Derrick Rose has pursued a measured and intelligent approach to the game wise beyond his years.
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Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 2.13.2015

Sam Smith of opens his Ask Sam mailbag and responds to the latest round of emails from his readers

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By Sam Smith | 2.13.2015 | 9:36 a.m. CT

Stats show that the Bulls have performed well when Rose and Brooks are in the backcourt together, though Thibs hasn't used that option frequently. Guess who is 4th in the NBA in 3pt %? Aaron Brooks! 44%. I realize Brooks and Rose are not exactly Jordan and Pippen defensively, but wouldn't it make sense to use that rotation for 6-12 mpg when Butler is either resting or playing the 3 (or out with a shoulder injury)? Snell is on a hot streak right now having made 11 of his last 19 threes to get to 36.5% on the year. All hot streaks come to an end at some point though. I'd like to see the Bulls continue to space the floor for Rose.

Dan Michler

Sam: So would Rose. I wrote a lot about that after Tuesday’s win over the Kings. The Bulls are caught in an intriguing dichotomy that I don’t believe will work itself out until after the season, and then we’ll see the way to go. They’ve built their team the more traditional way with size and with a coach who is defensive oriented and defense first. The league has gone the other way with the Warriors and Hawks out front in their conferences with a small ball, movement, jump shooting game. The conventional wisdom is that won’t work in the playoffs, sort of the Denver Nuggets of the past. You run up a lot of wins in the regular season, are fun to watch and then get ground down in the first or second round and out. But so many teams now, especially in the Western Conference, have gone to this style of play. It’s the favored view now with a lot of threes and then trying to draw fouls like Harden and Durant do. The Bulls have six and are physical with players who can post up, but generally weak in perimeter shooting. The coach is geared to emphasize defense first. It has been the formula for playoff success, and after all the Spurs have Tim Duncan. But Miami won two titles with a hybrid of this, good aggressive defense, but on the perimeter without much size or postup game. Thibodeau isn’t one to change, but we really won’t know if the Bulls methods can work until we see whether they work or not. Huh? The lineups that probably are best have Rose with Snell and Dunleavy, so we’ll see how often that occurs after the break as that lineup opens the court.

Regarding the Denver Nuggets, we were told they made such a great trade to get rid of ‘Melo, how they had such great pieces, GM and Coach. I know there were injuries, but all teams have those. Even at their highest point they never got out of the first round and they gave JaVale McGee $55 million. And notice to date how well Timothy Mozgov looks? How come George Karl and Brian Shaw could not get that out of him? It always bothers me when a team and others “crow” about their great personnel trades/free agents just because no one cares for the other side who got “fleeced”. Sure Dwight Howard has not exactly improved the Rockets, but the Magic had been a dumpster fire {with potential} since they traded him (or more correctly fired SVG).

Lawrence Bentley

Sam: It’s a good point about the Nuggets, if only to put a dent in the constant whining in New York of how the Nuggets swindled them in the Anthony deal. I’d say at this point even where the Knicks are the fact they have Anthony puts them in better stead than the Nuggets. Though the Denver GM was smart as he jumped to Toronto the first chance he got. Then you don’t have to be judged on what occurred there. Luck is a huge part of it as well. That same gm, Ujiri, who is generally well regarded, tried desperately last year to deal Kyle Lowry because ownership was pushing for a broken season and a shot at Canadian Andrew Wiggins as a franchise savior. Eventually the Knicks rejected a deal for Lowry, who has gone on to become a starting All-Star and the team’s best player. As for Denver, those players who came from New York have much better scenery to look at outside.

So Thibs' defense has sort of created the necessity of the stretch four. Players who play 'in the post' have to be really, really good (and quick) at it now otherwise defenses can collapse more than they used to be able to with the illegal defense. This leads me to this question: why does Coach T keep trying to fit Niko in at 3? Defense is weaker there than if Snell or Butler were playing the position and he doesn't really provide better shooting than either of those players at the moment. Having more height and strength at that position seems superfluous as rebounding and defending from the 3 positions is more about positioning, quickness and boxing out. Also, it seems to me Niko's greatest asset would be to stretch the floor as a 4, where his lack of quickness wouldn't kill him defensively. Finally, wouldn't having him learn 1 position on defense help him be more successful anyhow?

Robert Lininger

Sam: Well, I wouldn’t credit—or blame—Thibodeau, but you refer to the Kyle Korver comment in my Monday NBA column about Thibs’ defenses and flooding one side. But a lot of teams have copied what Thibs does and you always have responses. As I noted above, we’ll see come playoff time if you still can do that with so many spread offenses. The Mirotic situation is interesting as it seems he’s back at power forward now, which means, especially with Snell playing better and deserving a regular spot, little time anymore for Mirotic, as was expected at the start of the season. Actually, I thought McDermott would play more as the wing position seemed the thinnest. But he appears to have been buried for this season after his surgery. I don’t think it’s too late to give him a shot since you can always use a shot, but as know Thibodeau prefers a shorter rotation. What happened is Thibodeau saw Mirotic could make threes and space the floor and tried to find room for him. Good for Thibs. Initially, Thibodeau said no way Mirotic would play three, which meant no way he’d play with Noah, Gasol and Gibson. So give Thibodeau credit that he tried to find space for Mirotic. I think Mirotic has tried to do too much, which has hurt him and reduced his effectiveness. One thing they ask you when you come into the NBA is if you can do one thing. If you can do one thing you can help a team, like Rodman rebounding or even Steve Novak shooting though he doesn’t play much. Then you have to grow. Mirotic is an excellent shooter, but it seems he tries to do too much in faking, driving, passing, trying to finish. He should spot up and shoot. No shot? Move the ball. So he’s had issues at three, which means back to power forward. But with Taj Gibson having trouble getting enough playing time, there’s little room in the front court rotation the way Thibodeau plays for a fourth big man even if his skills are different. Again, we’ll see if the Bulls interior power game is the right playoff formula.

Would somebody in Bulls Management please call Ray Allen already!

Stephen Fulton

Sam: My sense is if Allen does decide to play, the Bulls probably have fallen off his preferred destination list. The assumption has been he’d go to the Cavs to join LeBron and what seems like a team with a good chance to be in the Finals. But the Hawks have jumped in and seem like with their run and shoot game it would fit him. Plus, Ray likes to play golf on off days, which is tougher in Cleveland and Chicago. The Warriors also are interested, though I suspect he’d stay in the East. The Spurs likely would be as well along with the Thunder. But the Hawks with a limited payroll could pay him by far the most as they are under the salary cap and they just made what looked like a roster clearing move with the No. 1 draft pick.

It's nice to see [Tony Snell] getting playing time to work through the mental mistakes. A couple of my friends and I have a running group text about the Bulls. Two of us have believed in him since the beginning and wondered why he hadn't been getting a chance. My other friend calls him "smell" because [my friend] didn't think he was any good. He loves [Snell] now. He is looking more comfortable every game and has all the physical tools to succeed.

Jake Henry

Sam: I think the name calling will stop. I had my doubts about Snell as well given his lack of aggression and that he is one of the quietest NBA players I’ve ever been around. But not just because of the Cavs game, he’s got game. But more importantly game the Bulls vitally need with perimeter shooting. I know Thibodeau talks about performance and has bit a bit hard on the tough love for this kid. But if Snell isn’t a regular in the rotation no matter what he does from now on you might get the sense Thibodeau is trying to sabotage the team. Snell is for real.

I was listening to Michael Kay and Don LeGrecca earlier and they were talking about how they weren't interested in the season this year due to the absence of super teams and because New York basketball is well, pathetic. I don't get this, I find this season more interesting than ever because anybody could come out on top. Is this just a case of New Yorkers whining or do you agree?

Trevor Hoffler

Sam: I assume they are New York talk show people. I’m a native of New York and know it to be a place where the game seems understood much less than elsewhere because it’s an all-about-now place with little historical perspective except for the 1970 Knicks. You’ll find the quality of analysis generally the poorest among New Yorkers, about whom I think Teddy Roosevelt said they speak loudly and probably deserve a big stick across the head. Or something like that. Listen to any national sports radio show and listen to the questions that come from New York versus the rest of the country and you’ll ask yourself if education is required in New York. Anyway, it’s a great season because there’s more parity in the NBA this season than perhaps any for decades. And among good teams. The last 30 games in the Western Conference will be a delight with every game mattering. You could be fifth and face falling out of the playoffs. I dare anyone to have a good idea of conference finals. The East isn’t quite as deep, but there’s also no super team. The Bulls, Hawks, Cavs and probably Wizards and Raptors could sneak into the conference finals. Leagues are great when there’s so much parity as we know watching the NFL. This has been a terrific NBA season only to get better.

If Gary Neal gets bought out welcome to Chicago?

Mike Sutera

Sam: It sounds like Minnesota is holding out for a trade since they are saying no buyout. I assume that changes. If the Bulls were to add a player this month I assume it will be when the buyouts come and a veteran is available. He probably should have stayed with the Spurs. It often happens with a marginal player that a certain system and high level team enhances them. We saw that with so many Bulls in the '90s. But he can make shots and would be a good addition for a lot of teams off the bench.

I can't see Raptors highlights without hearing that James Johnson is one of the major reasons they're winning these days; analysts fawn over him and he's a regular on top 10 segments. I've looked at his numbers; he's shooting a great overall percentage, but none of his other stats seem to move the needle that far from what he did early on his career, at least when looking at the per 36 minute average. Has he genuinely improved, is he in a system that plays to his strengths better than Thibs', or is this just media trying to find a feel-good story?

Terrell Bryant

Sam: The media always wants everyone to feel good. Here’s a guy who’s basically been cut about five times. He clearly wasn’t ready to play with the Bulls, which is the danger of the draft and why going into the draft to rebuild is a long and chancy prospect because so few players are ready to play in the NBA because of the disservice done to their careers by the players’ association that continues to lobby for kids to enter the NBA without much or little college. Sure, there are some ready because of talent, like Anthony Davis, though you see his body wasn’t ready and how long it takes to even get to the playoffs with a youth oriented team. Johnson really didn’t have a game when he came to the Bulls; he was a great athlete. You have to do something well to find your place in the NBA be it shooting or passing or rebounding. He was capable of a lot of stuff, but nothing special. So the Bulls tried to turn him into a defensive specialist. He’s worked and he’s become more, if not great, a nice role player. But it’s taken several years. Teams that are trying to contend year to year, like the Bulls have been, do not have time for that.

In watching the Heat's fortunes this year (currently outside the playoff picture), I was thinking about 1994 when the Bulls went through the exact same situation. After a trip to the Finals, the team lost arguably the best player in the league (Jordan vs. Lebron), who was replaced by a solid if unspectacular player (Pete Myers and Luol Deng, respectively), but kept the rest of their core players more or less intact. Yet that Bulls team ended up with only two fewer wins than the year before, whereas the Heat have dropped from a top-two seed in the East to outside the playoffs. Given that Jordan is (rightly) viewed as so essential to the Bulls' success in those title runs, how did that team manage to be so successful (only two fewer wins?) without him, especially seeing how the Heat have slipped? Is it just that the Heat have been injured? Is it coaching? Is Pippen/Grant > Wade/Bosh?

Chris Feldman

Sam: Well, Erik Spoelstra is no Phil Jackson. It does say a lot about how good LeBron James is. But it was a declining Heat team. After all, they did get dominated in last season’s Finals compared to the Bulls going to Phoenix in that Finals and winning three games. It’s clear Dwyane Wade is at the end of his career or certainly on the decline while Scottie Pippen was in his prime and went on to be MVP of that season’s All-Star game and a top five MVP finalist. Plus, you had a real team with big men that included Luc Longley, Bill Wennington, Will Perdue and Bill Cartwright, though he was in decline. Still, they had their so called three-headed monster of big men while the Heat, though they did a good job finding Hassan Whiteside, had to go to the waiver list to find one big man. Miami’s best big man, Bosh, is a perimeter shooter. Kukoc also came in and was a double digit scorer as a rookie. It was a far more talented Bulls team, though probably one of Jackson’s best coaching jobs by taking that team essentially a bad call away from the conference finals. And perhaps the Finals.

With the trade deadline coming up – any red-hot rumors? Inquiring minds [want to] know.

Terry McManus

Sam: The Bulls have trouble getting all the players on the floor who the fans believe should be playing now; not that it is a Thibodeau concern. I don’t see any possibility of any significant Bulls move given they are deep and to trade would have to match a major salary, which means losing a player they’d need. The rumors always involve Taj Gibson this season, though how would that make the team better with the uncertainty regarding Joakim Noah’s health and then asking Nikola Mirotic not only to play a lot more when he’s regressed some but to be a defensive force down the stretch? After all, the issue I get all the time regarding Gasol is about defense. So you are upset with the team’s defense and you want to change that to Gasol and Mirotic? And, of course, teams like Denver offering players want No. 1 draft picks to take your player as they hardly want any future contracts. And now with what he’s started to show do you want to give up Tony Snell so quickly? The Bulls have enough to win. They may not ultimately, but I don’t believe adding and sacrificing players at this time is the answer.

What's your opinion on Kirk Hinrich? Not many Bulls fans like him anymore, but Thibs clearly does, so the guy starts. I understand Brooks has been equally dreadful, but Kirk really shouldn't be in a rotation on a contending team anymore.

Vic Santiago

Sam: I know Bulls fans always have to have someone to dislike. Kirk hasn’t had a good start, though he didn’t last season, either, and came on well. He frankly never signed up for playing this much these last few seasons, but he’s played various positions with multiple injuries. The irony is fans always write me moaning about someone not playing and here’s a guy who plays through about everything and now they don’t want him in there. Kirk remains one of the better defenders at his position and opposing guards do not like to play against him still. Hinrich has not shot well this season. But the Bulls, especially Thibodeau, desperately wanted him back. He signed on as a reserve and again had to start and play many more minutes than he expected to play. He did so for the team and it probably takes time off his career. Also with the desperate financial manipulations in the summer after Carmelo Anthony rejected the Bulls, the Bulls had to go back to Hinrich and ask him to take less money so they could add a free agent. He did. Few have sacrificed as much for the overall good of their team. Anywhere in the NBA. I also feel he helps the team, and he’s helped the team in many ways and done on and off the court so much of what fans hope players will do. It’s a shame to hear so much negative and so much hypocrisy toward a player who represents the ideals you want in a professional player.

What do you think of this statistic?

Rose October/November; 16.1 per game; 8 games missed
December; 18.3 and 2 games missed
January 20.3 and 1 game missed
February 19.0 and 0 games missed

Matt Adler

Sam: Just why as I’ve noted all along this has been a great season for Rose. The No. 1 priority is health. I cannot imagine if you asked anyone a year ago if Rose could be playing healthy into February would that be enough that they’d say anything but great. Instead, he’s endured a season of ignorant nitpicking; shoots too many threes, doesn’t drive enough, doesn’t smile or sit close enough to his teammates. I think Rose has handled this beautifully because the goal I heard everyone say was to build so he’s healthy and playing better as the season progresses. Which is exactly what he’s been doing. So the narrative becomes instead why isn’t he driving more in November and December and dunking and attacking the basket and shooting closer or better yet why is he shooting at all? It’s fortunate for the Bulls Rose doesn’t have rabbit ears and has ignored the noise. It’s good he’s shot more threes because he needs to work on that (better to wait for the playoffs to do that?) and with Dunleavy out so long and Snell and Mirotic not playing much there was no room to drive. So was Rose supposed to be crashing into four defenders as good for his health? Rose has pursued a measured and intelligent approach to the game wise beyond his years because he has refused to be influenced by those outside and inside who value one game over a season or a career. It’s much tougher to do in this era. I recall when Bernard King was trying to come back from major knee injuries—and did—he closed himself off from media and fans for two years and played at his own pace. It enabled him to return to being an All-Star and become a Hall of Famer, but he did not return to his similar scoring levels until six years after his injuries. That, however, wasn’t an era when every shot was questioned. We all left King alone to get back and he did. Rose has had to do it with an ugly shadow looming constantly over him, yet he continues the process with unusual grace and aplomb.