Ask Sam | Week of 06.21.10
Sam Smith opens his mailbag daily Monday-Friday to respond to the latest round of e-mails from his readers.
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I am not a fan of the Hinrich deal. I can see it if it actually got you to two max deals. But it doesn't. Is Bosh really going to say, "Wow, Joe, Derrick, and I could really win a lot of championships if I just gave up a couple of million per year"? Here's the question: How far off of a second max deal are they? At this point, only 5 guys remain under contract. So even if you have 30 million, the minimums for 6 other players is going to cost $3 million or so? More if they're veterans? Aren't the Bulls then six million or so away from a max contract?
Sam: Check my analysis on Bulls.com from Thursday night. But the Bulls are about $2 million off two max deals for now. They still could make another similar deal in unloading a contract and the 2012 Charlotte pick could come in big for that as you can't trade your own consecutive firsts. But will the difference between $15.5 million and $16.5 million matter to, say, Bosh and LeBron if they can join a Yankees of the NBA? They'd make that up easily as their sponsors contracts would immediately be worth so much more and enable them to do much more lucrative offcourt deals even if it isn't separate endorsements but just what they already have with show companies and such. The Hinrich deal could be a coup looked back on years later as the key to building a dynasty. Unless it doesn't work, of course.
I would just like to express my disappontment in the Bulls trading away my favorite player, Captain Kirk, for nothing. I understand that this clears cap space, but are we going to spend all this money on two guys and fill the rest of the roster with minimum salary players? Just playing the starting five the whole game? Do we have a bench besides James Johnson? It's not even a done deal that we are getting one of these all-stars, and trading away a great bench player for nothing seems foolish.
Sam: I know a lot of fans supported Kirk and I know Kirk is hurt and disappointed by this. He loved the Bulls and Chicago and wanted to finish his career here, and certainly his current contract. But this was one of those bigger than the both of us things. I'll miss Kirk as well as I was closest to him of everyone on the team in recent years because he was such a straight shooter, in a manner of speaking, and the guy I could most talk basketball with. Yes, it's a huge risk and could blow up in their faces if the Bulls fail to sign free agents and end up giving away players and picks for nothing. But when you are going for the jackpot you go all in and take your chances. No more bluffing or posturing. There won't be a huge problem signing bench players as there will be plenty of players looking for jobs this summer and veterans can get at least $1 million, most paid by the league. This is about a shot at greatness which the Bulls had to take.
To me, Hinrich represents the transformation of the Post-MJ Train-Wreck Bulls into the Professional-Hardnosed-If-Not-Quite-Championship-Contenders Bulls we could at least be proud of (Skile's final season not withstanding). I know he had a lot of detractors, but Kirk came to play every night and did as much as anyone as far as changing the culture here. For that, I will always be a fan.
Sam: And he will be missed by the team and on the floor. Often you don't realize what you have until it's gone. I know the new coaching staff cannot say so, but my guess is they are a bit disappointed as well. It won't be easy to build back a team without a player like Kirk who does so many things other guys don't want to do.
Thanks for all the memories Kirk, you helped rebuild a franchise destroyed by itself and helped bring basketball back to life. Every summer and trade deadline, I feared you being moved, but you stayed with the team. You were a good defender, a good shooter, a good passer, but it seems your time as a Bull has run out sadly. I'll miss you Kirk Hinrich, as you are one hell of a good guy and if I can take one thing from you, it was that CSN commercial where you opened up your time capsule and it said "Starting Point Guard in the NBA", and that it is that dreams really come true for wonderful people who work for them.
Sam: I'm sure Kirk appreciates the thoughts.
It seems the Knicks are going the route of the 2000 Bulls in having a big, showy production to attract free agents. How affective do you think that will be? Also, will the Bulls be able to compete with the Heat, especially if they can trade Beasley for even more room?
Sam: Don't gloat yet. The Bulls haven't signed anyone. Look, the Bulls are taking a big risk just as the Knicks are. When so many teams take a big risk there are some losers. But the Knicks are taking the shot and that's all you can ask for now. They have made some errors, especially with draft picks and the roster, that have hurt their chances with the top free agents, you would think. I'd say the Bulls and Cavs are the top two now with the Heat somewhat behind as I don't believe LeBron wants to compete with Wade for attention and the ball. But this is not a game where second matters. It's like last, at least for LeBron. Though I personally would feel good about something like Joe Johnson and another player.
Is it basically a foregone conclusion that Lebron will not be returning to Cleveland? The only realistic options were Cleveland and Chicago. Truly, I could never see him going to New Jersey because of the city itself, New York because he would have no one around him, Miami, because I don't think he would play with Dwyane Wade. The reasons I saw him going back to Cleveland because he had a ton of friends there along with the fact that he might not want to be hated by all their fans and be known as the guy who abandoned them, along with the fact that they could give him 30 mil more then any other team. And i'm not saying this because i'm a Bulls fan and want Lebron James that badly. I just truly don't see a better destination then Chicago. With Miami and Chicago and NY having room for two and possibly more max guys, then does it even seem like Lebron will go back to Cleveland now? Because if he does, Miami and Chicago will still improve with free agents other then Lebron, and all of a sudden Cleveland will be much weaker in the East. I don't see Lebron going back to a team that has to struggle that hard to win a championship, and Lebron knows that if he wants to be considered amongst the best he has to win a championship. Does he really want to see those other teams that much improved while he's still stuck in Cleveland without an excellent supporting cast? And you know Kobe winning the championship and getting all the attention and being considered the best player in the league again hurts his ego.
Sam: Nice analysis. I think that's the way the Bulls and most of their fans see it. Soon we'll find out how LeBron sees it. But it would be something of a sham toward all he says were he to settle for something other than the best winning situation. It's now up to the Bulls to demonstrate they have it. They went a long way toward that goal Thursday night.
What about getting Tracy McGrady on a minimum contract with LeBron and Bosh since he works out in Chicago?
Sam: McGrady might go for that, but he's still a guy who thinks of himself as a key part of a team and the reserves the Bulls fill out their roster with to 13 will be strictly backup type role players who understand who they are and their playing time would be limited. McGrady is too large a figure and ego to fit.
It appears after years of speculation that NBA doomsday is upon us at last. and sad to say, it was the bulls (and the heat) that finally did it. giving away good players like hinrich for nothing? giving away first round draft picks for nothing? trading away essentially every player on your roster like the heat did? i'm pretty sure this is NOT what anyone in the NBA envisioned for free agency and i'm pretty sure that Stern isn't very pleased right now. including the fact that more people were talking during the finals about where LBJ might go then the actual games. do you think we will see some big changes in rules coming soon?
Sam: This is like that 70-game tennis match at Wimbledon. It's not going to happen again. I don't believe the league likes the way a lot of it is gone, but there are going to be loads of changes no one anticipates under the new labor deal next summer which could produce a play stoppage, sadly.
It seems to me that most teams with cap space will be going for Lebron first and that the other players we can get will demand just as much money and so will also have to wait for the teams with cap space to get Lebron out of the way. Bosh was saying that he was pretty much waiting for Lebron to decide and he thought that most free agents would be doing the same. Doesn't the common pursuit of Lebron cancel that fear out?
Sam: Unless it doesn't. Like the Wizards, who decided they couldn't sign a free agent so they took Kirk's contract. Say the Nets decide they can't and guarantee Joe Johnson on Day 1, or the Knicks, who maybe get the message quickly they are out. That's the big risk for the Bulls. What if you swing and miss on LeBron and the others were given 24-hour deadlines and took the money?
Presuming the Hinrich trade goes through July 8 and regardless of which (if any) top-tier max free agent(s) the Bulls sign, I think a fantastic replacement for Hinrich would be Steve Blake. Would the Bulls be capable of signing Blake should they sign to max players?
Sam: Not if they get two top free agents. If they do, you can forget just about any starting level veteran for the bench. I can't imagine many who would take the minimum other than maybe a guy like Iverson who wants a last chance.
Now that the Bulls got rid of Kirk, who will be the Bulls SG?
Sam: LeBron? Joe Johnson, of course, if they sign him. If they can get, say, LeBron and a power forward then it's LeBron some, maybe Deng some, maybe, well, they'll figure that out later while they are polishing their executive of the year awards.
With the Bulls looking to free up even more room to potentially sign Lebron and Bosh, what will that locker room be like? The pressure to win immediately would be incredible, and I was wondering who do you think would be the leader of that pack? I still say Noah And Rose are still the fan favorites and should continue to reign supreme in the locker room, but how can anyone compete with Lebron and his sidekick Bosh?
Sam: That is a great question and I am quite sure considered by no one. I think it will be difficult because it does take awhile to build a team and find the proper roles for everyone. Look, Derrick is quiet, but he isn't passive. He'll want the ball and needs it and LeBron will have to play off it. Bosh won't get it everytime in the post like he did in Toronto. There could be some tension as LeBron ran everything in Cleveland and Noah made it clear to him personally last season he didn't care for a lot of LeBron's juvenile antics. It was clear Noah is not going to fear LeBron like LeBron's teammates did. It would be a heck of an assignment for a rookie coach. The community would expect a championship right away, and when you hear commentators like Jeff Van Gundy say it's not certain that's what they're talking about. But you mostly worry about that later.
(ESPN) posted saying the Bulls are discussing possibly trading Deng and the 17th pick to the Clippers for the 8th pick.
Just wondering if you have heard anything about this.
Sam: No offense to Deng, but if this were offered, the Bulls would have thrown in for Donald Sterling a championship ring and Jerry Krause autographed picture. It was not offered. It’s no secret the Bulls are discussing deals, like Miami did with unloading Daequan Cook, trying to get out of contracts to create more salary cap space as an attraction in their pitch for LeBron James: “Hey, LeBron, we’ve got enough cap room for you to bring along whomever you want—Bosh, Boozer, Stoudemire.” The only way you can do that is offer your pick and get a team to take a player into their cap room. Obviously teams like the Heat and Knicks won’t take players as they also are competing for LeBron. So you look at teams with cap room whom you believe may not have a chance for a major free agent, teams like the Clippers, Wizards, Timberwolves and Kings, and say you’ll give them your pick if they’ll take a player. You aren’t asking—or expecting—anything back. Writing that suggests you do not understand the process.
I understand clearing cap space, but this is getting absurd: The Heat traded shooting guard Daequan Cook and the No. 18 selection in Thursday's draft to the Thunder, in exchange for the No. 32 pick. Can you imagine an NFL team giving away a player AND the 18th pick in exchange for a pick 14 places lower just to save a million bucks?
Sam: That is about clearing more salary cap space to make yourself a better potential destination for LeBron. I also expect within the next few days for the Heat to give away Michael Beasley and then tell LeBron you can play with Wade and Bosh. It’s the Bulls’ greatest fear, which is why the Bulls have been offering their No. 17 pick to get a team to take one of their players. It is a huge gamble because LeBron could stay in Cleveland and Bosh could go somewhere else and then you have given up talent and picks and have nothing to show for it but the hope you can pick up some leftover players and pay them more than they are worth on Ron Mercer redux. But this also is a rare chance to get the two-time MVP, a chance that rarely, if ever, comes along. So the Bulls are going for it and we’ll know more after the draft if they are closer to their goal of the best potential winning package available for LeBron.
I made it back (from Iraq) just in time for the draft festivities. I don’t want Lebron , D Wade, or Bosh, especially after the latter said he was a centerpiece. You can’t take your team to the playoffs but you want someone to build around you? I think they need to go after solid pieces instead of the big three. I think you can grab a Mike Miller or Tony Allen, at the 2 and maybe a Sonny Weems(who they had) at the 3 if they can’t get rid of Deng. I think if you do a sign and trade for one of the big three you hurt yourself long term because I think both Noah and Rose have to be extended in the next two years.
Sam: Welcome back, but the Bulls do want those guys as much as Uncle Sam wanted you. You are even more conservative than I am. But I worry as well about the Big Three. They all seem to be into personal dramas and their own publicity and I fear they could be using you for their media purposes. I believe in building a good team with character, depth, versatility and commitment. You may have heard new coach Tom Thibodeau say at his press conference Wednesday how much he admired who the Bulls are and how they play. I worry about breaking that up. I’d like to add to it as well, though I shoot a bit higher than you with the likes of Joe Johnson and maybe another big I can find somewhere. I’ve seen Asik at the Berto Center and he looks, at least in drills, way more athletic than I imagined. Maybe you add another rotation player at No. 17, which you should be able to. But, again, I believe the Bulls are going all in and I think the fan base basically supports that. Unless it doesn’t work.
I'm impressed with Thibodeau. I know it's only words he threw out there but you can tell he's sincere and he means business. I like that and I think the players they have will like that. You can tell he watches tape on the Bulls because he mentioned the corner 3 that Deng developed through the year. Only people that watch the Bulls would know that. When your coach is prepared and means business, it will only rub off on the players. I'm happy he's the coach. And finally a coach who has the guts to mention Rose needs to work on his D, but he says it in a way as not to bash Rose, but in a way you can tell he's on his side and he's supportive. If we get Bradley in the draft, that could make for some nice matchups in practice!
Sam: Yes, I think he did well. I was up at the Berto and he probably did more interviews than he did in his life combined. He wasn’t flashy, but earnest and showed the traits of a serious coach who knows the job. I’m not saying he’s Scott Skiles, certainly not personality-wise. Reporters weren’t preparing book contracts for books of quotes, but it’s like when Skiles comes to a team. The players and people around listen and watch for a while and say, “Hey, that’s an NBA coach.” The Bulls got a professional NBA coach, and that’s a very good start.
Any news on the development of James Johnson? I noticed Thibodeau didn't talk about him, is he in the future plans of the Bulls? I read somewhere he lost weight and is working on his game, has he improved? I remember Joakim Noah getting plastered all over with his lack of conditioning and supposed attitude problem, two things they say about James Johnson. I think it's just a matter of adjusting to the league, and with a year's experience, is it safe to say, JJ has gotten it or at least there are signs he is getting it?
Sam: He was up at the Berto again Wednesday working out and every day I’ve been up there I’ve seen him up there. In case anyone wondered, by the way, that was Pargo in a cast after hurting his knee in a pickup game and getting a scope. Johnson, as I wrote the other day, looks like he’s lost a lot of weight, which is a good start to taking the game and the NBA more seriously, which he didn’t for much of last season. He is skilled and he began to play defense last season, so there may be something there. I expect him to get a good chance with the team this season.
Did you hear Jalen Rose’s comments? Omg, so exciting. Also, NBA.com reported Rudy fernandez for 17th
Sam: In case you missed it, former Bull Jalen Rose posted on his twitter, and he posts about 45 times a day, LeBron is definitely out of Cleveland and likely going to the Bulls. I actually heard this earlier in the week from a Hall of Fame player who prefers to remain anonymous. It’s nice for Bulls fans, but I do believe no one truly knows what is going to happen once free agency begins July 1 and that things can change fast. There’s little doubt LeBron is going to play this out some with visits from teams or two teams or maybe both. Then other free agents will get in on this, and then as one team executive noted to me the other day it will be one of the most exciting times in the league with the chance to build super teams, and then there’ll be a lockout. Jalen does talk to a lot of guys around the NBA, but I have talked to some of the guys most involved in this and they don’t seem to know what is going to happen. That makes more sense to me. As for Fernandez, I’ve heard Portland has been trying to move up in the first round, though I cannot see them giving up Fernandez to move up five spots. That would be weird. Plus, I don’t believe, at least as of late Wednesday night, they had anything going with the Bulls.
Your take on Allen Iverson's desire to come back into the league. Expected? Surprised? Do you expect any team to take a chance on him? When he left first the Memphis Grizzles and then again when he left the Sixers, I was certain this wasn't the last we were going to hear from him. No contender wanted him last year, what would be different this time around?
Sam: It won’t be different unless it is. It’s was pretty clear Iverson was on a basketball career suicide mission with his desire to start and his constant disruptive behavior. So only a rare kind of contender, really, could take a chance in a limited role. So I had predicted he was basketball’s Barry Bonds, more trouble than he is worth. But once you are away you realize how much you miss it and need it, and there is a chance with Allen if he will take a subordinate role. I could see it working with, say, the Lakers, though it would require Phil being back. I am not surprised he is considering retirement as he has done so for health reasons many times before unbeknownst to many. He’s had some close basketball friends die young, like onetime roommate Eddie Mast. So he does take seriously health and lifestyle issues. I still believe he’ll return for one more season to finish it out that way, but he could easily walk away because I know his concern about enjoying all he’s done and made all these years and taking a mentor role, preferably with the Lakers. Back to Allen, meanwhile, I also see Shaq reaching that stage where he is more trouble than he is worth because of his pride and station in the game, and his career could be over much sooner than he thinks unless he changes drastically.
What do you think of the bucks acquiring corey maggette?
Sam: I was surprised, given Maggette has three years left on his deal and isn’t what you’d call a Scott Skiles player defensively. But Salmons made it clear he’s opting out and I’ve heard he believes he’ll get a five-year deal at more than $8 million a year. If so, good for him, though I’d be surprised. It was clear, and I don’t blame them, the Bucks didn’t want to go for those kinds of years and that kind of money and do need a scorer if they lose Salmons. Corey can score and gets to the line, though he doesn’t shoot threes as well as Salmons. He is sort of in the Stackhouse mold, and Skiles did like Stackhouse. Then later I heard the Bucks dealt for Chris Douglas-Roberts, and I have to believe Skiles is confiscating his Twitter account if anyone has told Scott what that is.
It seems as if strategy for the Bulls is that they are going all in an attempt to land to land two max free agents. Can't say I really understand that too much. Placing the hopes of the franchise on landing one high tier free agent is risky pining for two should land you in gamblers anonymous. I personally believe we already have one marquee player in Rose and a good supporting cast (Noah, Deng, Gibson and Hinrich); seems like we are only one star away. Would love to see them go after Johnson then bring in another veteran rotation player and draft the best available player (preferably Paterson or Henry). Am I over valuing our talent? And could you explain the rational behind trading away assets (Hinrich or Deng, pick) for what strikes me as a huge gamble.
Sam: It is a gamble, and they are going all in as I’ve been saying for some time. I’ve also said I probably wouldn’t as I’m more conservative and still feel stung by the summer of 2000. But I don’t get the intelligence they do from free agents and they must be getting some positive stuff to suggest they can pull this off. Still, I don’t think it would be a disaster if they deal Hinrich and Deng and get, say, one guy because I feel you can replace guys as they’ll have money left. If they trade Deng, they’ll probably have just about for two max players without sign and trade. If they trade Hinrich as well for cap space then it’s two max and another highly paid player, and there will be veterans and restricted free agents looking for deals. Raja Bell, for instance, is a good veterans who’ll be on the market. Guys like that. I’d say there’s a chance to deal Hinrich, though I don’t see how you deal Deng. Still, I’d be fine with Joe Johnson added to the current group and then adding a pick and some veterans, maybe like a Juwan Howard coming back to Chicago to help like he did in Portland last season. But you also have to give them credit as you can’t say the Bulls aren’t trying to win big with this free agency. As I’ve long wrote, the big issue is if LeBron intends to stretch this out a week or more and won’t let you know can you risk then losing guys like Joe Johnson, Amar’e Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer who could sign up elsewhere while you are trying for the jackpot?
If the Bulls can't move Deng's or Hinrich's contract, might Jerry Reinsdorf consider going into the luxury tax to sign two top tier free agents and be in the running for a championship? Didn't he have an astronomical payroll for the late 90s teams with Jordan's huge contract?
Sam: When you are under the cap trying to sign free agents you cannot get exceptions to go over the cap so the luxury tax doesn’t come into play. It only will when the Bulls sign Noah and Rose to extensions in the future.
Why would Minnesota want 4 1st round picks? It's difficult enough to develop one rookie..but 4?? On a losing team?? They must have something else in the works! Is there a big trade coming? Are they trying to get as many picks as they can so they can offer them in sign and trade maybe? Even worse for them...if Wesley Johnson and Turner are gone before they pick, they then have to select ANOTHER big man! Jefferson, Love and Favors?
Sam: I think you have it on the last part. I’ve heard they want to get to three to take Johnson and would use the two picks to trade to the Nets as Rod Thorn has a history of dealing for multiple picks. But I’ve also heard the Nets looking into some other deals, so we’ll see. It should be an active draft day with lots of deals.
How come Jon Scheyer isn't getting so much love? I understand he is a role player at this point, but being a sharpshooter is a good skill to have. Plus, he is 6-5 and has all the character & work ethic traits you look for. There is no reason to think he won't develop much in the same way as Reddick, and although JJ was over-drafted as a lottery pick, its a crime Scheyer is being mentioned in the bottom of the 2nd/undrafted.
Sam: Everyone seems to like him personally. Yes, she has a nice personality… Scheyer hasn’t come across very well in workouts from what I’ve heard with a slow release from low that doesn’t translate well to the NBA, and not enough NBA skill. I’ve heard some scouts mention he’d be a good fit for the triangle offense, but a marginal prospect at best.
I've been reading that Larry Bird is tired of losing and is willing to
deal his draft pick for a point guard. Kirk Hinrich
Do you think
the Bulls and the Pacers would be willing to swap picks as well as
sending Hinrich to the Pacers?
Sam: I’ve gotten several emails suggesting this, but it won’t happen. If the Bulls do deal Hinrich, it will be for cap space. They don’t want more picks and rookies. They like Hinrich. And if he is traded they are short in the backcourt, way short, especially if they do not get Joe Johnson. Yes, LeBron can play shooting guard, but you don’t exactly have him as a catch and shoot guy and the hard working backcourt defender. The Bulls aren’t taking back salaries as I’ve heard suggestions of Jeff Foster or Troy Murphy. Again, this summer is about free agency and if anyone is traded I assume it will be for cap space and not other players, especially not to give up Hinrich that way.
wondering w/ the draft right around the corner if the bulls are considering
to draft ryan richards from britian. I've recently saw some film of him on
youtube and immediately got blown away w/ the talent and atheletism this guy
has. W/ him being 6"11 and I'm guessing he weighs about 245
He's reminds me so
much of noah except he actually has a back to the basket game, and he
handles the ball extremely well for a guy his size.
Is there any possibilty
that he'll be @ the 17th spot for us to get him once everyone finds out
about this guy?
Sam: I’ve actually heard his name more of late, though I hear him more for the second round. If the Bulls keep No. 17, I don’t hear him among those guys. If they trade down for a first and second or two seconds, which is one possibility they are considering, it’s possible.
Im sure you've gotten emails about this already, but realgm has a rumor in the message boards that Orlando is offering Gortat and Pietrus for Deng. If you were the Bulls wouldn't you jump on this deal?
Sam: That doesn’t sound like any real GM to me. There’s zero to it, but like in life, if something seems too good, aren’t you supposed to be suspicious? I guess that’s also why we had such a financial crisis. Too many people believe what they hope is real. Deng’s no giveaway in my mind, but look at it this way: Orlando is paying Rashard Lewis, who really is a small forward, about $19 million. So they’re going to give up their best reserve big man and their best defensive two for another three while probably letting go Matt Barnes because they don’t want to pay him and he makes $1.6 million. Yeah, makes a lot of sense. No, it’s never been discussed or even broached.
The same news organization that claimed the only reason the Bulls hired Tom Thibodeau was because of World Wide Wes's promise of LeBron James is now
reporting that Wes will deliver LeBron to the team who trades for Chris Paul. Either Bulls' Management is feeling pretty duped at this point or
they're busy engineering a Rose-for-Paul trade. Because I certainly couldn't imagine a sports website reporting unfounded rumors nor do I accept
that a sports agent would shamelessly promote himself.
Sam: Shocking, truly shocking! In sports reporting today? It has to shake your faith in humanity.
Where is the love for Luol Deng? Every time some sports pundit/writer talks about why Chicago is a good destination for 2010 free agents, Luol almost never gets mentioned. Yes, Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah are the future of the Bulls, but why is Luol Deng not considered a quality player that can help attract a free agent? He can't help that he has been injured, but when healthy he is a quality player, and would be a great 3rd option on a team with Derrick Rose, Free Agent X, Taj Gibson, and Joakim Noah.
Sam: Yes, Lu is certainly the latest Chicago athlete who gets no respect. Most are in Wrigley Field, but there are branches. Part of the issue is he has been injured, and his body seems to be one that cannot hold up to the full 82-game grind. Fans hold it against a guy when he is paid a lot and doesn’t become a star. But Deng is an asset to the team, a valuable and versatile player who competes. You could do worse, and I would be happy to see him remain with the team.
Wonder if Anthony Randolph is worth the trouble? Really good numbers, though it's sometimes hard to judge stats on Nelson teams. He'll get a steal or two, too.
Sam: He is someone teams feel they can steal these days, so Golden State is probably going to overvalue him given his production and injuries. But it does take a while to get Nelson out of your system. Randolph’s a guy who wants to score and we saw it took several years after he left Golden State for Jason Richardson to finally begin to defend again. There’s too much to unlearn playing for Nelson these days and those guys often are not worth it, though, yes, I’ve long campaigned for Monta Ellis, though he does hate Nelson, which perhaps excuses him some.
It has been well documented that even if the Bulls are able to land a max free agent, they will also need to add a reliable outside shooter. I have heard the names of Ray Allen and J.J. Redick as possible additions to fill this role. I think both of them would be great fits with the Bulls, but the name I wanted to throw out there is Mike Miller. He is a free agent and has made it known he wants to get out of Washington to play for a winning team. I think he would be a great low cost addition to help with the Bulls outside shooting problem.
Sam: Yeah, we’ve been through that before. He can make shots, though he’ll probably want too much money and breaks down way too much. You can almost guarantee he misses 10 to 20 games and he’s now over 30. I’d probably pass and I assume the Bulls will as well.
If Bosh and Lebron are off the table it is clear the next feasible option is Joe Johnson. He would be a good fit for the Bulls in addition to filling our biggest hole on the team right now at SG. That being said, there are some things that concern me about paying Johnson max money. First of all, he has logged more regular season minutes than anyone in the NBA the past five seasons and is fast approaching his 29th birthday. It is clear that he has peaked individually as a player and his production will most likely start falling off in a year or two. If JJ is our best option I would reluctantly sign him to a max deal. But my concern is that the last two years of his deal you will be paying a 33-34 year old guy who has never been a superstar close to 20 mil. That might really put a strain on the books down the road, especially with Deng's contract unlikely to be offloaded. With Johnson we are a top 5 team and a championship contender but do you think it would be enough to get over the hump?
Sam: I think this is the biggest bind the Bulls face. As I’ve written many times, it could be 2000 all over again when the Bulls lost out on Tracy McGrady and Eddie Jones whole chasing fantasies like Tim Duncan and Grant Hill. I think LeBron is going to play it out for a week or more and Toronto isn’t going to sign-and-trade Bosh to the East, at least not without getting a big man back. Everything I’ve heard all season is Johnson loves the Bulls and is close with Rose as they share agents. He’d play well with Rose as a player who could spread the court and fill an obvious need, shooting guard, and at 6-7 a good defender. Of course you, in a sense, overpay because there are more teams chasing free agents than free agents. Simple supply and demand. Remember when there was a housing shortage and what you paid? Yeah, the Bulls might have issues in three or four years. It happens. But you get to add an All Star and probably don’t give up anyone as I can see him coming without a sign and trade. Then you still can make a move with someone like Hinrich and your pick or your future picks and add another player and you’ve got a high level starting group and a deep bench. I don’t see anyone in the East any better given where Rose is headed. I agree you have to take a shot at LeBron now, but I want to find out right away if he’s serious. He can come and have anything he wants, but I have to know within 24 to 48 hours or I’m moving on. If he doesn’t know by then, you’re just being used.
I keep hearing that the Bulls will be looking to either dump Hinrich or Deng at the draft to clear room for another max free agent, when I see that the 76ers got Spencer Hawes and Nocioni for high priced Dalembert it makes me mad that we didn't offer them Deng. The Bulls were very keen on Hawes but took Noah instead but now with a chance to get him on the cheap. Sure Deng is better than them all but they are still good players and much much cheaper and give the Bulls more depth over a 70 games a season.
Sam: I know Deng is the fan favorite to move for more cap room, but I wouldn’t count on it. As for the 76ers deal, Sam had a year left and Deng has four, though his cap figures are higher than his actual salary because of deferred money payments. Still, with a new labor deal coming up that could lower salaries, teams are not anxious to take on contracts with four years left. I’d say there’s little or no chance Deng is traded. I can see it possible for Hinrich with two years left, though we say that every trading deadline.
I wasnt watching much NBA 8+ years ago, did the young versions of Kobe, Jordan, Magic etc. act like the current version of James ? Just wondering if James will grow out of hes "the kind", "the chosen one" period or not. For me thats just a joke... when he actually acomplishes something you can call him the king, till then hes just a regular star player. Besides look at him, he runs faster, jumps higher, and is much stronger than everyone else... doesnt take much basketball skills to be great with a body like that. I'm sure you have watched high school basketball ? see what taller, faster, stronger kids do to everyone else... its the same thing. Imagine what Kobe could do with that body.
Sam: No one was ever hyped coming into the NBA like LeBron. I remember huge buildups for Wilt and Kareem, but that was in an era with less and more responsible media. When Michael Jordan entered college, no one had even heard of him. When LeBron was in high school, his games were on national TV and ESPN, the national sports station, basically adopted James as a ratings vehicle. And then there was James calling himself king. I’ve been tough on him and that’s why: If you call yourself king you better measure up to more scrutiny. But you raise an interesting point which gets forgotten about with all the excitement about LeBron maybe as a Bull. Yeah, they’ll get rid of the headband rule, but LeBron comes with the biggest entourage ever and the Bulls don’t do that, or, at least, never have. LeBron’s guys flew on the team plane and basically decided the team’s travel plans. The Bulls would never go for that stuff, I don’t believe. Would LeBron give that up? Has he been humbled enough yet? There’s way more than this than just the simplicity of it being about potentially having a better chance to succeed. And how good would the self proclaimed king put up with not having the ball in his hands because the Bulls are not about to make Derrick Rose a spot up shooter. Derrick’s got the ball. Hey, LeBron, you’re Scottie! A better one, but not Michael. Really, the way things have gone the last few years and the way the two have developed, would you rather see Rose with the ball at the end or LeBron?
The way I see it, the Free Agency period will boil down to groupings. I think Wade stays in Miami and will probably attract another top free agent to Miami (probably Amare). So that leaves us with the Lebron grouping. Specifically I wanted to talk about the chances of getting both Lebron and Bosh to Chicago. I really think that the best chance for the Bulls to get Lebron is to engineer a deal to get Bosh in a sign and trade. Unfortunately, the only way to make that happen is by giving up Noah (at least the way I see it). If the Bulls offered Noah, Deng, and Kirk for Bosh and Hedo (essentially a salary dump) I think Toronto would jump on that deal. A starting lineup of Rose, Bron, Hedo, Bosh, and say a veteran center like Miller or Ilgaskas would make the Bulls title favorites. I have to admit I'm a big Noah fan, he plays hard, cares about winning, does the dirty work, is a team leader, essentially he is the glue guy that makes the team tick. But to get something good you also have to give up something good (unless you're the Lakers) and for the Bulls that is Noah. So my question to you is this: If it comes down to losing Noah in order to get Bosh and Lebron, do you think Pax would be willing to make that sacrifice. Recent history indicates that he won't. If you recall Pax refused to give up Deng to get KG, and he refused to give up Deng to get Gasol. So from your dealings with Pax, do you think he has learned his lesson of not overvaluing his players and making the big move when you have the chance to acquire superstar players.
Sam: No. I do think they were trying to give up Deng and about everything else for KG. For Pau, they felt then—and most around the NBA agreed—the way Deng was developing he’d be as good. OK, that was wrong, but Pau can’t be your best player, and he would have failed at that in Chicago as he did in Memphis. Look, he’s playing with one of the best ever and still gets criticized. But it’s an interesting point and one I’ve posed before. To get quality, you have to consider giving up quality. I agree it’s going to be tough to get Bosh in a sign-and-trade without Noah. With him, I think they do it in a second. But there still are questions about Bosh—plus, then you can’t do the sign-and-trade with Cleveland and LeBron would have to make less than Bosh. Would he do that? I think it’s become a moot point after last season. I also believe Noah has become untouchable in the notion that there’s no way they can replace him and Bosh, though his rebounding numbers are good, isn’t the defender or even close. And he doesn’t want to play center. And if you get Bosh without LeBron, you’d probably be worse than you are with Noah. I seriously doubt the Bulls consider it and I’d have to agree.
Assuming that the Bulls expect to sign a free agent for the max salary (or near the max), and they will have limited dollars to spend to fill out the roster, would it make sense to trade the No. 17 pick in the draft to someone like Oklahoma City for the Nos. 26 and 32 picks or to New Jersey for the Nos. 27 and 31 picks or to Washington for the No.30 and 34 picks. This is premised on the experts' opinions that, this year, there is not much difference between players that will be picked in the last half of the first round and that there is a deep pool of talent so some potential first rounders will drop to the second round, so the Bulls could add more than one player to improve depth and replace some of the talent they lost as free agents. (I'd like the No. 26 pick - it is the Bulls lucky number.)
Sam: I like that idea if the Bulls could pull it off. You save some guaranteed salary that would go on your cap, and I’ve heard several GMs say once you get past the top 12 or 15 from there through midway through the second round you can get the same kinds of players. At this point, I think the Bulls could use roster depth and I’d be for something like that.
What do you make of the Steven A Smith comments regarding his sources claiming that LBJ's people are asking more questions about the Knicks and that he is leaning towards the Knicks? If he goes to the Knicks he does not care about winning.
Sam: There’s always been that possibility, though I expect you to hear from many, many more sources with special inside knowledge over the next several weeks about where they are sure LeBron is going. Right now, I have the order as Cavs, Bulls, Lakers, Clippers. Though that should change, according to sources who may or may not know, before this even appears.