Ask Sam Mailbag: 11.11.16
Sam Smith on Rondo, Wade, McDermott and more
Now that Wade has had his emotional Miami game - with a win - I d appreciate you putting the idea out there in public that some Bulls loyalists like me see value in giving Dwayne a primary role- but coming off the bench. In the playoffs it's a different story. But players like Doug, Niko and Taj should step up to improve into the core future of the team - with Butler of course and Portis plus Felicio providing more frontline production.
When Wade starts the team becomes too dependent on Dwayne's ISO initiatives. As you said the Bulls have been following Wade's lead. I think too much. Doug needs to become an all star level player on both ends. Let Wade close out quarters and be a go to anchor in rough waters if the younger core is letting the game get out of hand. And end game closer of course: Butler and Wade can have that role. Starting Doug at two guard sometimes. Will give Wade rest and keep Wade fresh for the marquee games vs Cleveland, Boston, Charlotte, Atlanta, etc.
Sam: Wow, is that a bad idea. But I always aim to remain equal to all suggestions no matter how seemingly ill advised. Though when the Bulls play the Cavs you would hope they’d rest LeBron for later in the season and maybe start James Jones more. Yes, there is a concern with Wade at 34 and the playoffs and all that, but I think Hoiberg has done a very good job thus far with minutes for his regulars. Butler is the only one averaging more than 30 minutes, and just 33.6. It’s as good as you can get siphoning out the time with both working in so many new players and remaining competitive and with a winning record. It’s basically what most fans here have screamed about over the years. Now you do have a coach with an eye toward today and the spring. Hoiberg has 11 players averaging double figures in minutes. And this while he’s still trying different rotations.
McDermott was first off the bench against Miami, and that’s where he is best for now. But the essence of sports remains the same: You play your best players for the longest time. Wade is beyond doubt one of the Bulls best players and at worst the second most important. He’s monitoring his minutes as well and seems eminently capable of playing 30 minutes per game. He’s slightly below that now and still averaging 17.3 points. Plus, I love what Hoiberg has done in making Wade, in effect, the captain of the reserves with his substitution first in the first quarter and then coming back in to support the reserve group, which really doesn’t have a player to really create for himself and others like Wade can do. OK, I’ve put it out there, but I suspect you’re going to be pretty lonely on this one.
Sam: Well, in theory, it is a more difficult shot than a layup and it’s well, you know, farther away. You have to give up something. I didn’t think it was wrong to let Amir Johnson shoot threes. Sometimes you have to shake their hand, as it were. The other factor is so many guys you never would imagine not only are getting better at shooting threes, they’re also taking them in this evolving pop-a-shot NBA. So you do have to be more aware. I think the Atlanta game was a bit of a wakeup as Rondo noted as well. Apparently they showed him plenty of clips of being beaten off the dribble, collapsing the defense. I know you can say stay with your shooters, but the philosophy of every defense is to create that interior shell and force the play farther out. The Bulls are playing more of an offensive game with pace, pushing the ball, trying to create turnovers, the things that have them averaging 106 points with a margin over points allowed of almost plus five. Historically a rate like that gets you close to 55 wins. No, the defense isn’t air tight, but the more you score the more you give up. The Warriors last season were in the bottom half in points given up. But they scored a lot, lot. Overall with picking on some of the reserves as everyone likes to do, the overall scheme has gone pretty well thus far.
How have you found Rondo's game to date? I loved when they signed him as I like that he is a true point guard and gets others involved. Like his defense too. His leadership as you have noted in recent articles is also what has impressed us all the most as he seems to have bought in.
However I've seen his assist numbers have seriously dropped. What do you think the reason is for that? The shooters aren't hitting? Or the inconsistency of results in that we have been blowing out teams or we have been blown out, which keeps his minutes down? Just hope we aren't seeing a little bit of the old Rondo starting to appear and he is getting disinterested.
Sam: I think Rondo has been a lot more than promised or expected, certainly among outsiders. Yes, teams lay off him on his shot, as they always did when he was a four-time All-Star. He’s not going to average as many assists on this Bulls team because they are trying to move the ball more. Many predicted Rondo would hold the ball so he could pile up assists. He hasn’t done that, so then let’s not criticize him for not getting as many assists. Both Butler and Wade are playmakers, or at least like to have the ball and make scoring plays for themselves. So Rondo isn’t going to have as many assists. But he is unselfish. Like the play against Miami when he dove into the loose ball area to punch the ball ahead for a fast break for Butler, who dropped it off to Wade. No assist; but the play was completely Rondo’s. He gets no stat in basketball. He’s better when he is trying to score a bit more like against Miami because he does have that unusual ability to get to the basket with his long arms and the way he fits through those tight places. And his rebounding is impressive for a 125 pounder, or whatever he is. He’s probably not going to be looked upon outside as successful because of the numbers, but he’s been an excellent addition.
I've written this same question to you at least two other times since McDermott came to the Bulls. As you and I agree, he is the best pure shooter on the team. So why is it that he gets so few shots. Either he's sitting in the corner waiting for the ball and it never comes, or the second he gets the ball he moves it on, or he drives (which, I admit, he's getting much better at). Is he a reluctant shooter? Is he afraid that his shot is going to be blocked if he's guarded? Are his teammates reluctant to find him? Why is it that other teams seem to be able to get open shots for their best three point shooters? Tell us what has to change so that we don't spend the season relying on Butler and Wade?
Sam: Well, I guess one obvious point is he is the team’s best shooter and it seems other teams know this and put it on their scouting report so the guy who defends Doug is told, you know, stay with that guy. The nerve of them. That’s why even as some protest Hoiberg often plays Mirotic with McDermott, it’s key to have another shooter out there and perhaps more space. He wasn’t in the preseason plan, obviously, but the Carter-Williams injury probably has hurt Doug the most since he was more a pass point guard backup who could work with McDermott. Canaan is more of a shooter like the previous Bulls backup point guards. That McDermott can get to the basket and make plays is a plus a lot of shooters like him cannot do because they do play him tight. He is averaging 11 points in about 24 minutes, which isn’t bad. He hasn’t gotten as many three-point attempts as you’d like, but he is manufacturing points. Plus, lately teams have kept the Bulls out of transition better, which lessens those trailing threes. It’s a process, I heard.
As a swiss person, seeing Thabo scoring 20 points vs ours Bulls is a very cruel moment. But my question is not about Thabo. My question is about Kirk Hinrich. I can’t believe he is not on an NBA roster this season. I agree he is old and was often injured, but he is a great leader and has so much experience to give. Plus, he has a irreproachable attitude off the field. There are so many young teams that are lacking that kind of leader; when will a team send a plane to his home to bring him back in the NBA?
Sam: I was thinking of Kirk as well as it’s our Veteran's Day, though different kind of veterans. I haven’t heard from him lately as I do keep in touch at times, but I suspect nothing of enough significance came across to persuade him to leave his family again and perhaps sit on a bench somewhere too much. He is 35 and played 13 years, and very hard with lots of bumps. He is knowledgeable and a leader, but also of his family with four small children and not wanting to take them out of school, move them or be away from them after traveling for so long. I don’t blame him. It’s one thing if like Wade someone’s paying you $20 million. But for a modest deal to see if you can be more an advisor, why? He’s a good family guy, active with his kids. He’s had a terrific career and remains among the alltime franchise leaders for the Bulls in many categories. I do expect him eventually to have some role with the team, though he has said late in his career he wanted to stay away from basketball for a time when he stopped playing. I think his perspective is healthy. It’s always better when the game needs you more than you need it.
I just wanted to know your opinion on something that happens throughout the regular season that may or may not be true. Tonight I've been watching the Spurs-Rockets game. It's not quite over yet, but throughout most of the fourth Ginobili had been guarding Harden. I think Harden got away with a few offensive fouls that they called on Ginobili. In the last two minutes Ginobili clearly flopped on a Harden drive which the refs originally called an offensive foul, then overturned it, and Harden shot two free throws and missed. Do you think guys ever intentionally miss free throws if they feel like they've been on the positive side of the officials throughout the game? I feel like I've seen it before a couple times where Lebron missed late free throws against the Bulls, and other times with other players and teams.
Sam: If only there were morality in sports. It is a quaint notion and I thank you for being the idealist who thinks it could be possible. There are some left. No, and actually it’s quite the opposite, which is sort of the paradox with sports. People who would never cheat or steal somehow feel it’s acceptable to try to deceive when it comes to sports, fake a catch when you trapped the ball in baseball. And how about all the complaining and astonishment of being called for a foul when you’ve done everything short of causing amputation? Now, a lot of that has changed with the microscopic ability through replay to examine the game that, at least in baseball, has now made it completely unwatchable-except in Chicago—with their 14 hour games. It’s accepted as so called ‘’gamesmanship,’’ an art form of trying to do anything in the name of success short of actual felonies. You know, winning is everything. So the line blurs on what is acceptable and what is not and becomes a curious examination of morality based on also who and how much it benefits. But, no, no one ever has, at least to my knowledge, rectified an inequity by their own doing. I guess because Ginobili flops incessantly and Harden fakes being fouled constantly, the view is a pox on both their houses and it will even out. Players then attribute it to the basketball gods to avoid the consequences of examining their own value system. I guess we’d have to ask Tim Tebow what he’d do.
Awhile back I wrote you about Anthony Davis possibly joining his hometown team and you basically blew it off. I stated that he would eventually get tired of putting up the numbers he has and not seeing much in terms of wins. When I wrote you he had just signed that new max deal and everyone was saying how he would be the best player in the league in about 2 years. Fast forward to now and with the start he's gotten off to and the Pelicans winless, the question has to be asked again, How long before he demands out of New Orleans? I know you probably going to say the Bulls don't have the assets to acquire him and New Orleans is not going to give him away, but soon they won't have much choice in the manner. I'm predicting this season he will start to express his unhappiness with the lack of winning and the front office not being able to get another star player to come and give him some help and demand a trade.
Sam: Make this my annual blow you off response. I’ve gotten the Davis come home stuff for awhile, and while the Bulls don’t have the assets to make any such deal, the Pelicans aren’t trading him. His long term contract just started now. His opt out isn’t until 2020. Davis seems like a reasonably moral and responsible guy, and here’s the thing: You can’t ask for security to avoid the risk of injury as you’ve often been injured and then if you are not happy get traded and leave the team with basically nothing.
Cry all you want, but with four guaranteed years to come before an opt out you have zero leverage to say anything. And you better keep your mouth shut. No one made a bigger fuss about being traded than Kobe Bryant and the Lakers just shrugged and told him to come to camp or stay home and not get paid. And he had three titles by then. What exactly has Davis done other than collect a lot of money? If anyone owes anyone it’s Davis who owes the Pelicans, and I think he knows and understands that. It’s why you never hear that sort of stuff from him and I doubt you ever will. How about winning one playoff game before making demands? Perhaps eventually something could develop like with Pau Gasol in Memphis, but Pau had three seasons there playing at least 80 games and was there almost seven years. Davis hasn’t played 70 games in a season once in his career. He still owes New Orleans one full season. Again, he hasn’t said word one about leaving. I doubt you’ll hear anything from him for a few more years. They also have had an amazing run of injuries, including to him. I suspect he’ll get toward the end of his deal and if nothing much has changed they’ll look to do something. So write me back in 2019.
After 3 straight losses I think you know the question. Let me guess your answer: we're not going to know what we have with this team until about the all star break?
Sam: Or until after the circus road trip, or until the end of December, or until…
Is there any way the Bulls could get more out of Lopez in the post or is what we're seeing pretty much what we'll get all season. He seems to always rush his shot even when he gets a good look.
Sam: Good I waited until after the Miami game to answer this. Actually, as I’ve watched him over the years and I’ve been surprised he scores as much as he does for the Bulls. He tied a career high with 20 field goal attempts against Miami and did a heck of a job against Whiteside, who had better stats but Lopez kept from making the big plays. Whiteside, by the way, is an odd guy to watch as he almost never seems to jump. Yes, 20 rebounds is impressive for not jumping. But he always looks like he could do so much more. Have my doubts about him. Of course, I also think you never can be a .500 team with DeMarcus Cousins on your side, so I have some big man biases. Anyway, Lopez has come a long way in my view. He is pretty accurate with that mid range shot and while he’s not explosive athletic to finish around the basket he uses his body well, is at his career scoring average and has a history of being one of the league’s healthiest big men playing in all 82 games three of the last four seasons. Pretty good overall.
If you really think about it Dewayne Dedmon is the Spurs' best defensive big. How far can they go with LA/Pau/Lee/Dedmon?
>And name the last Mavs young player that they developed who became good? Dont say Crowder. Josh Howard?
Would Wall ask out? He looks miserable. And you figure the Suns are bound to make Knight available with all those guards.
Sam: OK, I’ll make this my NBA notebook.
I was watching the Spurs and Rockets the other night and saw Pau didn’t play in the fourth quarter. He’s averaging about 22 minutes a game and I wondered how that was going to work with Aldridge, who plays perimeter big man like Pau, and in the West with those shooting big men. Pau as we know can shoot and rebound, but isn’t chasing around on defense, and less so at 36 and after another summer of international ball. They don’t have a cruise ship to stay on. Though it’s become habit for everyone to project the Spurs as serious contenders because, well, they’re the Spurs and everyone was wrong too much before, I think that do have issues. What works for them is with every good player in the West signing with the Warriors, the competition isn’t as deep as before.
It was inevitable with the Mavs, though this also gives me a chance to vent about Mark Cuban denying credentials to reporters for some reason no one can quite figure. I know everyone hates media, but I know Marc Stein and he’s a very nice guy. The larger issue is where is the NBA. Aren’t the Mavs part of the NBA? As much as media gets blamed for the ills of society, media is merely a conduit to the community. Locking media out is locking you out. Watching the game on TV means media, also. OK, back to the question. I understood what the Mavs have done, trying to remain competitive while hoping to hit it big in free agency. It’s a common building tool in the NBA since the break-it-up thing usually sentences you to a decade waiting for something. I give the Mavs credit as they’ve ridden Nowitzki and had their money out there to find him a running mate. They filled until they could, but they never did. So it will be time soon. They have given their community a good run.
We’ve figured the Suns will move some guard at some point as that’s all they pretty much have. You don’t see much their breakdown with the top four scorers all guards and with Booker and Bledsoe seemingly fighting over the late shots. We’ll see Wall and the Wizards Saturday and it’s been a tough start for he and them. He’s had two ejections lately, which shows an awful lot of early frustration and the team hasn’t been doing well. New coach, roster changes. He’s got two years left on his contract after this one and is their best player. So I don’t really see anything happening. But he’ll be someone who with the start teams will be watching.
Why is that when Mirotic shoots the threes, he's always shooting from a foot or two behind the arc? This isn't anything new but something he's been doing since he joined the team. It seems like a bad habit to me and why aren't the coaches doing anything about it?
Sam: I know this has been pointed out to him many times and the only explanation I can offer is he sees the world through the metric system in which a meter is longer than a yard and perhaps his brain sees the line farther back. Though maybe he’s smarter than us—many Europeans are—and he knows his arc works better from that angle. Could the beard be distorting his vision?
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