Ask Sam Mailbag: 06.30.17

CP3 and Harden? Two dominant ball handlers after Harden had an MVP-like year at point guard, I don't see it working. The NBA is crazy right now - I love it.
Michael Burling

Sam: And free agency starts later today. There is no league like the NBA. And it’s always been like that. It’s a star based league populated with people we know well; not wearing armor, not insulted and pouting if someone does some posing. NBA personnel moves, gossip and trades have been a longtime driver of league interest, and it’s only gained momentum in this open era of free agency and player coordination about setting up their own teams.

And now comes Chris Paul to Houston, as you say to, what, take over the ball over a guy who just was basically MVP runnerup two of the last three years and a far superior player to Paul? And a player who scores off having the ball? After all, Paul is the new guy. Make him the spot up shooter off the ball. It does give the Rockets a second playmaking option off the ball, which they did not have. So there are possibilities. And teams wore out Harden in the playoffs and forced him into lost of turnovers.

Paul can help with that as he makes a lot of his own turnovers in the playoffs. Actually, I hope it works and who knows who Houston will add this week. After all, this is the franchise that traded for Harden, Howard and now Paul. And remember when they stole Omer Asik and were going to build around him? Now why exactly were the Bulls do mad? Yes, if it works it means competition for the Warriors, and that’s a good thing. Although Paul’s history is he needs State Farm the most in the playoffs. Because he’s always an accident waiting to happen then. Free agency follies. Let’s went!

These are two trades I’d like to see:

1. Bulls get Okafor. Sixers get Portis and Valentine.

2. Bulls get Parker. Bucks get top 3 protected 2018 1st round pick.

Any chance they are considering anything like this? Yes, I know they both have bad knees.
Mike Kay

Sam: I seriously doubt the Bulls this summer will be involved in many (if any) sort of deals. I expect they’ll want going into next season to get a serious look at the players they have, and that’s especially the former love of their life, Valentine. He was one of the most underperforming rookies last season, especially for the college player of the year who played a sophisticated game. Yes, he had those ankle injuries which set him back, especially the one after he had his best game in Washington with everyone out (meaning the Three Betas; Gammas? Deltas? Omegas?). What Valentine slyly let slip when he met reporters after his exit meeting was how isolated everyone became on the floor. Valentine was asked why when in college he was so much of a playmaker he became a standstill jump shooter with the Bulls.

He shrugged without any rancor, offering casually that it wasn’t like you were getting the ball back once you passed it. It was the way those three guys played. It wasn’t that they wanted others to fail, but it was what enabled them to succeed. And you don’t much change guys who were All-Stars, all-NBA, champions, so easily. Which was the risk, the danger, and then eventual failure of what the Bulls tried last season. It might have worked; you could have made a case. It just didn’t. So the change was vital. Valentine was a top first round pick, a highly regarded player. No, not an elite lottery talent. But a guy who can be a productive NBA player. The Bulls aren’t loaded at wing with the start of their makeover. He’d be a guy who has a lot to show. It should be worth checking out. As for Parker, two acls. We all hope he makes a comeback because he was looking like a great player. But the Bulls have another acl player already they are working through. Let’s be serious.

I’m sure you’ve heard that the Knicks fired Phil. Word is he and Dolan had an argument over buying out ‘Melo. But the atmosphere there has been toxic since he came to NY.The fans hated him and everything he did, or wanted to do. He’s better off out of there, whether looks for another job or just retires. It was an impossible situation, with ‘Melo as the poison pill. He couldn’t win. They even boo-ed when he drafted Porzingis. Spike Lee tweeted ‘Hallelujah!’ about Phil’s firing. Well, good luck to him, and the rest of the NY fans. They still have Dolan & ‘Melo & a mess. From what I’ve seen of Dolan, the Knicks won’t recover until he sells.

Sam: So there may be two of us. Can you be right and everyone else be wrong? The glee about firing Phil does open a window to why he probably never had a chance. Sure, it is a buck stops here world, and when you are in charge you get the credit or blame based on the results. You are what your record is. We all accept that. But often little is as it appears. The “buck stops here” phrase is mostly attributed to President Harry Truman, who in office had the lowest public approval rating ever (lower than even Trump) after firing popular General Douglas MacArthur, who, by the way, was trying to go over Truman’s head with the public to start a nuclear war with China. Truman was regarded as the worst ever president leaving office and despite doing little after his death, became one of the most admired. Which is not exactly to say Phil will be confused with Red Auerbach eventually.

But the Knicks again made a mistake not letting Phil finish this out and they are mostly better off because of him going forward. Just considering the supposed reasons for his firing lets you know there always was a herd mentality in the public for instant justice that never gave him a chance in New York. I should mention I have remained friends with Phil, so this is not a totally unbiased view. But consider the various explanations for his departure: He considered trading Krstaps Porzingis and alienated him. That’s what you are supposed to do coming of back to back 30-win seasons: See what value your best players have. He looks like he’ll be a good player, but after two years he’s missed 26 games with injury and averaged 16 points and seven rebounds. Nice, but this is not a No. 1 guy. Maybe not No. 2. Why wouldn’t you examine your options? LeBron’s untradeable, sure. Durant, Curry. Perhaps not the guy, as you note, Spike Lee booed on draft night.

So Derrick Rose misses one game for a family emergency and no one can let it go and it is supposedly indicative of his character. Porzingis in some sort of pout skips the post season meeting and declines to return management calls. And that’s OK? That demonstrates in New York how much they didn’t want Phil to succeed. There’s probably elements of the Bulls success against the Knicks and the Knicks’ courtship of Phil after he left the Bulls and the natural New York resentment to anyone who gained success outside New York. You know, if you can make it here…Of course, being a real New Yorker means if you can ever get there considering their transportation systems. Plus, right, Phil wouldn’t talk to the media much. Yes, there is payback for such things. Of course, Isiah did and they lambasted him as much. Same with Scott Layden, Glen Grunwald, Al Bianchi, Scottie Stirling. Heck, they were kicking DeBusschere’s butt and, as I recall, pretty much eventually turned on Holzman. So, yes, Phil added to a consistent tradition. Not to say Phil didn’t—like every gm including Auerbach and Jerry West—make egregious mistakes.

Jackson, of course, was roasted for his personnel moves in New York. But consider the roster he started with and what he left. He had no draft pick his first year because the prior administration had traded it for Andrea Bargnani. The fans screamed when he traded J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Tyson Chandler, the core of the rest of the roster, along with passing on Amar’e Stoudemire. Think any of those teams want those guys now for what they are making? All above $10 million annually. It was a mess of a roster that at least now has Porzingis, whom Phil was condemned for drafting, decent young prospects in Willy Hernangomez, Ron Baker and lottery pick Frank Ntilikina. Kyle O’Quinn, Marshall Plumlee, at least useful. Ah, yes, the offense, the triangle. No one ever understood. As if they ever understood the offense. It wasn’t the triangle that was limiting. Michael and Kobe seemed to get a lot of dunks and athletic plays with it. It was just shorthand for a system, like the Princeton, the UCLA, motion. Just a method for players to have something to fall back on when the plays (yes, another pick and roll) broke down or were covered or scouted. Because the triangle was based on reaction and not plays, but you could do anything out of it: Iso, pick and roll.

Were Jordan and Kobe limited? Just a red herring. But the big fish, the elephant, of course, was Carmelo Anthony. Jackson also is condemned for providing Anthony that no-trade that has hamstrung the roster. But the other job of a chief executive is to fall on the sword for the owner. Phil never would have offered Anthony a no trade. Remember when the Bulls were frothing for Anthony, or, at least, then coach Tom Thibodeau. Jackson then in his first summer as Knicks’ president publicly said the Knicks would be good with or without Anthony. That sound like a guy who wanted to tie him to the franchise for life? By the way, I don’t receive much mail anymore from so many hysterical back then demanding the Bulls sign Anthony for how much and how long he wanted. It’s conveniently papered over in New York how Anthony pushed so hard for that midseason trade the Knicks had to give up four players, a first round pick and a right to swap firsts. Anthony could have waited until after the season and signed as a free agent, but he would not have made quite as much money. The fairy tale that’s repeated in New York is they feared Anthony would sign with the Nets. Sure. Brooklyn? C’mon. He wanted Madison Square Garden and nothing else. The Bulls were able to put together a deal that would eventually have paid Anthony at least as much and eventually more. He went back to the Knicks for a bit more at the time. The owner allowed Anthony to run out Phil now and ordered that no trade then. Phil understood because he was in New York when it worked.

Your mercenaries like Anthony, Walt Bellamy, don’t work. That Knicks title team was built with draft picks like Frazier, Bradley, Reed. Then a final veteran piece like DeBusschere. The Knicks got swept up in the Steinbrenner way. Bob McAdoo, Spencer Haywood, Bernard King and so many more on to Anthony. Even the Yankees finally figured out not to take that route. Remember when Donnie Walsh tried to do it and when he had it going they ran him out for the star, that time Carmelo, and his stain has held down the organization since. Sure, Phil made mistakes hiring Derek Fisher and perhaps not being involved enough, trying to do the right thing and let the coaches work. He realized he had to be more hands on this season, and that meant moving beyond Anthony. But Anthony has made it clear he’s about Anthony, money and individual power. Remember when Mike D’Antoni had the Knicks best run going with Jeremy Lin? Anthony, with the help of the New York media, pushed out Lin and then D’Antoni. It was clear the Knicks had to rebuild. So Jackson told Anthony he’d get him traded anywhere he wanted, with the team of his choice or players he wanted to be with.

It’s just the Knicks had to get something, anything. Anthony refused. He wanted to remain in New York. So it was then Jackson had to reverse course to accommodate Anthony. That’s why Rose and Joakim Noah were added. Because Jackson tried to build something around Anthony at Anthony’s demand. And ownership’s. Anthony made it clear it was New York no matter the results. Noted he has his Olympic medals and enough points to be in the Hall of Fame. But then it was clear that wouldn’t work, so as a last resort Jackson tried anything to move Anthony. Maybe it could have been done more delicately. But here was a player content to have the organization wallow in ineptitude to serve his own interests. Yes, he had the right by that no trade and he exercised it. OK for him. But Jackson’s responsibility was to try to resurrect an organization.

The truth is if your best player isn’t particularly concerned with team success over individual pleasure and diversion then you have no chance. By walking away from the Bulls when he did, Anthony made his priorities clear. Jackson tried drastic action and Anthony called in his favors. It was the way to go out because Phil went out trying to do the best for the Knicks organization. Anthony is pushing for Carmelo. Phil’s critics seem to mostly want to see the Knicks fail. Condemnation sells well in New York. You know, hey they’re worse than me. That makes me feel good! After all, this is more than 40 years now with two trips to the NBA Finals, both losses and one in the truncated 50-game season. Some has been bad luck and some bad timing. But that sort of consistency has to have a deeper malevolence.

There’s been a lot of talk about buyouts for high-salary players like Wade and Anthony. Since the full salary still counts against the team’s cap, it seems like a buyout only makes sense for the team if they get a significant discount on the salary. But some of the reports suggest that the Knicks, for example, might only get a small discount for buying out Anthony. Why in the world would a team agree to a buyout if they’re still on the hook for tens of millions in salary, get no reprieve on the cap, don’t get the player’s services, and give a star player to another team for pennies on the dollar?
Christopher Prince

Sam: I don’t think Anthony wants any part of a buyout; it just seems a way to suggest or seem he is about winning and if not for Phil messing this up I would want to be with a winner. Sure. Carmelo works the court of media and public attention well. But you are correct in essence. It makes no sense for any team to give a player his contract to go help someone else without substantial compensation in exchange. One of the stupidest moves ever was when Alonzo Mourning whined about going to Toronto and they actually let him go and paid him off.

I know there’s this fantasy threat—like with the Knicks now that the issues under Phil will prevent free agents from going there overlooking the fact none ever did—that if you don’t treat players right it will resonate with future players and they won’t come to your team. Nonsense. Players couldn’t care less how you treat other guys. Just how you treat them. Show them their money! I heard this nonsense for years with the Bulls that their treatment of Jordan would doom them and, true, the top free agents didn’t come in 2000, but, well, it was a 15-win team coached by Tim Floyd. After that, not that the Bulls did so great with them, but Ben Wallace as the top guy that summer came to the Bulls. So was Pau Gasol when he did. Boozer was tops after LeBron and Bosh, and we know that was a done deal.

I expect Wade to be around most of the season and then in February, assuming LaVine is ready, I can see if Wade were to give up a few million dollars it might be worth letting him go finish it up with LeBron. Sure, if he’d give up $12 million to $18 million now I’d consider a buyout. But how is it that you get to keep your contract and then go play for a competitor? That’s not bad business; it’s stupid business. With LaVine out, I can see Wade starting. I believe he cares about his legacy and reputation and will try to enhance the young players. I don’t feel he believes in not competing, and it will be helpful to the young guys to have a finisher around. I’ve always thought dumping teams like the 76ers make a mistake not only trying to lose every game but putting it on their top young players to wear the losses. Have a veteran there, like Wade, who can make plays for you in the fourth quarter and show and teach your players how you close games in the NBA. It’s part of the learning process and development. It’s a vital and rare skill, and Wade was one of the best ever at it. I don’t see any good reason other than Wade essentially giving up half or more of his contract why the Bulls would not want him around. As for Carmelo, he’s never intended to play anywhere else but with the Knicks. Can’t get your statue finishing your career in Cleveland.

When you look back over the past decade, what are approximate odds of young players (1) coming back fully from ACL and (2) top picks rebounding from very poor rookie years? Obviously individual cases but just trying to gauge rough expectations on these 2.

In the case of Dunn, what do you see? You've had some time to watch him play and know Thibs system.
Jeff Lichtenstein

Sam: When you put it that way…Actually, the odds are pretty good. The question will be the talent. Bernard King came back from an ACL 30 years ago when they didn’t know how to fix them and became an All-Star. Jamal Crawford had one 15 years ago with the Bulls. And so on. I have no idea how Dunn can play because I don’t think I ever saw him play. All I saw was a kid looking over at a screaming Thibodeau on every possession the few possessions he was in the game. Look, Thibs wouldn’t even let Jimmy on the court as a rookie. So I’m anxious to watch what I consider the rookie seasons of Markkanen and Dunn.

So the Bulls got the #7 pick, Lavine (18ppg) and last years #5 for Butler. 3 guys 23 and under...and the Clippers got Beverly, Williams, Dekker and a late first round pick for Paul? And the Bulls are blasted all over the sports world? Makes no sense.
Victor Devaldivielso

Sam: The Clippers’ situation was similar to the Bulls’. They had their run, and it didn’t produce a title. It was about the same length as the Bulls with a top point guard star, and the Bulls ended up with just one more win in the conference finals. And then both had to break it up because where were they going. But you see how much better off the Bulls are by having pulled the trigger more quickly. They got a potential foundation of top young talent. They may not be, but they can be. The Clippers got no such thing by riding it out and down. If the Bulls had held onto Jimmy with this going nowhere team they were looking at constantly decreasing value the closer he came to free agency and much less return. Perhaps there were some personal biases involved in the analysis as much as it pains me to say in this era of the media under attack.

I've had this suspicion about you for a while, sir. But after this heinous trade, all doubts have vanished, especially reading your responses on the 6/23 Ask You...I have no problem with Jimmy being traded; the Bulls did need that...but for you to even remotely suggest they didn't fleece themselves is ridiculous. Jimmy had 2 years left on a contract that is below his current value. He is, as far as I'm concerned, a top 5 if not top 3 two way player in the league. Given Boston's assets, I refuse to believe a post ACL potential, and a first season bust is the best the could have acquired for Butler. Remember when Gar Forman said in his press conference the team was aiming for a youth movement as a result of the Rose/Noah moves? And what does he do next? Sign a point guard and a shooting guard each older than Noah and Rose, to high guarantee two year deals, which by nature go against the very idea of a NBA rebuilt/youth movement. Stop drinking the Kool-Aid my brother, and bring back your true journalism.
Tudor Stanescu

Sam: No, it’s not all fan mail for me. Yes, Paul was a free agent and Jimmy had two years left. But look how little the Clippers got: A likely bottom five draft pick and a half dozen players who project as backup role players. The Bulls got three lottery picks. I know many don’t want to believe the limited value, but look, as I’ve noted before, how little the Pacers could got offered for Paul George, the Knicks for Porzingis (thus no deals). I believe the reputation was wrong, but Jimmy had hurt his own value around the NBA with his verbal assault to be coached harder a month into Hoiberg’s tenure and then calling out all the young players along with Wade last January.

Knowing Jimmy I saw them as isolated incidents and not indicative of who he is. But that’s not what you began to hear around the NBA, that gms worried about the locker room dysfunction. I think that’s why Thibs emerged as the only real deal. He knew Jimmy from Chicago and the Olympics and knew that wasn’t Jimmy. But it wasn’t the belief around the NBA. Which was why the Suns said they wouldn’t consider giving up the pick unless you took Chandler, Knight and Dudley. That’s $75 million over the next two years. The Nuggets told everyone no way they’d give up Jamal Murray. Who? Boston didn’t offer any lottery picks from this year or even next. Not even starters from their roster. Ainge said he didn’t even talk to the Bulls for weeks before the draft. Whatever. And Thibs doesn’t offer as much if LaVine wasn’t hurt. The Bulls mentioned him last year and Thibs said he was untouchable. We’ll all judge this on the results in three or four years, but given the landscape and the other deals going around, the Bulls seem to have done exceptionally well, especially facing an on court dead end with what they had.

Would you say Pax, Gar, & Fred seem more relaxed these days? Seems their biggest problem is what to do with DWade. But how much pressure is there when the expectation is to lose?
Abe Rotbart

Sam: Maybe relieved; not so much to have traded Jimmy, but to finally have a plan. Everyone says they have a plan, and they all are sorts of plans. The Bulls’ still was the nine-year one, and it was the end. The Bulls were in position where they were going to have to try to explain and figure out what to do in the 10th year of that plan. Now it’s year 1, and there are possibilities and things to look forward to. But I’d hardly say relaxed. Now you can start to judge Fred as a coach. I know many have made their determinations, but his first year was riding down that Rose/Noah/Gasol team and then trying to figure out, as we all were, what to do with three alphas who couldn’t shoot threes and liked to hold the ball. So much for the new NBA. Jimmy said it would work with Wade. OK, they gave him a chance. And that was after moving from the guys he felt he didn’t fit with, Rose and Noah. You can’t say the Bulls didn’t do all they could to try to build with or at least accommodate Jimmy. Now Fred can start to be evaluated. And the Bulls for as much as the trade made sense are staring at a 20-win season; 25? 30? 15? Who knows? So there’s pressure to stay on top of it, keep the team together and start to find the pieces to move forward. But I sense that everyone feels it was the right thing at the right time. And just hopes it will turn out right.

Since the Bulls presumably are looking to acquire young assets, do you think they would be willing to take on a bad contract in order to do so, similar to the recent Nets D'Angelo Russell trade, in which they had to swallow Timofey Mozgov's albatross contract? If so, what do you think of a trade that would send Dwayne Wade's expiring contract to the Lakers for Luol Deng's long term deal and Julius Randle, which would clear cap room for the Lakers to chase LeBron and give the Bulls another promising young player?
Daniel Brecher

Sam: Sounds possible; the Lakers? Yes, it is an expiring deal and that’s the suspicion everyone has that Magic is doing the Jerry West thing from when they got Shaq in 1996, clearing out cap space for LeBron and his pals. Like the Bulls were doing to clear space for LeBron in 2010. They Bulls and others were giving teams first round draft picks to take players off their roster. Which is all the more reason not to do a buyout. As star players like LeBron send signals that maybe they’ll become free agents, there could be a run on cap room again. The Bulls are going to have to begin spending money just to get up to the minimum cap with so many rookie contracts. So they have decisions to make. Pay their own free agents? Take a chance with a short term deal like Wade and try to parlay that into a former lottery player like the Nets did? Maybe pick up Rondo’s contract to do the same? Though I’m not a huge fan of Randle’s given his side and limited shooting. But that’s the idea. It’s why all that debate over passing on the second round pick was ludicrous and uninformed. There are many ways to get more talented players. Don’t waste your roster spots, money or space on second round picks. Could it be Bulls management actually is brighter than people on Twitter?

What do you think of The Process? I thought it was one of those interesting thought experiments but it doesn't look like it will ultimately work. Hinkie did what you almost have to do, pick injured and international guys so they won't make your team too good too fast. The solution is the problem; though. You take injured guys and, well, they tend to get injured. Or do you think it was just a bit of bad luck, that they stunk but never got in position to get a #1 until the last two years? Or would getting a #1 have messed with their plan because if he's good he makes your team too good to get high picks and you're on Mediocrity Lane?
Craig Berry

Sam: First of all, it’s just giving yourself a pat on the back and a name for something teams have done for decades. Remember, the lottery was started in 1985 because several teams were dumping games down the stretch for a month (Bulls included) to get, no, not Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon. It came down to a coin flip then between the poorest record in each conference. But it just wasn’t viewed as a philosophy, which the 76ers advertised in declaring they’d discovered something new. And then they had the best spokesman with Embiid, who has a great personality, championing the notion publicly. They were just losing games to get a high draft pick like many before them.

Perhaps the difference was the way they perverted the game by obtaining players and then losing more times, but, as you see it’s risky because you may not be in the right lottery, get the right pick, or face injuries since these kids come in so young. The 76ers appear to finally have a base from which to build. Pretty good one. This will be the sixth straight year and seventh in the last 10 the 76ers don’t make the playoffs, and they only won one playoff series since 2001, and that was because Derrick Rose got hurt. Admittedly, that long period of mediocrity drove the current situation. But if you were at the beginning, how intensely would you embrace a plan that says you have a chance to make the playoffs five years from now? That’s where the 76ers are. And in that stretch you became the laughing stock of sports averaging more than 60 losses a year. And if Embiid can’t return to a high level, where are they? Remember, in their first three years in the NBA, Greg Oden played three times more games than Embiid has.

I loathe Lavar Ball! For Lonzo's sake, hope the apple falls and rolls far away from the tree.
Bambi Choy

Sam: Actually, it seems to, which in a curious way is probably the best thing about the dad, that the kids seem more mature and responsible than he is. Also, I think Lonzo has lucked into the only place in the NBA where his father will be minimized because of Magic Johnson, the ultimate public figure. Who’s going to pay attention to him with Magic advising them to ignore him? If he’d gone to New York—or even Chicago—it would have been a weekly barrage of second guessing the coach and teammates stories. Reggie Rose did one interview in four years and it got rehashed like it was every day.

I can’t imagine the Bulls opening the season without a veteran point guard to step in when the untested Dunn and Payne need some relief. Someone like the retired Captain Kirk. Rondo is overpriced at $12 million to baby sit but he certainly was valuable last season. You suggested a possible Rondo trade but to me that suggests a package with say Niko to get anything of value in return.
John Petersen

Sam: Kirk! Kirk! Kirk! Kirk! Kirk!

I'm on board with the rebuild plan however not thrilled with the execution. Was really hoping they'd take Monk instead of Markkenan. Monk seems like the perfect guard for today's NBA. Can shoot lights out and spread the floor. At worst, a 6th man heat check guy like Jamal Crawford or Lou Wilkins and at best a poor man's Steph Curry. Markkenan seems like a big risk and has bust potential written all over him. Sure he can shoot but will he be able to stay on the floor defensively?
Billy Habibi

Sam: I really haven’t talked with anyone much about the thought process; I prefer to see the guys play first to get an idea, so we’ll see in summer league. The old saw in the NBA is if you are going to make a mistake, make it big. Meaning, if you are not sure, take a big guy. I know that’s changed over the recent years with so many teams playing “small” and using wing players and shooters. Still, if you have a seven footer Dirkesque kind of guy who has a great stroke from deep, well, you can get a shooter every draft. There usually aren’t seven footers who eventually can be stretch centers. Say you can guard Draymond Green outside because of your quickness; can he get your shot? Certainly, you’d expect Markkanen to develop some sort of if not great post game, at least a mid range turnaround, which would be a heck of a weapon as a go to shot for a bailout. I do know that every gm I spoke with would have taken Markkanen over Monk. They’ve all been wrong before. But Monk is somewhat small for shooting guard at about 6-3 with a limited wingspan. He may be very good, but tough to pass on a seven footer who shoots as well or better.

I think the Butler trade happened because Bulls FO does not want to give a 29y.o. Jimmy a supermax contract. Everyone is saying the Bulls got fleeced but no one is reading the writing on the wall: There is low demand for players about to enter their supermax contracts, which leads me to ask: do you think supermax contracts is actually a bad idea? I think it is. There are very few players worthy of 35% of your salary cap: Lebron, Kawhi and KD. Plus to think that these players enter the supermax eligibility when they are to hit early 30's and end they are 35-ish. Which means you have to pay these big contracts at guys past their primes.
Melbert B. Tizon

Sam: For the Bulls I think it was less that given it was two years away and Butler still needing to make an all-NBA team again, which is tough when you’re team isn’t doing well. It was more, as they credibly said, to pick a direction, a plan, a philosophy. I agree the super contract it’s not a great idea. I know the view was it would keep players with their teams and balance the playing field. But given the contracts are so large now, I don’t believe it’s having that effect. Still, just because someone is eligible for it doesn’t mean you have to offer that. All you have to offer is more than the guy who cannot offer it. If you have a player who is going to be insulted by being offered $165 million instead of $215 million, you don’t want him, anyway. The bind the NBA got itself into is the “max” contract. It was only supposed to be for the truly elite, like LeBron, Durant, etc. What developed was every team’s best player became a “max” player. So guys like DeMar DeRozan became “max” players and they can’t take you anywhere significant. Can Gordon Hayward lead you to a title? Blake Griffin? Of course not, but talent became synonymous with excellence, which sort of mirrored society as the NBA developed it own income inequality.

The reports now are the Suns are hot for Blake Griffin.
Mike Sutera

Sam: It should be quite the week. There’s nothing like NBA free agency. Thank you, LeBron. My thinking last week was Griffin goes to Miami and Paul resigns with the Clippers. Ooops. So Paul goes to the Rockets when it seemed the Spurs made the most sense for him. But the magical franchise is having its issues with LaMarcus Aldridge perhaps on the way out. I do like Gordon Hayward’s game, but as the prize difference maker? C’mon. Paul George figures to be traded and I still can’t believe the Lakers won’t throw in a young player or two they don’t want. They probably can’t get the Pacers to take Deng. There may be this intriguing other element going on. I know everyone likes to say it’s about going to win, but we may begin to see teams like the Suns catching a big fish like Griffin. He’s had health problems. which scare off some teams. The Suns need some credibility and there may be more players seeing the Warriors as too tough to overcome for the next few years. So they’ll decide, hey, take as much money as you can, live where you like, maybe a nice place, maybe play with some friends, relax and have a great life and why knock yourself out because you’re not beating the Warriors, anyway. So maybe guys go to Phoenix and Miami and Houston (no state taxes) and Orlando and just enjoy this NBA life.

Did you see Jimmy giving out his phone number at the MIN press conference? What was up with that? Is he the goofiest player in the NBA these days?
Tom Plonowski

Sam: I’m going with separation anxiety. I think it’s a terrific deal for the Timberwolves, Jimmy in his right spot as a second or third option and a closer who can get to the line and defend at the end. I read where Jimmy did this to answer his critics and I wondered what the heck he was talking about. All I heard was about the Bulls getting a bad deal and Minnesota winning and Jimmy in a great spot and Thibs for the Nobel Peace Prize. Who criticized Jimmy? The Bulls said how tough it was to lose him and how great he’d made himself and how proud they were of him and how tough it was to give him up. I’ll try not to offend too much here, but I understand: Chicago-Minneapolis. The worst thing we have is the weather, and theirs is worse. Worst in the NBA, probably. Rush Street Gibson’s after games? I think you’re talking Taco Bell drive thru. Yes, it’s the NBA and the games all are inside and you are treated pretty darned great. But Minneapolis? Chicago? And in the same conference with the Warriors. Did I mention it was in Minnesota?

If the Bulls were going to trade Jimmy, why didn't they inform Wade? If he had known, I doubt he would've opted in and the Bulls would not have to deal with this costly buyout.
Jay Choi

Sam: I don’t believe they are going to do a buyout. Why should they? It’s not like Wade is going to sabotage the team. Will he come up with a quad or back injury and take off? Maybe, but I’d like to believe his professionalism transcends such pettiness. He’ll get a chance to play with his banana boat pals. The way they are structuring their contracts, he, Chris Paul, LeBron and Carmelo could all opt out after next season and play together or join up in one spot. It wouldn’t seem to be a championship team, but what fun—if you’re not beating Golden State, anyway—to finish out your careers on the same team with your best friends laughing at the same bad jokes, eating and working out together for a year or two, sort of the endless sleepover. I’d look for that for 2017-18. I’d say most likely in a warmer place.

Keep an eye on who’s dumping the most salary. The Lakers? Clippers? Rockets? Magic? Suns? It’s not like the 2001-03 Washington Wizards will be long remembered, but for two years they were the elite attraction in the NBA and made their franchise a load of money with Jordan. If you don’t think you can beat the Warriors, why not just put on the greatest show in sport. After all, on some level the NBA is like a great Broadway show. It’s performance art. And how about putting together four Hall of Famers on their last run and when they still have some game left?

This is my final Ask Sam for this season. I don’t see what else I can say to defend the trade. But I will be at summer league to see just what it was all about.