Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 10.05.2012
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.
I don't get why people are counting out the Bulls. Noah, Boozer, Deng, Hamilton and Belinelli are double digit scorers. Hinrich is also a double digit scorer when he plays 30 minutes per game. Nate, Taj and Radmanovic can also score. With Taj's minutes going up, he is going to be another double digit scorer. This Bulls team is better than last season's 18-9 team without D.Rose. This Bulls team can easily score 85 points per game with the new personnel they have.
Peter John Jimenez
Sam: I think it has something to do with Rose being hurt. But I don’t disagree that much. For now I’ve put the Bulls at 47 wins and a middle spot in the East, perhaps sixth or seventh, which — and you don’t want to look too far ahead — is where I’d want to be if I were them. I’d want to be in the opposite playoff bracket as Miami, which we assume would have the best record. Their bracket would be one vs. eight and four vs. five. Obviously, health is vital with Derrick out, but so is it for Boston with Kevin Garnett, Philly with Andrew Bynum and New Jersey with Deron Williams. It’s not inconceivable the Bulls could be a 50-win type team given the way they’ll play defense and be prepared and that they’d have more perimeter shooting this season. Obviously, everyone looks for the so called go-to scorer, which the Bulls theoretically lack without Rose, and the chemistry from the reserves and defense without Asik, though he didn’t play all that much. They’ll have to do it so called by committee. But the Pistons won a title with no one averaging 20 points. Or even 18. The 76ers had a solid season last year (and huge start) with no one even averaging 15. And other than Miami, the East seems fairly open and with flawed teams. The healthy ones should do well, and then Derrick will play at some point. But I’m sure the Bulls rather would be in the sneaking up position for now.
Can you please ask [Derrick] Rose to take a year off? He is not ready and he is so young and I want him to end up Isiah Thomas not Allen Iverson.
Sam: Maybe Penny Hardaway is whom you’d worry about, a great, athletic guard whose career was derailed by knee injury. I have heard this from some fans that the Bulls need to be extra careful, and you can be sure they agree with that sentiment. Managing partner Jerry Reinsdorf has made it clear publicly already the doctors will have to declare Rose 100 percent for him to play, and they better be right. But there is benefit to Rose playing this season. Everyone agrees a lot of his recovery will be mental in gaining confidence in his knee and the moves he can make. You can’t do that until you begin to play. Also, like Michael Jordan in 1986, he wants to play. Players want to play. You can’t protect them like pieces of fragile crystal. The Bulls have to find out if Rose can play and how much, and once he is medically cleared there is no reason to let him sit around. His knee theoretically will be stronger with all the rehab he’s never done before. You can’t keep the ’55 T-bird in the garage forever. What’s the point if you don’t use it? The Bulls can’t operate afraid, and neither can Derrick.
If Derrick Rose heals as fast as Vikings running back Adrian Peterson did than he would return to basketball 254 days after surgery on January 21 for Bulls/Lakers on TNT (and presumably score two touchdowns while rushing for 84 yards on 17 carries). Point being, that is an entire month before the All-Star break so isnt the notion of us "not counting on him next season" a little absurd?
Sam: And then there’s that as I hear some saying Rose could return in December or January. He didn’t limp and looked like he could play this week when he showed up for his opening day press conference. But the Bulls, as I’ve noted, have made it clear there is no rush, no reason to rush and when he’s ready he’s going to have to say pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty please. I can’t envision any scenario in which we see him in a game before February and likely not before the All-Star break. The Bulls play Miami the first home game after the All-Star break. Nah, that would be too much pressure. If I had to make an uneducated, uninformed guess—assuming his recovery goes well with no issues—then the last week of February into March with three home games before five of six on the road with a lot of off days in between.
With baseball finishing up an ultimately disappointing season on both sides of town, I am surprised by how much I am looking forward to the Bulls season, even though I know they will be without Derrick for much of the year. My question is how much does Thibodeau adapt his game plans, offensive and defensive system to the players that he has? The character of the bench this year feels very different than the Bench Mob of years past. We used to hear a lot of discussion about Thibodeau's system and how the particular group of players bought in so well. While I am sure the principles remain the same, how do you anticipate Thibs changing his offense and defense based on his new personnel?
Sam: I really don’t. I know it’s often said a coach adapts to his personnel, and perhaps the greatest modern example of that is Gregg Popovich with a post oriented Spurs team around Robinson and Duncan going to a perimeter, pick and roll team with Parker and Ginobili. Thibs has a defensive system that he expects players to adapt to, and, like Phil Jackson with the triangle, I think that’s good. I think you always want to have some sort of system the players can fall back on and even though these are the best players in the world, repetition is important so that when the time comes in a game it is a habit. Thibs has a lot of plays, and obviously with Derrick out there will be some changes, though he’ll still run a lot of high pick and roll. I suspect we’ll see a lot of the same stuff, the flex he ran for Korver and Hamilton now also for Belinelli. Obviously, Rose’s absence is big. But the same basic core returns. Boozer will still get post passes and he is a good passer as evidenced that great find last season for that C.J. Watson shot to extend Miami to overtime. Boozer should have more space with a lot of outside shooting, which may be the biggest different as I think we’ll see more formations with shooters spread out like Belinelli, Radmanovic, Robinson or Deng and Hinrich. It will be a bit more diversified offense without Derrick, and we’ll hear a lot of “it’s a make or miss league.”
I read Josh Smith could be traded to the Jazz, Bobcats or Philly. Anything to that?
Sam: There hasn’t been much trade talk speculation yet, but there will be with Josh in his final season and the Hawks with a new general manager in Danny Ferry and in trading Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams seemingly the next team to break up and start some sort of rebuilding. After this season, they have only about $20 million in committed salaries as they took on primarily one year players. I don’t see them making the playoffs, and I don’t see Josh being quiet very long. I suspect they mostly want draft picks. I’d count out the Bulls as you’d have to match Josh’s $13 million salary. The Hawks aren’t taking anyone with a contract and it’s hardly worth a rental with Rose out as you then cannot pay Smith given the Bulls having four eight-figure salaries on the books for next season and three for the season after that. Utah is interesting because you’d think they have to do something with Al Jefferson to get their young bigs in the starting lineup and Al in his last season. I’m pretty sure if the Hawks would take Tyrus Thomas the Bobcats would drive him there.
Do you think there's any chance of the Bulls getting Rudy Gay and Lamarcus Aldridge if they pursed them aggressively without giving up Noah and Rose?
Sam: Never too early to start trading, right? Rudy’s name comes up all the time, though the Bulls have an All-Star small forward now, right? So what would be the point? Also, enough with Aldridge, long a sore point. But Aldridge’s is an interesting name. The Trail Blazers don’t seem like a playoff team and are in some sort of transition with Nate McMillan gone. Maybe he decides it’s his time to leave as well. He’s clearly their anchor, but given they aren’t going anywhere maybe they cash him in for a big package of kids and picks. It would be something to watch, though, no, he’s not coming to the Bulls.
Rip Hamilton having a completely healthy year is unlikely. So do you really see no way Rip will return under any circumstances? Who'd replace Rip though? The starting SG Spot is going to be difficult to fill moving forward with it being the weakest spot already in the NBA and it isn't going to host many great SG talents in upcoming drafts and free agencies.
Sam: I’m higher on Hamilton than most. I think he was like a lot of veterans last season who took a look at that schedule and decided to pace themselves. He probably didn’t push himself that hard in the truncated camp, and then he got hurt. It’s probably not to his credit, but he was likely eying the playoffs given he knew the Bulls were good and that the playoffs was what mattered. He was ready when the playoffs came, and as guys fell he was playing bigger minutes in the playoffs and his per minutes scoring average was the best of the regulars after Rose went out. But as we know it didn’t last long. One reason the Bulls made sacrifices to get Hinrich was they envision him playing with Rose when Rose returns. Jimmy Butler believes he can be a shooting guard, so we’ll see. And, of course, Belinelli, who has looked good early. So that position probably is OK even if Hamilton doesn’t return next season. But he clearly worked hard this summer and came in good condition and motivated and I think he’ll have a solid season. Fans ask where the scoring will come from without Rose. But the Bulls didn’t get much from Hamilton last season and I expect more. Boozer will get more opportunities and Gibson should as well. It likely won’t be that artistic, but the Bulls should get to 90 points, which would be enough to win a lot of close, low scoring games.
Do you see the Bulls getting [Greg] Oden?
Sam: That’s going to be one of the more interesting names to come up as the season progresses. He hasn’t signed with anyone and no one knows if he ever can play again. It’s a historic story with a college player that highly regarded to have basically no NBA career. Someone at some point will see him as a steal and worth a shot, but I don’t see the Bulls taking on that sort of project with all the scrutiny it will get and that Oden hasn’t been exactly the most cooperative guy. Though given his health issues and the disappointments you certainly can understand why.
How, and what are the chances, and what has to happen for the Bulls to use the Bobcat draft in 2014 to acquire Jabari Parker?
Sam: I think they’re hoping he doesn’t declare and takes that Mormon mission. We go over this a lot, but the Bobcat pick from the Tyrus Thomas trade (yes, they gave a No. 1 for Tyrus knowing what we knew) isn’t a potentially high lottery pick until 2016. In 2016, it’s unprotected. You obviously wouldn’t get a talent like Parker without a top three pick, and that pick has greater protection than that until 2016.
What do you think the odds are of Monta Ellis being (successfully) targeted by the Bulls next summer?
Sam: Slim and none. Actually, none. Ellis can be an unrestricted free agent with rumors already he’d opt out of his final season at $11 million next year. The Bulls, even if they were to amnesty Carlos Boozer, which I don’t expect, would not be far enough under the salary cap to make a free agent offer to someone like Ellis unless they also let Gibson go. Plus, Thibodeau doesn’t care for small guards who don’t defend. I doubt the Bulls would have any interest even if they had the space.
Do you think the Bulls brass should make Deng get that surgery before he plays a single minute of this season? (I'd like to see a full strength Deng along with a healthy D-Rose come season's end).
Sam: Deng obviously was a little sensitive about this as he commented at his opening day press conference about media asking about his wrist right away. Deng insists for now his wrist is fine and shouldn’t affect his play and actually improved over the summer in the Olympics. He’s said he may not even need surgery, so it doesn’t seem to make sense to force anything. I’m sure the Bulls will be anxious every time he takes a blow or falls on it. But he’s played mostly through it and seems like he should be able to again.
Thanks for posting those Bulls questions. It was a fun test to take. Didn't Jamal Crawford also score 50 points in a game for the Bulls and aren't Jerry Sloan (as a coach), George Gervin, and Nate Thurmond also in the Hall of Fame?
Sam: There is always fact checking in this era. I mentioned Robert Parish being left out given only a Bulls cameo. Same with Nate and Gervin. The irony with Thurmond was he was supposed to be that missing piece when he came in 1974-75, the center to deal with Wilt and Kareem, who’d regularly been beating the Bulls. He got what is still one of the four quadruple doubles in NBA history early in his first season. But it was downhill from there. Nate began a quick career decline and was traded a month into the following season. The irony was the guy the Bulls traded to Golden State for him, center Clifford Ray, was instrumental in beating the Bulls in the conference finals that season. As for Jerry, his Hall of Fame recognition obviously was for his Utah career as he only coached two full seasons for the Bulls. Several people mentioned Jamal, but that was the trick in the question of players who scored “more than” 50 points in a game. Fifty would be more than 49. Nyaah, nyaah.
Isn’t Bob Love in the Hall?
Sam: No. It’s a reasonable discussion, though. You can make a case for Bob, especially when comparing him with someone like Chris Mullin, who had a great six-year run, like Bob, who averaged more than 21 points per game six consecutive seasons and, like Mullin, never won in the Finals. But Mullin did have an Olympic gold medal and a big college career. Plus, Bob had a shortened NBA career. Still, given Bob’s amazing story of overcoming his speech issues and his classic life story Bob should be a good candidate for inclusion in the Hall of Fame.
I'm so glad the NBA is going to try to reduce flopping! So, who will this hurt on the Bulls? Who are the worst in the league, and how much do you think they'll be fined before they change (if ever)?
Sam: The Manu Rules? The Varejao Rules? Other names come up in various polls of this accusation with Blake Griffin, Luis Scola, Shane Battier, LeBron James, Paul Pierce, Chris Paul, Hedo Turkoglu and Derek Fisher the most frequent. The Bulls should be OK with Nocioni gone, though the accusation generally is aimed more at European players and the Bulls have two new ones in Marco Belinelli and Vladimir Radmanovic. But like with Kobe and LeBron and Chris Bosh as well, we see plenty of American flopping. Many say they’d like to see the call immediately. I’ve talked with referee friends and they agree it’s too difficult to call on the spot, so the NBA reasoning of checking it later, like NFL violence penalties, probably is right. We’re all glad to see something as it’s a cheap form of getting an edge. I’ve long had a solution, which the NBA hasn’t agreed with. Don’t call so many offensive fouls. Most of it is not real defense, anyway. Running halfway across the court and jumping in front of someone is not defense, in my view. I’m more the man-to-man defender. Stay in front of your guy! Move your feet! If the man you are guarding runs over you, that’s a charge. Not the Battier version of sprinting 30 feet to jump in front of someone. The Bulls don’t have much to worry about since their players don’t flop much. I know Thibodeau probably would like to have seen some, especially after working with Academy Award nominated actor Pierce. Deng’s probably the only one who could be affected, but he really defends and moves his feet and draws legitimate charges. So it will be interesting to see the interpretation. I suspect this issue will be heard from much more. It’s still unclear if the NFL replacement officials will be the ones viewing the video for the league.