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Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 06.01.12

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.

I was a little surprised at something you wrote... "I know fans love the draft, but out of the top few picks you aren’t likely to get a player anywhere near the level of contribution Asik can bring. Who are all these great 10, 11, 12 picks of recent years? If Asik were in this draft he’d be top 10 for sure and maybe higher. Why would you want to trade a potential starting center for the next Tyler Hansbrough or Gerald Henderson?" You seem [awfully] high on Asik, and quick to forget some very nice players that have come in the 10-12 draft spot in recent years.: Klay Thompson was the 11th pick last year, Paul George the 10th a year before that, Brandon Jennings the 10th pick in 2009. I like Asik just as much as the next guy. He has ability to alter shots with his length and trap with his quick feet. However there have been some very good players in the 10-12 range.

Joe Whattoff

Sam: I’m glad you’re surprised at just one thing. Well, let’s take a look. Last year it was Jimmer Fredette, Klay Thompson, Alec Burks. Thompson will be very good, but Fredette was beaten out by Isaiah Thomas and Burks didn’t play much for a team with no shooting. The season before it was Paul George, Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry. Before that it was Jennings, Terrence Williams and Gerald Henderson with James Johnson not far after that. Before that it was Brook Lopez, Jerryd Bayless, and Jason Thompson. All, by the way, remain with losing teams having little impact four years later. So I’d say generally you have about a one in three chance of getting a productive player. And it usually takes a few years to find out. I mentioned I liked Austin Rivers, for example, and could see him falling there. So maybe you take a chance, but it is just a chance. If Omer were in this draft, I have no doubt he’d be top 10. He’s better now than the Connecticut center projected top five, in my view. So are you getting better losing a top 10 big man?

Both the Kings and the Wizards have got to be getting sick of trying their luck in the lottery year after year and getting nowhere. Any chance either trades their pick for a proven player? I know no team in the league wants anything to do with Boozer (can't say I blame 'em) but how about Noah or Deng? If Gerald Wallace can net a #6 pick the I'd think Noah or Deng could get an even better pick.

Billy Habibi

Sam: Yes, they could. Though one tenet of Bulls philosophy generally has been not to use players to trade up in the draft and not to trade starters for draft picks. When the Bulls have made major moves of this sort, like to get Pippen, they swapped picks. So, yes, if someone would take a future pick, but that rarely happens anymore as you are limited in the way you can give up futures. And the last time the Wizards traded a lottery pick for players they gave up the rights to Ricky Rubio for Randy Foye and Mike Miller. I think Minnesota GM David Kahn is still sending Washington post cards for saving his job.

I feel even more strongly now that the move to be made is Deng for Ariza and #10. New Orleans doesn't need another young guy with Davis, Aminu, X. Henry, and G. Vasquez. They need a vet impact player like Deng to go with Gordon/Davis. They have plenty of cap space to absorb Deng's higher salary. Okafor expires in time for 2014 free agency, where they could be a major player with their cap space and young core. I would miss Deng, but Ariza is a serviceable replacement, and allows them to match on Asik and get their payroll back under control. At #10, I like Austin Rivers a lot. He is a little undersized at 6'4" (though not much in todays NBA), but he is probably the best player in this draft at creating his own shot with that explosive first step. With Rose out, he would get playing time early on. I think in time he would be that secondary shot creator at SG the Bulls are looking for to take pressure off Rose.

Matt Maloney

Sam: We all know I like to shoot down most of the proposals, but this isn’t a bad one. Of course, it would require the Hornets’ involvement. Deng’s obviously a better all around player, though as I noted in my Monday proposal about perhaps a trade for Pau Gasol that Deng likely is at his highest value. Ariza makes about half as much, though we’re not sure what the Hornets want to spend as they’ll have to match with Eric Gordon. But it would make some sense for the Bulls with Ariza a good defender, if not much of a shooter, but with the ability to land at the very least a high level rotation player. Go for it.

I read your brief analysis of Austin Rivers in the column and I agree. Despite most people's hatred for Duke players, I think he'd actually be a pretty good fit for the Bulls because he can create his own shot and score, which is something the Bulls could use. He could probably play PG while Rose is out and then move over to the starting 2-guard or 6th man role next year (or later in the year) when Rose comes back. I know it might be a small back court, but I think they'd be pretty exciting. The problem with that, is you keep shooting down my trade scenarios of moving Deng for a lottery pick.

Jason Quaid

Sam: See above, though I’d hardly say Rivers is ready to be a starting point guard with Rose out. He’s played one year of college ball and hasn’t seen any sort of real defense yet. Though most draft boards have Rivers going 12 through 18, I’d say in the end you’ll need to get from eight to 12 to get him.

There have been several rumors floating that Brandon Roy is looking to get back into the league next year. I don't know how capable he is after sitting out for a year and the continuing knee issues but I have always been a big fan of his game. Do the Blazers have any rights to him anymore? This could be an opportunity for both Roy and the Bulls. He could be a cheap pickup that would provide some scoring and ball handling in the absence of Rose. Roy gets the opportunity to play with a contender that needs his abilities. Am I crazy?

Williams Pennix

Sam: Well, at least not about this. I think the Bulls were looking at Roy last season when the amnesty talk came up. He apparently could not play and retired. But we know that never holds. If he can play and wants to give it a try, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bulls gave him a look since he’s the kind of veteran who’d come at a minimum and would have a chance to show some things with a team that might be short on bench help.

When will we trade the Bobcats pick? Don't get me wrong, holding onto that pick could turn out really, really well for us. And after all, I doubt the Bobcats turn things around any time soon. As much as I told myself this is a championship team, we need more offense. How much value do you think that pick actually has?

Kyle Gibson

Sam: I don’t think it has much value yet. Remember, it is likely not a lottery pick for three or four years. GMs aren’t that secure. They don’t anxiously look to give up players for future picks that might help their predecessor. At this point it’s the sort of pick that might help you finalize a deal, like giving up — and this is not a rumor or even speculation — say Noah for Russell Westbrook. Westbrook’s more highly valued, so maybe you throw in a second and the Charlotte pick and it puts it over the top. Now, I better not hear anyone say they heard Noah for Westbrook talk.

I was thinking about how the TwitterVerse was all abuzz concerning NBA conspiracy theories involving the Heat getting the free throw edge and the Hornets getting the 1st pick. I tend to think that most conspiracy theories — NBA, JFK, 9/11 — are the product of small minds with big thoughts, but it made me wonder why the NBA is so predisposed to believe in these conspiracies. I was thinking there's two possible reasons. One, for whatever reason the population of the NBA is one that is more predisposed to believe in grand conspiracy theories. Maybe because it's a largely African-American league where history has taught the participants that it's not unreasonable to think people are conspiring against their interests. Or maybe it's the way David Stern runs the league — he seems, even by professional sports standards, to be known for running a very tight, secretive ship where he makes decisions unilaterally. What do you think the reason is behind the successful promulgation of these theories?

Craig Berry

Sam: Those are interesting and intriguing topics to debate, though may overstate the IQ level of those suggesting conspiracy theories. First, the conspiracy: My longheld and basically unchallenged belief is the people who run the league are hardly smart enough to run a conspiracy that’s kept quiet. When is anything in the NBA ever a secret? Plus, you manipulate situations, like with point shaving, and maybe you end up facing a felony. OK, so people think the lottery was fixed for the team the league has owned and is set to sell to the NFL Saints owner. What would people say if the Nets won? Fixed for the new arena? If the Wizards won? A chance to help Stern’s old, late friend the Pollin family? If the Cavs won? To make up for the loss of LeBron? The Warriors to help the new owners and get that arena in San Francisco? Yes, you can come up with theories for half the lottery teams. But here’s the thing. Say you were fixing the lottery. Then on the same night you give the Miami Heat almost 50 free throws to supposedly assure the celebrity Heat get to the Finals while raising questions about how that game was officiated. Which, of course, would prove my other point that the league is too dumb to pull off a real conspiracy. The reason these things come up regarding the NBA is one of the great things about the NBA, its transparency. No league is more open, and the more open you are the more questions are raised. The NFL is like a Pentagon war room filled with self important generals. Baseball is filled with tobacco chewing good ‘ol boys who don’t have thoughts on much except what rules are written and if you trot to first after a home run you’ve upset some long held ethic. There isn’t a baseball player who could make it for 10 minutes among the more sophisticated and street wise NBA players. As John Kruk appropriately once noted, “We’re not athletes, we’re baseball players.” The NBA is this wonderful smorgasbord of attitude and angst, anger and ambivalence. Pretty much anything goes, which is one reason we most love this game. NBA players are apt to say almost anything at some point, unlike the buttoned down buttoned up rest of the sports world. So along with that comes more open questions than anyone else faces. And, anyway, what’s more fun than to debate a conspiracy. Heck, they’re still making best sellers out of Lincoln’s assassination. And you now when the Bulls got Rose.

Recently I re-read The Jordan Rules and a big point you made in the book is MJ’s loyalty. Specifically that Dean Smith instilled a deep loyalty to UNC and that Jordan consistently requested to add more Tar Heels to the Bulls. Considering the Bobcats just lost the number 1 overall pick in this year’s draft and that Anthony Davis is most likely going to New Orleans, will MJ’s loyalty trump picking the best available athlete at #2. Would the Bobcats take Harrison Barnes? He is a 6’8” small forward who can score and Charlotte needs someone to score.

Chris DeMay

Sam: I’m told that book gets better with age. MJ is becoming a bit sensitive about the increasing criticism of him only hiring buddies. He’s hired a GM, Rich Cho, from outside his group, and he’s already passed on Patrick Ewing as coach. That said, Barnes would be a legitimate No. 2 choice as most executives feel the group between maybe two and seven or eight are fairly similar and an eye of the beholder thing. You can make a good case for Barnes. Jordan gets a lot of heat for some of his draft picks, but when he picked Kwame Brown he generally was regarded a top two or three pick. And Michael had Doug Collins with him, who is a good talent evaluator. Michael also liked Adam Morrison for his gutty play as a scorer, and Morrison was highly regarded as well by many executives. Michael’s picks weren’t out of the box or wild longshots. They just didn’t work out, and I can find you maybe three or four top 10 picks in every draft you might say the same about (How about these top 10 picks in 2010: Wesley Johnson, Ekpe Udoh and Al-Farouq Aminu? How about Hasheem Thabeet, Jonny Flynn and Jordan Hill in 2009?). But Michael draws more attention, as I discovered as well from my early book writing career. You read The Jordan Rules now and you think, “So what was the big deal?” Though back then the reaction was a bit more intense, like when the Tribune asked me to stay away from work awhile with all the threats. Though some were about my trade suggestions, I think.

I know you've defended NBA refs in the past. I can only imagine how difficult it is to officiate an NBA game, but, the homecourt edge that teams get in the NBA can ruin a game. The homecourt edge has nothing to do with how difficult it is to officiate a game. It can be difficult to watch a game when it "seems" obvious that the homecourt team gets an edge with foul calls. Don't you get frustrated while watching some of these games? I hate Boston but I feel kinda bad for them with some of the calls they've received. Is it the homecourt edge? Is it just Wade/LeBron getting superstar calls? Is it my imagination? I don't even feel like watching the rest of the series. I won't. I'll wait for the Finals when the Spurs will beat the Heat. Good thing the Spurs will have that homecourt edge I'm talking about!

Victor Devaldivielso

Sam: Well, that was a difficult Game 2 in Miami. Players have bad nights and officials do as well. There is a reason for so called home court and calls. Basketball is about aggression, and the aggressor tends to get the calls for creating contact. And, yes, Boston is more a perimeter jump shooting team. So the home crowd does tend to energize the players, which is why it makes sense there’s a bigger home court edge in basketball. Baseball is more cerebral than physical, so home crowd shouldn’t affect much. Plus, most of the time people are reading newspapers (Ok, whatever they read now) because it is so slow. There should be in football, but the fans are so far away and generally so drunk and in the middle of their own fights that it’s difficult to pay attention to whether your team has the ball. And officials being human, sort of, do get carried away by the home crowd as well. Dick Bavetta, for examples, loves when they cheer his charging calls for the home team. The Heat did seem to get an uneven advantage of calls, though everyone complained in the 90’s that the Bulls and Jordan got every call and Bulls games were never fairly officiated, especially after we’d see Jordan signing basketballs for some officials. But back then the calls supposedly were more deserved.

It seems like most of the teams in the NBA — and all of the top competitors — have the same problem the Bulls do of this new luxury tax system and revenue sharing: If so, who's going to sign all these mid-level players? Teams that have cap space don't really seem to be candidates for players like Kyle Korver and C.J. Watson and their counterparts on other teams. How does this affect teams and players in the short term? It seems like there will be precious few non-starters signing for more than a few million. Does this mean valuable veterans in 6th and 7th man roles top out at $2 or $3 million?

Kirk Landers

Sam: After a new labor contract, it takes a few seasons to sew how it will shake out and how teams react. So this is the first full summer after the new deal. One of the big concerns among the players during the negotiations was the terms might create a larger rich and poorer gap, sort of mirroring U.S. society. I think that is going to occur. The so called maximum guys will get their money. But with the ceiling lower because of a more penal luxury tax, more teams are going to have their few top paid guys and more minimum guys. So players like Korver making $5 million might become $2 million guys. Which isn’t bad, but by my calculations less. I think given the Bulls have four players next season making a combined $56 million, they’re going to wait until later in the summer to see if better players slip through the cracks and they can pick up someone short term for short money. I think you’ll see fewer teams using the mid level exception.

What's wrong with the Thunder? I was surprised they were down two nothing in the Conference Finals. They have a big three, two defensive bigs, and a decent bench. The Thunder seem to lack a low post presence on offensive, but that should be countered with Durant, Westbrook driving. Is the lack of playoff experience taking a toll? Are the Spurs really this good?

Larry Pilarski

Sam: The Spurs are good, which 20 straight wins suggests before Thursday. The Thunder sort of had a disease of early success. Durant, Westbrook and Harden were so good so quick that coach Scott Brooks, who is good though no Popovich, allowed them to flourish the way they played, which was with lots of isolation and tough jump shots. They’re so good they made them. That’s OK in the regular season. But when you get into the playoffs — here’s a difference between the regular season and playoffs that’s not about guys playing harder — teams have more time to scheme against what you do. So a veteran team that is smart and works the ball like the Spurs takes advantage of the Thunder’s individual tendencies. Also, because they’ve been so good and things have come relatively easily the last two seasons, the Thunder hasn’t tried to be better. They allowed their offense to be dominated by their big three without creating a post game. Ibaka can play inside. He’s a faceup shooter, but you could throw to him inside and have the defense react to space the floor. But the Thunder never really went to that with the excellence of Durant, Harden and Westbook. So they don’t have it now. And I think Brooks also got caught up with having some new toys like Derek Fisher and playing him too much. He went back to Sefolosha in Game 3, and Thabo was huge. It was inexplicable to many why such a poor defender as Fisher was finishing the first two games. But young players and young coaches learn together.

If the Spurs go to the NBA Finals and win it this year then does Tim Duncan become the 1st NBA player ever to win a championship in 3 different decades? He's already won in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007.

David Kim

Sam: I guess he does. Russell just missed going from 1957 virtually through 1969 and Kareem won 17 years apart, But it would be pretty impressive for Duncan, now certainly the top power forward of all time. Maybe the better question is does he make the top 10 all time. And ahead of whom? Ahead of Kobe? Elgin? West? Dr. J?

Hack-a-Splitter. That was the talk of the night. Will this mean a rule change next season? If not, will more teams adapt to it? It may not have made that much of a difference in the game, but assuming teams will use this, how will it affect games in the future? More specifically, how bad will this make the Bulls look? Asik already lost us with his last free throws back in Philadelphia, what then when he shoots those 8 more times per game? Not to mention that half our team aren't really efficient at the line. Shouldn't this make it easier for the Bulls to let go a few of our own?

Ray Palangan

Sam: The larger irony was the team that needed to run and did in Game 3 was the one trying to slow it down. Huh? I know it’s a rule and a coach I admire like Popovich uses it. But we disagree there, though I defer to him on fine wine and how to scare the crap out of post game questioners. There are some things within the rules that also aren’t in the spirit of the game, like overweight timeout dancers. The defenders always say you don’t like it, learn to make the shot. And they’ve basically been doing it since Wilt, though he put someone of a crimp in the strategy when he told opponents he’d beat them up if they fouled him again. The tactic rarely works as we recall they tried it on Rodman all the time and the Bulls managed to win, oh, 72 games one season. It made about a two point difference in Game 2. So maybe a rules change isn’t necessary, but I’d still like to see one. If only for Omer’s mental health and our deteriorating international relations with Turkey.

I wouldn't trade Deng or Noah for Gasol. Boozer has to be involved in some way. I don't want to see a Boozer/Gasol frontcourt. I propose a trade involving Milwaukee.

Steve Schnakenberg

Sam: Yes, everyone wants to dump stuff in Milwaukee. I generally reject about a dozen Boozer fan trade proposals weekly. There’s virtually no chance Boozer can be traded as he’s owed about $47 million the next three years. Yes, maybe if the Nets were to strike out on everyone, lose Deron Williams and not get Howard as they were in the bidding for Boozer two years ago. I’m not sure I’d go that way, though after they traded their lottery pick for free agent to be Gerald Wallace they are capable of any curious deal. I don’t get the sense, though, the Bulls feel anywhere like the fans do about Boozer and recently ran across this stat: These are the guys that played at least 300 minutes this year and averaged at least 20 points and 11 rebounds per 40 minutes, pace-adjusted. This puts everyone on the same plane in terms of the minutes they played and tempo of the team.

Boozer- 20.7/11.8
Blake Griffin - 23.5/12.3
Kevin Love - 26.0/13.3
Andrew Bynum - 21.5/13.6
DeMarcus Cousins - 22.8/13.8
Tim Duncan - 21.8/12.7
Dwight Howard - 22.1/15.6
Al Jefferson - 22.6/11.3
Greg Monroe - 20.0/12.5

Unlike the fans, I don’t get the sense the Bulls feel Boozer’s presence is their issue, especially if Rose and Deng are out to start the season. Who’s going to score then? Noah and Asik? I wouldn’t expect a Boozer deal, though I think you can leave your beer cans in Milwaukee.

James Harden has two more years on his contract with OKC, however deserves to be a starter and is only making close to six mill next season. How realistic is it that the Bulls would try and go after Harden in a trade during the 2012 off season?

Eliasaf Addison

Sam: None. The Bulls as I often note given their four eight-figure salary players are out of free agency without any major trades until at least 2016. Harden is going to be one of the biggest in demand players after next season and probably a max salary guy. It will be a challenge for the Thunder to keep him and Ibaka.

Do you see anyone trading [Anthony] Davis? And has anyone ever traded the No. 1 pick in the draft?

Rui Dias

Sam: No one trades No. 1 overall picks, and no one especially trades ones viewed as franchise players, as Davis is. One of the last times I recall the top pick traded when there were questions about Brad Daugherty in 1986, that he wasn’t tough enough. The 76ers had the pick and felt they needed to go for it and traded the pick for Roy Hinson. It was disaster and Daugherty went on to become one of the league’s top centers. There was somewhat more success in 1993. The Magic got the No. 1 pick in a second successive lottery after getting Shaq the previous season. They took Chris Webber and traded him to the Warriors for Penny Hardaway and three No. 1 picks. Penny had a good run, but got hurt after a few years. But you can see how much the pick cost, basically four No. 1’s. So it doesn’t come up much, especially with the way teams value No. 1 picks. And draft picks will become even more valuable in this new labor deal given their relatively low cost on their rookie contracts.

On aside note if the Bulls do manage to trade for Gasol, it would be foolish of them to trade Noah to "fill in the holes". In order to be successful with Gasol in the lineup, I think you need to have an active big man who can hide his deficiencies defensively (which is probably why Phil played Odom instead of Bynum). Noah fits the bill. He still is the team's best pick 'n roll defender, and can switch against the likes of LeBron, Wade or Anthony. Besides the Bulls could always use Gibson, Asik, or Charlotte's pick to fill in the holes.

Baquer Mirza

Sam: Yes, I threw out the Noah addition of that deal to fill out the roster. But I do agree Noah is a vital player if you were to give up Deng because you don’t want so many non-energetic players, and Boozer isn’t high energy. Gibson is. It’s speculative on my part, of course. You’d have something of an overload in the front court moving Deng for a center and keeping Noah. But I think Gibson is quick enough to play some small forward, though without the shooting range. And it’s never a bad thing to have extra bigs as most teams don’t have nearly enough. It shouldn’t hurt you.

I've been thinking about the Bulls roster and the need for filling it out with some cost efficient choices. Here are some players that I feel can contribute and still have some upside. I feel the Bulls are too loyal at times and are trigger shy in making the big deal. Here are some minimum salary players that I feel can contribute: PF/C-Derrick Caracter-6'9" 275lbs-He's still only 24 years old. He's a legit post player that can hit the midrange shot. Could not see the floor with the lakers because they had Odom, Gasol, and Bynum. He was a luxury to the lakers. Bulls should bring him in for a look. He'd be an upgrade over Scalabrine, Although I like Scalabrine personally. I just feel that the Bulls need to fill its roster 1-15 with players that can contribute. PG-Johnny Flynn-6' 175lbs-Former Lottery pick. Superfast and athletic. I still think he has upside and can blossom as our starting point guard with Rose being out and would be a great backup to derrick Rose. SG-Kyle Weaver-6'6" 205lbs-The only reason I feel the Bulls cut this kid is because they already were committed to Korver and brewer. Weaver is more talented than both these guys. He still only 26 years old. He can handle the ball like a point guard and can defend multiple positions well. Bulls should get on the phone and bring this kid back.

Rocky Rosado

Sam: The Bulls will look for some value players, though I think Flynn will come at a higher cost because most teams feel he’s been underutilized since his injury in Minnesota. I liked Weaver, but the Bulls passed on him and he ended up going overseas. Caracter was in the D-league, but I think the Bulls will look more for perimeter value players.

I watch lots of D-League games. I like watching them to see which palyer will be a call-up and who will make an immediate impact for their team. I've been watching JamesOn Curry playing and reading some articles about him redeeming his self and trying to make back into the NBA. I think he should get a 2nd chance in the red and black. He's 6'4, can play both guard positions and he comes at a cheap price. Jeremy Lin, Reggie Williams, Ivan Johnson, Gerald Green, Will Bynum, Chuck Hayes, John Lucas, Kelenna Azubuike, C.J. Watson, and Steve Novak are guys that have played in the D-League who are starters or scorers off the bench. I think its worth a shot. This was an article I found on JamesOn Curry.

Del Favors

Sam: It’s an interesting article and he sounds sincere. I can’t say I’ve seen him play, but I suspect the Bulls will be looking for more NBA veteran types.

We've heard much talk lately about how lucky we are for passing on Dwight Howard this past trade deadline, how he was a clubhouse cancer, and how he brought his team down with his attitude. Is now the time to buy low, then? Remember back in 1995, when the Spurs had enough of Dennis Rodman's antics (his motorcycle crash and subsequent injury may have cost the Spurs the Western Conference title in '95), and the Bulls rolled the dice on him? Sure, it only cost them Will Perdue in return, but imagine the negative ramifications it could have had on a resurgent Bulls team. Instead, he gave us three relatively well-behaved years (by Rodman's standards, at least), as the Bulls won championships in all three seasons Rodman was with the team. With Howard, I'd be willing to give up anyone aside from Rose (as much as I love Noah, he's not panning out to be the All-Star player we'd all hoped for). Howard might shine in a new atmosphere. Now if we can only sell him on cold Chicago (and really, it's not that much colder than Jersey/Brooklyn!).

Mike Burgher

Sam: I don’t think the price is low. Even with back surgery, I think most everyone is anxious to take a chance on Howard and see him go out hard to prove it was the fault of Van Gundy and Otis Smith. You might have the most motivated Howard ever. He might even take the game seriously for awhile and make a few free throws. I think the Bulls chances are much less without Rose as Howard then has less to work with assuming any deal includes Noah and Deng. And then Chicago can get really cold.

You mentioned the Bulls were "all in" this year and could have given the Spurs a run for their money, since they beat them during the regular season. You may have forgotten they traded for Stephen Jackson since then. I know you're not a big fan, but their play has been consistent before and after this trade. I understand you feel Jackson is a taker of team chemistry, but he apparently is kept in check by Pop. I hope that most of the fans appreciate the job the Bulls did this year with two and half of their players out of their starting line up.

Tom Allen

Sam: There are certain situations for guys like that, and the Spurs are one as he didn’t want to leave but had gotten a bigger offer and hadn’t made much money at that point. Plus, I’ve never been that down on Jackson and even lobbied for him some a few years back. I always think a strong team can take one of those guys, though maybe not Artest. Jackson’s name, though, brings up another, larger issue of guys like Jackson and Boris Diaw going to the Spurs for basically nothing. The NBA tried to tweak it a bit in the new labor deal with a waiver of sorts. But these buyouts to join top teams are perverting competition and should be made much more difficult. The Spurs end up with a starting center in Diaw. You can say they made themselves attractive by succeeding, but then you continue the separation of talent leagues always are trying to combat with things like the draft. The NBA needs to make an adjustment. The rich get richer shouldn’t be encouraged by David Stern.

Looking back in NBA history, I can't remember a team who has won a championship without a "headcase" or a "bad guy". The Bulls did it with Rodman, the Celtics did it with Garnett, the Lakers did it with Artest, and heck, the Mavs even did it with DeShawn Stevenson. Do you think the Bulls should invest in one of these tough, fearless knuckleheads? Stephen Jackson?

Vince Kabat

Sam: Jackson is a nice backup now, but has lost his high level of play as he’s 34. I wouldn’t quite put Garnett in there as he’s more a punk the way he trash talks and then runs away from tougher guys. But the fact is you generally win despite those guys. Rodman helped the Bulls win some big games, but Jordan and Pippen was why they won and just about any power forward would have been good enough. There weren’t any such key players on the great Lakers and Celtics teams of the 80’s, the Celtics of the 60’s, the Bulls of the early 90’s and the Knicks of the 70’s. The Lakers lost when they added a goofball like Gary Payton and win when they had more solid guys like Rick Fox and Robert Horry. It’s hardly a rule; it’s an exception.

Bulls need to get younger and more offensively skilled. Word is J.R. Smith is going to opt out of his $2.6 million contract and seek a pay raise. He may end up in the $4-$7 million range per year. Any chance the Bulls could nab him via a trade or MLE?

Chad Shadel

Sam: I’m quite sure the Bulls could, especially since J.R. is out of jail now after being arrested again a few weeks ago, though some fans passed on some Internet pictures of J.R. this week showing him smoking some suspicious stuff. Without Rose, the Bulls definitely will have problems getting higher... in the standings.

If Deng is so excited about playing for his country, why doesn’t he pay the insurance and remove the Bulls from an awkward situation? I was right there with the Dream Team! OK to one time show the world what our pros could do against theirs. After that I lost interest in the entire event. Now they want to be paid? Give it back to the college players! They would appreciate the experience and still not know how selfish all the money they get, will make them!

Rex Doty

Sam: Having the players pay their own insurance is an interesting idea, and I’d say a lot of U.S. players would bail out. They did back off wanting to get paid, which was Dwyane Wade’s complaint. But the pressure apparently has been building. I have no problem with Deng playing given how many U.S. players play without any interference from their teams. But just this week commissioner David Stern told the AP he’s not sure NBA players should continue in the Olympics. Which means this may be the last time. Stern mentioned the soccer model of using younger players and having pros in the world championships, which I assume means fewer would want to play. I’m also not much excited about the NBA players in the Olympics anymore as I think most Americans are not since Wade’s comments.

All Chicago Team:

Isiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, Jabari Parker, Kevin Garnett, Anthony Davis

Off the bench:
Derrick Rose, Hersey Hawkins, Mark Aguirre, Red Kerr, George Mikan

Riding the bench:
Mo Cheeks and Antoine Walker

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski
Assistant Coach: Doc Rivers
Honorary Sixth Man: Benji Wilson
Honorable mention: Kendall Gill, Tim Hardaway and Kevin Duckworth
In-game commentators: Red Kerr and Kendall Gill
Did I miss anybody? Could any other city in the world put up a fight against Chicago?

Ben Feldman

Sam: Parker and Davis already ahead of Rose and Aguirre, the latter a 20 point career scorer with two titles in 15 seasons, someone who should be in the Hall of Fame? And what about area guys like Dan Issel from Batavia, Jack Sikma from Kankakee, Eddie Johnson from Westinghouse, Terry Cummings from Carver and Downstate’s Doug Collins? Pretty impressive.

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