Ask Sam Mailbag 3.17.20

Paul Stepan:

50yr bunkered Dad. These are brutal times. No one knows where this will end up. No sports spins up the anxiety. Do you think you could ask the Bulls to put on the Championship seasons or playoff runs on TV during this dreadful time? Why not have a game or two on everyday or more. There is nothing to do but be negative and anxious. I would love to show my freshman high school son the games and the heart of those teams. It's a great time to show our kids our City's great heart and past success and heroes. We need some heroes. Tell the Bulls to spread the message. Sports can have a positive role and help keep us sane.

Sam Smith:

It's a good idea, so Bulls.com will come to your rescue. I'm going to begin writing again and regularly throughout this ordeal. We didn't publish an Ask Sam last Friday because of the uncertainly with what the league was going to do amidst the sudden turn of events. I don't know the logistics and possibilities of showing classic games, though I've seem some on NBATV lately. I assume NBCSports gets around to it. I'll engage the way I prefer, writing. Then I can look up all the names I forget when I'm speaking. I believe the website will continue on social media, but they still haven't given me a password for that. So if you've got questions or history to discuss, let's go. I'm not going to predict when and if or where teams will play since no one knows. Check with Adam Silver on that. Don't believe anyone else. The NBA will play again. So let's get the conversation going.

Art Alenik:

Sort of a mixed review on Coby's first start. He wasn't bad, but he's played better. He shoots better when he's off the ball, but I think he can improve there. Nine TO's is bad! Not all of them were his fault. Some Bulls players don't seem to ever expect a pass or can't hold onto one when it comes. Mostly, you see them dribble-and-pass until the shot-clock is running down & somebody misses a three. I also can't remember a team blowing so many layups. It's notable that the Bulls usually get off more shots than their opponents, but make fewer. Pace is not helpful when you just keep missing. I know I'm complaining after a win, but Cleveland is pretty awful and it was still very close. I have to give Boylen some credit for calling that TO when Shaq forgot the 8-second rule and was trying his best to turn it over. That might have actually save the game. I love Shaq's energy (and lately, his shooting), but I still can't believe he's starting at SF ahead of Otto Porter. Now let's get Zach back on the floor, so we can see them together. I like that potential 1-2 punch, which should open the floor for everybody else as well.

Sam Smith:

Coby mania! Remember those days? That last game does seem so long ago. But the Cavs were hot (.500 over two weeks, which is smokin' for them) and the Bulls close this most recent stretch one of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference, tied for the fourth longest current winning streak at one in a row. That's right, if the season started the week of March 8, yes, the Bulls would be on a playoff pace having played .500 ball the last week we saw NBA games. C'mon, this is also a time for a smile if we can manage one.

Ah, the big Coby experiment, which was long in coming, but still at 20 years old and a rookie not a fatal delay. I've long maintained you either have a feel and sense for the game—often mentioning John McPhee's A Sense of Where You Are book about Bill Bradley at Princeton—or not. You don't teach feel and that anticipation of what's ahead. I don't see that with White, though, yes, he's 20 and a rookie and…But it's really OK. There aren't many who do, and most of the best "point guards" in the game now don't have it, like Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard. John Wall didn't, and he'll come back. There are a lot of scoring guards who control the ball, like Donovan Mitchell, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal. Is Kemba Walker a point guard? Based on the starting lineup, I think it's Jimmy Butler in Miami. Coby fits the mold of that modern scoring first, facilitating later guard. That's also why he had so many turnovers. He's trying to be what he's not. Eventually he'll just be comfortable in being what he is and the Bulls will encourage that; and it really could be something special with Zach LaVine. So let's not give in yet. Coby looks like he's going to be the best of their No. 7 picks and a big time draft win.

John Petersen:

The season may be over but regardless a Bulls fan must focus on the next season. The roster is "full" at 15 and assuming the addition of a draft pick (even a second?) some changes fortunately must occur. The Bulls are 27th of 30 teams in salary and therefore have cap space. Several questions:

  1. Can/should the Bulls buy out Felicio and say Kornet? Kornet is inexpensive but also already behind Gafford.
  2. Dunn is not part of the future but is Valentine worth retaining as a rotation player given his "relationship" with Boylen?
  3. Carter is an intelligent and talented player but should he spend the six months until October developing his shot away from the basket to prepare for playing the four?
  4. Resign Harrison as a rotation player but buy out Arci?
  5. Do you expect the Bulls to make a front office change/addition?

Sam Smith:

There is a lot to discuss. Now that's an offseason for you. Actually, the Bulls don't have cap space with Porter, LaVine and Young making more than $60 million next season. Plus the recession will hit the NBA like it is the rest of the economy. That's the less discussed unknown. Revenues obviously will decline with, you know, people not at games, for example. The way the salary cap works, the teams and players split basketball related revenues. It adds up to the cap total, which teams must spend at least 90 percent. Virtually everyone is over with the exceptions. It will be like the people who got out of the stock market the day before the crash. Some people make money; some lose. So if a player has a long term deal signed now—which is why it's always risky to wait before taking the money; see, stuff does happen—he'll be paid. Free agents are in for a shock. There's going to be a lot less money for a little while, presumably. As for your suggestions, let's go backward.

It sounds like there will be some changes, so if there are new people/person plenty figures to depend on what he/she sees and believes and wants to change or not change. I'm for keeping both Shaq and Arch; they don't cost much. They've just played too much. As end of bench energy guys, both seem ideal. Agree Carter needs to regain and develop confidence in a shot. I see him more center than power forward since he's reluctant to shoot and seemingly uncertain about it. Markkanen fits the mold for that position, so Carter maybe needs some post practice, instead. Dunn proved useful, but with Coby emerging, I agree, he might fit better elsewhere. If he has no offers, I assume he returns. He's too good to give away. Plus, his salary also isn't huge. Though I never could figure Boylen's issue with Valentine, the coach did come around and Valentine played and started after the All-Star break and showed value as a reserve. Also, too good to just give away. As for the buyouts, I'm generally uncomfortable spending other people's money. I'm not sure it's that necessary without the ability to add a big free agent. The Bulls will add a lottery pick and can make a reasonably good acquisition with an exception. They should have no trouble finding two roster spots. Hey, we're talkin' basketball!

Kieron Smith:

What is Shaquille Harrison? Because it shouldn't be a Shooting Guard, (guy might seem okay as a player, but he's nowhere near what Ben Gordon did back in the day.....Sorry!).

Sam Smith:

Harrison is a nuisance; they're good to have. Not so much in your house, but you get the idea. It's made Patrick Beverley an item without any discernible basketball skills. One of the best plays of the recent part of the season was Harrison flying in while all the lottery picks watched and got the rebound that saved the Cleveland game. Yes only Cleveland, but the guys never stops playing. He's not what we'd call a point guard because he doesn't exactly pass or a shooting guard because he doesn't exactly shoot. But he's a guy you want on your side. Perhaps he makes some money from some team, and if so good for him the way the guy has been kicked around and never backs down.

Stian Nordvik:

Carter Jr, Gafford, Markannen and Young had a total of 10 rebounds against the Nets. Is it to much to pray for a center is this years draft, or are the Bulls stuck on staying small and weak in the paint for another year or longer? Is there any promising big men in the draft? Based on previous comments by you it doesn`t seem like exploring the free agent market will be an option.

Sam Smith:

At least not big time free agency, though with centers not in such demand these days perhaps you can find a tall person with one of those exceptions. I wouldn't rule it out. The Bulls do need a taller person. The guard line looks exciting with LaVine and White. The front line has been a disappointment with the Porter and Carter injuries and Carter slow in his return, and Markkanen's regression season. Carter will compete, but the Bulls definitely need a rugged seven footer to match up with your DeAndres and Andres and Jarretts and Joels. There's more than you think in an era when the big man supposedly is extinct. It's a primary offseason need because if they are healthy—if, if, if—it's still a pretty good core like the one we believed before the season was an almost sure playoff team. And should be with the records of the Magic and Nets. Not great, but in year 3 of a rebuild it should have been reasonable. Porter plays more like a power forward these days with his recent history of injuries. The big question is Markkanen. What happened? Is he the Lauri of years 1 and 2, or this season? What happened to that buffed body? Is it ready to break out? I'm still going with his skill and potential, but he also needs a system of play less devoted to jacking all those threes.

Wesley Davis:

An early start to hypothetical season: 2010-11 Bulls vs 89 Pistons in a seven game series. Who you got?

Sam Smith:

Wow, that is a really tough one. Of course, the easy answer is the Pistons because they won a championship and that Bulls team lost in five in the conference finals. Closer than it seemed, right, but still. You are your record and all that. That 2011 Bulls team just didn't know how good it really was. and then a year later it never got the chance to find out. Derrick Rose, of course, went on to win Most Valuable Player with LeBron in his prime. Good stuff. They had players would would become All-Star, like Noah and Deng, but weren't there yet, and they did have toughness with the likes of Kurt Thomas, Boozer and Taj Gibson. And a secret weapon in Asik, maligned but surprisingly valuable. And a tall guy. Tough enough for those Pistons? Probably not with Mahorn still there to join Rodman, Salley and Edwards. Isiah was brilliant and Dumars an ideal complement. Vinnie Johnson was the microwave. That was the best of those Pistons teams and they may have swept the Lakers even if Magic hadn't gotten hurt in Game 2. It's not a celebrated team (outside Detroit) because of the Bad Boys bad look in this era. But it truly was a great team.

Chris Granner:

So...will Coby end the '19-20 season undefeated when starting?

Sam Smith:

We haven't ended the regular season yet, but that sort of record as a starter has to draw some all-NBA notice. Maybe even making him a retroactive member of the 2020 Rising Star team. I'm not letting that one go.

Be back Friday