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Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 02.11.11

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.

Assuming Jerry is done with coaching forever, do you see Reinsdorf and Co. bringing him back to the organization in an ambassador-type capacity? It would bring his career full circle and he could be a great voice in the organization, similar to what we had with Red.

Wally Petrovic

Sam: That doesn't sound like Jerry, though he likes to work. Though Jerry said at his press conference he has no intention of working for another team, I wouldn't be surprised if Jerry works elsewhere as I don't see him wanting to go out this way, apparently pushed out by a brat like Deron Williams, who always is blaming everyone else for his failures. You should have heard him after the Bulls game late Wednesday night, whining to anyone around him about how he would have loved to go back at Rose but his wrist was sore and he just couldn't do it. I hadn't heard the issue between Williams and Sloan had gotten that bad, but I had heard questions about Williams' true leadership. We'd always heard of issues with him at Illinois that were covered up and he's spent years with the Jazz leading the team nowhere and then blaming other players at the end of the season. This season I've written about some in my NBA Monday columns recently stories I'd heard of his blaming management for all the personnel turnover in recent seasons even though he had blamed some of those players at times for the playoff failures.

If Jerry Sloan indeed 'retires' (i.e. was fired) today, this would make 2 coaches fired after losing to the Bulls. What is the one-season modern record for teams getting opponent coaches fired after a loss and looking at the Bulls roster, who do you see them knocking out next? I'm putting my money on Jay Triano 2/23.

Mike Schwartz

Sam: I'm assuming it wasn't one of those, "If we can't beat that team..." Given the upcoming schedule, Triano is a great choice. My vote goes for Rambis, and post season Stan Van Gundy if this thing doesn't go well in Orlando, though you'd think that would be Otis Smith more so. Of course, you are referring to Jim O'Brien previously going out. I also recall a few years back Brian Hill getting the boot after a Bulls game.

On a lark, I placed a bet before the season that: A) Jerry Sloan would resign as coach of the Jazz AND B) Michael Jordan would return as an NBA player for the Bobcats, and start at least one home game to create buzz and goose attendance, with both of these events happening this season. My question is: which Caribbean island should I consider buying? In all seriousness, it appears that Utah is going to lose D-Will when his contract is up, even if Sloan is gone. In anxious anticipation of the next Melo-drama, can you provide an early read on the teams that could and would trade for D-Will before Utah loses him, and the players that may be involved? I can't see Sloan retiring from coaching; it is his life blood. What are the teams where the Sloan school could potentially end up?

Paul Zukor

Sam: Hopefully, Mike gets control of himself and costs you. What this does as much as anything is announces to the NBA it needs a franchise tag to keep players from joining forces in a few places. Of course, New York if they can't get others, though who knows what they really want as the local media, mostly unaware of what they might do, simply proposes every guy available. Orlando certainly could use a point if Howard stays. If the Suns hadn't blown their summer with bad contracts he could be a replacement for Steve Nash. Maybe for Jason Kidd. Houston would give the Jazz a bunch of players for him right now. How about Miami for the minimum to get a title? As for Jerry, the interim in Indiana looks good. But that would be a perfect place to finish up for Sloan, and working for Larry Bird.

Why does Carmelo Anthony want to leave the Nuggets? If anything, the Nuggets have a chance to contend in the near future. The Lakers seem to be either at the peak or regressing, the Spurs have this season and maybe 1 more before they have to blow it up. The Mavs have maybe 2 seasons left in them. The West is wide open after that. His top competition would be Oklahoma City and with the cap room they'll be gaining when the lose Billups and Martin, they'll have a shot at Deron Williams, Chris Paul or Dwight Howard after next season and Melo will be hitting his prime. Also the season is 8 months long and you are on the road for 3 to 4 of those months. He can live in New York in the off season and after his career is over which is 7 to 8 years away. I haven't even brought up the point of all the money he'd be leaving on the table if he were to leave via free agency.

Marty Ahern

Sam: For one thing, as I've noted before, Anthony really isn't about winning. Oh sure, he'd like to win. But I doubt it's a high priority in his life. Look, that's OK. He's punching in at work and doing a good job. He's just not one of those workers who goes the extra mile. There really aren't that many of those who seek to excel well beyond others. There's this notion that in sports everyone has to be a great competitor and want to win at all costs. Of course, they have to say it as that's politically correct in their world. But there are just some who like to get a pay check, head down to the tavern on the weekend and hang out with the guys and enjoy their life in their way. Nothing really wrong with that. That's 'Melo. He wants to live in New York and hang out at fancy places and have one of those 360 degree view condos in the Empire State building, like Amar'e Stoudemire. His wife wants to live in New York to further her career as well. He went there to have his wedding last year at the Waldorf. Who does that? Why do you think despite all the scoring and Olympic teams and numbers he's never quite been considered among the truly elite guys? Because everyone knows. He seems a decent guy, a lot friendlier than LeBron and Wade, for example, but not quite as dedicated. You probably would rather hang out with him. Though maybe not rely on him if all you care about is your team winning.

The latest espn hype machine reports that either the Knicks (giving up Chandler and Curry only!) and Lakers (giving up Bynum only) are stirring up trade talks. The espn staff does not even acknowledge or realize how lopsided a trade this would be! Why would Denver trade one of the top 5 players in the last 5 years for absolutely nothing? This sounds like another gift like how the Lakers got Gasol for almost nothing. The Lakers would have some sort of super team while giving up an oft injured player. Why would anyone help them? I thought you had to give up something to get something and neither team is offering much especially for a player of calibur as Anthony.

Bob Mactangay

Sam: Well, only because there was nothing to those reports. Look, on some level it's OK. ESPN has to do 24-hour sports and "breaking" news to keep up the discussion. I don't necessarily endorse fictional reports, but there usually is something to the things they come up with, like one team making that proposal. I recall the great columnist, Mike Royko, once jokingly saying that getting the other side sometimes messes up a good column. Sometimes you don't want to find out it isn't true. Maybe better to have a good discussion. And look, it is just sports, and the fun of sports is a lot about debate and discussion. Because of the demands on them, ESPN has to operate a lot like an old tabloid newspaper, many of which tend to be less responsible. I recall a friend from one of those in New York telling me his editor suggested a story and he said he checked and it wasn't true. The editor told him to write it anyway and the next day to write the other side of it and they'd then have two stories. You notice ESPN never goes back to say the previous information was wrong, but just adds something new. It's fun as long as you don't take it too seriously. Acknowledging both trades were ridiculous would have messed up a good column.

"Trade deadline chatter: There has been talk of breaking up the backcourt of Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis because of the glaring defensive weaknesses... Look for the Warriors to make changes this off-season and not at the deadline." If they do move one of the two, you'd have to assume they keep Curry and trade Ellis, which would be an awesome addition to the Bulls and perhaps the missing championship link.

1. Do you have any information/input on the quote?
2. What kind of package do you think it would take to wrangle Ellis from Golden State? Maybe something like Korver/Taj/Charlotte 1st round pick?

Chris Vombrack

Sam: Golden State is one of those teams looking to make a splash with new ownership that doesn't know basketball very well but wants to be successful. Ellis has been on and off the trade chatter for almost two years since his motorcycle accident that got him suspended. To get Ellis, you'd probably have to surrender a near All-Star level big man. I assume from the Bulls that would mean at least Noah. Interested?

Did Rose's steal from Deron Williams remind you or anyone other than me a little bit of MJ's steal from Malone on that same floor in '98? I'm not comparing them as players, just saying, good stuff.

Cameron Watkins

Sam: It was terrific, but it was regular season stuff. You make your name, as the commercial goes, in the playoffs. It's the stage in sports, like that Derek Jeter tag out in the playoffs. Jordan's steal and shot may have been the most amazing defense/offense sequence ever given the stage.

As you mentioned the Bulls pick 'n roll defense has been bad lately to the point were I worry if they can beat the Knicks, a strong pick 'n roll team, in the 1st round. I understand even the best defensive teams will have slip ups and games they don't defend well. That said, there is having a lapse and there is getting exposed. I have noticed an alarming trend of big men from different teams having some of their best games of the season against the Bulls lately. Are the Bulls just going through a bad stretch defensively or has a weakness their personnel and/or scheme been exposed?

John Swank

Sam: Well, part of it is the absence of Noah catching up with them. They've done way better than expected without Noah, though since Noah went out they only played about a half dozen teams with winning records. You just don't replace an All-Star level seven footer so easily. That said, pick and roll defense isn't one of Boozer's strengths. But the Bulls need his inside offense and he's produced at a promised near 20/10 level. Thibodeau has used Taj Gibson some for Boozer, though I think the larger issue in a game with, say, Aldridge was more the lack of size as Gibson had issues as well. There aren't many teams that defend the pick and roll great. Actually, the Spurs don't do it very well these days as Tim Duncan isn't his best in the pick and roll anymore. I think especially with Noah's return and more play from Asik the Bulls should be OK given that Thibideau is an excellent coach and understands fully how to run a great defense, which the Bulls have produced thus far.

What do you make of Boozer's lack of court time in tight games down the stretch? Obviously, Thibodeau is going to stress defense at the end of games, and it's no secret Boozer isn't a great defender. How does Carlos take it? Obviously, the guy is a model professional and great teammate (never mind what the Jazz say), always jumping off the bench and high fiving guys. But you gotta know he wants in at the end of a game. And since he is one of our stars, how do you feel about his sitting on the bench at the ends of games?

Charlie Otterbeck

Sam: This may be the biggest issue Thibodeau faces and thus far he's doing a magnificent job. Like any top scorer, Boozer is a proud guy and doesn't want to be embarrassed. Thibs understands that and treats Boozer with respect, which Boozer likes. At the same time you have to hold a guy accountable, which is why Boozer comes out at times, though really not that much. You can live with it given his offensive production and that all the free agent forwards, Bosh, Stoudemire, Lee and Al Jefferson, who was traded, are generally weak defenders. Miami lives with Bosh and New York with Stoudemire. And Boozer does rebound. So this will be a delicate balancing act for Thibodeau, and he is handling it like a savvy veteran, both keeping Boozer engaged and pushing him to improve without humiliating him.

Chris Douglas Roberts has good size. Like D-Rose he's learning to shoot the three this year (35.9 percent improved from 25.9 percent last year). He could be a good rotation player that wouldn't upset the teams chemistry. Or how about Leandro Barbosa, he's a veteran on a loosing team. Toronto might be willing to give up on him to save a couple dollars and get some young building blocks. I haven't heard you mention these players. They're not huge upgrades but they could impact the team positively.

Bryan Scott

Sam: I haven't mentioned them because they are not huge upgrades, if at all as Douglas-Roberts probably would be a step backward, and there's no purpose wasting the few tradeable assets you have for more bench players. If the Bulls do something it has to be for a starting shooting guard whom the team can move forward with.

While watching the last Iowa Energy game with James Johnson the announcers were debating if the Energy could take a game or two off the Cleveland Cavaliers in a seven game series. The announcer who thought they couldn't used James Johnson as proof. He believed that if a player of Johnson's caliber, who is putting up pretty good numbers, isn't good enough for the NBA then there is no way the Energy could beat the Cavaliers with a full roster of NBA players. That got me thinking, what would Johnson be doing with the Cavs? Would he be starting? On the bench? On their D-League team?

David Yuen

Sam: I think Johnson would be averaging in double figures and start to get notice around the NBA. At least in the D-league, Johnson has been excellent, ranking first overall in efficiency at his position and second overall in the league to everyone who has been there this season. You put a talent on a losing team and he will put up numbers. It's why it's risky to rate players by statistics on losing teams. Who knows what Kevin Love would be doing if his team weren't losing just about every game. Sometimes for your career, it is better to start with a loser. Getting your confidence and getting notice can make you a better player than you might have been. It was Johnson's misfortune to be drafted by the Bulls. Yes, they paid him as much as he'd make elsewhere, but he's gotten caught in a situation with a successful new coach who prefers his veteran talent and does use 10 players. Thibodeau has to be coach of the year or in the team picture and a lot of the Bulls success this season owes to his serious, business like, knowledgeable approach. He'll be one of the league's best coaches for years. But he doesn't trust Johnson, so he won't play him. And there's nothing anyone can do about that, or really even say given how well the Bulls have done, much better than the level of their talent given the key injuries. Johnson has to hope someone else notices and he gets traded and gets a chance somewhere else and the Bulls get some value. But I wouldn't let him go easily.

We're heading into the All-Star break with a great record. Do you think the Bulls are a sleeper team? I mean none of the "experts" talk about us, it's all about the Heat, Lakers, and Celtics. Why do you think we are being avoided?

Maurice Fleshman

Sam: I do think with Noah returning after the All-Star break, teams are growing wary about a playoff series with the Bulls. But until you do something in the playoffs, you don't get taken too seriously. When it comes down to it, even with the great series with Boston in 2009, this Bulls group has yet to win a first round playoff series. And no matter how good you look or project, until you do something in the playoffs nobody gives you all that much credit, and, frankly, shouldn't.

I can't believe Kyle Korver didn't get chosen for the 3-point contest! Dorell Wright? C'mon give me a break.

Adam Garcia

Sam: Korver did get overlooked, and it can be a petty league. Kyle didn't go a few years back and they tend to hold grudges in the NBA office. He should have been invited, especially given the extraordinarily weak field. Sure, Ray Allen is an obvious pick, but few of the best shooters are participating. And not because they didn't want to. The NBA is supposed to be about the best. I don't understand how you set up a contest at your premier midseason event mostly involving marginal talent.

After hearing about the Cavs' reaching their historic losing streak of 25 straight games, I wanted to compare them to last year's team, and found something interesting. Last year's Cavs, with Lebron, were 41-11 on February 6. This year's Miami Heat, with LeBron, was 37-14 on February 6. So, playing with Mo Williams and Anderson Varajeo, LeBron was actually four wins better at this point than playing with Wade and Bosh. Is there any significance to that?

Carl Feldman

Sam: It does say something about team and pieces that fit, though Miami is playing well. What it also says is what LeBron said with his choice last summer: He's a great talent who didn't believe he could ultimately succeed based on his abilities. And really didn't even want to. We see it constantly in his play as he prefers to give up the ball at the end of games to others or not go to the free throw line. On talent, he is the best player in the NBA. He is not against pressure. So, at least, he understood well enough he needed someone else to handle that. Wade can. I always believed the Cavs could win with James and the right so called supporting cast, though perhaps I was a bit conflicted as I always saw him more the supporting star in the Pippen role. So, yes, how do you then ultimately win. So perhaps James knew his limitations better than I did. In seven years he never won a game in the Finals, though he made big shots in big playoff games. Jordan didn't win a Finals game in six years, but he knew he would. James obviously didn't believe he could with the Cavs.

First off, this is in no way an overreaction to these last couple of losses, however, Coach Thibs has some tendencies that worry me a bit. In the Portland game he played Asik for roughly half the amount of time as Kurt Thomas while Asik was vastly out producing him. Same goes with Korver as he came out red hot and our team seems to have no understanding of the concept of feeding the hot hand. I find it hard to believe that the assistant coaches aren't in his ear trying to get the best performers out there. With that said, I understand his favoring of veterans, but over the course of a season you sometimes need to swallow your pride and realize that others give you a better chance to win then your regulars.

Kevin Loughlin

Sam: He has been reluctant to go to Asik, though to his credit he saw it in the Utah game and Asik's play in the second half was crucial to the win. No, he isn't comfortable with Asik, but he does play him and you have to hope he will continue to do so when Noah returns. Likewise with Korver, as I've written many times, I think he needs more shots. But Kyle is such an unselfish guy and tries to do the exact right thing every time—rarely do you encounter such guilt among NBA player—that he tries to be too perfect sometimes and looks for teammates too much. He needs to let it fly more as well. But let's remember this is Thibs' first season with these guys and there is an imbalance in the roster with the lack of offense and sometimes, especially with Asik, he gets caught worrying whether there is enough offense on the floor and thus taking Asik out. Plus Thibs' natural tendency is to defer to the defensive side, which is not Korver's strength, though he is decent, works at it and, to me, does a good enough job to earn more minutes.

With the All-Star game approaching I was looking at the rosters, and I know they will always be snubs but why is it coaches continue to pick players like Tim Duncan when clearly players like Kevin Martin or LaMarcus Aldridge belong there over Duncan. Sure Duncan is one of the best PF to ever play but how can you deny Aldridge doing so much for his team, for Duncan who is not the player he used to be?

Cameron Mazzetta

Sam: Duncan didn't deserve to be selected, though I am generally OK with long standing service awards. Though perhaps not with Duncan. Not because he is a bad guy, but he's an awful All-Star player. That game should be about fun and an exhibition and even at his best Duncan was boring for an All-Star game. But the coaches picked him. I was surprised. I thought the commissioner would add him, though the coaches likely wanted to honor the Spurs' record with two guys and already had the allotment of guards. The irony is when I was on the All-Star ballot committee, I lobbied for Duncan to be listed as a center. Not only because he played the position, but we had to list 12 centers. There were so many bad ones and good forwards were left off. To my surprise, the Spurs filed a formal objection with the league saying Duncan had to be listed as a forward. So now Duncan makes the team as a center because that was the only place the coaches could vote him in even though he was on the ballot as a forward. So forget what's fair and right about the All-Star voting.

I think the Bulls could stand to lose Gibson a little more than you... Mainly because I think Noah has the ability to play the PF, which may actually be where he should be playing, if you watch him trying to guard guys like Perkins, Bynum, Howard, etc. he really has a tough time because of his slim build. Plus earlier this year when he and Asik played together, they were pretty dominant in the middle. I think come playoff time the Bulls could win with a rotation Boozer, Noah, Asik/Thomas in the front line and sometimes even move Deng up to play some PF if they want to go small. That said, I think Gibson plus draft pick for Mayo is something the Bulls should do.

Billy Habibi

Sam: Absolutely, positively not. For one thing, Thibs never plays Asik with Noah. I'd like to see it, but he did it some in preseason and then not again. What the playoffs show and what even a game against Portland showed is you need size. Yes, Taj was a bit small to deal with Aldridge. But Boozer isn't much defending the pick and roll or blocking shots. With someone like that, you need someone behind him so he always knows you can take him out. The Bulls will need Taj for some late game defensive replacement situations until they can fortify that position. And if you trade so called big for small, it better be an awfully good small, and Mayo isn't that. Plus, he's undersized at two. That would be a disastrous move in my view. Likewise, there was a report the Rockets might be interested in Asik for Courtney Lee. Again, are you nuts! Look, I'd love to have Lee and think he fits well as a big, defensive shooting guard who can make threes. But you don't give up an active, young seven footer for a shooting guard who is nowhere near an All-Star. And remember Kurt Thomas is 38. Sure, he looks good, but he's here on a one year minimum deal. Though I am quite sure the Bulls never, ever, ever told Houston they'd trade Asik for Lee. The Bulls likely called and said what about Asik for Lee and the Bulls said what about Martin for Bogans. Same chance. You don't trade young, developing, athletic seven footers for backup shooting guards, though I believe Lee would be a good starter for the Bulls.

Do you think it would be a good idea for the Bulls to hold off on making a major upgrade at SG until 2012? That way, they can sign Deron Williams and have a starting backcourt with D.Rose and D.Will both being SG/PG hybrids.

Tony Tijerina

Sam: I've answered this before, so I'll go slowly because I still get this question a lot. The Bulls will not have any room below the salary cap to sign free agents for likely at least the next three to four years. No more free agents!

I just read your article and I wanted to ask you about being an ambassador in the league. You mentioned Dr. J, and Jordan with Kobe. But who is going to be the real face for this decade? I know lots of people would say LeBron. But I have issues with him taking games off with very weak excuses. I see a few rising stars out there now, but if you had to make a guess at who will personify what being a star means both in performance and putting on a show who would you select?

Matthew Reeves

Sam: It's a tough one because, yes, LeBron has become such a polarizing figure since his free agency move. Some liked for Durant to have taken that role, and there's a chance the way he has spoken out at times about the way things should be done. Though it's tough, likely, from Oklahoma City. You could say Rose given his play and manner, but he's a bit too quiet. If he were somewhat more open maybe Griffin would grow into it because it's part a showman's role as well. I guess we'll know him when we see him.

With all that I'm reading on the Melo to theKnicks talk, what would happen if both teams pulled the trigger on it early and then Melo is a Knick, yet he is also a Western All-Star!? Does that mean he'd miss out on playing the game? Has something like that ever happened before that you know of?

Andrew Brown

Sam: I believe the way it works is he'd become a backup for the East team and the commissioner would name someone else for the West team, though it seems the Nuggets are going to go right up to the deadline as to whether they'll do something.

I notice the Bulls have several have players under non-guaranteed team option deals for the 2012-2013 season. You said we can all forget about Bulls free agency for the next five years. Is this more an insurance policy to ensure they can pay Derrick Rose if there is some sort of hard salary cap?

John Swank

Sam: Yes. No one knows what will happen in the new labor deal. But the league pretty much told teams it's at their risk to take on big contracts before then because there could be a hard form of a cap and then they'd have to shed players like teams in hockey did. And if they couldn't, they wouldn't be able to sign their other players. The Bulls are being conservative and cautious and don't want to be in any situation where they cannot extend Rose's contract. So maybe it would have been better to have Raja Bell over Keith Bogans, but at the cost of Derrick Rose? Was it worth the chance?

I feel like there's some inconsistency in something you wrote. In [last week's] mailbag you said you've always thought it's been Pat Riley's plan to enhance the the team a year after getting those guys (assuming you mean Wade, Lebron and Bosh). However, whenever a fan writes about the Bulls picking someone up via free agency (although, I agree often times the suggestions are outlandish), you quickly dismiss the idea of free agency all together, given the Bulls cap situation. I just wonder why you afford the Heat the possibility of filling their holes this summer, knowing they will not have any cap space this summer, and less draft picks to work with than the Bulls, but limit the Bulls chances of improving their team to making trades. I understand players late in their careers will sacrifice money for a shot at a title, and may take the vets. minimum to play for a team like the Heat, but the way this season has gone, you'd figure to put the Bulls in that same "within striking distance" category for a title.

Tom Reedy

Sam: You are right in that the Heat is in a similar position, but we saw last summer players willing to compromise deals to go to Miami. We don't see that with Chicago and, frankly, never have. Riley is banking on that and also has a history of being very aggressive, which last summer's deals show. He's one of those executives who believes he can enhance his roster and while everyone tries, he's had unusual success that way. So he's viewed this thing in stages of getting them first and then adding to it. As Pat says, I'll worry about how later. Look, he traded for Shaq. He got Mourning. He fooled everyone and got LeBron. The guy's track record is impressive. If he says he's going to, I'm loath to say he won't.

Given how much credit the media has given to Derrick and how little to the other Bulls, has the locker room been a bit touchy on this? We all know that he deserves to be the focal point and is the spirit of this team, but the other players must feel a bit jealous that they're not getting much coverage on non-Bulls media outlet.

Peter Chen

Sam: I don't sense any of that at all as Derrick is not only popular, but the others often volunteer to credit him while Derrick tries to deflect it to the coaches and the team. Winning raises everyone's ship of praise, and I think there has been plenty for Deng, Boozer and whenever someone like Korver or Thomas has a good game they are well featured. Plus Derrick doesn't seek out attention and the others see that. He's probably the favorite star of all of them to play with as he also is so willing to give up the ball.

Monta Ellis has a better FG% & 3P%, as well as more steals and points, than D-Rose. Granted, D-Rose averages a rebound & couple more assists per game than Ellis, size-wise & statistically D-Rose & Ellis are very similar. Both are lightning quick exciting "lead" guards. However, D-Rose is in the running for MVP, while Ellis probably won't make the All-Star Team. What's the difference between the two that makes D-Rose a winner?

Ron Jacinto

Sam: Which is why it isn't just about the numbers. One issue with Ellis is he's the kind of player who makes himself better. You could say he makes others better with his scoring since he'll get more defensive attention. But he's more the player who looks for his own. Rose looks for everyone, moves the ball, is a willing and good passer, getting the ball to teammates in shooting position. He'll lay back early, often too much, to get others going. It's obviously not lost on the coaches, who never vote Ellis an All-Star, though he is an excellent talent.

I was wondering what you think the Bulls/Thibodeau is going to do with Kurt Thomas when Noah returns. He couldn't crack the lineup when Noah was healthy and now he is a crucial part of the team's starting rotation. Should he be the first big man off the bench for the Bulls? I love Taj coming of the bench, but I am worried his production will suffer now that Kurt has earned more minutes.

Mayank Srivastava

Sam: I'm fearful he'll continue to let Kurt play. Not because Thomas isn't good and helpful, but I'd rather see him with more life in his legs for the playoffs. You can see him wearing down on this trip as he's had poor games and his replacement, Asik, was better and more lively. This is the chicken and egg thing with coaches. They are about winning the next game, and Thibodeau is that and very good at it. It's been good for the team as he's kept the players focused and with an edge every game. Given Thomas' age and his potential importance in the playoffs, I'd like to see him go back to sitting for a month and let Asik play and then gradually bring him back. Thomas can step in any time, and it would be good to have Asik with confidence come playoff time as he can help. You saw against the Jazz how much better he was against smaller front lines, like, say, Atlanta has. And certainly the Knicks. Plus, I think Thomas would like to play a few more years and not be burned out this season, though he'd never say that.

If the Bulls decide to wait until next year to add a 2 guard, do you think the Bulls would make an attempt to reaquire Kirk Hinrich? Would he not be the perfect 2 guard and back up point? His contract would also expire after the year.

Daniel Mallen

Sam: They likely can't next season because he makes $8 million and they'd have to give that in salary and presumably the Wizards would be looking for something good with Kirk with an expiring deal. I doubt he'd take a minimum to return after his contract expires, so there'd likely have to be a salary cap exception in the new deal. Plus, he is not exactly the perfect two guard given his size and perhaps the Bulls can do better.

I've been reading your responses to your fans' suggestions about what to do about the hole at our shooting guard position, and for the most part you just answer their question saying, "this is good or this is bad," and then explaining to them why. Most fans' suggestions are bad... So my question for you is not a personal opinion of my own, but simply asking you what is your opinion on what the Bulls should do to best upgrade their shooting guard position?

Scott Newcomb

Sam: It's not easy because what you want may not be—and usually isn't—available. So I look at what is possible, and I mentioned that recently with a top three of Courtney Lee, O.J. Mayo and Rudy Fernandez. If I could get any without giving up a player but draft picks, I'd do it. I would not give up Gibson or Asik for any of them.

So I read a rumor that the Bulls and Rockets are discussing a Lee for Asik swap. Please tell me the Bulls realize how rare and valuable a commodity Asik is and aren't willing to do this.

Sam Rosen

Sam: They are not discussing any such swap. As I recall, that item said the Rockets are interested in Asik. Fine. The Bulls are interested in Dwight Howard, I assume. To reiterate, you don't trade bigs when you don't have enough for smalls, and especially one not starting, though I like Lee a lot and believe he would be a good starter. But size wins in the playoffs, as the Lakers and Celtics know. The Warriors load up on guards.

So what do you think of a trade for Dwight Howard? I mean we could offer Omer Asik and the Bobcats' pick. What do you think? Or we could get Kobe for Boggans and Johnson. What do you think? What about if we just ask for Melo straight up? Plus cash, of course. Man if we did all of this we would be amazing... Wonder what people are thinking when they throw out these trade ideas to you? I mean seriously does anyone actually put thought into what they are saying about these things?

Derick Earle

Sam: And the ones I print are the best ones. The point is it's better discussed here than in some Internet report about teams talking. At least I can explain why something does or doesn't make sense. Some of the ideas are good ones, but fans cannot know that so few guys are available and the big problem the Bulls have in making a trade is they gutted their team last summer for free agency and don't have very much to give up or that teams are interested in. Basically a team making a trade wants to sell to their fans they are much improved and have a bright future because of this. Whom among the Bulls they can trade would a team say that about?

Jerry Stackhouse wants to come to Chicago. Do we want him?

Simon Mckeown

Sam: No. But it is nice, finally, that a free agent wants to play in Chicago. Too bad it's someone who's retired. The Bulls don't want Bill Walton, either.

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