Monday, May 17, 2010
By Mark Schanowski
Would you be willing to hire John Calipari as the Bulls' next head coach if you knew it would guarantee LeBron James coming aboard in July? Please post your comments in the section below.
You can bet that's a question that's being considered in the Bulls' front office right now. The coaching search figures to slow to a crawl right now while John Paxson and Gar Forman plan their strategy for trying to recruit the league's most talented player to Chicago. It's no secret LeBron, and his agent, Leon Rose, have a good relationship with Calipari. But we're hearing James would not go as far as insisting Calipari be the head coach in whatever NBA city he decides to play in (including Cleveland). Still, when it comes to recruiting the most marketable player in the game, you have to use every tool at your disposal. And, if that means bringing on Calipari as head coach, it's something the Bulls will need to consider very strongly.
Calipari does have NBA head coaching experience, spending three years in New Jersey from 1996 to '99. Our Bulls' analyst Kendall Gill played for Coach Cal in Jersey, and says Calipari is a good X's and O's guy but was too immature to deal with the strong egos of the players he was coaching. 11 years later, that might not be as much of an issue, and we know Calipari coached Derrick Rose for his one season at Memphis, which could make for having an important supporter in the locker room. Calipari continues to say he will coach at Kentucky next season, and doesn't know why he has to respond to every rumor that's put out on the internet. But, until James makes his free agent decision, Coach Cal will continue to hear his name linked with NBA rumors, whether he likes it or not. And, if the Bulls haven't talked to him yet, they need to find out if he really could deliver LeBron to Chicago.
ROSE AND LEBRON ALREADY MAKING PLANS?
And, how about this nugget from veteran NBA writer Scoop Jackson, who reported James called Rose after the Cavs were eliminated from the playoffs and told him how much he likes Rose's game, likes the Bulls, and would welcome the chance to play together. LeBron went out of his way during the regular season to praise the city of Chicago and the Bulls' young talent, but to have him actually call the Bulls' best player and say the same things right after the Cavs' season came to such a disappointing conclusion, well, that takes the story to a whole new level. Sure, talk is cheap, and we'll have to wait until at least July 1st for LeBron to pick his next team, but this isn't a second or third hand report from a friend close to LeBron. This is THE MAN HIMSELF picking up the phone and making a call to a prospective teammate he's respected as a fellow all-star and budding superstar.
Right now, all the momentum is building towards LeBron calling Chicago his new home. So, what could mess things up between now and July 1st? Actually, there are dozens of things that could happen, starting with the Bulls picking a coach LeBron isn't excited about, to one of the other teams with cap room making a bold trade around the NBA Draft in late June to alter James' thinking about his best prospects for winning championships. Whether you think the Bulls should keep LeBron's opinion out of the coaching search or not, the reality is, they really don't need to hire a new coach before free agency begins. Paxson, Forman and the team's scouts are working out prospects in preparation for the draft, and until the Bulls know which player or players they'll be able to add in free agency, they really can't make an informed decision on what style of coach would be best for the talent on the roster.
Also, don't count out veteran NBA player, coach and executive Pat Riley down in Miami. Riley is promising fans in South Florida he's ready to build the next NBA dynasty, and that would be pretty hard to do if LeBron winds up in Chicago. Riley plans to trade disappointing 2nd year forward Michael Beasley before the draft to create more cap room, and his grand plan involves bringing LeBron AND Chris Bosh to South Beach to team with Dwyane Wade. Granted, there probably aren't enough shot attempts to keep that trio happy, but Riley has the reputation of making big things happen, and all the teams in the league will be keeping an eye on what he does over the next six weeks.
BULLS FANS SHOULD ROOT AGAINST NEW JERSEY IN DRAFT LOTTERY
Finally, even though the Bulls aren't involved in Tuesday's NBA Draft Lottery, there's still a good reason to watch. LeBron built a friendship with Kentucky freshman guard John Wall during this past season, and Wall is the consensus number one pick in this year's draft. If New Jersey wins the top pick, they'll suddenly have a pretty good nucleus to build on with Wall, Brook Lopez, Devin Harris, Courtney Lee and Yi Jianlian. And, we know LeBron has been friends with Nets' minority owner Jay-Z for a long time. So, root for anyone but the Nets to get that number one pick. It will take away one attractive recruiting chip for New Jersey when the free agent chase begins on July 1st. The Nets can't fall any lower than fourth in the NBA Draft Lottery, but after Wall and Ohio State guard Evan Turner, the talent level drops pretty sharply to some talented, but raw big men. So, having New Jersey fall to third or fourth would be the next positive step in the chain of events that could bring LeBron to Chicago.