Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 05.17.2013

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

Three years ago LeBron, Wade, and Bosh set out to shape a league where there would be no serious competition to deal with. And the tighter salary cap and the plague of injuries since have now made it much worse, with everyone trying to beat them rolling out that much less talent than they were a year ago. When Miami lost to Dallas in the Finals, it gave an illusion of some parity, but it was really a freak occurrence with LeBron getting the final meltdowns out of his system. They should really be going on three championships. We hated The Decision for the vanity, but also the sense of unfairness to so many places that love basketball that multiple titles were about to be wasted on a city that could care less. Fans can be really proud of this year’s Bulls team, but in the big picture it was all waiting for Rose. There should be a hell of a showdown looming next year with him back, with unfinished business from the 2011 Playoffs. LeBron’s the best out there, but Chicago is the one team he looks human against, where he gets his 30 but a lot of times it doesn’t mean his team wins. Wade is now dropping off, and soon Rose is going to be the one with more help. It was very hard missing two chances at a title to this ACL. Credit Rose for taking his time and doing it right and not risking being the next Gilbert Arenas or Penny Hardaway. Durant and Paul and Curry are great players and a lot of fun to watch, but it’s going to be up to Rose and this Bulls team to take down Miami. Can’t wait for next season.

Rory Butterly

Sam: I do agree there’s a good shot and a lot to look forward to, and not because I’m writing here. I think many see more the belief some of us had that the Bulls quietly last season especially with Omer Asik had the size and depth and toughness to take down the Heat. This season was a pass no matter what anyone believed given Rose’s injury. He never could play a full game even if he did return. I, too, am glad he stayed out. I’d rather see him back as close as possible to as good as he can be. Not because the other players are not good enough but because he would not be good enough with time restrictions and so long off. If you can get to fifth in the East and the second round and three very tough games and Wade’s knee problems becoming serious the playing field is leveling. I don’t think many see Miami as unbeatable even if I do think they’ll win this season. Given Wade’s situation, the possibility of LeBron opting out after next season actually does seem more realistic. Hey, the Bulls can have cap room for a max free agent then. OK, let’s not go there.

As a fan I'm very proud of what the Bulls did as an organization this season. The player's really stepped up and the coaching staff was phenomenal. I can only hope that the team can [retain] Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli. It's obvious that the cap situtation will make this harder, but who do you think will be back and what type of player(s) do you think the Bulls will be targeting this coming draft? I personally think the Bulls need to replace Asik. Jeff Withey, Kansas Univeristy sounds like a solid pick.

Stan Ross

Sam: I get a lot of mail for him. I’m not that up on the draft yet with the playoff run, but there do seem a lot of big men going in the first round. And it is the Bulls biggest (tallest?) need. But rookie big men don’t much play anywhere. They come along slowest of all positions. I wrote about the roster for next season in for Friday. I’m pretty sure with Rose’s return and his own excellent season that Robinson isn’t back and gets a better offer. Belinelli will be the tough one, but the Bulls are in a situation not so much that they aren’t spending as they are one of six teams in the luxury tax but by giving someone like Belinelli a contract for more than a year it could keep them from pursuing a top free agent in 2014, and is that worth it for a backup? I hope there’s a way to keep Belinelli, but I’m not sure how.

I can see Nate going to the Nets. They lack passion and heart and always seem like they are just playing because that's what they are paid to. No emotion. CJ is expiring.

Mike Sutera

Sam: That does make some sense as they are stuck with that roster with long term deals and no possibilities coming up, so I could see a small guaranteed deal even as they are in the tax because they have no hope of getting under the cap. Nate should have no shortage of suitors, and good for him. He gave the Bulls a terrific season.

Do you think Thibs blew Game 3 by not putting in Rip? Rip obviously could have helped the team and Teague was little help. Also, Marco and Nate were so exhausted that they couldn't close out the game.

Megan Wong

Sam: I know there’s been a lot of second guessing about the use of Hamilton, which is ironic as the bulk of my mail about him midseason was to cut or bench him. Coaches make decisions based on their view and one thing we know about Thibs is everything is well thought out. He obviously believed he needed younger and stronger legs for defense and took a shot with Cook, which didn’t work and he didn’t go back to him. Thibs doesn’t single out players, but he obviously felt Hamilton would give up too many points, and Wade did get three straight scores at a key point in the fourth in Game 5 against him. I believed his offense, decision making and ball movement would make up for it. But I can accept Thibodeau’s rationale. He is a heck of a coach. So I’ll defer to him. I don’t believe the outcome of the series would have been any different.

It really bothered me that the Bulls team as a whole showed Detroit type sportsmanship in not shaking hands and such. Jokim saying that he hates these guys. Really, you hate LeBron? C'mon you hate John Starks or you hate KD, but LeBron? Its something like the Rodman theory, that you hate them until they're your thugs. If we turn into the Knicks of old I'll stop caring. I didn't think it was that bad until I talked to some friends not from Chicago, and they thought we played dirty.

Tom Golden

Sam: I heard some of this and was amazed. I know the media made the Bulls/Heat up to be a physical, brutish series, and I agreed with Spoelstra that it was more staged perception than reality. Though I did think bird guy Andersen was trying to be dirty in Game 2. It has been a tradition of Miami against the Bulls after a loss the next game they cheap shot, like last year’s Wade throwing of Hamilton into the stands. The reality is Bulls coaches have long been concerned the Bulls don’t stand up enough when Miami does that. As for the Bulls, no one even has muscles. Boozer dirty? He doesn’t even hit guys on screens. Noah is the skinniest tough guy ever, I guess. Jimmy? Nate? Belinelli? Who’s dirty? These guys don’t scare their drivers. Hinrich’s probably the toughest one and he didn’t play. Deng wins sportsmanship awards. Nazr Mohammed pushing LeBron? The Bulls do play hard and I’m not even sure how physical. But it’s a good story line. The Pistons? You never could have watched one of their games. Rodman, Laimbeer and Mahorn would have gotten 10 years in prison for what they did in if they were in this era.

My friend just came to me hyped up because he heard a trade was in the talks of Jimmy Butler and Booz for Kevin Love. Is that a realistic trade or just a rumor? And regardless of its credibility, do you think it would be a good trade for the Bulls? Jimmy's one of my favorite players and outstanding on defense, and Boozer is very good too, but Kevin Love is one of the best players in the league.

Scott Newcomb

Sam: Kevin Love is the acquisition of the year for this season. I’ve answered this one in a variety of ways from bad rumors and excited speculation. It’s not happening. Most likely never happening. And even more so now that Flip Saunders, a longtime coach who values top talent, is running the Timberwolves. Plus, Love clashed with the prior general manager, who is gone. The Timberwolves with Love not having an opt out until 2015 are under no pressure to trade him, and given Love’s resume as a young Olympian, multiple All-Star and elite rebounder if they were to trade him they’d have to look like the winner, which probably would mean Noah, Butler and maybe Gibson and taking back some bad contracts. I expect only several hundred more emails about this going into July.

If memory serves me correct, we traded Kyle Korver last season for a trade exception worth up to $5.1 million, right? Now I don't know all the rules that apply towards trade exceptions, but is this something that we can maybe use to keep either Nate or Marco? Don't we have limited time to use it before it expires anyway?

Kevin Hero

Sam: I don’t expect the Bulls to use that exception. As for the taxpayer limited exception, we’ll see depending on whether they make any other moves. I expect they’ll look into trades given the contract status of Deng and Boozer’s better season. I don’t expect anything major, but anything they’d do would change the situation for other players. It’s really way too early to know given they’ll be in the draft and have future draft picks they could deal as well. I doubt anyone could truly predict until draft time.

What are the chances you think the players listed below will be on the Bulls roster next season? Tony Allen, JJ Redick, Manu Ginobili, Corey Brewer, Kyle Korver, Shawn Marion, Corey Maggette, Brandon Rush, Matt Barnes, DeJuan Blair, Mike Dunleavy, Chris 'Birdman' Andersen, Metta World Peace, Lamar Odom, Jason Collins

Tony Keitel

Sam: Maybe Ronnie Brewer

It was a tough, but great run by this depleted Bulls team. There are many questions that are going to be asked. Do we sign Deng to an extension and if we can't or choose not to don't we have to explore trade options? I know this trade might not sound great at first but I think this trade would be good for the Bulls. Bulls trade Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng to toronto for Rudy Gay and Andreas Bargnani. Offensively Gay is a much better threat than Deng. Yes Deng's defense is great but I don't think there will be much of a drop off putting Gay into Thibs system. Bargnani is a 7' that can score inside and out. The knock on him is his defense but can it be that much of a drop off Boozer. At least he's 7' and can bother shots like Pau in Los Angeles.

Rocky Rosado

Sam: I know everyone lives for the moment, and I know some feel the Bulls are looking at 2014. I think they have enough to make a run next season, and they won’t be taking long contacts, especially an egregious one like Gay’s, because you do want to have the flexibility for major moves even if you don’t use it and keep your guys. Plus, Gay is a ball stopper, one on one player who doesn’t fit well with Thibodeau. The Grizzlies also are doing well without him. I thought they should keep him to give that group a run together, but they are in position to go to the Finals without him. It doesn’t suggest even if it’s hard to blame him giving up such a valuable player as Deng. I certainly wouldn’t.

I have always been a Boozer supporter, but do you see a trade with the Nets of Humphries for Boozer possible? The Nets obviously get the better player in the deal. Pairing Boozer with Williams again will benefit both of them and give the Nets a stronger front court. The Bulls will get a decent rental in Humphries' expiring contract, and can move Taj into the starting lineup. While getting out from under Boozer's deal without having to eat most of his contract by amnesting him.

Sergio Faci

Sam: I thought we liked Boozer again. Kris Humphries? There are few players who have declined more. Plus, Taj regressed some this season with injuries and it would be tough to see him as a scorer. Boozer was fifth in the league in double/doubles. That means there are only four players more productive in two categories. Why are fans so often trying to get less as long as it’s different? Boozer had an excellent season.

I hope the best for Shumpert. Maybe now the Rose critics will stop talking. Just because a Dr. clears you doesn’t mean you’re 100%. I had surgery on both Achilles, JUST a clean up of the tendon because of chronic tendinosis. Six months later I was cleared to go back at work. I was not the same! It still took another full year to feel somewhat normal and to be able to workout. About two years later I was finally pain and setback free and felt normal again! I realize Rose has better medical care than I did, but still. He had a serious injury! Good for him for putting his health first!

Victor Devaldivielso

Sam: It was discomforting to read about Shumpert having knee issues. He seems OK and is back starting, but his play is hardly substantial. It’s a long process and those who speak the most about if often know the least. Which usually we think only occurs in Congress.

What a unique season. I can't say it was a success because successful seasons should end with a championship and I am pretty sure Thibs would agree with that. This team was all Thibodeau. He had this team giving it a 100%. I do not give any credit to the organization besides them extending Thibs contract. To them this was a waste of a year and they just looked for bargain basement pieces and let go of a proven bench mob.

Tippu Khan

I'd certainly disagree. Who drafted Jimmy Butler? Who brought in Belinelli? Nate Robinson? Hamilton showed right to the end he was useful, though it certainly is the coach’s prerogative to play whom he prefers. The strength of this season was the cooperative effort. Given the constraints from last season and the need to remain flexible for major moves and to get a legitimate point guard to replace Rose in Hinrich, the Bulls had to abandon last year’s bench. It would be hard to say whom they replaced them with weren’t better other than Asik. And how could you legitimately have $27 million for Noah and Asik at one position and be in position to do anything? Thibs did a great job with what he had, but management also provided big time players passed by every other team in the league in Robinson and Butler, and then the needed players in Hinrich and Belinelli. It’s the way things are supposed to work and actually did.

What an effort by this team. So much heart, so much toughness, they're an inspiration to us all. By far my favorite Bulls team of the last 15 years. I'm extremely proud of this team, and I'm sure so are most Bulls fans.

Al Mirza

Sam: That seemed to be the feeling of many. I’ve always said fun seasons don’t have to end with a title, and this was one. Only one wins. But not many can walk away saying it was a productive season. The Bulls certainly can.