Bulls rookie Tony Snell revealed a secret from his past on Friday night.
A few years ago while attending high school in Riverside, Calif., Snell was a huge LeBron James fan.
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"No Cavs jerseys. I just rocked my white T-shirt," Snell said. "But everybody knew I loved LeBron James. That was my favorite player in high school."
Snell's initial first-person encounter with James didn't go so well. While making his NBA debut in Miami on Oct. 29, foul trouble forced Snell into action and the Heat went on a game-changing 17-0 run while he was on the court in the second quarter.
"It was their ring ceremony and I'm standing next to him like, 'Man, this is LeBron James and the Heat.' It was crazy," Snell said.
Snell scored a career-high 20 points in Friday's victory over Denver, playing heavy minutes because Jimmy Butler left the game late in the first quarter with a bruised rib. Butler's status for Sunday's rematch at Miami is unknown.
But James may not play, either. He suffered a broken nose Thursday against Oklahoma City when hit inadvertently by Thunder center Serge Ibaka.
James is officially listed as questionable and could wear a protective mask against the Bulls, but it sounds like the Heat will consider sitting him out. Miami's next game is not until Thursday, so skipping this game would give him a full week of rest.
"It's a little bit of everything -- pain, headaches," James told reporters on Saturday. "Hopefully it'll get better the next couple of days. ... I'll get back on the floor. If it's not (Sunday), then I'll get prepared for Thursday."
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra also sounded pessimistic.
"He's feeling better, not good enough to go," he said. "But we'll have to see how he feels day by day. We'll see if the swelling (subsides) and how he feels."
Regardless of the injury report, the Bulls will be trying to extend a five-game winning streak against the Heat. The hot streak has been the product of fast starts. The Bulls have built at least a 10-point lead by the end of the first quarter in all 5 victories.
Asked Friday if he hopes James plays, Joakim Noah smiled for a bit, then gave a straight answer.
"Yeah, if he's OK," Noah said. "Yeah, of course we want LeBron to play. It's going to be a good game on Sunday. They're back-to-back champions. So we want to play against the best, just to measure yourself against the best. We feel we can compete against them. We've beaten them before.
"They're playing really good basketball. They're locked in. But we're locked in, too. So we're confident we can go out there and get it done."
The Bulls have gone 17-7 since Jan. 1, but until Derrick Rose comes back (this season or next), there will always be the question of whether they have enough talent to compete in the playoffs against the NBA's best.
Asked if he's looking forward to the challenge of facing Miami, coach Tom Thibodeau gave his usual speech about hard work and preparation being what matters most.
"I don't look at it that way," he said. "For us, it's what are we doing each and every day. Are we getting better? Are we putting everything we have into it? The important thing is to not look backward and stay locked into getting ready for Miami."
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