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Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 02.25.11

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.

OJ Mayo was offered to the pacers for their first round pick and a no body PF.... How the heck (trying to control my language) didn't the Bulls get this guy? He would have put them over the top and filled a huge need. I don't see why they could not have gave up Asik who is much better then that guy and would have been much for appealing i'm sure and they have the picks to trade... When will the Bulls management stop disappointing? I just don't understand with the extra talent although maybe not great and the picks they have they couldn't have upgraded. Very very very disappointed.

Drew Corbett

Sam: I know there was a lot of angst among fans about not making a trade, though Omer Asik made a heck of a case Thursday against Miami with 11 rebounds in 20 minutes. And, frankly, the players didn't want the team to be trading their big guys. The players don't decide, but I think they were right. You can't trade big guys when you don't have many, and you cannot count on Kurt Thomas beyond this season. Teams just seemed to want a lot. It's like when I play golf when I'm in Arizona. In the winter, it could cost $300 for a round. Now I could pay that, but I find it hard to justify. After all, I can hit grounders on bad courses. OK, I'm getting off the point. Sometimes things are just not worth it, and in the end there weren't any shooting guards traded. No one believes the Bulls are set at that position, but sometimes the cost isn't worth it and I got that impression this time, though I cannot be sure as they didn't let me listen to the conversations.

Here is what makes no sense to me. Omer is going to play max 10 min a night now that Noah is back. Mayo would easily play 25-30 min per night. They are already deep in the front court and thin in the back court. As much as I like Omer, the bottom line is with Taj, Booz and Noah he is not going to see any time. Thibs is not going to play him in the playoffs. He will defer to Thomas. They will get far more production out of Mayo, then they would Omer.

Lloyd Morris

Sam: I know the world could end soon. Or is that in 2012, I forget. I am one who agrees you try to win the title you are playing for. But this isn't the last season of the NBA even if there is labor heck coming. Kurt Thomas likely will be gone after this season. Noah and Boozer have had injury histories. Seven footers are the most difficult to come by. You cannot just dump a young seven footer for a fifth starter. And one, I may add, whom you may not be able to keep after next season for financial reasons given Rose's extension and the new labor agreement coming. If it's Carmelo or someone like that, sure. But is Mayo the final piece? He better be if you are trading away your future big men.

Now they have come to the conference more quality players east of stars, I think you get more value from the Charlotte pick this in the possession of the Bulls, because in the next few seasons, they will be more difficult to classify Bobcats to the playoffs, so this ended up being lottery pick. If the Bulls decide to use this pick in a trade must be to bring an elite player in SG position.

Piero Paguaga

Sam: I was one lobbying for the Bulls to move that pick if they could, but with this incredible influx of talent to East teams and the Bobcats in poor financial shape and unlikely to spend much, that pick may become something. It’s lottery protected in 2012, but then goes down and the Bulls could get a low lottery pick in 2013, 2014 or 2015, and in a year or two as it get closer to that 2016 unprotected year, it may turn into one of the more valuable draft picks and then you combine it with some stuff and get something. The problem now for the Bulls is they’re mostly being offered role players. Sure, if you could have gotten Anthony for anything but Noah and Rose, but for role players you cannot give too much and it’s amazing to hear teams wanting picks and players in the Bulls rotation for guys who don’t even start.

First of all let me say I love Blake Griffin's game. He and Rose will be the guys to watch over the next decade (unless you are into watching LeBron going to the free throw line) and he's a great dunker and would look good in a Bull uniform playing with Rose (not happening, I know). But... how many NBA players can't jump over a car's hood? I can only think of Kurt Thomas and Eddy Curry. Come on! What was the hype all about?

OC Neves

Sam: That actually occurred to me as I watched and saw him jumping at the front of the car. But like all good world wrestling stunts, it’s in the drama and presentation. As we know, this was hardly about anything resembling basketball.

I am concerned about the Bull's conservative nature. Yes they make deals but they have been unable to pull the trigger on any rumored big deals. I think people overestimate Derrick Rose's loyalty to Chicago. He has repeatedly stated his affinity for LA, he trains there in the summer, and I read of a possible teaming up with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love. Do you think the Bull's front office need to be conscious of this possibility and show more aggression to make deals?

Jerrold Washington

Sam: I know they have tried hard, but the problem is you just don’t get better giving up a rotation guy for another rotation guy, though not a star. The Bulls gutted their roster for free agency and just don’t have much. You’ll notice Miami isn’t making many deals, either. The Bulls would have dealt picks, but the teams they talked to like Houston, Portland and Memphis all are in the playoff hunt and wanted players who can help them make the playoffs. They wanted to give the Bulls picks for Bulls players.

Don’t you think the Bulls would’ve been better of taking Stoudemire in free agency over Boozer? If both are indifferent defenders and Stoudemire is more of an offensive threat and a game changer, wouldn’t it make more sense to pick him up instead? I know the Bulls had concerns about his injuries and I know hindsight is 20/20. I always thought his injury concerns were made out to be more than they really should’ve been. He has showed no ill-effects from either injury.

Mazhar Dudikov

Sam: Stoudemire was the bigger health risk, and even his own team warned against giving him a five-year deal. Though now watching ‘Melo take 25 shots a game, Stoudemire may wish the Bulls signed him as well.

With the Melo deal finally done, do you think that this opens the door for the Knicks to grab Jeff Van Gundy or Mark Jackson as their next head coach? The signs are all there: currently underachieving Knick team under Dantoni and his SSOL system, Donnie Walsh trades away Dantoni's favorite player in Gallo, and Dantoni/SSOL has been proven to not work in the playoffs where gritty, defense-oriented teams win out. Melo doesn't exact play spirited defense, neither does Amare. I predict that they get bounced in the second round (by of course, the baby bulls) and fire Dantoni in the offseason and give JVG a Godfather deal.

Dennis Chong

Sam: Owner Dolan at Thursday’s press conference suggested Donnie Walsh isn’t in trouble, but if he is and leaves you assume it might be tough for D’Antoni. With Phil Jackson leaving this summer and Erik Spoelstra possibly on a win the title or bust season, there could be some special jobs open after this season and the No. 1 candidate for all will be Doc Rivers.

It was reported today the Hornets are willing to trade Marcus Thornton for a 1st rounder. Do you know if the Bulls have any interest at all in Thornton.

Jon Baker

Sam: The Bulls had interest in Thornton among several shooting guards. But his trade is an example. He went for a near All-Star in Carl Landry. Teams aren’t giving these guys away.

You have plenty to write about. The Nets stealing the Knicks media thunder, possible Bulls trades..but the most entertaining has to be how badly Deron Williams will whine. Reportedly, the Jazz didn't even tell Williams about the trade. He found out watching ESPN. I could be wrong, but that trade shows me the Jazz are blaming Deron for running Sloan out of town, so they shipped him off without the courtesy of telling him about it. Kind of like the spoiled brat that gets his toys taken away to teach him a lesson. Respect to the Jazz! Do what's best for the organization, because the players will always do what's best for them. So, who got the better deal...Knicks, Nuggets, Nets or Jazz? I say the Jazz.

Victor Devaldvielso

Sam: It was a form of poetic justice after Williams not only was enough for Sloan but apparently had alienated Jazz management enough they had their fill of him. Welcome to Newark! Teams used to like to do that to send guys to Minneapolis. So you think this is bad? The Jazz was able to do so after the community apparently had enough of Williams as well. I’ll tell you at the All Star weekend he was the grouchiest of all the players, spitting back answers and making you feel uncomfortable around him at a time everyone was joking and having fun. But that said, it also was clear the Jazz wasn’t going anywhere and Williams likely was. I’ve always felt you do better if you can make a deal like this with years left on a contract as the team getting him then has him for awhile. But few GMs and owners have the guts to take that shot and the fan backlash. It was much less this time after the Sloan thing, so the Jazz seized the opportunity. I like what they did. They’ve been a smart team with personnel and have a power forward extra as well once Favors comes on. Still, it sends a message to collective bargaining as well about small markets being able to hold onto their players and not having to rebuild every five years.

Setting aside the fact that Thibs would not play JJ, I would have held off on the James Johnson deal until next spring for two reasons. Deng has not been injured and a prolonged injury to Deng would create the opportunity for JJ. The second reason is a litte more ethereal. If JJ is a good athlete and has good character and has the drive to improve, all of which I hear he has, then at minimum, he could be projected as an excellent sub at the three/four. The move to pick up a buy-out seems short sighted. It is a move that is more suited for teams longer in the tooth. 

In the end I respect the leaderhship and I hope they prove why they are the professionals and I'm just the fan.

Daniel Wagner

Sam: That’s good hearted at least. Actually, it may not be great business, but the Bulls have done this before, in trying not to kill a guy’s career just because they can. I know the players always carp it’s a cruel business, but the Bulls did want to see JJ get a shot somewhere. They didn’t feel Thibodeau was going to give him that shot no matter what, and that’s probably right as you see Thomas playing over Asik already with Noah back. I actually feel given who the coach is the buyout is just as good a way to go and the deal gives them a better shot to get someone they like with the extra money. Win-win? We’ll see.

Humor me. At the All-Star Game we saw D-Wade and D-Rose talking about what could have been and how amazing it is to have two Chicago guys starting in the backcourt together. Before LeBron took over the game for the East, he took a lot of care in finding Derrick to bring the ball up the floor. Seriously, look at some of the tape. LeBron wanted to make sure he got the ball in Derrick's hands. He was much more deliberate in finding Derrick than he was in finding Rondo. Is there any way that these guys are trying to show Derrick that they can and will play with him??? We all know Derrick is about winning and not about the money. Chicago will pay Derrick more than he can make in Miami, but if you are an elite point guard then don't you recognize that you have a better chance of winning when you're surrounded by James, Wade, and Bosh than you when you're surrounded by Deng, Boozer, and Noah???

Jim Hill

Sam: Not funny, and not realistic. The Heat would have zero way to pay Rose at all, and in the way I saw the game LeBron pretty much ignored Rose and went on his own and left Rose standing around in the corner. There were several plays like that, but I recall one late with the East coming back when Rose had Chris Paul on him and was deep in the post and calling for the ball. Instead, LeBron threw it to Stoudemire, who looked off Rose and drove.

What's going on? JJ was not worth all that much, I guess. What are they gonna do with these two 1st round picks? Try to get C.Lee/OJ Mayo or move the picks into a 2012/2013 pick? This year's draft is gonna be terrible so hopefully they will not keep these picks!

Robert Mestjian

Sam: I’m not sure it’s a defined plan, but I, too, hope it’s not directed at using the draft because as much as Thibodeau demurs I don’t see him playing rookies. I’ve mentioned this at times and he was a bit sensitive and told me he has no issues with rookies and supported Rajon Rondo playing when he was in Boston. Perhaps, but there’s little evidence to the contrary here, which, frankly, is OK with me. It’s one thing if it’s Derrick Rose. The Bulls have a chance to close in on the top of the East and you don’t do it teaching rookies. If you get a great one, that’s one thing. But you’re not with the Bulls picks, unless the Charlotte one becomes something in 2016. The best they get is No. 9 before that, and that generally doesn’t get you much, either. And if it does it usually takes a few years as it did with Joakim Noah. JJ didn’t have much value as he rarely played and was in the D-League. Teams don’t give up much for guys who aren’t playing. The Bulls now are in much better position to pick up someone if there is a buyout with almost $3 million to spend. I like that flexibility and would have moved JJ for that as well. My view is they want the picks to combine with theirs and the Charlotte pick and the expiring contracts they’ll have after this season to be prepared coming out of the labor deal to perhaps pick up a player some teams needs to shed given the likely new economics. I actually think it’s a decent idea if you are not going to get a player at this trading deadline to go forward with as a starter for the next few years. I didn’t see the point in making an incremental upgrade that doesn’t win you a title, anyway, and taking yourself out eventually doing something more substantial. That said, you then do have to use the picks to get something as the Bulls too often have held onto “assets” and let them decline in value or become worthless.

Thibedou's handling of JJ disappointed and puzzled me. JJ came into this year higly motivated, and his performance in Phoenix, where he won the game for the Bulls, should have earned him more playing time.

Seems to me, if Thibs is to be a long term coach for the Bulls he will need to know how to use and develop rookies. Do you think he is deficient there? And, if so, do you think this could become a serious problem? Asik doesn't count because he is a European veteran.


Craig Dillon


Sam: No, I don’t see it as an issue, primarily now because the team has done so well. You can’t play everyone. Thibodeau uses about 10 players, and though we might differ on playing time, Thibs has an old school type mentality of not babying players: You’re 25 years old. Play! Plus, the Bulls big men have gotten plenty of rest this season with Boozer missing a month and Noah two. Mike D’Antoni generally plays a seven or eight player rotation with no young players. Sure, management felt more strongly about Johnson than Thibodeau did, and perhaps Thibodeau wasn’t particularly open minded about Johnson given he told him before the season started he wouldn’t be in the rotation. But at least he put him n notice. The Bulls went through this for years with Phil Jackson, who also was no fan of young players. Tex Winter, a longtime college coach, used to lobby Phil to play the draft picks. Phil’s answer was always the same: “You win with me.” Johnson is in a better place, though they usually say that at funerals. And that was not necessarily a shot at Toronto.

Why did Denver gave in to the Knicks? Wasn't the Nets offer better? Also why did they settle for only one 1st rounder and two 2nd rounders, instead of getting all first rounders across multiple years? In addition, granted this is a players' league, why gave in? Wouldn't this show the other players that they can dictate what they want and their teams/owners will cater to their whim?

Abram Bachtiar

Sam: Actually, Denver did OK. Far better than Cleveland or Toronto when they lost free agents. They got some good players, especially Gallinari, and players they might be able to trade as well. Compiling draft picks is generally a con game played on the fans. You say we’ve got six No. 1s, but rarely do they amount to much. The Bulls tried this plan in 2000 and used six picks in the 2000 draft. How’d that work out? The draft generally is about getting lucky, like the Bulls did with Rose. Gallinari is a lottery pick and ready to play. He’s better than having three 1’s in this draft to mesmerize your fans into believing you are on the ground floor of a championship core. When you hear your GM talk like that it means he has no plan and is trying to buy five more years from the owner. Free agency is a fact of life in sports and, actually, abused the most in baseball. Those guys jump around like they are changing buses in rush hour. Anthony stayed eight years with Denver. What’s wrong with that? LeBron and Bosh stayed seven. Sports got itself in this situation because of the overwhelming greed of the owners who became like the robber barons of the late 19th century, treating employees like property with no rights. I recall Mickey Mantle winning the triple crown and the next season not doing so but hitting about .350 and getting his salary cut. Because the owners could. Same in basketball. The owners caused the growth of the players’ unions and their strength because the owners believed in personal greed above all else. So the pendulum swung toward the players as their strength grew, which it never would have without ownership abuses. Anthony could be a free agent and was leaving and it was his right. He’d always signaled an interest in playing in the East. Denver did what it could and did a pretty good job in the end.

First the whole Lebron James Miami/Cleveland episode and now Carmelo Anthony. It just seems like you can become a free agent whenever you want. All you have to do is get one of your handlers to spread the word that you might not sign an extension. Is this a sign of things to come in the NBA? And how can all of this happen without any sort of tampering charges being brought forth?

Terrence Wells

Sam: These, as I said, aren’t exactly snap judgments as the players signed contracts and basically concluded them. One thing I never understood is why some owners give a player a maximum deal and then the right to opt out. You should never get both. Anthony had the right to opt out of his contract this season, a contract offered to him by the Nuggets. He didn’t do anything wrong other than talking about it all season. He should have shut up like LeBron and just played. The Nuggets gave the Knicks and Nets permission last week to speak with him to expedite a deal.

Don't we think this two upcoming weeks will determine if the Bulls are a Eastern Conference contender for the number 1 seed? Seven games, six on the road.... Orlando, Miami (2) and Atlanta... Do you think a 4-3 , with 1-1 from the Heat would put the Bulls on the verge of the first place in the East?

Rui Dias

Sam: It’s too soon for that, but it is the next to last sequence of interesting games until the last week of the season when the Bulls go to Orlando and New York. After Thursday’s Miami game it’s 12 of the next 20 on the road with a heavy schedule of games in March. So it’s too soon to say if the next two weeks will determine anything. Unless they lose or win them all, which is unlikely. My sense now is Miami gets the No. 1 seed with the Celtics and Bulls looking at 2 and 3. You never know with Boston given they will coast some knowing they can win on the road in the playoffs. But given the schedule, you’d say the Bulls likely will be in the No. 3 spot opening the playoffs against the Knicks and then if they get past that meeting Boston in the second round. Though, again, a lot can happen in a week, so a lot more can happen in seven weeks.

I wanted to make a case that the Knicks have less a chance to beat the Bulls in the first round now with 'Melo on the team. When watching the Bulls/Knicks this season, one thing that stood out to me was the Knicks ability to hit the 3 against us(I think Galinari didn't miss one in one game) and Raymond Felton somehow figuring out Derrick Rose(he had his number last year on the Bobcats too). Now that those two are gone and they are replaced with bench guys like Corey Brewer and Roger Mason and have an older less D'Antonized PG like Billups, aren't they a better defensive match-up for a quick defensive minded team like the Bulls?

Russ Michniak

Sam: Felton was hot when the Bulls played them. He hadn’t been much since them. Everyone has trouble when you are hitting 17 threes as the Knicks were. I wrote about this the other day after the trade on Bulls.com, and if you do straight matchups, the Knicks have an edge in three of the five starting spots. And playoffs usually do come down to matchups. That said, I’d give the Bulls the edge because suddenly they are way bigger than New York, a key in the playoffs, and the defense is far superior. I do believe Anthony will be a better defender and rebounder than he has been, though he’s rebounded well this season. He’s heard all the stuff about how he and Stoudemire can’t play together and won’t defend, and he will try. And having veterans does matter in the playoffs, and suddenly the Knicks are a much more experienced playoff team with Billups as well. That the Knicks gave up a few of their perimeter shooters may be helpful to the Bulls, but you never dismiss star players with experience in the playoffs, and now the Knicks have three guys who have been there way, way more than anyone on the Bulls.

Something doesn't seem right about all the worry over potential "salary management" ramifications of a new CBA. Does having a hard cap mean that teams will not be allowed to exceed that cap and pay luxury taxes? How would teams like Orlando with a 90 something million dollar payroll cope with that? Would every player in the league have to restructure their contract - based on some percentage ratio of before to after CBA implementation - so that the team's collective contracts fit into the hard cap? Most importantly though, what does this mean for the Bulls? Is it unfair that the Bulls can't go out and complete our roster because of the concern of how it will affect Derrick's future contract extension? Can't we sign the players we want now and jump in the boat with Orlando? Can we give Derrick an extension now? I can't imagine the league and the players will come up with a CBA that severely cripples a team's ability to manage their current rosters.

Ben Feldman

Sam: Those are many good questions without answers as there basically has been no serious talks yet. I do believe, though I have no personal knowledge of this, in the end teams will be able to keep their best player and rules will be phased in so as not to immediately cripple high payroll teams. But there are owners who want a hard cap and a roll back of contracts and even a year off like hockey. I believe there are more owners willing to compromise, at least eventually, as it is their business, after all. Rose isn’t eligible for an extension until after the season and though I cannot imagine a situation where the Bulls could not extend him, you better make sure to be in position to do so. So the Bulls have to be wary about any excessive spending for now. More likely if they were to take on a high salaried player with a long contract now they’d have to give him up to accommodate the new rules and extending Rose, so it might be a rental that just costs them core players and probably not worth the risk at this point.

Do you think that LeBron's All-Star Game triple double, compared to Derrick Rose's more modest performance, will affect perceptiions regarding who should be voted the NBA MVP? I think it would be ridiculous for the All-Star Game to be a factor. It was so obvious that Derrick was being fairly deferential to his teammates, especially in the first quarter. Also, especially with the lack of defense, it's clear that Derrick could have attacked the basket at will, a la what he did in the Spurs game under much more "serious" defensive circumstances. I felt that Derrick could have scored 30 -40 points in the All-Star Game without batting an eye.

Mitch Tobin


Sam: I actually do believe it will have an effect and LeBron likely is the leader for MVP now. Unless Rose outplays him dramatically in the two games between the teams in this 10 day period, my guess is LeBron wins the award. I did some informal polling of voting media members at the All-Star game last week and the feeling seemed to be for LeBron. The notion generally was that he was the better player and his team had and would have a better record, and that would be good enough to win. Though I believe Rose has done far more for his team with far less, that is a reasonable argument. In retrospect many make that now about Michael Jordan and why he didn’t win more MVP awards. The feeling was he was the best player in the NBA and his team generally had the best record. If the Bulls pass Miami, Rose has a shot. If that doesn’t happen and given all the TV exposure LeBron gets, I think he wins fairly easily.

I don’t understand all this buzz around the Bogans starting spot. The Bulls are winning and everybody(Bogans of course, Korver, Brewer) seems happy with his role and his playing time? Everybody agree to say the important thing is the team chemistry. So where is the problem? So why complaining about that? I think Bulls fans are looking for problems that are not problems.

Mat Ramseyer

Sam: Yes, this Bulls team does have unusually good chemistry and one of the hesitations on making a trade was to not disturb the chemistry and the mix. Because it isn’t easy to replace or duplicate. That said, it is better to have more talent and the Bulls could use that at the shooting guard position.

Do you think the Bulls will ever honor Dick Motta in anyway? I think that his great teams of the 70's brought excitement and basketball to the city and set the stage for the Jordan years. Unfortunately, Coach Motta's Bulls could not win a championship.

Mark Morehead

Sam: I strongly doubt it. Motta, for some reason, has been a vocal critic of the Bulls and the organization in recent years, and, other than with Jerry Sloan, was very unpopular among the players from that era. I know Norm Van Lier and Chet Walker could barely stand to mention his name, and many, many former Bulls deserve recognition more than Motta. He was an effective coach with those teams, though as GM toward the end of his run I’m convinced the Bulls would have won at least one championship in the mid 1970s if not for Motta’s penurious ways which created a virtual revolt among the players and substantial holdouts.

If Derrick Rose won a championship with the Bulls, would he be the first big time NBA player to win a championship with their hometown team?


David Vidler

Sam: There used to be something in the NBA known as the territorial rule. In the 1950s and 1960s, there was little interest in the NBA. In one way to garner interest, the league allowed “territorial” draft picks, meaning no matter your first round position you could select a player from your city or local college, the idea being that fans could then follow the college guys they came to like and college ball was bigger then. Yes, many college guys were from other cities, but the big fight was over Wilt, who went to Kansas. So it was decided Wilt would go to the 76ers since Wilt was from Philadelphia and the 76ers went on to win a title with Wilt. As I recall, Clyde was born in Houston and in the ABA Dr. J and George McGinnis won in their home towns, but there weren’t many.

Who do you think is the better overall player, D-Rose or Isiah Thomas? And of course, the measure should be comparing both players' first 3 seasons, as Rose is only in his 3rd year. I'm not saying purely stats wise here, but game wise. As you saw Thomas play and now watches Rose every night I wonder who'd you pick at this stage.

Jay Ernani

Sam: I know we’re growing impatient and don’t fully understand how Rose could not be in the Hall of Fame already and have a statue driving around the Jordan statue. But for now he has a bit to go to reach the levels of Isiah, even early in his career. Isiah was a marvel, able to do just about anything despite being much shorter than Rose. Isiah didn’t have Rose’s explosive ability, but Isiah was from the start a better leader and a truly great passer. Plus, as we came to know, he was much more willing to get mean if he had to, and in that era it was more in demand. At his growth rate, Rose should pass Isiah. But in the history of the game, Isiah is probably the best small guard. That’s a bit much for Rose at this point.

It seems like in every Thibodeau sideline interview I have heard this season he is completely hoarse. I know he is a screamer, but does this concern you at all? I'm sure I'm just paranoid from seeing Cartwright's voice issues drive him out of coaching, but it seems unhealthy and I don't notice this as much when I hear other coaches speak.

Rory Butterly

Sam: Cartwright’s voice issues were from playing and being hit in the throat and his larynx being damaged. Give Jerry Krause credit as he and the Bulls took care of Cartwright’s medical expenses even after he’d left the Bulls. As for Thibodeau, other than during games he seems to mostly watch game film, which doesn’t require much talking expect when he’s muttering to himself about someone being out of position or not closing out on a three shot at midcourt. And given it’s not my throat it doesn’t concern me much at all.

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