Chicago Bulls

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.

State of the Bulls: Stacked 2018 draft class

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USA TODAY

State of the Bulls: Stacked 2018 draft class

2018 draft class is loaded at the top

Quietly, you can bet Bulls' front office executives John Paxson and Gar Forman had a little celebration after hearing that prep star Marvin Bagley III was going to graduate from high school early and enroll at Duke for the 2017-18 season, making him eligible for the 2018 draft.

Bagley, a 6'11 power forward from Los Angeles, is being compared to longtime NBA star Chris Bosh, right down to his smooth left-handed shooting touch. Bagley averaged 24.6 points, 10.1 rebounds and two blocked shots during his junior season for Sierra Canyon H.S. He's also fared well against NBA competition at the highly-regarded Drew League in L.A. this summer. Bagley’s physical tools are off the charts, and you can count on Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski preparing him well for life in the NBA.

Most NBA scouts and execs expect the No. 1 overall pick to come down to either Bagley or Michael Porter Jr., who will play his one season of college basketball at Missouri. The 6'10 Porter averaged an amazing 34.8 points and 13.8 rebounds last season against Seattle high school competition. He's considered a more dynamic scorer than Bagley with more range on his jump shot. Some scouts believe he could quickly develop into one of the league's elite players with Kevin Durant-type length and shooting ability at the small forward position.

International swingman Luka Doncic is also highly coveted by NBA teams. The 6'8 swingman has excellent shooting range, and is also capable of creating his own shot with outstanding ball-handling ability. Forget the stereotype of European players being mechanical and unable to compete athletically, Doncic is capable of being an 18-20 point scorer in the NBA and should go in the top five next June. He's considered one of the best international prospects in the last decade.

Two 7-footers also will hear their names called early on draft night 2018. University of Arizona freshman DeAndre Ayton averaged 19.8 points and 12 rebounds in high school last season, while Texas freshman center Mohamed Bomba has an incredible 7-foot-9 wingspan. Sure, the NBA has moved away from the traditional low post center, but teams are still looking to acquire agile big men like Karl-Anthony Towns, Joel Embiid, DeAndre Jordan, Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside. Depending on how they fare against top level college competition, Ayton and Bomba could round out the top five.

Other names to watch in the lottery portion of next year's draft include Texas A&M power forward Robert Williams, Michigan State's forward duo of Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr., and the latest one-and-dones from John Calipari's Kentucky program, center Nick Richards and small forward Jarred Vanderbilt.

In case you missed it, ESPN released its preseason win total expectations for the Eastern Conference on Wednesday, and the Bulls were dead last with a projected record of 26-56. Now, I'm not sure a team with veterans Dwyane Wade and Robin Lopez and the three young players acquired in the Jimmy Butler trade with Minnesota will be quite that bad, but if you're going to rebuild, the idea is to get the best draft pick possible, and the Bulls appear to be on course for a top-five selection depending on how the lottery falls.

If the Bulls are able to land an elite talent like Porter Jr., Bagley III or Doncic in the draft, then use their $40-50 million in cap space to land a couple of quality free agents, the rebuild might not be as painful as some fans are fearing.

Last dance for LeBron in Cleveland?

Well-connected NBA writer Chris Sheridan dropped this bomb on Twitter Wednesday, quoting an NBA source, "This will be LeBron's final season in Cleveland. He is 100 percent leaving. Relationship with owners beyond repair." Don’t forget, Sheridan was the first national writer to report James was going to leave Miami to go back to Cleveland in 2014, so his reports definitely warrant a little extra attention.

Okay, we've already heard countless rumors about James planning to join the Lakers after next season. He's built a mansion in Brentwood, is close with Magic Johnson and will be able to bring another superstar with him to L.A. like Paul George or Russell Westbrook. Plus, the Lakers have a number of talented young players in place like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. and a promising coach in Luke Walton.

Add in the likelihood Kyrie Irving will be traded before training camp opens and LeBron's long-standing poor relationship with Cavs' owner Dan Gilbert, and you have the perfect formula for another James' free agent decision next July. Although, I'm not sure why LeBron would want to go West, where Golden State is positioned to dominate the league for another five seasons, with strong challengers like the Rockets and Spurs still in place. 

But if we've learned anything from watching James over the years, he's clearly a man who wants to align the odds in his favor. So don't rule out anything when it comes to James' free agent decision. If the Cavs make a home run trade for Irving, maybe LeBron decided to plays out his career in his home state. If not, look for him to find a team with the cap space to bring in another top star to run with him.

Back in 2010, the Bulls carved out the cap space to add two max contract stars, but lost out to Pat Riley in Miami. This time around they won't be on James' July travel itinerary.

One thing we know for sure. Where LeBron plays in 2018 will be the number one story throughout the NBA season.

Report: Bulls expected to reach buyout agreement with Dwyane Wade

Report: Bulls expected to reach buyout agreement with Dwyane Wade

Dwyane Wade's homecoming may not last much longer. 

According to Nick Friedell's ESPN report, the Bulls are expected to reach a buyout agreement with the 12-time NBA All-Star "at some point in the next few months." 

The news comes two months after Wade picked up his player option, choosing $24 million over earning less on a more competitive team. 

If Gar Forman and John Paxson indeed decide to buy D-Wade out, the "Three Alphas," which consisted of Wade, Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo, would all be out just one season after coming together. 

The buyout may also mean more ping-pong balls in next year's stacked draft