Ask Sam Mailbag: 02.17.17

Sam Smith opens his mailbag to answer readers' questions.

By Sam Smith

With Love out the east is somewhat wide open and who knows if he gets injured again. The time is now for a team like the Celtics. In a superstar league, how could they turn down a trade to get a top player in the league?

Billy Habibi

Sam: Like Paul Millap? Oh, I know who you are talking about. Yes, the trade deadline is less than a week away and it’s an intriguing scenario for a team like the Celtics, who have blasted up to second in the conference and could pass the Cavs in the East standings. See if you can talk some team playing around .500 ball out of an All-Star? Oh, you mean Dwyane Wade? Carmelo? Goran Dragic? Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, the latest names rumored in trade? DeMarcus Cousins, as always? There are going to be plenty of questions for Jimmy Butler, and Carmelo, Millsap, Cousins, et al, when they get to New Orleans this weekend. As if they have any idea.

Yes, this would seem an ideal time with all those “assets” the Celtics have been accumulating to take a shot and add an All-Star. Perhaps Love’s injury changes their thinking, though he is due back for the playoffs along with J.R. Smith. But all teams have heard from them is the Brooklyn draft pick—the first evidence of dangerous Russian tampering in our way of life—is not in play and not available.

So you want some Celtics role players? Kevin McHale, who built a Celtics championship for Danny Ainge with the Kevin Garnett trade, obviously is close with Ainge. He was broadcasting the TNT Bulls/Celtics game Thursday and seemed to suggest that Ainge would be smart to hold onto the picks until this summer’s draft. He commended Ainge for being patient, which suggests that’s what Ainge told him he intends to do.

Do you think it’s any truth to the reports the Bulls could make a trade for Okafor? What Players/Draft Picks from the Bulls do you think it would take to make that happen?

Randall Sanders

Sam: I do not believe there is much of anything to it. I would not be surprised if the Bulls kicked the tires some, as most NBA teams figure to have done with the 76ers being so open about wanting to trade him. You’d think he hung around with Carmelo Anthony. Which also has to make you pause. Bryan Colangelo is no dope. And Joel Embiid is hardly healthy. But here was a former No. 3 overall pick in the draft who I suspect the Knicks would have taken over Porzingis if they had the higher pick. But it was a process then, remember?

I don’t rely on those analytical stories much, but there was a devastating one recently on that 538 blog about Okafor’s horrendous defense and below average game virtually everywhere. Of course, he hasn’t played much, which is probably the larger issue. He had meniscus surgery last season and missed the last few months. Sure, no one noticed because it was the 76ers. It was supposed to be minor and he was out again this season with the knee. He’s got impressive low post moves and nice hands and feet, but maybe pretty bad knees. If all you hear being offered is Alexis Ajinca that has to mean something, also. Maybe you take a shot at a fire sale, but it sounds like Philly wants No. 3 overall pick value in return. My guess is that’s why he’s been back playing for the 76ers.

Free throws! I love the last play against Boston! If a referee thinks there's a foul, it should be called no matter how much time is left! That's real basketball.

Rex Doty

Sam: I thought it should have been a flagrant 2. Will Jimmy be able to play in the All-Star game after that brutal finger he took to the elbow. So, see, they do even out. No more complaining about the officiating, at least until next Friday. Yes, Smart probably nicked Jimmy on the elbow, though that’s also not the way you want to close a game down a point. You have to take that shot sooner for a chance for a rebound (the Bulls had a 20-rebound margin in the game) and then at least to foul and have a chance for a three if you miss. So that one broke the Bulls way big time, which makes up for enough of the officiating complaints.

They do try their best; it’s an impossible job with certain amounts of contact allowed and a court so squeezed now by men a foot or more larger than anyone imagined—and quicker—when it was decided 50 feet wide was enough. And, no, can’t widen the court because that’s where those really expensive seats are. And no one’s taking a pay cut from the owners on down to the players. Credit Jimmy for the two free throws, but you still get the feeling the fans might have been happier if Isaiah Thomas missed two earlier and they got free chicken sticks.

Ben Gordon is killing it in the d-league. Bulls should sign him as a 3 point threat.

Ryan Carpel

Sam: I plan to publish one of these a week on he and Nate Robinson for all those fans who believe if only they could make the personnel decisions.

I really don't understand how Valentine made all those 3s in the D League. He's been way more wide open in these last two games (before Tuesday) than he has been playing for WCB, yet he keeps bricking them.

Mike Sutera

Sam: Don’t give up. That three he made midway through the fourth quarter against the Raptors probably saved the game and allowed Jimmy to finish it where he could at the free throw line since he couldn’t make a shot. Valentine just hasn’t had enough regular play. I don’t know how much that will change, but I have the feeling he’s finally getting some notice from the coaching staff and I can see a much larger role post-All Star. Fred likes guys not fearing to shoot, and Valentine doesn’t hesitate. He’s had amazingly bad injury luck as that game in Washington last month should have been a take off and he got hurt again.

You get lost with this Bulls roster when you are not Jimmy or Dwyane. Or Robin, to an extent. Valentine with his shooting ought to be able to play off the ball with Wade and Butler handling the ball, and can also make plays. It’s been apparent Hoiberg has been trying to use him more, and when you make a shot like that it registers with Hoiberg and I see a more productive “second half” for Valentine. So perhaps it was Valentine’s Day, after all. On that theory, Bobby Portis also should make sure to be in shape post-All-Star. With playing much of the fourth quarter against Boston, he looks like he’ll get more time. Which also should be intriguing regarding Nikola Mirotic.

Rajon Rondo scored 12 points in win over the Raptors. What’s up with him?

Kieron Smith

Sam: You almost forget a month or so back it was if he’s not starting by the trade deadline, he’d be moved or released or bought out so he could help a contender. Not sure if a contender is that interested, but Rondo seems to have fit in very well and helped the development, albeit slowly, of some of the young players with Bobby Portis having a big game Thursday while showing confidence and Jerian Grant getting a lot of time down the stretch, though Boston plays a lot of guards. Rondo’s contract with a small buyout is a nice trade chip for the summer, and he’s bonded well and been a nice fire wall for the confidence of the young players on the roster. And every so often he makes a few threes. But more so he always pushes the ball, and occasionally guys start to run with him. All in all, I have no issue with his signing.

Got a tough question for you! Do you prefer Noah's all around game to RoLo's all around game? Noah was my favorite player for a lot of years so it's tough to even ask, but man I love RoLo's game! He's so much better of a scorer than I ever thought, I think he's way better than his brother Brook who always gets the attention. SideShow Bob (my nickname for Robin Lopez) can hit the jumper consistently and his post game is legit. They can definitely get him more involved offensively and here's the best part, he never misses a game!!

Adam Garcia

Sam: I’m not sure Brook and I agree about who is superior, but Robin really has become a reliable jump shooter from 15 to 18 feet. You are almost shocked when he misses, which is surprising to all of us—and his four other teams--who weren’t even sure how he scored. But he’s a rock, reliable, a great teammate, good attitude, plays physical. He’s not the quickest, and pick and roll coverage is not a great strength. Of course, if those things were he’d still be with the Suns and a six-time All Star.

Jo before the knee was better because even though he never could shoot like Robin—though Jo could make free throws back then—he was an amazing defender, a rare center who could switch and play guards, one of the main reasons Thibodeau had one of the league’s best defenses with the Bulls and his Timberwolves are now 24th in overall defensive efficiency and 28th in opponent shooting. Jo was such a great vocal leader while Robin tends to be quiet, though forceful with teammate and opponents. Robin is better now because of Jo’s knee problems, and it’s amazing with the Bulls since Jordan to have a guy who plays all the time. Remember Jo fondly, but the Bulls did make it an upgrade for this season with Robin. On grooming, I’m still working on a favorite.

Mello needs to be challenged and asked does he want to be a great player with no ring. I believe Chicago is a long shot but it would be his best chance to stop Lebron. Love is hurt for a little while so nobody is going to touch him this year so Mello can't go to Cleveland.

Bakari Finley

Sam: Carmelo has made it pretty clear he’s not giving up his no trade, not going anywhere, and another All-Star game as the commissioner’s replacement pick for Kevin Love seems to satisfy him enough. Not everyone can be on a title team, and in some respects he deserves the respect for saying, in effect, “My family and my life come before basketball and that’s how I’m living my life. I negotiated that no trade clause and I’m not uprooting my family, my kids. I like living in New York and even if I go chasing a ring somewhere there is no guarantee. I’ll give it everything I’ve got where I am; I don’t take days off. Maybe you don’t love everything about my game, but this is who I am and this is where I’m staying.” I’d say a lot of American workers wish they could live that. I know a lot of fellow former newspaper writers who wished they could have.

I have a hard time watching NBA games this season, stopped watching ESPN etc etc. I don't watch sports to worship players. I watch so I can see the best in the sport. I was mainly a baseball fan growing up but the NBA slowly gained most of my attention. It's an exciting sport but man, I'm losing interest. I'm tired of the media posting what players are saying on their Twitter account..etc. Political, social issues...there's always something. After reading how players and former players are defending Oakley's behavior the other night, blasting Barkley for his comments, Lebron vs Phil, Curry vs UnderArmour, Wade and Butler vs their teammates, etc etc. I quit lol. Is it April yet?

Victor Devaldivielso

Sam: It is America, or it seemed like until recently. Uh oh, there I go, also. This isn’t a big tradition in sports, but it has been there. Jim Brown, Ali, Kareem, Bill Russell. Look. Bob Cousy stood up visually and covally 65 years ago for his teammate and in the threesome of first black NBA players, Chuck Cooper. The movie 42—and many such books--showed the great scene with Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee in the racist South embracing Jackie. If it’s something that you don’t care to hear, then tune it out, like you have to probably do with your neighbors.

Who generally wants to hear what they have to say? I always say you should appreciate the players for what they do, not who they are. Sure, we get into their lives in media as people want to know about the celebrities they follow, and that’s understandable. It’s not for anyone to impose their moral and ethical code. If it’s against the law, that gets dealt with.

These guys have opinions and they have unusual platforms to express them. Most don’t; a few do. Appreciate them for what they do because they are the best at what they do in the world. It’s actually just another part of their makeup in what they say and I’m glad to know that. It shouldn’t matter that Spencer Hawes promotes conservative views and Curry promotes liberal; unless, of course, you are paying to see Hawes the same as you are paying to see Curry.

This is ugly with Magic. It’s going to be when it gets time to fire him.

Bob Ding

Sam: Well, they did it once when he was Lakers coach. But that was Jerry Buss. It sure looks like Magic is about to take over basketball management of the Lakers (with Kobe Bryant?) and why not. It looked like it was Phil Jackson’s destiny, but that seems over with his split with Jeanne Buss. She’s well liked around the NBA, but knows little about basketball. Mitch Kupchak has aligned himself with brother Jim, and he seems on the way out.

I’d thought perhaps Magic was coming in as an advisor, as it was suggested, to help Jeannie figure out whom to hire. But with Michael, Larry and LeBron running NBA teams, you figure Magic was ready. And he only owned a fractional piece of the Dodgers, which he still will. Magic is right. As a salesman he’s probably going to be very good, and he has run successful business operations. Why not? And who wouldn’t want Magic Johnson really around the NBA instead of in that lame role they gave him on TV.

Keep it quiet but the Kings are playing better ball and may, just may rise above the bottom ten. It would be a beautiful thing!

John Petersen

Sam: Go Kings. This is the last season the Bulls will get the Kings draft pick if it’s not top 10. And it’s looking better with the Kings winning some games. Going into the break, there were 10 teams with poorer records, which without some lottery hocus pocus would give the Bulls No. 11 and their dream scenario with their first round pick as well, perhaps two lottery picks. Though I think they do prefer to make the playoff run for now. Of course, Cousins already has used up his technical limit for suspensions and could be banned for the next eight years by April.

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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