Schanowski: Bulls must be all-in for LeBron

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Schanowski: Bulls must be all-in for LeBron

Monday, May 17, 2010
5:35 PM

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

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.

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?