Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 03.30.12

Sam Smith opens his mailbag to respond to the latest round of e-mails from his readers

The team has shown me a lot (especially offensively) while Rose has been out. So much so that I’m glad we kept the team intact past the trading deadline. With that said I believe the biggest adjustment that needs to be made now is with Derrick Rose. Derrick needs trust his guys more. I love how the ball is moving around, everyone touching the ball. Even Boozer seems more confident. As much as I love Rose and his game some of the players (Boozer especially) play with [their] hands in [their] pockets and eyes in the stands when Rose has the ball. Rose is a dominant player who can score at will. I just have nightmares of how the Heat (particularly James) took Rose and the Bulls out of the playoffs. It’s heartbreaking knowing if the Boozers the Korvers and others played better the outcome would have been different. I just don’t want to live and die with Rose alone.

Armando Zepeda

Sam: How quickly they forget, eh? I’ve actually gotten a couple of emails like this worried about Rose’s effect on the team. People, people! I'll write this slowly so everyone understands. Without Derrick Rose, the Bulls will be fortunate to win a first round series. I assume everyone remembers a pretty good Bulls team with Deng, Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich, Tyson Chandler, Antonio Davis, Andres Nocioni and Eddy Curry when he was pretty good. That team couldn’t win a first round playoff series because it lacked a star and a closer. They eventually won one, and then missed the playoffs. It’s great to see how basketball can be played with this Bulls group with Rose and Hamilton out, crisp passing, unselfish play, defense, commitment, relentless effort, or at least most of the time. But regular season, as much as I enjoy it, is different because of scheduling and level of competition. Once you are in the playoffs there’s no catching a tired team and no losing teams. Derrick is one of the most trusting, unselfish stars perhaps ever to play the game, at least ranking in those attributes with players like Magic Johnson. If anything, he is a reluctant scorer because he wants his teammates to be involved. He often scores because he has to. For the Bulls to have the sort of success they and their fans want, it is vital Rose is healthy and playing at a high level. And scoring. Hamilton, too. OK!

Do you see any parallels between this years Bulls squad and the 1989-90 team who lost to the Pistons in the ECFs for the 2nd straight year? Did the 1989-90 Bulls make any significant moves in the off-season that lead to their first championship year? This year's squad is on the verge, much like that 89-90 team, but something's missing, and maybe studying that period of time could serve as a template for the team moving forward.

Eta Talem

Sam: Well, Cliff Levingston is still around the Bulls a lot these days working with some camps he does in northern Indiana. I don’t see many parallels, frankly. That team was on the verge, which, I guess, you could say about the 2011-12 Bulls. But that team had endured a lot more, losing to the Pistons several times and walking to the edge. It was after the Bulls lost to the Pistons once again in the seventh game in 1990 that the team listened to Jordan after Game 7 and everyone pledged that would not happen again. Not to say this Bulls team isn’t motivated, but they don’t quite have the level of commitment — which certainly is no condemnation of this team — that Bulls team had. That 1990 Bulls team had been through years of frustration with the Pistons, had a second Hall of Famer in Scottie Pippen reaching his maturity, had been together basically three seasons building something. Plus, that Bulls team also was healthy that season compared with this team going through so much with Derrick Rose, Richard Hamilton and Luol Deng. And while Miami is the target for the Bulls, the enmity isn’t quite there now like it was in 1990. Plus, Miami isn’t the champion the Pistons were. Miami is still looking to another step. The interesting thing about that Bulls team is they rarely, if ever, talked about winning a championship. All they talked about was beating Detroit. They almost never talked about the Western conference or a title. Neither did the fan base. It was all about Detroit and gave that team a determination I don’t quite see yet with this Bulls team. I think they believe they can beat Miami, and Miami can be beaten. This Bulls team isn’t the Bulls of 1990, but neither is Miami that hardened, tough champion Pistons team. For the record, that 1990-91 Bulls team added Levingston, who was a key bench addition, and Dennis Hopson, who didn’t contribute as much.

Any chance the Bulls would claim Greg Oden this summer? His salary is down to $1.5 million so even if he doesn't ever play again, isn't it worth the gamble if he does for the end of next or the 2013-14 season as a cheap big man for the bench if we lose Omer?

Joe Guest

Sam: I think a lot of teams will be looking at Oden one more time that way, that they can steal him and he may be able to be at least close to what he once was after all these surgeries. The only risk is how much you pay him. My guess is someone invests a reasonable amount in him, say an exception, which the Bulls certainly wouldn’t do as they’d want to save money to bring back Asik and Gibson. And so would I. Oden is a Las Vegas bet that could pay off big, but probably is for suckers. His inclination seems to be to return home to Indianapolis, where maybe he takes a discount. I don’t see the Bulls involved.

After watching the games against Toronto and Denver this week, it hit me that despite the Bulls' league leading records the last two seasons, their lineup doesn't exactly strike fear into opposing teams when they roll into town like the great teams of MJ, Bird, or Magic's did. Instead, Coach Thibs and his staff and players have exerted 110% of their talent through their dedication to a team game while other teams are playing at 85% of their level. It's a lot like that sophomore kid pulled up to varsity who's playing all out in the team practice scrimmage while the seniors are going through the motions. When the state tournament starts however, they lock down and the kid can barely keep up. On a talent and athletic standpoint, where do the Bulls rank? Are there seven or eight teams' lineups who GMs around the league would pick over ours in a tight playoff series when you only expect to play seven or eight guys major minutes?

Ed Holden

Sam: That is the flaw and the beauty of this Bulls team. It’s a delight to watch them overcome more talented teams with teamwork, effort and intelligent, committed play. It makes you feel proud as a fan, sort of the ultimate underdog overcoming the insufferable favorite. Of course, it’s a good feeling as well when you have the most talent. One of the best things the Bulls have going for them is it’s not an era of great talent amidst circumstance. The Heat has more overall talent with three so called go to guys. But they are flawed with a lack of size. The Knicks perhaps had more talent, but there’s a question now if Stoudemire will play again this season. The Celtics have been decimated with injuries and illness. The Thunder may have the most talent, but you don’t see them until you’re in the Finals. The defending champion Mavs basically self destructed for the future. The Spurs have done a terrific job, but mostly patching with talent on the Bulls level. The Lakers? Who knows. The point is the championship really is fairly wide open even to teams who don’t seem to have the most talent, like the Bulls and Spurs, for example.

The Bulls players did not match to Denver. It is very clear that the Bulls are a very average team offensively without Rose. Any reason you know why the Bulls did not get Leandro Barbosa? Did they try hard enough? It seems that the Bulls should be a better choice than Pacers for Barbosa.

Debang Liu

Sam: Actually, the Bulls did not have a better chance. Indiana had cap room to take on the salary, which the Bulls don’t as they are well over the salary cap. Toronto wanted to save the money and didn’t want to take a player back. So they couldn’t deal with Toronto. To get someone like Barbosa with his salary, but Bulls would have had to give up a package of two players, maybe Brewer and Watson. It’s fairly clear that wouldn’t make them better.

Do you think Mike Brown is in way over his head with the Lakers? It seems that unless Lakers have a good run this year and next, he'd be gone. Besides Riley and Jackson, the other coaches (Rambis, Magic Johnson, Rudy Tomjanovich, Del Harris, Mike Brown, etc.) between the 80s Showtime and Jackson's 5 rings had never won anything, and it seems the bar was set too high with those two.

Abram G. Bachtiar

Sam: The expectations are huge for the Lakers, especially because there is no NFL in L.A. We’ll see now if baseball returns with Magic Johnson involved in the new ownership group of the Dodgers. I wouldn’t think Brown is in trouble with a new long term deal, though I didn’t think Rudy Tomjanovich would be done in less than a season with a similar long term deal. I thought it was a mistake job for Brown to take because they are toward the end of their run with Kobe’s age and Brown showed with the Cavs he’s the sort of coach who lets his stars dictate the game. It seems clear with everything that has gone on there that Pau Gasol isn’t long for L.A. and change is on the way. Technically, Brown is a competent coach and committed in teaching defense. Jim Buss, the new man in charge, seems committed to him, but the Lakers and Kobe tend not to be particularly patient. I assume he has at least another season after this to see if his system will work amidst the change. But you don’t do well replacing Phil Jackson. Ask Tim Floyd and Rudy.

I've read several emails to you from people complaining about how D-Rose complained about not getting foul calls. However, it seems to me that in the NBA, the referees tend to give the squeaky wheel the grease more times than not — as it is not uncommon to see Wade, LeBron, Kobe, etc. all barking at the referees during the game and in turn getting to the line quite often. Phil Jackson used to regularly call out the referees to the media and many times it seemed to work. D-Rose does not get enough free throws considering how often he drives to the hoop and handles the bal — and in comparison with other elite stars. Do you think the referees will respond and will call more fouls on those defending Rose if he continues to be more aggressive at complaining about the lack of foul calls?

Curtis Marquardt

Sam: I like to think being professional will earn you rewards, but there is something to making your point. Though I’d hate to feel you are rewarded acting with the perpetual Dwyane Wade pout and stare. I think the larger issue with Rose is, what is a foul? I’ve talked with several referees — basically when they are not working Bulls games but watching — and the consensus seems to be Rose isn’t that badly officiated, that there is a combination of him getting calls when he invites contact and how good he is at avoiding contact on drives. Actually, they generally seem to agree the Bulls player who gets the worst whistle, as they call it, is Omer Asik, who holds his position well but still gets called. I remember Jordan helping Pippen with this. In Pippen’s first several seasons, he rarely got calls on drives. Jordan used to show him — we were permitted to watch practice then — how to drive into contact and then react to the contact. Pippen used to practice it all the time with Jordan showing him. And, by the way, remember then that pretty much every team in the league complained that the Bulls because they had Jordan got the benefit of every call. That wasn’t right then, but it also isn’t right now that Rose is such a victim.

The +/- stat seems pretty strange on a game to game basis, but taken on a fifty or so game basis, it should be some what indicative. The Bulls with their winning record have only Scalabrine with a negative stat, so I left him and James out. I prorated the rest of them to a 24.2 minute per game number for an easy comparison.

Average plus number per 24.2 min per game:

Lucas 5.6
Hamilton 5.6
Rose 5.6
Korver 5.3
Gibson 5.3
Deng 4.8
Noah 4.7
Boozer 4.3
Brewer 3.7
Asik 2.6
Watson 2.1
Butler 1.7

To me, the most surprising number seems to indicate things do not improve as much as one thinks with Brewer in the game.

Jim Hunter

Sam: Well, John Lucas as your most valuable player throws off a lot of NBA draft boards. Plus/minus is a nice indicator of some things as the way your team does when you are on the floor does mean something. But there are so many variables about whom you play with and when. And to all those fans complaining about Hamilton, imagine according to your stats if they didn’t have him with his team leading plus/minus. Hey, maybe adding Hamilton to Lucas is enough to win a title, sort of like Levingston and Hopson in 1990-91.

Although I'm sure you were assured there'd be no math in your questions, I have one about the luxury tax and the league's plan to revenue share. As I understand it, if a team goes over the luxury tax limit, they have to pay an extra dollar (or more, depending on how far over they go) for every dollar spent. That money then goes into a pool that's distributed to the teams who didn't pay the luxury tax (most likely, small market teams). In addition, due to revenue sharing, the profitable teams (like the Bulls) will have to contribute a portion of their profits into a pool that's distributed to the unprofitable teams (again, most likely, the smaller markets). So, my question is, wouldn't it make more sense for a team to pay the luxury tax, lower their profits, and keep their players, instead of losing them and just giving money away? Let's say the Bulls are right below the luxury tax line. Taj Gibson is a free agent and some team offers him $10 million. If the Bulls match the offer, they'll have to pay at least $10 million in taxes on top of the $10 million they're paying Taj money that will go to a non-luxury-tax-paying team like Charlotte. The other option is to let Taj go and avoid the luxury tax. However, then the Bulls are more profitable (having saved Taj's $10 million salary and $10 million tax hit), so through revenue sharing more of the Bulls' money will go to a less-well-off team like Charlotte. Given those choices, if the Bulls have to pay out either way, isn't it better to keep Taj, lower their profits by $20 million, pay the luxury tax, and then pay less revenue sharing money out, rather than lose Taj, be more profitable, but give those profits to another team?

Chris Feldman

Sam: Forget math, I think this was more the cost accounting class I had in college. How’d you leave out LIFO and FIFO on player inventory? Anyway, it’s an interesting theory, but flawed in the new NBA economics. Fans don’t watch this much and prefer to call the Bulls cheap, but the Mavs blew up a title team after one year and the Lakers not only dumped Lamar Odom to save money but supposedly passed on Michael Beasley for cost as well. The league is making the luxury tax punitive with multiples once you go in it. Once you do, you, in effect, start the clock and then it begins to double and triple, and given the Bulls are taking a pretty good revenue sharing hit it could wipe out their profits immediately and I don’t see that happening. I do see them going into the luxury tax at some point to keep irreplaceable players or to acquire a difference maker. I’ve heard nothing to the contrary and even read something on ESPN to that effect again recently. So the point is teams that have talked to the Bulls are not being scared off of making deals by luxury tax consequences. But I believe they’ll be cautious about it, as even the formerly big spending teams are now. Forget the Knicks. They just keep raising the cable rates in New York with every crazy deal they make. No one else gets to do that.

The Bulls may not need Hamilton next year. The Bulls have a top five shooting guard in Rose, similar to M. Ellis. Why can't the Bulls move Rose over the to 2 spot, and acquire a point guard? Better yet, the Bulls need to start Watson at the point and Rose and the 2. This will give Rose more space to work with, and increase the Bulls offence effiency. Rose is 6'3 and strong enough to handle Wade, Harden, Westbrook and others. Have the Bulls considered this?

Larry Pilarski

Sam: Of course, who exactly is that great point guard to get? Once you get an MVP you don’t go putting him in another position to see how it will work. All point guards play off the ball at times assuming you have someone else who can make plays with the ball. It’s not Watson’s specialty, but Thibodeau indicated before Rose got hurt he’d be trying to play them together more. That’s one reason it’s important Rose get back to play with a few weeks left. There’s this notion guys can just come back and walk into the lineup. But I agree with Thibodeau that you need some time together both to get yourself back in playing condition and comfort and to try some stuff you might want to use in the playoffs. The Bulls really could use Rose and Hamilton back for two or three weeks. Hamilton is under contract for next season and you have to assume this season is an aberration and things will be different next season. I’d like to see if he and Rose can play a season or even a playoffs together. The offseason moves, I assume, will focus more on the bench and the big guys.

Do you have any explanation for why the NBA's top scoring teams are in the West and the top defensive teams are typically in the East? You have referenced this idea a couple of times when discussing Mike D’Antoni’s system, and how East teams had difficulty with the Suns. There certainly have been individual teams that are exceptions to the trend such as those championship Spurs teams who were usually at the top in most defensive categories each year. I noticed though, in general the Eastern and Western Conferences have had their identities for quite some time. Does this have to do with attitudes of their cities populations? There is certainly more of a blue collar attitude in the cities on the northeast Atlantic coast as well in the Great Lakes area, while the West has this “Wild West” wild and free mentality. Does it go back to the 80s when the “Showtime” Lakers were all about the fast break, while the Celtics and especially the Pistons played a more rugged half court style? Did the rest of the conference at the time just try to follow suit of their best teams and the trend has just continued to the present day?

John Swank

Sam: I’m fairly sure it’s not because of the mountains and the courts face downhill. I think playing to the orientation of your community is a bit of a myth, though there long has been this notion the East is grind it out and the West is run it up. It really reflects more the personnel you have. The champion Celtics in the East were the best fast breaking, uptempo team in the league. The Magic Lakers were an appropriate fast break team. Pat Riley wasn’t a fast break coach, and when he came East and he was the dominant figure the game slowed. Perhaps the only true exception is in Denver, where they’ve always tried to run to take advantage of the altitude. Utah is high altitude and they pushed more than you thought with Malone and Stockton. So because of the geography in some places you had to be able to play faster. The Lakers certainly haven’t done it for years and certainly not now with Mike Brown and Gasol and Bynum. The Thunder has a running team, but so does Miami, which is caught in a sort of ambivalent state as Riley and his acolytes prefer a slower, physical game and the talent wants to play fast. I think that’s another reason the Heat faces uncertainty at times. In the end, talent dictates who you are and how you play, or should.

Is the dirty little secret that the Bulls defense has not been shutting down teams in the same manner as before the All-Star break? There have been a lot of 100+ point games recently and it must be troubling for Thibs as the playoffs near.

Dan Hughes

Sam: I don’t think anyone has missed it. The question is whether this is the so called “Dog days” period of the season. It’s usually in January in a full season and teams take off after the All-Star break. But with the shorter season there weren’t enough games before the break. I get the sense from talking to players they are eying April 1 with about four weeks left to go as the time to kick it back onto gear and these last two weeks or March are sort of a getting your breath time. Which maybe explains some slumps or less committed play you see, perhaps with Miami and maybe some with the Bulls as well, though with Rose and Hamilton out it’s tough to judge the Bulls. We should get a better idea, at least with the Bulls, once those two return and maybe they get in some tough games like with Miami.

What are your thoughts on KG? He is a free agent next season and although there have been some tension between him and the Bulls I feel he would be a solid addition. He is putting up the same stats as Booz right now but he is also a better defender (even at his age). I know he loves Boston but I got to think if he did decide to leave he would go to Chicago where he could be reunited with coach Thibs (who he respects). Now I know Chicago can't give him big money because of the cap but he has made a lot of money in his career already.

Jason Chavez

Sam: KG is a punk. Of course, if he’s on your team he’s a heck of a competitor and what basketball should be about. Money will be the biggest factor only because it basically always is. Garnett believes he still can play at a high level, and playing center the last month or so he’s shown he can. He’s still going to get a lot of money, so he’s not going somewhere for a minimum. I wouldn’t be surprised to see he and Ray Allen do something like Steve Nash did, go somewhere, or stay, for a big one year deal and see how many of those you can get. The Bulls would technically be able to offer an exception, but their financial situation is so complex with their depth and Asik a free agent that it’s difficult to see where they could pay someone like Garnett even a $5 million starting salary. And I believe he gets more than that. Plus, as long as Boozer is with the Bulls and Taj Gibson the Bulls aren’t about to add another power forward, and Boozer or Garnett aren’t about to go gracefully to backup roles. But Garnett will be a very intriguing name this summer. Actually, I can see a team that strikes out in free agency, perhaps someone like the Nets with a new arena to sell, giving him crazy money one more time.

Has Thibs ever explained to you on the record or off the record why he likes to use Noah exclusively at the free throw line as the release when Rose gets trapped? I assume he has a well thought out basketball reason for everything, and sometimes Noah is super effective there. Other times not so much. I don't really see why he wouldn't use Deng, CJ, or even Boozer there. Guys that can knock down that free throw line extended jump shot.

Michael Koltun

Sam: Thibs explained to me off the record he is not skipping steps and he wants to play with pace and play inside/out. Other stuff, too. The Bulls run plenty of pick and rolls with shooters, which I assume is where you are going. He likes Noah as the release man because Noah is such a good passer and playmaker and you saw against the Hawks Wednesday that Noah can drive the ball, and they’d like him to do it more. He can hit that free throw line jumper, though he is reluctant to take it. And also in pick and roll situations, Noah is a tougher screener in that position. Though you also don’t want to use a smaller man there because it helps to see over the defense at that point as they’re basically zoning you when they do that and you want your shooters on the wings for threes and slashing to spread the court. You’re certainly not playing Noah outside, and if you stay small then you are weak rebounding and defensively. It’s really a luxury to have a big man there who is such a good passer.

I’m not thrilled in your available 2 guard candidates. I’ve heard Detroit is looking to get younger and think about the future. Would they be willing to part with Prince? He just turned 32, but could have a few good years considering that he does not rely on athletic ability and quickness. His salary is not too bad at $6.3 M for 3 years after this season, but the Bulls would have to give up close to $6M to match salary and I think Detroit would be looking for a pick or two. Perhaps expiring salaries would be more meaningful given their awful salary structure? Deng on Wade and Prince on James seems intriguing given their size and length. They can play off along the perimeter (forcing longer jumpers) and eliminate any kind of post play from those two. If Hamilton is healthy, he can guard Wade quite well.

Bob Mestjian

Sam: You have a different idea of what not too bad in salary is. Prince at his age and ability with that many years is an awful contract. The Bulls did look at him because he can make plays and play defense, but when the money got there it was over. I’m fairly sure you can get him from the Pistons with no trouble. But no one’s likely to absorb that deal that ends in three years at almost $8 million annually.

I am a certified LeBron hater. I've heard the media (ESPN) pose the question: Is LeBron having the best season ever? I realize he is having a great season, but best EVER? I finally figured out why they feel that way. It's because he's on track to have the highest PER ever for a season. The value they (ESPN) apply to that stat, "PER", is overblown. Our eyes can see who's the best. The stats don't tell the whole story. It's obvious the PER equation doesn't include performance in the last 30 seconds of the game!

Victor Devaldivielso

Sam: Well, they do get people arguing and mad, which is part of their plan to keep people tuned in. Sort of like the evening cable political shows, though ESPN rarely predicts the end of the world, which you can find nightly on cable and Mayan calendars. Let’s put it this way and I’ll end this fast: LeBron’s season basically isn’t matching any of the first eight years of Oscar Robertson’s career. And hardly anyone paid attention to Oscar then since Wilt was averaging 50 points per game. He had some fairly good seasons as well.

What would be the all-time Bulls roster in your opinion? For a full 12-man I say it would be Rose, Jordan, Pippen, Rodman and Artis Gilmore with Jerry Sloan, Norm Van Lier, Deng, Bob Love and Noah with Kirk Hinrich and Scal as 11th and 12th man. Although Scal isn't a all-time great he would add some personality to the team. Maybe Stacey King instead of Scal if need. Both would add a little something. What do you think?

Alex Pauley

Sam: Scal as the 11th or 12th best player in Bulls history when he is 13th best on the current team. I like that. Kirk Hinrich, too? The reason I included this email was that in this ESPN dominated sports era there’s so little appreciation and even knowledge of history. Chet Walker isn’t even mentioned and you can make the case after Jordan he was the next best Bull ever. Yes, I know Scottie Pippen had those six titles as well. But Chet was a far better college player, first team all-American. His scoring and rebounding career numbers topped Pippen’s and like Pippen he also made seven All-Star teams, though he played four fewer seasons. Chet finally is going into the Hall of Fame this year, long overdue, and like Pippen topped out in a season averaging 22 per game. Pippen was a far better defender and Walker the best offensive player on the Bulls in the early 1970’s when they were great, but not great enough. Otherwise, their career numbers were similar. And Walker won a title when he played with Wilt. Also, Reggie Theus, Guy Rodgers and Horace Grant were pretty good and All-Stars as Bulls. There’s also Toni Kukoc, Charles Oakley and Mark Olberding. OK, Kukoc and Oakley, though.

Centers are a rare commodity so the unproven guys get way overpaid. What is Asik going to get offered this summer and do you see any way the Bulls hang on to him? Could you see a scenario this summer where the Bulls trade Noah and pieces for a premier guard then pay Asik to start? Would this put the Bulls too much into the luxury tax? Some ideas:

Noah, Watson for D-Williams
Noah for Iguodala
Noah for Kevin Martin

Zach Hunter

Sam: I believe the Bulls have plans to retain Asik, and while it’s an interesting scenario to put someone as good as Noah on the market, I’m fairly sure the Bulls will not, and I wouldn’t. Their strength is their interior size and while I like Asik and feel he’s underutilized some, that strength is having both of them. It’s one of the big reasons the Bulls are so successful with their bench defensively. Anything can happen when a guy is a free agent. He can say he loves Sacramento and would play for free there. But the Bulls rebounding strength is all of those guys, and I assume they see that as well and will do all they can to maintain that, if possible.

We all know the two top power forwards in the league right now are Blake and Love. There's always a debate who would you take for your team, who’s better, etc. You really can't go bad with either choice however if you switched places and Love was on the Clipers and Griffin was on the Timberwolves is it insane to think the Clips would be serious contenders and the Wolves would not be as good as they are now? Love is just so polished offensively right now and can carry a team on his back. Griffin on the other hand has to be force fed the ball where he is comfortable; he can't hit the J or his free throws and I don't think he plays with that hardcore intensity for a full 48 minutes. What do you think?

Mike Sutera

Sam: LaMarcus Aldridge called to say it’s him. Actually, I wrote last week in my NBA column that Love probably gets that last Olympics forward spot over Griffin and Aldridge because of his shooting and more sophisticated play. I still think Love is more easily defended because of his lack of quickness and great jumping ability. I think you can play him and give him problems like teams used to give Dirk until he learns a better post game. But at this point he’s the best because he knows how to play so much more than Griffin. One issue Griffin has is their offense. As terrific as Chris Paul is, he’s not quite ideal for Griffin because Paul doesn’t like to push the ball. Griffin needs to play faster and would be even better. Plus, his game is so raw without many offensive moves now. Love is far superior and indeed putting up amazing numbers, though for a injury plagued team with limited scoring. I need to see him playing in bigger games more often. I’d give him the edge for now, though I think Griffin could be better eventually with a more mature game.

Doesn't Boozer need to start getting more credit for his role in the "chemistry" that everyone says is the key to this team? I have a hard time believing that if Carmelo had come back in the day we'd be talking about what a great locker room they have. I've never read any quotes from Boozer that sounded selfish. Not a lot of guys who make that much money manage to never say the wrong thing. (Even Rose had the slip-up that had people freaking out about whether "he's changed") Boozer may not have been the best player the Bulls were going after, but I think he was the best high-profile teammate, a perfect fit for their system and a great locker room guy. Those are the things we say the Bulls are great at, and I think its time Boozer got more credit for that.

Zac Stringham

Sam: It’s a good point. Actually, I find the fans grudgingly changing somewhat regarding Boozer, though the winning, especially without Rose helps. He’s not doing much differently than he has. He’s always been able to score and his numbers are similar, and perhaps he’s gaining some acceptance for being who he is. Most seem to forget he came after LeBron and Wade and Bosh because he was. Look, the Pistons passed on him as a free agent the year before to sign Charlie Villanueva. But you are right in that Boozer never has been a problem guy. He could have complained about shots or minutes or being replaced for defense late with a long term contract. Or just gone home with a hamstring or back injury. Instead, he is the only starter to play every game and his enthusiasm on the sideline has been the same when taken out early in games. He’s not making that money to be a cooperative teammate. I could do that and even mend Taj’s socks. But Boozer is making shots and plays about as well as he can. The question will be if the Bulls play Miami and he gets four points but says nice things about everyone how will people feel.

Can we just call Thibs the best coach in the NBA, hands down? Seriously, I know guys like Collins and Skiles specialize in getting their teams to overachieve, but this is epic right? I was so PO'ed this year when they brought Lucas back because I thought he was garbage. But Thibs knows his guys and knows how to get them to be more than they are. In this world of instant info. and plugged in players (woe is me Miami), this is unheard of.

Brad Ruey

Sam: It’s been another terrific season for Thibodeau as well, but if he is the first coach ever to win consecutive coach of the year awards I assume Pat Riley will retire his number.

I just read your weekly Q&A from Friday March 23, and here is a kid that was devastated after losing a regular season game to the Heat, as if he let down the whole city. He put the blame on himself after losing to the Heat in the playoffs, when he carried the team all season. How dare can anyone question his integrity and perseverance.

Argie Grigorakos

Sam: I‘m proud to provide a voice for everyone even if their opinion is wrong. Sort of like when I thought Jalen Rose was the answer for the Bulls. I’m sticking to my story that everyone misunderstood it was Rose I wanted even though Derrick was 14 at the time.

The defensive player of the year award always seems to go a big man. The only perimeter defenders I hear get talked about today are Artest, Tony Allen, and Deng. Who do you feel are some of the best perimeter defenders in the league?

Zach Kritzer

Sam: Dwight Howard keeps winning that award and it becomes difficult to find someone else because of the way the rules have changed and limit the physical play on the perimeter. Maybe the best I’ve seen this season is Andre Iguodala.

Given the outstanding play of C.J. Watson and Lucas III and the team’s comfort with them, how about trading D-Rose for D-Howard? Yes, yes, I know: I must be nuts.

Joe Lavely

Sam: Asked and answered.