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Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 4.17.2015
Sam Smith of Bulls.com opens his Ask Sam mailbag and responds to the latest round of emails from his readers
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By Sam Smith | 4.17.2015 | 2:00 p.m. CT
[Derrick] was explosive over the last number of games. It gave our whole team so much confidence and watching them play was so much more fun. In his ten minutes last night, he demonstrated no explosiveness. I’m nervous something happened.
Sam: You’ll have to live with that. I don’t quite understand the miracles that are expected. Rose had some of that soreness during USA Basketball last summer, sat out some practices and I think a game and basically his career was ruled done. This is going to happen. I don’t know what he actually experiences, but after three major surgeries in three seasons—more hardships and rehabs than anyone in the NBA has endured of his level—he’s going to have occasional setbacks, I assume. You don’t go from coming off surgery again to flying across the court faster than anyone and not experience physical issues. Perhaps Rose will miss a game or practice here and there. He’s hardly a week or so in a return back to some extraordinary health level. He should be commended for working hard to get back and as soon as he did lobbying for so much extra playing time. He said after the final game he was fine and expected to play Saturday and would have Wednesday if it weren’t a throwaway final game. After all, many thought the Bulls would have been better off losing and getting out of the bracket with the Cavs.
I have no idea, but I assume Rose experiences all sorts of levels of different discomfort and pain. It’s obvious he’s anxious to play in the playoffs again as reporters continue to drag out of him every emotion about how much he wants to play as if it’s some litmus test of his character. Like anyone prefers rehabilitation to playing; or sitting around and not playing to playing. These guys don’t sit around and compose operas. They are players and want to play. Think about being in your 20s; who wanted to not play? I understand the concern regarding Rose’s health given he’s so vital to the team. But these episodes are going to happen, and likely the rest of these playoffs just returning from surgery. How could they not? He says he’s playing. That’s all he can do for now. He’s obviously trying and obviously motivated.
Okay. I really hate it whenever Rose takes a three but I've come to a point to accept it if he takes one when wide open. I really hate it when he takes that ridiculous dribble stop three with the defender all over his face. I mean what the heck is he thinking and why isn't Thibs telling him to stop? He does that at least 3 times every game. It goes in once in a blue moon but worse, it often leads to a fastbreak for the other team. Do us a solid and tell him to stop!
Sam: OK, I really hate it when everyone studies, analyzes and obsesses on every move or shot from Rose and I never get any mail when Noah is wide open for six seconds and still won’t shoot and then throws a pass into four guys, when Pau throws those lobs to Taj two or three times a game that no one has a chance to catch, when Snell can’t wait to get rid of the ball fast enough that it blows the spacing and no one can shoot, when Gibson drop steps five times into a triple team and still shoots, when the Bulls are walking up the court looking for a play call when the defense is not set and take all those shots with two seconds on the clock, when I confuse spell check and miss the typo again and again. The point is none of us are perfect; we all experiment with our craft. Basketball is a game of mistakes, as it’s often said. Everyone can be second guessed from the coach’s calls to the players’ shot choices to the writers’ decisions on what to focus on and whether asking for free food is appropriate. But all I hear about is Rose’s threes as if that’s some barrier between 30 wins and eight straight titles. If he’s open, he should shoot. That’s a philosophy of the Bulls’ offense; plus if you throw yourself into the lane and the basket every time you are inviting injury. Rose has shot threes well before; when he does it opens up the game for him even more. Rather than avoid it he needs to keep shooting because the offense requires that. And remember this is a player hardly at full strength after three major surgeries in three years. He has growing again to do with his game. I’ll remind Rose to ease off when I view the perfection in everyone else’s play.
As an NBA fan, how happy are you for Monty Williams and Anthony Davis?
Sam: Well, I don’t much care about Monty Williams, who was very prickly to deal with when he was a player. But good for Davis as it’s tough to be judged a star player and never be in the playoffs. I don’t see them standing much chance, but as a player you have to begin experiencing the playoffs to grow your game. I will admit I was surprised in the end they made it. I thought they were a big disappointment all season given with their talent and Davis I felt they should easily have been a playoff team, certainly as good as Dallas, Portland and Houston. So I thought they badly underachieved, though I assume at least making the playoffs saved Williams for another year. Playoffs truly make a players’ reputation. We’ll see what Davis has, though the problem there is I’ve felt he never has been used quite right or even enough. That’s how good he is basically getting all those points without being featured enough in the offense.
What are your thoughts on starting Taj over Noah? I really liked Taj in the starting lineup the last game versus Brooklyn. I feel like Taj and Gasol gives the Bulls a more formidable lineup since Taj is a better shooter than Noah and plays much better as a starter. Noah limits the Bulls against other teams' starters as other teams totally play off of him. Meanwhile Noah's hustle and putting him next to Mirotic and Brooks will be awesome as you surround a great passing big man with 2 great shooters as well as Noah would match up better against other team's bigs off the bench, as well as saving Noah's ankles, feet for the critical moments that the bulls may need from him deeper in the playoffs.
Sam: It’s something that has been much discussed among fans this season, though obviously nothing Thibodeau would do, though he’s done it in a sense. Of course, now Gibson is having shoulder problems and needed a shot Wednesday. So who knows his status. Thibodeau doesn’t like “demoting” veterans, though what he does like he did with Boozer is sit them later in the game and use different lineups. He does that with Noah, essentially putting him in a similar situation with the substitutions of Pau playing the entire first and third and then Noah out early and back in to start the second quarter with a defensive group where he can be a playmaker. Though the Bulls could use better starts. So Noah does play a lot with the other guys and then Thibs mixes and matches with matchups, which is the right way to go. I don’t believe Noah would question not starting. The playoff issue to watch is who finishes as everyone wants to and you can only keep five guys on the court. The Mirotic rotation also will be vital to watch given Gibson is such the better defender and Thibodeau will generally revert to defense if the team is challenged.
With Thibs confirming that his playoff rotation will be nine deep (Rose, Butler, Dunleavy, Gasol, Noah, Brooks, Mirotic, Gibson, and Snell/Hinrich depending on the situation), how do you think he will distribute the minutes? Will he stagger Noah and Pau? Will he try to make sure Noah and Rose play different shifts to allow them both to run their different offenses?
Sam: Thibs, like most coaches, and understandably, prefers a shorter playoff rotation. I know the Bulls advertise depth, but the general point is you want your best players in a playoff game for the longest. Since most playoff games are close it’s difficult for any coach to sit there and watch his best players sitting with him. So they play a lot; Thibs always has done that and I assume he will again. Though with these Bulls we can probably expect a lack of ideal health. So things can change. Thibs will fall on defense first and go more with whom he views as his best defenders. And then Pau for his offense and inside scoring ability. The issue will be matchups when teams go small as so many do in this era; does he stick with Pau? Will he play Mirotic, whose defense is inferior to Gibson’s? How long can he use Rose? Noah? Hinrich? It’s a season in which we never quite got a handle on who this Bulls group is and probably still don’t. I assume the second guessing will be possession to possession.
Out of curiosity, I did a little stat compiling to try and capture the effect that the Bulls' primary scorers have on winning. Obviously this isn't a perfect metric. You can't only look at an individual's performance as if it happened in a vacuum. But I think it's somewhat interesting.
When Dunleavy scores 15+, the Bulls are 8-4 (.667)
When Mirotic scores 15+, the Bulls are 13-8 (.619)
When Brooks scores 15+, the Bulls are 12-12 (.500)
When Gasol scores 20+, the Bulls are 24-10 (.706)
When Butler scores 20+, the Bulls are 20-12 (.625)
When Rose scores 20+, the Bulls are 16-5 (.762)
We've all been saying that Derrick is the most important factor for the Bulls to be successful in these playoffs. This data seems to fully support that argument. When Rose is aggressive and scoring the ball, the Bulls are very difficult to beat.
Sam: Yes, there’s much you can do with stats to prove your point; but just looking at the games it is obvious the effect Rose has. It was no coincidence even if they weren’t great games and weren’t great opponents the Bulls began winning with Rose’s return. By the way, the Bulls are undefeated when Bairstow scores at least three points.