Ask Sam | 11.27.09
Sam Smith opens his mailbag to respond to the latest round of e-mails from his readers.
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.
First off let me say that out of the last 26 months I have been deployed for 19 of them. For at least 18 1/2 I have been a devout reader of your columns and mailbags. Even though my letters rarely make the cut (1x) you always respond back and that means a lot. Just know that being over here where there is not a whole lot to look forward to your articles and mailbag Always make my cut!
Now down to business. As I stated earlier I always read your mailbags and it bothers me that rarely is the actual blame for the Bulls woes ever placed where it needs to be. The front office is the culprit! They have made so many bad decisions and poor talent evaluations that we are consistently in rebuilding mode. We let Chandler go for Ben Wallace; a 7'1 young man for a 6'7 has been. To make matters worse we got a very talented but immature J.R. Smith in the deal and instead of giving him a chance we promptly shipped him off for basically nothing. What do you think he would go for now? Then Loul Deng gets a 71 million dollar deal and in the process basically signs BG's walking papers. If Pax would have read any of your mailbags BG would have been long gone and you might have gotten something for him. Consequently they lose a major portion of their offense for free and to lessen the sting they sign..... you guessed Jannero Pargo! I guess everybody felt Salmons was going to carry the load; to semi quote Dennis Green "He is who we thought he was" a player more suited for a 6th man role than a bonafide starter. Let's talk about my favorite player Tyrus Thomas who when drafted was a mere 6'8 217 not exactly prototype size for a PF, but the owner of unparalleled athletic ability. Now everyone wants to trade TT and I for one don't get it. For the same reason I don't understand VDN not playing Johnson. Unless they have dreams of winning a championship he needs to play. For one if he is any good it could change your offseason strategy at the very least he could be a trading chip. If you draft somebody first round they need to play because the sooner they get better the sooner the team gets better. Skiles was a big reason for the lack of development in Thomas's game and this is something I find ironic because he has a rookie point guard which by all accounts is the most demanding position in the league carrying his team. What was the rational for resigning Gray, so they can set the record for having the slowest group of 7 footers in league history. The summer league roster was atrocious; maybe they should go find Jeremy McNeal before it's too late. Unlike everyone else I (think) Rose is overrated he does nothing great and if I could trade him to the Knicks for a couple 1st Round draft choices (and a shot at John Wall) I'd do it in a New York minute. If the Hornets want to trade Okafor send them Deng those salaries have got to be close.
SFC Maceo Ellison
Task Force LION
Sam: Well, I am touched, as always by your commitment to the country and your passion for the Bulls and the NBA. It’s something people here tend to forget, and especially around Thanksgiving it’s good to know we have men like you willing to put your life at risk to defend our ability to condemn poor sports management. Seriously, that is the point. We need to appreciate more the freedoms we have to pursue whatever interest we have and express our passions unfettered. As for the Bulls, I understand. This is a pivotal point in the team’s history. You’re right. It has been a decade of rebuilding and some awful decisions, which isn’t really uncommon anywhere in sports. You have to get lucky first, and the hope is the Bulls did with Derrick Rose. To take your suggestion on going for a No. 1 pick and Wall, which is hardly guaranteed, just suggests another rebuilding. We’ve had enough young kids and it’s time to get a roster together. So the Bulls said wait until one more summer. So we’ll see if they can deliver. You read the whims of readers on Tyrus, but I wouldn’t consider the Bulls finished with him. I think they want to take a hard look at him and if he has a good season I can see him getting a contract. We tend to be awfully impatient, but he’s 23 and very immature when he came to the NBA. That’s why the injury is so frustrating. I was no fan of the Ben Wallace signing, though it was difficult to condemn given NBA executives widely called it the big move of that summer. Plus, Skiles was not going to play Chandler much and never would have played Smith. That’s the risk you take when you take on a coach like Skiles. He is a terrific coach, but you have to do it his way. Like with Larry Brown, whom I’ve compared Skiles with. They demand accountability and get it, but they won’t accept certain players. The Bulls had committed to Skiles and it paid off for a time, but both sides soured too fast. Deng was a tough one given the amount of money, but Gordon kept turning down their offers, so they had to go for someone. And when they apparently couldn’t deal Hinrich into a cap slot last summer, they had little choice but to let Gordon go or give up a chance to get into next summer’s free agency. So now we’ll see. You can see from half the world away Johnson needs to play and not playing him with such a thin roster is a mistake, if not for Johnson, for the ability of the other players to continue to play at a high level. The Bulls have just a 13-player roster, so they have less wiggle room as they hold onto money for free agency next summer. You have to play who you have. This season is more a holding pattern with the hope of further developing Rose. That hasn’t been the case yet as Rose hasn’t played well given injury and a frustrated offense. We hope that changes, but the future rests on next summer. Hopefully you and your buddies will all be home by then to second guess it from here. Good luck.
Let's start Brad Miller at the 4. Bring Hinrich, Gibson, Pargo, and Johnson from the bench. The league is full of twin towers these days and the Bulls need both Noah and Miller on the floor. Thomas and Gray will help when they get well but we are missing a real power forward for sure.
Sam: The Bulls play Noah and Miller a lot together, though the bigger problem has been that Miller clearly seems out of condition given his shot is off and he’s having trouble holding guys off. He looked like he was done the first half of last season at Sacramento. He takes a while now given physical issues to get in shape for the season. He’s told me it’s months after the season until he can even begin to walk right. I believe he’ll come along like he did last season, but he’s not a guy any longer to give you high production through 82 games. If anything, the Bulls may need to rest him more now, which is also why not having Gray until Thursday might be a bigger issue than it’s seemed.
This Bulls offense is dreadful and painful to watch. Guards running around off of screens to shoot contested jumpers or Derrick Rose getting a screen at the top of the key to shoot a jumpshot is not going to get it done. I like your idea of going small to get some run and gun going b/c without a true post player it's hard to run a set offense and I totally agree. But how about going another direction and actually throwing the ball into Joakim Noah or Taj Gibson once in awhile and run your offense through them. Joakim Noah has shown he's able to pass the ball out of the post and has developed a nice baby hook. Taj has showed a couple nice drop step moves too, so I don't see why coaching doesn't give them more chances to hopefully get the defense to sag in some to get our jump shooters more open. Having played post growing up I know how frustrating it can be to run up and down the court and never touch the ball, but instead watch your guards jack up shots and you have to work your butt off going after the rebound, its not a lot of fun, and does nothing for morale. Nothing annoys me more when watching this team than when Noah/Taj has great post position and Salmons/Pargo won't throw the ball in to one of them, and instead Noah/Taj has to leave the post to come set a pic for the guard to try to get a jumper off. It's just horrible. What do you think of my idea of trying to get some more post opportunities for our starting bigs then work our offense in to out rather than out to in?
Sam: Anything now. This team to my way of thinking has to run because it doesn’t have bigs who can make post plays or three point shooting. I know, a deadly combo. I suppose you could try to play more inside out, though this personnel to me should be able to drive and kick. But this offense with all the high pick and rolls without the ball reversal has been awful on this trip and clearly needs some innovation.
At least we beat them (Jazz) in the Finals ten years ago.
Sam: The Bulls need to start trying to blind them with their rings.
One thing I notice as the season goes on here is the lack of Bulls players supporting each other. When you watch a team like the Celtics (who are the absolute best at this) you can feel the brotherhood and sense of TEAM. When a guy goes down the other guys RUN to pick him up. When a guy gets fouled and finished the all run over to congratulate, cheer him on. I question Vinny on this one. Does he push our guys TO WORK TOGETHER... CARE ABOUT WHAT THE OTHER GUYS ARE DOING? I don’t see it AT ALL. I just watched Deng go strong to the hoop against UTAH and get fouled and almost make the shot. Nobody even went near him from the Bulls. Its like they can care less. WHERES THE TEAM HERE?????? I believe when you work as a team and push each other, help each other, go out as an army to fight for something, then you are a much better unit. Celtics are awesome at this. You see it with the Lakers, Cavs, Atlanta... Any good team. Is Vinnie missing this piece to the puzzle? To push guys to WORK AND CARE about the other guys when they take the floor. We look bad Sam and we look like we don’t care. I think if we added that element, we could stay in games, maybe close out games. I hate as a fan when I believe and seemingly care more than my team. They are paid millions and live great comfortable lives while I bust my butt then look forward to watching them play every game. Then they walk around like that can give a crap they are losing by 15.
Sam: I don’t think that’s it. I’ve been around the team a lot this season and on most of this road trip and they seem to like one another and seem supportive. Noah’s a huge support, though the league also has asked players to sit more on the bench this season so as not to block the view of those high paying customers sitting close to the court. I think now there’s a bit of hanging of the heads the way things have gone on this trip and with Thomas still out and Hinrich now out, that being two of the team’s top six players. I assume that begins to change when they get home, but it has been a bad finish to the trip and suggestive of some larger issues with the offense and depth of personnel.
With all the teams expected to have cap room this offseason, its definitely not a sure thing the Bulls land an impact free agent and will likely end up using their cap room in a trade, so why not start now? You have mentioned a couple good, young targets possibly being available in Kevin Martin and David West. How about these trades:
1. Kirk Hinrich, James Johnson, Jerome James and a 1st round pick to Sacramento for Martin and Beno Udrih
2. John Salmons and Tyrus Thomas to New Orleans for West
The Bulls actually take back a little less salary in both trades, so they could still sign a backup wing player to fill out the roster this season while still keeping some cap flexibility for this offseason. The problem is this would basically be your team going forward and is it good enough to win a title? It’s definitely improved, Martin is a better fit with Rose and Deng than Salmons and West obviously helps but the defense gets worse. It seems like this is more than they would accomplish in free agency though.
Sam: That’s the big question now. I’d say having come this far you’ve got to go the rest of the way and take a shot. What if LeBron really did want to come? You can’t be left in position of not having the money, which still isn’t even guaranteed given Salmons and Thomas’ situations. The Hornets don’t seem anxious yet to do anything until they get a fix on where Chris Paul stands in all this and while I believe the Kings would deal Martin, though they’ve given no indications they would, I don’t see that he’s better than Ben Gordon. And you have to try to be better than that going forward.
Is it just me or do the Bulls really miss Tyrus Thomas? It seems Bulls are being banged around inside too much. I can't see Tyrus making a big difference against those big man but his shot blocking is really missed and teams seems to be punishing the Bulls inside!
Sam: I guess the great irony has been to hear Vinny talk about how much he misses Tyrus. Vinny has been no great fan, as we’ve seen over the last year or so with some benchings. But when you are this thin on the roster and Vinny clearly doesn’t trust James Johnson to use him, suddenly the guys you don’t have begin to look better. Taj is better in a reserve role for now, and they could use Tyrus’ protection at the basket with his shot blocking. And now he should have fresher legs than everyone. Good for Tyrus. There haven’t been many times since he’s been with the Bulls coaches have said they missed him.
I'm not all that worried about the season to this point, it's very much the pre season as I see it. With Rose not playing during the actual pre season three things happened, he didn't get in any live action, the other players didn't get in games with him and the backcourt played out of the rotation they are in now. Hinrich started instead of coming off the bench, Salmons didn't get many minutes at the backup 3, did play the point at times and Pargo and Hunter played more than normal. Byers played a lot and now isn't there. So they're just now getting adjusted to their normal places in the rotation. I think they'll look much better in January. With the rotation, contracts, luxury tax and free agency, I don't think the Bulls will be making any trades, unless Tyrus comes back strong and someone wants him. But at this point what teams are the front runners for panicking and making trades?
Kurt (DON'T CALL ME KIRK) Cove
Sam: Ah, perspective. You sure you’re a fan? I can agree some given a very tough schedule, though I see some worrisome signs in Vinny’s reliance on a short rotation again like last season after the trade and the poor shooting and the unexplosive play of Rose. I agreed they had to let Gordon go, but I thought Rose could pick up the scoring. It probably was too much to ask as teams adjusted defensively to him. Also, the shooting has been just awful and you see a lot of teams now who just want to score, even in the East. The Bulls defense has been much better, but you are asking a lot of a team with a short rotation both to run on offense with so few players and defend at such a high level. You are asking for breakdowns. I believe the Bulls will look aggressively to make a deal, though I also believe the priority remains that cap room for the summer. As for trades, there’ll be more talk once we get toward midseason with the most intriguing of whether teams like Toronto or Phoenix would decide to make a move with a free agent like Bosh or Stoudemire rather than risk losing him in the summer. Or even the Hawks with Joe Johnson. There’ll be some big names in rumors, if not there being action or even serious talk. But guaranteed you’ll hear big names mentioned because the way the internet reporting goes now anytime a team asks another about whether a player is available (he may not be) it often becomes “teams talking” about a deal. Technically there was talk, I guess. Good for the columns, though.
At the end of close games, the team that's behind tries to foul an opposing player as soon as the ball is inbounded. I was wondering why a player has never taken an inbounds pass and slammed the ball against the floor so it shoots into the air for 5-10 seconds. If the clock expires and the ball is still in the air, game over. Is this against the rules? I think it would be a pretty effective strategy provided the ball stays above the court so it comes down in play if time is remaining.
Sam: It is something I’ve thought about, though the seconds don’t go that fast. The two most memorable examples I recall about this had one work and one not. Magic Johnson got a ball in the last game of the conference finals in ’91 and fired it down court to let the clock run out and end the game against favored Portland. That was of the idea you had. I saw it tried by Michael Ruffin when he was with Washington to disastrous results. He got a fullcourt pass and fired the ball up in the air to avoid being fouled with a two point lead. But it came down too soon, was caught by an opponent, who then made a three to win the game. I’d say overall it’s too risky, but amusing when it fails.
If ROSE needs a PICK to roll then I am crazy! Pick and roll for maybe a guy like Deng . . . Kirk even for a short pull up jumper but the beauty of ROSE is that he can get by people . . . Penetrate and dish . . . simple no pick just roll to the rim! Play above the rim . . . Play quick!
Look at how the Blackhawks have turned it around (this would be a great column for you Sam) by moving the puck up ice fast, faster than most teams in the NHL, they take a lot of shoots, they out shoot their opponents, they out score them, in the past they did the PICK n ROLL version in NHL and took too much time to set, too many passes leading to too many off net goals! NHL and NBA are the same, skates are the difference!
Why are some things so complicated . . . That is why I still love Phil J. . . . Keep it simple tell each player what he expects each night! There is no mystery to basketball of all team sports, know your role and play it.
Sam: Exactly, though I like the Blackhawks analogy. There’s no doubt the Bulls have to play fast with the team they have. Everyone around the team says it all the time, and then they don’t. Derrick has been a question mark this season. He says it as well, but then he gets out there and goes side to side a lot and seems to drift on some possessions. When you ask him he says he needs to push it. Are defenses crowding him more? Yes. Is the offense too oriented toward the high pick and roll? Yes. Are there too few guys playing? Yes. So maybe when Tyrus gets back, though he’s no known full court runner. I would like to see the court spread more with Rose on top and not bringing the back man up to set the pick as the team doesn’t use the roll man much anyway. And Rose certainly should be able to drive and draw the defense and kick for shots. So far were accepting the injury/early combination, but that can’t last much longer.
I'm wondering why did the Bulls draft James Johnson with the 16th pick. The kid can ball and he's not seeing any floor time. Taj Gibson has been too inconsistent to warrant getting all the minutes while Tyrus Thomas is out. I mean James Johnson is much more versatile, stronger, athletic, and quicker than Taj Gibson, yet he's the one riding the pine while our offense struggles. That just doesn't make sense to me. As much as I like Taj, his game isn't going to develop much more than what it is now, but James Johnson has the skill sets that can allow him to become a star in this league some day.
Sam: You are right in that given his age and his skills, Gibson is close to what we see. Which has been good, in my opinion. He’d be a solid rotation guy for many years. Yes, Johnson was the risk pick: High risk/high reward. So far Vinny hasn’t given him a chance. Vinny says he’s a worker and practices, so that shouldn’t be it. He doesn’t have a defined position, which was part of the appeal as he can play two, three and four. I think he is most comfortable with the ball and Vinny doesn’t seem to trust him to have the ball. But at some point they have to give him some time and find out if he can help. He played more against the Jazz and I thought did OK. It generally is one of the issues with a young coach in that they find it hard to trust young players.
My question is about the Bulls and their offense to this point of the season. It has become apparent to me that we need another scorer on this team. The thoughts that Rose would blossom into a 20 pt per night scorer may have been premature, and Salmons and Kirk are both streaky at best when it comes to scoring. Luol does not have the temperament to score in the mid-twenties per night and seems to settle too much for jumpers. It also looks like Johnson will need a year or so before he figures the NBA game out and can contribute nightly on the offensive end of the floor.. How's this for a possible trade, Bulls send Kirk and Thomas and Jerome James's contract to Houston and receive in return, McGrady and Kyle Lowery. Why not take a chance on McGrady now rather than hope we can get someone this summer to come on board.
Sam: I get a lot of these McGrady scenarios and I understand why Houston doesn’t want to bring him into their fast paced game given the way he holds the ball and likes to walk it up and doesn’t defend much. Which means he’ll be different for the Bulls? The main thing is no one knows if he can play and being out so long you doubt he’d be much anytime this season. And then if he can play, his style doesn’t fit well with what the Bulls should be doing. It would he a huge expiring deal, which might help come next summer. But you give up two regulars for a guy who may not be able to play could make you the Nets or Timberwolves.
I’ve got a problem with all the 2010 talk. Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose are too similar to each other to form a cohesive backcourt. If Wade signs with the Bulls how do you see them playing together? Although Wade is obviously better I think Joe Johnson fits a need for a shooter and might come cheaper (even though the Hawks look great right now).
Sam: Joe Johnson could be a backup plan, but Wade is the prize. The sad part is the Bulls were so sure they had him in 2003 they didn’t even have a second choice as the pick came up. Riley in Miami was going for a big man in Kaman with Mourning going out and had to be begged by staff at the last to take Wade. The Bulls were stunned and picked Hinrich, which was a good recovery given who went after. If you can, you find a difference maker. There are two this summer who you may have a shot at: James and Wade. The rest of the free agents are good to great pieces, but not huge difference makes like LeBron and Dwyane. Great players find a way and that would be the last of the issues. Plus Derrick would gladly play off the ball at times and cater to Wade. It would be a beautiful thing to watch.
Two questions, one basketball, one basketball analysts: I've never a big fan of Tyrus, but the recent play of Josh Smith has made me feel the Bulls should extend him. For five years, Smith has been a (statistically) mildly above average player with spectacular athleticism and "low b-ball IQ." He was extended at a fairly reasonable price and now is outplaying his contract simply because, as far as anybody can tell, the light bulb went on. Do you think this can/should affect the Bulls negotiations with Tyrus? If he ever "gets it" like Smith just did, he could be awesome.
You criticized the suspension of the Clippers broadcasters for, as you put it, mispronunciation. But the transcript I saw in the news shows that the announcers said the player should play Borat in the next Sasha Baron Cohen movie, and I believe that was the problem ("You're sure it's not Borat's older brother?") If a broadcaster asked whether Yao Ming was Charlie Chan's older brother, I would assume that would be a problem obvious to all. Isn't it the same here?
Sam: That’s two points I’d like to answer. That is the big question with Tyrus as you don’t want to see that light turn on elsewhere. Teams can get down on players who’ve disappointed them and made them look bad with their play and with being the wrong pick. That’s happened with Tyrus some. Which is why the injury was such a disappointment as it’s decision time with Tyrus and he did look like he was getting better. Given the salary situation and free agency, the Bulls have to make a decision on Tyrus this summer. And if they go big for him it could impact their ability to sign free agents. As for the Clippers broadcasters, yes, I also saw the Borat stuff. Yes, it was a bad joke. Mostly because it wasn’t funny. But our world (not in the Middle East or Asia) is way too caught up as well in being insulted and exacting punishment. How many kids have died because of a need to show manliness? Of slights imagined? Of words used poorly. What ever happened to sticks and stones? We do way too much killing in the name of personal pride. And now people are only too happy to kill someone’s career because they said something stupid without any history of such behavior. Guys made bad jokes about Yao when he came and had to apologize and that was it. An apology is appropriate for stupidity. But whom does it injure so severely? We are becoming such babies. Like my favorite line from Seinfeld when the Elaine character starts saying something about people and Jerry says, “People, they’re the worst.” Sorry for the cynicism, but they are the problem.
When BG was signed by Detroit and the Bulls were looking for someone to fill in, I was telling my buddies that Pax should go for Earl Boykins. Boykins has much better career numbers and provides more consistent scoring than Pargo who has his moments of streaky shooting once in a blue moon. He's already doing much more for the Wizards than Pargo for the Bulls. Neither wouldn't be counted on for defense so Boykins' size wouldn't be an issue plus Pax could've gotten him for much cheaper than Pargo. Boykins is not only more effective in scoring but he can play PG.
Sam: If Earl Boykins is the answer to anything, there are bigger problems than anyone has seen.
I'm a Tyrus fan. I find him to be an entertaining personality (though I don't interview him) and an exciting player to watch. He has a ton of potential and I hope he realizes it. I mention these things because what I'm about to write may come off as an insult to him. Does he remind you of Eddie Robinson?
I didn't know much about Robinson before the Bulls acquired him in 2001 but was excited by the signing. He, like Thomas, could jump through the roof and seemed to have a ton of potential. They both around the same height and build. The problem was that Robinson's game never managed to evolve and he never became much more than a great athlete. For whatever reason I'm afraid Thomas is going down that same path which is why I'd be open to trading him even if his value is pretty low right now.
Sam: Oh, no, an Eddie Robinson comparison. Poor Tyrus. I know Eddie Robinson and he’s no Eddie Robinson. Yes, there are physical similarities, but Eddie just was a bad idea for a desperate team at the time. Eddie never was drafted and wasn’t particularly skilled. He didn’t shoot and basically had a playground game. There wasn’t much guidance, discipline or accountability on that staff, which probably contributed to Eddie’s decline. He was hurt also and his attitude turned bad, though he was funny and a much better interview than Tyrus. I suppose the Bulls did Eddie a disservice with the management and staff they had then, and Eddie needed help. Tyrus may never reach the hopes many have for him, but for now I think you have to take a hard look.
Trade Hinrich? I have a better idea. Rose and Noah for Amare + whatever.Simply put, building around Rose is a silly idea and a waste of valuable years and money. People want him to be THE man, with the endorsements, the commercials (which all came too early), however Rose will never be THE man on the court. He may or may not turn out to be a solid point guard, but nevertheless he will never be a guy to LEAD a team to the promised land. He is passive by nature.Seeing as we already have a solid proven guard who can run a team in Hinrich, and seeing as we are already paying him, let us give him back the role which we paid him to assume. The current situation is not working. Hinrich is not a guy who can step in 5 minutes at a time and provide instant offense. He needs minutes to be productive this is already proven. He is at his best starting, running the team, playing extended minutes (not standing in the corner waiting for a pass). So let us not gamble on what Rose COULD be, which is turning quickly into a what he really won’t be, and move him for the star PF that we so desperately need. Hinrich has already proven he can run this team. Why waste time and money “developing” Rose, when we already have a proven guard. We are DESPERATE in the front court. Move Rose for someone like Amare, I guarantee nobody will miss him. Mark my words, Rose will be another Eddy Curry, or Tyson Chandler, or Tyrus Thomas. High hopes, high potential, but in the end he will be the inevitable – average. Snap out of your delusions, he is not the new LeBron.
Sam: Wow! That championship era went fast. I’m not quite ready to give up on Rose as a just turned 21 year old coming off injury in his second season. It would be a disaster for the Bulls if he didn’t turn into an All Star point guard, though we know Kirk will not be. I believe Rose will be a star player and unless you were to get Wade or LeBron for him, I don’t see guys like Stoudemire and Bosh difference makers. I hear fans say trade him for Chris Paul. But I doubt New Orleans would do that. Why would they. Plus, Rose is a local kid who works hard and cares and has unusual athletic ability. I’m in for the long haul, though I agree he hasn’t been the same player yet this season.
DRose, and what I believe is the unfair criticism the kid is receiving for his early season performances. I read a lot of Bulls blogs and forums, and there are a huge number of people jumping on the notion that he is in some way not the player we all thought he would be because he hasn't performed brilliantly this season. People don't seem to realize what an affect an injury like this can have on an explosive player like Rose. I mean, look what an ankle injury did to athletic shot blocker Jerome James (I kid. Maybe the cakes had something to do with his downfall). Coupled with the psychological damage that a big injury like this can do to a player, I’m from Glasgow, Scotland and i think people need to get off of his back. Ideally, I'd like to see him shut down for a few more weeks to let it heal properly, but I know all he wants to do is play, which proves what a warrior he is and will be for us for many years to come. People have to take all this into consideration, and let the kid get healthy and play his game. Chicago fans are too quick to criticize our young guys. Another thing that is well documented this season is that without any real perimeter threat Rose has found it difficult to penetrate with the opposition defenses packing the lane. At the same time, Salmons has struggled since moving to the 2, whereas Luol has had some very strong performances since his return (he's another victim of the fickle Chicago fanbase.) He had a genuinely bad injury last season, and got criticized to hell for it. Anyone ever tried walking with a fracture in their leg? Try playing top level basketball with one.)
Sam: I’m sure the players appreciate your understanding, and there are more fans than you think who have your sensibility. Fans get frustrated quickly because they want badly for the team to do well. Deng did get a bad rap and it didn’t help him the team did so well while he was out. As for Derrick, I think he has to play himself through this and work to get back to where he was.
Would the Bulls be interested in Rashad McCants, Melvin Ely and Jerry Stackhouse?
Sam: Certainly not all three. I doubt the Bulls will do anything until Tyrus and Gray are back and they see what they bring. The bigger issue is money as the Bulls probably are about $1 million or so under the luxury tax, which they will not exceed. So they can add someone for a prorated minimum, which I suspect they’ll do midway through the season unless they make a trade. It will depend on whether they have another injury and where the need might be. Right now it’s scoring, but Stackhouse hasn’t played in a long time and McCants has a reputation as a difficult guy, so I’d doubt we’d see those guys. Ely’s a smallish post guy, but has bounced around an awful lot.
Next year will be a lot of excellent free agent and I agree with you that LeBron and Wade are the game changers, but what about Manu Ginobili ( I am from Argentina remember ha ha), is a long shot he could leave the Spurs but he has been a huge MJ fan, although injure prone he has a knowledge of the game and a competitiveness few players have nowdays and he could be a great mentor for some Bulls players ( he has been a champion at any level ), he won´t demand starting job and provide clutch plays at the end of games, he fit very well in this Bulls team.
Sam: You’re right. Manu doesn’t get talked about a lot. I think it’s partly because most feel he’ll resign, but more than he’s 33 and had a number of injuries and the way he plays he could have a shortened career the way he’s always throwing himself around the floor. So if you have $10 million in cap room plus, you are not likely to spend it on a guy who may have had his best days. He’s a terrific player and competitor, but hardly a final piece or difference maker anymore.
After seeing your response to a Hornets question in your mailbag, it still seems like you're stickin' to your guns in saying the team is headed in the wrong direction and should have a fire sale with their two best players. Well it sure seems like you should be taking out the salsa and tossing all-over your keyboard! Eat up! Under new head/iterim coach they seem to be on the up. Probably because everyone got tired of listening to coach Scott, but it really seems like they got some talent with their franchise player out with an injury and all-star forward slumping. So as it stands, I'm no GM, but you would think that when the star players return to form, there will be definite playoff dreams reborn. Too early to say, of course, but beating the top two teams in the league back to back ain't too shabby. Maybe time to dial your predictions and theories down a notch sir?
Sam: Don’t forget about the 10-game coaching change effect. Guys from bad teams begin to play for their jobs and playing time for awhile. You can’t judge much the first few games after a change. They have played better, no doubt. Very good from what I’ve seen as their rookies have been good. We’ll see what happens after a few weeks. For now they say they are not about to do anything and it’s probably the case. Rarely do teams react to things that are likely to occur. There’s a chance they’ll eventually lose Paul given a troubled roster and a declining team. His value now is higher than it ever will be, but I doubt they’ll make a move with him. It’s too tough to trade stars early and rarely happens. There have been questions with West and though he had a big game against the Bucks Wednesday in the overtime win, his name will come up more often than Paul’s later this season if things don’t turn around drastically.
The Blazers are good and very talented, I give them that but does their front office really believe they will be able to keep all of those players together? Eventually their contracts will come up and there is always some team out there willing to over pay to get that one piece or one player they feel could help their team improve. Look at Ben Gordon.
They already have Roy and Aldridge as "max" or close to I believe and if Oden keeps "improving", he and his agent will look for a max contract as well. The Blazers will go into the luxury but I can't see them going deep into it, cause they are not a major market ala New York or LA. Maybe it's just frustrating seeing the Bulls get blown out again and again and again!
Sam: That is an issue for all teams that bring young players along at the same time. The unknown there is the owner, Paul Allen, is one of the world’s richest men. Though he hasn’t tremendously overspent in the past and even let the arena go bankrupt at one point, the money may not mean anything to him. It is a terrific small market given fan support. Though many teams wonder that and have made offers for Portland players. Thus far Portland has been difficult to deal with because they ask a lot in potential trades. Perhaps when they have to pay Oden that will change, but I don’t see much change for now. At least against the Bulls they did look awfully good.
Now, I like Joakim as much as anybody. I've been a fan since the Florida days and always thought/hoped he'd become what he's become. He's definitely a cornerstone for what we're building. At the beginning of the year, I thought it would be best to pair him with a Dirk/KG type of PF who could play outside and stretch the floor, so Joakim could work inside. Now, though, after seeing him against Bynum and Oden (of course, they have Pau and Odom and Aldridge to stretch the floor, whereas Joakim has Taj and Deng), I'm wondering if what we need is to pursue a big center and shift Jo to the 4 spot. Definitely we can compete with Jo at 5, and this question isn't so much about his ability--he clearly has ability, hustle, and basketball IQ--but do you see him more as a 5 or 4, and what kind of complementary inside player do you think the Bulls should pursue?
Sam: I’ve long heard that Noah is a better fit as a power forward, though the larger question is where you get a power center. Dwight Howard seems to be busy. There just aren’t guys like that around anymore. Big kids want to grow up to be Michael Jordan. Not Wilt. I still think the best fit is with Noah at center since he’s shown he can begin to stand up to the physical play and get a guy like Bosh who can make a shot and also rebound. I know. Much easier said.
I thought Iverson to the Lakers was a good fit considering the relative ineffectiveness of Farmar and Vujacic. Does it hinge on whether the Artest Experiment works out? I'm sure Phil remembers the Malone/Payton debacle.
Sam: I think Phil would welcome it. He likes to take on challenges and I think Iverson would work there. Maybe the only place it would. He’s supposedly retiring now, though Jordan did three times and Ali about seven.
Some Bulls fans think that we will enough money to sign 2 max contracts along with Deng's and Hinrich's contracts. Do we have enough money to sign 2 max free agents and if so will we be able to fill out the rest of the roster like the bench after we sign those 2 max free agents?
Sam: The Bulls hope to have enough money to make a max offer to one free agent. With the declining salary cap, several teams are going from being able to accommodate two max players to one. With more than $30 million committed for next season, they’ll need Salmons to opt out, which most expect, and perhaps even renounce Tyrus to have enough if Wade or LeBron want to come. They could go for lesser free agents who don’t require a max deal and then maybe could pay two.
I watch your blog religiously and I noticed that the past few vidz your eyes have been tearing up. Is it because of the losing streak we're going through on this circus trip or because LeBron maybe inching his way over the Ohio and Indiana border?
Sam: I think this definitely proves my heart is with the team. You’re talking about my BullsTV videos every week of an NBA run down and a Bulls look ahead. I highly recommend it as it’s about one of my favorite subjects, me. Actually I enjoy TV and long had hoped to be the next Neil Funk. But you can only really dream so high. I’ve done a fair amount of TV over the years and always with someone else. In these Bulls segments I go for about six or seven minutes (I think they edit it down and you are missing more fabulous stuff) staring straight into the camera. I try not to blink too much as I always think that’s distracting and someone might think I’m making a pass at them. So I keep eyes trained on the camera and my eyes last week began to tear up at the end. It was highly emotional stuff as I think I was talking about Sebastian Telfair at the time. It was almost like the end of Home Alone when the old man saved the kid. There wasn’t a dry eye. Don’t miss me next week as I may actually weep openly about a pick and roll.