Chicago Bulls

Schanowski: Is Thibodeau hiring linked to LeBron?

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Schanowski: Is Thibodeau hiring linked to LeBron?

Sunday, June 6, 2010
7:11 PM

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

What do you think of the Bulls decision to hire Boston Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau to a three-year, 6.5 million dollar contract to be their next head coach? Please post your comments in the section below, or send me an e-mail with your thoughts.

Personally, Im fine with the hire. Thibodeau is a veteran of 18 years as an assistant coach in the NBA, and his teams have finished in the top ten in defensive statistics in 15 of those seasons. Hes worked with some excellent head coaches, including Jeff Van Gundy and Doc Rivers. No, he doesnt have any head coaching experience, other than one season at his alma mater, Salem State, but hes certainly paid his dues. Talk to any player or coach whos worked with him, and they praise his tireless work ethic and defensive expertise. They also talk about how well he relates to players, and an underrated sense of humor. All of those qualities will serve him well in Chicago.

The other factor that bears watching is Thibodeaus relationship with the Creative Artists Agency, which also represents LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Noted NBA talent broker William Wesley, a.k.a. Worldwide Wes, is a newly certified coachs agent with C.A.A. And, Wes is telling everyone who wants to hear that LeBron is leaning towards signing with the Bulls when the free agent period arrives on July 1st.

Maybe its just a coincidence that John Paxson and Gar Forman jumped on a plane and traveled out to Los Angles on the day before the start of the Finals to interview Thibodeau. But given the fact they had permission to speak with him for some time and didnt seem to be in any hurry, the sudden trip to L.A. suggests that just maybe they got a tip from LeBrons team that hiring Thibodeau would be a positive in their bid to recruit James. Dont underestimate the influence of LeBrons closest advisors in how the final decision plays out. If LeBron decides to pull the plug on his Cavs career, hes looking for the ideal situation to win championships. And, if Thibodeaus defensive expertise, combined with the young nucleus of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Taj Gibson makes the Bulls more attractive to LeBron, then getting the coach wrapped up early was the right thing for the Bulls to do.

Also, did you watch the interview LeBron did with Larry King last week? LeBron might have said Cleveland has the edge in retaining his services, but he sure didnt look like a man who was planning to stay when talking about the upcoming free agent recruiting period. James said he couldnt wait until July 1st , and wishes it was already here. He was smiling from ear to ear when he talked about being the ring-leader for the greatest class of free agents the NBA has ever seen. He also talked about wanting to go to a team that gave him the best chance to win multiple championships, and that hardly describes the situation in Cleveland.

The Cavs did make a couple of moves to appease LeBron by firing head coach Mike Brown and General Manager Danny Ferry. Assistant G.M. Chris Grant was promoted to replace Ferry, and no doubt the Cavs will give LeBron veto power over all personnel moves if hes willing to stay. And, dont be surprised to hear the name of Kentucky coach John Calipari as a possible replacement for Brown. Calipari is tight with LeBron, and it might be the last desperate move the Cavs can make to keep the two-time M.V.P. in Cleveland.

Bottom line, the pursuit of James and the rest of the free agent class is already underway. The Bulls fired the first salvo with their hiring of Thibodeau, and you can count on a lot of trades during draft night June 24th as teams try to get their payrolls and rosters in order to do some serious free agent shopping. Well keep you updated every step of the way.

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