Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 02.10.12

I love your trade scenarios (even the loopy ones!), but why in the world won't you call out Thibs for riding Lu and D-Rose too heavily? Rose was trotted out against a woeful (and under manned) Hornets team, wasn't terribly effective and did not get to rest his back at all. He will almost certainly be trotted out against the Bobcats. Lu was running on fumes before his injury and, other than a less-than-stellar shooting night against the Hornets, has looked great since the long rest. Imagine what benefit Rose would gain from getting several days off before Boston. I know you say if players say they can play they should - but he is very young and can't a coach see that the big picture is more important than a single game, especially when the single game is gainst the D-League opponents the Bulls have faced this week?
Stan Faust

Answer: When the majority of questions/complaints suggest you stop playing your best players.

That’s pretty much what has been going on lately with the first place Bulls. The biggest single topic questions I’ve been getting with the Dwight Howard mania subsiding is that Thibodeau must stop playing guys so much, especially Rose. I’ll offer right away I’m not sympathetic. Yes, I could see taking starters out a minute or two sooner in blowouts, of which the Bulls have had their share lately. My guess is a Thibodeau team once gave up a 12-point lead in the last minute and he’s never letting that happen again. As he develops more head coaching experience, he’ll get more confident. But I’m pretty much with Thibodeau on this one. If a player is hurt, he says so and doesn’t play. No argument there. But if you can play, you play. There’s a bigger issue here, actually a few. One is if you’re the MVP. Sure, you owe your team. But you also are responsible to the game. The MVP often comes to a city once a season. Fans want to see him and pay a lot of money. Michael Jordan always understood that. So did Magic and Bird and all the great ones. Bird had a bad back for years. You’d see him being stretched out in timeouts. Maybe you say if he took off a month he wouldn’t have had to retire after 13 years. But he also understood what he meant to the game and to the fans. I remember after Jordan broke his foot. Doctors told the Bulls he shouldn’t play because there was a chance of a career ending injury. Jordan insisted he wanted to play and the fans sided with him over management, which was being cautious. And that was a team contending for nothing. Plus, things have changed now in the schedule. The worst part is past, and that basically was just two more games a month than usual. I’m not going the old guy route of things were better because they were not. The present always is better than the past. But there seems almost a softening of America in this. There has much written and discussed about a generation of kids over protected, given trophies for participation, celebrated for trying. I’ve done some of that myself with my kids. But NBA players are the greatest athletes in the world, bigger, stronger and healthier. They are treated better than any athletes. They travel with a full time masseuse and personal trainers. Often there are chefs. It’s all charter aircraft and the best hotels in the world. All to prepare them to play for the highest prices charged in professional sports. I also remember the two most rested Bulls in the playoffs last season from lack of play in the season and being substituted the most liberally were Noah and Boozer. And they played poorly in the conference finals. And so if they can, they should play. They owe that to the fans of the game and to the game itself. Russell and Oscar and West and Baylor and Barry and Havlicek and Reed and Kareem played. For much less money and under much harsher conditions. If we want to spoil our kids, fine. But we don’t have to pamper our professional athletes. The game has done much for them, and all the game is asking for is their participation. They owe at least that.

Why are a majority of media folks making such a big deal about the amount of minutes Deng and Rose play? Their minutes are right in line with the majority star players in the NBA today. Are folks making an issue of this simply because there isn’t much else to write about and discuss right now other than the occasional bad Dwight Howard trade rumor?
John Swank

I want to get your input on the 76ers game and Thibs' decision to bench all the starters in the fourth. I understand that he was frustrated with their level of play and that it was the bench players that made the game competitive, but it was a 12 [point] game with 4 or 5 minutes [left]! Derrick Rose has had so many great fourth quarter performances and the Bulls have had so many incredible comeback victories this and last season. I thought that Thibs let the 76ers win by going with Lucas and Scal to close out the game. Maybe he was sending a message to the Bulls that they have to play 48 minutes or resting the guys for the Knicks, but ultimately the goal always is to win, especially against a team like the 76ers who might make some noise in the playoffs, is becoming a conference rival, and has been beating the Bulls of late. Do you agree with Thibs decision?
Denis Yavorskiy

What do you think explains the disparity between Boozer's play when Rose is in and in games that Rose has missed? Or is it simply that these games have, other than the game against Memphis, come against some truly awful teams (PHX, CLE, CHA, NJ, WAS)?
Mark Bala

Jeremy Lin - solid PG or 15 minutes of fame? A limited run of performances to go on, I know, but your thoughts?
Richard Connor

I love how hard Taj plays defense, grabs boards and scores down low but is it me or has he regressed, as far as, hitting that baseline jumper that he used to? Is he still working on his shot or just working on his post game? This is why I think it's important to have Boozer around because he still provides an offensive option.
Ivan Rodriguez

We're going to lose games since Bulls management won't at least sign another shooting guard like Mike James. The Bulls must have money somewhere to have made that type of move.
Kieron Smith

What is the lowest drafted rookie who has won the rookie of the year award?
Aaron Ward

Why so much hate for Deron Williams? I must confess I am a UofI alum and given the current state of Illini hoops, I do need to hang on to the glory years. And I don't dispute the basics of what you report in terms of his run-in with Sloan and his eventual ouster in Utah. But what I don't get is why do you portray him as being the example for 'what is wrong with the NBA' these days? Is he worse than LeBron or Dwight Howard or Chris Paul or Carlos Boozer or any of those guys? Yes, some others are much better players, but not all. Isn't he still a top 5 point guard?
Pete Patrino

Do you think the Bulls would get involved in the J.R. Smith sweepstakes?
Omar DeJesus

If Deng put off surgery to save his Bulls season, does that mean missing out on his London 2012 "hometown" Olympics? He has to get the surgery done eventually. That would be unfortunate considering what an ambassador he is for their UK national bball team. Or it was Shaq diesel that said, "I got hurt on company time, so I’ll heal on company time." Thus maybe Deng will follow the Shaq big toe blueprint and put off surgery until after the Olympics and miss the start of next season?
Matt Thacker

Watching the Bulls lacklustre performance against the 76ers and their struggles against the other top teams in the East, I’m really beginning to get worried about our chances in the playoffs. No longer do I think Miami are our only hurdle as I see the 76ers and Indiana as huge threats to our success. It appears in such games that we are so reliant on Derrick to score 30+ and win games off his own bat, as his supporting cast continue to come up short. I’m beginning to get the feeling that our incredibly deep team which is great in the regular season is going to struggle come playoff time due to the lack of another superstar. My feeling is that we may be very lucky and win a Championship, but I doubt we’d be able to do it several times with our current team. I think it is time for the Bulls to pull the trigger and make an aggressive attempt to trade for Dwight Howard in order to get another superstar player. Barring Derrick and Luol, who I believe is an All-Star level player and way more important to the team’s success than Joakim, I would be offering anyone else to Orlando.
Mark Magris

I find this annoying. I really love how on the front page of ESPN, in the headlines, the Knicks, a sub-500 team is on the front page because they beat a 5-20 team in the Wizards. And then, on in the highlights, he goes, No Amar'e no Melo? No problem! When the Bulls were without their top two string PGs including Derrick Rose. They also didn't have Luol Deng, Rip Hamilton, and other key players, they beat the Wizards. The only place I found this being mentioned from an ESPN website was espnchicago and it said injury plagued Bulls beat Wizards. Bulls win and the world goes on to live another day. Then when the Knicks win, the whole world has to know that the Knicks won a game against the worst team in the league. One win is not very important especially against the worst team in the league. Why are all of the national sports networks biased towards east coast teams, particularly New York teams?
Andrew Bedows

I like to read about NBA history and players, and this week subject was Gary Payton. Reading about the 1996 Finals, I found this: "Midway through the 1996 NBA Finals, Seattle coach George Karl made the decision to assign Payton to play defense as a shooting guard instead of his normal point guard assignment in order to defend Jordan. Payton held Jordan and the Bulls to their lowest offensive output in an NBA finals and frustrated the best player in the game. In his first three NBA Finals, Jordan averaged 36.3 points per game and had scored at least 30 points in 14 of his 17 games. However, in the 1996 Finals, Jordan averaged 27.3 points per game and scored more than 30 points in only 1 of the 6 games. The Sonics won that game by 21 points and Payton held Jordan to 26 points – Jordan's second-lowest-scoring Finals game in his career up to that point. In game 6, which the Bulls would win to capture the Championship, Payton played 47 minutes and Jordan missed 14 of his 19 shots, getting a career Finals low 22 points. By the end of the series, Michael Jordan had been held under 30 points in 5 of the 6 games, including his three lowest-scoring Finals games up to that point."

Did Payton really guard Jordan that well? Who was best the player to ever guard Jordan in your opinion? I heard Starks was a tough matchup for him, but the numbers Payton achieved are defintely a statement.
Alexandre Telles

Out of all the supposed free agents/trades that our team could obtain, how does everyone know which players want to win? All these people making accusations (about Howard and others) are just virtual GM's sitting at their desks. How do they all know what the players feelings are? I know money is a huge motivating factor, but I find it hard to believe that some players don't want to win.
Ryan Kolodzej

I’m not about to pick holes in the Bulls recent offense which hasn’t been lacking points BUT with Kyle Korver’s recent hot shooting do you think he is getting enough shots? For example – last night’s game against New Jersey he only took 4 shots in 29 minutes. Are they running enough plays for him (as they seemed to do with Rip in the line-up) or is he giving up the ball to easily coming of screens etc. as he is a willing passer averaging close to 3 assist in that period? Also, do you think he will be included in this years three point shoot out?
Andrew Robson

I don't understand why the Bulls do not isolate Rose and space the floor with shooters (Rip, Kyle, Luol) more often during those times when the offense is struggling and we really need a bucket. He obviously doesn't need a pick to take anyone off the dribble. I understand the pick and roll is the Bulls so called "bread and butter", but it seems to me like it's always too congested in the paint, which makes Rose have to force up crazy forced shots at the rim. They almost never space it for him without having someone set a screen.
Evan Lin

Every outlet (after Philadelphia) for the story is saying just about the same thing: the Bulls still need a wing scorer who can get his own shot. Is it time to consider trading Asik? If I remember right, he becomes a restricted free agent at the end of this season. Given the Bulls' payroll, it may be tough to match an offer, especially as big men are hard to come by (as is defense). So, who do you go after? I saw O.J. Mayo do his best Jamal Crawford imitation the other night, shooting from everywhere on the court and missing most of the time, never looking to pass. Ditto for Courtney Lee in a Rockets game (and he looks very small). Rip is the answer, I think, because he did give Wade fits. You know, it's hard. The Bulls do have a great team, and I like Brewer. Korver seems too inconsistent, and he doesn't move like Rip. So, if you were going to put a package together, who would you go after? If in fact, Chris Kaman is on the block from NO, would/could he help (as a second-team scoring center, I assume). He's not the wing, but he is an offensive option that clearly does not exist in Asik.
Jim Hecimovich

I was wondering if you can confirm the status of Wilson Chandler after he is released from his contract in China in March. Will he be an unrestricted FA or restricted? He would be someone I think the Bulls could use if they are able to pick him up.
Danny Shimon

Word on the street is that the Hornets are actively shopping Chris Kaman and his expiring contract. I propose swapping Noah and his long term deal for Kaman and a future first round pick. The trade gives the Bulls future cap flexibility to address deals for Taj and Omer. It narrows down your amnesty possibilities (Boozer). It gives you a true center to play alongside Boozer for the rest of the year. I love Noah but this has to be done for the good of the Bulls future. Taj and Omer are must keeps. The depth and defense they provide is outstanding.
Gordon Yeboah

In every mailbag I have read you seem to get about 5 emails from people asking you about crazy trades that would destroy the Bulls team that made it to the Eastern Confrence finals and has the best record again this year. Why not play Derrick and C.J. together more? C.J. has been scoring alot in his minutes and his 3 point shot has gotten a lot better.
Jake Pomfret

I was a little bit in disagreement about something you wrote in your mailbag. You seemed to think that Dwight Howard was joking when he said that about "if God" wanted him to play with Derrick Rose, he would. I recall reading a short bio of Howard once, I think on Wikipedia (maybe it was accurate, maybe not), stating that he took his faith in God very seriously, even though he is something of a jokester in other matters. I think he was dead serious about not minding playing with Derrick. Then again, you're right about him seeming not to want to come to Chicago. Only if God willed it would he come. That's assuming the Orlando GM would even be considering a trade for any Bulls players, which I can't see happening. I have no idea where the big man will end up, though. My real question is sort of unrelated to basketball. I noticed in the past you did not capitalize the letter G when you reported Derrick thanking God after a win. You wrote "thank god." This may have been in one of last year's columns. Are you a believer in God or are you more secular? I was just curious. I'l be continuing to read your columns either way.
Colin Ilike

"Generally two ways, well in opposition to each other. The first way is to understand faith as protection. That is, If I am faithful and good God will keep cancer away. The other is to experience faith as endurance. I'm not sure what will happen in my life, and I will try to be good and I will try to recognize hurt and reduce it in others, but my trust is I will endure no matter what.”

I don’t know it to Mark’s level, but I don’t think it applies to free throws. It often reminds me of my favorite such story with Anthony Mason. This was when players were doing those prayer circles on the court. After one game, Mason was leading a group at center court and called for the losing coach walking off the court to join, the coach, distracted, said this wasn’t the time. So Mason said, “Then (*&^%**) you, coach.” Not that it means much, but after that I tried to keep the basketball discussion to a more mundane level.

Should Melo be on the All-Star team? Or is that my (dislike) for the Knicks getting the best of me?
Mike Sutera

Boozer, Asik and Butler (or Hamilton/Korver) and a draft pick for Garnett and Allen. Imagine a starting line up of: Garnett, Noah, Deng, Allen/Hamilton and Rose.
Dan Abdo

Luol Deng looks terrific coming back from the injury, but it's obvious that he has problems finishing with his left hand. So, how effective do you think he can be going forward, especially against the Miami Heat's [LeBron] James?
Zong Xian

This is more of a bugbear than a Bulls question. Where do you stand on NBA Finals winners being automatically labelled as "World Champions?" I find this extremely arrogant and presumptuous. The team that wins the NBA Finals is the NBA champion, not world champion. FIBA world rankings and results clearly demonstrate that the USA are not a lay down mozaire (although I concede that the team they'll have this Olympics will be mouth wateringly elite). So I don't understand this desire to take a domestic league victor and shove them on a global pedestal?
Jon Birt

People seem to be bashing Boozer for taking too many mid range shots, but he's shooting 45% from midrange, which isn't bad (Same % as Bosh). Also, it's not like he can't finish at the rim. He's shooting 52% from in the paint but outside the restricted area, and 65% in the restricted area.
Walter Castelaz

Besides D-Rose, I think the most important Bull is Stacey King. Do you know what his contract situation is and is he as loved by the Bulls brass as he is by the fans?
Andy Aroffe

The Bulls play in Madison Square Garden and you don't mention the smell of urine from the circus? Either you're losing your touch or you're maturing, I can't decide which.
Tim Johnson