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Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 07.20.12

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.

Is it true you've been abducted by aliens? Or is this an unannounced vacation? We're hoping it's the latter.

Phil Kolar

Sam: I've been hesitant to admit this even to myself. But with my anxiety over Omer's free agency, some mornings I haven't even been able to get out of bed. But I'm back and I'll do another few Ask Sam mailbags and then pretty much be done until training camp, like the soon-to-be completed Bulls 2012-13 roster.

I'm not totally certain how the RFA deals work so please help. This pertains to Lin and Asik. I understand that the team with the player's rights lets the player test the market to find his value. But if Asik and/or Lin really wanted to stay with their old teams why sign the offer sheet? Can't the player go back to the team and say "here's the offer, you wanna pay me more?" cause it seems the Bulls would pay Asik the 24 mil, but can't handle the structures of it (15 in yr 3). And I understand that to get to that amount the deal would probably have to add a year. Lin almost cried and said he really wanted/preferred to return to NYC. Then why sign that poison pill contract?

Zoran Stanoev

Sam: Neither team likely wanted to go that high. Yes, the Bulls could anytime have made an offer to Asik to average $8 million-plus. But it seems obvious they didn’t want to pay him that much. That would have cost them at least $20 million for the center position, and the way the NBA’s new labor situation is developing, you cannot afford to put that much into one position unless it is for a true star. We probably have seen the end of the era of what the Bulls just concluded, effectively two teams with substantial depth and upfront reserve size. That’s why the Rose injury was so significant, other than obviously losing Rose. It was the end of the Bulls’ run with the edge they had of depth. I believed had Rose remained healthy the Bulls would have gotten past Miami, and then the Bulls likely would have extended everyone and kept it going year to year like they did after the 1996 championship. Remember, Michael and Phil kept coming back a year at a time, and though it’s not widely accepted, Michael was offered a one year extension with a raise from $33.4 million in 1998 with one year deal for everyone else if he would stay. But Phil definitely had decided to leave and Pippen as well as he had multi year possibilities and said he wouldn’t resign under any circumstances. Rodman asked to stay, but then when Michael declined it was over. I get that sense now as well, though this team is much more competitive with Noah, Deng and Boozer. But without Rose, it seems clear the decision was to break it up on some level and reconstitute somewhere down the road.

Almost every available player in the market are linked to the Bulls. There's Anthony Tolliver, Donte Greene, Darko Milicic, Shannon Brown, etc. I think the media is just as frustrated as I am [because] the Bulls are so secretive in their transactions. I'm thinking the Bulls are waiting for Asik's contract, before they make their move. They haven't formally signed Kirk Hinrich yet, so I believe they have some sort of plan they need to follow. The Bulls have repeatedly said their [going to] match Omer Asik. Do you think they will match the offer sheet?

Peter John Jimenez

Sam: The Bulls have kept quiet, obviously, about this, and GMs I talked to at summer league were saying the Bulls have been suggesting they would match. I don’t see it. Not that they are connected, but to me it was a major signal when the Knicks didn’t match on Jeremy Lin. The Knicks have been perhaps the most irresponsible in spending for years, running up astronomical payrolls and luxury tax bills. The joke was they just raise their cable TV company rates. But if the Knicks are wary of a big luxury tax hit in future years when the luxury tax penalty doubles and triples, it sends a chilling message around the league of a changing landscape. And I felt it would be much easier to trade Lin before that 2014-15 balloon payment season than it would be Asik, who averages maybe four points and is hardly a must see player. If the Knicks didn’t want to take that chance, I’d be surprised if the Bulls will, as much as anyone who reads here knows how much I’ve valued Asik. Sometimes you just have to let the kids go out on their own.

What do you think about the Bulls not signing Houston's Omer Asik offer sheet, then contact Greg Oden to play for mid/mini level money? That way it would buy the Bulls some time for the next year or two. Then they can sign a shooting guard like Randy Foye.

Anthony Martin

Sam: The idea seems right, though the names are being changed to protect the recalcitrant. With $64 million guaranteed in contracts before adding anyone and the tax at about $71 million and Rose out perhaps half or more of next season, it appears the Bulls are pursuing minimum level players, of which there seem like there’ll be plenty. The big money has been spent by now with the exception of the Dwight Howard maneuvering. The teams under the cap and planning to use exceptions mostly have. Though he’s not signed yet, the Bulls have committed to Hinrich at about $4 million. Teague gets another $1 million or so. Thus the Bulls appear like they’ll creep into the tax by a few million even after unloading the entire bench. So it doesn’t seem like they want to double a salary for a bench player, which is what they’d have to do now to add anyone. If Oden would take a minimum, I’m quite sure the Bulls would take him. I’ve heard they’ve contacted perhaps three dozen players about coming in for that $1 million or so, which isn’t that much of an insult. I expect them to add a backup point guard, shooting guard and big man, likely all veterans with word this week Vladimir Radmanovic is the new Kyle Korver. Radmanovic is from Trebinje, said to be the Iowa of Yugoslavia.

So far there has been more players outgoings than incoming. Surely the Bulls need to bring in some established top players in order to challenge while Rose is out? Seems to be a glum feeling amongst Bulls fans at present.

Adam Grant

Sam: It is going to be a disappointing season to be a Bulls fan because there was a legitimate possibility of winning a title last season and the developing one of the season before with watching the magic of Rose. I’m excited for the season, though I always am, but because I believe it will be highly competitive. The margin or error is infinitesimal, and there’ll be some brutal, close losses. Maybe a lot. But Thibodeau is such a good coach he’ll remain demanding and committed and prepared and the Bulls will stretch out more, assuming they’re healthy, than it seems feasible in an East with only Miami in my view a certain top four team. The larger question will be when Rose returns and how much, but I don’t see anyone other than Miami the Bulls can’t beat. Of course, there also are eight or nine other teams saying the same thing. Last season it was the Bulls and Miami headed to a showdown. Now it’s Miami and, “Anyone got a hat to pick out a name?”

I know it is just summer league, but wow Jimmy Butler looks really good. I really think the Bulls might want to consider starting the kid. He is aggressive. 24 free throw attempts in two games. Even for summer league that is impressive for a wing player. Any rumors on Rip Hamilton being moved? Starter minutes ala James Harden would be nice for Jimmy Butler. I know its early but Sixth Man of the Year and most improved player could be on the horizon as long as he continues to put in the work. I wouldn't mind signing former first rounder James Anderson. Start Jimmy Butler and bring Anderson off the bench.

Rocky Rosado

Sam: We have to add that “only summer league” caveat. He has been good, but it’s a pretty bad roster the Bulls have in Las Vegas, one of the poorest. It’s only about helping develop Butler and Teague, and Teague appears far off. At 19, why shouldn’t he be? He appears at least a few seasons away from any regular minutes. You have to remember, the offense in Vegas is being run to feature Butler. He’s producing a lot for himself and his attitude is 10 times better than last season, when he seems to understand he had no chance of playing and wasn’t always thrilled. Deng’s the starter, but Jimmy should move into the Ronnie Brewer role without missing much. Without Rose he could get more offensive opportunities than expected, but he probably won’t get as many foul calls going against regular NBA competition.

Darko Milicic? Please tell me ESPN is joking [and] the Bulls aren't considering this guy.

Adam Garcia

Sam: If you’ve played in the NBA and will play for a minimum, the Bulls will consider you. But it’s a wide, wide net and I’d be surprised if Darko ended up with them. I’ve heard they have their eyes on several other big men possibilities and are confident one will sign soon.

As you probably know the Lakers are apparently trying to acquire "the center from Orlando" (TCFO) and need the involvement of a 3rd team to make the deal work. Bynum doesn't want to resign with the Magic, and the Magic would like to have young players and draft picks in addition to a replacement at center. Cleveland supposedly is that 3rd team, with Varejao, Tristan Thompson, Zeller, the Lakers 1st rd pick in 2013, and Cleveland's picks in 2013 and 15 going back to Orlando. Cleveland would also take back a combination of bad contracts to make the deal work; except that Bynum doesn't want to sign long term with Cleveland. So here's where the Bulls come in. Assuming Bynum would want the play in Chicago, the Bulls could offer a better package of players and picks to Orlando and here's how.

Bulls: Bynum ($16.1 mil), Richardson ($5.8m), Chris Duhon ($3.3m)(via Korver Trade Exception)

Orlando: Noah ($11.3 mil), Rip Hamilton ($5.0m), Teague ($1.0m), minimum salary player($700,000), Mirotic, CHA's 1st rd pick, Bulls' 1st rd picks in 2013 and 2015, (the Bulls would have to sign and trade a player to a minimum salary contract to make the deal work).

For Orlando this might be the best combination of young players (Teague and Mirotic) and picks they could acquire in any Howard deal. As for the Bulls, Bynum would be that second piece to go along with Rose. Once Rose is healthy, the Bulls would be able to field a very competitive team this year. In two years the Bulls could also choose to blow it up and start again with Rose and Bynum as the only major players on the roster to go along with approximately $20 mil in cap room (they'd have to either trade or simply let go of Gibson to make that happen).

Al Mirza

Sam: That’s sort of a play on the Howard-to-the-Bulls scenario that has been much speculated on except with a not as good center who other than last season has been inured every season of his career. And who will not commit to an extension with anyone, including the Bulls, because he intends to test the market. The Bulls are not going to package up a group of players for a one-year player with no extension. End of discussion. I had been hearing in Las Vegas even before word came out in media reports that executives were saying they expected Howard, without knowing how, to end up with the Lakers. The issue for now is the Magic want better picks, and, frankly, there’s no hurry. Some executives told me they’d pursue the Denver model with Carmelo if they were the Magic in waiting until later into the season to get more with someone panicking. Others said the Magic could wait for a sign and trade after next season to really maximize a package of players and picks. Obviously, Howard can’t go where he wants as the top teams will all be capped out next summer. Why can’t the Magic bring him back, even if not long term? It’s not like they’re going to have a great season after dealing him. I certainly wouldn’t take all these packages of bad picks now if I were them. Varejao? C’mon. Maybe you hire a coach Howard likes. Maybe they play well with Howard. After all, the East isn’t very strong. This is the Magic’s last big shot. They better get it right, which means not being driven to do anything when they hardly have to in July.

Will Rip retire in chicago? I sure hope so.

Keith Bentley

Sam: Of course, the joke is he already has. Given how many games he’s missed with injuries the last three seasons, there’s basically no chance he’ll be traded. I thought he was fine last season when healthy and was working back in well during the playoffs. I thought he was one of those veterans who wasn’t ready for the season after the long lockout. But the injuries and so many games missed created an uneasy relationship with the team and I suspect this will be his final season with the Bulls. Though I think he’ll work hard this summer knowing that and I can see a good season from him.

I'm just throwing this out there, and you may shoot it down, but now that Chris 'Birdman' Anderson has been amnestied, do you think he would be a possibility as a back up C for the Bulls? I love his energy and hustle.

Steven O’Connor

Sam: Maybe when he gets that child pornography thing settled. The Bulls, as we know, aren’t big on guys who have had issues, which is also why I don’t expect to see someone like Delonte West, though I know they’ve had some contacts.

I think that trading Kyle Korver to Atlanta for essentially nothing was a pretty sad effort. It looks like the Bulls have given up on winning with this team, and are retooling. At least they should get something tangible in return.

Dan Riopell

Sam: They believe Radmanovic coming off the bench — and he is a good three point shooter — will give them as much as Korver on both ends, and Radmanovic is bigger. It wasn’t like Korver was greeted with huge enthusiasm in 2010, but he became a favorite and I hated to see him go almost as much as he hated leaving. We’ll see if the Bulls are right. But Radmanovic fills that wing shooting spot off the bench.

If the numbers I saw were correct, the Miami Heat's team salary, as of now, will be $82 million next year. Chicago's, as of now, is around $68 million. Please give me some insider assurance that the quote "we will make basketball moves; not financial one" is still true. It is painful to watch my team sit and watch as everyone else gets better.

Paul McCright

Sam: I probably wouldn’t have said that as I thought Gar got a bit caught up in the moment, though it has been an emotional time around the team with Rose’s injury and the sudden playoff exit. Miami is playing for a championship now and is making basketball moves to continue that. The Bulls are not playing for a championship with Rose out, and my view of those comments is they are playing for a championship when Rose is able to return at a complete level, which hardly seems like this season. So the point is don’t waste the chance to add someone in the future by enhancing yourself just to be fodder this season. At least that was my interpretation.

The Knicks complained the Rockets altered the terms of the Lin offer sheet. Let's not forget the Knicks were playing games too. They appealed and won, along with several players, the questionable Bird Rights issue where they weren't the original team for those players, allowing them to avoid luxury taxes they should be paying. If a player isn't good enough initially and gets waived (maybe even twice!) and a team and player then conspire to carry those Bird rights, it's not for the Knicks to complain when other teams also exploit questionable loopholes. Maybe you could reference that at some point. It sounds like crocodile tears. It's not as bad as Durant being benched by the referees for 1/3 of the NBA Finals due to phantom offensive foul calls 27 feet from the hoop.

Matt Adler

Sam: Wow, that was some leap there. It’s a good point about that Bird rights ruling. The concept of the Bird rule has long been lost and you wonder if the arbitrator had heard of Bird. The idea, and the NBA has helped allow this to be perverted, is it isn’t good for anyone in the league for a great team to lose its best player. Bird being on the Celtics was good for the NBA. There’s no way those guys should have gotten those rights. Yes, another bad call. But, after all, it’s New York. Hey! What are you looking at!

What is the real reason the Knicks didn't match for Lin? I think it's [be]cause they think they have a shot at Chris Paul in 2013. But I don't know what their cap situation is for next season.

Chase Roman

Sam: They are in no financial position to add Paul. Plus, the Clippers are way better than the Knicks. And who would want to play with Anthony, anyway? No, the real reason was money and luxury tax. Can you imagine looking at Jeremy Lin on the bench behind Ray Felton and being undermined by Jason Kidd, who isn’t exactly about helping young guards, and knowing Lin is costing you maybe $30 million with penalties? Even Jim Dolan blinked.

Can you envision a future starting back court of Teague and D-Rose?

Don Adams

Sam: No. Certainly not with Thibodeau coaching, who is defense first. Rose is the point guard and will be. Teague could develop into a very good, change of pace backup. At this point I don’t see him as an NBA starter for many years, if ever. Of course, he is 19. Give me five years and send me the question again.

Why have I not seen one word about the signing of Kirk Hinrich? I would think that should qualify as Bulls news!

Rick Sis

Sam: He’s signing. That’s two. It’s not official yet because the Bulls have had some cap maneuvering to do and there’s the open Asik question and perhaps whether Hinrich would go into an exception of some sort. But he’s on board, the Bulls are on board. I’ve spoken with him and he’s as excited as I’ve heard him since his early seasons with the Bulls. He’s lost weight and is healthy and looking forward to a good run. He even turned down more money from other teams to return to the Bulls and Chicago. I believe he’s even got the if-he-gets-run-over-by-a-truck-before-he-signs guarantee that he’ll still be paid because he has agreed. I’m not sure if that’s official legal language.

Given the long term Bulls' strategy, I don't understand why they are cautious with Thib's contract. Obviously he is a great coach. So why wait? If the Bulls want to repeat the Skiles' scenario, I think they should persevere in that direction. Gar Forman says they hope Thibs will be with the Bulls on the long term. The question is, will Thibs stay with the Bulls more than one year with two years sacrified and the uncertainty about his star's ability to return at an high level? Especially if they do not offer him an extension?

Ali Hill

Sam: There’s always that risk. I haven’t heard anywhere in the organization that they don’t want to make a deal with Thibodeau. No, there haven’t been hard negotiations yet because of free agency. So, yes, you always take the risk if you allow a coach or player to run out his contract. Someone can come up with something you don’t expect, like with Omer. Dallas and Oklahoma City last season let the contracts of Rick Carlisle and Scott Brooks expire. Carlisle resigned relatively quickly while Brooks flirted with Portland but resigned. Thibodeau likes Chicago and knows he has Rose returning. It’s not like there are truly great jobs available. The Celtics and Lakers have coaches with long term commitments. The Knicks just reupped Mike Woodson. Erik Spoelstra just won. Sure, someone could throw a crazy pile of money at Thibodeau, but since I’ve never seen him in anything but team apparel and he drives a courtesy car, I’m not sure money drives him that much. I’m sure he wants to be treated fairly given his level of accomplishment, and that will be the test. Historically, the Bulls have done that with their coaches. Remember, it was Skiles who wanted to leave on them.

Nets starting lineup:

DWill - $20M
JJ - $20M
Wallace - $10M
Humphries - $12M
Lopez - $15M

$77M

Mike Sutera

Sam: Yes, who ever thought that Gerald Wallace contract would be the most sensible? This appears to be what happens when you let oligarchs into your partnership. It’s not upsetting a lot of teams knowing a lot of luxury tax distribution is coming their way if they can stay under the cap. The NBA with spending like that may be a great business for Michael Jordan. Keeping his payroll down, he may be the most profitable owner in basketball the way some teams have gone nuts with spending. There’s basically a two year window for this until the big penalties begin to kick in after this season. So if you have cap room you may also see some teams donating some very good players to you after this season. Anyone want Amar’e Stoudemire and we’ll give you a No. 1 pick as well? Maybe two.

The Bulls had two great runs with the current group over the last two years, and when asked who to keep and who to get rid of, Thibs said," Keep 'em all". Maybe he was being too loyal, or maybe he was hoping they would keep the bench mob together so they could keep the team afloat while Derek was on repair. I was living out of town when the Bulls fell apart and over loyalty stuff happened with Jordan, Phil, and Krause. Now I am starting to understand why no player may wish to come to Chicago when it is perceived that the Bulls won't treat the best player in the league with respect, why would anyone want to come here?

Thomas Allen

Sam: You’ve got to understand the difference between the way a coach sees a team and the way an organization does. The coach, and especially Thibodeau, is concerned basically how to win the next game. Thibodeau had the best winning percentage with these players the last two years. Why wouldn’t he want them back? The Bulls are saying, in effect, that’s over because of the Rose setback. We’ve got to regroup to get Rose a better player to play with, especially because the contracts of just about all those players would be up after this season if the Bulls picked up their options. So why spend the money now when we don’t think we can win? Maybe that keeps us from spending it on a real star in the next season or two. It may not look as good now, but this is the way to win. We don’t know who is right, though events will show that. I don’t think the free agency situation has anything to do with that. I really believe in 2000 no one wanted to follow so close to Jordan. I know Hill and McGrady didn’t. In 2010, they did have a legitimate shot at LeBron, but he preferred his buddy, Wade. After all, E-Rob picked the Bulls over Miami.

Do you think the Bulls have a chance at picking up James Harden and Kevin Love these next couple of off seasons?

Mitch Rogers

Sam: I’m sure the Bulls would settle for an “or.” Love has three more full seasons before he can opt out, and I hardly think the Bulls are going to wait that out. Harden will be restricted after next season. The Bulls could amnesty Boozer, but unless they dealt Deng into someone’s cap space they wouldn’t be able to make an offer to a free agent like Harden. That seems to be the point of what the Bulls are doing now. If they keep adding players with contracts now, say like a Mayo or Courtney Lee, it takes them out of any potential major free agent situation down the road. Though the Bulls had a chance to win last season, that was with extreme depth. That era seems over, so the Bulls need a high level All-Star to play with Rose to truly compete for a title. How do you get one? One way is curtailing your spending and waiting for an opportunity. The Bulls appear to be choosing that direction.

With the Bulls trading away their 3pt specialist in Kyle Korver aren't they reverting back to the team that couldn't hit jump shots against the Heat in the playoffs?

Charles Dixon

Sam: I liked Kyle, but, c’mon, he was playing 11 minutes at times. I thought Hamilton was underutilized and will hit shots. Yes, Miami is loading up on perimeter shooters with Ray Allen now. The Bulls strength was rebounding and defense, which it likely will remain. Their shooting was acceptable.

Do you believe captain Kirk is an upgrade or downgrade over Watson? Initially I was super excited about the move but a lot of people seem to think the later. Gorav Raheja

Sam: C.J. had a very good season, especially playing through a lot of injuries. But Hinrich is a much higher lever player. Certainly defensively and running an offense. There’s really not that much comparison. The issue with Kirk will be staying healthy, but he seems in great shape now.

The Rockets waived Jon Leuer. Bring him in.

Mike Queensworst

Sam: Of course, if he cannot play against the Bulls he may not be as good. I suppose he could be an option if some of the veteran bigs like Nazr Mohammed, Joel Przybilla, Erick Dampier, Rony Turiaf and Tony Battie end up elsewhere. Though I assume the Bulls prefer a veteran.

It looks like the Bulls will take a pass on Asik. Does that open any cap space they can use? Any chance the Bulls sign R. Foye?

Mark Schroeder

Sam: I’ve heard Foye’s name mentioned on the list of possibilities. I think he remains a possibility.

Do the Bulls have a plan for this year and beyond (2014 maybe)? It's difficult to see right now, and I am losing my passion for Chicago Bulls basketball. Why didn't they trade Asik for something when they could have? Why didn't they get something for Brewer & Watson?

Ryan Schlanser

Sam: Well, it didn’t look like much of a plan in 2010 when they air balled LeBron, Bosh and Wade. But it worked out until Derrick was hurt. They obviously are taking a step back with the notion they have a plan, though they have not shared it with me. Perhaps in retrospect it would have made sense to trade Asik for Lee when there was talk about that a year ago. But I felt Asik was better and more valuable, and he obviously is. And I didn’t think anyone would pay Asik like Houston apparently is. There were no other offers and if you are a fan of the Rockets it’s got to be difficult to say you are on the road to being serious contenders building around Asik and Lin with $50 million in contracts. Silly me thinking a guy averaging 3.1 points shooting below 50 percent on free throws and averaging fewer than 15 minutes per game wouldn’t get a substantial free agent contract. So I said keep Asik over dealing for Lee. The only guys who are right are generally the ones who tell you what you should have done after the disaster. Like media.

[I] enjoyed your article on Leon Powe. Do the Bulls have any sort of advantage in signing him for the season now that he's on their Vegas team? And do the Bulls even want to sign him?

Tom Casselman

Sam: There is no advantage, other than he knows Thibs and Thibs likes him. Though he didn’t play well the first two games, never underestimate Thibs’ desire to have his guys, especially with the likely loss of John Lucas to Toronto. I don’t know if Scalabrine will be back, but there will be a Scalabrine type at the end of the bench for Thibs to have in the locker room, and Powe is one of the better people in the NBA. He could be back.

I have to admit I don't fully understand all the Bulls' moves from a short term point of view. [They] look like they are ready to sacrifice two seasons until Nikola Mirotic comes to the Bulls. Two long seasons of Miami Vice. Is Mirotic worth the vice?

Jeff Bridges

Sam: Mirotic appears to be an NBA level starting player in the future. He’s not likely to be a star in the Nowitzki mold or probably even Kukoc. But he’s good. I think the Bulls view him as an important piece, but hardly the centerpiece of anything they’re planning, especially because with guys in Europe until they’re here they’re not, and they always can choose to stay. They can’t sign with other NBA teams, but they can play in Europe, and Mirotic does play in a good league and with a good team in Spain.

I'm a huge fan of Noah despite his limited ability to score, Gibson, who will only get better and Deng. In your opinion, what are the chances of them remaining with us.

Mari Jo De Paolo

Sam: I get the sense the Bulls consider Noah and Gibson part of their core moving forward. It’s often uncertain regarding Deng. He has two years left on his contract, and he’s undeniably valuable. But he’s in a tough position because neither Noah or Gibson are big scorers. Boozer hasn’t been to that extent, so it seems unlikely Deng could be the long term offensive answer to complement Rose. His value is high now, but he does fill so many roles for the Bulls. So he seems the most vulnerable. But he has often been in the past and he’s going into his 10th season as one of the longest tenured Bulls ever.

What is your prediction for the makeup of the Eastern Conference Playoffs this year? Mine is as follows:

1. Miami
2. New York
3. Boston
4. Atlanta
5. Indy
6. Chicago
7. Brooklyn
8. Milwaukee

I think New York is set to give Miami a run for it's money this year if they meet in the playoffs. I know Jason Kidd is getting up there, but I think that having someone that knows how to run an offense will allow that team to finally run an efficient half-court game. I have them beating Miami to go to the Finals. That's just me.

Wesley Davis

Sam: That’s not me. You left out Philadelphia. I think they should be in there. So who to take out? Atlanta? Milwaukee? Bulls? It’s a bit early to make these predictions as the rosters aren’t quite set. I can maybe but not probably see the Bulls second or third. More likely sixth or eighth. I can’t really find a two. Probably Boston. They made good moves with Terry and Lee and if Garnett holds up they should be No. 2. Maybe Indiana. But I could see either out of the top four. I’ve got Toronto, Detroit, Orlando, Cleveland, Charlotte and Washington missing the playoffs, though Washington has a chance to get in. Which means I’ve got 10 teams going for eight spots. Order to be determined. The best scenario for the Bulls would to get to fifth or sixth. Then you avoid Miami and probably Boston in the first round and maybe you get on a run because none from among the Knicks, Nets and Pacers, who could slip into that top four, are going to be unbeatable.

With Ronnie, C.J., and Korver gone the Bulls have more money to go after a free agent so how much more can they offer?

Mike Kinnaman

Sam: For clarification, it doesn’t work that way anymore. It once was a “slot” system where if you lost a player you could replace him for those dollars in that slot. Now you have to be under the $58 million total payroll to add a free agent with his salary only able to reach the $58 million ceiling. Or you can use one of your exceptions, for about $5 million or $1.8 million. If you are in the luxury tax, the $5 million becomes $3 million.

Any chance Demitri McCamey can make it from the summer league roster to the regular season roster?

Dominic Nikka

Sam: No. He’s played better than Teague, but Teague is a first round pick and has a higher ceiling and should be fine in the long run. McCamey isn’t bad, but his career is probably is overseas.

Thibs has done great getting guys who are already try hard guys to try hard. How [a]bout you show you can make a knucklehead try hard. Sign Andre Blatche.

James Madsen

Sam: Not sure even Thibs is that good.

With the trade of Brooks to the Kings, it seems Fredette could be available. What is his value? Could the Bulls have something to land him to Chicago? The Bulls need a shooter, and with DR1 out for the season he can be worth a look. Maybe he can be good for another team.

Mat Ramseyer

Sam: He’d be a name that’s come up regarding trade. But you’d have to match his $2.4 million salary, and the Bulls really don’t have anyone there. Unless you are trading a larger salary, like Deng’s, which some have suggested to me they trade to Minnesota for Derrick Williams and a pick. Yes, you could put Fredette into a trade exception they get from the Korver deal, and that is possible. But then the Kings would probably want a lottery pick to give up a lottery pick so soon, and I don’t see the Bulls giving much value to take a chance on someone like that.

I would've loved to have Elton Brand back for $2 million. Any reason [the Bulls] didn't bite?

Ryan Grace

Sam: There’s a new waiver process for guys let loose like that. You have to be under the cap and then put in a claim. The highest claim wins. The Bulls were not eligible. If no one claims, then everyone can get involved. It was the same with Luis Scola as the Suns got him with a waiver claim. There were a lot of teams under the cap this summer, which enabled a lot to make moves the Bulls couldn’t because the Bulls were going for it last season and they were all rebuilding. Look at the Mavs. They gave up a shot to repeat to get under the cap. It looks like they’re heading that way for another season with short term deals and not being seriously competitive again.

What is Bulls management doing? They obviously have been given no money to get better and made no effort to get Asik on better terms while unsigned! All that is left for the Bulls are over age and/or unreliable mediocrity or worse. Captain Kirk is not a premier get like Lee for Boston, Allen for [the] Heat, or Mayo for [the] Mavs while [the] Bulls get the bottom of barrel. A disgusted fan.

Dawsey Tamer

Sam: From the mail I’ve gotten these last few weeks, you don’t appear to be in an exclusive club. Not to make excuses, but most of the teams making these moves, like Dallas, the Nets and Boston, went way under the cap like the Bulls did in 2010. They weren’t doing anything then. The Mavs broke up a title team. The Celtics let most of their top players’ contracts expire. The Bulls locked in to big contracts. When you do that, there isn’t much chance to do anything major. That said, the Lakers did some good stuff which could turn to great if they get Howard. But the Bulls without Rose perhaps all next season aren’t that appealing to free agents.

[I] watched [the] U.S. Olympic team play Great Britain. Deng was not wearing [the] hand brace he wore during the season and played very well. There has been speculation that he might not need surgery. Does [the] lack of [a] hand brace confirm this at all?

Kenneth Katz

Sam: I haven’t seen any of the games as I’ve been at summer league. As I wrote before, Deng has been telling the Bulls he doesn’t intend to have surgery until after the 2012-13 season, and there’s even a chance it would heal enough that he won't need surgery. That said, he could get it banged in the Olympics or change his mind as it is a legitimate injury. But now the Bulls are planning as if he does start the season with them.

Hypothetical: Celts and Rockets trade goes down... E. Moore gets waived. Will this guy be too pricey for the Bulls to grab? [I] liked him at Purdue and [he] lit it up in that summer league game this week. [My] feeling is that other teams than the Bulls would take notice and over-pay for him though.

Toby Nihill

Sam: You never quite know what Houston is up to. Given he played for Boston, that certainly would give him an edge with Thibs. And he did beat up Teague pretty good, though that wasn’t fair as it was Teague’s first game and Moore had been playing. My guess is the Bulls want a veteran and not two babies backing up Kirk. He never gets called to start, but he always seems to do something. I’d take a look at Earl Boykins. Hey, he’s not that much smaller than Lucas.

Can you give some analysis on the Bulls summer league players? Can Jimmy Butler play shooting guard?

James Pedigo

Sam: I did in my stories from summer league. In theory Butler can given there’s not a lot of difference with those wing positions in the offense. But Jimmy hasn’t shown he can shoot with range. He was very good attacking the rim, but would need to develop more confidence in his shot in games to be a candidate for shooting guard. It’s not a very strong team. The only other player in addition to Teague whom I thought had a chance to make the roster was Malcolm Thomas. Ramone Moore showed a bit at shooting guard, but the Bulls need a bit more than he can provide. Though I did like him as he played in control and had a good stroke. Henry Sims was OK, but not the veteran big man they need. Leon Powe could fill Scalabrine’s role if Thibs wants him. He’ll defend and compete.

Are the Rockets serious? The are going to pay $30 million to Asik and Lin in two years. Can they change their offer to Asik and remove that "posion pill"? The Rockets will be terrible if they have both Lin and Asik on the hook for $30 million.

Michael Coughlin

Sam: I talked to an owner on the labor committee and he said the NBA made a mistake in this instance. Stern has long said the rules would be made to encourage players to stay with their teams by giving bigger raises and the chance to make more money. But with Omer and Lin, the rules favor the team trying to lure them away. That balloon payment can be averaged by the Rockets, so their cap only reflects $8 million. The Bulls would have to put it at 5, 5, and 15 as would the Knicks with Lin. Plus, if he is traded the team acquiring him after a match would have that 15 year. So the benefit was to the team trying to lure them away, which is contrary to everything Stern always said he’d push regarding free agency. Omer would get a chance to start in Houston while playing maybe 15 minutes with the Bulls, so he probably would prefer Houston, anyway. As for the Rockets, they have to be the all time favorite team of all the fans because all they do is play fantasy basketball with a constantly shifting roster and getting involved in every trade scenario. This GM makes more phony trades than I do.

Dr. Cole and most recently D-Rose's older brother Reggie, said that Derrick is ahead on his rehab. Does that mean that he may return sooner than the 8-12 month originally expected? Could we see D-Rose in 6 or 7 months? Or are they trying to imply that it would be closer to the 8 month projection?

Argie Grigorakos

Sam: I think this is going to be the toughest thing about next season. We figured Derrick would push hard to get back sooner, but then how much do you play him and how hard? The minutes limitation thing hasn’t worked out well in Bulls history with both Jordan and later Joakim Noah. The player inevitably gets caught in the middle and becomes alienated. Jordan never truly forgave management, and Noah’s relationship with Vinny Del Negro suffered. The history of those injuries is the player is back and confident the following season after he can return. So we’ll hear starting around Christmas that Rose is 72 percent or 84 percent with daily speculation and rumors. I’ve talked to executives who have gone through this with players and several said the best method is to wait until the player can go a full rotation, maybe 30 or 32 minutes. Then he fees like he’s back and the coach doesn’t have the pressure. If the Bulls go that way, Rose could be out longer. And then if there are other injuries and the Bulls aren’t in the playoff hunt, maybe they keep him out, anyway, like the Warriors finally did with Stephen Curry, though that invariably leads to accusations of throwing the season for a draft pick. Derrick will want to play, we know that. The doctors can declare him fit, but there’s the mental hurdle as well in taking those leaps of faith. It’s going to be the most complicated issue that truly dominates the season once the mid point comes.

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