Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 10.11.2013
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The rumor has popped up again with Bulls trying to get Pau Gasol at end of trade deadline with a 3rd team possibly involved, do you think this would happen? Given Gar Forman has never really made any trades during his term with the Bulls!
Sam: I have not heard anything to suggest this. I do know with his trade bonus, you’d have to pay Gasol $20 million. So the Bulls would have to give up more than Boozer and they don’t have anything else to give up. There are teams with cap room to absorb salaries, but I don’t see how this would make any sense for the Lakers unless they were getting young players and draft picks, neither of which the Bulls would be giving up. And to a third team you cannot use amnesty after a trade, so then you are on the hook for two years of salary at about $33 million. Sounds specious to me.
I heard a rumor that the Bulls were considering trading Carlos Boozer[please do] to Orlando for Big Baby Davis and Aaron Affalo. Have you heard that?
Sam: I said I was going to ignore these Boozer rumors this season, but I know everyone assumes I have to wade through several dozen Boozer trade emails a week. And I thought I’d demonstrate they’re still out there. I also wonder where fans hear all these rumors as I assume very few fans are speaking regularly with NBA executives. By the way, no.
If the Bulls were to let all free agents walk and amnesty Boozer, how much salary cap would they have next offseason to spend on free agents? I am not as big of a fan of the free agent class as most are, but I was just wondering where they would be at if they also amnestied Boozer.
Sam: That’s a good question because it can end the LeBron to the Bulls talk now. Unless the Bulls give away a player to create cap room, like they did with Kirk Hinrich in 2010, they are committed to about $47 million in salaries next summer without Boozer, Hinrich and Deng. That would leave them about $11 million for a free agent assuming the cap remains, as expected, at about $58 million. Thus the Bulls are well short of having a max salary available. Which basically takes out LeBron and Carmelo, not that the latter is going anywhere. So you could probably take a run at Pau Gasol. But does he alone make up for Deng, Hinrich and Boozer? And then you maybe don’t have money for Mirotic. That’s why it’s better to concentrate on this season with a strong roster.
Taj has looked pretty good so far this preseason. If his stellar play continues into the season, do you think the Bulls would attempt to sell high by trading him for future salary cap relief? What if they traded Taj and a 1st round pick to Phoenix for Marcin Gorat’s expiring contract? This would not hurt their chances of competing for a championship this season as Gortat would be a solid big man off the bench. It would also give the Bulls financial flexibility to possibly bring back Luol Deng after this year if they could sign him at about $9 million a year.
Sam: Well, it’s two exhibition games in, so why not trade both Boozer and Gibson. I know Bulls fans might be excited about a solid start from Gibson after an inconsistent last season. But the NBA doesn’t make many judgments in preseason when guys often play against future coat hangers. I see the theme here that the Bulls need another backup center. It would be nice, but I see them going with they have. At least for one regular season game.
I know, let's not go crazy after one pre-season game... But it WAS what we've waited for (and paid for!) with Taj. He was eager to score inside and provided reliable pressure relief with the mid-range jumper; can he continue that form? With the return of Derrick and our improved wing scoring, Boozer's offense becomes the third option anyway. Move him into the second unit, he plays so well with Hinrich and can become the focus of their offense, taking some pressure off Dunleavy and scoring and rebounding more easily against other bench players. In the mean time, the Bulls would start hands down the best defensive five in the NBA! It's worth a try... and Boozer is in something like a contract year, he has no leverage and lots of motivation to please his Coach and look good.
Sam: Poor Booz. He can stay, but now he doesn’t get to get introduced. I understand the concept, but it obviously never will occur. If you’ve watched Thibodeau, he doesn’t mess with his vets. It took forever and many, many injuries to finally move Hamilton out of the starting lineup. Thibs isn’t about to demote Boozer after he had his best season as a Bull. And certainly not for a week of Gibson’s good play. Thibs handles this well. When defense is needed, Taj is in there and finishes. Plus, Boozer is a scorer and scored big last season. Taj isn’t anywhere near that yet, though the preseason games have been a good starting sign. Derrick will get the ball to Boozer well enough, though not as often as last season. Which will be fine with Boozer, who has proven a wonderful team guy. He deserves some more respect, and at least Thibs gives it to him.
I was watching the Bill Simmons NBA preview and he suggested an interesting trade scenario for the Bulls and Atlanta Hawks. Here's the trade: Bulls send Boozer, Nikola Mirotic, Charlotte’s 2016 pick, and the Bulls 2014 pick for Al Horford (and I guess another player to match the Boozer salary). Now, before you say anything, I'm actually in the pro-Boozer camp given he is a productive player. I'm not complaining about Boozer, but I'm curious for your thoughts on this. Would they be giving up too much? I doubt it would happen, but can you imagine a Horford-Noah pairing down low for the foreseeable future?
Sam: He’s still stealing my fake trade scenarios. I should have written up rules for this for guys like Simmons. One rule is if you come up with a trade that won’t work, you may as well make it for a better player, though Horford is pretty good. I’m a big believer in the theory of trying to win the title you are playing for. I tend to side with the coaches more than the executives on this one as too much can happen in the future. So win now. That said, I don’t see how this would make any sense for Atlanta. Once Boozer is traded, you cannot amnesty him. So he’s on your books for substantially more than Horford makes for two years. Mirotic is no lock to come to the NBA next summer if it’s Atlanta, and that Charlotte pick can still end up 10th in 2015. You’re not trading by far your best player and perennial All-Star for wishing and hoping when you’re a team that cannot draw fans. Sure it would be great to see Noah and Horford, though you may as well make it Durant if there’s no chance it would happen.
My question is about the article written by Adrian Wojnarowski this past weekend. His article discussed how there is a "deep disconnect" between Thibs and Forman and the relationship is toxic. As a fan, I obviously don't know much about the inner workings of a team; specifically this team. Since you've been around the NBA forever and are constantly around the Bulls, how do you feel about the article, and in your opinion do you think the alleged rift between Thibodeau and Forman is as serious as Wojnarowski states or is it overblown media storylines?
Sam: I wasn’t sure about addressing this one, though I did get a lot of mail about it. And when I do I always address them. Let me say this as an overview: In my 30-plus years around the Bulls, I have witnessed two GM/coach tandems that were close and friendly. The first was Rod Thorn and Kevin Loughery, and they never had a winning record in two seasons. The other was Jerry Krause and Tim Floyd, and those were the worst seasons in franchise history and some of the worst in NBA history. So this, obviously, is not a key to success. Conversely, Phil Jackson and Krause were not close, and in the second three-peat it got so bad that when Krause’s daughter got married, Krause invited Floyd, who was coaching at Iowa State, to the wedding and not Phil. But Krause had done his job with personnel, and Forman and John Paxson have. And Jordan believed in Phil as Rose does in Tom Thibodeau. So case closed. There is no issue that will affect the team. Are Forman and Thibodeau close? No. They don’t socialize, which is actually fairly common in these situations. After all, the GM eventually will fire the coach, just about every coach, so they tend to keep their distance. Plus, their jobs are different. The coach’s is to win this game and nothing else. Until the next game. The GM is charged by the owner to set up the franchise for long term continuity and success. Those goals often are in conflict. The coach often wants a player now the GM doesn’t because the GM would have to give up too much of the future. That battle goes on constantly in every team office. The media probably is guilty in creating this fantasyland of players bonding together for one goal and coach and executives all in it and everyone sitting around the camp fire singing songs. Of course, it’s nonsense as it is in every business. Though the sports business is more scrutinized and more celebrated as there are very few civic rallies for highly profitable years for a local business. The problem with sports is it is filled with people, though we are still withholding judgment on Rodman and Artest. And when you have people you have jealousy, selfishness, ego and anger among many other destructive emotions all on display of late in Congress. Which is why it’s tough to be Phil Jackson because it’s often more about x-factors than X’s and O’s. How often in the business world do managers and their superiors constantly spend time together and socialize and walk in lock step? Basically never, but no one much cares. If you have professionals with passion, the business works. Similarly in sports. The Bulls have hard working players who care and a dedicated coach. They also have Derrick Rose, an elite talent. Forman and Thibodeau aren’t close. Coaches tend to be closer with their staff and it is fairly routine in the NBA for the coaching staffs to stick together as the GMs don’t travel to games that often and spend most of the season scouting college and international games. But I see Forman and Thibodeau all the time working together for the benefit of the team as both are professionals and owe the first allegiance to the team and owners. They have differences, as they expressed on assistant Ron Adams, whom Thibodeau said in the summer he’d wished had been able to stay. But it was similar when Krause fired Johnny Bach in 1994 despite Jackson saying he’d wished Bach could have stayed. Then the Bulls won three titles when Jordan returned. Adrian is a strong NBA writer. And these sorts of stories are fun because everyone wants to know the inside dynamic and loves conspiracies. But there’s truly, in my view, not much of anything to it that will have any effect on the Bulls.
I read where there were 84 international players on NBA rosters in 2012-13, do you see this trend growing ? If I were an NBA GM I think I would seriously consider drafting a good international player to a one and dones, why? They are coachable and have complete games.
Sam: If they are talented, sure. But the NBA continues to strip mine the European game (no fracking yet that I know of). I know the concept of trying to add to your team more complete, fundamental players. But talent is more important. Though the NBA was slow to accept the European players in the early 1990’s, that long changed and the European league and tournaments are scouted now as much as the U.S. games, though primarily, I think, because of the better restaurants in Europe. There’s also been this whispered backlash that some teams want to pursue European players to limit the number of black players. I see little credence to that because not only is there no sports league as color blind as the NBA, but of the top 15 best selling jerseys worldwide, there is only one for a white player, Steve Nash. NBA fans prefer talent, and that’s what teams pursue.
From all indications I've gotten from front office moves, it seems like the team will let Deng go, slide Jimmy over to his natural position at the 3 and have Snell back him up. They're paying Taj what, 7 or 8 mil, so my guess is he gets promoted to starter next to Jo and they use that Boozer/Deng money to go after a 2-guard (yet again). My friend brought up Mirotic, but I honestly don't see him coming over any time soon since he's bound to the rookie pay scale. Also, all the clips I've seen, he just seems like too much of a Euro player to make an immediate impact. I'm having nightmares of Dalibor Bargaric.
Sam: There goes a third member of the top six. And the Bulls haven’t even lost a regular season game yet. As I’ve been writing, I truly don’t believe there are any serious personnel plans yet that won’t be dictated by what happens in the playoffs. Mirotic’s limitations by the rookie scale end after this season, which is why there was no serious consideration of him coming before next summer. I do expect the team to seriously pursue him after this season. But they’ll need money. If they choose to spend it on an NBA free agent, then it could delay when Mirotic comes to the NBA. But you are right it is a lot to ask of a European player to come to a high level team and make a major impact. Toni Kukoc was one of the best ever European players with already having played in the Olympics, and his adjustment to the Bulls was slow as he averaged about 10 points and 20 minutes his first season. With the possibility for such a good season ahead, I continue to be surprised by all the interest in what’s next after this instead of what this could be.
After watching RGIII and Derrick Rose both play I'd say it’s pretty easy to see which return timeline is the better choice, granted they play different sports but I don't think it matters much. With that being said, do you think a minimum rehab length, one erring on the side of caution, should be instituted in the NBA? With so many players falling victim to ACL tears and other devastating injuries I think it would be wise for the league to step in and set a required amount of time off per every major injury. I don't think it’s right for organizations such as the redskins to rush or to allow their players to rush back from a major injury. As much as some fans would hate it I think it’s necessary, they will get over it. Just like all of us bulls fans have after seeing derrick rose after his extended layoff. Man he's looking really good ain't he? Sure glad he waited.
Sam: Where were you last season? Not you, exactly. But I’ve found the reaction of the media critics most interesting. There’s mostly been a lot of commentary about it being time to move on. In other words, yesterday I didn’t know what the heck I was talking about. But listen to me today. Obviously, these are individual decisions. But I think you’ll see more players take the Rose route as guys like Rondo and Westbrook seem to be trending toward caution. The truth was Rose never felt quite right, and Deng the other day said when Rose was practicing with the team last spring Rose didn’t have much explosion. So, yes, maybe he could have come back. But what sort of player would he have been? How much on limited playing time could he have contributed? And how much would he have tried to overcompensate with Deng and Hinrich going out? We’re moving on from this one as well. But always remember the danger in reading something, that you might tend to believe it.
I think everyone has forgotten how good Rose was/is, I keep hearing about Chris Paul being the best PG in the NBA, but even with the questions over Rose's knee I couldn't see the Bulls trading him for anyone except LBJ (hypothetical).
Sam: Sports, perhaps as much as anywhere, is the what have you done for me lately culture. Out of sight, out of mind. Tippecanoe and Tyler, too? But I digress. Chris Paul is an impact player in the NBA, but basically has never impacted a team beyond the second round of the playoffs. Derrick was beating him up so badly when they played, Paul was seriously considering becoming an insurance salesman. It likely soon figures to be clear Paul in his assist mode will assist those who are again saying Rose is the league’s best point guard.
Why hasn't Rip Hamilton been picked up? I think he would be a great addition for a team especially at a veteran's minimum. Are no teams interested, or is he waiting for the right team?
Sam: I’m a little surprised as well. I know he’s willing to play for the minimum and had some talks with teams. I think he can still help someone off the bench, and I think he’ll catch on somewhere later in the season as teams like to look at draft picks and free agents now and retain some flexibility. But they tend to look for veterans later. Not many kids on inal four and final eight teams.
It seems to me the contract situation with Luol Deng is symptomatic of how the new cap and related rules are playing out. If you sign great players like Lu or Dwayne Wade, players with lots of miles on them and pushing 30, to high-dollar, multi-year contracts, you're putting your future competitiveness at risk. If the great player is made average by age or injury, you lose your #2 or #3 player and have no possible way under the cap to replace them. I have to believe this is why the Bulls are waiting until next summer to negotiate a contract with a player who has given them his heart and soul as well as an astounding number of minutes. As you have pointed out, this situation isn't unique to the Bulls and Luol; it's happening all over the league. What a sad outcome for a league that is only entertaining when highly motivated players and teams compete.
Sam: It is a fact of life with a league with a salary cap. The owners in the last collective bargaining agreement fought for more salary control. There was kind of a two-year moratorium. But teams—and especially players—are starting to understand the ramifications now. Everyone wants to be the NFL with basically few guaranteed deals. You see the havoc they cause in baseball as basically none of those long deals for veterans players have worked out. So it’s tough to blame either Deng or the Bulls. The player tries to get what he can; the team has to be flexible, especially in a salary cap league. There’ll always be money for top talents like Deng, but it might be more the four-year variety like Andre Iguodala got with Golden State.
Is there any possible scenario where the Bulls can trade for a lottery pick in next year's draft? Since they tend to strike out in free agency (highly doubt they'll get anyone good next summer), wouldn't it be better to get a shot at a draft pick in the top 10, in what is expected to be a loaded draft class? Yes, we have a potential lottery pick with the Charlotte pick, but I honestly don't believe it will be worth as much in 2016. It would be better to trade it now (as part of a package) for a lottery pick next year!
Sam: Basically, no one ever trades top five or 10 picks. And they certainly don’t in drafts that are supposed to be loaded, like this one. I suppose if you give up Rose you should be able to get a high pick.
In the NBA; if I catch the ball, put the ball to the floor while still holding it, then cartwheel off my feet with the ball still on the ground but no hands touching floor, then land on my feet. Is it traveling?
Sam: I don’t think so, but why would you want to do that?
Why was Nazr coming out with the starting unit instead of Taj?
Sam: Even though Thibs made his Herm Edwardsesque declaration that you play to win the game, even in preseason, Taj is not going to be the starting center. Noah is. So it’s appropriate that Taj play in his role more with the players he’ll be on the court with. But the Bulls will rely more on Mohammed with no other backup big man for now, and it’s important to see him contribute 15 to 20 minutes. And given Noah’s injury history, he’ll likely have to be prepared to start some.
I've noticed a lot of hype regarding the projected 2014 NBA draft class, particularly with this kid Andrew Wiggins. In fact, I'm starting to read articles about which NBA teams are going to "tank" this year to increase their draft lottery prospects. And then it hit me: the Bulls are supposed to have a protected 1-10 draft pick from Charlotte! The problem is, I'm not really sure how this works. If Charlotte stinks again this year, and therefore has a high percentage of landing the number 1 draft pick, does that pick go to the Bulls? In my head I'm laughing maniacally thinking about it. Please tell me I'm right!
Sam: Wrong, of course. I have to address this one every month or so. Please clip and save. The pick is not unprotected--which means anywhere the Bobcats pick in the draft--until the 2016 draft. If the Bulls get the pick it would be 11 or higher (meaning 11-30) in 2014 and nine or higher in 2015. Thus the Bulls are hoping the Bobcats (soon to be the Hornets again) are really bad the next two years. And then they’ll have the chance for a top pick in the 2016 draft. But not until then.
Everybody keeps saying Andrew Wiggins is the best Canadian player ever. When will Bill Wennington get the respect he deserves?! Three time NBA champion and had a McDonald's sandwich named after him! Even Steve Nash doesn't come close to that!
Sam: This appears to be it, though Bill seems of late tending more toward wings.