Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 03.16.12
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Were they close to any kind of deals? What I find frustrating about GarPax is that really do not have any kind of imagination at all. They are also not aggressive deal makers. I mean today Nene and Kamen were available and they did not even try to see if they could get either one even if they had to give up Taj or Omer. Either of those two centers were have been an upgrade. I hope just because they [won] against the Heat last night without Rose, they are now thinking they can contend with them?
Sam: Again, you get back to the issue of breaking up your team when you are on top. You didn’t see Miami or Oklahoma City do anything, either, and they are not exactly perfect teams. You can make a deal and get worse. The Bulls did their calls and offers, but the price generally was too high or what they had wasn’t exactly in demand. Nene would be the Bulls second highest paid player to Rose and is always hurt. Obviously, the Nuggets didn’t think enough of him and took wacky McGee. Plus, he’s really a forward. You didn’t see Kaman go anywhere, and he now sets up as one of the prime players for a buyout. This is where, I think, the Bulls are looking as someone is bought out and can come for a minimum salary the rest of the season. Kaman wouldn’t come to the Bulls because they have Noah, who is playing at an All-Star level, and Asik, who really bothered the Heat. They don’t do well against size, so Nene wouldn’t be as good as what they have, at least defensively. What the Bulls should worry about is Kaman going to Miami, where he really could help and step in right away as a starter. I’ve heard the Heat is very interested as is the Celtics, who also don’t have a center. If you look around at the other deals, there wasn’t much that would have made a difference for the Bulls. The one guy I might have taken a shot at was Stephen Jackson because LeBron, I believe, thinks Jackson is nuts and isn’t aggressive against him. The issue was the size of Jackson’s contract with another year. The Spurs also had a bad contract with Richard Jefferson, so it was a reasonable match. It would have cost the Bulls too much, like Brewer and Watson, and you still wouldn’t even know if Jackson could play. I think JaVale McGee could turn around in the right environment, but I know they had no interest in Boozer. I liked Barbosa, but he went into cap space, which the Bulls didn’t have. Gerald Wallace would have been good, but he would have cost at least two of the rotation reserves and a first round pick and can become a free agent. No way you give up three valuable pieces to rent a guy for a month or so. Ellis, certainly, would have been nice. But Milwaukee gave up a high quality center, so you would have had to give up Noah. That would be way too much for a guard who doesn’t play defense much. And at least for now none of the Bulls main competitors, except perhaps for Indiana on the bench, improved. There likely wasn’t much that made sense. Nick Young? Good luck, Vinny.
What a game versus a very talented (but overrated) Miami team! I'm pretty sure everyone was shocked at the outcome. I'm with you though, what really shocked me was the pathetic Miami play overall. They effectively let an average team (at best without Derrick) beat them with their 3rd string PG for three of the four quarters. The last quarter being the 4th quarter, of course. Then came the excuses: A tough back-to-back on the road, ending in Chicago (c'mon), Overtime the last night, LeBron making excuses for rebounding, being "undersized". Do you think that Miami can play consistently enough to win a championship? They certainly didn't look it versus Chicago or Orlando.
Sam: I wouldn’t dismiss the Heat and still count them as the favorites in the East. You may recall Bosh had a game like that against the Bulls in a regular season loss last year and then was MVP-like in the conference finals. It was one of the better efforts the Bulls have had in recent weeks and why Thibodeau had been talking about defensive slippage in the games before Miami. I agree the Heat may have relaxed some and when they tried to take over, no, the weren’t the 90’s Bulls who’d fall behind lesser teams like that. The larger issue I see regarding the Bulls and Heat is the Heat is relatively healthy while the Bulls are not. Deng doesn’t look anything like the same player, and, of course, we don’t know about Hamilton, though I think he will be OK. But you just don’t miss games all season and then come together in a week. Even though the Bulls have the better record thanks to their depth, when you get to the playoffs the rotations shrink. And the Heat has had its players together for most of the season. Miami has been showing not only Wednesday but the last few weeks in lots of close games and losses that they aren’t as much a feared team as they even seemed last season. But they’re still the most talented and still, in my view, the favorites. Thibodeau has talked to the players about having to go through them, and the Bulls still have to show they can do that in a series.
Nobody of course could predict Lucas or Bosh. But the Bulls still showed the template (at least 2/3 of it) of how beating Miami is not so impossible: dominate the boards and hit your 3s. The third part, beat them at Hero ball in the end, wasn't relevant last night, and the game, truthfully, was not one to use to criticize Hero Ball: after all, Wade was heroic in the 4th quarter (other than the ridiculous step back 3 by a guy who is not a 3 pt shooter, with the score down to 4 points with one minute to go: the sort of horrid shot that Hero Ball typically engenders). However, it showed the Miami style. For the last ~6 minutes, as Wade went heroically one-on-team, James stood in the corner like Scalabrine. The Heat voluntarily and routinely give up their 2.5 superstar advantage in close end games. What makes it even worse, is that when they go dueling "Single Warrior" against Rose, Durant, Nowitzki, Bryant, they not only give up their multi-star edge, they are probably at a disavantage with either Wade or James, or both alternating, against the other guys. I don't know who will beat them, but I think it unlikely the Heat will win it all as long as they continue to give up team ball for Single Warrior in close games.
Sam: It’s a good point, and one of the tests against Miami. The Bulls could have beaten the Heat last season. They just didn’t. Those games were close enough to have made it a Bulls series with Miami averaging two points more and the Bulls with the last shot with a chance to win Game 4 on the road. Which could have changed everything. The Bulls are a higher ranked three point shooting team than they seem, but making them in a tough series is another thing as Korver had troubles in the conference finals. They don’t move the ball nearly as well as the Bulls, which was a big difference Wednesday. They do tend to take turns, especially Wade and James, and the question will be whether their mutually exclusive individual abilities will be enough. Though it is another reason why they are beatable and why as long as they don’t have a more sophisticated coach and one who doesn’t demand more team play you can get them. Though it’s not easy.
Amazing win last night, love the way these guys will not allow for excuses. Every time I see LeBron in person it just reminds me how special that guy is. All the negatives and end of game stuff aside, he is amazing to watch. Makes the game just look so easy, what a specimen.
Sam: Let’s keep this to ourselves. The guy is really good.
If I am Miami, I'm trying to make a Bosh for Howard deal. Get Haslem in as the starting 4 and I think they end up stronger overall.
Sam: That came up as pre-Howard reupping speculation, and Bosh was probably better than anyone the Magic could have gotten. Though it’s doubtful they could have lived with Howard down the turnpike from them. Bosh is the big piece for Miami as you can see not only how much James and Wade consult during games, but how little they do with Bosh. They went to Bosh early in the game against the Bulls, and when he missed four straight they pretty much gave up on him. If the Heat don’t win the title this season, I expect Bosh to be on the market for a legitimate big man.
What do you see the Bulls doing with Asik and Taj? Asik is a free agent after this year and Taj next year. While the are over the cap I do believe they both have bird rights thus letting the Bulls resign them without concern for going over the cap. The only thing they have to worry about is the Luxury Tax. Do you think the Bulls will be willing to shell out all that extra money to keep them both. If not why don't the Bulls look to get some value out of them now when they can. If the Bulls were going to pick one, I think Taj would be the better.
Sam: I think their plan is for now to try to keep them both as you never know until you reach that point what offers might be and even if there will be as both will be in restricted years. I expect the Bulls to be in the luxury tax as well at some point, and thus having to lose some of their current reserves, which is why the draft picks are important as players like Butler can come in and replace players in the rotation now. Plus, this draft is said to be deep enough to get a rotation player late in the first round. Much changes after you win or lose in the playoffs, so we’ll have a better idea then.
John Lucas III yesterday reminded me of JJ Barrea. Same effect on the Heat... cutting through their defense and benefiting from their lack of bigs. Do you think he can replicate that type of role for the rest of the season? One of the most impressive about that performance is the fact that Thibs showed such confidence in him to let him do his thing. This is the same player who last year, if I remember correctly, blew a game for us by missing the game-tying free throws. Am I wrong in thinking that a lot of other coaches would not have given this guy another chance?
Sam: A lot of other coaches would not have given him a chance and haven’t. If not for Thibs, Lucas certainly would be in China now. I’ll admit he’s surprised me, but I still have my doubts he can be a major contributor in the playoffs as Berea was for the Mavs last season. Let’s not get too carried away. He had a terrific game and showed he deserves to be on an NBA roster, which was huge for him. But if you want the Bulls to win you’ll hope you don’t see him that much more on the floor.
Do you think it's possible the Bulls can hire Mike [D'Antoni] to become the offensive coordinator for the Bulls now that he's out of NY?
Sam: The Bulls have enough good assistant coaches, and Mike, I know, wants to be a head coach again. I think he’s an excellent coach and has a system that works. There’s this notion you can’t “win” with Mike’s offense heavy system. But he has won. He’s been in the conference finals on the verge of the Finals. That’s good enough to win. He just didn’t. To me what separates the great coaches in the NBA from the 20 others is having a system of play, whether defensive or offensive from Thibodeau’s defense to Phil Jackson’s triangle. Too many coaches who are former players merely rely on standard NBA plays and sets. Players generally do best when they can learn a system and then count on it. You just can’t stick selfish ball hogs like Carmelo Anthony on a coach like D’Antoni. His system is wonderful to watch and you saw how Jeremy Lin benefitted and last year Ray Felton, who now is considered a liability in Portland. D’Antoni gets the best from his players. Did you ever hear anyone talk of Shawn Marion as an All-Star other than when he played for D’Antoni. He’d be ideal for someone in the West.
Do you know Skip Bayless personally? If so, do you know what he has against Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls? He's often commented on how he doesn't like "shoot-first" point guards, so he doubts their chances to win a title with Derrick as their star, but this morning on his "First Take" show he hit some new levels that make me question if he even watches basketball. For example: He claimed the Bulls won last night because they finally had a "real" point guard. (For the record, John Lucas had a whopping 1 assist). He claimed he finally saw some offensive flow with the Bulls with John Lucas running the team. (For the record, the Bulls have been near the top of the league in assists all season). Does Mr. Bayless not watch the games? Is he basing his opinion solely on what he observed last year in the eastern conference finals? Or does he have some vendetta against the Bulls? Or is it purely to say outrageous things to get attention and ratings? Because, if this is a legit opinion, he's coming across as pretty ignorant of what's actually happening in the league for a "basketball expert."
Sam: You make the error if you equate guys like Skip as experts. He’s an observer and entertainer, as most people are on TV, and he’s good at it. I know Skip a little from when he worked at the Chicago Tribune with me. I should add I get a few of these sorts of emails every so often and also about an ESPN radio guy named Colin Cowsill, I think. I listened a few times and he was pretty funny, though I don’t think his show is carried anymore in Chicago. First about Skip. When he first came to Chicago as a columnist he called me as new columnists often do to with the beat writer on the various sports. That’s to his credit. I can’t recall the issue, but he started telling me something about Michael Jordan. I said I thought he didn’t have it quite right and he kept arguing with me and raising his voice, like you see how on TV, and I finally said he should write it if he feels that way as he’s a columnist, then why was he calling me? But that’s Skip. He likes to argue and stake a position, at times, it seems, to create debate. Which really is fine because if everyone agrees there’s no debate. Skip was always that sort of argumentative writer at newspapers and he’s turned it into quite a TV career. I give him credit for that. There’s way too much shouting for me as I hate to admit I prefer substance and reasoned argument, which makes it difficult for me to watch much TV. I always tell fans the same thing: If it upsets you so, don’t watch or listen. But I always feel you should, which is why though I don’t agree I watch Fox TV political stuff as it’s always entertaining to hear what the other guy thinks. After all, it’s just a personal opinion. And Skip has turned that into a heck of career. I think that means he won. But don’t ever mistake what he says for informed as much as entertaining, or not.
Know it might sound like a ridiculous question but would the Bulls ever consider taking in Greg Oden for a couple years?
Sam: Someone will. But my guess is he tries to bid the price up, and I doubt the Bulls get into a bidding on spec, which is what it would have to be with his history of injuries.
Ronnie Turiaf is soon to be waived. Not a bad option for a fifth big, don't you think?
Sam: He’s been hurt and I don’t know if he can play. But I think that’s what the Bulls have in mind and why they didn’t want to spend their money at trading deadline time as you could end up with a high level player without giving up anyone.
I am worried about Rose. On Tuesday, he was fined $25k for comments he made about the officials to the media. I've noticed Rose has been shouting at the refs lately which is reminding me of Kobe. Is it because he's just frustated with not getting the call? Is Rose turning a young Sheed Wallace? Rose also mentioned that "he's the only superstar that has to deal with this" or what not. Is Rose becoming cocky? I've never seen Rose point out that he's a star. Is this the first step of becoming a LeBron or Kobe?
Sam: He’s still Pooh. That’s in many respects the toughest part of being a sports star in the spotlight. You can’t have a bad day and if you do they want to psychoanalyze you about it. Yes, it was a little awkward when Rose mentioned about being a superstar, but he sometimes slips on words and that’s not that I thought he meant. But so much media was around he didn’t get the chance to correct himself. Plus, he had gotten hurt in that Knicks game and though he wasn’t saying anything you could see in retrospect he was worried. He was pumped up for that game after all the talk about Jeremy Lin and with Carmelo and Stoudemire back together. And he did get nine free throws, which is a lot. He’s the last guy I’d worry about. I see Ronnie Brewer going Hollywood before Derrick.
I don't understand why almost everybody wants to see Dwight in their city. I mean, Magic has evolved around Dwight. They have many shooters and their success heavily depends on 3's. And Dwight plays on the paint alone. This I think would severely affect Rose's play. Because his power is ability to finish near the rim and when you have Dwight and his defender around you will get a lot less space to find a shot. If you play isolation then Dwight will not be close to the rim basically he becomes useless there. For example If he tries to post up someone then ball has to bounce 2 meters and you have lots of defenders around. So he loses the ball. And I think this team isnt really good at playing pick and roll type of game. I think this is the reason why Ömer Asik is mediocre on offensive end. Because he is much more scorer in national team. So I think Tom can find a better way to cultivate Ömer's abilities. What do you think about "maybe the Bulls game not suitable for Ömer"?
Sam: Your point about Howard is interesting and I have heard it around some people close to Rose. It’s also why Jordan never really wanted to play with a low post center without shooting ability, because, yes, it does close the middle and leave you more a jump shooter. So while the Bulls probably would have pursued Howard if they could and Rose would have adjusted, there are some around the team who felt it would be a mistake because of the effect it would have had on Rose’s game. Kobe, you’ll recall, was a clear supporting player with Shaq, and Howard is no Shaq, as Shaq has told us. As for Omer, he hasn’t caught the ball that well. So the coach has been reluctant to use him as much in pick and roll, though he does set the high screen. He’s been getting more confident on the offensive end and in the last month I see Thibodeau going more to Omer, whom I think will be an important factor in the playoffs.
I read your blog "Kentucky's Davis atop 2012 NBA Draft board." Though the 2012 draft is too far, I have been fantasizing about Jeremy Lamb coming to Chicago. I have been following his game since I saw him, playing as the sidekick of Kemba Walker. His the perfect shooting guard for the Bulls. Do you think we can somehow trade up for Jeremy Lamb in draft night? Warriors/Cavs can't get a center as good as Omer Asik from the draft. Would they trade their lottery picks for Omer Asik, Bulls 2012 late first round pick and Bobcats pick?
Peter John Jimenez
Sam: Never, no chance. No one basically ever trades lottery picks, and you could see from the trading deadline day even low first round picks were in demand. With the new labor agreement, I think you’ll see even fewer deals involving first round draft picks for players as teams are loading up on them to balance out their roster with modest salaried players so they can pursue star players. The Bulls only chance to get into the lottery now is to trade Rose. I’m told they’re not even considering that.
It appears one of your readers impersonated a Bulls’ executive in proposing Boozer for Gasol. That must have gotten a pretty good laugh.
Sam: I don’t know, but I’m told the Lakers are now blocking calls from 312 and 847.
On the heels of the announcement of Derrick Rose's $25,000 fine for possibly the most veiled and tepid criticism of officiating in history, I watched the last minutes of the Orlando-Miami overtime. I don't like either team, but it seemed to me that the officiating crew was working overtime on Miami's behalf... I've read your columns long enough to accept that it isn't a conspiracy, but I don't think there's any doubt that some teams and individuals consistently get calls that other teams and individuals don't get. This notion is widely debunked by on-air media types, but most of them strike me as people who would say whatever the league wants them to say so they can keep getting access to players and good seats for the games. So what happens to reporters and analysts who are too critical of officiating and other NBA sacred cows?
Sam: There is a gulug on an island in the middle of the lake on David Stern’s estate. Journalists who go there for visits often never return. I will say the officiating in the NBA this season is better than I’ve ever seen it. Shhhhsssh. Meet me around back.