Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 12.21.2012

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

I don't know how to feel about all of the recent speculation regarding Robinson's contract status. There have been times when I wanted to strangle him for his sloppy play, but more often than not he seems to be a great motivator and the only player who can score (but maybe that's because he doesn't pass often?). I hate to see them give up a guy that can bring so much heart and energy, especially when that move alone does not get them under the cap, so here is my question: Who has a better chance of being on the roster when Rose returns: Nate or Rip?

Nick Hartman

Sam: Nothing has changed regarding Nate. He has an unguaranteed contract, which means by definition you are not guaranteed to stay with the team. Everyone knew he’d be a tough call from the beginning given he played for four teams in the last three seasons but could provide creating his own shot, a rarity on the Bulls roster without Derrick Rose. You know that five hour energy drink? Watching Nate you’d guess he drinks about 20 gallons per day as a side with his coffee. But he can score on an offensively challenged team, which you saw the other night against the Celtics when he basically won the game with his three pointers in the fourth quarter. As a player, I’d probably keep him given he is paid so little. What we don’t know is what sort of influence he has internally. If it’s negative, I assume he’s gone. Though management decides, I suspect they leave that decision to Thibodeau as they did with John Lucas, whom Thibodeau wanted to keep. When Rose returns, there’ll obviously be little need for four point guards as Hinrich moves to backup. Of course, Hinrich has had injury issues. But then you’d want to play Teague. So the question becomes do you want to risk having only a rookie to backup Hinrich for maybe two months until Rose returns? And a rookie who isn’t going to score like Nate. If they release Nate, I assume they pick someone else up, perhaps a young guard out of the D-League to get a look at. I don’t see them going the Mike James route again. But Thibs wants to win games. Also, I don’t see any team going for Hamilton given his succession of injuries. The only way would likely be if the Bulls would take on a contract, and they’re not likely to do that given they want guys coming off their payroll to have flexibility to add higher level players in the next two years. So I assume both Robinson and Hamilton finish the season with the Bulls.

The Bulls should keep Nate. He's a bit of a ball hog from time-to-time. But, only about 12 percent more of one than Ben Gordon was. And, how sorely do we miss his hot shots. Nate Robinson made that game fun to watch last night. Plus, he is a great spark plug of the bench. Being short myself he's a real inspiration.

Ryan Carpel

Sam: Nate, the pied piper of the under average sized? As Randy Newman once sang:

They got little baby legs
And they stand so low
You got to pick 'em up
Just to say hello
They got little cars
That got beep, beep, beep
They got little voices
Goin' peep, peep, peep

No, the voice thing definitely is not Nate. He is a fan favorite, though not quite Scalabrine-esque. But he’s still trying for that dunk. And you have to love an NBA player who likens himself to Peter Pan, as Nate did the other day. He talks about his children all the time, which is nice, though I always get the sense he misses playing with them in Nateland.

This is a disgraceful act if they cut Nate. The 'progression' of Marquis Teague? The kid had two games where he didn't fall on his face, like he had been doing up till that point. Hardly a reason to cut a dependable backup and much needed scoring punch off the bench. If anyone is utterly useless it’s Kirk. Nate’s a good kid and doesn't deserve this.

Mike Sutera

Sam: As the players eventually all tell you, it’s a business. But as well as Teague has played for two games, it is just two games. He has a good attitude, is smart and seems committed. But it is playing things a bit loose if they let Nate go and then have to depend on Kirk remaining healthy and Teague not being a rookie.

Ric Bucher reported that the Bulls are interested in J.J. Redick. Is there any truth to this rumor? If so, is it possible that they wouldn't have to give up Marquis Teague nor a first round pick?

Colin Brauer

Sam: Well, we know for sure the Bulls were interested in Redick as he’s finishing up the offer sheet contract they gave him and Orlando matched. So they have liked him. But with an expiring contract, I don’t see how it benefits the Magic to give him up for anything but first round picks or a valuable young talent. The Bulls never do that stuff for a rental player as you have no way to know if Redick will resign. And the shooting guard rotation looks like it will be fine when Hamilton returns as Thibodeau also took a look Tuesday at playing Robinson with Teague and it wasn’t bad. The Magic, going young and not a playoff team, would have no use for Hamilton. Why would you trade a better player with an expiring contract for a lesser and older one? Right, you wouldn’t. And, no, they don’t want Boozer. By the way, the Bulls are interested in LeBron James and Kevin Durant, also. That’s off the record, though.

How do you assess Kirk's play so far? I'm wondering if you are getting emails from a bunch of Bulls fans disappointed with him? I think he's doing what he needs to do, like Thibs always says. He just needs to improve his shooting percentage and will be exactly what we need when Rose comes back. Some of these fans forget that he was never a great shooter, but I think he will make timely baskets when needed. I especially enjoy how he shuts down, or at least slows down, the star guards he faces. The guy just plays so consistently. I hope he stays healthy and when Rose comes back, Bulls fans are going to see how nicely he runs the 2nd team compared to Nate or CJ from last year.

Jon Kueper

Sam: Well, you are right in the sense that if he’s done anything lately it’s cut down my trade/amnesty Boozer emails. Now they want Kirk out. Thibs, as we know doesn’t criticize players, so when he compliments them it’s not as credible since you can’t balance it against the criticism. But my sense is the coaching staff and management are fine with Kirk given how physical he plays and gets himself involved in so many plays. That’s those little things. Sure, everyone would like to see him make a few shots, no one more than he. He takes playing very personal and he’s seemed lately to avoid taking some shots. He’s got to get back to not worrying about it as much since he does the other parts of the game. The risk factor with him is he plays so hard he does tend to get injured.

So coming into the year I sorted of expected the Bulls to continue to dominate the glass all the time like the last 2 years. While they are still a good rebounding team, they aren’t as good. I assumed at first it must be b/c of Asik, but the more I watch the games it feels like Derrick even impacts our rebounding offensively. He just gets in the lane so much and causes help to come off of our bigs and then they are able to clean up the glass.

Michael Koltun

Sam: It’s a good point and one of those things that go unnoticed and is difficult to replace. The Bulls are seventh, which is good. Yes, losing Asik costs some and given they are three rebounds behind No. 1, that could be enough there. But you are correct in there are so many ways a player like Rose makes the game easier for everyone else: More open looks for shots and, as you noted, better lanes for second shots given you often have everyone on the court going toward him. He is missed. Consider that my understatement of the week.

I have heard that Marco Belinelli is only on a one year contract. I really like his game and he looks like he is starting to feel more comfortable with the Bulls system. Is Gar Forman going to offer him a longer term contract?

Richard Meagher

Sam: Again, it depends more on what they can do next summer and what they most need. Assuming Hamilton finishes the season with the team they’ll likely buy him out and let him become a free agent. Belinelli has shown he can be a competent shooting guard. After all, he has been a starter and has shown he has more versatility than Kyle Korver even if he isn’t quite the shooter, but still a good one. He’ll obviously check the market as well. I think the Bulls would be fine with bringing him back, but then it will depend on whether he gets a bigger offer.

Apparently I missed the memo that Rip was a problem for the team. It seems he's getting severely underrated and at times even being pushed to be dropped or traded for nothing. The guy is averaging 14 points a game and has looked very solid other than the injury, but people after looking at Marco's stretch have decided Rip is not producing for their liking and think Marco is the answer. They are even going as far to say Rip is done. Are people's short term memory the worst this year?

Julian Hayes

Sam: What did you just say? Oh, Hamilton. I, too, thought Hamilton was playing well when he was hurt. He keeps himself in good shape, but it takes time when you miss a month, which it looks like he will. So right there you can assume there’ll be no trade. Who’s trading for an injured veteran? He knows how to get shots, is a good passer and a guy who can help. I don’t see how you are better trading him, especially with the expiring contract that gives you opportunities down the road. I don’t believe the Bulls motivation is to give up potential wins to get out of the luxury tax. But I also don’t see a single team considered a championship contender that needs a shooting guard who doesn’t shoot many threes. Certainly not New York or Miami. Or Oklahoma City, San Antonio, the Clippers or the Lakers.

If these guys keep doing what they're doing, adding a healthy Rose is going to make a very exiting and dangerous team, provided Rose is about where you'd expect. It's not so hard to game plan the old Bulls. Wall off Rose and make the other guys beat you. Add a basically-recovered Rose to this bunch and what do you do? it costs resources to wall off Rose like that and cheat to the front of the rim. Bulls have a raft of slashers of which Noah has been making excellent use. Butler, Deng, Gibson, Boozer, Belinelli
(in a different sort of way), Robinson, and Teague, too. Hinrich can do it if he'd just focus a little and open his mind. Noah gets in on the fun when he's off the ball and it's Boozer or Hamilton making the pass.
They have mid-range shooters for second option: Hamilton, Boozer, Deng. Butler if he can relax a little. Gibson when he's on. It's been a really great season so far, but the Bulls failure to capitalize on their assets with an open-court game...that's been a disappointment. Rose or no, the fun of this season was going to see what is the identity of this team. That's on-going, and with the effort and commitment of
this bunch so's the fun.

Pete Zievers

Sam: Does this mean I have to change my preseason predictions?

I always wanted to ask you this question. How about the NBA banishes the "foul out". Fouls as a team still count towards the bonus and what not, but I don't know any other sport that prohibits a team from playing their best player at all times. In the NFL, you don't take out Tom Brady for committing 3 delay of games. I don't know, it's just like an unwritten rule nowadays to take out a starter who has committed 2 fouls in the first quarter and I think it prevents the NBA from displaying their stars at all times. If Dwight Howard (or insert any other impact player) has 5 fouls in the 4th quarter, he's going to ease up and not play as good as he can which is detrimental to the game of basketball as a whole.

Vic Santiago

Sam: I’ve never been a great one for redoing the game. I’ve always been more adjusting to things as they are. In other words, I wouldn’t have been a Founding Father. This has been brought up many times as making the NBA unique for allowing its best players to be taken out of the game. I wouldn’t oppose some sort of situation where after six fouls there are penalties which would be restrictive. There were foul outs of a sort in the original rules of the game. You hear the word cagers sometimes to describe basketball players. That’s because the game in the early years at times was played in cages because it was so rough. So there were some foul out penalties in the original game, much of which is obviously outdated, because of the rough nature of the game. I’m not saying the officials take care of these issues for the fans, but you rarely ever see a top player foul out. So there’s probably in practicality no compelling reason to change the rules.

I've been reading more lately about the idea of changing the off-the-ball foul rule or the so-called hack-a-whomever. Part of me thinks that it makes sense to call such an action a flagrant one give the team 2 shots and a side-out and thus let the issue resolve itself. The other side that I can't quite shake is why reward incompetence? I realize the rules have been changed for single players before but those were instances of dominance (wider lanes, zone defense). Here we have players being protected for not mastering a skill that most 3rd graders master. What are your thoughts on such a rule change? Is game flow truly at-risk?

Michael Aumiller

Sam: Another change of the greatest game? Yes, I hate to see the game stop with those fouls of Dwight Howard and a few other guys. The commissioner actually tried to change it a few years back, but the coaches and GMs were against it. They, like you, suggested the game not reward incompetence. I probably wouldn’t do it if I were coaching. It’s not great for the game. But you can’t bail out guys who are too lazy or lousy to learn how to do one of the basic skills of the game.

So the hot topic lately seems to be Noah and Deng and their minutes. I honestly don't see what all the fuss is about. I mean, let's say a guy plays 37 minutes a night, that is perfectly ok. But at 40 minutes a night, suddenly the coach should be fired. Does 3 minutes really affect a guy that much, even if it is over the course of a season? These are some of the most athletic and well looked after human beings on the planet. I can hardly see how playing for 3 minutes more than everyone else can be such an issue.

Daniel George

Sam: Me and Thibs, neither. And just about every NBA player who played before 1990 when they started taking charters and became insulted if they didn’t stay in a Ritz or Four Seasons. And do you know they travel with masseuses. Rarely did they used to get massages from the traveling secretary, who also was trainer, equipment man and strength coach. Man up, you babies!

Any thought given to signing Troy Murphy? Any thought given to signing him and waiving V-Rad? What about a Delonte West signing with Heinrich in and out of the line up and Nate too short to start any length of time beyond a game or two... I know he has a reputation, but I feel he is more misunderstood than a problem starter.

Ben Woodhouse

Sam: I’m not fully sure why they don’t even give Radmanovic a look, though it’s probably about what happens in practice, which we don’t see. But Murphy is long regarded as a guy who doesn’t defend, so he likely wouldn’t make sense. As for West, you don’t want to take on dealing with his problems, especially with Nate Robinson on the team. Now that would be quite a locker room.

What is the likelihood of Derrick Rose surprising Bulls fans on Christmas Day, against the Houston Rockets, with a greeting from the United Center before tip-off, followed by his much anticipated debut? It would seem to be the most logical next step towards appeasing and enticing Bulls fans, who consider themselves on the Derrick Rose recovery journey, and would appear to be the perfect transition into the new year--the year of his return.

Tyler Donnavan

Sam: Then he better speed up that rehab.

I love the way Teague has played recently, but If Hinrich stays healthy (a big if), do you think the rookie gets buried on the bench again? Maybe Thibs slides Hinrich over to the 2 in stretches with Rip out to make room for Robinson/Teague. This will eventually be Hinrich's role anyway, once Rose returns.

Tony Zylstra

Sam: Thibs has played rookies, but usually only after there was a need, like Omer after Noah got hurt. But putting Teague in early in the Boston game showed that he has begun to trust him more than usual. So I expect Teague to get some minutes. But let’s not get carried away. He’s 19 and a rookie. What it does is give Thibodeau an option when Nate Robinson begins to go off the tracks. But backup quarterbacks and rookie point guards generally are what we think they are.

Now that Marco Belinelli has shown he can score and has a nice ball handling, you think Coach Tom Thibs considered to play together Belinelli and Rip Hamilton "as necessary and appropriate" to have more scorers on the court.

Piero Paguaga

Sam: It’s probably not a defensive lineup Thibs would embrace. But it does present some possible options the more shooters you can put on the floor, especially the way Noah can pass and the way the Bulls usually move the ball. Once Hamilton is ready to go I’d like to see it a time or two.

Does the Bulls pursuit of Raja Bell mean they are thinking Playoffs? Perhaps looking for a solid wing defender for LeBron?

Mike Burling

Sam: Given he’s 36, was sent home by his team this season and has missed most of the last three seasons with injuries and disciplinary issues, I’d say if the Bulls are interested that must mean they are going for the lottery.

Over the previous two seasons, Bulls fans were warned to curb their enthusiasm over their deep bench, because in the playoffs the starters see far greater minutes played (thus Miami's edge over Chicago). Thus, even with a somewhat downgraded bench this season, if Rose returns around the All-Star break and is in full form by late-April, The Bulls would have the same starting five as they had last year, with Taj still coming off the bench. Obviously they won't have HCA throughout the playoffs, but would we have reason for optimism to beat The Knicks or Nets in a 1st or 2nd round matchup if such is the case?

Mike Burgher

Sam: It is an interesting proposition to consider, and one, actually, I think the Bulls worry of most, that the East isn’t all that great and if Derrick could only play a little bit more…I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bulls were just wishing for a quiet first round exit. But we know Thibs never would be. Right now, the Heat and Knicks look like the only serious teams in the East. Everyone else has flaws. And even without Rose teams like the Nets, 76ers, Pacers, Celtics and Hawks seem to be teams the Bulls can match up against and hardly better than the Bulls. And the way the Heat keeps getting pounded on the boards you have to think there is vulnerability there. Same with New York and all its perimeter three point shooting. You can make the case for the Bulls pulling a playoff upset. But so can you for several other teams. This season still has the possibility of a surprise. Parity can be entertaining.

Throwback Question: How good of a backcourt was Van Lier & Sloan in their heyday?

Tony Reed

Sam: They were good, though more fun to watch, actually. Consider two guys who weren’t great natural athletes. So they stuck their bodies into you and bumped and banged you wherever you went. They never congratulated anyone after they lost. They never hugged someone they played against. They were called the dirtiest players in the league because they simply wouldn’t let it be easy for you. They drove fancy Walt Frazier crazy because they wouldn’t let him dribble where he wanted to go. Phil Jackson once told me the Knicks of that era, who won two titles in four seasons, hated most playing the Bulls. Players like Frazier, JoJo White, Rick Barry and Billy Cunningham, athletic free style players, complained constantly about Sloan and Van Lier, accusing them regularly of being dirty. The Bulls backcourt wasn’t that talented, but the big stars of the day hated playing against them. You would have loved watching them.

I wondered if you have any thoughts on ESPN's John Hollinger being hired by Memphis. Is a front office job the dream of many NBA writers? Do you think many would have any success if ever given any real responsibility?

Jack Murphy

Sam: It appears John is going to be more an analytics guy with a position under the GM decision maker, so we’ll never know how good or bad he is. Obviously, there’s a fantasy in everyone about running a team, hence the popularity of the fantasy sports. It’s really an unusual job because almost everyone who has it is not qualified to do it. Most of the GMs are former players. The job is in many respects a financial job with considerations about budgets, salary caps and other economic matters. There’s no degree required like in law or a test like in accounting. Actually, it’s like journalism, where someone writes something down and that’s it. And then they call you a journalist. And many other things under their breath. Being a team executive is a tough job because of the rare public nature of it that after you do something everyone is grading you on it. I joke with journalist friends who are so critical of players. I ask about trying to write with 18,000 people behind you telling, “Verb, you moron, verb.” I personally have thought about being a team official. The bigger draw is the money, which is anywhere from 10 to 50 times more than reporters make. Which is significant. I think we’d all like one contract and then to be fired. But I prefer the independence of writing and having a voice because once you’re inside, there is one voice, and that’s the GM’s, and if you don’t agree, too bad. You have to pretend you do. I’ve also never been very good with authority figures, who obviously know less than I do. Good for John. I hope he does well. Now if he’d like to talk about moving Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph for Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson…

Why does everyone keep harassing Thibs? We have a winning record, a lot of strong personalities that haven’t caused any trouble all year, a happy team, so why all these rumors of management being upset of his coaching style, sure he plays Noah and Deng a lot of minutes but that’s managements fault for not resigning Asik or someone other than Nazr. What do people expect? Good coaching is not reflected in just wins! Everyone loses some times. I think people should stop trying to break down his coaching style so much and appreciate what he has done.

Fernando Vega

Sam: I think fans basically do appreciate Thibodeau. Unless the team loses two straight, of course. I don’t think there is any great issue with management since they just signed him to a four-year extension. They didn’t have to go that long, basically giving a coach a five-year deal counting this season. It’s rare in the NBA and suggests they want stability with their coach. So if there were misgivings, why would you give anyone a long contract, five years being a lifetime in the NBA. Exactly, you wouldn’t.

I know everyone is talking about Kevin Love, and pairing him with D Rose. I don't see this happening, but for fun I'll ask you. If K Love did become available how far would and should the Bulls be willing to go to get him, and would it be enough?

Sergio Lopez

Sam: I dealt with that mostly last week. But if you were to acquire Love it probably would cost Noah and Deng and perhaps a first round pick given Love already has been a multiple All-Star, Olympic gold medal winner and double-double machine. That is what it would have cost to acquire Carmelo Anthony. Would you do that? And, by the way, even with all their injuries the Timberwolves are 13-11, barely less than the Bulls. Maybe he’d get to Chicago and realize the weather and record isn’t much different than Minneapolis and be unhappy again. And no one would want a sad Kevin Love and then the Bulls would have to trade him, maybe for Sebastian Telfair.

If you were Bulls management would you take a chance on Wade when the Heat start dumping salary in 2014?

Terrence Wells

Sam: I know the theory of late is when the Miami Three have opt outs in 2014 they’ll leave. I guess it’s possible, though Bosh and James will only be about 30 then. One of the things you hear is that LeBron will go to the Lakers to replace Kobe and play with Dwight Howard. We have long learned anything is possible in the NBA. And these guys do try to work out these super teams. Given the Bulls history in free agency I wouldn’t hold my breath. Wade is the one whom most believe will fade fastest given how many injuries he’s had in his career and he’ll be 32, which is not that old, except perhaps for him. Though given Wade’s off the court marital and custody issues it would seem unlikely he’d want to move back to be near his former wife.

With our division so weak is it possible that we get to the fourth seed with a sub .500 record? At this point I don't really care about our record as long as it is above the Bucks and Pacers. What is the plan going forward? It seems like the organization is going to basically sacrifice this and next year, amnesty Boozer for his last year, bring over Mirotic, then test free agency. Is that the sense you get from management?

Jantzen Suan

Sam: The Bulls could win the Central, though I doubt under .500. I don’t get the sense there’s any classic master plan in place that cannot change. I sense it’s all about evolution and reacting to events. You never know who’ll be the latest star player to get cranky and want to leave. If you put it in order, I’d say this season is devoted to easing Derrick Rose back onto the team, trying to make the playoffs and then perhaps getting hot enough to steal a round in the playoffs. Then next season will be to add some players around the edges with perhaps the two exceptions the Bulls have and assuming Rose is back and at full health having an actual chance with their depth to compete and be back about where the Bulls were the previous two seasons, close but maybe not quite good enough. Then comes the hard questions for 2014 when the Bulls could have major cap room for free agents: Resign Deng or let him go? Amnesty Boozer? Go under the cap to get in free agency? Trying 2010 all over again? Trying to sign Mirotic, which requires cap room or a good exception. That’s when we’ll find out if there is a plan or not.

Over the last couple of years I've noticed that coach Thibs likes to say things like "day to day" just to keep the media from asking more questions so that he can keep his own focus as well as his teams on the next game and not the player who isn't with them. Is it possible he is saying "a ways away" with Rose to lead everyone away from the Rose topic? After all if people hear he is a week or 2 away from practicing that's all people would care about. Granted his scar tissue still has to heal more than anything, With all that he is doing now it seems his return to practice in some kind of capacity, be it limited 2 on nothing drills, is imminent. I know his return isn't close, but maybe his return to practice is.

Tony Bowens

Sam: I think you have that right in the way Thibodeau works. Though it’s also Thibs’ Bill Belichick impersonation, though I think Thibs was turned down in his attempt to wear cut off hoodie sweat shirts at games. Everyone in the organization wants to limit any talk about Derrick and a return so the current roster can concentrate on the direction of the team. There’s also this feeling that dates to return to practice, play, etc., is doing a disservice to Rose and perhaps putting pressure on him to return that he doesn’t need. Rose has talked about patience constantly and so has the team. They’ve from the beginning seem to have made it pretty clear Rose isn’t playing at the earliest until late February. But they also know Rose feels obligated with his new contract starting this season. So they don’t want him pushing to return or feeling he has to and letting down fans. Of course, it will be totally a medical decision. But for Rose’s sake the feeling seems to be they pretty much have outlined the date of a potential return and more media discussion about it is meaningless since nothing has changed.

Assuming no trade will be made before the return of Derrick Rose and no injuries are present, how does the Bulls bench react? Does Rip start with Rose? Even Butler seems like he may be able to play this spot along with Kirk and Nate.

Ruben Gonzalez

Sam: Once Rose is ready, Thibodeau would start him with Hamilton. The bench would be much deeper with Hinrich joining it. And then everyone will say how this helped the bench, your basic blessing in disguise nonsense, by giving more guys so many useful minutes. Which isn’t true, but teams like to say that.

Enough is enough... When are all these people gonna stop hating on C Boozer. Every time I am at the UC people are booing him. Every time I am watching a game with a group of people they are talking trash when he messes up. Every week there are at least 4-5 people on your blog "trading" him because they dont like him... I did a little research on the Bulls' webpage and there were only about 6-7 games when he was outplayed by the other team' power forward (points and rebounds). . I am not talking individual stats for the season, I am talking about power forwards when they play against the Bulls. He even had more rebounds and points than Blake Griffin last week. He is not a flashy player who does power dunks and crazy blocks but he will hit that mid-range shot better than most guys on our team. Boozer is a role player and he is doing his job pretty well. One of the best shooters in the team and I think he is the healthiest player last and this season so far. As I said, enough is enough...

Victor Nachev

Sam: Though I still get the occasional trade suggestion, it seems most have gotten bored with the Boozer bashing and now want Kirk Hinrich traded for Durant and Westbrook or just some popcorn from an Oklahoma City vendor.

I read in your Monday column that Rose may have minutes limits when he returns. We do know that minutes limits as not worked well in Chicago right? Jordan feuding with coaches and management over it in 86, Vinny Del Negro vs John Paxson. Plus minutes seems to be an extremely sensitive topic in Chicago more than any other place in America for whatever reason.

John Swank

Sam: First, yes, it is interesting how much commentary there is from fans here about players playing 40 minutes instead of 37. Bu Thibodeau has demonstrated it’s not an issue for him, and fans do get upset when the best players are not in the game. True, the limitations have not gone well in the past. But I expect no issue this time because of that. Derrick is not Michael in the sense he’s not going to challenge management to put him out there. He’s guided by his family and they seem on board with whatever limits the Bulls pursue. Thibs just signed an extension and has made it clear he plays players only after the doctor said he can play. I suspect there’ll be minutes limitations and limits on four in five nights, three in four, back to back, whatever. Management has made it clear this is about patience and small steps. Derrick seems on board with that, which should diminish any real issues.

Why is there so much disrespect with Pau Gasol? 4 time All-Star. Very smart at the low post. Good shooter. Without him, 0 rings. With him, 3 finals and 2 rings so...I think Lakers management must be fired because you have 2 monsters in the paint and you bring D'Antoni who only wants to paint at home!

Toni Toha

Sam: Nice shot at Mike. We all know Phil Jackson was the right coach, but the owner made a unilateral decision, which is the hard part when you are a team executive and have to pretend the owner always is right. I think Gasol is terrific and you can make the case the way Dwight Howard is playing that Howard is the fourth best center in the Staples Center after Colin Fraser (didn’t think I could name a hockey guy, eh), DeAndre Jordan and Gasol.