Ask Sam | 03.05.10

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

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Now with Noah sitting out for 3 weeks do u think that the bulls can still stay in play off contention till he comes back healthy.

Rajat Gangopadhyay

Sam: The big question, eh? I wrote about this in what calls my blog (I am not a blogger!) for Thursday. The Bulls mental state, body language and enthusiasm has seemed drained of late. The Bucks have been playing great and are healthy, and Toronto has Bosh and Miami Wade. They probably are better for now for carrying a team than Rose, though it depends on who stays healthy as all have been out at times lately. The Bobcats have fallen off, though Larry Brown teams usually finish well. The Bulls have the talent to make the playoffs; we’ll see if they have the desire. The notion is Noah returns around the beginning of April, but who knows if he is back to full health. He’s long said no way this season. I would have run him into the ground now, played him as long as he could stand it to try to get a cushion for the playoffs and then shut him down for the season. Realistically, I don’t see the Bulls winning a playoff series. But the team decided to go the other way, give him a chance to come back for the April run when the schedule gets easier and where maybe they can steal a first round series. There’s no wrong answer, as Noah also says. This is what it comes down to: Can the Bulls win the final game of the season in Charlotte to get to the playoffs? Tough call, eh? That’s what it may well come down to. How great would that be? OK, I’ll say they win it. But I’m not exactly wagering.

Not sure you if you caught wind of the NY times article on touching your teammates leading to a direct correlation of success in basketball (celtics, lakers), but the head psychology doctor on that one is one of my best friends in Berkeley. I had dinner with him last night and he was excited to tell me two things: 1) Ben Gordon was in the bottom 5! 2) Noah was in the top 10 or something. I knew something just didn't click with BG as a team player, and Tyrus btw. And Noah is just one of those glue guys who brings guys together, much as he did in Florida. You'll see when he is a 7 year vet, that aspect of him will be twice as effective as it is today. Praise to management for getting rid of players who don't impact long term winning.

Kenny Lim

Sam: I did see that article and not that I’m antiscientific—I believe in global warming, by the way, and Dr. Mephisto from South Park—but I have some empirical reservation, particularly since Vinny is one of the touchy feeliest coaches I’ve seen with butt pats and hand slaps. I tend to also think the Lakers success has a lot to do with having Kobe, Pau, Bynum and Lamar while the Kings, one of the most non touchy teams, have Hawes, Jason Thompson and Donte Greene. And they have Noce, who always was patting guys on the butt. Now, I’m not necessarily diminishing the work of Cal-Berkeley guys as I got a D in high school science when I refused to do the frog dissection, but Ben looked pretty friendly and encouraging in the playoffs hitting those threes. My guess is Ben’s $12 million salary, which seems shocking now, had a lot more to do with his inability to get along with the team than his cool behavior. That said, Noah is a great teammate, especially when he gets a double-double.

In your last mailbag you said as the Bulls get better Rose's need to score will diminish. If the Bulls were to get another big time scorer, low post or otherwise, do you think he would actually score less than he is now or do you think he would just score more efficiently and in different ways (i.e. off the ball, on the boards).

Ian Dennehy

Sam: I think he has demonstrated he can do pretty much anything he wants. He can get where he wants on the floor with the ball, get to the basket against traps and doubles and pass. I don’t know that he sees the floor quite yet as well as Chris Paul, and one minor issue I’ve had with him in that regard is he gets off the floor sometimes without knowing where he’s exactly going with the ball. But he still doesn’t have a scorer who can come off screens and catch and shoot and perhaps even less so without Salmons. So if he gets that kind of player or a true pick and roll guy like David Lee, I think you’ll see his assist totals rise. I’m not sure he’ll ever be like Jason Kidd or Steve Nash, but he’s easily be a 20 and eight guy.

Why is Donnie Walsh receiving so much praise for making a terrible deal, in comparison to the deal he should have made last year. The Kings offered Kenny Thomas for Jefferies and Robinson, ridiculously, Walsh turned down the deal. Now Walsh completed essentially the same deal for an aged Tmac, Eddie House, Bill Walker, swapping rights to Hou and a first in 2012. If he had made the deal in 09, he would still have cap space for 2 free agents and their own draft picks to help sustain success.

Marcus Thomas

Sam: He’s not everywhere, but he has in New York, which is supposed to be the toughest media place of all. So how can that be? It’s something I tell coaches and executives and players all the time and only the rare few get it. There is currency in being nice. You get the benefit of the doubt. You get to explain your side. How about the deals the Knicks made last season to break up their team maybe a year before they had to in getting rid of Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford. They easily could have made the playoffs, and wouldn’t those players have been worth more? But Walsh is at practice every day to talk with reporters. He takes every phone call. No, he doesn’t tell them the state secrets, but he’s accessible and cooperative and makes their jobs easier. So when he does something and you can go either way, you go for him. Have his moves been so much better than Isiah Thomas’, who drafted way better? Yet, Thomas was harder to deal with so reporters went the other way for him and waited for every chance to take shots at him no matter the deal. Thomas got David Lee with the 30th pick and Wilson Chandler 23rd. Are the lottery picks Walsh made, Gallinari and the already gone Hill, better? Yet, he gets way more praise as a basketball guy. The truth is people want to be liked. Even reporter people. They want their lives made easier, especially reporter people. And when you help them do that, they’ll repay you. The media is so easy to deal with, and yet so many teams and players mess it up, and thus mess it up for themselves. There. That’s the secret. I told.

It seems to me that there are going to be a lot of disappointed fans after the free agency period, if they are among those caught up in all the Wade, LeBron, Bosh hoopla.

Steve Gedo

Sam: I’m not fully sure how this occurred since teams cannot talk about specific players. But based on the mail I get, the view has been the Bulls will/have to get one of those three. I don’t personally see it as a failure not to get one of those players since it’s always been doubtful they would leave their teams given the huge disparity in pay to go. I do think the Bulls will add a top player, but it seems the talk is championship or watch soccer. I assume it’s the Jordan thing as fans flock to see the Cubs knowing they never can win a championship.

Theories make for good argument, and I don't believe 2 or 3 stars solely win you a championship, but without that level of talent in any sport, you just can't win it all. With combos like Stockton and Malone, or Penny and Shaq, we saw this. We simply can't avoid seeing the facts. The fact is, that not only do you need 2 or 3 "stars", but you need them with a great supporting cast that gels together. All this being said, I don't believe the $20 million we're paying Kirk and Luol is helping us towards that goal. They are very good, but not good enough, especially for what they cost us. We have cap space, and we have expensive talents at our dispense. So why not put our resources together. Make the moves to have 2 or 3 stars, and afford a good supporting cast before Derek plays out his rookie contract, and we possibly lose that opportunity?

Amanda Beck

Sam: Wouldn’t it be nice, as the Beach Boys sung. Was that about the Bulls, too? These scenarios have been thrown out before, which forgets pretty quickly you have to give away players and get nothing back, assuming you can, which has proven exceptionally difficult with players with long contracts who are not All-Stars, and then hope you can attract two stars to come at maybe $30 million less each than they’d make back with their teams. And then you truly have no supporting cast since once you reach the cap number you have to fill your roster with minimum players. OK, you say, players will want to come so they can win. Not! Players realistically have not done that, not for minimum salaries, anyway. Look what it took the Knicks to dump shorter contracts: Basically four years of No. 1 draft picks. It’s a wonderful fantasy, which is why you work on getting better and you don’t go from barely able to make the playoffs to a championship. Remember, it was seven years for the greatest player ever to reach the Finals the first time.

I did enjoy your idea of going after a Monta Ellis or another guy who might be available (David Lee) but I'm not sure if that would make us contenders. I'd say that would lift us more to the Hawks' level but still a piece or two short of championship caliber.

Jay Ernani

Sam: And your point is? I’d take it. I think it’s been a fun season being a Hawks fan no matter how it end up.

My coworker (who’s a Blazers fan) and I were having a debate as to who would be less likely to do this hypothetical deal. Brandon Roy for Derrick Rose. My case was obviously the Bulls wouldn’t do it because it would screw up their cap space and it’s not that big an upgrade (if at all). His case was there was no way Portland would do this because they have their superstar and would stick with him cause they don’t have to worry about the ~$9mil that they could save next year. So who would say no first?

Brad Boemmel

Sam: I’d hope the Bulls, though I assume it would be simultaneous. Roy is more highly regarded now, but point guard is a tougher position to fill and in the long run, Rose will be a better player. But when you get your own star and he likes your teams and wants to stay you do all you can to keep him and stop looking for someone else, unless you are Larry Brown, of course.

I thought Rudy Gay could be a really nice consolation prize for a team like the Bulls, but when I saw the "a team's record doesn't matter, if they suck but I can get paid and score 25 a night I'm good with it"- I'm paraphrasing a bit there - comment in your column I'm thinking maybe he's not the right guy. When Zach Randolph is implying you don't care, that's a problem.

Craig Berry

Sam: Yes, that one was worrisome. I’ve also mentioned Gay as the kind of talent who would be a nice upgrade. But then you listen to them speak, eh? I guess the answer is you take a risk with most stars and hope it works out. Wade is on the verge of breaking down, Bosh doesn’t defend, Boozer’s always hurt, so is Stoudemire, Joe Johnson dribbles too much. Hey, does Kobe still want to be traded to the Bulls? Oh, right, he’s going on 32.

I just read an article about Michael Jordan possibly renaming the Charlotte Bobcats. My first thought was to use Carolina rather than Charlotte for two reasons - it harkens MJ's college basketball career and it widens the franchise's fanbase. For a mascot to pair with Carolina I immediately thought of Cougars - it goes well with Carolina and sounds catchy. Then I googled Carolina Cougars and learned this was an old ABA franchise from 1969-74 and Larry Brown was their head coach from 1972-74. Do you think there is any chance for this team name? Do you have any other naming suggestions for MJ? I wish him great success with his new team.

Edward Richards

Sam: It’s not a bad idea and makes some sense as that area needs a better feeling about the NBA than this Bobcats franchise has given. They did have some cool names: San Diego Sails, Pittsburgh Condors, Minnesota Pipers, Virginia Squires, Dallas Chaparrals, Spirits of St. Louis, where Marvin Barnes going from the Eastern to Central time zones on a short flight and due to leave at 9 and get in at 8:45 refused to go because he said he wasn’t getting into a time machine. Ah, but I digress. Jordan’s interestingly on trial as he hasn’t taken working for an NBA team seriously yet, but perhaps with more of his money on the line and hardly a profitable franchise things will change. I, too, am glad he’s involved in basketball, but we all should remember being a great player has nothing to do with being a great businessman or executive, which has been long ignored by people who run NBA teams.

I know Bulls have bigger problems, but why nobody points out that the main issue with James Johnson is that he is (overweight)? To me he seems to be way bigger than in college (not because of muscles)...Keep him out of McDonald's please!!!

Michele Morandi

Sam: Well, he does seem to have had a difficult season finding where the Bulls chef is making those salads. I think he’s gotten in somewhat better condition and has, at least a bit lately, played several sequences without putting the team farther behind when he’s out there. I think the jury still is out on whether he’ll become a player. He was one of those high ceiling risk guys. He’s shown a lot of different abilities, but has yet to show what he brings to a game every time that will help a team: Shoot? Pass? Rebound? Defend? You ever know what you’ll get from him and he seems to be one of those guys they say going too fast and needing to slow down and make a play. He also has had some issues with let’s say punctuality. I think he has a chance to be a point forward type player, but now hasn’t shown nearly enough that you can trust him with the ball. He has a long way to go and we’ll know about him after this summer to see if he takes things seriously, works and comes back in shape and ready to play.

I compared James Johnson to Dickey Simpkins? It gets better.

James Johnson (1st NBA Start) - 9 points and 1 assist on 3/5 FG Shooting.

Dickey Simpkins (1st NBA Start) - 9 points and 4 assists on 4/6 FG Shooting.

Chris Wolff

Sam: I’m not quite ready to go there yet, though Dickey dropped off from there. But he does have a few championship rings. I’m sticking with Johnson now as a guy who’ll make us forget Dickey.

Now that Al Jefferson is [seemingly] available, do the Bulls have any interest?

Joe Lavely

Sam: I wonder. He’s one of the big question marks of the summer. Everyone assumes he’ll be available as they don’t feel he works with Love. I don’t worry about the drunk driving arrest; more the seeming inability to accelerate when playing. He’s looked painfully grounded since his surgery. They say it takes more than a year to return, so maybe he is ready for next season. They’ll want a lot, I presume. Would the Bulls deal Deng? Maybe. It might be worth a shot if they can’t get Bosh or Boozer or someone like that, though I see the Timberwolves trying to get way more. My guess is he’s a low priority fallback if all else fails.

Who are the leading candidates for the Most Improved Player award and what are Joakim Noah’s chances of getting it now that he’s out for a couple of weeks?

Aaron Ward

Sam: I’ll have to rethink this as I was going to vote for Noah. But you cannot be considered for a major award and miss almost half the season. I lean toward Carl Landry as I like lower round picks for this award as opposed to high first rounder who finally get a chance. That said I’d consider Andrew Bogut, who finally has become a force under Scott Skiles. Other good choices are Marc Gasol and Aaron Brooks.

I think the obvious problem with Jo's feet are caused by the no name shoes he's wearing. I know he has this French shoe deal and likes to claim that the shoes are not the problem. Is there any chance the Bulls will ask Jo to wear a pair of nike/adidas when he returns? Can they offer to buyout the rest of that deal so Jo doesn't owe the shoe company to do so?

Richard Lipford

Sam: I don’t know how those shoe deals work, but the Pistons recently banned a type of Nike sneaker because they said it was causing ankle injuries. So I assume the Bulls can do the same with Noah. I’ve quoted him here on his shoe and he’s very defensive. I know some around the Bulls think it’s the shoes, so I suppose if they can be sure they’ll make sure he doesn’t wear them again. Or ought to. For now, I’m not sure there’s enough evidence as many players wearing the Nike and Adidas brands also have gotten plantar fasciitis. Though Noah would probably do well to give some other shoes and inserts a try.

What about all the discussion that LeBron will stay in Cleveland with the acquisition of Antawn Jamison? Jamison turns 34 soon and Shaq also runs out of time, this is not a long time help for him, they have at leastone shot for the crown and that is this year, I believe he leaves either way whit or without the Championship. By the way I do not think he would come to Chicago, cause playing without his head band inconceivably or would the bulls make an exception?

Christian Zweckbronner

Sam: I don’t think the Cavs have a huge issue as with Jamison and Varejao they should be OK for two years, and then they go well under the cap depending on how they managed their payroll and would get in position to make a run at someone like Chris Paul or some of the top young players now as their contracts expire. As for the headband, I would hope and expect the Bulls would abandon the rule for James and, I assume, if he asked John Paxson and Gar Forman would start wearing headbands. I know Mike Brown and Denny Ferry now have promised to rename their children “LeBron” and “Lebronette” if James asks. And owner Dan Gilbert is said to be available to babysit James’ kids.

When a baseball player has success in two different cities, there is always some conversation over what team he will go in to the Hall of Fame as (Andre Dawson being the most recent case).
If a similar issue existed in basketball, do you think Phil Jackson would go in as Bull or a Laker? He still has more rings with the Bulls, but that could conceivably change if he sticks around long enough. He has also now coached more years with the Lakes. The Zen Master would probably throw us all off and be enshrined a Knick.

Jack Murphy

Sam: Given coaches wear suits Phil doesn’t have to choose. Plus, he’s in the Hall of Fame already and as I recall said he always considered himself an Albany Patroon.

Based on your response regarding Rose winning an MVP, why doesn't the NBA create additional player of the year awards such as the Oscar Robertson Award for best point guard? How about the Russell-Chamberlain Award for best center/power forward. Same for small forward/shooting guard. There would still be the MVP, but the additional awards would create more interest and debate as to who is the best. The NBA should give the John Starks Award for contributions to an NBA team by an D-League player (or generally any undrafted free agent who never played in the NBA) who is in his first season in the NBA. Maybe an airline can sponsor it as the John Starks late arrival NBA player of the year award.

Paul Zukor

Sam: Great idea. Maybe the Jet Blue Late arrival award for the guy showing up late the most, which I assume was retired by Eddie Robinson.


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