Ask Sam | 03.12.10

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

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After a long absence i started to watch the bulls again during the skiles era and one thing has seemed to extend from there to the present...the players rarely look interested or fired up! maybe with the exception of noah and rose when he throws it down, it just seems like they hang their heads more than other teams. maybe it's just because i'm only watching them on television, it just seems this way. Does that sort of thing have anything to do with winning at all or am i just reading too much into body language?

Chris Densborn

Sam: I think there is a bit to it. Actually, I think it’s less that emotion during the game since Rose is a winner no matter his expression. The bigger issue I’ve seen with the Bulls over the years is a seeming fear of upsetting anyone. Sometimes someone has to stand up and get in someone’s face or simply state the obvious of how bad things are and things and people need to change. You see stuff like this from all sorts of players. Obviously, Kobe. I also saw Antoine Wright of the Raptors ripping teammates last week. The Bulls, and I understand, have pushed for a culture lacking in controversy and divisiveness. It’s generally the way to go. But sometimes someone needs to stand up and take responsibility and demand accountability. Skiles would do that, but Vinny is not that kind of coach. The Bulls players seem to get along well, and they’ve also had a history over the last decade or so of bringing in players who tend to be relatively controversy free. Tyrus wasn’t, but his demands were way too misdirected and hardly inspired teammates. Noah could do it, but I still think he’s a bit burned from his rookie season when Wallace and Griffin suspended him. He may grow more into it, though he had some chances earlier this season and backed off and said he’s better off staying quiet. Sometimes you have to let it go and let your teammates you know. I agree it’s difficult and it’s easier to say than do. I cannot do that kind of stuff, I know. Rose doesn’t seem that kind of person, either. But I do think staying quiet about it as everyone on the Bulls has also hurts and has hurt this team.

Just for my general cultivation and because it is the current event : what
is the longest losing streak in Bulls history?

Mat Ramseyer

Sam: I can see we are quickly losing confidence. It’s 16 in the 2000-01 season when the Bulls were 15-67 and Dalibor Bagaric and Dragan Tarlac sat side by side and their bald heads gave off so much reflection the team saved money on electric bills. Actually, that team had Jamal Crawford, Ron Artest, Elton Brand and Brad Miller. It’s shocking it could have been that bad in not exactly one of the NBA’s great eras.

Let's say that the Bulls strike lottery gold and get the #1 pick. 
( yes I am assuming that they are not making the playoffs) Would they 
take Wall or Turner or would they trade the pick. Any ideas what that 
pick would even bring the Bulls back? I would think that Turner would 
be the much better fit but I have to believe that they could get a 
king's ransom for the rights to Wall.

Lloyd Morris

Sam: I’m proud of the resilient Bulls community, which seems already to be passing on the playoffs (I agree) and dreaming. Psychiatrists cost too much, anyway. They are not getting the No. 1 pick again. Even if David Stern has to call do-overs like the 1972 Olympic game. But you always take the best player and figure it out. Wall is the best player, and if you have two great guards you play them together. I’m a big believer in the five best players being on the court no matter of position—except if you are in Golden State—as often as possible. The other suggestion I’m getting is for the Bulls to sit down Rose for the season under some injury pretext so they get themselves into the top 10 and don’t have to swap with the Bucks. The Bulls currently are 11th, but it’s going to be difficult the way it looks to fall behind anyone else. The Bucks look to be about 18, and I have to admit when the trade was made I didn’t anticipate quite that disparity, though I’m not sure anyone else saw the Bucks the hottest team in the league with Dallas since the break. Still, if you were the Bulls I think you had to take the shot.

Can you tell me why you like the idea if the Bulls ever come up with an opportunity for trading for Monta Ellis? If this ever happens isn't that pretty much same thing as getting another Ben Gordon type of player? Even though Ellis is a great scorer he's still 6'3 at 190 lbs. which will still bring the same old problem in lacking size for defense. I don't even think he was a great three pt shooter like Gordon either.

Tom Choi

Sam: Because you better be thinking of alternatives to improve your team. With Stephen Curry coming on as he has and a possible rookie of the year, it seems almost certain the Warriors will move Ellis. If you can trade for Ellis, you still have money for a free agent like David Lee or Boozer or Stoudemire. No, Ellis isn’t a 6-6 shooting guard, but he’s a great scorer and if you also add a four who can protect the rim some with Noah healthy that’s not a bad team. And with the Celtics in decline, the Hawks maybe losing Joe Johnson, well, who knows where you can end up. The point for this summer is to add talent any way you can and be better than you were. I wrote many times I would like to have kept Gordon, but you could not risk paying him—and $12 million is way too much and throws off your payroll for years—and then not being able to dump other contracts and not being able to get into free agency. Maybe you don’t get the big score of Wade or Bosh in free agency, but maybe you do. Still, you have to put yourself in position to give yourself a shot and chances. There are many more possibilities. Ellis is just one for now, but I still like it.

I like your honest take on things. I want your comments on whether the chicago bulls heirarchy are realy serious abouting wining or just mere grand standing.

Paul Magner

Sam: I’m always amused by these screeds or plaintive wails because what owner or manager doesn’t want to succeed? They may not go about it the way you want, though I rarely get an email asking a question like this from someone who works in sports. I have yet to meet anyone in ownership or management of a sports team who doesn’t want to win. Some cannot afford to spend what others do given their market size and revenues. Sports teams are not civic institutions. If they were, they’d be in bigger trouble. Do you schools want to educate? Then why are they cutting so many teachers? Economics is a reality for everyone but fans, I know. I’ve found the people in sports care way more about success because their jobs are dependent upon it. Yours is not. The Bulls won six titles. No matter how they did it, they did it. How many has the Jazz won? Oh, zero. Does that mean they are not trying to win? What about the 76ers or Wizards or Trailblazers or Mavericks? Dallas doesn’t have any championships. So Mark Cuban is trying to win and someone else isn’t? They all are trying to win. Only one can each season. The Bulls obviously are trying to win. It would have been easier to sign guys like Gordon and be mediocre for years and maybe make the playoffs and go out in the first round. But they’re taking a chance on criticism for a chance to win. Same with the Knicks. It may fail, but they are trying. Isiah Thomas did as well. He traded for guys who were stars like Marbury and Steve Francis and Zach Randolph and maybe he made bad personnel decisions, but he clearly was trying to win. The Bulls may not, but I have never heard anyone say they were satisfied where they were.

Rank these 3: joe johnson, evan turner, rudy gay. Now these 3: david lee, al jefferson, carlos boozer. Fun, isnt it??

Josh Levin

Sam: Ah, the rub. That’s going to be the big issue this summer. Say LeBron and Wade and Bosh are off the table as most expect. Lee, Jefferson and Boozer all are players their own teams haven’t been sure they wanted to keep, and they had them. So can you invest big in them, and how much? And how can they be your future if teams that aren’t winning will let them go? If it were me signing, I’d probably got for Johnson and then Gay and never having seen Turner play against a real player I have no idea. Plus, you don’t get top three picks in the draft without giving up too much. I’d probably go Lee, Boozer, Jefferson as Lee may not be as talented, but he looks like he’ll be healthier and more reliable. Boozer probably is a better talent, but you cannot be sure about his commitment with his history and Jefferson has looked very slow and not explosive in trying to come back from injury.

How are people going to spin voting in Iverson into the hall in 5-8 years while never getting Rodman in? Both had the tattoos, the crazy hair, the wild antics, both troubled youths who spent time in jail etc.
what did Iverson really do?

Good: he led the league in scoring in 4 seasons
Rookie of the year 96
won the leagues MVP in 01 while leading the sixers to the finals in a period where the east was ever so weak.
Career scoring average of 27 ppg

Bad: Rap song he made in 2000 that was deragtory towards women
Feuds with Larry Brown, Mo Cheeks, Lionel Hollins, Chris Ford, Jim O’Brien, ref Steve Javie.
in 2004 urinated in a trash can in atlantic city casino in full view of staff and patrons
was the first to bash Sterns mandatory dress code and start the whole its a racists thing
Pistons fiasco
Memphis fiasco
Philly fiasco in 05-06 and now 2010
chased his naked wife out of there house once
new allegations of alcohol and gambling
he was a member of our bronze medal Olympic team
Never meshed with anyone Sixers brought in to be their # 2 (Stackhouse, hughes, Tim thomas, Kukoc etc.)

Rodman should get in as should Iverson but you cant put one in with out not having the other.

Mike Sutera

Sam: Nice Iverson bio. Thanks. Sounds like a Rodman fan. I assume Iverson gets in and fairly quickly, though character issues are taken into consideration. But as you note there’s the MVP, which is big. There are a lot of similarities as both became toxic late in their careers and had to be in one certain place or they could not play. Both clearly were troubled and trouble. I felt Rodman more the supporting, role player, which is not Hall of Fame stuff. I had this discussion with the Bulls Steve Schanwald recently, and he did point out, appropriately, James Worthy, for example, was a third guy and got into the Hall of Fame, which is a good point as the Celts have plenty of supporting players in the HOF. But it also is a Hall of Fame not just for the NBA and Worthy was a college star and multiple All Star. Though you can make that case in favor of Rodman. Rodman did make two All Star teams, but there are many, many guys not in the Hall of Fame who made many more. Rodman was a phenomenal rebounder in his time, but also spent many years as what I felt was a false hustle guy, diving after the ball already was out of bounds and inflating rebounding numbers as teammates let him get the easy ones because he’s get so mad if he couldn’t. That probably denied Luc Longley a place in the hall. For all Iverson’s peccadilloes he was a player who helped cultural changes in the NBA, for better or worse. Rodman was more a troubled side show. It would be sad for everyone in the hall to call Rodman a contemporary. Iverson was a premier player, if flawed, for more than a decade and even if grudgingly a deserving hall of famer.

How does the league not fine the Cav's for keeping James out of the game on Saturday in Milwaukee?
MJ would have never let that happen. He know that the fans in Milwaukee paid big money to see him play.
He is tired, come on. How do you tell your son who had been looking forward to see him play, oh sorry Lebron can't play because he is tired.

Jim Harlan

Sam: You pay your money you take your chances? I don’t like this whole idea in sports, which we saw with the Colts in the NFL. Of resting guys for bigger games. Competitors should play. But LeBron has missed a few games, so maybe there was an injury. He did have an ankle problem, and the guy doesn’t miss many games. Give him that. They get paid for the whole season and should play it. Yes, Jordan always did, and while I wouldn’t necessarily condemn James, I’d point more toward this resting mentality in pro sports today. It’s wrong and cheats the fans and the league because it also tilts the playing field. The NBA used to have an injured list and you had to be injured to be on it, though teams did some fudging. This comes up now also regards the Bulls as I’ve been getting an increasing number of emails to the effect the Bulls should rest guys like Gibson and Noah and Rose to not risk injury, play young guys to evaluate and concentrate on the draft. As I wrote, the Bulls are probably too far away from the bad teams to fall into that protected top 10. But the larger question is even while the playoff possibilities look very dim now, it’s hardly in the spirit of the game and competition to give up. The Bulls are far from mathematically done. Stuff happens. What if Wade is hurt? You owe it to yourself and the fans and the league and the game to compete. I’d think the players and any free agents would think less of the franchise if they gave up like that. It would be a huge mistake. I’d like to see the league step in and made judgments in the best interests of the game. The best interests of the game require legitimate reasons for missing games. Heck, I’ve even got to have a good note for my kid to miss school. At least LeBron could have shown you all a note.

VDN will likely be let go after the season. For the next coach, how's this for a shocker? Isaiah Thomas! Ok, he is a terrible GM, but actually a great coach. A genuine Chicago hero who just needs a chance to repent and redeem. I know there is that supposed feud between him and MJ. Honestly, I'm siding with homeboy.

Gary Mui

Sam: Now, that’s funny. Actually, Isiah has some pretty good personnel skills getting guys low in the draft like David Lee. He drafted well, and he went after guys everyone said would be or were stars. His coaching was generally considered OK as his teams all were at least .500 taking over after the Pacers’ breakup, though Rick Carlisle came in and won 61. But there’s huge bad blood between the Bulls and Isiah over many things, most notably the Eddy Curry and Jamal Crawford situations and you can be sure if there is a change, Isiah will not be on any list. Actually, I thought DePaul would be perfect for him and while I don’t know what his situation is in Florida, if DePaul ever wants to be relevant in the least again Isiah would be perfect. He can recruit and coach and would be a great goodwill ambassador for college sports in Chicago. And Bobby Knight still even likes him.

It appears the Bulls are likely to miss the playoffs. My understanding is that they switch picks with Milwaukee except if the Bulls get a top 10 pick. If the Bulls are in the lottery and have a second miracle (getting Rose was the first) and end up with a top ten pick do they still owe Milwaukee a first round draft pick?

Bruce Roberts

Sam: Here’s the deal. The Bucks get to switch picks with the Bulls—and it looks like they will—unless it’s a top 10 pick. If it is, there is no swap and the deal is at an end with no future swap or pick. I’m OK with it as we all thought it would be difficult to deal Salmons and what was the point of this season without a chance at 2010 free agency? Yes, Salmons has been terrific for the Bucks, so good for them. The Bulls got what they wanted, and if they get Wade 90 miles from Milwaukee it may not look so good for the Bucks. So both teams took chances. And Salmons was the best player in the deal, so the Bucks won it for the present from Day 1. For the Bulls, it was a future deal. They had to take the shot. You say they should have traded him to the west? There wasn’t exactly a load of interest. I’m glad for Salmons, who always was a cooperative guy even when things were bad for him. The Bucks have suffered a long time, so good for them. The difference in picks should not make that much difference. Say the Bulls move from 12 to 17? The Bulls appear to have gotten a better pick at 26 than they did at 16. If you do your work, you can come up with a player and five spaces doesn’t mean anything. There aren’t stars at 12 you won’t get at 17. And if there are, 11 teams did a pretty bad job.

After watching bulls vs dallas and the shocking game deng had, why does vdn continue to keep him on the floor for so long? he can't create his own shot and with dallas playing the perimeter it made no sence having him out there, James johnson on the other hand had a good stretch of minutes in the 2nd qtr hitting a 3, a nice post up pass to rose, only to be pulled straight out for Deng again. Now i'm not great JJ fan as yet but he looked more confident today and may have had the unpredictability in he's game to make dallas think a little on D, Deng is so one dimentional at times and when played straight up struggles to get by he's man.

Endy Celent

Sam: I know desperation and frustration when I hear it, and I’ve read a bunch of it lately. No, Deng isn’t Carmelo Anthony. But he averages close to 18 and is a terrific rebounder for a small forward. He’s not going to beat his guy one-on-one, but the team could do a bit more to help him do his best and take advantage of his movement. I hope Johnson turns out OK, and he has shown some nice signs in brief sequences of late. But for the bulk of the season he’s been a walking foul or turnover whenever he came into the game. He wasn’t in great shape, as even he will admit, and remains a horrible rebounder for his size. He could do way better with learning some fundamentals like boxing out. He also fouls way too much and too quickly. Again, he’s coming along, but to paraphrase Lloyd Benson, I know Luol Deng and he’s no Luol Deng.

Of Rudy Gay this year, seeing him up-close-and-personal. I know Rudy Gay might get a max deal from a desperate team (circa 2000 Bulls), but that guy is a piece, not the piece. If the Griz can keep him and Ronnie Brewer, Grzz have a solid core to build around. Do you think 3 draft picks & Hasheem Thabeet (with maybe even Mike Conley thrown in) would be attractive to a team with draft pick 4-8?

Mario Latilleon

Sam: You are correct. You don’t get Rudy and make parade plans. He’s a nice piece, though as a three he doesn’t fit with Deng that well. What’s generally been missed about Gay in addition to being a restricted free agent whom the Grizzlies can match and say they will is that being a younger player without as many years he’s not eligible for that same maximum salary as the vets like Wade and LeBron. I think his max is more in the $12 million range, and I see the Grizzlies matching that. If you got for a restricted guy, your money is on hold for a week while the team decides and you could lose out on other free agents, so I don’t see anyone making an offer to Gay until all the main guys are signed, if at all. As for dealing those picks, rarely do you get up that high in the NBA draft as the view in the NBA generally is you gets stars in the top six or eight and role players thereafter, though we know that’s not a perfect analysis.

Do you think the Chicago Bulls miss Aaron gray's big body down low? It seems
pretty obvious that the trades have cost them the playoffs. Especially the
Aaron gray trade. Just kidding. What do you think? I know it's all about
next year or at least that's what I keep telling myself.

Jose Solorzano

Sam: I think they also miss Malik Allen. Let’s not get carried away here. Playing for a team in about the same position as the Bulls in the Hornets, Gray has sat 12 of 20 games by coach’s decision. He’s played more than eight minutes in two games. He’s played a total of 74 minutes getting 19 points and 24 rebounds and committing 18 fouls. Yes, as many fouls as points. How the heck could the Bulls let him go? Gray added six points and seven rebounds Wednesday playing at the end of a blowout loss to the Thunder. I know Devin Brown hasn’t played, but that’s been with the addition of Flip Murray. Brown was supposed to be insurance when they dealt Salmons or Hinrich and if they didn’t get another guard. They really have been trying to make the playoffs. So unfortunately, mostly for Brown, he fell out of the rotation. Aaron Gray’s big body would have been on the bench, where it always was and where it mostly remains now for the Hornets, at least when the games matter. It’s not Gray’s fault. That’s who he is, a decent third string center. But he’s not replacing or making any difference for what guys like Noah and Thomas can do.

Is it Noah's on court presence, so valuable to the Bulls team, and do you think that it is affects so much the team's record (and overall performance) the last days?

Kostas Diakogiannis

Sam: There are intangibles and tangibles the Bulls are missing with Noah. The obvious is the double/double. There’s the defensive threat at the basket, which the Bulls have none of without Noah or Tyrus Thomas. I know they could have kept Thomas and I thought they would, though that changed when they could get a big from the Bucks in the Salmons deal. But it’s like when you see some Hollywood star with this beautiful, actress wife (Sorry, I don’t do handsome actors, but it’s the same concept) and he gets divorced and you cannot believe leaving a woman like that, assuming it was hid idea. But sometimes you just can’t live with someone anymore, and it seemed the Bulls had reached that point with Tyrus after the suspension with Tyrus cursing out the coach, and not for the first time. The Bulls don’t have a high tolerance for that type of player, and some say you have to put up with some difficult cases to succeed. Of course, others say you have to get rid of them to succeed. In either case, it can drive everyone to distraction, so in an apparent life-is-to-short-for-this they finally moved him. Again, I would have hung onto Thomas and put up with him, as I’d been writing, but I’m not living with him as they were. So it’s easier for me to say. Still, I’m not sure it makes much difference with Noah and now Deng out and maybe Rose as well. So when players got to the basket against the Bulls there is no one there to block or at least challenge the shot. Noah does that. Noah also began to make himself a threat on offense, and as much as anything he has this winning attitude. He doesn’t take possessions off. He competes constantly, and even though he doesn’t scream at others to do so, his presence has an effect. He pushes guys with his effort, and it’s hard to replace that. He’s seven foot, athletic and runs the court. Not much of that without him. How do the Bulls miss him? Let us count the ways: To the depth and breath and height his game can reach. Freely, purely and with passion.


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