Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 12.30.11
Sam Smith opens his mailbag to respond to the latest round of emails from his readers
I found a fascinating article/conspiracy theory from Yahoo Sports. It basically postulates that Dwight Howard won't go to Chicago because Adidas doesn't want its superstar pitchmen in the same market. It's the best explanation I've heard about why Chicago isn't on Howard's list. What do you think?
Sam: Yes, I thought it was an interesting take, but I don’t get involved too much in the sneaker stuff. It is not the shoes! I actually don’t understand why the NBA doesn’t require players to wear sneakers they have assigned. After all, it is part of the uniform. I hope in the next labor agreement the league takes works out a sneaker deal of its own. Players can wear any sneaker they want off the court. When they are playing, they have to wear the league sneaker just as they do jersey and shorts and socks. That would be a fun one to watch. Anyway, I don’t buy the sneaker conspiracy. Nothing against Adidas, but it’s not exactly the only company in the world. If Howard wanted to come to Chicago, I’m quite sure another company would be only too glad to take him on and pay him as much. I think it’s more a LeBron thing. For all his talk, in the end the word I heard more was LeBron didn’t want to be in the shadow of Michael Jordan and always compared. I’ve heard the same about Howard from a good source regarding L.A., that he doesn’t want to follow Shaq and be just another center there. He’s said to want sort of his own tradition, which you obviously can get in Brooklyn, or even in Dallas, which is said to be his second choice.
I wonder if you read the news about T-Mac hypothesizing about Howard's options:
1. He says Howard playing with Williams on the Nets will not win a title.
2. T-Mac thinks Howard should go to Chicago - because Rose + Howard in Chicago would lead to a championship. T-Mac agrees with you that Chicago should be a destination for Howard if Howard was intent on winning titles.
3. T-Mac thinks Dallas would be best for Howard - with Dirk+Howard, and then Deron Williams also going to Dallas (with another team somehow taking on Shawn Marion's contract). Here, there are numerous problems - like how Dallas would get the cap space to sign Howard & Williams.
So Howard might need to consider staying in Orlando, T-Mac says. How do you see Howard's status playing out in 2012?
Sam: Is this like when McGrady was in Orlando and they were 3-1 up on Detroit in the playoffs and he announced he was in the second round? It’s been pretty clear watching Howard that he’s been somewhat disengaged and in his head, where ever that is, he may be out of Orlando. Which, knowing him, should change 15 more times in the next month. I’m guessing New Jersey at this point with the move to Brooklyn, Deron Williams to stay and hidden Russian bullion in a numbered Swiss account.
Kobe. Is this guy serious? Every single time he steps onto the court, he has some kind of broken bone to hold him down. Yet he hangs off the rim with completely torn ligaments in his wrist, and did not have a single issue shooting the ball - but said he couldn't flex it properly. I have no doubt it was sore - I saw the game when he injured it, but torn ligaments - I doubt very much. I think he loves to exaggerate every injury so he can be seen as the toughest guy in the league - or if he does have a bad game, then he can cover himself.
Sam: Yes, he does seem a bit the Ben Roethlisberger of the NBA at times.
After Boozer’s performance against LA, it looks as if things aren't going to change. How about Kevin Garnett. Him being a free agent after this year, is there any chance we amnesty Boozer and sign KG for 3 years? Maybe even convincing KG and Ray Allen to come to Chicago splitting Boozers salary whatever way they please?
Sam: Look, the Bulls are not going to use amnesty on Boozer, at least not for a few years if they do. They’ve got to pay him $15 million whether he plays or not. If they use the amnesty, then they have to get someone else and now you are spending maybe $25 million on that position with Taj. That’s ridiculous and will never happen. Boozer may not measure up to the standards as advertised, but he does get, say 15 and 7. Taj doesn’t much come close to that and in case anyone is watching, he also is off to a slow start with turnovers, a lot of ball stopping and it seems a year since he’s hit a jump shot. As for KG, geez, the guy is about done if you’ve seen the Celtics. He’s a punk and is about to go out of the NBA badly, as his opening night skirmish with Bill Walker suggests. Let me know the first time he ever starts with someone who isn’t a 10th man.
I have been one of the people that stand firmly behind Boozer and believe that he will be an All Star caliber player this year. That being said, while we all know he won't be a defensive stalwart, I didn't think he would be so passive on offense. I love his face up jumpers, but not every single time. He is better with a bulldog attitude and using that nice arsenal of hook shots, drop steps and hard drives on a quick hitter. Above all else though, the thing that bothered me the most was his positioning in the warriors game. I can remember about 4-5 plays when he was in the post and failed to seal his man, thus allowing them to slip behind/in front of him for an easy steal. I still have faith that he will be the player we think he is but I've had about enough of his passive/indifferent/lackadaisical attitude on the court. Do the coaches ever get in his face about this?
Kevin J. Loughlin
Sam: Yes, they do. And last season teammates did as well. It’s not the kind of team that makes a public issue of these things, but guys have started to let others know. Even in the Golden State game if you saw Derrick gave it to Taj pretty good when Taj didn’t get over and let Curry backdoor him for a dunk. I wouldn’t call it indifference, but for a strong guy he doesn’t seem to like the physical contact and doesn’t mix it up that much. I think I’d like to see him getting the ball more on the move than settling for that jumper, even side to side movement as he has a good left handed move to the rim. But the Bulls opened the season a bit stagnant on offense, a little too structured it seemed. I know Boozer’s become a favorite to get on. Just as a guy named Deng was two years ago and everyone wanted him traded for Steve Blake. Boozer’s numbers still were good last season and we’ll see where he goes as he is in better shape this season. The Sacramento game seemed a good restart.
I wonder, do you cheer for the Bulls when you watch them or do you sit stoically and analyze the game?
Sam: There’s an old journalism saying which my old pal Jerome Holtzman used in the title of his book, “No cheering in the press box.” I am inclined to a wow or two, but for great plays no matter the team. Most media people these days seem to save their cheering for when there is press room food that isn’t all the same color.
Are you impressed by Nikola Mitocic winning the Euroleague MVP and what kind of timeline do you foresee in his future with the Bulls? Could you see the Bulls trying to get him involved sooner rather than later?
Sam: Yes, I saw he was MVP last month, which is pretty good. I don’t see the games, but have included highlight clips here and they have looked good. But everything I hear from the Bulls because of buyouts and things is that he’ll be in Europe at least two years. Neither side seems to have any plans to come sooner. It’s strictly a future pick, though because of that I see no reason anymore why the Bulls should be holding onto that Charlotte first round pick and I’d try to package that with someone if I can.
There's been the question lately of how aggressive Rose needs to be. But isn't that the Catch 22 with this team, one that Rose seemed to come into the season realizing? If Rose carries so much of the burden, he eventually will wear down or in any event won't be enough on his own to get by good teams in the playoffs; as was the case last year. But if he were able to take a step back and facilitate more, and if the offense functioned more effectively on a holistic level, the team as a whole might be able to get over the hump. Based on the first couple of games, it looks like the latter might not be possible, which doesn't bode well for the Bulls' championship prospects this season. Coming into the season, I thought (and from reading your columns it seems like you thought) that the addition of Hamilton would enable Rose to facilitate more and for the Bulls to play a better team game on offense, thus improving their chances for ultimate success. I'm not sure I feel that way anymore. Has your opinion changed?
Sam: No, though I heard chanting as I read your plea for holistic healing of the offense. It’s difficult to criticize and I have written I think the Bulls can be a serious contender this season. That said, they still don’t have a second great player. It puts them at a huge disadvantage and makes it difficult to truly project a championship. It’s possible, I believe, because of the pieces, being the size up front and the depth as you see Miami, for example, is so small. But the truth is Jordan never had much success in the playoffs until Pippen developed. As I wrote for Thursday, I think you have to ride Hamilton more. And Rose will have to continue to carry an extraordinary load because he has to. The Bulls have yet to get that second great player, and it’s not easy to do. Look, they’d make a deal for Howard if they could, I believe. They tried in free agency last summer, but no one except Boozer wanted to come. They got lucky with Rose, so they have to hope to get lucky again. After all, no one expected Pippen to be a Hall of Famer.
What are thoughts about the current lineup? i know its early days in a rushed season but watching how the heat are playing it seams as tho 'a scorer' in rip hamilton may not cut it this year....i agree with you and greg anthony that we have the most complete team in the nba and i really do like an experienced winner like rip on the bulls but it doesnt necessarily help rose a whole lot by adding pretty much what theyve got already... would u say w that the bulls are done about the oj mayo idea?
Sam: I would not. I think what the Bulls are doing now, which makes sense, is watching what happens. The way the NBA season generally works is teams take a quarter of the season, about 16 games this season, to assess who and where they are. At that point some teams may realize they are done and have to regroup or need something else. So players not available preseason can become available. That’s the value in the Charlotte No. 1, and the Bulls have theirs to trade. I think Mayo probably is still on their radar, though for now it would take Gibson and I’d want to hang onto him because I think the Bulls size up front is their biggest edge in playing Miami.
You openly criticized Rose's defense against Golden State. I was wondering what are your thoughts on his defense overall. I see him as a very inconsistent defender who has some good nights, but the same number or more of bad nights. Can he ever become a difference maker on defense like say Dwyane Wade.
Sam: Funny you picked Wade, who isn’t a very good defender. Wade argues a lot after driving and gets run out on a lot. He likes to play the lanes for steals and cheats a lot. I believe Rose can be good, if not great given all the offensive responsibility he has, but I was disappointed in that Golden State game to see him standing and watching the ball go inside and have his man either beat him back door or get open shots without a hand up. Maybe the excitement of the contract got to him, but other than that finish against the Lakers his first two games were passive on both ends. He was the more familiar Derrick against the Kings. He’s terrific and I say it often, but he’s not perfect, and the best thing about that is he welcomes teaching and criticism and doesn’t take it personal and really just wants to get better for the team. I think his dream is to average 14 and 8 and have everyone happy with their scoring average going up five points. But it’s not possible yet on this Bulls team, so he’ll have to score more than I thought and he apparently thought he would this season.
The second unit don't have a go-to scorer. You know who would be worthy of this bunch of guys, though? Jamison. That guy is hilarious to watch with his bottomless bag of tricks. I don't know how he gets along, but as a fan I'd love to see Bulls pick this guy up and put him on the second unit in hopes that he'd work out.
Sam: Did I hear a Boozer trade suggestion? I like Jamison, a real pro. Not exactly a go to scorer, but a guy who can get you points. He’s on the final year of his deal and he makes the same as Boozer. How would that be Boozer going back to the Cavs after they said he reneged on a deal and got himself into free agency and left. I doubt the Cavs would want him back and they seem set to go young, but it’s a new ownership and management and I guess it’s possible the Bulls would want to get the money off the books to use in other ways. Still, I wouldn’t count on it.
Do you think the Bulls should sign Nate Robinson? I think we could use him as a spark off our bench, I feel like we need a guy that could come off the bench and create there own shot. Korver/Watson are catch and shoot guys and Brewer should never even touch the ball unless he under the hoop. I think Robinson would be a great fit with our team coming off the bench.
Sam: I’d say only if they feel they need a wacko on the team. But I’d take a chance on another mini, Earl Boykins, who had some amazing moments coming back last season. He really bothers guys, though the Bulls seem set on keeping a spot open for a fifth big man to replace Kurt Thomas. Plus, they play 10 guys now and Jimmy Butler, who has been good in practice, can’t get time. I’ve heard Thibodeau likes him a lot, but Thibodeau is of those coaches who doesn’t like to take time from veterans and change up a rotation that has worked. I can accept that.
I always like to play the what if game, say the bulls never pull off the miracle of drafting d rose at a basically 1% chance, who do we end up drafting that year, and what would our situation be now?
Sam: No one up at Berto likes to go there and you do hear a lot of retching when it is mentioned. Let’s say there’d be a lot less interest in the team right now. And a lot of fans screaming to fire everyone but Benny. As I recall, they were looking at both Lopez brothers and Joe Alexander, who they eventually got for awhile and how bad would that have been? There also was talk Beasley could tumble and they were looking to maybe move up, and as I recall there were many fans writing me to say to take the scorer Beasley over Rose. I’m fairly sure you still can get Beasley.
Finances aside, would you trade Rose for LeBron if Miami was willing?
Sam: No. Obviously, we are biased having seen Rose and having watched LeBron become the most hated man in the NBA not formerly married to a Kardashian. But the essence of the two is Rose welcomes the challenge of being the guy to put himself on the line. LeBron clearly does not, which is hardly unique in the NBA. I don’t see it in Deron Williams or Chris Paul, either. It’s a rare trait. Yes, LeBron did win a lot of games in Cleveland and got them to the Finals, but I see Rose as someone who’ll keep fighting until he finishes the job. LeBron clearly said he’s not that guy. It’s OK, but I go with Rose even if LeBron is probably a better overall talent.
I know this may be a bit of a knee jerk question, but I was watching the Celtics/Heat game last night and saw the Celts slow down the Heatles by playing zone. Considering how successful the zone was against them during the Finals do you know if Thibs thought about using it some this year? And as a follow up: would it even be possible to get the team up to speed with a zone in this year of limited practice time?
Sam: I think that’s the issue. Most NBA coaches don’t like the zone because it puts you in poor rebounding position and doesn’t demand you be accountable. So I don’t see Thibodeau going to it much. I don’t think you have to against Miami. For one thing, Boston is very small and Miami could rebound and run. The Bulls have size and a rebounding edge. Also, you’ve just got to do a better job taking care of the ball and never, ever like the Bulls did some in the conference finals last season throw back when you are trapped.
I heard that we drafted Norris Cole in the draft and we traded him. Who did we trade him for? Do you think we should have kept him on our roster, because he looks promising.
Sam: I got a bunch of these after Coles had that big finish in Tuesday’s TNT game. Coles will forever officially be listed as the Bulls pick in 2011, but while he is good and the Bulls liked him fine they were angling all draft for Mirotic and likely wouldn’t have taken Coles. Backup point isn’t exactly the most pressing need now, and in the long run I’m confident Mirotic will be a far better player.
Lately I have read of a lot of fans calling for Korver and Gibson to start. Is this a possibility?
Sam: I assume you are talking about Kyle’s wife and Taj’s brother.
Who are the top 3 FA signings for the Bulls since MJ era? Is it:
1. Boozer - 20/10 guy when healthy, was an all-star
2. Hamilton - 18 ppg guy when younger, don't need the ball to be effective, won a ring with the Pistons
3. Brad Miller - yes, he didn't become an all star until his Pacers/Kings days, but he was a good center.
I omitted Ron Mercer and Brent Barry for obvious reasons. Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, C.J. Watson? Ben Wallace was already past his prime when he came over here.
Sam: And I remember they even blew it on going for Larry Kenon over Bernard King, which probably cost Jerry Sloan his job. Is there a none of the above category? And I almost forgot E-rob. I’m saying the Bulls better stick to the draft.
I watched that game between the Heat and Celtics. I found it funny what Steve Kerr said during the game about the Celtics trying to play small ball this year realizing that the team to beat is the Heat, and not the Lakers with their big front line, therefore trading/giving away their bigs from last year. On the contrary, I believe if the Celtics had K. Perkins in the post, Wade and Lebron would think twice before driving full force to the basket. I believe the Bulls and Thunder are the best equipped to beat the Heat because of their big front line and shot blocking ability.
Sam: Boston has gone small because all their big men broke down. It looks good when you can run and dunk, like the Heat were doing in that game. But Oklahoma City now has a shot because they have loaded up on size. Assuming Russell Westbrook doesn’t tackle Kevin Durant going for the game winning score. I loved that all this started with Westbrook yelling for Thabo to shoot. Obviously, he never saw Thabo play before. It’s also why I’m reluctant to see the Bulls move any of their big men for scorers. They should ride their strength and try to pound Miami. Those guys don’t like to be hit and Bosh may always start crying.
I just read you writing that Dirk was "not really" a star in one of your letter responses. I literally had to stop reading the article to write you this e-mail. Did you watch anyone other then the Bulls in the playoffs last year? I just think you went a little too far by suggesting that Dirk is not a star. Only stars do what he did all through the playoffs... it doesn't matter what you do before or after. I'm just saying that I would watch how Rose-centric you are if you really think that Dirk is not a star.
Sam: My point was the definition of a star, which varies. Do you come to watch Dirk? He’s a great talent, which I agreed, and one of the top players in the NBA, a former MVP. But the star elite I was talking about are the guys who make you go, “Wow.” That’s not Dirk, who makes you long for riding on Lufthansa for the efficiency if not the hello.
I'm a little confused about the amnesty rule, is it once a season, or is it a one time amnesty for a team, and only during certain points in time? Also, you placed the Pacers at 4 on the rankings, and i thought they might have looked a little immature in their preseason game against the Bulls, Are you sure they can beat out the more disciplined teams in the East?
Sam: Amnesty can be used once ever and only on a player on your roster before the labor agreement was signed. The East isn’t very strong beyond the Heat and Bulls in the East. I picked the Pacers fourth and I’m satisfied with that given they have some nice depth as well with Hansbrough off the bench. Heck, he’s be a 20/10 guy if he could play the Bulls every game.
I'm looking at the list of remaining centers, to see if the Bulls can find a cheap veteran to fill the role Kurt Thomas played last season, to be a mentor to Omer, and to provide some minutes, and the three best possibilities are narrowed down to Joel Pryzbilla, Etan Thomas, and Theo Ratliff. I personally like Ratliff for the bulls because he is a great shot blocker, and may be able to provide that veteran leadership Kurt Thomas did last season. Is Omer the man backing up Joakim, or do you see the bulls signing Pryzbilla, Etan Thomas, or Ratliff?
Sam: Several teams are making inquiries to Przybilla, who seems uncertain about playing. Thomas is too small and I still don’t understand his poetry. Plus, Brendan Haywood beat him up once. Ratliff is too injured. I assume they’ll bring in someone at some point as the history of Boozer and Noah is they get injured at some point.
I just wanted to say I went to Northbrook mall earlier this week to meet the bulls players and I walked away very impressed. I got to say hi to Scal and boozer along with a signature on my evolution basketball and even got a picture with both. I hope other nba players are as loving to their fans as ours (though probably not). Heck I even got a high five from derrick on his way out so that was a bonus. I think it's awesome as well that Brian has such a great sense of humor with fans. He went out of his way to take pictures with people that weren't able to get wristbands because they were in wheelchairs and the like. All in all I walked away from the event proud to say the players we have at the united center wear the bulls uniform.
Sam: Although NBA players get grief for some of the activities of the young and stupid, they generally are very good guys with a good sense of community. You won’t find many more personable and friendly people than Magic Johnson and Charles Barkley. This is an especially good Bulls group of guys, easy going, accessible and friendly. Actually, the championship teams of the 90’s weren’t so great to fans as Jordan and Pippen, in part because of their celebrity, were difficult and often unapproachable. But no one seems to have minded given the results. I think in the end that’s what the community prefers. It’s just a nice bonus these are mostly good people with good values and Scalabrine is a born entertainer. I tend to root more for guys than teams, which makes this Bulls team easier to root for. I’ll admit I didn’t always feel that way about all the Bulls teams over the years.
I realize that the Golden State was a team problem, but can we start hating Boozer again?
Sam: Can we give it at least another week or so?