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Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 05.18.12

Sam Smith opens his mailbag to respond to the latest round of emails 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.

All season, it was like the Bulls had this deal with the devil: just get me to the post-season, and it will all be okay. Well, it got worse instead. But it was really and truly great watching this team this year. These guys are entertainers, right? Well, they succeeded in fantastic proportions. My family watched them every time possible and came away very impressed. I hope they think really hard before trading any one of them. Unfortunately, Rose isn't going to be 100% himself again until season after next, but if they manage his minutes next year, he should be effective. I thought that Boozer played much better this year all the way around. This coaching staff has Noah figured out pretty well and puts him in position to succeed. I suspect that if you got him in a candid moment he'd tell you that's all he ever wanted. Deng had his whole bag working, crunch time big rebounds, slashing, threes, nasty defense. The only thing missing was transition passing from wing position - small potatoes stuff. To me, Brewer is the most expendable mostly because Butler I think has a better offensive game and Brewer is getting old to play the game he's got. I'm not so down on Watson despite his brain fade because along the way he won a bunch of games on one ankle. What is he anyway? A D-leaguer? some guy you reel in from Europe for a 10-day deal? I can't remember the last time I saw a team 1 through 14 quite like this one. You could sum it up by saying that Thibodeau is probably the best coach this team could have had. As opposed to coaches the Bulls have had in the recent past, this guy understands that accountability starts with him and more importantly he gets the idea that when he comes on like that, it absolutely never can be remotely in the neighborhood of lip service. Everyone should just put Rose away 'til next All-Star break. One can return perfectly okay from ACL - I don't get the impression that he Kellen Winslow'ed his knee. And I expect that with basically two years off, Hamilton will have one really good year in him.

Pete Zievers

Sam: It was a good season; just a bad ending. I know in sports that generally is viewed as a failure, but it was a terrific group to watch with some great highlights, like the Christmas Day win, the Rose and Deng buzzer beaters and John Lucas III going at and taking LeBron James. At least when James wasn’t jumping over him. It probably is even more discouraging for Bulls fans now watching Miami unravel, though with some strong ambivalence. They dislike the Heat, but cannot believe a team the Bulls have mostly dominated, like Indiana, is beating them. How could the Bulls have not been in the Finals?

I don’t know whether to feel upset that the Bulls have been knocked out of the playoffs at such an early stage, or glad that they were so that I no longer have to watch the awful brand of basketball they have been playing. For a team that has played the bulk of the regular season with injuries to (or absence of) their top players and who were still able to beat top playoff calibre teams, I am left speechless as to how they lost to such a woeful Philadelphia team. It may be harsh on the players but I refuse to allow Derrick’s injury to be an excuse for their substandard level of play through the playoffs. But these are professional athletes who are paid ludicrous sums of money to perform their jobs, and who are constantly required to work through injuries to themselves and to their teammates. They aren’t sulking children who give up when things don’t go their way. Perhaps this is simply an everyday example of the butterfly effect; Derrick tears his ACL in game 1 and all the Bulls players then forget how to shoot, dribble and score in games 2-6. What has become apparent from this year’s playoff run is that the current Bulls team simply isn’t good enough to win a championship. In the absence of their MVP and leader too many of the Bulls supporting players have shown that they aren’t up to the task of increased responsibility. I appreciate that the team is geared heavily to play around Derrick but even without him the Bulls, who were so dominant in the regular season, should have powered through a team like the 76er’s. We will never know whether their deflated was a result of Derrick’s injury, however, you have to wonder if having Derrick fit and healthy would have been enough anyway? Let’s look at this objectively; the goal of all NBA teams is ultimately a championship, which means creating a team that can get the job done in the post season. The past two seasons with basically the same team has shown that our current roster is not enough to achieve this, and whilst we dominate the regular season too many players are ineffective in the post season. As such the Bulls need to make changes in order to pick up another All-Star calibre player. Thibs is a great coach and I have faith that he can increase any players ability to play defense, but whilst we have a team of great defenders (Booze excluded) we have are deficient in scorers. I love our team but can only foresee more post season disappointment in future years if we don’t make an aggressive change.

Mark Magris.

Sam: And then there’s that view. First, I should note the Bulls have tried for two years to get another All-Star player. It isn’t particularly easy. And it likely costs at least Noah and Deng, which may not make you any better. That basically was the package for Carmelo Anthony the Bulls rejected, though it never was clear whether Anthony would resign with the Bulls. I disagree in that I believed even before this Heat/Pacers series the Bulls would beat Miami because of the Heat’s lack of an inside game and depth, which is showing badly, though without Bosh. But the question now as you suggest is whether this group has had its run and it’s time to start over. That will be the question of the summer into next season.

Doesn't Omer's contract situation fall under the Gilbert Arenas rule which basically limits his salary to the mid level exception for the next three years? And since the Bulls have his Bird rights, they can match any offer. So I see no reason for the Bulls to have trouble retaining Asik. In fact even at $5 million/year, he's a bargain given his prowess as a defensive anchor.

Al Mirza

Sam: I expect the Bulls both to be able to match any offer Omer might get and that they will. I believe they consider him too valuable, and they could always move him later. There are some exceptions where teams can back load an offer to make it more uncomfortable to match, but I don’t believe the Bulls will have issues. The problem comes whether after doing that and basically going into the luxury tax as a result how much more, if anything, the team can do.

Who would you say is the best all around basketball figure? The talk is abundant with Bird winning executive of the year, but Jerry West is the logo for a reason. He was a great player, good(?) coach and very successful executive. It may have been easier to be a successful executive and to recruit for the Lakers than it has been for Bird to do so for the Pacers, but you still cannot discredit some of the moves that West has made. Bird seems to have easily been the better coach. I'm not sure which would be declared the better player. West was great, so was Bird. Does Bird get less credit because of the support he had on his team? Who's your best all around basketball figure?

Jatin Patel

Sam: This is an interesting one because it’s come up more with Bird’s Executive of the Year award and is the first greatest discussion I’ve heard that doesn’t involve Michael Jordan on any level. I’d say you also put in there Bill Russell as he won championships as a player/coach of the Celtics while having somewhat less success in Seattle and Sacramento. And he is the game’s greatest winner. You’d be fine if any of the three were the league’s logo. Nike has Michael.

Is there any chance the Bulls can leverage some of their future assets and trade up to get a scoring two guard near the end of the lottery? It seems there could be a few good ones left around the 11-14 slot (Dion Waiters, Austin Rivers, Jeremy Lamb), and the Bulls have some assets (Mirotic and Charlotte's pick, maybe even Asik) that could make a trade pretty viable. Also, with our cap situation, the only way we will be able to get a legitimate secondary scorer is by drafting him.

Matt Michel

Sam: No for any number of reasons. The Bulls basically have Mirotic untouchable at this point except perhaps for a player to put them over the top, which isn’t happening without Rose. Plus, it’s usually almost impossible to trade up very high in the draft. Generally you have to give up a high level player, like the Spurs did last season with George Hill, who became the Pacers starting point guard. So that probably means Deng. Maybe Gibson, but that probably would mean your pick as well. And the Bulls don’t generally trade players to move up. If you trade someone a big salary for a pick, they have to have the cap space to absorb the player, which greatly reduces their free agency money. And most teams aren’t willing to do that unless you give them someone who’ll start. Plus, the Bulls have Hamilton starting at shooting guard next season and it’s not much if a need anymore with Rose out and Deng perhaps for a few months.

The thing that strikes me about the Bulls now without Rose is that they have time to really build a contender. Drop Watson, Brewer and Korver and take the money to add Johnny Flynn (same salary as Watson), Marco Bellinelli and Sam Young. Sam Young has played all of 3 minutes in these Playoffs so he may be available this offseason. You get 3 younger guys with one (Flynn) being able to get to the rim. It doesn’t make us great next season but with Noah, Asik, Gibson, Deng and Boozer with these guys they have potential to be pretty good by the time Rose returns.

JonPaul Gauthier

Sam: The flaw in that scenario is if the Bulls felt they could afford them they’d likely keep perhaps two of those players. Finances will be a big offseason issue. Teams generally don’t extend themselves to go into the tax when they have no chance to win, which is what you’d have to say about the Bulls without Rose. The Bulls have been going for it. They have the third highest payroll in salary commitments for next season. I assume they’ll make a run at players like Flynn, but the price likely will be too high.

Fans may email you about this report: “Bulls talking about using the MLE on a list that includes Beasley, Jamison, Nick Young. Plus James Anderson is a guy they are trying to get on cheap as well as Nate Robinson and Grant Hill. Some guy posted he has inside sources and now everyone is talking about it.”

Mike Sutera

Sam: Thanks. I can’t say I’ve heard that one yet, but we’ll be hearing loads of rumors and “insider talks” in the next few months. Look, the Bulls will put out feelers to dozens of players and to teams regarding trades. It’s what everyone does in the offseason. The reality is the Bulls are limited in how much they can do, though I do expect up to a half dozen new faces on the roster next season. How well knows they will be is a different question.

I take it you've been watching the games this week: What chance do you give for Indiana to beat the Heat?

LongGiang Le

Sam: Better after Thursday night.

Now do you think Pat Riley might have second thoughts about trading Bosh this offseason?

Christopher Prince

Sam: Heck, maybe the voters will have second thoughts about making LeBron the MVP and now Bosh. Bosh sits out much longer and he’ll be doing Hanes commercials.

How come Dwyane Wade gets away with so many flagrant fouls? Watching these playoffs, it really seems like he's out to hurt players.

Rafael Lujan

Sam: I noticed in the post game comments Thursday there were a bunch of suggestions Wade might be hurt. But he’s basically been outplayed and as many have been noticing much of this season it’s seemed like he’s lost a lot, perhaps the wear of all that acrobatic play and those two years carrying the team while it prepared for LeBron and Bosh. Wade took a beating those two seasons. He’d become something of a prima donna in recent seasons leading the league in crying to officials and not running back on defense while he was complaining. That apparently was what Spoelstra suggested to him that got him so mad in Game 3 and got him to sulking. I wouldn’t say he quit, but he did basically stop playing. It appears to me more the frustration of a player who cannot get accustomed to who he is now, somewhat like Tiger Woods throwing those golf clubs.

I think an intriguing possibility is a swap of Joe Johnson for Boozer and Rip. Money for next year is equal. You save Atlanta money after next season with Rip potentially expiring, and Boozer has 1 less year with way less money than Johnson. With Booz, this also frees Atlanta to trade Josh Smith and try to get value for him. Atlanta certainly seem ready to make a change. For the Bulls, it is risky financially, but it's a shot at a roster perhaps better suited for playoff basketball. Johnson's contract is an albatross, but he is a championship caliber 2nd option in my opinion, and a true iso player to take some pressure off Rose late in playoff games. He would also be a capable 1st option to tread water for much of next season while D-Rose recovers. I am not a Boozer hater, but most would say that his contract is radioactive as well.

Matt Maloney

Sam: The most popular villain in my mail was still Boozer even more than Watson. Most of the comments were to amnesty Boozer, which is ludicrous, especially with Rose out and the fact that you cannot get under the cap, anyway, to add a high level player. So you are just cutting someone with basically no way to fill his spot. There is zero chance of it happening so I hope the suggestions will stop. The Bulls wanted Johnson, but once he signed that deal it was over. He is owed $40 million more than Boozer, which with the Bulls going into the luxury tax meaning it would cost the Bulls $50 million to $75 million with the escalating luxury tax to have Johnson at the end of his deal. So not only would Johnson make more than your best player, Rose, but he’d cost you more than the entire payroll of half the teams in the league. Does that sound like good business to you for a guy who shot 37 percent in the post season? And you also lose a guy you could use amnesty on later to save luxury tax money while you cannot amnesty someone you trade for.

If the Bulls were to amnesty Boozer that would give them another $15 million in cap space. That would give the Bulls enough to sign Asik, bring in a vet who does what Boozer does but slightly better such as a [Antawn] Jamison. Jamison would come at a substantial discount say a mid level offer of $5 million a year. He would allow Taj to be inserted into the starting rotation, also bring scoring to the bench, and a above Boozer's idea of defense. That would allow the Bulls to then think of more ways to upgrade the team with FAs who might be interested in playing for a contender. There is potential in this FA class of players who are young with great potential, such as a Daniel Green, J.J. Hicksen, Jason Thompson, Eric Gordon, Ray Allen, Garnett, Kirk Hinrich, Jason Terry. With some of these names on the list we can actually improve our team rather the stay pat and try and bring back this whole group and see what happens.

Joseph Berrios

Sam: It doesn’t work the way you think it does. Or the way most fans seem to think. First of all, you still have to pay Boozer the $15 million. Then because the savings doesn’t take you far enough under the cap you cannot add any substantial player. And you could even lose you mid level exception and have almost nothing to spend on any players but resigning your own. So you don’t have Boozer and don’t have his replacement. Or any of the players you mention. Plus, Taj has had injuries and if he gets hurt, what do you do? And when he did start fans were screaming for him to go to the bench and the team should get someone who could score. Like, say, a Carlos Boozer.

Whatever the Bulls and Rose do I hope they don’t rush him back too soon. Chicago’s fans and media demand so much from their athletes and rarely accept rebuilding, just look at the Bears and the Cubs. Michael Redd comes to mind and I’m pretty sure he should be a blueprint for what not to do. It seems like too often these athletes come back before they should and these horrible injuries occur. I’m not saying Rose was rushed back, but you can’t deny that it’s a possibility based on what happened. It would be devastating if this kid comes back trying to appease this city and blows out his other knee. The fact that so many people are calling for the team to amnesty Boozer shows that sanity doesn’t play a large role in the opinions of what should happen with the team.

David Naber

Sam: That is going to be the toughest question for the team next season. Already there’s a vast community split about whether to play or not and quotes from family members about him playing. Plus, as Dr. Cole said in the press conference the other day, Rose will be running and shooting in a relatively short time, a few months, in his rehab and may look like he can play. And then can you hold him back? One thing Cole said that mostly got passed over was Rose’s injured left knee will be stronger and when another injury occurs it usually is the other knee, which is what happened with Redd. So it will be something to consider carefully.

[I] couldn’t stand the East playoffs anymore, and I am exclusively watching the West now. I notice those two series actually have back to backs scheduled. Why is NBA actually doing a back to back this coming weekend for those Western conference games? I don’t recall back to backs being done before in the playoffs. Are they trying to tire the players out, in an attempt degrade the product to Eastern conference standards?

John Swank

Sam: Although I heard the Staples Center guy say he hadn’t heard about this until last week, the NBA announced it right after the settlement that to get the season over in time for the draft they’d have back to backs in the second round. It was not uncommon in the 80’s, and I recall the Bulls in several, one of my favorites the 1989 conference semis against the Knicks. Rick Pitino was strutting all over the place and busy inventing basketball as the Bulls were sweeping them back home. So after they lose again Bob Greenberg from the radio service for the blind, CRIS, asked a question from way in the back that Pitino didn’t like and Pitino shouted at Greenberg asking if he watched the game and whether he was blind. Bob answered that he was. The Bulls won in six in Doug Collins’ last playoff series win until the first round last week over the Bulls.

What do you think of the rule that allows players to be bought out so late in the season? This procedure has allowed Miami to pick up a player who for a time, was their starting center (Turiaf), the Spurs to pick up a key reserve (Diaw), and the Thunder to pick up a backup point guard (Fisher). And all for pretty much nothing - since their salaries are being paid by someone else. It's like another free agency period, except that cap room is irrelevant, and therefore, since players want to go to teams who are title contenders, it has the effect of making the rich, richer. Plus, it rewards unbalanced teams like Miami, that perpetually have playing time available for centers and point guards. I think if a player accepts a buyout, they should have to go through a waivers like protocol, where the worst teams get first chance to claim them. Either that, or they have to wait until the following year's free agency period.

Sam Meyer

Sam: They did change it some for a sort of a waiver situation where you can claim someone if you have cap room, like the Clippers did with Chauncey Billups. But it is an inappropriate situation and I’m asking the Obama campaign to try to do something as it’s another example of the top one percent benefitting unfairly. Though given the way they manage their franchise with modestly paid players I cannot imagine the Spurs are Republicans.

I know your email has probably been filled with crazy Carlos Boozer trade ideas since the season ended. While it is obvious Carlos Boozer is overpaid, his contract is hard to move. In addition, being a Bulls fan my entire life, I know Jerry Reinsdorf is not [going to] pay him $50 million to walk away and play for another team. Atleast not this year. The Bulls have to get interesting with what they can do. So I give you this trade. Carlos Boozer and the Bobcats pick to New Jersey for Kris Humpries, Deshawn Stevenson and/or Anthony Morrow and maybe a throw in player. Bulls get rid of Boozer and get a PF that can rebound and get 10 pts per game and come off the bench, in Morrow they get a pure shooter off the bench (perhaps to replace Korver if they dont opt into his contract) and Stevenson gives them a guy who can knock down the open shot and play good defense. Nets get Boozer, who had his best years with Deron Williams and they actually work well together and a very valuable pick they can use to either trade for a big fish or keep and plan for their future.

Alex Pauley

Sam: It’s another of the many Boozer proposals I’ve heard. It is true that the Nets were interested two years ago, but I doubt they are now as their first priority is obviously Dwight Howard and then they’ll throw a lot of money at Kevin Garnett, though it would cost less than Boozer in years. So I assume they’d go that direction. Plus, the guys you mention are unrestricted free agents who’d have to agree to big sign and trade deals, which is not likely as well. And while I’ve been for moving that Bobcats pick, with Rose out I’d hesitate now given you don’t need to panic now and as bad as the Bobcats have been what if that is your chance to get a top lottery pick in a few years. You now keep that pick unless it leads to a final piece, which it cannot at this time.

If the rumors are true, and the Kings are taking calls on Tyreke Evans, the Bulls should make a serious offer. Boozer with a combination of picks, players (not named Rose, Deng, Noah, Gibson), or maybe that Bobcats pick.

Dangelo Lopez

Sam: Tyreke Evans is an interesting name given they have moved him out of the backcourt and neither side is thrilled. He’ll likely be dealt and it would be good for the Bulls given he could play point until Rose returns and then move over to shooting guard after Hamilton leaves. But they’d never take Boozer as they believe their fours are better. I could see them being interested in Deng given they’d had issues finding a three. But with his surgery a possibility, would they take someone who may not play for months into the season? The deal would start with at least Deng, and given he may not play for awhile would likely cost you considerably more given there will be a lot of interest in Evans.

You have mentioned Bill Walton a couple times recently. If he had been able to have a "normal" 12 to 14 year pro career with only the typical assortment of injuries a big man has, as opposed to the debilitating ones he actually had, where do you think he would have ended up in your ranking of the all-time great centers? He sure knew how to play the game.

Bruce Berger

Sam: There’s virtually no tape as Bill didn’t play all that much and ESPN won’t show anything that happened before they came on the air in 1979. That one season Bill came back with Boston in 1986 and was comeback player he was good, but not who he was. He was maybe the most perfect big man ever to play the game. I consider Oscar Robertson the most perfect guard in being able to do everything and with ease. It was no coincidence UCLA won 88 straight with Bill. He could do everything with the instincts of a guard. He was unselfish to a fault and could score on anyone in outplaying Kareem and Wilt regularly. He might have been the best center ever with a long career, maybe not the winner Russell was in the same era but by far a better player. It’s a shame we got to see so little of him. That 50-10 start before he was hurt of the 1977-78 Trail Blazers was one of the best teams I’ve ever seen given so little talent overall.

A couple weeks back you brought up that Amar'e Stoudemire should be moved to the bench. I assume the thought was it's hard for Carmelo and Amar'e to play with each other. I think this is the play the Bulls should probably do with Boozer. If he goes to the bench, he can play against subs and not as much will be expected from him. I think it would help on defense as well, because Omer can cover for him. It gives the second unit a little more offense, and I think Taj and Noah are better suited to play together.

John Rallis

Sam: It sounds good, but no one does it. You saw Amar’e go back into the starting lineup when he returned even as well as they were playing without him. Same with Zach Randolph as well as they played with him coming off the bench. It probably cost them the first round series. Coaches always fear they’ll lose a guy mentally if they do that as big guys do cry and they take it as an insult. And coaches fear they’ll then get less than before from the player. It’s why the Spurs and Manu Ginobili are so special the way players there accept bench roles so willingly, though you don’t see it with Duncan.

I think that at least for this year the Bulls should retain Watson. Rose will be out for the first part of the season so it seems like point guard depth will be crucial. And even though Watson made costly errors late in the game against Philly, I still think he's capable (when Rose comes back) of being one of the better reserve guards in the league. I'm so glad to hear that the Bulls' front office seems intent on keeping Boozer. Yes he has a big contract but just about all good offensive big men have huge salaries. Do you think next season the Bulls will try to work the ball in to Boozer more often just to keep get him into a rhythm within the offense?

Wally Castelaz

Sam: Carlos should get a load of shots next season and he might even be that 20/10 guy everyone wanted, though they wanted 20/10 with Rose’s 25. Not without. I suppose they could keep Watson given his salary for next season of $3.4 million is not unreasonable. But I don’t expect them to. That will be a tough end of the season to forget and live down.

I just heard an interesting report on PTI talking about how Phil Jackson wants in on the NBA once again. What are the chances the Bulls at least make a call? Is there a possibility of Thibs becoming Doug Collins 2.0 and getting replaced?

Patrick Pressl

Sam: No. I can see Phil wanting to do something, and it may be coaching if he cannot find another way to be active in the game. I know he really doesn’t want to go back to all that travel all winter. But it is possible. It is not with the Bulls, who are quite pleased with their coach. And I hardly think Phil would want to coach the Bulls without Rose nor would the Bulls want to pay him $10 million or more to do so.

Watching the 7th game of Memphis vs. L.A. Clippers made me realize that there's something missing from a very good Memphis team to win a championship. I realized that they have a bunch of really good players and seemingly have the right mindset, but they don't have a closer. So I'm thiking of a remedy for their problem. Two guys come to mind, Deron Willliams and Eric Gordon. And since Memphis made a deep run last year without Rudy Gay, should they consider trading Mike Conley and Gay to sign and trade deal with the Nets for Williams? It would give Williams his wish for competing for a championship. Or trade Conley and OJ Mayo for Eric Gordon? And would those moves make sense from a personnel and contractual end to both teams involved?

Carl Harris

Sam: It’s an interesting scenario. I do think the Grizzlies would be better off separating Randolph and Gay, who don’t play well together. And the Grizzlies desperately need perimeter shooting. My sense with Williams is he’s not so much about winning as being where he can make the most money and get the most attention, which he seems to feel is New York. I can see New Orleans making a move with Gordon, whom I have my doubts about with his size. Though the issue in Memphis seems to be payroll, and to include Mayo you’d have to have a big sign and trade and I’m not sure they can handle that having paid Rudy, Zach and Gasol. But I can see them considering things like that.

The Bulls are obviously going to be looking for a starting point guard to replace Rose since he will be missing a good portion of the season, but who do you think they will get. Kirk Hinrich and Andre Miller are some good options, but I think Chauncey Billups would be the best fit for the Bulls, he would be back playing with his old teammate Rip Hamilton and he could play both positions so that when Rose comes back he could start with him in the backcourt and Rip could be sixth man.

Haris Arshad

Sam: How many guys coming off major surgery should the Bulls have? I can’t see them wanting to go in that direction nor Chauncey settling too cheaply if he can get one more good deal. The same with Hinrich. Would he take less to start for the Bulls and come back as he's lived in Chicago? Maybe. I assume the Bulls will give it a try, but rarely do guys do that. Especially with older guys, it’s usually about getting that last big pay day.

How do you think those free throws will affect Asik going forward? Do we have to worry about a Nick Anderson affect?

Steve Schnakenberg

Sam: Nick could shoot before. So how would we notice? Omer was blaming himself badly after the game, but no one else really was. His stroke isn’t really bad and having time to practice I think he’ll be the anti-Anderson.

I'm going to defend C.J. a little bit before I question him. The play at the end of Game 6 was certainly dumb in context of the time and score but, as many have stated, experience in those situations goes a long way to realizing what to do in the heat of the moment with no timeouts. Watson made the right basketball play, heading towards the hoop on a 2-on-1 with your big man running at the basket in front of you. At any other point in the game it is the correct play, as Shaq actually pointed out on TNT later (might be the first time that Shaq not only offered cogent analysis but also made a point that I agreed with. Too bad those moments are rare, the best part of Inside the NBA last night were the first several minutes when Shaq didn't say a single word.)

Basharat Ahmed

Sam: I agree. I cannot imagine what the previously bright people at TNT were thinking. As for Watson, I do feel a little badly for him as he seems like a decent guy. But that was one of the worst plays I’ve seen in the history of basketball, especially in those circumstances. You know what you do with your sixth grade team: “OK, kids. The really slow, awkward kid. At the end of the game, no one throws him the ball. His mom is going to yell at us for making him look bad if we do. OK?” You can throw the ball to everyone, perhaps including Thibs, other than Omer at that point. And the toughest part may be now watching what’s going on in the Indiana/Miami series. Watson holds onto that ball and is fouled, everyone gets set and is back and the Bulls go home, likely win Game 7 and maybe get to the Finals as Boston is small and Garnett isn’t going to play like that against Noah and the Bulls even with Rose missing 27 games won the Central by eight games. Though I did feel sorry for Watson as I saw his post game mea culpa: C.J. Watson (via facebook) “I know i never really did good in this series. I blame myself and only myself for this lose. I'm sorry Bulls fans, I let you guys down. I can only hope to play better next time. And not make any mistakes and take good shots and make smarter decisions. Once again i'm sorry fans.” I do wish his writing was better, however, but at least I could figure it out compared with his tweets.

C.J. Watson is getting a lot of the blame for passing to Omer in the final Bulls position in game 6. But it seems to me, not many people have brought up Thibs' timeout management. I feel as though Thibs used too many timeouts early in the game or in unnecessary spots and doesn't save 1 for situations where the Bulls could have subbed in their free throw shooting unit for that final position. I recall one example of a Philly position in which the Bulls slapped the ball out and Philly retained the position. Thibs wasted a 20 second timeout when the officials actually decided to review the play anyway. Granted he may have called timeout to force the officials to review the play but I still feel Thibs' timeout management could be better. I know it's Thibs philosophy to win the game earlier but sometimes I feel he comes across as stubborn with this view as well. What are your thoughts?

Jonathan Leong

Sam: Thibs did pretty much get a pass on that, but Doug Collins also was out of timeouts and no one questions Doug’s knowledge of the game and game management. So Thibs gets the pass as well. It was the sort of game with runs and with a evolving Bulls rotation where Thibs had to do a lot of extra managing during the game, so I didn’t have a big problem with that. I feel Vinny used to get a bit of a bum rap for the timeout thing as I’ve seen Doc Rivers, an excellent coach, without them at the end of a lot of playoff games as well with so many of these games being close and one possession mattering.

Although I'm devastated by the Bulls loss, I'm optimistic about the future:

#1 seeded Sonics lose in the first round to the Nuggets in 1994 - reach the NBA finals in 1996 *Losing to the 72 win Bulls
#1 seeded Heat lose in the first round to the Knicks in 1999 - win NBA title in 2006
#1 seeded Mavs lose in the first round to the Warriors in 2007 - win NBA title in 2011
#1 seeded Spurs lose in the first round to the Grizz in 2011 - TBD *Tied for best regular season record, swept Jazz in first round and 28-3 in last 31 games
#1 seeded Bulls lose in the first round to the 76ers in 2012 - TBD

So you think the Bulls can grow as a result of this year's first round exit?

Brian Lichtenheld

Sam: So Bulls champions in 2016 according to the average of those situations?

Expiring deals of [Hedo] Turkoglu and [Jameer] Nelson for Boozer

Mike Kay

Sam: C’mon, stop! Enough already!

Do you think the Bulls should try to sign Ray Allen in the summer? I know he is older but he can still shoot the rock and you probably don't have to pay too much for him now since he is at the end of his career.

David Frazin

Sam: Because Thibodeau as we know loves the players he’s coached, the Bulls have made inquires about Allen the past few years. He’ll be another one out of financial reach as well as Garnett.

I really think the Bulls only have one option this summer. With Rose being out most, if not all, of next season, rolling the dice and trading for Dwight Howard is the move to make. If the Bulls keep this roster intact, what good will that accomplish? The Bulls have the following assets they can put in any combination for Howard: Noah, Deng, Asik, Gibson, Right to Mirotic and the Charlotte pick! Orlando wanted to deal Howard to Chicago at the deadline, but the Bulls, rightfully so at the time did not want to trade for Howard with out the guarantee that he would re-sign. Now, with Rose done for next season and a roster full of good players who cannot get them over the hump, rolling the dice on Howard for a season, with hopes that a full year with the organization, and owning his Bird Rights, the Bulls would have the best shot at keeping him. Worst case scenario, the Bulls trade Deng, Noah and some young assets for Howard, and he walks after next season. In this case, the Bulls could amnesty Boozer and have max money to build a new core around Rose.

Ryan Jody

Sam: I’ve mentioned this as well as a possibility, though the Bulls history is not to take this sort of risk and then have to be in position to have nothing but hope and Rose in two years if Howard walks. It’s a heck of a gamble on a very erratic person, as he’s demonstrated in Orlando. And then next season would be like that for the Bulls with all the national media Howard speculation. And on top of whether Rose returns or not and when. And would Howard want to take the chance on Rose’s injury, though we all believe he will return at a high level? Howard has never once shown any inclination to play or live in Chicago and it’s hard to see why he would change his mind with a totally stripped down team. He seems still set on the Nets. I assume the Bulls take a look and sniff around as most everyone will. The Howard rumors are waiting to blow wide open. But it seems a losing bet for the Bulls.

Is the season going back to 82 games next year, with roughly the same start time, or is that up for negotiation?

Elijah D. Humble

Sam: We’ll see you for the opening of camps in October in what could be a very unusual Bulls season.

There's been a lot of talk about Phil to the Knicks. What about the Heat if they don't win?

Lee Dibiasio

Sam: I can’t believe Pat Riley didn’t think of that first.

Bulls fans should take heart. They just took a bad loss in the playoffs and are at an organizational crossroads, but it could be worse. They could be the Knicks, who are an organization that doesn't seem to care about winning despite having some of the most hardcore fans in the league. At least they're building a contender in Chi-town. Dolan & Co. ran off good basketball man in Donnie Walsh and only seem to care about ratings on MSG network being high, fans buying season tickets, and paying for the reconstruction of the Garden off price hikes. The Bulls still have a bright future - something this bitter Knicks fan wishes his favorite team had.

Justin Grant

Sam: Don’t you love a Knicks’ fan’s angst and rant? No wonder sports talk radio started there.

Often heard is the notion that anything less than a championship is unacceptable, a failure. I lived in Chicago for all of the Jordan years and would have to agree that championships are mighty fine, however, I thoroughly enjoyed this season. Despite the frustrations over injuries, this was consistently a rewarding team to watch. The defense needs no elaboration but the offense was often, dare I say, breathtaking with assists approaching baskets. Also, when Derrick played, multiple times a game we saw drives which were near incomparable in the history of basketball. Sometimes jaw-dropping plays 5 or 6 times in one game. Remembering the fleeting, athletic brilliance of the young Michael Jordan, I recognize that a maturing Derrick Rose may not offer quite so many “damn the torpedos” rushes to the hoop. Even when the offense floundered at the end, this team fought. This was a team. As a fan, what more can I ask for than to watch this sort of play from the likes of Deng, Noah, Rose, Gibson, Asik, and, to varying degrees, all of the rest. Next year the Bulls could go after Howard or some other mega-star, but not only let’s ask ourselves will they be better, but ask will they be as enjoyable to watch? I would not trade our team for Miami’s. I am content with this team. The finish was sad, but it was a bittersweet sadness as there can be a beauty in watching a team surpass the sum of its parts yet still come up short. As Joakim pointed out, no one died so let’s make a few tweaks, and only a few, and pick it up again next year.

Mark Friedler

Sam: When does the season begin?

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