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Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 12.23.11

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

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

How about this trade for Howard?

Gibson (will need an extension)
Jimmy Butler (Rookie Contract)
CJ Watson (Expiring Contract)
Ronnie Brewer (Expiring Contract)
Rights to Nikola mirotic (Possibly the best PF in Europe, will be a Rookie Contract)
2016 Bobcat’s pick

Is this too much? Could the Lakers or Nets beat that?

Leon Kraut

Sam: I continue to get a lot of suggestions about trading for Howard, so I’ll get to it right away. Not happening, and, frankly, my dear, I no longer could give a heck for that Atlanta native. It’s mostly a non starter because Howard has made it pretty clear he doesn’t want to be in Chicago. I suspect it’s some combination of what will keep him from ever being a champion: He fears being outshined by Derrick Rose but doesn’t understand he cannot ultimately succeed unless he’s with a better player than he is. The other part is as I’ve watched the Bulls—and granted it’s a limited sample—I like their chances and their team now and I’d be loath to break it up to that level or any level that would require losing at least Noah and Deng to get Howard. I believe the Bulls can compete for a title as composed, and I have growing doubts about Howard’s stability. I mostly say immature, but that clown act he often displays with the Superman outfits and outsized behavior suggests a still mixed up kid who might want to take his ball and leave at any time. The Bulls have a very serious coach with very serious players who seem intent on taking all this very seriously, at least to the level of its importance. Howard’s constant vacillation and ambivalence suggests someone you might not be able to count on and who could split your group. Not that you don’t want an elite center, but Noah may well fit this particular Bulls group better than Howard by keeping the middle open more for movement and running the court.

Am I the only Bulls fan who's uneasy about the possibility of trading for Dwight Howard? Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see D12 in Chicago. But everyone talks about giving up Jo, Lu, Omer and draft picks like it's a no-brainer. In my book, that's a lot to consider giving away - especially when you consider the X-factor of chemistry that is clearly so crucial to our team right now, but which would be severely disrupted by a trade like that. Also, this may be hometown bias talking, but the fact that Chicago is not already at the top of Dwight's list says something to me. If he was really all about winning, he'd be saying, "Get me to Chicago, get me playing with Derrick Rose!" But clearly he has other priorities. Is that really the guy we want - especially at such a high price?

Geoff Robson

Sam: I think Gar Forman and John Paxson may be some of the other Bulls fans thinking as you do.

We are deep, but with so many talented players on the team are there going to be enough minutes to go around. Ronnie Brewer seems like the guy to get pinched.

Jared Shafer

Sam: I classify this under the category of “This would be good thing.” No one knows how the shortened season will go. The consensus would be to favor young and deep teams, but in 1999 the Knicks, who were old, cranky and injured made it to the Finals. And ancient Avery Johnson was the hero for the Spurs in the clincher. Thibodeau will likely use 10 guys and perhaps even more importantly, this is a group of players without the apparent jealousies and who seem willing and anxious to play their roles. Given the compressed schedule, already I’ve seen in the upcoming schedule Thibodeau calling for more days off than he did last season. I suspect as well there’ll be reduced minutes as the season progresses and plenty of time for the second unit.

I am pushing to get Derrick's nickname main streamed: The Silent Assassin. our great Champion deserves this nickname!

Ryan Henry

Sam: I suspect a guy who doesn’t like to draw attention to himself is fine with D. Rose and especially Pooh, which comes from the family. Don’t mistake Rose for guys like LeBron, who called himself King. Guys who seek out and endorse nicknames are often about themselves. Why so many like Derrick is they can tell he’s not about affectations, but teamwork and sincerity. He is how you would like your favorites to be. It’s wonderful to have a sports star you don’t have to apologize for or wince about his actions and behavior. Really, as talented as James is, he makes it awfully tough to embrace him at times.

Do you think that the Bulls will feel slighted that none of the preseason prognosticators have them finishing above the Heat in the Eastern Conference? The Heat did not add anyone of significance. Battier is a good pickup, but their biggest upside would be if they all stay healthy, especially Haslem and Miller. And, if they all learn to play together. They have the same weaknesses. It’s the same Heat as last year.

The Bulls are younger, so you would think that they have more upside individually. Plus, Noah and Boozer were injured for most of last year and they should have better seasons. Finally, adding Hamilton has been over-looked for some reason. The Hamilton pickup upgrades our weakest link and should put the Bulls over the top. That Eastern Conf playoff series was close and the Bulls easily could have won 3 of those 5 games last year. In fact, after game 1, everyone was picking the Bulls to win the series!

Bob Mestjian

Sam: You can use the old motivation thing about proving them wrong, which Michael employed at times to keep himself interested. But I don’t see this Bulls team about that. You are right in that the Bulls have mostly been viewed by media—I can assure you not opponents—as other guys. It’s because most media members are generally not very good at the prediction business. They are best after the fact telling you why it happened. Most national media members are like newspaper general columnists: They know a little about a lot of things, but not much about any one thing. Similarly with national media prognosticators because they have to cover so much ground and watch so many teams. So they shortcut and tend to favor jerseys over teams. So they pick the last good team they saw and the big names, which is why Boston, Dallas and the Lakers are getting more credibility than they deserve. Miami is very good and deserving, but hardly a sure thing. And the West is wide, wide open. It should be more an NFL-type season with more newcomers emerging, which should make it entertaining. Still, it’s not like the Bulls are being dismissed. And, again, it’s up to them to show they can get there. When and if they do they’ll get the credit. And plenty saying they knew it all along.

I think we are still short of Miami and think they ultimately will continue to beat us unless we get a superstar to play alongside Rose as 1 and 1A.Boozer is not good enough in this role. I think Deng is a perfect #3 option offensively and is even more valuable when you consider what he brings in our defensive system. Noah is a fantastic defensive center who brings the energy, rebounds. Brewer, Korver, Butler, Watson,etc are all nice bench players to fill in roles. If we could get this superstar at the PF spot then I am ok with Hamilton as the SG who is the #4 offensive option behind Rose. But as we have seen with James, Melo, Amare, Bosh, Paul, Howard these guys have a way of coming available and eventually we have to get one of them to become a true title contender.

Matt Bessetti

Sam: Well, that is the question most in the national media raise, which is why they dismiss the Bulls. But Dirk did fairly well last season without another All-Star to play with. And Noah likely would have been an All-Star had he not been injured. The season the Pistons won, Ben Wallace was their only All-Star, and we found out that was pretty bogus. And there were long debates about whether Scottie Pippen was a star or a terrific role player for many years. I don’t think you can win without one great star, even if those 2004 Pistons did. But the Bulls have him, and they’ve got several guys in the top 10 at their positions. That puts them right there in this NBA in my view.

Does BG regret not taking the 50 mil offer from the bulls? You think he is miserable in Detroit? I think things worked out great for us

Mike Sutera

Sam: Players never admit that certainly, and I often wonder the same thing about Joe Johnson, who is seeing the rest of his career slide into oblivion in Atlanta instead of playing next to Rose and being talked about as a potential champion. He went for $125 mil over $95 mil. Ben went for $60 some mil over the $50 mil from the Bulls. So how knows, but he seems destined for the bench again with a team that still hasn’t hit bottom and an awfully crowded backcourt. You don’t even hear Ben talked about anymore as a sixth man of the year candidate. He was a secondary star coming out of that great Boston series. Now, he’s just another guy somewhere, Joe Johnson in bad weather. I know how I’d feel. But as I’ve always written, I am comfortable with $50 million. Not everyone is.

I know most NBA players add an inch or two to their actual height but how does Rip Hamilton measure up to other players that are listed at 6'7"? He looks awefully small and at most looks about 6'5".

Jay Choi

Sam: I haven’t gone back to back with him yet. But I know he’s taller than most anyone who’s played there in the last decade. Other than perhaps Ron Mercer, so 6-5 works for me.

You wrote that Rip is the best all around shooting guard since MJ. Who do you think is the better player, a 33 year old Rip, or the Bulls version of Gordon?

James Tahir

Sam: I go for Hamilton because of size, ability to play defense, playoff experience against top guards like Dwyane Wade and the shirt contract. Maybe in four years you’d rather have Ben. But for now, Hamilton seems an ideal fit and I think the Bulls will get a terrific season out of him given the contending situation and his desire to show it was the Pistons and not him.

I read your “Rose continues his story–and it could be history” article which hits all the proper points…however, calling Derrick the only sports star in Chicago may cause an all out revolt from hockey fans…you see there’s a 23-year old on the Hawks that’s awfully good in Jonathan Towes…most “experts” say he’s well on his way to earning the MVP this year too…of course, he’s got a little more hardware than Derrick has…he captained the Hawks to the Stanley Cup at 22 and he also led Team Canada to Olympic Gold. I know the NHL is not in the same universe as the NBA as far as revenues so Towes will never see $100 million, but hockey fans are nuts (my brother and cousin share season tickets so I know!) and I want you to watch your back…I waited all summer to start reading your articles again…I don’t want you knocked off by some crazed hockey fan at this point.

Marc A. Brauer

Sam: I appreciate the heads up. Though to paraphrase Lloyd Bensten—and who wouldn’t when they have the chance—I know stars and Toews isn’t one (by the way, you’ll have to check the 1988 vice presidential debate if you don’t get the reference). I have no doubt Toews is a fabulous player and a reason why the Blackhawks are so successful. I’m not much up on hockey these days, but I know stars. Bobby Hull was a star. Stan Mikita was great, but not a star on that level. There’s more to stardom than being a terrific player and leading your team to success. Is Dirk a star? Not really. Great, sure. It’s not always definable, but, to quote Potter Stewart, “I know it when I see it (yes, I’m causing you a lot of work to follow this answer).” Michael was a star before titles and MVP’s. Hockey, I know, has a small, hard core audience. They are very loyal. But it is not a sport to match the NBA in general interest if you check most general measures, like TV ratings and general word of mouth. I listen to Chicago sports talk radio occasionally and have yet to hear Toews’ name mentioned. It’s not scientific, but like the newspaper man on the street when they go to a bar and ask questions. If people called and asked questions about Toews, they’d answer. But relax. I will, too. This is the only email I received objecting to calling Derrick the city’s only true sports star. And to quote one of my favorite former Chicago columnists, Bernie Lincicome, “I still can’t see the puck.”

In the past their were rumblings about having Brian Scalabrini as a coach. Would the Bulls consider something similar for Keith Bogans? As much an offer of thank you for being a solid leader and good to the organization. I wonder this because with his late release, he really seemed to get short changed, with fewer opportunities to lock on with another team. It seems like this could be a great way to build goodwill by creating a position for a player who sacrificed for the team, and the team returning the favor. Is this something the Bulls might consider doing if Bogans does not get another opportunity this year?

Chris DeMay

Sam: I doubt it. The Bulls have plenty of good coaches who were role playing former players in Adrian Griffin, Ed Pinckney and Rick Brunson. Bogans had a nice season, but perhaps if anything, he owes the Bulls for helping resurrect his career by giving him 82 starts after he basically came with no offers last summer. Plus, he signed the deal that gave the Bulls the option date. And, oh, there was that 1.6 million the Bulls paid him last season, which would seem favor enough.

Any idea why the Lakers didn't pick up Billups off of waivers? PG is obviously their biggest need and right now the Clippers have the best 3 PGs in this game!

Billy Habibi

Sam: The new rules created a sort of waiver system in which only teams under the cap could bid. The Lakers were not under. So the Clippers won the bid at about $2 million, which means they pay him $2 million and the Knicks get $2 million off what they owe. It was designed to stop the double dipping some players do and running to the best team, though Baron Davis pulled it off, apparently, by seemingly exaggerating the severity of his back injury and being passed over in the waiver process. Once that happens, a player can sign anywhere and get the extra payment.

Can you shed any light on the somewhat mysterious origins of the Derrick Rose rule in the new CBA? While I have seen the rule mentioned many times I have not seen any reference as to its author. I assume it must have been Rose's agent who slipped that in the agreement, but who knows? Also, what impact will the rule have on the Bulls' ability to manage its salary cap and luxury tax issues? It seems like a competitor would be happy that the Bulls have to deal with the rule.

Bruce Berger

Sam: Yes, it’s new in the labor agreement. It apparently came in late and probably was due to some heavy horse trading by Rose’s representatives, who do represent a lot of players. Anyway, a clause was inserted to allow certain players a maximum deal up to 30 percent of the salary cap from 25 who were All-Star starters, and an apparent addendum to add players who won the MVP. That would be only Derrick as he was an All-Star starter just once, thus coining the term. Technically, yes, paying Derrick more would limit Bulls flexibility in the future, which is obvious. But the Bulls seemed only too happy to do so and would have loved to for another five years. They still hold the alltime record for highest salary in sports history, Michael’s $33.6 million in 1997-98. They understand Derrick’s importance to the team and I haven’t heard anyone complain.

With Boozer, Rose, Hamilton and Deng, could the Bulls have 4 players averaging 17+ points per game? What's your prediction for their averages at the end of the season?

David Yuen

Sam: I’m not much into that sort of prediction, though I expect Rose’s average to decrease, which it should with Hamilton over Bogans. Deng always seems to stay around where he is, 17, 18 and I think Boozer could be up around 18 or 19. The Bulls look like they’ll try to remedy what I felt was an issue last season with getting more easy baskets, the lack of which came back to hurt them against Miami. So that could lead to higher scoring games and thus four players with those averages.

Has a team with an mvp ever won the finals and then had a different player named finals mvp?

Aaron ward

Sam: Magic in 1980 after Kareem won. There aren’t many unusual Finals MVP’s, though Tony Parker and Chauncey Billups would quality. I assume you are wondering regarding the Bulls, and knowing Derrick he’d love to see something like that happen for a teammate if the Bulls got there. But I don’t see Derrick an MVP with an improved Bulls team and lower scoring from him, assuming that occurs. Many point to those 2004 Pistons as a Bulls model because of the lack of a big star other than Derrick, but you assume if the Bulls ever did get there Derrick would be the one to excel.

Now that we have Rip, what do u think of us adding another shooter/defender in guard Mickael Pietrus who just got waived?

Jermaine Jackson

Sam: The Bulls have enough guys now. Plus, who knows if Pietrus can play. He had surgery this summer and was traded to the Raptors and failed the physical. If a team like the Suns which needs some defensive component dumps him you assume there might be some issues. Plus, he’s never been a guy who has taken well to a reserve role and certainly not being a 10th man. The chemistry is too good on the Bulls to mess with someone like that. And, no, they’ll have no interest in J.R. Smith whenever he returns.

Are the bulls able to keep Taj and Asik together for the future? Just knowing that someone gave Kwame Brown a contract for 7 million makes me wonder. I think Asik is a restricted free agent after this year but if a team offers 7-9 million a year for his services I do see the bulls matching the contract!! Part of what makes the bulls soo good is their defensive big man. If they loseTaj, Asik or both for next year, does this mean this season is the bulls best chance to win a championship??

Orlando Mancera

Sam: It will be a touchy question. They do have Taj for at least another season, so perhaps they consider a deal for one. Though for now, and I agree as that’s your strength, you take a shot and try to figure that out later. I get the sense from Omer that he isn’t only about money as he comes from a comfortable family and if the Bulls are fair I’d like to think he would be as well. And if you are serious about being with a winner I assume you’d do everything you can to try to stay around Derrick Rose.

With Kurt Thomas gone now, who do you think would be the perfect addition for the bulls to fill that spot? should they go with "young legs"? or the "savvy vet" route?

Jeremiah J. Chavez

Sam: I think the Bulls will wait to see how the team does and who is and becomes available regarding big men. It’s not a necessity now with the Bulls planning to use Asik more. I’d want a veteran who doesn’t feel he has to play every game—because he won’t—and who isn’t chasing the next contract, which a young guy would be.

I must say i found it hilarious that all of these Keith Bogan loyalists had randomly materialized out of seemingly nothing. I assume they are the very same fans who were storming the Berto Center with torches and pitchforks screaming for his exile from the Windy City last year. My question today comes about Rip Hamilton who by the way, played beautifully the other night. Given how importantly we all feel about chemistry on this Bulls team, were you surprised that the Bulls were willing to take a shot at Hamilton who had highly publicized issues in Detroits locker room? And are you worried that there could be a potential disruption from him at some point during his tenure in Chicago?

Trevor Hoffler

Sam: I did some research and it seemed Keith had more relatives than I thought. Anyway, as for Rip I’m usually wary of problem guys. But that was an unusually bad situation and you can get sucked into that. Rip never was a really problem guy before and always has been known as kind of a follower, a guy who’ll go with the elements, good or bad. The Bulls have a particularly good group, and a good group can always absorb one problem guy if he’s that. Drew Gooden might have been OK when he was with the Bulls, but Larry Hughes was too much. It’s like when Rodman came to the Bulls. Around serious workers he became as serious as he was capable and no distraction. A good group cannot be taken down by one bad guy. The Bulls in turn will be great for Hamilton, who’ll also want to extricate that reputation, which he never felt he deserved. So I suspect he’ll be even better.

i saw this rumor in spanish. It basicly says gasol for boozer and korver.

Los Bulls, el equipo que más fuerte pujó por Pau Gasol cuando estaba en los Grizzlies justo antes de ser traspasado a los Lakers, parece que vuelve a la carga por el español años después. Según publica la web 'gather.com', y que recoge 'tubasket.com', los Bulls estudian ofrecer a los Lakers al tirador Kyle Korver y al fornido Carlos Boozer a cambio del ala-pívot español. En el caso de cuajar este hipotético traspaso Pau Gasol formaría una de las mejores parejas interiores de la NBA junto a Noah (un jugador complementario al estilo del español) y compartiría vestuario con Derrick Rose, el MVP más joven de la historia de la NBA.

Omar DeJesus

Sam: Yes, I’ve gotten this one from several fans. I’ve been told it comes from newspapers in Spain, which is another of the dangers of the internet. My high school Spanish tells me it means if you think the Lakers are going to trade Pau Gasol for Boozer and Korver, I’ve got some wooden euros for you. One way to identify bad rumors—and business deals—is if they sound too good. Though I think this one really read Boozer and Korver for Mau Gasol, his mother.

In my mind and admittedly I did not watch as much Jazz ball as I do Bulls ball, but it seems like Boozer is at his best in the pick and roll game when he can get the ball on the elbow and either take the jumper or roll to the hoop where he has a real nice left handed finish. I feel like putting Boozer in the post a la Elton Brand is trying to force a round peg into a square hole. You already have one of the best pick and roll point guards in the league, why do they insist on setting screens with Noah instead of Boozer who's far more of a threat to hit 10-15 footers than Joakim is (though I do love the watching Noah's jumpers go in)

Tim Chamberlain

Sam: They do it with Boozer as well, but he tends to not put his body into screens much, which minimizes its effect. But they have had him at the elbow shooting and passing, which he’s done reasonably well in the two exhibition games.

I've seen some games of Real Madrid and the kid (Mirotic) is nice. He doesn't play a lot of minutes and he's not always a starter so fans are just dumb to think the kid can come and be the next Dirk. Like I said, he has 20 years old, so he can grow up to be a very good player. He can shoot the ball and can actually create some shots with nice feet... but I don't know about his body, 6'9 at most and 215 pounds.. the guy looks skinny for a PF NBA player. I think it's really a nice steal if we can do the same we did with Asik...prepare him for coming and help.

Rui Dias

Sam: Thanks for the scouting report. A lot of fans were thrilled seeing that video I posted last week (how about that for me?), but I suspect your view from seeing him up close and more regular is more accurate. He’s likely locked in there for two more years, and that sounds about right before coming to the NBA.

I recently moved out to the West Coast so I was stuck watching the Clippers - Lakers pre-season opener yesterday and those Clips look scary good! I don't know that they have nearly as solid a bench mob as the Bulls, but that team looks like a matchup nightmare for us. It even looked like they were playing with an edge (surprising given it was pre-season), especially Big Shot; after what he said when he got amnestied from New York it looks like he's play with a serious chip on his shoulder this year...

How much stock do you put into a pre-season beat down of the Lakers and how do you think the Clips will fare this season?

André Golueke

Sam: I like the Clippers a lot. Critics, as I noted above, often make the mistake of factoring in the uniform and not who’s in it. The Clippers now have real players and there’s no question for the first time since they moved to L.A. that when the Bulls are in L.A. next week it’s the Clippers game that I most look forward to and should be the more difficult for the Bulls, especially at the end of a second back to back.

Who do you see backing up Luol this season? I hope we don't have to go another season of Deng playing 40 mpg, especially with the condensed schedule. Will Jimmy Butler crack the regular rotation or will we go with an undersized lineup with some combination of Hamilton/Korver/Brewer at the SG and SF positions when Luol is out?

Tyler Kiefner

Sam: I expect Deng to play a lot again as he likes it, anyway. I don’t see Butler, at least early, in that regular rotation, though he could get there late like Omer did last season. The Bulls have plenty of guys to fill, but I’d advise Luol to keep getting his rest.

Are players ever considered for the Hall Of Fame based on their contribution to championships rather than just pure skill, for example, could John Paxson or Robert Horry make it in?

Ben Feldman

Sam: Pax, you’ve got to stop using that Feldman name. You used it before when asking if you could be executive of the year, also.