Ask Sam | 11.06.09
Sam Smith opens his mailbag to respond to the latest round of e-mails from his readers.
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I was wondering if you could clear up this new (I think new) replay rule that came into play at the end of the win against the Cavs tonight when LeBron was lobbying for a foul with .2 seconds left as the ball went out of bounds. The announcer said that the officials could turn to a replay to verify a call when there are two minutes left in a game. What I wanted to know is was there really the potential for the call to be changed to a foul after the refs called it out or were they just double checking for which team the ball was out on? Also, why wasn't the replay checked for the shot clock violation on Luol's miss with 4 seconds left (replay on TNT showed it nicked the rim)? This replay rule scares me and I think I would have thrown up if Lebron got that foul call after whining to the refs. The league is already plagued with All-Star treatment, this replay rule would give them all chances for a closing argument at the end of games.
Sam: It was that they could check whom the ball was off and the time left on the clock. I don't think there was a situation to replay seeing a change in the call. Actually, it suggests there isn't All-Star treatment since LeBron didn't get the call against Joakim Noah. See, it is on the legit.
Although I am generally pleased with the Bulls start to this season, I am concerned about the scoring, as they have failed to score 100 points in their first five games, and score mostly in the 80s. Despite their current 3-2 record, over an entire season, this won't cut it. What pure scorers are out there who might be available and what would it take for the Bulls to acquire them?
Sam: I feel it looks worse than it is not necessarily because of the poor three point shooting. I felt Rose would have to be a 20-plus scorer this season with Gordon gone and he's been half that due to injury and missing the preseason. The Bulls are not that deep having lost Gordon, but I believe Rose can make up part of the scoring and I believe he will when he gets healthier. I think you saw the beginnings of that in the fourth quarter against Cleveland.
I remember last year after Noce got traded he said something along the lines of the Bulls only worrying about themseleves getting shots and not about the entire team. Now, after last night's game most of the players were saying that everyone got their shots within the offense and that no one forced anything...and that they just seemed like they gelled more...
Are these all subtle shots at Gordon...now that he's gone? I thought everyone liked him?
Sam: Yes, after that first game with the balanced scoring you did sense a bit of restrained glee about the ball moving more frequently. Guys didn't dislike Ben. He pretty much stayed to himself, but he always seemed likeable and accepted by the others. I think there was some resentment that he played in a sense with his head down, that he was mostly looking for his shot no matter what. Like at any job, there's jealousy and in basketball it's often over shots. But Ben was valuable, and I think some players since that game have seen that there's more pressure when Ben isn't there. It seems a subtle thing, but everyone knew Ben was the guy to make and take shots. It didn't bother him when he missed, the sign of a true shooter. Guys like Salmons and Hinrich don't have that mentality. And I think some part of their slow start in shooting is that Ben isn't here and not taking the load for shooting. If Ben missed and shot poorly he had no problem facing up to it because he knew he'd make them. The other guys have never been in that position, and it does take awhile. I think they'll get there, but it's not as easy as it looks.
What are some names that you think Bulls might be able to make a run at in February at trading deadline. I imagine there will be a lot of Boozer rumors but unless we are willing to do Hinrich and Thomas for Boozer and filler I am not sure anything can be done there. What about a guy like David West (Tyrus and James plus 2010 1st rd pick)? Brand, Bogut, Jefferson?
Sam: I agree on Boozer. They'd probably be too weak at guard, and there's a big question about whether the Jazz would be willing to take on more salary as they're so far over the luxury tax. I suspect the way guys have filled in at Philadelphia you could get Brand. But, again, the big obstacle is contract and I doubt anyone would do that. Thee interesting thing to me to watch is the teams with the big free agents. Does Atlanta with Joe Johnson or Toronto with Chris Bosh get a hint they can't resign their guy and look to make a deal? I'd guess they'll wait for sign and trades, though that's something to watch. It's not baseball were teams unload top players, like Cleveland trading a No. 1 pitcher every year. Figure Detroit will want to make some moves regarding Hamilton or Prince and Golden State with all those guards. Rudy Gay's name comes up now that he didn't sign and you can see the Clippers doing something with Camby or Kaman once Griffin returns.
Do you have any update on Jerome James' situation? I know the guy had this bad injury... but why he has not been declared "unable to play"? When is his contract expiring?
Sam: He has been around the team and doctors haven't yet declared him unable to play, though everyone doubts he will play this season.
I know its early to be asking you about trades, but what would you think of the Bulls trading Tyrus Thomas and Kirk Hinrich to Miami for D-Wade? I don't know if it is even in the ball park for what Miami would want but I look at it this way. Miami gets the defensive guard and (potential) explosive forward that they want, and they don't have to deal with the distraction of D-Wade's free agent status. For the Bulls, they get their All-Star before the summer and with the money they save from trading Kirk, they might be able to sign another big name, like maybe Bosh.
Sam: Yes, fantasy basketball. Heck, I'd throw in a No. 1, Salmons and Deng, too. Miami isn't trading Dwyane Wade to anyone, and it's going to be tough to get him out of there. The Bulls were just in Miami and everyone when they returned was talking how nice it was to go outside and it's 80 degrees and you're on the ocean and it's a tough play to say no to. I heard Pat Riley on a radio show say he intends to make the Heat a dynasty, and while that's unlikely, I wouldn't discount Riley's powers of persuasion and ability to make a big move. Sure, the Heat could collapse, but it doesn't seem likely. It's going to be tough for anyone to get Wade out of Miami, and especially when he's the biggest sports celebrity in the area.
There's plenty of buzz surrounding this 09-10 season, as many fans expect it to be the best of the decade. So many storylines and so many equally matched contenders (Cavs, Celtics, Lakers, Spurs, Magic).. Ultimately, though, I see this season going down as the year of the darkhorse. In the west, you have the Mavs (long, athletic, experienced, and well coached), Suns (back to run and gun and I always thought Bell and Diaw were overrated), and Nuggets (Carmelo looks like early MVP and Billups is a winner). In the East, you have the Wizards (deep, well-balanced, and have a bonafide closer in Arenas) and Raptors (can play interesting lineups and a very European style of game which gives more traditional lineups all kinds of problems). Do you think any of these darkhorse teams can be a threat and maybe spoil those Spurs/Lakers---Celtics/Cavs conference finals matchups everyone seems to want?
Sam: It's difficult for me to see beyond the Lakers, Celtics and Magic. I think those three stand far above anyone, healthy, of course. I do think Denver is better than I thought they'd be, though they were in the conference finals. If you are looking for a darkhorse, the Rockets seem to have unusual chemistry and perhaps will make a trade to upgrade. I don't see any of the East teams challenging Boston or Orlando and even the Cavs, whom I also think will make a deal to upgrade when it becomes even clearer they are not on the level of the Celts or Magic.
I am a great Bulls fam from Argentina, I has been befote Noce and keep on being nowdays, my concerní is that in the last 10 years the Bulls have made mosto f their moves base don financial decisión, they sem. More a bank than a NBA franchise, in 10 years they have been unable to land any big players so how are they going to do to get Wade, Lebron or CB4,I really doubt they have the chance of making this happen.
Sam: Well, I can see how you might think that. They did try to spend money in 2000 when no one wanted their money. There's not much point spending when you are winning 30 games. They spent above everyone for Ben Wallace, but that didn't work. They weren't cheap, just wrong. Which can make you look cheap because then people want you to spend more to make up for your mistake, but that's hard to do in the NBA with the salary cap. Again, I think they will try to spend this summer, but we'll see who is willing to take their money.
During last night's blowout against the Celtics, Hubbie Brown casually remarked that teams with a "reputation for tough defense" get away with a lot of fouls inside (and he said he is OK with this). Why does everyone associated with the association accept reputation refereeing so casually? Just because KG is amazing and the C's play great team defense does not mean that Sheldon Williams should be able to hack players when they come into the paint. If he got those no-calls in Atlanta, he wouldn't have been a bust and Billy Knight would still have a job. And how can Lebron James play 40 minutes every night and get called for one foul??? I also heard Stacey King state during a pre-season game that Taj should know that a "rookie won't get that call." Why is this ok to say? Could you imagine if the refs were reviewing a sideline catch in the NFL, and the announcers were saying "Johnny Knox can't expect to get this call"? I feel that NBA refs do a great job overall (especially compared to the NCAA), but it makes the league look silly when (a) it is accepted that home teams will get calls (are the refs scared of the fans? I mean really...); (b) rookies have a different standard when it comes to fouling/getting fouled than veterans; (c) anyone playing for a team known for having good D can get away with murder; and (d) superstars get super treatment from their friends with the whistles. This is why the outcome of an NBA game is less in doubt before it starts than any other major sport. The NFL sells drama based on wins and losses; the NBA sells drama based on how much a superstar will score tonight. No wonder half the teams are losing money!
Sam: Is this Tim Donaghy? Sigh. I don't have a great answer for this, and I don't subscribe to the theory that allows this. Though the refs seem to foul out Dwight Howard as often as they can. Guys who have a reputation for tough play do seem to get away with it more often, like Kobe Bryant. I wish it weren't the case, though it does make me think the NBA should consider dropping the foul out, which has often been considered. I understand most refs not wanting to upset the game by taking out the best players. Maybe if the league dropped foul outs and just penalized teams after six fouls with free throws there'd be more calls against stars and physical guys. I don't like the double standard, either, though I don't see the outcomes predetermined.
Do you think there is any chance the bulls can pry away David Lee from the knicks? He is everything the bulls need. First a good guy. He is a low post player who will consistently average a double-double. How about Tyrus Thomas and a first round pick for Mr Lee. The bulls need no more young guys and David Lee is definitely worth giving up the first for. If that is not enough make it enough. I live in Florida and get to watch maybe 30 games. Everytime i watch they have no low post game and continually shoot from the outside. It is boring to watch. The game on 10/30 against the Celtics they shot less than 30% because continually shooting from the outside. Get David Lee. Forget wade need a low post player anyways.
Sam: I think David Lee is a fallback guy this summer from the big free agents like Wade and Bosh. The Bulls were one of the teams Lee hoped last summer who might possibly make a deal for him before it was clear no one could with his restricted status. He's not a classic low post guy, but is a nice piece to have given his work ethic and ability to make a shot. The Bulls would do fine next summer if they can add someone like him, though there won't be any trades this season for Lee as he's the Knicks' most productive player.
Lots has been written about maybe Wade going to the Bulls next summer. My question is would Wade or a more frugal Joe Johnson be a better fit both team wise and money wise? I'd love to see Salmons move to #3 and have Deng come off the bench until he is tradeable. Dengs looks ok so far but he has also looks slow, heavy and clumsy to me. I think Bulls improve more by improving #4 or #5 spot than #2 spot.
Sam: In the same vein as with Lee, I think Joe Johnson is a more reasonable possibility, and Salmons has to opt out, which everyone expects he will, for the Bulls to have money to give someone a major contract. So there's no certainty Salmons will return and Johnson is more the classic shooting guard. He'd be a terrific addition if you could not get Wade or Bosh.
Derrick Rose is clearly hurting and he is no where near as explosive as he can be. Do you think this is something he can play into for the rest of the season or is this something that will eventually require surgery? It pains me to watch an 80% Rose, so do you think the Bulls should shelve him until he is fully 100% or keep playing him at 80% for the rest of the season?
Sam: The Bulls and Rose believe it's a matter of timing, conditioning and that playing will be the best way to get back to his form of a year ago. So we'll see. He looked Thursday like he's coming along.
Let me preface this question by saying that I am one of the biggest Derrick Rose fans. I have owned him on my fantasy team each of his 2 seasons. He is a young exciting player with potential, quickness, & strength, is a tough competitor, and seems to be one of the truly exceptional high character guys in the association. With that being said, I'm starting to look at him more objectively now that the team is a week into his second season, and he has failed to take over the team. I realize those are lofty expectations for a 21 year old, but they are realistic ones for many fans and NBA followers. As I look at him objectively, I can't help but feel he could be a little overrated. I really hate saying that, however I don't see the hype created by all the experts & analysts being met. I don't see him as a dynamic scorer, he's certainly not a good defender (although will develop into one), and most importantly, I don't see his passing game as all that great, despite his unselfish personality and desire to involve his teammates. Am I way off base here in my assessment?
Sam: Yeah, seen him. Next! Sounds like a true Chicago fan. What, he's not Michael Jordan. Rose, of course, isn't playing at full health and condition yet, as we know. But I do see him as the scoring answer. I agree he's not a big time assist guy in the Steve Nash/Jason Kidd mold. I see him more as a scoring point guard, and I believe with Gordon gone he can be a 20-plus scorer once he's healthy and in better shape. And the Bulls need him to be that. The way he scores so easily in spurts, I don't think it will be that difficult. I'd be keeping him if I were the Bulls, if not necessarily your fantasy team. For the Bulls, he remains the answer to their dreams.
I recently read your article explaining the potential for a move bringing soon to be free agent Lebron James to LA. On the surface this appears to be a logical move, but I have doubts as to whether or not LA would be willing to part with a future All-Star like Bynum. The Lakers would be required to gut a nucleous that already has the potential to win the next three championships just to take the rist that Kobe would be willing to play alongside Lebron. And I cannot imagine Lebron wanting to leave Cleveland, it provides him the opportunity to lead a lost franchise out the darkness and into the Promised Land that is NBA titles much like Jordan did with the Chicago Bulls in the 80s and 90s.
Sam: That was one of the more reasoned responses I received to that column. There are plenty of reasons it may not occur, though for now it is an idea for discussion. The longtime formula for ultimate success in the NBA is how many All Stars or, even better, future Hall of Famers you have. The Lakers have one future Hall of Famer, to me, in Kobe. I'm not convinced they can beat a healthy Celtics team. The point, in part, is to try to extend your dominance, and you do that with ultimate stars. Few deny James will be the unquestioned king of the NBA in the next decade. How could you pass on a chance to have a handoff from Kobe to LeBron and remain on top or near there for another 10 to 15 years? Though I can understand if LeBron chose to stay in Cleveland given his history growing up nearby, popularity in the community and commitment of the organization to him.
It appears we're close to giving up on the 23 year old big man with perhaps the most explosive athleticism and a 12 year career left in the league. How do we feel? Fans are probably happy. My friend came by yesterday wondering aloud why we still keep the big man who seems to not know which foot to jump off to finish a layup. I can imagine that view shared among Bulls fans. I have a problem with the Bulls inability to keep such a distinctive guy off the court. Perhaps, his defensive rotations should be quicker. Perhaps, his jumper should be purer. Hey, we're Bulls fans. We focus on what a guy can't do and run him out of town. Brad Miller was too slow and unathletic. Ron Artest too volatile. Jamal Crawford no defense. Ben Gordon too small. JR Smith and Tim Thomas weren't team guys. Tyson Chandler too soft. I know: "we" all celebrated their farewell.
Sam: And so comes the Tyrus conundrum. There is a bit of this element to Chicago fandom-probably elsewhere as well-as I see the Cubs fans now want Zambrano out. So it comes with Tyrus Thomas. Will he become what was hoped for? Or because he may not, do you give up because he doesn't match the expectations or draft pick? There's also the issue of accountability, which goes on beyond the screen more. Tyrus tends to act out at times, perhaps out of frustration for the way he deems he'd held to a higher standard than others. Or different standard. Then he acts out at practice or in a film session or coming out of the game. The rest of the team is watching. What do you do? You don't want to accept behavior you won't accept from everyone else, but then if you punish that are you hurting the team. It's not an easy one, and it goes on with all sports teams, probably in most businesses. Phil Jackson used to make a point that people get treated differently. So too with players. Tyrus has behaved badly at times, and maybe you don't accept excuses of immaturity and sensitivity after almost four years. But then by sitting him are you hurting your chances to succeed. It's easier to judge from afar, but I'd fall on the side of playing Tyrus and letting him stay in the games and trying to get the most from him. He doesn't always deal well with team first issues, like not starting and limited playing time or shots. But this Bulls team needs him and needs him playing at a high level. This is his contract year, so you have to hope you get the best from him. I'd leave him out there and try to work it out the best I can.
I know you know that Tyrus has got to go. The Bulls are a team predicated on team effort and cohesiveness and Tyrus is not that.
Check this trade out:G John SalmonsF Tyrus Thomas for G Stephen Jackson F Anthony Randolph or find a way money wise to put Hinrich instead of John in that deal, either way. I know we hate to see John go as he is great, and Jackson is a headcase as well, but the guy wants to win and play on a good team and is a great passer and can give the Bulls some of the swagger that is sorely lacking. And Randolph's ceiling is so much higher than Tyrus, this would be a great deal...think the next Garnett some point down the line, but left handed. Either way, start making some proposals for Tyrus asap in your articles.
Sam: Poor Tyrus. As I said, I'd play him. I'm not ready to give up on him. If the Bulls were not going to use him, that's another story. But I still believe they will. I do like Randolph and lately in Don Nelson's Warriors madhouse Randolph seems out of the top of the rotation. Of course, that could change based on how Nellie does in his next card game. I still think there's something there with Tyrus. As for Stephen Jackson, please. I'd hate to see his influence on what appears like a pretty solid group of players.
I really like Brad Miller and how he fits in with this team. Do you see the bulls keeping him for this season and signing him beyond? Does he seem to like playing here? Do you know how much longer he plans on playing?
Sam: Brad does seem to like the team and the guys a lot and I believe he wants to keep playing. I believe the Bulls would like to retain him, but it would be difficult. Brad's cap hold is very high because of his big final year salary. They'd have to renounce him after the season to have enough cap room to go after a big free agent. If they sign one, that would use all the cap room and they'd only have a minimum space. I believe Brad's an asset and someone will give him a good one or two year deal.
I was just wondering why Taj Gibson was playing ahead of James Johnson, and why he has barely even seen the floor. I like what Taj is doing and I love having a southpaw on the court, but doesn't Johnson deserve a chance to get some playing time early on in the season just to get his feet wet? Is there something I am missing here?
Sam: Taj is more ready to play and more important to the rotation at power forward, as I've said before. I pressed Vinny on playing Johnson before Thurday's game and while Vinny said he's looking for a spot, it's obvious he doesn't yet trust Johnson while he does trust Gibson. Johnson is skilled, a potential mismatch player and I'd like to see him get a shot since the Bulls are playing so few players and have guys like Rose and Pargo not at complete health yet.
With Memphis choosing not to extend Rudy Gay, don't you think we have to do whatever it takes to make a run at him?....he could play a big 2 or his natural 3 and we could move Deng to 4 in the smaller lineups that seem to work for us? What do you think realistically Memphis would want this side of Rose....would Tyrus and future 1st do it...swap problem for problem and they dont have to extend Tyrus......I can see Gay being traded for a bag of peanuts to some contender and being a difference maker....I think we need to strike now.
Sam: It would be something to watch, as other teams will, as well. Memphis never has been interested in Tyrus, so I'd forget that. The problem is money. Unless Memphis would take a big contract, which they don't seem poised to do, you'd have to pay Gay big money this summer and take yourself out of free agency. Gay is good and I like him, but I don't see him as the huge difference maker and I think the tam can do as well even with lesser players than Dwyane Wade this summer.
If Lebron doesn't want any part of the Jordan legacy in Chicago, would he want any part of the West/Baylor/Magic/Kareen/Wilt/Kobe/Mikan/etc legacy in LA? I think LBJ could easily become the best 3 in Laker history, but best player wouldn't be as unquestioned.
Sam: It's a valid point in relation to my belief that James has no interest in the Bulls given Jordan's shadow. With the Lakers, as you note, it's a history of stars and guys who have won over eras. So there's no one figure to match. I think he'd be quite comfortable, and some things you saw in Cleveland's loss to the Bulls Thursday buttress my point. LeBron gives up the ball at the end a lot, perhaps too willingly sometimes. He doesn't seem to need to be the star in the spotlight. I think he'd be just fine with someone like Kobe.
How close were the Bulls a couple of years ago to swapping Deng for Kobe (the summer he claimed to want out)? I remember thinking at the time that if there were any chance at all to get Bryant we should pull the trigger, but now I think that if Deng could stay healthy in long run we may not be missing much and we kept our team chemistry in place. But I have always wondered since that summer if there was ever any real chance Kobe left LA.
Sam: It never was close. I believe Phil Jackson was brilliantly masterminding it in the background by basically holding Kobe off until they could persuade him it was best to stay. They did at one time tell Kobe they owed it to him to check real deals, but I heard the closest-or at least the most interested they were-was with the Pistons and not the Bulls and the Lakers never really saw a Bulls package that made any sense to them or they would even consider doing for someone like Kobe. The notion the Bulls refused to deal Deng for Kobe was all fiction in the hysteria at the time.
When did you stop focusing on being a credible sports writer and start focusing on spreading baseless rumors about Lebron James? I understand the Bulls aren't what they used to be and this must trouble you. Without Jordan, you would be just another beat writer but with Jordan, you wrote one of the quintessential books on the NBA. It pains me to keep reading the sourceless and unfounded crap you've been writing as of late.
Sam: I did upset some people with that LeBron/Kobe column, though most seem to be from Ohio. I got a bunch of these and do understand the Cleveland mentality with so many near misses and disappointments, and then to lose LeBron. But I did make it clear it was my belief and my column and my opinion. I know in this Internet era too much of what is published is unfounded rumor dressed up as reality. I like to raise ideas to make people think about What If. But I find "out of the box" thought less welcome when you can watch a video. I will keep trying to make my readers think, as painful for many as it will be.
Are these "NBA people" who said LeBron is going to L.A. the same ones who told you Larry Hughes was coming to Cleveland? It has to be hard for you to sit around making this stuff up all day.
Sam: There you go. Nowhere did I write anyone told me. I told me. We have some heated debates. As for Larry Hughes, I'm not sure the Cavs will want him back—I figured if he's for free why not—but it is growing more clear they are nowhere near the Celtics and Magic and in trouble with an aging, slow team surrounding and limiting James. I don't see Hughes, despite a recent spike in his shooting, making it in New York once he goes into a slump again back to the bench.
What made you write the article man? He may go to the Clippers where they have Blake Griffin, Gordon, Davis. That makes more sense he's not going to play second fiddle to a player that he's better than that's crazy. He would win a championship with the Clippers if you add Lebron today.
Sam: I am high on Griffin, though beginning to worry about being hurt so much. And I root in my heart for the Clippers for their past as the Buffalo Braves. But it ain't the Lakers and Kobe. Sorry.
Over/under dwight howard & ginobili team up to do some cheesy superman/batman thing all-star weekend?
Sam: I think you just gave NBA Entertainment an idea.