bet.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Before I walk into the United Center and get bombarded with cameras and everything, I lost this bet. And this is unfortunate what I have to go into the arena in: pinstripes all the way down to the shoe. Yeah, I mean all the way to the World Series patch on the arm," James said in a video uploaded to Uninterrupted. "My Indians gave everything they had. And the Cubs came back and showed what true champions is all about. Meanwhile, I’m pinstriped up walking into a national televised game in Chicago because of a bet I lost. So, you’re all welcome.”

The four-time MVP wore the Cubs’ home white pants, a No. 23 jersey with “James” on the back over a blue sweatshirt, and a Cubs hat. James also wore a custom pair of his own white Zoom Soldier 10s with blue accents to complete the outfit.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

James joked with Wade in the tunnel for a minute before heading to the Cavaliers locker room, where another group of reporters and photographers were waiting to capture James’ walk of shame. Even Kyrie Irving was amazed the scene of media personnel waiting for James, saying “I didn’t realize it was this big a deal.”

Fred Hoiberg joked during pregame availability that he was going to wear his Cubs uniform to the game. And though he didn’t catch James entering the arena, he was glad to see Wade and James enjoying the bet.

“It’s all in good fun,” Hoiberg said. “He and Dwyane obviously have an unbelievable relationship. Two very good friends that won championships together, so yeah pretty cool. All in good fun.”

Well, that was something...

A video posted by Mark Strotman (@markstrot) on