Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 04.18.2014
Every Friday, Sam Smith of Bulls.com opens his Ask Sam mailbag and responds to the latest round of emails from his readers
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I just want to say, that I hear a lot of talk about the Bulls going after Carmelo Anthony. They also say they may give up Taj Gibson and or D.J. Augustin, just to make room for Anthony. If the Bulls do such a thing, it would be the biggest mistake they could ever make. They will struggle with the rebound and point guard savvy and be back to point zero again. This team has never been better since TGibson & DJ were added the lineup. Even if D Rose came back and the Bulls do get C Anthony, but they lose Gibson and D.J,. they still will be going nowhere. Can the Bulls bank on D Rose’s knees now? You will still need an efficient point guard to play along with Rose and be there to take a lot of pressure off of D Rose. Give D Rose time to come back without a lot of pressure and burn out. If they can get C Anthony without giving up any one of them.
Sam: I’ve addressed this one many times, and it will come up many, many more times and I suspect into July. It seems every few days one of the national basketball web sites suggests a ‘Melo to Chicago possibility and I get several more emails. I’m sure the Bulls would love to have Anthony, and I’m equally sure they have zero chance to obtain him. Even if the Bulls were to scrap their team, meaning as you say dumping Gibson and Augustin but also Dunleavy and Hinrich and perhaps a No. 1 pick to get to a full salary slot, it still would mean $30 million to $40 million less Anthony would be guaranteed over the length of the contract. Then Anthony, who supposedly just wants to win, would have to explain why he’s leaving the biggest winner in the history of the sport other than perhaps Red Auerbach to take $40 million less. That explanation, by the way, would have to be to his New York-loving wife, who already has said they’re not going anywhere. And though we are optimistic about Rose, can Anthony be so sanguine? Plus, is Phil Jackson really going to do a sign-and-trade of his best player and only star to enhance the Bulls’ chances and limit his own? Really, there isn’t anywhere for Anthony to go with the Lakers having moved on and looking toward 2015 and Kevin Love (or a trade this summer) and the Rockets not about to do a sign and trade for James Harden or Dwight Howard. Anthony’s going to posture and pretend, but he’s staying in New York.
Much is said about the Bulls adding another scorer. Let me say first that I really like this team and what Thibs gets from with Derrick's absence. Of course, I said this last year. I'm also comfortable that it may take a few more years to build a title contender. How serious do you think management takes the need for another scorer? For instance, if we go after Carmelo and fail, then what? Like, rookies are cheaper and in a decent (not great) draft, why package them if you can't get Carmelo? Shouldn't we just max the draft, be patient and develop the players we want with the world class coach we have? Seriously, who else of value is out there that isn't a knucklehead? I'm just worried management will put all the eggs in the free agency basket again and we'll be left with a big contract and a good, but overvalued player.
Sam: I think they’d like to have a shot at a star, but I also believe they don’t see the LeBron/Durant level star this summer and aren’t going to empty their Easter basket for one big Peep. Though I do know Gar loves the hunt. My guess is after all the speculation and rumors and reports and sources who certainly don’t know but have an opinion and we can pretend they do know, the Bulls will be able to sign Mirotic, find a decent shooting guard in the draft, like James Young of Kentucky or Nik Stauskas of Michigan or a Harrison from Kentucky, maybe bring back one or both of their point guards and with Rose move on. As good as this regular season has turned out, the disappointing part is we figured Miami would run down and the Pacers were overrated and with Derrick Rose the Bulls would have had the top seed. Of course, the Hawks probably are saying the same thing regarding Al Horford.
The notion that “getting it right” is worth slowing down a game doesn’t appeal to me as a fan. I love sports in part because they are a metaphor for life. Sometimes people make mistakes and we have to overcome them. In my mind it’s gamblers who are the main impetus for all the replay rules, not fans. When you add all the extra time, the lost or changed momentum in games, and the fact that what is inconclusive to one is conclusive to another, I just can’t find any compelling reason to support instant replay.
Sam: Blame the technology. It’s a little like the change-the-playoffs debate because the Suns missed it with a good season. Too bad. If you were that good you wouldn’t be ninth. Like you say, life isn’t always fair. But this era is filled with the second guess. Sure, everyone would prefer things be correct, but there are way too many stoppages in sports these days. The problem is the technology has become so terrific that no human eye—like no human mind can operate as fast as a computer—can match what the machine does. I guess if we want to take this to its inevitable end, we should forget the human portion and have computers make all the out and foul calls. That doesn’t seem possible, though I assume the machines still wouldn’t put up with DeMarcus Cousins, either.
I think that’s the scary part about last night -- that all the starters played their hearts out and lost to the Bobcats. That can't bode well for them heading into the playoffs.
Sam: Good thing they’re not playing the Bobcats, eh? We all know this is a Bulls team with a limited margin for error and certainly incomplete for the playoffs with no one player you can throw the ball to down the stretch to make a play for you. Their formula is defense, relentless play, and the intangibles of never basically giving up a possession or game. It will serve them as well and should be enough to get through a first round series to start. But certainly no guarantee and it would be no surprise to lose as after the Heat there really are no upsets in the East.
Aside from The Bulls 72-10 record and Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point game, what other NBA records do you think are unbreakable?
Sam: I don’t actually believe 72-10 is unbreakable if someone wanted to try for it. Though in this era that seems doubtful the way teams rest so many players and the fans even more so demand players to rest. So the Nets “rest” their players--though we suspect they were angling for a playoff matchup which is much different than throwing a season like the 76ers—and are condemned. Make up your minds! The talent is spread so thinly in this era that if you can put together another super team you could get to 75. Though the new labor agreement makes that more difficult with the luxury tax implications. Though in another reverse course the NBA is taking in some of these billionaire owners with which the luxury tax penalty may not matter, as with the Nets. Wilt’s 100, obviously. I think Wilt averaging more than 48 minutes in one season, though Jimmy Butler wants to take a shot at that. Wilt, by the way, averaged 46 minutes per game for his career. Wilt’s 55 rebounds will be tough to get as teams shoot much better and play more slowly. Also, Oscar Robertson averaging a triple-double while also averaging more than 30 points per game. I can’t recall many other players ever doing that once. How about 82 times?
Watching this Bad Boys documentary made me wonder about Isiah Thomas. I've always known he was a great player by reputation and his winning record, and his numbers are very good but not amazing. His career was winding down just as I started watching NBA games. What was he best at? What was he most known for?
Sam: Isiah, ironically, as I mentioned in a bit of a snippet in the show was the most popular player in Chicago until Jordan came. Isiah was beloved, and justifiably as he was an amazing player. He is listed at 6-1 and probably 5-11. To me, he’s the best six-footer ever to play. He could have averaged 25 and 10 for his career as he was a good shooter and unstoppable off the dribble. But after scoring big for a few seasons he recognized what was best to win and gave up his offense for winning. It didn’t make him a model in Chicago as he was usually beating the Bulls. Until 1991. It was the greatest, most competitive era of NBA competition and there were few rivalries as intense as Bulls and Pistons. It was great stuff.
I'm not one of the fans sending in love fest emails about this Bulls team. I still wish they would have tanked the season. Losing in the first or second of the playoffs is going to get us what exactly? I'd much rather have a high draft pick to build our team around then another overachieving regular season which leads to an early playoff exit.
Sam: When you find the franchise changing player in this draft, let me know. I have the Bucks, 76ers and Magic down for 25 wins again next season. And the season after that. Sure, someone’s going to get a good player sometime. And I’d go for Jabari Parker as he looks like an NBA All-Star to me. But it’s luck of the draw, and with Noah, Gibson and Butler how were you going to lose more games than those teams? Or the Kings, Celtics, Jazz and Lakers? Fortunately, Bulls executives don’t read this so they won’t consider your suggestions.
Do you see as a possibility that Luol Deng would go to the Hornets? It might remind him of home with Thibs’ disciple and they play like the Bulls’ little brother.
Sam: I do think that could be an ideal place for Deng. The Bobcats have money for a free agent. They need scoring and don’t have a wing player; plus Deng would fit their defensive mentality. Jordan left Chicago and life went on. It will for Deng as well and he’d be a good sit with Al Jefferson.
Can you expand a little on the Greg Smith signing? Is it correct that he is signed for next season and not just a team option? Is he hurt/injured and finished for this year? Uncommon for a “big” who apparently has skills is undrafted.
Sam: It’s a nice opportunity signing. He’s not eligible for the playoffs for not having been released before March 1, and he isn’t healthy enough, anyway. But he’s an athletic big who wanted to come to the Bulls and with his rehab he could be a steal as a young big man with experience who’ll play for a minimum deal. It’s the sort of signing we’re going to see more going forward with the new rules and the Bulls seem to have gotten a jump on it. I see the Knicks’ Lamar Odom signing somewhat similar.
As you know Steve Kerr is being considered as the new coach of the Knicks. What happened to Steve at Phoenix where he was the general manager? Was he fired, did he not like the situation, or did TV just look too good?
Sam: It was an unusual situation with an owner who then was too involved, though he seems to have backed off some now and allowed the basketball people to work. But that also was a tougher time for owner Robert Sarver, whose investments in the banking industry were taking a huge hit at the time because of the recession. As a result he decided to cut back drastically after basically pushing Kerr to trade for Shaquille O’Neal and then, whoops, it didn’t work, D’Antoni quitting and the deal being dumped on Kerr. GMs take the hit for owners all the time. It’s a big part of the job as Joe Dumars had to do a lot in Detroit. But Kerr puts it back together and gets to the conference finals. So the owner tells Kerr he’s got to take a huge pay cut in his new deal, though Kerr was most taken aback by efforts to cut staff salaries as well. So he ended up resigning. Kerr landed on his feet, but the Suns have done well also under Sarver’s ownership and now are poised to break into the top of the Western Conference with an excellent building project. So kudos to them.
D.J. Augustin has been a special player for the Bulls. Would the Bulls consider resigning him next year for the kind of money he will command? Why not keep him and let him play next to Rose as the shooting guard? Would be a great plan to get Rose to stop cutting so much- since his knees obviously can't hold up.
Sam: I believe the Bulls would love to retain D.J., though as an unrestricted free agent and in a weak free agent class D.J. may have more choices than the Bulls can match. The issue playing with Rose is who defends the shooting guard since Augustin is a small guard. You wouldn’t want Rose, obviously, doing that. So would D.J. settle for backup minutes after establishing himself as he has? It’s another of the many intriguing questions for this summer.
As fans and reporters continue to ponder potential offseason moves for the Bulls this summer, I'm wondering why Gordon Hayward's name does not come up more often. His numbers continue to improve, and while he is not a flashy player like Stephenson, he brings maturity, intelligence, and consistency to the court.
Sam: I think it doesn’t come up that much because he’s not that great. He is a versatile player, though he hasn’t had a very good season, shooting poorly on threes. He’s not your turn your team around player, but really more a small forward and the Bulls need a shooting guard. The larger issue is he’s a restricted free agent, which means to get him away from the Jazz you’d have to way overpay. The Bulls wouldn’t be able to do that and retain their team. In a sign and trade, it would cost you someone like Gibson and draft picks or Dunleavy, which is way too much to give up for a complementary player.
I have read where the Nuggets are trying to trade Kenneth Faried. He's a nice defensive player great rebounder, lousy shooter. Do you think the Bulls might make an offer for him?
Sam: Obviously not as the Bulls are well set at power forward. But that Faried has been on the market has been one of the more confusing stories of the season. He may be the best player on that team. He seems to have had issues with the coach, but isn’t a problem guy, and Andre Miller did as well and was not known as a problem guy. Faried could become one of the big names of the summer if the Nuggets do want to move him as he’s one of the more sought after players in the league.
Can you believe Noah's top 5 consideration for MVP? Could anyone have ever even entertained that though before this season?
Sam: Certainly not the Bulls; or anyone in the NBA; or me; or many fans who said to trade him and keep Asik. I’ve been counting and still only find his mother having thought that.
Jason Kidd or John Stockton or Steve Nash?
Sam: That's a good one. I never much liked Kidd because he couldn't score, but he could dominate a game more than those guys when he did. And sometimes when he didn’t. I'm leaning to Nash as the best shooter and the guy who got big contracts for more teammates maybe than anyone else ever. His total floor sense was amazing while Kidd’s was more in transition and toughness. On defense it’s Kidd, Stockton and then Nash, the latter probably the worst defending MVP ever. And that’s including Barkley. But overall I probably still go with Nash as one of the game’s great shooters and uncanny ball handler and passer. I take a few points away from Kidd with his history of blowing up teams on his way out.
I seem to recall much consternation last summer about breaking up last year's bench mob. Maybe Pax and Forman know what they're doing. It seems that we hear the same concerns each year that the Bulls rotate complimentary players, but every year we seem to do quite well in that area. Any chance the Bulls execs garner Executive of the Year consideration?
Sam: Maybe Michael Jordan. Or Rod Higgins. The Al Jefferson move was huge. And obviously Howard to Houston. Portland’s Neil Olshey would be a good choice. But the Bulls should get some, if only for D.J. Augustin. I did ask Gar, by the way, if they knew what they were doing. He said yes.
Avoid Brooklyn in the 1st round. Check.
Avoid the Heat in the 2nd round. Check.
Make Miami have to possibly play Brooklyn in the 2nd round, a team they’ve lost to all 4 times this year. Check.
Not bad for a losing night.
Sam: How ‘bout that Thibs! Better watch out what you wish for, though.