Lance Stephenson faces the Heat
"Stephenson is talented, which is why Larry Bird stuck with him when no one wanted the second round pick," writes Smith. "And Bird was rewarded for his patience. But it’s one thing to take a chance when he’s a second round unguaranteed pick and another a highly paid free agent."
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Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 06.06.2014

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

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

Win or lose, is this the last dance for the Heat? Their cap situation is horrific next season, and the solution I see from Heat fans is that the Big 3 will all opt out and then take 20% pay cuts so their billionaire owner can get more rings. I find that doubtful, and it is more likely all opt in and play with 10 guys on veteran minimum contracts. Could they even sign their own free agents for more than the luxury tax MLE?

Joe Schwarz

Sam: Sorry, they’re not going away. If they win the title, you know they’re back to go for four. LeBron certainly understands and pursues history and then they can start making comparisons with the 60’s Celtics. Having reached the Finals, I assume they opt in for one more season, especially since the Wade resting thing has worked out well enough. My sense is LeBron wasn’t thrilled with Wade sitting out so much, but could go one more season with it. The speculation always was if desperate they’d try to move Bosh. But that seems doubtful now. Bosh seemed to be the one who might bolt as the Mavs have cap room and he’s from there and he’d certainly be the one left behind when LeBron left. But he’s done everything but sign an extension. Life in Miami is pretty good, I suspect. Given the Eastern Conference remains weak, it makes the most sense for them to return at least one more season (without a pay cut as if anything LeBron wants a raise now; not another cut) with some high level minimum salaried players and then 2015 should provide some interesting free agency possibilities for LeBron.

"LeBron James=good guy." Wow, the Bulls must not put pressure on you to keep your page views up. Even if it's true (my opinion from the outside looking in would be more like "OK guy" or "surprisingly alright given how famous he's been since such a young age guy"), I figure you're going to anger some Bulls fans with that one. Anyway, I think a good player to compare Lance Stephenson to would be Stephen Jackson. Like Stephenson, Jackson was very talented but has a personality that seems "out there." Hopefully Stephenson will avoid the major incidents that Jackson had. But I imagine that like Jackson, he will have a long career and make a lot of money while bouncing from team to team and screwing up a lot of chemistry.

Cameron Watkins

Sam: That’s a good comparison. I think you can take a chance on guys like that with a good culture, which the Bulls have, but only if they don’t cost too much. If you could get Stephenson for an exception for maybe two years I’d take a look. But you hear talk of $9 million to $12 million annually. Stephenson hasn’t been involved in criminal activity, but he’s clearly been a disruptive internal force. It was classic to hear Paul George’s post season interview and take that long pause when asked whether he wanted to see Stephenson back. Stephenson is talented, which is why Larry Bird stuck with him when no one wanted the second round pick. And Bird was rewarded for his patience. But it’s one thing to take a chance when he’s a second round unguaranteed pick and another a highly paid free agent. There’s a guy who may get money and who knows what you’d have; perhaps some combination of Tyrus Thomas and Eddie Robinson. And Stephen Jackson. As for the LeBron stuff, I don’t fully get the negatives. Yes, he had a silly TV show and rally. Four years ago! So what. The guy is a masterful talent who we enjoy watching. He’s ditched all the immature dancing and acting out from Cleveland. He’s never in trouble, not an embarrassment, a good teammate and ambassador for the game. He’s got to be one of the better people in the game now. It’s one thing to root against success; plenty of people rooted against the dominant Bulls. So it’s difficult to see where he’s not a player you’d embrace. Unless he gets cramps, I know. I guess he’s the object of a lot of jokes after sitting out the last half of the fourth quarter with those cramps. But one thing about James is he’s a competitor. While teammates all around him rested the last few seasons he always played. Yes, there was a game against Boston in the playoffs at the end of his Cleveland days that looked bad. But he’s been a player who doesn’t miss games to the point of seeming indestructible. We’ve seen him walk of numerous ankle sprains and come back. Anyone who’s had serious leg cramps know it’s difficult to even walk for 15 or 20 minutes. It happens, and the heat in that arena with the air conditioning broken was a heck of a reason. That arena, by the way, is notorious for issues and long has had the poorest communications systems with wireless, internet and cell phone reception. Here’s a guy who’s averaged 39.5 minutes per game in his entire career and for his career in the playoffs has averaged 42.7 minutes per game. How many guys have done that? James never has been a guy who hasn’t wanted to play and wasn’t one in Game 1 Thursday.

Did Houston really just not pick up a $1M option on Chandler Parsons? Is it really worth it to have him as a restricted free agent this year rather than pay him 1M this year and unrestricted next year? Don't they have 60+M tied up in Asik, Lin, Harden and Howard next year? Can we offer Parsons a poison pill contract out of spite?

Mike Coughlin

Sam: The spite part works. The Rockets put out the story they’d match, but might not be able to. They’re also selling this notion they can easily move Asik or Lin, both of whom need to be paid almost $15 million next season. Perhaps a team way under that has to get to the minimum salary would take one for a season, but it’s still uncertain. The Rockets always generally believe the rest of the league is stupid and they’ll do whatever they want, like that silly alleged Asik auction last fall that went nowhere. The problem to me more is you’d overpay Parsons, who I think is OK but doesn’t much make you that much better. He’s only a 37 percent three-point shooter, a little poorer than Kirk Hinrich, and 47 percent for his career overall. He’s good, but really a high level role player. Going for a restricted, I assume if you’re overpaying you’d take a shot at a more versatile Gordon Hayward. Parson’s also a small forward, which leaves Jimmy Butler at shooting guard and thus still in need of better shooting. And then you’d have amnestied Boozer and wouldn’t have been able to make an offer to Mirotic, who may be a better shooter.

Knowing the Rockets are desperate to go after another star, would they be willing to throw in a player like Chandler Parsons if a team would swallow the Asik contract? This is a situation I would love to see the Bulls explore. They would have the cap space to do it.

Lloyd Morris

Sam: It’s an intriguing notion as the Rockets say they just want to clear cap space and are willing to give away Asik. Of course, that would make the Bulls look awfully bad by having the Rockets pay Asik’s two cheap years at $5 million each and then pick up the $15 million. It’s why I don’t think he gets traded. But Parsons will get some good offers and is not likely to accept a small deal to accommodate the Rockets.

The Bulls should go after Lance Stephenson and Luol Deng. I think Lance can fit in our system and help be another shot creator to help rose out. And Deng would fit right in, being he loves playing off the ball and has been with the team. And Deng and Rose could play less minutes in regular season and let Jimmy and D.J. play more minutes to save their legs. Then draft a big man in draft to help Noah out. I think the chemistry offensively and defensively with this starting 5 would work great. To me, I would rather have Deng and Lance, than Melo.

David Lamb

Sam: To add two free agents like that would require giving away Gibson and Dunleavy and using amnesty for Boozer. Obviously that’s untenable. The Bulls theoretically could add someone like Stephenson, though that precludes adding Mirotic this summer. My sense if they went for Stephenson was they’d gotten desperate and abandoned their commitment to a quality team atmosphere and first class people. Deng obviously is a first class person, but given he’d be an expensive free agent I think he and the Bulls have moved on. If in future years it comes to a minimum salary situation, then perhaps I could see some reunion.

With the adversity this Bulls team has faced this season and the last are you sure that major moves need to be made or should we just sign complementary good players with the extra money we have and wait for Rose to return?

James Triggs

Sam: Sure, it would be terrific to get an All-Star. Every team would like to add one. It would be good to add Mirotic. But the key for the Bulls no matter what happens is the return to health and high level play of Derrick Rose. No matter what the Bulls do, if Rose cannot play at a high level they’ll be searching for the various alphabet plans after A. That’s why the key dates may be less the draft and free agency than the end of July when Rose begins play in tryouts for USA Basketball.

I am from Brazil and a huge Bulls fan. I would like to know why [some] Americans and Chicagoans in general blame Derrick Rose? I see it in a lot of comments in several places and I cannot understand, why? He was hurt playing for this team, and for this city. He is the most talented player to wear an Chicago Bulls t-shirt after Michael Jordan and it seems that exists an kind of impatience about him and his work ethic. Maybe people were too impressed about what he did for the Bulls in first 4 years that what really the fans are feeling is an enormous fear of him to became a new Penny Hardaway, Grant Hill and other injury-prone players with a lot of talent. What can you say about it?

Eduardo Salgueiro

Sam: I can say I have been embarrassed for many of the critics. But people can be like that. Many people look at everything at how it impacts them: Rose is hurt, the Bulls are not as good, they cannot celebrate and taunt their friends that they are No. 1. Americans love to point fingers and assign blame, and since people rarely blame themselves Rose became an easy target. He should have come back, he should have healed faster, he should have blah, blah, blah. I hope now Rose comes back more for him than for the Bulls for how much he loves the game, how hard he works to return, how committed he is and what a decent person he is. You hear the critics, who tend to be louder. Derrick has lots of support in Chicago. None of those guys you mentioned wanted to be hurt. Neither did Greg Oden, who is called a bust as a result. Bad things happen to good people. It’s too bad other bad people have to blame them for it.

I want to ask you about Ben Gordon; where is he these days? Any chance we can sign him back? We need scoring and shooting, I think he still can be an effective 6th man, coming in with his shooting and scoring in bunches. He's not a good defender but neither was Korver. He's small, but not Nate/D.J. small. Also, if Nate, D.J. and even John Lucas could be very effective under Thibs, why would not BG be too I'm a big fan of him and would love to have him back.

Fernando Schmude

Sam: I do think this is an anything is possible summer. I don’t think Ben is a priority for the Bulls. But he did come to a playoff game in the United Center and has made it clear over the last year he’d like to return. Having basically not played the last two years, who knows what his basketball abilities are anymore. Though Ben always was a hard worker. On his shooting, anyway. I assume he’d come for a minimum salary now, and while I think the Bulls would prefer someone taller who can shoot, there aren’t a lot of options and not a lot of money depending on what they do in free agency or with Mirotic. One issue is with Rose returning from injuries they won’t want Rose defending shooting guards. Could he play with Gordon? If Hinrich returns, you assume Gordon could play with him. I don’t think it’s likely, but I wouldn’t rule it out as the Bulls desperately need shooting. Ben’s also a good guy; it’s not like bringing back Tyrus Thomas.

Kevin Love spent the weekend in Boston, was seen with Rondo at Fenway park, tweeted or twittered with David Ortiz of the Red Sox, etc., hung out at the local bars, posed for pictures with locals, etc. Your take?

Terry McManus

Sam: Clam chowder? I guess it’s possible he could want to go there with Rondo and the picks they have, though it still seems like a rebuilding situation even with Rondo and not as good a team as the Timberwolves. And pretty bad weather as well. It wouldn’t seem to make that much sense, and with McHale gone I don’t think the Timberwolves are a Celtics farm team anymore.

I know Adreian Payne's name isn't garnering any excitement, but I don't know why not. This kid can really shoot and his measurables are great. He's 6'10 245lbs and has great wingspan at 7'4". He has Dwight Howard measurables, except that this kid can stroke it. I think he'd be a very versatile option for the bulls and could backup either Noah or Taj next year. I think at 16 or 19 this kid could be the steal of the draft.

Rocky Rosado

Sam: I assume he’s on the list. Mirotic, obviously, is a stretch four shooter as well. Though when it gets to outside the lottery you begin taking the best players available. I assume the Bulls do that with an emphasis on shooting. However, I don’t see the team with the possibility of Mirotic and Tony Snell adding two more rookies. Enough with the developmental players. I assume they try to move up with two picks for one, maybe use a pick for a European player for the future. It would be tough to see two more rookies on the roster, especially if Mirotic comes. It’s time to add veterans; not draft picks. Noah’s 30; Rose has been hurt. This isn’t the case of a long window of opportunity anymore.

What are your thoughts on K. Love and Ricky Rubio to the Thunder for Russell Westbrook? This seems like a great deal for both teams. Rubio, Durant, Love, and Ibaka would a be dominant, balanced team. And I think Westbrook is a top 5 talent, trapped on a team with the 2nd best player in the NBA. Minnesota would be his chance to break out. This trade works in the ESPN trade machine. Who would veto this?

Adam Groner

Sam: It’s an intriguing concept given we know Westbrook probably would like his own team and Durant needs someone to pass to him. Of course, it would require paying a big salary to Love and Rubio and the Thunder made one of the worst deals ever when they basically gave away Harden over not wanting to pay him, probably costing them at least one title with a guy who was a perfect fit with Westbrook and Durant because he could handle the ball and pass. How do you pay Ricky Rubio after you wouldn’t pay James Harden? Even though the Thunder lost in the conference finals, I assume the way Westbrook played the Thunder stay as they are and make another run pretty much as they are. Their worry is 2016 when Durant can leave.

I read that SF Mike Miller of the Grizzlies is an unrestricted free agent. As much as he’d like to return to Miami, due to amnesty rules, he’s ineligible to return to Miami until the original amnestied contract is up after the 2014-15 season. While Miller has a history of injuries, he did play all 82 games for the Grizzlies last year. Over the last three years, I like the kid’s team defense and was surprised at exactly how improved he became as an individual defender.

Kenneth Gale

Sam: Miller is an excellent shooter, but has such a long history of injuries that he could barely play half the games his seasons in Miami that it strikes me as way too much of a risk unless he were a minimum or low cost player, which I doubt he will be.

Enough speculation about 'Melo of Love coming to Chicago. Let's assume they don't. Looking at the UFA class of '14 on, which players would you add to the team? Do you think players like Jason Collins, Chris Kaman or Elton Brand are good replacements should Nazr retire this year? As guards, holding on to Kirk and/or DJ would be terrific, but adding Sefolosha, Pargo or Pierce would be nice. Of course it all depends on the players that will be drafted.

Mike Versonnen

Sam: Elton is an interesting name. He was close to joining the Bulls last summer when Atlanta stepped in with a big one year offer. He was interested in coming back and I think he’d be great if he’s interested in a minimum or close. Though Mohammed says he wants another shot as well. Kaman figures to get much bigger money than the Bulls would pay for a backup, I assume. I never understood why the Pacers didn’t use Lavoy Allen, but their coach is very bad with the bench and that hurt them. I’d take a shot at Cole Aldrich, maybe Emeka Okafor if he’s healthy. Maybe Jason Smith. The issue will be what else the Bulls do and how much money is left if they are in free agency to try to get one of the big free agency guys. I agree Anthony and Love are long shots. But I do expect the Bulls to seriously pursue both.

If A'mare opts out to find a winning situation how much would he cost? Is he the backup PF/C we've been looking for?!

Matthew Mukulice

Sam: I’d assume if he wanted to do that he was using some hallucinogenic drugs and would not be someone you could trust.

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