Ask Sam | 07.24.09

Sam Smith opens his mailbag to respond to the latest round of questions from his readers.
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Ask Sam | 07.24.09

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.

I was just reading an article on (It) was talking about how not many people are talking about David Lee and that Lee is looking for a sign-and-trade. Then (they) dropped this bomb, "Keep your eye on Chicago." What do you think? Would he be wroth a sign-n-trade? I don’t know if I love giving him 10 Mil a year or whatever he wants. That being said, he's a very good player who gives 110% on the court and runs and rebounds like crazy. He might not be the strongest defensive player, but a front court of Noah and Lee would really get under opponents skin. And I doubt any other front court would out-hustle those too. Would you do a sign-n-trade with Tyrus/James for Lee? I'd rather have Lee than Boozer.


Sam: I’d also rather have Lee than Boozer because Lee is more a competitor. From what I can discern, there have been no such discussions and it’s likely extremely difficult without giving away half the roster, anyway, given Lee’s status after a sign and trade as a base year player. Lee’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, does a lot of deals with the Bulls, so there’ll often be speculation regarding his clients and the Bulls. But I also doubt the Bulls see Lee as an eight-figure a year player whom you’d go after to take yourself out of a chance for a better player in February or next summer. Sure, he’s a nice player to have. But his history remains putting up big numbers on bad teams and not affecting winning very much. Could you afford to base your future on that? Not many teams seem to want to this summer.

I’m hearing another rumor about Carlos Boozer going to the Bulls. I just want to know what you have heard. (ESPN) said that Boozer and the Jazz have agreed on a trade (involving Houston), they just haven't worked out the parameters. Is this true? 


Sam: No. I’ve spent a lot of words lately on these ESPN rumors. ESPN is the voice of sports in the U.S. now, so they carry a lot of clout. There are a few dynamics at work here. No matter what people say, they tend to believe the written word. I am proud of that. Though there’s an old cynical line in the newspaper business that explains some of it: “Ninety five percent of what you read in the newspaper is true except the five percent you have personal knowledge of.” I was talking to an NBA coach the other day. His team has been big in the free agent rumors. He said he knew the huge majority of reports were incorrect because it was his team. Then he said he’d read the site where the rumors are picked up and find himself believing all the other reports. Yes, even those guys do. It’s one reason I love the NBA. It’s the greatest gossip league in sports. Everyone loves to talk and sometimes it becomes like that old elementary school phone game were you tell the person next to you something and by the time it gets to the 10th person it’s completely different. I have railed on this before, but the death match going on with several internet sites to have things first is spawning a lot of premature reports. You should understand GM’s talk about every player all the time. In the late 1980’s before the Bulls had won anything, I remember hearing about the Clippers contacting the Bulls about trading for Michael Jordan. The Bulls weren’t interested, but as anyone would they asked for that. I don’t recall exactly, but I think it was for any five players (the Clippers actually had some good talent then) and quite a few No. 1 picks. The Bulls laughed. But say that happened today. There might be a story of Bulls talk to Clippers about trading for Jordan. Technically, it would be true, though there never was anything remotely serious, never initiated by the Bulls and completely dismissed. What kind of uproar would that produce today? We pretty much ignored it then because upon checking found out it was no story. I eventually mentioned it in The Jordan Rules book, and no one picked it up or made much of it because there wasn’t any substance to it. You can be sure teams have asked about trading for just about everyone in the NBA. It’s what they do because you never know unless you ask, as the saying goes. But you have to careful with what you hear these days.

I was surprised at your article in support of a trade for Boozer. Your first paragraph told me all I need to know on why not to sign him. You said he was bad for the locker room. Didn't the Bulls just get over that team from two years ago? I think it would be a mistake to change what the team has now for a one year question mark. I would rather go into the season with the team that they have now and see what happens that shake it up. I don't like the idea of giving up on young talent just so you can get a guy for one year. Besides, if he helps them to the playoffs and then leaves, why would that make other players want to come to the team?


Sam: That’s why it isn’t exactly, to use the bad cliché, a slam dunk, and why it’s taken me several weeks of arguments with myself to reluctantly come to that notion. I am pleased to not have been taken to a hospital during some of these vocal arguments with myself on the Red line. Fortunately, I often had company in my solo lectures. As I wrote last week, I believe it’s worth a short term shot if it isn’t too costly, which is why nothing has happened with anyone because the Jazz supposedly are asking for quite a lot in players and financial relief. They seem to regard Boozer as an All Star and want some equal value. If they come down from that, I’d take a shot because he can score. I think the Bulls will miss Ben Gordon’s scoring and clutch pay late in games and I’d still like to see some additional help, though I believe the Bulls can make up for it with a healthy Deng, a contract year Tyrus and a full season with Salmons. Though there are plenty of ifs there. Locker room chemistry is way overrated and I don’t worry about that as the Bulls long have been a team of players who don’t do much together.

I think I am one of a few that believes the bulls should not panic to make any moves and over pay for a guy like Carlos Boozer. I believe they should wait till February at the earliest and see if someone like Chris Bosh will be available. With hopefully Loul Deng coming back healthy and having John Salmons and Brad Miller for a full season should be enough to make 6-8th seed. I have waited since Brent Barry and Hersey Hawkins were leading this team for a championship caliber team, I can wait till at least half of this season to see what we really have. My question to you is are the Bulls at the same thought process as I just stated? Wait for a teams to get desperate to dump a player (ex: Pau Gasol to the Lakers for Kwame "BIG BUST" Brown), and we can get someone like Bosh or Boozer for pennies on the dollar in February. Or even wait till 2010 and go on an all out attack towards marquee free agents.


Sam: That’s the plan. I know there’s this sinking feeling among many fans that it will be 2000 all over again. But the landscape is much different. The Bulls are way better and Derrick Rose is really good and guys will want to play with him. Though the biggest thing is the financial uncertainty and declining luxury tax line. I think 2010 will see the NBA become more like baseball with so called sellers to stay in business. I don’t know if it means Wade or Bosh, but there could be some nice pieces come available and I’d want to have the ability to go after those players at some point. It would be nice to have a guy like Wade. I don’t see Bosh as a big winner, anyway. But I think you can do well with adding maybe two good players to the current roster. And as you noted, who knows when a Pau like deal will develop with an owner just trying to cut losses and stay in business.

From what I can make of it the current roster is at 12? I wonder if Aaron Gray hasn't figured it out and majorly trimmed down and toned up to garner some shred of defensive lateral quickness(not to mention better agility and separation on his post game) why the Bulls should resign him? I mean aren't we past "potential" with him at this point being non-viable defensively? If Gray's a goner, who if anyone would you take from the summer league roster to fill one or dare say it two spots? I know you liked Augustine, but really I don't think he'd have any offensive ability on the NBA level. I guess he does have a knack for put backs. Maybe he can hit the occasional left alone/open jumper. If he can board and defend as a big I guess that should be enough. I just didn't see a lot from him defensively. What about DeMarcus Nelson? I was surprised he didn't look too bad handling the ball. He looks like he'd at least be a passable/40% shooter on limited attempts. His cartoonishly long arms really make him more like 6'3.5 or 6'4 when you throw in his fairly exceptional vertical jumping. I can see both those features helping him finish around the basket too in transition and break downs. Really, that one superb showing by Brandon Costner had me wondering so I looked up his college stats. Playing in the ACC he had two seasons of 16 and 13 ppg with high field goal percentages of 46 and 47 percent. Rebounding as a power forward totals of 7 and 6 evidence average athleticism. He did shoot 38% on three pointers attempting over four a game. If he had better lateral quickness defensively he would be more intriguing, but unfortunately his numbers were pedestrian in the other two games he played in. I'm guessing Gray will make the team as an insurance policy at center. I'd take Nelson as a guard insurance policy.


Sam: That seemed both a question and an answer. My guess is the Bulls, like most teams this season, go with 13 players and I, too, think the lucky 13th is Gray. The Bulls haven’t done training camp invites yet, so I guess Nelson is possible. Though there are contract dates on him when the Bulls would have to guarantee some money and I’d guess they won’t and he is released. I’d add Augustine, but I think he comes after Gray in the team’s thinking because the Bulls had Gray and he is bigger and more center insurance policy. Breaking down Summer League games, eh? I’m guessing your summer hasn’t been going that well. Sorry.

I was wondering if you can settle a dispute that my future brother-in-law and I are having. Do you believe that D. Rose will be an all-star next year. I say "Yes!" and he says "No way!". His argument is that there are so many PG's in the East who are clearly better and more experienced than D. Rose. I think he will have a stronger season this year than his rookie season and his defense alone should set him apart from the top 4 or 5 PG's in the league.


Sam: You don’t want any help in the dispute over whether he should marry your sister? OK, Rose. I say All Star. Actually, I don’t know who all these great East guards are. The best points are in the West. Maybe only Devin Harris ranks with Rose among point guards, and I see the Bulls a much better team. That always counts for a lot. Gilbert Arenas will return, but who knows at what level. I don’t see Rajon Rondo ahead of Rose. Among shooting guards as they don’t distinguish among positions are Ray Allen, Dwyane Wade, Andre Iguodala, Vince Carter, Richard Hamilton, Michael Redd, Joe Johnson. Oh, and Ben Gordon. But with Gordon gone I can see Rose averaging 20 or close and he is popular as Rookie of the Year. It will be close, but I say he gets to be the first Bulls All Star since Michael in 1998. About time.

I say we give Boozer (Utah) what he wants….Send him to Miami along with Linton Johnson (Bulls). Utah will get Tyrus Thomas (Bulls) and take Jerome James' (Bulls) contract, with maybe insurance coverage. Miami sends us Beasley and Haslem and Utah sends us Ronnie Brewer. Every contract is a one year deal so it low risk / high reward. Miami gets Boozer which they covet to keep Wade. Utah gets cap relief and a poor man's Boozer with better defense and an expiring contract. Bulls get a budding star who would work well with Rose in Beasley (seriously) and a playoff tested PF in Haslem, plus a back up SG in Brewer. Also, this deal still allows us to go after Bosh next summer. It's really a win/win scenario for everyone.


Sam: I actually have gotten several versions of this emailed to me with slightly different peripheral names. It goes nowhere because it’s not even close to what Utah is talking about in potential deals for Boozer. It doesn’t save the Jazz any money and doesn’t give them anything they want. It’s lose, lose, lose for them and never would be seriously considered. The thought of Beasley in a three-team deal is interesting, though. He’s cheap with a second year deal, and has some promise. From everything you hear, he’s a total blockhead and one of the big reasons you hear Wade could bolt Miami. It would certainly end any recruitment of Wade to the Bulls. Beasley’s said to be a good person, just irresponsible and childish. Talented, too. I think it might be a step back for now given his youth and immaturity and I’d want to be investing in more veteran players.

Always enjoyed your trade proposals, although I never understood why you were always trying to trade for Wally Szczerbiak. Anyway I've been thinking about a trade for the Bulls and wanted to see what you thought of it: Utah gets Ty Thomas and Kirk Hinrich - Atlanta gets Carlos Boozer - Bulls get Joe Johnson.

Now you might have to send some more sugar to ATL to make it work but I think Joe Johnson would fit in well with our up tempo style, plus he's big, can handle the ball and can shoot 3s. ATL just traded for a SG in Jamal Crawford so they might already be preparing for him to walk next year and maybe if the Bulls also throw in a draft pick or two they can make a run this year and get cap relief next year with some cheaper young guys and draft picks they couldn't get in a sign and trade next offseason.


Sam: Did you take a look at some of the players the Bulls had when I was trying to trade for Wally? Anyway, it’s an interesting thought you’d easily dismiss because Johnson is their best player. I’m told the Hawks have no plans to move Johnson, though he can leave as a free agent. They think they have a chance to be pretty good again and need to remain at that level to attract any fans. But they are one of those teams where if things go south with a dysfunctional ownership that guys could become available. I believe the Jazz would love to have Kirk, though they want financial relief and that gets them none. It actually adds liability. I do see Jamal as insurance for Johnson, so you never know what the Hawks are thinking. They might be a team to look to in February if their season goes badly.

Do you think James Johnson could be a long term answer at forward alongside Luol Deng if he develops? Can either of them guard 4s? Can either of them be guarded by 4s?


Sam: I think there are plans—as there have been before and then the season starts—to try Deng some at four and two (love to talk inside NBA lingo). Johnson remains that same question mark that got him to 16. He showed some amazing passing and ball handling skills in summer league, but a scattered, undisciplined game. I can see him with some focus being a heck of a forward addition and able to play two, three or four, assuming also he stays in shape. He has awfully thick lower legs (I once only looked at women that way) and while light on his feet now will have to remain light at the dining table to stay that way. I like his chances because he can be an exciting and versatile player.

I was wondering do you think with Michael Jordan setting the bar so high here in Chicago, are free agents like wade be a little intimidated by Michael’s legacy? will they consider that his shoes would be too big to fill here in Chicago, and maybe they just want to create their own legacy in another city where there is not that much history?


Sam: No one ever says that, but I think there is something to that. I know Grant Hill in 2000 wanted no part of Chicago with that being one reason. It’s also why you heard Kobe talk about being traded to the Bulls. Kobe was the only one who I ever heard wanting to come to Chicago and beat Jordan’s records there. That’s what makes him who he is. I think it does play a small part in guys’ thinking, but less as the years go on. I don’t think it would be any ultimate stumbling block if Wade wanted to return to Chicago. But you will always get compared and some guys like the idea of their own legacy somewhere.

Coach Sloan with Tyrus Thomas?!? That seems like an odd pairing. Do 
you think Tyrus will wilt or thrive there and Coach Sloan go mad 
watching Tyrus' decision making?


Sam: I doubt the Jazz would go for Tyrus, though if he thought Skiles was tough to deal with, well, this would be a whole other thing. It would be amusing to read Tyrus’ Twitters at that point. I saw Tyrus’ agent at Summer League and he told me when Tyrus Twittered (I’ll never get these usages correct) “Gone” he didn’t mean traded. Though we can guess what that one would mean if he were in Utah. As I said, I don’t see it happening.

I have Bulls questions occupying my attention and pulling me away 
from working on something that might actually result in having an 
income and keeping my girlfriend. Why did the Bulls go with Taj Gibson with Wayne Ellington still on 
the board. Ellington seems like he has NBA potential and isn't as 
redundant as Gibson. I have similar questions about Sam Young and 
Chase Budinger.


Sam: Everyone used that eye of the beholder phrase for this draft. Toward the bottom of the first round, you go for a guy you like and hope. They liked Gibson and felt he could contribute. I think they liked Ellington as well, though they were going to get a veteran two, so Ellington would be a fifth guard. I know they didn’t like Budinger’s work ethic and weren’t sure about Young, who did go into the second round. The question for most was Blair, who without ACL’s in either knee scared off everyone for guaranteed money. I might have taken a shot, though. Still, I think Gibson will be a good pick and make the rotation at some point, which is good for a low first.

Why doesn't the NBA in their Latino promotion use the Spanish translation to a teams name? Los Toros sounds, looks, and thus I would think markets better than Los Bulls. This bugged me every time I saw a game last year where they just threw the word "Los" on every teams jersey for a game.


Sam: We’re Americans! As much as we claim interest, we probably wish we heeded Washington’s words (not Kermit) that it is better to avoid entangling foreign alliances. As a nation, we generally have a pathetic understanding and appreciation of the majority of countries we came from. I’m assuming if they put Los Toros on the uniform, many fans would turn off the TV figuring they had the wrong team on. When they started doing it, I think many people were asking why the league made the Bulls wear a uniform that asked them to Lose Bulls.

Over the last few weeks you sound like you’re a Chicago Cubs writer from 2004 to 2007, if Prior and Wood stay healthy then we will have a good season. So now the saying is if Deng stays healthy then we will have a good season. Bulls’ fans, I think we may need to face the fact that Deng may never play a full season again and may never be the player he was 3 seasons ago. If Deng gets hurt, without BG, the starting lineup is Salmons at the 3 and Hinrich at the 2. Not only is this a bad starting lineup, it also means that we have no real bench, unless either Taj Gibson or James Johnson turns out to be a big surprise. At this point I think the Bulls should forget about Boozer, he is going to cost way too much for a guy who you can’t count on to stay healthy. What the Bulls should be doing is trying to get Rudy Fernandez, if Portland really wants Hinrich then we should do some type of Fernandez for Hinrich trade. I think this would give the Bulls a better option coming off the bench and if Deng does miss a fair number of games then it gives them a better back court option with Rose. And, even though I am not a fan of Hinrich, Portland’s starting back court is much improved. Maybe I am asking too much from the Bulls front office, but isn’t this the direction the team needs to go rather than taking a chance on Boozer?


Sam: If you could get Fernandez for Hinrich I’m sure that would have been done long ago. You can’t and you won’t. They regard Fernandez in their core. I think you could get Oden easier. Yes, that is the big enchilada in the room there, Deng’s health. See, I’m trying to be bilingual. But I digress. I did think Prior would be OK. And Wood. The Cubs had a heck of a run for a few years, and you have to ride it out because they could be healthy. If you are the Bulls, you are all in on Deng and have to ride it out now. If he breaks down, then you have to do some things. But he’s paid and said to be recovered. It may not work out, but you have to give it a run. You never know. Guys like Ilgauskas missed years and then returned healthy for a long time. Deng has been working out seriously and early in his career was healthy, so we’ll see.

In an article you wrote about the Bulls landing Boozer in a trade, you asserted that "I don't think you can have 35 percent of a guy". As any local (Utah) Jazz fan would tell you, 35 percent of the guy is about what you'd get with the Booz. And good luck with that.


Sam: Good way to end this season with a laugh from someone who knows. This will be my last Ask Sam for a while. The NBA pretty much takes off in August and I’ll be doing the same. If anything big breaks, like a Boozer deal, I’ll be back. All of me, not the Booz’s (I’m calling him that already) fractional worth. But I doubt it for now. Michael Jordan’s Hall of Fame induction will be in September and I’ll be there for the occasion. Then comes the opening of training camp in early October and the first day of Winter shortly thereafter. Yes, ever the optimist. Enjoy.


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