Ask Sam | 05.14.10
Sam Smith opens his mailbag to respond to the latest round of e-mails from his readers.
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I am a huge Chicago Bulls fan. They are a great team. Rose, Hinrich, and Noah. What are we missing? Thats right. A great Forward. I’m sorry but right now LeBron James is the best Forward so why not get him? He comes to Chicago and plays for the bulls, those bulls become a powerhouse in the NBA, not just the 8th seeded team who lose in the first roundWhat are the chances of the Bulls getting LeBron James?
Sam: Of course, that has been the question, concern, fantasy of the week with the Cavs losing to the Celtics and being knocked out of the playoffs. I refer everyone to my columns on this site they insist on calling “blogs.” I’ve written about James and the Bulls and all the scenarios just about every day this week. Of course, the Bulls will try to get him, as will a dozen or so other teams. Which is why this will be all so complicated. I doubt you can trust James much no matter what he says. Look what happened last summer when Hedo Turkoglu agreed to sign with the Trail Blazers and then bolted to Toronto. There’s a one week moratorium on signings after a player can agree, and in that time other teams always come in to try to make a better bid. While you are doing that with James you could miss out on Bosh and Johnson and Wade and Stoudemire and be stuck. So it will be a huge gamble to even take a run at James with the Cavs doing everything to try to get him to stay and still having the ability to pay him more than anyone. I assume the Bulls get in the game, but you could go bust if you do.
We have to sign-and-trade for bosh before the deadline!!
Sam: Of course, if the Bulls were to do that to try to attract James, then there would be no sign-and-trade pieces left for James and he’d have to be the team’s second highest paid player. Something tells me the man who named himself “king” isn’t about to settle for that.
I still can't see LeBron leaving the Cavs for the following reasons: 30 million guaranteed 6th year with the impending lockout, born and raised in Ohio, he even threw a party thanking the city for his MVP. Leaving Cleveland would make him, his family, and his friends there villified for life. For a native guy, that would be a tough thing to overcome. Why go to the house that Michael built and having to deal with the comparisons?
Sam: This will be the case the Cavs will make, among some other things, including begging and pleading. As I’ve often said, you cannot use real people logic when dealing with most pro athletes. As I noted during the series with the Bulls, LeBron’s Cavs teammates are mostly older players in decline and if he wants to have a run a young nucleus like the Bulls have would make more sense. Money should not be a major issue as he’ll get paid wherever he goes. Money usually, though, is more a competitive issue. No one actually needs the difference between $16 million and $18 million a year, but they don’t like it when someone of lesser talent makes more. I’ve always mentioned the Jordan thing as an obstacle, though that seems far away now. As for home, LeBron hires his friends. I don’t think he’s too worried. He seemed worn out with the Cavs and ready for a change as he’s given them seven years, though there’s no guarantee he can be on 60-win teams anywhere else. It’s always easier to stay where you are, and the problem is few know what he really is like.
This whole situation feels just like Kobe a few years back and I bet it will play out the exact same way. There is no way the Cavs do a sign-and-trade. They will learn from the Lakers and play chicken with LeBron to the end. There is no way LeBron's ego accepts less than the max, he won't go anywhere without a sign-and-trade. I see a lot of back and forth this off season, just like Kobe a few years ago. I say a pouty LeBron tries to use the Bulls to get a sign-and-trade done, but in the end will still be in a Cavs jersey come October.
Sam: That’s what I’d do, so, I guess, the challenge for the Cavs is to pull off a big deal at the draft. The estimates are the Cavs franchise could decrease $100 million if LeBron leaves, so you can see the Cavs taking on contracts and doing about anything to persuade James he’s better off if he’s trying to win to stay. They do have some decent pieces in Williams, Jamison and Varejao, which others don’t have. They’ll be able to add an exception player, and you can get a good one, and they’ll take on long contracts as teams try to unload again with more free agents coming. I wouldn’t count them out.
If LeBron were to come to Chicago without a sign-and-trade deal, what would the options be with Deng? I can't see having such a high salary ride bench behind LeBron, especially with James Johnson there. How do the Bulls handle it (trade?) and who do they get or who do they sign with that contract gone?
Sam: That sounds a bit like worrying if you win the lottery what are you going to do with your Chevy Aveo. Deal with that later and pick up the check. You try to get the most talented players and then go figure it out. Great players figure it out. The Bulls would be doing backflips for years if they were fortunate enough to get James. Somehow the Bulls in 1984 were able to overlook having Quentin Dailey, a high No. 1 draft pick and shooting guard, and then drafted Michael Jordan. I know, it probably was a mistake because it likely limited Dailey’s development and left the Bulls with too many perimeter players. Yeah, you’re right. They probably should have picked Sam Perkins.
If LeBron magically happens to land with the Bulls, would they relinquish their head-band rule for the "KIng?"
Sam: I think this is where they draw the line. I’d say the Bulls let LeBron wear his headband, but say no when LeBron asks all members of management to wear headbands. You have to stand up sometime for your beliefs.
If LeBron or Wade were to join the Bulls would Rose be less of a player in leadership, in the 4th quarter, in running the team and representing the team?
Sam: It is pretty remarkable how many people wonder more about life after signing one of these guys rather than just getting one. I think the latter is the real issue. I believe it’s going to be difficult to get a top free agent given the incentives to stay with your own team. Certainly, Bosh and Joe Johnson seem more likely to leave, but there are at least a half dozen teams in competition, and not including all the sign-and-trade possibilities. The Bulls are well positioned, but there are no guarantees. I’d worry more about that, as I’m sure the Bulls do. First you have to get the pretty girl to marry you. Then you worry about her foot odor.
He's overrated. Admit it. LeBron is an incredible talent...incredible! However, I've yet to see him step up in the big games. LeBron hit a big shot in game 2 against Orlando and everybody blew up like he hit a game winner in game 7. Who cares? Hit that shot on the road to take it back to a deciding game of a series. Everyone is making excuses for him. What happened to his all NBA defense? I remember how LeBron used to play his first couple years. At the time, I thought he could be the best playmaker ever. I never pictured him as a scorer, like Jordan, even though it was obvious he had the skills. If he ever gets a legit sidekick, I hope he averages 5 points less a game and watch his assist totals and the "only James can do" passes, rise! Then we might be talking about triple doubles on a regular basis. LeBron.....
"I missed a lot of open shots that I normally make," he said with little emotion. "You don't see that out of me a lot so when it happens, it's a big surprise."
Deflate this mans head, please! Someone check the water in Akron! There will always be excuses for him. If the Cavs shut down any team the credit is given to LeBron and the Cavs even thought he's only a great HELP defender. When LeBron has a bad game....it's, "wow, he must be hurt." "King" James? Not yet! Win a title first!
Sam: I do think he has seven ESPN trophies. Yes, no one ever has been hyped like he has and it clearly has gone to his head. It’s why I’ve said I’m not sure winning means as much to him as being LeBron. He is a great talent, but, yes, he is overrated because the way we judge stars is by titles. It’s the tiebreaker. It’s why I never fully understand all these proclamations of him on the way to being the greatest ever. That said, I’d love to have him if I had a team. I think you only begin to think about winning with great talents. He needs to be coached and to play with better talent he respects. He hasn’t had that yet. Whether he really wants that no one truly knows. He said again after Game 6 he liked his team and they had a good season. I can’t imagine Jordan or Bird or Magic saying that after a playoffs like this. I’ve served on committees with Hall of Famers over the years and when they talk about other great players they always ask how many titles. I’m not sure LeBron understands that yet or how important that is to him.
How come there was no dancing and no fake picture taking by LeBron and the cast of the golden girls in this series?
Sam: How do you say front runners? I know, but I’ve heard Bulls management after the game sent Rose and Noah for dancing lessons. It also hasn’t been pointed out that Soul Train was invented in Chicago and first shown on WCIU, which still shows some Bulls games. I’ve also heard Bulls players have been asked to watch all the reruns of the famous dance show to show solidarity with LeBron.
I know we would take Dwyane Wade in a heartbeat. But with all the court cases chasing Wade, 3 business and 1 personal, do you think this could weigh down on his performance in his future in the NBA? I could see his morale/motivation taking a big hit from all this, competitor or not. I think we saw the start of it in the playoffs, where he seemed disinterested after a few games.
Sam: I agree all this has to have an effect on Wade, as it would on anyone. But people have to deal with all sorts of problems. With anyone, you take your chances.
I know you said you would take Ron Adams over Brian Shaw but Shaw seems to me to be the next best progeny of the Triangle Offense not Phil Jackson. He does all the numbers and percentages for Phil on the sidelines of Lakers games and the players really seem to listen to him. If the Bulls really wanted the next Phil Jackson, he would seem to be the best bet and the offense could really help Noah reach that next tier of play, and could help Rose be even better off the ball.
Sam: Oh, yeah, the Bulls still need a coach. Maybe LeBron wants to be player coach like Lenny Wilkens last was. Frankly, I’m no big fan of the triangle and that’s not why Phil’s teams win and what makes Phil a great coach. Obviously, he always has talent, but his strength is his ability to relate with players while holding them accountable and also showing a sharp knowledge of the game. Rose isn’t a triangle type player and Noah isn’t, either, as big men should shoot better in the triangle. The Bulls talent is more equipped for uptempo, not the slower triangle. And for all Brian Shaw may or may not have done, he’s nowhere near the defensive mind of someone like Ron Adams.
I'm in favor of the Bulls hiring Tom Thibodeau. Although he has never been a NBA head coach, he has been a NBA lifer. He has been a top assistant in New York, Houston, and Boston. All of those teams were among the best defensive teams in the league with Thibodeau receiving much of the credit. His Celtics are currently shutting down the best player in the league in the playoffs.. You still win in this league with defense. I hope the Bulls don't dismiss him because he has never been a head coach before. This guy is more than ready to be a head coach.
Sam: I agree and after the Celts won the way they did you have to give their defense more credit. I hope Thibodeau gets an interview and I fully believe he will. And, I agree, this is different from Vinny because here’s a guy who has coached for years. I think he deserves a good look.
I’ve read the Bulls are not in a hurry to land a coach. Do you think they are waiting someone to be fired (Rivers) or just set free (Jackson) after play-offs?
Fernando Martinez Sans
Sam: No. I think they are trying extra hard to get it right and not do so many interviews. So they are trying to narrow it down and not make it the parade they did two years ago and some teams are doing now, which is more spectacle and confusing. Doc is under contract another year and I expect Phil to remain in L.A.
Hawks fan here. Trust me you do not want Joe Johnson for the max. And this isn't just me overacting after another disastrous playoff performance. After watching him play for 5 years and being a fan of his, he's just not worth the max.
Sam: He probably isn’t, but you are worth what someone will pay you and someone will probably pay him that. It’s a supply and demand world and a world in the NBA to improve. There may not, in the end, be that many free agents moving, and you don’t want to get shut out when you promised your fans if they were patient you’d make a big improvement in free agency. Joe would improve the Bulls, so if they cannot get someone better I assume they offer him a max deal. And I think it would be the right thing to do given the circumstances.
What’s the difference between Ben Gordon and Joe Johnson? Ok, the second one is an All-Star. But, other than that, which value can Johnson add more than Gordon used to?
Sam: Other than one is an All-Star and one isn’t and one is six or seven inches taller and a better defender and the other isn’t? Other than that?
The bulls need shooting . Try to sign restricted free agent Anthony Morrow 50 % from downtown 6ft. 5in.
Sam: I get a lot of emails suggesting Morrow. You never know what Golden State will do given their shaky ownership situation, but given he’s a restricted free agent and wouldn’t cost that much they’d have to match, you assume. Maybe sign-and-trade, though you cannot get him if you make an offer and they match. It also ties up your money while they decide. Very few restricted free agents ever move.
Do you think trading for Anthony Randolph is a good idea? I rate him very highly though he seems to always have some mysterious injuries. A good shot blocker with pretty good low post scoring ability. Is it wise to trade Gibson and a draft pick for Randolph?
Sam: Again, it’s Golden State. Randolph was supposed to be the next big thing and then was being benched. I know it’s Nellie, so you never can tell. But you hear strange stuff about Randolph and his ability to be a teammate and I’d probably stay away and concentrate on free agents.
I know you’ve been mentioning Utah as a possible trade partner this off season. What are the odds of Bulls asking for and receiving Kyle Korver in any potential deal?
Sam: He is a free agent and a shooter. But I think you have to shoot higher. Guys like Korver don’t get to play regularly because of flaws in their game, usually defense. I know there’s some sentiment to use the money to load up on specialists like Korver or Mike Miller, but you win with stars in the NBA and you have to try that route.
You mentioned in your Monday column that with Wade & some others likely out this summer, it could be a good chance for Derrick to make the team. Do you think that is such a good idea? About 90 % of last year's participants have been injured some this season as their bodies have broken down. Almost all of team USA have missed time this year. Wouldn't his development be better served working out at the Berto Center?
Sam: Derrick wants badly to play, and the NBA has prohibited teams from even trying to talk their players out of playing. I believe Derrick makes the team, which lives in super luxury in its travels. I’m 40 years older and I’d go.
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