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Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 04.20.12

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

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

Now with the Bulls loss to Miami, and number one seed in question, what do you see as higher priority, creating chemistry between Rose and Hamilton, or trying to win the last three games? And do you think Bulls mgmt agrees with you?

Larry Hughes

Sam: Chemistry is created by winning. The sooner the Bulls get Rose back, the better chance they have to win and the more chemistry they’ll create. I don’t think the so-called chemistry issue, which I think is overrated, is that vital, as Thibodeau has been changing rotations quite a bit the last few weeks. I think he’s confident his offensive and defensive schemes make the difference for him. The larger question is how conservative you want to be with Rose. He likely wants to try to play, but the team after five injuries probably is wondering whether is the right time. I’ve speculated Wednesday in Indiana, but we’ll see, I guess.

Should we just sit Rose for the rest of the season and who would you rather see in the 1st round of the playoffs? knicks or 76ers

Ryan Monteiro

Sam: Rose should play as soon as feasible. I’d want to avoid the Knicks, as the 76ers, the likely eighth seed, have faded quite a bit and the Knicks are feeling awfully good. The Knicks look like they’ll have seventh, which also means a second round with the Pacers if you don’t get the No. 1 seed. And the Pacers may be the most dangerous team for pulling an upset, at least against the Bulls since Miami routinely beats Indiana. It seems the vastly easier path to the conference finals is the top seed, which is how it should be.

It appears that Miami sent a message to the Bull's declaring they are going to be the more physical team not only Thursday but in the playoffs as well. This game was very reminiscent of the old Bulls vs Pistons games. Do these Bulls have the fortitude to get mad and overcome the mental beatdown? Who will score, who's going to sacrifice their body to get rebounds and loose balls?

Steve Fulton

Sam: It’s probably the salient question after Rose’s health, which is No. 1. Miami made a strong statement they’ll try to push the Bulls and will continue to do so until they push back. The Bulls are a strong team if not a physical team. They play hard and compete hard, but they don’t have the personality of enforcers. They’re tough guys, but not aggressive in that way. I applaud that as they deal out the punishment in a basketball sense, though there’s more to that in playoff basket and you have to step over the line from time to time. The old Bulls had to and they finally got past the Pistons when Pippen and Grant joined in. We’ll see this unfolding in the playoffs.

Is Lebron making a late push for your MVP vote? Has anyone every led his team in scoring, assists, rebounds, and steals, and been the late game defensive stopper and not won MVP? Has anyone ever played a role of late game stopper, guarding whatever position the other team's star is at? While it's fair to criticize James' late game offensive passiveness, does defense count in clutch play and closing? Bosh vanishes against good defenders, and after him, the roster is certainly worse than Cleveland. It's really a two player team, and one of them is declining and oft-injured. And they are 12-1 without Wade anyway, shades of James in Cleveland. Bottom line is the Heat are a pro-rated 60 win team and it's largely because of James, with surprisingly little help.

Sheldon Hirsch

Sam: Well, that would be the case, and as I noted in my NBA column Monday, my sense among the national media is James will win. In fact, I expect him to get at least 75 percent of the first place votes. I probably won’t be among those, but I reserve the right to change these next few days. I don’t doubt or begrudge his impact or high level of skill. And, to his credit, watching those around him he continues to play through a tough season. So perhaps it’s also not fair as we don’t get to see the Heat without him. Though that counts for him. I know a lot of fans don’t like him and root against him, which is ironic in the sense that he really was a player who wanted to be liked. I do think he regrets his decision given the way he has come to be viewed, which is only natural. I think Kobe was better with the villain role as I don’t think he did care that much what you thought of him. I do agree he was opposed to going to prison, though. As for LeBron’s MVP credentials, I still think he defers too much, takes long portions of games off and even still doesn’t quite know how to play with Wade. They obviously oversold themselves and the Heat has done a poor job building around them. Bosh contributes more than you credit him for, even if I’ve never been much of a fan. I won’t argue vociferously when James wins because he certainly is in the conversation. But I’d prefer my MVP to be more involved in the last three minutes and less in the first 45.

Shockingly, the propaganda machine has dominique wilkins, oh, er, sorry, lebron james, as their unanimous mvp. Being the most valuable player on your team, let alone the league means building up stats in the first three quarters and then running once the heat is on. How on earth lebron has more mvp awards than kobe is beyond me and is a complete travesty. personally, i'd go with durant at 1 and kobe at 2 if i had a ballot. I'd even have rondo before lebron (think about the run the celtics have had and ask yourself how much of an impact rondo has had, as opposed to james, and i'm talking impact not statistical padding and highlight dunk hamming. You have to wonder if dominique was in his prime, playing now, if he wouldn't be garnering some of the same lebron votes for the same reasons -- big stats, big dunks, big athleticism.

Sean Leary

Sam: Dominique probably was born too soon. He was around, but ESPN hadn’t quite discovered the NBA in his prime. I’m still unsure of my vote, though I’m also thinking of Kobe and Durant. Durant is a big time closer and a guy you’d like to see rewarded, and as I’ve written previously I think Kobe deserves more recognition given his impact over the era. There’s nothing wrong, in my view, of spreading the vote around. I didn’t vote every season for Jordan for MVP even when I felt he was the best player. Because there always are others who are great. And though he was injured late, Kobe leading the league in scoring all season in the tougher, compressed season has been truly remarkable at a time when most continued to insist his skills were in decline and the Lakers would be as well with issues about a new coach, a major trade rescinded and curious behavior from Andrew Bogut. Plus, then moving Derek Fisher and not having much bench, anyway. Still, they’ve hung in and remain a Finals contender, and Kobe has a lot to do with that.

I know this is heresey, but given what has happened to Derrick this year wouldnt it be interesting to see what you clould get for him? Chris Paul, Westbrook, or ?. It seems to me that Derrick is one injury away from being just another guy. With his style maybe a point guard who doesn’t get the hell beaten out of him would be interesting. Just thinking out loud.

Lee Bakakos

Sam: Well, I would say you could interest quite a few teams, especially the Thunder who’d love to have an actual point guard. You probably could then get Dwight Howard to come to Chicago since he could get the Adidas endorsements and not have to compete for them with Rose. I remain of the opinion this is a series of aberrations perhaps set in motion by the early injuries and then Rose trying to compensate. In any case, there are some seasons like this, and you’d much easier be able to trade for any of the coaches, the executives, the Jordan statue and maybe four of the championship banners before you could get Rose. And, oh yes, I’d say after Thursday’s game with Miami the Bulls still need Rose as their point guard position isn’t exactly perfect without him, especially against a team that goes after the guards defensively.

I wanted to get your take on it. A few “fans” are saying trade Rose, he is injured a lot etc. I feel this is ridiculous he is still the best point guard to the league. My question is back in 86 or 87 when Jordan had that ankle injury where he was out for most of the season, I know it was a different time, but were journalist and fans losing their minds and calling for Jordan to be traded too? Because to be honest with you, that’s what it sounds like to me.

Peter Thompson

Sam: Things were different because Michael wasn’t yet Michael. He’d only been a rookie on a team quickly dismissed from the playoffs. Rose was the MVP and the Bulls have been considered a title contender. So the reaction has been more of frustration and disappointment, which leads to lashing out. Plus, that was the beginning of the Jordan/Krause and management feud with Jordan wanting to return to play and management listening to doctors saying he shouldn’t. Times were different then for the Bulls as well as there was fairly open media and fan hostility to the organization for allowing the team to disintegrate for so many years with embarrassing decisions like drafting Quentin Dailey after he’s pleaded on a rape case. The National Organization for Women picketed the Bulls opener. There were a succession of shockingly poor draft decisions, like Orlando Woolridge, who then held out, and Ronnie Lester after he blew out his knee. Drug treatments were rampant on the team along the trade of popular players like Reggie Theus. So it was more a fan/management issue with Michael being a vehicle for it at the time.

I know Rose doesn't quite have the legs yet but why is he struggling so much with ballhandling lately? It's messy and his passes aren't quite on target. Plus he was getting guarded by Ben Gordon who looked like the Defensive Player of the Year as Derrick had difficulty going by him. I'm concerned whether the last few games would be enough for him to get back to his old self by the playoffs time.

Jay Choi

Sam: Obviously, Derrick went out again, so perhaps there is no chance he’ll be quite his so called old self this playoffs. But the Bulls have a lot going for them with size, front court depth, a bench and Hamilton coming on that I don’t think Rose will quite have to be as fulfilling as he’s been in the playoffs before for the Bulls to have success. Still, it will remain an ongoing process as the playoffs proceed, sort of day-to-day, as the Bulls like to report. And as we saw Thursday in Miami requiring a bit more physical effort.

One of the things I think that has gone unnoticed in the Rose injury saga… I think this just goes to show what a fine tuned basketball machine this kid is. The fact that he is so rusty goes to show how hard he works to be at the top of his game all the time. I am sure Rose has never gone a month without running but more importantly practicing basketball. So yeah, its naïve to think he can just come back and play like top shelf Derrick Rose. He has to work his butt off to be the player that he is night in and night out. The fact he is rusty, to me, is a credit to how good he usually is. I don’t want someone to be able to come back and play at the top of their game with no practice, bc I think that means they don’t practice hard enough to make them a better player. Derrick Rose probably works on his game as much as any player in the league, when he doesn’t get to work on it, he isn’t Derrick Rose. Makes sense to me.

Michael Koltun

Sam: That’s a valid point and I think somewhat overlooked. Also, because there’s little practice time and an urgency to get players back as soon as possible we forget they are missing something. You are right in how much Rose works in the offseason and during the season. So it’s perhaps unfair to expect so much from him just because we feel OK. But that also suggests the playoffs are going to be tough because Rose is never quite going to have that long period to get into the condition and comfort zone he is accustomed to and which does take months of offseason workouts. Especially because so many of the injuries have been to his feet, thus limiting running and playing hard. But knowing him he’ll push pretty hard even if you never see it in his expression. I guess we can forget about the postups, as well.

Is a bad luck year for Derrick Rose, the year Rose finally loses his down-to-earth charm? It seems like Derrick's been uncharacteristic for awhile now. From the arrogance of the "I must be the only superstar..." comment to the visibly agitated no-foul-call on-court-antics (ala D-Wade) to the recent comment that he basically hates being famous (well that comes with the territory, would he rather work at 7/11 and be anonymous? There may be a few takers for his 5 yr/$94 mil extension and shoe deal.) to the "tired or taking cheap shots" comment and jawing with Villanueva, which will invite more cheap shots one would think....it seems like the compacted schedule/injuries/pressure are starting to turn Derrick into something other than the humble, cool customer we've grown accustomed to. We can chalk some of that up to youth, him being a young man still. Also I think this season has gone way different than Derrick expected for himself personally and that could be a factor for sure. But Derrick seems to be in a funk to say the least--do the Bulls have a sports psychologist on staff? And if so, do you think Derrick might benefit from utilizing that resource? He should at least get a visit from his older brothers at the very least...

Josh Neukom

Sam: I think I saw a “King” tattoo on his back, also. Nah, he’s really about the same, still as nice a kid given his celebrity as anyone I’ve been around. I get kidded at times (you are kidding, right) by fans for being so pro-Rose, but he does remain the same humble, relatively unassuming guy he’s been. As I mentioned before the “other superstars” comment was, I thought, just a poor articulation as he isn’t always the greatest speaker. Sure, there is frustration given he really lives for and loves to play, and though he denies it I do feel he feels he’s let down his team even though he has no control over the injuries. I think it even embarrasses him some given he does work so hard at the game. And I think he probably feels a bit guilty with everyone paying him and now he can’t perform. Look, he is 23 and hardly has been a man of the world. I thought the GQ article you refer to depicted Derrick well as the relative recluse stardom can make you. It actually showed, to me, instead of any arrogance or entitlement the naïveté that still is Derrick, that he is surprised that your life changes when you become rich and famous. That’s right folks, if you love your life don’t play the lottery. I just don’t think Derrick understands yet how to deal with it. I remember Michael saying much the same stuff when his celebrity started to explode and telling us how he can’t go to the grocery and we all wondering why he wanted to. Your life does change and it is a shock, especially for someone essentially shy, which Derrick is. I’m not around him at all in social settings, but I watch him all the time around basketball and if he’s not exactly who he was—and who is—he’s an awfully good representative for the game and for his community.

Now that Luol Deng is officially playing the most minutes in the NBA it’s time to put to bed this ridiculous notion that he is being overplayed. It seems every mailbag you are fending off questions about Thibs management of minutes. So below is a look at the top 11 players who are currently averaging over 37.0 mpg as of 16th Aril. Note ages and years played.

Rank MPG Age Years Pro
1. Luol Deng , CHI - 39.5 27 8
2. Kevin Love , MIN - 39.0 23 4
3. Kobe Bryant , LAL - 38.5 33 16
4 K evin Durant , OKC - 38.4 23 5
5. Dwight Howard , ORL - 38.3 26 8
6. LeBron James , MIA - 37.8 27 9
7. Rudy Gay , MEM - 37.7 25 6
8. Pau Gasol , LAL - 37.4 31 11
9 . Marc Gasol , MEM - 37.4 27 4 (NBA)
10. David Lee , GSW - 37.2 28 8
11. Rajon Rondo , BOS - 37.1 26 6

I think the first thing to note that “hey” what a surprise if you are one of the team’s best players, you play the most minutes regardless of your age or seasons played. Out of the top 11 – there are 6 players that are either the same age or older than Deng. 6 out of the 11 have played either the same or more seasons that Deng. As you can see Deng is playing comparable minutes to his peers. And when talking about Rose before he was injured – look at his peers Love, Durant, Gay & Rondo. Can people please stop whinging about this issue. I wonder if your “Sam’s Mailbag” equivalent gets the same in L.A., Miami and Orlando??? I doubt it.

Andrew Robson

Sam: Actually, that is a common refrain among fans in various places, at least where teams are doing well and people are paying attention. A lot of fans don’t get into the X’s and O’s as much since it isn’t discussed or explained much. But they can assess fatigue, or believe they can. It becomes more an issue on talk radio, though, as I’ve generally agreed with Thibodeau on much of this, during the championship years Jordan and Pippen always averaged close to 40 minutes per game. Perhaps because Deng has had previous injury issues there’s some legitimacy, and now with Rose having so many there’ll be questions perhaps for the rest of his career, or until he plays through a full season again. I’m generally of the opinion that players should play, that no one likes going to Broadway to see the understudy. Perhaps this season is an issue and an exception because of the excess travel and back to backs. I think Deng is probably afraid to say anything, anyway, for fear they’ll bring Vinny back and he’ll have to stand in the corner and watch again.

Please tell me that the coach is just taking it slow with rip hamilton?? Is this his rotation going in the playoffs?? He using him like he use Bogans last year" The first quarter and the 3 quarter? I remember one game he score 18 points in the 3 quarter and he did not even played the 4 quarter. Is this are rotation going in the playoffs?

Keorn Thomas

Sam: That seemed to be the case until Rose and Deng went out, and we began to see the Hamilton we’d seen before in Detroit and whom the Bulls were hoping for. I think Thibs was taking it slowly with Hamilton given not only the injuries but that Hamilton hadn’t really played much the last two seasons with the turmoil in Detroit. Kyle Korver has been very good and showing great depth of his shot and producing nice spacing playing with the starters, which also seems to be something Thibodeau likes. So I suspect we’ll see some variations where it is at times Hamilton and at times Korver. But Hamilton’s attitude has been terrific through this and he’s remained outwardly upbeat, so I can see him beginning to work in more now.

Considering the sorry state of the Charlotte Bobcats run by Michael Jordan do you think jerry Krause just might be laughing his head off, especially since Jordan & pippen mocked Krause’s ability as a scout and GM ? also do you think Krause has a chance to be inducted into the hall of fame ?

Richard Meagher

Sam: I don’t recall Jerry laughing a lot, though I have heard he’s having a great time as a baseball Diamondbacks scout, so perhaps on those long afternoons in the ballparks hiding behind a pole so no one sees him he may be enjoying a smirk. I do think Jerry eventually will get into the Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame has been slow to recognize team executives, though new director Jerry Colangelo is doing some great things to recognize forgotten contributors. Though those were contentious times with issues, many of Jerry’s own making that dimmed his impact, he was the guy in charge when the Bulls won six championships, basically gave Phil Jackson his chance, made the moves to complete the teams and told me he’d found 183 errors in The Jordan Rules. Some included when I’d written Krause wasn’t the best dressed. We both moved on, and the last time I saw him he was in a very sharp sweater.

You wonder (the way things have gone in Miami) if Lebron thinks about what could have been had he signed with the Bulls. Rose, 'Bron, Boozer, Noah, Deng, Asik, Gibson, that's a tough team to beat.

Al Mirza

Sam: I do wonder what LeBron really thinks. Because everything you hear is that he isn’t all that pleased with Miami. His image has taken a major blow and you don’t see him as a popular figure in commercials much anymore. As I said, I think that does bother him. I don’t think he ever was serious about the Bulls, but the Bulls believed otherwise. The untold story of their recruitment of LeBron was how sure they were he was coming to Chicago. I’d heard they were so convinced after the initial sessions and LeBron’s longest time spent with anyone being with Thibodeau talking basketball that the Bulls were already beginning to work on things for James beyond basketball. There’s been much about how Rose didn’t recruit him, but Rose doesn’t recruit anyone and I believe would have been fine with James. Thibodeau also always believed because he defends twos that Deng could have played that position as well as James. I do believe James’ first choice was to remain in Cleveland, but he couldn’t get anyone to join him, at least guys like Bosh and Stoudemire. So he opted for his buddy’s sales pitch. Though Wade toyed with the Bulls, I believe it was just that as a backup in case James stayed in Cleveland and no one would join Wade in Miami. The interesting part is what happens of Miami doesn’t win. LeBron can be a free agent in 2014. Should the Bulls start dumping some contracts and take a run at free agency again as Rose will only be 25 and give James a mulligan?

Why is it not abundantly clear that Omer is not an offensive player? Time and again he fumbles the pass and immediately turns it over! Don't get me wrong, he's one of the best defenders in the league, but there is absolutely no need to involve him on offense.

Ben Feldman

Sam: I think Omer will develop and gets a bad reputation these days for dropping balls. I think his free throw stroke is good and I believe the last year has worked against him. He was hurt in the playoffs and couldn’t work out, then played for his national team and there’s no teaching there and then with the lockout was in limbo and then the rushed season with no practice. He’s become a target of media discussion during less meaningful games late in the season. Last week, there was a media debate at a game after Omer had dropped a few passes on the players with the poorest hands. Names mentioned included Felton Spencer, Adonal Foyle, Kwame Brown and Erick Dampier. I could add Patrick Ewing. Omer doesn’t get much help from his teammates as they rarely look for him on an early move and usually find him later on balls tougher to catch because they don’t think of him offensively. During the Charlotte games, Comcast’s Aggrey Sam did a pool—there wasn’t much to watch—about what Omer would average and his high game if he played for Charlotte. He’d start, I’m sure, and I guessed a 20-point game and averaging 10 and 12. Playing off the bench that game he got nine and 15. If he were in this draft, he’d be the No. 2 pick after Kentucky’s Davis. Not bad for a backup.

Given the amount of time Derrick's missed and the need to have a rhythm with the rotation going into the playoffs, would there be any chance Derrick might come off the bench for a series or so until he gets his legs under him again? He is a team-first guy, and I think Larry Bird did that one season, so a franchise guy being a bench player isn't unprecedented. He looked much better against the Pistons than the Heat, so maybe he'd be most effective against the second units of playoff teams until his conditioning is back. Or is that crazy?

Chris Feldman

Sam: I get tired of hearing from the C.J. Watson fan club. If the Bulls need to have Derrick play against reserves they are in pretty big trouble, and perhaps we ended that dispute, assuming there was one, against Miami Thursday. As I recall, I spent much of last season answering emails about C.J. not even being a point guard and shouldn’t the Bulls draft a point guard so they’d have one legitimate backup. Though that really would help the Bulls Bench Mob and sell many more t-shirts, which I think C.J. gets the royalties for. Clever. Look, C.J. has been terrific this season, winning several games with big shots and perhaps proving himself for the first time a potential starting quality guard. But not for the Bulls.

With the injuries to Derrick Rose piling up do you think that the Bulls will look for a PT Guard in the draft?

Richard Meagher

Sam: Given the Bulls have the latter day Magic Johnson/John Stockton/Oscar Robertson in C.J. Watson I’m not sure why they would.

Watson, Asik, & Gibson could be starting for some teams. Because of the Bulls record, winning games without Rose, will other teams over value these three Bulls. Meaning could the Bulls get more value or first round picks from these three than their actual worth? Is their skill level that high or is it Thibs coaching system or both?

Jeff Lichtenstein

Sam: It’s going to be a tough question for the Bulls, and will depend on how things go in the playoffs. Watson, Korver and Brewer are on team options, Asik is restricted and Gibson can get an extension. I don’t believe the Bulls can keep them all, though it remains unclear as for now. The question is should the Bulls make a preemptive move and trade someone for a pick so they can keep someone else. As we have seen in previous good seasons, when you do well in the playoffs, your value increases. Once guys like Longley, Buechler and Scott Williams left the Bulls they never were the same players. Thibodeau’s system and coaching has made some impact, though most were starters elsewhere at times and had success. Watson once had a 40-point game. Those are going to be some of the tough decisions the organization is going to have to make. You basically don’t see any team anymore with that level of depth and so many high priced starters, like the Bulls now have. Even previous big salary teams like the Lakers and Mavs have been dumping contracts since this new labor deal. Virtually no one has the level of expert depth the Bulls have. It should help a lot this season, but I don’t expect to see all the same faces next season.

I recently read an article on that listed the Jason Collins all stars and it made me wonder, who is the most valuable bulls bench player? Is there one? Or does there value lie in them as a collective unit?

Paul McCright

Sam: Jason Collins has All Stars? It’s more the effect they have coming into the game as a group, though it’s been more difficult to measure this season because so many of the reserves have started games. If I had to pick one, I’d probably say Gibson because he is so valuable given his defense is counted upon to complete the power forward position with Boozer and he provides the energy and defensive shot blocking and presence with Omer that makes the Bulls so difficult for opponents. Shooters can be missing; they are missing fewer times as the bodies they have to hit are much bigger targets.

What happens if the Bulls and Heat finish tied in conference record, the first tiebreaker after the series, which is now 2-2.

Eric Harrell

Sam: Below are the tiebreakers. If the Bulls and Heat end up tied, it appears Miami would win for percentage against playoff teams.

(1) Division leader wins tie from team not leading a division
(2) Head-to-head won-lost percentage
(3) Conference won-lost percentage
(4) W-L Percentage vs. Playoff teams, own conference
(5) W-L Percentage vs. Playoff teams, other conference
(6) Net Points, all games

My friends and I think that Omer Asik looks like Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) do you agree?

Joseph Corr

Sam: I’ve actually heard that mentioned before, though I still grope for the significance. I do know one thing, that he is not a close talker. Having a past as an investigative reporter, I did try to go the step further and I did confront Asik about this, though not quite as Mike Wallace would have. Before I could finish my sentence, which also revealed a bit more about Omer’s understanding of English than he generally admits, he shook his head to acknowledge he’d been asked this before. I am assuming this didn’t help with enhancing the respect for the intellectual interests of Americans. He basically had no answer, which I took to suggest we here in the U.S. spend way too much time thinking about Judge Reinhold, whoever that is. And who made him a judge, anyway?

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