Ask Sam | 03.26.10
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.
It's very interesting to see Salmons playing like he was last year with the Bulls after the trade for the Milwaukee Bucks. Now I understand the reasoning for moving Salmons with the option year and with the strong possibility of him taking that option with his production (or lack thereof) with the Bulls. Now that he is back playing his natural position of SF with the Bucks...his game seems to be back. Did the Bulls make the wrong move by pushing John Salmons into that SG spot? Would it maybe have been the better move to see if Luol could have played that SG position since he primarily is a spot up shooter and a somewhat of a slasher?
Dennis L. Bonner
Sam: First, I can't recall getting one email during the season saying the Bulls better not trade Salmons. In fact, the most were depressed that the team would not be able to get rid of Salmons and would have to give away Hinrich to get to the maximum free agent contract number for the summer. Which as you acknowledge had to be done. I guess you can second guess trading Tyrus, who, by the way, is farther falling down the rotation in Charlotte with Tyson Chandler back. The Bulls knew they were giving up the best player in the deal and knew Salmons was a good player. But it's something that had to be done, and Salmons, as we saw, was not doing a better job than Hinrich at two. You could say the Bulls had to keep him for insurance in case Deng got hurt, but Deng was playing much better. I had raised that two guard thing with Deng when Skiles was here and he laughed, saying Deng was closer to a four, and I had to agree. Plus, one of Deng's huge strengths this season has been rebounding and given his lack of side to side quickness on defense would have been way out of position on the perimeter. Salmons worked last season because Deng was gone. He got plenty of time this season and began to play better, but had issues at two. We've seen the Bucks move him to three, where he's been terrific, and which was no issue for them as they have virtually no front court anyway. Mbah a Moute at four? C'mon. The Bulls got what they needed and if the Bucks prospered, good for them. Basically, for the Bulls to have dealt Hinrich or Salmons anywhere else teams were asking for the Bulls' first rounder knowing the situation the Bulls were in. It was a good deal given they came very close to having to surrender that first.
Do you think Derrick Rose will go down as the second greatest Bulls player ever and surpass Scottie Pippen or is that reaching out too much?
Sam: Can't we just be satisfied he made the All Star team? Pippen will go in the Hall of Fame this year. He was as good as anyone on that 1992 Olympic team. He played for six championship teams and was one of the best defenders in league history. Rose is more highly skilled already on the offensive end, but he has a long, long way to go in accomplishments and it would be unlikely he'd get close.
I was having this debate with someone who was ranting about all the major mistakes the Bulls made since Jordan left, and I started thinking about it. How many major ones did they actually make? Not looking in hindsight, but in the moment. Maybe the Bulls could have gotten more for Scottie Pippen in 1999, but with the lockout looming that trade may have been the best option available (it's been over a decade and it's hard to remember). When they had cap room in 2000, they could have gotten Hill and McGrady, and then been locked into seven years of injury prone players and first round playoff exits. You could argue Brad Miller (who the Bulls got that year) has been more consistent than either of them. They had six draft picks in perhaps the worst draft in recent history in 2000. Had they had the 4, 7, 26, picks etc in 2003, it might have been a whole different story. They traded Brand for Chandler. Well, how often has Elton been in the playoffs? Was he going to be a championship piece? He hasn't been thus far. The Bulls traded away Artest. Well, Artest didn't have the control over himself then he seems to have now. The Bulls didn't make Jay Williams crash his motorcycle — that was all him. They made some very astute moves that seem to get overlooked. Nocioni was undrafted in two rounds, but the Bulls found him and got a very productive player. They traded Jalen Rose for Antonio Davis/Jerome Williams. Rose may have had the most talent of those three, but the other two were the players the Bulls needed to take that next step forward. Eddy Curry, who can barely get on the floor now, was traded for Tyrus Thomas/Joakim Noah, plus other players/cap relief, so for a couple years the Bulls were in the playoffs AND adding lottery picks. Ben Wallace was a mistake in hindsight, but look at it on paper--the Bulls take the heart and soul of their biggest division rival and strengthen themselves. It would be a double whammy. Eddie Robinson was a mistake. Some say giving Hinrich his big contract was a mistake, but last year and this one have both shown how much better the Bulls play when he's on the floor. Some would say trading Aldridge for Thomas was a mistake, but Paxson had played it safe in pretty much every draft. This was his opportunity to take a chance. And as great as Aldridge is, the Blazers took their time extending his contract. And from what I've read, Kobe coming to the Bulls was never gonna happen. Gasol and Garnett both proved what they can do as the lone superstar on a team--first round playoff exits. Would Garnett with what was left of the Bulls after trading for him be better than what he had in Minnesota, or did he need Pierce/Allen with him to shine? Did Pau need Kobe/Odom to shine? Who did the Bulls have like that? Clearly the Bulls have had some issues &mdah; some circumstantial, some self-inflicted, but I think the Bulls two biggest mistakes are focusing too much on young players without adding solid veterans to support them, and relying on rookie/unproven coaches instead of a proven teacher.
Sam: It's not often I see such a balanced analysis. This kind of thing is not popular among second guessing fans and media, but there weren't many moves they made that were condemned at the time. Brand was, though the theory was right that he couldn't carry a team and never did. As I've written before, Curry/Chandler was the right theory, but the wrong guys given it was too difficult (for everyone) to figure out what high school guys could become. Though guys like Garnett, Kobe and LeBron were naturals, there were plenty who took awhile and a trade to do anything, like Jermaine O'Neal. It also didn't help that the Bulls had Tim Floyd, who was brought in because he was a good college coach to teach and got caught up in the NBA life right away and wanted veterans and hated kids. The Tyrus pick also was much questioned at the time, but, you are right, it was a time the organization was being criticized for being too conservative and they had to take a chance on an athlete and maybe a guy who had some issues, sort of the we-should-have-kept-J.R. Smith group. So the Bulls gambled in the draft and lost. It happens to everyone. Joe Dumars, a heck of an executive, passed on three future Hall of Famers for Darko. Jerry West picked Drew Gooden and traded him within two months. The Bulls biggest problem was for 10 years they couldn't get lucky, and finally they did with Rose. When they had the No. 1 or No. 2 pick there wasn't a LeBron or Kobe or Howard there. They'd be the Cavs now if they were lucky the year the Cavs were. And, right, I didn't hear anyone say Wallace was a mistake until he became one. That season fans were begging to dump Tyson and though I was no big fan of Ben, the Bulls got him when he was reigning defensive player of the year and after sweeping the Heat. How bad a plan was that. This summer they get another shot, so we'll see if they can be good, but better off lucky.
I was wondering why coaches let time expire at the end of each quarter. If the opponent scores with 3-5 seconds left, every NBA team will inbound the ball and throw up a half court prayer. If I were a coach, I would teach that every possession in every game counts. If there is 5 seconds left in a quarter, I would call a time out, draw up a play, advance the ball, and use the time remaining to get the best shot. Two points at the end of the first quarter are worth as much as two points at the end of the game. Why don't coaches use their timeouts at the end of the quarters?
Could that attitude add too much pressure on the players? Is it that coaches don't want to reveal their out-of-bounds plays? Or is it my worst fear, the first three quarters in an NBA game don't matter as long as teams are close and the game is decided by the quality of closers?
Sam: No, it's not about only the last five minutes, though it seems that way. Vinny does do that often and some coaches do, but you are right. It doesn't happen often. There are basically two reasons. One is coaches like to save time outs for the end of the game because of the chance to advance the ball after makes and save precious seconds at the end, and coaches are condemned the most for being out of late timeouts. Plus, I don't believe you can advance the ball to half court after a basket until the fourth quarter. So in two or three seconds it's too much of a gamble for a full court play. With five seconds or more you do see it, but with a few seconds left it's generally not worth the price.
You made a point about Bosh that I was making to my dad earlier today: The guy doesn't seem to win. So, is he a difference-maker? I suspect he's just not a winner. Question two. If you have the eighteen million, do you (a) sign Bosh; (b) sign Johnson; or (c) sign some combination of other good players, i.e. Rudy Gay and David Lee or Manu and David Lee or...
Sam: There are two so called "difference makers" in this free agent class, LeBron and Wade. I don't think the Bulls will get either as I believe they'll both stay with their teams. So then it becomes about adding a player to get you better. If players are interested in going where they have the best chance to win, then I think the Bulls have the best story to tell with a center in Noah who does dirty work and a point guard in Rose who will give up the ball yet demands his own double team. But there are a whole lot of other reasons guys make decisions. If you are the Bulls, I think you are perhaps a bit better with Bosh, though I think just about the same with Johnson. But you also have to be prepared to see if you can add two guys, like my Monta Ellis/David Lee combo or something like that. The tricky part is spreading yourself too thin, meaning if you are trying to add two guys then maybe you lose a free agent you were trying for. I'd say if you cannot do a big trade at the draft for a guy, then you focus on one big free agent like Bosh or Johnson and go for him. They don't carry a team, but with (a healthy) Noah and Rose that's something else.
A friend of mine and I have been arguing over what to define Rose as. Is he a pure point guard to the Isiah Thomas or John Stockton level? He loves reading Charlie Rosen over at Fox Sports who said that he feels Rose is not a pure point guard, but more of a combo guard who can play off the ball. My friend has even tried to convince me that getting another point guard and moving Derrick permanently to the two would be a good idea. I know that some people have hinted at this (including you), but lets be real-- having someone take the ball out of his hands sounds like a bad idea to me. I do concede that he is not an elite passer (yet) to the Nash or Kidd degree, but he is still a good passer who looks for his teammates first. My friend argues that Rose is best when he is driving and scoring for himself.
The conclusion I have since come to, which brings me back to that quote of yours, is that Rose is a basketball player. Is it out of the realm of possibility that he someday averages a Lebron-like stat line of 25 points 9 assists and 6.5 rebounds?
Sam: Rose is a point guard and I can't recall ever suggesting making him a shooting guard. I've probably noted he can play like Joe Dumars did with Isiah off the ball, and he does at times with Hinrich running the point. But you have it right. He will do what's necessary, which this season has been to score. He'll pass if that's what it takes. He's one of the rare players I've encountered who really does care more about winning than his part in it, especially for a young player. I do liken him more to Isiah, who wasn't a pass first point guard, but was just so good he could. But Isiah was more scorer when he came to the NBA and toned down his offensive game as his teammates improved. Rose would love to do that. Charlie's a friend of mine and a smart basketball guy. But Rose is a combo guard only in the sense he's good enough to play multiple positions. He'll play the point for the Bulls for the next decade and if they put enough talent around him he'll be good enough to contend for a title with them.
Do you think the NBA would consider the following. Give the kids a choice, one year in the Developmental league, or two years of college. That would let the kids that are interested in college choose education and the one's that just want to go pro, go the the D leauge. It would also help attendance in the D leauge. Some of these kids have no interest in a college education, They could do an NBA training program instead. Morally, the one and done, doesn't do much for the college "Student athlete" concept.
Sam: The villain in this is the NBA players association, and why no one is quite sure. They have used the college eligibility thing as a bargaining chip because they know the NBA wants to keep kids out of the NBA at least two years out of high school and maybe three. Why the current players don't stand up and demand their union represent them and not future members I've never understood. This kind of agreement has to be collectively bargaining to avoid anti trust restraint of trade laws. The one and done thing is a joke because kids go a few months to get eligible and then quit. At places like Kentucky, who knows if they go to school at all based on graduation rates. The NBA would love it for these guys to go to the D-league, though I'd rather see them stay in college-if you were a fan of the college game--and build great college programs like years ago and have them more ready for a pro life. The D-league has flaws given teams share teams and players come and go on short notice. If I were a high school kid and just wanted to play basketball I'd go overseas if there were a two or three year waiting period. Obviously, there are kids like Rose who are ready. It doesn't help the NBA, though, with so many young and fundamentally unsound players, and it certainly doesn't help the college game. If there weren't betting on the NCAA tournament no one would be watching, just like during the regular season.
I've been watching Evan Turner in the NCAA Tournament and I really believe that he's the right kind of guy for the Bulls to go after in terms of his ability, work ethic, and temperament. I see in becoming a Scottie Pippen or Brandon Roy type player in this league. Having said that, if the Bulls don't get a top ten pick, what is the possibility that they can trade a player (Deng/Hinrich) or next year's 1st round pick to get Evan Turner?
Sam: Zero. No one trades top two or three lottery picks for reserves, or even good starters. You can probably get him for Rose. Interested?
What do you think is Vinnie's reasons for not playing Acie Law much, if at all, in the last few games. I know Acie's defense is suspect at best; however, playing Pargo over this kid, to me, makes no sense. Pargo's defense is just as bad and he has had 69 games and practices to show something and he has not. Who's to believe, at this point, he will suddenly turn it around? So, Pargo will not be here next year, so why not try to see what you have in a former lottery pick that might be able to help next year?
Sam: First, I doubt there would be any difference in wins and losses. Yes, Law did well when he got a chance to play, but as we've seen in two years, Vinny prefers short rotations and he prefers guys he knows. So that's that. Coaches play whom they're most comfortable with. And since the trades they rarely practiced, and Vinny doesn't like to play guys who haven't practiced. Plus, with Rose back Hinrich is the backup point, so there really isn't much time for someone like Law. I know he's disappointed and when I talked to him briefly about it he shrugged and said it's been the story of his NBA life. But I don't get the sense he slacks off or isn't ready. I prefer seeing Pargo if he plays off the ball and with Rose back that should be the case.
In your latest mailbag you wrote:
"I think they'd most like to deal Hinrich for more cap space around draft time."
I know he's going to be a reserve next year, but he is worth the price. Our owners have always been cheap and made a lot of money during Jordan's era, and the fans stayed loyal and fill up the united center ever since. It's been 12 years and you've been saved and blessed by D-Rose, now give something back to your fans!
Hinrich is a huge bulls fan, I recall that unique story of him writing an essay at school - What will you be in 10 years, and he wrote "Starting PG for the Chicago Bulls". This guy is dedicated to this team, he will always bring 100% percent, he's great defender and one of our only 3 pt threats on the floor. If we get Wade and play with Rose Wade and Deng our only 3's will come from Miller... I don't care that he is overpayed, he is the man that we must keep if we want to be a contender next year and the years to follow that year (All the championship teams have a great 6th man).
Sam: I appreciate your passion for Kirk, though this kind of stuff generally runs 50/50 for him. The Bulls obviously like him. They traded Salmons to keep him and let Ben Gordon go. That certainly says a lot. He's been a valuable contributor, but with the economics changing drastically in the NBA, it's not going to be feasible for almost any team to have reserves making almost six figures. If you have that, there's almost no chance of building a contender. Plus, the Bulls have to pay Rose and Noah. Keeping someone like Hinrich might preclude the ability to pay one of them. What the Bulls may do is try to parlay Hinrich and and perhaps draft picks into a high level starter. It would be hard to argue against that.
It seems to me that Kirk Hinrich does not get many free throw opportunities. Why it that? He is actually pretty good at the line.
Sam: Yes, he can make them. But Kirk tends not to finish strong at the basket. Obviously, there is some subjectivity about foul calls and contact, but the general rule is you tend to award the aggressor. Kirk is tough and takes a lot of contact, and probably more than anyone on the Bulls doesn't seem to get his share of calls. It probably doesn't help that he always lets the officials know, though with the exception of against Miami a few weeks back usually with an exasperated smile. I believe a lot has to do when he goes to the basket he'll usually try a reverse or to avoid contact in some way. I know he can dunk. If he can just try one facial someday. I'll buy the poster.
Well a losing streak can even teach you something.The something I learned is Rose, Noah,James Johnson are keepers. Rose is skilled, Noah is 7ft rebounder who can run the floor (hard to find) and J.J has offensive skill set that is valued ,he can handle the ball,hard to stop in the post,run a break and finish. Kirk can go. He shoots 40% and is no serious threat to attack the basket.That translates into a decent bench player but not a 5yr 48mil player.Deng cannot live up to the amount of salary that he commands as a 3rd option who does well in 1st half but has tendency to fade when game is tight and defenses tightens up.Taj would make for a steady player if you have other legit scoring options and you don't have to break the bank for him. I most of all learned that you don't overpay for mid level talent like Kirk then try to justify it by using energy as a buzz word to have him on the floor for forty minutes a game. The right mix and so called 'good' lunch pail players (Stacey) succeed at a higher level more often than not. Taj,Miller,Kirk, and Deng are a 'good' group of 'guys' but in a game that counts the tattoed,skilled Melo, J.R,Nene,K-Mart will crush em every rip.
Sam: Yes, talent wins, though I still have my doubts about James Johnson as he's more toward the Tyrus talent now of a guy with transcendent skills who may not be very reliable. He can change, and we'll see if he gets the message. Taj is the keeper from the rookie twosome for now. You need guys like Miller, Kirk, etc to fill out a team, but you need two stars, at least. For now the Bulls have one. The idea is to have a second this summer, and then in Noah you have a star role player and that could make a huge difference.
Am I the only one who thinks Kirk should have started a trend on friday. When he saw Lebron closing in on the block, could he have jumped and turned to throw the ball off Lebron? Perhaps built some momentum by shutting down his chase down. I think that would have excited the crowd instead of pumping up the great prince and unleashing his takeover.
Sam: Yes, I hope you are the only one. That should have been good for a month or so suspension.
I was wondering w/ MJ owning the Bobcats if his name will recruit the big free agents? Especially Wade since he's w/ the Jordan brand now. I have no idea what Charlotte's financial situation is, if they can even lure a big name.
Sam: The Bobcats are well over the cap and so much up toward the luxury tax that I don't see how they even keep Tyrus Thomas unless they make some moves as they also need to resign Ray Felton. After next season they get some relief, and Michael already has said he's not doing much of anything this summer but letting this group grow together. One interesting thing will be to see if Larry Brown wants out as Michael already has said he'd let him go for family reasons and I can see the Clippers beckoning. Plus, you never know the statute of limitations on Stephen Jackson remaining satisfied. But I don't see any big time free agent actually wanting to play for Charlotte just because of Jordan. But mostly because it is Charlotte. No offense, but it's a tough sell in a small market.
I would no longer be able to cheer for the Bulls if Lebron James was coming to Chicago as a Bull. As a lifetime Bulls fan, I could not stand to watch his antics every night nor would I be able to watch Kobe's if he were to have come to Chicago. The city of Chicago and the Bulls (specifically Derrick Rose) should not have to deal with his ego on a nightly basis. It is clear he is a team player and makes everyone around him better but it is obvious he wants the spotlight, not to mention the control of an entire organization.
Sam: You won't have to worry because there is little chance LeBron or Kobe would come to the Bulls. But if they would, particularly LeBron because of his age, the Bulls would fall over with gratitude to have him and would sacrifice your support, as sad as that would seem.
With the season winding down and the Bulls evaluating that talent that they have, what do you see as the odds that the Bulls resign Hakim Warrick? I'm not saying I'd rather have him than a D-Wade or Joe Johnson, but if the Bulls manage to sign a max free agent do you think they still can keep Warrick?
Sam: It's doubtful as Warrick is likely to get more than a minimum deal and if the Bulls are able to get a top free agent it's unlikely they'll have money for your mid level type guys like Warrick. I think they'll take a harder look at guys like Joe Alexander, which is why I think they are keeping him around.
How come very little is mentioned about how the Phoenix Suns blew their chances at winning a championship in Nash's prime? Look at the roster they compiled and then analyze how they slowly traded away talented players for next to nothing and traded draft picks for money. It's frustrating that other owners get vilified for such cheap behavior but the Suns get away with it. Picture a team with Nash, Joe Johnson, Shawn Marion, Quentin Richardson and Amare Stoudemire in the starting 5 with Grant Hill, Barbosa, Raja Bell and others coming off the bench. I think if they had been able to keep that original team together they surely would have won a championship.
Sam: It's a good point. I thought they could have won in 2007 when Stoudemire was suspended in the Spurs series after that Horry cheap shot on Nash. It all started with Joe Johnson leaving and they did "low ball" him, in a way, initially, and by the time they were ready to match an offer he was insulted and left, sort of like with Shaq in Orlando. It's also why you can see Johnson moving on again. They let Marion go, though, again it was more than money, eventually, anyway, as he was insulted Nash and Stoudemire were getting so much attention. He ended up signing in Dallas for what he could have gotten in Phoenix, I presume. It is interesting looking back how feelings and egos got so much in the way of what could have been a championship team, though in the last few years you are right as most of the deals they have made have been to save money. It's becoming more common around the NBA.
It seems as if it is unlikely the Blazers will keep Greg Oden, if the Bulls have some money left over after hopefully signing a max guy then would they consider investing in him. If he keeps getting injured then you wasted a little money, but he still has potential.
Sam: I don't believe that's correct. It seems to me the Blazers will do everything to make that work and were saying Oden was playing as well as anyone on the team when he got hurt again. Given what Durant has done — and, really, no one no matter what they say now was picking Durant over Oden then — they've got to try to make it work with Oden and I believe they'll do everything they can. Can you imagine them letting him go and he goes on to star somewhere else?
Let's say we don't make the playoffs and fail to get a top 10 pick. Do you think the Bucks would not bother to do the switch of picks? Look, we basically handed them two of their biggest pieces in Skiles and Salmons. I know it's stupid.
Sam: Thanks for asking and answering the question.
After hearing about Joakim Noah's foot problems over the last few months, I cannot help but remember an article I read in Men's Health less than a year ago. "Built For the Long Run" talks about recovering from plantar fasciitis in a unique way that has been in practice by a Mexican Indian tribe, called the Tarahumara Indians. To sum it up quickly, a skeptical runner with plantar fasciitis was told to lose the shoes by a running-technique specialist, Nicholas Romanov, Ph.D., and once he did — the problem went away. To quote one paragraph: "Naturally, I was skeptical. In addition to the problem I consulted Dr. Torg about, I was also haunted by the vampire bite of running injuries, otherwise known as plantar fasciitis. Once PF sinks its fangs into your heel, you're pretty much hurting for life. Online message boards are filled with sufferers begging for a cure, because nothing seems to work. One thing you don't do, a sports podiatrist had led me to believe, is go barefoot. But the day Romanov taught me how to run sans shoes, my plantar fasciitis disappeared. Immediately. The cause — in my case, at least — wasn't inflammation, as I'd been told, but imbalance; once I re-centered my body weight, I was cured." I am curious if the athletic trainers for the Bulls have heard of this article or the practice it is preaching.
Sam: Now was this Dr. Torg guy the holistic healer from Seinfeld who gave George that potion of crambark and couchgrass that sent him to the hospital looking like an eggplant when that ugly argument broke out over a Chuckle? I loved Chuckles, but always threw away the licorice one. No one ate that one. What was it doing in there, anyway?