Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 07.19.2013
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It’s been a while since I've written as I was in total bummed out mode last season with no Derrick. I just saw Marcus Camby was bought out by the Raptors. He’s “rumored” (at least by ESPN) to be going to Houston (they’re saying he has a house there) once he clears waivers. Does he have anything left? If so, any chance he comes to the Bulls to split the non-Noah big man minutes with Nazr? He would seem to get even more playing time in Chicago than in Houston behind Dwight and Omer.
Sam: I assume he’s on the backup big man list, which is more beggars than choosers at this stage. After all, there aren’t many big men available, so the guys you can get for a minimum, which is all the Bulls have to offer at this point given their luxury tax situation, aren’t going to have all that much left or to offer. But it is a backup slot and I expect Mohammed to have a slightly larger role this season after a slow start to last season. If Camby does live in Houston it would be difficult to outbid them as I can see them trying to add a big man so they can trade Asik for something substantial, which I assume they will do at some point.
What’s Joel Przybilla’s contract status? For some reason I see him destined to be in a Bulls uniform, given the lack of backup centers still out there.
Sam: Another possibility. But he plays even less than Camby. The Bulls were chasing him a few years back when he opted to go back to Portland to sit on the bench there. Last season, he sat and watched in Milwaukee. He’s been in 39 games in the last two years. Beds and doorways may be uncomfortable, but if you are seven feet tall you can get a job in the NBA.
What do you think the rest of the Bulls offseason is going to look like? Who will we sign? Trade? What about next year?
Sam: It is what it is, as the NBA cliché goes. I expect the Bulls are pretty well set and I would not expect any major moves until next summer. After all, it makes sense to ride it out now and if the team doesn’t win then no one is going to question major changes. First, you have to bring Rose back into the mix, which will take some adjustment no matter his health. And the Bulls do have three legitimate All-Stars — as Deng and Noah were selected by the coaches — and the regular starters playing together before Rose was hurt won 80 percent of their games. So give them a shot together. Stability has been one of the most important elements of success in the NBA. This group, obviously without the injuries, has been together basically since 2010. They led the league in wins two straight years. There’s no reason to make a major change or move now. Let’s see what they can do together with Rose being moved back into the group. The East isn’t unbeatable with Miami probably taking a step back given Dwyane Wade’s uncertainty regarding health. The Bulls aren’t favorites. But as comprised they are good enough to make a run. My sense is management wants to give it one more shot, and then the results will tell them what to do.
On the Tyrus Thomas front, where he will land?
Sam: He’s a guy who may have worked his way out of the NBA. In a sense, I always felt Tyrus was perfect for basketball in China. Good place to practice discipline.
Are you surprised at all the Bulls didn't take a look at Nick Young? I know he is a head case sometimes but the kid can flat out score. The Lakers picked him up for the minimum and I was thinking he would probably liked to have gone to a contender for the minimum rather than the Lakers.
Sam: Another guy with four teams in the last four years. The Bulls have passed him by several times, justifiably and in my view appropriately. But perhaps more significantly, the Bulls now have a pretty good shooting guard in Jimmy Butler. A year ago, no one, including me, would have said so. But Jimmy showed last season, especially in the playoffs, that he can handle the position and has improved his shooting enough to be a legitimate shooting guard considering his defense. Mike Dunleavy can backup at shooting guard and small forward and the Bulls can get minutes there from Kirk Hinrich and Tony Snell. They actually look pretty good, finally, at shooting guard.
After Malcolm Thomas's incredible performance in Summer League, do you think the Bulls should use him as a rotation player? Or should the Bulls sign a veteran center like Marcus Camby?
Sam: It will be tough for Thomas to make the team given his size as a smallish power forward. That’s probably the Bulls deepest position with Noah and Gibson, Deng able to play some four and second rounder Erik Murphy. After a hot first two games, Andrew Goudelock cooled off the last two games, and the Bulls have just one left in the new format that eliminates teams as they lose with the Bulls losing to Miami Thursday night. The Bulls will play one late game Friday and then head home in a consolation round. With the rookies, the Bulls have 12 players and still hope to add a big man to make it 13. They could go with the minimum required 13 players unless they get some injuries. I suppose Goudelock has a chance the way he has shot the ball and shown he can play some point guard. Plus with the loss of several guards, like Nate, Hamilton and Daequan Cook. But the question is whether while in the luxury tax to pay for a fourth or fifth guard and given the way he shot earlier in the week he could get a better offer elsewhere. The Bulls have no advantage to sign any player on their summer league team over any other team. If someone were to like Goudelock or Thomas and offer them a deal now they could sign elsewhere. But that stuff rarely happens.
Carmelo Anthony will most likely opt out of his contract next summer. I know LeBron, D Wade, Bosh, and many other big names will be out there but I think that the Bulls need to go after Carmelo. I do think he would be interested in playing with Rose and Noah. He wouldn't have to guard the best offensive player on the other team anymore with Butler and Gibson. Also Carmelo and Rose are both unselfish players who I think would mesh well together. Do you think the Bulls should try hard to get Carmelo?
Sam: You must be talking about another Carmelo Anthony as the one I know is what you’d have to consider selfish or with an awful lack of peripheral vision. This really is the great thing about the NBA that exists in basically no other league. I know in the last labor agreement, the league tried to so something about the big names holding the league hostage with opt outs and free agency. But, frankly, that is one of the appeals of the NBA. It seems almost every season there are some of the top talents potentially available, making for great rumors if not realistic expectations for many teams. Still, they pretend to be in the conversation. This season will be like 2009-10 when LeBron James went to Miami. James, Wade and Bosh all have opt outs to be free agents along with Anthony and guys like Zach Randolph. Players like LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love will be in position to opt out a year from next summer, which could make them reasonable trade targets and make their teams more anxious to do something. And if Oklahoma City has another tough season, Kevin Durant could start to scare them with two years left after this season. And then there’s Kobe, who may not return to the Lakers as his contract expires. So you are going to hear all sorts of rumors and speculation and propositions all season. It’s going to be great. As for Anthony with the Bulls, I never got a big feeling winning was all that important to him. Sure, he’d like to. But he loves the New York life and celebrity in the biggest city. Leaving to become a secondary player to Rose would seem unlikely based on his behavior and history. Still, I’m quite sure we’ll be hearing that rumor as well. Is this a great league, or what?
Elton Brand made a lot of money in his career. [He] will be miserable in Atlanta.
Sam: The Bulls were among those interested and he would have been a perfect big man backup and great to have back after the trade that was good only on paper. Plus, there’s hardly a better person in the NBA. But the Bulls and most teams were offering a minimum. He got $4 million from Atlanta for one season, and I can’t blame him. Sure, he’s made a lot. But he can take that minimum next season. I did hear he probably would have come to the Bulls if he didn’t get a substantial offer, which he did. I’m hopeful he’ll be a Bull in the summer of 2014 as the big offseason story could be of the return of All-Stars to the Central Division, LeBron to Cleveland and Elton to Chicago.
I'm constantly running into Lamarcus Aldridge (stories) and I believe he's genuinely interested in joining the bulls. Rose and him would be a dynasty. Deng, Taj, Mirotic, Charlotte pick? Aldridge is the answer to beating the Heat! We need to make bold moves if we're going to win a championship. Bulls can make logical offers and make this happen. I don't believe [the] Blazers will insist on Noah when they know Aldridge does not want to be there! According to CSN Northwest, the Portland Trail Blazers and representatives of LaMarcus Aldridge met recently to discuss trade scenarios. Please stop wasting time and let's win now!
Sam: I saw the story you were referring to and it basically said the Trail Blazers were turned down for Joakim Noah, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Al Horford and Anthony Davis. Which should tell you something. With Aldridge having two years left, they are not coming back to their fans without an All-Star or young potential one. That costs a GM his job. Because they don’t have to as Aldridge has two years on his contract. As Portland has been chasing centers for years (post Greg Oden), there’s no way they would take anything less than Noah from the Bulls. Your suggestion is unrealistic as Deng can be a free agent, Portland has a small forward in Batum and Mirotic is no guarantee to come. Then if the Bulls were to deal Noah, which I’m confident they won’t, the Bulls don’t have a center. I’ve heard Aldridge has expressly told Portland management he is not a center and doesn’t intend to play there and needs to play with a better rebounder. Which is why they could trade him at some point, though I’d guess maybe next summer when he has a year left on his deal. At that point, if the Bulls don’t win the title this season I assume the Bulls would be open to all sorts of possibilities.
Do you think that Mike Miller is a good fit for the Bulls? He is a solid veteran but he has also his best age behind him. The Bulls could use another backcourt player and if he is available for the [veteran minimum]. I think that he is a real possibility.
Sam: It’s sounding like he’ll go to Oklahoma City. I don’t think the Bulls would be much interested, anyway, given he has such serious back problems and is always a question mark regarding being able to play. Good guy, though. I hope he does well.
Have the Bulls expressed any interest in Greg Oden? It seems like a low risk, potentially high reward proposition for both parties that’s at least worth exploring. I’m rooting for Oden and I hope that can salvage his basketball career. But I can’t stomach the thought of him doing it as member of the Heat.
Sam: I also hope he makes it back, but there seem like a lot of doubts. It seems like a team like Miami has a better shot since they don’t need him to play. Look how they sat around Eddy Curry for a year on a gamble. And the way Miami is locked down like a gulag and the local media is fine with that, it’s a good atmosphere for a player who doesn’t like answering questions. The Bulls need a backup big man to play and play right away to give Noah some rest and provide am alternative to Mohammed. Oden hasn’t played for almost four years. I think it’s pretty clear he’s nowhere near ready to help a team. Which is why I also get the sense he doesn’t have interest in the Bulls. He seems to want to move into something slowly where he will be out of the spotlight and may not have to do something for months or even until midseason, and the Bulls hardly have time for that.
How do you [feel] about Lamar Odom? Do you think he would be a good pick up for the Bulls?
Sam: He could grow depressed again as he did in Dallas and give up. He’s another one just barely hanging on. As basically a ball handling power forward — when he feels like playing — he’s not exactly what the Bulls need anyway. Given his eclectic lifestyle now in the Kardashian family, I suspect he’ll end up back with the Lakers, where he most seems to feel like playing. Not enough paparazzi in Chicago for a Kardashian.
Watching the Summer League games, it is obvious that Goudelock can shoot. Given that he has not been signed, he must have some serious deficiences. What are they?
Sam: 6-2. Of course, Nate is about 5-7. But he isn’t signed, either. Teams aren’t always right about this, but most work with formulas, perhaps more so now than ever with statistical esotery. Teams don’t like shooting guards under 6-4 or 6-3 at the minimum. The notion is they can’t defend and then it compromises your defense. I don’t always agree, especially now as we’ve seen more small backcourts with multiple ballhandlers. And because you are 6-7 doesn’t mean you can defend. But that’s held Goudelock back, whom I like and who is not afraid to step up and take shots. It’s also why he’s been working at point guard, both in the D-league last season and on the Bulls summer team. He seems at least passable. The larger issue for him with the Bulls likely will be the roster spot and luxury tax. With Rose, Butler, Hinrich an Teague lined up in the backcourt, a fifth guard wouldn’t play much. Sure, Butler could move down to play more small forward with a rookie Snell likely not to get much time. But being in the luxury tax, the Bulls have to double or triple any additional salaries. So would it be worth it to spend that much on someone so far down the rotation? I like his game and he’s NBA ready. It remains uncertain if it will be with the Bulls.
Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Marco Belinelli received nearly identical contracts (2 years/$3mil per year) from the Bulls and Spurs, respectively. As it's already been reported, the Bulls evidently chose Dunleavy Jr. on account of his more consistent outside shot (which becomes even more of a factor with Rose's return). I like Dunleavy Jr. as a player and believe he's a positive asset for the team, but I think that, overall, the team has lost more than it's gained in essentially swapping Belinelli for Dunleavy Jr. Belinelli may not be a top ten league three-point shooter as Dunleavy Jr has sometimes been, but he's a far better creator, he came up big in key games last year, and he's significantly younger. Did the Bulls make the right move?
Sam: We’ll find out, I guess, but it seems a good move given the return of Rose. You want more shooting to spread the court, and while Marco had some great moments, Dunleavy actually has been the more consistent player and in much more demand around the league than Belinelli. No offense to Belinelli, but my sense like with Nate, he’s less needed next season given the return of Rose.
Given the value of Omer Asik as an NBA asset, do you think the Bulls made a mistake letting him go and then signing Taj Gibson to the same contract?
Sam: The problem was it wasn’t the same contract. The NBA’s rules were unfair to the Bulls given they were the only team that had to carry Omer with a backloaded salary. In other words, Houston and anyone they trade him to carries him at 8-8-8. The Bulls would have to carry him at $15 million in the third season, meaning 2014-15. Thus they’d basically be out of free agency if they wanted to make changes after this season having to carry Omer at $15 million next season. As valuable as Omer would be, he’d still be a backup to Noah, who hardly is a power forward with his lack of shooting range. The rule likely will be changed next time, but too late for the Bulls. They hope Gibson has a better season with having to live up to his contract and can relax more next season. But it probably was too big a risk to pay Omer given his backup status and salary for the future of the team. And I was someone who thought he was terrific from the beginning and all that season as fans screamed for him to be traded for Courtney Lee lobbied to keep him because I did feel — and still believe — the Bulls could have won in 2012 until Rose got hurt.
You are telling me that the Bulls who are trying to win a title now, value Teague more than Nate? I can see if its a rebuilding situation but Nate provides something that Teague cannot, instant offense and energy. If the Bulls truly see themselves contending this season, there is no way they make that roster choice in my opinion.
Sam: The Bulls believe they have a chance to compete for a title and they believe they have a better chance with Teague than Nate. My sense is that opinion is fairly unanimous throughout management and the coaching staff.
Since Taj played center at times for the Bulls, wouldn't it make sense just to use him as a 3rd option and sign Malcolm Thomas? We already have plenty of point guards, and the free agent market for center is getting smaller and smaller.
Sam: Perhaps it comes to that. After all, Miami doesn’t use a center, Brooklyn’s can’t rebound, the Knicks’ is hurt most of the time and it’s still Roy Hibbert. I am a believer you use your most talented players and they will figure it out. In other words, I’d rather play a good power forward at center rather than a bad center. Plus, the Bulls are an excellent rounding team up and down the lineup and have made up for lack of size the way Thibs schemes on defense. So, yes, it’s possible. Though I think the team’s hope still is to add another big man in addition to Nazr to back up Noah.
I know we're looking for a good defensive back up center to back up Joakim/Nazr - is there any possibility that we'd go after Kyrylo Fesenko? I know he went to play in Ukraine after being on our training camp team and playing in preseason. He seems to have the size, weight, energy/defense of a Gorgui Dieng. And Thibs is far more likely to play rookie centers than shooters.
Sam: There’s a name. I haven’t heard anything about him, though I was hoping he’d stick last season as he is a very funny guy and would have been a heck of an interview. It’s interesting that I find most of the guys in the NBA with the best senses of humor to be international guys, and they are telling jokes and one liners in a second (or fourth) language.
The Clippers signing Byron Mullens to a 2 year deal. This is the big Chris Paul loves. Will be huge off the bench for them. Sterling going all in. Love this move.
Sam: The Clippers with Doc Rivers obviously calling the personnel shots have made some very nice moves and are looking like a team that could come out of the West. They did everything Paul wanted. Now he has to stay healthy, and they really are a title contender for the first time in franchise history.
What's going on with Nate Robinson?
Sam: I’m guessing Nate gets picked up by someone in the next few weeks, though probably not at the additional money he expected after a career season with the Bulls. It does tell you something about the Nate conundrum: Can’t live with him, can’t live without him? Well, tough to live with him. Part, as I’ve written, is his size given teams’ concerns about defense. He’s also something of a wildcard the way he plays. Coaches, who tend to be micromanagers in this era with all the play calls from the sideline, aren’t always comfortable with that. The Bulls clearly have moved on and may not even have room for Andrew Goudelock, who has played very well in the Summer and is a half foot taller than Nate. Remember, the Bulls didn’t sign Nate last year until after Summer League ended. Nate was terrific for the Bulls last season when they needed him. Sort of like a great date with whom you have a great time but who also doesn’t stop talking and you begin to look more closely and things aren’t all that perfect. Eventually, you just wear out and move on. It’s someone else’s turn. As written many times, they’ll get good Nate and bad Nate. Remember, Nate now has been with five teams in the last four seasons. And it should tell you something that with all these marginal guys signing Nate still doesn’t have an offer. Could everyone be that wrong?
I keep hearing from the local radio media how the Bulls have unrealistic expectations for this coming season. The claim is that Indiana is going to be too good now and they are better than the Bulls. Mostly this is focused on Paul George and how he will stop Derrick Rose therefore making the rest of the team useless. When the Bulls played the Pacers a few years back Paul George did a masterful job of not stopping Derrick Rose from averaging 27 points and 7 assists for that series. Plus Rose played the last 4 games with a sprained ankle. This talk is beginning to remind me of the summer after Jordan returned. I remember hearing that Jordan was done and that the Bulls wouldn’t be able to compete with the up and coming Pacers and Magic. How did that turn out? Can you explain to me how a Bulls team without Deng, Hinrich, a healthy Noah and Rose won one game against Miami and were in all but one of those games are not considered one of the top 2 teams in the conference when healthy and how it is unrealistic for the Bulls to consider themselves a contender?
Sam: Nothing wrong with debate. But not only were there doubts about Jordan after the 1995 playoff loss as that seems so ridiculous now, but I recall several Chicago newspaper writers in the late 1980’s writing the Bulls could never win a championship because of the way they withered against the Pistons, among others. It was hardly a unique opinion nationally, and though I believed they could and would eventually win, I also had my doubts at times the way Jordan monopolized the ball, especially against the Pistons. Even Phil Jackson had some doubts when the Bulls came into the 1990-91 season and the first game against the Pistons the Bulls were blown out. Jackson said the team was close to major changes. And then they came out of the All-Star break in 1991 as the best team for most of the rest of the decade. I’m not suggesting this Bulls team is similar, but I am convinced the Bulls can make a serious run this season. But so can the Pacers, Nets and, of course, Miami. Questioning a team is hardly inappropriate. After all, it’s up to them to prove it on the court. That’s the way Jordan always wanted it.