Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 10.15.10
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.
What are the chances of the Bulls staying with what they have? If they stay healthy, and build team chemistry, I'd like to see what they can do with what they have. Isn't it going to be hard enough to get used to all the new guys they currently have? Mayo would be nice, I'll admit. I think he would complement Rose perfectly. He can bring the ball up, shoot decent and play some D. It would free Rose up sometimes on the break. Let's see what Brewer does first, I guess.
Sam: I think that’s where the Bulls are despite many fans’ views to keep churning. I may have created a monster. They have more trade suggestions than I do. So I don’t expect any changes, though I’d still try to Free Rudy and take a chance he’d stay beyond this season and just wants out of the Portland fog and rain. I think the Bulls basically like what they have and want to see what they have with Boozer. Plus, I don’t believe the Bulls quite see themselves yet among the Miami/Boston/Orlando top three. And I don’t think there’s much competition from below. While the East is somewhat better, I think you’d be hard pressed to find eight sure playoff teams. So I don’t think there’s an urgency now to add to the roster. Given so many new additions, I believe the Bulls want to see how the players come together with the new coach and how young guys like Asik develop.
I can't believe the Bulls are really going to start the season with Bogans at shooting guard! Then as back up we have Brewer who can't shoot threes!
Omar De Jesus
Sam: It was the major issue I wrote about coming into the season, and seems more acute now that Brewer has been hurt. I personally don’t see Bogans as a starting quality guard for a championship team, but the Bulls aren’t a championship team. So maybe it fits on that level. He does seem serviceable and has made threes in the preseason, though his defense has been suspect at times. I’ve lobbied for some time for the team to pursue a three-point threat like Rudy Fernandez, who is no great defender, either. By all accounts, Portland has only listened to offers and doesn’t seem much interested in doing anything now, not unlike the Nuggets with Carmelo Anthony. So it appears the Bulls are going into the season with this roster.
I've watched the first half of the game (in Portugal it starts at 1 am) and when I saw the boxscore I was frustrated... Kyle Weaver didn't play. I wonder if he isn't a better fit for now that Bogans or Brewer.
Brian Scalabrine and Kyle Weaver? or John Lucas? What do you think?
I'm liking a lot how this team is playing. Thibs looks great.
Sam: Scalabrine pretty much has made the team. I think the team will go with 14, so it probably comes down to Weaver or Lucas. I suppose they could keep 15 and have them both. Given the issue at shooting guard, to me it seems an obvious choice for Weaver, given he’s 6-6 and can play both guard positions and has played well thus far, even though he didn’t get to play against Toronto. I assume the team wanted to use both Brewer and Watson, who had been injured. Brewer clearly was in line to start before getting hurt again. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the way Weaver can pass so well even off the dribble and has looked to me like the second best point guard on the roster. Bogans has been OK, so probably has the starting two guard job for now. Perhaps they put Korver there, though the plan seems to bring him off the bench. It seems unclear whether Brewer can be at full strength at this point given he’s been out so long, so I’d like to see Weaver on the team because the need for depth at two is much more vital than at one. It will be interesting to see the next few games to see how Weaver and Lucas are used.
The Grizz released chucky atkins. He should fill in nicely as the Bulls 3rd point guard.
Do you believe that would be possibly?
Sam: I think Weaver is better and we’re still not even sure he’ll make the team.
I was pretty surprised at the nonexistent reaction from Bulls fans about the Noah deal last week. While I'm sure all fans are pleased that a deal was reached, I'm concerned about the long term ramifications given the uncertainty with a new CBA, his Plantar Fasciitis from last year and his limited offensive repitore. I don't agree with the decision to pay Noah given that uncertainty. Do you? While I certainly value his unique skill set of being a solid passing big man who can run the floor and I appreciate his willingness to dive for loose balls out of bounds(even if it's false hustle at times), I'm not sure I'd prematurely pay him 60 million to do so. If the next CBA includes shorter term deals with less money annually, wouldn't it be financially prudent to wait before committing that type of money? I think the Bulls have a nice core of Rose, Boozer, Deng and Noah, but didn't they just needlessly limit their ability to supplement that core by paying Noah before they needed to?
Sam: I’m pretty surprised by this reaction. I think the Bulls were a bit generous, considering Noah was two years away from being unrestricted. But to get a deal with one of your core players it was well worth it to avoid a dispute. And you know with Noah you’re not going to get a player who mails it in once he’s paid. I think one big issue was that CBA you mention. Say there is a lockout next season. No one knows what is going to occur, but just hypothetically, say there’s a repeat of 1999 and a half season lost. All of a sudden, it’s not so difficult to get to restricted free agency in a partial season and then Noah could be unrestricted. I believe Chicago’s a perfect situation for him and he loves the market and team potential. But at that point, both New York teams could have substantial salary cap room. And Noah is from New York and a Knicks fan growing up. Maybe he decides to go back to the big city. So, to me, it was well worth it to lock up Noah and not risk losing him for nothing. In some respects, he’s the heart of the team with his attitude and hustle. It would have been a mistake to let this play out over a few million dollars. First the Bulls were condemned for not rushing to extend players like Ben Gordon; now criticism for extending too fast? C’mon. A lot of fans love to say how the Bulls cannot keep falling in love with their players. Well, Noah is a guy worth falling for. The core is Rose and Noah. It’s the other guys who have to fit in.
Has there been any improvement in Asik's free throw shooting? If I recall correctly, he was somewhere in the 30% range for his career in Europe. If he continues at this percentage, isn't he too much of an offensive liability to play in the regualr season?
Sam: First of all, I don’t think he’s going to be finishing many games. He was shooting 31 percent going into Tuesday’s game, and then he was three of four. I’m not sure why he’s been a 30 percent shooter, but I believe he’ll be much better. First of all, he is a hard worker. But Wilt and Shaq worked hard and never improved much. The bigger thing is Asik appears to have a good shooting stroke. I won’t compare them, but when Derrick Rose came to the Bulls the word was he was a poor shooter. But when I first saw him with the Bulls it was clear he had a good stroke. And when you have a good stroke you can become a good shooter. I don’t expect Asik to make 80 percent, but I believe he’ll get much better. He doesn’t shoot the ball like orange seeds shooting out from between his fingers like Shaq, or out of a contortion like Chris Dudley. I don’t believe there will be a major issue in the long run.
Do you think they will switch Noah onto Kevin Durant when they play Oklahoma?
In my opinion Durant is the only player you comes close to matching Lebron in size and athleticism.
Sam: Yes, we’re only about 10 days from the opener. Yeah! Without Boozer, yes, Thibodeau has been experimenting with Noah and Asik playing together. Obviously, Noah has to defend the fours in that pairing. But, no, I don’t see them using Noah against quick fours who can beat him off the dribble and make him look bad. Noah’s an excellent athlete, but not on the level of guys like LeBron and Durant, the best in the world. He did a good job against a guy like Bargnani, who doesn’t have much post game. Until Boozer returns, they’ll use those twin seven footers in spot duty depending on matchups. That’s why I wanted to take a look at James Johnson at four for matchups like Durant if Durant plays some power forward, though Durant plays more three these days with Jeff Green at four. But Thibodeau doesn’t see that working, and I defer to him for now as things have looked good. But I remain available if he has questions.
I have been impressed with Noah alot during the first half of preseason. If he can put up 6+ assists in limited minutes, is he a threat to become a regular triple double guy? Further, as a legit defensive five, can we someday see the illusive quadruple double out of him? I know it seems like a lot but he seems to have developed some serious offensive awareness this offseason.
Sam: Noah talked some about the possibility of a triple double after the Toronto game after he came close, and as I expected he eschewed the notion of looking for stats. With most players I’d be dubious, but not him. He has shown he can be a threat on offense as his shot—the tornado, or the planet at it’s sometimes called—has become relatively reliable. He’s always been a terrific interior passer, so I could see the possibility on a rare occasion of 10 assists. But he’s not getting 10 blocks. Actually, Asik looks like he’ll be a better shot blocker. Noah doesn’t have that defensive explosion off the floor like the big time shot blockers, though he is so smart as a position player and aware of so much going on in the game and one the floor. Anyway, the last Bulls quad was Nate Thurmond as soon as he was traded in 1974. The guy he was traded for, Cliff Ray, went on to beat the Bulls for the conference title and win the championship while Nate faded fast and was never the same player again, the long term curse of Bulls big men.
I was at the Raptors game and saw something I couldn't believe... Joakim Noah played 40 minutes....IN A PREASEASON GAME?! I understand Thibs wants to see what he has and also see what players and lineups mesh well together... But this is absolutely insane. We're talking about a guy in Noah who missed around 20 games last season with Plantar whateveritis and is finally completely healthy and we're maxing him out in a meaningless game. Rose has also been consistently playing more than 30 minutes a game AFTER playing all summer with the national team. With Boozer out for at least the first month of the season, doesn't Thibs understand that if Rose or Noah go down right now for an extended period of time that we have absolutely no chance to win the East let alone thinking about getting home court advantage for any series? If players are dragging at the end of the season we will know why. What is wrong with playing your starters 22-24 minutes a game initially in the preaseason and bumping it up to regular minutes the last two games? If he keeps pushing guys at this rate (mentally and physically) he is really running the risk of losing the team. This is the other side to Tom Thibodeau that really makes me wonder.
Sam: I really had no problems with it, though I wasn’t playing. I think we baby pro athletes too much these days. Baseball pitchers had to invent a stupid stat of quality start and celebrate someone for pitching six innings. The Bulls had two full days off after Tuesday’s game. Last week when they played the Mavs, Dallas brought back Nowitzki for heavy minutes in the fourth quarter. The Celtics had Paul Pierce at almost 40 minutes the other night to pull out a win against the Knicks. Thibodeau had a good explanation given the chance to look at Noah against a perimeter four. Maybe it’s best he plays than stays home as that’s where the most serious Bulls injuries have occurred this season. I think the plantar fasciitis was from bad sneakers that Noah didn’t want to change because they were from France. I am not certain about that, but he seems fine now. And guys in their 20s want to play and should play. Jordan often played big minutes in preseason games, and then traveled commercial. Let’s not give these guys so many excuses. They are in their 20s and the greatest athletes in the world. There’s no reason they can’t play a few hours of basketball every third day.
What do the Bulls feel they have to gain from looking into Boozer's story of how his hand got injured? It seems they only risk upsetting Boozer by doubting him.
Sam: I know it’s a lot to ask of some media members, especially in New York where this story originated, to think before they write. But, obviously, there would be no point for the Bulls to do this unless they were going to try to void Boozer’s deal, which they are not. And they certainly could not prove Boozer did anything to violate his contract unless they found that he was riding a motorcycle in his house. Thibodeau said there was nothing to it and it was false and then Boozer said the same. It is the big issue in the media today. You can throw out false information and then because of so many compilation sites, where most people get their news, it gains credibility because it was picked up. Organizations cannot afford to react publicly to these kinds of things because then they’d have to respond to everything written or said and then be in position if they don’t, the response would be, “Then that must be true.” But I know in this instance the misinformation was so egregious the Bulls were willing to challenge it at every level.
I was curious what you thought the likelihood was of JJ’s option being picked up for next year? I hope the Bulls pick it up after what we’ve seen so far this preaseason (I know it’s preseason, but still). Last year was rough for him but as a JJ apologist, I chalk that up to immaturity, horrible coaching decisions (just stick him in a corner, really Vinny?), and an all too typical rookie’s lack of commitment to his game. I’ve noticed Johnson shooting a higher percentage this preseason (with less arc), playing slower and more in control, and most importantly – creating for others (his greatest strength). He is the only guy on the team that can create an open shot for someone else when Rose is out. I believe it is just a matter of harnessing and developing that ability further. JJ’s skill set reminds me of a poor man’s Grant Hill: A better playmaker than shooter, and a better ballhandler than his size should allow.
Sam: Well, I do think he has improved, shooting better and slowing down and learning. By all accounts, he has changed his attitude and worked harder and been more serious. Though the issue still is despite that athletic ability for his size, it’s still unclear where he fits. They seem to have settled on him as a backup three, but I’m not sure he has the speed. You can project him anywhere from one through four with his skills, but nowhere certain. I haven’t heard much of the Bulls plan, but I don’t see why you would give him a qualifying offer. Let him play it out and if he plays well you can always sign him. I’m not sure his market will be so great. Let him play for a contract rather than assuring him of one and see what he gives you under those conditions. I’m not down on him, but I’d try to remain more flexible than putting that money on my cap for next season when we still don’t know what the new labor rules will be.
Once Boozer went down, I was ready to start writing depressive emails to you, but I saw my first game last night (vs. Washington) and I saw a lot of great stuff on offense. DRose getting to the line 7 times, Deng scoring 12 points on only 5 shots, better ball and player movement than last year, much better 3pt shooting... even JJ with 7 points and 5 assists (and no TO?!?!) in limited time. Is this increased offensive efficiency here to stay, or more a sign of the Bulls playing a bad team?
Sam: I think we have all seen in a short time a much crisper, smarter and better brand of offense that would suggest perhaps Thibodeau was miscast as a defensive specialist.
I know the Carmelo to Chicago rumors have died down quite a bit for now, but what if the trade deadline gets near and Denver knows Melo is gone after this season. Since we are not going to give up Noah, would Denver accept Deng, Johnson, and a 1st round pick or two?
Sam: The Bulls would figure to hope so, but I expect Anthony to be gone long before then. I don’t see the new, inexperienced management in Denver being able to hold it together with Anthony for very long. He’ll want to lock up his extension and they’ll want to begin moving on. Again, everyone feels it eventually will be New Jersey, but it’s possible Anthony still could consider the Clippers, who have some tantalizing offers on the table. And it is L.A.
What do people see in Anthony Randolph? He is still rail thin, still a complainer, still takes deep jumpers, and his defense isn't all that good'. Everyone in NY is so excited about him but I don't see it.
Sam: I’ve heard him described as Tyrus Thomas-esque. We here know what that means. I’ve noticed this in recent years about New York. The community is so desperate for basketball success that the fans generally have lost perspective on what is good and bad basketball, that New York has become one of the least knowledgeable fan bases in the NBA, that you’d have a more intelligent conversation about the NBA in Oklahoma City today than you would in New York. I do think the Knicks have a reasonable chance to get one of the bottom playoff spots, so perhaps the conversation increases a level. But right now the world’s smelliest arena generally hosts the world’s least sophisticated fans.
So you probably think I am drunk off the kool-aid, but after watching Thibs offense and seeing the expected growth of Rose and Noah. Factoring in the additions, and Asik being much further along than expected, I am predicting 55 wins and a trip to the ECF. Even with Boozer missing all that time, I think this team was so grossly under coached the last two years that people don’t realize how much talent is even on the roster. It is so refreshing to see something besides the same high screen roll over and over. Thibs looks like he could be one of the most qualified head coaches I have ever seen.
Sam: I wish you would have written after the Milwaukee game compared to after the Toronto game, where the Bulls looked dominant and Toronto didn’t look like it could win 25 games. I agree the offense is much better and more interesting and Thibodeau is an excellent choice, demanding and knowledgeable. But it’s a long season and stuff happens. The Bulls, I believe, badly need Boozer back, and when he does come back, I believe they have a chance to be fourth or fifth in the East as I think the Hawks could be the team that has troubles this season with guys on contract years and lineup uncertainty at guard. But I do believe it can be a rocky start with the schedule and lack of Boozer and I have my early prediction in the high 40s in wins. I think the Bulls would be happy with that going into the playoffs.
I was checking out a blog on one of the major sports news websites and it was discussing the most overrated players in the NBA. I was disappointed to find Derrick Rose in the First Team at point guard. The article called him overrated because he is predicted by some to be in the discussion (albeit on the far periphery) for MVP this year. The two major flaws listed were "still not a great jump shot" and "putrid defender". I've seen these knocks on Rose's game over and over since he came into the league and the first I can't understand. As far as I've seen, his shot is great up until he reaches the 3 point line. I know that a sub-par jump shot was supposed to be a weakness of his before he was drafted so are these writers just not watching the games from the last two years? I'll give them the fact that he's not a great defender but he's certainly not "putrid" and improving from season to season. Plus, how many of the top PGs are really lockdown defenders? Nash (two time MVP) has always been one of the worst in the league yet is still consistently rated at the top for PGs. Chris Paul is great at playing the passing lanes and padding his steal numbers but guys blow by him all the time. If defense is to be counted evenly with offensive ability, shouldn't Rondo be above and beyond the #1 PG given his all-around game? He doesn't have a good jumper but he finds ways to score while playing the best D out of any point guard. Even so, he is often listed outside of the top 3.
Sam: That’s why you should not read major sports web sites and stick with Bulls.com. I agree Rose is not an MVP candidate at this point, but I believe Rose now should be in the discussion for being the best point guard in the NBA. Deron Williams is terrific and Chris Paul will have to show he can stay healthy. Rajon Rondo is an impact player, but not near the offensive force. Steve Nash is still amazing, but as you say, the worst ever defender to be MVP. There is no point guard in the league defenses fear more than Rose. I’ve heard that from several coaches. Actually, Rose’s defense has been a lot better as he’s gotten over screens more and closed out on shooters. Even a tough guy like Thibodeau believes Rose will be a good defender, much as he’s become a good shooter and improving with threes. The problem with some of these web sites is the writers don’t know that much about basketball or the people in the game, but are trying to get attention amidst the cacophony of voices, which isn’t easy. So you say something hysterical to make people mad. Sort of the sports version of Fox News and MSNBC. And you fell for it. It’s the old trick of tabloid newspapers. But it’s OK because there’s nothing wrong with discussion. It’s a lot of the fun of sports. You just can’t take it too seriously. It’s why you have been well advised to come here for clarification. As Lucy Van Pelt used to say, “The doctor is in. That will be five cents.”