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Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 2.27.2015
Sam Smith of Bulls.com opens his Ask Sam mailbag and responds to the latest round of emails from his readers
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By Sam Smith | 2.27.2015 | 9:41 a.m. CT
Now that Rose is out for a 3rd time in 3 years, it's clear that he can't be the leading point guard of a championship caliber team. Will the Bulls try to go after an elite point guard this offseason to take the burden off Rose and let him be more of a role player for the next few years if he ever comes back? Maybe draft the best point guard available. I just don't think they should depend on him anymore. Bulls fans are devastated and I think the Bulls organization should come to grip with reality.
Sam: I know everyone is anxious to move on from Derrick Rose now, but it’s not as easy as you think. Point guards are the strength and the most important position in the NBA now. They’ve become the version of quarterbacks in the NFL. Everyone is trying to get a great one. Good luck. Ask the Bears. You mean use a first round pick for a point guard? Say, like Marquis Teague? Oh, right, the Bulls tried that already. I also believe Rose will return well, and even if he’s not playing at his 2011 level, you’re not going to find players likely close to his level of play and talent. Let’s take a look at point guards taken outside the top 10 in recent NBA drafts. And these often are for teams where the guy gets to play a lot, like Michael Carter-Williams, whom I like enough but even the horrid 76ers said he wasn’t good enough for them. Though I’d ignore their personnel views. But he played a lot from Day 1. Yes, Damian Lillard was No. 6 in 2012, but that’s high lottery. How about Kendall Marshall at No. 13, Tony Wroten at No. 25 and, of course, Teague at No. 29. In 2013 was C.J. McCollum at No. 10, Carter-Williams, Dennis Shroder, Shane Larkin at No. 18, In 2011, Brandon Knight and Kemba Walker were 8 and 9. After that you go down to Nolan Smith at 21 and Reggie Jackson at 24, Norris Cole at 28 and Cory Joseph at 29. Right before Jimmy Butler, by the way. Or last June with Zach LaVine at No. 13 (good jumper. Point guard?), Tyler Ennis at No. 18 and already traded, Shabazz Napier at 24 spending time in the D-league.
The point is the point guard is a much in demand position, tough to learn and thus even more difficult for all the not-ready-for-NBA players entering the league. And if you’re not ready to play with a lottery team there’s not much chance to develop with a team that has high expectations, like the Bulls. Which is why it’s been a procession of C.J. Watson, Nate Robinson, D.J. Augustin, and Aaron Brooks. And how did the Bulls get Rose? Amazing luck with a 1.7 percent chance in the only lottery they happened to fall into. There are point guards you can trade for. Ray Felton, Jameer Nelson, Ramon Sessions; the Nets would love you to have Deron Williams, Jeremy Lin, J.J. Berea. There are loads of lottery teams who’ll trade you their point guard for Mirotic or Snell. It’s about having a great one in this era.
Like with the Teague pick, the Bulls like everyone else are looking for talent. They’ll look at point guards. And centers and forwards and shooting guards. They’ve moved when they had to, like when Jay Williams was hurt and they quickly changed draft plans and drafted Kirk Hinrich. Yes, things have not gone well for Rose, and then by extension the Bulls. But Rose even after the injuries is way better than anyone you’ll find where the Bulls are drafting. The Bulls need to ride with him as long as they can and hope--as in many case--a meniscus repair poses few future issues.
After listening to the game last night and reading the review there is a much bigger problem revealed. All the quotes like “Angry. Sad. He just doesn’t deserve it," Noah. "We’re not even worried about basketball right now; we just want to make sure he’s OK as a person,” said Butler. Down by 2 at the end of 3 and the Bulls just gave the game to a bad team in the 4th on their home court? This is the first time I am truly upset as a fan. These millionaires don't seem to have a clue about team. Can you explain how crapping the 4th was the best way to deal with their emotional pain?
Sam: I didn’t take it that way. I didn’t see that they gave up on the game because they were distraught, though I could see why you may have interpreted it that way. It’s like being at a funeral. No one knows what to say. So you say something and it’s awkward and often doesn’t come out right because you want to say the right thing without trying to be insulting or unfeeling. These guys have been through this so many times; it’s not that they are callous, but at the same time they want to convey a sympathy like at a funeral because that is what you are supposed to say. They know their words are much broadcast and scrutinized, so they also try to be safe in their comments on a sensitive subject. They feel for Rose as they would anyone else going through it. They don’t think less of their obligations, but it’s hardly a subject that provides a simple answer. No one wants to say: “Haven’t we gone through this already! How many times do I have to say I feel badly!” But the first time someone does that they’ll be demeaned throughout world wide media. Don’t blame reporters. Their bosses require them to ask the question; fans want to read whatever their favorites have to say. It’s a little dance both sides have to do when there is despair or what masquerades as news in the sports world, even if we’ve all experienced it before.
Three minutes left Wednesday and behind by double digits – all 3 point shooters on the bench. Why?
Sam: Actually, Dunleavy and Brooks were in the game, though Dunleavy had just three attempts and missed them all. They had Jimmy and Pau as well, so that should be enough offense for a close. I didn’t have a problem other than they all missed shots. But I do see that as the longer term issue. They have to get more three-point shooting in the game now that it’s there. And enough with sitting McDermott. I watch this kid practice before games all the time and he has one of the best shooting strokes I’ve ever seen. It’s sad not to have him out there on occasion with a team that without Rose cannot score enough. A three-point shooter like that can get hot any time and make four or five in a row. If he shoots 20 percent, OK, maybe he’s not ready. But let him fail first. And it’s not like whomever else in there is stopping anyone these days. The Bulls gave up an easy 98 points Wednesday to probably the league’s worst offensive team since their best scorer was out injured. You’re three of 17 on threes and you can’t find time for McDermott? Mirotic shoots three of four and plays 11 minutes? You have to get some of this shooting into the game with Rose out. Jimmy Butler is terrific and does a lot of things. But he doesn’t spread the court much and doesn’t even like to shoot threes. The Bulls probably have in theory and potential the best three-point shooting on the roster now in franchise history. I’m not a huge advocate of the three like some teams like Houston use it. But if you can’t get fast breaks and aren’t scoring much from mid range and have the three point shooting, then use it.
Do me a favor and measure the hands of our bigs. Do they have tiny doll's hands or something? Noah, Gasol and Taj must lead the whole world in missing easy put backs. Every freakin' game, they must miss at least 10 easy ones right under the basket.
Sam: You are right about that. For some reason they haven’t finished strong at the basket. I see some reasons. A lot has been Noah. He doesn’t seem to have the lift and movement he’s had. He never was a great leaper, but you can see now he doesn’t catch in the air and finish and has to gather himself more to make a move. Taj remains the strongest finisher, but he plays now with Noah a lot. Noah was much more confident in his shot last season. This season he doesn’t seem to want to take it and is hesitant. So defenses play way off him. So when he tries that high low action with Gibson, Gibson is smothered with two guys and can’t get the ball up cleanly. Also, it works better with Gasol and Gibson because defenders have to come out on Gasol’s shot. Plus with Rose in and out, there have been a variety of playmakers and some really bad passes. Brooks will try some wild behind the back passes every game. Also, several Bulls players try those bounce passes in traffic which are low and hard to catch and then difficult to finish with. And Pau isn’t a physical player but a finesse player. So as unfair as it seems, he doesn’t get a lot of calls at the basket because he’s not going in physically. So it looks like an inability to finish. It’s often the referees saying earn it at the rim and it’s nothing new. So there are many factors (excuses?), but it has not been the same.
Goes without saying I am in the midst of a brutal depression along with many other Bulls fans. I don't even care about the team right now, I just feel so bad for him. The guy missed two and a half years and comes back to the point where he was putting up great games here and there and I believe was on his way to a full return to elite stardom (sometime next season). Just so unfair to him. Do you think he rushes back this year? Not to emotionally react but there's a very real chance there is no long term for him. This very well may be his best shot to win a title right now. If the worst should happen and his career is effectively over. If he can't take another rehabilitation stint (which anyone would be able to understand), do you think the Bulls retire his number? I know they're stingy with that but the guy is a Chicago legend, has an MVP, and is probably the second most iconic Bull of all time and in my view the third best player (at his peak).
Sam: Wow, that’s depressing. I know it was discouraging to hear about Rose having to endure this. But his career is hardly and far from over. Surgery is Friday morning and I’m expecting to hear a positive result. From everything I’ve gathered this is the least of his surgeries with a shorter rehabilitation. As he said so patiently all season when asked, that he understood he’d be asked about his knees the rest of his career. He’d always smile and say, ‘Go ahead. Don’t worry.” That’s the truly pathetic part of all this, how decent and professional and civil and cooperative Rose has continued to be with fans and media in the midst of so much cheap shot vitriol from cowardly types who take cruel shots at his fortitude and spirit. It’s unfortunately part of the American conversation and credit to Rose for his maturity that he understands and isn’t baited into a response. The surgery and rehabilitation will tell us about rushing back, and this is hardly the end of the NBA. Things happen; things change. There’s always another season. Who had the Hawks as contenders a year ago? Three months ago? Perhaps Rose will have to play less or be a player with less impact. That’s OK; when he came to the NBA and averaged 16.8 as a rookie the consensus (and I agreed with that) was his ceiling was maybe an 18-point scorer as he was more an all around player and facilitator. So maybe he goes back to that level. What would be wrong with that? He’ll take as much time as he needs, as I’m sure he will and should, and I personally am confident he’ll be back playing again at a high level. Grant Hill, after all, sat out basically five seasons with multiple operations and came back to be an All-Star. So did Bernard King and then went to the Basketball Hall of Fame. It’s a bit soon for a jersey retirement.
Heartbreaking news regarding Derrick Rose’s latest knee surgery. As a Bulls fan I can’t even read or watch the news right now due to the negative comments and opinions. As someone who has had 4 back surgeries in the time he has had 3 knee surgeries, I know from experience the lack of compassion people can have towards a long on-going condition. There’s almost an animalistic impulse in some who find it appropriate to attack your condition, put a foot in your back while you’re down, and think they can walk all over you because you are now a weakened individual physically. And I mostly mean this from a work environment. The judgment is unfair. It’s the hardest to overcome. The physical pain, and it’s pain unlike anything those who are attacking you will ever likely feel in their lifetimes, is easy to overcome compared to the jokes and unkindness shot your way by so called professionals. You quickly understand who is a decent human being and who is not. I feel for him having the media (and fan) spotlight on him. I don’t care how much he’s paid. There is nothing he has done to warrant scrutiny, criticism and jokes about a body I’m positive he would heal immediately if he could. I, for one, will keep my Chicago Bulls “ROSE” license plate because it’s admirable that he’s given his whole body to bring Chicago bulls basketball back to relevancy. We can only hope it doesn’t cost him his own happiness in life moving forward.
Sam: I know many fans feel this way; it just happens that so many with the loudest voices are those with the strongest megaphones. Richard Nixon knew them as the loud minority. It’s not a trait to be proud of, to try to gain attention for yourself by how much you can belittle someone else, though it has become almost a fact of our political discussion these days. So why not in sports? It hardly proclaims you as a leader in your field. It’s always much easier to seemingly enhance yourself by deriding the fate and situation of others. It takes much more courage to maintain compassion since it is not about you. Knowledge and ritual without compassion is empty. Harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd, you’d hope for more compassion. Derrick’s a bright young man. He’s a savant about basketball, like in the Cavs game just before the All-Star break. As soon as he saw LeBron defend Tony Snell, Rose had Snell head for the weak side above the circle so LeBron couldn’t play in the passing lanes for steals and those Snell threes opened up the game and limiting LeBron on defense. Rose will also recite to you like a coach strengths and weaknesses of every point guard in the league like you are reading a scouting report. I’ve also had some interesting discussions with him as he’s an avid documentary fan and is always watching them on the road. Once in lower Manhattan a few years back we were talking about the colonists taking down the statue of King George at the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence; because the hotel where the Bulls stayed was near that site. Perhaps he’s not always the most articulate—like so many reporters we know, right?—and being stubborn as many top pro athletes are he’s not one to back down even if something he says doesn’t come out quite right. It’s always a further sign of his maturity and professionalism I admire that he does his job as well as he can and carries respect for everyone else doing their job no matter how low they make take it sometimes. It suggests to me he’s much wiser than his critics.
I think this Bulls team is the most talented on both ends in past 3 years when Rose was out with injury. This is going to give Nikola and Snell opportunity to show their talent. I am sure Thibs will adjust this year and balance well. We have one of the best defensive (Hinrich, Butler, Joe, Taj) group as well offensive (Dunlevy, Pau, Nikola, Snell, Brooks). Yes margin of error will be less as Rose can't bail us out all the time with penetration. Teams will be more relaxed in paint so we have to change game plan. I wish Rose the best as he has all right to make right decision for his future. But I believe we can still compete at high level with the current group. We need to adjust and I think it will be alright!
Sam: I’ve written about this a few times since Rose’s injury and agree. There’s enough talent there; plenty really. The one thing I’ve seen missing is the spirit and enthusiasm. This group still looks like it’s a bit of a chore to play. I think part is they play too slowly with too many play calls, and I suspect Rajon Rondo will be calling Thibodeau about that. Kidding. That’s up to Thibodeau to adjust, and he’s shown with all the Rose injuries in recent years and even Noah playing point center he’s very capable of adjustments and changes. You usually have one emotional player everyone looks toward on a team, especially a team like the Bulls with a lot of quiet guys, like Rose, Butler, Dunleavy, Snell for sure. You see it with LeBron, Westbrook, guys like that. Noah has obviously been that guy for the Bulls, and he’s tried. But it’s been tough for him this season with fewer minutes and less impact given his return from his knee surgery and different role which doesn’t allow him to be in the middle of things as much, especially on defense. So it seems he’s been more reluctant than ever to lead so openly. Like it’s said, you can’t lead from the bench. You have to be in the middle of things, and then it becomes infectious. It’s been missing with this Bulls team, but it can change any time.
I believe John Adams' last words were "Thomas Jefferson still survives." As a Bulls fan on the brink, I'd like to remind all that "Jimmy Butler still survives," right? So the question is, what's next for the franchise?
Sam: I love the reference; it’s one of my favorites as both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, two of my favorite patriots (Alexander Hamilton is my No. 1), amazingly, died the same day 50 years from the signing of the Declaration. Though as it happened, Adams was wrong. Jefferson had died earlier that day; Adams hadn’t been able to access his Twitter account that day, it seems. So you don’t have it exactly right with Jimmy. But I get the point. And no offense to Jimmy, but he’s no John Adams. Or Jefferson or Rose. He’s not your team leader. He’s terrific and a deserving All-Star. He’s not a vocal leader and his game doesn’t translate to isolating and taking on big scoring responsibilities like Rose’s. But not everyone was a Jefferson or Adams. You need a John Jay and James Madison as well.
So I tried this trade in the trade machine and it totally works, monetarily -- Denver trades Ty Lawson, Danillo Gallinari's albatross contract ($10 million a year!), and a Darrell Arthur type (they have a billion power forwards, so this could be anybody) for Taj Gibson, the Rose contract, and two first round Bulls draft picks. Denver at least thinks about it, right? Might hurt the Bulls from a PR perspective, but if Rose can't return this season... I hope they'd at least think about something like this. A salary-dump to Philly is always possible.
Sam: I’ve gotten a few of these and even if the Bulls were to consider it, which they would not, really, who is trading for a player making more than $20 million with multiple knee surgeries? That’s a good one to sell to you fans. As I’ve said, I believe Rose will return and play at a high level again. I think this is the least of his surgeries. It is one of the difficult elements in the NBA, but really in any sport if one of your key, highest paid players is hurt. Look at the Philadelphia Phillies with Ryan Howard hurt. They’ve tumbled since then. The contract stays with you; the difference in basketball is there are so many fewer players that if you lose your best who is paid so much you don’t have many options but to play it out because the NBA is such a generous league with long term guaranteed deals. If a player is debilitated, you can collect insurance at 80 percent after he misses a half season and can get a cap exception at half salary. I don’t see that with Rose as all indications are for a good return from this surgery.
So what now? I'm not going to ask you medical questions, but is there any way this injury shakes up their offseason plans (Butler, Noah, etc.)
Sam: The Bulls and all teams basically do multiple scenarios all the time. Much generally depends on the playoffs. Because that is the measure of who you are and how good. With a bad playoff run there can be any number of changes. The Bulls are basically at the salary cap this summer even without Dunleavy and Brooks. The big free agent, though restricted with the Bulls’ right to match, is Butler; I see that getting done as Butler really wants to remain in Chicago. The Bulls will go into the luxury tax without problem. But there’s not a lot of flexibility for other moves. But they have young players who have shown and can show growth in Snell, Mirotic and McDermott, and I see them being more involved with the regular rotation to change the upcoming dynamic of the team. It’s the final season on Noah’s contract after next season, and then Gibson, Rose and Mirotic expire after 2016-17. That’s also when the new, big TV deal contract money comes in. So that could be a big time for change. But it’s also when the next collective bargaining agreement comes up and that hasn’t gone well in recent negotiations. I don’t see anything major for the Bulls before then. But the Bulls again this June could have two No. 1 draft picks, though I doubt it as the Kings currently have the seventh poorest record and the Bulls would need them to fall to 11th to get their pick this June.
After the sad news about D Rose the Bulls need another PG. Please tell me that Nate Robinson is an option. He has the heart of a lion and knows Thibs system and the fans love him. How are the chances of getting him back?
Sam: Yes, Nate was the fan favorite and still is as a replacement based on my mail. I would not expect the Bulls to add him for several reasons. The main reason is they have three point guards, Brooks, Hinrich and E’Twaun Moore. Moore is very good and capable of filling in if needed. So it’s not like the Bulls never thought this could not occur again. Brooks is better than Nate, Brooks being a fulltime starter a few years back with a good Rockets team. Plus, he’s not wacky like Nate, who really is difficult to have around. No matter the circumstances and Nate did help win playoff games in that terrific series against the Nets, he drove Thibs nuts and Thibs really wanted no part of him again. He’s one of those guys always on your nerves jumping around and yelling and acting out and never knowing what play or defense you are in or who to guard or whether to guard anyone, and life just isn’t long enough to make it worth having him around that much. I don’t think it’s any great coincidence he’s been released and not picked up. Plus, he had ACL surgery and has not been the same athlete since then. I would not expect to see Nate with the Bulls again. He did great stuff for the Bulls and the Bulls helped him get one of the few guaranteed deals of his career and helped him make millions of dollars. They were good for each other when together, but once is enough.
Let's just say Rose is forced to miss the rest of the season and playoffs. Would the Bulls consider using the amnesty provision on Rose at the end of the year.? They could use extra cap space to resign Jimmy Butler and possibly try to re-unite Thibs and Rajon Rondo via free agency. I understand Rondo has also been injury prone, but if he could be had at half the cost of Rose, I believe it is worth it.
Sam: There is no more amnesty. There are no more players eligible. If it comes up again, it would be after the next labor agreement in 2017, though with the expanded cap then I don’t expect to see amnesty again. The owners aren’t thrilled paying guys not to play.
Should the Bulls buy Rose out of his contract this summer so they can make a play in the free agent field? If so, is signing Goran Dragic a feasible option to replace Rose at PG? How about righting a wrong and bringing LaMarcus Aldridge to Chicago or uniting the Gasol Brothers in the front court? Is there any way they could lure Anthony Davis home when he finally becomes a free agent?
Sam: Again, sigh. As I’ve said, I don’t see why Rose won’t be a good player again, so why would he seek a buyout. Plus, buyouts stay on your cap. You can spread some money out, but it’s still hardly enough to be in free agency. Though the Bulls did luck out not getting Carmelo Anthony, I guess, the last big free agent, who now is out until into next season after knee surgery. A star, gimme a star, gimme, gimme, gimme.
Okay, Rondo is available. Just trying to lighten the mood!
Sam: Don’t laugh; I’ve gotten plenty of those suggestions already. If he doesn’t like Carlisle’s play calling he’d sure go well with Thibodeau. Hey, he was there in Boston! But Thibs did the defense then. Anyway, he’s a free agent looking for a max deal. Kobe can just about end the Lakers’ chances for the next decade talking the Lakers into that signing.
I've been reading a lot lately regarding Heat's Hassan Whiteside as a runner for MIP. Got validated when Yahoo Sports staff mostly wrote him as their MIP winner as of the moment. Not to sound like a protective Bulls fan but I'm pretty confident that Jimmy Buckets is still the runaway MIP winner for the season.
Sam: Yes, I think Jimmy has done plenty. Whiteside defines what the award is as does Draymond Green. But no one’s going to forget—OK, no one but Yahoo—that Butler was an All-Star and I’m sure they didn’t have him in their top 200 players when the season started.
It's a shame about Rose. I thought the Bulls were ready to make a push. Like Thibs will say he still thinks he has enough. I think the Bulls should look to the D-League and bring up a point guard. I'd like to see either Seth Curry or Vander Blue who have decent size and can stroke it from deep.
Sam: Thibs isn’t saying it as much these days, but the Bulls have enough not to need guys like that.
Can’t help putting him [Derrick Rose] in the category of extremely gifted athletes who can’t stay healthy (a.k.a. Grant Hill). [I] wonder if his injuries have anything to do with his eating habits as a child. Growing up, you always hated drinking that milk [and] eating the veggies. You just never think about how not doing those things affects your body later. Those gummy worms have no nutritional value…
Sam: That may go beyond the expertise of even radio call in show hosts.