Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 05.11.12
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.
Obviously a brutal game 6 to watch. However, I was immensely proud of the way the Bulls competed tonight. Deng, a perennial unsung hero, just continues to gut it out no matter the situation — injury risk, stitches and iron man minutes never phased him. Moreover, very rarely are you able to watch a game on T.V. and truly tell that a guy is trying harder than everyone else on the floor. It came through with Asik, though. It was unfortunate that he was put in a free throw situation with the game on the line but he single handedly kept the Bulls in the game on the defensive end and played without any fear down the stretch. With Rip showing that he can be a true contributor, my question is how much can we learn from this playoffs? If we were healthy and faced Miami in the Conference Finals I feel that either a win or a loss in that series would've taught us a lot about this team and what needs to be done going forward. At this point, is there any option besides giving the core of this team the opportunity to rebound with a healthy D-Rose?
Sam: I thought I’d start out with a mature, nuanced view instead of the stream of invective I received from fans after the game Thursday night. Yes, it was one of the more disappointing losses, though it seems this season was all about that with the injuries. Just a lot of ifs and if onlys. Bulls win that game and we all believe they have a great chance to be in the conference finals with Noah back against Boston at some point and that’s not a bad loss without Rose. You get forgotten about when you go out so early. Fans have come up with numerous options and I’ll get into a few below. But the truth is given the financial realities and the basic inability to get great talent for nothing, I believe the Bulls will wait for Rose’s return without much major change other than a few players off the bench. They’ve shown with their size, which will be vital to retain, that can compete and be a playoff team. I think that’s what next season will be about until Rose returns. You don’t replace players like Derrick Rose.
This was a bit easier than last year. Still two years in a row losing at last second shots is tough. It was still a great year. We beat some of the top teams in the league including Miami, Lakers in L.A., Spurs in San Antonio, and Boston in Boston. I don't think many teams can say that. Who are you rooting for the rest of the way?
Sam: OK, two mature readers. It really was a terrific season, but you cannot celebrate much in the NBA with so much emphasis put on the post season. And justifiably. That’s the big times when big time players produce. It’s one of the main reasons we watch sports, for those moments. So at least the Bulls have a better idea, if they didn’t already, who some of those players are and are not.
Looks like Taj Gibson has made a case for himself to move into the starting power foward position. So, is Carlos Boozer at all "tradeable"? He has had an injury free year for the first time in a long time, increasing his trade value some what, in my opinion. So, can he be traded with that terrible contract if the Bulls can package him with another player (ie: Asik, Watson, a turkey sandwich, whatever)?
Sam: It probably would have been a better offseason for Boozer if the series ended after Game 5. He’s never going to get off the floor with a lot of Chicago fans. I’ve said before and maintain he produces as he always has and nothing he’s done with the Bulls is much different than he did with the Jazz. They weren’t exactly ever much a playoff threat, and with Deron Williams as well. He had a bad shooting game. His shooting gets his game going, and he couldn’t make shots in Game 6. The 76ers, I thought, did a better job forcing him a bit farther out, like the Bulls used to do with Patrick Ewing that made all the difference in a lot of games. It was subtle, but effective. The 76ers are one of the better teams stripping the ball when you put it down, and perhaps Boozer could have moved it more, though he passes well. There just weren’t enough options on the floor. Taj is terrific, but he goes long stretches without scoring when out there. Given Boozer’s long contract and some poor playoff performances, he doesn’t have great value. Could you trade him for Amar’e Stoudemire? Maybe, but the Bulls never would take Stoudemire’s $63 million left uninsured. Plus, I’ve gotten the sense management isn’t unhappy with Boozer at all.
[I] felt really bad for Omer. Maybe his best game and just a boneheaded play by CJ, which put Omer in a position that was not his strength. So, heartbreaking on so many aspects.(Rose, CJ, Thibs, Boozer Game 5, Omer ending of game 5, loss of game, Q’s for next year) How do you go about this offseason with so many question marks on Rose? Do you decline options on players like CJ for cap savings and see if you can move Boozer since keeping Taj/Omer is clearly more important. Last, any way to move a number of players (not named Rose) for a star player?
Sam: It becomes the Bulls biggest time since free agency 2010, which didn’t go as planned but turned out OK with the depth the Bulls accumulated. The issue now is how much of it they can keep. That’s uncertain depending on the offers Asik may get. I assume the Bulls match and even if the offers are high worry about the later years and luxury tax questions in the future. But there is new economics in the NBA with the labor deal. It wasn’t only about a shorter season and injuries. You saw two of the biggest spending luxury tax teams, Dallas and the Lakers, vastly cut costs and lose key players that has cost them games and even series. The Bulls are heading that way and I expect several changes in the roster.
I hope the Bulls management takes something positive from this season, namely clarity as to what Rose has to work with offensively. The offense couldn't score 80 points a game against Philly. Lots of teams in the NBA don't have a Derrick Rose and can score more than 80 points. In fact, only two teams in the NBA averaged less than 90. Philly did a great job and it was the playoffs, but the offense was basically playing with a 10 second shot clock, as that is when they seemed to start their plays. Some of the blame still has to be put on the offensive system which is on Thibs. However, if they don't make a real personnel move, will they realistically ever be able to move forward? If Howard is not going to happen, what about Aldridge, David Lee, or Millsap? Isn't it clear that Boozer just doesn't work? He was chained to the bench in the 4th quarter of the last game. By the way, Thibs is only 11-11 in the playoffs. He is going to get a bad rap if next year is not better.
Sam: Forget anything major for now. As I said, there’s not great value for Boozer with the contract, and not much else that makes you better. Deng could be out going into next season if he opts for wrist surgery after the Olympics, so it’s questionable whether another team will take a chance and he could sit out well into the season. Taj is a low salaried player you cannot exchange for a high salaried one. You could trade Noah. He’s probably the most expendable assuming the Bulls can keep Asik. But you can’t move Noah until you know that, and that’s after the draft when there is a lot of activity. The playoffs, though, did show how much Rose makes up for among those who write me from time to time to say how this Bulls depth is so terrific and Rose has to adjust to them. They had no one to bail them out, which is the value of a star. It’s missed at times because it gets taken for granted that they make it look so easy. It won’t be anymore with the Bulls. I’d say the priority is less this offseason than to have another higher level player ready to go when Rose is. As for Thibs, he isn’t quite as flexible as some. But I thought given what he had he coached a good series as evidenced by the way the team kept coming back with so many key players missing or hurt. He did seem to get a bit more conservative offensively in some games, but I think he was up to the level of the games.
Is it still worth for the Bulls to keep John Lucas III?
Sam: Depends on the price. If it’s much more than minimum, I’d say no. You need someone you can trust to put in games and as badly as some moments Watson was having in Game 6, Thibodeau still wouldn’t go to Lucas. And Thibodeau is the reason Lucas is in the NBA. My sense is given Lucas had some great moments this season he’ll get a guarantee, which a player like him rarely ever does and he’ll have to take it elsewhere.
I am really sad to see the Bulls bid goodbye. But win or lose, they really made their fans proud. What the Bulls have shown to people, the commitment to hardwork, giving your all every day, being prepared and attention to detail, this are attitudes that you can emulate even if you are not a basketball player. This is why I am so sold to this Thibodeau thinking, because his message is not just for his players but for all of us who want to be successful. He is right, success is when you give your all every single day. I actually quoted him in my class to motivate my students.
Sam: There’s Lincoln, there’s Jefferson and there’s Thibs.
What concerns me moving forward is that the organization will continue to swim against the current by over valuing the defense/energy guys like Asik, Gibson, Brewer, Butler, and even Noah and Deng to a degree. The rules in the league have evolved so that the game is tilted in favor of offense and having multiple guys who can make plays with the ball from the perimeter. At full strength Rose is the only one capable of this. Hamilton and Deng are able to do it on occasion but it's generally the result of being good at moving without the ball. Neither can break anybody down off the dribble so their value in crunch time is often limited. As is always the case, teams dial up the defensive effort in the playoffs and it's clear this team is going to need another perimeter playmakers to advance. Depending on Rose to bail them out late in the shot clock of key playoff possessions was a shaky plan even before his injury. Sadly, these next two years have the potential to be sort of lost seasons as Rose rehabs and begins what will likely be a 12-18 month journey back to hopefully being an elite player. Management needs to retool by adding more playmaking from the perimeter so that they have a better chance to make a deep run two years from now. Also, curious if you are seeing the potential for Thibs having a similar arc as Skiles? I wonder if that style has a limited window of opportunity to work before he starts having conflicts with guys who grow tired of listening to it when they haven't played for a championship. It will be really interesting to see how his extension is handled.
Sam: You’ll remember, Skiles was into his extension before any issues developed, and they mostly did as Scott began to tire of the talent. So I assume they eventually agree on something with Thibs. Deng really came up big and showed some creativity, though you are right that has been a weakness of the Bulls and has been covered up by Rose and rebounding. Those are good things. They know that is the issue. It’s finding those kinds of players, which are not as easy as it seems as most everyone is always looking for them. The Bulls have some intriguing long term assets with the Mirotic pick and the Charlotte future which could be unprotected in 2016 or a mid first round pick if the Bobcats make the playoffs before then. Tyreke Evans is one interesting name that pops up with a guy who can make plays and is believed to be available given the way they’ve moved him to small forward. I expect the Bulls to at the least be very active in the rumor mill. The Bulls have some good prospects, but it might not be next season.
As of now, it looks as though the Bulls will be without their two All-Stars for the majority of next year. In that case do the Bulls need to pursue a big name free agent this off season or a potential sign and trade? Say maybe a trade for Dwight Howard, Al Horford, Amar'e Stoudemire. I think the Bulls without a doubt should sign Steve Nash for the MLE this offseason. But a possible trade of Boozer, Watson, and Brewer for Horford Kirk Hinrich and possibly Marvin Williams a realistic idea.
Sam: The most popular question these days is the future of the team given the Rose injury. It remains, obviously, uncertain about Rose given recovery from injury. There’s certainly a chance he could be out all next season. Deng, I assume, would be back sometime during next season if he needs surgery, to start if he doesn’t. The reality is I don’t expect any major acquisitions. Whether they play or not they must be paid in full, which is almost $30 million. With Boozer and Noah, that’s another $20 some million. Add the guys with contracts for next season, like Hamilton, Gibson and Butler, and that the team intends to try to bring back Asik, and that’s basically your payroll. Boozer is basically untradeable given his contact and Deng assuming he has surgery. Plus, the team has made it basically clear it will consider the luxury tax when that is the step toward a title. That’s hard to consider without Rose. So I don’t expect any such major moves.
I've been a life-long Bulls fan. I actually began watching the Bulls as a 9 year old during the Orlando Woolridge and Enis Whatley years back in the 83-84 pre-Jordan years. As a kid, I didn't realize how bad they were until I stayed up past bed time only to watch the Bulls trail the Lakers by 30 at the half during those circus tips. And I also endured the Dalibor Bagaric, Corey Benjamin and Kornel David years. Even in those dark days, I always had the dream of a #1 pick, a Tracy McGrady caliber free-agent signing or the hope that Kobe would demand a trade to the Bulls. I'm out of fantasies Sam. Now that I look back, I think that this current playoff run has been the biggest kick in the family jewels since I found out there wasn't a Santa Claus. My question is, how do you put a positive spin on this mess and how do you get yourself motivated to cover a 2012-2013 season, knowing that it's probably going to be a 30 to 35 win team?
Sam: As I wrote the other day, a sports season isn’t only about winning a title or not watching. There’s so much to enjoy in seeing guys develop or not so and perform above or below what you expect. It seems you did OK with some unsuccessful basketball and stuck with it. It’s more a setback to me about next season. Derrick should be coming back at some point and should be a high level player. And that gives you a running start in any race. If it’s just a race to get into the playoffs next season, that would be intriguing to see who is up to it, and then there’s always the possibility Derrick returns to the rescue late. I’m excited already.
This Rose thing is awful and this playoff breakdown is depressing, but, isn't this similar to what the Spurs went through when they lost Robinson for a season and got Tim Duncan as a result? Do you think Tom would even consider throwin' away a season like that?
Sam: I don’t know what will happen this summer regarding a potential extension for Thibodeau. But if he doesn’t get one, no, he’s not about to be giving up any games. And after two seasons we should know that he’d never do that under any circumstances. Nor would any coach. A management can arrange that by dialing down the talent, but that Spurs team was awful and imported a declining Dominique Wilkins for entertainment, if not competitiveness. This Bulls team as we’ve seen in the 76ers series even without Noah is highly competitive and it would be difficult for me to see it not being a playoff competitor next season without Derrick. I assume Deng would be available for a large part of the season, at the least. Actually, Thibodeau is too good a coach for that as it’s difficult to see him not being able to will a lesser team into the playoffs.
With Rose being out a good portion of next season, who do you see as being potential targets for a starting PG until he comes back? (I don't think CJ is our starter next year). Chauncey's name gets thrown around but I'm not crazy about him coming off of major injuries at his age. I've also heard Andre Miller's name thrown around and he's a crafty guard who could be useful even after Derrick returns. I'm not sure if the Bulls have the money to entice him though. Hinrich is mentioned but I'm starting to wonder if he's declined too much to be useful to the Bulls.
Sam: It’s going to be a tough position to fill if the team doesn’t pick up Watson’s option, which is uncertain at this point. Though you figure he didn’t help himself the way Game 6 ended. If they do pick up the option, it’s him. And it’s not an expensive one year option, so it is possible, though I wouldn’t wager on it. The issue, as I mentioned above, is the limitations on going after a free agent given the salary cap considerations. And it’s not about being cheap. Under the new labor agreement, if you go into the tax early, it raises it exponentially in later years so that when Rose returns you might not be able to go into the tax. And why do that for next season if it’s only to be slightly more competitive. You’ve mentioned some popular names, and among them Hinrich may be the most interesting if he really wants to return to Chicago at a home town sort of discount. Most of the bigger names require long term deals which the Bulls can’t give and will want to start, which the Bulls won’t guarantee given Rose’s recovery. Other names could be Jason Kidd, Nate Robinson (uuugh), Ish Smith, Ronnie Price, Ray Felton, Royal Ivey and Shaun Livingston.
I think the big off season surprise (win or lose in the playoffs) will be the trading of Chris Bosh to New Jersey, ahem, Brooklyn as a sign and trade for Deron Williams and Miami signing Kevin Garnett to take Bosh’s place. It just seems like something Riley would go all out for. Eye popping on paper. Simply makes you shudder until you realize that the Karl Malone/Gary Peyton Lakers and those All-Star loaded Phoenix Suns teams of the 90’s — how those kind of teams usually turned out with infighting, egos, and selfishness being their undoing. We even have several Olympic embarrassments to emphasize that point as well. Weirder still is that I think it might be a good fit for both teams. It’s easier to build around a big man, and Bosh makes the most money on Miami while being soft and getting blamed for most losses. Brooklyn will have a new, positive fan base and low expectations. The perfect environment for a selfish, self-aggrandizing player like Bosh to make his stats go through the roof in meaningless games where the Nets are down by forty and Bosh’s name will probably put more butts in the seats than Deron Williams would. Plus, Bosh’s contract is locked in for a few more years so Prokorov wouldn’t have to go through the Deron Williams/Dwight Howard soap opera any more. The whole idea does make me nauseous though. Let’s hope Riley doesn’t think of it.
Sam: Uh oh, too late now. It’s out. It is an intriguing scenario and one I could see the Heat jumping on. Maybe get Kris Humphries thrown in on a sign and trade of some sort. But you may be on to something. I do see Miami making a change with Bosh no matter what as his impact is hardly a Bog Threeish. And that would be ideal for Williams as he’s not a big enough star or talent to carry a team. It would aid LeBron as well as he handled the ball too much in the backcourt much like Jordan did early in his career until he began to trust Pippen. It was kind of a pent up offseason in 2011 with the lockout. With the cap room for so many teams and uncertainty and no dominant team I see loads of major moves this offseason. It should be a great one, if not necessarily so for the Bulls.
Any particular reason why team captain D-Rose was watching the game from a luxury suite instead of on the bench with his team?
Sam: The scrum falling into the bench was one great reason. Imagine Rose getting further injured for being a showpiece. His teammates know he’s there. It would be almost criminal to have Rose sit on the bench given the uncertainty before surgery and in that uncomfortable position. Heck, they give fans better seats closer to half court. I’m a little surprised he even comes to all the home games. His teammates know he cares about them. That sort of stuff is more for show and personal aggrandizement and wholly unnecessary. Plus, the worst the Bulls were against the 76ers was in that second game when he was on the court before the game.
I wanted to stomp on all these Boozer haters. The 2012 Playoffs Statistics for Chris Bosh are (PPG 14.0, RPG 7.30, APG 1.5) and for Carlos Boozer they are (PPG 15.6, RPG 9.20, APG 3.2). That was before Game 6. He’s statistically better that Bosh in every category. So I don’t know who we all thought Boozer was, but of the power forwards available he was clearly a very good choice. Boozers numbers are better than Stoudemire’s as well. I think maybe fans were thinking we were getting Karl Malone at his prime, but who knows. I guess you could argue that Bosh would have higher numbers if he wasn’t playing with LeBron and Wade that that’s probably true, but in my opinion the numbers show that Boozer is among the top power forwards in the league.
Sam: Like LeBron says, if there’s no milk at the grocery they blame Boozer. Some fans always need someone to fault and it’s been Boozer now that they’ve gotten off Deng. And another poor closeout game doesn’t help. But as I’ve mentioned many times, he’s playing just as he always has and just because you didn’t know who he was and hadn’t paid attention before is little reason to be upset he’s not Malone or Tim Duncan. He’s Carlos Boozer, one of the most successful second round draft picks in NBA history, a world class overachiever on some level.
[I am] currently watching Celts vs. Lakers and see that the Lakers are currently restricted in what they can do offensively. Kobe left, Kobe right, dump it down is all they got. I was thinking Ben Gordon is rotting away in Detroit, he could help them do some damage in the Western Conference, can they get this done with a pick and the rights to Troy Murphy and his expiring deal?
Sam: Ben’s in. I’ve been hearing that the Pistons believe they’ll have something going for Ben this offseason. Do you wonder how often he thinks about what life would be like with $10 million less over five years that he hasn’t dipped into yet, obviously, and having been able to stand across the floor from Rose being double and triple teamed. He’d have been Ben Jordan. Same with Joe Johnson. Don’t let you children grow up to be cowboys or listen to their agents who tell them to take the most money. These are the best years or your life and if you have moments of great regret they probably are your fault after you’ve been a free agent.
I have both read and heard on sports talk radio recent criticism of Tom Thibodeau’s coaching in this year’s playoffs. The consensus seems to be that he has been out coached badly and this is partly to blame for the Bulls struggles. While [I] don’t feel he has necessarily outcoached Collins, I really don’t feel he has been outcoached either. You have said yourself if you go position by position the 76ers have the advantage at the majority of positions particularly with Noah out, and Deng unable to dribble left. Boozer over Brand, and bench depth after you get beyond Lou Williams are the only advantages the Bulls have. Yet the Bulls have been in position to win, that should be a credit to Thibs not an indictment. If anything Thibs may be unable to raise his level preparation for the playoffs because he maxes out all year long, while other coaches might put in more hours come playoff time. I hear Thibs has been working on a way to fit more than 24 hours into his day, but has been unsuccessful to this point. What is your take on Thibs, and do you think the most recent criticisms from a portions of Chicago’s media is justified?
Sam: It’s part of the game and Thibodeau’s first real crisis given few expected the Bulls to win last season and they got into close games with the Heat and there wasn’t much to second guess than perhaps some limited use of Kurt Thomas. But if you lose for that reason you weren’t who you thought you were. I think Thibs has remained true to who he is, has prepared well and that has given the team confidence to compete. He’s not an adjustment sort of coach like Collins, but that can be overrated at times. I feel Thibs remains one of the top coaches in the game.
Deng and maybe this year's 29th pick for Rudy Gay? I think Deng would be $2-3 million cheaper a year and for less years for Memphis who has to decide whether to let Mayo walk or not. Bulls get a player with a little more offense and probably a little less defense. The potential Deng surgery doesn't help, but what do you think?
Sam: Why not for Durant? Yes, I’ll continue to get some goofy trade proposals, and I only mention this one because I think the most likely potential trade talk this summer will involve Deng. Though if he is having surgery it’s difficult to believe it will happen. So I’m not sure anything major will occur. The Grizzlies value Gay quite highly and if you added Noah and the rights to Mirotic you might have a deal. Deng’s name will come up more this summer not because he’s a problem but because there are limited options. Noah’s name for the same reasons assuming they retain Asik. So until that happens, there can’t be anything going regarding Noah. Again, I expect the Bulls to be sidelined much of the summer.
I’m sure you’ve had plenty of questions arise already regarding Lamar Odom, but would he perhaps be a potential match here in Chicago? I understand he’s got a little bit of a cap hit, but he’s a proven winner and will provide the necessary leadership to take this team to the destined level. He is capable of playing the 3 or the 4, and I’m sure there’s certainly room for him in the rotation.
Sam: I’m upset and disappointed about Odom as much as any NBA player. He supposedly loves L.A., but then demanded a trade because he was offended he was included in the Chris Paul deal. Which, by the way, the Lakers remain furious the league overturned. I think it was right for the Hornets they did, but a disaster for the Lakers. Anyway, he gets traded to a contender and basically quits on them. They voted to deny him a playoff share, but I’d have denied him his season’s salary. He had the audacity to hold a second fulltime job in that TV reality show with his wife. He’s obviously a very troubled guy with emotional issues and I’d be wary of having him around even though he always has been a popular person. Plus his publicity seeking family generally becomes a distraction as teammates now spend considerable time being asked about their exploits.
I've been studying the draft and a lot of guys see the Bulls picking John Jenkins of Vanderbilt. He is compared to JJ Redick, meaning that he can flat out shoot the ball and do no more. Do you see a shooter like this being a liability, or a good addition to this Bulls team? What do you think the Bulls will do in the draft?
Sam: I haven’t gotten into my draft preparation yet, but the Bulls now have needs at just about every perimeter position and perhaps center if they cannot retain Asik. And power forward if the don’t believe they can extend Gibson. This will be a best available scenario, I assume.
Just watched the Thunder destroy the Mavs and still can't explain myself why I smell that the league is letting them do what San Antonio did with Parker and Ginobili. Why not throw all your free agent max money (hello Mark Cuban?) at Harden this summer and see if they match? or at least $50 million at Ibaka?? Why do I feel that both are resigning in Oklahoma for 5 years $40 million way above their true value like Manu and Tony did? Who could steal Harden from them: Dallas, NJ, Boston, New Orleans, Portland, Washington, Cleveland, Indiana?
Sam: The Harden situation may be the most interesting to watch because of all the free agents he may be the one you could sign as a No. 1 option. Those guys get $15 million and it would be difficult with Ibaka coming up to match that as well. The new labor deal, as Cuban lectured reporters last week regarding the Mavs letting go Chandler, is going to make team building different. No one is going to be able to have four eight figure salary players like the Bulls have now.
Looking back at the 2007 NBA Draft, did the Bulls really make the right pick with Joakim at number 9? Spencer Hawes went right after him, and seems to be burning the Bulls right now. Yes, Noah was injured, but in a twist of fate, the Sixers look to be the one's smiling... Thad Young was also on board when the Bulls selected Noah. I'm as big a Noah fan as the next guy, just wondering is all.
Sam: Slam dunk. The 76ers would trade even up in a nanosecond. Whatever that is. Probably throw in Meeks and a year of cheesesteaks, though Hawes did make some big plays in this series. Though he also may have gotten away with a flagrant foul that could have changed everything.
I believe all great players have one significant injury in their career. In a cynical way, I am glad Derrick has gotten his out of the way. MJ year 2, Magic (knee) year 2, Bird had chronic back issues but I don't remember him missing an entire season. I think for Derrick's long term health, the injury will prove to be a blessing.
Sam: It would be nice if it worked that way with the big counter in then sky, but you cannot convince Greg Oden, Sam Bowie, Bill Walton (hey, all Blazers!), Phil Hubbard, Austin Carr, Brad Daugherty and some others who never got going after a quick start.
The question is hypothetically, would you swap an injured Rose for a healthy Westbrook if presented to you. In other words, sell for $0.80 on the dollar. I don't think I would, personally. I don't ever see a championship-winning team whose best player is Westbrook. Even if Rose never fully recovers (heaven forbid), I'd still roll the dice on #1.
Sam: Hypothetically, no. I continue to have high hopes for Rose and given everything he has done for the Bulls and the city and his commitment I’d never leave him behind. You need to stand for something. Even in sports. And to your point, if Westbrook is not that player, anyway, why bother?
Do you think that Toni Kukoc is going to be elected into the Hall of Fame eventually for his contributions to the game as an international player? He won three Euroleague championships, a FIBA world Championship, two silver medals in the Olympics, and of course the six NBA titles as well. It's hard to imagine a better international resume than that. Doesn't he have to get in?
Sam: I do. And I think he deserves so because it is not an NBA Hall of Fame but a Basketball Hall of Fame. When Toni came it was not common for European players to be accepted. He paved the way for so many European stars much like Garnett did for high school kids. Plus, he was a key contributor to championship teams, as much or more so to the 96 through 98 Bulls as Rodman. I see Toni in without even much debate.
I know you explained the buyout of Mirotic’s contract in a previous article but I have bad short term memory. Is it that the Bulls can't buy it out yet or because they won't have to pay as much in a couple years? If the latter is true do you think the Bulls might reconsider buying it out sooner given all the injuries this year and the obvious need for another scorer?
Sam: The issue with Mirotic’s contract is for three years he is slotted as a low No. 1 pick, which means he can earn a maximum of $1 million. He has a buyout in his contract of supposedly several million dollars, of which the Bulls can contribute $300,000 or $500,000. Plus he makes several million dollars a season. So to come to the NBA anytime before the 2014-15 season could cost him up to $3 million to $5 million a year out of his pocket. Why exactly would he do that? He wouldn’t, of course. After the 2013-14 seasons, the rules change and the Bulls can pay him more and then you can begin talking about him. The NBA won’t see him until at least then.
Both Asik and Gibson are restricted free agents this offseason and may receive offers from other teams that the Bulls may find hard to match. I don’t see how the Bulls can keep them both. Which of the two do the Bulls value more and/or which one will they keep? What is the trade value of the one that has to go?
Sam: Gibson is not restricted until next summer. He is up for an extension. Asik is restricted and the Bulls are prepared to match offers. But until they do, they haven’t. So we’ll see. As for value, probably Asik as centers are more difficult to find even as terrific as Gibson is and valuable given his athleticism and hustle. And credit the Bulls scouting staff for a terrific late first round pick in Gibson. They’ll have to continue to do that and with the Mirotic selection have shown a high ability to gather talent which should pay off in the future.
Do people tend to over blow the seriousness of an ACL tear? I don't feel it is the career killer it is perceived to be. Jamal Crawford and Baron Davis didn't lose any explosiveness and they tore their knees 10 years ago. Although it is different sport Wes Welker (a small receiver who depends on sharp cuts and lateral quickness) tore his ACL and then had a career year the following season. Robert Griffin III ran a 4.38 40 yard dash (and had a vertical leap of 39 inches) after he tore his ACL. It'd be hard to prove those four lost anything. ACL reconstruction has come a long way even in the past 5 years or so, but the perception of ACL reconstruction is still stuck in 70's. All this talk of Rose having to change his game ignores recent evidence that suggests he'll come back strong as ever.
Sam: I am optimistic and hopeful as well, but there are horror stories, too, and Chicagoans, I feel, remain haunted by Gale Sayers. Of course, that was 45 years ago. I’m confident Rose will return at a high level, but with serious injuries you never know for sure. And make no mistake, it is a serious injury.
Send Rip to a contender for a pick (what's the point really in having him for one more year?) Let Brewer/CJ/Lucas and sadly Kyle all walk in free agency. Try and move up in the draft for a solid wing. Try and shop Deng hard. Keep Omer and Taj unless the bidding gets nuts. Let's put us in a better younger more talented position for 13-14.
Sam: That’s certainly one plan the Bulls will consider.
My friend suggested that Noah would come back as a latter day Willis Reed for game 7. My question is who's going to play Clyde Frazier for us?
Sam: And, alas, it was not to be. But the end emphasized even more the conundrum. Where will they find a point guard who is good enough to lead and produce and satisfied enough to step aside as soon as Rose returns?