Schanowski: Wade to Chicago unlikely but possible

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Schanowski: Wade to Chicago unlikely but possible

Friday, July 2, 2010
12:18 PM

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

What should we make of Dwyane Wades decision to schedule a meeting with the Bulls on Thursday? Was it simply a case of making his friends and relatives happy by listening to what the hometown team had to say, or is he really interested in joining forces with Derrick Rose in Chicago? Please post your comments in the section below.

First off, theres probably a 90 percent likelihood Wade will stay in Miami for the rest of his career. He loves the South Beach lifestyle and the weather. Hes one of the biggest sports celebrities in the area, and he enjoys mingling with all the beautiful people that travel in and out of South Florida. Like many of us, Wade grew up with the harsh Midwest winters, and hes probably not in any hurry to experience that all over again. Spending a good chunk of his summers in Chicago is one thing, making it his year-round home again is another.

So, what is the unlikely scenario that could cause Wade to re-consider his devotion to Miami? First off, it would mean LeBron James deciding to stay in Cleveland, which is looking more likely with each passing hour. Next, Chris Bosh accepting a sign-and-trade deal to a Western Conference team like Houston or Dallas. That would force Wade to look over the free agent landscape, and realize the only help he might get is from talented, but erratic big men Amare Stoudemire andor Carlos Boozer. Wade is tired of doing so much heavy lifting after experiencing that 15 win season back in 2007-2008, and then pretty much carrying mediocre Miami teams into the playoffs (and first round eliminations) in each of the last two seasons.

All of a sudden, those harsh Chicago winters might not seem so bad anymore. If Wade would be willing to sign with the Bulls, he could bring Boozer or Stoudemire with him, and instantly transform the Bulls into one of the best teams in the East. A starting line-up of Wade, Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and StoudemireBoozer would cause all kinds of problems for any team in the conference. By contrast, if Wade stayed in Miami with either Stoudemire or Boozer as his All-Star running mate, the rest of the starting line-up would include some combination of Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony. Not exactly a title contending group.

Bulls Executive John Paxson desperately wanted to draft Wade back in 2003. He had the former Marquette All-American in for a couple visits, and was hoping Wade would still be on the board when the Bulls picked at number 7. But Pat Riley surprised everyone by selecting Wade with the 5th pick, forcing the Bulls to settle for Kirk Hinrich. Captain Kirk has been a very productive player, but Wade is arguably the third best player in the league behind LeBron and Kobe Bryant. Paxson would love the chance to bring Wade back to his hometown as a high-scoring compliment to his All-Star point guard, Rose.

Its pretty unlikely Wade has the same type of nostalgic feelings about a Chicago homecoming. After all, he was critical of the way the Bulls organization treats its former players, and hes going through a messy divorce with his childhood sweetheart whos living in the Chicago area right now. Wade has temporary custody of the couples two children, and probably wants to avoid the drama that would be sure to come with playing for the Bulls. But from a pure basketball standpoint, signing on with the Bulls might not look all that bad if Riley strikes out in his plan to sign two all-stars to team up with Wade in Miami.

LEBRON DECISION COULD COME BY MONDAY

The Bulls get their chance to make a presentation to the biggest prize in the 2010 free agent class, LeBron James, on Saturday in Cleveland. As I mentioned, agents, NBA executives and national media members are now predicting James will probably stay in Cleveland, possibly on a 2 or 3 year contract. James can tell his home-state fans he will give it all he has to win a championship during that time period, and if hes unsuccessful, he can leave in good conscience.

Officials of the Nets and Knicks say their presentations to LeBron went well on Thursday, and Im sure well hear the same from the Heat and Clippers on Friday. But the reality is, James can only play for one team next season, and unless hes prepared to turn his back on the only place hes ever called home, the Bulls are facing an uphill battle.

Jerry Reinsdorf, John Paxson, Gar Forman and new coach Tom Thibodeau will lay out all the reasons why the Bulls offer the best chance for LeBron to win championships right away. Im sure theyll also lay out an impressive marketing plan that emphasizes the Bulls unique status as a world-wide brand. Lets hope LeBron puts basketball and winning over everything else when deciding which team to sign with next week.

No big deal, only the short-term future of at least a half-dozen franchises riding on what he ultimately decides.

Fred Hoiberg wants a more aggressive Bulls defense

Fred Hoiberg wants a more aggressive Bulls defense

Being a better defensive team was a prime objective for Fred Hoiberg coming into camp, as the Bulls hope to reclaim some of their defensive identity that disappeared last season.

Reciting a not-so-true stat routinely to reporters in the first few days, that the Bulls were last in forcing turnovers in 2015-16, means he’s likely barking it to the team in practices (they were actually second-to-last behind the New York Knicks).

“Absolutely,” said Hoiberg when asked if being more aggressive defensively is a goal. “We are turning the ball over way too much. After watching film, our defense is responsible for some of that. We have a guy in (Rajon) Rondo that's a high steals guy, got great hands, great instincts, great wingspan. Jimmy (Butler) is always had great anticipation and one of the top steals guy.”

Butler is one of the best two-way players, along with San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard and Indiana’s Paul George, but even he admitted his defense slipped last year as the Bulls fell to a middle-of-the-pack team in terms of advanced defensive rankings (15th).

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Rondo was once one of the league’s best defensive point guards before tearing up his knee his last full season in Boston, and averaged two steals last year in Sacramento, but gave up a career-high 107 points per 100 possessions, according to basketball-reference.com.

Whether Rondo was a function of a bad defense overall for the Kings or a player who no longer fully commits himself to that end remains to be seen, but it’s clear Hoiberg wants a more hands-y defense. Too many times last year, the Bulls defense had leaks from the top down, resulting in compromised drives to the basket and breakdowns all around.

More than anything, the Bulls defense was one of indifference, especially after the first 30 games or so.

“Like all staffs we watched a ton of film and tried to figure out with this group how to create more turnovers, how to impact the ball better,” Hoiberg said. “Every day it's been a big emphasis in our defense and we get out and force turnovers and make sure the help is there behind the trap and being aggressive on the ball.”

Denzel Valentine a candidate for minutes at the point for Bulls

Denzel Valentine a candidate for minutes at the point for Bulls

The common refrain among coaches in the first days of training camp is “this guy had an incredible summer”, a phrase Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg has said so much that even he had to laugh when asked who didn’t have a banner summer period.

Of course, that’s before fans and media get to see anyone play, so we can only speculate who’ll win certain position battles, like the starting power forward spot or how deep Hoiberg’s rotation will go.

So in the spirit of speculation, Bulls rookie Denzel Valentine’s versatility makes him a candidate for the backup point guard position, a spot that is filled with different options for Hoiberg to choose from.

“He’s such an instinctive player. He does a great job,” Hoiberg said. “We talk about making simple plays. You’ve done your job when you beat your man, draw the second defender and make the easy, simple play. Denzel is great at that. That’s not a gift that everybody has. That’s not an instinct that all players have. But Denzel certainly has it.”

One wonders if Valentine could find himself on the outside looking in at the start of the season, like Bobby Portis did last year before all the injuries hit the Bulls and forced him into action.

It’s a different vision than when Valentine was drafted as a late lottery pick after a seasoned career at Michigan State. The Bulls hadn’t signed Dwyane Wade or Rajon Rondo in free agency, and had traded Derrick Rose 24 hours before the draft, so the thought was Valentine could be an instant contributor.

Even still, Valentine can likely play anything from point guard to small forward, but hasn’t gotten extensive reps at the point, yet.

“I’ve played on the wing so far. A little bit of point,” Valentine said. “I got a couple reps on the point, but like 70-30. Seventy on the wing, 30 on the point.”

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He got an early jump on the Hoiberg terminology at summer league, so the language isn’t a big adjustment, but having to learn multiple positions along with the tendencies of new teammates can mean a steeper learning curve.

“Yeah, I just got to continue learning sets and learning guys’ strengths so that I can use that to their best advantage,” Valentine said. “Play-make as best I can when I’m at the point guard spot. Just learning the system, learning guys’ strengths, and then I’ll be better at it.”

The presence of Wade and Jimmy Butler, one of whom will likely anchor the second unit as Hoiberg will probably stagger minutes so each can have the requisite time and space, means even if Valentine were on the floor, he wouldn’t have to be a natural point guard.

Hoiberg does, however, crave having multiple playmakers who can initiate offense or create shots off penetration or pick and roll action, meaning Valentine can work it to his advantage.

“I think he can. Jimmy played with the ball in his hands a lot last year,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy rebounds the ball and if Dwyane rebounds the ball, they’re bringing it. Rajon if he’s out there knows to fill one of the lanes. Denzel is an excellent passer. He’s got such good basketball instincts. So if you can get guys out there who can make plays, that’s what it’s all about. I think you’re very difficult to guard in this league when you have multiple ballmakers.”

Other notes:

Dwyane Wade won’t be taking walk-up triples for the Bulls, despite his call that Hoiberg wants him being more comfortable from behind the long line. Hoiberg does want him being willing and able to take corner threes, likely off guard penetration from Rondo or Jimmy Butler.

When Wade played with LeBron James in Miami, cutting from the corners became a staple, so putting him there could be an old wrinkle Hoiberg is adding to his scheme.

Wade took seven of his 44 3-pointers from the corner last season, hitting two from the right side, according to vorped.com.

“When he’s open, especially in the corners, that’s a shot we want him taking. It’s a thing we worked on yesterday, making sure he stays on balance,” Hoiberg said. “He’s got a natural lean on his shot, which has been very effective, being on the elite mid range shooters in our game. That’s allowed him to get shots over bigger defenders. When you get out further from the basket, especially by the line, you need to get momentum going in, work on your body position and work on finishing that shot. He’s got good mechanics, it’s a matter of finishing the shot.”