Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 05.02.2014

Every Friday, Sam Smith of opens his Ask Sam mailbag and responds to the latest round of emails from his readers

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Even though the Bulls clearly struggled with the slowly improving Wizards during the regular season, would this playoff loss rank up there with the losses to the Warriors in the 70's and the "Hubert Davis" Knicks in the 90's as disappointments? Tired legs? Maybe. The lack of a player who can "create his own shot"? Can even a 100% percent Derrick Rose (a giant question) and the ghost that is Mirotic help our offensively challenged heroes?

Frank Lux

Sam: I don’t see any great surprise as the teams were 4/5, which means basically even, and the Wizards unlike during the season were completely healthy and the Bulls were not. I thought the Bulls could prevail in seven games not on talent but putting a shaky Wizards team in pressure situations. The Bulls never did that once they blew the first two games. The Wizards were supposed to lose both those, so no pressure. They were supposed to win Game 3, so they lost. They were supposed to lose Game 4 after the Nene suspension, so they won. Then they scored 75 points in Game 5 and kept running away from shots and the Bulls couldn’t get a rebound with Gibson out and Noah with a knee issue. I still didn’t see John Wall being a decision making point guard. I thought he made loads of bad decisions, but healthy they have talent and most preseason had them as a playoff team It’s always disappointing to lose, but it seems hardly that much with this group that few saw going this far.

We've long been told that Taj was unlikely to improve much because he was already 24 when he was drafted. After a down year after signing his extension, however, he absolutely emerged this year -- not a star but, like Noah, a star role-player.
His defense has remained all-league worthy and he's developed some nifty post-up moves. But the most important development came with the increased consistency of his mid-range jumper, which he shot with great confidence all year.
My question for you is if you see Taj attempting to add a corner 3 to his repertoire. We've seen Bosh add it and Paul Millsap has been dropping threes on the Pacers all series. Do you think Taj is capable of stepping back behind the line? Is this something he should look to add over the next few years?

Jack Murphy

Sam: I won’t say no as Taj has surprised me with his offensive abilities. I thought he could be better, but knew he wasn’t a starter the way he played before this season. He obviously is now and I can see him making the occasional three as his range has much improved. I see it more from the short corner. But I wouldn’t want him outside too much as he’s such a strong and powerful offensive rebounder. Bosh is out there because he doesn’t like to be touched. And Millsap is maybe 6-5 and not that great an offensive rebounding threat.

Can you explain the situation with Donald Sterling? As I understand, he is the owner of the Clippers. How can Adam Silver say that he can't walk into the Clippers stadium, or participate in team decisions. I'm not at all saying what Sterling said was ok, but what gives Silver the authority to say Sterling can't attend his own team's games? He owns the team, right? I figure Silver could fine him, but not much else.

Kevin Wisser

Sam: The NBA is a partnership, though a curious kind as the partners are out to get the better of one another. But their actions affect everyone else. You need all the teams to have a competition. But you also draw up bylaws to govern the partnership that do not allow one partner to undermine the interests of the others. That was, in effect, what Sterling was doing economically and labor wise with his comments. As a threat to the business, the commissioner has powers to discipline owners and the other owners can vote to penalize a partner, which they are doing. I have no doubt despite Sterling supposedly saying he isn’t going to sell that by the start of next season there will be new Clippers’ ownership. You own the property, but not independent of the best interests of your partners and the entity. The owners get to decide who joins the partnership as they approve new ownership groups. They also decide who gets to remain.

I hope so much that the NBA celebs and the rest of them stop tweeting congratulations to Silver and start pleading with folks to get out and vote in the mid-terms. If not, the horror that powerful men like Sterling can and do inflict on the rest of us will continue to grow at an ever more rapid rate. Please LeBron, please, prod us to vote.

Jacob Snyder

Sam: That, to me, is the more salient point. Sure, it’s good the league made a stand and everyone was appropriately outraged. And everyone wants to have a “conversation.” Our country has a history of racism and prejudice that’s not likely to end. It’s a worldwide problem because it’s filled with people. But it would seem nice to see, for example, an outpouring about, say, so many state legislatures coming up with these voter ID laws (most being overturned) clearly aimed--as there is no defined record of voter fraud--to effectively deny the vote. Yes, vote, and make sure everyone else can vote without obstacles as that is the democracy our Founders envisioned with the people making the decisions. They wrote about it eloquently, though they betrayed themselves with their refusal to outlaw slavery. That was their compromise to get a union. Understandable, though they were wrong, of course. It’s OK to speak out at more that is wrong other than Donald Sterling. I know we don’t much want to hear the political views of our ball players. But if they truly believe they can help there’s nothing wrong now that they have an opening that’s been universally endorsed. It was OK before, though many were uncomfortable. It’s a personal decision and not wrong if they don’t. But they shouldn’t feel they have to remain quiet.

I know you're a proponent of keeping depth and adding Mirotic to the mix rather than go for Melo, or at least that's the way it seems in your articles. My issue is for 4 years now Bulls fans and the organization know exactly what our issue is: No scoring. How anyone could choose a rookie over a top scorer like Melo is beyond me, however, I get the issues that bringing him over present: thinning out the roster, defensive liability etc... Either way we all know Rose needs a "Robin." Every serious team now has one; Portland, OKC, LAC, Miami... hell even the Wizards with Beal and Wall.

Mario Persico

Sam: I think you misunderstood. I have written many times I like Anthony and would be all for acquiring him. The point is the Bulls have at least three times in free agency been used by players for leverage and I see little difference again. To open up the salary space for someone like Anthony the Bulls would likely have to dump one or both of their draft picks, Boozer, Augustin or Hinrich and Dunleavy or Gibson. And then Anthony would still not know if Derrick Rose is healthy enough. So there you are now waiting for Anthony to sign with you. Would he do that and, by the way, accept $30 million less even if you can pay him the maximum? Can you afford to trust a player who forced his way out of Denver and then pledged his future allegiance to the Knicks, but after just one poor season riddled with injuries he’s willing to walk out on them after they gave up half their roster to get him and featured him in everything they have done. And his wife has said publicly she wants to stay in New York. So you are going to drop five potential roster regulars for that chance in a summer with no other top free agents to basically recoup? That Anthony after every other free agent has ignored Chicago would be the one to come under those circumstances when you have to again give up four or five pieces to get him? I have no real information on Mirotic as I have not seen him play and do not expect him to be a starter when he does come to the NBA.

I am proud of the team for all that they have given us this season, the team has nothing to hang their head about. My offseason wish for the bulls organization is avoiding Mr. Anthony at all costs if it means gutting the team and instead try to follow this plan: 1. sign Lance Stephenson in f/a Coach Thibs will do wonders with him and gives the another scoring option and creator off the dribble. 2. Bring in Mirotic. 3.Draft C. Early and A. Payne to add depth. 4.Re-sign Augustin or Hinrich.

Ron Smith

Sam: I think it was a terrific season even with the abrupt ending. In some sense the Bulls are condemned—I think it’s more saw disappointment at this point—for being better than expected. Because once you are then you are held to that standard. So they weren’t supposed to win 48 games and be tied for third. I had them maybe missing the playoffs after the Deng trade because I didn’t see where they could score enough regularly. Though they were at the bottom in scoring, they were in the middle the last month at about 100 per game and until the last playoff game were averaging 95, which was enough to win. Washington’s offense proved too varied even for their defense, which did wear down as we found out afterward Noah had knee issues—he looked slow and off from the first playoff game—throughout the series. He’s the Defensive Player of the Year and the defense isn’t the same without him in top form. And then when Gibson went down with eight minutes that was it as the Bulls likely would have won Game 5 with him as it came down to a few rebounds. But the Bulls gave the community a team to enjoy and embrace over seven months, which is the story as once Rose was hurt no one imagined any playoff run was possible. That this Bulls group gave people hope was a credit to them and worth the watch. I’d stay away from Stephenson as I’ve heard he’s one of the major issues disrupting the Pacers. You don’t take chances on guys like that who happen to have their only good season in their contract year. The Bulls made that mistake once with Eddie Robinson. I’m still working on the draft as it’s early.

What a rough way for the Bulls to end the season, though I have to say they made it farther than most thought they would. I would like to congratulate them on playing hard and showing up. With that said its time to look to the 2014-2015 Bulls.
The consensus among most NBA writers is Boozer is done in Chicago and they Bulls need to bring in a scorer. The hot pick, as you among others have spoken about is Carmelo. While most people think that they can amnesty Boozer and try and get Melo to take a massive pay cut to bring him over, I don't see that happening. What I read today though is a sign & trade between the Knicks and the Bulls (maybe throw in a team or two to help with salaries) The trade I read about was the Bulls sending Boozer, Dunleavy and Brewer plus 1 of this year’s picks and a future pick (maybe the one that's protected we got from the Kings via the Cavs for the Deng trade) for Melo and J.R. Smith. The Knicks aren't getting much back but they get 2 first round picks which they are seriously lacking right now, a Boozer contract that is expiring which they can either hold onto and let expire or try and flip around the deadline for some other players and Dunleavy and Brewer who can be used as trade pieces in the future and getting rid of J.R. Smith’s contract which is better than letting Melo walk and getting nothing in return.

Alex Pauley

Sam: That, of course, is a most unlikely proposition if you know anything about Phil Jackson. I expect we’ll hear these sort of scenarios for months that benefit the Bulls and “give the other guy something.” Ever hear if it sounds too good to be true… then it isn’t? Phil Jackson isn’t about rebuilding, and certainly not going on 69 years old this summer. He couldn’t care less the Knicks have no picks. When he was with the Bulls how many rookies do you ever remember playing major roles? Phil may try a sign and trade with Anthony, and one thing I can see if the Rockets lose in the first round is given they have Asik and that Howard doesn’t score that much more, anyway, I see Phil perhaps trying for Howard for Anthony. I doubt Houston would do that, but that’s what you’ll see from the Knicks if they don’t retain Anthony. Not expiring contracts and reserves. New York is about stars. Plus, they have a shot at LeBron next summer if they hang onto ‘Melo; not if they lose him. So Phil’s got to get a star if he loses Anthony. I’ve heard this one: The Knicks get Noah and the Bulls get Tyson Chandler, a good expiring deal so they can go after Kevin Love next year, and Iman Shumpert, who is from Chicago and a good defender who Thibs would like and Pablo Prigioni, a good backup point if they lose Augustin and Hinrich. The Bulls gets three for one. How could they pass on that? Oh, right, they give up the only good player in the deal. Just what the Knicks might be thinking regarding Anthony.

So I generally have been with you in believing it always is good for a team to make the playoffs. But honestly after this series, what benefit came from it?

Marc Dadigan

Sam: You can’t guarantee success; you can only guarantee competition. If you only care about the final result why watch the games? Just check the scores afterward. The benefit was a terrific season, the growth in Noah and Gibson you were able to watch and the places you know you need to improve. As I’ve mentioned many times, players like Noah and Gibson and Butler and Hinrich were not giving up and quitting. That’s why you get players like that. So they were not about to be on a team that would be in the top 10 in the lottery. There’s little difference between the No. 13 pick and No. 16 or No. 19 the Bulls have. The Bulls likely will get a good player at one or both of those spots given their record of mostly drafting well down in the first round. They’ll also have “assets” to combine with a player in a potential deal. They had a chance to make a run in the playoffs. They weren’t good enough in the end. But you didn’t know that until they got there. It doesn’t work that you change your mind on a wager only after it loses.

Do you think the Bulls would ever consider amnestying Derrick Rose if he continues to get injured? Kind of like what the Blazers did with Brandon Roy. I think Rose is a phenomenal athlete, but I think he needs to be smarter if he wants to enjoy a fruitful career. I know he wants to go full speed all the time, but it may be time to play smarter and not faster.

Chris Derlyn

Sam: Rose is not eligible for amnesty as his contract came after the ruling. Boozer this summer is the last Bulls player eligible for amnesty and none thereafter. Going full speed, I do not believe, had anything to do with what happened. You play how you are comfortable and I expect Rose to do that and do well.

If you believe the Bulls season is not just about the destination but also about the journey, this year was a big success. The Bulls were a joy and privilege to watch this season. On many random nights in Dec., Jan. and Feb. the Bulls provided smiles and entertainment. Joakim became a triple-double threat, Taj morphed into an upper echelon power forward, and D.J. escaped NBA nothingness to provide some wonderful moments. Nonetheless, I am surprised with how badly the Bulls were outplayed for all 5 playoff games. Not because I did not think Washington was good. They showed how good they are. But because of how little the Bulls did to stop them. Many good NBA playoff series provides some push and pull, one team dominating a game followed by the other team coming back. This series provided none of that. It was close for the first 3 games, but at no point did I feel the Bulls were ever in control. Washington scouted better, made more adjustments, and just outplayed the Bulls all series. I am not saying the Bulls did not compete or play hard, but clearly Washington was on another level. Why in your opinion did the Bulls not reach that level this series? And if the answer as I suspect is not being able to match Washington's athleticism, where does that put the Bulls going forward?

Ron Goldberg

Sam: As we later found out and I referred to previously Noah was not quite Noah. We heard all about that small margin for error and knew the Bulls could not afford one injury after the losses of Rose and Deng. I know, Jimmer, Snell. We know without Rose the Bulls lack a great athlete and someone to make isolation plays. Without Deng the depth is an issue, though the Deng move was made so they’ll have better options this summer. So they know they need shooting and athletes. That said, the Bulls weren’t that outplayed. Losing at home early doomed them. You can’t give away playoff games and recover unless you are a great team. We knew the Bulls were not.

A bittersweet day for Bulls fans. It's hard to believe it's over after our team proved again and again that nothing could get them down or stand in their way. I'm very proud of the grit, tenacity, and professionalism of this squad. And thankful for a wonderful season. Day 1 of the offseason. What do we do with Carlos Boozer? I believe he should stay, but it is obvious now that Taj should be the starter. Can Carlos handle that knock? If so, he'd be an extremely potent offensive weapon off the bench. I also think we should try to resign Kirk, D.J., and Greg Smith. A second unit of Augustin, Hinrich, Snell, Boozer, Smith would strike fear into many coach's hearts (starters being Rose, Butler, Dunleavy, Gibson, Noah). I know the season has just concluded, but I'm already very excited for next year!

Matthew Mikulice

Sam: Keeping Boozer as a backup is an option I don’t hear much about. But it is a reasonable point as even with limited minutes Boozer still was producing double figure points basically every game and that’s not so easy to replace. Taj is not quite the iron man and will need a solid backup. Smith looks like a good possibility, but people underestimate Boozer’s scoring. It’s not as easy as he makes it look at times and it’s not easy to replace those 15 points. Especially for a team scoring challenged. I agree it’s time for Taj to start as he’s earned it. But teams also have honed in on his post spin moves and he’ll be more heavily scouted. He’ll have to keep working. I don’t think Boozer would be comfortable as a reserve player in his final contract season as he’d probably be looking to have a better season. If he’s not going to start next season I expect him to move on.

Assuming their plan a (Melo) doesn't happen. And Mirotic stays overseas another year. What do you think about the Bulls acquiring Greg Monroe in a sign and trade? Perhaps for Gibson. Or picks or whatever. Solid scorer. Will have to overpay with a max or near max deal but he is young and could pair well with Noah and Rose and company.

Mike Kay

Sam: I get some of this from Bulls fans and assume it’s the fantasy basketball mania. But once you have a good player develop why do you always want someone else? One of the most vital issues of making up a successful team is coordination, chemistry and teamwork. When you have someone so committed and dedicated and a team player like Taj who works so well with the players you have why are you looking for someone who plays his position? I like Monroe, and he’s more of a scorer. I get the point. But he’s a poor defender and who knows with that team’s dysfunction if he even knows how to play hard and compete. Sports isn’t only about statistics but guys playing together in a group with a system of play. That beats talent if it’s close. Taj for Carmelo. OK, I get that. Greg Monroe?

A rumor the Lakers reaching out to us for permission to speak to Thibs. What do you think?

Mike Sutera

Sam: I guess it further shows the Bulls have a good coach. I don’t know if there is anything to this, but I’m pretty sure Thibs isn’t going anywhere but coaching the Bulls. There was a flurry of this talk to the Knicks a few months back and Thibs was often joking about it. The interesting part was the ridiculous speculation the Lakers would give up their lottery pick perhaps in the top three. Of course with the Lakers having committed all sorts of picks in the future in deals they probably can’t trade their pick, anyway, though there are ways around it if you are serious. Would I give up Thibodeau for maybe a top three or five pick? Sure. I’d give up Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich as well. Coaches are important, but the Bulls could have won without Phil Jackson. They could not without Michael Jordan. The Lakers lost an entire season to get that pick and absolutely plan to use it, among other things, to try to acquire Kevin Love. In effect, would you trade Love for Thibodeau? Tom’s good, but not that good. No coach is. Thibs is excited about the Bulls future and wants a run with Derrick Rose. Same stuff: Loves Chicago and the team. The Lakers, by the way, are a mess with an aging Kobe who doesn’t seem to understand he is, stuck with a massive two-year Kobe deal and with an ownership debacle going on. It’s not a very good job at this point. Mike D’Antoni resigned because he wanted some security if he was taking 50 losses next season. All Thibs’ work doesn’t mean much with what that roster is about to look like. And imagine it without their lottery pick. I have never once heard anyone in Bulls management suggesting a coach they’d think would be better than Thibs and I’m pretty sure without asking they wouldn’t grant a team a right to negotiate with their coach, whom the Bulls signed to an extension through 2016-17.

D’Antoni should've stayed in PHX.

Kieron Smith

Sam: I think he’d agree. Mike’s a terrific coach and one of the true offensive innovators in the game. While many coaches, especially guys like Mike Brown, have demeaned his offensive system for years, basically everyone is using it now with the stretch four, pick and roll wide open game. The Western Conference may as well be called the D’Antoni Conference the way they play. Mike probably knows his ego likely got the best of him when Steve Kerr was hired to take away his general manager responsibilities and he reacted badly to it. I know he wasn’t ready to get back into coaching after his New York time and basically making a career for Jeremy Lin. But the Lakers called and they weren’t about the call back. And he didn’t have another job at the time. I suspect he wished he was able to say no, but it was the Lakers. Before the Lakers were decimated with injuries early last season Mike was a coach of the year candidate. You put Mike with the right players and you won’t want to play his team.

I'm not understanding the criteria of Sixth Man of the Year, but Jamal Crawford started 24 games of the 69 games he actually played in this year in the regular season. That’s more than 1/3 of the games he played. While Gibson played all 82 games and only started 8 games. Just doesn't make sense that the award would go to a player that played 13 less games and started 1/3 of his season.

Rocky Rosado

Sam: I haven’t heard officially but the rumors are Jamal Crawford will win again. Jamal certainly is deserving, though so is Gibson and I voted for Gibson. But the criteria is you have to come off the bench in 51 percent of your games (the majority) and Jamal did.

I did not like the ways fans have reacted toward Boozer. The guy is a pro, have never been a distraction. he has never been a great defender that's for sure but he certainly is not the reason of the Bulls early exit.

Ali Hill

Sam: I thought it was a classless act by some of the home fans. You reference, of course, when Boozer entered for an injured Gibson in the fourth quarter of Game 5 and was booed. Boozer never was anything but what he was when he came to the Bulls. He was an offensive player with a perimeter jump shot who wasn’t highly regarded for defense but could score. He never said he was some 20/10 defensive stopper. In fact, the Jazz was constructed much better for him with Mehmet Okur, a seven footer who could shoot threes and spread the floor. That gave Boozer more space than he had with the Bulls. But he never complained, never was a distraction and always was a supportive teammate. He did what he was capable of doing and was the healthiest of the players during his tenure and played the most often. He always was there, doing his work, studying the next opponent, and never being a distraction when he could have been. Just because your husband or wife isn’t the best looking or smartest and most interesting spouse it’s not their fault. It’s who you chose and they are what they are; not what you want them to be. Boozer always was and to the close Tuesday I thought he handled himself with dignity and professionally.

Do you see OKC trading Westbrook this off season if the Thunder loses to the Grizzlies. It seems that KD is subtly sending a message of the problems he has with Westbrook as a floor leader in postgame interviews. Regarding his touches down the stretch. Could KD demand a trade out of OKC if they do not trade Westbrook this off season.

Van Eaton

Sam: Durant is finding out community wrath even in the “college town atmosphere” if you don’t deliver fans their wins. There was an outcry of the “unreliable” headline in that local paper story before the Thunder Game 6 win that was so intense the paper even apologized, which I’ve rarely ever seen; never in a sports story. Durant, as usual, handled himself with class. Management would go down before trading him. The Harden deal was bad enough. But I can see something with Westbrook. I’ve suggested it many times. I was promoting a Rondo deal two years ago as it seemed plain Westbrook was no point guard and never going to defer. It’s become more obvious in this series and not helped there really is an ill-defined offensive system and no one is making plays to help Durant and he is always taking the toughest shots. I’ve speculated Westbrook for Kyrie Irving as Westbrook is under contract for two more years and wants his own team, it seems clear. Of course, Irving shoots all the time, too. You should hear all sorts of scenarios this offseason.

Why hasn't there been any talk about Paul Gasol. He's 33, unrestricted and averaged 17 points this past season. It seems like bigs take longer to develop but manage to keep their game longer. A wing can lose a step but seven footers don't shrink. What about a 3 year contract for him where you know you get 2 good ones and hope for the best in the final year?

Chris DeMay

Sam: His name has been mentioned. It’s just that he made $19 million and for now sees a pay cut being in the $10 million range annually. You don’t want Pau as your backup center as your big free agent that prevents you from doing much else. If his price came down the Bulls I assume would be interested. The question is whether the role they’d have for Pau with Noah and Gibson and even no Boozer would interest him.

Forget Melo. It'd better to get 2 good players for the price of 1 super star. Bulls should turn their focus onto Trevor Ariza and Kyle Lowry. Both can defend and score and would make perfect students of Thibs. Even with Rose, Lowry can easily average 35mins a game as he plays much bigger than his size. DJ was great for us in regular season but we learned he isn't much beyond it. Ariza can offer so much more than Dunleavy who's just too inconsistent.

Bambi Choy

Sam: It’s not inconceivable as a reasonable way to go. But those two likely would cost more than the Bulls have. Lowry is an intriguing name. He’s a point guard, but teams like the Suns are having success with a two point guard lineup and the Bulls did a lot of that with Hinrich and Augustin. Lowry and Rose would look better. The issue is Lowry is really small, maybe six foot and that’s much too small a defensive backcourt as given Rose’s health issues you aren’t having him chase shooting guards. And Lowry wants to be the point guard. I assume he resigns with Toronto. Similarly Ariza isn’t going to be a backup and while he is better he isn’t a high level shooter. Though the concept is reasonable.

While I'd prefer Anthony's fit with the Bulls, Love seems much easier to accomplish: he's cheaper and younger than Anthony and the assets the Bulls can offer should be at least as favorable to MIN as NY. The TWolves must know if they play out next season they'll lose him for nothing. He's too young to worry about 4 years vs. 5 as he'll be young enough, health willing, for another big contract extension after this one so MIN's only leverage is to trade him now.

Jeff Johnson

Sam: I don’t see Love easier; maybe at trade deadline if the Timberwolves have exhausted all options. But they’re not losing their best player, the second best in franchise history, for low first round picks and role players who have not started during their career and haven’t been All-Stars. Start with Noah and the Timberwolves would begin to listen. I see little chance there.

I'm not impressed by Phil's NY start. Phil has been making multiple public comments about the need for Carmelo to "sacrifice" money. On separate occasions he's compared him to Tim Duncan (who took less money to come back to the Spurs), to the Miami Heat trio, and he's also referred to Carmelo's past promises. Am I right in thinking that Phil should learn to shut up now that he's an executive? Saying these types of thing in public only serves to pressure the employee, and why would he want to do that? If I were Carmelo, I know Phil's public statements would annoy me, and neither Pop nor Riley ever laid it on like this publicly in their executive roles. Is there some strategy that I'm missing?

Alejandro Yegros

Sam: A lot of teams are hoping that’s the case, but the two biggest stars of the era, Jordan and Kobe, became lifetime fans of Jackson and didn’t want to play for anyone else and kept trying to get him back. Phil has a way with people that I believe Anthony will soon discover.

It's easy to look back and think what the Bulls might be right now if not for Derrick's injuries the past couple years, but it's also interesting to think what the team might look like if they didn't swap LaMarcus Aldridge for Tyrus Thomas back in 2006. Noah would still be a Bull, as his pick came from the Knicks. Jimmy Butler would still be a Bull, as he was the last pick in the first round, and Taj Gibson would have been available as well. With that kind of front court (and possibly Asik as well), the summer of 2010 may have been focused on wing help to assist Hinrich and Deng rather than Boozer, Stoudemire, or Lee (maybe a bigger push for Joe Johnson). The team probably would've been too good to get Derrick in the draft lottery, but for all intents and purposes they haven't had Derrick the past two years anyway. Of course they can't go back in time, but I wonder how much they regret making that trade.

Chris Feldman

Sam: Yes, if only. Maybe we wouldn’t have gone into Vietnam or Iraq or Korea or watched those guys more carefully getting on planes. There are a lot of regrets. You do what you feel is best at the time and live with the results. Because you are a fallible human. The Bulls did that and you never look back in life as well. You can only change what’s ahead and the Bulls have done well that way. Aldridge has been terrific and deserves plenty of credit, but remember he always was mad at Blazers management because they considered him secondary to Brandon Roy. They were talking with teams about a trade even last summer. The Bulls have done well in the draft overall, and every team has made major mistakes. After all, how many great players were the No. 1 overall pick? Not Kobe, not Jordan, not Durant, not Wade, not Westbrook. Basically not just about everyone who is all-NBA. The Bulls tend to be cautious with personnel. I think in that draft they got a little caught up in the community demand for a star, for an athlete. They’d drafted Hinrich and Gordon and Deng and fans were saying, sure 49 wins is nice with a hard working team but we need an athletic star. So the Bulls took a shot on a guy who had some amazing athletic abilities. It’s much tougher to examine the head. Tyrus’ was weak. It didn’t work. And it wasn’t that Aldridge was considered the next great star. After all, he wasn’t even an All-Star until the 2012 lockout season. I know everyone would be a very good GM knowing the results. I’d do much better at the race track after the results were posted.

I am impressed. (David) Stern would have let him (Donald Sterling) off the hook.

John Leichenko

Sam: No he wouldn’t have. There’s been a lot of the typical backlash on this one as there always is in America, like in Penn State, Benghazi, and any one of the great second guesses. How come so much happens if so many people would have stepped in and stopped things if it were them? The NBA while being the most progressive sports league always has been about the law as well. The NBA knew well about Sterling, but as with the players penalties were enforced after an admission of guilt or conviction. In Elgin Baylor’s suit, Sterling was exonerated and with the Justice Department case there was a fine but no admission or charge of any guilt. In other words, they couldn’t make their case and accepted a compromise. When there were issues with the league, Stern acted decisively, like with the Ron Artest gang in the Detroit fight that threatened the league’s image. Similarly with the gambling and fixing allegations Stern hired an independent review beyond the scope of the NBA. If there was something it would have come out. Stern would have recognized the damage Sterling’s comments did to the league and its players and would have acted similarly, I’m quite sure. All the NBA did under Stern was prosper and retain and expand its credibility.

So is it your feeling that if the Bulls strike out on Carmelo that they might make a panic signing or trade? Like overpaying for Lance Stephenson or trading for Eric Gordon? I've never been upset about Boozer, and if you look at his stats people 48 he's been very consistent since sign in here, but they did some overpay. I understand that's how free agency works, but my fear is they strike out again then overpay someone.

Jonathan Owens

Sam: That’s not the Bulls way. I think Stephenson has done enough with this Pacers’ late season collapse to show who he is and Gordon continues to have knee issues that have even my core of Bulls fans quiet who have been demanding they trade for him. They have plenty of good fallback options with a pretty good list of secondary free agents I mentioned in my Thursday story quoting Forman. I know there’s this notion of two stars, and yes there are questions with Rose’s health. Still, you can build a competitive team like the Pacers that everyone believes can win without the elite star. And without the internal dysfunction they seem to have developed. The Bulls did so with their 2010 free agency without LeBron and that team was good enough to win. It just didn’t, but it could have. This time they are below a max salary and cannot “overpay.” They paid market value for Boozer. That’s the way sports works. You have to pay someone.

I've been following you and reading your columns and mailbags since your tribune days. I however can't agree with you that I'm supposed to be excited with the current state of the Bulls. Things don't look good for the team, and it's doubtful they will be able to really compete for a championship for a very long time. I understand that you appreciate the season no matter if the team could win it all or not, but you are also and employed writer for the team. I respectfully disagree with your belief that you can still enjoy a team if they have no chance to win it all. Case in point would be the Milwaukee Bucks. There is no chance this team will ever win a championship. As a result they are not a fun team to watch. Sure it's great to take the kids to a one game a year when there is a great deal on seats, but I'm not ever getting into that team on any level. Don't misunderstand what I'm saying. I understand there are fun things to see along the way, but if you have no hope that your team even has a chance it removes some of the excitement for some of the fans, myself included, and I don't think we are stupid for feeling this way. Since Rose got hurt again, it's very difficult to get excited about this team. They cannot compete in the playoffs.

David Nab

Sam: I get variations of these views from time to time and believe they are the exception and suggest a limited world view. I fear for those not perfect in such families. Not everyone is perfect or can be what you want or succeeds to an expanded level. If you try as hard as you can and do so in a fair and professional way and work hard to prepare and give what you can the results are very much worthwhile. Why is entertainment in this world only linked with ultimate success, assuming we can define that. Who wins a Broadway play or a concert? If you are entertained and appreciate a performance for the excellence and brilliance and beauty that seems very much worth it. These are the greatest athletes in the world doing amazing things; isn’t that, after all, what we seek to watch, for the entertainment value but also for the learning experience and the appreciation of excellence in our society. There’s barely one thing any of us can do that those Bucks players do. On the court, anyway.


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