Nikola Mirotic dunks the ball agains the Washington Wizards

Ask Sam Mailbag: 01.12.18

Sam opens his mailbag and answers reader's questions

The most realistic trade rumor that I am hearing is the Bulls and Jazz. The Bulls seek a 1st round pick and a contract such as that of Joe Johnson or Derrick Favors. My question to you is why would the Jazz trade a pick that currently sits at #11 for Mirotic? Unless they see him as the ideal pairing with Gobert? Furthermore, why would the Jazz deal away Derrick Favors and a trade pick for only Mirotic? Derrick Favors is a 14/8 starting power forward who was a very high lottery pick and still at only 26 likely has some potential. Would the Jazz be looking to expand the deal to get rid of Rubio in return for Kris Dunn to create a pairing of Dunn-Mitchell in their backcourt.

Tom Plonowski

Sam: And most frequent. Let's not get too carried away with fantasy leagues. This is the NBA at midseason, which means little really happens. Dunn, Markkanen and LaVine are the Bulls core going forward. None are being traded unless Durant wants to be in Chicago. The Jazz rumor has been the most prevalent lately with the shakles taken off trades Monday. Mirotic has been mentioned most often because of the fight and mainly his contract status after he and the Bulls could not agree on a long term deal this summer. The Bulls do not discuss this stuff, so I really have no idea what precisely is being discussed. Which no one else really does, either. I'm guessing it went something like this: We like Mirotic. How about Favors? No, Favors has recurring knee problems and has lost much of his previously wonderful athleticism from two years of knee and back problems that cost him 52 games the last two years. How about your draft pick? No. OK, let's talk again another time. That's usually how these things go. Media rarely gets the distinction between negotiating about a deal and someone calling and saying I like LeBron; what would you want? If the Jazz, who are not likely to make the playoffs after losing Gordon Hayward, want to make a dash for that last spot and would give up their pick, sure I'd be for that. Favors makes little sense for the Bulls given he is either a slow moving forward without shooting range or a smallish center. Trade Lopez? Can you get a first round pick? Not likely with another year on his deal. I don't see anything that makes sense for both teams at this time. Though, as they say, talks will continue. But I do love the trade deadline talk. Just come up with something that makes sense for both teams.


Lonzo Ball and Magic Johnson

Do you think Magic Johnson regrets the Lonzo pick yet? His father has got to be driving him nuts. Have you ever seen a parent like him in all of ur yrs covering the NBA? If MJs dad was doing this we would have all been fine with it but a player like Lonzo? Lonzo just wasnt worth it. Lauri at #2 would have been better.

Bob Ding

Sam: Maybe not No. 2, but then again maybe the way he's playing at 20 years old. There's no question the Bulls hit it with that pick. Given getting Butler at No. 30 and guys like Taj, the Bulls likely can hold up their draft history with any team. Everyone has their share of misses, and Lonzo may be a major one for the Lakers. It's not so much he won't be a good player. He should be. But not a great player, and you are correct. If Kevin Durant's mom is doing that, it's cute. If you look at rosters and cap room and possibilities, the Bulls appear a way, way, way, way, way better destination going forward than, say, the Lakers. And maybe two or three more ways. Other than the weather, which we shouldn't dismiss, the Bulls' three years behind the Lakers rebuilding appear to have better talent to work with and don't have the bad long term contracts the Lakers do with Luol Deng (sorry, Lu) and Jordan Clarkson, those two making a combined more than $30 million annually through the 2019-20 season. The Bulls have substantially more salary cap space the next three years compared with the Lakers, as just for an example of one team. Maybe no one takes it; but you have to have it to be in the conversation. The Bulls do. And we could have seen this parent stuff coming. I know I wrote back in June that you couldn't take Ball if you were in Chicago or New York, that the parent (I never have mentioned his name and don't get why some media continues to) was going to be too much of a distraction and ongoing issue. Remember, Reggie Rose did one interview and it was referred to for years as a cause of Derrick's decline.

I did believe Magic was the one guy who could deal with a parent like that, but he's obviously proven too much even for the greatest communicator. This is also the nature of sports teams, why Colin Kaepernick didn't get back into the NFL, why Jason Collins didn't get back into the NBA. No league is more open and progressive than the NBA. But owners just don't want People magazine and Time and myriad bloggers hanging around asking your players about controversies. Sure, some owners are racists, homophobes, misanthropes. Often in the NFL all three. But mostly they are business people basing their earnings on the guys running around in costumes. The coaches are even worse about the distractions of annoying media asking questions, especially non sports ones. So how do you feel being in the shower with…? I've been around enough athletes to know they basically could care less about all the culture war issues that distract so many voters with emotion from opposing their best interests. They come to work to do their jobs. They usually don't care with whom. Because they've at one time or another played with and against everyone. But what this kid's parent has done is become that feared daily distraction. Did you hear that he said? What's your reaction? Every minute spent with that, teams believe, is one less minute gaining an edge on your opponent. The Lakers are in a tough spot with Ball. He's not good enough to put up with that stuff. You probably can't trade him because his value is low given modest performance with a huge distraction issue. Maybe if he went to a smaller market where the team often dominates the local media they'd keep the father from being quoted. Not happening in L.A. LeBron to L.A. in the middle of that mess? Like LeBron says, you know they have another team there.


LaVar Ball shakes hands with President of Basketball Operation of the Los Angeles Lakers Magic Johnson following a press conference to introduce Los Angeles Lakers 2017 NBA Draft picks

Have you ever talked to this guy (Ball's father)? Is he just a straight-up street hustler? If so, can't get real worked up about him. What's the industry saying around this guy..."no story here"? Honestly, with ESPN going slowly down the toilet, have a rough time getting real worked up about them either. The editorial staff, such as it is, makes choices every day. If they choose to go the National Enquirer/NY Post route, they get what they get. Players have sort of a weird mixed reaction. Van Gundys are notorious for Trumpie-esque loyalty to coaches. I like Stan more than Jeff (by a lot) but can't take him real serious when it comes to stuff having to do with NBA coaches. BTW, saw the other day that the original BBB gave Ball's company an 'F' rating. Generally that's earned. Can you remember any other parents like we see now and what impact did it have on the sons career?

Mike Burling

Sam: Yes, good luck on the consumer hotline for those sneakers. There's never been anything like this. This became a bit of a journalism issue as well with the story from Lithuania ripping the Lakers coaching. Of course, the obvious was no, we never quote the families of players about their coaches or teammates. You have to have bounds in doing this job even as they become less clear. But you learn from the first day in journalism you are the gatekeeper. It's not always fair, which is the reason for many voices. But you always are making dozens of choices with every story, what to include, what not to, who to talk to. There is zero serious value in quoting the parent of a player about their kid's coach. Try hanging out at some youth soccer or football game and hearing the learned comments on coaching. It's an embarrassing story to publish, though we find ourselves saying that too often. And not that journalism ever occupied any high moral ground. Newspapers basically started the Spanish-American War for circulation benefits, among others; damn the lives lost. In revolutionary times when we allegedly had all these geniuses writing things down for us they were starting their own newspapers, like Jefferson did, to make up negative stories on their opponents. Hamilton had to write practically an entire book to explain an affair he was having that was leaked by opponents. No, you'll never stop the leakers. They wrote the Constitution. So there are some grand traditions to be followed. Rick Carlisle obviously went too far suggesting anyone quoting these parents should be denied reporting access. Though maybe he was saying that so writers wouldn't notice he was playing Maxi Kieber. Yes, ban the media until they report what we like. Which amendment was that? Carlisle is the coach's association guy, so it's his job. Yes, the Van Gundys view the world as only an imperfect place because it is not run by coaches, viewing every coaching dismissal as a crime against decency. I know: How could every one be doing a great job? Could be coincidence. The Lakers have to be bawling.


Antonio Blakney of the Windy City Bulls shoots the ball.

It seems every Bulls player that is recalled after a stint in the G League is immediately given minutes and they are much more productive than before. It seems the Bulls are evaluating every player to see what they have. Have you noticed anything different this season?

Victor Devaldivielso

Sam: They must be staying in worse hotels. It's the Bulls are using the Hoffman Estates team more like a traditional baseball minor league with their players. Last season in an inaugural season and with so many veterans, the Bulls used the G-league, which the NBA has been pushing to become more like a baseball's minor league with every team having an affiliate, as more of an independent team with players trying to make it in the NBA. So the Bulls got to look at some of those players, which didn't come to fruition, particularly. This season it's been more with their players, especially with the two-way contracts that expand the roster to 17 with two players able to mostly play in the G-league and then with the Bulls for 45 days. I suspect we'll be seeing Blakeney again as well.


Zach LaVine poses during Media Day

Pax must be mad that Lavine is set to return.

Mike Sutera

Sam: I'm excited. Writing about my first Zach. I think Paxson is more, how about that? I believe he was convinced, like most of us, that he'd successfully assembled an awful roster. But, alas, way smarter than even he thought. This has turned out to be a good thing. Players he believed were a year or two away from helping turned out a month or two away. No matter what he said, I knew he couldn't go through one of those three to four year things like the 76ers, Jazz, etc. Paxson is too competitive about the game and too inpatient about success. Anyone would love to have a top draft pick, but I know he likes the effort and spirit of the team and believes you don't build character and that famous culture by losing games constantly. And that there are many ways to obtain talent. Your players get better and help win games, teams want them. You retain a low payroll for free agents, they will come since hardly anyone is as far below the cap as the Bulls will be. And Zach projects maybe the best of all of them on the current roster. We're all anxious to see. They're not expecting much for awhile, but this kid is an amazing worker and competitor. I wouldn't again be surprised to see them surprised.


Denzel Valentine lays the ball in the basket

Good to see Valentine getting his stuff working. When he's going he's a lot of fun to watch b/c he is one of those right place/right time guys. Dunleavy was the darndest guy for that, but Valentine is showing. Did you realize his dad is a big-shot high school coach? He plays like it...eyes and ears open. He needs to assert himself more. He has such superb touch. He badly needs to play pickup lots with his teammates b/c the more he inhales their games, the cooler the stuff you'll see him do. The game slows down for him ever so much.

Pete Zievers

Sam: Denzel has been showing a lot lately with back to back season high games. The joke is he and Holiday really woke up in the competition for that last starting spot with LaVine going back Saturday. It will be interesting to see what Hoiberg does, though he's never been hesitant about putting guys on the bench. The rap on Valentine always has been about athleticism, but it's been somewhat misplaced as much of the game is played in the half court and accrues to players who can find spots from which to make plays. Valentine is excellent at doing that. He floats through games a bit too often, which is unfortunate because he's been one of the better shooters. Remember, last season Wade and Butler assigned him to the corners to stand and wait. Now he's gotten to play more his game and the Dunleavy comparison is a good one because Mike wasn't a big time athlete or defender, but proved valuable with his shooting and spacing. Coaches love to say spacing, so media does now to sound connected. I now say "down screen" so often the bugs get in all summer as my wife keeps taking down the screens.


Lauri Markkanen sits during the 2018 draft

After Markkanen was drafted, he put two thumbs up and he was photographed. I remember thinking that pose reminds me of Borat. Not sure if you're familiar with that movie or character played by Sascha Baron Cohen. Later, I read Markkanen said his favorite movie is Borat and he's watched it many times with his friends. Pretty safe to say he did that pose on purpose.

Victor Modv

Sam: High five; sexy time? Maybe I do need to spend more time with the guy.

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