Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 07.27.12

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

This is going to be my final Ask Sam for this season and the summer. I’ll be back sometime around the start of training camp. The Bulls’ roster is pretty much set with perhaps the addition of a point guard to backup Kirk Hinrich until Derrick Rose returns, which will be the real story of the 2012-13 season. Much of the staff and management is taking some vacation time starting this weekend, and I’m told coach Thibodeau ventured out the other day to consider his vacation plans. I’m told Thibs spotted this giant yellow orb in the sky and asked what exactly that was. Told it was the sun, around which everything revolves, Thibs got some tape and is said to be studying its movements.

I am one of those people that think the Bulls management did a great job this offseason. I personally think they're trying to recreate the LeBron/Wade/Free agency class part two. They have a bunch of expiring contracts this year and could create cap space. Currently the Bulls have Belinelli, Mohammed, Hamilton, and Radmonavic all gone after this year. If the Bulls don't resign any of those folks and amnesty Boozer next year, they will have approximately 15 million dollars in cap space to woo free agents. If you get rid of Marquis Teague for a 2nd round pick and take back no salary and maybe even move Jimmy Butler if needed, the Bulls will have about 18 mil to spend on free agents. With that the Bulls can woo Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum to join the Bulls on a max contract and move Noah to the 4 because he'd be a dominant defensive prescence on every 4 in the NBA. You also match any offer on Taj Gibson and fill out the rest of the holes with minimum contracts. You also use the $5 million trade exception from Korver to lure Nick Young away from the Sixers as he will be a free agent there. Bring back Mohammad or any veteran center on a minimum contract and you have a championship team. If you strike out on Bynum and Howard, you go for Ellis and fill out the rest of the roster with a scoring lowpost PF through a trade and the trade exception. Am I speaking too unrealistically or can this actually happen and is management willing to spend to win?

Yash Gulabani

Sam: Here we go again? That seems to be the plan for now, perhaps next summer of the one after. My sense is the feeling is management felt it had enough with the depth and edge in front court size. It’s probably impossible to recreate that under the new collective bargaining agreement rules and taxes, so the Bulls have to find a second star player to go with Rose. Yes, someone like Howard or Bynum would do. Of course, critics would say the Bulls have tried this before, notably in 2000 and 2010 and it didn’t work either time, at least in 2010 for their priorities. Third time’s a charm?

Have the Bulls given up on 2012-13 and 2013-14? I know that question may anger some as it would I but I can't help but think that the Bulls are building for the 2014-15 team. With the short term signings of Kirk and Belinelli, Deng's contract renewal, Mirotic's arrival to the NBA, Taj & Asik's big contracts in 2014 and the likely amnesty of Boozer it seems that the Bulls will go all in for 2014-15 free agency. I shudder to think that we will lose out on free agency *again* and regret breaking up the team that has held the best record the previous 2 seasons.

Graham Robertson

Sam: The issue remains Rose. How do you lose the league MVP with his extension kicking in and his salary tripling and then get better? When someone has a good answer, let me know. I think the Bulls believe they can be competitive once Rose returns to full health, which may not be until the 2013-14 season. So, yes, they are trying to retain flexibility and maneuverability until then. How many teams do you think can win the championship this season? I think the consensus is Heat, Lakers, Thunder and Spurs. Clippers? Celtics? Six? Does that mean the other 24 don’t want to? Sometimes you don’t have the talent, and to me the Bulls don’t without a healthy Rose no matter what they do.

Did you have expectations that we would have made a move that clearly betters our team this summer for seasons ahead, or have you resigned to the fact that our front office is unimaginable and unwilling to make the moves like the Lakers (Nash, Jamison), Heat (Jesus Shuttlesworth, Lewis), Knicks (Felton, Brewer), and Nets (Wallace, Joe Johnson, D12 trade attempts) do? Losing Asik for nothing hurts. Losing Brewer to the Knicks for the minimum as well. If you aren't improving, you're getting worse.

Mike Karls

Sam: I know that’s a sentiment of many fans with accompanying frustration. I’d hardly call Felton and Brewer an upgrade. Look, Jamison and Lewis could have come to the Bulls for the same salary, but they wanted to go where they had a better chance, meaning the main player wasn’t injured and maybe out for the season. Same with Allen. The Mavs and Nets had cap room to make moves. The Bulls were going for it last season while those teams weren’t, so they had space to make deals. I couldn’t see paying Asik $15 million. That means he has to be your second best player. Confident in that? And I’ll take Butler over Brewer. If you keep Brewer, Butler doesn’t play a second season. When are you letting him play? I’m not opposed to making moves, as everyone should know. But you couldn’t deal Deng because of the possible pending surgery, and the Bulls didn’t want to deal Noah. Boozer is untradeable except for a worse contract or player. I know fans want a lot of stuff. I’ve yet to hear anyone suggest anything that truly made sense given the circumstances with Derrick.

I have been hearing a lot of complaining from Bulls fans about the team's decisions to break up "The Bench Mob." In conjunction with that, the word "cheap" is getting thrown around an awful lot. Now, I agree that the Bulls aren't spending as much on their role players, but I call that "fiscally responsible." After all, who on the team is gone that is replaced by a significant downgrade? Hinrich is a better basketball player than CJ Watson, Marco Bellinelli provides the same shooting that Korver did, and adds a little more athleticism as far as creating his own shot goes. Butler essentially replaces Brewer, and I believe that Butler's ceiling on offense is higher than that of Brewer. Teague replaces Lucas III with more talent and more upside. The only area I see a small downgrade in is at center, and while Nazr Mohammed isn't as big as Asik, he will be able to provide the same things defensively and with rebounding, and the offense is a wash as far as I am concerned. To me, the departure of Asik is more about Boozer, Noah and Gibson playing more minutes now, so not much production is lost. So, the Bulls stay significantly lower on the luxury tax without giving up too much talent in return, and maintain the flexibility to extend Gibson and add on significant free agents in the next few years. What's not to like? Is my assessment fairly accurate, and is there really a good argument against the Bulls' moves, outside of the "fan-favorite" and PR standpoint?

Thomas Casselman

Sam: C’mon, Gar! I know you use this alias a lot with agents. That’s pretty much the Bulls story and they’re sticking to it. I can’t disagree that much. Yes, you could have anticipated some things that would happen, like losing Asik, and made moves to counter, but who thought anyone would throw a $15 million season at him? Certainly not me. How do you explain using your cap room for a guy averaging three points? Heck, the Bulls had trouble persuading fans to embrace Boozer, who was averaging 20. Houston might make out OK if your long term plan for them develops, but how long can they keep postponing competing. I loved the bench guys. They gave themselves a cool name, and they were wonderful people, some of the best the Bulls ever have had in. But Rose’s MVP play, Thibodeau’s coaching, Deng’s versatility and Noah’s hustle had a lot more to do with leading the league in wins two straight seasons. They supposed that, and Stacey King did them wonders with his enthusiasm and nicknames. But they came in as replaceable pieces — remember, the Bulls signed them when they couldn’t get not only LeBron, Wade, Bosh, and Joe Johnson but J.J. Redick — and they go out that way. Brewer and Watson got only minimum deals. Yes, chemistry is big and the Bulls had it. Maybe they won’t as well with this group. But the bottom line remains Rose and putting together talent to play with him not instead of him.

[It was a] big mistake letting Asik go for nothing. Houston went after Asik and Howard for a reason. Defense. Who is going to stop Wade and LeBron at the rim?, Nazr? There are not a lot of Asiks out there. Now for the Bulls, the question is: Who is next to go? Thibs?, Taj?. Ahh, the luxury tax... although, Thibs contract does not count against the cap. I can see Taj signing a 40 million contract for 4 years and [the] Bulls letting him go and the media saying it is ok. But with Thibs, if he has a 45 win season, how [do] you justify letting him go?. After all, Thibs has Obama’s approval, but then again, maybe JR is republican. As master yoda will say: “To be a Bulls fan, not easy”.

William Blanco

Sam: So, what, not happy? Yes, Thibs? I haven’t heard about any substantial contract talks yet, and, yes, it will be a tougher and less productive season for Thibs. Though I suspect he’ll get the Bulls to exceed whatever are their expectations. As Thibs said last draft, the Bulls should keep everyone. Obviously, they did not. Still, every indication I’ve gotten is Thibs wants to stay and the Bulls want to keep him. Obviously, it’s the number. I remember Phil Jackson after his first contract expired and the team and he were at an impasse saying there’s a number out there and they’d get there. I think the same with the Bulls and Thibs. It could come down to the end of next season, though Scott Brooks and Rick Carlisle just came off lame duck years. I don’t see any players doubting Thibs whether he has an extension or not. He wouldn’t allow that. And this group isn’t about to doubt him after the success they’ve had with him. I hope they make a deal. There aren’t that many good coaches around. By the way, I think they hope to steal the ball before LeBron or Wade get to the rim.

This has been a difficult offseason for Bulls fans in general, but I find the front office's seeming lack of a long term plan particularly discouraging. The Bulls need bear only one question in mind when assembling their roster: How do we beat Miami? This offseason the Bulls decided to tread water rather than aggressively adopt and pursue a plan to answer that question. Sure, the Bulls will have money to spend in two or three years, but who will they spend it on? The team has proved incapable of luring big name free agents to Chicago. Furthermore, the conservative front office refuses to roll the dice on a trade for Dwight Howard despite the low risk (worst case scenario: Rose, a barren roster, and cap space) and potential high reward. I believe the Bulls should amnesty Boozer now, tell Deng to have his surgery post-Olympics, and make Rose rehab slowly and cautiously. The team could then be in the mix for a lottery pick (perhaps a high one) and the rare opportunity to draft the second star the team badly needs. Would the front office consider this strategy (or the aforementioned trade for Howard)?

Mike Adams

Sam: That seems the strategy of someone whom after it doesn’t work says, “Oh, well, it was worth a shot. What did the Cubs do today?” How can you dump your team for Howard and if he doesn’t sign say you’ll go into free agency if you also say the Bulls always strike out in free agency. Plus, Orlando doesn’t want contracts. They want draft picks and want you to take their bad contracts like Turkoglu and Richardson. So that’s not happening from either end. I’m never one for dumping a season. I agree this isn’t a championship team, but hardly anyone else is in the East and they are playing for it. Plus, the Bulls have too much to be that bad: Noah, Gibson, Hamilton, Hinrich. And you can’t order Deng to have surgery if he doesn’t want it, and he says for now he doesn’t. But even if you dump the season, how are you going to be as bad as Charlotte, Orlando probably without Howard, Cleveland, Detroit, Sacramento, Houston, Portland. You’re not getting a top three pick. And even if you amnesty Boozer, you don’t get far enough below the cap to get a top free agent without other major moves. So you lose Boozer and can’t replace him. So I’m guessing Gar doesn’t hire you as his assistant.

I know Gar is trying to build the correct way and I was against paying guys like Mayo and Lee top money. I feel like they weren't the missing piece(s). I also agree with "paying A money for B talent," will cripple you down the road. With that being said please look at your crystal ball and let me know who you think will be the Bulls future targets? We have to get another star to go with Rose, and I figure we amnesty Boozer next summer, and maybe move Deng.

Paris Daniel

Sam: Now that is the difficult part. Yes, Howard and Bynum are free agents summer and Harden is restricted. But it would take substantial maneuvering to get far enough under next season. Expiring contracts aren’t much of an asset anymore, and you don’t see as many teams trading players into cap space. I get a lot of mail about Kevin Love, but he can’t opt out until the summer of 2015. Monta Ellis? Al Jefferson? Pau? I’ll have plenty of suggestions, but, hey, I can’t give up my Monday columns for next season already.

Money aside, I am also wondering why more mid- to big-name free agents are expressing interest signing with other teams instead of with the Bulls (especially Miami). Wouldn't a FA want the satisfaction of over the next three-five years being the final piece to put an up-and-coming team like the Bulls over the top? You'd be playing for a coach of the year winner that keeps everyone accountable and with a team and superstar that had a team culture centered on hard work rather than drama or selfish play.

Ed Holden

Sam: The guys who play here say that, and they generally hate to leave. But we all know the Bulls have mostly struck out in free agency, at least on the bigger targets. Maybe it’s that second city thing, like with LeBron and Wade and Grant Hill in 2000, the Bulls were a close second. Hey, E-Rob chose the Bulls. And Boozer did over the Nets. Don’t feel better yet, eh?

So now that the Bulls have Marco and Rip who will start? I think the Bulls should start Marco, and then bring in Rip with Taj as the 6th and 7th men.

Alex Yonan

Sam: There’s been on and off talk about bringing Hamilton off the bench, in part to keep him away from more physical problems and with his veteran knowledge to work with the reserves. In the end, Thibodeau usually likes to start the veterans so there isn’t a media issue about a veteran not being respected appropriately. It’s not uncommon among NBA coaches. My guess is Hamilton starts and if he holds up stays there, though Thibodeau changes on who finishes as we’ve seen with Boozer at times.

Eric Gordon was recently a restricted free agent. He wanted to go to the Suns and wanted out of New Orleans. He signed the Suns offer sheet and the Hornets matched pretty much trapping him in New Orleans. Why don't restricted free agents like him and Asik sign 1 year deals with new teams? That way if they don't get matched they can go to the new team and sign a extension after the season or if the team does match they play out 1 year and are free to go wherever they choose? I think it would make more sense in the long run. Now Eric Gordon has to play for a team he doesn't want to for the next 3 years and he has zero leverage.

Alex Pauley

Sam: Yes, why don’t they. But players like it both ways, just like other people. They want to get paid and they want to go where they want. Both could have, though I think given his second round status Omer would have been restricted again. But Gordon could have. The problem is what if he gets injured, and Gordon gets injured a lot. He’s a risk in the first place, and I thought it was very inappropriate and mostly stupid of him to say that, as if the Hornets wouldn’t match. Any look at the Hornets’ payroll let you know if they didn’t match they’d have to pay a penalty to the players’ association. So they’d either match and have Gordon or have no one and pay the money as a penalty since you have to spend up to about 85 or 90 percent of the cap. The other issue is sometimes teams move on. You could want to go somewhere, but they might not have space the next season. Though a lot players got scared seeing Rose hurt like that and you won’t find many playing it out without a contract.

After watching the Bulls struggle to win summer league games I noticed how well Jimmy Butler and Malcolm Thomas played. Should Thomas be considered to be on the new and improved “Bench Mob”?

Eddie W. Negrón

Sam: I liked Thomas as soon as I saw him there. He’s undersized, doesn’t shoot well, the kind of stuff that usually gets a guy to Europe or the D-league. But he’s got something. He gets to the ball somehow. Call it a Moneyball thing, if you will. There are guys who shouldn’t be NBA players, but they are. I think Thomas is one of those guys. I assume his agent is trying to get him a guarantee somewhere, which is how summer league works. If he can’t, I assume the Bulls invite him to training camp and you have to hope he doesn’t see a better opportunity somewhere else. He should be in the NBA next season.

When Chicago decided not to match Asik's contract offer could they have executed a sign and trade with Houston to get something out the deal? I'm thinking it would be similar to what Miami did a few years ago when they signed LeBron James.

David Csencsics

Sam: No, they couldn’t. To do a sign and trade, Asik would have to agree, and then he could be signed by the Bulls, who could only offer him that $5 million exception with the regular raises, or maybe $25 million over four years instead of three. Why exactly would Omer agree to taking substantially less money so the Bulls could get a player that would hurt his team’s chances of improving? He speaks several languages. He’s smarter than you and me. No, he wasn’t doing that. The rules for Omer as a second round pick were different than for LeBron.

Do the Bulls have interest in Darko Milicic?

John Jimenez

Sam: No.

Wow, this is so disappointing. If the Nazr rumors are true and we are really letting Omer walk then the Bulls have firmly secured an F - from this fan for their offseason moves. The back court is in disarray so why not work to keep our league leading front court rotation together? Why were we asleep on all these free agents if it wasn't to save cap room to match Omer? Asleep on Aaron Brooks, OJ Mayo, Courtney Lee. Letting CJ walk and sign for the vet minimum. I watch enough NBA to know that Vlad and Nazr are losers. If you are going to sign a loser why not make it at least a young guy who could grow into a winner instead of these old goats? Terribly disappointing. A locker room that spends two years winning more NBA games then anyone and we blow it up to let the bench go sign elsewhere for vet minimums and to bring in some old stiffs.

Matt Thacker

Sam: So, you’re not in favor? I’m not saying I hate Mayo, Lee and/or Brooks, though the Suns cut Brooks after trading for him, the Grizzlies let Mayo go because he couldn’t make shots and while I like Lee, he is with his third team in five seasons. If those are the winners you want, I’m not sure where that plan is going. Nazr wasn’t most responsible, but he has played on a championship Spurs team and was with the Thunder last season. Radmanovic was in the Finals with the Lakers. Maybe not great winners, but hardly losers. Let’s see. We were cheering John Lucas and Brian Scalabrine and don’t want those guys? I know there’s been a lot of ranting and frustration, but, again, I’m still looking for a good plan from someone.

I can’t believe how so many fans are panicking! I completely understand the frustration, but are guys like Courtney Lee or O.J. Mayo really worth giving away long-term flexibility? I say no way, with Rose being out for most of this season, and Deng being questionable. You don’t want to end up with a team like the Nets have, where they can make their “splash” to please the fans for about a month, until they realize all they have is an annual 5 or 6 seed team that never wins a playoff series. This will still be a very good team that will make the playoffs and then you never know (look at the 76ers this year or the Grizzlies the year before). Stay patient Bulls fans! Let Derrick heal, keep some financial flexibility to add another star down the road, and we will be right back.

Scott Healy

Sam: Hey, I said something like that.

I'm seeing references that Taj is going to command $8+ million/year on his next contract, which is starters money. Do you think [the] Bulls will resign him at that price? If not shouldn’t they trade him to avoid losing him without getting anything back?

Larry Hughes

Sam: Yes, the Bulls said they were going to match on Omer no matter what. But a what came up. It happens. Taj is going to be valuable, and getting picked for the USA select team only enhanced that value. He’s no secret anymore. He’ll be restricted next summer like Omer. I guess someone could throw a crazy offer at him, but I believe the Bulls would definitely match. With Taj playing more center this season and with uncertainty about Boozer’s future, I’d guess Taj is more in their plans in the long run. He has no Noah ahead of him like Asik did. I expect the Bulls to try to sign him this fall. They probably won’t go full market as they could match next summer and it would be two years if Taj wanted to play it out and leave. But he was an older rookie and turned 27 last month. He’s not going to wait until he’s 29 to get his first real deal. So there’s probably a bit more pressure on him to sign now than risk getting hurt. It would be in the interest of both sides to compromise somewhere, if even a short deal. Taj should lock up some money and the Bulls should insure Taj will be around a few more years. I expect that to occur. I would not be chased into trading him.

Do you know if the Bulls are interested in Adam Morrison? He has played really well during the summer league.

Ali Hill

Sam: They are not, though I do hope he makes it back as I think he got a bad rap after being injured. The guy really could shoot. The Bulls figure to go for a point and I’m still pushing for Earl Boykins. I know he’s about 4-11, but guys hate playing against him and I’ve rarely not seen him come in and make plays.

Do you think there's anything to do with [the] Bulls being cheap with free agents [that] don't want to come to Chicago? The Bulls act like a small market team and with those revenues from full seats, global merchandise, what's wrong with paying some reasonable amount of luxury tax? I think Gar-Pax has failed to do their main job, which is luring top free agents to Chicago. It's their job to assure them to come. No excuses.

Andri Hermawan

Sam: Actually, they are paying luxury tax and are in the top five or six in payroll. Though I do think if they stomp their feet more and hold their breath maybe they can get a free agent or two. Didn’t Mark Cuban just break up a championship team the summer after they won by not paying Tyson Chandler, whom Dirk said was the reason they finally were able to win? Just sayin’.

I have really been annoyed by Dwight Howard and his demands. I don't understand why the Magic won't just keep him, make him sit the entire season, and let him walk as a free agent next year. I know they would get nothing in return in the short term but I feel like future players on the Magic would seriously think twice before demanding a trade or causing trouble in the locker room. Dwight Howard obviously doesn't care about the Magic or its fans so why should the Magic care about pleasing Dwight Howard?

Jason Blanshine

Sam: It’s not that they do, but he is a mixed up guy. The talk is this is being mostly driven by his agent, who has an agenda about this no one is quite sure about and has badly confused Howard. As for the Magic, they have to make the best deal possible because they have no other deals to make. There’s no hurry. Once they deal Howard, they are the league’s worst team. Why rush for that? Sports has short memories. Once Howard starts playing again, all will be forgiven and forgotten, especially if he goes to the Lakers and they win the title, which is plausible.

Did you see Shaq on NBA TV talking about Dwight and Orlando? [He ] said he's hearing Jaque Vaughn's name come up a lot and said it should be Brian Shaw as he is battle tested. Let's look at this:

1. Both have never been a head coach
2. Both are assistants
3. Both were in the league for 10+ years
4. Both were coached by all-time greats
5. Both have been to finals and won championships

So what makes Brian battle tested and not Jaque? Could it be because he's Shaq's friend? The NBA puts these idiots on the air [because] they are former players and don't care if they don't know anything. Shame.

Mike Sutera

Sam: For all those who were upset all those years Shaq was mumbling and we couldn’t understand what he was saying, it turns out he was doing us all a favor.

Just having a look at the Rockets website, I found this article interesting. From what I can see, they are trying really hard to justify the $25 million price tag attached to Omer to their fans. Who breaks down tape on free agents to tell their fans how good of a pick and roll defender he is? At the end of the day, I'll be the first to say I'm sad to see him go, but that was just an unreasonable contract for the Bulls to take (but I'm happy he is getting his pay day). Whereas for the Rockets, in three years time, they will have $30 million coming off their books, in Lin and Asik, which will be massive to free agents at that time. The back loaded contract could work out in their favor in the long run. At that time, they could be making a run at this generation's top level players.

Daniel George

Sam: Yes, the Rockets are the guy who asks every pretty girl to the prom. You never know if one will surprise you. They are never worried about rejection. I did see that and I had to reread it to make sure I wasn’t reading about Bill Russell. Man, if Omer is that good, Thibodeau cannot be that good a coach for not playing him 48 minutes a game and at every position. How did we all miss that? And like you, I liked the guy a lot.

Can this trade happen? Bulls get Ben Gordon, Bobcats get Carlos Boozer.

Jeff Jay

Sam: Kirk, Ben, Lu. We’re puttin’ the band back together? It’s a mission from God. Mister man, mister man. Dry white toast, anyone? No, they’re musicians. Orange whips all around. It's 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark... and we're wearing sunglasses. Hit it.

I'm tired of everyone thinking the Bulls management is just doing a horrible job. I know the Bulls didn't get better now but how good did people think we were going to be without D-Rose half the season? Gar was wrong. It is financial decisions not basketball decisions but only right now. I think it would have been basketball decisions if Rose [were] healthy. The Bulls are basically setting themselves up to be able to do something in the future. The decisions they made are to avoid major penalties.

Darryl Rogers

Sam: It’s fun to be a fan because you don’t have to be responsible, like writers. You see who won and say they should have done that. Column done. I also understand the frustration of the coach as his job is to win today (tomorrow). Management’s job is to win the next five years, or in that period. It’s why you don’t have your coach as the general manager. The Bulls obviously decided they cannot win (ultimately) today, so they’ll go for tomorrow while leaving it up to the coach to do as much as he can with today. As they have a very good coach, it likely will end up better than the talent suggests. It’s like if you buy a $50,000 car today. Now, that’s cool and you can feel happy and proud. But if now your kid can’t go to college you haven’t done well for your family. Of course, a lot of kids today with college degrees are working at fast food restaurants, so I will still be evaluating my examples.

I might be the only Bulls fan who is not angry at our latest moves. Belillni is a good shooter. People forget how bad Brewer was at shooting, Korver had more bad games than good and Watson will be missed. Do you see the Bulls getting Oden?

Omar DeJesus

Sam: I do get asked about Oden a lot. I haven’t heard anything with the Bulls and him, and I suspect he’s going to be asking for much more than a minimum deal even if it’s a big risk and has nothing to show. But there’ll be someone who’ll take the risk figuring if it works out they get to be called genius for a few years and probably get an extension. Oden isn’t talked about much, but if he begins working out for anyone he’ll draw lots of interest.

I recently completely tore my ACL and tore my meniscus playing hockey. The doctor told me I'll be out roughly 7-8 months before I can play sports again. Why are they holding Derrick Rose out 8-12 months?

Brett Jobgen

Sam: Maybe you’re not a world class athlete and someone Jack Ramsey said was the best penetrating point guard in the history of the NBA. I’m just speculating, though.

The Bulls haven't been pushing the ball and running in breaks these past two seasons. With the addition of shooters in Hinrich, Belinelli and Radmanovic, do you now see them as a run and gun type of team?

Peter Jimenez

Sam: Thibs talks about it a lot, like most coaches do, and then when the games start they like to be more in control and worry about having their defense set and back and end up playing more half court. Kirk isn’t an attacking guard and I think the Bulls will play mostly a grind it out style with low scoring games they can steal at the end. I’d look for a Jeff Van Gundy type deliberate game like they played in Houston when Thibs was on the staff there. You need Rose to run.

DeJuan Blair seems to have fallen out of favor with the Spurs. With no ACLs and limited playing time at the end of last season dropping his value down, would he be worth making an offer with the Spurs for? He could still be a good impact player off the bench and not add too much strain to the salary bill.

Brenton Swart

Sam: One good rule in the NBA is if the Spurs are down on you, it’s probably not worth the risk. They do a heck of a scouting and evaluation job.

With the Bulls growing needs for a scorer off the bench, what would be the possibility of signing Tracy McGrady? I mean the desire is there from T-Mac, as he's been trying for the past two seasons and although he isn't the dynamic scorer he once was, he is still capable of posting 20+ on any given night, provide relief in given bursts of minutes and would come cheap for the vet minimum. Considering the Bulls have disbanded the ever effective "Bench Mob", it would seem more reasonable for the upcoming season?

Marlon Maglaque

Sam: I do agree it’s less of a distraction now, though I haven’t heard any talk about him among the Bulls and really not around the NBA. But you never fully discount a former Thibs player being with the Bulls. Hey, if this administration job doesn’t work out I assume Thibs still has his eye on Arne Duncan.

Do you anticipate the Bulls to ever actually bring over Vladimir Veremeenko, whose rights they acquired in the Hinrich trade?

Vince Kabat

Sam: I asked someone in the organization about him and no one seemed to know where he was playing. So I’d guess he isn’t in the 2014 plan.

Will the Bulls use Boozer more than they did last year? In my opinion, he has the ability to be the Bulls best scorer with Rose out. Of all players who played fewer than 30 mpg last season Boozer had the most ppg (and rpg). He is also arguably the most efficient player on the Bulls as he shoots a high percentage from midrange (45%), in the paint but not at the rim (51%), and at the rim (67%). All three percentages are better than those of players such as Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, Amar'e Stoudemire, and Pau Gasol. It is obvious to me that Boozer doesn't lack skill. What he hasn't had since coming to the Bulls is consistent playing time/shot opportunities. When Rose returns, he won't be playing 110 mph the whole time, and when he isn't driving, the Bulls should use that time as an opportunity to feature Boozer. Per 36 minutes last year, Boozer averaged 18.3 and 10.4. In comparison, Pau Gasol averaged 16.8 and 10.0. Boozer is often knocked for under-performing, but given how efficient he is, and his outstanding production considering the number of minutes he plays, it is obvious that he's playing at a very high level. If anything, he is underutilized, which then causes his per game numbers to plummet. I would have signed (Asik) and used the amnesty on Asik when the 15 million year comes along (instead of on Boozer).

Wally Castelaz

Sam: You can’t use amnesty on a player signed after the labor deal, so Asik would not be eligible with a new contract. I know some fans will cringe, but I’ve heard Thibs talking about the importance of Boozer this season because of the absence of Rose. I do believe Thibs is planning to feature Boozer much more than in the past given how much offense is lost without Rose. And especially, heaven forbid, if Deng does have that surgery. Then get ready for a bunch of 72-68 thrillers.

Why hasn't the media pounced on Carmelo for him calling Lin's contract "ridiculous!"? Since when do athletes get upset when they see others get a good contract? Why would Lin want to go back to that team when players are reporting to the media that Lin got a little too cocky and he was rubbing people the wrong way? Is Carmelo a hater? Is this a racial issue? Or was Lin really a problem in that locker room?

Victor Devaldivielso

Sam: New York was a boondoggle for Lin, but you could see Carmelo and probably Kidd, too, who is a bad locker room guy, would have undermined him badly. It’s really unprecedented for any player to diminish another’s chances for a better contract. But Carmelo is mostly about himself, which always will be a Knicks’ issue. Plus it was summer and unusually hot in New York and many reporters still are stuck in traffic trying to get back home to write.

Just wondering why the Bulls didn't send Ronnie Brewer to New York with a sign and trade like they did with Korver to Atlanta. Wouldn't they have gotten a trade exception from it?

Michael Rajski

Sam: As the Knicks are over the cap, the Bulls would have had to take back a player. And if they could they would have kept Brewer.

Can the Bulls get Kyle back?

Liza Hopkins

Sam: Well, he will be a free agent after next season and did like it here a lot. They got Kirk back and Hamilton likely is gone after this season.

"Bulls go from 27 to 38 wins in Michael Jordan's rookie season. Bulls go back to 30 his second when he is injured." For sure, Sam, but it's also important to remember (as you have reminded us in the past) that the Bulls had basically the same record in 1993-94 without Jordan (55-27) as they did in 1992-93 with MJ (57-25). Moreover, they almost certainly would have reached the finals in 1994, without his Airness, if it weren't for the phantom foul in Game 5 of the semifinals against the Knicks. Put this fact together with our NBA-leading 50 wins in 2012 (sans D-Rose for most of the year), and you have even more evidence to support your already encouraging arguments about our potential to compete until the return of our hero — D-Rockstar-Rose — and with him for years to come. Future is bright, no?

Mark Hoffman

Sam: I’m not quite that optimistic. I guess my point was more things are possible, if not likely, and I wouldn’t give up the season since the East is weak other than Miami and as long as Deng skips that surgery, the Bulls still do have a core of experienced players. Yes, I remember well 1993-94, which Phil often said was his favorite season. Until Hue Hollins day. I view that more as the aberration than the rule, and the Bulls did add that season a very good Kukoc, Bill Wennington and Steve Kerr. History is pretty consistent on the effects when you lose your major star, and especially when there really is no No. 2. And if you’ll recall the Bulls had a top 50 player named Scottie Pippen, who was All-Star MVP that season and third in the MVP voting. I’m not seeing that guy on this team. I think the Bulls can compete well, that their margin of error is miniscule after being reasonably large and it isn’t a throwaway season like many fans were screaming for weeks. This denial about the effects of losing Derrick is going on too long.

As I was studying Kirk Hinrich's shot percentages based on specific locations I saw some notable trends over the last few years. Why do you think Captain Kirk has been shooting so few 16-23 footers? Is it due to ATL's offensive scheme. Does their scheme limit a PG's high pick and roll opportunities? Was it his supporting cast? Or could it be what we all are wondering and hope not to be true, has he lost a step at age 31? Only 30.2% of his attempts this year were "mid-range" while the previous year 47% of his shots were "mid-range".

Joe Whattoff

Sam: I’m saying you are officially out of things to do. I wouldn’t be too concerned, though. Kirk was something of the forgotten man in that offense with so many individual ballhandlers. Joe Johnson overdribbled as did Josh Smith, and neither was even the point guard. So Kirk got lost. I think Larry Drew got Vinny’s plan for Luol Deng to leave Kirk in the corner and if the ball comes to him to do something. Kirk played basically backup standstill three point spot shooter, which we know isn’t his game. He’s in good shape and highly motivated and I think he’ll give the Bulls a good season. So go to a Sox game.

The Bulls should go after Kenyan Martin and Nate robinson.

Wilbur Higgins

Sam: So you don’t like Thibs, eh?

So Radmanovic is replacing "White Mamba".Do you know if they are planning on bringing him back as an assistance or in another role?

Thomas Stalder

Sam: I really haven’t heard, though I’d doubt it. I suspect Scal ends up in broadcasting in Boston. Get ready for the Vladinator!