Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Ask Sam | Sam Smith Opens His Mailbag | 12.24.2015

Sam Smith of Bulls.com opens his Ask Sam mailbag and responds to the latest round of emails from his readers

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.

By Sam Smith | 12.24.2015 | 1:50 p.m.

Let me say first, peace on Earth and good will to all men wearing red. And who knows, maybe all this excitement and rushing around and harried feeling the week leading up to Christmas will produce a nice gift. After all, it has seemed to come from the hearts of everyone. You never know where life will lead if you care.


I bet your maibox just got very interesting. Which way is the mob leaning? Fire Hoiberg or trade Jimmy?

--Wesley Davis

Sam: I was surprised to see more of the trade Jimmy. But that is the law of unintended consequence. It’s nice to be the king, but then you better rule. I’ve jokingly heard this week called Jimmy’s hostile takeover, though knowing this group of Bulls players he’s getting mostly the good natured needle about being in charge. Probably like Secretary of State Al Haig when Reagan was shot in 1981 declaring he was in charge and forgetting niceties like the Constitution and that hardly anyone knew who he was.

It’s a credit to Butler that he’s not satisfied with just being rich and successful. He wants to be richer and more successful. Good for him. That’s how you go from 30th pick Jimmy Who to All-Star. The next step is much harder. When the Bulls lost to the Nets Monday, Jimmy would previously have been the all he could do guy with a team best 24 points. Instead, he became the guy who lost the game because he was the only starter along with the defensive Gibson on the floor the whole time the Bulls missed 14 straight shots and didn’t score for a dozen possessions and almost half the quarter.

If you’re a star get a point! Make a steal, stop their momentum. That’s what stars do. If you want the responsibility make a play! Guys like Durant or LeBron and certainly Jordan. It wasn’t the game winning shots that were the most important, except to the public. It was those periods in the second or third quarter when everyone is spent or off. You have to step in and stop the opponent’s momentum, make a few plays to give your teammates a break.

That’s when they’ll look to you as a leader. You don’t have to say a word. It’s what Bird did and Magic did. Jimmy stood outside and bricked jumpers with the rest of them. It happens. Except when you turn the spotlight on yourself, it doesn’t only reflect your good side. Can you handle the truth?!


Well I never used the word hysteria, but it’s a pretty important development with Jimmy. Mainly, does the team respond, or does it backfire and make Jimmy look more selfish than perhaps he really is? Was he just shooting for the gut or was it calculated somehow? Probably the former, because you wouldn’t think he’d put his coach in that kind of a spot publicly, or at least I hope not. But now Jimmy’s on the spot, and I just hope he doesn’t try to hero-ball his way out of it. This team clearly needs a leader, but we’ll see if his methods were too heavy handed or not.

Despite these teasing, bipolar flashes of brilliance—mostly revolving around Derrick’s play and engagement, which is easy to fall for—now that we’ve reached Christmas, there are still far more questions than answers. It’s fair to say this team will look very different by Feb/Mar, not necessarily because of the personnel (although that probably isn’t off the table), for better or worse. It’s gotta get better! But it’s a slow week in the NBA other than Christmas Day, so they’ll/we’ll have to stew on it for a few days, which isn’t so merry.

--Elijah Humble

Sam: That sounds like a little bit of holiday cheer. Good for you. I think that’s the larger point you have stumbled upon, or see clearly. This season is about next season. Well, let me put that better. This always has been a sort of last run season in my view given the free agencies coming up of Noah and Gasol and Rose then going into the last season of his contract.

I saw Hoiberg—despite whatever animosity that existed—brought in more to ease this group toward the playoffs and see if they have one more playoff run in them. If not, well then you know what to do. But you don’t do that now. I love the knee jerk blow it up responses so quickly. Well, I don’t love it; it’s easy to say that, but then you have to live through 82 games. Ask them in Philadelphia how’s it going? The NBA isn’t about teardowns and starting over unless you have five years to spare. Check out Utah and Minnesota. They’re doing it that way. They’re still not that close. You need the draft for a year or two, and you need to get lucky and hope it’s the right draft and you pick right (Curry was selected seventh).

And maybe the Bulls eventually go back there. But for now it’s about seeing if this group with four All-Stars in various forms can do something when they haven’t before. It doesn’t look likely now; it may in three months. Rose’s season is not about the first two or three months. It’s about getting through it. Of course, all this depends on making the playoffs, which is no sure thing the way the East with Detroit, Charlotte and Orlando has gotten so much better. Along with non playoff teams from last season Miami and Indiana.

The notion previously was Thibodeau pushed the team too hard. Perhaps it was necessary and the team had success as a result. But the theory was to try to get to the playoffs with players having played less and with more players in the rotation and perhaps that helps in the playoffs. The problem is many of those players are four to five years older and have had injuries. And Noah is now out two to four weeks with his shoulder injury. Dunleavy hasn’t played yet and may not through All-Star break. Maybe they’re not good enough any longer. But the goal is to find out in the playoffs. Whether Butler’s comments are viewed as self-aggrandizement or team building will become clear. And though it likely was uncomfortable for Hoiberg, those sorts of things often can be motivating. Often they turn out better for the team.


It looks like Jimmy’s 90+M contract got in to his head this early. Calling out your coach isn’t the trait of a leader, which is what he is claiming himself to be. Calling out your teammates’ effort in defense while being burned by the player you are guarding is also head scratching for someone who is known to be a defensive stopper. It has been twice already this season that Jimmy scored his career high in blowout losses. You see the pattern? He is stat padding last game against Detroit, where he demanded the ball on that 4OT. Jimmy “took over” in the 4OT, taking all the shots, hence killing the rhythm of his teammates.

Also, the media is constantly complaining that Hoiberg’s system doesn’t work. Have they watched the bench push the pace? That is what this offense should look like. The problem with the starters is that Jimmy doesn’t want to push the pace. You can notice that Rose will push the pace sometime but noticed that nobody is running with him, especially Jimmy who is supposed to be his running mate in transition, and Jimmy prefers to isolate. IsoJimmy? Yuck. I respect Jimmy’s work ethic and improvement, but there’s a reason he was picked 30th on the draft.

--Merdie Pascua

Sam: That’s what I mean about finding the footlights. I never got mail questioning anything Jimmy did before this week. Should be interesting to see how he deals with it.


Looks like there is some Kobe in Jimmy?

--Lukasz Zielinski

Sam: Which would be good and bad. If he can play like Kobe you take the other stuff. Maybe he’ll respond with the attitude that brought him from nowhere to team leading scorer. Which will be the question for Butler. When Kobe was accused of pushing out Shaq to be “the man,” he got beat up pretty good, though Shaq sort of pushed himself out.

One of Kobe’s great traits and what helped make him the great star he became was the defiance, Jordan-like of taking on anyone and anything and being better. Who comes back from an assault case like that for a triumphant grant farewell tour? But it even got to Kobe when the team sunk after the breakup. He demanded a trade and was giving up on the Lakers until they dealt for Pau. Spent one offseason week calling sports talk radio stations to rip the Lakers. And that was the toughest guy of his era.

Look at guys like Stephon Marbury and Deron Williams, who wanted their own teams, to be the leader and then found the demands and pressure too much to the point they as Williams said in an interview this week wanted to quit basketball. Marbury left the continent. If a player can deal with it and embrace it, you may have the star you never imagined. But he needs both the skill and the mentality as the pressure builds daily. And pressure bursts things are times.


I don't agree with most of the narratives Chicago sports media publishes. However, I don't think the Bulls have the pieces to win a championship now or in the future. The interesting thing is that we have assets, just perhaps not combined in a way that = success. Do you think it's possible that the Bulls may look into a trade for DMC (Cousins)? Would a trade, Butler for Cousins make sense in your opinion? Wonder if Melo for Butler swap is feasible. Butler gets a team to himself, and Melo gets to win now.

--Al Weinstein

Sam: I’m fairly certain the Bulls will not be looking to trade Butler anytime soon. Or maybe anytime. I know fans and media often quickly assume if a player expresses some frustration with his situation or the team he wants to be traded or is unhappy and should be traded. Mainly, you never do that immediately because once a player’s name comes up like that he is virtually untradeable because everyone lowers their offer believing there is something wrong with the guy or you are desperate to make a deal. So value essentially becomes non existent.

But even if the Bulls wanted to trade Butler, he’s a tough one because while he is an All-Star now, it’s not like you can make him your star player or main piece and be a winner. Yet. He’s a high level complement, but you need a great player with him for now. So you’re never getting a team to trade away its best player. You probably could get Rudy Gay or Arron Afflalo, but then would you be better? As I wrote the other day on Bulls.com, this sort of stuff happened for years with the championship Bulls, Pippen or Grant one day being upset with someone or some thing, declaring they wanted out or hated where they were and then going out and contributing to a 12-game winning streak. The Bulls biggest problem now is they don’t have Michael Jordan anymore.


Here are a couple of Jimmy Butler trades. Maybe his desire to have the ball in his hands is the main reason the Bulls starters dont run Fred's offense like they should. It appears to me Thibs spoiled him and now he believes he is the most important guy in the Bulls org. Perhaps a trade rumor or two might help in this regard.

Butler to Clippers
Snell to Clippers
JJ Redick to Bulls .404 3 point average
J Crawford to Bulls .349 3 point average

OR a three way

Butler to Kings
N. Bjelica to Kings
Cousins to Timberwolves
Snell to Timberwolves
Kevin Martin to Bulls
Rudy Gay to Bulls

Sam: I was surprised I did get a fair amount of trade Butler suggestions. Though I will say I’d enjoy Cousins with Sam Mitchell and in Minnesota. I’ve gotten a few Redick suggestions, and you may remember the Bulls offered him a big deal once when he was a restricted free agent. Actually, Jamal is the interesting one to me as his role seems to have declined with the Clippers and I still think there’s enough left. Of course, there’s the defense issue with already some concern about the defensive personnel here.

I don’t believe the Bulls end up making any major trades this season as I still believe they run it out with the goal of seeing if they can take one more shot with this group. We’ll see how Portis affects that now with Noah out. I’m also not that bothered by anything Jimmy had to say. Of course, it wasn’t about me so it makes it easier. But when you speak up it usually means you have to put up.

Hoiberg has made clear without naming names that you need your best players all pushing the ball and running and accepting. And Butler said if he whines everyone will but he won’t so they can’t. Well, if he walks everyone then can and if he doesn’t then they can’t, right? Is that what we call leadership? That’s an overused word these days. The reason Jamal intrigues me or someone like him is as we thought when he was drafted Jimmy was a small forward. He evolved into the backcourt to get playing time with Luol Deng here and defending the best scorers once Deng was traded, and they usually are forwards.

But given Butler isn’t much of a deep shooting threat, he’s really misplaced as a shooting guard, especially because he has more a mid range game. So with Rose more mid range as well that allows the defense to go under or play off both and clog those driving lanes, making the drive and kick tougher and tougher to finish at the rim. If you could get Butler more inside with his toughness that would seem to make sense as he’s too strong for most small forwards to handle and might even be better at that position. And you’d get him up court faster.

And then you could spread the court better with a legitimate long distance shooter, which has made the Pistons so much more effective. Though having a guy getting 20 rebounds and drawing that much attention at the rim helps a lot as well. As Jimmy said he and Fred have the only five year deals, so they better get used to one another. They both know they’re not going anywhere.


I'm about ready to have a drill sergeant flashback and make the whole team drop and give me 20 push-ups! Talk radio is heating Jimmy up for his comments. While I do agree with Stacy King that they should have been discussed behind closed doors, I don't agree with giving Holberg a pass. It's his job to get the troops motivated to give their best effort. Personnel-wise, like it or not, our backcourt is set for the next two years - whether folks think they fit or not. Personally I think our other starters should be Noah, Gasol & Dunleavey (when he returns). But I think Gibson, McDermot & Portis should get dibs on the front court bench minutes before Mirotic & Snell.

If, after these recent ugly losses, we handily beat OKC on Christmas Day, I'm going to pull my hair out trying to figure this team out.

--Tony Reed

Sam: I think your hair is probably safe for now. The Bulls did beat them once already and the Thunder is having their own issues with the new style that looks pretty much exactly like the last one that got their coach fired: Dueling NCAAs coming. The game plan in all sports is always this: Fire a tough guy mad man and hire a player friendly consider your opinions guy. And vice versa. So the Bulls did that.

I didn’t get much mail last summer suggesting it wasn’t time for a change after the playoff letdown, scratching by the Bucks and seemingly giving in to the Cavs, 14-21 in the playoffs over the last four years. Plus five years of one voice is pretty much the limit in the NBA, especially with demanding ones. It’s essentially been the limit for both Van Gundys, Thibodeau’s advisors and role models. Certainly coaches have motivation on their to-do list, but yelling isn’t the only method.

Phil Jackson didn’t do it much. Neither does Steve Kerr. When Kerr came in last season one of the things he talked to the staff and players about was not being negative, be upbeat and positive more. It was some of what he took from Seattle NFL coach Pete Carroll. It’s good when you win and we work backwards in sports. Fred will find his voice; it’s not supposed to come in 25 games. As we’ve discussed often here, there’s more experimentation going on now with a long term playoff view more important. Until, you know, you lose three straight.


Based on their team's (under) performance / record right around Christmas 2015, which coach will likely be looking for other pastures soon? Hoiberg (Bulls), Gentry (Pelicans), Kidd (Bucks), Wittman (Wizards), Joerger (Grizzlies) or Scott (Lakers)?

--Abram Bachtiar

Sam: Fred’s safe. So are Kidd and Gentry, the latter with his long new deal. I was listening to NBA radio on Sirius a few weeks back and they had Joerger fired that day or in a few days. Scott isn’t going anywhere this season, and really even though we know nothing is fair in love and coaching, what can anyone do when you have the Kobe retirement tour?

Wittman’s status goes up and down with the record, and it’s not been that good. But rarely do midseason coaching changes help a team. I don’t see how Houston is better off or any different. The only one I recall positive was when Kidd overthrew Scott to get Lawrence Frank in and they won about 13 straight. That was because of Kidd, who was tanking until then. If you have a star like LeBron or Durant who decides not to play until you make a change, then you have to. But they don’t have the character flaws to do that. I don’t see those situations now around the league—though perhaps that’s what happened with Harden in Houston--and basically don’t see any great benefit to mid season changes.


Just shocked at Butlers comments about Hoiberg. Disrespectful from a respectable guy.
But I thought Hoiberg did a lousy job in not taking gasol out of the game in the 3rd overtime. He was exhausted and it was obvious.

--Jeff Lichtenstein

Sam: Fred got beaten up for that pretty good, though I can see why it happened. Stan Van Gundy, the very good and veteran coach, never took out his starters in the overtimes until fourth overtime fouls. If Fred started going to his bench and lost he’d probably have heard he shouldn’t have done that while Detroit was playing starters. Sure, Noah is a starter level player, and if given a chance I’d guess next time he’d do it differently. But everyone should get one four overtime game as practice before they are condemned for not knowing how exactly to work one.


I saw someone tweet before the Nets game that the starting frontcourt that game (Niko, Taj, Pau) had only played 3 minutes together all season. Then Hoiberg, after the loss, says that the defense was terrible. Isn't that completely unsurprising? They don't know each other! Hoi's changes seem really knee-jerk.

--Alejandro Yegros

Sam: There is a connection, I’ll agree. And that’s why it’s way too soon to make judgments. Training camp was a waste between Rose’s injury and Pau and Mirotic going half speed after playing so hard for Spain just weeks before. And no Dunleavy. So Hoiberg has had to try his combinations in games to see who can play with whom and how and for how long. We agreed it would be a season that would or could start slowly as these things got worked out. Until it did and whose fault is that! Someone’s got to go down!

It really is mind boggling 25 games into a season with a new coach, one starter missing, another playing a month with a broken face and one eye literally higher than another and everyone not only screaming to see McDermott and Mirotic but rookie Portis that you don’t have a defensive rotation on a string. It’s why Thibodeau played six guys 40 minutes each. Because that’s the way you develop a great defense faster. If they don’t play together there’s no way they can know help, so, really, even Fred was a little unfair that way.

I believe they are trying. I never see Mirotic or McDermott not trying. Some things you are not expert at. But as they play together more and consistently in a similar rotation they will get better. Until everyone wants Ports starting. No McDermott. No, Aaron for Derrick. Kirk, did you see his three-point shooting?


In my opinion there's nothing wrong with what Butler said. I love to see him openly challenging his teammates and his coach thru the media. My question to you is who do you think he was referring to when he said guys need to be coached harder and held more accountable for their play? It has to be Rose, right? So far this season he's the only player that's been noticeably lackadaisical and lacking effort, hustle, aggressiveness while on the floor. Do you also think this was mainly aimed at Rose?

--Billy Habibi

Sam: I don’t think it was, though you would not expect I would believe the condemnation was at Rose given I have defended Rose from time to time. Perhaps you noticed. Everyone—even Butler—seemed to agree it was ill-timed to announce in the media his grievance with a coach two months into his first pro job. And he never was asked about Hoiberg when he made his comments. So it obviously had been simmering. That he apparently hadn’t addressed it internally has been questioned, though not so much by media. Red meat!

But the worst part may have been the anonymous sources. Players moan all the time about media using anonymous sources quotes. So then Butler condemns the coach for not challenging teammates and it becomes this guessing game of it must be Rose, of course, as he often is the target. No, it’s Pau. He’s not good on the pick and roll. No, it’s Snell as he was benched. No, it’s Mirotic as Jimmy is always yelling at him, no it’s Noah look at his shooting percentage. Hey, maybe it was Jimmy as he’s been lit up badly by Carmelo, Kawhi, Paul George twice.


I always felt that the offense would start to take shape by the All Star weekend as there's a new coach and a different style of play being practiced. But one mistake I feel Hoiberg has made is by forcing the players to play his system instead of finding a way of playing that complements the players at his disposal. Pau Gasol for example does not look happy playing this faster pace Hoiberg wants.

We are never going to play like the spurs or warriors with these group of players but I feel like players such as Gasol and Butler are much better suited to playing in the half court and at a slower pace.

--Abdinassir Suldan

Sam: Didn’t we decide that didn’t work and basically no one in the NBA is doing that anymore, and Memphis which still is to an extent is collapsing? Anyway, the point is Hoiberg isn’t forcing anything. His coaching history at Iowa State was change every season to the talent he had. He came in with a concept that basically 28 NBA teams were trying.

Look at the Pacers now. Heck, you could go out for a soda and popcorn while Roy Hibbert made a post move. Now they’re flying around. Who isn’t? And shooting threes. All we hear is if you don’t you lose. Shoot 90 percent on mid range jumpers and get laughed out of the Sloan conference. So Hoiberg suggested the radical idea of doing what 95 percent of the league was. There were struggles. So he put in some isolations for Butler, some postups for Pau. He’s adjusted along the way; he listens to the players. It’s not my way or the highway. They were begging for a change from that. They have it. So give it a try. Maybe just one time. Since we basically have not seen it yet.

hr>

I have been a huge Derrick Rose supporter – I want to be clear about that. However – its clear that we (The Bulls) don’t have time to let him “play” himself back in to form.

He is having problems dribbling and handling the ball which is a necessity at his position. Jimmy, is in my opinion,the best 2 guard in the league. I would be pairing Aaron Brooks with him while Derrick does whatever he needs to do off the court and in limited minutes to get up to speed.

--Mike Burling

Sam: First let me say probably not a “huge” supporter. As we know I believe Rose will improve as the season goes on, that he’ll build as he did last season. Check the first 20 game stats from last season. Plus, the narrative that he’s standing around shooting jump shots is false as he leads the team in inside shots. He hasn’t finished great, but, again, there was no camp, the bum eye.

As I’ve said, one of the best things about this season is to see how far he can come and how and when. He’s still fast and that provides hope that he still has a lot left. So Aaron Brooks as your starter? No offense, but we did see a lot of that last season when Rose was hurt. Brooks shot about 30 percent on threes in March starting and that ball didn’t move around much. I like him a lot as a backup guard at both positions. I think he’s been a great pickup and glad he’s back. He’s terrific in the locker room, well liked and funny. But ever hear of diminishing returns?


Even though I'm not in an angry space right now after three loses, I do still think that Rose looks indifferent when you observe his play objectively. His body language when he is playing off the ball is poor and he lacks passion in his play. I think that his perspective on basketball has changed as he is now more worried about his child, his future, and his health.

And although it's good for Derrick that he has things in his life that transcend basketball, he doesn't look like he's having fun out on the court. I think that's his biggest obstacle, not the double vision or the orbital fracture. Do you think that Rose is having fun when he is playing in games?

--Yuriy Fomin

Sam: I actually do as I believe this season is all about getting as close to possible to a full season healthy and becoming an actual basketball player again as opposed to a hope and a rehab patient. Maybe he doesn’t return to a prior level or even All-Star, though I believe he can. Rose never has worn much expression, so I can understand fans feeling that way.

And he’s had to carry that into media sessions given so many incendiary accusations again him, questions often starting with, Well, we know you said you no longer care…Beyond that seeing him with friends and family you still see the joy. I know talking to the national TV crews who get him for one-on-one interviews they say to me they find him as open and honest and engaging as when he was a rookie. They always ask what’s going on here? I inform them it’s the big city. Toughen up!


At this point is anyone sure the Bulls will make the Playoffs. Detroit, Orlando,Boston, and Charlotte all look better right now. Even the Knicks may pass them. Hard to believe.

--Art Newman

Sam: You didn’t say that three games ago when the Bulls were on a four-game winning streak, I recall in second in the East and then against Detroit one shot at the end of regulation to make it five and no multiple overtime and then maybe the catalyst for a run. Can one missed shot change a season?

The Hornets and Pistons already hold tiebreakers over the Bulls, so they are no jokes. But like I’ve argued in the past with all the whining in the West about Eastern teams getting in with fewer wins, it’s not much to ask to be top eight among 15. If you can’t, then you were just fooling yourself and then you’ll know what to do.


End of the day: sorry Jimmy. Dumb to think you're Rose or Noah on this team. Butler just kicks himself if he thinks otherwise. I like Butler just fine. He plays his butt off and that's pretty much all a fan can ask. Portis seems like he's got some bounce too. But you know what? a potato is not an F-22 and Butler is not either of Rose or Noah on this team. Ah but part of Butler's charm is his stubbornness. Texans can definitely get that way.

It would be real unusual for this group to not have culture shock on the change of bosses, though. I know that athletes are conditioned for that kind of change but Thibodeau was such a character and Hoiberg seems significantly different in his approach. No one has to be the bad guy here (including Thibodeau). Wouldn't be surprised if there was some acting out just because. When the lights are the brightest, when they need him the most, that's when Noah shows up. They will succeed when it counts by feeding off Noah.

It would facilitate future success greatly if they would start getting with it for 48 minutes though to figure out what the groove feels like. Every team, every group has its own personality. Mutual understanding is not given because change is constant. I get the idea from reading Gasol quotes that he gets this maybe best on the team. Fun team, indeed. Bit of a roller coaster season though.

--Pete Zievers

Sam: Yes, just a bit.


Why are players heights always incorrect? Always to the upside. They are measured accurately at the combine, correct? Exp. Kevin Love is shorter than Lebron, but listed at 6'10".

--Adnaan Hamid

Sam: It’s also why you say you have more hair in dating ads. It generally starts in high school or college to enhance college or draft prospects and then teams to confuse the opposition. And then the players ask to be listed that way in team programs and media guides as they feel it makes them sound better. Maybe good for dating as well.

Anyway, the teams know as every player is officially measured before the draft. You can find these measurements on the draft sites like Draft Express and NBADraft.net. I think it’s a manly thing. It actually used to be a problem before real scouting got going in the 80s as teams would go by the college measurements and high draft picks would come in an inch or two shorter.

I recall the Bulls finding their “big” guard Tate George as a top pick in the late 70s several inches shorter. The guide is generally take an inch or two off most. If they are listed at six-foot, take two to three inches off. If they are listed at 6-11, add an inch or two as a lot of players think being seven-foot is freakish.


Let's say that the Bulls front office becomes convinced at some point over the next month that Bobby Portis is ready to contribute to a contending team this season. That leaves us with 5 bigs, clearly more than we need when focusing only on this season. In that scenario, I would guess the Bulls would be very open to a trade if we could find a way to make a significant upgrade for this season. Personally, I think trading Pau leaves us with a big hole offensively and trading Noah or Taj leaves us with a hole defensively.

Again, I am only focusing on winning this season in this exercise (I recognize the Bulls have to consider the future as well). So, how much value do you think a team looking primarily to the future would place on Mirotic? Yes he's struggled, which is probably why I'm willing to part with him. Other teams know this. But, do you think teams still see the potential that they saw just over a year ago? My trade scenario...I'm prepared to be laughed at in the mailbag....Niko and McDermott to the Knicks for Afflalo?

I love McD and think he could really blossom into a star. But, if I'm focusing only on this season, I think putting Afflalo at shooting guard and moving Jimmy to small forward would be a significant upgrade in our starting five. Am I too high on Afflalo? Of course the Knicks are .500 and just 3 games out of 2nd place in the East, so maybe they are looking more at the now also. I have no idea what the vibe is in NY. It is interesting that most fans want to trade players they are sick of, and yet they expect to get something of great value in return. As if we're just going to pull a fast one on somebody?

--Dan Michler

Sam: Just what I was thinking. Not laughing, but not likely. I’ve always liked Afflalo a lot, one of the more efficient scorers, a smart veteran who can shoot the three and defend. Also one of the reasons Phil Jackson could—but won’t be because his peers resent him—executive of the year. After winning 17 games, the Knicks are competitive and not about taking a step back to develop more youth, which they have plenty of. They don’t have their draft pick from the Bargnani deal, so you can say they could use a young player.

But it’s also why they want to win more games and not give up a high draft pick. I also feel Jimmy is better suited at small forward and a tough shooting guard would be a great addition for the Bulls. But Afflalo’s a great addition for the Knicks and no coincidence they started to play a lot better once he returned from early season injury. The Bulls are hopeful regarding Mirotic and McDermott, and it would be awfully early as neither has been a rotation player for one full season yet to cash in both. I’d be shocked if they were interested in trading them, and more so if the Knicks would part with Afflalo. But no insults, so you got off easy.


Where can I petition to get Nate Robinson onto the Bulls? He's the missing piece. He adds something that's needed.

--Ryan Carpel

Sam: Though I am not a fan like all the other 30 teams apparently who aren’t signing him, there would have been one change. No one would have heard what Butler had to say as no one else would get a word in when Nate’s around.