Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 04.27.12

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

I do not understand very well the opinions expressed by various teams about the Bulls. Like foul'them hard the won't answer: well maybe they don't have to since they win. Or teams like the Knicks and the Sixers saying the'd rahter face the Bulls than the Heat. Well, the Bulls are still n° 1 in eastern conference, with a tough schedule and some injuries ... ad oh yes without the reigning MVP for the most part of the season. Are the Bulls not respected? In any case, they are not feared.

Ali Hill

Sam: That doesn’t win or lose you any games, so it’s mostly irrelevant. But the Bulls don’t get a huge amount of respect and probably shouldn’t until they win. It’s natural teams and the national media see the Bulls as potentially weakened with Rose missing so many games. I think they’ll be surprised. But you have to prove it first. Media observers and even players see that happened and react. So the Bulls lost 4-1 to Miami in the playoffs and until they turn that around they are the team that can’t win the big ones. I personally agree the Bulls are being underestimated because people underestimate the Bulls’ major strengths, which are the bench and guys like Omer, who have no offensive stats, and the size on the front line of four healthy bigs. That’s not as exciting to talk about as leading scorers and big dunkers. But that wins games and why I think the Bulls have a very good opportunity this season to silence a lot of criticism. But you have to win those games or there’s no reason to have that respect.

Does Thibs ever try to motivate these guys in inspirational ways? I just watched the Michael Jordan tribute from the Hall of Fame induction. And if I was Thibs I would play this every day before a game, it makes you realize what greatness is and what it takes to get there.

Mario Persico

Sam: The Bulls, most everyone agrees, have the league’s hardest playing team. So whatever he is doing as far as motivation seems to be working. The danger now of referencing Michael is you may think of him at a Bobcats’ game.

It is an exciting time of the year and everybody is thinking who is going to win the NBA championship. In the 32 years since Bird and Magic entered the league, a team that was in the Top 5 in team FG% has won the title 21 times and a team that was in the Top 10 has won the championship 27 times. Phil Jackson was able to win without such an efficient offense three of the other five times at the end of 3-peats or repeats (Chicago in 1993 and 1998 and LA in 2010), and Detroit has the other two (the fluke of 2004 and the rugged 1990 team). Right now San Antonio is 1st is Team FG%, Oklahoma City is 3rd, and Miami is 4th. The Bulls are 15th. While the Bulls have a great defense, so do the other teams, although San Antonio is a bit suspect. In fact, teams that have won the NBA Championship also typically have a good defensive FG%, with the average team being about 5th or 6th in the league. So we all wish the Bulls the best, but the odds don't seem with them. If they are not able to pull off the Dwight Howard trade over the summer, what do you think of them installing the triangle offense to pick up the offensive efficiency? Noah has good passing skills for a center and their players are not selfish. Do you think this would make Rose (and Deng) more effective? I think everyone is getting tired of seeing the guards try to swing around the trap at the top of the key to start every play, although it is not as bad to watch as what Miami did the offense in the conference finals last year, when the team averaged 81 points in regulation in the final four games. Thibs is a great defensive coach, but perhaps he needs some strategic help on offense? Pax certainly knows how the triangle works and what it can do What do you think?

Brad Erens

Sam: Well, that’s a bad omen. As far as the triangle, it’s impact is somewhat overrated (it works best with Jordan or Kobe), and the coach decides what the team does and Thibodeau is no disciple. So that never will occur. The point is to have a system of play, which the triangle was, and Thibs has one. So that’s enough. Given there are plenty of exceptions to your statistics rule I don’t think it means all that much. Plus, the Bulls efficiency per 100 possessions, which is a more accurate measure, is better. So I don’t see that as a major issue. But it’s an interesting issue to consider.

The Bulls bench, don't you think it's one of the best in history? Having a 7 footer as Asik andPF as Taj, which both block and defend excellent. A shooter like Korver that has found their rythm, plus an excellent defender like Brewer and a guard with goal as CJ, is not an everyday thing. I think that this team could be starter in more than one NBA team, and possibly would be fighting for a spot in the playoffs in the East.
How do you compare with other historic benchs?

Marcos Sciarra

Sam: We’ve discussed the Bulls reserves a lot and they’ve gotten an awful lot of credit this season. And they have been very good with Derrick Rose missing so many games. They’re also part of why the Bulls are underrated by many without Rose. The Bulls don’t get enough credit for having what no one else does, a rotation of four big men and who defend so well off the bench. It’s difficult to measure in numbers, which is why so many in the media miss it. But it’s also why the Bulls can have an edge on Miami even without a 100 percent Rose. The combination of size, rebounding and depth wins games and offsets the loss of your star. It’s not conventional wisdom, but it works. It’s also why the Bulls can do as well as last season without Rose because last season the size wasn’t there. Noah was out half the season and never was the same when he returned. Boozer missed the first month and then had sporadic ankle injuries which kept setting him back. Thibodeau never really used Asik much until later in the season and Gibson wasn’t the same player after an offseason when several close friends and relatives died and it was months into the season before he was playing close to the level he played at this season or even the season before. So while the injuries didn’t have the star power of Rose being out, they were as significant. Though let’s not go too far in historical significance. The Celtics in the 60’s were bringing two or three Hall of Famers or future All Stars off the bench when they won eight straight titles. It’s the reason Russell was more successful than Wilt. Look at 1963-64, for example: Russell, Sam and K.C. Jones, Havlicek, Heinsohn, Satch Sanders, Willie Naulls, Frank Ramsey, Jim Luscutoff and Larry Siegfried. Or 1961-62 with both Jones, Russell, Heinsohn, Ramsey, Cousy, Saunders, Loscutoff and Carl Braun. That’s seven or eight Hall of Famers. Then there’s the late 1980’s Pistons with Rodman, Salley, Rick Mahorn and Vinnie Johnson coming off the bench. There were also some 80’s Lakers teams bringing off the likes of Bob McAdoo, Michael Cooper, Kurt Rambis and Mitch Kupchak. It’s probably not fair to compare some of those teams as the talent wasn’t as spread out as it is now with 30 teams. The Bulls bench for this era is exceptionally good, and the tradeoff for getting one All Star in free agency two years ago instead of two. We should soon find out again which formula works best.

Because this is a Bulls forum I have to ask. Why do you entertain people who inquire about hypothetical trades for Rose?

B.H Wendell

Sam: I answer the questions in proportion to the ones I get. I’ve had a few readers ask about this, but the fact is I’ve received a large number of emails from readers expressing concern about Rose’s future. And quite a few have suggested they are concerned about Rose’s future durability. I am not as much concerned as they are, as I have written. But if that’s what’s on fans’ minds, that’s what I feel most obligated to answer. I can only answer the questions I receive. Not the ones that might make some feel better. I don’t answer the truly ridiculous scenarios, the ad hominem attacks or bizarre conspiracies. But when I get numerous questions on the same issue I’ll usually pick a representative one. Derrick hasn’t had a great few weeks with many Bulls fans, but I am expecting a big comeback.

Did you see the Artest felony battery flagrant elbow? This isn't the first time he's targeted a top player on an opposing team in an important game. Last year, it was twice in the first round against Jarrett Jack, Trevor Ariza and, ultimately, Chris Paul in a tight series. Artest then did it again against Mavs guard Berea. Artest should scare any NBA owner or team who has seen his behavior for years. Any chance you and others can make sure fans like me don't have to see this guy kill one of our important players? Artest isn't vital to the Laker core and his hatchet flagrants impact other teams more than his own worth - and he knows it. The fact he's possibly psychotic shouldn't garner him any more sympathy. How about a year suspension?

Matt Adler

Sam: I would have gone beyond seven games, which the commissioner decided. I initially suggested 10 now, assuming the Lakers advance more than a round, and 10 to start next season. Though I was mistaken that he does lose money for the playoff suspension as well. You lose 1/110th for every game suspended even though players only get playoff shares and not salaries in the playoffs. My point, though, was to extend the suspension beyond the playoffs. I do think he is a danger to other players, though not because he is targeting, as you say, but because he doesn’t always realize what he is doing. Though it seemed apparent he was going after Harden, he seemed surprised by the reaction. He is mentally ill, and has acknowledged that. So, yes, there’s no reason he can’t work in the NBA and be productive. But at the same time he has to be responsible for his actions like anyone else. The interesting part was how few NBA players were as outraged as fans. Yes, players protect other players in the sort of fraternity they feel they are in separated from the public. And in recent years it’s become perhaps too much of that with all the post game hugging and such, which is why it was so refreshing to see Paul Silas object when Tyrus Thomas was hugging Celtics who just dominated his team. Let’s at least see some fake remorse when you lose, eh? At least feel as badly as the fans on occasion. But I do think the players genuinely like Ron (no longer Metta to me, at least). He is kind hearted and he does try. But that said, that was such a brutal act I wish the commissioner would have taken even a stronger stand given there have been so many cheap shot flagrants coming into the playoffs, like James Jones on Joakim Noah and Robin Lopez on Blake Griffin. I’m not sure enough of a message was sent to open these playoffs and make sure they don’t become the pathetic NHL. I wish the league had sent a stronger message.

I hated it when I heard certain ESPN guys talking about how the hard fouls were good to "get ready" for the playoffs and show "toughness." I am a Bad Boy fan I think non-basketball cheap shots are fake and players should get a minimum 10 games without pay for them. Want to prove you are tough? Protect the Rim! Rebound! Shut down a player from doing what he does best! Not run out there and leave your feet like James Jones to deliever two hands to the neck of Noah!
ESPN guys will never be held accountable for "gassing up" Metta World Peace with their soft talk v tough talk for teams. I know: Bill Lambieer! I liked winning but I did shake my head when I saw him push guys already off balance down!

Lawrence Bentley

Sam: It’s a legitimate question and I’m a bit guilty myself in the wake of the Miami/Bulls game, though I generally err on the side of being a tougher basketball player instead of a thug. There is a line and anyone who has played competitive sports at any level knows it. You don’t have to, as the pros like to say “play the game” to understand and have done so. Everyone who’s played high school or college or intramural knows what a hard foul is, what a dirty move is and what it is to compete. Just because you don’t have pro level talent doesn’t mean you don’t know the game as well as any pro. Take Shaq, please. Few seem to know the game less. And wasn’t he the guy who ESPN said on the air the night of the Artest Palace brawl he would have done the same thing is “attacked” from the stands. I do remember watching shocked that night as all the NBA guys on the panel were doubting any serious action against Artest. Until Stern the next day apparently told ESPN to fire them all and they all of a sudden a day later decided it was a horrible act. There is some encouragement from the set, but that should be no different than the fans yelling for blood. The players know the difference and so does everyone watching. Which is why it seems inexplicable why Stern didn’t.

Just watched that clip of Artest whacking Harden…pretty sickening. I’m all for physical play, but I think the media is guilty of escalating this crap. After the Bulls game on Thurs. that was the main headline: they must respond. How? Would it have been better if Noah got into a fistfight with James Jones and got thrown out? Lucas showed he wasn’t happy when he got flattened by Lebron…what else should’ve happened? Omer coming off the bench with a blind clothesline? During the Mavs game Hamilton thumped Dirk upside the head, and I love Stacey and Neil, but the attitude is like ‘yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. I love it. That’s what they have to do vs. Miami.’ Obviously Artest read the scouting report: Harden is good, very good, and they have a better chance of winning if he’s on a stretcher. I get it, you’ve gotta be physical and not get pushed around, but to what degree? I just worry that it’s gonna get real ugly before it gets better, and could ruin what should be another fantastic playoffs without a clear-cut favorite.

Elijah D. Humble

Sam: On that point I agree and that’s where I felt the league missed. Send a message to everyone else. Artest has nothing to complain about with double figure suspensions. You are right, and the Bulls did get criticized a bit too much for failing to “respond,” which Thibodeau emphasized. But his point was more to prevent a layup. Right, don’t get yourself thrown out and don’t lower yourself to their level. The best revenge in on the scoreboard. Which is why in a way one of my favorites scenes ever in sports was the Cubs catcher, Michael Barrett, pointing to the scoreboard when that lunatic pitcher, Carlos Zambrano, was upset and going after him. The scoreboard is the ultimate judge. Beat them and that’s the last laugh.

I saw the Lakers game and the Ron Artest elbow and he deserve to be suspended. But I’m confess about the game against the Heat, why was James Jones or D Wade not suspended.

Siris Washington

Sam: I thought Wade should have been ejected with a flagrant two. He got the benefit of being in Miami and being a so called star, though you’d think the officials would have been tired of his constant complaining, the worst in the NBA. Actually, I have seen more instances of the refs turning away from him when he appeared to be suffering a fatal injury after every drive. Other coaches and GMs I’ve talked to were surprised he wasn’t ejected. But neither really deserved a suspension because they were just punk acts as opposed to Artest’s attempt to disable someone.

So, what's your take on tanking? ESPN has been running a regular "tell us what you think" column on tanking and flopping. I read all of your columns, and I think you feel that teams should always give their best given the fans are paying a lot for those tickets. Kelly Skaletta (sp?) who writes a blog on basketball made me rethink this in a recent column when he noted that: 1) some teams are not tanking; they're just that bad and it's impossible to tell; 2) it's the GMs who dictate the tanking by cutting loose players who could help (as proven by the fact they get picked up by playoff-bound teams) a poor team; and 3) the other professional sports have always got us in the mindset of "if we just can lose these next few games, and we aren't going anywhere anyway, we could get a young stud and bring some excitement and hope back to the arena."

Jim Hecimovich

Sam: It is true that management can determine by either letting players go, or more commonly putting players out injured. My overall opinion is you play and compete and cannot understand anyone who won’t. The Bulls didn’t “tank” the season they got Derrick Rose. Yes, you don’t get in position to lose on purpose, assuming that is ever done, which it is not, unless you are not a good team. The players in the game don’t try to lose. The way it works is like what led to the lottery in 1984. Everyone was trying to get Olajuwon. No, not Jordan. What the Rockets did was play Ralph Sampson, who they drafted the previous season No. 1, until late in the game and then sit him. He’d still get his 35 minutes, but he’d be out down the stretch and they’d lose. The Bulls were doing similar things, but won a game down the stretch on a bad break when a late shot went in. This is the sort of thing the Warriors are doing this season taking everyone out for surgery. It really doesn’t go on that much. Occasionally you see it for playoff positioning if someone tries to a certain matchup. Don Nelson was famous for that, and I recall the Grizzlies got that last year after Manu went out, and it worked. But this season is a bit of an exception with the difficult schedule shoe horned into these four months. So I excuse teams for resting guys a bit more this year. Actually, the ESPN issue they’ve been on lately which resonates more is flopping, which the league should clean up instead of calling most of those in favor of the guy falling down. That’s not defense. That’s acting.

I hear the sacramento kings are open to trading tyreke evans do you think we can make a run at him or should we get hinrich or jamal crawford back

Antwan Woodberry

Sam: No two guard questions this offseason. Hamilton has another guaranteed season on his contract. He’s the two guard. The Bulls are not likely to have shooting guard as much of a priority. It will be the front court, where Omer is a restricted free agent and Gibson will want a big extension. Sure, if someone like Hinrich wants to come for a low salary, I’m sure the Bulls would love it as a backup. But if Kirk gets paid somewhere, that’s where he’ll go. As for the rumors about Evans, he’s regarded as a high level player by them and they’ll be seeking something substantial in trade if they do look to make a deal now that he’s been moved to small forward. You wouldn’t get him for less than Deng.

How likely is it for Thibs to win Coach of the Year again? I've heard
rumors of possibly dropping it to Doug Collins or giving it to Frank Vogel. I think based on
the rotations and late-game decisions Thibs has made, not too mention securing the best record / #1 seed two years in a row --all with an injury-prone Hamilton and Rose--, not to mention routinely using D-League material (Mike James and, let's be honest, John Lucas III), all speak volumes about Thibs. His attention to detail and basketball genius are top tier and arguably one of the greatest minds currently active in
the game. But I fear he's going to get screwed over on this one.
Historically speaking, Coach of the Year (and even the NBA MVP honors)
typically go to the wrong person. Last year it rightfully went to Thibs, but I am doubtful he'll get back-to-back awards. If you look at
legendary basketball "minds" you see they rarely won the Coach of the Year award. The fact that Don Nelson and Pat Riley have won the award more than Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich, and Red Auerbach is a travesty and showcases a lot of the flawed ways those types of things are determined in the NBA. Is it realistic to hold out hope Thibs will be a two-time winner?

Jamie Curtis Baker

Sam: It sounds to me from the talk around the NBA Popovich will win. I don’t disagree with your view, though I also consider it more a tie with Popovich and have opted for the NBA All Star coaching rule: If you won last year, you can’t go this year. Plus, Pop is certainly one of those you mention overlooked with four titles and winning once and nine years ago. Thibs is certainly deserving and I’d applaud his award. But so is Popovich for losing what was then his best player, Ginobili, for missing 30 games, for nursing along Tim Duncan when he wasn’t an All Star anymore, for incorporating guys like Danny Green, who couldn’t make the Cavs, and rookie Kawhi Leonard as starters, for using Matt Bonner, basically Brian Scalabrine, in a regular role and getting a lot out of him, and beating out the Thunder, whom everyone ceded the West. Remember, even with major injuries last season to Boozer and Noah, two starters, the Bulls won 62 games. Not to diminish Thibodeau’s job, which has been extraordinary, but Popovich’s was equal and like with a tie in baseball that goes to the runner (is that still true), the guy trying to catch up gets the tie.

How about signing Chauncey to a one-year deal next season? He'd be able to relieve Rose of ball handling duties when they're playing together, and/or serve as backup point or two guard. That assumes health, of course. And if for nothing else, Bulls would be able to say that they signed the core of the 2004 champs. Might as well trade for Tayshaun.

Phil Varona

Sam: I’m sure the Pistons would give you him and throw in Ben Wallace’s headband for free this time. Chauncey seems determined to come back and land a sizeable contract. And he is a stubborn guy who refused to accept when everyone said he was about done 10 years ago.

Steve Nash is a free agent, he is reportedly unhappy with the lack of effort being made to improve the Suns. The Bulls could sign him as a back up to Derrick Rose, it would be beneficial to both players and would give the Bulls a tremendous playmaker. The Bulls might have to clear some cap space. Nash even at 38 is still a heck of a player and the Bulls could squeeze another year or 2 out of him.

Richard Meagher

Sam: The Bulls won’t have any cap space to sign any major free agent, and I doubt they use their exception since they could be in a bidding war to keep Omer and perhaps give Gibson an extension. As for Nash, he’s made it clear he wants to sign a three year deal to 41 and start. That eliminates the Bulls for several reasons. His destination will be one of the more interesting questions for what is setting up as a very intriguing off season with a lot of teams having major cap room. There once again could be a lot of stupid contracts, which could hurt the Bulls in trying to retain Omer and Taj.

I have trouble seeing the Bulls keeping Taj and Omer in the future. We agree that both could easily be starters on this team, forget about other teams and the Bulls would not miss a beat. With that in mind, I think some teams are going to come at both of them hard and out price the Bulls for their services, and I would not blame either of them for leaving for more pay and more playing time. Who would you keep, Taj or Omer if it came down to keeping only one? And would either of them be happy signing a nice contract to stay with the Bulls and coming back as a reserve?

Siron Glover

Sam: It’s going to be the big question of the offseason, though Taj has one season left on his rookie deal before he can become a restricted free agent. So, in effect, the Bulls have him at least two more seasons. He’s up for an extension, so that might be the question, but that could go into next fall. After a down season last year when I thought he was impacted by several deaths to people close to him, I think he’s come back really strong. The question will be about Omer, though that more depends on offers. How much can you give him given his offensive limitations that the Bulls won’t match? That will be a question for other teams. As always, these things are affected a lot by what happens in the playoffs. Although I think Taj has been the most important player off the bench this season, if I had to choose I’d probably go with Omer given it’s more difficult to find a defensive center with instincts like he has compared with a rugged power forward. You also may get a hint based on what the Bulls do in the draft, and future pick Nikola Mirotic is a power forward, though I don’t expect him in the NBA until perhaps the 2015-16 season.

So I read an article on yahoo sports that says that the Bulls Gar Forman and Thibs have a tepid relationship at best? Is this true and do you know how the working relationship between Gar/Pax and Thibs is? I love Thibs and don’t want him to go anywhere. In the same article, I read about some grumblings about Rip and the Bulls players starting to tune him out, because he kept talking about things the players needed to do to be a championship contender and Rip wasn’t playing. Have both the bulls players and Rip mended fences?

Rocky Desai

Sam: You know the old saying of never believing what you read. Like we used to say at the Tribune, 95 percent of what you read is true except the 5 percent you have personal knowledge about. I think it was Stevenson who said you have to read between the lies. I won’t say Gar and Thibs are close, though Thibs does seem closest with his playback machine. Perhaps half the GMs in the NBA and their coaches aren’t close. It’s not unusual, and a different job that naturally creates divisions. The coach has to win today’s game or be fired; the GM has to prepare for the franchise’s future or be fired. So a GM may want a draft pick while the coach wants a player now. It would be hard to say Jerry Krause was close with Phi Jackson and that worked through six titles. Jerry was close with Tim Floyd and that didn’t work as well. Eventually, a GM has to fire the coach, so it’s not good to get too close. Kevin McHale and Flip Saunders were college roommates. Then Kevin fired Flip and they didn’t talk much anymore. The ideal is a professional working relationship, which they seem to have. I’ve seen them quite comfortable yukking it up in the team hotel lobby at times. They talk several times a day, it seems. John Paxson with Thibs as well, and Paxson and Gar are close, though not so much socially. Thibs’ relationship with Forman should have no bearing on his future. As for the Rip thing, that’s nonsense. Every player who ever has come from a title team to another has always told his teammates how they did it, except maybe Luc who liked the Phoenix weather better. No one basically ever pays attention to those guys, just like the Wizards guys as I recall never paid attention to Jordan. Guys from title teams always just talk. It’s another form of trash talking nobody takes too seriously. It’s always about what you can do now, just like at your job. And Hamilton has been playing well since returning from injury.

The situation with the NBPA seems to be getting murkier and murkier. The executive committee has launched a character assassination campaign against Derek Fisher, and strange things about Billy Hunter's conduct are seeping into the press--like, his family has made millions from the NBPA and, most recently, he tried to steer millions of NBPA dollars into a failing bank where one of his sons is on the board. From my ignorant vantage point, Fisher has all the credibility in this and Hunter is starting to sound like the second coming of the first Jimmy Hoffa. How do you read the situation?

Kirk Landers

Sam: It’s not something I pay a lot of attention to as it’s an internal issue among the players. I’ve heard things like this in previous administrations as well of virtual slush funds being run. But the players don’t care much where their dues go as they make so much money and it’s a private group and most people seem to feel they get what they deserve. But now that the union has smeared Fisher by saying he worked against the players by siding with the league Fisher has to fight this out or no one in the league will trust him and hire him. My experience with this players’ association executive group is a lack of credibility and candor, and as I wrote in my Monday column, if I had to believe someone it would be Fisher. It’s amazing to me the players would accept this incredible nepotism being allowed. If not illegal, it certainly is inappropriate.

If you were Orlando, with all the media scrutiny involving the team's situation, and Howard's back injury, will you try to move him as soon as possible next year, or will you try to resign him first?
If you were the other teams, will you low ball your offer with this injury situation? Or go for broke and if you get the 1st pick, will you give Orlando Antonio Davis + players to match salaries for Howard?

Abram G. Bachtiar

Sam: That’s the interesting one. What I’d do if I were Orlando is see who got the No. 1 pick and try to trade Howard there. Obviously, it would all work if it is the Nets. But maybe then they don’t want to. That would be tempting for a team not at the bottom, like Charlotte. The problem is Howard won’t want to sign too many places. It seems to me the Magic has to get a July commitment from Howard, and if not then get the best deal they can.

Do you think Dwight Howard finally decided to stay put because he knew about his back problem and knew he could never pass a physical?

Gerry Kopelman

Sam: Guys have signed $100 million deals before without physicals, like Amar’e Stoudemire and Gilbert Arenas. I have no doubt the Nets would take him even if he came in lying on a stretcher with someone giving him heart massage.

I really love this season's team all around and (unlike most of the people who write in to your mailbag) have no serious complaints. You mentioned the Bulls probably won't be able to keep the same lineup next year. I am wondering why this is so and what it means for the Bulls.

Julia Zsolnay

Sam: It’s the issue as stated above with Gibson and Asik, though more than that. I’ve heard some fans say the Bulls should use amnesty on Boozer, though not so much now because he is playing poorly but to have the money to resign Asik and Gibson. I know it’s easy to tell someone else to spend $15 million on someone not to play, though I don’t see the Bulls doing that when the guy still is that productive. The Bulls are pleased with Boozer and I don’t see that happening. But there are financial issues you can see going into effect all over the NBA, i.e., the richest of all teams the Lakers basically cutting Lamar Odom to save money and the previously highest spending Mavs breaking up their title team and letting Tyson Chandler go for nothing to cut payroll. Because the Bulls have in some respects overspent with four players making more than $10 million each, they’re financial position is precarious. They hold team options on Kyle Korver, C.J. Watson and Ronnie Brewer and I’m fairly sure at least one will be gone for financial reasons. They have Jimmy Butler to step in and another No. 1 pick this June. The core of the team likely will remain the same unless they have a huge playoff meltdown and lose before the conference finals. Then everything is up in the air but Rose’s future. I don’t expect that. I suspect they’ll match on Omer, so most of the team should be similar, if not exact.

Does Lamar Odom get a ring if Mavericks win another championship?

Antun Subara

Sam: I’ fairly sure the Mavs aren’t going to have to worry about that, but I’m told instead of a ring they’d probably go with stuff held in equally high value in Texas, the cow pie as a symbolic statement. Probably would also make for some good reality show drama. And perhaps a good pie in the face conclusion.

Korver's commitment to and his defense have improved a lot this year. Given that Rose and Rip are still getting used to each other I would prefer if Korver started with Rip being the go to guy off the bench. Rip cannot keep up with younger quicker guys as we saw with Beabois. He seems to want to be the focal point of the offense based on what I saw against the Mavs. To me this fits 6th man scorer. Korver is so under valued by defense obsessed Thibs it borders on bizarre. Logic dictates that the more looks Korver gets the more he will score. Giving him just a few shots a game and not running any plays for him on this often stagnant offense seems very short minded to me. Thibs really needs an OC. Would you be so bold as to suggest this to Thibs?

Tom Pappalardo

Sam: Sure, if I agreed, which I don’t. First of all, starting doesn’t mean that much the way Thibodeau coaches. Thibs has had Korver finish a lot more games down the stretch, and I’d actually have gone to Hamilton a few more times. I think Hamilton is going to be crucial in the playoffs, and as good as Korver has been and you are right that his defense is underrated, he did have problems in the playoffs last season when played tougher and more physically. I think Thibodeau uses him just right, and Korver responds well. If the Bulls don’t pick up his option, there’ll be a lot of teams anxious to have him. But Hamilton has a bit more ability to create a shot off the dribble or pump fake and get to the basket. I also think it’s important for Hamilton’s psyche to start. And though that sounds petty, it does bother some people. And I think Thibodeau would hate then answering all those questions about why he demoting Hamilton as media looks at starters as you do. It’s why Boozer never will come off the bench as well. But for the last part of the season based on minutes, Korver really was the starter. The Bulls need Hamilton, I believe, to take over those minutes to succeed.

I'm sick and tired of all this talk that the Bulls are better without Derrick Rose. I think the records with and without D Rose do not explain how critical he is to the team. They are 17-9 without him, and 30-7 with him. I think what people are forgetting is that we had a pretty brutal schedule for the first half of the season, the bulk of which D Rose played, and we succeeded. In the second half of the season when D Rose was out, we had a much softer schedule, in terms of days off and home games, and we still didn't have a great record.

Marc Ktsanes

Sam: I think after the losses to Miami and Washington without him that issue has pretty much gone away. As have the plans for the John Lucas III statue next to Jordan.