Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 11.15.2013
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I am [going to] go ahead and make a trade proposal. I know you can get a little snarky about [these], but the ESPN trade machine makes it way too easy (also, my wife has no interest in hearing my sweet trades). I propose moving Deng and Boozer to New Orleans for Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson. I know you will be dismissive of Gordon because of the injuries and the effort questions - but regardless he is younger and a clear talent upgrade over Deng. Plus Butler could easily transition to Deng's role. Plus, as long as Butler remains a reluctant shooter and Deng isn't hitting closer to 42-45% from deep, their roles are redundant and make defending us easier. Additionally, we need to move Deng now for talent or I feel like we will lose him for nothing.
Sam: I prefer to consider it classroom education and a wry way of looking at the world. Gordon has been the guy du jour. I’ll dismiss the last part because the Pelicans have no interest in adding a postup power forward to force Anthony Davis to play out of position at center and basically end his career. But I’ve received a number of Gordon trade suggestions this week, in part, because he’s stated his dislike for New Orleans before as well as the Pelicans poor start and obvious overload of ball handling shooters. There’s really almost no scenario with Deng that is workable since he is an unrestricted free agent and thus serves as a rental player. Yes, the Pelicans needing a small forward might like to dump Gordon’s long term salary. But it could be a franchise crippling risk for the Bulls to take on Gordon’s money, which is $14.9 million and $15.5 million after this season for a smallish shooting guard who isn’t known as a defender and has a history of not only knee problems but attitude issues. You take on that money and you basically are locked in to having to amnesty Boozer, not make an offer to Mirotic, not keep yourself in position to make a move for a free agent and then if Gordon, who averages missing 36 games per season since his rookie year, goes out on your again you are stuck with no moves to make. Is it worth that sort of risk for a guy shooting 40.3 percent this season? Frankly, I’d rather take a shot at Ben Gordon for a minimum after this season even though the Bulls won’t do that, either. Now, that didn’t hurt, did it? And I don’t really see any move losing Deng that makes the team better. I’d be surprised if he were not with the Bulls all this season.
Does Rose make the trip across the border? I would leave him home and not stick the tweaked hamstring on an international flight through customs to play the Raptors. I’m sure Kirk and the boys can take care of business up there. Much rather have him fully healthy and ready to go at home against Indy with the home winning streak and Indy’s season winning streak on the line. A back-to-back on a bad hammy just doesn’t seem like a good idea even if it wasn’t Indy.
Sam: I really don’t know if he’ll play in Toronto and my guess is the Bulls and Rose and Thibs haven’t decided. But my guess also is he doesn’t play. At least based on what I saw with Joakim Noah in the preseason with the groin. Though if Rose doesn’t then maybe he doesn’t against Indiana Saturday. With the back to back, yes, Indiana is the bigger game if there could be such a thing at this time and given it is at home. Though the games do count the same and I’d say the Bulls have a better chance winning with Rose against the Raptors than Indiana. Based on the way the Bulls have done things in the past, I assume Rose travels with the team given they have a training staff on the road to do rehab. But these are always such tough calls as there is no manual on when to play with a hamstring issue, even if it as slight as it appears with Rose. All the players coming back from these ACL surgeries training their bodies hard have had these minor leg things develop. So you go by your player. I’d guess Rose skips Friday, but he did say he could play and, after all, if he is moving fine one game is not going to make that much difference. There is no correct answer before; it’s only afterwards that everyone has the right answer.
I always hear that the Bulls are expected to amnesty Boozer next year. Why is that? Why do it next year as opposed to this year or any other year?
Sam: He has one year remaining on his contract after this season, so next summer is the last chance. It’s strictly a potential financial decision and not having anything to do with his play. In fact, if the Bulls do have to use the amnesty I know they’d do it reluctantly and probably won’t be as good in the short term. But the new labor deal has a penalty “repeater” tax if you are over the luxury tax three consecutive seasons, which the Bulls would be. Being in that penalty situation would limit moves you can make for perhaps years. Every team but maybe the Nets with their billionaire Russian owner answerable to no stockholders is making sure to avoid it. But the Bulls have made no decisions and there are plenty of ways they could retain Boozer and stay out of the tax penalty.
Rose's minutes are down this year compared to every other season of his career. I know it is early, but is this rotation the minutes Rose will likely get all season or is it more early season minutes and due to some of this rust he is getting off?
Sam: Rose is averaging 31 minutes going into Toronto compared with 35 his injury plagued season before his knee injury and then before that 37.3, 36.8 and 37 as a rookie. It seems obvious Thibodeau — and Thibodeau does decide these things — is keeping Rose out longer during games to get him in late and curtail his minutes. My guess is they get up to around 35 later in the season as Rose gets stronger and there are no other issues.
Why doesnt Thibs play Rose more? He's averaging 32 minutes and we [were] 1-3. Derrick sitting on the bench isn't going to help us win or bring chemistry to the team. He is the star of the team and he should be leading us to Ws not sitting on the bench watching us get these Ls.
Sam: I’m confused. I thought Thibs was playing these guys too much.
Why are people jumping all over this Bulls team? To me the situation is as simple as that Rose looks a little slow in his rotations on defense, and isn’t stealing too well, but I believe this will come in time. On offense, nobody is particularly to blame it is just that shots are not going down, but they will. A team this good will not get this bad over one offseason and stay this way. Fans need to get behind their players and start noticing the improvements (Dunleavy and Deng have looked better). Trade talk shouldn’t even be brought up yet, wait and see till around a couple of weeks before the trade deadline and see what our record is first before playing armchair GM.
Sam: Now, what fun is that?
How about Deng for Shved/Williams/bad contract? I’m starting to rebuild.
Sam: Let me have you write to Ryan Sylvester.
What's your take on Indiana's 8-0 start? I was looking at the teams they've beaten so far. They haven't played a team over .500 yet. As the standings are right now, they only play one team over .500 until December.
Sam: Well, they are beating those teams and the Bulls lost to the 76ers and the Heat lost to the Celtics. So it means something. And they did beat the Bulls, that other previously sub-.500 team. The Pacers obviously are good and were expected to be. But I don’t see them much different than the Bulls with talk the Bulls cannot compete without this second great player to make plays. Who exactly is that with the Pacers? Sure, they have Paul George. OK, I give them a Rose-esque player. But otherwise they have grinders like the Bulls. Lance Stephenson is off to a good start and is athletic, though no more so than Jimmy Butler. But Stephenson has a history of erratic behavior and meltdowns under pressure. The Pacers have a high level (for this era) non-scoring center, a burly power forward that mostly plays close to the basket and an average point guard. They did enhance their bench, but it was among the league’s worst. They play a slow game and rely on defense. They are in many respects a mirror image of the Bulls and not much different in total talent. Good, but perhaps not great.
I’ve always had a lot of interest following the NBA draft and saw that Chad Ford at ESPN came out with his most up to date “Big Board” of NBA draft prospects. I was curious if you know where other team executives would rank Mirotic in comparison to some of the other high level talents in this year’s draft? When I see guys like Exum and Saric getting top 5-10 consideration, it makes me think that Mirotic would likely be viewed in the same light.
Sam: Obviously, there’s a lot of excitement about this draft, and only more so after the United Center double header this week in which there was impressive play from Jabari Parker, Julius Randle and Andrew Wiggins. I wouldn’t put Mirotic in that class of players you may be able to build around. But if he were in this draft based on his play overseas he’d likely be a lottery pick and perhaps top 10 from the initial indications. But he still hasn’t played much against American players going to the NBA, so there is no certainty. He surely seems like he’ll be a good NBA player.
If you had to take a guess, how long do you think it will take for Derrick to return back to his old form as far as scoring goes? The past couple of games he is keeping his turnovers a bit more in check, but the shot still isn't falling. He seems to hit his first couple of shots during games and fall off. I can sense he's getting there, but I'm wondering how long you think it will take for him to finally be the Derrick Rose of old?
Sam: There is way too much micromanaging of Rose to the point it seems every shot is analyzed. I think he’s doing well. His percentage is low at this point in a small sample. Though also because of the way defenses are playing him with teammates not shooting as well and some of the formations the Bulls use that have enabled the opponents to put more pressure on him and opponents taking a chance others won’t beat them. You hear he’s going too fast, rushing. He did say after the Cleveland game that he is feeling his way back some as well. I’d let it go another 20 or 30 games before I start making major judgments. He still is averaging about 15 points playing about 15 percent fewer minutes with more defensive attention. It’s perhaps even a few more foul calls away from averaging 20. Which I also think comes down less to officials not giving him calls but taking on more direct contact, which he hasn’t done much of as yet. I have been amazed at how daringly he still plays. But with his quickness he’s always moved away from contact and even in his MVP season averaged fewer than seven free throw attempts per game.
Team chemistry is always spoken about by commentators during games and it's importance. I've always wished that I could spend a day with the team to see what they are all like together. You spend a lot of time with the team and I was wondering how is the Bulls chemistry this year compared with others? Also how does the team compare with other teams around the league?
Sam: It’s an unusually good and friendly group. It’s also why you rarely seem to hear about players breaking up hotel lobbies at 4 a.m. It’s mostly the same group since 2010 and they appear to get along better than any Bulls team I’ve ever been around, certainly more so than any of the championship teams. Which is why having a superstar player or two is much more important than team chemistry. There is something to it, but more so the way they’ll buy into a way of playing, accepting their role and competing with enthusiasm. You don’t see that with teams like the Knicks even if the players may like one another, which I don’t know. There’s an easy rapport and camaraderie with the Bulls players. I don’t see many going out in groups, but they appear to genuinely like and root for one another with few signs of jealousy or resentment. It makes for a much better season to go through, and that is important in getting those wins as the season drags on in the winter with no one much paying attention. It’s why it’s important to have players of not only strong character but who like to play basketball and look forward to getting to the games and practices. Anything you have to be at is a job no matter how lucrative. I know fans always say if they were making $5 million they’d have no issues. But a lot of poor people say the same about people making $50,000 or $75,000. It’s about your motivation, as well, which often comes from the environment and work place. Making shots is more their issue than chemistry for now.
[Do] you think the Bulls will finally give up on the idea of Jimmy playing SG? It is clear he has no left hand, doesn't handle the ball well enough to take someone off the dribble, and he can't shoot. He seems well out of his element and doesn't have the fervor and drive that help him to have a bust out season last year when he played more small forward.
Sam: And so much for another favorite. That’s a somewhat harsh assessment of Butler, who has always gotten better and showed many of those abilities last season. And in the playoffs. I don’t always get this shooting guard/small forward thing as the shots are the same distance. And generally there are better defenders who play against the small forwards. Anyway, I think Jimmy adds a lot at that position as he is the best defender they’ve had there in a decade or more, is the sort of athlete the team doesn’t have many of and cares a lot how he does. Though if you are not at an All-Star level after six games I guess you do have to question a guy’s career.
Can you tell me why the Bulls let marco Belinelli go? He was a much better fit then Mike [Dunleavy].
Sam: I disagree and believe Dunleavy will be good and showed his ability to make shots in the game against the Cavs. If you’ll remember this time a year ago Belinelli was getting DNP-CD’s. Players work in slowly with the Bulls learning the defense. I like Belinelli and he is better off the dribble, but Mike has been a better spot up shooter, which probably fits the return of Rose better.
The trade proposals from your readers that you included in the last mailbag seemed mostly insane. Can we officially retire the ideas of Deng, Butler, Rose, Mirotic, and Boozer being traded in way, shape, or form this season? It's just not going to happen. Deng will bring back nothing but a draft pick (which is useless to a team trying to win this year), Butler is an indispensable wing defender on a cheap contract, trading Rose would be criminal, Mirotic is a transitional building block the Bulls are counting on, and, like Deng, Boozer has value to no one but the Bulls right now.
Sam: So what fun is that?
Is the 2014 draft so good that Bulls fans should actually be rooting for Charlotte to end up with the 11th pick so the Bulls get the pick this year?
Sam: The Bobcats currently are .500, so if the season ended today — which would give me little to do — the Bulls would get the pick as the Bobcats would be a playoff team. I do not expect them to be one when the season ends. The pick is protected through 10 this season, which means if the Bobcats get 11, 12 and so on the Bulls would get it. Next season it’s 9, 10, 11, etc. Then it’s unprotected in 2016. Since rooting — and I’m probably not supposed to write this — has nothing to do with the final result, it’s probably best like a good movie to relax and see what happens. Whenever the Bulls get the pick it should be for a good player as they keep coming along for some reason.
With the passing of Walt Bellamy a couple of weeks ago, I was thinking whether the center position will ever make a comeback in the NBA? When the most prized center is Dwight Howard it doesn't say much. Though he is athletic, he has virtually no offensive skills. Bellamy was buried deeply in his time, but would dominate today. Would Joakim Noah even start in the 1960's? Omer Asik? It's amazing that everyone talks about how athletic today's players are, but that doesn't ring true for the center position. With the rules changes decreasing the physical play today I think yesterday's centers would be even more dominant.
Sam: Yes, if any kids ever decided they wanted to play like that. But they don’t. SportsCenter highlights and YouTube videos, which they grew up on, rarely show postup moves. It’s an old person’s lament for the good old days, most of which never were quite that good. The future generally is different, and this one is as well. The game still is great; just different. Back then the game played to the big guy and there weren’t as many great scoring point guards and small forwards. It obviously comes from the talents the NBA inherits. Kids come facing the basket with three point jump shot skills, like seven footer Kevin Durant. So you don’t change his game even if you had time to do so, which no one does, basically not from high school to AAU to college for that year they go and then to the pros. In a perverse way it’s why Roy Hibbert can have a maximum contract and career. Years ago he’d have been Len Chappell or Wallace Bryant or Juwan Oldham, kicking around the edges of the league because he was tall. But now because there are hardly any tall guys who stand around near the basket, a shambling runner like Hibbert can not only be important but among the league’s highest paid. Mama’s, don’t let your babies grow up to be And-1 showoffs.
I really don't understand why fans are always caught in the moment. Couple of bad games and everybody losses their minds. All of the sudden we should tank this season, we should trade everyone except Rose etc. etc. It's just start of the season. So why have most of the fans already pushed the panic button? Is it so hard to understand that players need time after the summer? Every team has ups and downs during the season, including the Bulls in 90's. I'm more concerned how this team will look in April not now. I still think we can win the championship this year.
Sam: It’s why fan is short for Who the Heck Signed that Guy and I’m Not Watching That Anymore! Like Phil Jackson always said, the fun is in the journey, and sometimes the journey begins with a flat tire and broken fan belt.
The Bulls fans need to relax. The Chicago Bulls shouldn’t have Rose on the roster. What was the chance the Bulls got the #1 pick that year, 1.6%? We should be happy we have a team that works hard, doesn't act stupid and get into trouble. We have a chance to win a championship this year, not a great chance but a chance and isn't that all you could ask for as a fan? So one more time, people need to relax a bit.
Sam: And they have their health. Well, a lot of them, anyway.
I saw this a [Sports Illustrated] article just today that discusses some rule changes to deter teams from tanking intentionally to get higher picks. I wouldn't doubt that some front offices encourage it, but is it a widespread problem? I guess I'm mostly surprised to see a major publication address it as though it's happening everywhere. I don't know the I follow the league close enough to know that teams do or don't.
Sam: No one is tanking. This is like the urban legend of the lottery being fixed. Coaches don’t give up games because losing gets them fired; players don’t give up games because when you are with a losing team or do poorly you get paid less or not at all. There are the same philosophies toward building a sports team in every league. You can pursue free agency or the draft or build from the draft. Everyone agrees you are the worst off if you try to play .500 ball. Do you think the 76ers, the Suns, the Magic want to lose? I know Michael Jordan and one thing you can never say about him is he didn’t care about winning. The genesis of his feud with the Bulls in the 1980’s was when he thought they weren’t doing all they could to win. It’s not a problem except among those who are manufacturing legends about a lack of competition.
When do you think coach Thibs will start playing Snell and Murphy? I believe both players could stretch. The Bulls could really use their shooting during games when the Bulls are struggling with points.
Sam: Thibs has been consistent since he’s been Bulls coach of bringing his rookies along slowly and eventually giving them some time. I suspect Snell will get some, though less for Murphy at this point as second rounders rarely play for contending teams.
Do you think the league should change the rules and eliminate fouling out? Not only would this guarantee that the best players could stay in the game, but it would also force the refs to call more fouls on star players.
Sam: I am for it in some form since in this era the NBA has done a lot to curtail the brutality that once existed in the game. It’s worse in college with the five fouls and the way they call so many, especially watching that college doubleheader this past week. Fouls always have been part of the game. They were in the original rules, two and then you had to be out of the game until the next field goal. Which could take an hour. And lots of stoppages of play then to get the ball out of the peach basket. It was a very rough game early on bordering on assault to the point it appeared like five Laimbeers playing against one another. You may have heard the term cagers referred to for basketball players. It came about because at times games were literally played in cages because they were so violent and endangered spectators. Even before the famous John Brisker in the ABA who was said to have vanished and died after going to Uganda after his pro career to become a military mercenary. Now, that’s tough. The NBA started with six fouls and I doubt they’ll change that. I like the idea if they don’t change at least charging technicals for every foul after six to keep a guy in a game. But there are some things likely to never change.
Better player on just skill... Blake Griffin or Demarcus Cousins?
Sam: Cousins is really an amazingly skilled guy for a seven footer. And even though Griffin is a bit overrated because of his dunking, I do see him developing some post game with Doc Rivers and would rather have him than Cousins, who I think can destroy your team with his erratic and unpredictable behavior. Character does matter.
Which team will sustain their current win/loss pace - T'Wolves or Suns? Where do you think they'll finish at the end of the season?
Sam: I really like the Timberwolves, who have a legitimate star in Kevin Love, a true point guard in Rubio and shooting. It’s just that the West is so good it’s tough to get a top four slot.
If the Bulls sign Reggie Williams, will he play the Daequan Cook role? Or will he possibly be pushed up into the rotation?
Sam: I have not heard anything of the Bulls at this time being interested in signing him.
I recently read an article on NBC Chicago about Derrick Rose possibly opting out of his contract after next season, suggested by Stephen A. Smith of ESPN. How much truth is there to this possibility? I thought Rose didn't have an opt-out clause in his contract due to his Derrick Rose Rule extension?
Sam: Maybe you can get on that show with Skip Bayless. You are correct. Rose does not have an opt out and is committed to the Bulls at least through the end of the 2016-17 season. I actually think Stephen was asking Reggie where to get a cab from the United Center.
I'm all in on this year's Chicago Bulls and look forward to every game. With 76 games to go there is lots of time to smooth and improve. My only question is where does Sam go out for pizza in Chicago?
Sam: This is a sensitive issue for me and of some discussion as being a New York native I rank the pizza the only reason to live in New York. Though it’s tough to identify the scent of the pizza given it mixes with the ammonia and manure smell in the air. Anyway, I’ve had this discussion many times, and, of late, with Nazr Mohammed. After we broke down the new Federal Reserve chairman’s credentials, of course. Actually, Nazr does know that stuff. Anyway, Nazr grew up in tough circumstances in Chicago and he recalls his father driving a cab then and bringing home a deep dish pizza, which could nourish the kids for awhile. I did understand that part of it, though I wondered why he didn’t just bring home a loaf of Wonder Bread. Nazr was nasty about that. He loves his Giordanos. It’s not bad. I like that and the Malnati’s. But it’s really not pizza. I was trying to explain the joys of thin crust pizza and in New York how it works so well since you fold it in half to eat it and the oil runs down your sleeve to match the stains on the rest of your clothing. As it happened, I was watching Comedy Channel with Jon Stewart the other night when he went on a great rant about Chicago pizza in a story about that tallest building dispute. Tomato soup in a bread bowl, he called it. Loved that one. A casserole. Yup, nailed it. It’s tough to find in Chicago, which is why you can find me sometimes eating at the tollway oasis where they have the Sbarros with the thin crust pizza. As I tell everyone, Chicago is a gourmands delight. It’s not quite New York, but close. Yes, it’s a glamorous life writing for Bulls.com. Like Stewart also said about the Chicago hot dog, how can you have a hot dog not in stagnant cart water like they do in New York at the umbrella rooms in the various corners. But don’t get me started on that fat guy 16-inch softball. Whose idea was that?