Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 02.18.11
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I know you touched on Bogans briefly in your latest post, but I took it a step further...since Jan 1st (last 22 games), he's averaged just under 17 minutes, is shooting 48% on 3PT and playing above average defense. Do all of these people complaining about the need for a new 2-guard think they'll get someone better than that? I know chemistry can be overrated, but I'd lean towards keeping this unit together and see how much better they'll be with Noah coming back...instead of brining in someone new.
Sam: What a disservice seeing Ray Allen on the All-Star team instead. It has been a good run for Bogans, and, frankly, you don’t expect more than six or seven points from a fifth starter. The Heat barely get two or three. So my guess is the Bulls end up standing pat at the trade deadline. I suppose if you can land someone like Anthony Parker for the short term for a low first round pick or second rounder, you’d do that. But I do not sense a feeling or urgency at this point on the Bulls to make a move. That said, I’d still give it a shot with Houston’s Courtney Lee, as he’s someone you can build with. But I think he’d be hard to get without giving up a rotation player, and the Bulls cannot afford that. There’s no way Taj or Asik is worth Lee, who fits well though doesn’t fully address the Bulls greatest need of a wing player who can create off the dribble.
Lets say the NBA moves to a hard cap in the new CBA. How will this affect signing Derrick Rose to a long term extension? I know we have Boozer at 14 mil, Deng around 11 mil and Noah at 12 mil, can we fit another max salary with all of those players signed. If we can't, would we have to move Noah to get under the cap to keep Derrick?
Sam: Although it doesn’t get talked about much and never among fans sacrificing their time to help Bulls management, Rose’s extension, I believe, remains a major stumbling block toward a trade. The league has let teams know there’s a chance the cap will decline and you do not want to take on, say, an O.J. Mayo with a $5 million contract and suddenly find yourself unable to extend Rose a maximum deal and then along comes the Lakers and they magically have room. Rose trains in L.A. all the time and loves it there. I don’t see the way the roster is configured now that the Bulls would be unable to extend Rose and keep Noah, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bulls remain very conservative until they know for certain. Suddenly, Mayo or Richard Hamilton doesn’t look very good if it costs you Rose.
I understand that the Bulls currently have enough room under current CBA rules to comfortably resign Derrick w/o going over the luxury tax threshold. Is there even a hint of belief in your mind that he would settle for less than the maximum? Will the Bulls try to low-ball him or has he proven beyond a reasonable doubt that this is an open and shut case? On that note, do you think he's entertaining even the slightest inclination of leaving? I feel like he's too similar to Kevin Durant in that he feels loyalty to the city and the team for investing so heavily in him. Additionally, he just seems to grounded to want to go through a whole year of speculation about leaving by not signing an extension...especially with the good (check that, great) chemistry he and the rest of the team have.
Sam: The Bulls will pay Rose the maximum contract they can and likely give him every benefit allowed. It will be the easiest contract they ever gave done. I have yet to get any indication he doesn’t plan to make his career in Chicago, but you never get too comfortable and assume that. He’s about winning and the Bulls will have to keep up as well and do their part.
It seems to me the Rockets are not going anywhere this season, especially with the rumor that Rick Adelman might be retiring. Courtney Lee would fit nicely with the Bulls at the sg position and would be an upgrade. However, he is coming off the bench for a Rockets team who is not in the play offs and averaging 8 points per game. Let's be honest here, the kid is good but it's not worth giving up Taj or Asik. Do you think Houston is asking too much for him? Do you think we can get this trade done for let's say our 1st and 2nd round pick, J.J., and say maybe Bogans?
Sam: No. I know fans look at most deals at how it would help their team and that other teams are there to be picked clean. I suppose the Rockets slogan for next season would be, “Come see our Bulls’ rejects.” Look, here’s a guy caught in a roster situation, but who comes off the bench and scores 22 the other night and started in the Finals. He has value around the NBA and a team like Houston looking like it will miss the playoffs needs to sell hope to its fans, who, by the way, are being asked to put down deposits for season tickets for next season. My guess is they’d want at least Asik and the Charlotte No. 1 pick.
Gay is out at least 4 weeks, and with the grizzlies thinking they can make the Playoffs you'd have to figure they need scoring from somewhere. Does this keep Mayo from moving.
Sam: Probably. You’d think Mayo was most available given how they’ve played with him on suspension. Though there is no urgency to trade him as he has another year on his rookie deal. But without Gay it doesn’t make much sense to let him go for draft picks. And dealing with Memphis always was problematic for the Bulls given Memphis’ owner, Michael Heisley, lives in the Chicago area and views the Bulls as competition. With the Bulls doing so well, he’s perhaps least likely to deal with them as any team in the NBA. Plus, he originally wanted to move the Grizzlies to Chicago and feels, rightly or wrongly, the Bulls prevented that. I never heard they did. But he doesn’t have warm feelings about the Bulls. And a lot of things that happen in sports come down to emotion.
Can they beat us in the playoffs?
Sam: Well, without Anthony the Knicks are 2-0 against the Bulls. You’d assume the Bulls would have the edge, but D’Antoni teams can be tough, as they can get hot from three-point range and steal a game from you. You obviously refer to some of the latest speculation regarding a trade of Anthony to the Knicks. The Bulls would have the edge in depth and defense against a Knicks team losing Felton and Gallinari, perhaps Fields, though such a deal seems unlikely. But matchups usually dictate a lot in the playoffs and that would give the Knicks the edge at two important spots. I’d still say Bulls, but the Bulls as constituted now have the most difficulty against quick teams on the wing, so it’s no surprise they’ve lost to lesser teams like Charlotte, Golden State and New York.
I'm from Des Moines, Iowa. Which means, the last few weeks, I got to see
what James Johnson can do with some playing time. Here is what I saw. He
is more athletic than the majority of guys in the league, think LeBron James
type athlete. Really. I was amazed when I saw his lift because he made
D-Rose look relatively earthbound. He has great instincts on defense but is
still prone to a few errors. That said, he only really got in foul trouble
when he tried to help overmatched teammates and make good fouls to stop easy
buckets. He also has a developed offensive game. He recognizes driving
lanes very quickly and can hit a jumper if given the ball in rhythm. It
seems to me he is the Bulls best chance to add another All-Star for D-Rose,
not that we aren't doing a good job filling in as it is.
Sam: From your mouth to… I don’t quite have Johnson ranked that highly. The Bulls would be quite content with a rotation player. But he is more athletic than just about anyone on the roster but Rose. The issue remains the coach, who is doing well with the team and not comfortable playing Johnson. So I would not expect Johnson to play much or at all the rest of the season. Now the Bulls probably are too far in to implement him, anyway. Perhaps next season, though my guess for both the Bulls and Johnson is some other team feels as you do and the Bulls can make a reasonable deal. They won’t give him up for nothing.
It would be amazing if they can, but it seems like it will be awfully hard to get a guy of Lee's caliber with draft picks only. So say the Bulls remain conservative, not willing to give up Asik or Gibson (which you said you wouldn't in your mailbag), and are not able to land a SG at the deadline. Where do they go from there? It just seems that at some point the Bulls are going to have to give up a player like Asik or Gibson if they are serious about getting a starting caliber SG and going deep in the playoffs. This team is fantastic, but for playoff basketball, Rose is going to need backcourt help in terms of ballhandling and perimeter shooting as defense tightens and efficient half-court offense becomes more crucial. He won't be able to do it all as he is often able to in the regular season.
Sam: I tend to agree as in a series a team is able to take out your strengths more effectively and will wear down Derrick more. I think the Bulls are confident once they get past the Rose extension they’ll have a combination of draft picks and expiring deals (remember, they signed mostly two year deals last summer with the likes of Brewer and Korver) and can parlay that into something substantial. There also is a possibility if the cap does decline the more aggressive teams will be caught with players they have to dump—like the Blackhawks in the NHL—and with those expiring deals they’ll be able to do something more substantial than they could now.
Most coaches you see conversing with their assistants during the course of a game such as a Scott Skiles with Jim Boylan. Then there is Tom Thibodeau who is so busy prowling and screaming on the sideline the whole game, and rarely if ever gets together to brainstorm with his assistants. Do the assistants resent this, and would you call this a tight knit coaching staff or a dictatorship?
Sam: I think it’s an excellent staff, more knowledgeable than many and more like the Spurs stuff with fewer former players and more guys who have studied the game. I know players love to say you don’t know the game unless you played, but I generally find some of the best coaches being those who were not players, and certainly not high level ones. Thibodeau and Popovich Thursday was an example. Thibodeau does get into something of a frenzy in games and the assistants don’t have as much input as with some teams. Part of that is I cannot imagine anyone preparing for every eventuality more than Thibodeau and thinking it through. And it does say something to have a coach so confident and prepared he doesn’t need a staff cheat sheet. Though it is an excellent staff and I’m sure Tom would benefit from their in game ideas. But from the outside the staff seems to work together well and is effective.
Who do you think is, ultimately, more valuable between Gibson and Asik?
Sam: Asik. It’s more difficult to find athletic seven footers. But Gibson is valuable to the Bulls because you always need someone behind Boozer to push him on defense. I cannot see the team moving either unless they get a higher level replacement, which is difficult. The tough part will be keeping them after their rookie contracts expire depending on the new labor agreement. It has a lot of the high spending teams worried.
Your column on Jerry Sloan made me think that the owners who bend over backwards to keep star players are not only hurting their teams, they're also hurting their chances of keeping those players.
For example, the Cavs apparently gave LeBron everything they could, including things like half of the parking spaces in the player's lot for his friends. But in giving him everything before he hit free agency, they left themselves nowhere to go when they needed to sweeten their offer.
You would think that an owner capable of making all that money would be smart enough to tell his star player: "Look, when you're a free agent we're going to pay you as much money as we can, and we'll consider any other requests you might have at that point. But there will be no guarantees, and you're never going to have control over coaching and personnel. That's not because we don't want to hear your ideas. We do. But we're not always going to act on them, because that's ultimately not good for anyone, you, me, or the team."
After all, had the Bulls let Michael call the shots, they would have drafted Joe Wolf over Horace Grant, traded Scottie Pippen for Walter Davis, never drafted Toni Kukoc, and never traded Charles Oakley for Bill Cartwright. And I doubt he would have hired as a coach a barely reconstructed hippie who's only known coaching idea at the time was to have Jordan score less.
I know back then free agency and contract lengths weren't the same as they are now, but the Bulls didn't pull any stunts when MJ did become a free agent in 1996 and 1997. (And nor did the Spurs, for that matter, back in 2000 when Tim Duncan was a free agent.)
Sam: Perhaps you should be an advisor to some owners. Because the Jazz should know Deron Williams is now bailing on them as soon as he can, in part, because he likely saw weakness in the way they acceded to him and let Sloan leave. The issue is anyone’s natural reaction is to try to accommodate someone. Just think of all the nice things you did or said for boyfriends or girlfriends when things were going bad and they dumped you, anyway. Or, at least, me. Bulls management suffered over the years because fans side with their heroes, and more in this era owners want to be loved as well. So they make nice with their stars under the mistaken impression they matter as opposed to the players’ agent, family and buddies. You should run your team the way you see fit and live with the results, but we ask presidents to do that as well, but there are just so many competing forces and polls.
Let me say something about Tyrone Corbin. I know that you don't follow the college game very closely, but I saw most of the games that Tyrone played when he was at DePaul. He was recruited as an afterthought. Ray Meyer was going after Xavier McDaniel and Tyrone was a McDaniel classmate in a small high school in South Carolina. When Meyer came to see McDaniel, Tyrone approached Meyer, who wasn't much interested, but had an extra scholarship. McDaniel wasn't coming, but Tyrone did.
When Tyrone arrived at DePaul, he had the worst shot imaginable - - literally could not hit the backboard. But what he did have was smarts and a nose for the ball when it came to rebounding - - even though at around 6'6" he wasn't exactly built for that. And through unbelievably hard work, he turned himself into a reliable mid-range shooter, with improving numbers every year and he made himself good enough to be drafted. As you know, he had a solid NBA career.
I tell you this to alert you to the fact that Tyrone is very much an "old school" Jerry Sloan type of guy - - someone without the natural superstar gifts who makes the most of what he has through hard work and intelligence. Who knows whether Tyrone will be a successful coach, but I'm not sure that the Jazz will be taking such a huge step back with Tyrone.
Sam: I don’t dump this on Corbin, but he’s no Jerry Sloan. He may not even be a Dan Quayle. Ok, maybe… Corbin is one of the nicer people I ever ran into in the NBA, quiet, hard working, professional. Though those are not necessarily the qualities of a coach. He’s gone at coaching as he did at playing, getting around smart people, staying quiet and working hard. I’ve heard his interviews have gone well and the Bulls liked him when they talked with him. Coaching also is about gaining respect, not always being liked and being demanding. You need to push guys and not be their friend, but have them develop respect in you and what you are pushing. Perhaps he has that. No one knows. And he deserves a chance. But it’s always tough to replace a legend, and tougher when the team has done well and unusual circumstances caused the change. Plus, how do you coach Deron Williams now after he exerted that kind of power in the organization? I’m not optimistic for Corbin.
As much as Derrick Rose has improved his offensive game each year he has been in the league, I think the only glaring thing to me that it lacks is his post-up game. That would make him truly unstoppable. I thought about this before when the Bulls played Charlotte and it stood out to me again when the Bulls played Chris Paul and the Hornets. I've seen DJ Augustin have some pretty decent games against Derrick in the past. For the life of me I can't understand why coach Thibs doesn't run more isolations for Rose. Let him use his speed and quickness more without another defender in his way sometime to mix it up. He doesn't need a screen every time down the floor. Plus with Derrick's strength and height advantage especially against someone like Augustin he should be wearing him out offensively. Let him work on his post up game. Make the defense double team him on the blocks which should open things up for the other players and give them good looks by swinging the ball. I know this makes sense and It really was apparent to me because when Augustin was out of the game with his hurt hand, Charlotte used Livingston's size against Derrick in the post and had some success. As good an overall job he's done with the team, I can't defend him on this point.
Sam: If you’ll remember, a guy named Jordan he didn’t become a post up type player until later in his career when he wasn’t so athletic anymore. It takes time to become comfortable playing like that, and at this point I doubt Derrick is. Hasn’t he come fast enough for you? Geez, the guy is making threes when no one said he ever could. It’s not magical. It takes work and time and you can be sure it’s something Derrick will eventually add. It was years before even Magic Johnson really did. Post up and spreading the court with isolation are two different things. The Bulls do that at times, though Thibodeau likes the pick and roll. I’ve suggested opening the court more many times, but Derrick seems to figure things out no matter what they run. But you are right. There are post up opportunities they don’t pursue. I believe you’ll see that change in coming years.
You have covered the Bulls for a long time and interacted with some of
the players on a level many of us will never get to see. Who did you
consider the best people to cover? And by that I mean who were the
most good, humble, and classy people? Also, who were some of the
worst personalities you interacted with? If I had to guess, I would
think that Derrick Rose would be near the top of the "best people"
category and that Tyrus Thomas would be near the top of the "worst
Sam: Well, you’ve got those two right. There may not have been anymore more miserable than Tyrus. The truth is rarely do you run into NBA players who you don’t want to talk with. They tend to be the most sophisticated of all team sport athletes and most mature. Sure, you run into your miserable Jason Williams types, but they really are rare. In tough times, guys can be difficult. But even in the worst times I’ve found guys like Quentin Dailey and Orlando Woolridge were fine to deal with. Eddie Robinson could be a pain, as I recall. But not very many. There were a heck of a lot of really good guys. Really too many to mention. Some of my favorites other than Rose were Horace Grant, Elton Brand, Fred Hoiberg, Bill Cartwright, Charles Oakley, Dave Corzine, Mickey Johnson, Chet Walker, Steve Kerr, and probably until I started writing too much about him, Michael.
With the Detroit Pistons set to retire Dennis Rodman's number on April 1st (how auspicious), don't you think it's about time for the Bulls to give him the same honor?
Sam: No, and I’m quite sure it never will occur and never should. Dennis, to me, was primarily a fraud when he was with the Bulls. Sure, he had some big games in the playoffs, like on Karl Malone--who still might get 35--but in the first two of the three seasons he was with the Bulls, he missed about 50 games and the Bulls had a better record without him than when he played. He threatened the team many times with his behavior, like head butting a referee, but Jordan and Pippen were so good they overcame it. There are so many much more deserving players not only on the first three-peat--like Bill Cartwright, Horace Grant and John Paxson--and in the early years, like Norm Van Lier and Chet Walker, that to honor Rodman would be an insult to the history of the franchise and to basketball in general. I hope I wasn’t too subtle in explaining my position.
Watching games announced by
the home team's announcers has been interesting. The Utah announcers were
incredibly complimentary about D Rose, but the Hornets announcers could only
point out that Rose put up the second-most shots in the NBA and,
consequently, Chris Paul is a better point guard. I think I know what you
think already (Rose is a better all-around player and not crying to leave
his team to become part of yet another "super" team), but maybe I'm wrong.
What do you think about the comparison (but as Don Quixote noted, "all
comparisons are odious")? And just one more: people constantly criticize
the Bulls for losing to teams like Charlotte, the Knicks, etc. Yet, the
Hornets have beat the Lakers 8 out of the last 10 times they played, or
something like that. What teams, especially in the playoffs, are likely to
give the Bulls trouble because of the match-ups? Which are less likely?
Sam: What team did Quixote play for? Gotta support the home team, eh? I know I’ll be viewed as working for the Bulls, though, technically I am an independent contractor and the Bulls buy my work and I’m not on staff. You might tell some by the disclaimer which broken down basically says they don’t know who I am and aren’t quite sure how what I wrote got there. Though there is a bull on my check. The broadcasters are official team employees, so in some places they have to be a bit more complimentary. Though not in all. I think the Bulls guys are fair, but not homers. I think it’s clear to anyone in the NBA Rose is now a far superior player, especially because Paul has played all season with his knee wrapped and clearly hasn’t overcome the effects of his offseason surgery. I haven’t seen anywhere but on Hornets TV where Paul is now rated more favorable. As for matchups, assuming the Bulls advance past the first round, which is always uncertain for a group that never has, I think they’d deal well with Orlando and Atlanta. Though I do think Philly could be tough early with their athletes and perhaps New York depending on the trades. The Magic because they lack athletes and the Hawks because they get bored and settle for jumpers when things get tough might be easier. It’s why I’m anxious to see the Bulls against the Heat these two upcoming meetings with Noah back Wednesday. The Bulls will have huge problems matching up at those wing positions and it could compromise their defense. If you were the Bulls you’d want Miami to get Boston first, and I actually think the Bulls have a better shot with Boston than Miami.
The whole 'Melo trade drama reminds me of the Scottie Pippen-for-Shawn Kemp
deal back in 1995. Fortunately, this didn't happen, but how close was it to
become a reality that Scottie was about to be shipped off to Seattle (I also
recalled other reports of him going to the Clippers)? Also, what was the
real reason of him demanding the trade at the time? Some reports suggested
he was sick of getting underpaid, while some said he was tired of the
Sam: That was not a great time for Scottie, and the deal was done on the Bulls’ part. The Sonics backed out after it leaked—yes, even in those days—and talk radio in Seattle was flooded with callers demanding the trade be called off because they hated Pippen so much. That wasn’t long after the Pippen walkout in the playoffs and his reputation in the NBA was in tatters. The Bulls were convinced Jordan wasn’t coming back, and even ran it by him before the deal and he reiterated. In 1997, when there was a Pippen deal with Boston, management pulled back because Jordan wanted Pippen to stay and they believed they had a better chance for a title with Pippen. But they believed they were rebuilding in 1994 and wanted a big man, and Kemp was a phenomenon then. Scottie was perpetually upset with his pay and was feeling the pressure of being the man without Jordan and not dealing with it well. He seemed open to being moved. The irony is the Bulls got him in 1987 when Seattle passed on him in the draft and made the trade with the Bulls, who were moving ahead of the Kings, who were desperately after Pippen.
Every time when Omer Asik is on the floor teams inside defense gets better. Does Omer work on his middle range shooting at all with the coaches during practice? Seems like teams leave him open 16 feet from the basket all the time. His arch looks good when he is on the free throw line, even much nicer than Noahs so called tornado shot. If he can make that middle range shot, I think Tom would keep him even more on the floor with his active defense and shot blocking ability. If 38 years old Thomas can, why not Asik 15 years younger? Does he have Toms permission at least to try during games? Every time he is just looking to pass the ball or to set the screen.
Sam: I think it’s more Asik is uncertain and not confident about shooting. I know he’s in there for defense, but Thibodeau is consistent that if you have an open shot he wants you to take it. Assistant Ron Adams works with Asik constantly on his shot and I see them pregame all the time, but, remember, Omer is a rookie and hasn’t been in these situations before and it takes time to gain confidence. Plus, he’s not out there that long. I’d like to see him play more for defensive purposes, but he does an excellent job for what he does so far.
Don’t the Cavs and Raptors have some sort of trade exemption from losing their free agents in those sign-and-trade deals? Would it be “possible” to trade someone with a big contract to one of those teams for their trade exemption which then might be turned around and used to help “balance” another trade where matching salaries is necessary?
Sam: Basically they are a “slot” of the amount of salary the player they lost gets. So say they LeBron makes $15 million. Cleveland can take a player making $15 million from a team wanting to dump a salary with the idea that if it is a team in the luxury tax that team can save money. But the truth is rarely does a team want to dump a star on anyone like that. Cleveland is trying to use it and what we may see is a deal like the Bulls made with Washington where the Cavs take a player and get a draft pick to take him. That’s what they’re looking for.
Kobe is getting old and showing signs of aging while Melo is still young with quite a few years ahead of him. Wouldn't it be a win/win to swap the two players? Lakers get longevity and Denver wont get anything better than Kobe. The question is, can the Lakers win a championship if you substituted Melo for Kobe?
Sam: Too bad the Bulls didn’t think of this and trade Jordan in 1997. I’m sure Bulls fans would have been thrilled.