Ask Sam | Week of 06.07.10
Sam Smith opens his mailbag daily Monday-Friday 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.
If I were Izzo, I would stay. They say that he is very controlling of his players. He likes to micro manage. That works in college, not in the NBA.
Sam: I admit I don't know that much about Izzo as a coach as I don't pay much attention to what college coaches do. But if Izzo does end up with the Cavs it's probably the best thing to happen to the Bulls, Knicks, Heat and Nets this season. To me it means LeBron has a great excuse for his home town and state not to return, namely that at this stage of his career with his open declaration it is about winning how could he justify joining a team coached by someone who never has coached an NBA game and actually had to spend time asking former players what the NBA is like. Hello, Izzo? I'd say, bye bye LeBron. Conversely, given his solid relationships with stars he's coached like Chris Paul and that he's played with great championship teams and is close to Kobe, I believe if the Cavs hire Byron Scott that would give them a boost toward retaining LeBron.
I am wondering as a Bulls fan myself I was thinking about Dwyane Wade's misleading comments about the Bulls not being loyal enough so my question to you is why are Bulls fans very loyal and their attendance keeps on going up despite our mediocre run to the playoffs?
Sam: Well, you'd certainly have to say Bulls fans are loyal. It actually is one of the more remarkable fan stories in the NBA. Every coach and GM and their players say their fans are the best. But only the Bulls have the facts and stats on their side. There are few markets anywhere that have shown as much support through attendance for the team despite the record at times. Maybe New York as well. Maybe Chicago isn't one of the louder buildings, but it is one of the most consistent. What it says overall is how good a basketball city Chicago is. I know it's easier with a bad or non championship contender to draw in a large city than in a small market. But Chicago has proven to be one of the best basketball cities in the NBA given the support the community has consistency and constantly provided the Bulls. There are only a few teams that can say they have the best fans, and the Bulls are one.
From Argentina I am asking how does the NBA let the players be more important than the league, I see a franchise asking please stay to players when they should be grateful they can make so much money without working. I believe that the business is eating the game and the league. There is nothing wrong with making money with the sport but it shouldn't change its spirit?
Sam: Ah, if only. It's what all of us who don't play can never understand. They have the greatest jobs making obscene amounts of money and the lack of gratitude and loyalty is staggering. But it is human nature as well. As much as people have, they will want more. That must be one of those rules somewhere. What goes on in the NBA is the players measure themselves against eachother and the life they lead. It's the old line about people talking basketball everywhere I go because the only place I go is where people talk basketball. It's like at your office. You may be happy about your salary until you find out the person next to you makes more and then you want to quit for being unappreciated. The players call it being disrespected. This is likely aimed toward LeBron. The Cavs did everything they could for him. Mike Brown did more, and he got fired. And now LeBron may leave. Heck, he won't even tell them what he is thinking. Sort of the no good deed goes unpunished thing. It's said to be a players league and that's what they mean. Some say David Stern created a monster by selling stars and now he can't get the genie back in the bottle. The best way to accept what goes on is never to assume a player considers his franchise, the fans and the league, and when some do you can be pleasantly surprised. It's sort of my cynical way of getting through life.
Do you think that Taj is close to his peak as a player? The reason I ask is because he is a bit older than most rookies were, 24 or 25, I believe. And his play seems to resemble a more refined player. Of course I see him getting better over the off-season with putting a little weight on. But do you think he really has much room for improvement? I hope he does, because I like his hard working attitude.
Sam: Taj may be closer than most to his peak, but I believe he can get a lot better in scoring. He's been a poor free throw shooter given his shooting stroke. He also can play in the post and I think he'll get more leeway from officials. I think he'll get stronger as he's a hard worker. He's kind of been overlooked with all the talk of guys like Bosh, Boozer, Lee, Stoudemire, etc., and Taj is one guy who won't be offended by the Bulls trying to go for another power forward. But I do know Thibodeau really likes Gibson and the way he plays with Noah as keys for his defense, and I thought it stuck out in the playoffs the way LeBron went out of his way to compliment Gibson. You don't hear that from stars often about rookies who aren't big scorers. It suggests LeBron saw how hard he played and how tough Gibson was. So maybe you think harder about adding a perimeter guy if you can only add one player. Certainly LeBron, but maybe Joe Johnson over someone like Boozer or Lee or Stoudemire, though you'd have to go for Bosh and have Thibodeau work with him and get him back to his attitude when he was the USA's best interior defender on the 2008 Olympic team. And the Bulls will have to give pause as teams will be asking for Gibson in sign and trade as Noah and Rose are off limits.
What role has Tom Thibodeau played in Rondo's development into such a great defensive point guard? All I'm saying is if he had something to do with it, imagine what Derrick Rose will be like in a couple years. Rondo is 6-1 170lbs and Rose is 6-3 195lbs. Can you see Rose becoming a shut down defender with the right coaching?
Sam: I don't specifically know what Thibodeau's role was with Rondo. I don't know about shutdown defender, but given Rose's size and strength and willingness to learn I think he'll become a very good defender. The key with Thibodeau becoming coach as for defense will be he has a defined system of defensive play the team can learn and rely on and then make minor adjustments to certain games and players. That always was one issue for management with Vinny. Vinny has an active mind and frequently changed defenses and rotations and there never was a true consistency. Thibodeau will supply that and then as players get comfortable he'll add elements. Kobe after Game 4 even called the Celtics a team with a great defensive scheme. The way the Lakers laid off Rondo and even Robinson came in to make a difference should demonstrate why Rondo never will be in the class of guys like Rose, Williams, Nash and Paul. Rondo's terrific and gets loads of publicity by being in the Finals. But without that shot and the inability to make free throws and defenses laying off him he's not quite in the class of those elite point guards. He's sort of a hybrid in that he's a great rounder and a smart player, but I'll take those guys first.
Amare said in an article he wants max money. Seeing the Suns regularly here where I am in Phoenix, I don't think he's worth that much - he only plays during contract years, and he's had too many surgeries. Do you think the Bulls will want to entertain sign and trade and pay him max? Hopefully not.
Sam: It will be one of the big questions the Bulls don't want to face. They've basically passed on previous chances to even talk seriously about Amar'e, so I don't see them coming back now for a max deal. I thought there was a shot at the trading deadline in 2009 when there would be a year and a half left on his deal to take a good look at him. But the Bulls passed because of the kind of fears you mention. Given that I seriously doubt the Bulls would risk a max deal, especially with many doctors saying that kind of surgery doesn't last a whole career and will require another surgery, I don't see him very high on their list. I feel the Bulls feel at worst they can end up with Boozer or Lee, so will not have to answer the Amar'e question.
It appears that Lebron is going on a recruitment tour like he would have if he'd gone to college. So if I am the Bulls I don't waste time running after him. You give your pitch and you move on. I think it would serve us better to go for Bosh. Even if we just end up with Bosh it fixes the hole the Bulls have had since trading Elton Brand. I would be excited about a Rose, Hinrich, Deng, Bosh and Noah starting five. Then we have Gibson and James Johnson on the bench.
Jon Paul Gauthier
Sam: I, and I'm sure the Bulls, would view that as a home run summer. LeBron remains a wish, though as I said if the Cavs hire Izzo I think it gets more realistic. But as I've written I think it's a risky proposition for the Bulls to wait too long on LeBron. I go with the 24 or 48-hour deadline for a commitment and if I don't get one I move on. The issue with Bosh is it won't be easy to get him without a sign and trade and I believe the Lakers will be major bidders. Although, as I've written, I'd bid for LeBron if I were them. In any case, you'd have to have Bosh want you and then satisfy the Raptors. The Bulls might in a combo of players and draft picks, though that costs you depth like Gibson and perhaps someone else. And you are bidding against other ingenious proposals. If the Bulls could get a commitment from Bosh I might even pass on LeBron given the uncertainty, but I think Bosh will be as elusive in many ways as LeBron.
Throughout my life the bulls have always been my favorite nba team. However I became a big spurs fan as well during the bulls post-jordan dark ages and Tim Duncan is still my favorite player. I still feel Timmy is a solid player but he clearly is not the MVP/All Star player he once was. While I would like to see Tim have a one or two more solid years in league my hope is he retires before he reaches Shaquille O'neal status. I was wondering how much longer you see Tim staying around?
Sam: Tim has two years left on his contract, so I expect him to play that out. It's also why I don't see the Spurs breaking up, though there's a strong possibility they deal Tony Parker for financial reasons with George Hill having come on. But I think they owe it to Tim to try to win as long as he is there. Tim's a bit different than many players as he has other interests and doesn't seem to live only for basketball. He doesn't like dealing with the media, obviously, and doesn't care for the celebrity part of the game like Shaq, who needs basketball as I don't believe he can separate his life from the life he has in basketball. That said, it's difficult for anyone to walk away from what has been so lucrative for them, especially at what is a young age. I always say to stay with something you love and do well as long as you can, though I think Tim can be more like Kareem and accept a subsidiary role compared to Shaq who's ego doesn't allow that.
Can Elton Brand still play? I think he can, and that the style of play under the last coach just didnt suit his abilities. Sure he may not be 20 & 10 anymore. Anyway, would a Brand & #2 pick for Deng, Hinrich & #17 pick be beneficial for both teams?
Would either team do it?
Sam: No. The Bulls have moved on from Elton as my main hint is I hardly get any emails anymore asking for him. Plus, the 76ers like their point guard and Doug Collins has promised to reinvigorate Iguodala's career at small forward. Those pieces don't make much sense for the 76ers, and, sadly as we all loved Elton, no longer for the Bulls, though the Bulls might do it for No. 2. Philly wouldn't.
Possible trade between Minnesota and Philadelphia: Al Jefferson and #4 pick for Samuel Dalembert and the #2 pick. The Sixers could still pick up a wing with the fourth pick.
Sam: It is an interesting thought because I have heard the Timberwolves don't like Kentucky's Cousins and want to move up and away from taking him and one of the 76ers' biggest offseason priorities is to move Dalembert. That's why I felt the rumors about moving Brand were erroneous. I believe they want to keep Brand and move Sam. I guess it comes down to how much the 76ers want Evan Turner because it would be a nice young backcourt with Jrue Holiday. It might depend on who falls to fourth as I cannot see Doug Collins wanting to coach Cousins, either. But I wouldn't dismiss the possibility.
If you had to wager on who will be a better head coach in the NBA Tom Izzo or Tom Thibodeau, who would you wager on?
Sam: Ah, Tom Izzo. He’s the Bad Internet Story of the Day. That was Wednesday’s Detroit newspaper report from a school trustee Izzo had rejected the Bulls’ offer to be head coach before they offered the job to Thibodeau. So, I guess do we find out after all these years is Izzo is just another one of those college coaches trying to leverage himself into more money and a better deal? No, he had zero chance of ever being considered to coach the Bulls because he is a college coach who doesn’t know much about the NBA and the Bulls hardly need a coach with training wheels again. I will say of the college coaches I thought he was maybe the best with a chance to make it in the NBA. When Vinny was fired and I did a list of potential candidates the only college coach I mentioned was Izzo. Yet, I gave him no chance and he really had none. Yes, the Bulls had some talks with him. I believe it could have been more a favor as GM Gar Forman is a college guy and still close with Tim Floyd. But isn’t it interesting the Michigan State AD says they’ll replace Izzo the moment he leaves. If the Bulls did make an offer, how come there was no big stories of him telling the AD and talking to the team like there have been with the Cavs apparently making him an offer. Why the Cavs would hire some who never coached in the NBA is a mystery and suggests maybe they do think they have lost LeBron. Izzo is a competent college coach, no question. He’s won a national championship and generally does well in the tournament. But guys who have coached in college a long time have no idea who plays in the NBA, how different the game is and how much control you don’t have. They don’t have a chance. NBA guys have little regard for them once they see that. It’s why none ever succeed even though they’re smart guys, and there have been more successful ones than Izzo who have tried. Izzo’s in a weak Big 10 conference and not exactly knocking off anyone’s socks annually with what seems like a slower defensive game. Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah would love that. In the last five years, his teams have finished fourth or worse three times. In the last 20 games last season, they scored more than 80 points once. I don’t know if Izzo has any intention of going to the Cavs as you read that he won’t unless he gets a commitment from LeBron, who is not exactly in that business or mindset these days. So would the Cavs wait until July 8? I can see them doing so. Look, if LeBron leaves they’re done, anyway. Might as well get a name for the sidelines. But why would Michigan State put up with that? Hey, I can understand a $6 million annual salary as an appeal. But I’ve read Izzo makes $3 million for basically working a half year. The NBA is hard work and a long season. And you go to the Cavs without LeBron and miss the playoffs and lose your reputation right away. Plus, who wants to be the coach after LeBron? But he’s not asking me and has done pretty well all these years without my advice. I don’t believe Thibodeau is the next Red Auerbach or Phil Jackson, but he knows the NBA inside out, the players and the tendencies of teams studied over decades. Players want a chance to get better. Not some sidelines cheerleader. I think the Bulls are quite happy with Thibodeau, who, unlike Izzo, hasn’t had to pay to go to NBA playoff games.
Do you have a moment between debunking Lebron rumors to share some of your historical perspective? That is, how do you rank Don Nelson among all-time coaches now that he's the career wins leader? I always thought he was great, but I realize that I don't watch the game carefully enough to see the differences between most coaches' offenses or defenses. With his run TMC, his point forwards and his 7-footers putting up threes, it was easy to see the things he did. Were they mostly gimmicks, or do you see him as a guy who made some really substantial contributions to the way they play offense in the NBA?
Sam: Thanks. All these LeBron questions become somewhat sad, like fans are begging and pleading for the guy. Have some dignity! As Mark Jackson would say—can’t believe I’m quoting that guy—Chicago, you’re better than that! Nellie? I consider him one of the top coaches in the history of the game and a rare innovator as most coaches are mimics of what has worked. Nellie never was afraid to try different things and many coaches have copied him over the years, which, to me, makes him among the elite. The issues that have held Nellie’s back from more public recognition and Hall of Fame admittance are more personal. There are few guys in the history of the game who have reneged on more deals, left colleagues and bosses isolated and betrayed supporters. It comes back to haunt you and Nellie has done it to so many of the top people in the game that they refuse to recognize him. Also, he was something of what Mike D’Antoni is now. Nellie had his system and stuck to it. He didn’t like playing to centers and didn’t like playing much defense. His game, thus, was fun to watch but rarely produced anything near ultimate success, so for the record that is what’s held against him, that he never won. But eventually it will be forgotten and as the winningest coach ever will get into the Hall of Fame.
Its Mike here from Sydney Australia. Im sure you know but the "Lebron to Chicago" talk has hit the smallest towns of rural Australia - i heard even Crocodile Dundee was talking about it whilst throwing another "Shrimp on the Barbie" haha.
My point Sam is that Lebron going on Larry King was worldwide news (we even get Larry King here) and he has taken away from the NBA Finals - how dare he !!
When i was 12 my parents took me to visit relatives who lived in Chicago - my aunt took me to the old Chicago Stadium and i watched Michael,Scottie and Horace tear up Detroit - I fell in love with the game.
No one person is bigger than a Chicago Bulls uniform and if Lebron wants to come to Chicago and bring his entourage and choose his coach and his team mates then i personally dont want him !!
Chicago Bulls fans are loyal - the stadium is constantly sold out and even though management continue to offer huge money to the Luol deng's of the world we still love them.
Its time to rebuild , and we have Derrick Rose who in my opinion is the franchise player. Lets surround him with the Joe Johnson's and Carlos Boozers and begin to rebuild around a strong core.
Forget the rap videos , the huge shoe deals and the hype - thats what LA is all about right?
Nobody is bigger than a Chicago Bulls uniform.
Sam: And it has to come from a guy in Australia who is prouder of Chicago than most Chicagoans. I wouldn’t go quite that far, and I’m quite sure the Bulls will pursue LeBron because you are in this to go for the best. But I would draw the line somewhere. I’m quite sure his entourage wouldn’t get to ride the plane, like they did in Cleveland, and it’s laughable to listen to the Cavs owner now say how LeBron had nothing to do with anything they did. The Bulls would provide LeBron with some of the discipline that would help make him a winner. I’d take my shot and make my best case, but I wouldn’t let him hold me hostage for a long time. Because you can add other free agents to what the Bulls have and beat the team LeBron goes to. Chicago owes you some honorary citizenship.
I have a different kind of Lebron question. Lets suppose that we do sign him. What, then happens to Deng, he obviously becomes useless(of even moreso) to the Bulls, but he has that contract. I assume that the first thing they would do, is look to use him in an S&T for a power forward.
Sam: Yes, here we go again, but it’s OK. I know fans love the fantasy, but as I’ve long said, I’d feel it was a successful offseason to add someone like Joe Johnson, an All Star big guard who can defend and get you 20 per game and would complement Rose. Anyway, to go along with the fantasy, I think LeBron would be fine as a shooting guard as he can play anywhere, those positions are somewhat interchangeable and Deng played a lot of four in more popular small lineups as in the NBA these days you have more small fours, like Antawn Jamison and Rashard Lewis. I seriously doubt the Bulls have much chance of moving Deng’s contract in this economic environment with a new labor deal coming. I’d forget about that.
Who is your ideal free agent the bulls should go after this year that would mesh with our current roster, and our new coach?
Sam: LeBron. I know. I talk about many other guys because I don’t believe LeBron will come to Chicago. But you go for the best no matter what the fit and then figure it out. LeBron’s the best available, and everybody’s No. 1 choice. The sad part is the way LeBron knows it and acts like it. I hated those pretty girls who knew they were pretty. Maybe that’s why I think LeBron won’t come to Chicago. They never accepted my offers for dates, either. He just seems too pretty.
How about a trade for Hedo? Deng for Hedo? It stretches the defense and gives more height.
Sam: I’m sure Toronto would drive him here. I’d say OK if Hedo hadn’t retired, which he appeared he had last season. Deng’s way more productive and motivated than Hedo, younger and from what you read in the Toronto media with way fewer late night habits. That would be a big, Next!
Did you read Peter Vecsey’s article on the Clippers and LeBron?
Sam: Yes, there’s something every day. I read also where LeBron, according to something heard on a Chicago TV station, was supposed to have bought a Gold Coast condo. Heck, in this real estate market, why didn’t he buy the whole Gold Coast? It’s the give me a bogus headline of the day thing. To refresh, Pete’s “source,” who may or may not know, Tuesday said LeBron was staying in Cleveland three years and then going to Brooklyn if the Cavs didn’t win, and Hollywood mogul David Geffen wanted to buy the Clippers because he could bring LeBron there. Well, anyone who knows anything about Sterling knows his history and wealth comes from never, ever selling anything. Buildings, homes, anything. Sterling gets offers for the Clippers all the time and never, ever will sell. And has always said so and proved it by not selling anything. As for this latest destination—earlier this week it supposedly was the now overexposed Worldwide Wes saying LeBron was headed to Chicago—how can this stuff be news every day when the destinations repeat every two weeks? Of course, here I am answering it. I hear LeBron is going to….
No bad blood with LeBron about Larry Brown using him so sparingly on the US bball team (along with Melo and Wade)? No grudge?
Sam: I’ve been asked that a few times since suggesting Brown would be the ideal fit. LeBron was then 19 and coming off his rookie season. Larry would have to play him now. Plus, that was the team destroyed by Iverson and Marbury, and it’s amazing to think back they were Olympians. In fact, they were such an embarrassment to the U.S. with misbehavior even at official international functions Brown tried to send them home during the tournament, but USA told him otherwise. Brown, in effect, had to play them and he didn’t have to play LeBron. Maybe LeBron would hold a grudge, but Phil wrote a book saying Kobe was uncoachable and there was no problem. Plus, it’s exactly what LeBron needs, someone to coach him, run an actual offense based on LeBron’s talents and not his stubbornness, and hold him accountable for his own good. Will he let any coach? It may be the difference in whether he ever wins.
I think I would be safe to say you do not buy into this Lebron hoopla that is selling so many magazines/ newspapers/ internet ads. I’d have to think it’s all about leverage. What benefit does Lebron gain from Worldwide Wes leaking that he’s leaning towards the Bulls unless he had an ulterior motive? I’d say none. I can’t believe that his team is run like a mom and pop operation with one guy able to just blab info to the eager media unless it had purpose other than kindly letting all the Chicago fans know Lebron’s current thinking. It has to be about leverage on Cleveland, no? I admit I bought into all this jazz at first but I can’t see any situation where it improves any stance or contract situation for Lebron to be leaking that kind of information. Secondly, I feel very badly for Gar Paxdorf and the backlash they’re going to receive when we don’t get Lebron; even if the chance never existed. If they thought the Kobe backlash, which the uninformed still think they goofed up, was bad, I don’t think they’ll know what hit them with Lebron. Any thoughts?
Sam: You cannot own a computer? Because most everyone who does by my reckoning doesn’t own any perspective of reality. Yes, it is ridiculous to think there is some benefit for LeBron to be leaking his destination. I also view Wes as less someone who speaks for LeBron or can guide him anywhere or whom LeBron is looking to impress than someone who is around. I give LeBron this. He’s a mature guy with a strong belief in what he wants to do, whatever that is, and is going to do some listening and then make his decision. I think everything is about leverage now and then he’ll feel out the suitors. He probably has an idea what he’d like to do, but it willing to be surprised. And he likes being courted, as he always said about passing on college recruiting. The general consensus, which lacks as much fact as anything but is mostly based on what most so called experts are saying, basically lists the potential order for where LeBron is going now as the Cavs, Bulls, Knicks, Heat, Nets, Clippers. As for the Bulls, I agree they are being run into no-win situation, unless they pull off the virtually impossible, which is LeBron and Bosh. I’d hate to see getting an All-Star in Joe Johnson be viewed as a failure. But this summer is about getting someone and taking a shot at everyone. There are no guarantees and all you can do is put yourself in position, which, by the way, the Bulls have done well at a time I got loads of mail that it was a mistake to do so by giving up Salmons and Tyrus and the flip/flop of draft picks. I don’t hear from those fans much anymore. Actually, I do. I think they are the ones who said don’t trade Salmons and Tyrus, but get Wade, LeBron and Bosh.
Next time you see Lebron, could you please give him a dictionary with the word "humbling" bookmarked? The man misuses the word constantly. It isn't "humbling" when you win the MVP for two straight years, nor is it "humbling" when you meet Michael Jordan for the first time in 9th grade and he already knows who you are (as he recently said on Larry King Live). In fact, it's the opposite of "humbling."
Sam: Yes, kids, as Barkley once said, don’t make them your role models. Especially if you were watching Gary Payton. Actually, people generally are so in love with their sports heroes they overlook the way they mangle the language. Though with this unchecked, unedited internet media now the colonial U.S. seafaring motto of Don’t Tread on Me may go to Dumb and Dumber. Michael Jordan was notorious for his malapropisms as he generally referred to just about everything as a “predicament,” even when he won an award. I remember when the team was in Paris in 1997 and the local media kept asking Jordan what he was doing and Jordan mentioned having gone to the famous museum “the luge.” Which brings me to Kobe. Whatever you might think of LeBron or Michael, this media act of short answers and baleful stares with Kobe in the Finals is embarrassing. The difference with Kobe and those guys is Kobe never knew who he was. So he acts out in now the focused Kobe. Sometimes it’s the playful Kobe or the angry Kobe, but it’s always some character he’s playing. LeBron and Mike were pretty straight forward because they seemed secure in who they were. Kobe always seems to be acting, believing he has to show some image or character for someone. I have spent some time away from basketball with him, an occasional lunch, and he is quite the charmer, funny, relaxed and open. But he wears these masks all the time and this intensity act in the Finals is laughable.
I’m not yet drinking the kool-aid when it comes to Lebron. Did you hear the talk about him trying to get a deal with Nike to sponsor his nationwide interview tour, complete with a different date stamped shoe to commemorate each stop? That sounds like someone stringing everybody along so he can stroke his ego, then re-sign with Cleveland and mess up everyone else’s original strategy from before anyone thought he would leave the Cavs. I say give him first right of refusal to take our available guaranteed money as a limited time offer, but if he wants to do the world tour wish him well and move to plan B. Will the Bulls have the courage to walk away from him and focus elsewhere or chase him and risk having everyone return to the security of their former teams instead of waiting for Lebron to be the first domino to fall?
Sam: That is the big question. As for the sneaker tour, I think Nike denied that, so who knows if it was a trial balloon or publicity stunt. But the interesting thing was most believed it, which tells us all what we think about LeBron and his marketing machine. Actually, pretty impressive. This is what I think the Bulls do. I think they try to make a big move at the draft, like a trade for a top player or to get cap room for a second max free agent. If they are able to do that, they take their shot and go for LeBron. If they cannot do that, they send word on July 1—and the league is watching this closely and threatening millions of dollars in fines—what their plan is for LeBron and how serious he is. Of course, it doesn’t mean that much. But I give him 24 or 48 hours for some sort of solid commitment if I haven’t made that major draft time move, and if he doesn’t give me a strong enough signal I move on. The Bulls with Rose and Noah have a good shot at someone to get better and they can’t let that pass waiting for a fantasy. If I’m the Bulls and I’ve done something big at the draft, I probably play it out figuring I’ve got the best hand. I don’t go down the road too far with a bluff and a hope. Whatever the Bulls do if they don’t get LeBron they’ll be second guessed forever. So you commit to a strategy and follow it and understand you’ll never please everyone.
I remember in Rocky Balboa, the reason for the fight being incited was the simulation of a fight between Rocky and the current champ (whoever it was). If such a simulation was to be done between the team the Bulls would have been in '94 and the Rockets team that had won, how do you think it would play out? I don't think the Rockets team that won those 2 championships would have stood a chance against the later Bulls teams of '97, but I think it would be an interesting matchup. I feel like they would have been more worthy opponents than some of the teams we faced in the finals.
Sam: Was that Rocky VI and XIV? I know I’m not great at pop culture, but I missed that one. I must say I did like Rocky I and II, and little known about me is I had a role in a Sylvester Stallone movie in that era. Hint: I wasn’t Drago in Rocky IV. Many have long dismissed the Rockets titles because of the Jordan retirement, and I’ve mocked them some myself given that backcourt of Kenny Smith and Vernon Maxwell. But of all the teams in the Bulls first great run from 1989 through 1993, no one gave the Bulls more trouble, not even the Pistons, than the Rockets. From 1988-89 through 1992-93, the Bulls were 3-7 against the Rockets and lost every game in Houston between 1988-89 and 1994-95, the last five with Jordan and two seasons he was out. Hakeem offset Jordan and as nuts as he was, and more because of it, Maxwell always was one of the best against Jordan. He played him physically and taunted him constantly. I think even Jordan was a little afraid because Max appeared not to be above anything and most players had weapons in those days. Plus, Horry was a tough matchup for Pippen because he was one of the rare threes who was taller and Otis Thorpe regularly dominated Horace Grant. It would have been a heck of a series and I think the Bulls toughest in all the championship seasons. It’s too bad Houston never quite got there in the early 1990s. If they’d have played twice I could see each winning one series.
I read an article at Yahoo Sports pretty much stating that the only reason the Bulls signed Thibodeau is because he signed with CAA. He goes so far as to mention that his own team, the Celtics, wouldn’t even consider him as a candidate to replace Doc Rivers and only see him as a career assistant. He also states that Gar Forman wasn't sold on Thibodeau, but Jerry Reinsdorf was, again, because of Thibodeau signing with CAA. If this is true, it kind of disconcerts me that a decision of this magnitude is influenced so heavily because a coach signs with the same agency that represents Lebron James. I was really liking the hiring of Thibodeau on the basis of his profound knowledge of X's and O's and saw him as the perfect coach for the Bulls. But now I don't know what to think. If his own team wouldn't even consider him to replace Doc Rivers, why should the Bulls want him to lead a potential championship team into the Promised Land?
Gabriel de Jesus
Sam: You can relax. It was wrong. I usually try to stay away from correcting a lot of the speculation that is out there, though I have heard this one several times lately and anyone who has followed the Bulls knows it is patently untrue. The Bulls openly were interested in Thibodeau in 2008 and Boston refused to allow him permission to interview or talk to any teams and they were in the Finals into mid-June. The Bulls have had interest in Thibodeau as soon as Vinny was fired and he was mentioned in every media report as a top candidate. I had him No. 2 on my list in April. The Bulls didn’t conduct a single formal interview until meeting with Thibodeau. They only expedited their search to relieve him a bit as he turned down chances for the Hornets and Nets without any guarantees from the Bulls. So the Bulls said they’d meet him and give up a thumbs up or down so if he had to he could get on with it. They liked him. If Forman and Paxson or one of them rejected him, Reinsdorf never would have pushed for the hire. He has a long policy you cannot force a GM to work with a coach he doesn’t want. And I know Boston ownership approached him about replacing Doc Rivers if Rivers left, but could not give a guarantee Rivers would leave or Rivers wouldn’t seek an extension, which they’d want to give him. Yahoo does a terrific job in basketball, but this story was missing on several points.
How do sign-and-trades usually come about? Do teams work out the trade and then take it to the player? Do agents drive the process?
Sam: They are not easy because the key is the player decides which team he wants to go to and then goes back to his team and seeks the sign and trade to get more money. That’s what happened with Grant Hill when he went from the Pistons to the Magic. The Magic ended up sending a lightly regarded player named Ben Wallace. The difficulty is often the team the player wants to go to doesn’t have anyone the other team wants. So as I’ve outlined before, there are different things a team could take if it wants, like draft picks and a trade exception, which is the difference in salaries in a trade, and then the team the player leaves from can take on another player from another team it may like more. As I’ve often stated, the difficulty this year is it may be too painful for the Raptors and Cavs to go along with sign-and-trades within the conference to accommodate a player who will come back to haunt them for years. The player can always take five years and about $95 million and then make it up on the next deal, though with the new collective bargaining agreement players are fearing the new rules may limit future large contracts and most want to get the big money now.
I’m a bit confused with the talk about the possibility of picking up Bosh. Towards the end of the season he claimed that he wanted to play for a team that was built around him, so why would he even consider coming to Chicago which is already establishing themselves around Rose (and to a lesser degree Noah)? For that matter, and friendships aside, why would he go to Miami where he would be in the shadow of Wade? Wouldn’t he be better off at New York or New Jersey, both of whom have poor rosters and no stars and where he might have some pull as to what other players are bought in around him? I know NBA players nowadays are fickle creatures who will say one thing and do the opposite, especially if there’s more money in it, but don’t they realise that they come off looking stupid when they do it? Say what you want about the lack of information coming out of the Lebron camp but at least no one knows whether he’s about loyalty to his home town, chasing money or chasing a championship so he can’t contradict himself.
Sam: I often refer to the explanation I heard boxing promoter Bob Arum use at a second day press conference: “Yesterday I was lying; today I’m telling the truth.” Bosh says a lot of dumb stuff and he tweets a lot of other dumb stuff. I think he talked about being “the guy” because everyone was saying he cannot be. I think it hurt his feelings. That said, Bosh is a second guy. He’s proven that in Toronto with a pretty good team that he couldn’t get into the playoffs the last two seasons. Not even top eight in the East! C’mon, and you call yourself a max free agent. That is why I don’t expect Bosh to go somewhere like New Jersey or New York, unless it’s the latter with LeBron. While there is a lot of speculation about all the free agents, you can make some good guesses on where most of them will go. Not Bosh. He seems the most unpredictable, in part, because he’s said to most want that sixth year on the deal and thus the sign-and-trade. Miami was supposed to be his landing spot, but they don’t seem to have anything to make a deal. I think realistically he’s been the Bulls top target, but I assume now with the chaos in Cleveland they’ll pursue LeBron as well.
Assuming both were at the same point in their career, who was the better clutch player and who would you rather have: reggie miller or ray allen?
Sam: Though I am much closer with Reggie personally and have long been one of his supporters well before he was more universally recognized, I’d have to go with Ray, though not by much as a clutch player. Ray’s game is more well rounded and he’s been a more explosive scorer, if not quite the master of the dramatics like Reggie. Reggie’s eight points in 8.9 seconds against the Knicks and some of those other games in the playoffs were the sort of remarkable stuff that Rey never quite reached.
You say LeBron is nowhere in the top 20 NBA players of all time. You state that he hasn't won any champions as a primary reason. I admit he may be too young at 25 to be considered in such elite company, but I do believe he has done as much or more in his 1st seven seasons than any other NBA player. He hasn't won a championship, no, but who has he had as a supporting cast? Mo Williams? Big Z? Shaq? Wilt didn't win a title until he had two other hall-of-fame players on his team. MJ didn't win until he had Pippen. What has Kobe done without an excellent supporting cast? I guess he made to the playoffs by himself, but he didn't do anything there. Actually, I would challenge you to name one player who has done more by himself than LeBron.
Sam: The point is not what you do with excuses but what you do. They didn’t have a top 50 in 1988, but I always recall Jordan saying he wasn’t anywhere near the greats because he hadn’t done anything. But you bring up a good point with LeBron and we will get a chance to find out what he’s about. He does have the chance now to find a so called supporting cast and stop having people like you make excuses for him. He can play with Rose and Noah, Wade, Kobe. If he goes to New York, we’ll know he’s a fraud. If he stays in Cleveland, he has a chance if he allows himself to be coached by a great coach like Larry Brown. After all, they have averaged more than 60 wins the last two seasons. So it’s on you, LeBron. Show everyone who you are.
So much is being written about LeBron's "team" helping to run this free?agency tour. Will this 'team" become a distraction as far as the day to?day functioning of the team that lands him? How much of a presence do?these guys have at practices, in the locker room, and on road trips??From what's written, fans get the sense that these guys are never by?themselves. Is this really the way it is? Was it this way with Jordan??His father seemed to be around the team quite a bit but it didn't seem?like he had a crew of people with him where ever he went.??
Sam: It was never, ever that way with Michael and that is one issue I don’t believe the Bulls want to even think about now. They have never been an organization that allows players to so-called run the show, which LeBron does in Cleveland. For example, LeBron’s buddies were allowed to ride on the team plane. I can never see that being allowed with the Bulls. I asked someone with the Bulls the other day about changing the head band rule for LeBron, which would be no issue, but the response was it hasn’t been something that’s been discussed much. You’d obviously have to do that and pretty much promise about anything to get a talent like James. But, clearly, part of the reason for the Cavs’ playoff failures was the way LeBron didn’t allow himself to be disciplined. You’d hope he has the character to understand, which Michael did. He understood there was a time for team and a time for friends and you didn’t mix them. Kobe, likewise, understands that and has no such liberties from the Lakers as LeBron has from the Cavs. It’s about being a professional. LeBron doesn’t understand that as yet. But Michael did go to North Carolina, which was the big difference. LeBron was given a Hummer in high school. If LeBron did come in and demand he make all the rules, as he does now with the Cavs, I could see the Bulls walking away. Because if he does you won’t win, anyway. You’d hope he’s been humbled and learned from his recent experiences.
Now that we have Scott Skiles back. I mean Tom T., will the Bull's get an extra draft pick? I see this draft having a lot of rotational guys & some possible starters, which makes it perfect for the Bulls.??How about James Johnson & a future pick (Charlotte's pick in TT trade) to Portland for Rudy Fernandez & the 22 pick? I think that gives the Bull's a shot @ Anderson & George or Brackens or Patterson.
Sam: I know fans get excited about the draft, but my sense is it’s a low priority for the Bulls. I believe and I support the idea that the Bulls feel they can compete right now with the right free agent or agents and don’t want more development given they have Gibson and Johnson. I see the picks as possible barter and then using one if they cannot make a deal for a veteran or substantial cap space for a second free agent. As for Fernandez, he’s always on a lot of teams’ wish lists and Portland way overvalues him to the point they generally ask for near All-Stars for him.
Why did the Bulls sign Thibodeau this year, when they passed on him 2 years ago? Thibodeau was a hot coaching commodity two years ago and was mentioned as a possibility when the Bulls hired Del Negro. What changed? Did Thibodeau not make a good impression 2 years ago?
Sam: He never got the chance to interview because Boston wouldn’t let him as they were in the Finals and the Bulls wouldn’t be able to speak to him until after the draft. They didn’t want to wait that long as they had interviewed almost two dozen candidates and the process was getting unwieldy.
I am curious to what Thibodeau's philosophy will be regarding the tempo of the game. Will he take after Van Gundy his former boss and have a slow down game or will take after Rivers who lets his teams push the ball in selective circumstances?
Sam: It is an issue and we’ll see how it develops. He’s been tagged with the defensive specialist title and the view with those kinds of guys is they are slow down control guys, like Jeff Van Gundy, who Thibodeau long coached under. But he has worked for Rivers for a few years as well. The Bulls roster is more geared as of now for faster play and not a grind-it-out game and he’ll have to incorporate that. As I wrote quoting Kobe Bryant in one of my blog pieces when Thibodeau was about to be hired Bryant said Thibodeau helped Bryant learn offense when Bryant was a Philadelphia high schooler and Thibodeau was a 76ers assistant. I think Thibodeau, like good coaches, is capable of adjusting to the talent while retaining the importance of a good defensive base. I believe we’ll see a new, much better defensive Rose as a result.
Would you rather see the bulls pay Joe Johnson a max contract via sign and trade for Kirk Hinrich or pay JJ Redick a little more than the mid level(enough so the magic wont match it) and trust that his skills and his will to win will make up for his lack of athleticism. Then sign one of the free agent big men to a max deal instead. Would being 6'8" and an all star really mean that joe johnson will help us win games more than JJ Redicks hard work and dedication?
Sam: Is this Redick’s agent? Of course, I always prefer the best player and see no correlation between Johnson and Redick other than Redick is a nice bench piece to have. He’s restricted, so he won’t come cheap and thus probably will not be worth it. There are obviously many scenarios and I outlined another today in my NBA column. The ideal would be to trade someone for extra cap space at the draft or be in position for a sign and trade for someone like Bosh to then make a pitch for LeBron or maybe even Wade, though everyone seems to agree he’s settled in Miami and recruiting on behalf of the Heat. I am quite confident Joe Johnson would be much better than Redick and would be an excellent addition for the Bulls if Johnson decides to leave Atlanta.
I wondering if MJ is the greatest ever who's the second greatest. I say Kobe but what do you think? Who are the top 5 to ever play the game? I'd say
1. M.J, no doubt
Sam: I am pleased to get mail from young people as it belies the consensus I am not hip or cool and happenin’, though that you are young seems not much of an assumption here. We can agree on Michael and Kobe clearly is moving into the top 10. Magic is a top five or six guy of all time, though he’s my second team all-time point guard behind Oscar Roberston. As for LeBron, he hasn’t, by the way, hasn’t been on the winning team in one Finals game yet in seven years. Is he a top 20 all-time in the NBA? No. Yes, he has a chance to be an all time great, but he’s not close yet. I’ve mentioned my top at every position before and it’s Oscar, Michael, Bird, Duncan and Wilt. So off the top of my head, second team Magic, West, Baylor, Pettit and Russell, third team Kobe, Isiah, Barry, Hakeem (I‘m making him a 4 which he really was) and Kareem.
What do you think? Leave a comment below: