Ask Sam | 05.07.10
Sam Smith opens his mailbag to respond to the latest round of e-mails from his readers.
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After listening to that press conference, Gar said the main traits he was looking for in his new coach were “accountability and leadership”? Exactly who fits that profile? JVG, Doug Collins, and Avery Johnson are the in-control at all times type, no nonsense coaches – but they don’t play up-tempo. Byron Scott plays up-tempo, but he is known as a bit of a straw man who lets his asst’s run things, as well as being the same player-friendly type that Vinnie was. I just don’t see any reasonable options available given the strict parameters Gar has set forth. Do you? I fear the Bulls will find themselves searching for a coach that just doesn’t exist, or isn’t available.
Sam: Well, they have to pick someone. How about something like that Cubs college of coaches from the 1960s? Maybe one different one a week. Think out of the box! Nah. Obviously, with the dismissal of Vinny Del Negro many of the questions I’ve gotten have been about the next coach. I haven’t done a survey, but the majority of emails I’ve gotten have basically suggested Jeff Van Gundy, Avery Johnson and Doug Collins. Jeff’s all of a sudden done several Chicago media interviews praising Bulls management after his brother Stan doubted Jeff would go back to coaching next season. Johnson seems to want to return home for the New Orleans job and Doug seems like he could be in line for the 76ers job, though I don’t see him in the Bulls equation after he pulled out and they basically couldn’t come to any agreement and passed over him two years ago before hiring Vinny. I’ve suggested Mo Cheeks as a good compromise candidate, not perfect as he’s not known as that demanding, accountability guy, but works well with players and management and has experience and a big time NBA resume as a defensive player. Still, I’d hardly be disappointed if they came up with a better candidate. Assuming Doug is out, I’d go with Van Gundy among those three. He’s a good basketball coach, though has remained vague about returning to coaching given preferences to remain with family for now and work the shorter TV schedule. He’s one of those guys who goes all in when he’s in. The issue with him is he ran the worst, slowdown, control oriented offense in the NBA and you cannot do that with Rose. But he’s a terrific strategist, smart and quick to respond and adjust. I think he and his brother are two of the better coaching minds around the NBA. I agree it’s an important hire, but I generally find issues in all the top candidates. So anyone will be something of a compromise. The challenge is to get the best one with the least you have to compromise.
There are talks all over about the possibility of Phil Jackson coaching for us and about the possibility of the Bulls waiting around to see what's going on with him and the Lakers. I personally think its a bad idea. I feel that Jackson is a great coach and we'd be lucky to have him, but the odds are not in our favor. Jackson has health problems and said himself that he doesn't know about his longevity. I feel like we could be great for maybe 2 years with him as coach and then would have to find another coach and start again. I feel like a consistent coach is pretty key to a continual rise of a team.
Sam: Phil, of course, is the fantasy choice, though you make a good point. I have another issue. If Phil would give up Kobe, Lamar, Pau and Bynum, living in a $5 million home right on the beach right near where his kids and grandkids live and dating the owner’s Playboy posing daughter to return to live in Chicago alone I’d feel he’s got emotional and psychological problems and I wouldn’t want him around the team.
Yahoo! Sports is reporting Calipari is “intrigued” by the Bulls job. What's next? Blago filling Bennie the Bull suit and Betty Lauren Maltese a LuvaBull?
Sam: Did you get a peek at the 2011 marketing plan? So you are not a “Cal” guy? Well, he has coached in the NBA. I more get the sense he’s established in college and what you see college guys do all the time is put themselves in position for more college security. There were rumors a few months back Rick Pitino was interested in the Nets job, rumors which supposedly came from Pitino. The coach then says he’s committed to his school and the school is so grateful they give him a raise. It’s how it works. There’s been suggestions Calipari is close with LeBron and his agents and could deliver him, though you’d likely hire the coach first. And then who really knows what these free agents will do. I have talked with some who seem close with LeBron and they admit even his closest friends seem to have no idea. So you’d be taking a heck of a risk signing up a coach to deliver you LeBron. You better love the coach because the players are very independent businessmen and change their minds frequently and at the last minute. See Hedo Turkoglu last summer.
I think I learned about David Blatt while reading one of your articles the last time the Bulls had a coaching vacancy. Do you think he will be considered? He sounds like an intriguing candidate who deserves a chance in the NBA.
Sam: I doubt it, though at some point someone is going to tap Europe for a coach. We’ve always thought it would be the Raptors, who generally seem to prefer non-U.S. players. The Bulls remain Midwestern. Sort of core values and conservative. The general reason though Blatt was a defensive guy who did big things with his Russian team is like college guys the names and game are a bit different. It probably would be a learning period to know the players and the NBA coaching intricacies and the Bulls after the experience with Vinny will want more of a hit the ground running guy.
What do you think about jeff van gundy's and avery johnson's critical comments about the bulls organization?
Sam: Well, as Jeff says, it’s just one man’s opinion. And it shouldn’t make a difference if you are a good coach, and both those guys are proven successes in the NBA. And that’s what the Bulls are seeking. Still, you have to live with the guy. That, I thought, became one of the big issues with Vinny, more personality than specific issues. The coach and management guys need to be on that clichéd same page basically because it turns the world’s greatest job into a chore if they are not. If you feel someone is hostile and negative toward you and your family would you then want to basically get into a long relationship with them? I suppose you could talk it out, and I didn’t hear exactly what they said, but some told me it crossed the line. I’ve had disagreements with both as they’re both passionate and competitive about the game, but I like that. And both have taken team to the Finals and are good defensive guys. I wouldn’t mind seeing either as coach, but, then again, I don’t have to spend as much time with either.
What's the deal with Byron Scott? He took the Nets with Jason Kidd to two Finals and the Hornets with Chris Paul to the Western Conference Finals. He also won three championships as a guard for the Showtime Lakers. I have heard commentators say he has a bad work ethic, something about him playing golf instead of attending practice? He is also three games below .500 overall as a coach. I know that you briefly addressed much of this in your May 4 article, including Eddie Jordan's role, but it just doesn't seem like Byron Scott is getting a fair shake.
Sam: Byron is said to have a good chance to be Lakers coach when Phil Jackson leaves, so that’s not exactly an unfair shake. Guys always have reputations, and I don’t believe that about Byron. No one is perfect, and while he may not be the most demanding in the Sloan/Skiles/Brown way, he’s good with players and has gotten good results. I believe he’ll get another job and deserves to. But he’s fairly similar in makeup to Vinny, and the Bulls may not prefer to go that way again.
I've been looking at lists of coaching candidates and all of a sudden I see the name of a coach who hasn't coached much in the last 5 years. Somehow I expect Eric Musselman to be the next Bulls head coach. I just feel that Musselman is the sleeper who will emerge as their favorite.
Sam: As my mother would say, another county heard from. This would be when I offered commentary at home, which generally was not welcome. So I had to start writing. I don’t think there’s enough NBA experience there, though he does know the game and has good NBA genes. I’d see him as a longshot given he’s had somewhat tempermental relationships with players in the past and not yet the portfolio to get away with it.
What kind of player do you think the Bulls are looking to pick up in the draft this year?
Sam: Still a bit too far away and not a huge priority yet with a No. 18 pick. I’d probably go big, as I have no idea how good Asik is or can be and you could lose Brad Miller. The Bulls always have had enough guards. Perhaps a good two guard if there is one, but I’d probably go bog if it were even.
I know you like the deal Monta and Millsap with the opportunity of Melo for next season... but... How about Joe Johnson and David Lee? I actually believe that if we can get the chance of landing Joe and Lee that it's a very nice fit. Try to sign-and-trade with the Hawks for Joe and Kirk (and I really like Kirk) and then sign David Lee.
Sam: I’ve mentioned deals like Ellis and Millsap for discussion and also because you have to be ready with alternatives after the disaster of 2000 when the Bulls clearly weren’t and just paid the next guy on the list. At some point, the list is not good enough to spend your money and you should look for trades and taking on contracts of teams trying to save money. Getting Johnson and Lee would be a coup for the summer and it’s certainly possible, but all of a sudden Johnson is becoming a worry. I think the Hawks will take a sign and trade. If free agency shrinks the class, a guy like Johnson finds supply and demand in his favor, namely more bidders than product. So it probably costs you a max deal. Is he worth it? He sure hasn’t seemed to be in these playoffs, shooting poorly the end of the first round and into the second and having minimal impact. Is he worth making your highest paid player going into his 30’s? I’m not very sure though I’ve been a champion of his.
The Bulls are about to enter one of the biggest summers in NBA history (free agency wise) with plenty of cap room and a coaching vacancy, and so far you're selling us on Mo Cheeks, Monta Ellis and David Lee. I hope for the Bulls sake that you have a big family because you're likely the only person that will want to buy tickets to see that garbage.
I think working for the Bulls is finally starting to affect your work, because you would have never set your sights so low when you were at the Tribune. Where is the sizzle in any of these people? More importantly, where are the wins? You really think any of these free agents wanna play for Mo Cheeks? The guy has the personality of a tube sock. Give me Calipari or Collins or Rivers. Someone with a little cache.
Then you wanna put Monta Ellis, a slashing, undersized, ball hogging, two guard that can't shoot, on a team that was one of the worst in the league at shooting threes and already has Derrick rose, who does the same exact stuff only better (but also can't shoot the three). Great work!
Sam: Is that sarcasm? As I’ve emphasized, you have to have some alternatives. I have in the past offered up some formula for championships, like Kevin Garnett, Pau Gasol, even Jermaine O’Neal. None ever happened, obviously. So I’m lowering the bar some and trying to offer some realism. You have to look also at what you can do to make your team better. Often in Chicago fans seem to think there’s a championship or nothing. Championships result from talent but also luck. If you don’t get LeBron or Wade, your job is to get incrementally better, hope Rose becomes the mini LeBron some see in him and then surround him with more talent. Perhaps you can change some of the names, but Ellis and Rose would be a backcourt you could not guard and I think both can grow into better long distance shooters, especially Rose. Isiah and Dumars, for instance, weren’t great three point shooters. There are different ways to win. Rivers is under contract, Calipari threw Rose under the bus when he left Memphis, leaving Rose holding the bag and answering all the questions and you never heard Calipari step up. I like Doug, but the Bulls passed on him two years ago and likely will again. I don’t think free agents much care who they play for unless it’s someone they hate or whom guys around the league warn you not to play for. No one ever says that about Mo. I called him and he said he thinks you’re a poopy head.
As a lifelong Bulls fan, I am finally willing to accept that LeBron is a) a great player; b) the most physically gifted since Wilt and c) may (God forbid) achieve more than Jordan one day. That said, I am really annoyed at the media's fascination with LeBron's signature "Chase Down Block". I get that he's good at it, but so what? If I recall correctly, Scottie was pretty good at it too, yet no one acted as if Scottie was God-incarnate when he made those blocks. Long story short, is the media making too much of the "Chase Down Block"?
Sam: Yes, and you can’t fully blame the media for this one. The coaches vote defensive players first and second team and keep putting James on as they must only watch the highlights as well. James is nowhere near a top 10 defender in the league. He’s probably not even top two on his team. Those chase downs are fun, but not serious. It’s all for show as half of them seem like goal tends that are not called. You saw when James tried to guard Rose he couldn’t stay in front of him. Mostly he plays off the ball looking for steals and doesn’t stay with his man and invites very little contact, which is one reason why he is called for so few fouls. I agree he’s great, the best player in the game now, but hardly a top defensive player.
Has anyone discussed within or outside the organization the disturbing trend in John Paxson's coaching hires? With both VDN and Skiles, Pax went out of his way to hire people who reminded him of himself. All three are white former players, close in age... former guards who got by less on talent than on fiery temperaments, hitting the open jump shot, and "playing the right way." In both cases, Pax worked extra hard to find such reflections (VDN was an "out-of-nowhere" candidate, and no one was knocking on Skiles' door after he burnt out in Phoenix). I'm not saying doing this is, in itself, a bad thing. Both Skiles and VDN have wonderful qualities. But there are other "types" out there (talented former talented players like Cheeks, older career coaches, hyper-prepared non-players like Frank and JVG), and I wonder if Pax's tunnel vision allows him to value them accurately. I'm worried that our next coach will be Bobby Hurley, and after he gets fired in a few years, we'll get Coach Kirk.
Sam: I think that’s working backward. First of all, Skiles was a terrific pick and a great coach. One for one. Vinny was a compromise choice. We know Pax wanted Mike D’Antoni, who decided not to wait for the Bulls offer and took the Knicks. I have no doubt a Bulls offer was coming. The fact is most of the coaches in the NBA are former guards. Of the 30 who started the season, only Phil, Don Nelson and Kurt Rambis weren’t. That’s 27 of 30, which upsets Patrick Ewing. The notion has been more guards see the whole floor and run the offense for coaches, so fit in smoothly. I thought Bill Cartwright knew the game well and so have other big guys. But the big guys have tended to be a bit more remote personalities, which hurt their chances. And I know Paxson was always a big advocate for Phil Jackson, a non guard. I don’t think Paxson looks for another him because he knows he wouldn’t be good as a head coach. Forman is as much involved, though, of course, he was an overachieving guard as well.
I believe when i read some of your previous posts you had said that coaches dont really lure players. I question that in the fact that in college a lot of players switch their school because of a coaching change, and they promptly follow the same coach to his next job. ex. Calipari with some of his recruits. so in retrospect this being the NBA shouldnt a coach count a little bit, or more than just a little bit.
Sam: I remain of the opinion this doesn’t matter much to players. Shaq went to the Lakers without any mention of who was coach. It wasn’t Phil. It was the immortal Del Harris, by the way. Ben Wallace came to Chicago to play for Scott Skiles, who hardly had a great reputations with players at the time. Tracy McGrady went to Orlando and was running Doc Rivers out before too long. I can believe a free agent not wanting to play for a certain coach if he has a specific issue with that coach. But there aren’t many teams in position to attract free agents with Hall of Fame coaches. Mike D’Antoni couldn’t even draw former players Steve Nash and Grant Hill, who last summer rejected going to New York as free agents. Pat Riley? It’s not like players love playing for him given his history of driving players so hard and now his maybe, maybe not career path. The point is to just hire a good, knowledgeable coach with a feel for players and they will come.
Why do people bitch about “objectivity” with respect to MVP voting, as though there is supposed to be anything objective about it. As far as I know, there are no guidelines for how the MVP is even supposed to be selected, and it’s left to voters to decide what’s most important to them (i.e., best player on best team, player you’d pick first overall in league-wide pick-up game, player most important to what his team does, &c.). Then again, I’ve never actually seen a ballot. Maybe the instructions are different.
Sam: Not sure where in the world there is true objectivity. Oh, right, nowhere. There are no instructions. The guideline has informally become guy having the best season on the team with the best record. It’s not hard and fast, but generally works out that way or close. You don’t get many votes with a bad team. And you better score a lot.
Do you think the Bulls would need to give someone up in a sign and trade to get Joe Johnson? Or do you think he would be willing to just come here?
Sam: Johnson hasn’t had the greatest playoffs and you’d say maybe he isn’t worth a max deal, but if you don’t give it to him, someone will. He’ll require a sign-and-trade and you’ll have to do it to get him. Lucky Joe. He’s gonna make a lot of money. And he’ll be a good addition for someone.
I’ve kind of adopted the Suns since the Bulls have been knocked out, mainly because I would like to see Nash and Hill get a ring, doesn’t hurt that they are fun to watch. Do you think they have a chance to win this year? The Lakers are a pretty big mountain to climb, especially in the half court. By the way Amare has looked fairly good in the playoffs ...
Sam: I admit I’m surprised to see the Suns up in this series. With the additions of Hill playing well against Dallas and Jefferson I thought the Spurs would have too much. Also without Lopez, I thought the Suns would be too small. But the Spurs have to come outside and haven’t as well and Duncan hasn’t played the pick and roll that well. That said, this is a team I’ve misjudged this season. I had them ninth in the West this season, so I missed that one. If they get through, I can’t see them matching the Lakers size even with Lopez. But Bynum could as easily be out by then as I still don’t get what’s going on with a torn meniscus. I thought torn means torn. And playing Frye as the Suns have—I don’t see him shooting as well on the road and he generally hasn’t—Lakers big guys would have to come outside and they don’t usually. I’ve long been a Suns guy as it’s a great organization. They treat media better than anyone in the league and long have been more accessible and accommodating than any team in the league. So I root for them, and I always root for guys like Hill, who is one of the best alltime guys in the NBA. You also raise a good point with Amar’e. Will they resign him now? Will he want to stay? This could have huge ramifications in free agency because most figured Amar’e was gone. If he stays, it also means the field shrinks and the more it shrinks the more teams with money may become desperate to get someone and overpay while some teams get shut out. That all said, I’d love to see the Suns in the Finals. So do they have a chance? I’d say no. I hope I’m wrong again.
Carlos Boozer is absolutely NOT the player the Bulls want in Free Agency. He puts up numbers, but he’s not a winner He is a horrible low post defender. He’s strong and a good rebounder, but he absolutely does not play defense on the low block worth a hoot… He is a terrible help side defender as well. He shows no heard at the defensive end. Deron Williams gets him great looks. This doesn’t even take into account what appears to be a shaky history on his “character” in how he left Cleveland etc.
Sam: So I take it you are not Boozer’s agent. I think Boozer is on the list, but low. He’s previously declared himself in love with the Bulls and Heat before saying he’s back in love with the Jazz. They say he’s mostly in love with money, which scares off teams. Plus he plays about every other season so far. The rumor in Utah is they keep him and trade Millsap, so it may be moot. He’s not a high priority, I don’t believe, but would improve the team.
My cousin and I have been debating whether Bosh would be better or Amar'e would be better in a Bulls uni. Bosh is the low post presence we've been looking for. However, would his style fit with DRose? Amar'e's a beast in the pick 'n roll and would be pretty sick alongside DRose.
Sam: I love these debates with the notion that the Bulls will have a big choice. It’s going to be difficult to get anyone as I can see way more teams than players available. The Bulls priority probably is Bosh because he’s more low post type and I believe the Bulls are somewhat wary of the long-term effects of Stoudemire’s major knee surgery. I think they’ll be happy to get someone. I assume they go for Bosh before Stoudemire.
I'm having this great debate online about Derrick Rose.
I think the Bulls' management has to classify Derrick Rose as a "BATMAN" or a "ROBIN" moving forward. And that they need to do it prior to free-agency in July. I believe that will dictate their direction.
To me LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Carmelo Anthony are all BATMAN's, while Chris Bosh, David Lee, Amar'e Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer and Joe Johnson are all ROBIN's.
The question is, "How does John Paxson and Gar Forman perceive Derrick Rose?"
If they perceive him as a BATMAN, then they should target Bosh, Lee, Amar'e, Boozer or Johnson. But if they perceive him as a ROBIN, then they should target Wade, LBJ or Melo. What's your take on that? If Bosh comes to Chicago does he play the role of BATMAN or ROBIN?
Sam: You mean like Holmes and Watson? Mantle and Maris? Nancy and Sluggo? Ben and Jerry? Castor and Pollix? Rocky and Bullwinkle? Derrick Rose is the guy other than LeBron James. If LeBron comes to the Bulls, Derrick becomes a bit more setup. Anyone else, Derrick is the guy. In the next three years he could become a top five NBA player and MVP candidate. Say the Bulls get Bosh, he may score more. But when you need a score, you’ll have to go to Rose. He’s one of the best talents in the NBA already. Everyone who comes to the Bulls is added to Rose and Rose will figure a way to play with them and make them look good. He’s not about scoring or individual accomplishments. He’s about winning. It’s a rare quality.
Of all the major FAs this summer, it seems like Chris Bosh is the most likely to be involved in a sign-and-trade. I’m concerned about all the talk of Bosh to LA for Bynum. I’m absolutely confounded when GMs trade to make the Lakers better, and it’s even more disturbing when other GMs – particularly Western Conference GMs – stand by and let it happen. What are your thoughts on another Western Conference contender stepping up and offering something better than Bynum? Obviously Toronto would prefer shipping Bosh out of conference, and I’m wondering what surprise names might be available out West in return for him?
Sam: I think that’s the big issue facing teams like the Bulls, Knicks, Nets, Heat, pursuing Bosh. I can see the Lakers getting involved. There have been rumors of the Rockets and perhaps more interestingly the Thunder who’d give up Jeff Green and pieces. Oklahoma City would look good. The largest question will be where Bosh wants to be. He’ll want that six years deal and the extra money, so he might have to compromise. And likely Cuban and Dallas will make a bid, though Bosh has said he doesn’t want to play in his Dallas home town. I’d also heard of a package from Golden State, which has some good stuff, though Bosh likely would want Don Nelson out first. There is plenty to worry about.
Hey sam, why don't you try be the head coach for the Bulls. Bet you make a good head coach.
Sam: Thanks for seeing what so few in the NBA do and what seems obvious, at least to me. I guess that’s why you’re not a GM, either. It seems amazing such obvious talent seems to go constantly unnoticed.