Ask Sam | 02.19.10
Sam Smith opens his mailbag to respond to the latest round of e-mails from his readers.
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I know that the Bulls have said that they are going for the max Free Agent in 2010. I'm not optimistic that the Bulls will able to sign any major Free Agents. With the looming labor problems, it looks like most Free Agents are going to stay with their teams to be able to get the 6 years. Is there a reasonable plan B, besides throwing big money at the 2nd or 3rd tier free agents? With the salary cap decreasing and major financial problems with several teams, are teams going to be looking to dump good players to reduce luxury tax problems? If so, who are the players the Bulls could pick up in that scenario?
Sam: There are a number of other options and I think there's been some confusion in Chicago that this is all about LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh or nothing. I've long expressed my own personal doubts about those three moving, though I think Wade may be more likely of the three now given the way Miami has done little to improve and talk you hear that Wade would like to be closer to his kids after his divorce. There's long been this suspicion that Wade and Bosh, who share agents, would be a package deal, though I never hear of them being such close friends and Bosh is getting a bit testy about the idea that he'll go somewhere just to be someone's sidekick. I think the Bulls in trying to formulate what they were up to in letting Ben Gordon go last summer let people think it was all about LeBron or Wade, much like the Knicks. There are plenty of other ways to improve with, as you say, teams shedding contracts for whatever reason, having talent there for sign and trades, going big after a restricted guy like Rudy Gay, adding multiple players or making a major deal with players you have since many believe players like Al Jefferson and Monta Ellis to name two will be traded this summer.
How long do you think it will take for Larry Brown to go nuts with Tyrus?
Sam: That's Tyrus Thomas, Stephen Jackson and an obviously unhappy and, as we know, sensitive Tyson Chandler. That's quite a group Brown has in Charlotte. He is a great coach, and if anyone can get Tyrus to pay attention on defense, he can. But I've always called Skiles "Larry Brown Lite," and Scott couldn't do it. I don't think the Bulls players were bothered much by Tyrus' brooding and anger issues as they knew him. But they weren't going to be able to move forward with a team approach with Tyrus. It seemed no secret watching Noah that he was fed up with Tyrus' individual play. Tyrus needs someone like Larry Brown, and Larry Brown could do wonders for Tyrus and help him become a star. I doubt Tyrus will let him.
Does it worry you that we traded good players to teams not only in our conference, but to playoff rivals?
Sam: No. Sometimes teams bring that into the equation, but the way I've always looked at trades, or life, is you help yourself and do the best you can for yourself, and if someone else succeeds, good for them. The Bulls accomplished a lot moving Salmons and getting under the salary cap far enough to have a max deal for the summer. As long as that didn't include breaking up the core or giving up the future with draft picks, it was a good deal. I think Salmons will help the Bucks and Tyrus could help the Bobcats. If they are the difference in keeping the Bulls out of the playoffs, the Bulls weren't good enough anyway.
I am really excited about the trades the Bulls pulled off. I liked Thomas, but I'm also kind of happy to see him go. I'm most curious what you think about the Knicks landing McGrady and what impact you think this might have on the Bulls landing a free agent this summer. I can't imagine Dwyane Wade wanting to move to New York, but do they now have enough to land two free agents this summer?
Sam: There'll be loads of speculation on this and anything will be possible until something actually happens. Some have speculated Wade is the kind of guy with an outsized personality now who'd love the New York spotlight. So the Knicks are in the game now with money for two players, meaning they can follow their plan to go for one top guy and tell him he can bring whomever he wants. I don't believe it will work because they gave up so many draft picks and their roster is weak. If you believe in league conspiracies, the notion is the league needs a strong New York franchise. But I've always felt making fun of bad New York teams was better sport.
What is it with the Bulls love affair with Kirk? I like the Salmons trade but as my teacher says, "if your in it, be in it to win it.". Why wouldn't they try to trade Kirk so we can have room for 2 max players. The Knicks found a way to trade Jeffries to make room for two max deals, why couldn't we? Gar labled Kirk as part of our core but if we get a free agent SG he would be nothing but a over paid and over played back up. Do you think this was a mistake on our part?
Sam: I've heard this one mentioned, and the Bulls were considering dealing Hinrich as there was no certainty they could move Salmons. As I've often said, I prefer in the spirit of competition and commitment to your fans to try to win every game. I think what the Knicks did in throwing away their season is an abomination. Plus, I think you create momentum and continued interest for free agents and your own players by not giving up. Also, moving Hinrich for junky expiring deals still wouldn't give you space for two max deals. With Hinrich's money that would put you about $27 million under with about $33 million under needed for two deals. Plus, you have to add back your No. 1 pick and cap holds of minimum salaries up to 12 roster spots, so the Bulls would have below $25 million if they gave up Hinrich for nothing. They'd also have to move Deng for nothing, and then you could lose 20 in a row.
Bottom line: Do you really think dumping Salmons' contract without getting some type of scoring source to replace his production is really enough? Or will that hurt our season ending push and possible alluring F.A's/exciting playoff run with a star like Derrick?
Sam: I heard they were close on Harrington to fill in for the loss of Salmons, though they felt they offset the scoring loss with the addition of Murray. He's streaky, but not as much as Pargo and Brown and is not afraid to take big shots. Of course, you'd like him also to not be afraid to make big shots. Though the big fear early on when there were rumors of Kurt Thomas being in Bucks the deal is the potential confusion if there were a Kirk and a Kurt on the team. Fortunately, that was avoided.
I've been scouting Rudy Gay a bit after you article a few weeks back. Is it
at all possible to sign a guy like Chris Bosh to a max deal, and then make a
run at a sign and trade our outright offer sheet to Rudy? What would it take
to make a deal with Memphis? Do we have an expiring deal next year possibly?
All of our first round picks? I feel that would work great with Derek
controlling the ball and working with Bosh on the pick and roll as well as
opening the floor up to kick it out to Rudy for open jumpers.
Sam: This kind of suggestion will go on for a while now. Of course, you could do that, but why would Memphis give up Gay if they had to take back the same amount of salary? There have been many suggestions the Bulls should put together this super team, but I think they should concentrate on merely improving. I'd identify a guy I liked, say Joe Johnson, and commit to him above all others and not try to win 10 championships right away but maybe one playoff round to start.
I was wondering if you could explain the draft picks involved in the trades made today for the next few drafts. I heard the charlotte pick was protected and wondered what that meant. Also is it true that milwauke received some of the bulls and ability to swap positions?
Sam: There's been some confusion on this. The Bucks got Bulls' seconds in 2011 and 2012, plus the right to swap No. 1s this season with top 10 protection. That means if the Bulls pick 14 and the Bucks 17, the Bucks can get 14 and the Bulls 17. If the Bulls' pick is in the top 10, the Bucks could not swap. Regarding the Charlotte pick, the Bobcats owe this season's pick to Minnesota. Since they are giving up a No. 1 this season, they cannot give one up next season. So starting in 2012, the Bulls can get it. It is lottery protected that season and drops two spots every year if the Bulls don't get it that year until 2016. If the Bulls hadn't gotten it by then they get the Bobcats' unprotected No. 1.
Since the Cavs trade, everyone I heard state their opinion claims the Cavs are now the best team in the NBA. I must ask, "Why?" Does adding Jamison make the Cavs' roster that much better? I see only the Lakers on the same level and I understand they are banged up, but I see them as a vastly superior team. Neither teams' benches are very deep, but I would give the advantage to the Lakers. Shaq and Jamison aren't nearly as potent as Gasol and Bynum. The Lakers' backcourt is head and shoulders above the Cavs'. Other than LeBron making the Cavs better and being matched up against an older and still just as odd Artest, I can't see the Cavs' advantage. I'll assume the Lakers will be healthy by playoffs. Do you think the Cavs can beat the Lakers in a seven game series?
Sam: Of course, projecting the Cavs into the Finals suggests you think they are pretty good. They already have beaten the Lakers twice and generally are a tougher team, if not as deep offensively. Jamison is an excellent second option to go to LeBron and there's Mo Williams outside. And Shaq, of course, who is more name than accomplishment. If you can get to the Finals anything can happen, and the Cavs look like East favorites for now.
I went to West Virginia University, and I feel that Joe wasn't given a fair chance. Not that he has much of a shot at geting any QT with Deng and Warrick, but if he does, expect another surprise. And Warrick will be a great addition to the bench....long, athletice, great defensive player, intelligent, and can run with Rose.
Sam: Like with Adam Morrison, you'd like to get a look at the guy to see what all the pro scouts were so excited about all their last college seasons. But the Bulls suddenly have this overloaded roster and it seems doubtful he'd get any playing time that matters.
All these people keeping talking about the Bulls signing two max free agents. Even assuming that's possible (I agree that it's not), has anyone even considered that the Bulls will have to give Rose a max contract in two years, and probably pay Noah at least 10 million, as he'll probably be a top center by then? Either way, do you see Deng getting moved around the time Rose and Noah's contracts are up?
Sam: One thing at a time. The Bulls have said they'll spend money when they are on the verge of competing, so that will be the test. They will pay Rose a max deal as long as he isn't hurt and they'll do everything to keep Noah as they regard both the cornerstones of their future. The future of the NBA is going to be something of a caste system with a few high paid players and the rest low and minimum level players. No one's going to have four eight figure salaried players after the next labor deal with the likelihood of a much harder cap. Someone will have to go.
Let's face it, the only free agents this summer who can get you a championship are Lebron and Wade. They're the game changers. Maybe with a tandem of Joe Johnson and D.Rose and continued solid play from Noah, Deng, Hinrich, etc we could be very dangerous. But here's my thing. Suppose we land Bosh, maybe the best in the league now that Duncan and Garnett are aging, or David Lee, who's flourished in Mike D's system. Will the 2010-2020 Bulls become the 2004-2008 Suns? Electric, ultra-talented PG, good big man, and a bunch of role players who can overachieve in the right system but not win any championships? I think Rose has the potential to be better than Nash. Noah and Bosh are better winners than Amare. Noah/Lee is better than Amare/Kurt Thomas/Shaq/whomever. But I feel like a lineup of Rose, Hinrich, Deng, Bosh/Lee, and Noah would be missing some key component for a championship.
Sam: I'd take that. I'd love to watch some 60-win seasons again. I understand you want to ultimately succeed, but the only way you can is to get there. The Suns did and they had a shot but didn't win because they also had some bad breaks, like the suspensions in 2007. Fans seem to have this idea you either win a championship, which requires a lot of lucks and breaks, or you are a failure. You try to keep adding and getting better and see what happens. No one was picking Detroit and they won a title in 2004. No one that season thought they had the elements to win a championship. And they did because they improved. The Bulls are working on that as the plan and it's OK with me. I'd take that Suns run anytime.
With Miami sitting on $40M in cap space, what would keep Lebron and Bosh from joining Wade on South Beach? I understand that there is a hit on their ability for the absolute maximum contract, but it seems like a no brainer guaranteeing they all walk away with max contracts, warm climate, no state taxes, life in Miami and a 50/50 chance of winning the title over the next decade. I truly think that this should be the most likely scenario/outcome in July. It seems unfortunate that the fate of the bulls and eastern conference over the next decade relies on the fact that LJ and CB will be greedy and resign with their current team. If LB and CB do wind up with Miami, will it really matter who the Bulls get?
Sam: Well, may as well quit watching now. You must be a lot of fun to be around. Knowing you are going to die, does anything really matter? Maybe not, but why not have a few kicks along the way? I do not see any chance LeBron leaves Cleveland now with Jamison there as he's an All Star level talent and there cannot be a city and franchise that would worship him like Cleveland, and he loves it. Plus, there's one issue many often overlook, that being the king sized ego of James. He is not going somewhere to help someone else win a title and be a last piece. He's not going to Wade's city to help Wade win. Feel better?
What is to stop current NBA players today from buying their own team and having the top free agents sign with that team? What is stopping Lebron from buying the Nets (or Memphis or whatever team), getting Bosh, Wade, and Gay to join him on his team? Lebron wouldn't really need a huge salary cause he would own the team and be making tons from ticket sales, jerseys, etc. so fitting everyone under the cap might not be that difficult. Fill the roster with some serviceable backups who would love the chance to play with those guys and win multiple championships and get paid to do it. These top NBA stars are making tons of money not just with their salaries but endorsements and the like. Affording a team like the Nets for $500 million or whatever doesn't seem like it would be that hard for some of these guys.
Sam: NBA stars are smarter guys than you think. They long have been influenced by Michael Jordan, and no one's a better businessman than Michael because he is the best with OPM—Other People's Money. These guys cash checks. They don't write them. Franchises can lose money. Players spend money. Every owner in the league would love to see their players meet a payroll, spend for the best hotels in the world, provide private aircraft staffed with gourmet meals at every stop, give them about $130 a day in meal money after providing free food all day and then have them complain about not being respected while being paid $8 million a year. I can name you at least eight franchises now any player could buy. Seen anyone stepping up?
So it turns out that the Colts lost the Super Bowl after they controversially benched all their starters to end their bid to make history with a perfect season. Did the two Jerrys and/or Phil ever in their minds want to bench their players during the regular season during their 72 and 69-win seasons back in 1995-96 and 1996-97 respectively?
Sam: Phil didn't want to go for that record, but as the players got closer they got into it and insisted and Phil has never been the kind of coach to reject his players' wishes if discussed. Reinsdorf never interfered with Phil's coaching.
Can you give us some sense of how these GMs deal with one another? I don't know that I've ever read any sort of insider account on the nuts and bolts of trade proposals. Is it really just as cut and dry as Pax calling up Kahn and making an offer? It can't always stay cordial, right? Do certain GMs hold personal grudges against certain others?
Sam: It is more like your friends and fantasy leagues than you might think. It generally goes on all season as guys call one another and mention their players or the other team's and casually ask what you'd take for them or if you'd trade them. What goes on is a lot of lying, gamesmanship and insulting. Guys call and ask about a role player and the GM will ask for the other team's All Star. Guys call and come close to making a deal after days of talk and then the last minute try to insert someone else, which is what they were planning all along. I've heard these things go on every season at the deadline. For many guys, it's a game of "Can I outsmart you?" And then leak to the media how much smarter I am. You know, just like Congress.
What specifically makes you think Rose can become the best point guard in the NBA? I love watching teams with great point guards and I am a big fan of Rose. However, even looking only at "under thirty" point guards he is a big step behind both Paul and Williams, he seems to be more on the level of Parker (who I also am a big fan of... it is not a knock to say this). Rose is athletic, yes, but there was never fewer than 20 point guards more athletic than Stockton or Nash during their careers. Rose can score, yes, but I guarantee... guarantee... both Paul and Williams could average 25 and 7, if that was how they approached the game. Paul averages 21 and 11 on a much less talented offensive team than the Bulls. Rose has yet to really show he can orchestrate an offense to the degree Paul and Williams can and is there a true predictor that says he will?
Sam: Well, I'm not ready to put Rose ahead of Paul yet. But I'd take him over Williams now. Nothing personal as I think both are working on their first All Star appearances. Williams was in college three years and Paul two. Rose came out sooner and went to a far poorer team than both those guys. The talent on both those teams has exceeded the Bulls for several years. I don't see Rose as a huge, high playmaking assist guard, though I think he could be. He's already got a way better shot than Tony Parker and is way more athletic and quicker than Williams or Paul. He's able to finish games, which those guys rarely do. Not to take anything away from them as I have high regard for both. But in a few years with his strength, speed, improving shooting and dedication, I see Rose as among the best players in the league.
Sam: I wanted to include this last email I received from, I think, Spain on Feb. 7 and my response below. Pretty nice work.
How about Salmons for Milwalkee for Joe Alexander and Kurt Thomas? The bucks sure could use some scoring in the 3 position. Salmons too is a skiles type of guy. A no-nonsense player an a good on-ball defender. He'd sure a upgrade compared to Mbah-a-moute and the other swingmen that they have there.
Sam: Sure, if they would, but they won't.