Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 02.03.12
Sam Smith opens his mailbag to respond to the latest round of e-mails from his readers
Based on today's rumors that Dwight Howard would be willing to come and play along side Derrick Rose and the rest of the Bulls, how aggressively should the Bulls pursue him?
Dwight Howard made it official that he's fine with coming to Chicago, let us rejoice! What would be the most realistic trade scenario to make this happen? Any chance we can keep Deng? Any chance we can get rid of Boozer and keep Taj?
After watching the Bulls lose to the Heat after a tremendous effort I think we need more. They got the game close but still I liked the way the Heat played as though they clearly were the more talented team. It reminded me of the glory days in Chicago. Is there anything wrong with wanting the prettiest girl at the party? Is management going to make a play for Howard? I appreciate Noah's energy and effort but I believe Howard can make us better. Right now we are more versatile but we have to bring our A game to beat the Heat.
Most people discuss how to get Dwight Howard to the Bulls. My question is more one of real vs. perceived cost and value. If the Magic aren't enthused about a deal with the Lakers due to the massive salary/length of Pau Gasol and the fact he's clearly peaked, and they're wary of Bynum's injury history, why would the Bulls willingly gut their roster? I disagree that the Bulls would have to give up Noah, Deng, a pick and another player. The Magic have to send Dwight to a city he wants to go to, or they'll get nothing as he walks over to the Mavericks, who will able to sign two max players. Offer the Magic a "value" deal - they get one Bulls big, one Bulls pick (Charlotte of course), and we offer to take Turkoglu or Richardson's salary in exchange for the expiring (after next year) Korver salary, etc. This gives the Magic a popular local asset (Noah), cap space to sign free agents (which is important because very few teams will have it) and a potential lottery pick. I'd be wary of gutting the Bulls for a guy who doesn't want to win as much as [Derrick] does, at least, not yet.
I've seen some very self-centered, egotistical players in my time, but Dwight Howard has to be the all-time fool now. Calling out his teammates through the media after the Hornets debacle for not caring while also using the media to list his desired destinations that doesn't include his current team. Why would they care if their supposed leader obviously doesn't? If there's any justice in this world, Orlando won't cave to his trade demands and he'll have to resign with them at the end of the season since no other credible team will have cap space.
Sam: I’ve printed above a sampling of the dozens of emails I received about trading for (or not) Dwight Howard after comments he made saying, “If I could play with Derrick right now and God wanted that to happen, it will happen."
I personally think Howard was joking when he said that given recent speculation that he doesn’t want to play with Rose because they endorse the same sneakers. The reporter from the Chicago Tribune who asked Howard wasn’t a basketball writer, so Howard probably didn’t know him. I’ve seen Howard in such situations and he’ll make up stuff, though as I wasn’t there I have no idea the context. Though in invoking God to determine his fate also suggests Howard has no destination he plans to go, which belies his agent asking the Magic if they can talk with Dallas, the Lakers and Nets. Which is why I didn’t take seriously any change in Howard’s views toward Chicago. Everything I hear is he still has no interest in playing for the Bulls, and to me that only changes when he says he wants to resign with the Bulls. I haven’t heard that yet.
But should the Bulls try to trade for Howard? I have mixed feelings on this. I’ve also gotten a number of emails wondering why I don’t propose many trades anymore, that being one of my hobbies. I do still, though not many with the Bulls. Just like I didn’t do many when the Bulls were winning six championships. This Bulls team has been in first much of this season and the end of last, so it’s not like they need a lot of pieces. They are hardly perfect, I agree, and flawed in their own right, much like all their top competitors. But I feel on some level they deserve the chance to try to win. They may not have quite the overall talent to match Miami, but they can beat Miami and anyone in the West. I feel they deserve the chance to try.
Which would negate any trade for Howard. Still, for the long term, I do think adding Howard could be the right move. It’s basically unprecedented to break up a first place team during the season, so I doubt the Bulls would do it under any circumstances, anyway. Dealing for Howard likely would require including Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, at least, as most believe before it’s done the Lakers could be offering both Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, two All-Stars. And many believe Orlando would like to have Howard out of the conference. As for the Nets, supposedly Howard’s preferred destination, they could include at least a lottery pick from this season, which would be valuable along with Brook Lopez and promising rookie Marshon Brooks.
If the Bulls were to make a move for Howard this season, it might be difficult to be even as good this season to work in Howard while losing so much depth. The other side of that is for the long run with having the league’s best point guard and center that’s the best way to go forward. And even salary wise it might be better as there’s a question how much of the depth the Bulls can hang onto in the future as the model of this labor agreement is a few top stars and minimum players to fill out rosters.
But the danger in getting seriously involved is you put your players out there and it’s no coincidence that players like Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Luis Scola are having poor seasons after being put out in trades and then being recalled. You’ll recall when this went around once with the Bulls with all the Kobe Bryant talk, the veteran Bulls then reacted badly and the team took a tumble. So trying to trade players and then be rejected by the Magic could ruin the very fine chemistry the Bulls have. And it’s not like center is the biggest need as the Bulls appear most to need some additional perimeter scoring, more a tweak than a wholesale change.
And if you do have Howard and not much else besides Carlos Boozer, can you even leave Howard in games late the way he misses free throws? So is Derrick Rose going to be so open with the defense just fouling Howard? The other side, though, of that being with Howard you have an all-league threat on the inside, especially against Miami which has no real center and little defense against that kind of inside power.
I wouldn’t be opposed to taking a shot at Howard, but I think it’s really a moot point as he doesn’t seem to want to come to the Bulls and it’s a big risk to get actively involved in pursuing him and then find yourself rebuffed with a potentially resentful roster. Yes, if the Bulls were to take a step back in these playoffs, things could change. But every indication I get, and I’m fine with that, is the Bulls intend to see how far this group can go and what it can do and give it a chance given how well it’s played together.
I’m not one that wants to trade the whole team for Dwight, but there is one move I would highly consider. Is there any chance that the Celtics would trade Ray Allen to a contender in the East? I figure if we were able to give up Asik and Brewer, or Brewer and the Bobcats pick that they would jump at that offer.
Kevin J. Loughlin
Sam: If Thibodeau continues not to use Asik much that might be a way to go. I know the Bulls are among those who have tried to get Allen for two years without any success. And you can understand why the way he still shoots the ball. But the way they’ve been coming back lately, it doesn’t seem like they are anxious to make a move like that unless they get a big time player for their future, and it would be difficult to consider Asik that at this point. Plus, if Boston sees their old coach Thibodeau not using Asik much they are going to figure there’s some problem.
Will Joel Pryzbilla help the Bulls or just be another person dressed in street clothes on the end of the bench?
Sam: I think he’d be a good pickup, though I’m not sure of the urgency since Asik isn’t playing that much. Especially with Hamilton so uncertain at this point, the biggest need seems to be scoring. But you just don’t find guys to replace scorers of that level. Remember, the Bulls played 82 games last season with a starting shooting guard who didn’t score. And, no, it’s not worth it to me to try to bring in a wacko like J.R. Smith, who even George Karl couldn’t stand anymore and sent packing.
I watched the Jordan flu game on Bulls Classics last night. How did that team win a title? Rodman went two Finals games without scoring? Pippen was 6/15 at one point? Guess it shows what a great defense and a will to win can do. It was kind of interesting to hear the announcers' comments on the team and see how close they match up with the current roster; how Jordan (now Rose) was relied on to do so much for this team, how the defense was so good it could just shut you down, how the other teammates needed to step up in the fourth quarter, and how their struggles came when they got away from running the team offense and tried to do too much one-on-one. In a way, it almost made me more optimistic about this year's team's chances of winning it all. I see a lot of Jordan's determination in Rose, and the roster from 3 on down is comparable — if not slightly better — than that team's.
Sam: Well, we’re not comparing Rose to Jordan yet and a Jordan who was working on a fifth championship. Plus, there is no one of Pippen’s level on this Bulls team, especially regarding defense and being that ballhandler who could relieve Jordan of so much. I think what was much unappreciated was that Jordan could play off the ball so much and have it delivered by someone else, and that’s something the Bulls tried to address in the offseason and really could not. So Rose has to do more in the vein of teams Jordan played on before the Bulls were winning championships.
Considering the profound impact that Phil had on Michael's development as a player, how much of a difference do you think he would have made coaching [LeBron] James? Obviously, the talent and IQ are tremendous, but something just seems to be missing. Do you think a great coach like Phil, Popovich, or perhaps even Thibs, can instill those intangible qualities that turn a star into a championship cornerstone?
Sam: Yes, coaching does make a difference, and you can see it with a team like the 76ers, whom the Bulls lost to Wednesday. That’s not a very different roster that was winning half as many games before Doug Collins came. Andre Iguodala was being booed and trade material and now is getting standing ovations for unselfish play, much like the difference with Luol Deng between Vinny Del Negro and Thibodeau. James is great, as you note, and he’s likely this season’s MVP. But he’s really never been coached from his small high school to Mike Brown and now Erik Spoelstra, both more hands off. And he still can play like he does. If he ever got with a coach who was demanding and help him accountable, it might be something really special to see.
I don't really understand how the MVP voting is done. [LeBron] James is playing great basketball, but he can never be an MVP in my book when there's a question if he is even the best player on this Heat team. There was a poll recently done among Heat fans that says they [would] rather have Wade take the last shot in the clutch over [LeBron], and I don't blame them, especially since [LeBron's] performance in the 4th [quarter] is statistically worse than any other top player. All these experts have [LeBron] leading for the MVP ahead of Kobe, Durant, and Howard? How is this possible when he is sharing the load with two other All-Stars and a much deeper team compared to last year?
Sam: So I have to explain my vote here as well. It’s not any scientific poll. It’s generally regarded as the best talent having the best season for the best team and you figure who has two of three. There’s this last shot debate with LeBron all the time, but ask any GM or coach in the NBA and they’ll tell you they’d take LeBron over Wade in a second. Rose may do more for his team than any player since he plays without an All-Star. But his numbers are down this season and James is playing at a very high level. As we approach mid season, he’s the consensus leader with probably Durant second and Rose third. The other major factor is team record, so if the Bulls do end up with the best record, Rose could have a shot to repeat, especially given all the injuries.
What kind of player do you think Rose will be in 5+ years, when he is no longer able to rely on his speed in order to dominate? Do you think he'll be able to reinvent himself, like the greats figure out how to do once they get old? Be able to become a more savvy distributor and pick his spots?
Sam: Let’s enjoy him now, eh? I know some wonder about Rose long term given his reliance on speed and jumping and the way he gets knocked down. But he’s such a competitor and has a great knowledge of the game. I think he’ll adjust with time as you see guys like Dwyane Wade did and he has played similarly to Rose. Consider that they say an NBA player doesn’t hit his prime until 28, which is five years away for Rose. Wow.
To say that Blake Griffin gets a lot of hype on ESPN would be an understatement. The highlight reel of his dunks on ESPN.com, prompted by his posterization of Kendrick Perkins Monday night, is but the latest example. Personally, I'd like to see Blake make some post moves or shoot a free throw correctly or make a difference on defense. If you had your pick of today's young power forwards, would you go with A) LaMarcus Aldridge, B) Kevin Love, or C) Blake Griffin. I would go against what I expect is the popular sentiment and take Aldridge, the only two-way player of the three I've named.
Sam: Yes, ESPN can be annoying the way it adopts the worst elements of the game to sell. But everyone seem to be buying. I’d have to go with Griffin for that remarkable raw power. Yes, he whines an awful lot and flops around too much. He’s not as fundamentally sound as Aldridge, who was supposed to be too soft to play in the NBA, sort of a taller Channing Frye. But Griffin can really be great and it’s not a take-a-chance great like with Tyrus Thomas. As I’ve said Griffin’s one of my top five to start a franchise today with including LeBron, Rose, Howard and Durant.
I'm afraid the Bulls are the Spurs of this generation, too nice and too soft to win a championship. I did not like at all the way the Heat pushed the team around on Sunday and our boys did nothing to fight back. What happened to the Noah that was The Great Agitator and would make other teams furious?
Sam: I thought the Spurs won four. I’d take being them for a decade.
The Bulls will be fine, you're facing the number one defensive team in the league without two of your best scorers, of course you're [going to] lose. Everyone chalks things up to effort, but we all know scoring and athleticism are the Bulls weaknesses, and that's going to be magnified with Deng and Hamilton out. The only things that are going to stop the Bulls from getting to the finals are injuries and the Heat. Let the Pacers and 76ers have their regular season victories, they won't beat a healthy Bulls team in a 7 game series, not when we have D-Rose.
Sam: I assume this is for those leaning over the ledge.
There was some chatter about Eric Gordon. I like this move more than Howard. I know that Stern is a hard-line negotiator, but does it make sense to make a run at Gordon? I hate to lose the Charlotte pick and Mirotic, but in this case, I would go all-in with those picks plus multiple #1 picks (2012 and 2014) and Asik to get Gordon. We may have to lose Brewer or Korver, too, and take back a not-so-great contract from NO along with Gordon. Sounds like Gordon is not happy in NO, and this would give the franchise a lot of hope and flexibility down the road. Gordon is cheap for this season and next season. We would have an unbelievable two year window with Rip as our 6th man. Rose knows him well from Team USA and AAU ball. They seem like a great guard match.
Sam: A lot of teams have their eyes on Gordon, including his hometown Pacers with cap room. Yes, New Orleans risks his disinterest, though at this point he needs to prove he is healthy. Though given the way the league redid that deal I don’t see them giving up and not matching on Gordon. He’d have to play it out another year, and I don’t see him doing that, either. As for Mirotic, the Bulls are very high on him and I believe he is off limits in all deals for now.
Is it possible voters will overlook Noah's weak first few weeks and give him a nod for an All-Star spot? He's been playing incredibly the last few weeks.
Sam: He had a big bump in Philadelphia and he’s probably long off the coaches’ All-Star radar. The way that works often is the way players are perceived. Coaches don’t watch much other than the teams they are playing next and the occasional big game if they are not playing. The general view was Noah was not having a good season, so that’s probably what’s stuck and with the reserves being picked soon it’s likely to late.
Who could the Bulls target if they strike out on Dwight Howard? How about Gerald Wallace? Good defender, perimeter scorer who can create on his own, good size. When Miami goes small, the Bulls can use Hamilton, Wallace, Deng & Noah as 4 guys who can really play a quick style of defense and then run the floor for lay-ups and dunks. Korver, Brewer, Asik can be slow and un-athletic.
Sam: These are all good players to add, though since he’s probably their second best player that means you have to give them Noah or Deng. It’s much tougher to make deals than to discuss them.
Since Wade was around the Ball with Gibson in the Miami game, why did [LeBron] jump for the ball? Did anyone else notice he hit the ball before it was at it's highest point? Also I am so sick of everyone blaming Rose for that loss. Just because he is the MVP everyone in Chicago that is a fair weather fan seems to blame him a lot. I can't stress it enough that it's a team effort.
Sam: No one is really blaming Derrick. Derrick just takes blame for his own disappointment. The kid really is just about winning the game as much as anyone I’ve ever seen. The officials said the teams could choose anyone on the court because of an inadvertent whistle. Yes, LeBron stole the jump, but he was the aggressor. You have to do that yourself. Everyone always said Michael did that.
[I] was pondering potential moves for Carlos Boozer. I was thinking we swap Boozer for Tyrus Thomas, DeSagana Diop, and a future 2nd round pick. After the trade I would immediately amnesty Diop. I would really like to see what a real coach would do with Tyrus now that he has had the opportunity has matured.
Sam: Tyrus had a real coach in Scott Skiles, who said Tyrus never ran the court once. Now he runs less, if possible. It’s shocking these days to watch Tyrus even less engaged than before. If you had Tyrus, you’d be writing me asking if you could get someone like Boozer. As for amnesty, you cannot amnesty a player you receive in trade. But trading for Tyrus is the wackiest move of the week. Congratulations.
So what do you think, did the Lakers hire a coach they knew everyone would want them to fire so they could wait long enough for the Knicks to axe D'Antoni and thus be able to hire Kobe's childhood favorite and properly reinstate Showtime in LA?
Sam: I like the thinking, and Jim Buss did that before with Rudy Tomjanovich. That’s it, Phil a third time? If Mike went to L.A. he’d still be looking for a point guard like in New York. With the talent they have, there’s only OldMan Time.
I hate to dwell on the past, but being dissapointed with Boozer's inability to show up in big games, I'm constantly forced to go back to the "summer of [LeBron]" and question did we make the right move. Now I can see what the thought process was in signing Boozer, it's not as if he didn't put up numbers in his career, but once we struck out on wade, james, and bosh, (lower cases intentionally used), I thought an excellent plan B would have been to sign David Lee and Wesley Matthews. Lee and Boozer both have similiar games, but I think Lee play with a bit more nastiness to him, and Matthews would have filled our need for a defensive minded 2 guard who could score, perfectly. Do you know why they weren't heavily considered.
Sam: Well, you can take any sort of second looks. But the general consensus then in the NBA was Boozer was a far better player, and, in fact, there’s much talk in Golden State of maybe amnesty for Lee given his defense is so poor and he’s more a stat stuffer in games against weak competition. Plus, Matthews hasn’t exactly thrilled anyone shooting 41 percent this season. They went and added Jamal Crawford. The Bulls didn’t get the top guys, so they went down to the next guy on just about everyone’s list, and that was Boozer. I can’t say I heard many saying they should have signed Lee. I don’t see anyone who has done so well with the free agents who were left after LeBron, Wade and Bosh.
I’m sick of hearing people trash Boozer. I decided to do a little research to see how "horrible" he really is. As of today, Boozer is averaging 14.9 points on 51.6% shooting and 8.6 boards per game. On the surface it looks good, but not anything to write home about. Then consider this... only 7 players in the entire league have those numbers: Howard, Bynum, Griffin, Gortat, Lee, Millsap... and Boozer.
Sam: You aren’t the only one. I saw Kenny Smith on the TNT broadcast had Boozer as his second Bulls All-Star. Maybe he’ll get some MVP votes.
How good of a chance does the Bulls have of landing Kenyon Martin?
Sam: I suppose the Bulls are short on erratic, undersized fours to be third string behind Boozer and Gibson.