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Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 02.15.2013

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.

I am now depressed. Rose cannot dunk? I thought he was closer along based on the comments that the comeback was “ahead of schedule” and “going better than anticipated.” No Rose this season is tough and the Bulls will more than likely have nothing to show for it with a mid-round draft pick in maybe an average draft. I love this team, but in the playoffs, opponents will pack the lane and it could be ugly again. Not enough shooters. Can you please tell us something uplifting about the team’s future chances?

Bob Mestjian

Sam: Well, I’m doing a podcast now. Look, I love hope and we all need something to look forward to. But this Rose Return — yes, I know adidas promoted it with the commercials, but they are trying to move product — always has been badly overstated and somewhat erroneous as I’ve suggested here the last month or so. The doctors said eight to 12 months to get back on the basketball court; 12 to 18 to be back at a high level of play. Rose hits nine months, the minimum era, this week. He’s not close. It’s been not so much the Bulls selling hope, but trying to hold off an aggressive media and public with an insatiable desire to have what they want now. Any look at the players with this injury 10 to 13 months ago and still not playing regularly or at a high level shows the potential danger in moving too soon. No one asked me, but I’ve always been for a return when he could play 35 minutes, when Rose was ready to be Rose, not some part time model. Eric Maynor just took off his knee brace after 13 months. I’m thrilled Rose is taking the long view. He’s 23. I’ve never understood this rush to the court, though I don’t think it’s ever come from the organization. You won’t find a comment from Forman or Paxson suggesting he was ready to play or particularly close. And what could Thibodeau say but be optimistic with media asking him every day for, please, pretty please, something I can sell to my bosses, often three times a day. I’m amazed he’s kept his cool. Plus, we’ve seen from Jordan in 1986 to Noah in 2010 this minutes limit thing is a mess. Derrick’s in the first season of his five-year extension. And you want him at a point nobody believes he could be fully healthy into the desperation of the playoffs where even in regular season you hear players complaining about teams taking shots at their injuries? Derrick is the future of the franchise. The future isn’t just the 2013 playoffs. It’s not to say nothing can happen to him next season. Anyone can be hurt. No one is saying he won’t play this season, but I know I’d much rather see the healthiest Rose he can be the next time he plays. He can dunk. ESPN didn’t quite get that right. He said he can’t dunk yet driving and going up. He’s come amazingly far. It’s why you hear so much positive from teammates. But they are not doctors, and I wouldn’t even ask Julius Erving.

I'm crushed to hear that now Rose is saying he might not be back until next year. How come it's never taken any other elite athlete this long to come back from this type of injury? Look at [Adrian Peterson] on the Vikings, he busted his butt and was back in 9 months playing at an all-world level. I'm not saying Rose isn't busting his butt too, but why is he the exception? No other athlete has had to miss an entire season plus because of this injury. Why should Rose? It's time for him to strap on his shoes and get back on the court and earn some of the millions and millions and millions of dollars he has coming to him.

Billy Habibi

Sam: This would be the injustice the media frenzy has done to Rose, though I think this is more the minority opinion. Doc Rivers addressed this in Boston Wednesday night with two of his guys down with ACL injuries. Peterson was the rare exception and Rivers, who also had the serious knee injury, said it’s much tougher to return in basketball than football. Rose is right on schedule or ahead with everyone basically in basketball who ever has had this injury and surgery. I was talking Monday with Sean Elliott, the Spurs announcer who had the injury when he played. Rose walked by and stopped to say hello to Elliott, who basically begged Rose to go slowly, take his time, don’t rush. Rose now that he travels hears this all around the NBA. Not because teams don’t want to face him, but because the players care. When you make the NBA it is a big fraternity. No matter what might occur or be said, there’s this lifelong bond. The players love Rose for his demeanor and decency. They love him for the way he plays. They want to see that again. They know the importance of short term versus long term. I think this has had a lot to do with Rose beginning to understand and put in perspective who he is and where he is with this injury. He’s right on schedule and ahead of schedule and doing exactly what’s best for him, the Bulls and the NBA. Derrick Rose is a treasure.

At some point Derrick Rose will actually have to play. The latest rumor now says that he will not play before March 1st. My worry is that the Bulls are really trying to hold him out all season. If the doctors will not clear him, fine, but I really think he needs to play this season at some point if the Doctors clear him. Even if they hold him out of the playoffs, I still think it would be beneficial for him to play to get over the mental hurdle and get a feel for what he needs to do during the offseason. Better for him to play in strutured games where he can be monitored instead of pickup games over the summer.

Alvin Coleman

Sam: There is talk about that, but you just have to talk to Rose to know that’s not going to be an issue. He’s so confident and always has been an unusually strong person mentally. And I believe the mental part will be much easier to deal with playing at perfect health with the knee as he can be than in some minutes limit when everyone knows he’s not where he will get. If anything, I don’t know what these other teams like Minnesota are thinking letting Rubio play now.

With all this D-Rose debate, is there a set date that he must come back by in order for him to be eligible to play in the playoffs?

Megan Wong

Sam: Despite all the interviews this week, as Derrick said he doesn’t know if he’ll play or when he’ll play but could also play. That’s because no one knows yet, including doctors. Anyway, in his case he could go on the playoff roster just before they start given he’s been with team. But I’d assume if he doesn’t play all season it wouldn’t be wise to expose him to the playoffs and the additional intensity of play.

Just read that Rose said he was “far away” from returning to action. I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear that from Rose. I like that he wants to be 110 percent before he sees the court. This gives me hope that Rose will miss the rest of the season. Can you tell me what the benefit would be to have Rose return this season? Because I can’t see a benefit.

Jonpaul Gauthier

Sam: More pizza sales in the spring in some playoff games?

I was wondering if the Bulls will try to pull off a bigger trade after hearing what Rose had to say to show him they're trying to win a championship this year, like a trade for Zach Randolph. I know he's probably not on the trade block now that Rudy is gone but I have a hard time thinking if you offered Deng and that Charlotte pick they would at least think about it seeing that Ed Davis seems to be their future at PF and the Bulls could just put butler in at SF and amnesty Boozer.

Nick Menozi

Sam: It would be exactly why you wouldn’t want to make a major deal now. You want to make a major deal if it ever comes to that opportunity when Rose is back. Not while he is out. It’s not to say the Bulls are not trying and cannot win. Look, realistically, it’s hard to see anyone beating Miami this season as well as they are playing. Sure, LeBron or Wade could get hurt and things change. It was hard for anyone throughout almost all the 1990’s for anyone in the East to beat the Bulls, for anyone in the West to beat the Lakers. But they didn’t stop playing and didn’t panic and make major changes and give up if any one season went awry. The Celtics fell when Bird got hurt; the Lakers weren’t the same when Magic went out. Last season was the Bulls’ with Rose, that size and depth. It didn’t work out when Rose got hurt. Then the Bulls lost Asik and changed their bench. So there’s a transition period. They still have two All-Stars and a strong reserve group once Hinrich returns. But you don’t cash in your ability to enhance the team when Rose returns to make what seems like a futile run at Miami now. Yes, the Bulls still are good enough to get to the conference finals because no one in the East is good enough to be second. So, yes, you say anything can happen in one round and you take a shot. But the East is enough even they could be out in the first round. If this is about winning a championship with Rose, you can’t lose it before he gets another chance.

The Bulls have tons of cap space. They sign the best available free agent to a market-value contract. He performs up to his ability and is fairly healthy (compared to how many games he would miss in Utah). I would imagine that his stats may even compare favorably with the free agent thought to be way better than him (Bosh). He has not outwardly pouted when constantly getting removed during crunch time. All-in-all, a model citizen and a good teammate. Why is Carlos Boozer now seen as too expensive and possibly trade bait for a way lesser player? Granted, he has not been the second coming of Charles Barkley, but what is the moral of this story?

Frank Lux

Sam: Actually, Boozer’s public stock has climbed this season. But it’s also about the future. In the next year or two as the Bulls hope to build with Rose — remember, it took Jordan seven years to get there — how much effectiveness will Boozer lose. If the Bulls do trade him whether now or in the summer, it would mean they are more trying to create a better future roster than anything to blame on Boozer. As I’ve long written, given his role and opportunities and the players he’s always been he’s lived up to what should have been expected of him with the Bulls.

How good do you think Bulls drafting/scouting has been of late? To me it seems that they really don't try to develop. Late, undrafted or overseas players. You know trying to find that hidden gem, almost like the Spurs. Filling the last 2 or 3 spots with older players that hardly play. Instead of taking a chance on some young players and seeing what they have. Just feel like it's now or nothing cash in now and forget about tomorrow.

Steven Wheeler

Sam: Actually, it has been pretty good of late, perhaps too good. Yes, the Spurs are terrific and the best organization in sniffing out talent that fits their organization. They are the model. In some respects, the Bulls have been too good. They found Asik deep in the second round and lost him for finances. The Spurs have had another advantage few teams have had. Given the longevity their players have enjoyed with the titles and the unusual relationships built, their stars have taken below market deals, which is rare and unheard of basically everywhere else. The fans, actually, keep trying to get the Bulls to cash in all these draft picks for old veterans and big names, which the team appropriately ignores. There’s also a delicate balancing act in all organizations of a coaching staff hired to produce now with a fan base anxious for a party and management charged with enduring the long term success and health of the franchise. Jimmy Butler has come on well. I think Teague will be good once he accepts being yelled at every time he shoots and the Bulls have some nice potential in Mirotic, all their No. 1’s and Charlotte’s in 2016.

Well, those were two awful losses, San Antonio and Boston. I get it, the team is tired, injuries are pilling up but my point is that they are playing badly the last few games. Making wrong decisions most of the time. It's time to give some respect to Kirk Hinrich? I love Nate's energy like the next guy, but you can clearly see the difference when Captain Kirk is on the hardwood (and I'm not a fan of Hinrich's play). Offense is not just scoring and the last couple of games our offense is not being properly handled. Am I all that wrong?

Joao Costa

Sam: Not at all, though I think we mostly understand Nate’s flaws by now. Look, there’s a reason he didn’t even have a guaranteed minimum coming into this season. He’s been very good and even sticking out on this Bulls team because of so few great athletes. But though the Bulls still played hard and defended well in those recent games despite increasing fatigue, the ball on offense didn’t move as much, which hurts the Bulls more than most teams since they have so few individual players who create shots. Nate was brought in to be an energy backup. So you can’t blame him for not being something else you need but he isn’t, though he really has been trying. He’s been a good addition, but the Bulls miss Hinrich no matter what he’s shooting. You always notice more when your loved ones are gone.

Why did Rose give an interview to a national publication (USA Today) rather than to a local reporter? Did he not want to deliver a seemingly tough or disappointing message to someone he would see every day or would question him? Seems odd to me that Rose spoke to a national reporter. What is your take?

Jonathan Ledsky

Sam: Not the least bit odd, and little to do with Derrick and any message about that first interview with USA Today. He has a huge contract with Adidas and they needed him out front with the All-Star break coming and a lot of publicity. And shoe selling. Thus the story had comments from Adidas, which you wouldn’t see normally in such a story. But that’s not uncommon. Publications “pay” for a story in various ways. Also, the media has vastly changed. Local media have basically abandoned national and international coverage. The local Chicago publications and broadcast have sold themselves to customers as local operations. Adidas and Rose’s representatives sought a national outlet to transcend local markets. You don’t get the Chicago Tribune free in basically every hotel in America. Even people who aren’t NBA fans wear sneakers. Derrick ended up talking with local reporters the next day in Boston, which he didn’t have to do but showed just how classy a kid he is knowing some of the Chicago media was overlooked. I had no problem the way he went about it as mostly only media people count so called “scoops” anymore. I’ve mostly noticed with social media today hardly anyone remembers where they read anything and half the stories are in Twitter links to someone else’s blog.

What's your take on the recent New York Times article about Jay Williams? It was a very small excerpt about his time with the Bulls and their, antics? Can you say that he was telling the truth?

Atif Hassan

Sam: Sadly, Jay was lying. I’m amazed he would not only throw in that stuff, though it also was bad journalism. I can’t say about that charge about marijuana smoking before games. Yeah, it could have been one guy, though that’s why you saw several players like Tyson Chandler and Donyell Marshall react was that indicts everyone and it was a pretty good group of people. And there was drug testing at the time, so it’s specious, anyway. What was his proof? A scent? The amazing part, to me, was by riding that motorcycle when Jay had been repeatedly warned by everyone in the organization from broadcasters to players to management he voided his contract. Yet, the Bulls gave him $3 million as a going away present they didn’t have to do. Nice thank you, eh? And then he just lied through the interview he gave. He said — and apparently the writer never checked — none of his teammates visited him in the hospital. At least a half dozen tried repeatedly and were denied access by his very protective family. Many around the Bulls felt Williams riding that souped up motorcycle was a kid’s typically defiant act against hovering family. And then there was that part about being in intensive care so long in Chicago as if he sat there alone for weeks. He was out of Chicago in a day or two as his family whisked him out at night back to North Carolina. I felt badly for him as he obviously has found a great profession, which even former star players envy. And to hold out such bitterness toward teammates and a team that did so much for him a decade later was truly amazing. I’m fairly sure you’ve never read a word of criticism from the Bulls or those teammates regarding Jay’s actions, which not only hurt him but a team when you lose a No. 2 overall pick in the draft.

Much has been said about LeBron's latest run over the last five games. They say he's in the company of Moses Malone and the great Adrian Dantley. I didn't see Wilt score 50 in 10 of 11 games, but I recall MJ averaging 34, 11 and 11 in '89. Is LeBron's latest feats comparable?

Tony Reed

Sam: I went into it in some detail in my column Thursday night for Friday pre-All-Star. So take a look. LeBron is terrific. No one should deny that, and he’s basically a good guy and a credit to the NBA. It’s just opinion, but not only with the titles — six to one, college title game winning shot, NBA title game winning shot — there’s little comparison yet since so much is forgotten so quickly by media these days with ESPN basically having the attention span of a hummingbird. Jordan switched to point guard in an emergency in 1989 and had seven straight triple doubles, nine in 10 games before going back off the ball. LeBron still hasn’t caught Oscar Robertson as far as dominance and accomplishment.

Can you talk a bit about what it's like to do the daily media session with Thibs? What is Thibs's attitude during the media sessions? I know Pop can be impatient and abrasive, and Jackson condescending. Also, do you ever stop asking certain questions when you know what Thibs is going to say anyway? More than most, he seems very predictable in the responses to certain questions.

Alejandro Yegros

Sam: It’s a delight. Actually, he wears out the regular beat writers who have to attend every shootaround and practice, which I mercifully don’t. They have to ask the basic questions about injuries and lineups every day — if not Rose’s condition as well — and Thibodeau is more the NFL coach. Even if everyone knows someone is hurt, Thibs’ view is the game is about percentages. So if your opponent isn’t quite sure and maybe takes three possessions to adjust, you can steal a basket in the first minute and that could be enough to get you the win. He’s more Belichick than Popovich. He’s no Doc Rivers, but no one is. But unlike Belichick he has a personality. You can tell as the other coaches like him and joke with him. Popovich was yelling across the sideline the other night about his stamp collection, the little inside joke Thibs uses with outside media who go into his life in the film room thing. I knew Thibs well before he came to the Bulls when he was an assistant. Though singularly devoted to the game and his job, he’s funny, you can joke with him and he’s got that Eastern sarcasm to him. If you get into a technical basketball question or statistical comparison in the game, he’ll brighten up and love to parry with you on possibilities. But, really, if you are being asked three times a day about someone’s hamstring how interesting do you want to be?

Gortat in Chicago? He is a hard worker and likes playing defense so I'm sure he'd fit with the Bulls. But in all interviews for Polish media he repeated over and over again that he wants a lot of minutes on the court. So with Noah as the Bulls starter playing over 30 mpg I don't think Gortat would be happy with the Bulls.

Lukasz Zielinski

Sam: I agree. It’s just a name I mentioned because unlike many potential free agents he has talked openly about playing in Chicago given his roots and there’s been much talk about the need for more size with the loss of Asik. But not only does Gortat intend to be where he’ll start — and the Bulls have an All-Star center — but he’s widely regarded as so called black hole player who once he sees the ball doesn’t move it again, which hasn’t been the Bulls’ style of play.

What's it going to take to get J.J. Redick? The Magic don't have a young PG behind an aging Jameer, could they be interested in a Teague and Rip's expiring deal plus a pick for J.J.? If not, do we have a chance to sign him in the offseason? I just think he would be the perfect fit for our team. He's a younger, better Belinelli.

Andres Portilla

Sam: First of all, the Bulls don’t do rentals for draft picks or players they want to develop, like Teague. Redick’s name comes up from a lot with fans, I assume, because the Bulls gave him an offer sheet in 2010. But I’ve never been much of a fan and don’t much get the attraction. He hardly addresses the Bulls biggest offensive need of athletes and players who can create off the dribble and defend athletic wings. And Belinelli really is better and I think the Bulls would be much better off to resign him this summer.

I recently heard the estimable Bob Ryan say that Karl Malone was "easily the most overrated player in NBA history." The less estimable Bill Simmons agrees. Am I crazy or is there something bad now brewing in the Maine Lobster bisque? Utah won a ton of games and almost two NBA titles so if Malone is hugely overrated, doesn't that make John Stockton almost the best player in NBA history? I mean all those games were not won by Ostertag and Carr and Russell and even Hornacek.

Sheldon Hirsch

Sam: A curious observation, though I often tell Bob the same about Bill Russell. After all, if David Robinson wasn’t forced to become a scorer because the team didn’t have any he’d have been as good or better a defender because he had similar reflexes and was about five inches taller. Russell played with, what, a half dozen Hall of Famers taking care of the offense so Russell just had to stay back and block shots, a more athletic Dikembe Mutombo. Yes, it’s just to make Bob mad. Russell, of course, was a true great. But so was Malone, who deserves credit because he wasn’t that great an athlete and not so skilled, which is how he ended up being 13th in the draft. He made himself a great shooter and effectively defined the position in his era. That’s greatness. Coming in second to Michael Jordan is hardly an indictment.

What if OKC kept Harden and instead traded Westbrook for a defensive minded, cheaper PG? I could see those two harmonizing better. Speaking of the Thunder, I also struggle to understand how they can afford to keep Perk in his role. Even though their record kind of proves me wrong shouldn't they be able to find a more productive big and improve? Not exactly Ben Wallace in his prime. What does he bring to the table that doesn't show in the boxscore besides physical presence?

Rene Kaiser

Sam: They are a good organization, but the finances were an issue in that market. Without those considerations, the move was obviously to amnesty Perkins, who I still have no idea what he does, and pay Harden. But if you had to trade one, yes, I’ve heard some around the league to say how much better off they’d have been trading Westbrook for a package including, say, someone who plays more pure point guard, even like Andre Miller, and have Durant and Harden both great three point shooters who beat you off the dribble and get to the basket. And without all the Westbrook drama as he’s also less of a distributor than Harden. But they committed to those two and they could still win a title, so then they can’t be wrong.

So we know the Bulls will have max money in 2014. Makes sense for LeBron to go back to Cleveland. Bosh will probably end up in Dallas or Atlanta. I can't see Dwight going for less money and leaving the Lakers. I suspect he'll piss Kobe off enough, that the Bulls will be faced with the following dilemma: Kobe or Wade? Is this possible?

John Rallis

Sam: Despite the incredible number of ifs and whats and whos in all that I assume the Bulls pursue players who are less likely to demand AARP memberships in their contracts.

How is Johnny Bach doing these days and what is he up to? I always thought he was one of the more underrated cogs of the wheel during the 90s championship runs. Seemed liked one of the more colorful coaches you covered on the Bulls beat.

Rahul Chatterjee

Sam: John is one of the more remarkable men I’ve encountered, and, yes, a vital part of that great coaching staff. He’s in his late 80’s and as sharp and aware as any of the coaches and scouts on benches all over the league. The Bulls noticed and he’s now scouting for them.

Deng is cold! Trade him now! How many of those have you been getting? A real question though, and I know it has essentially zero meaning because it is still far away and is going to depend on a ton of factors that are yet to develop, but do you think the Bulls bring back Deng when his contract is up and what will he command on the market?

Patrick Murphy

Sam: That will be one of the huge questions facing the Bulls after next season when Deng, whom the league coaches love, could be a three-time All-Star. Yes, we know his limitations with creating his own offense. But he does those winning things for a team that are difficult to categorize and almost impossible to replace. I’d hope he and the Bulls could find a way to stay together. You are clearly someone who sees more than just where the ball bounces.

Have you considered the possibility that all of the current Bulls issues stem from Noah's plantar fasciitis? Not because it affects his ability to play... but because it affects his ability to practice. His inability to practice clearly impacts his ability to hold the ball, anticipate teammate cuts and anticipate where he is needed on the defensive end. I think if you watch, you will even see Noah's play improve during games as he gets his timing down, but by then the disruption to the team dynamic has rippled through both the defense and offense accounting for the tendencies you have highlighted well.

Doug Parr

Sam: I’m not sure that can be that big an issue since as the season goes on teams practice less and less. I know there’s debate once again about Noah playing, and always demands players sit and rest. Until the team loses and then everyone wants to know why they went out early in the fourth quarter. You have to ride with a player on an injury like that which many play through as Gibson did in a very good season a few years back. Though it does seem to be impacting his three-point shooting.

The question I have asked myself quite often the last couple of years is, "Self, what's wrong with Dwight Howard?" I mean not on the court but off it. He seems to do and say things that are almost calculated to make him look like an immature bonehead. Is it the whole AAU/never going to college/no one ever telling him "no" thing? That seems plausible, but isn't almost everyone in the NBA afflicted with those issues in one way or another? Almost everyone in the league was a star at some point in their lives and they're treated like the biggest fish in every pond they're in at clubs, restaurants, etc. Howard seems to not have the slightest understanding of how he's perceived by the public or, more importantly, by his peers. I understand not caring what people like me think, but I sense that a majority of NBA players think he's a complete goof.

Craig Berry

Sam: Have your Self cc me when he gets an answer. Though, yes, just about everyone believes he’s kind of a clown and when you hear from Magic players these days they hate the losing but are so grateful Howard is gone. No sense indicting a whole system, though it doesn’t help. But most NBA guys now come through that and are fine to deal with and good teammates. But NBA teams chase talent for all their talk about character and I don’t know one who still wouldn’t take him if they had the chance.

I just read Michael Wilbon's article about Jordan and in it he talk about the insane numbers Wilt put up in his 1962 season, including a game where he had 72 points and 43 rebounds. Now, granted the league was different then with a few different rules etc, but thats just ridiculous. I'm not questioning his dominance, but, in your opinion, where do you think the 1962 Wilt would rank if he were playing in today's modern NBA? How do you think he would fare against the Shaq of the early 2000s or the Dwight Howard of a few years ago?

Dave Cronin

Sam: I think he’d be by far the most dominant player in the league because he basically was whenever he chose to. In a sense, the game was too easy for Wilt. He probably was the strongest man ever to play in the NBA and I can’t imagine with this era’s training and nutrition what he’d be like. He also was highly skilled and, if anything, backed off because he had a kinder heart than many players and didn’t like to embarrass others that much. Though he enjoyed challenges, like going for 100 points or 50 rebounds. The defenses obviously are more sophisticated now with much more double teaming. But any good coach would get Wilt on the move and with space to be dominant. He never had the greatest teammates for a long time with management issues; he could be a bit prickly and never had Russell’s benefit of the best coach/GM combo in history. So he didn’t get the titles; otherwise he’d easily be the best ever ahead of Jordan. When he set the alltime record for rebounds it was playing against Russell. This streak of 30-point games and 60 per cent shooting they keep raving about for LeBron? If Wilt knew that meant anything he’d have done it every game of the season. What’s 30? He averaged 50 one season for 82 games. He once shot 68 percent for the season. Not six games. His last season in the NBA he shot 73 percent, though he’d become more a passer then and just was getting bored with playing after he proved he wasn’t just a scorer so he led the league in assists. He was the only player ever close to Babe Ruth in domination of his sport. If Wilt had Russell’s anger he’d have been declared a hazardous area.

Any chance Jordan celebrates his 55th Birthday at Madison Square Garden? Spike Lee can have front court seats!

Chris DeMay

Sam: Better claim credit quickly before Spike makes a commercial.

I read Eric Gordon is possibly available. What if the Bulls trade Deng, Hamilton, and a future first for Gordon? Then we trade Boozer and a second round pick for Humphries. The Bulls then can use their first round pick on another small forward. It would save them some money and give the Bulls a second scorer in Gordon.

Dan Mallen

Sam: I don’t get the attraction as I get emails about this guy all the time. The guy isn’t a great shooter, is about 6-2, misses a huge amount of games, has knee problems and seems difficult to deal with. Who’s he guarding at two? He doesn’t pass much or rebound. That should assure several titles.

Your thoughts on trading with Phoenix for J. O'Neal? He's making the minimum, so we could send Mohammed, or Radmanovic and a 2nd round pick. He is he's averaging about 16 minutes, is long, plays good defense and rebounds. Noah needs to be healthy for the playoffs and he's averaging over 38 minutes a game.

Randall Rhomberg

Sam: I get this one a lot as well, and given they are in the West you have to assume the Suns don’t know Mohammed and Radmanovic are not playing.

Who is the better basketball player, Nikola Vucevic or Nikola Pekovic?

Vic Santiago

Sam: Is this another of those who’s the best Nikola of all time questions? They never end. Vucevic is more athletic; Pekovic more physical. I prefer the athletes, but I’d hate to get screened by Pekovic.

Were the Bulls really LeBron contenders when he was a free agent? Did he want to come to Chicago? Rose says he doesn't need another star but anyone who says they don't want to play with LeBron is lying.

Charlie Smith

Sam: Rose never said he didn’t want to play with LeBron. At that time he really did have an issue as he liked his teammates so much with going out and campaigning for a players to take the positions of high level teammates, like Deng. Wade’s roster was cleaned out at the time. It would put Rose in an awkward position. He handled it right and everyone in the NBA knows he’s a great teammate and welcoming to everyone. Plus, Rose never said he doesn’t want another great player. He just supports his team. The Bulls believed they had a serious chance to sign LeBron, and LeBron did spend more time with Thibodeau than any other coach during that period. Even Wade wavered as that second visit to Chicago was because Wade began to get a signal that LeBron was wavering from their original wink deal. But while the Bulls were serious No. 2 contenders, my view was LeBron’s mind was long made up if he couldn’t stay in Cleveland, which he probably would have if Bosh had joined him.

I just read your account of the Larry Kenon era in Chicago. One night I was at a Bulls game, when the attendance must have been around 2,000 and Kenon fell asleep on the bench, head bobbing up and down and the crowd was so quiet that a guy behid me in row 15 mid court hollered, "Hey Kenon,wake up" and he actually heard him and jerked his head up and Sloan looked down the bench and just shook his head. We all laughed out loud it was a moment to remember.

Ray Geiselman

Sam: I love the stories of the Bulls’ golden years.

The Washington Wizards GM stint was abysmal but maybe you could blame that on the first time around. The Tyrus Thomas trade was atrocious. Last year’s .106 winning percentage was the worst of all time. What happened to arguably the greatest basketball competitor of all time? Does he not have pride? Did he just burn out?

Jeff Lichtenstein

Sam: Actually, as Jordan celebrates his 50th birthday this weekend in an All-Star TV salute, you’ve got to admit: The guy is really big with all this for turning 50. But it suggests to me more that he’s finally grown up. After all, you could say Jordan is no longer the maniac competitor who’ll do anything for a win. Isn’t that a sign of maturity and perspective? He’s a solid businessman. I did hear from some of those in the labor meetings last year that Jordan, representing the small market owners and helping get perhaps the best deal ever for them, conceded this ownership thing is not as easy as it once looked.

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