Ask Sam Mailbag: 10.19.18
Sam opens his mailbag and answers your questions about the Bulls' season opener and more
Happy new Bulls year! Last nights game started so promising. A few things I saw in just one game. Ryan Arcidiacono deserves a longer look. He's a good defender from the position and a more natural point guard than both Kris Dunn and Cam Payne. Portis and Lavine are going to have big years. Bulls should give Carter as many minutes as possible and live with the results. I prefer to give the developmental minutes to the young big rather than play Lopez. Same goes with Holiday. When Valentine is healthy I would much prefer to see him at small forward or Hutchinson. Valentine is a much better shooter and ball handler than Holiday. Plus I believe in giving minutes to players who have the potential of being in our long term plans. I would also like to see Hutchinson get some minutes as well. I'd like to see the bulls move Lopez and Holiday in a trade or just releasing them to free up minutes for these young folks.
Sam: Sounds like a plan. It seems like the Bulls are inching to where you suggest. Though I did miss your recommendations for Parker. Did I read over them?
Speaking of Portis, do they see him as a Center? What happened to that? I ask because, having seen his preseason play, I'm starting to agree. Portis has been just OK shooting 3's, but very efficient near the hoop. Not a great leaper, but unlike Carter, he has the size to offer some resistance to Joel Embiid. I'll bet Carter has a better stroke from outside. I still see him as a Stretch 4, but the Bulls insist that he play as an undersized Center. Square peg /round hole? We'll see…What makes sense to me (for what THAT'S worth) is Portis at C with Lauri or Carter at PF. Carter can play C off the bench w/ Jabari at the 4 for some ‘small ball'. And of Course you can mix-and-match. Still wouldn't shock me if Lauri ends up at Center, but not if he's shooting around 40% from the arc (which he says he can & should do).
Sam: It's a work in progress. I'm interested to see how things develop when Markkanen returns. It's more than offense and shooting, which the Bulls will welcome. Portis presumably would return to the sixth man role. But I can see him playing with Markkanen as well. It might make some sense to give Carter a break starting as a 19-year-old. I don't believe the Bulls really envisioned that quite yet, and there really is no rush. With Parker a better fit as a sixth man scoring, perhaps Portis does work in at center playing inside. Actually, he's taller than Carter and has more inside game, so it does make some sense. Carter seems able to adjust to any role with a nice shooting stroke and solid defensive fundamentals. I would not be surprised to see a Portis/Markkanen/three man/LaVine/Dunn starting lineup when Markkanen returns. Valentine at three? I think we've seen the end of Parker there. Makes some sense with Valentine's passing ability.
I would never second guess Portis' contract decision; it's his life. I understand the why yes and why wait arguments. My question is can Bobby Portis take out any kind of insurance on an injury occurrence? Don't know, figure it would be expensive but he is waiting on $30-50 million. Your example of someone making more than you in your workplace is on the money. I've seen many people change jobs because they were not getting what someone else was. Hey, everyone has an ego.
Sam: Players usually do take out insurance contracts, though they are expensive and I doubt they cash in at that level since you have to prove debilitating injury. Say Portis tears his ACL. He'll be able to play again. The issue is not at a high level for two years, which means likely no long term deal and then working your way back on short term deals unless some team takes a big risk. It's one thing if LeBron or Durant does it. Sorry, but not Portis. I'm always in favor of taking the lifetime security at 23 even if it's less money. Then become a free agent at 27, which is considered your prime if you really want to bet on yourself. I was a business student in college, so I learned about eliminating the low side. Make sure your fall isn't too steep. I also don't gamble, but I get that people do enjoy it. The NBA even seems to be getting in and sponsoring it. Portis looks like he's going to have a breakout year, and rather than Sixth Man could be a legitimate candidate for Most Improved Player. Then he would get a better contract than probably the Bulls offered or likely what he even asked for. Still, I'm into protecting my rear before looking too far ahead. Life's more pleasant without the nasty surprises.
I wanted to get your thoughts on the G league announcing that they'll offer contracts of up to $125k to 18 year old unable to enter the NBA draft, who don't want to go to college for a one and done. Good or bad for the NBA? How do you think it'll effect the NCAA?
Sam: Obviously, everyone's not getting the 125, and I know some will say, well, they make that at big colleges anyway. But I like it a lot. College athletics is one of the biggest legal frauds we allow in this country, and we allow many. Coaches quitting guaranteed "contracts" whenever they feel while kids are locked into programs, schools making tens and hundreds of millions while steering kids away from academic programs that will require too much study so they can practice sports more. It's an affront to academics. College presidents fit right next to stock market manipulators these days. Though the kids won't get the TV exposure with the networks in partnership with the corrupt universities, they'll be coached by NBA coaches—Windy City's Charlie Henry is one of the better young coaches in the game—and watched carefully by NBA teams. I'm happy for those kids not having to endure the hypocrisy of being in alleged academic institutions and soiling themselves by being associated with college athletic departments. I know I pulled my punches, but I'll let you know next time how I really feel.
It seems that the Bulls identified the backup point guard as an issue early in the summer bringing others like Watson to training camp and signing Arci and now Ulis for a look. Fred said Payne has not shot well but it seems there may be more to his fall from grace.
Sam: Well, I'm not sure Payne was ever in that wonderful place. His acquisition was a risk/reward, an injured player who was a lottery pick, worth a shot. He looked like he was finally making some progress late last season amidst the detritus. But he didn't do much in preseason and was passed by Arcidiacono by the second half of the opener. You don't ever want to make a judgment on one game, especially one in which your team was madly overmatched, but as a point guard you have to make things happen. Payne doesn't seem to. Anyone can have shooting slumps or issues, but it's more that you can impact the game in other ways. The Bulls also adding Ulis was just a further sign. I'm assuming Dunn returns for the home opener Saturday, but Hoiberg said it is a competition, and if it is Arcidiacono looks like he's winning for now at that spot.
Rawle Alkins looks like Gerald Wilkins clone. Rawle might be a difference maker for the Bulls. He put up 25 points in a summer league game. And, he was the glue guy at University of Arizona. Is he going to crack the roster with Lauri out for 6-8 weeks with the elbow injury?
Sam: It doesn't seem like he is, but I like him also. He'll be playing at Windy City early on the two-way contract, which is a nice NBA innovation for future NBA players playing in the G-league. If you were in Hoffman Estates last season you saw much of the Bulls current reserve backcourt every game. I'm not surprised Alkins hasn't played yet with the team trying to get off to more a competitive than experimental start. It's why we didn't see much of Hutchison to start and once players return he'll likely be with Windy City more often. But I think Alkins is that potential diamond-in-the-rough guy who can make more impact than anticipated. For this season it's likely to be more near the Panda Express on Higgins Road.
With all the activities in All Star weekend, Skills Competition, Rising Stars etc, why not bring back the 'Legends Game?' The interest this time around would be players from the 90's. ...and that, of course, would include you know who! I remember watching in the 90's when the game included players like Jamal Wilkes, George Gervin, etc. But now, it'll include the likes of Barkley, Pippen, Olajuwon, Shaq and again, you know who! So what say you? I think the ratings would be crazy, and that they should bring it back. If not for just once.
Sam: I, too, can't wait to see Barkley and Shaq blow out their Achilles. That three-on-three league is doing a lot of that, actually, and seems pretty boring. Basketball for short attentions spans, I guess. When the NBA last tried that in the 80s, they had too many ACLs and Achilles to continue. Have you seen Shaq? Do you really want to see him playing basketball again? Wouldn't that be cruel and unusual?
No way in hell can they start Fultz and Simmons together. You need a shooter alongside Simmons in the backcourt. I don't think Simmons will ever learn to shoot. Shot is so ugly. Gordon Hayward looked slow and looks like he has no lift. I fear he is the next Grant Hill. Gonna be a fun back court together with Russ and Shroder. Both explosive scorers.
Sam: At least we can define the season in a week. Makes it so much simpler. To start, those sounded like cheers for Fultz against the Bulls, but weren't. Actually, it seemed pretty embarrassing, sort of the stuff you'd hear for Scalabrine, that mocking cheer about a guy the fans now think is just pathetic. The media in Philadelphia has turned the entire season into Fultz's fate. The coach basically spends his entire media conferences explaining about Fultz. The media was filled with attacks on Fultz, so the fans seemed to in sort of their own Philadelphia-style "who you lookin' at!" media attacks struck back in a bizarre support for Fultz. He was obviously a mess as a result, taking wild shots and then being benched again to start the second half. The team isn't doing him any favors, either. It does go back to a poor fit with Simmons, who obviously has to handle the ball. So the kid you drafted No. 1 (last GM) who needs to play off the ball gets a standing ovation for making one three? Ouch. I did notice Hayward wasn't so fluid, but I plan to give him a second game. I did think the Schroder pickup was a good one. I'm not sure Westbrook will give up the ball that much, and Schroder is more a scorer than a point guard. But those two with Paul George should make for an interesting offense. I can see the Thunder passing the Rockets, though I've had Utah ahead of both. Though it is never too soon to make some final judgments.
I am really excited for this season! I'm one of those crazy fans that is predicting 35-42 wins. I'm usually optimistic in the beginning but my optimism wanes as I am exposed to more and more bad basketball. Jabari Parker is a signing that I was excited about. He showed explosiveness even after his second ACL tear and I though he could thrive with a bigger role. After watching him this preseason (I know it's a small sample size), he looks like what Loul Deng would have been in Charles Barkley's body. Long 2's, slow feet, lagging in transition, and definitely not explosive. I personally think he is carrying too much weight and appears out of shape. That's how you lose a starting job when it was all but guaranteed to you.
Sam: Every time I run into an out of town NBA guy at a game, they ask why Jabari is so out of shape. I assume part is his body, which is big boned, as we like to delicately say, and the effects of coming off the ACL no matter how much he rejects that. Hoiberg did the right thing for the team moving him to a reserve role, and Parker can be very good at that if he embraces it, which he hasn't seemed to quite yet. I'm sure it's a disappointment to him, but the chemistry was awful when he played with those guys. He probably wasn't thrilled with a possible opening against the 76ers for a starting lineup look—LaVine at point, perhaps with multiple ball handlers and not a sure point?—and Payne starts. Starting shouldn't matter all that much as Portis has professionally represented. Lopez seems to be accepting it better as well. Yes, I know, I know, could be a contract year and all that. But you get paid with production (I know, offense and not defense), and Parker is capable of being a big producer off the bench. It seems to me Hoiberg keeps giving him great opportunities. If he plays well enough he'll finish games. And isn't that what they all say they really want?
Looking at the Preseason, Robin Lopez does not fit with any unit, especially trying to extend his range to the 3 point line. I have always been a Felicio fan and I saw the same player this Preseason as the 2016 year with defensive energy, athleticism, shot blocking, and setting hard screens. I feel that if Hoiberg does decide to have a center coming off the bench, it should be Felicio.
Sam: Felicio has had some more physical issues this week, so I don't think he was able to play, anyway. It will be another of the many storylines to see if it comes to that. After all, Felicio is under contract for two more seasons after this and this is Lopez' last contract season with the Bulls. So it makes some logical sense. It's been no secret since last summer that the Bulls would like to make a trade with Lopez, but if they cannot it will be another hard decision to make. Teams usually say they want to play 20 games to see what they have. I don't expect much major to occur before then other than the return of the injured players, and especially what the landscape is with Markkanen.
I get why GM's and coaches state the importance of using summer time to get stronger and better. This specially applies to young players. But to me, this should be the entire year. You should be able to get better during regular season. Work your game and pump some iron before team's practice or free time. Which brings me to the question: The Jordan's Breakfast Club was the entire year or just during summer?
Sam: I know the media loved that Jordan, Pippen, Harper breakfast club thing that Jordan promoted well. Though did you look at Harper? Anyway, today's Bulls work much, much harder than any of those guys ever worked. I barely recall Jordan even working out at all his first five years in the NBA until the Pistons started beating the crap out of him. Those players, however, were much more talented, which is a really good substitute for hard work.
I have the best trade scenario for our Bulls! Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter JR. and a 2020 first round pick for Anthony Davis and their 2019 first round pick. We are stacked in the front court and it's time to use our assets for a top tier player. I believe Bobby Portis would compliment Anthony Davis and by doing a mid season trade, we will have a great opportunity to sign another big free agent this off season. We can't be waiting for free agents to keep burning us.
Sam: I knew Lauri shouldn't have gotten hurt. People just then have no use for you. The Anthony Davis trade scenarios are becoming the league's biggest because everyone is kind of getting the idea Durant will stay at least another season to play in the new arena; same with Klay. LeBron is signed up; so is Paul George and Karl-Anthony Towns. No one believes Kawhi is going anywhere but LA. Jimmy? Been there done that. Boogie? Really? Kemba? Isaiah Thomas? So it's not that great a class. Then it comes down to the Pelicans will be bad, so they'll have to trade him because he wants to leave, right?. Well, assuming he does, which he has said he doesn't, he is under contract through 19-20 and once you trade him you are in a full rebuild. As much as we like our guys, I get the feeling the Pelicans might not believe two unproven kids not yet close to their mid-20's is a match for the player many—including himself—say is the best player in the NBA. I'm thinking this has to be more growth from within for the Bulls, at least for now. It doesn't look like hardly anyone is adding stars next summer. Maybe only the Los Angeles LeBrons.
You wrote in the mailbag, "I don't get much into the medical jabberwocky. I write about them when they can play again." But you have done so before. So your deciding to be so public about not commenting on the Markkanen injury here makes me fear it's worse than what we've been told. Please tell me I'm wrong. And when LaVine really missed practices with a bruised thigh . . . even though he seemed to be hit on the knee? Say Lavine had hurt his knee again right after signing for four years. That would really cripple the Bulls ability to build a successful team. I've always thought that the salary cap should work like a hybrid of the NFL and NBA systems. The players more or less get guaranteed contracts as they do now, but if you cut them their salary doesn't count against the cap anymore. I guess that would lead to rich teams having a huge advantage over the less rich teams. But it's just no fun when a bad contract weighs a team down and has to be traded for other bad contracts for years on end. By no means to I want the players to lack security or get less money, I just want teams to be able to avoid being hamstrung.
Sam: As for Lauri, it seems like good news without any news. Or anyone who really knows saying anything. He's been around, was with the team in Philadelphia, even was chatting amiably with media, though not for attribution, which suggests having a high pain threshold. While no one says anything publicly to put any pressure on the players after the Derrick Rose problems, my guess is Markkanen will be closer to six weeks than eight weeks. Which would have him back playing in mid-November, perhaps around the time of the Boston-Milwaukee trip starting Nov. 14. I'm not sure which injury you refer to, but I really don't and never have made any medical judgments or predictions, and, if anything, have written about the James Rodney Richard baseball situation years ago when media mocked his complaints about problems and then he had a stroke warming up before a game trying to pitch through the media and public condemnation. When he's back, he's back. You got it on injuries; like the rest of us, you take your chances. The NBA tries to level the financial field, so if you could just write off injuries a team could place bets on any numbers of players. But remember there's also a growing and penal luxury tax that even the richest teams, like the Yankees in baseball, do not want to pay. The NBA's gets really severe and team's aren't going to try to test it. Like in life, luck matters. You have to hope your guys stay healthy. Despite what critics may suggest. Most calamities can't be avoided.
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