Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 01.21.11
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This melo to the bulls talk is coming up again with the Nets dropping out. So i know the nuggets dont want deng but are you telling me no other team would want him where we can flip him for more assets in a 3 way trade?
Sam: Yawn. Yes, I believe the Bulls could find a taker for Deng, especially since he is having a good season. But Carmelo Anthony does not want to be in Chicago. No matter what you may have read. If he did, he could have arranged a deal long ago. The Bulls have remained interested, as they should, but everything they and most everyone else continues to hear is Anthony and his wife want no part of Chicago. I’ve written many times that if this were solely about winning and being on the best team, Anthony would work to arrange a deal to the Bulls. He could do that. But the Bulls have yet to get one signal that Anthony desires that. If he did, why would there be a half dozen stories every day involving Anthony going to New York or New Jersey? So now, the Nets finally got the hint Anthony won’t go there and have backed out of any deal. It wouldn’t be easy, but I think the Bulls could pull off a deal that would satisfy the Nuggets and pay Anthony his extension. He seems only to want to go to New York. I suppose he could have a change of heart. Perhaps someone will get to him and explain where the best chance to win is, but no one seems to as yet. But that’s free agency and free choice. After all, everyone thought LeBron’s best chance to win now was in Chicago as well, with a center and point guard and the chance to bring with him Bosh, Wade or Boozer, etc. He said no, and is playing with a good team that starts Carlos Arroyo and Zydrunas Ilgauslas instead of Rose, Wade, LeBron, Taj and Noah. That lineup probably would be better than any among the champion Bulls of the ‘90s. They must just hate stuffed pizza and the Bears.
So, as it seems that Melo is on his way to NYK and Fields possibly being included in the deal, do you feel that the Bulls can come out of it with Afflalo?
Sam: His name gets thrown out a lot, though it certainly seems that Anthony will leave. I guess if Denver decides to blow up its team and go for draft picks, it would be possible. But I don’t see that yet and Afflalo remains a cheap player for them as it is not certain if they will retain Chauncey Billups.
The Bulls need a solid shooting guard. The Knicks need draft picks to facilitate a trade for Melo. Why don't the Bulls trade this years pick, the future pick from the Bobcats, and James Johnson for Wilson Chandler of the Knicks. The Knicks could then offer the Nuggets Curry's expiring contract, Danillo, Landry Fields, and a bevy of draft pick (at least three 1st rounders) for Carmelo. That would also give the Bulls the DePaul alum who is a more than capable 2, 3, or 4.
Sam: I don’t believe Chandler is a shooting guard, as he’s more a three and plays four for New York, plus his statistics are inflated as that happens when you play for a D’Antoni team. I have heard these kinds of suggestions with Fields as well, though the sense I get is Anthony might not go to New York in trade during the season if they have to give up too much to get him. In the end, sure, I can see him taking the money and doing so, thus maybe it’s a possibility because the Nuggets without the Nets in it probably are drawing awfully close to getting nothing. As I’ve written, if I were them I’d forget all these bad draft picks, just clear their payroll when Anthony leaves, have the trade exception, assuming it holds through the labor deal, and then be in better position to take players you want. You are not building a team with picks from the Bulls with them having one of the league’s best record and a Charlotte pick that might not mature for five years.
Here's a three-way trade proposal:
Bulls - Carmelo Anthony Dallas - Luol Deng Denver - Caron Butler, Taj Gibson, CJ Watson, Bulls 1st rounder, Bobcat's 1st rounder
Sam: Now Lu’s going to be mad at me again, since he thinks I’m always trying to get him traded. I am not and have said I consider him a top-10 small forward. Though, yes, Anthony is higher than that. The issue, as I said, is Anthony, who doesn’t seem interested in Chicago. I think at some point Denver will realize this and perhaps seek out a rental, which I think, actually, could have him going to Dallas with Mark Cuban then so confident of himself that he’ll believe he can talk Anthony into signing there. Cuban has an issue the Bulls don’t: His window with his star is closing while the Bulls’ is just opening. So the Bulls never would take a shot and give up players unless they got an assurance from Anthony, which seems doubtful. You could see Cuban taking that shot and perhaps at least persuading Anthony to opt in next season for his final $18 million, as Carlos Boozer did in Utah.
So with the Nets supposedly out of the Melo trade talks, the Melo camp is rumored to be seeking a trade to the Bulls. With LeBron there was also a lot of Bulls speculation, but he ended up in Miami with his buddies where he wanted to be all along (as evidenced by the three signing contracts which all expired at the same time). Melo has made it clear his preference is to play for the Knicks. Since Melo and LeBron have the same agent team, do you think this Bulls rumor is merely an attempt to leverage the Knicks into making a move now so Melo can get his money? There appears to be little chance of a Bulls deal given the Nuggets' lack of interest in Deng and the new contract extension for Noah. I for one would love it if Gar came out and denied any interest in Anthony, as the Bulls already have their superstar in Rose. I think adding Anthony would only create tension/drama as to who is the leader of the team or face of the franchise and would ruin the team chemistry - as this is clearly Rose's team. I love the make up and future of this team and would hate to see it ruined by breaking it up for a spotlight craving, no defense playing, diva like Anthony.
Sam: Yes, I think you are on to something there. It is quite possible and even likely given how they have used the Bulls before, given the agents care nothing for any team. I don’t completely blame them, but their job is to do the best for their client. Sometimes you wonder if they are or, or trying to enhance their own positions to get the next client or collect a big fee. In any case, with many agents these days you have to shower after talking to them. I’d like to see on some level the Bulls do that, though I also like Dirty Harry movies. The Bulls may have an outside chance at Anthony, as they did with LeBron and Wade, so they are probably stuck playing it out and trying to land him. Anthony is about himself in a lot of respects, but he could help the Bulls and give them another star to compete with the star studded teams that are becoming the blueprint. Yes, you can win the other way as the Pistons showed. And maybe with a group built around Rose you can. With a high level shooting guard, I like the Bulls’ look. But you have to stay in the game to see if you have a shot.
I don't get the whole Mello thing. Yeah, he can put up big numbers, and the Bulls need another scorer, but what's his addition do for Bulls on the defensive end? Thibs hasn't hesitated to pull Boozer for failing to play defense, so what's he do when Mello starts allowing more points than he scores? Thibs is already intense enough roaming the sidelines, but I think his head would explode every time Mello failed to step in and take a charge. I love the character of this team and I hate the thought of giving up Deng or Taj at this point for a guy who really doesn't want to be here.
Sam: Yes, there are views that he is a poor defender and also a ball stopper on offense, so there might be issues. But I believe the Bulls would take a chance if they could. I doubt they will get the chance.
I'm sure you're probably sick of all the OJ Mayo talk and I just finished your article and you said a trade for shooting guard doesn't seem likely because of the Boozer injury. I just don't see how giving up our 1st round pick and our first round pick from Charlotte wouldn't be a fair trade. I think that would work out for both parties. We get Mayo and get to keep Gibson and they get two first round picks and one of those picks could end up being a lottery pick. That's a pretty good deal for a guy who is coming off the bench and not getting alot of minutes. Mayo isn't exactly playing too well for them right now.
Sam: Fair for whom? So the Grizzlies are desperate to compete and at least make the playoffs given they are in a small market and need to show their fans a level of competition to get fans to pay for games. So they are trading a player averaging double figures for a low draft pick in a draft which isn’t considered very strong and a pick they may not get for five years, and if they get it sooner it may be just another mid level, non lottery pick. You don’t think they can do better than that for the former third pick in the draft, even if he is being misused. I agree they may not re-sign him, but they don’t have to decide that this season. So what’s the hurry? Getting Taj plus would be the minimum for them and even then it might not be enough.
Hopefully OJ Mayo's performance Monday should quiet the trade Taj to get a better 2 guard noise. Mayo, while a good player, is essentially a Larry Hughes type of player - at his most effective as a player if he dominates the ball and isn't good enough to dominate the ball and have his team win. So he would take away from Rose's ability as he doesn't shoot well and isn't a great defender (which Ronnie Brewer has been). OJ Mayo is a bad fit for this team and don't forget that Brewer was a lottery pick too, just not as recent. I submit that winning in the NBA isn't all about compiling an all-name team.
Sam: I think the Bulls would still go for him if it didn’t include Taj, but as I’ve said, I cannot see Memphis even considering that.
Thibs has been a great coach with his offensive plays and his defensive philosophies, but his substitutions are awful and downright offensive. For one there is no reason for bogans to start over Brewer. The sub for Brewer should then be Korver with Bogans only used when necessary. The second Bobcats game is a perfect example. He continued to wear out Deng and never considered a short run James Johnson to spell him some relief. The same goes with Rose - he played Rose the entire third and took him out for a break at the 9 minute mark in the fourth. Doesn't it make sense to follow Phil Jackson's subbing habits and sit the player down in the last seconds of the third and rest him in the break and for the first couple minutes of the fourth and then have them finish the game in crunch time fresh? Don't even get me started on keeping Gibson and Thomas in for the almost the entire 3rd and 4th quarter of that game and never subbing Asik, Scal or JJ! We were getting outhustled and outrebounded down the stretch because our players were gassed.
Sam: This is the anti-Thibs, anti-Bogans argument I get in various forms daily. I guess you can nitpick and I have my disagreements as well, which I state in my postgame columns. But the fact is the Bulls have a way, way better record than I or anyone imagined at this point in the season without Boozer and Noah. Going into the season, knowing what you know now, you wouldn’t have the Bulls at .500. Would they be 35-7 with a different rotation? Thibs could do some things differently, but he’s had a short roster all season and does play 10 guys, so it’s not like he doesn’t use his bench. When bench guys perform they generally stay in, though like all coaches he has a quick hook for young players and rookies. Nothing new there. At least he gives Asik a shot, which we weren’t even sure he would until mid season. Though from Thibs view the meanest thing you could have said was he should follow Phil Jackson’s model more. I suspect he’d tell you if he had Kobe, Pau, Odom and the rest, he would.
I'll spare you questions about sitting Keith Bogans or playing James Johnson as its clear Thibodeau has his mind made up on those issues. Has anyone ever asked him either (i) why doesn't he run more clearouts for Rose without a screen (he did it some at the end of the Charlotte game last night) or (ii) why he doesn't run more 1-3 pick and rolls with Korver? Since virtually every team is blitzing the pick and roll hard, Rose has to give the ball up almost immediately and, more often than not, Kurt Thomas becomes your primary playmaker. If we mix in some isolation with weakside action, the lanes may open up again for Deng or Brewer to come free to the basket. Alternatively, I'd love to see Korver set the high screen occasionally. It's not like defenses are that concerned about Taj or Kurt when they come up and screen and even when Boozer gets back, he settles at the foul line and doesn't clear his defender out of the way.
Sam: He generally has a good offensive system, so it’s not a great issue. Yes, you’d like to find more ways of scoring, but it’s not like with Bogans and Thomas in the lineup they are leaving Korver. It’s why I’ve mentioned at times starting Korver, though as you note Thibs has settled on what he wants to do there and it has been working. When it doesn’t, there’ll be more reason for second guessing. He doesn’t see Korver as a very good pick and roll player and he’s not an isolation type coach as the offense tends to become stagnant when you do that. I would like to see Korver off more baseline screens like the Ray Allen stuff they seemed to be running more for him earlier, but the larger issue now is to get back the injured players.
I love Derrick Rose as much as anyone, but am I the only one who cringes when the United Center fans chant “MVP” when he’s at the free throw line or makes a great play? For all the great strides Derrick has made as a player, I still can’t get over the number of times turns the ball over carelessly or his penchant for jumping in the air with the ball before knowing who he’s going to pass it to...only to see him heave it out of play. Too many people are lauding his incredible plays and ignoring these correctable and often costly gaffes.
Sam: You are correct. He is not perfect. Close. He also allows the trap to stop him at times when he could beat it, but if he did all those things perfectly he’d be the best ever because Jordan always forced shots into triple teams, went back for the ball instead of attacking to take the defense back and I recall a triple double in an All Star game when he had 10 turnovers and no one really was even trying to steal the ball. Though I also cringe at those MVP chants. Like Kobe said, they do it in Milwaukee for Earl Boykins. C’mon, as Mark Jackson would say, we’re better than that.
A few days back, the bulls played the pistons and, although he didn't play particularly well that night, i think Tayshaun Prince would be a nice addition to this team, hypothetically replacing luol, in case the bulls indeed end up trading deng next summer. He's a expiring contract and a similar player, but would cost (i suppose) less money, so the bulls could afford a starting caliber shooting guard. Althoug i apreciate deng's abilities, i think a player who could help rose with ballhandling and playmaking duties, as well as provide spacing with good shooting is the missing piece for this team to become a perennial contender in the east for many years. Since i don't know any player that fits this description and is avaliable, i guess i should bring my talents to the internet and find someone to replace luol and his salary.
Sam: It’s actually a pretty good idea. The part about shooting guard. I cannot see how the Bulls could make it happen this season, as Prince makes too much money and the Pistons won’t take back any contracts as they are only in a dumping mood and Prince is valuable in that his money comes off the books. But I think he can play shooting guard because you can play pick and roll with him, he can defend and make a shot and if the Bulls could figure out a way he would be a good pickup after the season.
Looks like the Bulls are standing pat unless Denver would get desperate. However, one name I haven't seen mentioned as a possible two guard is Marcus Thornton from the Hornets. Would he be an upgrade, would he be available and what would it take to acquire him?
Sam: His name has come up, with fans mostly, and Wednesday he basically won the game for the Hornets. He is in and out of the lineup, but you have to give teams a reason to trade guys who help them. It’s not like the Bulls have that much to offer.
I just read that Toronto Raptors are buying out Peja Stojakovic's contract, do you think the bulls would take a chance at him to back up luol? They never use James Johnson and they really have no back up small forward.
Sam: Of course, he is hurt a lot, so maybe you move Deng to play some shooting guard, which you figure he could do, but that hardly reduces his minutes. I suppose it would be reasonable, but I figure of he’s healthy Peja would want to go where maybe he could get a deal for next season and maybe where he’d get more time. Like Dallas. It appears Peja is set to sign with the Mavs as he said he wanted to be in the Western Conference, anyway.
I assume you saw this, but just had to pass it along in case you missed
it. Dwayne Wade just makes me laugh:
"I stopped following it," Wade said. "It's getting to the point where
you're just like, move on already or don't. I'm sure 'Melo is more tired
of it than anybody. But it's just to the point, as a sports fan, you're
just, ?All right, it's just enough."'
Really Dwayne? After you and Lebron and Bosh so happily hijacked the NBA
headlines for over a year with your free agency, playing your little
games. Looks like the Heatles, or whatever they are calling themselves,
are not enjoying sharing the spotlight for a while with Melo.
Sam: Yes, there is a not so gently irony in there. “So enough about me talking about me, what do you think of me?”
Which pair of players would you rather have?
Rose and Boozer or Durant and Westbrook?
Sam: That is a tough one. Can’t I have Rose and Durant? I’ve gone back and forth on this one as Westbrook really isn’t a point guard and Durant isn’t a power forward, though if he toughened up some and gained some weight that would be a great position for him in this NBA. For now I’d probably have to go very reluctantly with Durant and Westbrook for health and age, though I’d have them more in control as they don’t really play well together because they each just look to shoot and Westbrook is very overrated as defender. I’d take Rose over Durant if you gave me that choice, but Boozer, while I’m fine with him, is too much a risk three or four years down the road. For right now, I take Rose and Boozer. In three years, I take Durant and Westbrook. How’s that for wimping out?
I just read an article at bulls.com about chris bosh complaining about omer asik diving for that loose ball which he eventually landed at bosh's ankles. he said that omer has to watch for someone's leg. is he being reasonable? or he is just "over-praising" himself that you should not hurt him that way since he is one of the big three?
Sam: He actually had a physical just before the game and discovered he really was made or porcelain and was concerned he’d break.
Has there ever been this many great point guards in the league at one time? I mean, Charles Barkley rattled off his top 5 and didnt even get to Steve Nash...
Sam: I know we like to get excited about point guards in this era, and there are many good ones, though few, truly, who have made a major difference in winning big, like Williams, Paul, Westbrook and for now Rose. How about these point guards: Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Bob Cousy, Guy Rodgers and Richie Guerin in 1962. Or these in 1972: Pete Maravich, Lenny Wilkens, Nate Archibald, Gail Goodrich, JoJo White, Dave Bing, Calvin Murphy and Norm Van Lier? And that was with Earl Monrie hurt that season. Or these in 1982: Magic Johnson, Maurice Cheeks, Isiah Thomas, Rickey Green (eventually replaced by John Stockton), Ray Williams and Michael Ray Richardson? There have been some great ones throughout the years.
Was any championship team in the last decade built around the Point Guard position? In the 90’s the Bulls won six times being Jordan the face of the franchise and Scottie Pippen behind him. Is it possible for us to win with a Rose/Boozer oriented team? Or do we need some star upgrade?
Sam: Jordan was the first to lead a team to titles as a shooting guard, though Magic was really the first point guard. The league has changed whereas you used to need a dominant big man, but the rules changes have limited what big guys can do and opened the game more for guards. While you can make an argument for the Bulls once Noah and Boozer are healthy—and given both have had injury plagued careers so far you can never be fully sure—the Bulls clearly are missing another offensive player, and especially some shooting. But you cannot be a full team coming out of free agency where you have to go under the cap and stay below with no exceptions. The Heat has more higher level talent, but they hardly are a complete team, either, and my guess is they went into this looking to play for a title next season. The Bulls issue will be balancing the aging and injuries of Boozer with the development of Rose and Noah and trying to assure they all come together without missing out on the opportunity.
Isn't it true that the Utah Jazz traded away their draft pick to get better and ended up trading Magic Johnson? If that is true then why don't Bulls fans be patient because trading for a SG right now still won't make us any better than Boston, Miami, or Orlando. We will give them a good fight but overall in a seven game series, I just don't see it. I would love to be proven wrong though. I say be patient and enjoy the success we will have this year.
Sam: Yes, the Lakers got very lucky, and so did the Bulls in getting Rose. So that’s the fulcrum where the Bulls rest now. Do they try to take a shot now knowing nothing is guaranteed and it’s not like the Lakers and Celtics and Heat and Spurs and Magic are unbeatable? Or do they carefully bide their time so they can get a higher level player after this season and not just a marginal improvement and put themselves in position for a solid five or six year run? Because, after all, this is the first year this group is together after a virtual makeover of the entire roster and they haven’t played together healthy yet for one game this season. But the nature of being a fan is being impatient and wanting your success right away given the Bulls have shown impressive signs. My guess is management is more on the cautious, building side now believing they can put together a long run, so why risk a quick fix.
Any chance Deng makes a defensive team this year?
Sam: Let’s not get too carried away here. He does a very nice job, works at it and tries, which is more than can be said for a lot of his contemporaries. But he’s not in the top 40 in any of the major defensive categories, like blocks, steals or rebounds.
What no complaints from Stan Van Gundy that the league shouldn't have games on MLK day and that players need to be with their families.
Sam: Apparently, no one in the media talked to him that day. Stan has, and I guess we should understand, replaced Jeff Van Gundy with the rant of the week, really hysterical stuff as this week Stan was wondering why the league doesn’t make the coaches stop talking to the media if they get upset with what the coaches say and then fine them for talking to the media. He doesn’t want to talk anyway, or so Stan insists, and if the league is worried about its image just release statements about how great it is. We would miss him if he weren’t coaching. And talking.
How much better can Rose really get? I mean if he is just scratching the surface, What will he be like at age 25 when his upper body is fully grown into? could he be a 28/10/8 guy?
Oh and how about that Charles Barkley is about the only national media guy to have much positive to say about the Bulls?
Sam: That is one of my greatest concerns for the Bulls, that I agree with Barkley. As for Rose, he will get better because he works so hard at it, though not necessarily with numbers because once the Bulls improve the roster, his scoring should go down some and once they are healthier up front his rebounding should. He does now what he has to, which makes him a star. If he is averaging 28, 10 and 8 the Bulls could be in trouble.
Do you think Blake Griffin should be able to play in the All-Star game? He is the next big thing since sliced bread, before him all we had was sliced bread.
Sam: I’m quite confident Griffin will be an All-Star, the first rookie to play in the game since Tim Duncan. Actually, I never understood the big deal about sliced bread, I don’t eat it and wish people would think and stop using all these moronic clichés. Sliced bread was first used in 1928, and a year later we were in the worst economic depression in the history of our country. The French don’t know much, but they know food and drink and they don’t eat sliced bread and have their bread in loaves. Basically, my view is things never were worse once we got sliced bread and I would henceforth like to hear people say in a tragedy this was the worst thing that happened since the invention of sliced bread, which would be much more accurate.