Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 04.08.11
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I live in Miami right now but I'm a long time Bulls fan. There's a popular mid-day radio personality that likes to discount all that Derrick Rose has done this season because the bulls defense is so good this year. Maybe he's not the best defender at his position but I would hardly consider him a liability. Which gets me to think where does Derrick Rose rank defensively amongst the point guards in the league?
Sam: Living in Miami or watching ESPN would be bad for your fandom if you are a fan of Derrick Rose’s. I noticed ESPN piling on again pulling a stat out of nowhere saying Rose gets his shot blocked the most. Actually, Rose does fine defensively, and head to head against the best point guards in the league, he’s outplayed and outscored Deron Williams and Chris Paul by a lot. He’s embarrassed John Wall. He’s averaging almost 40 against Tony Parker. Jason Kidd still can’t find him. And Steve Nash doesn’t even guard him. So you might say Rose, looking at it another way, is the best defender among the top points. I know, the Miami comparisons. But if you want to look at defensive stats, you might wonder how Rose can have more blocks and offensive rebounds than LeBron James. A point guard rivaling a first team all-defensive player in two vital defensive categories? How could that be? A 6-8 Adonis essentially tied with a point guard having to do all the offense for his team? Of course, it’s a joke James is all-league defense as, like Wade, he plays the passing lanes for steals and is a pretty lazy defender, except when he wants to, basically like Kobe these days. But ESPN shows whenever he does one of those come from behind blocks, which are usually because he was out of position in the first place. The saber metrics nerds basically are trying to keep Rose out of MVP. But the stat thing doesn’t work in basketball. It’s just a minor guide. The New York Times has one and wrote the other day Chris Paul should be MVP over Rose. I know. They only read box scores. Similarly, those that suggest the Bulls are good because of defense and since Rose isn’t a defender, ergo he shouldn’t be MVP, also don’t watch games. Heck, the Miami season ticket holders rarely come to the games. And generally never before half time. How do you expect a radio host there to know what’s going on?
I just read your column on the Bulls 2011 Hall of Fame inductee. I did note that you didn’t have anything to add about Dennis Rodman’s time with Chicago – I am sure I’ve read before that you think that Rodman’s contribution to the Bulls’ second three peat is overrated but do you think he is deserving of Hall of Fame honours for his entire career?
Sam: I elected to go with mom’s advice on that one in if you don’t have anything good to say… Rodman was a fine defensive player and I believe I voted for him as Defensive Player of the Year a few times. Though only a few Defensive Players award winners are in the Hall of Fame, and those that are not for their defense, but their all-around play. He was an excellent rebounder as well, but Rodman was a role player. He didn’t start for the team he had the most impact with, the Pistons. He wasn’t even sixth man. I’ve quoted this stat before—he missed 45 games his first two seasons with the Bulls of the three he played. They had a higher winning percentage in the games he didn’t play compared with the games he did those first two years. He had some key games in the playoffs against Shaq and Malone, but Bill Cartwright had bigger games against Patrick Ewing. James Edwards had bigger games against Kareem. Bill Laimbeer was way more important to the Pistons success than Rodman was. I don’t happen to feel you should be rewarded for bizarre, anti-social behavior because it is different. It’s like the kid who just works hard and does every chore. They generally don’t get the credit compared to the class clown. To point to just one among many not in the Hall of Fame, I felt Johnny Kerr as a player—just as a player, and he was a great top coach and executive as well—had way more impact than Rodman, for example. Kerr made more All-Star teams than Rodman, was the league’s iron man not missing a game for almost 12 years. And he played a third of his games against Wilt or Russell, averaging a double-double. Yes, actually being asked to play both ends of the court. And not ruining a team’s chances to win, as Rodman did with the Spurs because he didn’t like David Robinson and sabotaged the team in the playoffs. Plus the Hall of Fame is supposed to be about all your basketball, including college. Rodman was in minor programs. The NBA recognized who he was with just two All-Star appearances. How many Hall of Famers make just two All-Star teams in their career? How many guys make the Hall of Fame spending most of their careers as a reserve? Amazing. But, look, good for him. It’s a great honor and obviously I’m in the minority. And Rodman has plenty of his own issues, so I hope he can enjoy it. I don’t think my disagreement will impact him all that much.
Judging from tonight's game with Boston, does it look like Thibs will shorten the bench's minutes come playoffs? Watson, Brewer, Taj all played less minutes, and he used Thomas instead of Asik. Do you think this somewhat shows what the rotation will be like in the playoffs?
Sam: Yes, I do. I think that’s exactly what he’s beginning to do. He’s basically a traditionalist and the theory always has been you go with eight in the playoffs and push your starters as there are no back to backs and plenty of days off in the first round. I see Omer out and C.J. cut back. Then he probably goes hot hand among Korver, Bogans and Brewer and lower the minutes of one of them each game. We’ll see if Thomas can hold up.
I was reading an article on if UConn is considered a supposed "blue blood", which are like the best college basketball programs in history with Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA, North Carolina, Duke, and Indiana. And then I start wondering, "Do the pros have this?". Are there a certain group of NBA teams that are to have achieved more than any other NBA team; Lakers, Celtics, Spurs, I would hope the Bulls? How can you interpret that? Or is there no comparison?
Sam: The Yankees in baseball, maybe the Dodgers and Cubs to an extent, though more negative for the Cubs. The NFL probably the Cowboys for their self promotion, maybe the Packers and the Bears to an extent with their history. Hockey, probably most of the original six (look it up), and in the NBA the Celtics and Lakers. The Bulls are mostly viewed as the Jordan aberration, so perhaps it can change some if with Derrick Rose the Bulls can have a long run. Though the Spurs have had an almost two decade run, it is mostly around one guy. It’s when organizations proper through generations, and it is just two in the NBA.
Is Luol Deng in the running for the Most Improved Player award? What's the likelihood he could win? There's a few other obvious awards coming the Bulls' way but Deng's improvement and impact on the team has been enormous this year.
Sam: I know everyone is suddenly thrilled with Deng—players should remember what winning does—but Deng is actually averaging the exact same amount of points he averaged last season when everyone was sending me Deng trade proposals.
With all things considered do you view it as a positive for the Bulls that Orlando matched the Bulls' offer to JJ Redick or do you think they would have been better off with him?
Sam: Well, obviously it has worked out and Redick has had injuries, missing about 20 games. If you’ll recall, I wasn’t for that signing as I didn’t feel Redick was worth that as a defender and couldn’t create off the dribble. Not that Bogans can and it’s not like I lobbied for Bogans. But for the price he was worth it and when the Magic matched, the Bulls had more flexibility to deepen the bench, which I liked and thought was the best way to match what Miami did given getting lesser stars like New York did wasn’t going to get you past them. For now the Bulls’ summer is looking awfully good.
Sloan to Chicago? Is it possible he is looking for a smaller role with
a contending team?
Sam: I don’t see that. There was a bit of a bubble up about Sloan last week with an anonymous report he was considering jobs and then denials from Sloan. I do have a sense he’ll want to get back into it even in his late 60s as he’s not that sedentary. But the Bulls have an awfully good staff and I don’t see Jerry this late in his career just wanting to travel around and throw bounce passes to C.J. Watson before games. Hubie Brown took one last shot at 70 and I can see Jerry doing that as long as Phil Johnson is with him.
There is an interesting post (5th) to your Detroit postgame article. The poster is from France and says Yannick Noah has hired a French shot doctor (George Eddy) to tutor his son Joakim for one year. IS this is true?
I never understood how someone 6'11" could get to the age of 26 without learning to shoot a basketball.
Sam: I asked Noah and he said it’s not true.
I was wondering why Rasual Butler hasnt received more playing time considereding that he may be a part of the play off roster?
Sam: Thibs is a ‘dance with who brung ya’ guy. He’s going with his guys that got him here no matter what happens.
How does Tom Thibodeau compare to Scott Skiles personality-wise? I know they're both demanding but does Thibodeau relate better to the players than Skiles did? If Skiles were coaching this Bulls team, how do you think they would be performing?
Sam: Scott’s got more of a sense of humor, though biting and cutting. Tom’s more gregarious outside basketball than you’d think. He seems to be more comfortable relating to players than Scott, which was what critics doubted about Tom when he kept getting passed for jobs. I see him regularly bringing players into his office and talking with them while Scott wasn’t always as close. But Scott liked to kid around with the players more like Jordan would in a challenging way. I always had great regard for Scott’s coaching and how well he saw the game. I think with a Rose Skiles would have had this kind of team a few years back.
I have a question about MVP voting. Do you think (or know) that voters utilize game theory at all to get their guy the award? I understand the ballots let you rank about five players, and they get points based on how highly they are ranked. So, assuming a voter thought Rose was the MVP and Howard was the Second-Most-VP (but also the biggest threat to steal the award from Rose), would that voter leave Howard off the ballot and vote, say, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade &c. for the other spots because those guys are not likely to win anyway? Or do you think voters really just rank the guys honestly 1 through 5 in terms of perceived value instead of trying to use their votes to affirmatively steer the outcome?
Sam: Actually, I think it’s more honest with the media than it would be with coaches and players. I know a lot of coaches who don’t vote at all for deserving All-Star guys so their guy has a better chance of making it. There’s less of that with the media because of the lack of connection to the player. Sure, some guys probably do that, but rarely is the MVP vote a terrible vote and going to someone undeserving or who isn’t the consensus choice.
I love what Boozer provides on the court, yet his constant injuries
are a greater concern. As the power-forward enters his eleventh
season next year, there's no reason to expect more productivity to
come from his end. Would it be wise to shop him around in the
offseason for a shooting guard, while promoting Taj or Asik to the
starting lineup? Could the Bulls have structured Boozer's contract on
a declining scale, meaning he makes a larger percentage of the total
in the first year, decreasing in each subsequent year, thus making him
more trade-able? Where do you see Booze in three years?
Sam: It was a players’ market once the Bulls lost out on LeBron and Bosh, so the Bulls didn’t have much leverage from Boozer, who had a Nets offer. They do need his offensive contribution, and while his defense can be spotty, he’ll take big shots and isn’t afraid on offense, which the team needed. Injuries were the reputation for him and for the most part he’s come through the season. Bosh and Stoudemire both had questions regarding their knees and Al Jefferson, whom the Bulls probably would have traded for if they lost Boozer, was coming off major knee surgery. But also given his age and the size of his contract, I’d say he’s untradeable and I haven’t gotten any sense the Bulls are unhappy with him. You always take your chances, but we’ll go with the Thibs mantra on this and worry about the next game.