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Ask Sam | 10.23.09

Sam Smith opens his mailbag to respond to the latest round of e-mails from his readers.
Sam Smith at Bulls.com

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.

I was wondering if you could give your take on Isiah Thomas. Over the years, I don't know that I've ever seen a bigger discrepancy between my impressions of a guy from watching him and the stuff others would say about him the media. I remember reading that the Detroit owner did not offer him a position within the Pistons, essentially, because Isiah suffered from a case of "you can take the child out of the ghetto, but you can't take the ghetto out of the child." I've read many negative statements about him, and yet when I watch him play or speak... big discrepancy. Even with MJ, I felt you could see the edge and the toughness. So anyway, what's your take on Isiah?

Alejandro Yegros

Sam: I am one of the few who gives him the benefit of the doubt and does not fully understand the enmity toward him. He lost in New York, which at least a half dozen GM's did before him. Yet, no one was treated like he was. I still cannot get a straight answer from anyone in the New York media about why he was singled out like he was. I know there's the sexual harassment settlement, but Isiah was not named and the verdict was against the workplace atmosphere established by the owning Dolans. Now, there's a Magic Johnson book and interviews this week in Sports Illustrated with Thomas firing back at Johnson, with whom he was once close. I doubt Thomas is perfect and over the years has done things or pulled deals that may have angered some. Just as it seems about everyone else in the NBA has. Isiah didn't get the Detroit job, as I recall, for leaking news of it and upsetting the owner. He left Toronto in a failed bid to buy the team but even the Toronto media says he did a good job building and drafting. He divested himself under orders from the NBA of the CBA when he went to coach the Pacers and probably got greedy in trying to sell the CBA to the NBA and failed, and the NBA started its own D-League and the CBA went bust. Bad deal, like many bankers have made only to be bailed out by the taxpayers. He was fired by the Pacers after three seasons in which the team improved every season. But Larry Bird wanted his own guy and that's common in the NBA. There's no doubt Isiah has been a lightning rod for more criticism and contempt than anyone in my recent NBA memory. I think some of had to do with the way he competed against icons like Johnson and Michael Jordan. Isiah's Pistons teams weren't always the best sportsmen and Isiah was a brutal competitor and would do anything he could to win. Yes, guys who competed against him didn't like him as a result. But what's so unusual about that. I know he upset the bigtime agents when he was players' association head by cutting their commissions and putting more money into pensions for mid level players and taking away money from the top stars of the game. Isiah did more for the everyday player, but their voice is rarely heard over the stars'. He wasn't perfect, he made mistakes, he could upset you at times and I'm sure he tried to hustle guys and tams on deals at times given his famous tough guy/little guy background. So he likely deserved some criticism. To the extent he gets it, I have never fully been able to understand why.

Some of my basketball friends say that the best teams don't care about the preseason. What about the Bulls with Michael Jordan? Did they play hard during the preseason? Did they win all their games?

Tony Pelc

Sam: In the championship seasons, especially the early ones, the Bulls were pretty good in the preseason. In 1992 they were 8-1 and 9-0 in 1993. They took it easier when Jordan came back, but were usually around .500. The one difference I see today versus then was that Jordan always understood he had a responsibility to the public. Many exhibition games are in non NBA cities, and Jordan understood people came to see him and he owed them an effort. Since he felt that way, the Bulls usually were pretty good. As he got older, he tapered off some but always understood who he was and had to be. You don't see that today as many of the stars take off exhibition games and often put in no effort or don't even show up. It's unfortunate, and something I'd like to see the NBA do something about.

What's going to happen lets say if Tyrus out lives our wildest expectations of him and actually blows up this year. Lets says he gets anywhere from 15-18 points and 9-11 rebounds per game with a couple of blocks thrown in. Would the Bulls be smart to do like the stock market and sell high while we still can and the going is good? Or do we go in and give him a nice deal next summer and ignore getting another quality big on the free agent market. What do you think the Bulls will do, and if you were the GM like we all wish you were, what would you do?

Paule Nowotarski

Sam: Ah, that's the rub. I don't see it happening, though Tyrus sort of predicted it would and management certainly hopes it occurs. I'm always wary of players who have their best season in their contract seasons. Though the Bulls have fallen for this before. They were about to give Eddy Curry a huge extension before his heart issue came up just before the end of the season because the team was playing so well. The tendency in the league is if the team is doing well then the fans and media put pressure on the team to resign their guys (when Deng was doing so well two years ago it was almost unanimous from fans and media to lock him up). Few managements have the security to go against that. The Pistons sort of did last season with Chauncey Billups, betting he was on the way down and trying to clear the books to make a free agency splash, and it seems to have backfired. I'd love to see Tyrus have a big season, and then I'd try to make a move. I'm not sure the Bulls would since they drafted him high and would like to see him succeed.

I'm not going to jump on the Tyrus Thomas bandwagon, but I don't think it's fair to label him a bust just yet. Maybe it's just me, but guys like Tyrus have been able to get buy on pure, freakish athleticism their whole lives and are simply over-matched once they get to the NBA. I've never had any personal experience in this myself, but I can't imagine the NBA is the best place to learn how to play ball, which may help explain his maddening inconsistencies. However, although his development has been much slower than everyone would have liked, I would like to think that him developing into a good help defender and improving his mid range jumper are positive signs that he can become a solid player in the league. Granted, this is extremely cautious optimism. I also think that part of the reason that the North Carolina's of the collegiate world produce more NBA-ready players is that, in addition to them obviously having more talent pass through, their players receive a much more complete basketball education. And do you think that the Bulls may have to start looking at basketball players instead of the freakish athlete with tremendous upside?

Phil Leonard

Sam: Well, the Bulls have mostly concentrated on those more solid players from bigger schools for that reason. The Tyrus pick was because, in part, they'd been getting criticism for that and felt you had to take a chance on athletic talent. Once you get to the NBA there are no excuses. If you didn't learn the game and haven't by 18 or 19, you are right, the NBA isn't always going to assure that, though they do have better teaching in the NBA than in college. The difference is they have so many more games, the games matter more because jobs and money depend on them and they don't control the players. After practice, the players are on their own and don't have to learn. There's an old saying in the NBA that after three years you are who you are. We're making an exception for Tyrus given playing time and coaching changes. Jermaine O'Neal blossomed after a longer time after changing teams and getting time. So it's possible, but patterns emerge in three years. I don't think people are saying Tyrus is a bust. I think it's more frustration that he cannot seem to be as big as he was expected to be as a No. 4 draft pick and with those glimpses we see of extraordinary ability.

So after last night's loss (to Orlando), Tyrus gets moody, claims he's a veteran, then pouts in public. He says he knows how he can help the team, yet when his comrade, Byars, falls down with a knee-buckle, Tyrus barely glanced at him-let alone extending an arm to help him up.In the game, he started off slow, looking surly & unhappy, then came alive in the 2nd half to show more of that work on his soft-touch jumper he was hitting during the Celtics series. My question, therefore, is: does 2nd year coach Vinny have the stuff to handle 3rd year Tyrus?

Mike Lojkovic

Sam: I don't know. Actually, it was before the game and reporters asked Tyrus about not starting after his strong performance against Minnesota. He was getting baited and while he usually doesn't fall for that stuff, he did this time. So I asked him why after missing almost all the preseason and it being preseason he even cared about starting. It is no big deal as coaches use all sorts of crazy lineups in the preseason. I thought maybe I'd throw him a lifeline. Not exactly phone a friend, but a chance. He didn't catch it and added he was a major impact player. Not a great moment for him. You are right. He was in a huge funk in the first half, but then played better. He is fragile and I believe needs to start. I think Vinny wants to give him some tough love and make him earn it, perhaps push him more. It's one way. Some say Tyrus will behave the same no matter what. But I believe he has to be handled a bit differently and is fragile. He seems to need to start for his ego. I would start him. Some say that's giving in to blackmail, in a sense. But some guys you need to talk to gentler. Phil Jackson was always good at that knowing you couldn't yell at Scottie, but Horace would get mad but not quit on you. Scottie would. One of the tests of Vinny's coaching this season will be dealing with Tyrus. I'm anxious to see how they both do.

There's been all this talk about Derrick Rose and his jump shot. People are saying if he wants to take the next big step, he needs to improve his jump shot. I find that to be ill-informed. I wonder if these people are just not watching him play or if their confusing the fact that his range has been limited thus far with the mechanics on his shot. It's obvious that he needs to improve his range, but his jumper looks good, and it seemed to me that he was deadly accurate from mid range. I was just wondering if I was going crazy or not.

Alex Tawney.

Sam: Not. I found that talk a little off base last season, or to use the basketball vernacular, more out of bounds. I thought Rose had good form and made a fair share of his shots. You are right, he doesn't have the range yet, but neither did Chris Paul early. There has to be a knock on you and for Rose it was shooting because he was so athletic and explosive. You'll be surprised how few NBA people and national commentators actually pay attention to the games. So you get a reputation and it gets repeated, especially if it comes with you. Rose had that coming out of college, so it sticks. I think his shooting isn't a big issue, but given what a serious competitor he is, you know he'll work on it, anyway.

I was watching NBA TV last night, listening to Eric Snow, and I was impressed with his apparent ease behind the microphone for someone just out of the league. I wasn't surprised, as I figure any 6'5" guy with limited quickness and no jump shot who lasted as long as he did in the league at point guard had to have gotten by with his smarts. It led me to thinking. Who is the most surprising guy you've seen make the transition from player to broadcaster? With most of them, like Barkley, Kerr, Reggie Miller, Magic, even C-Webb, even an outsider like me could see they'd bring something to the table as broadcasters. Is there anyone out there who has made a living behind the mic where you said, "Wow, I never saw that coming when he was in the league"? It could be a guy you thought was a dunce, or perhaps just taciturn when dealing with the great unwashed mob of scribes.

Craig Berry

Sam: There aren't many like that because the guys you mention are the so called "go to" guys for media members. There always are a few players on every team you go to for post game quotes or analysis. They aren't necessarily the best players, but they are at ease with the media and more knowledgeable. I remember helping out in coverage of the Bears in 1985 (as everyone had to who worked for any media organization) and found the offensive lineman by far the most knowledgeable and interesting, but no one knew who they were. So you talked to them about the game, and then you went to quote the quarterback, though the huge majority of them seemed to be insufferable jerks and bores. There are exceptions, like Joe Theisman and Boomer Esiason and a few more. Mostly, you wouldn't want to spend two minutes with them. So you know the guys who shouldn't be in media positions. I was surprised when guys like Scottie Pippen and Tim Hardaway got TV jobs. Not because they were bad guys, but they weren't at ease conversationalists. They didn't last long. A lot of reporters didn't like Reggie because he could be moody, but if he knew you he was great, and we always got along well. You read more Steve Kerr quotes with the Bulls than anyone except Jordan, though reporters spent more time with Kerr. The guy to watch now is Brent Barry. I just saw him do some NBA-TV and he'll be the next Barkley, but smarter, sort of like watching Seinfeld. Guys like Jalen Rose, Greg Anthony and Jon Barry are good and were always good to talk to as players. Snow, likewise, had a great ability to break down the game and I always spent time with him, though he was tough to quote since he didn't score much. It's the troublesome part of reporting, and you see it on TV too much. They go talk to the stars, many of whom have nothing to say because they don't think or know the game well. They are just so much more talented than anyone else. Barkley, as everyone knew who wrote about him in his career, would be the best ever on TV. And also get suspended a few times. Just as he did as a player. The coaches tend to be somewhat overrated because many don't break down the game well on TV and live off their reputations. Doug Collins, obviously is an exception, and Jeff Van Gundy has been a bit of a surprise to most because of his morose public demeanor, though I never doubted he'd be good after hearing him banter with Phil Jackson for years and call him Big Chief Triangle.

With all the talk about the free agent class coming up and everyone concerned with money I think a lot of people are overlooking the coaching situations. All great players want to play for a great coach. Look at Jordan he didn't come back because they didn't bring Phil back. My question is will any big time player want to play for Vinny? I don't think they will.My suggestion is that the Bulls go after Coach K. All the big time players loved playing for him on the Olympic team. He is a home town guy and had flirted with the Lakers a couple of times recently. I know he says he will never leave Duke but they are not the power that they used to be. He has also talked about how he hates the new rules that force a player play one year in school and how it's bad for the college game. I think that if they are really serious about getting a player like Wade or Lebron the best way to improve their chance is by going after a coach like Kyzezewski.

Ryan Spratt

Sam: Michael didn't leave because of Phil. As you may have noticed, Michael didn't come to Phil's Hall of Fame induction and Phil didn't come to Michael's. They had a decent relationship, but neither had his career affected by the other. The problem is there aren't too many great coaches, and everyone can't play for Phil Jackson. Is Mike Brown a great coach in Cleveland? Mike D'Antoni? Eric Spoelstra? Vinny isn't a great coach. He's a relative rookie. Do players want to play for George Karl? He's good. But who's lining up to go to Denver? San Antonio isn't in the player acquisition business. What attracts players first is money and then perhaps second whom to play with. I don't see Vinny as a deal breaker. Tim Floyd could have been given his inexperience. I think what's most important for the Bulls is making the playoffs to show momentum and having a solid rotation and nucleus. Krzyzewski is an interesting name because unlike most college coaches, I believe he has credibility with NBA players given his Olympic success. And he's studied the NBA as a result. The biggest problem with college coaches is they literally don't know who's in the NBA and what guys do and you spend a year with them teaching them who's Courtney Lee and David Lee. I think Krzyzewski is past that, for the most part. But I believe he will stay at Duke unless the Lakers job comes up with the chance to coach Kobe and all that talent. Phil Jackson does have health issues and when he says he's year to year I think that's true. I believe that's why Kurt Rambis left. I suspect he figured out or was told he wasn't going to replace Phil. If the Bulls were to go south and decide to make a change, I'm not sure Krzyzewski would be interested, anyway, because that would mean the Bulls took a big step backward.

I was wondering the status of Ömer Asik, the 7'0" 255 lb center the Bulls acquired in the 2008 draft from Portland for two future second-round draft picks. I know he has been injured a bit over the past few years, but he has good size, good inside shooter, great rebounder and shot blocker. I am curious if the Bulls still have his rights while he is over in Europe as well as if the Bulls are considering him at all in their future plans?

Tony Nemeth

Sam: I believe the season just began over in Turkey, where he is playing again after being injured last season. He's a big guy, though I think a project for the NBA. I think the Bulls are hoping to get him here next summer to take a look at him-they control his rights-and see if he fits or is ready for the NBA. I don't see him as much of a scorer, but a guy who maybe can run the court in sort of a Noah way. I did notice the start of the league in Turkey and Marquette's Dominic James opening with a 27-pont game.

Let's assume the Bulls can't get their hands on Amar'e or Bosh next summer. Who do you think would be the next best option for the Bulls at Power Forward, Tyrus Thomas or David Lee? I like Tyrus' energy and athleticism, but I really like Lee's grit and maturity. I think it makes for an interesting debate.

Christopher Wolff

Sam: It may come down to that. This free agent summer is going to be tough because the biggest money is going to be with the teams the players are currently with, and with a chance for major changes in a new labor agreement in 2011, maybe guys won't want to take the risk on a shorter deal with a new team. So no one can say yet. If Tyrus has a big season, I suppose the Bulls can always reward him to stay. If he doesn't, I think Lee looks like a player who is committed to changing teams and would be a nice addition.

It angers me the NBA is "now" allowing 2 steps. How can anyone respect?our league anymore and the integrity of the game? I think the Donoghy?scandal is less harmful to the game than Stern and Jackson changing?the rulebook will be. It should of never gotten to this point, its?like the steroid problem in baseball, Stern turned a blind eye just?like Selig over a serious issue and said we'll adress it next year. My?concern is players especially LeBron and Pierce will be taking three?or four steps, and take one dribble from half court on a breakaway.?What do you think of Walt Frazier's truthful comments on traveling??About players going 20 feet to the hoop without dribbling, and how?Wilt would of averaged 100 points per game if he could moonwalk, and?change his pivot foot. What I'm confused over is if we are even?watching basketball anymore? I don't believe we are we're now watching?Stern ball a game full of ticky tack fouls, blatant traveling, and?major preferential treatment. For example only in the NBA can you take?2 steps, travel every time you touch the ball, with the ref standing?right there and still get calls on the same play. Paul Pierce, and?LeBron come to mind, I am supremely confident lebron committed more?traveling violations than points scored, what a fundamentally sound? MVP.

Charles Armstrong

Sam: I'm not as upset as you are. I forgot which player said it-I assume jokingly-that he thought they always were allowed three steps. The NBA game is fluid regarding rules, which is OK with me. As long as they are enforced consistently. Of course, that's often an issue as there's this notion of star favoritism, which I helped point out last season when I noticed LeBron James was being called for fewer fouls than anyone basically in history and was being considered for the first time an all league defender. Supporters say guys like that always have the ball and are making plays, so seem to be getting a benefit. There's not all that much credibility with older guys talking about how great it used to be. I recall Frazier's old teammate, Earl Monroe, whom I admired and was one of my alltime favorites, with one of the great carries or palmings of alltime. There's basically been these two steps for some time now and they just are formalizing it. That's OK since the officials will call something vaguely close. I'm OK with that as I don't see it leading to some form of football with guys running through the defense with the ball. The NBA is a pretty good self policing league, and you can believe referees will hear it from fans, players, coaches and media if there are great abuses.

Do you think that starbury is done with his career after his abysmal performance with the Celtics late in the season and during the playoffs, or do you think he'll still get picked up as a backup point. Also, why has MJ never tried coaching? Most of the epic greats have tried it at one point or another after their playing days are over. Even magic tried for a chunk of the his last season. Michael seems to be all over everything else in basketball just wondering why he's never entered that aspect.

Aaron Ward

Sam: As for Marbury, we can only hope. It's hard for me to imagine any team who would be interested in a divisive, over the hill player like that. Michael seems to be enjoying his life and I'd question why he'd want to coach. He doesn't need the money and it's a lot of work. Certainly a lot of time, and definitely cuts into your golf and gambling time in the Bahamas. Don't see Jordan anxious to give that up. He doesn't spend a huge amount of time around the Bobcats as GM, as you may have noticed. He gets criticized for that, but maybe he has it figured out the best-keep involved on the level you want. That's real greatness: Being able to do it your way all the time.

Forget about D Wade, Bosh, Lebron and Johnny Kilroy.?The only move we need to make is Deng and Hinrich for Rudy Gay.?He didn't sign an extension yet and after a year with AI and Zach he?never will. He has undeniable talent and it gives us much needed?athletic ability and a go to scorer. He also gives us a big guard (I?know he plays the 3, but we have Johnson) and he immediately picks up a ton of endorsements. It works and nobody can prove me otherwise. Did I mention he was younger?

Maceo Ellison

Sam: Of course, none of that money comes anywhere close. But just for debate, Memphis will have right of first refusal next summer. You can make a bid for Gay, but then your money is in limbo while they decide whether to match and the way next summer could be you could then miss out on someone else. The Grizzlies have a point and two guard, so hardly need Hinrich. If Gay is that much better, why would they pay Deng so much and not Gay? I like Gay, and we all see dysfunction for Memphis this season. But I don't see them panicking with a cheap contract at this point, and I don't see Gay going anywhere this season.

Last season I noticed Rose was wearing ankle braces on both ankles and in checking out the Adidas website for Rose's new shoe I found they are selling a brace. Since I didn't hear anything about an ankle injury last year and Rose never looked slow I just assumed it was a preference of his but with him currently missing time due to a sprained ankle it got me wondering, does he have a history of ankle problems? Also, does he wear the braces as a preference over getting taped? Are the braces as good as getting taped?

Dave

Sam: I asked him about the ankle braces. Yes, he prefers them to getting taped, which he doesn't do. He said the braces had nothing to do with his injury, which he felt was a freak think being kicked accidently while his foot was off the ground. He didn't have issues before and says the braces work for him.

Would you still consider pippen to be included on the 50 greatest players list? I know that he pioneered/changed the way that his position was played creating more of a point-forward spot, which paved the way for players like melo and lebron. But he never did accomplish anything by himself, and proved in Portland that he couldn't carry a team.

Aaron Weinger

Sam: You can't judge with Portland given he was well past his athletic prime and had lost basically all his explosiveness and was operating on guile. He was a much smarter player than ever given credit for, though many still question his top 50 inclusion. The notion is if not for Jordan, there would be no chance. And I tend to agree. If he were picked by the Clippers at No. 4 in that draft as he should have been, he would not have been a top 50 player because he couldn't create that much for himself. But he wasn't and he was the No. 2 part of six championships and was a multiple defensive player and gold medalist on the Dream Team. So he deserves the recognition and will be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a result. Most everyone who has succeeded has benefitted from good timing on occasion. Pippen did as well, but he also made the most of it.

I was at the Bulls annual autograph session/open practice last Sunday, and it was really interesting watching Vinnie run them through several plays. I wondered how much NBA scoring actually comes from running a designed play, and how much comes from individual players creating their own scoring opportunities. During the Jordan/Jackson years we heard so much about the triangle offense, but it was pretty clear that the triangle worked for the Bulls because they had Jordan as a bail out, not because the triangle really created scoring opportunities. In your opinion, what percentage of an NBA teams offense results from running a designed play?

Ron Rodeghero

Sam: Yes, we used to joke the triangle was three ways to get the ball to Jordan. It was interesting to see the Timberwolves trying to run it as it basically has only succeeded with Jordan and Kobe. I think they used it some with Wilt, also, but it also means you had to have the best players in the league in it. The triangle is something of a takeoff of Jackson's interest in tai chi. There aren't many play calls in the triangle because you are supposed to react to the defense and create space for a shot that way. Few players are comfortable playing that way. Overall, I'd say maybe 40 percent of play calls result in a shot or score. It's close, but probably more calls see the defense cut off the main option and then players free lance. Plus, you have fast breaks, which are not play calls. Actually, I hate most seeing coaches call plays. It's gotten to the point of ridiculous to see managers call pitches in baseball. This has developed because coaches need a way to justify their huge salaries. It's another reason why Jackson is the best. Because he allows players to play. Point guards know the game better than the coach and should call the plays if there are plays to call. Pitchers and catchers feel the game better and quarterbacks know the game and situation. It's another reason why Manning is so much better than the others. Coaches calling plays do a disservice to the game. It's another reason why John Wooden was so much better than 90 percent of the pro coaches working today. He coached and taught in practice. In games, he told players not to look for him for help. Coaches should work and teach in practice. If they still have to in games, they haven't done their jobs and we can't think much of them.

Everyone says pre-season games don't matter but I get worked up on every bulls possession. So far the offense has been moving smoothly but th many misses that Kirk Hinrich has when laying the ball up I feel that he needs to explode more, not dunk it but lay it up with some ferocity. For a guy in the NBA for 6 years I expect him to make lay ups. What do you think? Is the a lingering thumb problem from last year?

Brandon Buerger

Sam: Kirk is more athletic than many guards in his mold. He just isn't a strong finisher in traffic.

I was watching NBA TV's season preview of the Bulls the other night. "The Czar" Mike Fratello made a point to say that losing Ben Gordon was not the only loss the Bulls will struggle to replace, but that losing Del Harris was also a blow to the team. I totally disagree. To me it appears that Vinny feels much more comfortable with his staff already this season. I realize this is natural as he is no longer a rookie coach, but wonder if some of it has to do with not having Del Harris around? I think Vinny is going to have a very good year as he feels so much more at ease with the job, staff and personnel.

Jeff Gochenour

Sam: You should be on NBATV. That's the politically correct thing for coaches to say and that's why most coaches make bad analysts because they are so busy promoting their fellow coaches. It's what leads to the horror of all game horrors-Good time out! I like Del as most around the NBA do, but he was a bad fit last season with another veteran guy in Bernie Bickerstaff. That's too many generals. Vinny had too many guys in his ear all season about what to do and I think he will be a better coach this season, as you have sensed, by being able to do more himself. The conventional wisdom was he needed more veteran expertise, and it was Vinny who asked for Del. But I believe he realized during the season he'd made a mistake and could do a better job if left to his own devices. I think it's a better staff this season.

LeBron will be leaving the Cavs when his contract is up and I'm sure Cleveland is well aware of it. So it's a crazy thought but will they be interested if the Bulls offer them Derrick Rose plus couple others if necessary for LJ? Don't get me wrong. I love Rose but LeBron is LeBron and Rose is not.

Jay C.

Sam: Not even the Jordan statue as well. They are going to hang onto LeBron until they absolutely cannot and there's no certainty he will leave. I certainly wouldn't be going to New York if that's the alternative for him. LeBron is the franchise. It becomes unsalable if he leaves. They will do everything they possibly can to retain him, and they have done a lot already. If they were to trade him-and as I said they won't-you can be sure it would be for at least two All Stars and probably three. Hey, he's the MVP and the latest Jordan. You trade him for a second year guard and some role players? Although if you could get him for Rose maybe the Magic throws in Howard for Hinrich as they're short at backup point.

I haven't seen any discussions about trading Luol Deng. Although I like Luol, his game is programmed and repetitive; teams know his every move, which makes it difficult for him to score. Luol is limited in creativity and personally I don't think he'll return to be a potential all star.

Frank Cook

Sam: There's always one guy fans want traded and it's Lu again. First, you have to give him a chance given he was out most of last season. Though the bigger issue is, well, you cannot trade him. He has five years left on a huge contract and coming off missing most of a season and a stress fracture. Teams aren't taking long term deals knowing the new labor deal might strike out long term deals or salaries as high. And teams cannot be sure Deng is healthy. I don't believe the Bulls are looking to trade him. It doesn't matter because he cannot be traded given his situation and this environment. I believe Deng can regain much of his old form. He wasn't a great athlete then, but needs movement on the offense and he needs Rose back. Vinny hasn't been great with movement on offense, and while some have asked whether Vinny can deal with Tyrus, I think just as important will be finding a role and situation where Deng can prosper.

Who wins a game of horse... you, Chuck or the new guy Adam?

Billy Habibi

Sam: I think I win it in PIG, though at my age I could tire for the stretch letters.