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Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 10.2.2015
After an eventful first week of training camp, Sam Smith of Bulls.com opens his mailbag and responds to the latest round of emails from his readers
By Sam Smith | 10.2.2015 | 4:00 p.m.
Well, I wonder what we’ll talk about this week.
What do you make of D Rose's ill advised, unprompted comments about playing for free agency in 2017? I have been a staunch defender of him from the beginning. I supported him when he didn't come back at the end of the season after his ACL tear. I flew to Miami to be there for his first Return. He made some questionable comments at the time, but I defended him. Through every injury and bone-headed comment, i have been the first one to defend him and give him the benefit of the doubt. But this time he crossed a line. His comments seem to be a slap in the face of all the Chicago fans who supported him and cheer him every time he steps on that floor. He just opened the flood gates for questions about his future and invited an circus side show to town. He created a distraction that could have easily been avoided. He's not the first professional athlete to be playing for his next big contract. I get that. Most guys in the NBA and other professional sports do. But with his free agency being 2 yrs away and his ability to stay healthy for an extended period still in question, I feel like this is the last thing he should have brought up...unprompted nonetheless. This one feels different.
Sam: I frankly don’t get this outrage. I wouldn’t have gotten it if Rose opened the press conference declaring he intended to be a free agent. And he was now wearing his underwear on the outside to prove he was changing it four times a day. Because that’s just part of sports these days. Anyone is fooling themselves with a fairy tale if they think any player doesn’t consider his future no matter what they have earned thus far. Why do you think LeBron James refuses to commit to the Cavs and signs one year deals? Why John Wall with a big contract reacts to Reggie Jackson signing a big deal with Detroit and says he is better and wait until his free agency. Why Kevin Durant refuses to stop talk of Washington or L.A. and why Carmelo Anthony talked for a year or more of free agency with all his titles in New York. None of this has been greeted with anywhere near the vitriol and horror as it was with Rose. I really have never seen this level of cheap shot piling on about such a relatively routine comment. I know it’s all about Rose has been injured and hasn’t played so he should be grateful for making so much money and how dare he.
Well, get injured at work while working and hear people say you don’t deserve to be paid anymore because you are not productive enough. Rose was being bombarded with questions about the civil complaint for assault and answering when he drifted into a stream of consciousness — like he has before — and mentioned what players talk about all the time now, the big contracts and upcoming free agency. It was the topic of the stars at the USA Basketball camp in August. So Rose sort of blurts it out in what seemed to me just an open thought and this somehow turned him into an ungrateful, undeserving louse.
Obviously, I didn’t see it that way, but the level of moral outrage was laughable. I always counsel fans to appreciate what players do, not what they say or who they are. They are paid to play; not pontificate. Appreciate them for being the greatest athletes in the world. Isn’t that enough? Rose has proven inartful in conversation. Why is that a crime? Being a pro basketball star doesn’t make you a public speaker. He tries, but we have all seen he’s never been comfortable. Maybe he should be like the Seattle NFL player Marshawn Lynch or Rasheed Wallace, who either don’t speak with media or try to embarrass reporters when they ask questions. They generally have been treated better than Rose.
That being the Rose who was the only Bulls regular to speak with media after every game of last season’s playoffs. Every other player basically bailed out a time or two, and that’s OK given the circumstances. So Rose accepts, however uncomfortable, his obligation to media and fans and then is condemned for unclear sentiment. Rose did not bring up free agency. He did not declare. He mentioned it in a rambling answer about the legal case and then answered affirmative if he meant free agency. And then quickly added he wants it to be in Chicago. This gets that level of condemnation?
For a player who basically gets injured because of how hard he plays? This, after all, was a player who had the major ACL injury after pushing himself back to play after seven different injuries before that first playoff game. He’s a player who throws himself at the defense with ferocity. No player on the Bulls is knocked down nearly as much. So he doesn’t articulate quite as well as his critics would like. That’s a crime? Rose has studied basketball. He’s widely regarded as a clever and intelligent player; he hasn’t studied vocabulary as much. Like a lot of pro athletes. Their jobs are their bodies.
I suspect this has more to do with fans and media feeling let down because Rose has been unable to play because of injuries. It likely will disappear once he begins to play. Everyone can dislike whomever they want. It’s a great sporting tradition. It’s the outrage that is puzzling.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but recent reports make it sound as if DRose expects to make more money when his contract expires. He now is at $20 million plus. My thought was that even if Rose stays healthy and the new CBA is as player-friendly as everyone predicts he would take a big pay cut. With his part-time schedule and no credentials as a good guy in the locker room I would have thought $10 million tops.
Sam: The numbers are irrelevant, I guess, except to those paying and receiving. This locker room problem thing has no basis in fact. If anyone can find one comment or quote from anyone on the team condemning Rose, well…,they can’t. Noah commends Rose just about every day. Noah’s the team leader.
Anyway, I’d think fans actually would be pleased if Rose were concentrating on free agency. Which he’s really not, but to the point. No one but guys with multiple titles gets paid on what they did before, and many not even then. If Rose doesn’t perform over these next two seasons he’s not getting a big contract from anyone. So it naturally follows that if he is concerned about more money, then he has to perform at a high level and the team has to win. If he doesn’t and it doesn’t, he doesn’t get paid.
So even if he were looking toward 2017—and anyone who knows Rose knows given what he has gone through and knows he’s the last guy who thinks two years ahead. Duh, shouldn’t that be obvious—wouldn’t that be positive for the Bulls because that would mean he believes he’s going to produce at a high level. And the only way the Bulls can achieve their goals is if he does. Look, it’s pretty obvious LeBron doesn’t care for Kevin Love and vice versa. But LeBron talks him up all the time because he knows he needs Love to win a title. Funny how Rose gets run down in Chicago. As if it’s going to be easier to win a title without him or with him as an outcast. Which is yet another reason teammates embrace him. They know.
As the old Mayor of Chicago, Richard J. Daley used to say, "write what I mean not what I say". Context is important. For Derrick to get awarded a big contract in two years he is going to have to have two phenomenal 2 years beforehand. Otherwise he will be considered a declining asset. So when taken into the context of his tremendous focus and training to prepare for the season, it makes sense for him to say, hey, there is some eyebrow raising money out there. But his actions suggest I have to blow people away for two years to get that contract. A guy that sets that type of goal is all right with me.
Sam: Exactly the point. How about LeBron’s free agency. He literally talked up every major city he traveled to all that season and even before while playing for the Cavs. Of course, we know Cleveland is a sophisticated city. So fans didn’t seem all that upset until he actually did leave.
Actually, what LeBron and Chris Paul are up to now in taking over the top two spots in the players’ union is to try to eliminate salary ceilings. I wonder for whom? It’s OK. If they can get that deal, good for them. Do you ask what Johnny Depp or Tom Cruise makes when you watch the movie? Enjoy the performance, applaud or boo. That’s fine. I don’t hear anyone say they are not deserving. Well, actually I do, but their business earns that revenue. Same with sports. Management and the players divide the profits. Then management picks whom it chooses to pay.
I know the reality is fans judge players by their pay as well. Rose’s body has failed; does anyone believe he prefers it that way? People complain he’s rich. He is. If he really didn’t care he could long ago have quit and gotten his entire contract given his many injuries. Yet, he’s gone through more serious rehabilitation that almost anyone in the game today. I ran into Bernard King at the Hall of Fame last month. He sat out two years after his ACL surgery when he was with the Knicks. He never talked to the media during that time. Ever. I asked him why. He said he didn’t need to have any negative thoughts put to him. He said he had to be positive every moment to get back to where he needed to be. I’d like to hear all the great public speakers who are outraged at Rose do as many media sessions and have every word scrutinized as he does. I’ve noticed in the two sessions where he was most condemned regarding being healthy later in life and providing for his family, those are two concept clichés players use all the time. Rose didn’t use them with particular articulation. How awful!
When Dennis Rodman was on the Bulls, he "never had a conversation with Michael or Scottie." As you look at this Bulls team and the seemingly lack of cohesiveness between Derrick and Jimmy, do those two need to get along to make this team work and who is the oddball in the equation? Whose locker room is it?
Sam: Actually, it’s Jerry Reinsdorf’s, to be precise. I wrote on Bulls.com Friday about this ridiculous whose team is it nonsense. Another of these urban legends of bad feelings. I have listened to Butler pooh pooh it several times in interviews and have heard players like Mirotic and Gibson laugh about it and say they have no idea what anyone is talking about, and then I keep getting questions about it. I know, don’t confuse me with actual information. Like they say in the New York tabloids, don’t mess up a good column with the facts.
As I’ve written before, they are not close. Both hang out on the road with their own friends and family. It’s not a team like Golden State where guys are running around to dinners together on the road, but they all seem to get along well around Noah’s enthusiasm. Every coach who has been through here has always said what good guys personally they all are, no problem guys. That’s why they never broke down no matter the obstacles. Jimmy has talked in training camp of trying to be a more assertive leader. I don’t see Rose minding much as he doesn’t much like that role. He has been pushed into it as the best player, but generally deferred to Noah. I’m sure he wants to demonstrate he can be the player he was. I talked to John Calipari at the Hall of Fame as well, and he said Rose told him he can be the MVP again. We doubt that, but one thing we and Rose all know is you cannot have a chance for that without team success.
Perhaps this is just a case of an overactive mind, but this quote from Taj just strikes me as a bit odd "I don't know. It might have been me, but its just one of those plays where everybody's going hard and it's real physical out there..." Wouldn't you know for sure if it was your elbow that broke someone's orbital bone? Why would the Bulls be a little dodgy when identifying exactly how the injury occurred? Is it possible that something a little more unsavory took place? Please tell me I'm an idiot for even entertaining this notion.
Sam: You’re an idiot. Though not alone. I’ve gotten a few of these conspiracy things about Rose being punched out by someone. Not to say Gibson was taken out of context, but I was there when he answered and it was with a laughing tone that he wasn’t sure and, “hey, maybe it was me,” ha ha. But ha has don’t get in stories all the time. I’ve also gotten a few emails that Rose made those remarks because he was resentful or jealous about Butler’s contract. Which, of course, is less than Rose makes. So who exactly gets upset when a co worker is paid less? But if you’ve got a good conclusion, don’t mess it up with facts.
You really love yourself some D Rose. You defend him more than any player I have ever seen.
Sam: It probably looks like that, though I haven’t much had to defend anyone else. Which is the more amazing part of all this. How can your best talent (he did win league MVP, after all) be the subject of the most disdain? I root for underdogs and I tend to defend them as well. When I see the parade marching to pile on one person I tend to fall back on that old reliable in life that there is two sides to every story. So tell the other. There always is.
The piling on with Rose has amazed and shocked me. I know I’m much more bothered than Rose. Stubborn helps get you out of Englewood to the NBA. I didn’t have those challenges. It’s not like I am close to Rose. Few are. He really does stay with his friends and family. I don’t have exclusive stories and interviews with him. The last time I talked to him was after the Bulls last game against Cleveland, like everyone else. I prefer it that way. Years ago I could be closer with players, have an occasional meal or golf game or go to a movie on the road. But you keep aging and they don’t. Now they see me as their grandfather. So I pretty much stick to the game in the locker room.
Many are clever and interesting and fun to talk with about the game. Not everyone. Derrick doesn’t chat much. But he has interests and I see him on the road at times watching history videos. He’s routinely polite and I’ve never seen him embarrass a reporter or not cooperate with league officials asking him to speak with media. I’ve seen others do so. Even at USA Basketball this past summer, I witnessed Kawhi Leonard humiliate a poor intern/kid reporter in front of a half dozen reporters, harrumphing that the guy should know, “I don’t do interviews.”
Rose never does anything remotely like that. He dresses quickly, likes to get his media responsibilities done and leave. His first few years in the NBA you couldn’t get him to stop talking. Now he’ll skip out a few times given it’s hard to say it’s been a pleasant experience for him these last few years. Hey, Jordan had his share of media walkouts and being fined by the league for shunning media for a week at a time, even in the playoffs. Michael won and wasn’t hurt, though. It gets you some capital.
Two kids, Rory McIlroy and Derrick Rose, both commenting on money. One says $10 million doesn’t motivate him. One says he’s watching how big his next contract might be. McIlroy gets a pass, Derrick gets lambasted. Neither will ever need a tag day. I just don’t get it. I cannot recall a Chicago athlete who has made the trip from the penthouse to the outhouse as quickly and definitively as Rose. For no apparent reason other than being injured and speaking his mind, albeit a bit awkwardly. Generally Chicagoans give their superstars too much of a blind eye. With Rose it’s the electron microscope. I hope he has a great season for himself, hope he feels better. Can you think of any athlete with this quick of an unwarranted (in my opinion) descent?
Sam: The double standard is difficult to understand. I’ve tried to figure it out at times and it seems it mostly comes down to how dare he be injured making that much money. There’s the supposed lack of gratitude part, though it seems to me Rose was the generous one when he took the blame for his ACL the way he’s talked since then of not taking care of his body well enough when he had seven injuries that season after basically no training camp because of the labor issue and had missed something like 12 of the last 17 games before he was hurt in that first game.
It seems to me this was a kid pushing himself for the benefit of the team and risking his career at the time. Not coming back the next season seemed to begin all this, but Rajon Rondo came back a bit sooner and never has been the same. Danilo Gallinari stayed out longer and he never has been the same. In fact, no one has come back better and closer to what he was after ACL surgery than Rose. And that’s even with a pair of meniscus surgeries. It’s obvious now in retrospect Rose did the right thing not to play that season.
With all Rose's issues,the Bulls should try give Nate Robinson another try.
Sam: And Nate couldn’t even get back in the league after his ACL rushing back as he did. Yes, the discussion gets to a higher level the deeper into this I go.
I just had one of my friends....one of the biggest drose supporters through everything....say to me today he likes jay cutler more than drose.
Sam: And then there’s this.
Who will start in Mike's place? Tony? Or will we start Jimmy at the 3 and have Aaron start at the 2 for a fast flying offensive unit?
Sam: What, basketball? I actually think this Rose stuff will fade away pretty soon, was a good debate for a few days of camp that usually provide boring clichés and even more so once Rose is back playing, mask and all. Depth is good, but that small forward spot is an issue for the Bulls no matter how many guys are around. It’s where the best athletes play and where the Bulls don’t have their best athletes.
So they’ll get a chance to look at some guys with Mike Dunleavy out, which is good. But can they keep up? Maybe Jimmy plays some three in certain matchups (LeBron), but the good news is much of the NBA is becoming positionless, in a sense. Lots of small bigs and big smalls. Or something like that. Actually, I think McDermott is a bit better athlete than advertised. Snell is an X-factor of sorts. He seems to have the athletic ability to defend on the perimeter, but he didn’t show the fire to do so last season.
That’s why this training camp and start of the season and having a new coach will be fun to watch. Hoiberg wants to see what guys do and how they perform and really doesn’t have the built in prejudices from seeing previous seasons. Plus, he wants to be flexible and use his depth with the notion of easing the best part of his rotation into the latter part of the season having played fewer minutes. I think he stays with size and Brooks and Hinrich off the bench. If Snell performs, I can see him getting a shot. If not, probably McDermott. But starting really won’t matter that much as I think with adjusting minutes down there’ll be a lot of moving parts. That is good, but you also need some structure. Players like knowing their role and what is expected of them. They’ll give Hoiberg some leeway, but at some point the rotation will have to stabilize.
Does Jordan Crawford a chance to make the roster for the season? Or is he only a training camp body?
Sam: Probably mostly for camp, but guys can earn their way onto the team. I remember when the Bulls told Chris Duhon to go play in Europe for a year or two after he was drafted so they could have his rights and he couldn’t make the team. Duhon said he’d make the team, and he did.
It will be tough for Crawford, who is more the scorer type than a shooter with a low three-point percentage. Crawford can score and once had a career high against the Bulls. He went to Washington, traded for Kirk Hinrich. He played last year mostly in China and the D-league. The Bulls appear to have enough potential scorers as they are trying to develop Snell and McDermott as wing players. Hinrich remains along with Aaron Brooks.
There is a 15th spot on the roster, so the Bulls could add someone. But they also want to get a look at the big man from Brazil who played well in the summer, Felicio. It’s not inconceivable Crawford could win a spot. But how many guys can you play? He’s just worth a look for now.
The players are excited to be on the court. They've got a ton of energy. They've got depth. They can board and defend. They can score. All they need now is to stay healthy and to "want it"...badly enough to sacrifice whatever is necessary to get the job done. Yeah, I know. That "healthy" thing probably isn't going to happen, but who knows? Maybe they'll be healthy enough.
Sam: Not so far, but we can hope.