Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 01.06.12
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I know I'm just complaining now, and you may certainly accuse me of that, but why is Thibs playing Rose and Deng 40 and 37 minutes respectively. The (Detroit) game was seemingly at hand with the Bulls possessing a 13 point lead entering the 4th quarter yet Derrick essentially played the ENTIRE 4th quarter. Not only that but he could have been horribly injured on one of his drives to the basket. Sometimes I wonder if our coach sees the big picture, or is just trapped in the minutia of the regular season. It truly defies logic.
Sam: This was the question of the day following the Detroit win and one that comes up every time someone falls down. I raise it at times with Thibs, but he doesn’t understand that I just want to hear his position, though I generally am not in disagreement. I looked back at the 1998-99 shortened season with back to back to back games and Tim Duncan, essentially the same age as Rose, averaged just less than 40 minutes. Michael Finley averaged 41 minutes and Scottie Pippen averaged more than 40 for Houston. Others averaging over 40 included Gary Payton, Jason Kidd, Chris Webber and Allen Iverson, and averaging close to 39 were the likes of Alonzo Mourning and Kevin Garnett. You don’t have to baby these guys. The major injuries that have happened, like with Zach Randolph and Manu Ginobili, were flukes that can happen any time. When the Bulls won Jordan and Pippen always averaged around 40 minutes. They make a lot of money to play. Tom is doing the fans a favor by letting them. What, you want to see more of John Lucas and Ronnie Brewer?
Before I get started, I am well aware you will hate this idea. I'm not fully sold on it. But truth be told the more I think about a Boozer for Cousins trade the more I reluctantly see potential value.
Here is why it makes NO sense. When you are not only chasing, but in seriously contention for a championship the last thing you do is disrupt the chemistry on a team. Especially on a team like the Bulls, which takes great pride in its locker room, professionalism and overall mental fortitude. But the Bulls are somewhat stuck between a rock and a hard place with Boozer. We know trade explorations occurred during the offseason with no suitors offering what could be considered fair value for the aging forward. The optimist in me says that winning changes people. That Rose is a calming force. That Thibs has a history of connecting with giant headcases (Glen Davis, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett to name a few). At the end of the day can Cousins be redeemed.
Sam: Adding perhaps the league’s most misguided egotist with a poor work ethic, no floor sense with a huge selfish streak and rarely, if ever, passing. I’m slipping. How come I didn’t think of that?
I just read an article that discusses the idea of a possible Noah/Monta Ellis swap. I know the Bulls value Noah's defense and toughness, but based on Noah sitting out too many 4th quarters recently, our depth, and also our lack of a true scoring sidekick for Rose (not sure Rip is the answer), do you think this deal makes sense, and would the teams do it?
Sam: No and no. Noah hasn’t had a great start, so I’ve, predictably, gotten a fair amount of suggestions the Bulls move him. I’ve long come up with trade suggestions to pair Ellis with Rose despite the defensive deficiencies with two small guards. But I like the Hamilton addition for now and think it works with his passing and size if his health holds up. Noah hasn’t been the double/double machine we saw when last season opened or at times in the playoffs. But similarly when talks came up about Carmelo Anthony last season: OK, fine, but then if you have Anthony where do you get someone to replace Noah? Asik will be a free agent after this season and if someone throws big money at him it will be tough for the Bulls to match with their current salary structure. Plus, Noah competes. He may not be ideal all the time, sometimes out of position on plays or fouling in his over exuberance to follow the ball. But you’ll miss competitors like that who defend and can play a floor game. His offense remains an issue, but you can do way worse. Way, way worse. OK, maybe not way, way. I’d keep him and I’d imagine the idea comes from someone who works in San Francisco who understands you have a better chance to win with a player like Noah than a player like Ellis.
It seems more often than not Asik is playing better than Noah and getting the minutes in critical moments of the second half. Might he just be a better player than Noah? This is not to say he should start, as we've had Gordon and Bogans and other players show us that doesn't mean as much as some might think.
Sam: He’s a different player and affects the game differently on defense. He’s a better help defender, but not a better all around player than Noah. You never prepare to say Noah is a better offensive player because he is fairly awful, but Noah is a better offensive player, even just on catching and finishing. Noah runs the court better and is stronger as Asik gets pushed around a bit too much. Asik is unusually tough and takes a lot of punishment. The issue is the ability to retain them both in an era when depth is going to be rare around the NBA. It’s like the backup quarterback thing in the NFL. I know the Bears and Colts GM’s were criticized for not having a better backup. But with rare exceptions if you have a great backup, he’s going to want to start and someone’s going to want to pay him. That may well be coming for Asik. If he’s a starter, it’s hard to see how you can keep both he and Noah, and so far Asik’s durability also has been an issue.
In my opinion, the key to the Bulls’ victory against Atlanta was the play of Omer Asik. Somehow, he seemed to reach deep down to provide more than his usually competent contribution as a backup to Noah. He was definitely more aggressive and made at least a half dozen plays in critical situations. Do you think this was his best game as a Bull?
Sam: He’s starting to get the fans’ recognition and, obviously, the faith of Thibodeau, who rides him early in games now. It does support the Bulls’ decision to hang onto him and not trade him for someone like O.J. Mayo or Courtney Lee, which many fans were advocating last season.
Shaq offers no input on TNT. He just makes weird noises or sayings while they show recaps of games. He makes Barkley look like Einstein.
Sam: Shaq has ruined the best halftime and postgame show on sports TV. I felt this would be a disaster and it has been. Shaq’s one of those guys who needs to be scripted. Hey, this was the guy who mumbled his way through interviews for years. And now they feature him on the top basketball show? If only on that lack of cooperation, it’s inappropriate. Shaq comes up with some clever stuff, but he’s “turrible,” as Barkley might say, spontaneously. I remember a few years back going to interview him and he said he’d decided to name Dwyane Wade “Flash.” The point was it wasn’t in conversation. He’d thought it out. Teammates have told me over the years when he’s out in group functions with spouses or more formal settings he rarely has anything to add to conversation that comes fast and unexpected. But because of his large presence, both literally and figuratively, you see Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson trying to defer to him and keep him involved. It’s made the TNT show Must Not See TV.
First 'Asik and Destroy' then 'Lieutenant Deng!'.. where is Stacy King getting this material from? It is hilarious!
Sam: Stacey should get some sort of most improved award. I wondered about him when he first got the job as he seemed in an uncomfortable position working as a trio with Neil and Johnny Kerr. But he’s really blossomed into a fan favorite and knows the game. I know some outside Chicago moan he’s a homer. Well, so? Who among the local broadcasters really isn’t? They are team employees and if there are guys playing poorly or dumb mistakes made, Stacey notes them. He knows the game. In Stacey and Neil, the Bulls have a terrific TV package. But don’t mention I said so. They already only sign autographs on days ending with Y.
Last night game against the Pistons in my opinion was the best that Boozer and Noah played together in a game that I’ve seen since they’ve been together. You could tell Noah’s intensity was at its highest this year after saying he had play better after the Hawks game. Although Boozer’s defense is still suspect, I think he’s actually played much better this season so far as I have seen him make some great steals in the post and he looks like he’s trying harder out there. Why do you think it’s taking them so long to gel?
Sam: I’m not sure they are there yet as both have stumbled some to open this season. But we should also remember they basically didn’t play a healthy game together all last season. Boozer missed the first month and Noah the next two, and when Noah he returned he wasn’t the same player with his hand and ankle still an issue, though he declined to say then, and Boozer came up with ankle and turf toe injuries that limited him on and off. Thibodeau will give them a chance, but he’s also shown with a lot of early substituting with them this season that he’ll ride who is producing.
Marshon Brooks: Convert his numbers into that of a 40 minute per game player and you get 25ppg and 7rpg. Mainly, I wanted to be the one to let the cat out of the bag. But secondly, I remembered you writing that a lot of fans were clamoring for the Bulls to grab him in the draft, and it seems they could have; instead of using the 23rd pick on Mirotic!
Sam: I think the Bulls will be better off in the long run with Mirotic. Brooks as a rookie likely wouldn’t be playing much for the Bulls, though he has been scoring. Heck, if you convert Omer’s numbers to 48 minutes he’d be Bill Russell. So let’s not go there. Nothing against Brooks, as he looks like a fine player. But he is playing for the Nets, remember. When he joins an NBA team then we’ll compare his numbers fairly.
I see a bit of a contradiction in your responses as it applies to Mirotic. On one hand, you are suggesting that with Mirotic in tow, the Bulls can afford to trade the Charlotte pick. Then, later in the mailbag you make the comment that free agency has never been good to the Bulls and they should stick to the draft. Trades have never been real good either. You also make a reference to trying to get lucky again. And so, my preference is that the Bulls maintain the Charlotte pick with the hope of getting lucky and turning it in to a lottery pick some day. As it is, the Bulls are not going to have a lottery pick until Rose retires. Even if he gets injured the Bulls are a still playoff team (it was the Spurs' Robinson injury that netted the #1 and Duncan which made them a dynasty).
Sam: What’s wrong with contradiction? It’s the art of journalism today on cable. Anyway, what I was suggesting is with Mirotic the Bulls have a potential star coming, or, at least, a starter, with Jimmy Butler a nice rotation player. That’s enough young guys. You have to try to win sometime instead of continuing to build. Yes, you can get lucky with a No. 1 if it turns into that in 2016. Though you’d think with Rose the Bulls share of lottery luck is exhausted. Plus, if the Bobcats make the playoffs anytime before that it becomes a mid first round pick, and as bad as the East is that could happen if they stumble on a good pick in the next year or two. Remember, there are four drafts before then. So I’d move it with, say, someone I might lose like Gibson at some point—not this season—and declare myself ready to go for it. After all, it is about winning and not trying to be close for a decade.
Does Billy King wish he can take back the deal he made last season for Deron Williams? Deron looks lost out there and i am pretty sure he is so happy its a 66 game season because he cant wait to leave NJ fast enough. Meanwhile the Jazz have two of the leagues brightest big's on their team courtesy of the Nets in Favors and Kanter (pick acquired in that deal). Look the Magic are not sending Dwight to NJ for what NJ has to offer and Deron looks like he rather take the financial hit next summer and go elsewhere So instead of going into 2012-12 with zilch they could have went with Favors and Kanter or even a Freddette to start the Brooklyn era, looks much better than what we will see.
Sam: The Jazz look like they’ll come out as the winners in that deal, a rarity for giving up the presumed best player. The question now is when the Nets start talking about moving out of Brooklyn because of lack of public support. As a native, could it be 1957 all over again?
I'm always amused by your take on the Knicks. For a man who was born in bred in the city that never sleeps, you never pass up an opportunity to put in a little dig. You must be excited by their team this season, though. The material you will have watching Stoudemire, Anthony, and Baron Davis fight for the right to shoot each time down the floor will be worth your NBA Season Pass package. I was wondering, on a related note, if Baron Davis has chosen #85 as his uniform number to represent his body fat percentage.
Sam: You could be a former New Yorker as well. It’s mostly sport as I know New Yorkers take themselves extra seriously. I love to listen to the national sports call in shows because when New Yorkers come on they are always yelling and demanding someone be fired or one of their teams win or else. And rarely do they. It’s the ultimate “Hey, look at me” place where everyone then wants to know why you’re looking at them. Really, could this Knicks’ mismatch of a team be more sweet? And, hey! Who are you writin’ to?
As part of a friendly debate, a buddy of mine predicted that this year's team could run with the big boys in 1991. Help me out here. I say 1991 Bulls in 5 games.
Sam: How does this group get a game? This Bulls team is a very good group, but they only have the edge at one position, point guard, and with Jordan, Pippen and Grant, I’d say that might be even too much trapping and pressure for Rose. That first Bulls champion was one of the great teams in league history the way they closed the season and blew through the playoffs. This team has a long way to go to reach their level.
What do you think the current status and the future ceilings of Rose in terms of defense? Is he already one of the best and underrated defenders at his position? If not, who are the better PGs? Does he have potential to become the best defensive point guard in a few years? I believe he has tools, in terms of athleticism and commitment, but how about his alertness, savvy, and knowledge of opponents' offensive schemes?
Sam: Rose finally stated his secret personal goal for the season the other day and it is to be all-defense. I thought he had a bad start on that the first few games, but since then he’s been very good. He’s a long way off from getting the recognition because it is generally an awful vote and based on who’s won in the past seems to be based on who has the most steals or blocks by the end of the season. Those are misleading statistics because guys like Chris Paul play the passing lanes for steals but aren’t very good defenders. For now, the Bulls are working on trying to get Deng some all-defensive recognition, which would be appropriate, and I think Rose would be fine with that. He could be much better with his athletic ability and now you can see him starting to make the effort.
I’m pretty disappointed with taj’s play thus far in the season and with the exception of his monster first game against Miami in the playoffs I wasn’t that impressed last season. I say we trade him for oj mayo straight up. What are your thoughts?
Sam: OK, so who haven’t we traded so far? Oh, right. Keeping Rose. Gibson did have a rough start like last season, shooting poorly and getting beaten badly on defense, like on that late Josh Smith dunk with everyone on the coaching staff screaming the play and Gibson still missing it. But he was much better and more active and involved against the Pistons and given that he’s a worker I think he’ll come on again as he was really good the latter part of last season.
Almost every basketball team will have a key player or two that are average or below average defenders. Is it harder for a basketball team to hide a below average post defender or perimeter defender?
Sam: They’ll find you wherever you are. Like in baseball, the ball generally finds the guy you least want to field it. Though it makes sense the closer to the basket you are the easier it is to score.
The season is young and the players are working their way into shape. If that game against the Clippers was played at the end of the year, I am sure Griffin would not have taken jumpers, but would have taken it to the hole. The nice thing about Thomas was that he could neutralize another big down low... I know he is an old man, but he has a bag of veteran tricks to make up for his years. Bulls need to have another big to throw out there when you need to wear on teams that have bigs that can make room for themselves. With that, what time frame will the Bulls add another front line player to their team?
Sam: Thomas was a loss, but the Bulls seem fine for now. The Bulls have more depth than just about any top team in the league. It’s a luxury to have five talented big men. The Bulls have four. Many teams don’t have two or three. They’re trying to get a guy worth having. There are plenty out there, but you want more than your Solomon Jones. It’s worth waiting awhile to see if someone better shakes loose.
Why hasn't Jimmy Butler played? After his solid preseason you'd think he earned enough respect to at least get 5 minutes during a road trip. How are the Bulls ever going to know what they've got in him if he doesn't play? I realize he's not a star, but Taj has shown late 1st rounders can at least be solid role or starter level players.
Sam: Be patient. Butler is. He got in some minutes in that Grizzlies blowout and for now that should be the extent of his time. I hear all the coaches like him a lot, but Thibodeau is a believer in maintaining a steady rotation and not experimenting with rookies when that eats into the veterans’ minutes. I happen to agree. If we were talking, say, the No. 1 pick and a huge talent, maybe not. But Butler is projecting as a reserve and after all they’ve done you’d rather give the minutes to Brewer and Korver.
I'm curious is the Chicago Bulls organization going to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1992 chicago bulls championship team this season?
Sam: Did that last season. The Bulls aren’t going to celebrate each championship anniversary—how’s that for an embarrassment of riches—and though I haven’t heard of any plans, I can see them doing something for the winningest team ever, the 1995-96 team. Plus, by then we’d love to see what’s become of Dennis Rodman.
What are Deng’s chances for making the All-Star game? Secondly, when is the cutoff date for determining who coaches the All-Star game? It would be great and a bit comical to see Thibodeau coach the East. I’m sure as long time NBA veteran he knows the AS game is pure entertainment. I still think though it might kill him to have to watch the defense (or lack of D) on display.
Sam: If the Bulls are in first or close as the voting closes, Deng has a slight chance because he is starting finally to get leaguewide recognition as likely the team’s second best player. The problem for him is at that position, Anthony, LeBron and Bosh are almost certain along with Stoudemire and Paul Pierce. Fans generally vote the big names and players with the higher scoring averages, and Deng likely won’t be anywhere near 20 points per game. Noah has a better chance as second center, though he’ll have to produce better than he has and probably is behind Al Horford for now. Again, it likely will be one Bulls All-Star, as Hamilton’s scoring average likely won’t be high enough. As for coaches, that’s best record two weeks before on the 12th. Starters are named Feb. 2 and reserves Feb. 9.
I wish you could clarify something for everybody cause i keep reading all this columns on espn and SI about zone defense that simply dont make sense at all, i know that in the states its something like a taboo but zone defense if its played by smart players it can be very effective for example when the other team has great post or isolation players you go to a zone cause it will make them jump shoters, you dont play zone against great shoters, also when i see the bulls i see a great zone team make it 2-3 or 1-3-1 or 3-2 because all bulls players have length plus do a great job rebounding (one of the zones weakness) and the zone lets you go to a fast break mode a lot faster wich will help bulls offense, i wonder do you think coach thibs plans on using a zone?? even if its for one team like the heat in the post season?? zone its the perfect antidote for good post up, penetration and isolation plays.
Sam: I notice you are writing from Mexico, so I will explain some of the U.S. mentality since I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express. Anyway, we’re big on this great individualism, sort of the cowboy romanticism of the rugged male being able to step forward and be accountable. Like the Marlboro man commercial, except all those guys got lung cancer. I know most basketball coaches don’t read that much Kierkegaard, at least other than his theories on the flex offense. But there’s this thinking in NBA basketball that you have to stand on your own, the existential defender. No, pro coaches don’t trust the zone here, don’t practice it and feel it hurts rebounding. They want players to be held individually responsible. I see many occasions where it can help a team with a weak defender when the opponent has five offensive options on the floor. But I don’t see it used much and don’t expect the Bulls to employ it much—particularly this season with so little practice time—but moreso because we demand you be a man whether you are capable or not. And if you have a problem with that, hey, who are you looking at?
I have noticed this year that the Bulls box scores have a total of 13 players listed. I know in the past teams could only dress 12 players, but I'm wondering if that has been expanded because of the condensed schedule this year. I did see that the Nets used all 13 players listed when they got blown out by Atlanta on December 27. Am I correct in assuming that dressing 13 is unique to the 2011-12 season?
Sam: For the time being. The league is allowing 13 active until Feb. 6.
Would anyone else in the Central Division start on the Bulls? If so, who?
Sam: Hadn’t thought about that, but it’s an interesting one. If he were healthy, you might say Bogut. But he rarely is healthy and there always seems to be something going on with him and he’s left the team for personal reasons lately. Would you rather have Ben Gordon than Hamilton? Maybe a few years ago, but likely not the way he looks lost now. David West over Boozer? I’m no fan of West’s, and he has had serious knee surgery. Paul George will eventually be maybe the two, but not yet. So, yes, the Bulls ought to win that division again. Let’s raise the banner.
Do you think Javale Mcgee could be a nice addition to the bulls roster and, if it is, how do you see the chances of that happening? I know he's still young and has a lot to learn but, who better than Thibs to teach him some D.
Sam: I like McGee in the right situation, which Chicago would be. I see virtually no chance of acquiring him without vastly overpaying, but he’s doomed in an awful environment in Washington. He may as well be in Congress for all the chance of success he has. I see him as better than just about all the overpaid centers from this off season, Tyson Chandler, Nene and Marc Gasol. As always, it pays very well to be tall in the NBA. It’s why even though Noah has struggled at times, as ridiculous as it sounds, paying him $12 million wasn’t bad when someone like Chandler gets $15 million.
Why don't we see any of this from Boozer?
I was watching the game the other day and saw him settling for jumpers/not getting deep in the post the entire time.
Sam: Most anyone looks pretty good in a highlight mix. Scal, too. Some note Boozer is in high pick and roll too much in the Bulls offense and shoots more jumpers. But they do run the Utah side pick and roll; stuff for him as well. Yes, he dunk more in these clips, but last season it was clear he wasn’t in as good a condition with extra weight and the off and on injuries. He lost a lot of weight this season and has some runouts already. I’m working on a highlight mix for him this season, but more with Broadway show tunes as background to fit Booz’s and my background.
What is the status of Kevin Love? Where is his current deal at?
I read that he has given the T Wolves until January 10th to either put a new contract on the table or he will not sign it.
I read that he bonded with Rose pretty well during the Olympics and they talked about playing together. He is a double double machine. Way stronger and younger than Boozer.
Could we amnesty Boozer to sign him next year or the year after?
Sam: I’ve gotten a number of these fanciful questions since the rumor was thrown out about Love. First of all I cannot fathom the Timberwolves not paying—or overpaying—Love. So they will save cap money for exactly…whom? What free agent is coming to play there? I still laugh that there’s this skyway system connecting all the downtown buildings so you can walk the whole downtown without ever going outside, which is great. But if you need that, it’s not exactly my choice for best place to live. You have to overpay for All-Stars in those markets, and they will. Assuming the Bulls did amnesty Boozer (I’m still uncomfortable with it as a verb, or Boozer playing like a verb, as well), they still would not be far enough under the cap to get someone like that as a free agent without releasing every single player on the roster. And then you’re the Knicks. And as for Boozer, forget it. There will be no amnesty. You don’t pay off a player like that unless you are well into the luxury tax, which the Bulls are not, or you can get well below the salary cap, which the Bulls also cannot. Plus, you still have to pay him. Which means say you could sign Love, that would be spending $30 million on the power forward position, which is more than half the total salary cap. That’s ludicrous. You see what’s going on even in Dallas. Mark Cuban won and lost, I’ve heard, about $10 million last season. So he’s breaking up his team to get under the luxury tax. And Boozer whatever you may feel about him, still is averaging maybe 15 and eight. And with him the Bulls were No. 1 in the league in defense last season. He’s not going anywhere.
It struck me as ironic when I saw the following quote from Eric Gordon about being traded to the Hornets: “All you do is take the man’s word and take that he said that no one is going to go anywhere,” Gordon told Yahoo! Sports. “… To completely lie like that is something unprofessional.”
Ummm, isn’t that the exact same thing he did to the Illini Basketball program before changing his mind and switching to Indiana?
Sam: Very, very good. Pay attention to what I say not what I do. You know, to quote the great philosopher: “People, they’re the worst.”