Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 03.15.2013

Sam Smith opens his mailbag to respond to the latest round of emails from his readers

After the loss to the Kings I remember closing the game out and just staring at my screen thinking this was exactly what we needed. This is the catalyst, I saw it in Thib's comments about intensity, we have a bare knuckle hard nosed coach and it rubs off on our players. Thibs is going to go ballistic on the team after that pitiful performance, but more importantly he is teaching the team to never accept mediocrity. They are used to being known as hard workers that always show up to play against anyone. And against the inferior Kings they were made to look like fools. Now they feel ashamed. After Thibs re-ignites that fire the Bulls with Derrick will finish this season out exceptionally well, and Derrick is coming back against the Nuggets.

Ashur Baroutta

Sam: I guess I better be at that game. But as Denver runs a lot, lot, lot I’m not sure that’s the game to return. Anyway, as for this Bulls team I’m not one who believes wakeup calls will make much difference or that Thibodeau loved the Kings’ result as a teaching tool. They play hard, or as hard as they can, and we’ve seen that for three impressive seasons in which the team basically always has been greater than the sum of its parts. But your marathon time is going to suffer after you have your foot amputated. While it was impressive the team did so well last season with Derrick out, this season it’s been Derrick, plus 3 out. You can’t be putting in your Cooks and Teagues and Nazrs and believe you can compete with healthy, athletic teams no matter the desire. It’s easy to assume losing by 40 to a losing Kings team suggests giving up. But sometimes you just don’t have enough and the other guys get on a roll. And then you bring in what was supposed to be your 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th men and that’s the result you get. It happens. The Bulls will play better against the Warriors Friday, but for now they don’t have enough to win many games with.

What a shame the Bulls this year. Yesterday, 121 for Sacramento and only 79 for Bulls. What happened, what's going on with the most popular team of basketball in Brazil? Please, I need an answer and some hope.

Floria Becker

Sam: Have they withdrawn the Bulls invitation to play in Rio next fall? I’m not sure what it is, but the Kings overcame a 35-point deficit a few years back to beat a Bulls team with Rose. Maybe we’re missing something about the Kings. Although when the Kings have a 5-7 point guard and he can postup and then taunt the Bulls starting point guard perhaps this is not quite the roster the Bulls planned. Though the future always can bring the unexpected, as the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio knows. Though he’s probably been too busy to consider the Bulls current road trip.

You've seen the Kobe play. What do you think? Dirty? Kobe didn't land on Jones foot but Jones did go all into Kobe's landing spot. It was dirty. Jones always reminded me of James Posey.

Mike Sutera

Sam: Yes, it was the big story and subject of discussion since it was Kobe and since he began plotting some revenge. I saw where the league said it should have been a foul, though how come they never reviewed all those fouls not called against Rose for three years? I only saw it on replays and didn’t think it was intentional. Just to check, I talked with several former players and the general view was Kobe was mad and frustrated he missed the shot and the team lost, but that it was accidental. After all, Kobe just hit a 30 footer to get the score close and now you are running at him as he’s shooting a fadeaway to try win the game. So you’re supposed to hold up because it’s Kobe? Who appeared by the way to be kicking his leg out. It’s a tough game and stuff happens. I thought Dwight Howard’s attacks on Rose a few years back were much dirtier and more dangerous. But because Rose never said anything the league didn’t say anything and Howard got to continue to make a fool of himself (Oh, separate issue on the latter).

I have to take issue with your claim that the NBA age restriction is not a Constitutional issue. The NBA runs a monopoly, which are typically forbidden because they restrain trade. Sports leagues, however, have been allowed to operate as monopolies because their primary workers, the players, collectively bargain. In the case of the age restriction rule, however, the “workers” who are impacted by the rule are not yet permitted in the union and cannot collectively bargain. So, what you have is a monopoly forbidding otherwise able adult workers from even being considered for work. Remember, no one is arguing that an 18 year-old automatically be given work as an NBA player; however, the NBA’s rule prevents its 30 member businesses from even considering hiring an able adult athlete, merely because of his age. You say that the NBA is a private business that should be able to negotiate what’s best for their business, but you’re ignoring the fact that if 30 teams feel as though hiring an 18 year-old like Kobe Bryant or Kevin Garnett is bad for business, they can choose not to hire them. But for a monopoly like the NBA to forbid all 30 of its member teams from even considering hiring an able adult worker, merely on the basis of age, is a clear restraint of trade and an absolute Constitutional violation, and this rule would likely get tossed out if anyone dared to challenge it.

Christopher Prince

Sam: So why hasn’t anyone? I guess you could, though I assume the NBA would fight this given there are other things you can do in basketball, play overseas like Brandon Jennings did, play in the minor leagues, or maybe even stay in college a bit like NFL players so you don’t come into the NBA and further diminish the product. Kids who are 18 and 19 are bad for business, in my view, and if you cannot protect your product what sort of system do we have? Kobe wasn’t good for the NBA when he came and neither was Garnett, and they were two of the best ever who went directly to the NBA. I’ve written about this before with the lower quality of play in the NBA, the lack of education about the game and the preponderance of individual athletic play that focuses more on highlight individuality than the substance of the team game. Sure, there are kids who can come into the NBA and play at a young age. I know your view is that my point has been made by all monopolies trying to protect their business. But I’d like to be the one to argue in court the effect on my business versus the public good so that 18-year-olds can be signed by NBA teams. It’s not like there aren’t other businesses and a person is denied the right to earn a living. Again, as you note, collective bargaining pushes aside the issue since the NBA doesn’t have an antitrust exemption like baseball. But it would be difficult for me to still understand how a court could see the harm done to an 18-year-old by being denied the right to sign an NBA contract. Maybe the Constitution was unclear since Jefferson graduated college at 18 and maybe the Constitution was meant for big guys — and Jefferson was 6-2 and went to his left, or at least was left leaning — to come into the NBA after school, but after completing their studies as Jefferson did at 18.

Excluding Rose, I'm just curious about who would win a Bulls 1-on-1 tourney? I'm tempted to pick Nate, but he'd have a hard time stopping anybody given his size. I actually think Jimmy might have a good shot. Do players ever go 1-on-1 in practice?

Mike Zylstra

Sam: Yes, often. And you are probably right that it might come down to between Nate and Jimmy, though Nate pretty much is undefeated in non stop talking, a major part of all this. But they are the quickest and most athletic. Though if it indeed is the case, I assume Deng and Noah would like to have their say and on the defensive end may make it too difficult to score. Though just that we aren’t sure with Rose out — he’d win easily — suggests this Bulls record of six over .500 still is pretty impressive.

Looks like the rookie is not getting much love these days. Less than 4 minutes against the Lakers? Is he playing that bad? If Robinson is just here for one year I would start Teague. Mind you this is only because Hinrich and Hamilton are out again. Nate works so much better for The Bulls coming off the bench. Why not start Marquis Teague a few games and build The Rookie? Belinelli can handle the ball and co-run point.

Lawrence Joy

Sam: We’ve seen the last few years that Thibodeau pretty much eschews the younguns. He reluctantly used Omer two years ago when Noah was out and barely played Butler last season. Though given how the Bulls have done it’s hard to argue. Plus, Teague is far behind those two given he’s younger and had less basketball experience, and in glimpses so far he’s shown he’s not quite ready and his shot needs a lot of work. That’s another issue I have with the early entry. Yes, back to that again. The NBA is a man’s league and not a place for on the job training. More now than ever with coaches fired so quickly and fan bases demanding results. Teams don’t have time to experiment and bringing players along slowly. You produce or you are out, and Teague clearly is not ready to produce. He should have stayed in school if he wanted to play more.

If this Kings/Bulls performance isn't an S.O.S. signal to D-Rose I don't know what is. Enough is enough, the guy tore his acl, he didn't have micro fracture surgery. There's no reason he should be out over a year. I'm sitting here watching Shumpert play for the Knicks and Rubio has a triple double last night. The time is now for Rose.

Billy Habibi

Sam: This sort of thinking stumps me. Yes, Shumpert had a good game the other night as the Knicks were blown out and he cleaned up in garbage time. But he’s mostly been awful and a burden to the team. Rubio got that triple double, though he has been limping around lately and had surgery two months before Rose did. The Bulls’ best chance to be a successful team over the next few years is based on a healthy Derrick Rose. Yet, there’s this corps of fans who seem to want a bit of a feel good moment no matter the effect on Rose and his future. Fortunately, Rose and the Bulls are doing what’s best for the franchise’s future and ignoring the wishes of some thrill starved fans.

I'm about 95.5% sure you are going to completely dismiss this premise because you see first-hand how hard the kid works and how passionate he is about basketball, but are you at all concerned about the mental toughness of Derrick Rose? More specifically his ability to lead and deal with adversity. Because I am. I know he is still young and leadership and mental toughness are attributes that can be acquired over time, but I feel like injuries and the questions that surround them aren't going to completely go away for him moving forward.

James Knebel

Sam: You missed by four and a half percent. Ridiculous, of course, given what we’ve seen of Rose starting his Bulls career just as he turned 20 and taking on the responsibilities of a sporting city without regret or concern, taking big shot after big shot and missing those first two seasons and never flinching and going back again, handling with poise and grace the awards and honors without ever varying from the humble, unselfish person he’s been. To have seen Rose these last four years and suggest he lacks mental toughness suggests given playing in Chicago and growing up as he did indicates such a lack of understanding that assumes this really is an email from Dennis Rodman. I’m actually a bit more concerned about the mental acuity of some of those writing to me.

In deference to Rose, Shumpert and Rubio are not the Franchise. Rose has the Bulls franchise on his shoulders. I say come back next year at 100%. Even if Rose comes back, there is no way we win with the team we have.

Omar DeJesus

Sam: But not you. No one asks me, and I’ve generally refrained from offering my own suggestion. I’m with Rose as I know from talking to so many players over the years that they have to be ready to return. You’ll remember a few years back Blake Griffin, a high flying athlete, sat out a full year with an injury not considered as serious as Rose’s. But the Clippers — yes, the Clippers may be the model franchise in this &mdashg; understood Griffin was their future and for a high flying great athlete it probably was better to keep him out for the season than risk a return with a few games left. So this notion of having to play some or it will affect the next season is ridiculous. So after sitting out his entire rookie season, Griffin got 20 and 14 in the opener, was voted an All-Star as a rookie, which is rare these days, he won rookie of the month every month, had the longest rookie double/double streak in more than 40 years, played in all 82 games and began his run of jaw dropping dunks. Amazing. And without playing a single second the season before and with a supportive fan base in L.A. urging him to do what’s best for the long term.

Been a Bulls fan for many years and supported them all the way, even with the Curry/Chandler mess. I agreed that they should risk it and go for it all vs. settling for mediocre. I have always had hope and believed in their plan for the future, except now. I find myself frustrated and lost as to what the future holds for the Bulls. What hope for a true championship caliber team is there? I love Rose, but his contract is actually going to make it really tough to surround him with anyone else to actually beat the Heat with. What realistic options do you see for the Bulls in the next couple years that would actually make them better? Is there a player that can actually be had that would really help? Don't get me wrong, I still love the Bulls and the current players, but they are not a championship team this year or next year without someone else to help.

Jonathan Ramirez

Sam: As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes you run into a team for the ages, and maybe the way Miami is playing with LeBron you don’t beat them as no one could beat Michael and the Bulls, no one in the West in the 80’s could beat Magic and the Lakers and no one could beat the old Celtics. Oscar Robertson was as great a player as there ever has been, and he could never bust through because Russell was playing with a half dozen hall of famers. But before you lose hope and start watching the Cubs, there are plenty of ways to win. The Bulls could have and I felt would have won last season if Rose wasn’t hurt. Miami is vulnerable to size. The Bulls will have the ability to add free agents in a year or so, and there are always opportunities that open up, like the Lakers getting Pau Gasol when they were well over the salary cap. With the new labor agreement and teams cutting back, there’ll be teams looking to do stuff you wouldn’t imagine, like the Thunder trading James Harden and the Grizzlies trading Rudy Gay. This new labor agreement more than anything will put the onus on teams to be smarter rather than richer. That will be the test.

I didn't like Reggie Rose interview, although I can understand his position. But I didn't like ESPN's news saying that Derrick has been cleared and now the NY Post writing that Derrick Rose missed a practice because the Bulls are putting pressure on him to come back although he was at the dentist. What is the point? Do people need to create problems from nothing?

Jeff Bridges

Sam: A good conspiracy is a lot more interesting to read than some boring facts. And I also have to admit as much as I like the games that the Rose watch has given a somewhat routine season a lot more interest and intrigue. So I’m OK with the discussion, though I do recoil at the suggestion Rose doesn’t want to play or isn’t sturdy enough if he doesn’t. And it is liberating to hit back some as mostly I get to be called an idiot and then spend time trying to offer a reasoned response. I’m not an angry person, but getting in a few slams doesn’t feel bad at all. Hey, don’t push me!

I was looking at the standings and was surprised to see that the Bulls are only 3 games ahead of the Bucks for the 8th and last playoff spot. And for a second I thought it might be possible for the Bulls to tank and miss the playoffs, until I saw that Toronto was yet another 8 1/2 games out. So unfortunately there's no chance they'll miss the playoffs and therefore a very decent chance that a worst case scenario will occur; that is, Rose plays in only a few games during the regular season and, not having tested himself fully, enters the playoffs where the intensity level escalates, and injures himself yet again, and we have to go through all of this again next year. It would have been much better had the Bulls missed the playoffs. Though management's attempt at saving some money this year really backfired with Belinelli, Hinrich & Robinson being better than Brewer, Korver & Watson will ever be. If it were up to me at this point, even if he could get himself back on the court before the end of the regular season, he'd be on the bench wearing a sports jacket until next year.

Stuart Gilbert

Sam: This is an interesting view I don’t get much, and let me see if I can follow: The Bulls made a mistake by improving the bench. So they ended up winning more games than they should have and will make the playoffs. Which is the bad part. Because that knocks them out of a lottery pick, which they should have pursued knowing Rose might not return this season. Though I guess the better scenario would have been Deng having surgery and Noah resting that plantar fasciitis after Christmas. And then we really could have enjoyed a season of those Kings games.

Seems as though Rose is gonna be a no show this season, which is ok with me. My problem lies with playing in USA Basketball. What if he were to injure himself in taking on this extra curricular activity away from the Bulls. If he is going to be reinjured I prefer he do it with the Bulls.

Ron Dub

Sam: Yes, if he’s hurt we want him writhing on the United Center floor like a loyal team player.

During the Bulls/Lakers game, Jeff Van Gundy went on a rant and criticized the Bulls organization for being too concerned about the money and not committed to win the championship, meaning letting go key players like Asik, Korver and Watson. He stated that the Bulls make plenty of money and it's a shame to be even thinking about about the luxury tax. For the NBA owner, is it ultimately about the the money or the championship?

Josh Ramsden

Sam: Can it be both? You know, Jeff makes a lot of money and I always see him taking the free food in the press room. Jeff’s a very good broadcaster despite his occasional journeys away from basketball and sports, and he’s a funny guy. Jeff has become one of the best color guys on tv. He's also a very knowledgeable basketball guy and likeable. But for some reason he hates the Bulls and usually goes after them on broadcasts. And if you tested a gerbil and Jeff on knowledge of the salary cap and the collective bargaining agreement you’d still be grading the papers to break the tie. The new labor agreement vastly cut into the Bulls offseason. Obviously with Derrick out the priority was to get a point guard. Yes, Kirk Hinrich has had some fluke injury issues, but he clearly was needed. But not only a point guard, but a player who could move over to shooting guard once Rose returned and also play backup point. There aren’t many guys like that. Which is why Hinrich had a $12 million, three-year offer from the Bucks. The Bulls were offering two years, and Hinrich wanted to return. The problem was under the new labor deal, the Bulls were in the tax if they kept Korver and Watson and Brewer. Teams in the tax only had a mid level exception of about $3 million. The Bulls needed $4 million for Hinrich. So they had to let go bench guys to get the non tax paying exception. Then they could go back into the tax, but Watson and Brewer were hurt the Bulls wouldn’t pick up their options for $3 million to $4 million and signed elsewhere for the same minimum deals they could have gotten from the Bulls. And the NBA clearly messed up not changing the Omer situation. The Bulls offered the most they could to Asik. But the new deal didn’t take away an advantage to the pursuing team, unheard previously, making it easier for Asik to leave. Had the Bulls matched, they’d have $27 million tied up in one position, center with Noah, and with Rose’s contract that basically would be your team for the next four years with no chance to add anyone new because of the $15 million you’d be paying Asik to backup Noah. What would Jeff have done? And then when maybe Kevin Love came available the Bulls would have to say, sorry, can’t go after him because we have Brewer, Korver and Asik? I wish they could have kept Omer. Anyone who reads me knows I constantly defended him in all those trade scenarios for Courtney Lee and O.J. Mayo. I could see he was good. But you can’t have half your salary cap tied up in one position and with neither player able to make a jump shot. Well, for sure a three.

Can you tell me what happened to announcers who concentrate on the game that's being played? To an old timer like myself it's frustrating not hearing who committed a foul or even who has come in to play because the announcers feel their humor and/or opinions are more important than the game. I will admit our local announcers are nowhere near as bad about this compared to the national. At times, it seems they are insulted when the game interrupts their dispensing their wit and wisdom.

Roy Lobenhofer

Sam: Like Jeff was saying the other day, why can’t players dribble with their noses like seals? Players are smarter; they’re more athletic. And then they’d be more likely to pass the ball. C’mon, and you want to know the score instead?

Everyone knows the Bulls have some kind of plan to amnesty Carlos Boozer after next season and try to pick up someone in free agency. I've seen the list, except for maybe Rudy Gay I honestly don't think any of those players will either come to Chicago or would really make a difference. Do you think the Bulls should jump the gun and go after someone this summer, maybe an Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap?

Tom Boba

Sam: Even if the Bulls were to amnesty someone this summer, unless it were Rose — and I have it from reliable sources within the Bulls organization they have no plans to amnesty Rose — they still would not be far enough under the salary cap to make an offer to any significant free agent. There are things the team can do this summer regarding trades and minor signings, and it’s always possible to make a major deal with future draft picks they have as well as rights to players. But if they were to pursue getting under the cap again for free agents like in 2010 it would have to be at least two years away.

It took me a while to figure it out, but I got it. The Bulls need a plan to get another star, but the new CBA makes that difficult. And it’s not as though star-caliber guys are just out there for the picking. They need a guy that’s young, talented, and could theoretically be moved. It’s DeMarcus Cousins. That’s the guy they need to target. I know this isn’t the first time it’s been mentioned, and there are a host of reasons you would not want him on your team. But sometimes you have to take a chance on talent, and more than most teams, the Bulls have an environment that he could thrive in. Cousins is a poor defender? Well, look at Booz – he may not be good, but he at least gets in guys’ ways now. Thibs gets effort from him. Cousins is a knucklehead? Well, look at Noah – he was banned by his own teammates in the past. Thibs has turned him into a serious professional and the top DPOY candidate out there. With the team of pros the Bulls have, and the no-nonsense coach and staff in place, Cousins could find the structure he needs to go from a top 5 talent to a top 5 pro. I think you go to the Kings and make them an offer that’s impossible to turn down: Kings send: D Cousins, J Fredette, C Hayes, J Salmons Bulls send: L Deng, T Gibson, M Teague, Charlotte pick, Bulls 1st rounder 2013

Dan Frystak

Sam: Knucklehead would be the description of Cousins after he successfully completes anger management and treatment. All you had to do was watch the Kings without Cousins against the Bulls Wednesday. They played freely, enthusiastically and unselfishly, better than they have in two years. Cousins is a great talent. There’s no denying. You rarely encounter big men with those skills. And, yes, sometimes you have to take chances to be great. But you know what having Cousins around is like? It’s like having someone in your office who is always angry and in rages and going off and everyone walks quietly around him and whispers a lot and doesn’t want to be the one to set him off again. You pine for the times away from him. Eventually the Kings will wear out on him and give him up. He’s a guy you take a chance on for cheap, like Birdman Andersen. You don’t give up much if you want to take a chance because you need to be able to walk away from your losses at any moment with a guy like that.

Will you please ask Thibs whether he believed the plane had more than enough to fly after the engine blew out?

Daniel Hodgman

Sam: Winner, winner. I wasn't there. But I heard Thibs was yelling, "No excuses." And he'd have Nate fly the plane if they didn't want to.