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Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 12.16.11

Sam Smith opens his mailbag to respond to the latest round of emails from his readers
Sam Smith Mailbag

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.

Is it Vinny’s make or break season in Clipper land this season? If he struggles with sterling shelling out cash does he get fired? Does Sterling make a call to Phil Jackson? does Phil take that job to get back and jerry and jimmy buss?

Mike Sutera

Sam: How sweet would that be? Phil gets the next Stockton/Malone combo with some depth, another championship run. I personally don’t believe Phil coaches again. He turned 66 in September, but… I know he really missed the game and even the media he loves to fence with when he sat out that 98-99 season. And I know he wants to have something to do in basketball. And he does live in L.A. Look, the road closes where he lives in Montana in winter. It’s a summer place. I don’t know if he could do that to Jeanie, but the Busses didn’t exactly give him a bus on the way out. And they sure seem headed toward destroying that team. What a perfect fit that would be if things go badly for Vinny. Now Chris Paul isn’t exactly your triangle point guard, but Phil’s pretty good at figuring things out. And don’t they say now that life begins at 70?

Do you think the Bulls will gave up too much defensively by letting Keith Bogans go? Some argue that he was the reason the Bulls did so well last season defensively. I tend to think Rich Hamilton was a better choice than Bogans, but what do you think?

Mike Roth

Sam: Well, I think he’s one reason. Though I know I spent at least four months holding off fans last season demanding Bogans’ ouster and suggesting the Bulls were throwing the season by starting Bogans. So, yes, as we know in review he wasn’t bad and was a nice fit. But Hamilton is a major upgrade and the Bulls were fortunate to get him when it didn’t appear he’d be available this season. And he’s only two years younger than Hamilton without about 2,300 fewer playoff points.

It is imperative the Bulls get Eric Gordon. If they don't I believe their divisional and playoff foe will swoop in scoop him up. Larry Legend has created cap space, made shrewd trades, and has put the Pacers in prime position. They can ship prospects like Collison and George for Gordon.

Gordon Yeboah-Amoako

Sam: After going to all the trouble to get Eric Gordon and drawing so much criticism after rejecting the initial deal, I hardly believe the league, which clearly is running the team now without question, is going to let go Gordon no matter what he says. We’ve all got to get past this notion that if a guy doesn’t want to stay you have to trade him. What you can do is suspend him without pay if he doesn’t want to play. But I haven’t heard anything like this from Gordon, who isn’t exactly in the Hall of Fame yet. As for the Bulls, they had that guy, a small scoring non defensive guard named Gordon and let him go. And the Bulls hardly have the young pieces and picks to make any sense for the Hornets, whom the league did a good job for with that second trade.

I have one logical question about SG position. What about Ben Gordon back in Chicago? Could Pistons use the amnesty to release BG, you know, that last season was not special about him and does he want to come back in the windy city? Hope that's not one of the ridiculous suggests.

Slavi Tichev

Sam: Similarly like with Jamal, that old saying of “been there, done that.” Those things rarely work. Ben, of course, makes way too much money now. There has been talk he could get amnesty in the future as teams have several years to use it. I don’t see him getting it now. But the Bulls pretty much have had it with small backcourts. Too much disadvantage on the defensive end. Though as a sixth man, you’d love to have him. If the Pistons improve, I assume they’d want to use him there.

Wouldn't the smart thing be for the Bulls to squash this headband thing immediately and tell the media that he can just wear the stupid thing, because of his facemask, or whatever? I know Gar was already questioned about it, and was somewhat indecisive. That is the wrong way to go about it in my opinion. For a team as good as the Bulls, one minute talking about stupid stuff like this is too long. These distractions aren't needed.

Jerry Grillo

Sam: We’ll see what the Bulls do, though you are right in that it is a stupid issue if it is an issue. I don’t see the Bulls lifting the so called ban because I know they don’t like the look of a team filled with head band wearers. I don’t much care as I prefer to watch what the players do, but I don’t care for the look. Perhaps Hamilton gets to wear it because of the face mask as I doubt it would create a precedent because I don’t see many guys lining up for the masks. Now Lone Ranger masks. I can see that. But I will tell you this distraction stuff is more among the fans and media. The players, especially the ones on the Bulls, aren’t bothered in the least by this kind of stuff and would not only laugh about it but make it a source of little barbs whether Hamilton wears the headband or not. It’s just more of what the players calls that outside noise.

Rudy Fernandez was had for a second round pick and Crawford just signed with Portland for 2 years 10 million, the same deal I believe we gave rip. Why did the bulls not pursue those guys? Granted they may both defensive liabilities but I'd take either one over Hamilton.

Joey Giannini

Sam: Actually, I prefer Hamilton. I did push for Rudy last season for a pick to get someone in that two guard spot, but Rudy has been awfully erratic, and hardly only on the court. Gar had that one right when he told me to check again. It seems clear Rudy wants to return overseas to be the hombre. As for Jamal, yes, he likely has more athletic talent than Hamilton at this point and a deeper shot. But he’s not nearly the defender, even younger, and wanted only a one year deal to get out for 2012 free agency. You don’t want a guy who is looking to move on that quickly and at his age is chasing more dollars. Hamilton isn’t, clearly. Plus, he’s got that attitude that you need in those tough playoff games. The Bulls have been there, but nearly as often as Hamilton. I think it’s an excellent signing pickup.

I haven't seen any activity with the Jazz trying to upgrade their wing positions. They have a surplus of quality big men. Why not trade Jefferson to Rockets for Kevin Martin straight up?

Edward Fung

Sam: Well, they did just pick up Josh Howard, which fills that need. Martin is a luxury few teams really want at that salary of some $12 million and closing in on 30. The Hornets did well when the commissioner returned him to Houston. The Jazz tend to be a surreptitious organization as evidenced by trading Deron Williams before anyone knew what happened. The thinking has long been Millsap would be out of there at some point as much as they deny it, and he may actually already be with another team with the Jazz asking his name not be put on his jersey so no one will know they traded him.

I know the Bulls just signed Hamilton. Do you know if there is a chance they still keep Bogans for his defense or is he out the door?

Jose Hernandez

Sam: The Bulls are saying they’ll make a decision by Monday at his option date, but I assume as the sixth guard, the Bulls aren’t going to pick up his $1.7 million option that could limit them from adding a big guy, which they don’t seem ready to do at this point. As hard as he worked as a team guy, it really doesn’t make sense to keep him.

What is the feedback like from Bulls fans regarding Stern blocking the trade to LA Lakers? I actually like what he did. Some "experts" thought the trade was great for NO because they could have been a playoff team with Martin, Scola, Odom and Dragic?? Hmmm Let's say they did become a playoff team. Then what? That would be their ceiling!

Victor Devaldivielso

Sam: Yes, I think there is general agreement around the NBA the Hornets did better with Stern as GM than Dell Demps. Generally, I think there is rejoicing around the NBA about thwarting the Lakers. Although the NBA isn’t likely to admit that, it appeared as if the Lakers were taking advantage of an inexperienced GM to steal Paul and put them in position to get Dwight Howard as well and create another dynasty that no one wanted to see handed to them. Enough. Now if only Stern could do something about those Yankees signings.

Looks like the Bulls have their man in Rip Hamilton but isn't he the exact same player that Kyle Korver is? I thought they needed a guy who can put it on the floor and get baskets?

Terrence Wells

Sam: Yes, he’s catch and shoot, but not from that far out. Ooops, is Korver better? Yes, Hamilton does a lot of the same stuff running those screens for his shot. And, yes, you don’t want to see him dribbling all that much although guys who’ve played with him say he’s not a bad pick and roll guy. The point is his experience, savvy, toughness, defense and 20 footers count, also. He can hit the three reasonably well from the corner, but more so it wasn’t exactly a great field to choose from. Jamal is better, though more in theory as their three point percentages are similar given Jamal’s shot selection. Hamilton isn’t the perfect choice, but some who were like Afflalo and perhaps O.J. Mayo required trades of guys like Asik and Gibson, and the Bulls strength remains their bigs and you don’t want to disturb that, especially with Thomas gone.

So Richard Hamilton is a run-off-screens, mid-range catch-and-shoot guy. Help me understand how he isn't just a shorter, weaker, older version of Luol Deng, with no handle, no passing, no three-point-shot, no D, and lots of baggage. I'm still wondering who's going to handle the ball when James and Wade double-team Rose in crunch time in the playoffs. Or is Hamilton the only two-guard the Bulls can get for the price?

Tom Bell

Sam: He’s Luol as well? Maybe a cross between Deng and Korver isn’t bad. As I suggested, it wasn’t exactly a great market when you were stuck at a max of $5 million. I know. Not going to be easy on that money to feed Latrell Sprewell’s family. I do think having Hamilton will open some space for Rose as Hamilton needs to be guarded and chased. It’s not like the Lakers always worried about having a ballhandler to relieve the strain on Magic. Rose just could use a bit more space and another option, and Hamilton is that. Plus, I love him against Miami as he’ll compete with Wade and bother him and tire him out. It’s not the perfect addition, but I don’t see who did get the perfect addition. Miami had no point guard and center and added a small forward.

So how, exactly, does Rip Hamilton benefit the Bulls more than Bogans? Bogans is a better defender, right? And they shoot the exact same percentage from three. Does this just mean less p.t. for brewer and korver, or C.J.? Is Hamilton going to takes shots away from Rose? I get that Rip is a good jump shooter from 2, and that he moves well without the ball. Yet, I am hoping you can sell us from a technical, basketball perspective why Rip Hamilton helps the Bulls win.

Robert Lininger

Sam: I have mentioned some of that, though I do think it’s nice all this new love for Keith. I’m not a huge stat guy, especially the saber metrics stuff that doesn’t translate well with basketball. But every list of guards I’ve ever seen has Hamilton ranked top 15 and Bogans in the 30’s or 40’s. Yes, I know there’s way more than those stat lists, but Bogans rarely shot, so he wasn’t guarded much. Hamilton is a good defender with more size and Thibodeau has shown he’ll play who deserves it as we saw with Boozer and Noah benched in the playoffs when they performed poorly. I expect Hamilton to play big minutes and earn them.

Rip is 33. What can he possibly offer on the defensive end?

Peter Chen

Sam: I’m getting a vibe here. Could I be wrong? Nah.

The Bulls never seemed to have Boozer, Noah & Brewer all healthy at the same time. I'm excited about seeing what happens this year with all of them healthy (for now). I like the Rip Hamilton acquisition, but I am wondering why Ronnie Brewer seems to be out of the starting SG discussion. In 08-09 he started 81 games, shot around 50% and scored 14 points a game. He is big, plays tough D, and doesn't allow his defender to leave him for long stretches. How critical is a SG with a good 3-point shot for the 2011-2012 Bulls?

Ken Lee

Sam: See, I’m not alone. As I mentioned in my article Thursday after Rip’s first press conference, I think Thibodeau likes Brewer with the second unit, though he won’t say it publicly yet as unfair considering how hard Brewer has worked. But it obviously became clear to Thibodeau last season Brewer not only doesn’t have the range to play off Rose that well, but likes to run the baseline and brings too many defenders toward Rose’s drives when he does.

Is it just me or the new CBA change little or maybe nothing?

14,7 pts, 7,6 reb 1blk.... 67M$ / 5 years.... like 13,5M$ / year.... when 34 years of old he will get what? 16/17M$?

Marc Gasol
11,7 pts, 7reb, 1,65blk... 58M$ / 4 years....like 14,5M$ / year ... when 30 years old paying him like 18M$?

Tyson Chandler
10,1 pts, 9,4reb, 1,1blk...60M$ / 4 years .... 15M$ /year....33 years old like what? 19M$?

More then 15M$ for guys in the 30s. Are these guys stars?

Rui Dias

Sam: No, they are not stars. David Stern got beaten at the negotiating table by Billy Hunter for the third straight time. And you have to spend the money. The agreement provides for payrolls at least 85 percent of the cap, so guys like this, none of whom ever will be All-Stars, end up with contracts giving them career earnings more than Michael Jordan. And the owners won this thing?

How do the other stars within the NBA view Derrick Rose on a personal level? For example, Dwight Howard did not list Chicago as a preferred destination while adding New Jersey. Is the Jay-Z factor that strong? Is there something others don't like about Derrick? About Chicago? It gives me headaches trying to rationalize these things.

Chris Vombrack

Sam: I basically answer this question every week since none of us really have an answer. Cold? MJ legacy? Ownership frugality? That goofy shell in Millennium Park? The Cubs being losers? That bad fat pizza and 16-inch softball? Nobody truly knows, though Howard isn’t exactly the most rational person to base anything upon. As for Derrick, he doesn’t tend to strut around with these guys needing to be seen at games and events to know how important he really is. I feel he’s respected for his talent by the other players, who are a bit intimidated, in my view, that he doesn’t seem to feel he needs them.

Is Dwight Howard out of it? His trade request is to go to the Nets, who upon acquiring him would shoot up to be, unquestionably, the 4th most talented team in the East behind the Heat, Bulls and Celtics. You could argue they'd be better than the Celtics, depending on how they age, but my point is he'd be in the same position there as he is in Orlando, except he'd be a villain for leaving his fans and the people that love him. Logic aside, just the eyeball test should tell you to go play with DRose. Any idea as to why he wants to play in New Jersey?

David Beer

Sam: I did enjoy reading that he was upset with the Magic because they weren’t listening to his personnel suggestions. I’d go out and get a $1 million loan to give to him if he could explain me base year compensation. Actually, most GM’s I know can’t, either. So that may not be that fair. I don’t know about stupid, but he’s more immature and a playful kid. He’s pleasant to be around because he acts kind of like an air head, preening for attention with a variety of acts. He’s like the kid in class who acts the fool so others will like him. I don’t know his background, but I suspect he may have been insecure about his height or something and this was his way of compensating. Sorry, I have a job. I do not want that PhD in psychology. This talk of New Jersey has been a laugh and probably came from the rap guy or some friend. You get the sense the last guy to talk to Howard is what is his latest opinion. It looks like the Magic will keep him for now, which is the right move for them.

I have been reading a lot about how star free agents don't want to come to Chicago. Do you think it has anything to do with how Derrick Rose is our Golden Boy? I think even Dwight Howard would be seen as second best compared to Rose- everyone in this city loves him. I think a lot of NBA players always want to believe that they can be the fan favorite, but that is next to impossible with Derrick Rose being our hometown hero. Maybe other stars just don't want to compete with that.

Kara Wintz

Sam: I guess that could be another answer. But like Scottie Pippen was an ultimate No. 2 guy, so, really is Howard. If he is the best player on your team I don’t think you ever win because he still can’t make free throws so is a liability at the end of games and while he improved somewhat offensively still hasn’t put in the time to become a better offensive threat. That’s why the Bulls have made the most sense for him. But then we assume he does want to win a title. Most guys say it, and really, only a few mean it. It sounds good, but it takes too much work for some. And a bit of ego sacrifice. That may be Dwight’s case. I think he is one of the best five players in the NBA to have to start building a team. But he won’t win unless he’s with a great finisher. Derrick would have been perfect for him. So, then, can he just truly be about winning and never mentioning Chicago? Even if it isn’t his first choice> But not even to make the list?

I'm reading alot about Jimmy Butler and the great feeling eveyone has for him around the Berto Center, because of his work ethic. If this is true do you think he can emerge as that big guard the Bulls need. Of course I'm not talking about this season maybe not even next season. Rip he may be good for only two seasons, making him patchwork.

Amielio Williams

Sam: This is obviously going to be an unusual season because of the 66 games squeezed in when there should be perhaps 10 fewer in this same period. So you may go deeper into your bench to use players, though the Bulls are pretty deep with returning players. I’d have said Butler wouldn’t be used much until he showed something, like Asik last season, though that could change with the rush of games at certain points, especially with the nine in 12 nights starting in late January. I don’t think the Bulls see him as an eventual starter at shooting guard, but if you can get a player eventually to be in the rotation from the bottom of the first round you are doing well and I think he should be.

Do you think Denver might be willing to sign and trade Afflalo for Korver, Pargo, and next year’s 1st round pick @ $6.7 or 7 million annually. With their recent pick-ups, Fernandez and Brewer, I can’t see Denver paying Afflalo this kind of money if they can get reductions off their books in the form of Korver and Pargo at the end of the year which would help them resign JR Smith who’s the more dynamic player though a little off the wall.

Steve Fulton

Sam: I’ve gotten a lot of Afflalo questions the last few years and answered it some above. Yes, Denver started playing a lot of money, especially with Nene. But I think those deals for the contracts with options are done for now with the Hamilton signing. So I don’t see the Bulls adding Hinrich this season, either as a result.

I was wondering, with the contracts of Noah, Deng, Boozer, and the upcoming extension for Rose, have the Bulls given any thought to trading Taj Gibson? I really like Taj, but looking at the contracts that are being given to serviceable big men around the league (60 million over four years to Chandler, 55 million over four years to DeAndre Jordan, and 7 million for one year to Kwame Brown) I don’t see how the Bulls will be able to resign him when his contract expires.

Bryant Williams

Sam: You are probably right. But the Bulls have him for two more seasons at reasonable, rookie contract money, so you keep him. I think they believe they might have to move him at some point with all their huge contracts, but perhaps them you include him in a deal, use an amnesty and answer a need at that time. At this time, it’s better to have him for what he can deliver for so relatively little money.

Hasheem Thabeet could be a good rotation player in the paint. He seems like a good solid body and is defensive minded. I heard he's looking for a $1-2 million per year contract. Do you think he'd be a good fit for the Bulls?

Fernando Martinez

Sam: No. The Bulls are ready to play for a title now. They aren’t in the business of teaching and patience. Especially in a shortened season with so few practices possible. Some poor team may take a shot at Thabeet sometime, though he appears more the latest Darko. He has some defensive skills, but has little idea how to play.

If Shane Battier's a goofy signing, then you're a goofy writer. Actually, even if Battier's not a goofy signing, you're still a goofy writer. Obviously, the Heat didn't have the cap space to sign a Center, and there weren't any good unrestricted free agent Point Guards on the market. Even the most hostile Heat Haters agree that Battier was a good signing, and certainly good value. What say you?

Richard Glotzer

Sam: It’s actually, “What do you say?” Have the guys been teaching you grammar? I say, “Oh yeah!”

I keep reading about teams that might amnesty someone next year. is that possible? hypothetically, if we could pull off a trade for howard and hedo, would we be able to amnesty hedo after this season?

Derin Berg

Sam: You cannot put on amnesty a player you traded for.

Kobe is locked up through 2013, he then becomes a free agent. I could see him and Rose teaming up in the back court. They would fit well together as Kobe will be in the decline and will have adjusted his game completely. He is the only guy Rose seems to admire and would recruit. They seem to share the same mentality when it comes to winning at all costs. Rose will be in the second year of his new deal. If Kobe does not extend in 2013 you never know. He does like the Bulls and Rose. Unlike Howard, we would be a destination of preference for him. I hope! From what I have seen from the post Jackson - Jim Buss era - its not going to be good in LA.

Dan Abdo

Sam: Yes, I hardly would be surprised if we hear Kobe wanting to get out before too long. Kobe isn’t one to go down with the ship, and especially with the Clippers getting so much attention and it looks like a good team Kobe’s patience isn’t going to last long. But Kobe also isn’t the kind of guy to take the minimum or an exception. When he wanted to come to the Bulls back in 2004 the first time he resigned with the Lakers because the Bulls could only pay him the exception. He could have taken it for a year or two and then gotten a max, but he wanted all the money he could make. Similarly in 2007 in the end. I can see him wanting out at some point, perhaps not too far away. But at 35 in 2013 I don’t think you want to mess with him anymore. How many knee operations has he had, by the way?

I know this may sound weird but what about possibly bringing in Arenas as a backup, possibly the Sixth Man. I know in recent years, he has shown a decline, but i think it may be a good pickup at a possible small price

Jose Hernandez

Sam: Or not. I consider him a small caliber shooter these days.

How do you think the Bulls stack up with the Pacers this year? Frankly, I'm a little anxious about it. They seem stronger at PF (with West and Hansbrough) and maybe a little stronger at SF (Granger). Center is either a draw or else Noah is a bit better. How much of a jump do the Pacers take this year?

Ben Smith

Sam: That was a much tougher series than the Bulls expected, though much depends on whether David West is healthy. Actually, I love the George Hill pickup as well. I think they’ve done a very nice job filling in and it’s going to be tougher to win games in Central this season, though I expect the Bulls to still win the division.

I look forward to reading your assessment of the departure of Kurt Thomas. Having 3 viable centers like Noah, Asik and Kurt was a luxury - I can see why Thomas may have wanted to be utilized more.

LongGiang Le

Sam: He wanted more money than the Bulls were offering.

Why do all free agents keep claiming that "all they want to do is win?" Caron Butler passes on the Bulls and the Spurs, two legitimate contenders, and signs with the Clippers. Tyson Chandler leaves the reigning champions and signs with the Knicks (at least they've been to the playoffs recently). Dwight Howard is apparently so cheesed off at the Magic failing to build a championship contender that he demands a trade to either of two teams, one of which is......the Nets??? Even the Superfriends - if they were really serious about winning, they would've signed with the Heat for 2/3rds of what they did and actually given them a chance of signing some real players instead of the rejects the rest of the league are deliberately avoiding (Eddy Curry?? Seriously?? Who's next? Antoine Walker?). If players are only motivated by money, or only want to play in attractive markets, at least man up and say so. That said, it does sadden me to see how greedy the players have become. One $5million payday would be enough for 99.9% of us to live comfortably for the rest of our lives, but it's nowhere near enough for your everyday NBA superstar. Not really the kind of role models I have in mind for my kids.

Evan Kearney

Sam: As Charles Barkley famously said, “I am not a role model.” Now, that’s an honest player and no one wanted to believe him. We like fairy tales, and professional athletes give you all you can handle.

Is there anything new to report about Nikola Mirotic? The last that I heard was that the Bulls plan to keep him in Spain for a bit, but is there a projected time line for when we may see him in a Bulls uniform or even at rookie summer ball?

Jake Kolbus

Sam: A Bulls fan from New York sent me this YouTube clip of Mirotic from a recent game when he got 26.

Nikola Mirotic increible juego 26 pts (Real Madrid vs Maccabi Electra) euroliga 12/08/2011 HD - YouTube

It’s pretty impressive stuff and the guy looks like he could start at four for the Bulls tomorrow. I know he’s in Europe at least two years, but he’s a heck of a pick and could be the real star of the last draft. This may be a Ginobili type of pick for the Bulls, but no one should dream yet.

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