Noah, France battle Russia in EuroBasket finals

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Noah, France battle Russia in EuroBasket finals

Friday, Sept. 16, 2011
Posted: 11:43 a.m. Updated: 3:12 p.m.

By AggreySam
CSNChicago.com BullsInsider Follow@CSNBullsInsider
It's not quite dj vu for Joakim Noah, but nobody would blame him for feeling as if he's in a similar situation to the one he and the Bulls were in this past spring. After dispatching Russia, 79-70, Noah's France squad will take on tournament favorite Spain, equipped with star power not dissimilar to the NBA's Miami Heat -- at least as far as international basketball goes -- in the EuroBasket gold-medal game Sunday in Lithuania.

Noah contributed seven points and eight rebounds to France's win, but as astute Bulls fans know, the center's value is often worth more than what the box score says. As usual, France was paced in scoring by Spurs guard Tony Parker, who had 22 points, while Trail Blazers wing Nicolas Batum added 19, to go along with a well-rounded seven boards, four assists and two blocked shots. Russia was led by Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko's 21 points and Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov chipped in with 12 points for a team coached by American David Blatt, the head coach of the famed Israeli franchise Maccabi Tel Aviv and one of the most lauded professional coaches not in the NBA.

Although Spain struggled with lightly-regarded Macedonia -- led by New Orleans native Bo McCalebb, a star point guard in Europe -- throughout much of Friday's first semifinal, their talent was too much to overcome for the upstart squad. Lakers big man Pau Gasol came up with 22 points and 17 rebounds, while his brother Marc, the Grizzlies' center, added a double-double of his own (11 points, 10 rebounds), but they were carried by former NBA guard Juan Carlos Navarro, who scored 35 points.

The embarrassment of riches on Spain's roster is also quantified by the likes of Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (a native of the Congo, but a naturalized Spaniard, due to playing professionally in the country prior to making the jump to the NBA; he contributed 11 points Friday), Raptors point guard Jose Calderon, Mavericks swingman Rudy Fernandez and 2009 Timberwolves draft pick Ricky Rubio, who is expected to make his NBA debut next season, whenever that is. Rubio, in particular, has struggled in the event, marking a downward spiral for the point guard prodigy -- he's been playing professionally since his early teens -- since his impressive performance in the 2008 Olympics, in which he played beyond his years against future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd and All-Stars Chris Paul and Deron Williams in Spain's championship game loss to gold-medalist USA.

Getting back to France, Noah, who scored five points and snatched eight boards -- as well as coming up with a key steal late -- in France's quarterfinal win over Greece Thursday, must be a force on the glass and on defense, but the bulk of the scoring responsibility for France rests upon the shoulders of Parker, the leading scorer still playing in the tournament (Bulls small forward Luol Deng was the leader in that category, but his Great Britain squad exited after the first round) and to a lesser extent, Batum. France also boasts the likes of Bobcats forward Boris Diaw, Wizards big man Kevin Seraphin and former NBA swingman Mikael Gelebale on its roster, but Diaw has been inconsistent, Seraphin is inexperienced and Gelebale has been nursing a recent injury.

It's not the NBA, but unless you''re in Las Vegas for Impact Basketball's Competitive Training Series (in which Bulls backup point guard C.J. Watson is competing; former NBA coach and player John Lucas recently announced plans for a similar event in Houston) or up for a trip to one of the exhibition games later this month in New York, Philadelphia or Indianapolis, this is as close as one will get. International basketball might not have the same on-court excitement fans are used to, but the national pride, passion and importance of the games--trips to the Olympics are on the line--make it fun to watch.

Are you a diehard fan who takes your basketball any way you can get it, especially with a key Bulls player like Noah involved? Or are you preoccupied with the NFL or college football and putting the NBA on hold until the lockout is over?

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Bulls welcome Cavaliers to town

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Bulls welcome Cavaliers to town

In the latest installment of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, the panel previews the Bulls' matchup against the Cavaliers. 

Luke Stuckmeyer is joined by Mark Carman (WGN Radio), David Schuster (670 The Score) and Kendall Gill to break down the keys to a Bulls win. Later, Vincent Goodwill (CSNChicago.com) joins Luke to discuss the team's progress. 

Finally, LeBron James pays off his World Series bet and the entire media world is there to see it. 

Check out the SportsTalk Live Podcast below: 

LeBron James pays off bet, rocks Cubs uniform to the United Center

LeBron James pays off bet, rocks Cubs uniform to the United Center

One month after the Cubs were crowned World Series champions for the first time in 108 years, fans witnessed something else they assumed they’d never see in their lifetime.

LeBron James made good on his lost bet to Dwyane Wade, donning a head-to-toe Cubs uniform prior to the Cavaliers’ tilt against the Bulls on Friday. Wade won the bet after the Cubs came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Cleveland Indians in the World Series.

Wade met James inside the United Center tunnel after the Cavs’ team bus arrived, with a swarm of media contingent elbowing for a glimpse of James. Even Clark the Cub was in attendance to see James complete his end of the losing bet.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Before I walk into the United Center and get bombarded with cameras and everything, I lost this bet. And this is unfortunate what I have to go into the arena in: pinstripes all the way down to the shoe. Yeah, I mean all the way to the World Series patch on the arm," James said in a video uploaded to Uninterrupted. "My Indians gave everything they had. And the Cubs came back and showed what true champions is all about. Meanwhile, I’m pinstriped up walking into a national televised game in Chicago because of a bet I lost. So, you’re all welcome.”

The four-time MVP wore the Cubs’ home white pants, a No. 23 jersey with “James” on the back over a blue sweatshirt, and a Cubs hat. James also wore a custom pair of his own white Zoom Soldier 10s with blue accents to complete the outfit.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

James joked with Wade in the tunnel for a minute before heading to the Cavaliers locker room, where another group of reporters and photographers were waiting to capture James’ walk of shame. Even Kyrie Irving was amazed the scene of media personnel waiting for James, saying “I didn’t realize it was this big a deal.”

Fred Hoiberg joked during pregame availability that he was going to wear his Cubs uniform to the game. And though he didn’t catch James entering the arena, he was glad to see Wade and James enjoying the bet.

“It’s all in good fun,” Hoiberg said. “He and Dwyane obviously have an unbelievable relationship. Two very good friends that won championships together, so yeah pretty cool. All in good fun.”

Well, that was something...

A video posted by Mark Strotman (@markstrot) on