Ask Sam Mailbag 5.29.20

Sam opens his mailbag and answers questions on what resuming the season might look like, trade scenarios, and more.
by Sam Smith
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Art Alenik:

I've heard they're discussing starting next season around Xmas. I guess that's to avoid casualties in case of an autumn resurgence of the virus; Not a happy thought, but probably smart. But won't that make the 2020-21 season last through August? Does that mean they'd have to delay the start of 2021-22 as well? Or would the players simply get very little time off between seasons?

Sam Smith:

I believe the NBA will get its playoffs in and champion this summer. And then begin next season December 25th because, obviously, they'll need that break of a few months. And then begin every season December 25th. It's an idea that has been suggested at times in Board of Governors (owners) meetings, and the time probably is right with the growth of the NFL and the alternation in traditional TV programming. I can see the NBA on a permanent Dec. 25 to mid August season. The NFL once was pretty much Sunday afternoons. But now there's Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday nights. With Friday night high school football, it's a strain on NBA ratings after the first week. The NBA with its national TV deal always needed to have a major part of its playoffs at the end of the prime time season and ratings marker in May. With so much streaming and alternatives services, the TV menu has varied. And then the NBA can own summer, which is an open time now. Though as the Jordan documentary showed when there's nothing else to watch something could get big ratings. With the NFL not starting until September and August baseball a slightly lower priority than filing your nails, the NBA playoffs in the summer gets the prime audience. No one knows virus predictions, but summer seems the safest time to do things, at least for now. Get ready for your biggest basketball memories August 7.


LaMelo Ball.

Robert Siegel:

If the Bulls somehow get a better pick in the draft, what do you think of the idea of drafting L. Ball as a Point Forward to play with both Lavine and White? I like it offensively, but wonder if Ball can defend SF.

Sam Smith:

That's easy. No, and probably not guards, either. Of course, remember these are teenagers groomed through AAU ball and I cannot remember many in the last decade known for playing great defense. It's mostly an offensive league these days, anyway, and it could be something to watch those three on offense since Ball does seem like he could be a good scorer as well. What if the Bulls did get the No. 1 pick? Many of these mock draft sites suggest shooting guard Anthony Edwards as the No. 1 pick. If the Bulls got No. 1 and someone absolutely loved Edwards, I'd trade the pick or trade down. I'd probably go for 7-1 Wiseman No. 1 given his possibilities on, yes, defense. Athletic, quick, tall. The Bulls need those things. I'd probably then favor Ball and perhaps the Israeli small forward Avdija. I'd like to see the Bulls play a few more games, if only for the distraction. Maybe also one of those one-game elimination tournament bracket things after a few games since made-for-TV sports seems to be the alternative these days. Shaq Harrison vs Shaq O'Neal playing darts, anyone? But if the Bulls don't make the cut and the NBA goes straight to the playoffs, it's all draft all the time and time to watch Israeli and Australian basketball.


Coby White

Mike Sutera:

If the season starts, assume you will be staying home right? Not worth the risk. How will that even work with reporters? There are going to be so many hurdles. Just think how many people need to be onsite just for the broadcast side alone. I have always said start fresh in October and chalk this season up to a loss.

Sam Smith:

I'm for starting and concluding a season this summer if they can. I believe it's important for the future of the league, especially because there are no guarantees for next fall or winter. Once you close a business, it's difficult to get it reopened the way it was. That's also what's so devastating about this epidemic. No, I won't be there. There really shouldn't be any media there. Or broadcasters or families. If the NBA is serious about doing this and truly concerned about the welfare of the most, they'll make sure the least are there. There's this "essential" designation that seems to be colliding with the ego of many and the best interests of the game. The NBA needs to go with best interests of the game. The game always will transcend any individual. It doesn't need a documentary to declare that (Ok, promise, no other even veiled references to that). I've heard rumors of 28 people from each team in the bubble. That's way too many. Somehow the NBA for decades got along fine with traveling parties of fewer than 20 people. It should be able to do so in a pandemic. And players even getting to the arenas on their own, as amazing as that would seem to players today. The whole idea of this is to limit the number of people, which thus limits the potential infections. And keeps more safe. So why potentially expose so many? You mean to tell me you need four coaches to run several pick and rolls searching for a three? So: 12 players. If someone gets sick or hurt, there's your G-league taxi squad. They're back at your facility working out. A head coach and one assistant. There's no development going on. Players can just take out a ball rack and shoot. Then go pick up the ball. You can't get a hernia that way. OK, up to 14. A trainer for the taping and preliminary medical stuff. Let the arena supply EMS personnel like at every game for emergency. One public relations person to gather a coach and a player for the zoom post game interviews. The NBA is a media friendly league. NBA Media VP Tim Frank, like his predecessor Brian McIntyre, will defend media interests and not allow this to become a precedent to bar media in the future once there is some normalcy.

Everyone needs to sacrifice in an emergency and think of what's best for the most. We're up to 15. Broadcasters don't need to be in the arena. Heck, half the time where many sit these days they're watching the game on a TV monitor, anyway. So you have camera operators from the networks. No team executives need be there. They have TVs and the coach can call them after every game. Sixteen would be the equipment manager, perhaps as vital as the lead scorer. No one would ever know where the socks are, otherwise. What, they can't figure out how much weight to put on the bar when they're working out. During the Bulls championship years, strength guru Al Vermeil didn't travel and there were few better. And, c'mon, you can't be away from your family for a few months? Families don't go with soldiers. Didn't you ever go away to college. Who went home so much? It seems to me I'd rather know my family was safe at home instead of potentially exposed with so many people around. What, you think the kids are spending all day at Disneyworld?

Plus, what a great opportunity for really building some old fashioned team bonding without all the agents and runners and brand employees players pay these days. Hang out with your teammate and talk basketball. I know; how quaint. This is an historic aberration (we hope) for the NBA. It's vital for the future of the NBA that the league completes this season and gets a champion and can begin anew again for another season. It would be a shame if an issue developed because the league was fearful of upsetting someone's ego. Of course, as my disclaimer states, these are my suggestions. For the 12th straight year since I've been writing for Bulls.com, no one from the league has solicited my advice. I suspect my record will remain unblemished.


Jerry Sloan.

Kirk Landers:

Like many others in my age group, I became a Bulls fan in the era of Sloan and Van Lier. In a lot of ways, that was the best of times for rooting for the Bulls. They didn't win the championship, but they did everything else, and their games and their seasons were filled with drama and pathos and tension and courage and redemption. Thanks for the memories.

Sam Smith:

I tried to do Jerry and those guys proud because they deserved it. I still speak with Chet Walker regularly and see Bob Love occasionally around the United Center (when you could see someone around the United Center). We, of course, celebrate the winner of the last game, but I've always believed it made Barkley, Ewing, Malone, Baylor and Sloan and Van Lier no less champions. We like the mythologize the winner as perhaps more deserving or skilled or worthwhile. But we often make the miscalculation of celebrating excessively those who also were more lucky or had better timing. It's been noted that dominance and dynasty sometimes means a fortuitous bounce. I never saw Jerry with those teams as losers given the way they played and how they respected the game. The losses long haunted Jerry both with the Bulls and later as Jazz coach, so it does mean something. But those guys should be no less champions to us for the way they competed as fiercely as anyone ever has.


Zach LaVine

Kieron Smith:

If the NBA is to have a playoffs, Adam Silver has to be willing to take risks. After all, even if the games are all played in one arena there's no immediate guarantee that players won't get affected. No one truly knows. Will the mini tournament be balanced? What about the Bulls?

Sam Smith:

We're No. 24! I haven't seen the foam fingers yet, but it seems the Bulls currently at 24 in the overall standings are a bubble team for getting into some play-in format or end of regular season finish for the presumed July startup. There could be a 16-team playoff to start, which makes some sense given there's a significant space between No. 8 and 9 in both conferences. But with Zion No. 10 in the West, you know there's no way they just start with 16 teams. There also is the issue of fulfilling the local cable TV contracts, which require about 70 games. Most teams would need to play five to seven games, which could pose as a sort of preseason. The NHL went with a 24-team series, which sounds good, as well. Milwaukee is lovely in July. Hey, is Summerfest still on? Yes, there will be risks, as there are in life all the time. There are no guarantees no matter what you do. You take the most reasonable precautions you can and then hope things work out. In Adam We (Mostly) Trust.


Michael Jordan.

Alejandro Yegros:

Has you or anybody else asked him the very obvious question: "What would MJ the player think of playing for the Bobcats with MJ as owner?" ... and if so, what was his answer?

Sam Smith:

Michael has discovered what a lot of fans and media —and owners until they get there — don't understand. That running a team is much more difficult than leading a team. Like the great Johnny Kerr would say, "There's five guys out there running around with my paycheck." It's much easier when you can judge, as most do, based on what didn't work.


Giannis.

Mike Beat:

I have 2 trade ideas that should help Bulls now and in the future. The Clippers send their 1st and Green to the Bulls for Young. It looks like The Greek Freak will leave the Bucks and head to Golden State if they don't trade him. However, the Bucks won't want Wiggins contract. So the Bulls take Wiggins, G States 1st this year and the Wolves pick next year and Hills contract from Bucks. The Bulls send Lauri, Otto, Chandler H, Green, Clippers 1st and a second to Bucks. G State sends Paschal to Bucks. Freak goes to G State. The Bulls will then have 2 top picks in next year's loaded draft and 2 good picks in this year's. You reunite Wiggins with Lavine and Dunn with a new management who can give everyone a fresh start. G State gets their man, the Bucks get a 1st and too young talent in Lauri, Pash, Hutch a savy hardworking expiring vet in Otto and a 1st and second.

Sam Smith:

That made me very dizzy. Mostly, I believe the Bulls intend to give Markkanen a long, hard look and aren't going back into future drafts to restart yet another rebuilding with teenagers. I more can see Markkanen being extended by the Bulls. The Giannis part is the next big story in the NBA. Because in the NBA players participate equally with the teams regarding basketball related revenue, free agency is going to change dramatically because of the economics associated with the virus and empty arenas. Giannis is going to be a free agent after next season. With the new economics it's difficult to see a team that will have enough talent and the cap space to lure Giannis. I can see him resigning with the Bucks. He seems one of the least to chase the big city, like LeBron or Durant. And given the Bucks experience with Kareem, you figure they are going to hold onto him until the last second and not give in to take futures. Kareem from New York City found Milwaukee a bit too provincial. So he asked to be traded to New York or Los Angeles or perhaps retire or leave for the ABA. The Bucks got what then was considered a great package with a center in Elmore Smith, guard Brian Winters and rookie "blue chippers" Dave Meyers and Junior Bridgeman. But it was five years with a different group of players and new coach and management before the Bucks recovered. I'd be surprised if Giannis were traded.


Wendell Carter Jr.

Phil Bloss:

Here's a move I think the new front office can make to bolster the current rebuild rather than blow this one up and restart: Call Atlanta and start with an offer of Wendell for Cam Reddish. Maybe the Hawks didn't notice that Cam looked poised to live up to his Paul George comp? Wendell should have a lot of appeal to them. Even with one less year of control, comparable rookie contract. His Al Horford comp resounds positively with this franchise, and they could use another skilled defender with Capela to keep John Collins spending his energy on offense, plus they have a log jam at SF anyway.

Sam Smith:

Reddish did have several good scoring games late in the truncated season. He didn't look very good the games we saw him against the Bulls, but—we always have that these days—he's a young guy and it's difficult to make a full determination when a team is playing so poorly. And Trae Young dominated the ball so much there. Wendell's status is a big question for the new management, especially if the Bulls can land a center in the draft. They'll likely want to give Markkanen a long look coming off a down season. Though Carter has been quoted saying he likes playing power forward, he also has been quoted saying he likes playing center. And, frankly, given how poorly he's shot and how reluctant a shooter he's been he fits more these days as a center than a power forward. That he's from Atlanta could be a draw along with his physical nature, which the Hawks mostly lack. He, too, partly because of freak injuries, has been underutilized. Coming off several losing seasons with a new front office, no one is assured a position or job. He could be appealing to several teams, but I wouldn't want to lose him too easily. He could be one of those who, like Horford, develops a few years into his career.


Brad Sellers.

Christopher Billingsley:

I recently read an article that when Jerry Krause drafted Brad Sellers in '86, he had a master plan of making him the "first 7-foot small forward in NBA history." Like Kevin Durant? How do you think Brad would have fared in today's game? Why are we just finding out how much of a mastermind Krause was? I think it's very fair to say that Sellers would have thrived in this era, not so much a superstar but potentially an all-star caliber player.

Sam Smith:

Brad was one of the most wonderful, sophisticated and gentle people I've met around the Bulls these many decades. Probably too gentle. He went on to become a top city planner and big city mayor back home in Ohio. He had the misfortune like Dennis Hopson, Toni Kukoc, Rodney McCray and Scott Burrell to be between Jordan personnel issues with Jerry Krause. Brad's issue was he wasn't Johnny Dawkins, a Jordan draft favorite the same year. Plus, Scottie Pippen then succeeded Brad and was better. Brad had a lot of the abilities Durant has, if not quite the individual game to create. Brad could shoot and even was a Big 10 leading rebounder. But it was an era when seven footers were condemned for lacking a post game or great physical rebounding ability. Krause had seen the future. The present just got in the way.


A basketball going through the hoop

David Hay:

Can you help me understand the Bulls' 98/99 rebuild? I remember at the time accepting that it was inevitable but I couldn't get my head around the paltry return for such a star studded line up fresh off a 3 Championships. Pippen did a sign and trade to Houston for Roy Rogers (waived) and a 2nd round pick. Rodman was released. Harper was released. Steve Kerr went to San Antonio for Chuck Person (waived) and a pick. Longley was traded for a bunch of jobbers. Surely the Bulls could have got a lot more than that meager return?

Sam Smith:

Probably, but Krause again was in the vanguard of what fans have demanded in recent years to "tank" and get those high draft picks. Jordan, I'm sure, didn't intend to return. And neither did Pippen, who obviously was estranged from the organization. Without Jordan and Pippen why would you not only overpay role players, but how much were you getting for spare parts? The view was to get bad for a few years, accumulate those draft picks and then luck into a star. The Bulls did a good job of that. Which also is the fatal flaw of that theory. The Bulls got No. 1 in 1999 when there was no star and traded for No. 2 in 2001 when there was no star. And then mistakenly used six picks in 2000 when there also were no stars. Which cost Jerry Krause his job. Then LeBron came along in 2003 and the Cavs improved by 18 games in one season and GM Jim Paxson was an executive of the year candidate.

Got a question for Sam?

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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.

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