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Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 06.15.12

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.

The draft is on its way! The Bulls could really use a diamond in the rough like they found with Taj late in the draft. Which prospects have been working out for the Bulls?

Vince Kabat

Sam: I wouldn’t read too much into who the Bulls are working out. My sense is if you are eligible and will come to Chicago they’ll work you out. More than 30 players have been in already with I’ve hard another 20 or so expected. They do their homework, I’ll say that.

I read an article on ESPN that the bulls should trade noah and the 29th pick for tyreke evans and the 5th pick. Any chance that happens and if it does who do the Bulls take at 5?

Andrew Burgess

Sam: I wrote some speculation about Sacramento and the No. 5 pick last Monday in my NBA column. I’ve gotten several emails like this, but it makes little sense. My point of mentioning the Kings was with Deng because the Kings are desperate for a small forward and maturity. They have a center they love in DeMarcus Cousins and don’t much need Noah. In fact, they have a player like Noah in Jason Thompson. Noah would be a reserve for them. But once someone speculates on a deal someone at ESPN usually comes up with a version of their own. The Bulls, however, do need Noah with Omer Asik a restricted free agent. Yes, the Bulls can match. But is Asik ready to be a 35 minute per game starter. So then you’d have to take a big man, assuming Drummond, with that pick and he’s several years away from being ready. Derrick Rose would love starting over when he returns, I’m sure. And the Bulls strength is their front court. With Rose out it’s more important than ever. A deal for Evans has been much speculated upon everywhere. But the Kings are said to want a lot and would hardly add the No. 5 pick with him. Maybe you get the pick for Noah. Hardly Evans and the pick. Maybe you get Evans and the pick for Noah and Deng, which would be ridiculous for the Bulls to do. It makes little sense for either side.

I had a heated discussion with a friend of mine at work and hoping you can provide us with a definitive opinion. ESPN had an article suggesting that the Bulls and Kings should consider a deal that would send the Bulls Tyreke Evans and the #5 pick for Joakim Noah and our #29 pick. I am of the opinion that the Bulls should not do this deal. While I understand that shot creation is one of our biggest weaknesses even with Rose on our team, I feel like this would be a shortsighted move. Had Rose not been injured, there’s no way this deal is even discussed. If we are going to make moves, we need to make sure that the pieces will ultimately fit around Rose because without him, we aren’t going anywhere anyway. Evans is a ball dominating guard with one of the worst shots in the game (he shot 29.4% on two point attempts outside of three feet!). He would be great with Rose out, but with Rose, he will need to play too much isolation and can’t be used in any spot up shooting opportunities. While I know that there aren’t many options out there, I just don’t think that the Bulls should sacrifice an adequately paid player like Noah who is near the top five at his position.

Kevin Loughlin

Sam: Well, you obviously can’t work for ESPN making that much sense. I know. Cheap shot. But they get to say anything they want. Hey, I’m just kidding them. What would we do if they took SportsCenter away from us? Anyway, you have hit the salient point. I don’t know what the Bulls will do, but I do know whatever it is will be designed around how it fits with Rose. And for after next season even if Derrick can play part of next season. The Bulls do want to add a second scorer/creator and I like Evans, though not at the cost of Noah and it’s difficult to imagine the Bulls’ ultimate answer would be Evans, who lost his job in Sacramento to Isaiah Thomas, the 4-foot-8 point guard.

I took a gander at the Warriors' website. Lo and behold they're looking to upgrade their Small Forward position. Luol Deng is a "proven" SF that they might be looking for. Of course, you should be able to get something else for Lu. Brandon Rush?? It would definitely be an "investment," a plan of attack considered more highly because of Rose's health. Believe me, I like Luol as much or more than the next guy, but the opportunity to get some young guns while Rose is recovering and other contracts are expiring is quite tempting. The sacrifice wouldn't even be that great for the 2012-2013 season due to the uncertainty that comes with surgery, er, surgeries. Looking at the Thunder makes me wonder whether a healthy Bulls team could have defeated them in the Finals this year. Is it time to start looking into the future a bit so we can take down an OKC-like team down later on? In which case is it worth dismantling our team to get a Kevin Love or other superstar player? Lots of questions coming into next season because of the Rose injury, Deng surgery.

Jonathan Ruth

Sam: Is it something the Bulls will look at? Probably. It’s been widely speculated the Warriors want a veteran three, but part of the package is you have to take Dorell Wright and his $4 million for next season. Would they throw in Rush on a sign and trade? Probably, though not the pick as that would be too much. I mentioned Deng as a possible trade “asset,” as the Bulls like to say, though more with someone like the Kings as they are not likely a playoff contender. The Warriors believe they are with Bogut and less likely to take a chance on whether Deng needs surgery. I wouldn’t worry too much about the Thunder until the Bulls can get past the Heat, which looks a lot farther away now.

Is Luol Deng overpaid? He is an all-star who is a great defender, great cutter, good shooter, with a non-stop motor. However, he makes a lot of money for someone whom I think is slightly better than Thabo Sefolosha (who the Bulls traded to OKC for the Gibson pick). Sefolosha is a great defender, decent cutter, going through his best shooting season ever (on 3 pts and FTs), and has a high motor. He also makes just over $9 million less than Deng. Sefolosha’s PPG is much less than Deng, but Thabo has proven to be extremely valuable this playoffs. I think Deng is a very good basketball player. I would trade him now with his value so high to get a shooting guard as you suggest. I think Barnes would be a coup. In your opinion, could Jimmy Butler became a player like Sefolosha making Deng expendable…especially if you get a shooting guard who can score?

Peter Ralston

Sam: A few years back, that was the view. But I don’t think he is. At least in NBA terms. By the way, he’s so much better than Thabo there is no legitimate comparison. With a lot of Deng’s money deferred, it’s a good contract for the Bulls and makes it easier to trade if they choose to. The notion to trade Deng would be if you could make yourself a lot better by filling two or more holes and maybe getting a shot at a potential future star two years down the road with Rose presumably back at a high level. The Bulls might take a step back for a time losing Deng if they did trade him as he is not better than Rose but often to the coach the most valuable player. Deng earned his All Star status. Despite the rampant speculation, I do not expect him to be traded.

When you watch the OKC Thunder does it remind you at all of the early 90's Bulls? How do you think the two teams compare?

Alex Green

Sam: Not really. That Bulls team was a great, great defensive team, and this Thunder team is a great, great offensive team. It was difficult at times to even bring the ball up against Jordan and Pippen. They could throw it into the post with Cartwright, which the Thunder cannot and they attacked the basket much more while the Thunder is more a jump shooting team. And the Bulls did have the best player while we’re not certain if the Thunder does.

Would the Celtics consider the idea of dealing rondo again? If a guy like Ray Allen got fed up with him what's going to make free agents want to come to Boston and put up with him?

Mike Sutera

Sam: There was a sourced report to that effect, though it does seem more likely Allen will be gone and end up with an exception with one of the contending teams as the designated shooter. It would seem to me as difficult as Rondo apparently can be at times to find someone who can make as much impact. The Celtics have tried, supposedly for Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook. But Rondo is probably too valuable and hard to replace. Free agents favor money first, especially in this era when you hire your own friends. Very few teams have teammates spending so much time together given the entourages every top player has to some degree. Entourage is not necessarily bad as some guys have very good friends and role models to hang with. But the league is more individually private than in previous years. But Boston is not a major destination for free agents, anyway, which is why most can see Garnett returning for two years.

I'm excited about the upcoming documentary looking back on the Dream Team from Barcelona. I of course watched all the games from the qualifying tournament to the final gold medal game and Jordan and Barkley worrying about wearing Reebok warm-ups to the podium. The thing is though, I was a kid and the full significance didn't resonate to me at the time. Did MJ and Scottie ruin Kukoc's confidence forever as a future NBA player from that first game against them? Was Scottie the most useful (not best, most talented) player on the team as some have said?

Ed Holden

Sam: I’m not sure it created basketball in Europe, but it did inspire a lot of kids and was the beginning of the NBA’s global movement. Kukoc, as I’ll get into below, wasn’t much affected, and though Pippen had won two titles already, that was something of his true coming out party. It was something of a surprise he was even selected. But he was maybe the most active player on the team with Jordan somewhat worn down and taking it easy at times. Chuck Daly would later say Pippen played better than anyone on the team and Pippen probably earned the most respect among his peers, who didn’t take him that seriously before.

I did not watch the Dream Team documentary. I have been watching sports since the 60s and the only bigger injustice than Isiah Thomas not being on the team I can really think is the people who let Ali keep climbing into the ring after the last Frazier fight in 1975! Funny, Isiah never gets credit for his successes: lower agent percentages and higher pay for mid level players, Camby, Jermaine Lee O'Neal, Harrington, Bender, Stoudemire, and McGrady}. Even ZBo is looking pretty good now, not to mention Curry could actually round out. But his so called "failures" are blown up: Could get along with Dantley, called Bird another player, could not get along with Piston ownership at retirement, Raptor ownership undercutting him, David Stern undercut him on the CBA, Bird throwing him out because he wanted his own coach, the Knicks, FIU. But even when this kid was at Indiana University I liked how he came from the West Side of Chicago at 6'0" feet made his game fit the most demanding coach in the history of basketball and win a championship. Isiah then adjusted his game again to make the "Clippers North" champions and winners. He led the Union to limit agents' percentage. He was a successful local businessman and yes not without his own junk. The kid came off the West Side and got his college degree and became a millionaire. With today's' social media I do not think the selection committee could have hid behind MJ, Pippen and Falk; MJ, Pippen and Falk could not hide behind the selection committee. And Chuck Daly could not have just gotten away with shrugging his shoulders. Imagine LeBron saying he did not wish to play on the USA team if Rondo is on the team? Today's' ESPN and Social Media would be all over it.

Lawrence Bentley

Sam: I know a lot of fans enjoyed that Dream Team documentary as it was an entertaining look at one of the NBA’s seminal events. And Isiah isn’t exactly a sympathetic and beloved figure. But keeping him off that team was an embarrassment for the NBA and USA Basketball and shows what you know about life, that the guys with money decide everything. Jordan was responsible, though it was mostly a bluff. Jordan’s a better gambler than the NBA guys. So imagine how bad they are. Even David Stern said in that Jim Rome interview this week before it got ugly that leaving off Isiah was a huge mistake. Of course, it was his committee that did it. Jordan, of course, was the key. How could you have a Dream Team without the league’s best player? Jordan felt he’d be tired after that 1991-92 championship and a controversy filled season and didn’t want to play. Nike persuaded him to as it was a huge marketing opportunity. He doesn’t say no to them. But the committee didn’t know. So Jordan said he wouldn’t play if Isiah was on the team. The committee was only to glad to go along to get Jordan, who they also promised could play golf every day. They didn’t say they’d wash his underwear. But they didn’t say they wouldn’t. Isiah wasn’t liked very much around the league. Winning those two titles didn’t help the way they did it, though the league at the time was embracing the Bad Boy thing with a promotional campaign. Meanwhile, scientific genius Karl Malone had warned everyone not to play with Magic Johnson because they’d get AIDS. So it wasn’t like one happy family. And back then there wasn’t post game hugging. Jordan didn’t do much post game hand shaking after losses. Bird never did once. And what team didn’t have a guy most everyone disliked? Plus, Isiah helped out USA Basketball with an exhibition tour for the 1980 team after Jimmy Carter’s stupid boycott. The boycott, ironically, was because the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. The same Afghanistan the U.S. invaded a few years back. You know: No good deed goes unpunished.

I hope you watched the Dream Team documentary on NBA TV. It was a fun glimpse inside that team. I was 10 years old at the time and never knew about the Kukoc vs MJ/Scottie side of things. I am sure Kukoc was happy to know that he would join them once he came to the NBA.

Jason Blanshine

Sam: I was surprised how many emails I received about fans not knowing about this incident with Kukoc, so it was also a useful look back at something that seemed to familiar. And it is nice to see the behind-the-scenes inside stuff. Though I guess being so familiar with something from two decades ago is what happens when you live through so much history. I forget how many people also don’t remember Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address lasted only about three minutes. I had time afterward to try to catch a paddle wheeler. Actually, when Kukoc arrived was the season Jordan retired for the first time and said it was permanent. Toni was upset about that, actually cried as I recall. Though he was the one who handled the 1992 Olympics thing the best. What the episode showed was the idolatry toward Jordan and that no matter what stupid thing he and Pippen might do it didn’t matter because the team was winning. I know Jerry Krause wasn’t particularly popular. But here he was trying to get a player who would help the team continue to win titles and Jordan and Pippen wanted to punish him for it. It would be similar now to maybe Joakim Noah or Derrick Rose trying to make Nikola Mirotic look bad. Krause, of course, took these things too far and because he had discovered Kukoc was likening him to Magic Johnson and saying he’d be better than Jordan or Pippen. It was ridiculous, of course, though Krause always did that with his alleged finds and said Will Perdue would dominate Bill Cartwright. Cartwright laughed. “Just Jerry,” he said. Jordan and Pippen took this as some mortal sin even though the Bulls certainly wouldn’t have won all three of those second era titles without Kukoc. Certainly because Rodman was injured and erratic often and Kukoc took his role. Kukoc really was the only mature one among that group in those Olympic games as Pippen wanted a raise for a change even though he’d just signed a new deal. Kukoc laughed it off as just Michael and Scottie showing off. But it really was embarrassing the way they tried to humiliate a future teammate and a likeable teenager who was proud just to be playing the Americans. It’s amazing sometimes what we excuse because people are talented and successful. Except, of course, for LeBron, I guess.

What are your thoughts about the Stern interview with Jim Rome? Why did Stern get so upset with a question that many people wonder? Maybe it was a stupid question but Stern's response almost makes you wonder if there is a fix. Lastly, why doesn't the NBA televise the lottery as it takes place? Why is it such a big secret?

Victor Devaldivielso

Sam: Stern did make a mistake in using that old “still beat your wife” cliché used for years to present an unanswerable question. Stern can be condescending and egotistical. But he prides himself on probity and charity even if a bit self congratulatory at times. But he doesn’t cheat. It is a stupid, moronic issue. Really, Stern is going to risk going to prison by fixing the lottery to get New Orleans a draft pick? And Ernst and Young, one of the world’s biggest accounting firms, is going to risk prison for its partners and the loss of billions to cooperate with the NBA on a draft drawing? I know people love conspiracies, but this is Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Except your kids would probably call you idiots for believing the NBA would risk everything to manipulate something so random as a draft drawing. OK, it was fun to raise it 100 times. But now it’s up to about 10,000. Stern was just saying, enough. Only Seinfeld and the Honeymooners are funny that often.

Back in 1999, the NBA went into a decline and many people blamed it on the lockout, saying the league had to "win fans back." Well, the NBA had a lockout this season, too, and we're seeing record-breaking TV ratings on cable. It appears the lockout hasn't had a negative effect this time, at least as far as fan interest. Why do you think this lockout been easier to recover from than the last one. and does it mean we're more likely to see a future lockout since the NBA has shown it can bounce back immediately?

Chris Feldman

Sam: The labor deal is 10 years but with a 2017 opt out, and frankly I wouldn’t be surprised if the league wants to reopen at the early time and renegotiate. So I’m not confident we won’t see this again. It was a different time in 1999 and a lot because of Jordan’s retirement and the unpopular breakup of the Bulls, whether forced or not. So you had no defending champion, the league’s most popular player gone, a shorter 50-game season which seemed less credible and then an average Knicks team in the Finals against a structured and less interesting Spurs team that played a stagnant game compared with the stylish play of guys like LeBron and Durant. The talent level is better now and it was in the low scoring era with only one team averaging 100 points.

Do you see the Bulls going after Delonte West this summer? He can play the point or be a 2-guard, and seems to annoy LeBron. He could take over for Derrick, and then back him up or play the 2 once Derrick's healthy. Is there a chance of this happening?

Mark Karge

Sam: I believe he is one of the names on their long list of possibilities. He’s more a shooting guard, but can play some point. And he won’t cost too much given a pass that includes weapons arrests, his bipolar issues, his occasional outbursts like a wild Twitter rant last January and imaging he wasn’t invited with the team to the White House and then telling the media even though he was invited. But it’s not like the Bulls have a lot of options.

Can the Magic go for a trade with Hornets for the number 1 pick and Howard? Davis for Howard? Would it be possible? Would any part even consider this?

Rui Dias, Portugal

Sam: The Magic certainly would. They’d buy everyone in New Orleans lifetime tickets to Sea World as well. The Hornets? Nah, and I’m fairly certain Howard wouldn’t resign there. While the actual games have mercifully obscured the Howard saga for awhile, it’s getting close again with rumors Orlando wants to trade him at the draft, which I don’t believe. They seem naïve enough to make another attempt to sign him, and, I guess, why not. Then the bidding will start and there should be some fun scenarios suggested. I’m sure I’ll offer a few as well. The consensus—which we know as sources who may or may not know—seems to be he’ll be traded somewhere in July. Though New Orleans might be a good place since they just announced the local paper will only print three times a week, which means Howard will not be able to stay stupid stuff every day. That said, I’m fairly sure 20 or so teams will make offers or him.

With the NBA Finals here people always talk about the best players not to win a championship and Chicagoans hope Lebron stays on that list. My question is who are the best players to never make it to the Finals? I just pulled up Slams top 500 players of all time list and it seems like most of the top players have a least been to the finals. Who in your opinion are the best players never to play for a championship? Steve Nash comes to mind.

Barry Burman

Sam: Yes, obviously, Nash, though it should not tarnish a great career as there have been many great players never in the Finals. Sometimes someone in your division is too good, like the Bulls of the 90’s or Lakers of the 80’s or Celtics of the 60’s. And sometimes you just get close. You could make a heck of a team with those who didn’t get there, like Dominique Wilkins, Pete Maravich, Chris Mullin, Sidney Moncrief, Bob Lanier, Jack Twyman, Jerry Sloan, Mark Price, Brad Daugherty, Larry Nance, George Gervin, Alex English, Walt Bellamy and Dave Bing. Just to name a few.

I was wondering if you could give us an update on when Nikola Mirotic might be coming over to play for the Bulls. I recently read an article saying that it likely wouldn't be until after Luol is off of the books in 2013-2014 (though I hope he is resigned after his contract runs out). It seems like if Booz is gone after next year or soon after that and Taj is starting that Mirotic would give a good scoring punch off of the bench and keep us as contenders for the forseeable future with a quality 4-man big guy rotation to complement Rose and Luol.

Nick Ellingson.

Sam: Because of contract and financial issues, the Bulls don’t expect Mirotic until the summer of 2015. There’s a fan who regularly writes me who follows Mirotic’s games. Here are some of his recent dispatches:

“ACB (Basketball Clubs Association) is the league we have in Spain and works like NBA, they have a regular season and a play-offs. We have the Euroleague, that runs parallel to all European basketball leagues and it is just for the 4 best teams of each league. Olympiakos is the 2012 Euroleague final 4 champion (former bull Acie Law played for them). Almost all country has it's own CUP or king's cup or whatever cup... thisis a third trophy the 8 best teams play for 2 weeks. Real Madrid is the 2012 winner in Spain.So, each team, at least in Spain, can win up to 3 trophies, ACB, Euroleague and King's Cup (Copa del Rey). The Euroleague final four is the most difficult to win. Ricky Rubio won the Euroleague in 2010, Kukoc has 2 al least. None of the current Spaniards in NBA won the Euroleague except for Rubio. Mirotic has just won this year king's Cup, lost in 2011 Euroleague final 4 and is currently playing ACB finals.”

“Mirotic missed 1st round series against the Banca Cívica because he suffered a grade II sprain in a practice. They say he is no longer injured but I think if semifinals series had not been that close, he would still be on the injured list………Real Madrid blow 85-59 FC Barcelona in game 3, series 1-2. Mirotic scored 12 in 18 minutes with 50% in 2, 33% in 3 and 5 rebounds…… Real Madrid won game 2 in ACB finals, series tied at 1, now the series move to Madrid. Mirotic scored just 10 in 20 minutes with 25% in 2 but 100% in 3ps!! He made on of the 3 in clutch time……. Mirotic comes from an injury but managed to play in semifinals games 4 and 5 averaging just 5.7ppg in 3 playoff games.”

Thanks to Fernando Martinez

How does the faster and more athletic team end up with more fouls and foul trouble? (Bad) nba officiating. This is a joke. This is why many of my friends who used to really follow it don't like the nba, and while I try to counteract it with them, they're kind of correct. The officials have completely taken over this game with ticky tack calls and swallowed whistles when wade, bosh, haslem or Lebron slapped, hacked. It cost Boston the series and it cost OKC game 2. I'm not saying Boston should've won, but miami is slow. You can look at the faces of Scott Brooks and Maurice Cheeks, and then the smirking, whining Spoelstra, and know the officials were going to even the series tonight by hook or by crook.

Matt Adler

Sam: Sounds like someone’s team lost.

Is it true that the Bulls are looking for a combo-guard in this year's draft? And if so what are the chances for them taking Doron Lamb or Jarred Cunningham with that 29th pick?

Jonel Gamolo

Sam: There’s been much speculation about that and it certainly is a need. But given they are at the bottom of the first round you don’t get much chance to choose. Barring a major trade, the Bulls likely will select the best talent there and not so much aim for position as they have to fill out their bench at several positions. I assume those players are certainly possible, though.

I will preface this theory by stipulating that I expect you to crush my dreams right here & now. That being said, what are the chances Nash takes a late-career paycut to hitch a ride on the Bulls' championship wagon?

Bob Fore

Sam: What championship wagon?

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