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.

Wake-up Call: Bulls rebuild begins; Montero calls out Arrieta; Sox walk-off Yankees

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USA TODAY

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What will Bulls do with Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade?

What will Bulls do with Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade?

The Bulls have made their biggest decision of the offseason but the future of Rajon Rondo and to a lesser extent, Dwyane Wade, is still in the air.

Due to the trade for Kris Dunn and the Bulls having acquired Cameron Payne at the trade deadline last season, it doesn’t appear to be much room for Rondo. Even moreso, considering Dunn and Payne’s lack of production, one would think the Bulls would easily guarantee Rondo’s $13.3 million for next season.

But with the June 30th deadline approaching, it seems more and more like the Bulls will buy Rondo out for $3 million and go with a total youth movement, despite Rondo’s success with guiding some of the young players on the roster.

If not for Rondo’s wrist injury in Game 2 of the Bulls’ first-round series against the Boston Celtics, the Bulls could’ve advanced to the second round of the playoffs. Instead, they’re embarking on what could be a long process that may take years to recover from.

“He’s always been a great teammate and nurturer of the young guys,” said Bill Duffy, Rondo’s agent. Duffy also serves as Zach LaVine’s agent, so he was in attendance for LaVine’s introduction at the United Center.

The handling of Rondo’s benching, re-emergence and subsequent importance to the Bulls this past season has helped Rondo, in a sense. Rondo proved to be a galvanizing force to a degree after being shuffled in and out of the starting lineup.

“I think it’s fair to say he definitely showed a different persona that what had existed but like I said, he’s always been that way, I think it’s more publicized,” Duffy said. “I think he just loves to develop people, always managing and directing. So I think that’s always the case with the younger guys.”

If Rondo is released—and it certainly appears matters are trending in that direction, the 31-year old could have suitors in the New Orleans Pelicans and Indiana Pacers, sources tell CSNChicago.com. One would think the Bulls could use Rondo’s type of straightforward but encouraging brand of leadership in the locker room, but the Bulls have yet to guarantee his contract for next season.

“That’s still to be determined,” Bulls Executive Vice President John Paxson said. “We’re going to sit down with Bill and talk it through. We do understand that veterans are important for a young basketball team, the right veterans – guys that are good teammates, are supportive of the young guys and can continue to teach them how to be pros. Those are things we’ll be addressing.”

“The proof’s always in the pudding and I think if you talk to the front office and coaches, they really love what he brought and how he handled the challenges last year,” Duffy said. “I think we all mature over time and he’s been in the league a long time. He wants to win but he loves the game. I think he appreciates it more, he’s kinda of in his twilight years or approaching it.”

As for Wade, he exercised his $23.8 million option for next season as he was expected to, but that was before the Jimmy Butler trade that ushered in a new day of change.

There’s been speculation Wade would seek a buyout from the Bulls at the start of free agency but so far, those conversations haven’t been held and Paxson intimated Wade would have to give back a significant amount of that money to become a free agent.

There’s been speculation of Wade joining LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers, as well as Carmelo Anthony getting a buyout from the Knicks and following suit.

But the Cavaliers will have very little to offer in the way of cap space, so it’s tough to see Wade giving back a large sum then going to Cleveland for the veterans’ minimum—which would not make up the difference of a “significant” amount.

“I know Gar has spoken with Leon Rose, Dwyane’s agent, As far as the buyout, that has not been broached,” Paxson said. “I would say this: In this type of scenario, it would have to benefit us. It would have to benefit us. Dwyane was a great pro last year, and he’s been around a lot of different situations.”

But with Wade’s history of giving up large sums of money in the name of team, it’s harder to predict his moves. As strong as his relationship with Butler is, the possibility of Butler being moved didn’t affect him picking up his option, so his desire to play competitive or at least meaningful basketball could be weighed against wanting to keep his family comfortable after relocating to Chicago last year and collecting every dollar of his deal.

“He was in Miami when they had a couple rebuilding years as well,” Paxson said. “So right now we’re operating under assumption that he’ll be here. But like I said, if that subject is ever broached by them, it would have to be advantageous for us."