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Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 11.26.10

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.

Your latest column argues for the Bulls going after Melo, but contains the most compelling argument for why they should not: Melo is a “cheetah”, but in his eighth year in the league, he hasn’t demonstrated that he has that burning desire to win, “a work ethic that refuses to be outdone,” as Swen Nater said about Kevin Love, and he hasn’t shown that he is more about the team than about his own scoring stats. I haven’t actually checked, but I can’t think of any team that has won a championship where the best players don’t all have that drive, that work ethic, and a team-first attitude. (One might contend that Kareem didn’t have the fire in his belly, but he was unstoppable on offense, and he certainly was a team player.) I would then conclude that a team whose best players don’t all have these attributes will not win a championship, and it would follow from that that bringing Melo to the Bulls would all but guarantee that the Bulls would not win.If Melo came to the Bulls, he would be their second best player, perhaps their third, depending on how one values Noah’s all-around contributions to winning, but he would undoubtedly consider himself the number one option, and would demand the ball on most possessions. During the regular season, that might work, but come the playoffs, his poor shot selection, his unwillingness to pass, and his mediocre defense and rebounding would make him a liability. And for all that, the Bulls would have a weaker bench (with Gibson, Asik and Deng gone, who is going to get rebounds when Noah and Boozer are not on the floor?) and would be stuck with a millstone, a fake superstar (like Dominique Wilkins) who lacks what it takes to win championships.

Ron Bauer

Sam: That remains one of the big questions with Anthony, though I’d take the risk. It is a risk, be sure of that. We see with Miami just putting together high scoring stars doesn’t guarantee anything. People were fooled a bit with the so-called current Boston formula because Garnett and Ray Allen really were supporting stars who needed to work off others. Garnett was at his best when Cassell and Sprewell were there, and Ray Allen always was more a higher skilled Reggie Miller. Anthony does have a reputation for selfish play and the one season Denver went anywhere in the playoffs, they brought in Chauncey Billups to be a leader. The question is whether Anthony even understands how to win or what winning at the pro level is about. No one really knows that yet. His presence could blow up the Bulls. Friends says he’s changed and truly wants to be in a winning situation, though the rumors you hear of his wife demanding a bigger market for publicity and Anthony seeming to limit himself to places where the lights are brightest would suggest otherwise. Still, when you want to take a shot for a title, you go with talent and he increases the talent level.

OK... here's the hard part. No trades. Run with this team. Give them a chance. Omer can play, James Johnson will grow and Boozer might turn out okay. I remember the good ole days when they were 12 deep and the draft picks could not even make the team much less play. This new coach might surprise us too. I love his passion. And that Rose kid might play defense this year.

John Bridges

Sam: For the first time since the late 1990s, I’ve found the majority of fans seem to truly love this Bulls team. There was an affection for the Hinrich/Deng/Gordon bunch, though no one truly believed it could go anywhere. I remember being asked once early in their careers during that time who’d be an All-Star first. I really couldn’t answer and finally decided Hinrich because the point guard crop was weaker then. Not happening, obviously. But this time people see a true All-Star and transcendent player in Rose and an All-Star role player of the Rodman model in Noah. Those are some pretty impressive pieces, the team competes hard and has some nice depth once Boozer returns. So I understand the “leave well enough alone” sentiment, though I don’t see this group as it is projecting to the final foul.

What your offering to give up to carmelo is insane...I was expecting to hear you throw in shareef abdul raheemm, who was in every one of your trade scenarios for about 15 years running...lets get boozer healthy and maybe a shooting guard and keep the core intact..i would offer deng , draft pick and omar...taj must stay...

Steve McSweeney

Sam: Yes, Shareef, I had fun with that one for awhile, though it was easy at a time when Tim Floyd coached and you had 12 positions open for better players at any time. Here’s the reality of the personnel situation with the Bulls. There’s no way you land a high quality player without including Taj. Frankly, there isn’t much real depth of talent on the Bulls because of free agency. By going into free agency, the Bulls had a lid on their payroll of the salary cap of about $58 million. They cannot spend more this season. Teams like the Lakers, Mavs and Magic, for example, have payrolls of $90 million and more, giving them a significant advantage in depth. They get salary cap exceptions. Teams under the cap do not.The Bulls cupboard of so called assets is pretty bare. So if you want a significant upgrade, Taj goes. I don’t see the Bulls making a move to be just marginally better at shooting guard, though it remains an obvious weakness.

I was just wondering why there is not talk about the four free agents signed this offseason not including Boozer, Korver, Brewer, Bogans and Watson. Yeah you have to wait until December 15th but that's only three weeks away. Only two years guaranteed for each which would satisfy Denver's desire not to take on too much long term money. My question is who would Denver value the most of those four [be]cause it looks like you could make it work salary cap wise without giving up Deng or Asik.

Don Gehrich

Sam: Er, have you been watching these games? Look, they’re trying hard. I don’t get the sense any are lazy or not committed, and they’d never get away with it with Thibodeau, anyway. But none have shown the slightest chance of being starting level players. Don’t be fooled by what Denver is doing, especially with new management. You don’t want to come in and make a bad deal. You’d rather make no deal. And they don’t look at Carmelo like he has them in some corner. The community is fairly non-plussed about the whole thing, feeling they haven’t exactly been holding parades with Carmelo. But they’re not buying a roster filled with second line role players. I don’t see any of those players as significant in deals unless it’s for matching money, sort of being the next Marcus Banks. Deng, Taj, Asik and the draft picks already are gone and perhaps you are taking on one of their problem contracts which extend out several years, which the Bulls won’t do because it could imperil their ability to resign Rose given the possible new labor rules on contracts. Yes, you could then have Carmelo and have to give up Rose.

I'd hold off, with the current situation flourishing, I'd wait and see how it plays out with Boozer. Boozer could be the missing piece, and they may be looking good for the Finals without any deal. Like you've said before, if you can get to the final four or, better yet, the Finals, you're only a sprained ankle away from winning. I buy that. If it turns out that Boozer doesn't fit so well, or isn't as good as we'd like, and they seem more than a sprained ankle away, then you take a chance. It's no sure thing: you're giving up your froncourt depth, 30 quality minutes a game, and Boozer and maybe even Noah are injury-prone. Deng, with a good 3 ball, is playing very well, how much better is Anthony, I believe Anthony is a bit overrated. He can score of course, but what about the rest of his game and his effect on teammates? Does he rebound, defend, pass and have intangbiles? Is he closer to Lebron/Kobe or Alex English/Iverson (an overrated player)? Anthony gets his, for sure, but I don't see that Anthony has been a player who buoys his teammates, on or off the court, the way a real superstar does.

Sheldon Hirsch

Sam: I’m not just publishing the ones questioning an Anthony deal. I’d say about 80 percent of the mail I’ve gotten this week on this issue, somewhat surprising to me, is of this sort in asking the team to hold off and not exactly demanding Anthony. I understand on some level as the team has been playing well and has terrific wins over Dallas and Phoenix in the kind of games that raise possibilities with Boozer’s return, and especially with Gibson racking up double-doubles and being a far better defensive player than Boozer ever has been. That’s another issue. Boozer is regarded as a weak defender and Anthony poor. Taj works great with Noah, and Deng is a good, hard working defender, less athletic than Anthony but long a more committed defender than Anthony. So then what do you have with Noah with two indifferent defenders up front? Especially with Thibodeau as coach. You see with Miami suddenly with the defensively indifferent Bosh losing something. So there is a bit of a “Let’s not mess up a good thing” feeling, though, again, I think you have to take the shot if it’s there, which, in the end, I don’t think it will be because Anthony might not be as much into on court success as he is into off court happiness. And then I guess you’d say if I believe that, why am I lobbying for Anthony? Let me think about that a bit.

There's no denying that Carmelo is a sublime talent, but it's also clear that he's a bit of knucklehead as well. Do you see in him the ability and the willingness to share the starring role with Rose, Noah and Boozer in order to compete for a championship? I haven't seen anything so far that would give me that impression.

Steve Cohl

Sam: He says he would, though not exactly using those names. There have been conflicting reports on where he wants to play and whether he is serious at all about the Bulls. But one source I talk to who is in contact with Anthony who says Anthony wants to get to the Bulls also says Anthony didn’t understand why the Bulls didn’t trade Noah for him. If he doesn’t understand that—and I cannot say it’s true—then he may not really be about winning because you want to be on a team with Noah. Without Noah and Taj, the Bulls with Anthony would be no better than they are now and likely worse.

This is flat out unfair! Derrick would have 15 assists right now (watching the Lakers) to go with his points if we had players who could shoot. We are a poor shooting team, Its terrible. Its like giving a porsche to someone and telling them that they can not drive over 50 mph. Its terrible. Derrick has not even scratched the surface. We need scorers. We need Melo. Melo would thrive with Derrick!

Dan Abdo

Sam: There you are. There are some out there pushing hard for Anthony, and it does change. Some weeks back the majority of my mail was pro Melo trade. It remains clear the Bulls lack some perimeter shooting and someone who not only can make a shot regularly but is a threat and can create a shot on his own. Really, there is no one but Rose now who can do that and it’s not the formula for ultimate success or a long playoff run. And, I guess, that’s my issue. When the playoffs come, you can bottle up Rose somewhat easier and need another true individual threat and I don’t see that on the team now even when Boozer returns.

I heard speculation today that the Bulls would be great with Rip Hamilton. What are the chances of the Bulls obtaining him? Would that be a good move? At first I thought, why would Detroit want to help out the Bulls and vice versa.

LongGiang Le

Sam: I get these occasionally about Rip and they always baffle me. He’s old, he has a huge, long contract, he’s a locker room problem with his game in major decline and he cannot make threes. Detroit would love to deal him in the division to sabotage a division opponent.

Why doesn't Thibs considering starting James Johnson as shooting guard? It's not helping him at all by sitting him down game after game. Let him start and hope he performs well. If he doesn't, just quickly replace him with Brewer or Bogans. Don't you think it will be a very small risk and perhaps something positive will come out of it?

James Schone

Sam: When you wrote this, it was before the Phoenix game and Johnson hadn’t played in the previous five. So it’s a long way from out of the rotation to starting. Johnson was very good against the Suns, not just for his 12 points, but showing how much the Bulls are missing with an athletic wing player. Johnson got some huge rebounds and then made some big offensive plays at the end, and then he does something goofy, like that foul on Steve Nash for no reason which should have cost the game if not for Rose. Earlier, there was another similar brainlock after some big rebounds in traffic. Thibodeau is a coach who likes to go with players he trusts, and while he says he trusts Johnson—Thibodeau says he trusts all his players—he didn’t indicate the rotation will change. I think Johnson should get more time, or at least some, on talent, but you ought to watch Thibodeau wincing and shaking his head watching Johnson.

Would the Bulls have any interest in Penny Hardaway for spot minutes at shooting guard?

Gene Ingles

Sam: Not unless they were being contracted and planning to play in the D-League.

Luol's stats are improved, but he frequently dribbles/drives into several defenders through the key. When I see this I think back to when BG used to dribble into the corner and get trapped. Has anyone told Luol he's not a good dribbler through traffic?

Jason Soon

Sam: Gently, but it’s not a perfect game and 50 percent is a good rate. So sometimes Deng is cutting and the ball doesn’t come his way or the offense slows and he’s got the ball and decides to go. Thibodeau was going nuts on that jab step Deng was doing in the Suns game and going into his shot until the shot when in and basically cinched the game. Deng’s having a good season. He’s not always what you want, but he is undervalued. Very few are perfect. The problem if you are a fan if a certain team you watch your players and put the microscope to their flaws while just accepting the numbers of someone else, say a Danny Granger. To outsiders, Deng’s numbers look fine. It’s like the officiating when you only watch one side of the ball and the calls you feel your team should get.

This slow Miami Heat start reminds me a little of what the Houston Rockets went through in the late 90's when Hakeem Olajuwon, Barkley and Scottie Pippen "joined forces" to play together. Those Big 3 didn't mesh and was disassembled quicker than a Lego set after the team imploded. After watching quite a few Heat games, it looks like another implosion is in the works. Surprisingly, there isn't a normal offensive flow in their game yet. It's almost like watching a playground game where Lebron yells to Wade and says "hey cowboy, it your turn..." as he passes the ball to Wade and Dwayne dribbles around feverishly and takes a bad shot. It's become pretty evident that the Big 2 1/2 aren't the best at playing off the ball and am starting to think that one of them (Bosh) needs to be moved to fill the void inside since Bosh prefers to play on the perimeter. Do you see Bosh being moved by the start of next season and what's the likelihood that this Miami team wins less games than Lebron's 61 win Cav team from last season?

Anthony Marro

Sam: There’s been a lot of this speculation around that Riley will move Bosh, though it’s not like Bosh is creating any sort of market for himself. But more than that, I don’t see Riley abandoning the so called loyalty. Not that anyone really is loyal in pro sports, but making such a move would suggest to other players in the future not to trust Miami and could damage anything they try to do in the future. I think they’ll ride it out with this group for at least a few years as I believe they feel once they can get exceptions, assuming they exist in the new labor deal, they can fill out their roster. Yes, we all assumed they’d have to win 60 given James did that in Cleveland with no one you’d want on your team. But it does suggest the intangible of teamwork and chemistry being more important than just the numbers as it’s now hard to see Miami winning as many, at least this season, as the last two Cavs teams.

A good friend was in Dallas this past weekend for a wedding. By luck in staying at the Bulls' hotel, he met several Bulls in the lobby for pics with his sons and daughter. He was especially appreciative of the players' and coaches' willingness to so cordially engage him and his children, and mentioned Noah, Taj, and Thibodeau as being very patient and accommodative toward his children, which I think is awesome. He did however also say that the only player uninterested was Rose, who walked through with headphones on. Everything I read and see paints Rose as being (though shy) a good person. I know the demands on players are sometimes unreasonable; if it were me I'd probably stop to sign some days and walk away others, and I'd try to accommodate kids as often as I could. I imagine it was hardly a big crowd there and would it kill him to sign or pose with his teammates for a few kids? Was it just an off day-type moment for him, or do you feel compared to teammates he regularly distances himself from fans? Do any star players feel an obligation to support fans when they can the way the fans support them?

Jeff Johnson

Sam: I consider this something of an aberration as I’ve been in the team hotel on occasion and seen Derrick sign things often. It’s nice to hear several players and the coach were accommodating and you’d like to have players stop and chat and sign as we’d do it because no one basically ever asks us. One problem I’ve witnessed is how much of this stuff gets sold after the players sign, so many players simply have stopped unless it’s at team sponsored functions and often are told to not sign so much, sort of like encouraging rodents if you keep leaving food out. There are these professional hobbyists you see at the hotels, many in different cities, who hang out to get autographs and sell them. I’ve seen them pay kids to wait for them because some players will only sign for kids. So you can’t judge these guys on a moment’s time in some hotel on a road trip. No offense, but no one is buying Tom and Taj autographs. A lot of the stars players have been told not to sign for fans unless they know they are not professional card swindlers, so they just walk on. I traveled with the Bulls during a large part of Jordan’s career and no one among those Bulls signed less stuff unless he knew who it was than Jordan. He’d never stop to sign things and Pippen never would, either. As I recall, they were pretty popular players. Don’t judge players on an individual moment like this. Derrick is one of the most humble, cooperative and decent people I’ve seen come along in the NBA in a long time.

I was wondering if it would be possible to move Deng to starting shooting guard when Boozer comes back and put Taj at small forward. It seems like a bigger lineup and with Deng shooting more 3's this year it might help open up the middle more for Rose.

Norman Sands

Sam: Well, no. Deng, as we’ve seen, has played a lot of four this season in Thibodeau’s small lineups and has done reasonably well. He’s not really equipped to chase small guards, and Gibson is less likely to be able to get out on the perimeter for quicker forwards. That certainly would open the game for opponents’ threes, which the Bulls haven’t been as good as Thibodeau would like while playing faster guys.

When Boozer comes back who do you think is going to fall out of the rotation? My guess would be Asik would probably be that guy with Taj taking over most of the bench minutes for the big men, but Thibs looks like he likes playing Asik a lot so I'm not sure about that.

Ninab Maradkel

Sam: I think at some point we’ll begin to see more of Kurt Thomas as Thibodeau likes taking a hard look at Asik now. I don’t think Asik will fall out as Thibodeau likes the idea of the Boston size thing and having Asik play some with Noah. I assume for a while Boozer isn’t going to be playing big minutes, so it should be a gradual thing. The interesting part to me will be watching how the minutes get divided as Gibson is a better defender than Boozer and works well with Noah. I’ve heard opposing coaches say they’d love to have that duo at their four/five for the next 10 years for defense. Boozer is a weapon the Bulls need given his ability to score, maybe create and hopefully draw a double team. The rotation can easily add one more player.

One of the great pleasures in watching Derek Rose drive to the basket is the anticipation of seeing yet another artistic, gravity-defying, twist and turn on the way to a two-pointer (not getting the benefit of the call very often, they are rarely three-pointers; and they are rarely zero because of his incredible ability to finish). It is the same thrill I got watching MJ on his magical drives to the bucket, in particular, his ability to improvise while in mid-air. I have been a fan for more than 50 years, and in all those years, I cannot recall anyone that is the class of MJ or D-Rose (OK, I would also have to include Dr. J). I was wondering if you would agree, though, that MJ and Rose stand apart. Who would you include in your top 5? (Incidentally, I think that Rose does not get as many calls as he should because the referees are as awe-struck by his moves as are we fans--and so miss the call.)

Bill Larsen

Sam: I actually think that is one of the issues, albeit minor, with Rose’s lack of trips to the free throw line. I think it’s more the way he contorts his body so unusually to avoid contact. But I do think sometimes even the refs get caught up in the move and movement and he is also so strong it doesn’t look like he’s taking much punishment. Unfortunately, and the NBA is to blame for this even as they decry it, some acting is needed. It’s also why Shaq often didn’t get as many fouls as he perhaps should have as he didn’t look like he was being hit or affected. As for the artistry, you are basically talking about the price of admission guys, and there have been many. No, not the centers, but I do remember the spectacle of Wilt and wanting to see just how many he could score. The guys, as you said Dr. J., to me were Pete Maravich and Earl Monroe. You couldn’t imagine what they’d do next. Magic also was in that group along with Bird for their passing; perhaps Elgin Baylor for the way he was the first truly to play in the air with flair Though few saw him, Connie Hawkins was something special the way he swooped to the basket. I actually wouldn’t put Derrick or Michael in the class on Monroe and Maravich as showmen as Derrick and Michael more did things with imagination to get inside the defense at the rim. You figured Pearl and Pete were dreaming this stuff up and practicing it.

If there is a lockout next year, is there anything preventing the Players' Association from forming their own league? If they really tried, they could arrange to rent out stadiums on their own, although they will probably not be the ones they already play in e.g. Allstate Arena. The players will make tremendously less money than currently, and even less than they would (for now) under the owners' current proposal. It all hinges on people like Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O'Neal, Kevin Garnett, and Rashard Lewis- the ones that have already made a mega fortune- filling in the roles of owners and forking over some of the travel and lodging costs at least until substantial profits are made from the endeavor. It could eventually lead to the owners compromising more than they are willing to do so as of right now, and probably rather quickly. I think the contracts handed out this summer completely destroy the owners' stance on the issue. Hello Darko Milicic, Amir Johnson, et al. They should get end-of-the-bench types like Jeremy Lin to spearhead this initiative effective immediately while the current season is going on. Of course if it succeeds and they keep the new format, it will probably end up like George Orwell's Animal Farm.

Brian Becker

Sam: Yes, they would find the lack of utopia pretty quickly. There were some threats of not exactly this in the 1998-99 lockout, but there was one exhibition game then, as I recall, organized by the union with money to charity. But players tend not to be organizers, and though they belong to a union, it is a perversion of the notion of a union. Once it was needed for pros because the owners were so insanely greedy they brought it on themselves, especially in baseball. But as wealthy as they’ve become, today’s players are hardly about to spend their money to challenge the NBA. One big issue is arenas which are long ago booked, as you mention, though the big thing is if they are injured they void their contracts and hardly anyone would risk that generally believing any lockout wouldn’t last that long. Plus, this era of players with the biggest salaries ever are the least close of every generation of players. So many have their own handlers and entourages that there is less interaction than ever. It works in the owners’ favor as this group of stars seems less militaristic than even the last, when Malone, Barkley, Ewing and some of the others pressured the lesser players not to give in. And as I recall, Kobe then was the only player to vote against the agreement. Plus as we see with the Heat, when players make personnel decisions it doesn’t necessarily work out that well.

What about Terrence Williams for a shooting guard spot?

Dino Mahic

Sam: What’s the matter, you don’t want J.R. Smith? Oh, that’s right, Williams hasn’t been convicted... yet. So he skips or comes late for practices, generally is disruptive around the team and plays selfishly. Players like that, to me, aren’t worth the risk.

I saw Scal playing some minutes against Phoenix and wondered where is Kurt Thomas? Any particular reason why he hasn't played at all?

Otávio Castro Neves

Sam: It’s part saving him more toward later in the season and playoffs and getting a look at Asik now to get him ready so you don’t have to try to force him in later when the games will mean more. I like the thinking.

Is it just me, or are people somewhat delusional when they deride Korver's defense? I saw the game last night, but on a Phoenix channel I found online. One of their announcers said, "Kyle Korver is one of the worst defenders in the NBA". This was after he got scored on, but he was actually playing great defense on the play. Grant Hill, if I'm not mistaken, just made a really good shot. We hear it here in Chicago too though. I haven't seen him play much before this year, and maybe he used to be bad defensively. People judge too much on the past or what they hear others say and not enough on what is going on right now. He seems, at least from watching on TV, to be one of the better Bulls wing defenders. Oh well, I guess it just makes me look that much smarter when I point it out to them and tell them to watch for themselves next time.

Brian Becker

Sam: It’s like the Rose can’t shoot thing, which is spread most by some national announcers. Don’t demean yourself. If you watch the Bulls regularly the chances are you know the team better than the guys who parachute in for a game here and there and go by other national figures who don’t want them, either. I also thought he played good defense against the Suns and works hard and is better than he gets credit for. But it’s a rap white guys in the NBA get no matter what they do, that they cannot defend because they aren’t athletic. Sort of the racist notion that blacks couldn’t be quarterbacks. If you’ll notice, Korver played 47 minutes and is finishing games, so it doesn’t matter who is starting. He, in effect, is the starting wing player opposite Deng now no matter who starts.

Would the Bulls have any interest in signing Jerry Stackhouse to fill the gapping hole at shouting guard?

Jim Harlan

Sam: I doubt it given his age, how little he’s played and when you get released so they can sign a center they didn’t previously want there has to be some questions. If the Bulls, as I’ve written, make a move at two guard I believe it will be for a substantial upgrade and not just a tweak or incremental improvement. I think Brewer has been coming on enough, and after giving him a three year deal the team isn’t giving up on him anytime soon. That’s a reality of the NBA. Also, Johnson should get some more time on the wing if he shows more like he did against the Suns, though Thibodeau seems uncertain for now. As for Bogans, don’t blame him. He does what he can and tries. He was brought in as an emergency 13th man, but Brewer was hurt and J.J. didn’t develop to the coach’s liking and Watson struggled to back up at one, so Bogans became a starter. But if you name someone starting center it doesn’t mean they can dunk. Just because Bogans is the starting shooting guard doesn’t mean he can shoot or should be a starter. He’s filled in and hasn’t made any mistakes to cost games. I said going into the season shooting guard was an issue, and it remains one. And, after all, it’s not like J.J. Redick was the answer. The problem is with the money the Bulls had in the summer, there just wasn’t that much to choose from, so they’ll look at trades come mid season, I assume.

Realistically speaking, how long can Thibs continue at his current pace before the players start to tune him out? I really like the guy, but I've never seen anyone overcoach as much as he does, not even SVG. Every single play, you can hear him yelling out to players when to make cuts, set picks, and even when to shoot. And let's not even get into the defensive possessions. Luckily, the Bulls have a great bunch who are willing to learn, but a great bunch only listened to Scott Skiles for a couple of years. It seems to me that Thibs is even worse, and will wear himself out if the players don't stop responding first. I really hope he backs off a bit, because I think he has the knowledge to be a Gregg Popovich type of guy who stays with one team basically until he chooses to leave. Unfortunately, he's far too tightly wound, and there's no doubt in my mind our players will start responding within a couple of seasons if he does not change his style.

Wally Petrovic

Sam: It’s a legitimate question. Right now, and obviously it is early, he and the team are handling it well. Perhaps in the wake of Vinny, the players seem to be hungering for more teaching and have been very responsive to his demands from the sideline, which you are right, are relentless. I don’t think it will burn him out as somehow he’s been able for is entire life to operate this way. I have watched him closely and he doesn’t seem to hold grudges or be unable to get over mistakes or take anything out personally on the players or blame them or the lack of his perfect roster for any misfortune. He instructs to a point and moves on. And the guy you mention, Pop, is a yeller even more than Thibodeau. But I do think eventually you have to back off some during the game and given this is Tom’s first true pro head coaching job he could back off some once he becomes more comfortable with the team. I agree he has a chance to be a great one.

I wonder if Wade’s career is starting to dwindle down. He has been banged up a lot over the years.

Mike Sutera

Sam: It is one of those 800 pound elephant questions with Wade’s and the team’s slow start. Allen Iverson carried it on for a relatively long time, but his dropoff was swift, in part because of the way he took such a beating over the years. Wade had that famous fall down seven times commercial get up eight or whatever. He did throw himself around a lot and has had injuries and the real question no one in Miami wants to ask is whether what they put Wade through to carry the team the last two years to get LeBron and Bosh has worn him down enough that he’ll never truly be that great player again. Good, sure, but not transcendent. He never was a good shooter, under 30 percent in his career on threes, really an undersized two who relies on extraordinary quickness and toughness. He turns 29 in January and I’ve never heard he lives the workout regimen of someone like Kobe. He’s had a bunch of little things lately and I would not be surprised if we’ve seen the best of him. Still good, sure, but as I wrote recently, you’d take Rose over him today if you had a choice.

What does "BA" mean in the box score?

Jerzy Filipek

Sam: It is shots you attempt that are blocked.

Exactly what was Joe Dumars thinking when he traded their MVP in Billups along with another important piece in McDyess for troubled Iverson whose career was on a steep downhill? They were the best team then but have quickly become the joke of the NBA. As I watch them play and look at the game stats, I can't understand why anyone would sabotage a team like that. Wasn't he once regarded as the top GM?

Jay Choi

Sam: It wasn’t on purpose and it really wasn’t a bad idea, really, just the execution, sort of like the Curry/Chandler draft. It was the right idea, a big time post player and athletic big man for the perimeter. It just was the wrong guys, bad scouting. Dumars saw the future well, predicting free agency would become the dominant function in personnel and taking the famous Branch Rickey notion of better to trade a guy a year too soon than a year too late. He saw Billups coming up to a decline, and we can see that now. So he was ahead of the curve, but then stumbled in free agency when he went with more perimeter players in Gordon and Villanueva. Sometimes you can have the right idea and it goes wrong. The Bulls know.

I was away for work last week up the east coast of Australia and I came across your book “The Jordan Rules” so I picked it up. One particular paragraph from the book that got my attention. “Do you understand, he explained that these are people who will never forget, the people who lose their father or a brother or a relative? They or their children or even their children’s children. Do you want to see, your son killed someday in an airplane explosion because we’ve made Iraq a terrorist nation from what we’ve done? Consider the terrorism that could be done in this nation. A guy with a bomb can just drive into the Lincoln Tunnel or walk into the Sears Tower and kill thousands. Is this what you want to see and have it affect your children or their children?” I’m sure you got a lot of these emails after September 11, and I just wonder what Phil Jackson was thinking at the time – and Jordan, Pippen, Grant and the likes for that matter? War always has consequences hey? Out of curiosity – what was your feelings at the time (1991 Iraq invasion)? Maybe instead of the “Zen Master” he should be called “Nostradamus.”

Andrew Robson

Sam: I usually wouldn’t put in something to sell more books, though since the hardback is out of print it doesn’t matter much. And I have to recommend the book if you want a course in Bulls history. Anyway, that section struck me at the time and I really didn’t hear much about it after 9/11. But I remember those times vividly as we traveled the day of the first Iraq invasion and it being the pre-9/11 world, things were shaky but we all were so naive. Saddam had talked about the mother of responses, but we saw it in our hearts more the hot air it was aimed at his neighbors more than us. But I recall that day when Phil gave that talk. We had chased Iraq back inside its borders and the question was whether to go into Baghdad. There was a lot of sentiment for it, and George Bush the Wise One understood as Phil did the potential consequences. Bush was a very unappreciated president as a result. I remember Phil telling me afterward that all the kids, Michael, Scottie, Horace, wanted to go in and blow up everything. It was an era when many of them were carrying guns and showing them around, the pre-Arenas NBA. It was a time, like it is, unfortunately, for too many young men in the cities these days, when that macho behavior defined them and ennobled them in their view. I don’t think Phil would have made a great president, but I wish his buddy Bill Bradley had been able to make a serious run. But Phil was right that day, and we all learned the sad way.

Do you see a pattern of major sports all locking out during 2012 season? Could this be from all the Dec. 21, 2012 hype?

Frank King

Sam: I was supposed to keep this quiet, but David Stern has commissioned a space ship to be built. Obviously, the NBA has plenty of money, but it needs this extra revenue from the players for Stern’s spaceship, Super Commissioner I, to be built before next year. As we all know, Stern is descended from Mayan Jews. The talk is he needs to colonize something to begin a new NBA so he can remain commissioner, and the real labor talks—do you wonder why they are held in such secret?—are with the players asking him to take Rodman and Artest with him. To be continued...

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