Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 03.09.12
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Watching the Bulls games so far this season especially the 76'ers game, the organization needs to make a slight move to get a shoot creator ball handler because other teams are going to implement that defensive set that Philly did last night especially in the playoff. While i like the thought of what Rip brings to the team and seeing what he's done on a brief basis's they still need that to secure that SG spot. I wouldn't mind losing Taj or Omer and a 1st round pick to gain OJ Mayo or even taking on Beasley for a year and losing and a multiple 2nd round pick. The bench mob has a hard time scoring the ball and either of these 2 guys would complete that void. What trade for another shoot creator do you think this team should make before the trade deadline?
Sam: That’s the big question coming into this week, and I’d probably stand pat if it meant giving up those guys. I thought that was demonstrated well against the Bucks, for example, though, yes, you’ll say they won’t be in the playoffs. Still, I don’t know if you’re going to get someone who basically becomes a reserve who is going to be enough of a difference maker to make up for the loss of your front court reserves. While I accept Boozer for what he is, it makes Taj pretty valuable for the playoffs. And even Thibodeau said after last season’s conference finals that the loss of Asik was a turning point. Basically no one has a seven footer who plays defense coming off the bench, and that’s huge for the playoffs. More important to me than insurance for Richard Hamilton. The other issue is these guys aren’t available for what you have. Want to give up Deng or Noah? Memphis believes it has a chance with Randolph coming back and likes Speights. So they’re not making a quick move. You aren’t prying Ray Allen out of Boston without giving up some big future stuff. I have said I’d take a shot at Jamal Crawford, though I think they get more. The point is you invested in Hamilton and have to ride it out. He is supposed to be back, and if he is he’s the starting shooting guard getting the minutes. Plus Hamilton does help and is a playoff veteran. The Bulls can obviously handle the regular season without him. So if he plays in the playoffs he was worth it. Plus, you’d have to throw in valuable future assets, like the rights to Mirotic to make a deal. Last week, ESPN was touting him as a top five or 10 pick if he were in this draft. It’s risky to bet your future for a guy who’ll be a reserve on this team. One of the worst things to happen to being a fan is fantasy games. Fans can make deals with their teams all the time, so they begin to wonder why it’s so hard for teams to do so. Remember the championship Bulls of the 90’s before they got going. Were they making major midseason deals? They were working in draft picks and adding in the offseason rotation role players, like Bobby Hansen or Cliff Levingston or Dennis Hopson. Maybe the biggest in season deal was for Craig Hodges in 1988-89, though well before the trading deadline. I don’t disagree the Bulls are not a complete team. And they likely aren’t the favorites. But you also can get worse if you do the wrong thing and take away from your strengths.
Hold the mayo! Please, no more talks about bringing OJ Mayo to Chicago. It's obvious that he will never be the player that everyone thought he's going to be after his first season. What's happened to him? Defense was never his strength but he was such a gifted scorer. Now he just seems like a little better than average player at best. All these suggestions to swap him for Taj or Asik is just absurd. I wouldn't even give up Jimmy Butler for him.
Sam: He is a name that seems out of proportion to his production. And, after all, they benched him for Tony Allen. I suppose they’d rather have Kevin Love, though on draft night they got a lot of credit on TV for making that trade. I remember scouts in that draft saying because Mayo wasn’t particularly athletic there would be limitations on what he would be. He’s become mostly a spot up shooter these days, and a nice rotation player. But hardly worth all the apparent bribes they paid to get him at USC.
With all this talk with the Bulls/Howard situation how he is going to Bulls or he isn't, is the Bulls management actually interested in trading for him?
Sam: Chicago media gave Howard all sorts of chances to talk about Chicago Thursday, and his responses were telling in talking about wanting to be that go to guy and top man on the team. That probably lets you know all you have to on why he would not agree to resign in Chicago. So would the Bulls? They don’t have to make that decision, but my guess is if given the chance no one turns down the league’s best center. I count the Bulls in that group, but they aren’t going to have the chance.
So are the celtics going to have cap room for 2 max players this summer? Why wouldn't dwight go there? A line up of rondo, allen (he'll resign for cheap). Pierce, bass (or a power forward of dwights choice) and dwight. Boston is a pretty big market and that would be a good signing, especially if they can also sign a jamal crawford type.
Sam: Dwight noted at shootaround in Chicago Thursday that it was cold in Chicago, which should be interesting news to my relatives if it’s not cold in Brooklyn anymore. The guy is very mixed up, which is why I think the Magic will hold onto him past the deadline. Then they’ll tell him the rules changed and he has to sign with them and maybe they can trick him into it as he doesn’t seem to know what he wants to do. He reminds me of the kid who wants a new toy but doesn’t know which one because he has so many. Just something new. He may think Bill Russell still plays in Boston and may feel he can’t be No. 1 with Russell there.
What are you expecting from the Bulls-heat series. it obvious they're going to meet in the eastern finals. but i have alot of questions about our team. how important is depth in the playoffs? whos gonna step up when they put LeBron on Drose? all my friends seem to be pretty confident about playing them but i think in order to win, everything is going to have go right for us. what are your early thoughts about the matchup?
Sam: I’m with Thibodeau on this one of not skipping steps. I know Bulls fans think like this, but it’s not such a certainty in my view. Which should suggest you make a trade, but, again, what does it cost? No, Dwight Howard still isn’t available. The NBA playoffs generally produce the best winners. There aren’t flukes, like you can have in the NFL with one game eliminations. That said, teams can steal a game or two. And if that happens things can change. The Knicks, while stumbling of late, have a lot of offense and if someone gets hot they can surprise you a game or two. The Bulls have had problems with the 76ers, and that’s been without their starting center. The Hawks are playing well even without Al Horford, and they played the Bulls tough early when Horford was there. The Pacers are better and eying the Bulls, the 76ers are better, the Knicks are better. And the Magic looked like a problem Thursday night in Chicago. The Bulls and Heat have played the best in the regular season, but we saw a Pacers team last season that was under .500 nearly steal two home games from the Bulls with the pressure on. I think the Bulls are better because Noah is much better as he never really recovered from his surgery last season. And I still have confidence in Hamilton. And if I were to look ahead like you suggest, Thibs would never let me have soup again. And forget the bread.
The Carlos Boozer hate is becoming cliché. Living in Michigan I only get to see the national games, so I am not swayed by being too close to the team. Getting to enjoy the two games on Sunday and Monday, I have a much better appreciation for Boozer. His defense is not awful, could he better yes, but he is at worst an average defender. Monday night the perimeter defense looked poor, with Brewer looking weak. What amazes me is Boozer’s passing ability. It’s nice to see a guy catch and immediately rotate the ball to the open man. Noah, Gibson and Asik (like most big men) fumble the ball before making a move. Boozer’s passing opens up the floor and creates great spacing for the offense. DRose only needs small spaces to work and Boozer helps create those. Booz rebounds, which is more than could be said for Eddy Curry, Marcus Fizer and Tyrus Thomas. So he can’t finish strong around the rim, he knows his abilities and plays to them instead of forcing the issue. For those of you screaming that the Bulls should have signed someone else during that year of free agency, tell me who! Amare cost more ($18 mil this year, $19 next), so who on this team are you going to lose? There is a five million dollar difference. In the order of signings that means you lose Ronnie Brewer (not Korver as he was signed first). Bosh chose to be with the Big 3. Do you really want David Lee?
Sam: I generally try to keep these logical observations out of circulation as they can hurt the heads of many fans. If Boozer was hired for his defense, the team made a personnel mistake. But in Gibson, the Bulls can offset his weaknesses. It’s also what you watch on a regular basis and what it shows you with the local commentary is how little NBA and basketball many commentators watch. I happened to be watching a replay of Denver and Cleveland the other night after the Bulls game. That’s another story I’d only have to apologize for. Anyway, Nene, the Nuggets’ big money center, is guarding basically no one. The Cavs score their last five baskets on layups to win the game in an entertaining shootout between Kyrie Irving and Ty Lawson. There are many teams that play good defense, and Miami is one. You see that at the end of the games when everyone is not watching what LeBron will do on offense. But there are many as well not so great, and David Lee is a good point. The rules also inhibit great defense in many cases with the lack of contact above the free throw line. Plus, Thibodeau understands what is good coaching. It’s taking what a guy does. You don’t hear him moaning about Boozer. OK, he needs a defensive element, he takes him out. But he also understands Boozer brings things others like Gibson cannot. Fans complain all game, and then Boozer generally has good statistics. How can that be? There is a lot of commentary on what he does not do. Thibodeau understands to take what he can do in order to enhance the team. It’s the simple message of good coaching. The bad coaches hate their players and blame them for what they can’t do. The good coaches take what they can from each player and make it a blend. It helps, of course, if you have an MVP around. Hey, it wasn’t too long ago many here said Tyrus Thomas was enough. I notice he now isn’t even getting in games with the league’s poorest team. Critics should watch a Knicks game sometime and only follow Stoudemire and then examine defense.
How in the world did we get away with having Boozer guard Howard for portions of the second half? Don't get me wrong Boozer had a great game, but on his best day he shouldn't be able to slow Howard down. Is that more of an indictment of Howard or the 3 happy offense of Orlando?
Sam: Now if only Boozer’s offense could catch up with his lockdown defense, eh?
With the word of Boris Diaw asking for a buyout from the Bobcats, do you think there's a place for him on the Bulls? Could getting him let us swap Asik for Courtney Lee?
Sam: I do believe the Bulls are going to be looking harder at the buyout candidates than at trades given you don’t have to give up something for a guy who is free. It’s probably the way to go. But Diaw still is with the team, so you cannot do anything, and as much as Lee has played and been finishing games lately instead of Kevin Martin I don’t think you’d get him so easily. And, again, I don’t give up Asik for a guy who plays off the bench for me. As for Diaw, he is often so distracted and disinterested in playing it would be a risk to give someone up. Sure, he’s worth a look if he gets released and wants to come in for the prorated minimum. But these guys generally want more money to sit around, and the Bulls don’t quite play like that. And, it’s always a risk to take someone off such a poor team as they’ve developed some habits which are hard to break in a short time, like not caring and not working much. But sometimes a hard working team needs someone lazy and out of shape to balance things, perhaps.
I was just reading a CBS.com report that the Celtics are entertaining offers for Paul Pierce. To me, this is the guy that the front office needs to be pursuing. He's the second scorer that we desperately need, and he's proven that he can play big against teams like the Heat. And it certainly wouldn't hurt to have a vet like that that can get into LeBron's head a little. We give them Luol Deng, and Ronnie Brewer (I checked and it works contractually). The Celtics do it because Pierce is an older guy and they're not gonna fetch much more for him on the open market. With Deng and Brewer, they're able to get younger, while also staying competitive this year, and possibly still making the playoffs. This might be the best return they ever get for him.
Sam: If the Celtics do trade Pierce, it’s not going to be for a veteran like Deng who isn’t a big scorer and you can’t build around. Plus, in my view Deng is better now than Pierce. If the Celtics were looking to trade Pierce it would be because they believe he cannot help the team do anything serious again. The Celtics have been talking trade about guys like Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook. They believe a name can enable them to steal someone. I don’t see it happening. I can see them moving Rondo and Ray Allen. Put Pierce is the owner’s favorite and unless they get a blockbuster deal of lottery picks or a high level All-Star to build around I expect them to keep him and allow him to retire as a Celtic.
I saw Stephen Jackson openly said he would love to play for the Bulls. Not a huge surprise there. Jackson is obviously earning too much money so the Bulls wouldn't probably touch that salary as is but would they look at him if he was bought out?
Sam: This is what’s interesting about these guys. Ok, all you care about is winning, right? I know it’s not the case, but let’s pretend. Say you’re someone like Stephen Jackson and have made maybe $50 million already in your career. Not bad, even after taxes. You’re due $10 million next year. You still have plenty coming on your $9.2 million this year. Why not walk away, say you’ve made enough money, and will leave the money on the table? I’m fairly sure the Bucks would take that, even drive you to the Oasis on I-94 and buy you two Sbarro slices and a hunk of cheese at the Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha on the way there. That would get the attention of a team like the Bulls, for sure. And then there you are, Stephen, guarding Dwyane Wade in the conference finals, maybe. Maybe Kevin Durant in the NBA Finals. Wouldn’t you then earn a big contract? Don’t you want to bet on yourself? Don’t you have confidence in your abilities? You mean if given the chance on a big stage you wouldn’t succeed? Haven’t you made enough money already to take a chance on greatness with a great team? Of course, if he did that he’d probably be the first.
Tom Thibodeau said this: “It comes down to, I think, in the end, the teams that are playing the best and are the healthiest. Whatever the circumstances are, you can always fit somebody in. They may not have a full understanding of everything, but you can design specific packages for those guys, when they’re in the game, and that’s not uncommon. You deal with that throughout the course of the season, whether you bring in a guy for a 10-day [contract] or there’s a trade made." So, TT basically believes you need to stay healty in order to win but admits adding someone would not necessarily ruin the chemistry. How much hope do the Bulls FO put into Hamilton's health and health in general in your opinion? With Deng, Rose and Rip already being banged up, Boozer being injury prone his entire career and Noah, Taj, Asik all having some injury troubles in the past don't you think the Bulls can not afford to believe everyone is going to be healthy in the post season? It's just not very likely, the odds are not in the Bulls favor. It's a major concern if you ask me and that alone should be a good enough reason to pursue a trade before the deadline. You aren't getting a huge upgrade but I believe there are some players on the market that could help the Bulls in the playoffs and the Bulls have the assets to get them.
Sam: It’s what everyone says. Wade has been hurt a lot over his career and again this season with ankle sprains. If he goes out do the Heat win? If Jordan got hurt where were the Bulls. As anyone notes, you have to stay healthy to succeed. The Lakers swept the first three rounds of the playoffs in 1989, then Magic got hurt and they were swept by the Pistons in the Finals. Guys you pick up in midseason deals don’t win titles for you unless there are rare exceptions. Like in 1995 when the Rockets were defending champions with what I thought was the worst championship team ever in 1994. But Hakeem was great. Then they were in sixth in 1995 and broke up their team to get Clyde Drexler and won again, though more thanks to a shocking Magic meltdown. If you present me with a deal that doesn’t cost front court players, I’m in. I just don’t see one to make a difference as you are, after all, saying you can get someone better than Hamilton. And if there were someone like that to get, I assume they would have gotten him instead of Hamilton.
Just a question about last night's game with the Bucks. When the game was close at the end of the 4th quarter, Derrick Rose seemed to turnover the ball when he tried to split between Jennings and Gooden. The refs called for a replay, and found it went off of Rose's hand...but only because Jennings had (rather obviously) grabbed Rose's arm from behind. As expected, the call ended up going in Milwaukee's favor after the review. Do you ever see the league doing anything about this, namely these instances where a replay review clearly shows a foul, but they can't call it in retrospect, even if it led to the decision they have to make (Bucks ball)? Why not just call the foul instead?
Sam: This issue came up on a bigger stage in last season’s playoff series with Atlanta with the inadvertent whistle. The issue is once you start to use replay to review foul calls or non calls that’s all you’d be doing and the games would take six hours, or almost as long as most baseball games. Some of that NFL replay is ridiculous with those long stoppages. The NBA referees do the best job in basketball officiating. You can’t ask for much more. The league has some limited replay for key moments that seems to have worked well. You can’t use replay for fouls and still be home before 4 a.m.
I was thinking Nick Young would be a good fit until I saw him throw a layup over the backboard. If the Bulls could some how pry Young away from the Wizards, do you think that this coaching staff could prevent him from making those bonehead type of plays? If they could then he would be a big help, or is it too big a miracle to expect someone from the Wizards roster ditching their egghead tendencies? (I miss Bogans, whenever he got 6 pts we were unstoppable)
Sam: Ah, the sweet days of the Bogans domination. Yes, 82 games looks good even when you average five points, eh? I get loads of emails about Young as an example of the worst of fantasy league play. The game is not only about numbers. Players like Young are poison for teams, and with one month left and no practices is a bad time to try to teach someone how to play basketball. Thibs is good. But no one is that good.
Whats the possibility that the Bulls try and trade for Monta Ellis at the trade deadline. With Rip suffering from injuries. I know it doesn't give the Bulls the defensive height, but Ellis has definitely been on a role recently.
Sam: I think he may be one of the few big names traded—I think Pau Gasol, Ray Allen, Jamal Crawford, Michael Beasley, Ramon Sessions are some of the most likely—but not to the Bulls. Not that the Bulls were thinking of dealing him in any way, but now with Deng’s wrist acting up again there’s no way you could even contemplate some team taking him in a trade. The Bulls clearly aren’t dealing Noah for anyone less than Howard, so it’s not like with so many players out again with injuries the Bulls are in much position to have enough to offer to bring in anyone significant. And you perhaps take a step back losing your bigs.
I heard speculation about Ray Allen being available. What would it take for the Bulls to get him? Gibson + Draft picks?
Sam: The Bulls have messed around about Allen for a while now and you know having been there and won a championship with him, Thibodeau would love to have him. Again, I don’t see the Bulls giving up someone like Gibson, especially as well as he’s playing of late. Plus, you have to match salaries, which means including perhaps two more players, maybe Watson and Brewer. So you severely diminish your depth, and if and when Hamilton returns, and I assume he does next month, he will be the starter. The last time that job got taken from him he didn’t deal with it that well and it wasn’t long before the Pistons fell into total dysfunction. I’m guessing the Bulls do not pursue Allen this time.
I have a concern about coach Thibs. With all of the time that Rip Hamilton has missed this year, shouldn't Thibs play Butler more? I mean everyone is talking about trading for someone, but I do not see it happening for a variety of reasons. So we drafted Butler and do not really play him much. Right now we are ok because of Brewer and Korver, but if one of those guys gets hurt who do we go to then? When we have everybody I understand not playing Butler.
Sam: You can make a case for having played Butler more, but Thibs essentially uses 10 players, which is a full NBA regular season rotation, one that will contract in the playoffs. We saw this last season with Omer until Noah was out awhile. It’s not unusual among veteran coaches. Phil Jackson never played rookies and did OK. Like Phil always said, “You win with me.” Most coaches of good teams adopt that philosophy, that you succeed with skilled and veteran players. Since Butler is more a defender, he doesn’t exactly fit their greatest need, anyway, of deep shooting and playmaking from the perimeter. Still, with all that talk about a lack of shooting and needing another shooting guard, the Bulls are in the top five in the league in three point shooting. Butler did play Thursday when Orlando got out early and then with Luol Deng shooting poorly. With Deng possibly sitting out a few games to rest his wrist injury, we could see more of Butler now. Which is basically how it was supposed to be for him this season, more in an emergency. It may be here.
If the Bulls are not making any trade, do you think that they could get someone from the D-League? I ask because this season we've seeing some good players coming from there. Their contracts are not very expensive, and most important the team remains intact.
Sam: That’s probably the fall back position if they don’t make a deal or find someone in a buyout. I expect they’ll add at least one more player to the roster later in March in some form.
I was watching a recent game in which Brian Scalabrine entered the game. My wife—who kindly humors me by watching the games—pointed out that Scalabrine is not quite as chiseled as many of the players on the court. I explained the role that he plays in supplementing the coaching staff while providing a steady player off the bench. Her response was an inquiry as to why the Bulls would choose a relatively low-impact player to fill the end of the bench as opposed to a young athlete who might become a high-impact player. I was wondering if you would flush out the merits of both options, particularly whether even non-contending teams prefer to have someone like Scalabrine at the end of the bench.
Sam: First, it’s very impressive your wife would not only watch games with you she doesn’t care about but then examine Scal’s physique. Just from afar, I’m quite confident. Anyway, teams like players at the end of the bench who don't complain about not playing and trying to poison the locker room because those players might sit for two or three weeks without playing, but they are expected to practice hard. So teams like the players with less talent who are grateful to be in the NBA. By the way, I think Scal considered himself buffed. I try not to look, myself, but I will ask around on that.