LeBron James, Kyrie Irving
The Cavs succeeded the first time LeBron was there with lesser talent because they played as a team and accepted their roles. You can see Irving and Love are resistant.
Jason Miller/NBAE/Getty Images

Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 11.07.2014

Every Friday, Sam Smith of Bulls.com 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.

Rose was moving as if he had bad corns under his feet on those ankles against the Bucks. What’s the rush in playing him against (76ers-Celtics)

Randy Sanders

Sam: It’s the age old question in Chicago: Which came first, the accusation Rose is chicken to play or those with egg on their faces about how well he plays and how hard he works and how dedicated his teammates are to him? There’s been a public and media cottage industry that’s developed in Chicago of accusing Rose of not wanting to play and then demanding to know why he plays so much. I know Rose always said he’s not affected by all the noise and second guessing, but how can you not be? I didn’t think it was a great idea for him to play against the Bucks, though I always defer to the player. Being around Rose since he’s come to the Bulls, the one thing I do know is he’s as sincere and forthcoming as any athlete who’s ever been in the Bulls locker room. He truly loves playing; this isn’t a kid anxious to end his career so he can trade mortgage bonds. This belief among some—and I do believe it’s a reverse Nixonian sort of loud minority—that he doesn’t care to play is contrary to everything in his life. I do understand the view that you should play to get accustomed to playing, especially when you were out so long. So I can accept Rose playing against the Bucks as carefully as he did. But he’s got a legitimate ankle sprain; we all saw him step on Irving’s foot. Those things often last a week or three. What’s the rush in November? Popovich already is giving his guys multiple days off. Classic Pop he starts with a national TV game Thursday. Yet, some fans and media demand Rose play or else admit some character flaw. Perhaps it’s why legislators in Washington don’t worry when people complain about them. You figure they are saying, “You think we’re bad. Look at how they’re treating Rose in Chicago.”

Your suggestion regarding the Knicks trading Stoudemire for Kobe Bryant makes so much sense to me I was wondering what would be the Knicks justification for not doing it. The initial reaction to your suggestion according to a "Knick source" was there was a 0% chance of this happening.

Bruce Roberts

Sam: I see it’s gotten some traction since I speculated about it Monday, though “Knicks source” in a New York newspaper generally means someone who’s been to a Knicks game or gets the subway at Penn Station under Madison Square Garden near the Knicks sign. I could understand why the Knicks might balk as though Kobe has looked great, that’s two years of big money, which cuts them off from this summer free agency. Maybe they have a guy in mind they really want. Marc Gasol’s been rumored, who probably heard good things about Phil from his brother and is a high post type center who’d work well in the offense. I know the Lakers side of needing Kobe for TV ratings, which I think is less urgent. They’ll stop watching even Kobe at 4-28. As I wrote, it’s up to Kobe and maybe he wants to wind it down in L.A. But what a show that would be with he and Anthony in New York. And what a flourish for the end of his career. Sure, I heard from Kobe all the not running out on a sinking ship thing. But that’s what you say now. It still seems like it makes too much sense for Kobe to pass. And, as I suggested, what better way to advance the New York offense. And the Knicks in the mid-90’s did everything they could to get Jordan away from the Bulls. How could they pass on this now?

What could the Cavaliers get for Kyrie in a trade? And do you recommend it?

Trip Radcliffe

Sam: It’s only a few games in and now it’s Kyrie taking the heat after the loss to the Jazz and zero assists with 34 points, 23 shots and 10 free throw attempts. His arm must be sore. There’s more panic/urgency in this era with the unexpected because of the constant updating on TV and phones that makes every instance seem more significant. So comes the trade Kyrie suggestions. Of course, no one panics quite yet. But the Irving thing is interesting because many were surprised Irving resigned with the Cavs. Everyone around the NBA heard last season he wanted to get out of Cleveland and go back east. But you cannot, especially with as many injuries as he’s had, turn down a maximum deal. So he appropriately signed. My guess is he wouldn’t object to a deal. So perhaps after the season as long as the Cavs don’t win the title. Playing with LeBron you want shooting, and a point guard like Irving can elevate a team. So you look who needs a top point guard, which is like a quarterback in the NFL these days. You have to have something to exchange. Irving is from New Jersey and we always heard him wanting to get back there. The Nets? A package with Joe Johnson and getting rid of Waiters as the Cavs are in win now no matter what LeBron says? Celtics? Though they don’t have much shooting and would have to give up Olynyk for sure. I’m giving it a few more games, but I suspect we’ll be hearing this one come up again.

What is your sense of Bulls rookies Mirotic and McDermott one week into the season? Doug's shot has looked errant, and his minutes have dropped since the season opener. What do you think is the biggest factor in why Thibs hasn't had him on the floor much of late? Low confidence, poor shooting, defense? As for Niko, he's gotten more minutes than expected thanks to Noah's illness and the injury to Taj. Do you think he is adjusting well to the NBA game?

Dan Michler

Sam: I believed McDermott would play more and be more involved, though it’s been Mirotic with the injuries to Gibson and illness and injuries with Noah. Pau the iron man! I believe they’ve underutilized McDermott, but have gotten by with wins so there’s not much to say. Hinrich has been huge making big shots along with Aaron Brooks, Hinrich as good as he’s been since his first seasons with the Bulls. So that’s negated the need for McDermott as the Bulls have been finishing games with what looks like not enough shooting. But as we expected the Bulls have survived with better second half defense over offense. Mirotic has shown more versatility and an ability to play off the dribble better than anyone expected. We thought he’d be more a spot up shooter. Instead, he’s less that than anything as he pump fakes all the time and drives. It’s resulted in some really good passes off the dribble, which is impressive for a guy that size. His defense has been shaky; hardly surprising for a rookie as he’s gotten yanked a few times after egregious mistakes, at least in ThibsWorld. But Thibodeau obviously really likes playing him. I still expect them to find McDermott and once he and they see his shot going down, which it hasn’t enough yet, he’ll play much more.

Can't wait for next time the Bulls play the Bucks, due to Brandon Knight's trash talking to D Rose. Is he an idiot? Rose is [going to] drop 40 on him easy!

Jon Keper

Sam: Knight’s calling LaBradford Smith right now to find out what it was like.

Do you think the Bulls might regret letting Butler go into FA? It looks like he wanted more than 11M$ per year... the Bulls wouldnt go any higher... You think if Butler (and its obvioulsy a big IF) can average like 15-20 pts per game with like 6-8 rebounds, and 1.5 steals and 1 block he might get about 15M$ per year? If he can maintain some of his recent play, and one thing you can say about Butler is that the guy will continue to work to get better... If by any chance he gets some votes to the All-Star Game (coaches choice) and again in the second or even first NBA Defensive Teams... 15M$ could be possible... Will the Bulls regret it?

Rui Dias

Sam: There’s nothing wrong with what either side did as that was the rule both sides agreed to in collective bargaining that was best for the league. Jimmy is betting on himself; the Bulls aren’t betting against Butler. But while Jimmy looks at Jimmy, the Bulls have to budget for the whole family: How much for Jo coming up for a new deal? Keep Dunleavy? Replace him? They’d love to pay every player what he wants; just as you’d love every worker to get what he or she wants. But it doesn’t happen. I’m a believer in you take the first contract to lock up the lifetime security. Jimmy decided to take the risk. With that, if you win it usually means more money. It’s like any gamble in business. If you get it right, you can collect. But until you have a deal you have no deal. And things change quickly in sports. Jimmy could outpace the Bulls offer. He’s got a shot at the All-Star team assuming the Bulls continue to do well as the East is weak and success usually sways the coaches for backups. Market value is what someone will pay you. Jimmy gets to find out next summer what someone will. Then the Bulls will have to make the decision on whether that fits with their plans and whatever the needs might be after this season’s playoffs. Remember, they can match any offer. Both sides want Jimmy in Chicago; that hasn’t changed.

I'll admit, I was one of the Bulls fans wishing we would sign Carmelo and thought it was a done deal, up until the point it wasn't. Hindsight i think the Bulls were able to hit a home-run in the offseason, Mirotic/Gasol/McDermott/Brooks add alot to the team and I love everyone of the signings. I still think that Melo would have been a grand slam. Though there is no way to know what could've been, Gasol may still be a Bull with Melo, though McDermott/Mirotic probably wouldn't be. Anyways, why do you think the Bulls lost out? I personally believe it was 100% money. If it was any other reason then money, Melo wouldn't be a Knick now. Did the Bulls have a bad pitch? Or did the persistent rumors of the Bulls being "cheap" (which is 100% BS) weigh in on his mind? I have a feeling Melo will go down with the Baylor, Iverson, Malone, Barkley group of good players never to win it all. He isn't nearly as good as those players, just in the same boat of never being able to get over that hump.

Alex Pauley

Sam: Not everyone wins who could. Those are great players who happened to play in the wrong decade, times with Jordan, Bill Russell or Kareem and Magic. Because you never were on a title winning team doesn’t mean you weren’t worthy or good enough. It means you just weren’t on a good enough team or someone had a better team. As for Carmelo, sure, money was one issue, though I didn’t think the big one even as I would have been shocked if Anthony had left New York. A lot changes for you when you are a mercenary. That would have been Barkley if he won in Houston. Changing once is fine. Changing twice takes away your identity with a team and you then become a journeyman. Say the Bulls had won a title if Anthony came. Would there be a statue for him? Would he be an alltime beloved Bull? Not ahead of Rose or Noah or probably even Gibson. I believe Anthony understood that and didn’t want to go where he’d have to sacrifice to be the second supporting player. So there was doubt, and when there’s doubt you consider that the family feels it’s home, the kids like it, you’re settled and have moved already. And, yes, the money and there were just too many plus factors for New York. And there was Chicago with no guarantee with Rose’s injuries and Noah having undergone surgery. LeBron going to Cleveland, obviously, was the coup of the summer. But the Bulls were pretty close behind.

Just from seeing highlights of Monday's Cavs-Blazers game, it is amazing how little effort Lebron shows at times (especially not running back on defense). I know sometimes he gets lazy, but sometimes I think that James is actually doing this on purpose, and is actually finding an intelligent way to get his team better. I feel like he did this with the Heat too. He let's them learn how to play with him, tries hard to not score too much so his teammates can gain confidence. I mean seriously, he only took 12 shots Monday night? There's plenty of games that he doesn't even try until the 4th quarter, and it's scary for me to think that it actually works for him (and he is actually a smart player in that way), since he knows when to turn it on during the game or how to play depending on what month in the season it is. Do you agree with this at all?

John Kueper

Sam: LeBron’s the best player in the league. He’s an amazing talent and a true team guy. The Miami thing worked because the players were like minded. I don’t believe that’s the situation in Cleveland now, though things could change as it’s very early. There’s a reason guys don’t make the playoffs; it’s not because they are, as fans and media often like to decide, losers. It’s more so they don’t know how or care to play as teammates. You have seen that with Irving and Love previously. There was this undercurrent in Minnesota that you could tell the other players couldn’t wait for Love to leave. And looking at the Cavs talent with Irving winning All-Star game and USA Basketball MVPs how does that team not even come close to the playoffs last season? And after adding Luol Deng. It seems obvious now Irving certainly doesn’t care for the team thing and not so much with Love, either. LeBron’s a great teammate. You can tell he loves the team setting right on back to high school where he picked the small school to be in a team situation. The Cavs succeeded the first time he was there with lesser talent because they played as a team and accepted their roles. It’s how the 76ers finally went to the Finals with Iverson. You can see Irving and Love are resistant. LeBron seems to be playing to try to bring his teammates out. Wade, obviously, was a better talent than both when he and LeBron started. And Wade came to understand what he needed to do to accommodate LeBron for success. Because Wade had been in those situations before and seen the dynamic with sacrifice. Irving and Love at this early point don’t seem ready to yield and become pieces of the team, which has to function around the best talent. It’s possible Irving doesn’t completely get that after winning his two MVP awards. Of course, it’s so early in the season we won’t remember this week by the end of the season. LeBron is trying to get them to understand. His other issue is he doesn’t have a coach—no offense to David Blatt given his international experience—that anyone takes very seriously. Not that Erik Spoelstra was Red Auerbach, but Pat Riley was right over his shoulder for everyone to see. So now LeBron has to make it work on his own. He’s good enough to do that, but it could take some time even as the Cavs certainly have more talent now than Miami had last season. We’ll also see what Irving wants most out of basketball life.

Is Chris Bosh proof that "LeBron makes everybody better" is a slight fabrication?

Adam Garcia

Sam: I think the point is he makes teams better and when teams are better everyone is better. After all, Bosh was an All-Star every year with LeBron.

Is Deng on a steep decline? Lots of wear and tear over the years. His numbers have taken a big hit. I'm not surprised about scoring but his rebounding is way down

Jeff Lichtenstein

Sam: I always thought Miami was a bad place for Deng—though I say that with hesitation given the winter weather and how 'Miami' and 'bad' could never be in the same sentence—because of the mix of personnel. Though we heard all that pass first offense stuff when the season opened, they don’t have playmakers or guys who see the court well. Deng’s a player who plays off others. He’s not an isolation, break an opponent down player. Plus, there’s pressure on Wade to return to being more of who he used to be, which is not a guy setting up Luol Deng. He can never say, but my guess is Deng regrets not taking the Bulls offer before the trade to Cleveland. But life goes on and he’ll do well. The timing wasn’t right and his pride was involved, which happens in every work place while money is usually the symbol. It is when you make $50,000 as well as long as people are starving and homeless. The tough part is Deng can be a free agent this summer and it will be difficult for him to excel and be appreciated like he was in Chicago under Thibodeau in the Heat system the way they play.

I was saddened to hear the news about Mookie Blaylock. He was one of my favorite players to watch play in the 90s. I remember him as a great defender, an All-Star, a player that played well on both sides on the court. It also made me wonder why don’t we hear more about the great point guards of the 90s? (besides Payton and Stockton). Is it because the game was more oriented on the front court players? I understand today everyone talks about how competitive the point guard position is in the NBA, but there were great point guards in the 90s. Kenny Anderson, Rod Strickland, Kevin Johnson, Tim Hardaway, Mark Price, Derek Harper, etc. How would you compare those players against the point guards of today?

Bobby Grbevski

Sam: It’s too bad for Blaylock, though worse for the woman he killed. The point about the guards is well taken because it’s a surprise how even the players on TV now who played in that era don’t appreciate how good some of those guards were. But the world doesn’t stop for you and it’s generally a what now world. It’s true the game was played more inside/outside then when there still were great centers, like Kareem, Ewing, Hakeem, Shaq, Daugherty, Parish, Malone, Robinson and Mourning to play through. The standard in this era often is considered to be someone like Chris Paul. I’d have — though the skills are varied — players like Price, Kevin Johnson, Harper at a comparable level. Of course, Isiah Thomas was superior to them all, but also Mo Cheeks, Jason Kidd and Micheal Ray Richardson as well on the top level with Price, Harper and KJ. Heck, Reggie Theus could play both guard positions and was 6-7 and could average 25. There certainly are some terrific point guards now, but if those guys had been the dominant scorers for their offenses like many of these guys are today they would have been regarded much higher.

Has it become apparant that Mike Dunleavy is the rightful starter now and for the season? He's done everything the team needs to succeed. As good as our rookies are, they are more valuable in lesser roles. Can we end the McDermott over Dunleavy conversation?

Matthew Mikulice

Sam: It was merely a point of discussion and will be one again. It was less to take Dunleavy from the starters than to get him to help a second unit that was struggling then and aid the development of McDermott. The bench players have come on much better. But there’s still a need for the discussion as McDermott remains forgotten and underutilized playing with that group. It’s not exactly like the Bulls are blowing everyone out. They could use McDermott’s shooting.

What exactly is the end game for the 76ers? There has to be some light at the end of the tunnel that justifies their blatant disregard and disrespect for the NBA. What I'm trying to ask is, what are they hoping to accomplish?

Ifeanyi Onwumah

Sam: In simplest terms it’s a human tradition at times to take care of yourself without regard to what happens to the world around you. They simply hope to get a high lottery pick in the draft and potential star. It’s the way the best teams have been built. No argument there. But their absolute disregard for the spirit of competition and the dignity of the sport tarnishes everyone and they do not seem to care. You don’t want to be on a boat with a member of 76ers management because it’s pretty likely women and children first would just be an antiquated guideline for them. What they are going to find out is there is a price to pay. Because when you purposely lose as they are doing you make losers of your players. And they come to accept failure more than most players. It becomes a difficult habit to break.

Lamarr Houston of the Bears is done for the season doing a silly celebration when his knee buckled from a small hop. Mark my words. One of these days, someone in the NBA will hurt his ankle or knee from body bumps as they often jump pretty high in a crowded bench area. Can't blame Snell for declining Noah last year since he's built like a twig.

Bambi Choi

Sam: C’mon, you know basketball players are virtual Mensa candidates compared to NFL players.

There is no Next, a book by Sam Smith


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