Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 05.27.11

Sam Smith opens his mailbag to respond to the latest round of e-mails from his readers.

Please brighten up my day and tell me there is a possible way to get rid of boozer?? We're paying him 80 million for what? 6 points in a do or die game? Thats pathetic! I think management thought we were going to get a better player but it doesnt look like it. For next season I believe boozer will be a 15 and 8 guy. More than that will be a shocker.

Juvenal Pimentel

Sam: Amidst the angst and second guessing, yes, Boozer comes up as the biggest issue, especially sitting out the fourth quarter to close while Bosh, if not great, was good and hitting big free throws to close. The fact is Boozer wasn’t the Bulls’ top choice and was the fallback position, and worked reasonably well, if not ideal, during the season with 17.5 and 9.6 rebounds, not far from what the team expected. Boozer was a risk coming in given a history of injuries, and he had his share but did try to play through them. I thought Thibodeau dealt with his correctly, accepting somewhat his defensive deficiencies while trying to get the best out of him offensively. But he would sit him down for defense, as we saw, and Boozer didn’t give up. He does need to be in better condition, work with weights more in season and perhaps be pushed harder. But you don’t and generally cannot sell low. I don’t see many scenarios where the Bulls could get anything of value for Boozer given his contract and poor playoff showing. They’ll have to stay on him and he does have the capability of a better season given he came off missing most of training camp and with the sprained ankles probably never got on any sort of roll.

If the new CBA includes an amnesty provision, do you think the Bulls would drop Boozer? It occurred to me that with so many Bulls fans suggesting Arron Afflalo and Courtney Lee as trade targets, it might be worth pointing out that they were the 27th and 22nd picks in the draft, respectively. I know that this is a weak draft at the top, but isn't there a decent chance the Bulls can fill the 2-guard spot with the 28th and 30th pick? Perhaps I'm being too optimistic.

Craig Lavoie

Sam: Amnesty, if there is such a thing, only means it comes off the luxury tax. You still have to pay the player, which means giving him more than $60 million to walk away. Given he did average almost 18 and 10, I’d seriously doubt that will happen, as where are you replacing that? The idea is to get Boozer producing more. The reason they were looking for a power forward is Gibson isn’t a scorer, as we have seen, especially in the closing game. As for the draft, sure, you can get lucky, but with a draft not considered that strong it certainly is a risk and a dream to believe you can get a starter better than Bogans in the draft and ready to play as a rookie. I can see getting a potential rotation player as the Bulls college scouting staff is very good. But a second or third scoring option requires a veteran. Rasual Butler is better than anyone you’d find in the draft and I would be comfortable with him as my shooting guard.

Is there any chance that Rip Hamliton or J.r smith is within the bulls reach via trade cause courtney lee is not much of an upgrade over Bogans or Brewer this team needs to upgrade at SG so that they can be a balance team not every team can be miami and have 2 1/2 all stars on there team. But a better SG would force teams to play defense straight up without double teaming rose what do u think?

Mills Miller

Sam: Let the name game begin. Hamilton makes $12.5 million the next two seasons and unless they would take Boozer, which they never would, there’s no possibility. The Bulls had many chances for J.R. Smith, but given his lack of attention to defensive detail or general community standards I seriously doubt they’d ever bring him in as a potential locker room poison. There’s little way of knowing now as you have no idea what teams will do. Will the Rockets trade Kevin Martin and keep Lee? It’s, frankly, not a big market for good two guards because there aren’t many on the market.

Now that the bulls are eliminated for the playoffs and their lack of scoring was shown what do you think the next step is for the bulls. Do they see who they can sigh in the offseason or do they make a trade to get the scoring they need. I looked at the free agents this summer but the only ones I see that can help is Jamal Crawford, Jason Richardson or Caron Butler. Who do you think the bulls should go after and are any of the guys I mentioned available for the bulls.

Vincente Delgado

Sam: More names, I know. The free agents will be tougher as the Bulls aren’t in great position regarding the salary cap. Of course, no one knows what the new number and the talk thus far has been about rollbacks. The Bulls currently have more than $60 million in salary committed for next season, which is above the salary cap, so you cannot then sign a free agent unless there are exceptions. The owners seems intent on eliminating those, so the Bulls may only be in position to trade, which would mean Gibson, Korver, Asik, Brewer or Watson. One advantage the Bulls have is Korver, Brewer and Watson all are on team options after next season, so can be used as expiring contracts in a deal if the labor agreement forces teams to drop long term contracts. It may prove to be the Bulls biggest ace in their free agent hand. The players you name are free agents, whom the Bulls likely would have no shot at.

What type of Offer Sheet would it take to lure Arron Afflalo away from Denver? We'll probably need to overpay, but do we have enough cap space to do so?

Carson Nusslock

Sam: The Nuggets have given every indication they are going to keep Afflalo, a restricted free agent whom they can match. The Bulls being over the salary cap unless they can give a big contract away into someone’s cap space, like Noah or Deng, for nothing like they did with Hinrich last season, cannot make a free agent offer. They certainly wouldn’t do that, and although the Bulls had to do the Hinrich deal to have chances in free agency to even get James to listen to their offer, it certainly hurt not having someone like Hinrich.

Just wanted to say what a great run by the team, totally unexpected and very much appreciated
by most real fans of the team and the City. LeBron, Wade and Bosh will be
formidable for sure in the coming season's, but I do like where we are
headed as a ball club.

Needs for now are Scoring at the two guard, swing position, and finding a
way to ink Rose's contract as soon as possible. The Bulls have three draft
picks in the top 50 of the draft, how can we package them into an asset that
would be able to come in and help us take another shot next year?

This will be a hard piece to get right now, with the rest of the league
seeing how close we are. Unless it's a free agent looking to find a team to
make a run....Who are some of the possibilities that you think might be
available at this point? I've heard Igodala, and Josh "injured" Howard may
be available. Then I'd keep Brewer and Korver coming off the

Craig Chandler

Sam: I know most don’t like to appreciate a season after a loss like that, which is the toughest part after they played so well and came do far. You could say a blowout would be preferable, but the bottom line, as it were, was they never quit, and competed to the level of their ability, which was close, but not enough, as we all probably expected. But when you get the best record you think anything is possible—though see the Spurs, long gone after the West’s best record. It was a great and surprising season, and the bigger thing to me is it put the team in the championship conversation, which was a longshot when the season started. Though that ramps up the pressure. The Bulls blew through one a step, the 40 to 50 win one. The progression should have been next season to the conference finals and 60. But they are there, so now it falls to management to make the next move as while a run like this is great it also raises everyone’s expectations. And those are the toughest to live with over a long season.

Before the season started noone picked the Bulls to have the best record in the NBA, and to play in the Conference Finals. This team did it with an incredible will, dedication on defense, and the growth of Derrick Rose who was phenomenal. Talent wise, I think this team overachived this year. I know coach T and management played Omar Asik as a back up since he is
in their future plans, but after watching Kurt Thomas last night, do you
think he could've been a difference maker in the series? I think his
toughness, rebounding, mid range jumper could've helped the Bulls more than
Asik at this stage of his career.
Who do you think the Bulls can live without from this year's team? Who
would you include in a trade for a solid two guard?

Bobby Grbevski

Sam: Many asked the question about Thomas, though they did have a 12-point lead with three minutes left and a shot to win in Game 4 at the end. Omer’s defense was very good in the first three games and there were a few occasions late in Game 5 in that meltdown when Kurt could not get to help on Wade drives when Omer might have and stopped the scores. Kurt can make a shot, but his defense is nowhere near as good as Asik’s, and Asik very much was bothering Miami, especially Wade. You’ll notice Wade played much better going to the basket with Thomas in the game, though Kurt could have played more, certainly. I’d like to keep Asik and Taj and see if I can get anything with the other bench players and my picks as the Bulls edge, lacking the overall talent, is their size and rebounding and I’d hate to give that up for a Mayo type.

I know this is probably one of the more annoying questions that you receive, but what are your thoughts on Dwight Howard coming to Chicago? Sure, Orlando doesn't want to trade him to a eastern conference team, you can mention cap space, and the fact that it is rumored he wants to go to the Lakers. Let's try to put all that aside and think about the fact that it has crossed Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard's mind. How could Dwight possibly want to go to Los Angeles with an old Kobe Bryant and Lebron's old coach? They would have to go through a rebuilding process before being a contender again. Cap space is not an issue if we are talking about a trade. Orlando wants to get rid of Gilbert Arenas' contract. What about something like this: Gilbert Arenas and Dwight Howard for Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, and Kyle Korver, plus 3 draft picks?

Michael Miller

Sam: It is an annoying question in that it is the most popular for this offseason and absolutely not happening. How could LeBron not want to come to Chicago to play with Rose? How could Wade not want to come to Chicago to play with Rose and LeBron, which he could have? First of all, Orlando isn’t doing anything no matter that Howard might tell them until the new labor agreement, which most believe will cost free agents tens of millions of dollars to choose to leave. OK, say he wants to go and believes some sneaker company will make up the difference. This assumes he’d like to be in Chicago, which he’s never seemed to express any interest in and Orlando is going to take the players who couldn’t even get in the game in the fourth quarter for an MVP type? If you deal Howard, of course, you most want him out of the conference. But you could easily get Pau Gasol from the Lakers, probably Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka from Oklahoma City, probably Orlando native Amar’e Stoudemire from the Knicks, probably Monta Ellis, David Lee and Dorell Wright from Golden State (watch out for Jerry West there as he’s very bold and got Shaq). Plus, the Magic owners are billionaires and committed to keeping Howard. The Arenas contract is lint to them. Howard could push his way out, of course, but my guess it’s not to come to Chicago to play straight man to the popular Derrick Rose.

I realize I am a fan, but the foul disparity seemed absurd last night. I have no idea why James didn't drive to the hoop on every play, because they started calling any contact a foul. Taj Gibson gets a technical for a facial expression, yet James acts like 90% of the calls against him are a joke. He also just has to act like he was hit, and it gets called a foul. I believe the reason Wade and James could hit those jump shots in the end is because the Bulls had to back off of their defense, knowing any hint of contact would result in a foul. Am I seeing this through a fan's eyes, or was the officiating bad last night? It sure was called differently in the Indiana series.

Joe Schwarz

Sam: Everyone knows I try to take officiating out of the equation, but as I wrote after the game, I thought the theatrics of the Heat to get calls was what Noah was talking about when he called them Hollywood. I also felt the Bulls didn’t get an even shake, yet they still led by 12 with three minutes left and needed to make a score or stop one. They should have been able to do that despite the handicaps earlier in the game. Yes, it did seem some of the officials in Game 5 might have had LeBron posters on their walls, but the Bulls have no one to blame for that one but themselves.

Now that the series is over do you look back on the last 4 games and think that there was a bit of a coaching inefficiency on our part, that unlike Miami over the course of the series, we failed to make adjustments and change certain things up that weren't working? It seemed like to me that the last 4 games were remarkably similar to each other (besides that they were all Ls) as though we refused to accept that some things were just not working. I think Miami was very intent on adjusting both their lineup and strategy, benching Ilgauskas, Haslem coming in, Miller getting thrown into the mix when he hadn't played the first 2 games. It honestly felt like Thibadeau was a little stubborn about doing things the same exact way throughout when it was clear that the Heat were on to us. Kurt Thomas didn't save us but he made open looks. And he would never have played if it weren't for Asik getting injured. We forced the issue with Boozer and I think overused an obviously intimidated Korver. I actually would not have minded seeing Butler for a minute or two, just to see if he could offer a curve. Miami's defense was great but honestly, we were incredibly predictable.

Marcus Nikokiris

Sam: I don’t agree. I thought Miami was the predictable team, just with better talents who could make plays. Thibodeau adjusted the screen roll several times, he placed Rose in different places, he changed guys in the screen roll on top, he benched Boozer for defense, he tried Watson with Rose for ballhandling, he generally used way more of his roster than Miami. He didn’t have three guys to make plays. The Bulls moved the ball better in getting more assists, created way more shots and forced more turnovers. They couldn’t make as many shots. Whose fault is that? If we are saying Kurt Thomas was the difference, Miami isn’t as good as we think. I did pick the Bulls in seven, though it would have been a huge upset given the talent difference. I suppose hustle, teamwork and effort can only carry you so far. The NBA is said to be mostly about talent, and talent won out. Though not by that much.

Thank you for reminding your readers to relax. This is what young teams need to go through to earn the Title. NBA Titles almost unlike any other Title are earned almost as much with what happened the years to lead up to it than the year it happens. Isaiah, Jordan, Kobe, Shaq and Lebron have all had embarrassing exits like this one. Isaiah lost to the Celtics on the Bird steal, Kobe had the air balls against Utah, Shaq was owned by Hakeem and then swept by the 1996 Bulls, Lebron has had the last 2 seasons of heart break where his effort and will were questioned and Jordan had those games against the Pistons where he missed shots and turned the ball over. All young teams go through this type of adversity. I’m sure Rose is in the gym today working out and shooting jumpers and maybe even a post up game. If the Bulls add Jason Richardson this is a whole new team. Maybe add Glen Davis. This is a very good team and with lessons learned through these playoffs and a little tweaking they could be a great team.

Jonpaul Gauthier

Sam: I tried to add some perspective and you filled in some blanks. This is an I Want It Now Era and I hear it among fans a lot here, I assume, because of the Bulls success in the '90s. But this has been such an unexpected season and just because Rose was MVP to expect him to carry this level to talent to a title is ridiculous. Remember, Jordan was MVP (and Defensive Player of the Year) three years before he was on a title team. And he is the best ever. It is, as you eloquently state, much harder than people think and much rarer. Getting to the conference finals, the final four, a true accomplishment for a team without a second All-Star and with eight new players.

Are we missing Ben Gordon more than ever?

Ning Liu

Sam: You can’t look back. I’d say Kirk more given a better ability to handle the ball and play with Rose as C.J. really is more a shooting guard. If Ben had accepted the offer, the Bulls wouldn’t have been able to bid last summer. We know now they had no chance, but what would have been the reaction if the belief was you could have gotten LeBron and Wade but decided to resign Ben Gordon?

It's very frustrating watching 2 of your highest paid players sitting the bench at the end of games. Is it too late in his career for Boozer to get better on defense (through coaching or getting healthy, effort etc)? Is that something that can be changed? I think about the time Rose put in getting better at his outside shooting last summer and wonder if Boozer has the same drive to improve the parts of his game that need it.

Peter Young

Sam: You can get better at most anything if you work at it. But Boozer never has been known for his defense. After all, on the Olympic team he played for his college coach, who started Bosh ahead of him. You have to accept that at some level, like with, say, Stoudemire or David Lee, and hope they make up for it on the offensive end.

The Bulls screwed up, they should have traded Omar Asik for OJ Mayo. Asik is just one giant shot blocker, we didn't need that, we needed scoring from a 2 guard.

Ryan Carpel

Sam: I do understand the idea that if you have a chance you go for it and can only play for the championship that season, and the Bulls did have a good chance. But I don’t agree with mortgaging the future and believe Asik is too valuable as rare seven footer with athletic ability. It’s not like Mayo made that much difference for a poor shooting Memphis team that lists its offseason priority as perimeter shooting.

I really wished Stacey King could have announced the second round and semi-finals. Not having Stacey around was like losing a parent right before you have your first child. Part of you is very excited just to be in the moment. But another part of you just misses that person and wishes they could be their to share your joy.

Clem Zuercher

Sam: I agree Neil and Stacey are a fun team to listen to, but the national broadcast buys the playoff rights and without that the players wouldn’t get paid nearly as much. It’s the way it has to work.

With the Bulls season now over, my question is are the Bulls now a team that veteran players who are looking for a chance to contend for and win a championship will be willing to take a pay cut to play for? Like we have seen with teams like Boston, San Antonio and Orlando etc in recent years.

James Scott

Sam: I don’t think so as you saw with Miami they couldn’t even get into the game, like Houe, Ilgauskas and Magloire. There usually is a reason why they are available. Same with Boston and the O’Neals. How about giving them contracts. Better to go with younger players who can grow with you. After all, Rose is 22. This is the beginning.

Is going after a sg really all the bulls need to do? The coach had both boozer and noah on the bench in the crunch time. Do you really think having noah and boozer for the next 4 years together will eventually bring a title or will they have to try and trade one. The heat over powered the best part of what the bulls offered, size. I know the bulls will have absolutely nochance to be able to trade weak boozer who got dominated on defense all the series. So do you think the bulls would trade noah for maybe nene to add some muscle down low. I know the bulls love noah and did not trade him for carmelo because the belief is you do not trade size for smaller guys and the bulls already have a decent small foward. I would rather have howard but nene would be a cheaper guy.

Dan Mallen

Sam: I do think it is something the Bulls will think about, but I cannot see it as Noah played a half season and they never felt he fully recovered from his thumb surgery, which affected his offense as he was making that jumper before surgery and wouldn’t take it afterward. I don’t see major front line changes, as that was a strength all through the playoffs.

On the play where LBJ pretended to be hit in the face and then winked at his teammates; doesn't that basically encourage dishonesty and cheating? How does Reggie Miller applaud LBJ's acting skills when he is essentially cheering a prospering cheater? I hate thinking of Lebron James as any sort of role model or representative of the NBA. The guy fell to his knee in alleged pain. As a fan of the NBA, I am really disturbed that players have stooped to this level and that HOF announcers would condone that behavior.

Ben Feldman

Sam: It is a fine line and seemingly accepted—and applauded—in sports that you should try to get away with cheating, but then they do public service announcements and say don’t use steroids, which means cheating. So, yes, some cheating is good but not others. An obvious contradiction, but in the ethic (or unethical) if sports you are supposed to employ so called gamesmanship. Though I guess the perspective to justify it is it’s just a game. Though if you follow finance and Wall Street at all you know it’s present in the human heart, unfortunately.

What happened to Rose's transition pull-up 15-footer? That could have been really effective in this series.

Brian Becker

Sam: I wrote about this a few times. Derrick became a bit enamored, as is common in the NBA these days, with the three pointer. His mid range shot was really good the last two seasons and he eschewed it more this past season. I think it was a mistake, but he was trying to be more productive, so I understand.

I just saw that the Lakers hired Mike Brown to succeed Phil Jackson in LA. Personally, I would have gone with Tim Floyd.

Josiah Barnes

Sam: It’s shocking the Lakers new “brain trust” didn’t think of that first.