Ask Sam | Week of 06.28.10
Sam Smith opens his mailbag daily Monday-Friday to respond to the latest round of e-mails from his readers.
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With all the hoopla and all the wishful thinking going around, can you think of an instance when a free agent in the prime of their career (or near their prime) was willing to take less money (as in millions) to A) play for a contender, or B) allow the team to bring in some other high level player?
Justin L. Nestel
Sam: No. So we’ll see if there’s a first time. It’s what everyone with cap room is fighting and why the rules favor players staying home, which the first day of free agency seemed to confirm. The question now becomes if you are the best player in the game or one of the best, like LeBron or Wade, can you live with making barely more than Rudy Gay and much less than Joe Johnson?
Well, before any final decisions are made, I'm sure Gar and Pax want my input. Tell them Bosh doesn't play D, has a bum knee, and is afraid of centers. Amare plays even less D, has a worse knee, and doesn't rebound. Boozer is all of the above and short. No max deals for any of these over rated power forwards. Gibson is a better option then all of them.
Sam: What fun are you? There is something to what you say, however. Toronto doesn’t seem all upset about Bosh leaving. It reminds me of the old story of Ralph Kiner, who led the National League in homers seven straight seasons and then was traded. Asked how the team could do that, I think it was Branch Rickey who said of the old last place Pittsburgh Pirates with Kiner, that they could finish last with him or without him. That said, the Bulls have the money and need a power forward and it’s not like there are many Karl Malones or Tim Duncans around, so you take the best you can get. I believe the Bulls will be a better team with any of them, though the expectations will be way out of proportion with the reality. None has truly been difference makers and the only ones really are LeBron and Wade.
And the 2010 Jim McIlvaine Award for the most absurd contract extended to an NBA free agent goes to… Drew Gooden, who signed a five-year, $32-million deal to join the Milwaukee Bucks.
Sam: It ranked right up there with Jefferson opting out. I guess the Spurs promised him a long term deal if he did so to save them luxury tax money and enable them to sign Splitter. But he better hope Boozer isn’t giving management advice on strategy. Jefferson? You say you played for us? I’d quickly condemn the Bucks signing, and there was a what’s the hurry factor to it with Gooden. But I don’t underestimate anymore what Scott Skiles can do with a player he wants, and they don’t bring in players Scott doesn’t want. But with Gooden and Maggette both black holes with the ball, this should be Scott’s greatest test.
I know Luol has about 4 years and 51.3 million left on his deal. It goes from 11.3 to 14.3 from 2010 to 2014. They guy averaged 17 points and 7 rebounds last year and 18 points and 5 rebounds in the playoffs. He was healthy the majority of the year last year. I just don’t understand why his contract is so hard to trade…when 3 years ago everyone had this guy pegged as future All Star. Now granted, he hasn’t lived up to the hype with the health issues; but how can Boozer….a guy who is as unhealthy as they come get 13 to 15 million a year contract? I’m sorry; but if you put Luol on a team with a big who can dominate inside….and all Luol has to do is spot up, shoot, and slash….I think the guy can for 20 points and 10 rebounds a year. It’s not Luol’s fault he has never played with a dominate big. Why are GM’s like Colangelo not interested when Luol is better than any SF he has on his team right now? At the very least…the Bulls should look to trade Luol to NY for a sign and trade for Lee or see if we can trade Luol (we would have to break out of the deal with the Wizards) and Hinrich to Denver for Carmelo Anthony.
Dennis L. Bonner
Sam: Of course, if you like him so much why do you want to trade him? Yes, he plays the same position as LeBron, but attracting LeBron is hardly a given. I like and have supported Deng, but he’s unattractive in this NBA environment because off four years left and a history of injuries. He doesn’t spread the court with his shot, which threes are asked to do a lot these days. With the new labor agreement coming, the priority of teams not clearing space is to get rid of their long term deals because the maximums and lengths may change. Deng looked like a developing star a few years back. The league’s annual GM survey agreed. It hasn’t worked to that extent, so he’s going to remain with the Bulls and 17 and 7 isn’t bad.
I know I’m probably the only one saying this, but I think Luol Deng will continue to improve and should evolve into an All Star caliber player. Were he not hurt most of the last three years and playing overseas in the off season for Britain, he would have continued to develop his game. He’s still very young and athletic (fractured bones aren’t as lasting as knee injuries and I expect him to fully recover). His defense has improved (especially under Skiles and going against Nocioni in all of those practices – he rarely gets rattled by physical play). His range has improved (he’s an okay to decent three point shooter now – who knows with practice where he’ll be in a couple of years). He’s a slasher who can break down a defense and hit a high percentage on a mid-range jumper. He’s a mature kid who’s a hard worker and has a good attitude. I know the fans have vilified the guy, but, basketball’s a physical sport and Deng does go for rebounds. Injuries will happen. Michael Jordan had a broken foot and terrible tendinitis in both knees – didn’t ruin his career or body of work… He should be the third or fourth scoring option. Expectations have never been lower for him. I hope he proves his critics wrong… Do the Bulls make a token play for Dirk or are they too busy with the other free agents?
Sam: If the Bulls cannot get LeBron, you are their brightner. As for Dirk, I wouldn’t think so given his age and how much he’d need to make given his salary starts above the max LeBron would get since he comes in under the old deal. And no one basically wants to get into a bidding war with Cuban.
Do the Bulls have the mid-level exception? Also, if the Bulls were to get someone like Bosh and not max out for a second player, what type of players can they get for the remaining money? They should be able to fill out their roster a little bit better with that chunk of change.
Sam: There are no exceptions when you are under the cap and the Bulls will have none. If the Bulls get Bosh or Boozer and then are shut out on LeBron and Wade, they’ll likely look for a shooting guard and I’ve mentioned several like Mike Miller, Randy Foye, J.J. Redick, Ray Allen and Ronnie Brewer. Even if they get to max guys, there’s going to be a hole at that position as Ray most likely will return to the Celtics.
I still think we need to look at the third tier FA's that are available that could help re-build the team. Getting LeBron is a long-shot and if the current rumors on Bosh are true he might end up in Houston in a sign & trade deal, although he is still my first option. Still interested in Al Jefferson as a flyer if we get shut out in Free Agency, but don't know how we can get him unless we do a deal with them similar to the Hinrich deal. The heat is on the Bulls this time and past history says it don't look good. Survival is not a choice, it's required to ultimately succeed.
Sam: Yes, it’s a day in and we’re already resorting to philosophy. I know there’s this LeBron or bust desperation, but imagine what it’s like in Cleveland. The Bulls will talk to David Lee, but I think they end up doing better than him.
Do the Bull's want to keep Brad Miller. Do the Bull's own Larry Bird rights and can go over the salary cap
Charles E. Miller
Sam: You have to renounce everyone to get under the cap to make the offers. Brad no longer has any connection with the Bulls and isn’t likely to return because he is getting some decent offers. But he had a good season for a guy whom not much was expected of, and you have to appreciate that. With Noah’s injuries, he played a huge part in helping the team make the playoffs. And he’s a tough competitor the Bulls will miss. I know how much fans are into glamour, but Brad is the kind of guy, like Hinrich, you’ll miss because of toughness and locker room effect. You don’t win championships with All-Star teams, and no matter whom the Bulls get there will be major questions on putting together a roster that stresses team building amidst the star chasing and gazing.
The NBA is a star based league so we'd all like to see the Bulls get 1 or 2 of these top players. But is it really armageddon if they don't? If they sign 1 sub-max player now (Boozer for example) or don't get a big free agent at all they still have two young developing players (3 if you count Gibson), they've gotten rid of another bad contract (Hinrich: good player, over paid) and you have cap space to make moves after the new CBA goes into effect and the players will make less money. LBJ, Bosh and Wade are all worth the max to me, but depth is going to be a problem for any team that signs a couple of these guys so teams that make their moves (admittedly lesser ones than the likes of adding LBJ) after the new CBA will have the opportunity to have more mid-level talent to add to a homegrown superstar (Rose, Roy, Paul etc.)
Sam: Like I just said, everyone is getting a max. It’s a players market. Three and four years from now some of these contracts are going to be among the worst in league history. But you sell tickets now and you can only win the next championship to be played. It’s a short term world now. Everyone wants instant results, twitter, whatever, blogs, to know right away. The depth of our society is waning in place of immediacy. There’s no question we are getting dumber with more access to information. It’s why I’m personally grateful to have landed here at Bulls.com as they let me examine a topic, which is rare in media these days. Have I gotten away from the question? Oh yeah. I am fine with a team building focus, though I think the fan community would be angry and devastated. The key is Rose as he can be a top five star. When you have that you can get guys to play off and with that if you are smart. The 76ers made the Finals with Iverson and four reserve/role players. I believe the Bulls will be fine given they didn’t destroy their team like the Heat and Knicks did. They could lose the p.r. battle, but everyone will return if they win. In the end, that’s the only press conference that matters.
Joe Johnson ain't worth that. Let Atlanta be stuck with an broken down old guy making a zillion bucks who's had one look at the conference finals and whose most recent post-season pretty much stunk. He's been averaging up close to 40mpg since he's 22. It's not the years it's the miles. The whole thing smells a lot like a Ben Wallace outcome, except worse because it doesn't look like they can front end load the contract. Don't get me wrong. Good for Joe Johnson. I'd like it if I could get that lucky. He's a smart guy because it looks a great deal like these Monopoly money contracts might be scarcer after next year.
Heard and Paxson would be dumb, dumb, dumb if they got sucked into this one. I think that if Bulls pick up a fairly good but not necessarily great player, they can compete with ATL. Bibby is towards the end and I'm not so sure that they have anyone that can handle Rose, who is a bit of an equalizer.
Johnson would have been nice, but not that nice.
Sam: As everyone knows, I was a Johnson guy because I thought he was the easiest to get. Here’s no way seeing those half filled arenas in Atlanta and Memphis you could have figured these deals. Right, good for Joe. He won, but he’ll never have a ring. Again, follow the money, eh?
What are the bulls going to have to sell to lebron at their meeting to make him want to come and play for chicago and what are they going to sell.
Sam: I think the pitch is pretty good: Best combination of roster (New York and Miami have no one left) and market size with access to big business and international markets. New York is bigger, but the teams are lousy. Miami has Wade, but the market is nearly third world. If you want your best combined chance to win and profit off the court, it’s Chicago No. 1. Then it’s on him. You can’t offer much better than that.
With respect to salary cap, could the Bulls renegotiate Luol Deng's
contract to knock $3 million off next year and add it to his contract
the following year? If that can't be done, how can the Bulls add two
Sam: You can’t renegotiate down. The Bulls have to hope two free agents agree winning trumps everything and will take a bit less on the notion once they win they’ll more than make it up on the outside. That’s generally a tough sales job in pro sports.
It looks as if Joe Johnson is already off the market as the word is that he is going to accept a max contract from Atlanta. This is just one more example of why the owners want a new collective bargaining agreement: They need the agreement to save them from their own stupidity. Atlanta is going to spend at least 3 years regretting its decision as both Smith and Horford contribute more to winning than this guy does. And the problem with this is that Atlanta can’t get past Orlando because they aren’t long (NBA word) enough. I know you agree with the Bulls strategy of going after 2 guys, but don’t you think they would have been better off keeping Hinrich and then going after just one guy and offering him the max through a sign and trade. I think this Johnson thing is a sign of things to come, except possibly Bosh. We’re going to be looking at scraps. Well not really, but I think we're going to be looking at 2nd tier guys and overpaying.
Ron de Mexico
Sam: As I’ve said, I’m on board with the strategy because of the once in a lifetime nature and the chance to take a shot. There was no shot at the big prize without Kirk’s money. The Bulls understood that. If you had kept Hinrich, you couldn’t make an offer to LeBron or Wade, the two difference makers, and you had to at least keep that possibility open. But this is why all leagues basically have to have a salary cap. The owners basically are fans and will spend themselves into destruction and the trickle down would kill several franchises. I know the argument is if they are that stupid they deserve it, but eventually the fans pay like with Ted Stepien in Cleveland as the league had to impose that no consecutive trading of first round picks. Basically everyone but LeBron and Wade will be overpaid. It’s the price of a lack of enough true great talents.
It looks like the Lakers are going after Ridnour or Mike Miller.
Sam: They need a shooter and they fit with Phil being back. Lucky guys. Turns out it’s a great time to be a free agent, even not a very good one. $30 mil for Mike Miller who plays generally a half season? Is this a great league, or what?
This would be a good trade for both teams:
Toronto gives: Bosh, Hedo
Chicago gives: Deng, Gibson, and 3 future 1st rounders
Both Hedo and Deng have horrible contracts, but you might as well get some production out of someone with a bad contract. Deng averages more PPG and RPG than Hedo, and is a lot younger. Gibson also gives them a young hard-working piece to work with, although he isnt a center, and some future 1st rounders, and a big trade exception. Bosh also gets to go to the team he wants.
The Bulls would recieve Bosh and some more cap room for another free agent. Would this actually be possible?
Sam: For their own reasons, the Raptors have made it fairly clear they do not want Deng or Michael Beasley. The Bulls and Heat will have to get more creative.
If we sign 2 good free agents, doesn´t matter who ( Lebron, Bosh, Wade, etc ), in two or three years, we will have to resign Derrick´s and Joakin´s contract. What you think will happen, when this come up with no room for more cap?
Sam: The Bulls will pay. I know there’s this thing having been put out there lately by ESPN that the Bulls won’t pay. It’s true except for the facts. Michael Jordan in 1988 got the biggest contract in the history of team sports when the Bulls ripped up his deal when he still hadn’t gotten past the second round and paid him triple what Magic and Bird were making. When free agency came, and it didn’t work, but the Bulls paid Ben Wallace $12 million more than he was even being offered by the team he helped win a title for, the Pistons. When Jay Williams voided his contract, the Bulls paid him anyway. Reinsdorf gave Jordan the chance to play pro baseball and paid him his basketball salary at the time. In 2000, the Bulls were planning to blow everyone out of the water with the biggest offers ever when the league changed the rules and put a ceiling on maximums. The Bulls took players they didn’t want in a sign and trade so Scottie Pippen could make $40 million more than he could on the open market. The is stuff being put out there by other teams to diminish the Bulls chances. Too bad in this media era there is little institutional memory or fact checking. I know. I’m an angry dinosaur.
If the NBA goes into a lockout in 2011-2012 (or beyond), how does that work
with player contracts. So if a player this summer signs a 5-year deal and
there is a lockout for all of next season, does the contact pick back up
with 4 years left when play resumes in 2012-2013? Or will there be only 3
years left in 2012-2013, even though the player didn't play during the
second year of the deal?
Sam: The players don’t get paid and the contract picks up from its original term and length.
I keep reading that the Bulls have met with D-Wade and have meetings
scheduled with Lee, Bosh, and LBJ. What about Boozer? I thought I'd read
that he was higher on the list than David Lee.
Sam: I’ve heard they’ve met with him already as well. No word on whether they’ve met with Ron Mercer yet as this list is getting awfully long.
Are you surprise the Bulls are not the first team to visit Lebron James because they might lose in the sweepstake.
Sam: I don’t know if it was luck or design, but I think the Bulls got the best of it by coming in last, at least among the suitors before the Cavs. Then they basically get to ask what everyone promised and explain how they’ll beat it. If I could choose I’d want to go last.
I just read your free agent predictions and I would be thrilled if the Bulls could add Chris Bosh as you predicted and then add a shooter as well. I agree that it looks highly probably that Bosh will leave via a sign and trade. However, I don't think the Bulls will be the team that will be able to pull this off. I know you suggested that they offer a package of Taj Gibson, draft picks, and cash but I think the team that could very well land him is Houston. They can offer a better a package of young players and expiring contracts. They also could offer their 2011 pick which can be swapped with the Knicks as well as the Knicks 2012 pick. With Yao there Bosh wouldn't have to play center and he is from the state of Texas. I hope I'm wrong but I just don't see the Bulls being able to land Bosh unless they change their minds and decide to include Noah in a package.
Sam: The Bulls certainly hope you are wrong as well. As I’ve said, Bosh remains the mystery man in all this. If only because he keeps tweeting his feelings as he awaits his job interviews. He may be the second guy ever to thank his psychiatrist. If he goes to Houston it would set off a major chain reaction and make Carlos Boozer and David Lee very rich guys. I’m hanging in that Bosh sees the advantage of playing with Rose and Noah and understands how much twitter material he can get from hanging around with Noah.
Are you surprised that Rudy Gay didn't hold out for a more lucrative deal?
If the Knicks struck out they could've given Gay a better deal than the one
Sam: He got more than he could have gotten on the open market. Wow! This is officially out of control. The market is going nuts. Are we talking a Bull market?
Where do you think the free agents are going to land? Here are my predictions:
Amare: New York
I'm not sure the Bulls will get Bosh but if LeBron stays in Cleveland, Wade stays in Miami, Johnson stays in Atlanta, Bosh isn't going to want to go join any of them, he'll want to be the main man someplace and Chicago has the best "core" (which actually means Rose and Noah and two second year players.) Lee to the Bucks is my real stretch. They want to put a good team together and he could fit in well there getting Bogut's garbage. At this point, I'd just like it to be over.
Sam: The Bucks thank you. It’s a reasonable guess and pretty close to my thinking, which I put on Bulls.com after midnight Thursday. I’d say if the Bulls could get Bosh, it would have been a very successful free agency. And, yes, we all are exhausted by this.
Bulls fans have been hypnotized by the possibility of LeBron coming to town but the first call the Bulls need to make tomorrow night is to Chris Bosh's agent. He is the key piece for the Bulls and we should use the most recent NBA history as our guide. The interior size and length of the Lakers was simply too much for the Celtics to overcome even with all their talent on the perimeter. Gasol and Bynum allowed the Lakers to dominated the backboards and this was the key to the series. Kobe wasn't that outstanding in the finals but the Lakers interior defense and rebounding was dominant. The Bosh/Noah combination gives the Bulls a very similar setup on the interior. Tom Thibodeau said at his introduction that the Bulls were going to be an inside to out team. Bosh makes this possible much more so than LeBron. The Bulls can win with Bosh and any of the three perimeter free agents. Not so sure the Bulls can win with LeBron but not Bosh. Back up the truck for Bosh and then hope you can get LeBron, Wade, or Johnson to join him.
Sam: I guess that’s also why I’ve come down just barely onto the side of Boozer over Lee. Yes, if you could get Bosh, but the Bulls have no sign and trade options for now and most believe that is what it will take. I know he’s not known, but I’ve seen Omer Asik at the Berto a few times lately and he is athletic, he’s huge and he’s been playing pro ball at a high level in Europe. Sure, my first choice after LeBron would be Bosh as it seems clear Wade isn’t leaving Miami. But after that I’d seriously consider, assuming LeBron were out of play, Boozer and then enough bucks to sign Asik and then a shooting guard and with Deng, Gibson, et al, I feel I can compete. It’s doubtful there will be any so called super team, so with that group led by Rose you have a shot. That’s a start.
How great does that Eddy Curry trade still look to the Bulls? Not only did it ultimately land Noah who will be vital to possibly landing Bosh (who adamantly wants to be a 4 not a 5) and James, but it sandbags the Knicks right now. They would love nothing more than to unload his bloated deal, but who is going to take him? And what do the Knicks really have to offer with only room for 2 guys? That still was a great, great trade, and when people mention the Kirk Hinrich unloading being vital if the Bulls do net LeBron, you still have to bring up that Curry trade from years ago. Without Noah we are not a playoff team the last 2 years as well. The point is management has some great things for us to be in this position, to have the best nucleus and to be the most attractive option for the best player in the league.
Sam: Gar, is that you writing again? Of course, the Deng contract is limiting the Bulls a bit as well. But that’s the point. No management is perfect. Only fans and columnists who work in retrospect only. The Bulls basically have a very good record in the draft and have done well of late in trades. They got lucky with Rose and they have put themselves in great position to make a big score. That’s all you can do for now. If LeBron and/or Bosh are signed, it’s a coup. If they are not and can still build a team they clearly are trying to win. Everyone wants their team to guarantee it. It’s not easy, and hardly anyone does it. Look at the Cavs the last two years. And now they are on the verge of being broken up. They did all they could, but events didn’t work for them. In the end, I think the Bulls will be somewhere between great and OK, probably more toward OK.
The report is that Bosh appears headed to Miami in a sign and trade. If
he's off the table, I believe that attempting to acquire Al Jefferson may be
wiser than signing Boozer or Amare. He's 25 and has a more reasonable
contract (3 yrs, $42M) than Boozer or Amare would command on the FA market.
Each of the three has a checkered injury history, so why not go after the
youngest of the bunch? I only suggest this because the rumors (I know, I'm
sure they're ridiculous like most have been lately) that Minnesota is trying
to get rid of him for more cap space and a more athletic 4 (Taj Gibson?). I
wouldn't give up Noah for him, but if he could be had on the cheap, then I
think he's a better acquisition.
Sam: He is not coming on the cheap, as I know Minnesota values him as a major piece to trade. I would be interested as well if you could not get Bosh, though Boozer might be a bit better given his experience. But, yes, there’s the trust factor with Boozer. It seems unlikely to me the Timberwolves would want Gibson as they plan to keep Love and Love/Gibson is way too small a forward line. Also, Minnesota doesn’t have interest in Deng from what I’ve heard.
Just heard that Paul Pierce is opting out of his last year with the celtics. Will he be a good fit for the Bulls? ... with the trading Kirk away and now with Thibs as our new coach.
Sam: I assume that is like with Nowitzki a way to get locked into a better deal. Plus his max starts at some $20 million, so he’s way too high and given his age and he plays the same position as Deng and was pretty much a dog until Garnett showed up, it certainly wouldn’t appeal to me. I know fans basically are into a name and a star, essentially a toy, but this also is about team building and Pierce would be a disaster along those lines. It’s nice to have big names, but you need a team, and all these free agency teams already will be hustling for talent given their rosters are so depleted. Once the top names are off the board, I think you are better off going for pieces that fit what you have despite the lack of star power names.
ESPN is reporting that Carmelo is available. Could Deng, Gibson and Charlotte's pick get him? If you fill in David Lee as well that becomes a great team and Anthony doesn't need the ball as much to be effective.
Sam: Actually, it was the Denver Post. I’ve long written Anthony as a Knicks target for 2011. The question long has been would he stay for the money as the maximums may go down in the new labor deal next summer, or take a shot at free agency. If he doesn’t sign with the Nuggets, you have a fairly good chance of losing him to free agency next summer. Of course, you could sign him given it would be a better team and bigger place. But I’ve already heard the Nuggets turned down Al Jefferson and three or four first round picks. Does what the Bulls have sound better than that? Of course not.
Do any of the top-tier free agents care about winning more than they do about money? I am not talking huge pay cuts but maybe 1 or 2 million to be on a great team. I know that Amare is all about the money if not he would stay with Phoenix. Didn’t Jordan take a pay cut his last couple of years?
Sam: Jordan made the most anyone has made in the history of team sports his last two seasons. He once gave up $100,000 so the Bulls could sign and extra guy. He thought it would be Walter Davis. When it was Dennis Hopson that was the end of his largesse. Magic did it once as well with about a million, as I recall. But, no, the player ethic and the advice from their people is to get what you can since it’s a short career and it’s up to management to do the rest. Shaq wanted to stay in Orlando because they were loaded with talent, but went to L.A. when they offered more and Orlando hesitated. The other issue is there is no guarantee of a great team because these rosters have been so depleted because of free agency. So if you give up some salary to play with another so called great player—and is Bosh so great if he cannot even get his team to the playoffs?—there’s hardly a guarantee you win. So why do it? That’s why free agency is such a risk. The home team can always pay more and it’s difficult to advise a player to take less while he sees someone making much more, like Kobe, and winning.
This just in (likely from Chris Broussard or Dan LeBetard): After the Miami Heat complete their free agency coup de etat by signing Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Ray Allen they plan on filling out their roster by signing Magic Johnson, Clyde Drexler, Wilt Chamberlain and Meadowlark Lemon to minimum contracts. No word yet on whether David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon will join the fold.
Sam: And I was just about to report Michael to return to the Bulls for a minimum. Remember, he said at the Hall of Fame speech last year until 50 don’t count him out.
Do you think Charlotte would trade tyson chandler for Luol Deng? Rumors are that they want to trade chandler....he could be a Defensive C the bulls need if they need to trade Noah to get Bosh in sign/trade?
Sam: I always thought Larry Brown was the one who said Tyson might opt out. Not Tyson. It’s been a brutal few years with Tyson given injuries and who knows if he’s healthy or can stay that way. Plus, Noah has that job now and Tyson’s not worth it being an eight figure backup. Plus, it was tough enough to get rid of him the first time.
Is there any way of knowing who the Bulls would have picked with #17 had they kept it? Avery Bradley, Eric Bledsoe, and James Anderson all would have been intriguing in a Bulls uniform.
Sam: Can’t have your cake and eat it and all that. They had to make the choice to have the shot. Based on the way the draft went, I’d say Bradley, Elliott Williams or Damion James.
You covered politics for a while. Which gets uglier: political campaigns or teams’ campaigns for free agents this year?
Sam: It’s still politics, and the reporting is as bad in both, but free agency ugliness is getting close and I think will get worse this week. It would make great reality TV to be in those meetings and hear what teams are saying about other teams.
June was the Month that was Much ado about nothing, something, and everything possible! I'll say it - I so not want LeBron James on the Bulls.This Free Agent season is very entertaining and I do look forward to seeing how the brass throws the cash. Still trying to understand how a team trades "something good" for "nothing" to be in position for "something better" but that is pro sports today. Regardless of Brad Miller staying or going the Bulls need another center, a power forward that scores, and a strong SG. I would rather see Taj back up Luol (assuming both stay) and JJ back up the new 2. The lower cost reserves are just as important as the Free Agents signed since the Bulls roster is down to 5, 6, or 7 players. So Sam, did Pargo work out for the Bulls last year and is he the backup PG for next? I think we need better backup for Rose. Looking forward to July!
Sam: You may, unfortunately, get your wish on James. It is shocking the way they had to give up a starter and their best defender for a chance, but that is what this became as we all know and I think most fans and media would have agreed..unless it doesn’t work. This for all these teams hasn’t been about team building but star attraction. We’ll know in a week or so as I think this will go quickly whether there is a star to be had, and then there’s plenty of team building to do. But what the Bulls have going for them more than the others is a core already to build around with Rose, Noah, Gibson and Deng. So they have a head start no matter what happens. My sense at the end of all this will be that the Lakers still are the favorites for next season.
Why does the NBA have a 7-day moratorium on
During those 7 days, how do teams reach agreements that are enforceable and
upon which they can rely with these players? I imagine, a player will get
an offer open for perhaps 48 hours in an in-person meeting or by phone. As
soon as the player or his agent faxes/e-mails the team in writing of an
acceptance of the offer, terms of the deal are memorialized in writing
(though no official documents bear any signatures at that point until the
formal signing July 8th).
I imagine there are less scrupulous teams that rely foolishly on oral
assurances, only to have oral agreements rescinded within hours or days. I
suppose that these types of mistakes reveal the difference between
organizations with professionalism and sloppier operations.
Are written agreements between players and teams that close a
deal before July 8th enforceable - in other words, may a player still find a
way to rescind after agreements are recorded in writing?
Sam: The league needs at least a week to figure the exact cap figure for the next season. They tell teams on the 7th and then they can sign on the 8th and know officially how much money they have. Contracts all end on June 30. There are not written or agreed to deals before July 8. Last year, Turkoglu agreed to a deal with Portland and then changed his mind and signed with Toronto on the 8th. We will hear many stories of agreements before the 8th, so called done deals like we already have heard of LeBron to the Bulls and Bosh to the Heat. Everything can change before July 8 and during that week, so, yes, this is going to go on for awhile longer.
Why do you think Wade is meeting with the Bulls? Do you think it's to get a sense of their pitch, so he can use it to further Miami's ends (or is that too Manchurian Candidate)?
Sam: I think he’s spying for the Heat.
Is there any shot of us making a swing for Monta Ellis or Anthony Morrow for Luol Deng? I think it would be a brilliant move if the Bulls could pull it off. If "the dream" come's true and Lebron and Bosh join the Bulls, it'd be really nice to add a shooting guard of Monta's caliber or Morrow's and his shooting touch. I think it'd be ideal, instead of having Deng come of the bench or have him or Lebron play out of position. Are Morrow and Ellis viable options for our hole at SG?
Sam: You probably can’t deal with Golden State because they are being sold and the word is they cannot take back contracts before then. Eventually you may be able to get Ellis, but the Bulls now have nothing much to offer. I like Morrow, but everyone seems to consider him a bench player and so they won’t offer much, which means Golden State would match.
Correct me if I´m wrong. Bull´s wanted cap, so went after the other teams with Deng and the 1st pick, nobody wanted, so traded Kirk. Now we have almost cap space for 2 max deals. If the Bulls sign Lebron and Bosh we will have 2 SF ( I know that Lebron can play as SG, but is a long season and we don´t want Lebron runing after a guard on defense ), and with Lebron and Bosh or Boozer or Lee we already will have a champ team, even without Deng. And more important we will need a good bench, that replace a long injury, a big center to backup Noah, etc. I don´t see Deng in this team with Lebron, and I think that the Bulls, don´t see as well. You think another team will acept Deng in a trade with the next 1st round pick? Or in a sign and trade with the next 1st round pick?
Sam: You’d worry about all that later, but it would be somewhat uncomfortable with LeBron and Deng. Deng might have to go to the bench and that could be a tough situation on the coaching staff. Look, Deng is a valuable player. It’s just that his contract is tough to deal with a new labor deal coming and the possibility of shorter deals. Teams don’t want to take on long deals. But, again, it’s another one of those we’ll figure it out later things, and I agree with that.
In light of the trade of Kirk Hinrich, where does that put the bulls for a backup point guard for Derrick Rose? I would hate to see Derrick now forced to log a dangerous amount of extra time the next few years while we wait on a capable back up. Who will be available that the Bulls could take a chance on?
Sam: Well, we all actually liked what we saw of Acie Law. He’s more of a scoring point, but he made things happen. I’d be OK with him.
Do you know which Bulls players, besides James Johnson will play in the Summer League?
Sam: I haven’t paid much attention, but I heard Joe Alexander, Rob Kurz, Derrick Byers, Matt Bouldin, Samardo Samuels, AJ Ogilvy, John Lucas III, Morris Almond, Trent Plaisted, Jack McClinton and maybe Bonzi Wells.
There's been a lot of talk in regards to Lebron about how he is viewing
this as not only a basketball decision, but also a business one.
Essentially, he's looking to build his brand and expand his interests
beyond the court. I was wondering if there was anything to prohibit
Jerry Reinsdorf (or any other owner) from offering Lebron ownership
stakes in businesses other than the actual NBA team he would play for
(which I know is prohibited). For example, could Reinsdorf offer Lebron
a piece of the White Sox as an enticement to play in Chicago? Or, a
portion of another business he owns?
Sam: The league sent around a memo this week to remind everyone. If you buy a free agent a candy bar when he visits that will come off your cap room. The NBA is playing this strict. Any compensation at all goes on your cap. Reinsdorf cannot even invite players to Sox games without making them pay. It’s also why Jordan was never able to get any ownership stake or share in a Reinsdorf business while he played. Which is why so many around the league are watching the new Russian owner as he has so many international business interests he is the one capable of hiding payments to players the NBA can never find. I think they eventually will regret allowing him in as an owner. Watching LeBron’s New Jersey visit will be the most interesting.
If the Bulls do strike out tomorrow can they pull out of the Hinrich deal and keep him around?
Sam: Officially, yes. They never have backed out of an agreement like some teams in the NBA. That is, in effect, a done deal no matter what happens.
What do you think of taking a shot with a veterans minimum on McGrady (who did work out with the best in Tim Grover) and or J.O. if he leaves Miami?
And what about guys like Al Harrington, Stackhouse, McDyess, Ratliff, Finley (hometown), Juwan Howard (hometown) just to get that vet experience and stuff the bench... or even SHAQ or AI (not that I would)
Sam: Wow, that’s some bad names. Of all at the minimum, I’d take Howard or Finley. McDyess won’t play minimum, McGrady won’t and won’t shut up and would be a huge disruption, as would Shaq and more so Iverson. Harrington will get good money. There’ll be guys.
Though I’ve recently gotten caught up in the LeBron hype, I’ve thought for months that the most important free agent for the Bulls is Chris Bosh. I wouldn’t care as much if our second free agent was LeBron, Wade, or Johnson, because with Bosh we would become a balanced team with a good frontline, whereas none of those three wings will solve the Bulls frontline weakness. Since Bulls are last on the list to meet LeBron, do you think Bulls should be on Bosh’s doorstep at 12:01am on July 1 telling him he is a priority regardless of which wing they can sign? And then on to the LeBron meeting?
Sam: Yes. Then the only issue is getting Bosh to agree to sign with the Bulls. Minor point, eh? Heck, I’d be fine with Bosh, Asik and a shooting guard like Ray Allen.
Since we have until July 8 before any deals are signed I'm sure we will be bombarded with all sorts of theories on where the free agents will go. Personally, I'm disappointed that there isn't more talk about Kwame Brown, Tim Thomas and Steve Novak, but I guess we can talk about LeBron, Bosh and Wade to kill the time. It seems like everyone and their mothers are saying that Wade/LeBron/Bosh in Miami would be the best three players ever on a team, and that may be the case, but can't one point to West, Baylor and Wilt as combo that is possibly just as good? Furthermore, those Laker teams habitually lost to the Celtics who played the best "team" ball. What can the lessons of 1968 teach us in 2010?
Sam: Lesson: Get the three best players and then as long as you aren’t playing Bill Russell and seven Hall of Famers you have a good shot. Hey, what about Kwame Brown for the minimum? See, I told you there are plenty of possibilities.
I do not see free agency going as planned. I do have the feeling LeBron is going to stay with Cleveland, because I think his ego is too big for him to basically admit he needs more help to win the title. Which is basically what he is saying if he goes to the bulls or the heat. From a strategic standpoint how confident are you in bulls management that they already have a plan B, C, and D? I think plan B should be the Wade and Bosh package, and if Wade or LeBron do not want to commit in the first two days, I am offering Joe Johnson, and a big, max deals. I am very worried Gar, Jerry, and John are going to screw this up.
Sam: I know the view will be it’s their fault if it happens, but that’s the price of gambling. From everything I have heard, they have done everything they can to go for a championship. Fans always ask, what are you going to do go for a title? The Bulls basically said they’d risk everything. And that’s the point about risk, there’s a downside. When you gamble at the track or at the casino, do you get your money back after you bet and your number doesn’t come up? The rules of free agency were set up to give the home team a big edge by allowing them to pay a player far more money. Look at it this way: Joe Johnson, Wade and Bosh could give up about $28 million if they leave their teams without a sign-and-trade because at the end of five years it’s hard to see any being all-league first team players whom someone would want to give a $28 million salary. The Bulls, Knicks, Nets and Heat are betting the chance to win big will be enough to get them to take the risk. But players don’t usually like to take risks; they like the teams to do so. I haven’t seen much the Bulls could have done differently and, in fact, they were widely credited for being able to have this good a roster and cap space for two players at the same time. The Knicks, Nets and Heat can’t say that. If it doesn’t happen big, they still will be able to get players, but I don’t see how they could have put themselves in better position. I know that won’t matter much fans; as it’s said, it comes with the territory.
What would be really unfair would be if Bulls' Fans became upset with the organization if they don't land James amid this free agent circus. The Bulls positioned themselves as best as they possibly could, but, as you stated previously, who knows what these free agents want, and what choices they will make. As a fan, I appreciate and respect what the Bulls attempted, regardless of the outcome.
Sam: OK, it won’t matter to most fans, not all.
Help, I need you to talk me off the ledge. No, not that LeBron and Bosh might sign with Miami. Please, tell me the Bulls would not go to Boozer as a backup plan (as some outlets are reporting). I understand signing Johnson. But, can you really sign two 28 yr old guys to go with a 21 yr pg? Did they watch the Lakers series? He is too short, injury prone, and has had attitude problems. I would much rather sign Lee for less money. He is younger, has no injury issues, and seems to be a hard worker. If the Bulls came back with Johnson and Lee, I feel like the Bulls would have shot at beating a stacked Miami team. The Bulls would have better rebounding and defense. With Boozer, not so much.
Sam: I go back and forth on Boozer/Lee. I was Lee last week. Boozer, as you said and I have many times before, is a risk because of his injury and selfish behavior history. But he’s more the real four, as you can throw him the ball inside. You cannot with Lee, whom you do probably know what you get as he’ll work for you and is cheaper with less seniority, which also means younger. I haven’t been a Boozer fan, but one thing in his favor is among the Bulls brass Jim Paxson, whom he apparently lied to and tricked in Cleveland, isn’t opposed to him at all. I’d probably go Boozer as a slight edge because of the talent and then hope he is committed and not just having signed his last deal like Turkoglu in Toronto last season.
Assuming Wade signs with the Heat for 6 years at a maximum deal, how much is Miami under the payroll? In other words, I'm wondering if Wade resigns who will have more money left for two more free agents, the Bulls or the Heat?
Sam: They have less than the Bulls and the Bulls don’t yet have room for two full max players on five year deals, but the expectation is the Heat donates Michael Beasley, a No. 2 overall pick, as basically the Bulls did with Hinrich and now the Nets with Yi to get more money.
It is a great summer to be a second tier free agent because of the large discrepancy concerning the supply and demand. Now four teams have 30 million or more of salary cap space. My guess is teams that do not land one of the top three players will begin to panic (nobody wants to go home empty handed) and a bidding war will ensue for the second tier free agents. It would seem to be a great year to be the David Lee's, Carlos Boozer's, and Joe Johnson's of the world.
Sam: That’s what they all are counting on, and counting is the key. There are more teams that have promised their fan base something than big time players who likely will be available. So while maybe someone like Johnson or Boozer doesn’t so called deserve a max deal they are going to get one. The rich get richer, just like we’ve heard in the rest of the world.
Is it me or do LeBron and Bosh clearly not realize Chicago is the best destination to win a championship not only immediately, but for the next 8-10 years? Rose, LBJ, Deng, Bosh, and Noah with Taj and James Johnson sounds like a pretty serious core group of guys all around 25 yrs. old.
Sam: It’s not you, it’s them. Of course, what they also are being told is the Bulls without Noah couldn’t win a game and he missed a quarter of the season with injuries and who knows if it will recur and you are attaching yourself to a guy who called you out in a game. Everyone is busy running down everyone else from what I have heard. If you ask me, I’d say among the three top destinations of Chicago, Miami and New York, Chicago has the best combination roster/outside opportunities, but not everyone sees it that way, and you can be sure in Miami they are talking about Chicago winter and in New York they are taking about do you really want to raise a kid down there and… it is getting ugly.
I hear reporters from Miami today saying Dwayne Wade is serving as Riley's conduit - actually calling his colleague's LeBron and Bosh before July 1st. Does this technically violate tampering rules for Wade to make these recruiting phone calls?
Sounds to me like Stern will not regulate because this falls under the players' freedom of speech to associate and fraternize with each other. In contrast, if an owner or GM even makes statements about targeted players before July 1st, they get fined (Cuban). Right?
Sam: Tampering is a monster the NBA created. It certainly seems like Wade is involved in player tampering, though the league doesn’t quite know how to define it and no one is quite sure if any such meeting actually happened as we all saw Wade at the Sox-Cubs game this weekend and LeBron was seen in New York City over the weekend. Look, there’s nothing wrong with players talking to colleagues about what might be going on. The players from the 2008 Olympics always said they’d do that and said they texted regularly in the season about it. My sense is they all have their own agenda and will split up.
I reckon it is clear where this free agency is heading; all the big players (LBJ, Bosh, Wade) will make a spectacle of the trade week and hold out until the very end to sign on to a team, whilst the second rung players (Johnson, Boozer, Stoudemire) will sign on relatively quickly. The Bulls priorities appear to be (1) LeBron, (2) Bosh, (3) Wade, and obviously we need to go hard for these top 3 players, but why we’re waiting for them to make up their minds why don’t we approach Johnson straight away and get him signed. He’s stated that he wants to come to the Bulls and would probably sign on the minute we make him an offer. If worse comes to worse and LBJ and Bosh go elsewhere, we still have Johnson and can add another second-tier free agent like Lee or Gay. I can’t imagine that Bulls fans would be upset if we missed out on LeBron and Bosh but signed Johnson and Lee. However were we to miss out on all of them…..
Sam: I’ve long advocated that kind of approach both to show the top guys you have another so called asset and then also you avoid being shut out by getting someone. But it’s not going to be so easy to get the other guys like Johnson as several teams are beginning to doubt they can get James or Wade, so they are targeting lesser guys like Johnson so they, too, won’t be shut out. Musical chairs is getting worrisome as there are way more teams getting involved with sign-and-trades than there are free agents.
I'm glad to see a few people are seeing beyond the glitter of James/Bosh to note that things like a bench and chemistry needed to win a championship. A good coach can help with the latter, but it takes skillful management to provide the former. (Yes, Jerry Krause did have a point, albeit ineptly articulated.) As I recall, the Lakers gutted their squad to acquire Shaq, and it took a couple of years to solidify that team. Of course, the Bulls can always hope a veteran or two will work for the minimum to get one last shot at a ring, but they can't count on it. I'm still dubious about the Bulls being able to sign James (it would be both emotionally wrenching and financially disadvantageous for him to abandon his home and friends) and Bosh (who I still think will demand a sign-and-trade when all is said and done). That's why the Hinrich deal still bothers me. Unless the Bulls get two of the top three free agents (and Wade seems to be an even longer shot), I believe they would have been better off with one young all-star to go with Rose, plus a couple more quality role players to get a solid seven or eight man rotation. I suppose if (when?) James/Bosh falls through they could still do that, but it's going to be hard to find any as valuable as Captain Kirk. Of course, I'll be as giddy as the next fan if the Bulls sign James. A weak bench may haunt them over a long season, but at least getting the biggest star (if not the best player) in the NBA would take our minds off the miserable Cubs for the summer!
Sam: Ah, a Cubs angle. I have many of the same concerns given it’s a lot harder to make a champion than most fans understand and despite the done deals of the last week or so this remains a long shot for the Bulls. I have long been a Kirk guy, as many know, but they had to make that move if they were going to have a shot. Without the Kirk move there was likely no chance for LeBron, and that’s the headline. The Bulls committed themselves to trying for the big prize, so they had to make some sacrifices. Kirk wishes it weren’t him. Had that been conservative and kept Kirk and went for, say, a Rudy Gay type young player it would have been a ho hum community reaction and the view the team is in it for the money and not the championships. So they’re going for it. True, they could end up worse than when they started, but that was the risk going in and they understood that.
This whole LBJ thing is making me almost embarrassed to be a bulls fan. The pandering and feast or famine outlook on this up coming free agency is making me sick. The Bulls want to win , they're going to do the best they can to win. If LBJ goes to the moon to play basketball the bulls are going to put out the best team they can and life will go on.
Sam: If only it was as simple as that. Yes, they are and have tried their best. The fallacy is that management wants to make money and lose or be mediocre. I have yet to meet one Bulls basketball executive who thinks that way. They hate having to go through this as well, having to try to impress someone named World Wide Wes because he says they should. No one knows who or what matters. All the teams hate this. The NBA is some respects has done itself a great disservice. Yes, they are getting a lot of attention, but for what?
I believe that Blake Griffin is still considered a rookie becasue he didnt play a game last year. So who do you have winning Rookie of the Year, Blake Griffin or John Wall?
Sam: Thanks. No LeBron question. I had Griffin way, way, way better than everyone last year, and it was a great class. I guess I have to go with Wall as I have to be concerned about Griffin’s health as those things are worrisome when a guy is out so early with an injury like that.
I know Dirk will probably stay, but at his age do you think he would spurn the Mavericks and take slightly less money to play with LeBron James. I know Chris Bosh is younger but having Dirk Nowitski and his 3pt shooting would allow the bulls to spread the floor tremendously and LeBron James could obviously play in the post too.
A starting Lineup of:
Sam: We’ve all said we cannot see Dirk leaving and I don’t believe he will. No one ever seems to ask whether he is about winning. He’s 32, so it would be a relatively short window, though he isn’t athletic, so he may last a bit longer. If I were Nowitzi, I’d try to get more involved in this given he has been on the disappointing end so much, but everyone seems to believe he prefers the money and security of Dallas. The big reason why no one expects Dirk to leave is his maximum is about $20 million under the old rules, so you wouldn’t have an opportunity for a second max guy unless you were the Knicks, and they don’t nearly have the roster that is better than Dallas’.
The meeting between Wade, Bosh, and James never happened this weekend. Wade's agent, Henry Thomas, detailed that, last Friday, Wade was in Chicago finalizing his divorce; Saturday, he was at " Taste of Chicago " and the Cubs vs. White Sox Game, and, Sunday night, he left Chicago for a location other than Miami. Thomas does not deny that the three have spoken and may do so again, but a summit never occurred last weekend. I may finally wise up, heed your advice, and not pay attention to this nonsense, most of it media generated, until these three actually sign contracts. I have wasted too much time and brain cells trying to decipher what has become the NBA version of " As The World Turns, " and I don't even like soap operas.
Sam: Everyone, ask your bosses for a week off and turn back on the computer and cable TV July 9. Though if you do understand the majority is like daytime soaps, I guess that is OK for entertainment.
In 5 years, I think people will look back and be amazed at how much of a fuss we all made over LeBron. He's the next A-Rod, not the next Jordan. LeBron seems more focused on what happens after you win, rather than what it takes to win. His talk of being a "global icon" and wanting an NBA team to be his "partner" show that he takes his abilities for granted and he does not have the faintest idea how to lead a team to a championship.
After watching him fumble through the playoffs two years in a row despite being the favorite, I can't help but think how the Bulls of the 1990s would have feasted on LeBron's Cavs. He lacks both Jordan's competitiveness and Jordan's ability to raise his level of play in crucial moments. That he can consistently dominate the Bobcats or the Pacers in early Februrary does not mean teams should add to their free agent pitch that they'll build a statue of him if he signs.
LeBron won't win in his prime -- even if he forms a so-called "super team" with Wade and Bosh in Miami, since they won't have anyone else even halfway decent on their roster and both LeBron and Bosh seem to wilt in high pressure moments. (Not that we've ever seen Bosh play in a high pressure moment, since he never takes his teams to the playoffs.)
I know I'm being harsh, and to balance it out I will say that LeBron is definitely the best one-on-one player in the NBA. And if some team wants to gut their future for a chance to sign the best one-on-one player in the league, then they deserve everything it brings them.
If I were the Bulls, I'd recognize that with Rose and Noah on rookie contracts, cap space is the greatest asset they could have. Rather than blow it on one or two over-rated free agents who will kill their competitiveness down the road, I'd use it to build depth, with team chemistry as a top priority. Inevitably, each year there will be a great player wanting an out with only 1-2 years on his contract that comes available during the season, and I'd add that guy at the deadline for a song and enjoy deep playoff runs that seem far more likely to yield a championship. Why? Because this is real life, not a fantasy league.
Sam: But they’re selling tickets like it is a fantasy world. I have written many times that LeBron is somewhere between Magic and Scottie. He’s a facilitator with the best talent in the NBA. People want him to be Magic and Kobe and he’s not. Kobe showed that pretty well in the Finals as he won once again with the best player on a team that couldn’t win a single playoff game and basically no one else to show up. Bynum, Odom, Artest. They were mostly negatives in the playoffs. And for whatever reason LeBron gave up in the conference semis. The most comfortable I’ve ever seen him was as a setup guy on the 2008 Olympic team. People around the game who know him say he really is a great teammate and likes the guys and wants them to like him. Michael wasn’t particularly liked by his teammates. We know Kobe never has been. Bird always dumped all over McHale. That said, he’s the best available and in this era it is more about the quick fix because fans and media do not have the patience to build. So you go for the big score. Everyone is. They may never win, but then it will be LeBron’s fault.
I was wondering if anyone has talked to Rose about the free agency hype and rumors? If so, how does he feel about the situation and what has he been up to?
Sam: Derrick’s been practicing getting ready for the USA team tryouts as he has an excellent chance to make the team with many of the vets from 2008 bailing out. I don’t expect many back for 2012. They won and that will likely be it for them. Even Colangelo seems to be angling for the Nets presidency. Derrick’s a kid and just loves where he is and what he does. From what I hear he doesn’t care much one way or the other because he believes he’ll win no matter who he plays with. You gotta love that.
What about bringing back Ben Gordon if you can’t get JJ? With Rose and LBJ, he wouldn’t be forced into too many crazy end of the shot clock hoists as in previous years plus I’d think he’s been pretty humbled with the “be careful what you wish for” move to Detroit as the grass was not only not greener over there, it was a light, burned out brown.
Marc A. Brauer
Sam: Now that would be funny. I heard some Bulls guys joking about that a while back. I think it was a joke, anyway.
Would somebody please for the love of god in the Chicago media please dissect this charade Riley and Wade are foisting on the media and these other free agents that they will have any kind of team if they signed both Bosh and LeBron? That's three $16 Mils they are saying they'd pay or $48 Million. And then you need two other starters(oh wait they've got Chalmers - ha,ha) for let's say three mil each. And who are they going to get for that money? Then you have $2 Million left for the rest of the team? Are you kidding me? LeBron hopefully is smart enough to see this, and not be Riley's boy and Wade's minion which is what it amounts to if he defers to them and embraces their garbage.
Sam: I remains under the hope and belief no one who matters takes much of anything written seriously. Like they always said at the tribune, 95 percent of what you read is true except the 5 percent you have personal knowledge about. Then they laughed knowingly. Riley will do anything in this make or break season and seems to have lured in Wade with his Bulls bashing some weeks back. With all the stuff in the Miami media about this you can pretty much believe he’s doing a lot of the leaking. It’s not like that is a big time investigative sports market. But this is WWF free agency cage match. Do they still call it that? Hey, I was a Bruno Sammartino guy.
I was watching 'the most reliable sports news source' today, ESPN, and Chris Broussard who earlier named the Bulls as the front runner in the LBJ sweepstakes now says that Miami and their puppet Dwade are the front runners in not only landing James but also Wade. I understand espn only reports highlights and can't be relied on as a truly credible source, but what really upset me about Broussard's comments was he said that the Bulls and owner Jerry Riensdorf are not known for spending money. That was the reason Miami was in the driver's seat for the next big 3, because they are an organization that is known to spend money??? This the organization that basically burned out Dwayne 'the human punching bag' Wade by not going out and finding him are capable wingman.
Sam: Yes, facts getting in the way is not often a concern. And Riley’s system also probably took five years off Patrick Ewing’s career. Wade should understand as well he gave him up when he had to. And what do you hear from the Van Gundys now about Riley? Oh, you mean the Riley who faxed in his resignation to the Knicks when he already was with the Heat. Expect anything from Miami in this kind of competition. It also was what helped make Riley a winner. He’s a great competitor and you would be remiss to underestimate him in this contest which could determine the NBA for the next decade. If LeBron had Riley’s instincts LeBron would have three titles by now.
You've mentioned before that signing Joe Johnson and David Lee would be
"Plan C or D for now". In your opinion, what are the current Plans A, B
and C for the Bulls right now?
Sam: Obviously, A is LeBron and Bosh, and B is Bosh and someone, though I believe there also are considerations of signing someone like Bosh or Boozer or Lee or Stoudemire early and then going for LeBron or Bosh or, probably not, Wade. In other words, it’s still uncertain. Only because the players basically are sending all sorts of mixed signals and committing to no one despite what you may have read or heard.
Finally there is a rumor that actually makes sense - Dallas pursuing Joe Johnson in a sign-and -trade. Dallas sending expiring contracts of Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson to the Hawks for Joe Johnson would benefit both teams greatly. Of course, giving a 6-year max contract to Joe Johnson is insane, but like you said before someone will overpay. This doesn't look good for the Bulls. Freeing up all this cap space may end up being useless since all the players who think they are max ( Bosh, Johnson, Stoudemire ) would obviously prefer sign-and-trade deals, so that they can get their money and end up with decent teams. I'd say there is still a possibility of this year repeating the free agency of 2000.
Sam: Yes, it is the great fear and if anyone is going to overpay you can be sure it will be Cuban. As several GMs have told me over the years, “He’s our Steinbrenner,” meaning he messes up the salary balance with stupid deals. He could easily go six full for Joe if Atlanta wants the deal. As I’ve long said and the team know in every free agency, it’s always a big gamble, but patience takes a lot longer. I know in the Bulls internal discussions some have called for going slow and more through the draft. I don’t think that would be very popular with the fans, not that they are running the team. But this was a rare chance and a plan for the last two years, so you have to ride it out now.
I am sure I am being paranoid, but do you think there is any chance that LeBron is purposely toying with the Bulls to mess up the team's free-agent plans? The Bulls are in the Cavs' division. If he intends to re-sign with the Cavs, what better way to help his team than to totally screw up the Bulls off-season?
Sam: Did you study under Jerry Krause?
Personally, I would love to see them sign Joe Johnson and David Lee. I understand the dream would be LeBron and Bosh, but I feel those guys want to be sure the team is built around them. However, I feel that Lee and Johnson would fit best with Rose, Deng, and Noah. Lee can score inside, rebound, and pass; perfect for setting up the offense for slashers Rose, Johnson, and Deng, and helping Noah crashing the boards and kicking out on the break. Johnson, of course, gives the Bulls a BIG guard who can score, defend, pass, and rebound. He's proven he can play with a good point (an aging Mike Bibby) as well as run the point himself. He and D-Rose slashing, cutting, and kicking the ball to the open man would look awesome. And with a strong focus on defense from Thibodeau, I think that lineup could be a potential championship team for years to come.
Sam: It’s probably Plan C or D for now. The risk, as I’ve mentioned, is while the Bulls pursue LeBron and Bosh, which I assume they will, Johnson could sign elsewhere under a deadline situation to try to get him off the table before the Bulls can get an answer from LeBron and/or Bosh. I still remain unconvinced Rose and LeBron will work together that well, though I’ve always believed great players figure it out. Someone would have to give in and Derrick always has been an ideal team player. With LeBron, Rose becomes the secondary guy, and I’m not sure how that would work after the way Rose has come on and been built up these last two seasons as the No. 1 future of the club. That lineup may be a better fit, but I doubt will be a high priority.
I am wondering how Coach Tom is going to impact free agency. I actually think it will be appealing to free agents because even though he has never been a head coach, it brings some credibility to the organization that it hasn't had since Phil. Even with Skiles. He was looked at more as transition coach than a winning coach.
Sam: I think the best you can do with a coach is to have one who won’t hurt you. I think Thibodeau qualifies. He’s knowledgeable and respected around the NBA. And players don’t whisper that you don’t want to be at his practices or deal with him or things like that. Mostly, players see coaches as guys who come and go during their contracts with rare exceptions. When Shaq went to the Lakers in 1996 as the free agent the coach didn’t matter (Del Harris). Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady weren’t going to play for second year coach Doc Rivers. Players are more concerned with players and that the Bulls have a basketball guy who should serve them well.
All the hype this week will be surrounding james and the other free agents and i'm ok with that. One thing that comes to my mind though is that if the bulls want to be champions they still have to beat orlando and the celts did need 4 big guys to throw on dwight to shut the magic down. Considering that all the bulls' most coveted free agents aren't big guys (and even Bosh isn't a, how can i say it politely, player who likes that much of contact) how can the bulls compete with orlando having noah as their only defensive weapon on howard? I'm saying this cause i don't think that miller is coming back (and brad was a guy who did a pretty good job on dwight last year) and you can't count on gibson to guard howard.
Sam: I know the fans and probably national media will expect multiple titles if the Bulls get LeBron and Bosh, but it obviously won’t be that easy. That is why I lobbied early for a center in the draft, though, obviously, the Bulls had other draft plans. We saw with the Lakers it was crucial to have three big men. The Bulls have one, and Bosh can be a better defender if he is pushed, which he would be. But Noah had that plantar fasciitis for a long time and it’s clear you need size to compete and the Bulls would be short on that for now. As I’ve written here, anyone seen Aaron Gray?
After reading the various rumors for the past week, i tend to trust with the reporting from Wojanowski from yahoo sports regarding World Wide Wes and Maverick Carter and who’ll have influence.
Sam: Wojo is an excellent reporter, if a bit on the angry side at times. I’ve heard this theory a few times of the LeBron inner circle lobbying to stay in Cleveland and others pushing him away so they can have more influence. I also heard Wes was the source of the Stephen A. Smith story that LeBron was going to Miami, though that’s just a rumor as well.
Just heard the disturbing news from Stephen A. Smith this morning that it is a “fact” that Lebron and Bosh are going to Miami with Dwayne Wade. I don’t totally believe everything that comes out of Stephen A’s mouth, but it does make me a little a nervous and at the same time disappointed. If this does happen it is only proof that 3 elite superstars in this league today are looking for an easy way to win titles. Lebron will pretty much be admitting to the world that he is not able to win a title as the main guy of a team. Bosh and Wade would be doing the same as well. I agree that a superstar player, an all-star level second option, along with good role players is the formula to win championships in the NBA. Jordan era Bulls, and the present Lakers are proof of this. By these 3 guys agreeing to combine to form a super team would be forever tarnishing their respective legacies whether they win or lose. The Celtics Big 3 got a pass because they were all pretty much past their primes, but this situation is entirely different. I have even more respect for Kobe now for sticking with his team and winning 2 titles without the help of 1 or 2 more super star players.
Sam: And that’s actually the case the Cavs are making to LeBron: The great ones didn’t run away looking for help to win. They stayed where they were and showed the world they could win because they were great. You’re just 25 and we’ve won 127 games the last two seasons and with a better coach, that would make the difference. Be a real star and show the world you don’t have to run away and get help to win. It’s what Jordan, Bird, Magic, etc. all did. We’ll know soon if that works, while Miami is pushing hard privately and, obviously, in the media, for this super team dream trio of Wade, LeBron and Bosh in Miami. No state tax is their edge in trying to persuade Bosh and LeBron not to worry about taking the max annual salary as the Heat, like the Bulls, are just short of two full max deals.
Is Omer Asik going to be playing in the Summer League this season?
Sam: He’s playing for Turkey in the World Championships.
How does New Jersey and New York get first crack at LBJ and Bosh in the lineup of free agent meetings? Or should I be glad the Bulls are the last team?
Sam: Someone has to go first. I’d actually prefer last if I had the chance so I could trump everyone’s case.
With Bryan Colangelo now stating that it is likely Chris Bosh will be leaving Toronto, it is beneficial for both parties to work out a sign and trade. I know that sign and trades are more difficult than people make them out to be, but my question is how they might go about this. For example, would Chris Bosh tell Toronto that he is definitely signing with a certain team and now it is up to them to try and work out a sign and trade so that they don't lose him for nothing ? Would it be more likely that he would give them a list of teams he wants to sign with and tell Toronto to work out a deal with one of the listed teams so that Bosh increased the chances that he receives a full max deal?
Sam: If Toronto agrees to a sign-and-trade, I assume it would only be with the Western Conference teams as the reports are, as expected, the Cavs won’t do a sign-and-trade with an Eastern team for LeBron. It would depend on Bosh and where he wants to go, and then he’d ask Toronto to work out a deal. That’s what Grant Hill did and the Pistons got Ben Wallace. It’s doubtful the Bulls, Heat or Knicks would have anything that makes sense to Toronto. I can see them asking Bosh if he’d go to the Lakers, Rockets, Hornets or Mavs. The question then would be whether Bosh wants the sixth year and $125 million or whether he’d go for five years and $95 million or so to be where he wanted to be and with whom he wanted to be.
I'm confused. If the Bulls are unable to offer more than the absolute minimum salary - which I understand is under $1/2 mil. - how is it that they expect to have Omer Asik next year. Can't he get millions to keep playing overseas? And if he can't why are we even talking about him? This in turn raises the question of whether it makes sense for James and Bosh to go to the same team when it means playing with 7 or 8 guys who have never been and or don't belong on an NBA court. Wouldn't it make more sense for James to join Rose, Noah, Deng and Gibson and let the Bulls carve up the remaining $14 mil. among several solid players? They say MJ needed Pippen, but both in turn needed the contibutions they got from the "supporting cast" . Same goes for Kobe and Gasol needing the likes of Artest, Fisher, Odom, etc., and the strong supporting cast around the Celtics "Three Amigos".
Sam: It’s a good point and perhaps worth seriously considering. If the Bulls use up all their cap room on two top free agents, they will have issues with paying Asik. That’s why Splitter has stayed in Europe instead of coming to the Spurs. The European guys are tough to read and figure everywhere because of what they can make overseas. So Asik is hardly any guarantee, but it’s also possible the Bulls get one top free agent and then there will be plenty of room to pay him. The thinking likely is if you get two top free agents for max deals like LeBron and Bosh you have cornered the market and no other team is as talented, so you worry about the other stuff later. But, no, no one is going to be in position to be some instant dynasty because they’ll be a half roster short using their money on the top glamour free agents.
It's getting a bit ridiculous today - two of the ESPN writers have suggested that Reinsdorf can/will be the stumbling block in getting Lebron. It's hard to know whether it's because they want to keep the uncertainty - thus interest - as high as possible, or if they are hoping that Lebron + Wade/Bosh go elsewhere ( I suspect columnist X to be a Knicks fan). Anyway, X's recollection of the break-up of the Bulls does not jive with my own: I thought it was Jordan's uncertainty as well as Pippen's desire to be moved that motivated the break-up. X also fails to mention how much the Bulls were paying Jordan those last few championships, and the Bull's willingness to overpay Ben Wallace when they thought they were close to contending. Columnist Y likewise has decided on his thesis (Lebron should be wary of Reinsdorf) before evaluating his evidence: he ends up pointing to the Krause-Jordan enmity and the Vinny situation. The former occurred over a decade ago while the Bulls had the second most successful 8 year sequence and the best (record-wise) single season team ever. The latter was largely a controversy manufactured by media friendly to a coach. How was Vinny "mistreated" by the Bulls? - the Bulls hired a rookie coach who did ok developing players and never lost the team, but made some serious in-game mistakes, and had some stretches when the team were not competitive. Should the Bulls have given him a vote of confidence when they were surely considering firing him? I can't believe anyone would criticize the Bulls for having a rather dim view of Vinny after the Noah fiasco. It would have been nice to see some actual fact-checking of Wade's criticism.
Sam: Everyone is entitled to his opinion and that’s what a columnist is supposed to do. They don’t actually have to involve themselves in facts as much as theory and opinion. As for the facts, the Bulls just paid a huge amount of money to the Wizards along with a draft pick and a top player to create more cap room. Whether that was wise or not, it is clear the Bulls are spending whatever they can to make this happen. And several times Kobe Bryant was practically begging to play for the Bulls, in part, because the Bulls had won and Reinsdorf had paid Jordan more than any player in the history of the game. There may be issues, but that won’t be one.
Wade - Stays in Miami - He has money issues, Miami pays him the most, plus no Fla income tax. He'll be shooting for 45 wins next 6 years.
Bosh - Texas - Whichever team give Toronto sign and trade value, and Bosh wants maximum $$.
J Johnson - Knicks - Next A. Houston.
Amare - Knicks. Suns East!
Gay - Nets - grizz won't match offer sheet.
and Lebron... Cavs. In the end, he won't leave Akron.
As for the Bulls, they pick up scraps, like 2000. Enjoy David Lee!
Sam: I’m guessing you’re not one of the hundreds of Bulls fans sending me e-mails this week begging me to assure them LeBron is coming to Chicago...
I think the Deng to Orlando rumor should be revisited. As the rumor stands it doesn't make much sense, but if Toronto got involved, then Gortat and Pietris could go to Toronto, Deng to Orlando, Bosh to Chicago. Maybe the Bulls add the Charlotte pick to make it more appealing, but I think that trade makes more sense all around.
Sam: I don’t believe there was anything to it, but it certainly never made sense for Orlando. Deng isn’t a three point shooter, so he doesn’t particularly fit with Howard and the way they play. Plus, Rashard Lewis is really a small forward and if they make lineup changes they’ll go more with a more classic power forward. Plus, without Gortat they have no true backup center and Howard is in foul trouble a lot. Plus, why would Orlando help the Bulls become better than them. Other than all that, it makes sense.
Regarding the trade. I thought the general consensus was that to get 2 max FAs, we'd probably sign one and have to sign & trade for one. Well aren't Kirk & the draft pick important assets needed for the sign & trade?
Sam: They were. But the Bulls apparently realized it was unlikely they’d get LeBron or Bosh with a sign and trade. Yes, maybe Johnson. But they clearly seem to have LeBron and Bosh as Nos. 1 and 2, and they decided the best way to go out that was with cash. I can’t disagree as I never saw either Cleveland or Toronto helping LeBron or Bosh get to an Eastern team that would be beating them for years.
So what is Pippen's relationship with Paxson and the current Bulls regime? I wonder if there is any truth to the perception among non-Bulls fans that Jordan and perhaps Pippen and Phil Jackson were poorly treated by the Bulls and that will somehow hurt the Bulls in free agency this year.
Sam: Actually, Pippen has gotten close with the Bulls. He writes a regular Bulls.com feature. He regularly appears at Bulls charity outings, like the annual summer golf event. And I’ve heard he’s even actually done some unofficial reconnaissance work about the free agents. The Bulls have tried to bring Pippen in at times to work with players, but he hasn’t wanted to put in the time to be a coach.
Lets say hypothetically we win in the free agency what happens with Deng because you dont pay a player all that money to come off the bench and is said to be to slow to guard SG, do we move him for a SG and a back up PG (also who would be a perfect back up PG since Kirk will be gone).
Sam: It will be an issue. Deng’s a three and he could conceivably play some so called stretch four, and LeBron could play anywhere, including two, but you don’t want him chasing two guards. And you’d be a bit short on role players with a lineup of scorers. But talent wins and you’d have the most talent in the East and for now that would be enough.
Much like trading away Nocioni and all the emails you received about reacquiring him, I see much of the same for Captain Kirk in the future. Its obviously a different situation as Kirk still would fit here. After Kirk's deal runs up in two years and he is done mentoring Wall, could the Bulls bring him back with the mid-level? Maybe before then in a trade?
Sam: The Bulls usually don’t go backward, though I can see them bringing back Aaron Gray as a minimum free agent for next season as one of the minimum guys. I can see Kirk going for that as while he’ll get accustomed to Washington, I doubt it ever will be home. He’ll be 32 or 33 depending on the duration of the lockout, assuming there is one, and I can see the Bulls amenable. He certainly burned no bridges and I doubt he will when he finally gets to talk after the deal is official.
Did you read the article that came out today that said Michael Jordan and Bill Russell were coming out of retirement to play with the Bulls since we are guaranteed Lebron and Bosh? I read it on ESPN and SI.com.
Sam: I hope you are joking. You are joking, right?
I really can't stand ESPN sometimes. Here they go reporting that, according to sources, LeBron and Bosh will come to Chicago. They are saying it's virtually a done deal. I don't believe it, because it's ESPN, but it kills me for getting my hopes up.
Sam: I understand. You want to believe, but how can you anymore? Vinny was going to be fired in 48 hours in December. The Bulls were taking Michael Beasley. John Paxson had resigned. All I know for sure is no one truly knows at this point, though I wouldn’t be surprised if LeBron is leaning toward the Bulls, which I’d never have said two months ago. They have some good basketball guys at ESPN, but they are under such incredible pressure to update that bottom line every two hours and come up with stuff they end up going on information from some unnamed executive. I could write a dramatic story based on doing that every day as NBA execs speculate on everything if they are not named. I’ve worked for ESPN in the past and there are some top pros there. My friend Marc Stein is a terrific basketball guy. But they have the odd makeup of four or five main basketball guys, all with different sources, often publishing contradictory information, and editors pushing them for something to headline like the tabloids. It’s fun reading, as the New York tabloids are, as long as you understand they often operate by the old Bob Arum dictum, “Yesterday I was lying; today I’m telling the truth.”
If a shortfall of $2 Million dollars or a little more (or less), that's $1 Million a piece for Bosh and James or 1/16 is going to keep these guys from playing with Derrick Rose, a third stud, and Noah getting stronger perhaps the second best center in the East with Taj and now Thib's then they really just aren't interested in winning and are frauds as competitors. Also, this rumor that we've already signed/shook hands with Joe Johnson is insane. That would mean we've either given up on a scoring big or given up on LeBron. There's no way we can get this close to a championship caliber team, and make such a huge, huge blunder of thinking we can go it without a scoring big or LeBron.
Sam: Yes, the Bulls are counting on the players being about winning above all else, and if they are the only team in a better position is the Lakers, who don’t seem involved. It’s hard to see how any other of the main free agent teams can now with the Hinrich deal make a better free agent case. But players often are about money first no matter what they say. So we’ll see. There is no wink, no deal, no handshake at all with Joe Johnson. I like Johnson, though he isn’t a perfect fit with LeBron as that’s a bit too many perimeter guys. But of all the free agents, I do believe Johnson is more likely to want to sign with the Bulls and you don’t want to be shut out and Johnson is a terrific addition if you cannot get LeBron. That said, the Bulls are committed to LeBron above all else and I don’t see how anyone can say they haven’t done everything possible to attract LeBron. If they don’t get him it won’t be because they didn’t do enough.
Why does everybody think the only good free agent for the Bulls must be LeBron. You don't think the Bulls will have made a MAJOR upgrade to their roster if they get Joe Johnson and Chris Bosh?? Or Joe Johnson and David Lee?? Or Joe Johnson and Amarie Stoudemire even?? As a matter of fact in my opinion any one of these combinations would be better than getting Lebron and some other free agent (and I like Lebron's game by the way) because it would insure that Derrick Rose could run the offense and lead the team without any interference from Lebron James.
Everybody is so focused on the top free agents of today that they are completely forgetting that we already have a player who will be one of if not the top free agent of tomorrow, Derrick Rose! In other words, this guy could be as good or even better than Dwayne Wade in 2 years or less!
Sam: I don’t disagree. I’ve long said if you can get LeBron, you do, because you go for the best talent and figure it out. But I do believe it will be awkward to fit LeBron with Rose as I believe both will subtlety fight for the ball and the top man role. LeBron can do anything he is so talented, but he’ll have to play off the ball more and allow Rose to be more Pippen with the ball. Michael did it, so it is hardly an insult. But I don’t see the Bulls running some isolation system for LeBron like Cleveland did. LeBron showed in the Olympics he can play that secondary role, but would he for Rose as well the way he did for Kobe? Rose is not back to back MVP. I’ve long said LeBron is more combo Magic and Pippen than he is a Jordan or Kobe. On some level getting a classic two in Johnson and a four in Bosh would be a better fit and allow Deng a significant role instead of trying to figure out where he can play and whether to bring him of the bench, which would likely damage team harmony. But the Bulls are going for LeBron and that’s that.
I assume that the Bulls will receive a rather large trade exception in the proposed Hinrich trade. Assume that the Bulls then sign two max or near max level players, eliminating their cap space. Can the Bulls then use the $9M+ trade exception to acquire additional an additional roster piece (possibly on a contract a team is looking to move, like David West) for future draft pick or other compensation?
Sam: It’s a good question and I checked it out and it was what I figured that if you are under the cap as the Bulls are not you lose all your exceptions including the one for a trade exception. The Bulls will have no midlevel or biannual to fill out the bench. I’ve gotten a lot of questions about filling out the roster and the Bulls cannot sign any player who wants more than the minimum, which basically means just about every free agent you have heard of. No Ray Allen. No Kyle Korver. No Anthony Morrow. It’s minimum guys, and I cannot now see Brad Miller staying for a minimum as he was by far closest on the team to Hinrich. They were constant companions on the road. He’s now mentioned for Boston and has previously been for Houston and several others. He’ll get well above the minimum and won’t do a home town discount anymore without Kirk.
I think you told me the chance of getting lebron a month ago was 25-30%. Curious where you'd set the percentage at now?
Sam: I’ve come to the dark side. With the Hinrich deal, I think the Bulls have gone to 54 to 57 percent as the prime contender for LeBron. (Yes, the point is those percentages are ridiculous). I can only see Cleveland in the race now and only given the effect of the home city and the place where he set out to win. The fact is all the great ones never said get me somewhere and some help and I’ll win. They all say they’ll win right where they are and just add someone and they’ll get it done. So we’ll see where LeBron is. I didn’t think anyone with cap room would help the Bulls get more cap room, which is exactly what the Wizards did. There were maybe three or four teams you could even talk with about it. But once the Bulls got just about to that second full max, though without the six years, it changed everything with LeBron as he can add another high level player to come with him and effectively eliminates the threat of the Knicks. I think LeBron sent that message even more when he apparently cancelled his trips as the Knicks likely had the best show. Without New York City to show off, the Knicks’ presentation is lacking given the awful roster and no real draft picks. The Nets are in Newark and the Clippers are the Clippers. Miami is possible, though it’s hard to see LeBron fitting with Wade and playing second. It’s one thing to do with Kobe and five titles. But not Wade. So I see the Bulls the current leader in the clubhouse, but as we know with all such races it doesn’t matter and can vastly change at the finish line.
LeBron opts not to go on a recruiting tour. The nation's GDP estimates just got cut in half.
Sam: The way the coverage is going it seems that way. And imagine if the guy had ever been on the winning team in one Finals game in seven years in the NBA.