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Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 11.19.10

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

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

The sad and really shocking news about Greg Oden requiring another micro-fracture surgery and missing this year and the 2011-12 season being very uncertain raises a question. From your extensive experience with the NBA what NBA player went down to injury who you think would have been the best NBA player? I am thinking about Jay Williams motorcycle accident as a candidate. Oden seemed primed to be a force in the NBA.

Bruce Roberts

Sam: And no matter what every scout, GM and journalist says, I never heard anyone then saying they'd take Durant first. After all, Durant was a big time Big 12 scoring force, but he could have been Beasley. No one knew for sure then. He was certainly a good player, but not better than the center of the era in an era with virtually no low lost big men. Even then I didn't see Jay as a super player of the level of a Rose, though potentially very good. You can point to Len Bias, who died of a drug overdose, a tragic case, or even Ben Wilson, shot in Chicago when he was one of the best high school players in America. I think Austin Carr would have had a much greater career if not for serious injury at a time knee issues were more debilitating than now given the surgeries available today. There was Maurice Stokes illness as he would have been one of the great ones and his story needs telling again in one of those ESPN documentaries with what Jack Twyman did. I remember going to the great Kutcher's fundraiser game they had annually for Maurice. Their documentary on Vlade Divac and Drazen Petrovic was terrific, and Drazen would have been a top player for many more years. Bill Walton may have been the greatest center even if not for more than 30 surgeries, and he still was a Hall of Famer. He would be my No. 1 choice for injury misfortune even though he did have some pro career and one title. Portland has to be the most cursed franchise in NBA history. There's Yao now whose career is closing. It's an arguable topic. What would Grant Hill have become, McGrady, Penny Hardaway, Danny Manning, Bernard King, Ralph Sampson. Sorry, Sam Bowie was always just going to be OK.

Back in the 2008 draft, I think I was one of the few guys who actually wanted the Bulls to take Mike Beasley with the #1 pick. With that being said, I am glad I am not a GM and the Bulls took Rose and have no regrets. However, since Beasley has been playing so well recently, he reminds me of the player he was at Kansas State and the dominant offensive force he was projected. My question is, why didn't more teams try to get this guy? I have read a lot about him, and he is more of a goofball/jokester than someone like DeMarcus Cousins or a pre-Grizzles Zach Randolph who were an actual problem. Did teams think he was washed up/not worth the trouble and locker room disturbance?

Sharvil Sheth

Sam: Well, there were concerns about his maturity and commitment given a series of incidents, including marijuana use at the rookie seminar and hiding in the closet to think he'd avoid detection. I sensed then he wouldn't be a good triangle player. That said, teams always take a chance on real talent, and he has it. The issue was cap space. Hardly anyone had what Miami wanted, which was cap space they couldn't use. No free agents were going to Minnesota, big ones, anyway. Miami wasn't taking back a player as they were getting the money for their three, and no matter what you think of the Heat and them, it was a coup for the ages. Minnesota without a chance to be in the free agency hunt took on Beasley much as Washington did with Kirk Hinrich. The other teams with cap money who were shut out like the Clippers and Nets didn't think they'd be. So Minnesota got a steal.

Rose's offensive caliber is not questioned at all. But much like a pendulum swings from one end to the other, Rose's previous handle-with-care halfcourt slowdown sets by Vinny D have now been replaced with "take the ball up court, beat your man, and either drive or pull up with a J without any passing on the offensive end" by Tommy T. I counted at least five times where this happened. It may be fine, because thats what it might take for the Bulls to win, but you can't think that the rest of the squad are happy not being involved in the offense at all, even if it's just swinging the ball around for an eventual Rose score. Rose's defense is definitely questionable. Countless times where Tony Parker would either blow past him or beat him in transition to the other side of the court. It's great if you can score 13 in a quarter, but isn't that mitigated when your counterpart is making you look silly on the other end? Maybe Rose was spending too much time and energy scoring on the other end. Whatever the issue is, let's put Rose in the Steve Nash/Jason Kidd career trajectory (two great scoring and/or passing PGs who don't play D) and wait to elevate him to the CP3/Tony Parker/Westbrook (overall do-it-all guards with strong defense) level just yet.

Dennis Chong

Sam: Now that's the guy they should trade for 'Melo? OK, now who do you think Rose is beating to the basket for all his layups? Those great NBA defensive point guards? Just to clarify, Westbrook isn't anything special on defense for one of the poorest defensive teams in the league who keep no one out of the paint. Kidd actually is the best defender of the bunch. Or once was. Deron Williams is a poor defender, Nash is the worst defender ever to be a two-time MVP, Tony Parker wasn't in the same zip code as Rose Wednesday, and Rose also was beating Duncan after going by Parker. Without the old hand check rules, it's virtually impossible to defend point guards in this era. That's the point, so to speak. The NBA doesn't want them defended or stopped. They want the game faster and more open and higher scoring. So they changed the contact rules a few years back. Sure, Rose gets beat and sometimes doesn't drive through and over the screens, but this is the first season he's even being asked to defend anyone and less than a month into it. He'll be fine. And to my view he does spread the ball around, even too much. I thought those passes at the end of the Houston game to Ronnie Brewer he should have held and created contact, but he is more a point guard than, say, Westbrook, and wants to involve other guys. The problem with loving a team, like loving a person, is sometimes because you are so close and want it to work so badly you concentrate too much on their flaws. Imagine violin music as you are reading that.

Just wondering your take one coach Thibodeau's substitution methods, starting to think he benches guys and forgets them or sits them to make a point that they're not doing sobering right... I felt like he packed it in too soon against New York. Also against Houston he sat Brewer almost the entire third after he had a great start to the game and then against San Antonio he played Scalabrine entirely too long especially once Rose got them back in the game. It's really starting to concern me. Before the season people said a coach like Thibs could get you ten wins alone, well I think he, while not fully at fault, helped lose three already.

Big fan-Anthony Lewicki

Sam: Wow, trade Rose and fire Thibodeau. That didn't take long. I think even he'll admit he'd re-do the New York game, though he had an idea and was making a point about not getting out to the three, but I thought that was just lucky shooting and you didn't need to overreact to it. But Thibodeau judges everything from the defensive end first, so it was understandable. I've liked the way he's coached the team. Without Boozer, he has to try a lot of different combinations, and I credit him for being willing to experiment even though he believes in a shorter rotation. He does have a bit of a blind spot for guys he trusts, like Scalabrine, but all coaches do, and it's not like Scalabrine has played much or hurt the team when he did. His defensive system is good with the paint closing down better than it has in recent years and he has much more movement and lots of action off the ball. His plays out of timeouts have been innovative, and he's shown faith in the players in encouraging them to shoot. The team competes hard and while you could have micromanaging type differences, I like the overall way he's handled them so far without making excuses that his starting four hasn't played and his starting two, Brewer, is just now getting close to being in condition.

I was watching the game against the Spurs last night on espn for a bit to get the views from the national TV analysts and one thing that particularly interested me was Mark Jackson and Van Gundy's top 5 list of best point guards in the league. I personally think Jackson hit it right on the head except for his last pick in order: Williams, Paul, Rose, Rondo, Westbrook (I think Nash should be number 5 but Westbrook a close 6th). What bugs me of course how ridiculous Van Gundy is with his: Williams, Paul, Rondo, Nash, then Rose/Westbrook/Billups (seriously). Van Gundy also goes on during the telecast underrating Rose and the only thing he really mentioned that was true about how his game needing improvement was his defense and he didn't praise him in any other areas where he's improved (passing/assists, 3pt, more vocal, etc.) In your opinion, who is your current top 5 PGs in the NBA this season and why is Van Gundy never giving the Bulls props?

Alex Mattucci

Sam: He's an analyst who is supposed to take a side and have a point of view. I have no problem with that. And Jeff is a very good broadcaster. But he's long had a personal issue with the Bulls, though, whether it's from the Jordan era and Jordan even mentioned Van Gundy negatively in his Hall of Fame speech, who knows. The other point is Jeff s a master psychologist. Note how he said the Heat should win 73 and never lose two straight. For if they did, it would suggest Riley, a recent nemesis, had perhaps failed. Likewise, Jeff is close with Thibodeau, so perhaps in Jeff's mind if he runs down the players it elevates what Thibodeau does and keeps Thibodeau in line for an extension. As for top five and all that, here's the ultimate test. If you had to pick a player to start your team with, which of those guys would you select? I'd be fine with Paul, Williams or Rose. Then it clearly drops off. Williams is a better shooter now than Rose and Paul is a better distributor, but neither matches Rose's explosiveness and ability to score regularly. Given Rose's age and ceiling, I'd be comfortable taking him No. 1, but I could see him anywhere now between Nos. 1 and 3.

Why are all the people that where hyping the Heat all summer now telling us that we are overreacting to their slow start?

Charles Clark

Sam: Because journalism and perspective, except perhaps here, is pretty much dead. In this instant information era, it seems to be more important to have an opinion no matter how factually misinformed or and to lack any accountability. That would be my version of my parents' telling me they walked to school six miles in the snow (bare foot, I recall) when I wanted a ride and they lived on a penny a year when I thought I should get money for two packs of baseball cards instead of one. Yes, I am officially a crank. Or as I'm called at times by Gar Forman when I'm debating him, Larry David.

Bosh is obviously the most valuable and expendable piece Riley has to improve his team. How about Bosh for Scola and Battier or Miller? To Portland for Camby and their Miller? I know Bosh can't be traded for another month but the Heat would have plenty of time to develop chemistry before the playoffs. Either trade would improve the heat dramatically though I don't know why I am volunteering this since I am a Bulls fan.

David Yuen

Sam: I know Bosh has been the third tenor there already, but I believe Pat Riley is committed to this and isn't going to make any major change to suggest he wasn't right all along. Loyal? Stubborn? Whatever the case, Bosh isn't going anywhere. Portland, obviously, doesn't make sense given Camby's age and with the injury problems for Oden and Brandon Roy they may be close to breaking up their team and starting again. Houston has tried desperately for a so called star, but I think what Bosh truly has shown is he's a talent, but a guy who'll score big on a losing team, which is all he did in Toronto. With LeBron officially taking over as de facto point guard, it will begin to come together and Bosh should level off there and be OK.

I've been very impressed with Asik's early season play, but I'm a little worried that his tendency to hang on the rim after a dunk is going to get him T'd up.

Ben Jablonski

Sam: He has been a pleasant surprise, and even more surprising to me and in a positive sense is the way Thibodeau has readily employed him. Coming into the season, I got the sense Thibodeau didn't want to play him and doubted he'd be able to contribute for months. But when he saw Omer could, he quickly made him the backup center and has used him relatively often with Noah in a scheme with two seven footers, the kind of defense he was successful with in Boston. Now, I see Thibodeau pushing Omer to develop even more quickly given Thibodeau sees the possibilities. Though Duncan had good overall numbers Wednesday, I thought it was key in the first half when he couldn't beat Omer and the Bulls didn't have to help. Sure, Duncan scored at times, but Omer didn't need help, which didn't compromise the defense. Yes, Omer still is awkward shooting the ball and is a bit stiff when he lays off on defense. But he does an excellent roll when he gets those dunks and for now I think the officials have been caught watching as they see so few European big men roll and dunk with such coordination.

Which player will be left off the active roster when Boozer is healthy? Who is the 13th man?

Jeremy Man

Sam: Probably Kurt Thomas for a time, and then it will bounce back and forth as he's needed with JJ taking a turn there if he still fails to crack the rotation. It's not a big issue as it used to be when you had to put guys on the phony injured list for five games.

Do the foreign guys like Asik get the rookie hazing?

Ryan Schanser

Sam: He helps carry the luggage with the equipment guys to and from the charter, but he doesn't have to wear the kids' back packs or much of the silly stuff that Johnson and Gibson did last season. I asked a few players and they don't talk with Asik all that much given his improving but uncertain English. He's friendly and seems well liked, but they also view him as a pro given he played in the European leagues and they rightly feel it would be demeaning. It's pretty much like that around the NBA.

I've been hearing rumors that the Bulls are searching for a 3rd PG. Sundiata's been taken off the market by Minnesota. They're holding out on Pat Bev so who are they gonna get? Do you think they should bring back Kyle Weaver?

Kyli Jones

Sam: I know there's a lot of talk about a third point guard with C.J. Watson playing unevenly, but I wouldn't count on it. One reason is the Bulls paid for Watson and are going to play him. He was better, especially playing with Rose late in the Spurs game. Plus, you aren't bringing in a third point guard to entrust him with running your offense. Players like Gaines and Beverly don't take over teams. You saw against Houston how much trouble Ish Smith had with so many late turnovers. This is that backup quarterback syndrome you hear so often in the NFL, which is basically a fan plea for anyone but who we have. Weaver is in the D-league and it's possible he could return in an emergency, but the coach didn't seem to have confidence in him so I'm not sure what will change. I wish it would. I suspect they'll go with what they have and if there's a move to be made I expect the team will look first for a big one, like Anthony, which is a long shot, and then maybe a shooting guard, though both are not likely.

I've been hearing a lot lately about speculation around the league that Kevin Love is upset with his lack of playing time and might be demanding a trade. Do you think that if he would get traded there would be a chance he would go to the Bulls? He's a great shooter, can stretch the floor, and rebounds like crazy. If we were to trade Gibson in the deal, he'd be our primary big off the bench that can score, hustle, and spread the floor well. I really like his style of play and maybe I'm just hoping, but we need shooters and spacing the floor would be great for slashers like Rose and Deng.

Mike Mikos

Sam: My guess is the coach would go first, though he's been playing Love more lately and basically had to after that 31-31 game. No one is ever quite sure what Rambis is up to, but David Kahn has gotten a lot of criticism. I know David as he used to be a sports writer covering the Blazers in the ‘80s when I was doing the Bulls. He went to law school and I wrote a book and traded everyone in the NBA twice. So I guess that's how you get to be an NBA GM. He's not dumb. He traded Jefferson. He's not about to lose Love.

So what are the Bulls realistic chances of winning a championship in the next say decade. (I know it is still quite early). We don't have much more money for free agents for a while. With that in mind do the Bulls need to make some trades to put themselves in contention for a title? If so what do they need to trade for to get them to that championship level? Also wouldn't it be a good idea to hold on to the Charlotte pick because its our best long term chance of getting another player?

John Lustrea

Sam: I think that's what management is thinking regarding that Charlotte pick unless a blockbuster like Anthony comes along. I could be wrong, but I think they are overvaluing it and I'd cash it in for a starter who could help now if I could get one. You might not be able to, though. A lot regarding the future depends on the new labor deal. The NBA is talking tough, so we don't know. I like to be optimistic, though everyone seems to feel there'll be some shutdown next season, or at least for part of it. Although I don't see it happening, there have been rumors of a hard cap which would limit future signings which could conceivably mean the Bulls couldn't sign Rose given the contracts they currently have, which may be one reason for not wanting to take on a long contract now. As I said, I cannot see it given you'd break up all your marquee teams, but no one is consulting me on collective bargaining. I think the Bulls are well positioned, but given Boozer's age I'd try to do what I could now to make a run in the next few years and not wait for a potential retooling in 2016 if that pick comes to you then as the No. 1 in the draft.

I enjoyed the article on possible shooting guards for the Bulls. I agree that most of the people you identified are good potential targets; what about Jason Richardson? He's shooting great from deep, has the athleticism to be a strong defender, and is in the last year of his deal with a notoriously thrifty team. Would the Suns consider a package of picks, CJ Watson, Taj/Omer and various other pieces to make contracts work? Or is it too hard to match his salary and then the Bulls wouldn't have the cash to resign him at the end of the season anyway? As long as the Suns have Nash they'll be competitive, but they don't seem to have the players to make any serious noise in the playoffs. Reloading with picks and young, cheap talent would improve the Suns' bottom line without destroying their shot at the playoffs.

Brad Hergott

Sam: The Suns are in a bind because they made a series of bad signings over the summer aimed at short term goals, like adding Turkoglu and giving big money to Channing Frye and Hakim Warrick. They had the perfect opportunity to break it up, trade Nash while he has great value, get under with Richardson's contact up and that's a place free agents generally want to go. Too late now. Richardson's deal is $14 million, so it would be way too much for the Bulls to match, which is why I didn't mention him. If I were them I'd let Richardson's deal expire as they are going to lose and lose a lot of money, so why take on more long term deals for modest talents. But you never know what they'll do given what they've done.

Money aside, do you think Ben Gordon is happy in Detroit? He's had a few very nice games this year so far. Then, I've noticed he was last off the bench scoring seven points. I've noticed Tracy McGrady comes off the bench ahead of him recently. I'm curious what you think.

Bob Gottlieb

Sam: It doesn't seem like anyone is happy in Detroit as it's been the most open hostility team between coach and players this season. Ben has publicly expressed several times he doesn't feel he's used right, though they have way too many guards, and it's hard to blame John Kuester for that. I do believe Ben is happy with his decision because he wasn't going to get near as much money from the Bulls or anyone else. And if you can't win the championship, which you probably don't with Ben as your shooting guard, then why not take the best deal? Very few, if any, NBA players put money aside. Which is why it will be so intriguing to watch Anthony, who for sure would forfeit tens of millions if he doesn't sign an extension. Yes, LeBron and Bosh and Wade took less, but very, very, very little difference given Florida's lack of income tax. No one would take as big a pay loss as Anthony if he just played out his deal to sign with the Knicks next season. How wanting only to be a winner squares with going to New York I'm still working on.

I have long wondered why the Bulls and Hawks are not treated as first priority at the UC when the circus comes to town. Year after year, the Bulls find themselves in an early hole, forced to chase the .500 mark the remainder of the season. Granted, the schedule balances out for every team after 82 games, but do most other NBA clubs have to endure eight game road trips (and some years nine out of ten games on the road)? With today's speedy air travel, I don't buy off on the economic factors nor time-saving benefits of lumping many road games "out west" together, especially when several Western Conference teams are settled in the Central Time Zone (Minnesota, Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, Oklahoma City, New Orleans) altogether (Denver is also only a two-hour flight away). The UC is best known as home to the Bulls and Hawks, so why won't it host the circus anytime between late-June and late-October, instead of forcing its biggest cash draws out of town for several weeks at a time?

Mike Burgher

Sam: Look, it's really not a big deal if you are a good team. The Jazz routinely go on a long trip during Christmas week, which is tougher, and the Spurs always go on a two week trip when the rodeo has their arena, and they managed four titles. The Bulls managed six with the same schedule. I liked how Thibodeau started the whole thing by saying it's just a few road games, so what's the big deal. Actually, the Bulls should have an advantage over most teams as their main players are young and should have no trouble playing seven basketball games in 14 days. These generally are excuses used by losers, as Mike Ditka would have so eloquently put it. In many respects, the Bulls, according to some, have one of the easier schedules in the NBA given they are in the middle of the country with the shortest travel in their division. I never hear a team say they have an easy schedule or they get the benefit of the calls.

So a lot of people seem to be complaining about Thibs wearing out the starters and leaving them on the floor for too long. Do you agree that their minutes have to be cut down? Also, if it is indeed the case that they're playing too many minutes, why exactly might that be the case? Seems a bit risky to do it just for the sake of building familiarity and chemistry — besides, it would seem like the bench needs much more chemistry building than the starters. Could it be because Thibs just doesn't have faith in our bench?

Patrick Pressl

Sam: The minutes aren't crazy given no one is in the top 10 in the league, though Deng surprisingly leads the team. He's the only one I'd probably question and I think it has affected his shooting late in games, and especially these last two games. But Thibodeau wanted to get some wins early with the tough schedule and I can't blame him for that. With Boozer out, he's also had to adjust and when the Bulls go small, he's used Deng at four, which has been tough on Deng, who is playing really hard and playing well overall. In fact, he's been defending and rebounding better than Noah on this trip, which isn't great for the team, actually. That James Johnson had troubles and was dropped from the rotation has put Deng out there more. But it is early and things do and will change.

Showcasing Deng is one thing, but wearing him out is another! How can the Bulls plan to trade Deng, when he is logging too many minutes early in the season and he never gets a rest? When it comes time to trade him in order to get Anthony — the chance of him being hurt are great. How does playing him so much make sense?

Charles Miller

Sam: Well, I don't think they are sitting around planning to trade him. My sense, as I've written, is the Bulls do not expect to make a Carmelo Anthony deal based on everything they've been told from Denver. The coach is hired to win games and he Deng has had a good start and demonstrated his importance even with a few off shooting games. Deng is perhaps the best example on the team now of if something isn't working do something else to help. Old school coaches like Thibodeau love that stuff. And it's not like the bench with Boozer out has been so dominant, especially with the coach nonplussed about the contribution of Johnson. When Lu's playing poorly, fans want him out. Now he's playing well and he's supposed to be out. Here's a guy who can't seem to get a break from the fans.

It is quite obvious that the Chicago Bulls need a shooting guard. I know from reading an ESPN article that Rashad McCants was available prior to the start of the season. Why haven't the Bulls or any other NBA team given McCants a second chance? After all, McCants appears to be a prototypical NBA shooting guard with the ability to be an effective player on both sides of the ball.

Andre Mixon

Sam: So others are noticing, too, eh? McCants has been a problem guy with personal issues. You can take a chance on a guy like that if he's a substantial upgrade, like Stephen Jackson. McCants isn't.

I watch Derrick Rose play and see Rod Strickland with a better vertical jump and a much better attitude toward the game. Same size and build with that unusual ability to get their shot off among the trees in the middle. Do see any similarity?

Garry Veicht

Sam: Strickland is an unappreciated player given he had some personal issues in his time, but he was a fearless player with an uncanny knack to getting into the paint. But he really couldn't shoot. They just say Derrick can't, but he can. Plus Derrick is stronger and more explosive. Rod was an assistant at Memphis when Derrick was there, I think, and Rod does know the position well and I always found him engaging and interesting if somewhat misunderstood, though eating those huge hot dogs and hamburgers in the locker room before games always made the coaches cringe. Me, too, only when I sat on press row near him and thought he might get sick.

Given how Taj is playing so far this year, it seems a shame not to give him starter-type minutes when Boozer returns. Why not put him at the 3 and move Deng to the 2? Deng plays more like a shooting guard on offense anyway and seems like he could keep up with most opposing 2-guards. Also, I wish the fans would let up on the Deng trade talk. He's averaging 20 points and 6 rebounds a game, shooting 44% on 3s, is a solid defender, and fits well within the Bulls system. Melo would be an improvement, but he's not worth gutting the bench for. Miami's troubles should serve as a reminder that this is a team game and not just about a couple of superstars.

Matt Coffina

Sam: This, obviously, was written before the trip began. So like wins and losses, Taj wasn't as good as he seemed before and not as bad as he's been lately. But one thing he definitely is not is a perimeter three, where he'd have to chase outside. Plus, he doesn't have shooting range, even when he's hitting shots. He's come a long way from the rookie barely in the first round, but coming off the bench will be ideal when Boozer returns as it will give a needed boost to the second unit. Fans never are going to let up on the trade talk for Carmelo even as many around the NBA agree with your point that Anthony wouldn't fit well with Rose and could be as much disruption as help. But it would be tough to pass on a talent like that, and I wouldn't. But with Noah now untradeable with his extension and so called poison pill status which moves part of his extension into his current deal, Denver has made it pretty clear it has little or no interest in what the Bulls have to offer. So for now it doesn't matter much because with Rose and Noah off the table the Nuggets won't even take the Bulls calls.

I haven't been able to watch any Bulls games yet, being in Afghanistan, but I've been able to catch most of your post game 'blogs' which I appreciate now more than ever... My question for you is, do you feel like you're watching (with the exception of Rose, Deng and Noah) a bunch of strangers? It may be because I can't watch any of the games this year, but I feel like I'm pulling for a bunch of players who I really don't care about. With the Bulls teams of old we had the likes of Kirk, BG, Duhon, Deng, Noc, etc. All were drafted by the Bulls and grew with the team and it really had me invested in the team. Now, it's like, okay I hope the Bulls win but I really don't care about any of the players except the three I mentioned earlier.

Billy Habibi

Sam: It's a good point as it's easy to forget once the season begins, but this is eight new players. The positive is it seems to be a good group of players who have bonded relatively quickly. I see a lot more camaraderie around the locker room than I did in the early years when Gordon, Deng and Hinrich came along, and, actually, less jealousy than seemed to exist then. It's just there are some different personalities among the new guys. Watson is exceedingly quiet and stays to himself. Bogans is gregarious and mixes well as does Kurt Thomas, even though he isn't playing and I suspect being saved more to the end of the season, which, I think, is the right thing to do. I also find guys engaged in the game a lot more, especially Deng, whose attitude has been the best I've seen in several years. No matter how he plays, good or bad, he always now waits around to talk with media when in previous years he'd bold out early. He seems proud of this group, and Boozer, I feel, will fit well as he's genuinely been into the games on the bench, a good sign for a guy with a big contact and a cast on his hand, or at least previously. No one jumped higher off then bench than Boozer when Asik rolled in and dunked late in the second when the Bulls went up 17 on the Spurs before basically blowing the game by easing up before halftime and letting the Spurs cut it to 10. So, yes, they still are trying to get comfortable with one another. But they are as enthusiastic a Bulls group as I've seen this decade. I think you'll begin to enjoy them when you finally get to see them.

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