Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 02.04.11
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The Bulls have all but assured themselves the Central Division crown.
However looking at the Eastern Conference standings, there seems to be
a greater concern: the absolute need to lock up one of the top two
seeds in the conference. The #2 seed will likely face an inferior first round
opponent, possibly the 76'ers, Bobcats, Pacers, or Bucks. The #3 seed
will likely face a very tough opponent in either the Knicks, Hawks, or
(gulp!) Magic. Imagine what an exhausting toll such a series would
take on the Bulls in the opening round, and if they're lucky to
survive it, they'd face either Miami or Boston in the next series
without home court advantage. Assuming they make no major moves before the trade
deadline, how realistic do the Bulls have a shot at second-best record
in the East?
Sam: I think it was the local cable sports station, Comcast SportsNet, which ran a poll the other day wondering who fans would prefer as a second round opponent. Not so fast. Yes, life looks good for the Bulls with Joakim Noah’s return in perhaps the next week or two, but with a team really as fragile as the Bulls are, you cannot look too far ahead. Should Rose get hurt for any length of time, there goes home court advantage in the first round. Let’s remember the Bulls are 0-2 against both the Knicks and Bobcats. I see the Bulls, if things go well, getting the No. 3 seed, which means likely the Knicks or 76ers, whom they are a combined 1-3 against. Remember that last game with the 76ers? The 76ers trapped Rose over half court late and it gave the Bulls problems. In a playoff series where you can prepare better and slow the game, the Bulls as currently comprised, are vulnerable without making another move at the trade deadline.
Does anyone else find it
annoying how often and loudly Boozer yells whenever there is any
contact around the rim? Anytime he gets he hit yells "Hey!" at the
top of his lungs. And he's constantly yelling "And one!" Is he
simply blessed with a powerful voice that carries more than other
Sam: I’m not a big fan of that stuff we hear way too often these days, from Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, but not so much Derrick Rose. Maybe Rose should do more of that. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, eh? It’s unfortunate that too often that influences the referees and it’s nothing really to be proud of. Though in Boozer’s case at his age, sometimes it just hurts to move.
Can you explain what the heck happened to Ben Gordon? Even though I think it was the right decision to let him go for the contract he was offered, I wouldn't say there was a better shooter in the league than him. What happened? It's like he can't play anymore.
Sam: Tough to be what you were when you don’t play as much. The Pistons had an excess of perimeter players and a point guard in Rodney Stuckey who also is a shooting guard. So Ben’s lost the regular minutes he had with the Bulls, though he’s getting back on track since they benched Richard Hamilton. But privately Ben is a bit torn. He’s glad he got paid. He wishes he got paid by someone else.
Playing with a superstar elevates the game of those around him. I wonder how big an impact playing with MJ had on Scottie's game. Would Scottie have the same career stats, achievements, and actual style of play if not for the one of a kind opportunity of playing with the best ever? Would he still be considered top 50 player of all time?
Sam: There’s no question Jordan gave Pippen a chance to develop and star. I’m certain Pippen eventually would have become a top player in the NBA and maybe even a Hall of Famer. But he became a champion thanks to playing with Jordan and likely would not have been a top 50 player had he been drafted by the Kings, who were pushing hard for him and missed getting him by one pick. And, as Pippen likes to say, “How many titles did Jordan have without me?”
Do you see any potential in a 3-way deal the Bulls get Landry Fields and give up the Charlotte pick to NY so they can please their fans by landing Melo? Or am I just crazy & see more potential in this rookie then there really is.....6-7, nice shot selection, good defense, top rebounding guard in the league.
Sam: I’ve gotten several suggestions like this and know the Bulls don’t believe someone like Fields is worth that much, given he’s a rookie and playing in a style that enhances statistics. I believe if the Bulls trade that Charlotte pick, they’d want much more than a rookie, especially since their coach doesn’t particularly play rookies. I’ve never heard Thibodeau express much interest in Fields compared with more veteran perimeter players around the NBA.
You mentioned in your article earlier this week that you thought Tayshaun Prince is a possible March 1 buyout guy. What do you think are the odds this will happen and how interested would the Bulls be in him? Would he want to come here? I thought that was interesting that you felt that he would be bought out...I would think Rip would get bought out and they would be able to find a taker for Tayshaun Prince, but the idea of picking him up as a potential 2guard option intrigues me.
Sam: Hamilton isn’t being bought out because he is owed $12 million for next season and is hardly giving that up to go somewhere for a minimum salary. Plus, he’s of value to Detroit in an expiring contract season. The Pistons will try to trade Prince. If they cannot, and then if he wants to give up money, they could buy him out. But players don’t often give up much money. I like him for the Bulls as he’s a veteran who can defend and make a shot and run a pick and roll. But he’ll have the choice in a buyout of better teams as well and perhaps where he can start, which he wouldn’t necessarily for the Bulls.
I don't recall what it was that bothered me, but I remember the East All-Star starters intro getting on my nerves last year. I think it was all the dancing. I'm hoping Derrick doesn't get involved in the Lebron and Wade show. I hope it's a competitive game. The last game I remember being a blast was when Iverson and Marbury led a furious comeback to beat the West. Any favorite All-Star game that you have?
Sam: Derrick doesn’t dance. As for the games, you need guards who like to perform. The best All-Star games ever were those led by Isiah Thomas and Magic Johnson. This era’s players haven’t embraced the game like the guys in the ‘80s, and I’m not expecting to see much of interest except a lot of lob dunking. The best All-Star games are played with fundamental play, great passing and running, and today they mostly want to make it an extension of the dunk contest.
What did you think about changing the format of the All-Star game to something similar to what the NHL did. I kinda like the idea of having two All-Stars pick from a group of 20 or so other All-Stars. I can see the headlines now: "Team Kobe vs. Team LeBron!" The NBA has to shake up the All-Star game; it's been kinda stale lately.
Sam: You mean someone actually watched the hockey All-Star game? How bad a life must they have? All All-Star games are stupid because in this era they will never be competitive because there’s too much to lose. Guys used to make so little the winner’s share meant something. Pay the winners $1 million and you have something. OK, maybe $5 million. OK, maybe $10 million. OK…
I recently read that Houston is looking to possibly unload Shane Battier. Haven't heard too much about interest in him from the Bulls, but he would seem to be a nice fit. He's a good defender with height and can shoot the three. Also, he's from Duke, and we just don't have enough Dukies in our starting lineup yet.
Sam: Well, he’s mostly a forward, so who is he playing ahead of? Also, he’s not much of a scorer and doesn’t break anyone down off the dribble, though he can hit a long shot. But he is a reluctant shooter. Plus, Houston would want quite a bit for him as he’s popular and they are not going to be out of the playoff race by trading deadline. It’s not like the Rockets are pushing to deal him. So I guess the short answer is, no.
I don't see a lot of options to improve significantly via trade at SG so I was looking into the draft prospects. Looks like there are no elite SGs in the draft, as early projections show none likely to go in the top 10 picks. The Bulls should have several to pick from near the end of the 1st round (hopefully with the last pick), do you think any of them are an upgrade over Brewer/Korver and could start immediately? Or at the very least, could replace Bogans' minutes and improve enough to start in 2012?
Sam: Forget the draft. I hope the Bulls do. Perhaps they should be getting the hint with James Johnson and Omer Asik and Keith Bogans and Kurt Thomas. The Bulls coach does not play rookies. He’ll much rather play a much lesser talented veteran. Sure, if you have a top five or 10 pick, you make the pick and hope the player is so good the coach has to play him. If you don’t have a lottery pick and as long as Thibodeau is your coach, you better trade the pick or you’re going to be doing a great service for Iowa of the D-League by filling up their roster.
With Derrick Rose being the only bull to make the All-Star team, doesn't that make his mvp campaign all the more legit?
Sam: It was legitimate before the voting.
Chicago is so lucky to have a great superstar like Derrick Rose. He is truly a guy that people love cheering for because he is so humble and down to earth. I remember when Dwayne Wade first got into the league and everyone said he was so humble and he seemed like a quiet guy. Now Wade in my view kind of seems like a Jerk. He's had his personal problems and seems to have lost his humility through all of the fame he's received. I hope this never happens to Rose, but do you even slightly see this happening with Rose?
Sam: You never know. I assume everyone said that about Wade, who I had been hearing in recent years from players around the NBA that Wade had become condescending to others around the NBA. “Gone Hollywood,” you’d hear from people around the NBA about Wade. I’d say of anyone I’ve run across in the NBA in the last almost 30 years, Rose would be among the few most likely never to have that happen to him. The lures in pro sports are powerful and they are just kids. But he’s one of the most grounded I’ve ever encountered.
Have you heard anything about Michael Redd lately? I know he's been hurt and can't expect anything out of him...but he'd be a cheap option for next year if he has anything left...wouldn't he?
Sam: Well, I have heard he’s injured and can’t play, and given he was a poor and indifferent defender who hurt his team before having two serious knee surgeries my guess is he hasn’t improved that much.
Do you think the Bulls could have a chance at restricted free agents like Arron Afflalo or Nick Young this summer? Will they have the cap space?
Sam: I think this is very misunderstood as I often get questions about free agency: Don’t ask any more! With the signing of Noah and the extension for Rose, the Bulls are out of free agency probably for at least the next five years. The cap is certain to go down in the new labor deal and, frankly, the Bulls just are hoping to hang onto the players they have. To make any changes, they will have to trade.
First off let me say that unless there is a trade that we can not pass up this season, we should hold onto that Bobcats pick for now. Do not waste it on Rudy Fernandez, etc..and I think management agrees and is more likely to hold onto it.
With players like Jamal Crawford, Shane Battier, Ray Allen and the possibility of Mo Williams and Leandro Barbosa all being free for the class of 2011, we need to focus on them. That way the Bobcats pick would come in handy when we are searching for deals in the offseason when players are available.
Sam: Again, no free agents, which is why I would put that Charlotte pick in play now. My view is when you have a chance to go for it, which I think the Bulls do now with Boston, Miami and Orlando all flawed, you go for it because you never know if you’ll have that chance again. The Bulls have three regulars in Deng, Boozer and Noah who have a history of injuries. So while they are going well, I’d take a shot and also show Rose before he can become a free agent I am doing absolutely everything to win a title now. Free agency is not possible, but they could keep the Bobcats pick and combine that with their pick and players and come up with someone bigger as you don’t usually have as much to choose from when you are dealing at the trading deadline. That’s the big question the next few weeks.
If you were the Bulls who would you fear more this year's Celtics or next years Miami? The Heat haven't been the team some expected but one has to think assuming there are some cap exceptions in the new COB that they will upgrade their PG and C positions. If they can do that along with getting a coach that runs an offense with more ball and player movement (not just isolations) they actually might be the team some thought they could be. To me answer to the debate of whether the Bulls should make an incremental move this year or a bigger move in the offseason has a lot to do with the answer of this question. Many feel that it is Boston's final run and the Bulls should wait it out. On the other hand waiting it out my give the currently vulnerable Heat a chance to fill in their holes.
Sam: Yes, the debate goes on that way among the Bulls executives as well. I fear next year’s Miami more as I’ve always thought Pat Riley’s plan was to enhance the team a year after getting those guys and with Doc Rivers coaching. I’d rather take my shot this year, and if you knock guys out you have the upper hand, at least mentally, moving forward as well.
Fast forward one year to Feb. 2012. Dwight Howard wants out of Orlando, the Magic are totally screwed as they have a new arena and Shaq 2.0 is about to walk away. Their best possible deal would be to trade him for Joakim Noah, the 2nd best center in the NBA, a loyal and dedicated team player, and most importantly the local hero who is probably the most popular college basketball player in the history of Florida. Magic pick-up Noah, Taj, and Charlotte’s draft pick. This seems like a win for the Magic, assuming Howard is gone regardless.This allows Howard to play in a big market with a great supporting cast and you’d have to think the Adidas duo of Howard and Rose would be a powerhouse for 7 years+. We all love Noah, but the Bulls have to make this move right?
Sam: Of course. Howard is the league’s best center. Sorry, Pau had a moment in the sun, but he has taken a siesta. The Magic will do all they can to keep Howard, who if history holds will go to the Lakers if he leaves as that’s where centers go: Wilt, Kareem and Shaq. Orlando would do better with Noah than, say, Bynum, but I don’t see Howard choosing Chicago as he’s another warm weather guy, and, unfortunately and for whatever reason, free agents don’t choose Chicago. I guess those weather reports like this week don’t help. Plus, I always hear him complaining about the cold when he’s here. Noah can relax. He’s staying.
What do you think about a trade to get a veteran small forward like Grant Hill. He would be a great guy off the bench to give Deng some needed rest. If the Bulls offered JJ and a second round pick. Do you think this could get it done? He would be a good piece to add to the second group. The bulls are not going to get Carmelo.
Sam: They are not going to get Carmelo or Grant Hill. Hill likes it in Phoenix. He had a chance to be a free agent a few years back and rejected Boston to stay in Phoenix. Plus, he hates coming off the bench and probably would retire before he has to do that. I talk to him a lot. He’s one of the best people ever to come into pro sports. He is staying in Phoenix and they want him to.
Given the rumors that Artest wants out of L.A., should the Bulls pull the trigger if they wouldn't have to give much up? I mean, what do the Bulls need? Defense and spot-up shooting, right? If the Bulls could trade Korver (who hasn't lived up to his contract) and Bogans (who just hasn't been phenomenal) and pick up Artest, why not?
Sam: Artest has denied he wants to be traded, though I assume this is a joke. You cannot be serious that you’d want to add the guy who basically destroys franchises to this wonderful chemistry the Bulls have. Artest is Dennis Rodman with the Bulls in 1998. After playing for Phil Jackson, his career is over. No one else will be able to put up with him. You can be sure the Lakers would love to be rid of him and his big contract, and if Jackson doesn’t want him around anymore that should tell you all you need to know. Though I do often get mail from Heat fans suggesting ideas to sabotage other teams. This seems like one.
Do James Johnson's good D-league numbers mean anything? I just want to
root for this guy and the numbers give me hope, if nothing else, he can have
a career in the Association.
Do they help his trade value at all? Or do other GM's just think
of him as a Dleague bust?
Sam: People don’t know what to make of you when you don’t play and then light it up in the minor leagues. It’s an Adam Morrison kind of thing where maybe you cannot play at this level. I think Johnson has a chance, but I doubt his value is any different than it was, which isn’t much until he plays in NBA games and shows something. League executives aren’t as savvy as you think. They look at who’s starring for the Bulls and say if he can’t beat that guy out, how good can he be? So he’ll have to show something in games, and it doesn’t seem likely he’ll get than chance this season.
Did you see how Dwight Howard hit Wade tonight? He waited for Wade to be almost all the way in the air then jumped into his body and came across with his right arm, even though the ball was on opposite side of Wades body. Seems like if anyone else did this stuff to Wade they would not only get a flagrant, but a possible suspension. If what boozer did to Griffin was a flagrant, then Howard just committed a felony.....again. Not that I am worried about Wades health so much as another possible cheap shot on Rose.
I think league should slap him with a suspension, either that or someone is going to have to undercut Howard and put him on the ground and walk around flexing.
Sam: Well, I do not advocate retaliatory violence, but, yes, Howard is playing dirty. Those shots at Rose were cheap and dirty last season and I also blame the Bulls for not questioning it more. Howard takes guys out of the air and the league needs to step in and stop it. He’s sly about it, but those are not basketball plays.
I am loathe to even ask this, but your passing comparison of Rose to Jordan got me wondering if we could actually compare them as 22-year olds. Just to make the disclaimer, Rose does not have Jordan's ceiling and will never be better than Jordan. But Rose could be better right now than Jordan was in his rookie season in which he turned 22. Jordan scored more, 28.2 to 24.6 for Rose. But Rose's 8.2 assists to Jordan's 5.9 makes their offensive output a virtual wash. While Rose certainly has better teammates than Jordan did, the Bulls record really might have to tip things Rose's way. When one guy won at a .708 clip that might earn the nod over the guy whose team played at .463 (38-44). It's actually not impossible the Bulls end up the one seed in the East, which we would have to value over Jordan's superior scoring average. Finally, Jordan placed 6th in the MVP vote that year, and it seems certain that Rose will finish higher than that. Is this heresy?
Sam: There’s a new national media rule for all sportswriters. If you say someone is or can be better than Jordan, you have to watch 12 straight hours of John Salley shooting tapes and do 100 hours of community service as Michael Sweetney’s cook.
You said that the Bulls were 11-0 when Bogans scores six or more points a game. Shouldnt the Bulls be campaigning for Bogans as MVP? I mean Derrick is impressive and everything but the Bulls are undefeated when Bogans gets at least 6 points. That is impressive!
Sam: They feel Deng, Boozer and Bogans all got cheated.