Ask Sam Mailbag 2.7.20

Sam opens his mailbag and answers questions on NBA All-Star, injuries, and more
by Sam Smith

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Art Alenik:

Ten minutes past the deadline, and as far as I can tell Thad, Denzel & Dunn are still Bulls. They apparently got lots of calls about Zach, probably because he's undervalued (you know, 2nd or 3rd option), but thankfully wouldn't listen to offers. There wasn't much speculation about Lauri. I wouldn't trade him anyway, at least not while he's having a poor season. I think the Hawks made a nice move to get Capela. Wiggins will be a better fit than Russell (next season) for Golden St, while the T-Wolves probably need Russell more. I'll have to see how Covington fits in Houston. The other deals seem mostly minor (except to the teams making them, perhaps).

Sam Smith:

I was a little surprised there were so many deals. What fun. What it does reflect is the belief so many teams have despite the way the Bucks are playing and the L.A. effect that you too can be in the Finals. The Clippers did make another nice move with Marcus Morris. That probably was closest to Bulls' activity since the Clippers supposedly had a lot of interest in Thad Young and had scouts at a number of Bulls games. But Morris fits them better with his shooting range. Which does mean a quality team had interest, so it keeps the door open for summer moves. Miami did make a lot of bad signings the past few years, but credit to them for instead of trying to prove it would work getting out from under and moving on. Adding Iguodala—there are still those buyout moves to come, perhaps—is good for the playoffs and they've also set themselves up salary cap wise to be in the Giannis sweepstakes after next season for Heatles II. It would be quite the coup. I like the Warriors taking a chance with Wiggins. Coming into the NBA young and hyped and with a losing team may have led to his lethargy. I think there's something there and putting him with winning players who'll hold teammates accountable like Draymond Green does suggest it could light a real fire within him. Minnesota?

They've got to at least give Towns something. Everyone is talking about Houston and its 6-5 big man. It was interesting to see them beat the Lakers Thursday trying it out as the Lakers fell for trying to score inside every time. The Rockets will draw some teams into doing that, and it's back to Nellie ball from the 80s and 90s of trying to lure teams into either taking their big man off the floor or chasing a guard. As much fun as that was to watch at times, it never much went anywhere in the playoffs. Center is not a big priority in the NBA anymore, but teams have tall people. It doesn't seem like it will work in the playoffs. But I have no issue with them trying it. It wasn't like they were the favorites before. And with "retired" point guard Darren Collison sitting with Jeanie Buss Thursday, it seemed the Lakers were about to make some move. The Bulls Sunday get an early look at the 76ers efforts to add shooting with Glenn Robinson and Alec Burks. Holding down sixth and staring at a first-round out and perhaps first round with Miami. We can root for that series and Jimmy's revenge. You don't hear Embiid promoting "the process" much these days.


Andre Drummond

Sergio Kalet:

Couldn't the bulls offer a better deal for Drummond? Just saying

Sam Smith:

Just answering. They probably could have, or at least equaled Henson and Knight, whom we didn't even know were on the team. I have to assume with Wendell Carter due back soon from injury and Drummond capable of opting out after this season to be an unrestricted free agent, which he presumably would have if he weren't starting, I assume the Bulls passed. With Tristin Thomson, Kevin Love and now Drummond, talk about going old school big in Cleveland. Probably what you do when your rookie coach is 67. As you said, not like they gave up much. I'm always OK with seeing if things will work if what you're trying doesn't.


Jimmy Butler

Jon Kueper:

I heard Butler went out with a shoulder strain. That would be interesting if the Ex-Bull gave way to Lavine making the All-Star team. Don't want to hope somebody is hurt but if that is an injury just to keep him out of the game but okay after that, then I wouldn't be heartbroken for Jimmy. It's too bad Derrick is too hurt to do the skills challenge. Hopefully, he still goes to the game and gets a nice ovation.

Sam Smith:

Of course, the way things are going for the Bulls with the All-Star weekend the commissioner probably would pick Beal. The reports were the strain was not serious, which, of course, means nothing for now since Jimmy decides what's serious. Jimmy did go to the All-Star game a few years back but decided to sit out and not play. He seems in a better mood these days and I expect he'll try to play if he can. But Zach can hold onto hope. We all were looking forward to seeing the Rose/Beverley faceoff. They actually had a great rivalry in high school when Beverley was at Marshall and Derrick at Simeon.


Zach LaVine and Chandler Hutchison

John Petersen:

So Pax is pleading that the Bulls need to find out what they have, apparently in March. Hey, that was last year's line when they were using true G-League players and then resting their starters. Zach has emerged this year as a wonderful talent and a welcomed honest and candid commentator. As you noted, Hutch has been interesting while White is forced to search for an identity. The evaluation of "what we have" should extend up the ladder.

Sam Smith:

Well, they did say everything will be evaluated after the season. It's been a disappointing season for all of us, but Hutchison is showing some good stuff lately. They said they'd bring White along slowly, and perhaps it's been too slow for some. But I believe he's shown with some work he's close to a breakthrough. And despite the muttering at times about empty points or No. 2 or No. 3, LaVine has had a No. 1 year. Maybe not LeBron or Giannis-like, but with the impact of someone like Russell Westbrook, Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, an elite talent who can make big plays for you and lead you to contention. We didn't know that last year. I believe they have a pretty good idea about Carter. I think the comment was geared toward Markkanen, though they probably didn't want to single him out. The team probably can't figure out what's happened this season and why. I think that's the biggest part of that last 20 games for evaluation. John Paxson before the game seemed to indicate strongly about an extension for Markkanen and insisted despite rumors the signals Markkanen has given are to be with the Bulls long term. But when you have a season like this, everyone likely is under evaluation following the season and no one should be untouchable. Though there is much more of a core there now than we figured a year ago. Just not so healthy these days.


Max Strus

Jeremy Saltan:

So with Gafford injured again to join Dunn, Porter, Markkanen, and Carter on the sidelines is it possible to cut 2-way-player Strus who is anyways out with a torn ACL and replace him with a different G-League player just so the Bulls have enough bodies to get through the next few weeks? Or is Strus protected as an injured player?

Sam Smith:

The date passed for adding another two-way player. The Bulls are holding onto Strus to see if he can recover. I've seen him around rehabbing with the team. He is the kind of catch-and-shoot guy they miss. The principal issue is the Bulls have a full 15-player roster and would have to release someone for a 10-day contract. I know it's easy to say cut someone with the team 15 under, but you have to pay him. And is the 10-day guy going to even play much? The main thing is the injured guys should start returning en masse after the All-Star break and into early March. So there'd still be time to make a run of some sort. That's the plan for now.


Mike Krzyzewski

Victor Devaldivielso:

Do you think Coach K has any interest in being an NBA coach? He coaches only 35-40 games a year. He makes great money etc. I just wonder if he has an itch to coach in the NBA. He would be a great draw for other players. It seems the players enjoyed playing for him on Team USA.

Sam Smith:

He turns 73 next week, which mostly means the only job change he's eligible for is running for president. Probably makes close to $10 million or more with who knows what endorsements he has. Coming to the NBA would certainly be a pay cut. He basically had one fleeting flirtation with pro coaching with the Lakers, in part, because of Kobe, who probably would have attended Duke if he didn't go straight from high school to the NBA. So, of course, there's zero chance he'd ever leave Duke. I assume you were thinking he'd be interested in the Knicks, who just supposedly hired a new team president? Maybe the Cavs with a strong European population if the latest college coach doesn't work out? I have heard Mike does like perogis.


Spencer Dinwiddie

Jay Choi:

Not to call myself an expert but I honestly saw great potential in Spencer Dinwiddie when he was with the Bulls briefly and just could not understand why no one else saw that. He reminded me a bit of one of my all-time favorites Reggie Theus, a big guard with great handles who's smooth as butter. Yeah the game has evolved into more fast-paced individual mode while he plays with more maturity, taking his time to attack the rim, waiting for the very last second to release his shot and has defintely developed into one of the best finishers. With that said, is there any way for the Bulls to make a trade for him with Satoransky and other pieces? We need scoring badly and he would be a much better complement to Zach. Now that Kyrie is back, he's playing second fiddle and next year he'll be the third option at best with Durant and he can't be too happy about that.

Sam Smith:

You know it's about looking ahead. This is sort of like the Patrick Mahomes debate. If it were so obvious, how did nine teams miss? Similarly, with Dinwiddie, he went to the G-league for about a month as an unaffiliated player before the Nets took a chance. Dinwiddie in Chicago became a victim of the so-called numbers game, or, at least not having a sponsor. He'd had serious knee surgery as a college junior, but still opted for the draft and fell to the second round. The Bulls did their homework and got him for Cameron Bairstow. Deal of the century? But then they got former rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams for Tony Snell. Which seemed like another good deal. But already having Cameron Payne, a lottery pick they'd gambled would recover and Jerian Grant from the Rose trade, there were too many guards around who were playing better at the time. And, of course, Butler and Wade favorite Isaiah Canaan, whom the duo lobbied for the Bulls to keep. Another of those things that made sense at the time that just didn't work out. But good for Dinwiddie. He worked himself to where he is, and the others couldn't. I don't think the Nets are getting rid of him too quickly with Kyrie too unreliable with injury. He's on one of the most reasonable contracts in the league, which he's fighting the NBA to use as a future investment vehicle using blockchain technology. Heck, I'm not sure we could even understand him anymore. Probably uses too many syllables for our media.


Derrick Rose

Shantanu Pathak:

I've been a fan dating back 30 years, but a part of me died that day in 2012 when Rose suffered his knee injury. Maybe it's just me, but it seems there's a disconnect as to what we're trying to accomplish as a team. Can we attribute this to a lack of luck in getting "the guy," bad messaging, or just whiffing on the wrong guys in the draft/free agency?

Sam Smith:

Well, it's complicated. Getting Rose, as we know, involved more luck than a plan, and as plans go, we get to judge them on the results and not the intention. It's interesting to watch the 76ers now. It seemed even as they acted in a felonious manner, things had fallen their way with a few draft picks working out big and being able to build off that. But almost decade later they're almost in the same spot as they were the season they beat the Bulls when Rose got hurt, losing in the conference semifinals. They had some excellent regular seasons, but they seem to have stalled and now sixth in the East on the verge of taking a step back despite the promise. You need a great guy, a great guy to stay healthy and then some more good fortune. The Bulls haven't had enough lately.


Indiana Pacers

Richard Meagher:

One team i think that come playoff time could give a lot of teams trouble and will not be an easy out are the Indiana Pacers. Now that they have Victor Oladipo back i think they will be a tough out.

Sam Smith:

I'm not as convinced about the Pacers. They just seem to be missing something. Size? Not a good rebounding team? Real closer? Oladipo healthy? Not great finishing if he can't? They've got excellent structure thanks to coach Nate McMillan. They don't appear to have a top distributor with Brogdon at the point, who seems to get hurt a lot. Their second line size is weak. They are a tough and fun team and I don't think the East is that loaded on top except for Milwaukee. Well, a little more after the deadline. The Pacers should be in there somewhere. But I still don't see top four.


Kobe and Shaq

Luong Nguyen:

Everyone still feeling sadness over the loss of Kobe, his daughter and others who died in the helicopter crash. Shaq mentioned him and Kobe would be remembered as best ever inside-outside combo ever to play the game? Would you agree with this comment?

Sam Smith:

Well, Magic and Kareem were pretty good. Shaq and Penny could have been but Hardaway was injured. Does Moses and Dr. J count? Kareem and Oscar won, though not when Oscar was in his prime. Wilt and West? Wilt and anyone? Cousy and Russell? They had six titles together. Bird and McHale? I'm not sure you can have an inside/outside combo anymore. Jordan Bell and Harden? What, traded again?


Wendell Carter Jr. and Coby White

Randall Sanders:

What are your thoughts about the Bulls getting the "Shaft" for All-Star Weekend? Zak should have received "The Hometown Benefit". Even with Wendell Carter selected for the Friday Game, how come Coby White was not made the replacement Instead of Zion. Who played in three games before the selections

Sam Smith:

It does seem like they selected Carter so they could replace him. Though since Zion doesn't play back-to-backs, I wonder if he'll skip the game Feb. 14 since the Pelicans play Feb. 13. It does appear the Pelicans might keep Zion to the 35 game college schedule. The NBA should have done the wink on this one and just counted the coaches' votes to come out for Zach. I agree he was deserving (Beal, also) because it's a game of the stars; not the teams with the best records. Winning does matter, but more for the playoffs than the midseason trade show. Some will say it's more difficult (and more significant) to score in a more competitive situation. And that someone has to score on losing teams. But it's also difficult when the opponent knows your team has no chance unless you score and you're getting the double and triple-team. Who to replace? Kyle Lowry, Bam Adebayo? Who's missing them? Ben Simmons?

Hey, make a shot behind three feet someday! I didn't think Zach should have been in the dunk contest and was glad the league finally agreed to give the Bulls something in exchange for taking over the arena, the practice facility, and rights to Benny's offspring with Zach in the three-point contest. Zach was willing to be the first-ever to try everything if he got into the game. C'mon, isn't the league about entertainment? Though it's a break for the Bulls given all the injuries. I agree White had plenty of cases to be in the rookie/sophomore game. Three guys from Charlotte with a poorer record than the Bulls? How come wins don't count for Rising Stars? So I guess my thoughts also are, "C'mon, you've got to be kidding!" Or to paraphrase Shaft, "Who's the cat who won't cop out when there's danger all about, Zach!" Right on! Three-pointers away!

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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