Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 12.07.2012
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.
I am already bored with this season. I'm bored of Kirk. I'm bored of that little guy that used to dunk a lot. I'm bored of the booz. I'm even bored of the king Still love Noah and Deng, but without Rose, great role players can't get me excited. When jordan retired that first time, we still had Scotty and Kucoc, that was a great season. This one isnt going that way. How bout we dump the whole season and get the number one pick again?
Sam: Don't you ever root for underdog stories? Hey, if the Bulls can beat the Knicks Saturday who just destroyed Miami twice, hey, if Rose does return and all you have to beat is the Knicks or Nets to get to the Finals? I know, it's hardly likely. But even these Bulls don't seem to have a team in the East to face they can't beat. Not saying they will, and imagine how long road trips will take as the team waits for Nerlen Noels to comb his hair.
Since this is a weak draft class, do you think the Bulls might use one of their two first rounders to trade down into the second round? I was reading an article on Rockets GM Daryl Morey, and he feels second round picks are very undervalued as there are very good players picked in the second round. So I am wondering if the Bulls might consider doing this?
Sam: Exactly, it's not worth blowing the season for. Morey pulled off an excellent move in getting James Harden. Maybe it did make up for three years of rebuilding over again every year. But his primary goal seems to be getting a Moneyball type movie made about him with Leonardo DiCaprio playing the lead as Morey. There's a value to second round picks as there is no money guarantee. But you saw how the Bulls got burned with Omer Asik as a second round pick as the rules favor teams taking them away. You'll get four or five seconds that make NBA rosters most years. But you are talking about role players, maybe rotation guys off the bench. But there aren't stars there, and that's who wins in the NBA.
Let me start with saying that I was an optimistic fan thinking it wouldn't be too tough to get 48-50 wins for the Bulls this year, even if D-Rose is gone til March. Obviously, I was probably wrong. So looking at the schedule, as poor as the Bulls look, it seems like they can stay at .500 through January. Then, the February games before the All-Star Break are rough, so you're looking at 3 or 4 under .500 before the break. Let's just say Rose gets back the game after the ASB. I would think the Bulls could go 10 over looking at the last part of the schedule, even if Rose is only 75% or whatever you wanna call it. So the Bulls could end up let's say 7 or 8 over .500. Do you think that's enough to win the division? Does it even matter as long as you make the playoffs? They're [going to] have to beat the Heat at some point anyways. Am I being too optimistic to even think they have a chance to get far in the playoffs when Rose comes back?
Sam: It has been a disappointing start on some level even though that much wasn't expected. But the schedule wasn't very tough, and now we'll see as they play more games in December and January and against tougher teams with guys already playing a lot of minutes. I wouldn't count on miracles with Rose. Actually, if he does return, which I assume he will at some point, my sense is they'll limit him considerably and his impact on the games will not be that great given the lack of timing, the time out and the uncertainty and fewer minutes. I'd say at this point the Bulls would be pleased to just make the playoffs and then figure it out from there. The one positive may be the East isn't particularly fearsome.
Would Thibs ever implement Hack-a-Shaq? Make that Hack-a-Dwight in this era... The Magic got their sweet revenge after 9-21 FT from Dwight.
Sam: Yes, fouling Howard became pretty popular in the last week. I don't particularly like the strategy as it turns the game into one of those gruesome college finishes. But it did work and it was enjoyable to watch Howard explain afterward his shooting 25 percent on free throws had nothing to do with the team losing. Thibs is pretty traditional. Doesn't play zones, for instance. I guess now you have to give it a try if only to see if Kobe will punch him out on the court instead of waiting until after the game.
How come Derrick Rose is not on the All-Star ballot? Dirk Nowitzki, Eric Gordon, Ricky Rubio, Grant Hill, Amar'e Stoudemire, Danny Granger, and Andrew Bynum all are on the ballot, yet none have played a game this year, so why not include Rose as well?
Sam: Most of those guys got hurt or opted for surgery after the ballot was put together in September, and it was possible Rubio could have been back. But Rose also is so popular and with most fans working on their NFL fantasy leagues they might have voted Rose onto the team.
In the past few days there have been a ton of trade rumors involving Pau Gasol and the Raptors. On Monday you wrote about a proposed scenario in which Pau went to the Raptors in trade, not a rumor. Do you really think these rumors have any truth to them or is it just the media stirring things up.
Sam: Hey, I started something, eh? As I wrote, it was my idea and not a rumor, and as logical as it seemed it is possible the GMs had already thought of it, though they don't often. What I think is clear is that given Mike D'Antoni's preferences and the Lakers' desperation to please Dwight Howard it's inevitable they will trade Gasol. I assume they'll be taking offers now as once this stuff starts circulating just about every team calls figuring, hey, maybe they're stupid enough or desperate enough to take my crap. Now you're hearing rumors of Pau being hurt as teams try to run down his value for a deal.
Over the past couple of weeks it has become apparent that Pau Gasol of the Lakers is available. I read a report saying that the Bulls have the "goods to get a three-way trade if they are willing to part ways with Taj Gibson, a future No. 1 draft pick owed to them by the Bobcats, plus a little more." Would there be a possible third team that would be willing to take on Boozer's contract and would it be a good deal for the Bulls if they acquired Gasol for Gibson, Boozer, Charlotte pick, and rights to Mirotic?
Sam: No, the Bulls do not have the goods to get such a deal done. Not even close. I'm assuming every week when I get these trade Boozer questions no one has read anything I've written the last two years stating with more than $40 million on his contract and if you acquire him no option of amnesty he will not be traded. Though it is comforting in a way. Like being at home and expecting someone to do something I suggested. No one listens there, either.
I'm curious about why Gasol and Howard don't seem to fit. Is it just D'Antoni's system? (in which case, you'd have to ask, what's the value of a system so rigid that it can't somehow accommodate two of the best players in the league?). Or has the NBA evolved in a way that one team just can't maximize the talents of two low post players, no matter how good, for reasons of spacing? McHale and Parish co-existed quite nicely into two HOF careers: Was there something special about that? Was it because they both had mid-range jumpers and could easily rotate into the high post? Though it does seem they both spent time in the low post too.
Sam: It's a valid point, though why many felt Phil Jackson was the better choice. You see this a lot actually. Even with the Lakers now with Antawn Jamison viewed as done under Mike Brown and now a relatively high level starter. Under Del Negro, Deng was Boozer with a half dozen fans every week sending me trade or cut Deng proposals. Then Thibodeau featured him and he made the All-Star team. Coaches who have been at clinics where Mike spoke said he always emphasized he didn't believe in post play, but spreading the court with shooters, great spacing and a fast pace. The Lakers are an older team accustomed to half court play. Gasol really is fine for D'Antoni, but he's obviously under orders to feature Howard, who will be a free agent after the season. It doesn't suggest that Steve Nash can fix all of that.
Noah's first All-Star appearance would depend on the Bulls performance as a team. If the Bulls can stay on top of the Hawks and the C's, then Noah would be an All-Star. Bron, Melo and Bosh would certainly be the starters with either Deng and Noah of the Bulls, Josh Smith and Horford of the Hawks, or Pierce and Garnet of the C's. I think it's gonna be down to teams record before All-Star break.
Sam: Which could knock out Noah. If the Knicks continue to play as they have, Tyson Chandler gets picked as a center. I can't see Pierce, and though his numbers are good he's looked to be aging quickly. And if the Nets remain strong, then Lopez could get in as well as Al Horford as the Hawks have been a surprise and Josh Smith probably is overdue for being picked. I know the coaches, who vote the reserves, like Noah and the East is mostly starless. But the Bulls could be shut out if they come to late January under .500 even as well as Noah has played. Deng and Noah probably are deserving given how hard and how much they play and how well they've done overall. But it's maybe 50/50 if one gets a nod this season.
There were rumors that Derrick [Rose] is only a couple of weeks away from practicing. This seems good at first glance but I think this is a huge mistake. I am not the one for babying athletes but sometimes I feel that General Managers and coaches need to save these players longterm career instead of focusing on short term success. I really think Rose needs to take his time before he starts practicing.
Sam: I think I lost the pool on when there would be the first breathless and erroneous report of Rose being close to returning. I had Christmas in the pool some of the reporters are running. We knew these "Rose is at 78.4 percent" stories would be popping up for weeks. I just thought everyone would at least wait until the new year. If everything goes well, Rose appears to be on the same schedule he's been on for the last seven months. The doctor said eight to 12 months and the most likely for that is 10, which is late February/early March. Rose isn't playing without full medical clearance. But once he has it there is no benefit in not playing since extra rest doesn't make him safer. There'll be plenty of this stuff popping up from sources who may or may not know in February. I look toward early March for a possible return. But at this point the only thing clear is nothing much has changed and Rose remains on a conservative schedule.
I have two Bulls trade scenarios for you: 1. Rip Hamilton and Vlad Radmanovic to Brooklyn for Marshon Brooks and a 2nd round pick/cash 2.
Nazr to GSW for Beidrins and a 2nd rounder (or one of their end of the bench guys). They both seem pretty win-win.
Sam: I won't get into specifics with individual players as I get plenty of trade suggestions every week. Just that I don't feel the Bulls will make any significant moves this season given it's hard to see how they'll get someone better than what they give up and that they'll want to see where Rose is at before they begin planning. I get Brooks suggestions all the time, and while he's behind Stackhouse for now once Jerry's Medicare kicks in later this season he might opt to take it easy.
Is there any possibility that the Bulls will try to add Greg Oden?
Sam: I read the other day one of his former teammates visited him when the team was in Indiana and it sounded like he wants to play next season and not this season.
I thought it was worth a mention that it was good to see Ben Gordon reach 10,000 points in Monday's game against Portland the first of that Chicago mid to late 2000 era to do so. Also happy for him to see that it looks as though the demons that followed him after his decision to take the money and run to Detroit may have left him as he is averaging a career high in 3pt FG%, and as close to career highs in FG% and Points Per Minute despite him playing his lowest minutes per game in his career since his rookie season. Putting himself into early 6th man of the year contention behind Jamal Crawford and Kevin Martin.
Sam: I, too, am glad for Ben. Though he'd never say it publicly, I know he regrets passing on that first $50 million offer from the Bulls. His contract expires after next season, and he does remain an unusual player and classic sixth man type. Thibodeau doesn't like small shooting guards, so he probably would have been an issue with the Bulls. And you don't want to pay a sixth man $12 million a year. He never could get over Deng being offered more, which is a mistake employes make everywhere. If you are being compensated well and enjoy your work, you have won. Ben won and he didn't know it. It's left a stain on his career legacy he'll never erase. He could have been a contender.
Why didn't the Bulls develop Malcolm Thomas?
Sam: I still get questions every week about this guy from the summer league team. He went to play in Israel, but why would the Bulls have needed him? He was an aggressive, undersized four who could rebound and not score. Taj Gibson seems to be doing fine in that role. Seriously, Taj is way better and he hasn't gotten enough playing time yet.
I know I'm biased but this probably is one of the most absurd plays I've seen in quite a while (Deng no call against Pacers). And because no one has the nerves to say it. It was a hard foul. Not a light one, or a simple one... it was hard. He was in the restricted area and jumped towards Deng who just hit a wall. He didn't jump only up, he jumped with his arms up, that's different. He got all over the lower body of Deng. And no statement from NBA like when Bargnagi was hit? [By the way], what happens when the NBA says it was a bad call? Referees are fined? Or something?
Sam: Referees are graded on every foul and non call as the NBA has generally a former official at every game to chart every play to judge officials. Post season assignments, in which referees earn more money, are at stake. I called it a foul, but I heard considerable disagreement from others. Which suggests the official made the right call since at that time of the game unless it's egregious, you let it go. Kendall Gill, a smart former player who does Bulls pre and post game broadcasts, thought it was no foul. I'll accept that and say maybe if the Bulls shot 39 percent that play wouldn't have mattered.
Early on there was a lot of talk about the Bulls picking up a vet player a while into the season as some salary space opened up. There was debate as to what position they were going to be most in need of shoring up. With what we've seen so far this season, what positions and players do you think it would make the most sense for us to go after as we get closer to that magical date?
Sam: At this time it doesn't appear the Bulls intend to add anyone to the roster as Hamilton may not be out that long, perhaps two or three weeks. The problem is given the poor depth of so many teams how many players could be available and actually help who haven't signed with anyone yet? I'd say the Bulls only needs for now appear to be point guard, shooting guard, center and maybe small forward to give Deng some rest.
I know one of Thib's greatest strengths is his persistence and refusal to give in to excuses. However, the Bulls have no DRose, no Rip, and their bench is way worse than last year's. They have no one on the team who can consistently create their own shot. But does there come a point where his "we have enough to win" mantra becomes so absurd that he loses players?
Sam: Only if he gives the bus driver the wrong directions on the way to the airport. Thibs is one of the more politically correct coaches. He's a big "don't produce bulletin board material" guy. Yes, right. If he doesn't make it here, he's ready to succeed Lovie. That "enough to win" stuff is mostly for the media to try to make them stop bothering him. Still, I have no problem with him sending that message to the players. They understand the team's limitations with the injuries. But they also are high quality guys who believe in competing and you can see the way they've played this season they are not giving in, giving up or mailing it in. It's why I still find this an enjoyable team to watch. They don't have the talent of many teams. But they give a great effort, which should appeal to fans no matter the result.
How come Kirk Hinrich rarely looks for his own shot nowadays? The Hinrich I knew from the Scott Skiles era was much more aggressive offensively, something that seems missing thus far in the season.
Sam: He has two little kids now, so, really, how much sleep can he get at night? He's a bit of a worrier and tries very hard to please. We know he's never been a great shooter with that mentality of being zero for 14 and being sure the next one goes. So after starting slowly, I can understand him hesitating some. But he was brought in to be an initiator for the offense more than anything and to defend, and he's stayed with that role. Though I think he's beginning to look more for his shot after having some success against the Cavs.
[Is there] any reason why the Bulls didn't go after Barbosa? He can do many of the same things Nate does, but is at least 6-3. He's not necessarily a strong defender, but has to be better than Nate. I wonder why Thibs was so into picking up Nate, given his blatantly obvious defensive liabilities.
Sam: My recollection is he wanted a lot more money than a minimum after making $7 million last season. The Bulls didn't have it to pay and moved on as they had to fill the roster. Eventually he settled as $1.2 million, as embarrassing it is to make for six months, is probably better than nothing.
The Zhejiang Golden Bulls have signed Eddy Curry, according to Sina Sports. Not sure how true. How come he couldn't find an NBA gig?
Sam: I was surprised. He played well in preseason and I thought as well with the Mavs, who already have cut his replacement. Supposedly they let Eddy go because Chris Kaman was returning. Maybe they'll try to get him back as Kaman was hurt Thursday night. Yes, he's still slow defensively. But he can score and still has those great, soft hands. And perhaps it will be a good thing if he stays on one of those noodles diets there and they make him eat with chopsticks.
[It] seems like some people are panicking a bit too early, even suggesting that the Bulls could miss the playoffs. I break it down like this, eight slots for the playoffs out of a total of 15 teams in the East. Right away you can eliminate the following teams: Washington, Cleveland, Detroit, Toronto, (They are arguably better than some of the above, but have dug a HUGE hole). On the other end of the spectrum you can reserve playoff spots for the following teams: Miami, New York, Brooklyn, Boston, Atlanta. That leaves three spots for six teams that are actually still trying. Out of those six I still find it VERY difficult to see either Orlando or Charlotte making the playoffs. Bottom line is that it's going to come down to us competing against Philly, Indiana, and Milwaukee for those final three spots. The real challenge won't be in making the playoffs, but rather avoiding the 8 spot and a 1st round date with the Heat!
Sam: Or No. 7 against Miami? The Knicks almost wrapped up the tiebreaker with Thursday night's win in Miami. Could the return of Stoudemire hurt that much? And Thursday without Anthony. Face it: The Knicks are playing well, have depth, and are motivated, which Miami hardly seems to be. You need a great, manic leader like Jordan or Kobe to not give up in the regular season when you know the playoffs is where you'll be measured after a title. The way the Knicks have been going without Stoudemire and Shumpert and being able to rest their seniors, maybe they get enough regular season wins. Yes, I think the Bulls beat out the Bucks, at least. The Pacers will be tough to pass after they recovered from a slow start and tough schedule. If Bynum doesn't play, the 76ers could be weakened. But maybe if the Knicks are first you want eighth. I'll remind Thibs not to try to win too many.
I heard a rumor that the Bulls might try to sign Tony Allen this offseason. Do you see any truth to this? He and Thibs would be a match made in heaven... but not for the other team's offense.
Sam: I don't think there's any real free agency plan yet with either of their exceptions, though I don't think shooting guards who can't shoot will be high on the list.
This is a ways down the road, but I want to know your thoughts on Marquis Teague. Many talent evaluators say he is better than his brother, Jeff, though Jeff Teague is a talented guard in his own right. But my question hinges on the future. Assuming Marquis develops as he "should" two or three years down the road, do you see a situation similar to the Hornets when they had Chris Paul and Darren Collison, and ended up having to choose between guards? If so, would the Bulls be better served to keep Rose or Teague?
Sam: I don't do a question of the week thing, but maybe I should start. Rose or Teague? Hmmmm. Can you give me a minute here to decide?