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.

Five Things to Watch: Bulls visit Bucks in final regular season meeting on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Bulls visit Bucks in final regular season meeting on CSN

Watch as the Bulls take on the Toronto Raptors tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Bulls.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Can the Bulls get one on the Bucks? The Bulls are 0-3 against the Bucks so far this season and it hasn't been pretty. The Bucks have won the previous three meetings all by double digits and by an average of 19 points. The youth and athleticism of the Bucks has been a tough matchup for the Bulls so far.

2. Containing Giannis. There may be no stopping Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the Bulls can at least try to contain him. Antetokounmpo is averaging 23 points and nearly nine rebounds per game. In three games against the Bulls this year he has averaged 29 points, 10 rebounds and 7.3 assists per contest. If the Bulls are to stay in the game, they will need to keep him to numbers lower than that.

3. Playoff implications. The Bulls playoff hopes are still alive with nine games remaining, but things are looking a bit bleak. The Bulls are a game and a half out of the eighth playoff spot, but only 3.5 games behind two teams tied for the No. 5 seed, the Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks. The Bucks have won three in a row to improve their position.

4. Mirotic on a roll. Streaky play is nothing new to Nikola Mirotic, but he's on a good run currently. After scoring a season-high 28 points on Wednesday against the Pistons, Mirotic followed that up with 15 points against the 76ers. Since missing three straight games earlier this month, Mirotic has scored in double figures in five of the last seven games and is averaging 15.6 points during that stretch.

5. Beginning of a tough stretch. The Bulls' playoff hopes could be made or broken in the next three games. After taking on the Bucks, which occupy a playoff spot, the Bulls host two more Eastern Conference playoff teams in Cleveland and Atlanta. The Bulls need to string some wins together and this is not an easy stretch to do so against.

- Check out the latest stats and standings to make sure you're ready for action

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

- NBC Sports App FAQ: All your questions answered

- Latest on the Bulls: All of the most recent news and notes

- See what Bulls fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Bulls Pulse

Former Bulls center Joakim Noah suspended 20 games for violating NBA's anti-drug policy

Former Bulls center Joakim Noah suspended 20 games for violating NBA's anti-drug policy

The NBA announced Saturday that it has suspended former Bulls and current Knicks center Joakim Noah for 20 games without pay for violating the league's anti-drug policy.

He tested positive for an over-the-counter supplement called selective androgen receptor modulator LGD-4033, which is prohibited under the current collective bargaining agreement but would not have been under the new CBA starting next year, according to ESPN's Marc Spears.

It was announced in February that Noah would miss the remainder of the season with a left knee injury. His suspension will carry over into the 2017-18 campaign with only 10 games left this year.

Noah averaged 5.0 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game in 46 games in his first of a four-year, $72 million contract with the Knicks.