Chicago native Anthony Davis holds his own in U.S. opener

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Chicago native Anthony Davis holds his own in U.S. opener

LAS VEGAS No, it isnt the same as hometown hero and Bulls point guard Derrick Rose playing in the Olympics. But since the All-Star and former league MVP cant compete due to his torn ACL, No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Davis member of the rival Miami Heat Dwayne Wade, another Windy City resident, will also miss out on the experience, due to his own recent knee surgery is as close as Chicago will get to a mens basketball player representing the city in London.
Of course, its not set in stone yet, but now that Clippers All-Star power forward Blake Griffins spot is reportedly jeopardized due to a torn meniscus suffered in Wednesdays scrimmage according to reports, the recent recipient of a five-year, 95-million maximum contract will miss the Olympics, but be ready for Clippers training camp Davis, the lone big-man alternate that was left off the original Team USA roster, looks to be London-bound. His performance in Thursdays Team USA exhibition debut didnt hurt his chances either.
After not practicing with the national team Davis practiced Tuesday with the Select Team; his own ankle injury initially appeared to take him out of the running the former Kentucky All-American sat for the first three periods of the contest against the Dominican Republic, a team guided by his college coach, John Calipari. It seemed as if he wouldnt see any action, then he started the fourth quarter and showed the potential that made observers consider him the lone franchise-changing player in the draft.
I was telling him he doesnt get a summer league. In actuality, this is his first NBA game. Hes such a great kid. Were having fun over there with him, but I told him, at the same time, go out there and play hard, show everyone you belong to be here and that youre not here just because youre the No. 1 pick, and he was great and he did a great job, said Clippers All-Star point guard Chris Paul, whose teammate is the injured Griffin. Ironically, Paul began his career in New Orleans, where Davis will play for the Hornets.
He was hurt during training camp, but we all watched him play in college, just like everyone else. Hes got a lot to learn, but what better team to be on than this one to learn how to play, Paul added.
Upon checking in, Davis looked to have a case of the jitters, but eventually found his groove and got on the board by showing off the ball skills a steal, then pushing the ball the length of the court and getting fouled on a layup attempt he retained from his days at Chicagos Perspectives Charter School. After it looked it looked like he would exit the game midway through the stanza, he was inserted back into the contest alongside center Tyson Chandler and power forward Kevin Love, so he was essentially playing on the wing.
Then, he put his package of skills on display, hitting a left-handed jump hook in the paint, snagging an offensive rebound and finishing a put-back layup and lastly, converting a four-point play after getting knocked down in the process of making a three-pointer, getting a rise out of both the crowd and his superstar teammates. And while he wasnt completely flawless, he showed that his hype was justified. Sure, he wasnt Team USAs go-to guy the Hornets hope hell develop into in New Orleans, but the flashes of brilliance show that the 19-year-old is ready for the big time, just a few years removed from being a complete unknown.
Great experience. Guys told me just relax and breathe. Have fun, its just a basketball game. I started getting a feel for things, said Davis, who arrived earlier Thursday afternoon after being informed that morning that his services were needed. Just play basketball. I saw the ball go in for the first time and I felt good.
Blakes still on the team. Im just filling in until he gets healthy, wait for Blake to get healthy. Im not on the team; Im still an alternate. I hope Blake gets a speedy recovery, make sure everythings fine with him and hope its all fine, continued the South Sider. Im still filling in until they tell me differentI just filled Blakes spot for tonightIm not sure. Nobodys given me any indication of what Im doing, so hopefully I find out tonight.
Carmelo told me just take a deep breath and its just like college. Youre out here just playing ball. If you really love this game, youre going to be nervous, but when you step on the floor, but youre supposed to have fun. If you love this game like you say you love it, just go play ball and thats what I ended up doing. And it was good to beat Coach Cal.
Chimed in Paul: He can definitely contribute. He hadnt practiced with us, so he came to pre-game meal and just came over here and just came over here, and he came out here with NBA vets, so Id say thats pretty good for the rook.
Again, USA Basketball wouldnt commit to Davis being on the teamGriffin will get a second opinion on his knee injurybut its evident that if he is added to the squad, hell hold his own and not just be the 2012 version of Christian Laettner from the original Dream Team.
I was excited to finally get the opportunity to play, but its still kind of upsetting that Blake went down. Im just trying to make sure that hes healthy, make sure everything goes well, said Davis.
I feel like I learned something today, he added. "KD, LeBron, Melo, Russ, Kobe, all of them clapping, cheering for me and Im supposed to be cheering for these guys. Theyre cheering for me.
I was just trying to enjoy it all.

Tom Thibodeau all smiles after seizing all the power in Minnesota

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Tom Thibodeau all smiles after seizing all the power in Minnesota

With the controversy behind him and a future that’s envied by virtually every team not in the playoffs, former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau embraced his introduction as Minnesota Timberwolves coach as a new beginning.

Of course, the smile was a little wider considering the title he’s also walking into the door with, as President of basketball operations. He’ll be able to create and establish his own culture as basketball czar, with comrade Scott Layden as general manager.

Layden will do the daily, dirty work, but Thibodeau will have final say in basketball matters—a responsibility he craved in this year away from the sidelines, and also evidenced by his partnership with the popular firm Korn Ferry, the firm that helped place Stan Van Gundy in Detroit.

"For me, personally, this is about alignment," Thibodeau said at his introduction. "It's not about power. It's not about any of that stuff. I've known Scott a long time. We've shared philosophies with each other about certain things. He was the person that I really wanted. So I'm glad we had the opportunity to get him."

Like Van Gundy, Thibodeau had a rocky relationship with his previous employer before turning the tables in his next stop to become the all-knowing basketball being.

Scathing comments after his firing last spring from Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf stung Thibodeau, according to reports, but was offset by Thibodeau thanking Reinsdorf for taking the chance on hiring him, not the ugly, forgettable ending.

“I don’t want to keep going back to Chicago, that’s gone,” he said afterward. “When I look back in totality, there was a lot more good than bad. That’s the way I prefer to view it. The next time you go around, you want to do it better. You analyze different teams, see the synergy between front office and coach and you try to emulate that.”

It’s easy to take the high road when two of the league’s brightest and youngest talents—Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins—are in your stead, healthy and ready to bust out.

And it’s easy to take the high road when there’s no barrier between what you want to happen and what will happen inside the building—a tricky proposition, it should be said.

The natural conflict that often exists between a front office and coach—one takes a more immediate view of matters while the other must consider the long-term effects of the franchise as a whole—won’t exist at all with Thibodeau and Layden because the hierarchy is clear.

It’s Thibodeau at the top and everyone and everything must bend to his will, per se. Considering the way he felt about the way things transpired in Chicago, where he reportedly clashed with Gar Forman and John Paxson over myriad issues, no one can be too surprised he followed the model laid out by Gregg Popovich, Doc Rivers and Van Gundy, among others.

And like Van Gundy, Thibodeau has the task of getting the team with the longest conference playoff-less streak back to the land of the living—a feat Van Gundy accomplished this season with the Pistons, his second. The Timberwolves haven’t made the postseason since 2004, when Kevin Garnett won MVP.

It was four years before Garnett and Thibodeau connected in Boston in the 2007-08 season, helping the Celtics end a 22-year titleless drought. It’s Garnett, and players like Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah who helped Thibodeau earn this reputation as a master motivator and defensive wizard.

He thanked those players among others, as well as late Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders, who drafted the likes of Towns and Wiggins with the long-term view of having them develop at their own pace with the likes of veterans like Garnett and Tayshaun Prince there to guide them.

Thibodeau the coach will be there to prod, poke and push the greatness they’re expected to possess, the same way he did with Rose, Noah and Butler to varying degrees.

Thibodeau the coach won’t have much patience for mistakes, but Thibodeau the executive must resist the “trade everybody” emotions many coaches have when players go through down periods.

Having perspective was never one of his strong points, as he squeezed every ounce of productivity from his teams, but perspective must be his greatest ally in his second act in the spotlight.

Taking a long-term approach in a season when it came to minutes and players’ bodies was something he reportedly bristled at—and even if the narrative was somewhat exaggerated, the rap remains on him, unlikely to shake until proven otherwise.

Now he must take a long-term view in everything, and has to deal with the politics that come with being a top executive in the NBA, a task much easier done in fantasy than application.

Perhaps he gained that perspective in 11 months off after being fired from the Bulls, and using the time to gain insight into other franchises operations while watching the Bulls crumble from the inside.

The Bulls got what they wanted with his ouster, and it was a case of “be careful what you wish for”.

Eleven months from now, one wonders if the same mantra will apply to the coach who wanted it all and got it all.

Marc Gasol thinks brother Pau should sign with Spurs

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Marc Gasol thinks brother Pau should sign with Spurs

Pau Gasol has long been expected to opt out of the final deal of his contract with the Bulls this offseason.

And while there was a time when the interest in Gasol returning to the Bulls on a new deal appeared mutual, the liklihood is now that Gasol plays his 16th NBA season in a different uniform.

His brother, Marc Gasol, seems to think so, too.

When Gasol signed with the Bulls in 2014, he was also considering the Spurs, who at the time were the defending champions. Gasol chose Chicago over San Antonio and Oklahoma City, where he was twice named an All-Star and averaged 17.6 points and 11.4 rebounds in 150 games.

But he didn't have the success he expected when he signed. The Bulls were knocked out in the second round last year and missed the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons this year.

Gasol would make sense with the Spurs, who both tout a long track record with international players and veterans. It would also give him one last shot at earning a third NBA title, something he wasn't able to accomplish in two seasons with the Bulls.

Jimmy Butler 'happy' for Tom Thibodeau, puts blame of season on 'my shoulders'

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Jimmy Butler 'happy' for Tom Thibodeau, puts blame of season on 'my shoulders'

The news about former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau agreeing to terms with the Minnesota Timberwolves to coach and take over its basketball operations had already made its way to Jimmy Butler, who became an all-star under Thibodeau’s watch.

Thibodeau was controversially fired from the Bulls last spring after five seasons, and it took him less than a year to get another job—along with a substantial raise and the power that comes with having final say over personnel.

“I have heard about Thibs, I knew it would come up sooner or later,” said Butler at the grand opening of Bonobos guideshop in downtown Chicago. “I’m happy. I’m happy for that guy. I’m not surprised, not at all. We’ll see what he does over there.”

Butler developed from a late first-round pick in 2012 to a player who received a maximum contract last offseason, and admitted it was tough and demanding to play for the former coach.

“A little bit of both. He knows what he’s doing,” Butler said. “Very smart, he knows the game, he’s a winner, he’ll do whatever it takes to win. I wish him the best of luck. But I’m a Chicago Bull, so we gotta go against those guys.”

Thibodeau will take over a franchise that has arguably the best collection of young talent in the NBA, headlined by Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine, with pundits already penciling in the Timberwolves to be amongst the living this time next season, in the playoffs.

[MORE: Goodwill joins Pro Basketball Talk podcast to talk Bulls]

Thibodeau led the Bulls to the playoffs in each of his five seasons, but when they fired him and replaced him with Fred Hoiberg, an up-and-down season ensued, leading to the Bulls missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

Butler, as he’s done through the season, said the Bulls’ underachieving starts with him.

“I think it starts with myself,” he said. “If I can make this team win, and do whatever it takes every single night, I can take it.”

“I put it on my shoulders, I’m the reason we didn’t make the playoffs. And I’m fine with that. I’m not happy with it but I’m fine with it. Because  it’s only gonna make me stronger, make me better. Moving forward, I have to be able to make us win enough games to be able to make the playoffs.”

Butler’s numbers improved, one year after being named Most Improved Player, and he repeated as an All-Star. But it wasn’t enough to keep the Bulls afloat, as they experienced an eight-game dropoff from last season.

“I feel that way because I wasn’t consistent enough,” Butler said. “I had good games, I had average games, I had decent games and I had some terrible games. I don’t wanna have terrible and decent games. Averages games can get us over the hump but really good ones can help us win.”

Of course, Butler was queried about the ongoing uneasy pairing between himself and Derrick Rose in the Bulls’ backcourt, repeating the two will work out together over the summer to build more on-court chemistry, but playfully dismissed rumors of discord.

“When we lose, it’s always a problem,” Butler said. “You gotta find something to talk about. It’s a great story (but) it has nothing to do with it. Yeah, we’ll work out together, figure out ways to co-exist. I think we did a great job of it this year, yeah we were injured but that wasn’t an excuse. We always have enough to win, and moving forward if we’re healthy, we’re nice.”