Ask Sam -- Sam Smith opens his mailbag -- 10.02.09

Sam Smith opens his mailbag to respond to the latest round of e-mails from his readers.
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Ask Sam | 10.02.09

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I love basketball, missed basketball this summer and am excited about the start of the season. I do not remember a season that poses as many possible personnel moves as this season. July 2010 will be incredibly fun to observe. I like this Bulls team going into the season. There are possible improvements from Rose, Noah and Tyrus as well as having Deng back, Salmons and Miller for a full year, Hinrich off the bench plus the possibility of good chemistry. They seem committed to winning without having any nutcases on the team. We shall see. With all the possible personnel moves is this one of the most interesting years for you?

Bruce Roberts

Sam: Well, I was a bit more up for 90-91. This is a crucial season because of the commitment to the so called 2010 plan. The team finally has a potential true star it can develop and build around in Rose. They have cleared salary cap space to do so, which is the right tactic. But I also think it is vital to be a playoff team under these circumstances to keep some momentum going and build on what you had. I always remember Jordan at the end of seasons, some not so great. He’d say it was OK because the team had gone farther than the season before. If it were taking steps backward, that would be a problem. So that’s also why I wouldn’t be content to say it’s enough that guys like Thomas and Noah can develop some more. They want to begin to be paid like stars, so they need to produce on a consistent basis. If they cannot, the team needs to be ready to make a move to assure a positive direction for the season. Players like Amare Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer could be available as the season goes on. The Bulls have to be prepared to make a bold move if their players aren’t producing. There are several Bulls players facing contract seasons, and the last time we saw that it turned ugly. It could be good and provide motivation, but it has to be about team this time.

Going into training camp is there something the coaches can do to help Thomas be more of the player we see flashes off? Also do you think Del Negro will allow him more playing time down the stretch so he can develop better?

Kevin Franzen

Sam: There’s that chicken-and-egg thing, though I wonder at times more whether the egg roll or chicken egg roll came first. Vinnie has to trust Tyrus, but he won’t if Tyrus loses focus as he does. Tyrus sat out a lot late last season, a notable flameout in the final game against Boston. So Tyrus has to earn the coach’s trust. You do that by performing. Fans have asked me about Tyrus’ workouts and how he’s looked, but I know the staff spent way more time with him this summer talking to him. About how to play and where: Stay by the basket! Rebound! Block shots! Go home. They don’t want much. Which has been the issue. Tyrus often sees himself as someone else. Play like he can and use his extraordinary athletic talents and he’ll get paid. Players forget that. Tyrus’ challenge will be to discipline himself and sacrifice for the team. We won’t know if he can until he plays, and if he doesn’t, I assume the Bulls will not be so patient with him anymore.

Over the last 3/4 NBA seasons I've seen the over-usage of the pick & roll. I feel it makes the game one dimensional and it kills the enjoyment of the spectators. The NBA included the zone defenses to increase the points/game (plse correct me if i'm wrong) but the P&R is making it boring. LeBron seems (majority of the time) can't work without the P&R, Orlando used it to THE MAX to get to the NBA finals, same with (hate to say it) our own D-Rose. I miss the flow of an offense (such as our Bulls 95-98) where, yes they used the P&R sparingly but also used a lot of off-the-ball screens in the triangle....what are your feelings about making P&R's illegal?

Max Patelisio

Sam: That’s why there aren’t many Phil Jacksons. It’s the standard NBA offense (no, they aren’t geniuses) and what Del Negro is most comfortable with. So it’s what the Bulls will do. You can have more weak side action than the team did last season, and I’m assuming we see more of that in Vinnie’s second season. But the reason so many teams use it is that it works. And so few teams work hard enough to stop it. I feel the Bulls will be better at it this season with more guys who can play the pick and roll. Guys like Noce couldn’t and were pop out shooters and while spreading the floor took away the pick and roll. Rookie James Johnson can do it and it will be interesting to see how he does as he clearly likes to have the ball in his hand and seems to play better that way.

Will the Bulls ever name their court after Jordan a la Coach K at Duke? They should; even though they have the statue, it would be an on the court reminder of his legacy to fans and players. 2. More mundanely, why did they change the start times of the games to 7 from 7:30?

Tim Johnson

Sam: Can’t we stop honoring him sometime? I know Jordan was a great player, but I’m not sure if Jonas Salk has a statue yet. Yes, I know, he never dunked. As for the starting times, that’s a win-win-win-win. The Bulls do a lot of surveying of fans and that has been a main recommendation for getting home earlier on work and school nights. Basketball operations also was in favor because of so much travel to the Eastern time zone, which costs you an hour. So you get out a half hour early and save some sleep. The media people also have been lobbying for it so they can get coverage on the 10 p.m. news and even the 9 p.m. newscasts can get a final score. Now the guy who came up with that to help so many constituencies, that’s who we should be naming the court after.

I'm trying to figure this out, is Tyrus still growing? I heard some Bulls fans saying Tyrus is actually 6'10''.

Denzel Early

Sam: I’ve heard the same thing. He’s supposedly 6-10 with a 7-4 wingspan. Which is awesome stuff. He’s grown about two inches since coming to the team. Not sure how that happens since I stopped in 6th grade. So he’s got the goods. It’s up to him to show what he can do with them.

I can't even begin to express how hyped up I am for the upcoming basketball season. I think Derrick is gonna take his game to a whole new level, and regardless of what our record ends up being, this team, and it's players performance this season will be really pivotal to the future of the franchise. Cannot wait. Now, with all that being said, in order to truly prepare for this season, I think that one of the biggest mysteries from last year finally needs to be solved. And that is: Why the heck is Vinny STILL calling KIRK Hinrich, KURT Hinrich?!! I'm sure someone has asked you this before (perhaps even I have), but I don't believe a proper answer was ever given. And now I just heard him say it again today during his preseason press conference! It is officially driving me insane. I'm hoping that one of you media types has built up enough of a relationship with him to where you can broach the topic, (perhaps in a joking manner...). But seriously, this just can't go on anymore, PLEASE get to the bottom of this once and for all.

Jerry Grillo

Sam: This is hardly to excuse Vinny, though I think Kirk likes it because when he has to do something he doesn’t like, he can say he never heard Vinny mention his name. I saw an item in the Arizona Republic in which it seems coach Alvin Gentry mistakenly calls Channing Fyre “Tyson,” as in Chandler. A writer for the Suns website,, said he heard Frye respond, "It's OK, Coach Hollins." There is no rational explanation for Vinny’s inability to remember the name of one of his players, especially one whose name you don’t want to forget. There are some things we challenge, some things we try to understand, and some things we ignore, and this is one.

How about my Memphis Griz? Now that we have A.I. to go along with Zach Randolph, can ten wins be far behind? Is there any chance the NBA closes down this farce? Is this not the worst run team in the NBA?

Jim Cordova

Sam: The general consensus is this is the disaster of all disasters, and since you are from Tennessee you are feeling the pain already. Perhaps in the optimistic spirit of preseason, I am not closing my mind to this. Of course, it should be a disaster with four gunners on the floor in Iverson, Randolph, Gay and Mayo. Actually, I like Gay a lot and think he will suffer most as he wants to be a player. The owner has figured out, basically, the Clippers method. The Clippers don’t follow it anymore. They just make bad decisions now. But Clipperization was spending enough money just to break even and the heck with the results. It’s what owner Heisley has decided in the wake of community disinterest. If they sold out, he’d spend more. The fans say to give them a better product and they’ll come. That chicken egg roll thing again. Which comes first. The Grizz seem destined for a massive crash, but like the old line, we just may not be able to look away.

I really enjoy not liking Kobe. He'll never be anything to me except a Michael Jordan wannabe. And, that is exactly why I think Kobe will win MVP this year. He watched MJ go in to the HOF and wants to prove to the world that he is the MJ of this era. So, he'll win MVP and I say, so what? As MJ himself said, don't look for the next MJ, look for what is next. I'm hoping it is Rose!

Matt Ahrens

Sam: Kobe is the MJ of this era. He’s working on title No. 5, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets to seven. Michael was more generally likeable to the public and media, but he had the advantage of college and a stable adolescence, which Kobe didn’t. It doesn’t take away from your feelings toward Jordan to appreciate just how great a player Kobe is. Michael should be flattered. It’s Michael’s drive and relentless nature that Kobe copies. Let it go.

So I watched all the ESPN Classic Jordan’s greatest a few weekends ago. and I have one question, maybe two. now, I’m 23, so I realllllly got into basketball in about 93/94. I lived and breathed it more than most grown men i knew but i wasn’t there for all six. and that leads to my question, which championship do you think was the "best", for the team, for Michael, and for the city and fans. each could be different. from what I can gather, 91- sweet. 92 - relief but sweeter because at home ( i never got to see the stadium. seems beyond electric. my first game was at the UC against Boston with #45) 3rd- struggle with the team turmoil. 96 - bittersweet and a reminder. 97- seems to be the best because it was at home and the way it ended with Toni’s dunk blowing the room off, it was like a movie, and all the players seemed so happy to prove 96 wasn’t a fluke (and i always disliked the jazz) 98- acceptance, and the last mile.

Cagney Knutz

Sam: It’s the old line of picking your favorite child. It’s too hard. My favorite was the first because it represented the culmination of such a long struggle, the Bulls were Finals underdogs for the only time and it was accomplished against a top 10 all time player in Magic Johnson, the only such time that happened in the Finals for them. I still view that as the best team as well, though I can agree with many others who think on talent ’92 was better. I didn’t think the talent was the best in ’96 when they won 72 because Rodman was out a lot and a one dimensional player and Jordan wasn’t the athlete he was before the first retirement.

What do you think of the Derrick Rose SAT scandal?


Sam: You mean the NCAA/Memphis scandal. What’s scandalous is the president of the university wasn’t fired and John Calipari wasn’t barred from coaching Division I for five years. You want to clean up college sports, that’s what you do: Fire the CEO’s, which goes on everywhere except in colleges when there’s a scandal and bar the coaches from working in Division I. So what happens? They dump it on a black kid and the rich white guys sit back and tut tut. Calipari will be celebrated next spring by his weasel coaching buddies in broadcasting for having the No. 1 team at Kentucky and the university president will be running around selling a new bunch of players to boosters. Look, the NCAA doesn’t want to clean anything up. It makes billions on sports. The colleges make millions. They’re glad to sacrifice a poor black kid every so often so they can, as Mel Brooks so eloquently put it in Blazing Saddles, “Protect their phony baloney jobs.” This is what I know. Rose said he took the SAT. He was cleared by Memphis and the NCAA to play basketball. He left and they said he did something wrong. They kept a lot of money. Rose never intended to be a college student, and if they didn’t want someone whose goal wasn’t a four year degree, they shouldn’t have admitted him. I could have told them he wouldn’t be there more than one year. What! Did this surprise them? Calipari, Memphis and the NCAA wanted to make as much money on Derrick Rose as fast as they could and couldn’t care less the price or what happened with Rose. You mean that scandal? Yes, I am horrified.

In the recent mailbag you mentioned that Joakim Noah was beating Jermaine O'Neal down the floor and driving him crazy. Is that a reason for optimism for Bulls fans or just an indication of how slow JO is at this point in his career? Can't Aaron Gray run JO off the floor?

Bob Harris

Sam: Well, I’m saying no after Gray’s stress fracture this week. But before then I was unsure. You are right, O’Neal is hardly a gauge, even at $23 million this season. I think Jo can outrun Shaq, too. The point, I guess, was that Noah was making a serious effort against actual NBA players before the season started. But, yes, we hope it materializes into more than dominating the figure that was once Jermaine O’Neal.

I was wondering, how has Luol Deng looked so far? Is he 100% healthy? And, do you know if they plan to use him at guard this year?

Moose Badreldin

Sam: He’s not quite back to being the old Lu. He seems healthy and is running well, but seems to be a bit off in timing and shooting and skills things, which is to be expected now for so much time off. It seems he’s coming along. I’ve heard they do plan using him some in guard pick and roll situations, though his key will be to regain his ability to run the court, finish and crash the boards and work the inside with movement. We’ll see better when the games begin.

With a lineup of... Rose, Salmons, Deng, Thomas, Noah, i think the bulls will be a much better defense team this year with salmons
playing the two and deng back healthy...if the bulls are in the playoff hunt
do you see pax/forman look to make a trade for a veteran PF (boozer or
stoudamire) or do you think they will stay with this group and save their
resources for the summer 2010...

John Dasdelen

Sam: I think they’ll keep their options open. A lot depends on the start. It’s a front loaded schedule with road games and winning teams and if the Bulls stumble, I can see a look to make a move. They are going to be prudent and be a player in the summer of 2010, but I can also see scenarios in which they’d move someone in season to create even more room for next summer. If on the crazy chance someone wanted to make a deal for a player like Bosh, which I strongly doubt, I’m sure the Bulls would get involved to head off a bidding frenzy next summer. But I don’t see deals like that. I can see Boozer being available, though he remains more a rental given questions you’d have on wanting to pay him. Remember, he thought he was going to Detroit last summer and they chose Ben and Villanueva instead. I think the Bulls, at least for now, believe they can be playoff team with what they have and go from there. But there’s a long time until there.

What is your honest opinion on this? Let's say the Bulls were to get Dwyane Wade next year via Free Agency. Would you proceed to trade Derrick Rose for Kevin Durant if possible to have a lineup as the following:

PG Hinrich
SG Wade
SF Durant
PF Tyrus
C Noah

Durant is just as old as Rose so we could build around him for the future. I think Durant is more capable of leading a team to the title than Rose is in this type of era.

Larry A. Barron

Sam: Too many hypotheticals there. The Thunder never will trade Durant as they now believe he’ll be as good as LeBron. Wade isn’t a point guard and if you have a chance to get a great point guard you don’t let him go. Durant is terrific. Given having Deng, I think you’d be better off with Rose/Wade/Deng than Hinrich/Wade/Durant. Again, Durant is untouchable. And it’s going to be very difficult for anyone to get Wade out of Miami.

Jordan joked that he might come back at 50. I remember Wilt talking a comeback in the early 80’s playing 10-15 minutes a game. If Jordan was in “Jordan shape” how would he fare?

Jeff Lichtenstein

Sam: Not even fair. So let’s be fair and everyone say we know he’ll return so he won’t feel he has to and won’t. Jordan shape now is more pear like.


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