Ask Sam Mailbag: 03.02.18

We don't want to use the word "Tanking" for financial concerns but, why did the Bulls Play LaVine, Markkanen & Portis so many minutes in the 76ers Game? We already know (LaVine-Markkanan-Portis-Dunn-Valentine) are sure keepers going into next season. Grant, Felicio (Due to his Contract) and Holiday are strong possibilities for next season. We Need to see Blakeney & Nwaba more.

Randall Sanders

Over the past few years in reading your columns, I've noticed a few times where you've wondered why fans still dislike LeBron so much. (I say "still" because I assume most people agree that it was easy to dislike him during his fingernail biting, self-proclaimed "King", teaming with Wade & Bosh to create a great team and then announcing it on TV period.) As you've pointed out, he now seems to be a basically decent person, he plays the game the "right" way, he does it without too much celebrating & taunting, he makes himself available to the media, etc etc. And it's made me wonder to myself, why do I dislike the guy so much? Yes, I'm partial (okay, very partial) to Jordan, so there's that. But there has to be more to it than that, right? Well, it all became apparent to me this year. That is, how he's turned his pouting/moping/I'm-not-going-to-play-hard-if-we-can't-win attitude back to Okay-I'm-happy-now-so-I guess-I'll-start-playing-hard-again. Before the Cav's big trade, there were many games this year where I'm absolutely sure that if he happened to own the ball they play with, he would have taken it, walked out of the arena, left his fans and teammates wondering "Now what the hell do we do?" and gone home. It brought back memories of those 2010 & '11 playoffs when he literally stopped playing in the middle of a game, just stood there on the court with millions of people watching. And during the frigging playoffs, for C's sake. And how he did it time and time again, multiple times in multiple playoffs over multiple years. Speaking for myself, I've never gotten over those memories of seeing him standing around while nine other guys played basketball. But I had thought that at least he'd matured over the years. And then to see him do it again this year, well, can you picture Michael, Kobe, Magic, or Bird ever acting like that? The man is blessed with possibly the best physical attributes of any athlete in sports history. But just when I start thinking that he's a player I can get behind, he starts pulling his bs again. So I don't care how many conference finals he's in or how many championships he ends up winning or any of that. I just can't help but ask myself what he could have accomplished if he had the determination, confidence, and competitiveness of MJ or any of the other true greats. I just can't stand the guy, never have, never will.

Stu Gilbert

I was at the game Thursday and Ray Clay was back doing the announcing, but I've found nothing written or said about it anywhere. Is he back for good?

Nathan Hennenfent

What is Dirk Nowitzki still doing on the Mavs? They have the league's worst or near worst record. They have a rookie point guard, a highly overpaid Harrison Barnes, and a highly overpaid Wesley Matthews. Dirk Nowitzki is 40. Granted he delivered the 1st title to the Mavericks in their history along with Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, Peja Stojakovic, Jason Terry, and Tyson Chandler. He's nothing short of an NBA legend, but he should've probably retired after the 15-16 season when he was still putting up close to 20 points a game. Now he's either a role player or a ..has been. I felt the same way when Olajuwon went on to play with Raptors, Pippen in his second stint with the Bulls, Malone and Payton with the Lakers, and even Magic Johnson returning to the Lakers in 1995 after being a head coach of that team. Jordan was different because he was still a very dominant player even at that age.

Tom Plonowski

I'm guessing the rest of this season will feel more like 'work' to you than your job usually does. Oh well, we all have to sacrifice for that draft pick. Four games initial impressions of the experiment? I'll go first... It's a mixed bag. I think David Nwaba has earned himself a spot, but I sort'a knew that already (and I think Gar/Pax did too). Felicio showed me something last night (Charlotte) then went brain-dead later. Open at the hoop, he was surprised to get a pass... twice! Talented kid, but needs to start thinking... and running the floor. Cam-Payne Is better than last year, but still doesn't impress me. I like his length & he moves well, but he can't shoot, which is kind of important for a guard. I'll have to see more of Vonleh. He does jump! (More than I can say for Portis & Lopez.) But I'll need a better look to see if he has game. So when does Blakeney get his 'audition'? I still have hopes for him. The one thing that is working well is the losing. Statistically on track to win 27, I'm guessing no more than 24, and probably fewer. The only problem is there are some really awful teams below us – teams bad enough to lose most or all of their remaining games. That leads me to my main point (about time, eh)...This isn't going to work for Markkanen, Dunn & LaVine. You can't build chemistry playing alongside 2 guys who are just trying to make the team, especially when the three of them are all trying to establish themselves at the same time. Is it any surprise that everybody looks a little selfish? Hey, I'm in the same boat. I watch the games, but mostly to see individual players. I don't expect to see a team out there, and I don't care if they win or not. No fun! I just hope everybody can shake it off and start over and start over from scratch this summer and build a team. I wish we could fast-fwd.

Art Alenik

LaVine looked like a wing playing emergency point guard in a manner that suggests that he's the twist Hoiberg would spring on the other team in game 2nd in the second round of the playoffs. He seemed stiff and programmed. However, have to say that he does a nice job of feeling pressure and seems to have a pretty good idea when he should keep it and when he should let it go. That's plus. There won't be any John Stockton comparisons any time soon. Or Rickey Green comparisons for that matter. But you know what? in a situation, he can work. Granted, MIN not exactly the '89 Pistons (or the 2004 version for that matter). But he got by people so easily. That's plus. He seems to like the middle of the floor and may need to learn to work the baseline a little harder. That's nickles and dimes, though. Hope everything is holding up medically. I do very much like the ball advancement. Dunn looked a little jumpy and pre-occupied. Still his mid-range game looks really good and he seems to get deflections just showing up out there. I was really liking the trap they sprung on high s/r with Vonleh. I need to see more of this guy. He was showing some nice in-traffic rebounding. Got a little dog in there someplace? Could use a guy like that. Portis is just doing what Hoiberg is asking, but the volume shooting from him at times seems not just forced, but frantic. I'm not 100% sure what his game is, but I don't get the feeling I'm seeing it right now. Markkanen will be fine. I thought he did a real fine job on Towns before he got tired. Nice feet. Payne. Hmmmmmmm. Not all bad. Need to see more. He needs a lot of practice and game minutes with these guys. His shot isn't there yet. I do like how he plays with his eyes up and how he keeps it going towards the basket. The other thing I liked there is that he seems to move to ball pretty okay. Need to see more, and against a better defensive team.

Dunn needs to knock off the dumb fouls though. He loses key minutes because he gets two quick ones. Ach. Wise up, kid. Dunn gets better and better at taking the ball into traffic. On the way in, he's got his eyes up and that's not every guard I could name. He's a loose/limber player. NYC ballhandlers often pound the ball, maybe that's what you kinda got used to. That's functional, but Dunn gets it done differently. Dunn glides. He's really deceptive with those limbs; you don't think he's going as fast as he is.

Pete Zievers