Ask Sam | 11.13.09
Sam Smith opens his mailbag to respond to the latest round of e-mails from his readers.
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I have a conspiracy theory for you. I'm sure you've heard that Bron is changing number from 23 to 6. Do you think it's because he's planning on coming to either Chicago or Miami as a Free Agent? No.23 is retired in Chicago and Miami. Maybe he's just giving a nod to Chi/Mia that he's willing to join them even if they he can't where No. 23. Just kidding....kinda.
Sam: Oh, no. Here we go again. I saw where James said on TNT after Thursday’s games he wants to honor Jordan and won’t wear No. 23 after this season and is changing to No. 6. In the latest of theories that should get some mileage. Not that changing a number was any big issue as Shaq changed his number when he went to the Lakers to accommodate the retired numbers. The Bulls have Jordan’s number retired, so they have done their part. I never quite understood Miami retiring Jordan’s number. But I especially can’t see the Cavs, who Jordan tortured for so many years, retiring a number dedicated to Jordan. I do understand Jackie Robinson for the sporting and social significance of what he did, what he overcame and what he accomplished. He is a special figure in the history of our nation, and when I played baseball I always used a Robinson model bat. We have generally agreed Jordan has been the best player to come along. But I’d question his contributions beyond that. Being the best player, after all, is enough. That’s what he came to do and be, and he accomplished that. The Bulls recognized that, and now the Basketball Hall of Fame has. That’s pretty special. This kind of thing can go too far. Then why not have every team retire the jersey number of Bill Russell, who was the greatest winner ever as a player and coach and overcame great social pressures in Boston in the 1950’s in speeding the further integration of the NBA? Why not Oscar Robertson, who not only was a transformative player, to me the perfect all around player, but gave up his career and opportunities in basketball beyond that to stand up and eventually achieve free agency for the players? What about Red Auerbach for not only creating the ultimate dynasty but using a team filled with black players when some teams held to a black player quota system? What about David Stern? I know he’d be for that. Though perhaps it only was a signal from James that he’s deciding between the Bulls and Heat. Though, I guess, this clearly is the signal that James doesn’t intend to sign with the Celtics. They have a No. 6 retired.
Hey mate. Just finished following the Bulls V Raptors game and it’s blindly obvious (even to his most avid haters) that the Bulls are going to miss Ben Gordon’s 4th quarter shooting FULL STOP. Only 8 games into the season and it’s becoming a frustrating trend that the Bulls can’t score late in the 4th quarter. It’s one thing to say that they are getting some defensive stops, but at some point you still have to hit some shots down the stretch to win close games (and it seems the Bulls will be in a lot over the season). I know you (and Vinnie) think Derrick Rose can fill or even grow into this roll, but look at how the Bulls are going about trying to finish out 4th quarters. They score 1 point in the last 6 ½ minutes, and you have Rose, Hinrich, Deng and Salmons all taking 20+ foot jump shots (I know who I’d rather of had taking those shots). So we’ve stayed a jump shooting team, but given up our (and one of the leagues) best 4th quarter jump shooters. It’s going to a long season if this trend continues – and it goes to show you can’t put a value on a pure shooter who can close out games for you!!! It’s just not that easy to pick up the slack, even trying to share the load.
Sam: It does look darkest before Tony Orlando and Dawn enter. Nah, forget that. I know it looks bad now, and it has been. I’ve thought this through many times and we’ve all been in agreement, Rose, Vinny, me. The team will miss Ben’s shooting late in games. But you have to agree the defense is much better. Again, as much as I liked Ben the price was too high. It wasn’t worth it to me to potentially give up a chance at a big time star (I know. It may not happen) to match Detroit’s $12 million to Ben. You’d have to deal Hinrich into someone’s cap space, and there was no such deal available. There was some talk with Portland, but they were pursuing other players. Derrick Byars? Yes, I hear his name a lot, though 29 teams also passed. The Bulls added Pargo and he has shot well enough for that role. It seemed a reasonable addition. Salmons is making the biggest adjustment and it’s just eight games, so for now you assume he and Hinrich shoot better. I think both need to be put at times in better position where they are more comfortable getting shots. But also remember Ben was a slow starter and often didn’t shoot well in Novembers.
Is Derrick 100% yet? I sure hope it isn't with the way that he's playing. I don't mean to be so negative but if anyone can take some criticism it should be the reigning rookie of the year. I sang his praises last year and saw the flaws in his game hoping he would improve them. He didn't. If you ask me, he passes way too much. He should be getting to the basket a lot more instead of passing once he brings the ball down. It seems to me like the best guards in the league receive double teams and that's how they are able to get 10+ assists in those games. Rose is soft and doesn't take the ball to the basket. How is he supposed to make the team better if he isn't making himself better. We should be a contender within 2 years especially with the celebrated free agent class coming up. But who wants to be a team with no allstars on it. Joakim Noah is the only one capable of being an allstar on this team so far, but can he really compete with the other big men in the east for votes? Maybe it just isn't in Derricks game to take over the game, if that's the case, I want to trade him for someone who will.
Sam: Well, that was a quick run at being a fan favorite. I’m pleased to know the Bulls have more confidence in Derrick. He had been hurt and working his way into condition. What I will agree with is I’d like to see him in more uptempo, open court play. I think the Bulls spend too much time running those pick and rolls rather than trying to get into transition. Without great shooting, they need to score some more easy baskets. I know to run is easier said than done, but defenses are loading up the lane against Rose and the Bulls. One concern, though, is depth. The Bulls have been impressive on defense and really extending themselves and also playing major minutes for the regulars. Is it then asking too much to play at a faster pace? It’s why they need to get James Johnson on the floor more. He had foul issues against Toronto when he looked a bit more comfortable. He’ll have to begin to play more.
I'm frustrated with the Bulls lack of scoring too, but I'm thinking maybe
the main cause isn't a slump or bad shooters. I was looking at these
numbers from hoopdata.com, which tracked the shot locations from the Bulls
this season and last:
Inside scoring, makes and attempts per game:
Bulls '09: 16.2 / 27.9 (58.1%)
Bulls '10: 13.3 / 23.1 (57.6%)
Bulls '09: 16.0 / 39.5 (40.5%)
Bulls '10: 18.8 / 47.7 (39.4%)
Bulls '09: 6.0 / 15.8 (38.0%)
Bulls '10: 3.1 / 12.4 (25.0%)
The 12.4 three point attempts this year haven't found the bucket like they
did last year. But the Bulls are making the 70.8 OTHER attempts (85% of all
FGAs) at nearly an identical rate to last season.
The average NBA team made 14.85 of 36.64 attempts for a 40.5 FG%.
That percentage is almost identical to the 39.4% and 40.5% the Bulls have
shot this season and last from the same location.
So are we bad shooters? The numbers say we're at the NBA average for 2pt
I know Vinny was an elite midrange shooter in his playing days, but I
just don't see how we win games when over half our shots are taken in an
inefficient zone. If we're facing an equal team with good inside or 3pt
scoring, and we're trying to compete firing 2pt jumpers, the numbers will
fall against us more times than not.
Sam: Which is a long way of saying you have to shoot threes in the NBA game today. That’s right. And that’s the problem. Shooting poorly overall doesn’t help, but we know to be efficient in the NBA today you have to shoot threes well. New York’s an exception because Mike D’Antoni teams fire away. But generally the best teams are in the top of the league in shooting threes and the poorest at the bottom. If you shoot better than 33 percent on threes it’s the equivalent of shooting 50 percent on twos. Because the Bulls don’t have the shooters, or haven’t gotten the shooting yet, they have to push the ball and get easier baskets.
We was robbed! We was robbed! I watched Comcast's slo-mo replay in slo-mo on my plasma TV repeatedly, and it is IMPOSSIBLE to determine if Miller was still touching the ball at the buzzer (OK, the red light). There is no angle where you can actually SEE contact with the ball at the buzzer, including the overhead shot.
With no conclusive evidence, the call should stand. Everyone knows that. Another thing everyone knows - or I THOUGHT they did - is that, according to the NBA, you can catch and shoot in .3 seconds.
But I wasn't completely surprised by the ruling, because that crew was already trying their best to get a W for Denver. There were iffy calls both ways, but the Bulls get some real doozies. Noah got called for one where he never touched the guy. And there were a couple of obvious grabs & trips they missed on Denver. How about that jump-ball when Nene never had a good grip on it?
There was one they replayed for possession, where you could see one ref yelling at another for not calling a foul on Noah... which had nothing to do with what they were supposed to be looking for.
It's human nature to have expectations, and those DO subconsciously affect our perceptions. That's where "star treatment" comes from. The refs EXPECT them to be better, and for opponents to have to foul them. So that's what they 'see', and that's what they call. We all act on assumptions like this in life, and we all have made asses of ourselves doing it on occasion. Nothing evil or underhanded here - just normal human frailty.
Now Sam, no offense, but I MIGHT know a little more about video than you do. 30 frames per sec. is the normal rate for video (24 fps for film). Everything you watch on TV is 30 fps. I also saw the monitor they used, and it's nothing special - a standard LCD display you could pick up at Best Buy (and certainly no better than my Samsung plasma). It also looked like the images they were watching were the exact same ones we saw on Comcast.
The refs have one advantage over me, but I have a big one over them too. The signal they see has not been broadcast, and so it would be sharper and clearer. But I have 'super slo-mo' by using my DVR's slo-mo on top of Comcast's.
HOWEVER, none of that is relevant, because... there was no angle where Miller's finger-tips are not hidden by the ball. The best TV in the world will not let you see THROUGH the ball, and they could NOT SEE the call. They had to guess, which is a No No!
If you have access to the video, watch it again and notice this. Miller's body is already turning as he receives the ball, and he takes a short-armed shot without pulling the ball back toward his body. It's the classic "hot potato" shot. And I needn't remind you that the clock starts when he makes contact with the ball.
Miller made the shot!
I know you always defend the refs. I don't think they are dishonest (in general). But I also think they are not impartial, and all too human. They DO favor stars... and what they perceive to be 'the better team'. I definitely got the sense they thought Denver "should" win that game, and gave them every opportunity to do so. But you can't fix the refs! The real answer is to put games out of their reach.
Sam: Do you watch Perry Mason? Yes, I heard Mark Wunderlich said: “Hue Hollins made me do it! I confess!” I was courtside and thought it was good, but when I looked at the replay I couldn’t tell. We hear people yelling for instant replay all the time and what idiots the rest of us are for not wanting to get it right all the time. I understand in this era the need for replay because TV would allow too much second guessing. There weren’t as many issues like this in the 60’s because TV couldn’t catch the mistakes like now. It’s impossible to accurately officiate a basketball game with the naked eye. And we see very hard to do so with instant replay. If I believed the referees and the league dictated the outcomes based on biases I couldn’t watch the games anymore. I choose not to believe that, and sitting courtside I heard Carmelo crying all game as he took 22 shots and got three free throws. The referees insisted they had a conclusive replay. I’d have liked to have seen it, but others whom I trust say they did and it was conclusive. So if you want replay and they say they’ve got one and it shows beyond a shadow of a doubt what else can you do? Still, are you supposed to win on a miracle shot like that?
Attended the game last night and thought a lot about the replay and the subsequent overruled shot. I watched the replay at home and it looked like the ball was still in Miller's hands. However, shouldn't people also be talking about exactly when the referee started the clock in tandem with when Miller caught the ball from Hinrich? If we only judge the play from the time Miller shot the ball, we're only seeing part of the story. If the ref started the clock just a hair early, then the shot would have been good. I know this world is irrelevant and ridiculous, but the whole replay thing just begs a lot of questions and killed the moment in the stadium for everyone. I'm not exactly sure how I feel about the whole thing. There are so many judgment calls down the stretch of these games, that to suddenly use technology to decide the game seems kind of strange as if the replay was "the truth". The fact is, referees are human and so many of the calls are based on human judgment. In any case, I just love the effort that the Bulls have been putting on the floor, despite not having the best talent in the league. While we miss Ben's shooting, we are clearly a better defensive team without him. I hated watching the Bulls lose games in the last 2 minutes when teams would isolate on Gordon and take it to him. We'll certainly improve with a healthier D.Rose. Yes he scored 22, but he never drove to the hoop. It would help.
Sam: Replay or no replay. That is the question, eh?
I know you will not agree with me but I hate, hate, hate instant replay and not just because of that Brad Miller shot. I would have hated it just as much if an earlier call against the Bulls had been overturned in their favor. I hate it in baseball, especially in baseball, and I hate it in football. These games are played in real time, and they should be called in real time. There is nothing worse than seeing a wide receiver make a spectacular catch only to have it come back because careful study of the video reveals the ball moved as he was going out of bounds. But, back to basketball. In every game shots go up at the 24 second buzzer, sometimes very often. They are not reviewed. (are they?) But at the end of quarters? Why are these shots different? Shots made at the end of the quarter or the game count for more than shots made in mid-quarter? Players don't get do-overs, and refs shouldn't get them either. Let the games be decided by human beings.
Sam: I tend to agree as I never felt the overwhelming need for replay. Yes, there have been miscalls and mistakes, but you generally have time to make up for it. I can sympathize some on the last play of the game, so I do understand that like in the Miller case. And as I said above the technology today would have the refs being skewered with so much replay. That’s inevitable in this era as we’re not going backward. Of course, you are right. Why sometimes and not others? I do believe the refs try to make it fair and the only empirical evidence I’ve seen when they do fudge the rules is with so called makeup calls. When they get one wrong, like Taj Gibson’s illegal defense Wednesday, they try to make it up as one was called on the Raptors right afterward. I know the NBA says there is no such thing as a makeup, but I see it often and it does suggest to me the refs basically don’t want to be the reason one team win or lost. Replay is with us because we have the technology, though it does slow the games and you have to draw the line against that somewhere.
After watching the replay of Brad Miller's last second shot vs. the Nuggets over and over again, I'm starting to think that the refs overturned their call based only on the celebration that ensued immediately after the shot went in.. Now I can appreciate enthusiasm but did you see that awful, awkward, running hug/chest bump that Kirk and Brad engaged in? That thing was terrible! It reminded me of when two guys go to greet each other, one goes for the hand shake, the other goes for the fist pound then both try to switch at the last second and it just gets ugly!
What is it about white guys not being able to look cool when they're celebrating? It just kills me!!... You must admit, the awkward celebration had to of weighed on the minds of the officials as they were making their call!
Sam: And if it didn’t, it probably should have. It was inexcusable and hideous and you wanted to look away. I’m so grateful to know those guys don’t dance.
I know I said I wouldn't write until Thomas is back to trade, but after watching the Raptors game...uh oh. We need to trade Hinrich or Salmons and get Stephen Jackson. Stephen is a matchup nightmare for SG's. Luol is not the answer to our post mismatches. I figure we can have a functional good character teams that may finish .500 or five over...but we if we have a dysfunctional one with Stephen, our ceiling is high and the ground is not that low, figure .500 with or without him.
Sam: It isn’t fantasy basketball. Basketball, especially, is vital as a team sport. Guys work off one another and in concert. A disruptive guy makes a difference. Not that they were a contender, but look at Memphis post Iverson. He’s shaken that whole roster. Stephen Jackson has clearly shown he’s about himself and anytime could decide he doesn’t like what’s going on. It was bad enough with Larry Hughes last season. Jackson is times 10.
Let's have some fun by assuming that all free agents would be interested in coming to the Chicago Bulls. Which free agents would you like to see them sign and why? Feel free to rank order your selections.
Sam: It would be LeBron and then Wade…..and then a huge dropoff. Bosh isn’t close to their class because he’s not a game changer and impact player to their level. It was oh so clear watching the Raptors against the Bulls how little effort Bosh gives on the defensive end, saving himself for numbers. Guys like Stoudemire and Boozer are in that category. I don’t see Nowitzki leaving Dallas. If you can’t get James or Wade, I think you only are adding complementary pieces with flaws. It will be good to have them and it will help your team. But only two guys make a major impact.
If my team is tired and they have missed 9 shots straight shouldn't i call a full time out and create plays where they are attacking the rim and not settling for jump shots, thus bailing out the defense every time? Create plays where you got rose, or somebody to drive to the net get in the open lane and possibly get the easy 2 or get fouled going up.
Sam: I’m guessing you weren’t happy with the end of the Raptors game. Look, as is always the case, if the shots go in the strategy looks a lot better. I’m not one to make excuses about back to backs because when you are a pro playing games two straight nights after riding a charter aircraft should be zero issue. Playing the minutes the Bulls starters have had to compounds that some. Everyone knows you go to the basket when the perimeter shots aren’t going. The Raptors were sitting back in a zone of sorts for obvious reasons, but, yes, you could have worked for something more aggressive. After Deng’s jumpers with nine minutes to go I don’t recall a drive until Rose finally did coming out of a timeout with two minutes left. See, Vinny did realize it, too. Though the next two shots were jumpers by Salmons still trying to shoot himself out of it.
With the renewed emphasis on defense this season and the record based mostly on the improved defense. How close is this Bulls teams to the ones that led the NBA in defense in 2006/2007.
Sam: Actually in that arena. Skiles’ teams are good at that and you see it already with the Bucks. Assistant Bob Ociepka is doing an excellent job with the new defensive schemes this season. Though the big difference this season and what that team didn’t even have was a big center who is so active like Noah has been. When he’s out the Bulls aren’t close to the same team as he’s been the player we all thought the Bulls were getting in the draft. I was so impressed with Noah after that championship game win over UCLA I wrote a column condemning him for staying in school (I rarely do that as I’m for the NBA keeping kids out two or three years) because he could have been drafted by the Bulls No. 2 when they took Tyrus Thomas. Noah had a miserable attitude for some reason when he arrived and for all his talk about teammates like Ben Wallace not working hard and being selfish it was Noah who wasn’t working hard. That’s all changed and he’s become the team’s most indispensible player on defense. If he can keep it up, his activity and aggressiveness, the Bulls will remain a top defensive team. Often overlooked, though, is Kirk Hinrich, who I think has been terrific and aggressive and when the Bulls have pressured upcourt it’s been with his energy.
You said in your mailbag a couple of weeks ago that Pippen couldn't
create much for himself and that's why he never would have been a top 50
player with the clippers. Not that I don't agree with you: he and Jordan
were as perfect complements as you can get in the NBA and clippers
players seem to be, well, cursed. Yet one thing makes me tend to
disagree. What about those two post-Jordan seasons, where the Bulls may
have still been one of the best teams in the east and Pippen - not David
Robinson - should likely have been the MVP after leading the Bulls in 4
or 5 statistical categories. Who on the Bulls was creating for him then?
Sam: Well, it’s not like he won any titles or made it to the conference finals. Yes, I know, Jordan didn’t, either until Pippen and Grant came along. The point is there are many terrific players in the NBA who are not top 50 players. Pippen would have been an All Star without Jordan. But top 50? I don’t think so. How about multiple All Stars like Chris Mullin, Mitch Richmond, Terry Cummings, Jeff Malone, Bernard King, Rolando Blackman, Jack Sikma, Gary Payton. Are they top 50 guys? Even Dominique Wilkins, in the Hall of Fame, wasn’t a top 50. I could name dozens of others. Pippen would have been a top player. Nowhere near a top 50 player.
According to your logic why would LeBron not want to go to Miami more than
LA? You get a player (Wade) to be your sidekick who is 3.5 years younger
than Kobe, you get to play under another great mind with Riley and the team
doesn't have to trade away any of their pieces to get you? Although the
Miami pieces are nowhere in the mold of the Lakers' pieces--but keeping
Beasley and company to tag with a younger Wade is probably a better
situation than going to LA, no? Personally I hope it does not happen so I
need you to give me a compelling argument as to why LBJ will *not* want to
go to Miami?
Sam: He might. I was just making a point that if you are most about winning, that is the best place to win given given their bigs and history. Going to Miami would put James with another star who already has a title, so that doesn’t clear up the criticism some say he wouldn’t want to piggy back on someone else’s success. Plus, Kobe is the star of stars and I think LeBron is closer to a Pippen than a Jordan. I think LeBron would better complement a great player and I’m not sure that mix fits with Wade as well as Kobe, though I think Wade would accept him easier. As I wrote last week in my Monday column, Chicago remains a possibility. The Bulls have a good case to make. Though it seems if James wants to guarantee winning he’d try to get to L.A. If he wants to do it the Jordan way he’ll stay in Cleveland and try to build a winner that way.
There's a lot of talk about the Knicks and the upcoming free agent class but isn't the real opportunity for NY in 2011 when Carmelo Anthony can opt out and hit the free agency market? As everyone knows, NY has a lot of cap space in 2010 but, barring finding takers for Curry and Jeffries this year, they'll also have 18 million coming off the books in 2011 for a free agent class where Carmelo is the only big name.
Going to NY should be appealing for Anthony. He's from New York, attended college and won a national championship in NY not to mention his TV personality wife is also an NY native and would have more opportunities in New York. Talentwise, I can't see Carmelo electing to spend his prime years in Denver when their roster in 2011 looks to be pretty horrible with nothing but 4 backups, a soft, aging, injury prone Nene under contract and a $14 million option on a 35 year old former all star PG. With Anthony & Nene on the team they won't be good enough to win a title but would be too good to miss the playoffs and pick up a high draft pick that could allow them to contend for titles.
Sam: I agree. Quietly, I believe Donnie Walsh does as well. The Knicks believed they could deal Eddy Curry or Jared Jeffries to have enough room to attract two free agents. Though they are bringing back Curry now for that purpose, it seems unlikely. Someone like LeBron or Wade isn’t going there alone. Not Bosh, either. The question is how much you can sell the fans to hang on for another season. But I do think that is Plan B, which is now in place. Add a player this summer to enhance the roster with the idea of adding Anthony the summer of 2011. Anthony is probably one of the five true, deserving max players in the NBA—LeBron, Kobe, Wade, Howard and Anthony. But in Denver with that bunch you don’t get noticed much and don’t often get considered with that group. I believe Anthony desperately wants that and he has the kind of personality that fits New York well. Of all the scenarios, that’s the one that makes the most sense for the Knicks.
A friend and I were noticing during the last two or three last possessions of the Cavs game how Salmons seemed to be forcing shots after Rose hit his floater over Varejao. It seemed he kinda went into hero mode, like he had to be the Alpha Dog after Rose was clearly at his best that fourth quarter. We felt that Rose should have had the ball primarily in his hands (especially during the last possession, the shot-clock violation). Do you think this will continue to be a problem as the season goes on? When we acquired Salmons last year, one of the few knocks (albeit quiet knocks) on him was that he had to get his shots and when he didn’t he got upset. Maybe he’s not quite Ben Gordon in this regard, but seems to have a sizable ego. What is your complete take on Salmons?
Sam: It’s difficult to get a read on Salmons since he is so quiet and rarely says much or shows much emotion. He did have that reputation, though I didn’t particularly see it when he came to the Bulls. You have to give everything the eye test. My sense now is he’s struggling under the combined weight of being asked to replace Gordon, playing a different position where the shots come from a slightly different spot and whether he should opt out of his relatively modest contract and become a free agent after this season. Thus far he hasn’t impressed the market. I don’t see him as someone jealous of his teammates and having to match them but someone who actually thinks and tries to much and when you are a shooter you can’t worry about misses or slumps. You just see the next shot as going in. Salmons seems to agonize over it.
Should the Bulls decide to trade Hinrich to clear more space for next year? Who can they trade for to achieve the goal?
Sam: And then there were no guards who can shoot. This notion has been out there at times to clear more space to maybe get a second free agent. But there’s no guarantee you get even one, and someone would have to absorb Hinrich’s contract and teams aren’t doing that with the upcoming class of free agents. So who’s playing? Hunter?
What do you think of this years Suns? they went under the radar a bit at the start of the season, not as much expectation as previous seasons, but i think they've got a good team. Do you reason if they can stay healthy they can be a darkhorse team?
Sam: I wouldn’t have thought that and didn’t. With Channing Frye and Robin Lopez at center—and even if you say Stoudemire is the center with his seven or eight rebounds a game—I didn’t see how they wouldn’t routinely be pounded on the boards and overmatched. You also still don’t know if Nash and Grant Hill can hold up at their ages and as great as they’ve been playing, especially Hill’s rebounding. But they’ve been the early surprise of the season. As for the playoffs, it still seems unlikely they can be that healthy and that effective playing their style this many years later. I believe you can win that way, but with Nash the way he was four or five years ago. But I didn’t see start this coming, either.
About Wilt Chamberlain? How do you think he would fare now in the NBA? I look at Dwight Howard the games most dominant big man and see an absolutely poor man's Chamberlain. They aren't even in the same league, it's like comparing Dwight Howard and Jake Voskuhl. Chamberlain was at least 4" taller, (Howard is really 6'9.5"), faster, stronger, had a better arsenal of offensive moves and was better at everything. This makes me believe Wilt would average ATLEAST 40 points, 25 rebounds, 5 blocks and 5 assists a game, maybe 50 once he learns to moonwalk and use a jumpstop like todays players. Wilt was such a legendary athlete that I'm sure he would of been able to shut down any bigger guy in the league today and that includes LeBron and Kobe. Neither of them would be able to get their shot off over him, and if they drove they'd get blocked, remember Wilt had track speed. As a well informed fan in my early 20's I feel robbed that I never got to see Chamberlain play he was much better than anyone in the league right now and likely ever and YES that does include Jordan. I remember at all star weekend 97 for the NBA 50 hearing about how Wilt called Jordan 'little man', and told him when he played the rules were made against him to slow him down, and how they were being made for Jordan.
Sam: Who ever compared Howard with Wilt? I remember Wilt coming to the NBA. He was 23 and had played with the Globetrotters as you couldn’t come into the NBA then until your college class graduated. Even in 1959 when the NBA wasn’t a big story, Wilt’s coming was. He averaged 37 points and 27 rebounds as a rookie. He was by far the most dominant ever to play pro sports. Wilt didn’t have the hunger (and anger) of a Jordan to need to win like he did. It was too easy for Wilt too often. He got 55 rebounds against Russell and the Celtics. They did make rules to control Wilt as they expanded the lane, though teams didn’t double as much then. The guy didn’t even dunk because he felt it embarrassed others. Wilt in this era would be as dominant as ever because he was such a great player and athlete.
With Tyrus Thomas out with an injury do you know who they might sign to help out while he is away?
Sam: I don’t believe they will sign anyone yet first because they are so close to the luxury tax line, which they are committed not to exceed before the summer free agency class. And certainly not before Del Negro gives James Johnson a complete chance to play, which hasn’t happened yet.
I like Tryus and am pulling for him to get healthy. For as gifted as he is I wish a marketing person would get in his ear because he is creating his own problems off the court. Such as people questioning his flu. The NBA is more than just basketball. Fan's want to root for good guys(the hard working rebound grab-en lunch pail guy) and boo the bad(the snobby I know i am a difference maker jerk). When you say your in it for the money( the slam dunk contest) people think your a jerk. When you talk about all the Chicago legends and how blessed you are to play here people love you. Now I think tryus has damaged his reputation but its fixable. Grab the mike. Tell the fan's how muck you like Chicago. Ask David stern to forgive you on a national television game and to go back to the Sprit slam dunk contest on TNT and show the world how much the NBA means to you. Praise Taj and all the hard work he's put in. Go up to him on the court mentor him. Ask to go on TV and smile have fun with it. Tryus you do all this to make the big money. If you pout then people won't believe in you. They don't pay players they don't believe in. Is it too late for Thomas to rebuild the trust in Chicago or does he have time?
Sam: That’s good advice that I’d guess Tyrus has heard already. But he’s an unusually stubborn and untrusting guy. He is good hearted, but prefers not to show it. He is more suspicious of people than anyone I’ve ever seen come through the Bulls. It certainly wouldn’t hurt Tyrus to ease up a bit, and mostly he’d find life to be more fun and less stressful. But in the end it comes down to performance. If he averages 20 and 10 he’ll be beloved. He isn’t anywhere close, so other issues come into play.
I love the way Joakim Noah has been playing this year. Reaching his potential and being consistent. Coming to camp in shape. Understanding his role and playing within the system. Just how Norm VanLier preached he should be playing at the beginning of last season, when he had issues finding his niche after coming into camp out of shape and acquiring an injury to start the season slow. Do you how much of what Norm or Red felt or said about a player ended up effecting their game? We, the fans, always knew (and appreciated) how Norm and Red felt because we faithfully listening to their wisdom about the game. Did these players get the opportunities we did to hear their wisdom and take advantage of it? I know since Norm passed that each time I watch Noah play, I see the passion Norm talked about wishing he'd play with and I hope he's looking down happy to give the kid a pat on the back. Miss the man's views at halftime and postgame. He knew his guys.
Sam: We all miss Norm and Red and I smiled reading your email just thinking about Norm raging about another Noah indifferent effort. Norm would be loving it, and as much as I’d like to believe the players respond and are motivated by what’s said in the media, I strongly doubt they pay much attention. Though I do know when you write or say something uncomplimentary, someone at least tells them
In regards to Wade's chances to coming to the Bulls, do you think it's more important that the Heat have an average/poor season or for the Bulls to have a solid season and make it deeper into the playoffs? Which do you think would possibly motivate him more if he truly considered coming to Chicago?
Sam: There are loads of factors, and though there’s been some speculation with Cleveland playing Miami Thursday that LeBron would go to Miami, the consensus is Bosh understands he’s best fitted to be a second to a top player and is from the South and would be an ideal target for the Heat. I’d say the Heat having a poor season would give the Bulls some edge, but the Heat look awfully good thus far.
I'm sure you're getting floods of emails about the brad miller shot but i was extremely impressed with vinny tonight. I thought he was drawing up good play calls, did a great job in the fourth quarter switching kirk and derrick defensively by putting kirk on billups and after briefly having salmons on carmelo when he checked in during the 4th when they first went to the small lineup, by switching deng on to melo who by the way played incredible defense on carmelo tonight. Also We had a timeout at the end!!!!!
Sam: Yes, I thought Vinny had a very nice coaching game against the Nuggets. Made the right moves, good switches and anticipated well. Also, it’s been clear the players have competed hard, which is the best test of young coaching.
Interesting piece on Lebron. I'm not entirely convinced on him coming to the Bulls, mostly because of the Jordan legacy, and wouldn't it be the ultimate betrayal? Going to his hometown team's division rivals when The Shot still gets played over and over every time someone hits a buzzer beater in the playoffs? but suppose Lebron does come to Chicago. Obviously you can't keep Salmons, probably not Miller either. Are we able to keep Tyrus? And what happens to Lu? $71 million off the bench? Does he start at 2 guard? Or have Deng/Lebron at both forward spots?
Sam: It is one of those things that you’ll figure it out. The Bulls need Salmons to opt out to have about the full maximum salary to offer. Most expect him to with his salary about the midlevel exception, which is considered somewhat low on a one year deal for a player like him. Miller has to be renounced because of his huge cap hold and I don’t see them Bulls being able to match an offer for Tyrus. So you have Rose, Deng, Noah, Hinrich, Gibson and Johnson, which is a decent core. If you have LeBron under contract you can pick up some good veterans for the minimum. You put the best players you have on the floor and go from there.
The Bulls players on the all star ballot are shocking. Brad Miller? Really? He has looked terrible so far, and I don't expect he will improve much. Joakim Noah has looked unbelievable. He has definitely outplayed Miller, and in my opinion has been the most energetic and solid player this year (only behind Deng). I don't even think Salmons really deserves to be on the ballot, as he has shot terribly all year long. My question is: if you could put 3-5 bulls players on the All-Star ballot, who would they be?
Sam: Don’t blame Brad. I think he’s done fine. The problem was a committee of media people who didn’t study up for the job as it was clear Noah was the Bulls starter. Didn’t they watch last season’s unbelievable playoffs. We knew, obviously, and I even named Noah my pick for league most improved in my preseason awards.
The Bulls have 22 back-to-back games this year, which is more than any other NBA team this year. That is 44 of the overall 82 games played this season. What is more startling is that of those 22 back-to-back games only one of them is a back-to-back where both games are at home here in Chicago. 21 of the 22 back-to-back games involve travel between cities. Is that typical in the NBA where there are little to no back-to-back HOME games? It seems like a bad hand was dealt to the Bulls by those who determine the NBA schedules. What additional difficulties do you see for the Bulls as a result of having 21 back-to-back games with one or both on the road?
Sam: The biggest issue I’d see is if the players use it as an excuse.
Defensively, the Bulls have improved dramatically from last year. But with a loss of BG, it's quite obvious that they're having trouble scoring especially off the bench and down the stretch. Hinrich and Pargo just aren't enough power off the bench. So my suggestion is the bring in Iverson. I know you're not a big fan of him and neither am I, but one thing he can do is score and I don't see any other way trade for a scorer without losing a key player or affecting next year's plan to go for an elite player.
Sam: Let’s put it this way. It would be better to have Stephen Jackson. Wonder why 29 teams didn’t offer a deal to a future Hall of Famer? As we’ve seen in Memphis, Allen isn’t about to lie and pretend to be something he isn’t or doesn’t want to do. I suppose you credit him for that, but with a roster that has so many kids, it would be somewhat akin to having a team with Rodman, Artest, Rasheed Wallace, J.R. Rider, Bonzi Wells and Vernon Maxwell as sixth man. Nothing good would come of it.
This is more of an out of left field suggestion. Although the Bulls have
said they'd prefer to give more minutes to Johnson than make an addition the
roster, the Bulls could sign Eddie Jones as a Lindsey Hunter-type player at
small forward (to play spot minutes and as a mentor to Johnson). Better late
Sam: C’mon. Ron Mercer has to be available. This time he’d have some higher level teammates.