Schanowski: All Hail The King (James)!

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Schanowski: All Hail The King (James)!

Monday, March 22, 2010
5:12 PM

by Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

If you didn't get the chance to watch last Friday's game between the Bulls and Cavs at the United Center, you missed a serious LeBron James love-fest. Hundreds of fans came to the arena wearing their best LeBron 23 gear, and they gave the King a rousing ovation when he was introduced before the game. James pretty much coasted for the first three quarters, then took over in the final eight minutes to help the Cavs take control of the game.

But the real story came after the game when LeBron took questions from a large group of Chicago reporters, and spoke in glowing terms about the Bulls, Chicago, and our city's sports fans. Now granted, talk is cheap, and James probably says similar things in any city that will have cap room to bid on the premiere free agents this summer. But James' knowledge about Chicago's sports history, the Bulls' current personnel and the injury situation that has de-railed the Bulls' season was really impressive, and MIGHT indicate he'll be willing to consider a move to Chicago when the free agent signing period opens on July 1st. If you'd like to judge for yourself how interested LeBron might be in the Bulls, watch the video above.

Bottom line, James has to realize the Bulls' future with him on the roster would be a whole lot brighter than the group he has right now in Cleveland. The Cavs have an excellent chance at winning an NBA title this season, but after that, it gets a little murky. Shaquille O'Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas are nearing the end of their careers, and Antawn Jamison is already 34, with his best seasons behind him. The rest of Cleveland's roster is filled with a bunch of average players, (yes, I know Mo Williams made the All-Star team in 2009), and outside of young forward J.J. Hickson, very few players with a lot of room to grow. James talked up the Bulls' young nucleus of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Taj Gibson, and he made a point of giving Gibson a post-game hug after he scored 20 points and pulled down 13 rebounds against the Cavs. Putting James on the Bulls' would make them an instant championship contender, with a core of young talent in place for a 10 year run at league dominance. I know it's a huge longshot, but James has obviously done his homework, and will take an informed look at the NBA landscape once the season is over, whether Cleveland wins the championship or not.

PLAYOFF HOPES AREN'T DEAD YET

Speaking of long shots, don't count out the Bulls making a late run at the final playoff spot in the East. They currently trail Toronto by 2 and a half games, but the Raptors have been in free-fall mode lately, with their star forward Chris Bosh taking shots at his teammates' lack of urgency and desire. With just about everyone around the NBA assuming Bosh will leave the team for free agency at the end of the season, it's hard to say whether his critical comments will inspire the team or cause a lot of dissension in the locker room.

That means the Bulls could find a way to pass Toronto in the final three and a half weeks of the season. After a brutal month of March, the schedule is finally softening up a bit, and it sounds like Joakim Noah is finally getting past the plantar fasciitis condition in his left foot that basically cost him two months of the season. Noah will be brought back slowly to avoid a major setback, but if you watched the game against Philadelphia on Saturday, you saw the spark Noah can provide, even in limited minutes. Derrick Rose also made a strong return from a sprained left wrist, hitting four three pointers after previously making just 6 for the entire season! If Rose adds a three point threat to his already versatile offensive game, the rest of the league can forget about trying to guard him. And, if Rose and Noah can stay healthy, there's no reason why the Bulls can't win 8 or 9 of their final 13 games and find a way to squeak into the playoffs. Of course, that would mean a first round series against LeBron and the Cavs, but who knows, maybe they can give the King an extended sampling of why his future years might be better spent in Chicago!

E-MAIL TIME

I wanted to take a few minutes to answer some of the e-mails you've been sending in. Thanks for your involvement, and please keep them coming!

Question: After seeing LeBron James in person on Friday, I have been dreaming of what he could do for the Bulls. Putting him and D-Rose together would be a lethal combination...multiple championships! (Sammy, Chicago)

Sammy, you're exactly right. James and Rose together could mean another 6 championships, and they might have to make room for 2 more statues outside of the United Center! I will concede the most likely scenario has James re-signing in Cleveland, but why not dream big? The Bulls have the cap room to make James a competitive offer, and if he's willing to leave his home state of Ohio, the Bulls offer the best opportunity for him to dominate the league for years to come.

Question: With Noah and Rose back healthy, what are the chances that the Bulls make a playoff run? (Ryan, Westmont)

As I wrote about, the Bulls probably need to win 8 or 9 out of their final 13 games to beat out Toronto for that final spot, and it would probably be a good idea to win the head to head match-up with the Raptors in Toronto on April 11th. I would say the Bulls' chances are less than 50-50, but there's certainly a chance, and that's not bad coming off a 10 game losing streak!
Question: Is it time to give up on Luol Deng? He seems to always be hurt, trade him and get a piece that we can use? (William, Lincolnshire)

I know a lot of fans are frustrated by Deng's recent run of injuries, but remember, he played in every game this season before hurting his knee and then straining his right calf when he tried to rush back into the line-up. Luol has quietly had a very solid season, and he figures to be part of the Bulls' core going forward. He also has a good relationship with LeBron James going back to their days competing in high school all-star games, so maybe he can help recruit LeBron this summer. All that being said, if a team like Toronto or Atlanta wanted to do a sign-and-trade for their free agent all-stars this summer, I'm sure the Bulls would be willing to include Deng in the package. The Bulls' dream goal is to sign one top free agent, and then acquire a 2nd one through a sign and trade. I'm sure Deng, Kirk Hinrich, Taj Gibson and 1st round draft picks would be the bait in any sign-and-trade scenarios they discuss this summer.

Question: What team do you think is the perfect fit for D-Wade? (Bob, IL)

I'd love to say the Bulls, because I really respect Wade's game, but the reality is he's probably best off staying in Miami, and hoping the Heat uses its cap room to sign either Bosh, Amare Stoudemire or Carlos Boozer this summer. Wade likes to dominate the ball, and he initiates most of Miami's offensive sets. There's no question a good coach could find a way to maximize the talents of Wade and D-Rose playing together, but Wade is used to running the show by himself and he's said all season he prefers to stay in Miami. Wade might have grown up in the Chicago area, but he says he hates cold weather, loves the South Beach lifestyle and the fact there aren't any state taxes in Florida. I would say it is VERY unlikely he will leave the Heat, unless there's some kind of falling out with team president Pat Riley, who's promised to build a contending team around Wade this summer.

Thanks again for all the great e-mails. Enjoy the hoops this week. If the Bulls can find a way to win all three home games on the schedule, they'll be right in the thick of the playoff race heading down the stretch. I'll see you Thursday from the United Center during SportsNite at 6:30 as we get ready for the Bulls-Heat game on Comcast SportsNet.

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNite, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10.

Kendall Gill, Ice Cube give their predictions for Mayweather-McGregor

Kendall Gill, Ice Cube give their predictions for Mayweather-McGregor

This story originally appeared on Big3.com. Hear from Kendall and Ice Cube as they give their opinions on the Aug. 26 fight in the video above.

Timing really is everything.

When I went to Las Vegas for the BIG3 combine and draft back in April, I liked my chances. Sure, I was one of the oldest guys there, but my training as a boxer (I fought professionally after my NBA days) keeps me in great shape.

So I was pretty shocked when I didn’t get drafted.

I tried to be positive about it. I figured maybe the man upstairs was saying, “Just sit tight. I gotta put you on the right team.”

So there I was, sparring in the gym the other day. I get out of the ring and there’s a text waiting for me from Corey Maggette, asking me if I want to play for Power.

He didn’t have to ask twice!

Next thing I know, I’m getting a call from Power’s coach, Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler. I looked up to Clyde my whole career, looked at him as a big brother. To play for him in the BIG3 is the perfect scenario.

So it was great to be in Philadelphia last Sunday and help Power defeat the Ghost Ballers in my BIG3 debut. I thoroughly enjoyed playing with Cuttino Mobley, DeShawn Stevenson, Jerome “Junkyard Dog” Williams and Paul McPherson.

I was a bit rusty on the offensive side, but my defense -- which has been a staple for me throughout my career -- my rebounding, passing, that was all on point. I found Cuttino and DeShawn for a couple of shots when we forced them to double-team down on me. I had Mike Bibby on me in the post, and they knew that he probably couldn’t guard me down there.

So it was a pretty good first day. Now that I’ve got that under my belt, here comes the fun part. Everybody was excited when I was finally added to a team, and when they found out we were playing in Chicago they got twice as excited. When I got off the plane from Philadelphia on Monday, I had about 50 messages waiting for me – friends and family asking for tickets to the UIC Pavilion for Sunday’s games.

And since I work Chicago Bulls games for CSN Chicago, the network is excited, too. They want to mic me up and follow me around for the day, go behind the scenes. Radio stations have been calling me for interviews about the BIG3 coming to Chicago. It’s exciting. But when it comes time to play, I’ve got to forget about all that and go out there and play.

A lot of people think I’m biased because I was born and raised here, and still live in Chicago, but if you look at the number of pro players that we’ve produced, there’s really nowhere else that can compare to Chicago as a basketball town. You look at all the number one picks in the draft. Look at the top five picks in the NBA Draft throughout history. I think you’d have to say Chicago is probably the number one producer of NBA players – and college basketball players for that matter.

Only a few fortunate kids make it up the ranks to college and the pros. For most kids growing up in Chicago, at least basketball can be an important recreational activity that helps keep them off the streets and out of trouble. But there’s so much more we can do. When I was preparing for the BIG3 draft, I was practicing with Arne Duncan, President Obama’s Secretary of Education. Duncan, who has played competitive 3-on-3 with USA Basketball, is doing some great work with underprivileged kids in Chicago.

For my part, I donated a home in Champaign-Urbana (home of my alma mater, the University of Illinois). It’s the Cunningham Children’s Home and it helps disadvantaged kids in the region. We just had our annual golf tournament last week. We’ve been doing it for 28 years and have raised more than $1 million for the home.

While Arne Duncan is doing great work with Chicago youth, I’m grateful for the work he put in with me on the basketball court. He showed me a lot about how to cut, do a lot of pick and rolls away from the ball. In 3-on-3, those aspects of the game are very undervalued. Some guys have a tendency to play too much one-on-one, which I saw in some of the other games I was watching Sunday. The 3-on-3 game is very easy if you do it right, like we did. I think that’s why we won that game. We did a lot of cuts, and it worked well for us.

So after the disappointment of not being drafted, I’m thrilled to be where I am now – playing for a Power squad that is 3-1 and looking good for the playoffs. Which got me to thinking…

I really love boxing – not just training and sparring myself, but watching it. Boxing is the sweet science.

If we are fortunate enough to make it to Las Vegas for the BIG3 championship game on August 26, there just happens to be a pretty big boxing match taking place that night, right down the road. You may have heard:  Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor.

Personally, I don’t think McGregor has a chance. I’ve seen Floyd train in person and I’ve seen all his fights at least 10 times. He’s one of the greatest fighters to ever live. Now a guy who has no boxing experience whatsoever is going to get into the ring with him? Not happening.

But it’s gonna be an event. Believe me, I’m planning to buy the Pay-Per-View.

Unless I’m in Vegas that day and get to see it in person. You know, right after we win the BIG3 title.

Wake-up Call: Rose returning to Chicago?; Willson Contreras takes over; State of Cubs-Cards

Wake-up Call: Rose returning to Chicago?; Willson Contreras takes over; State of Cubs-Cards

Here are the top Chicago sports stories from Thursday: 

Is #TheReturn getting a reboot? Report says there's a possibility Derrick Rose comes back to Bulls

This is becoming Willson Contreras' team, whether or not Cubs add Alex Avila or another veteran catcher

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for tight ends

Why Blackhawks fans might want to tap the brakes on Alex DeBrincat

That escalated quickly: Cubs just a game back of Brewers, could be in first place as soon as this weekend

Ping-pong balls everywhere: Where do the Bulls rank among projected lottery teams?

Joe Maddon's prime-time message: 'Help or die'

Report: Derrick Rose is considering teaming up with LeBron James, Cavs

Cubs Talk Podcast: State of Cubs-Cardinals rivalry and what lies ahead

Why Adam Engel came up with his unique batting stance, and how he's tweaked it since