Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 01.20.12
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I am watching the Heat-Lakers game! We will never beat the Heat in a 7 game series. We need a big trade to make that happen. Sorry, we just do not have enough fire power. They are just too potent!
Sam: Well, you always do look better when you are winning and making shots. But Miami did look awfully good without Wade. Perhaps the biggest concern for the Bulls coming out of that game actually was Eddy Curry, who no longer was so big. He had to lose at least 100 pounds just looking at him. Fans in Chicago may not have loved Eddy, and Eddy may not have loved playing in the fourth quarter, but everyone knew he could score. He had six points in six minutes, and if he is back after missing two years that alleviates in a lot of ways one of the reasons why I felt the Bulls had a good chance against Miami: No center. So if they have a center and rookie Coles can give Chalmers something and LeBron handles the ball anyway, yes, I won’t disagree much. I’ve felt the Bulls edge has been at center and point guard and depth. And if the Bulls are playing at a high level it’s an even game. But I did write in my first quarter review this past Monday the Bulls need another scorer. Then Hamilton came back and we’ll see what he can add, but the question is to add someone like the same list of names from O.J. Mayo and Courtney Lee and Marcus Thornton and the rest likely will cost you a fair part of your bench, like Gibson or Asik. Is it worth it?
So Danny Ainge told the Boston Globe he is willing to trade any of the Big 3 if they get young pieces in return, because he didn't want to be stuck in the same situation Red Auerbach was in when he held on to Bird and McHale too long. Now for the crazy trade idea, you think Brewer and the Bulls 1st round pick would get us Ray Allen? Him and Rip splitting SG minutes along with relief for Deng at SF would be nice.
Sam: That doesn’t match salary for one thing, so you couldn’t do that. Allen makes $10 million, so it would have to be something like Brewer and Korver or Watson assuming you want to keep Gibson and Asik. My guess is they’d take Asik. Also, I hear a lot of GMs talking about what a good pick Mirotic was and my guess is if you offered something like, say, Brewer and Lucas and Scalabrine to get the money up and then threw in a potential star like Mirotic the Celtics might bite if they do decide to make deals, which, I should point out, they have not yet at all. Ainge’s comments were if they ever get to the point they give up on this season, which isn’t close yet. I believe they should, but they don’t consult me much. So the question is to rent a guy like Allen for a half season and maybe make a run for a title — and that’s no small goal, but hardly certain — do you give up a draft pick you won’t have for two years or so, but who could be Dirk Nowitzki?
Forget all this stuff about Howard, and Noah's struggles, and Boozer's existence. All of those problems are basically pointless. You've alluded to this (or flat-out said it) a few times, the Bulls have one problem. They need to beat the Heat. The best player that (isn't impossible to obtain) can help them is, Kirk Hinrich. Seriously, Hinrich is probably the best defender of Wade in all of basketball. I don’t know if it is possible this year. What kind of package would it take to acquire him?
Sam: I mentioned a few scenarios before the season started about getting Hinrich given he was going to be out so long and the Hawks might want some short term help given they need to have success to sell some tickets. But now without Horford it’s hard to imagine they can go anywhere even if they’ve played great without him. Suddenly and surprisingly, Josh Smith is a rival to Luol Deng for getting on the All-Star team. Kirk’s wanted to play for the Bulls, but with the acquisition of Hamilton for two years my guess is that’s cooled as he wouldn’t start, and I think he’ll get more money from someone else. Maybe he’ll come back when they retire his jersey.
With Al Horford out for the regular season, does this present the Bulls with an opportunity to aquire him? Something like Boozer/Asik for Horford/Pachulia would help the Hawks make the playoffs, save them a $2 million and allow them to move Josh Smith to SF. It would weaken the Bulls for the regular season, but would be a big improvement long-term.
Sam: I guess you’ve decided the Bulls can’t beat Miami.
What's your thoughts on John Wall and Kyrie Irving? Who's the best? I know most people would say John Wall. Basically everyone said that this draft 2011 was awful and no one quite like a superstar. And everyone said that John Wall would be a star of Rose's caliber... but I'm seeing games and I'm seeing Cleveland win and Washigton lose, with John Wall having the second season and Irving the first...
Sam: Irving, and to me by quite a bit. Yes, Wall had a huge introduction and I even had GMs telling me when he was in college he was better than Rose. But as I wrote when the Bulls played the Wizards I don’t even know if Wall is a basketball player. Yes, he’s fast and he gets assists, but I can get some as well if I could dribble it past half court and then Nick Young got lucky on one of his crazy shot attempts. Irving is going to be a star the way he handles the ball and can finish.
How excited could the Clippers Coach/GM be about having both Griffin and Howard if they pull of a trade? In regards to points and rebounds, I'd have to assume there would be a lot of statistical cannibalism.
Sam: Never quite heard it put that way. This isn’t a Dahmer reference, hopefully. Anyway, pretty much everyone said it was just media speculation. Plus, who would you rather watch play, Griffin or Howard? No question that Howard is a better player, but for the Clippers in L.A. it is Griffin and I know the Clippers organization well and I know they’d never trade Griffin for Howard. And there isn’t another player on the roster the Magic would even take in trade without Griffin. Yes, Howard can go there after the season, but maybe for an exception level deal as they won’t have huge free agent money. It’s just internet talk and nothing more.
I don’t really understand all of the criticism of Boozer’s offense this season and last. Well, yes, I do. Some people don’t understand basketball. Boozer’s willingness to play within the system — which is essential to the Bulls’ system — gets overlooked. He is shooting 52.5%, which is about where it should be for a power forward. But, in the Bulls’ system, he has more value than a number of other 4s that post better numbers. Most power forwards play a post-up game, which leads to high percentage shots but clogs the lane and inhibits the ability of others to score by penetrating and cutting to the hoop. Rose, Brewer, Deng are this sort of player. Boozer’s ability not only to step away from the hoop, but to draw his defender away from the hoop, opens up the lane for the slashers to score. His above-average-for-a-4 passing ability also helps the slashers. As far as I’m concerned, Boozer fits the Bulls offense almost perfectly. And finally, my question: There are definitely better power forwards, but which power forward(s) would the Bulls be better off with than Boozer for a championship run this year (if salary is no object and assuming that the rest of the roster remains the same)? Dirk? Bosh? Love?
Sam: Yes, I wrote the other day about how expectations for Boozer are perhaps out of line. I feel he’s done pretty much what you could expect of him. Was he the Bulls first choice? No. They surely wanted Bosh and anyone would love to have Dirk and Love is about to be locked up to a contract to extend his rookie deal. The point is you couldn’t get guys who were so much better. He was best available, and the Bulls in free agency said they’d sign the best available big man. It was he. Heck, the year before it was Charlie Villanueva.
First off let me say that I love Noah as a Bull, but with that being said if you were GM of the Bulls would you consider trying to trade for Lopez? The Nets have said that its unlikely they will offer him an extension, I know he is hurt now but when health he can provide the Bulls with a true low post threat and need I say he's 7ft. I say give them Noah and the charlotte pick for Lopez in a sign and trade.
Sam: I think the Nets would do it, which would be the bad sign. Lopez isn’t exactly a low post center, and he may be the worst rebounding big man I’ve seen this side of Erwin Mueller.
There's been a lot of talk about compatability lately with the Knicks' underwhelming start, the Noah/Boozer saga, and talks of where Howard should go. Stoudemire and Anthony like to play at different tempos, LeBron and Wade continue to go through the awkward "who gets the last shot?" thing. We're finding out if Griffin and Paul makes for a contender. What player in the league do you think would be the best complement to Rose considering how their games might mesh? And might Deng actually be on the shortlist because of his defense and because he's about as good as second options get without thinking they are first options?
Sam: I’m sure Deng appreciates the support, but you are talking about dual elite all-pro talents. There is some debate over Howard given some feel Howard’s presence in the middle, even though he’s a good pick and roll player and Rose could lob to him all game, would inhibit Rose’s game. On some level I’ve long thought that Joe Johnson was an ideal fit given he could occupy the defense, make plays allowing Rose to play off the ball and defend big guards. And in free agency in 2010 there was the sweet thought of Wade, but if he does win the title this season he will have made the right decision.
I was thinking about that Charlotte first round pick we have... I'm intrigued. I love entertaining the thought that the Bulls could get another Derrick Rose level talent in 2016. Yeah, it would take some luck for the pieces to fall, but I'd say chances couldn't be much worse than 1.7%. The current Bulls team has been built beautifully; no personnel changes needed for some time. In my opinion, the Bulls are stacked from PG to the front office. I hope Gar and Pax are of the same mind. What do you think?
Sam: I think they are more conservative about the pick than I am, but not inflexible. I believe they think a bit more like you than I do, that the Bobcats have issues and unless they got really lucky in one of the next few lotteries they are going to be stuck in the lottery through 2015 and then the Bulls get what likely is a lottery pick. I’m of a mind with Mirotic, who would be a lottery pick by the time he is ready to come to the NBA in a few years, the Bulls are positioned to add a top young player. If I could use the pick with one of my bench players to add another scorer this season I’d do it.
When does Thibodeau's contract run out? And do you think he will extend it? And dose Gar and Pax want to keep him?
Sam: He has this season and a team option for next season. The Bulls certainly want to keep him and he seems to want to stay given the city and the team’s talent. I saw a story saying the Bulls didn’t want to pick up his option, which I don’t believe is true. I expect him to have a long career with the Bulls.
I see many similarities in the coaching styles of Tom Thibodeau and Scott Skiles. They have alliterative names, they both preach defense, but more importantly they are both incredibly passionate coaches who have a flare for vulgar language, and they certainly wear their emotions on their sleeves. They aren't afraid to give star players a piece of their mind, and at least with Skiles, this may have rubbed certain Bulls players the wrong way. Players like Tyson Chandler, Ben Wallace, Tyrus Thomas, can be considered passionate extroverts who sometimes clashed with coaches/players and never quite played to their potential while in Chicago. Is there a connection to the the intimidating coaching style of Skiles and the eventual dismissal of these players? Was Skiles fired because certain players no longer bought into his rough coaching philosophy? Could this same scenario play out with coach Thibodeaux and some of his players?
Sam: I don’t see it, and bringing up those names suggests why. I don’t see any players like that on the Bulls roster. Chandler was a good guy, but very immature. Thomas was uncoachable as we see now in Charlotte assuming you are watching and Ben Wallace was effectively done and just cashing his check. This is a much better and more talented group to coach. Technically, Skiles was fired, but he’d pretty much run out of patience and passion for that team and the team felt it had little choice at the time but to let him go. I guess we’ll see if the Bulls don’t have success, but it’s difficult to picture that with Rose. Someone once asked me who’d be the first All-Star from that Bulls team. Yes, we’re still waiting.
Imagine you could spend a night out with five NBA players. Maybe a nice conversational dinner first, than to a pub and afterwards hit a club. Who would it be that you decide to accompany you?
Sam: I’m fairly sure I couldn’t get anyone but John Lucas to accompany me. But if I could, I’d go with a group like Ray Allen, Grant Hill, Steve Nash, Elton Brand, Kobe Bryant, Chris Bosh, Kevin Love, Chauncey Billups, Shane Battier, Antawn Jamison and Manu Ginobili. They’re all among the most decent and personable people in the NBA and a nice mixture of varied interests.
I am so sick of reading and hearing all the trade proposals from Bulls fans and analysts. I understand that the inconsistent play and inefficiencies of Noah and Boozer may cause some concern. I am broken hearted hearing fans that claim to be Bulls fans screaming for trades for Howard and other meaningless cogs that have no championship rings to their name. My message to Bulls fans is to have some faith in your team. Only time will tell if we actually have any needs. Right now the Bulls have the best record in the NBA and in my opinion this roster has not even played to its full potential. As a fan, what more could you possibly want right now? Right now the Bulls are the hottest girl at the party. Do you think the hottest girl at a party worries about who she is going to date? No, she sits back and takes her pick. The Bulls have now earned the privilege to be able to sit back and take their pick. As of now, they are the best, so any acceptable addition to this team will doing anything they can be a part of this team come the trade deadline.
Sam: So that’s why they never chose me.
I know how Coach Thibs feels about rookies, but I don't understand why he is being so stern to keep Jimmy Butler on a leash? I know that we would be taking minutes from Brewer and Korver but these guys have been inconsistent and it seems we need a spark at that position... I am not saying he is the answer but I would like to see what he can contribute.
Sam: I wrote last season he didn’t like rookies and he gave me a primer on his career playing and supporting rookies including some freshman at Salem State, I think. Anyway, he is a devoted believer in the sanctity of the rotation, so it isn’t anything personal with Butler. I suspect like last season with Asik playing later he’ll be using Butler more after a few more weeks. Though, frankly, I’m not sure what Butler can contribute now more than they are getting from Brewer, Korver and Watson. The issue will be if Thibs wants to take time and rest Deng some, but as we know he doesn’t feel comfortable with Deng off the floor. And Deng is now a respected veteran. Once Butler gets on the floor defending top players he’s getting a lot of fouls. The refs are just waiting.
Greg Oden is a FA this summer. Why don't we forget about all of this D12 stuff and try to create the second coming of the three headed monster in (Noah, Asik, Oden). I know he's been hurt but it would be worth the risk due to the fact that he has so much upside. On the downside if it takes him some time to recover, we can afford it due to the fact that we have insurance in Noah & Asik.
Sam: The poor guy. Imagine how shell shocked he’s going to be if he never gets to play again. And then put him in a major market with a team expected to play for a title? He’ll need to be in assisted living in a week.
CJ Watson must have really worked on his game this offseason, he has looked like a different player to me. What a value to have him as a back up to a superstar.
Sam: He is. I’ve heard he now is Gus Williams, who, by the way, was one of the more underrated players. CJ’s left his timidity from last season behind. He can score and if Rose is going to do any of that posting we heard so much about in the offseason perhaps he plays more with Watson in the future.
Steve Nash. Do the Heat have assets to acquire him? It seems the Lakers or Knicks are a more likely fit. Any scenarios you see playing out? Which players would the Knicks or Heat give up for Nash? I wonder if the Lakers can find a way to get Nash on their team, and then pursue Dwight Howard.
Sam: Nash was in New York after they lost to the Bulls earlier this week and the New York writers pretty much had him there for next season, which would be the fourth straight season they’ve had him there as he spends the summers in New York. Nash is an interesting guy, a guy with a conscience, social and political. The way he plays ground based he can play a few more years, and, yes, there are several very good teams where he’d be ideal. I’ve said before I’d move him if I were the Suns and could get something as they obviously have to rebuild. But if they can’t, then you keep him, and he’s made it clear he’s not one to hold a team up and embarrass them into pushing his way out like Anthony and Howard. Some say he wants to stay in Phoenix because his kids are there with his former wife. Many say he’ll take an exception from a top team next season and go after showing he gave the Suns a fair run. Maybe if the Suns can attract one free agent of consequence he’ll stay. But he has shown he still can certainly help a good team.
In the not so distant future could you see a scenario were the Bulls trade Noah to clear cap room to keep Taj and Asik?
Sam: That’s why this is a big season. Not that the Bulls expect to win. But I believe they believe they have a chance. And if they don’t or if they take a step back in the playoffs, it’s clear there is only one player who is untouchable on the roster. That’s right, John Lucas. I mean Rose.
Asik will be an Early Bird FA, so any contract offer that he receives in the offseason will have to be pretty tame compared to what Deandre Jordan, Gasol, Nene and Chandler received as they all had full bird rights I believe. Any team that makes an offer to Asik will be limited to basically $5 million for years 1 and 2 (mid-level), then years 3 and 4 the salary can skyrocket. I bet he ends up getting roughly 4 years, $32 million (5/5/11/11), as I doubt any team offers him 15 or 16 million in years 3 and 4. That is a contract the Bulls really can match, especially since by the time the larger $$ kicks in Rip's salary will be gone, Luol's contract will be up, and Boozer will be in the final year of his deal. I am not suggesting that Asik will take less to stay with the Bulls, but it does seem he likes it here. I would think for a guy with a relatively shy personality and limited English at this point, that he would find value in staying here where he is comfortable and on a great team. Especially if he continues to get 20-25 minutes a night in a nice time share with Noah.
Sam: The issue with the Bulls, obviously, will be those later years when the luxury tax becomes more penal and how much Asik improves. And don’t dismiss Asik and his personality. He’s not so shy and with the European guys they usually are so much more sophisticated. He speaks several languages and comes from a strong background. The biggest issue I see is he will want to start and I don’t see him happy with a backup role. Teams will be offering him a starting job if he improves, and it’s tough to promise that.
Do you believe Omer can ever develop more than just a passable offensive game? He consistently gets phenomenal position down low (again, he uses his size very well) but always seems in a rush, and more often than not resorts to simply trying to out-physical the defender, strategies which frequently result in a turnover. However, these are not the things which concern me, Omer will continue to improve as he feels more comfortable and the coaches work with him. What is a concern I feel are his relatively poor hands. How many times have we seen him gain perfect put-back positioning on the offensive glass, only to blow the tip back? And he seems to bobble tricky passes a lot... So, can he become a consistent low post scorer? Or will he continue to get his scoring mainly off positioning and hustle? Or will it be combination of the two?
Sam: The coaches insist to me his hands are fine, though with Noah’s start there is an issue on the team with putbacks. Not sure what that is. Or to follow the lead of Gibson, dunk it! Asik hasn’t gotten many offensive opportunties, but you can see at this point he has no confidence and rather would give up the ball. Occasionally, you’ll see him make a move, so something is there. He was hurt some this summer with the Turkish team, so he didn’t have much chance again to work on offense. And there’s not much practice this season for the Bulls. The other issue with him has been a history of injuries. Not major or crippling, but regular. He needs to show he can be healthy for a long stretch, though I do find remarkable the beating he takes on the court and how well he bounces back the next possession. He is a tougher than he looks.
I am very glad John Paxson and Gar Forman don't run the Bulls based on internet comments. I have never seen so many trade ideas for the core of a (first place) team. Did you get this many for the Jordan Bulls back when people used ink and stamps?
Sam: Mostly back then from Jordan, who generally wanted everyone on the team traded for the North Carolina 50th anniversary team.
I hear Rasheed Wallace is planning a come back and I hear the Bulls have some interest. What's your take?
Sam: I know my lawn is frozen. Anyone seen whether there is ice in hell?
Which Bulls will be free agents in 2012 and 2013?
Sam: Lucas and Scalabrine, obviously, are on short contracts. Brewer, Watson and Korver are on team options for next season.
Tyrus Thomas tweeted this the other day and un followed everybody: “My peers rarely have negative things to say about me... Its mainly those who don't know me.” Mean anythng?
Sam: The man is still keepin’ him down, it seems.