Ask Sam Mailbag: 10.25.19

Sam opens his mailbag and answers your questions about Lauri, Lavine, Zion, and more
Markkanen rebounds the ball
by Sam Smith
Remind Me Later

Body

Guy Danilowitz:

I share your experience with finding it difficult residing in an environment where most everyone else is wrong, however: Bulls 5th in the East?? As they say: "from your lips to gods ears ..."

I sure hope you are right but seems overly optimistic - I would be pleasantly surprised if they were in a battle for 8th and think 9th or 10th is more realistic this year.

I agree with your view of Zach being money and actually under appreciated and Coby white looks like a player too. I also like the veteran additions. But everyone else especially Lauri and carter Jr, who they are counting on to contribute in a major way, are really still unproven as far as being consistent really good if not great players over an entire season.

Let the games begin.

Sam Smith:

As we were saying, if everyone could play like the reliable and high producing Lauri Markkanen….You never know. That's why you keep watching. I'll admit I had taken a shot of helium when writing out my predictions, but it was less a promise than a comment on the NBA Eastern Conference. I'm not sure the Bulls are a fifth place team, but I didn't know who else was, either. It seemed to me Boston, Indiana, Orlando, Miami and Brooklyn, the usual suspects for the No. 3 through No. 8 spots, didn't present rosters any better than the Bulls. Sure, it makes sense the Bulls would be trying just to make the playoffs and have a long road up after a 22-win season. But more so in the West. After the Bucks and 76ers, there's no one close to a guaranteed third in the East. Which makes fifth even less guaranteed. Let's watch.


Lavine attempts a layup

Jeff Lichtenstein:

It was a dingledorky end in Charlotte, but so fun.

Sam Smith:

That's the spirit. It was an entertaining game, and, after all, isn't that what it's really about, to witness a good show, to experience an exciting conclusion about which you can talk about for days afterward, to uplift the spirit? No? OK, OK, I was just testing. I know, if they keep score the idea is to have the most points. So how much can we harvest from one early planting? It's heresy, of course, but this doesn't look like a Bulls team that's going be reminding anyone of the Bad Boys Pistons. And not just because no one is likely to be accused of assault during the game. I don't have a big problem with that. Sometimes your kid isn't going to be the star of the team, but aren't we believers in this era of he or she being special, that everyone is special in their own way. I'm sure we can find a way to give all these Bulls guys a trophy after the season. Though, seriously, this Bulls group appears to have the possibility with the likes of LaVine, Markkanen and White of being a very special offensive group. Playing defense may not be their strength or specialty, but if you can score more points than the opposition that still counts as a victory. There are various methods to achieve success. I'll agree this formula may not lead to a championship this season, but I'm with you that it could produce a lot of entertaining basketball. Entertaining basketball generally produces more positives than negatives. Including on the scoreboard.


Jay Carlson:

It was great to see the beloved Bulls back on the court again, playing in a game that could actually matter sometime this season. Too bad the Hornets played out of their minds by making 23, 3 point field goals but won by a single point against a team that didn't play particularly well. The Bulls defense was a bit confused at times but I thought the guys were trying to do too much and weren't disciplined enough. Overall, I thought Markannen and Lavine averaged together the number of points, about 25 each, the team will need them to score on a nightly basis. Coby White looked good. He seems to be able to find open space and make the shot. He's aggressive but showed he is willing to share the ball. Wendell had a decent defensive game but needs to continue to work on finishing around the rim. Dunn and Arch provided good support off the bench. Thaddeus Young, he really played well. However, Porter Jr. and Satoransky were active but I am not sure if their impact was significant.

Sam Smith:

It may sound trite, but that is the fun in this sort of season because you can finally start to measure how and whether these players can develop and produce. You really couldn't the last two seasons because of the injuries and the emphasis, especially in the community, being on draft picks. I gratefully do not get any more emails about the next draft. But it is early. But Zion going down so quickly has probably cooled that. This Bulls team, if not built for the conference finals, has a fine mix of veterans, and there was more of Young to start than anticipated and less of Porter. It's just one game, and all that. But you also focused on the intriguing appeal that Zach and Lauri could account for 50 points per game. And if they can do that on a somewhat consistent basis they would be among the top offensive twosomes in the game, and teams with that combination generally do very well no matter their flaws.


Kris Dunn gets a rebound

Ryan Carpel:

Well we lost the game. Made no sense at all to go for 2 pts. Why wasn't Dunn ready to shoot the ball when he got passed it. Overall looked good. Looks like Dunn is gonna shine off bench. So is White in Ben Gordon mode? Satoransky's line was weak.

Sam Smith:

I have been suggesting to fans to give it perhaps three games even if that requires an unfair level of patience. The Kris Dunn factor is going to be interesting to watch. Satoransky just knows how to play and he'll be fine, but the rotations are going to be interesting because LaVine's strength is not defense, so he's not going to be asked to defend all those athletic point guards. Dunn actually is best at that. His defense in the preseason and Game 1 was the best on the team among individual defenders in isolation situations. And his attitude about a reserve, defensive role has been sanguine. Though he's not a bigtime offensive option. Look, everyone including Zach and most of the analytics experts knows you can't win a game trailing by three points with a layup. Though there are some spread sheet exceptions. Like in most circumstances, there were other factors. They didn't have a timeout, but they had called a play for that in the last timeout. Still, in a noisy place under stress not everyone behaves the same way and the way expected. And not on the first day together. As simple as it looks to know what to do watching, there are those in the midst of it all trying to make sure it doesn't occur. Zach looked for the pass for a three, but it was blocked. And certainly there was no assurance the Bulls would make a three then as poorly as they were shooting it. The starters were three of 16 on threes. There were possibilities, albeit limited, if you forced an inbounds trailing by one. There was supposed to be a screen set for Zach coming up the floor, which got there too late, cutting off the passing angle, which the opposition also had something to do with. It's also why I wished there were actual games in the preseason, but neither side was cooperating in that possibility. They were resting from a summer of rest. Which in some respects you can understand since sometimes after a nap aren't you a little logy?


Shaquille Harrison #3 of the Chicago Bulls looks on during the second half of the game against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center on February 08, 2019 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

Dan Slesnick:

I noticed in the wake of the NBA requiring actual height measurements for all players leading up to this season that Shaq Harrison is now 6-7 instead of 6-4. Shaq is of course the same player he was last year but for some reason, now that I know he's actually 6-7, I feel better about our wing depth. I'm curious if you have any insight into the reason behind inaccurate height/weight representations in the NBA. Why would a player or a team want to intentionally misrepresent physical attributes like that? Do any famous or infamous historical misrepresentations come to mind? I'm thinking of guys like Charles Barkley or Dennis Rodman who were notoriously undersized for their positions.

Sam Smith:

I think the operative cliche is what matters is the size of his heart. Shaq, by the way, had a tough week as he shrunk back to 6-4. He may not have been eating his vegetables. It's why I never pay much attention to what they say about measurements as opposed to what they do. Rodman or someone like Draymond Green could battle with seven footers because of the way they played, though not just effort but intelligence with positioning and anticipation. Professional organizations, which means college sports as well, always have used forms of analytics to measure ability, like a quarterback needing to be 6-4 or 6-5 and a scholarship being more available if you are 6-2 as opposed to 5-10. So players generally start inflating their heights early in life. Barkley was famously about 6-5, though a superior rebounder with his explosion and attitude. Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas was probably about 5-10 or 5-11, though six-foot also sounds more credible. Let them list their heights however they like. Some seven footers like Bill Walton and Kevin Garnett felt being seven foot sounded awkward, so they'd ask to be listed at 6-11. Similarly, Kareem downgraded to about 7-2 from perhaps 7-4. Size in our society always has been said to matter as there was a suggested authority with height, a supposed bearing that led so many always to inflate their proportions. Though I have worked for many tall incompetents. The result still is based on production and not data and dimensions.


Jon Kueper:

I was just thinking before it happened with Zion, if I were a betting man, I would bet ROY against Zion in case he gets hurt....wow, that was quick. It's unfortunate and always reminds me of D-Rose anytime somebody goes down with a serious injury, especially a knee injury. It just seems implausible for a guy with Zion's body to move and play with the twist and stress on his body to be able to have a smooth career playing that way. I mean, D-Rose is way lighter and we saw how tough it was to keep him healthy. Really, he deserves a lot of credit for keeping his body relatively healthy and changing his game a little to adjust to the fact that the human body can have that torque all the time in NBA level play. Zion will have to talk to D-Rose (yes, already!) about how to manage because I don't think he can out smart the human body without changing something to have a long career like so many would love to watch. I hope he comes back smarter and stronger but will be tough!

Sam Smith:

It was the fear many NBA executives were whispering before the draft, the ambivalence of getting the No. 1 pick and fearing who they'd have to take. I heard several GMs say they were wishing for No 2. It was like the 2007 draft with Greg Oden who was to be the next big thing because size does matter, at least in the NBA, or so they always say. Kevin Durant was hanging out there, and don't believe any of them who said they would have passed Oden. Just like no one would have passed Zion. You can lose your job for passing on a transcendent No. 1 and him making it. You don't lose your job for picking a transcendent No, 1 who gets hurt. Sorry, that is how it really works and how they think, You would you, too. We don't have that many adventurers. The blueprint for success generally has been to see what worked before and try to do that. No one could have passed on Zion because of the projections for him. Perhaps he still could have the effect of someone like LeBron, but you figure he has to lose some weight. He was more anticipated this season than the Clippers with Kawhi, the Rockets with Westbrook, the Lakers with AD. He was to be the must-watch figure in the NBA this season. Now enjoy E'Twaun Moore and J.J. Redick on your TNT and ESPN games.


Coby White dribbles the ball

Bambi Choy:

Coby White's being listed at 6'5, is that including his hair? He looks about 6'3 at most to me. Or does he have small wingspan that makes him look shorter? I've studied human anatomy and those with shorter arms tend to look smaller in stature than those that are same height but with longer arms. For example, both Pippen and Butler are listed at 6'7 yet Scottie looks much bigger with his huge wing span vs Butler who's built solidly but with short arms.

Sam Smith:

Long arms is a big scouting indicator in the NBA, which was a positive for a point guard like Kris Dunn. So it helps with defense, but, as we've seen, not necessarily with scoring. That's why I don't pay all that much attention to those combine measurements, which generally fool the NFL and why they have so many bad quarterbacks drafted in the top five. Let's see what they do in the game. Coby knows where the basket is and how to fit the ball into it. That's what matters. He's proving to be a very impressive scorer and this season may well be the team's third most productive player.


Gorav Raheja:

I saw a tweet about the new warriors arena not being nearly as loud as the previous Oracle arena. Is it a real thing that when teams get good, the common rowdy (diehard) fans get priced out? Did you see this with the 90's Bulls and also Drose era Bulls ?

Sam Smith:

That's always the blue collar refrain with a new arena. As if the tickets were $5 before and mostly highway workers and construction crane operators were the principal purchasers. The same people who bought the tickets previously are in the new building. Which generally is much larger, making it an acoustical issue as opposed to an emotional one. I believe the Warriors had a 80 percent season ticket renewal. Plus, how really can you tell, anyway, considering all the artificial noise the NBA pumps into the arenas? But it is the video game/computer phone era. People these days are accustomed to electronic flashing signals to alert their senses. Times change. Things generally always get better, though maybe not pizza. And since when have wealthy people been quieter? My experience often has been that many rich people rarely shut up.

Got a question for Sam?

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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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