LeBron or not, Thibodeau won't overlook Cavs

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LeBron or not, Thibodeau won't overlook Cavs

Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010
Posted: 12:05 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

CLEVELAND -- Tom Thibodeau isn't one to dwell on the past. While he empathizes with Cleveland fans in the aftermath of losing homegrown superstar LeBron James to free agency, in the mind of meticulously-prepared rookie NBA head coach, he sees a competitive Cavaliers team. He might be alone in possessing that line of thinking.

That might be a little extreme, but since last Thursday's return of James to Cleveland -- and subsequent Heat rout, which may have set the necessary fire under the much-ballyhooed squad to perform up to their potential -- the Cavs have been awful by all accounts. The team's current five-game losing streak, includes blowout losses to similarly moribund Minnesota (by a whopping 34 points) and Tuesday night, Philadelphia.

Still, Thibodeau maintained Cleveland is at least a threat to be reckoned with.

"I'm concerned because I don't worry about guys who aren't here. I just worry about the guys who are here and when I look at their team, I see a lot of guys who are very explosive, that could have big nights. So, we have to be ready for the start of the game. We can't allow these guys to get going early. They've got guys who can shoot the ball extremely well, they're good off the dribble, they've got high-energy guys up front, so we've got to be ready," said Thibodeau prior to the Bulls' shootaround Wednesday morning at Quicken Loans Arena. "They have a new team, so they're adjusting. Some night they look great and when you look at the strengths of their team and you see the capabilities, they have some guys who can shoot the three extremely well.

"Mo Williams, you can't give him space. Anthony Parker, can't give him space. Daniel Gibson's shooting the ball extremely well. You can't allow those guys to shoot open threes and when you're coming in off the bench with guys like Antawn Jamison and Ramon Sessions, those are two other guys that are capable of having big nights," he continued. "When you look at J.J. Hickson and Anderson Varejao up front, those are high-energy guys. You've got to match their intensity. Joey Graham's doing a really good job at the small forward, so they have some weapons. They could put points up on the board against you."

Thibodeau's positivity in evaluating opponents is equal parts respect and paranoia, but one thing is for certain: James isn't on his mind.

"The guy is from Cleveland and he had a great run here and so I'm sure there's disappointment, but that's part of pro sports. The way it is today with free agency, players leave. They don't stay with one team. It's unusual when a player stays with one team throughout his entire career. Sure, you feel for them," he said. "We have to approach it the same way we approach every game. Have a great shootaround, be focused, be ready for the start of the game and understand that in this league, everybody's capable of having a big night. You've got to be ready."

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.

Robin Lopez on when he knew he'd be suspended: 'When I threw a punch'

Robin Lopez on when he knew he'd be suspended: 'When I threw a punch'

Most NBA players have to let their adrenaline come down before the reality of what's coming next begins to hit them, but Robin Lopez had his moment of clarity at the oddest time during his altercation with Toronto's Serge Ibaka on Tuesday night.

When asked when he knew he would be serving at least a one-game suspension for his missed punch in the fourth quarter of their loss to the Raptors, Lopez said, "When I threw a punch."

The process from the NBA to Lopez was pretty straightforward, and Lopez called the one-game suspension "fair."

Ditching the caveman look for a clean shaven appearance at Friday morning's shootaround, Lopez seemed at ease with what happened and wasn't going to contest the one-game decision, especially since the NBA could've gone with two or three games as no precedent has been set for fighting this season.

"I mean, that's what the league gave. I'm going to stick with it," Lopez said, adding, "I didn't change my story."

The multiple camera angles would've made it impossible to believe a different recollection of the events had Lopez attempted to finagle himself out of the one-game suspension that stopped his 71-game starting streak with the Bulls this season.

[BULLS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

His matter-of-fact statement after an emotionally charged incident didn't hurt the Bulls. They beat the Pistons by 20 as Lopez was serving a banishment that ended his streak of 187 consecutive games played. But he was happy Joffrey Lauvergne got a chance to prove his worth.

Lauvergne had 17 points and seven rebounds Wednesday night, and he'll be behind Lopez against the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night as Cristiano Felicio is recovering from a hard fall late in the Raptors game.

"He's very versatile. He's a playmaker, he can score from a lot of different spots on the floor. He's a really smart basketball player," Lopez said of Lauvergne. "I always want to be out there with the guys. But they took care of business and did their thing. So I was pleased to see them pick up the win."

Picking up two in a row shouldn't be a monumental task against the 76ers, though they are 3-3 in their last six games and the Bulls haven't won two in a row in nearly a month as their grip on a playoff spot has loosened.

For the moment, the Bulls sit ninth in the East, a full game behind the surging Miami Heat, with a 34-38 record. Teams with nothing to lose can be playoff spoilers, and the Bulls have lost more than their share of games to lesser teams this season.

"Those teams do play loose," Lopez said. "They kind of just go out there to play basketball, and that can be a bit dangerous. But we've got something to play for, so we've got to be more motivated. The Sixers especially, they play really well, they have a lot of energy. So we've got to go out there, we've got to play motivated."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls make the postseason?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls make the postseason?

Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000), Brian Hedger (nhl.com) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) join Kap on the panel.  The Bulls beat the Pistons in a game with huge playoff implication.  So could they actually make the postseason?

The Blackhawks are closing in one division title but what’s their biggest weakness?

Plus Theo Epstein’s a really great leader, Kyle Hendricks is going to have to wait a while to pitch plus DeShone Kizer loves the band “Chicago” but will he play here?