Ask Sam mailbag | 10.01.10
Sam Smith opens his mailbag to respond to the latest round of e-mails from his readers.
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What players do you think will come to the Bulls next? Either in trade or some sort of signing, do you see any players coming to the roster somehow?
Sam: Sure, anything could change regarding the names we've most heard, like Carmelo Anthony and Rudy Fernandez. But I believe there won't be any significant changes and this roster will most likely be the roster we'll see this season unless there are major injuries.
Getting past the ridiculous notion that we trade our defensive anchor and team leader for a poor defensive small forward that's gone Hollywood and needs $20 million a year and on to questions about the?actual Chicago Bulls basketball team: how do you see the bench minutes playing out? I'm pretty sure Taj is the first big off the bench, but how do you anticipate Kurt Thomas [or maybe, 40 some odd games into the season, Asik sharing time as the next big? After the bigs it gets complicated. A big flaw of the Bulls last season is they had no reliable backup PG; Pargo just couldn't efficiently give Rose a breather. I think gambling on Watson was fine because he has no sense of entitlement having gone the route that he went. Korver will clearly come back down to earth after we payed him for a record setting season, but is he in a time share with Lu or Ronnie? Is there a way we can prevent Bogans from ever seeing the floor? Teams like the Celtics and Suns were able to surprise some people last year thanks to some big nights from the bench.
Sam: I think the depth is going to be solid, if not spectacular. The issue will be whether they'll get lured into situations where, say, Miami has LeBron and Bosh out and then brings back Wade against a second group and he's playing Bogans. He's Ok, but not in that class. Taj will be important and play some four and five, though he says he's shooting with more range. I don't see three in his future. Thomas should be the first big in and they are hoping Asik comes fast. The Bulls are a bit more optimistic about that for now than I am. I think we'll see more of Korver at two as Korver said the other day he doesn't care much about starting but believes he should finish. Given he's the best shooter, I can see that. Watson is a wild card, an offensive guy who's the main Rose backup. They'll use him some with Rose, I assume, to see if he can spread the floor better than Brewer, though Brewer should be the starter and is not a bad mid range shooter. The mix and match will come at two/three, where they're probably still one guy short. And it's where the biggest injury concern may be. Brewer had some hamstring tweaks in camp this week and was held out of scrimmages. Coming out of Memphis there was some concern about the torn hamstring that sidelined him there. He worked out quite a bit at Berto before camp without issues and coach Tom Thibodeau said Brewer is going well. Still, it's something the Bulls will have to watch and perhaps lead to Korver getting more time as a starter early on. Hello, Keith Bogans?
You and I and management may be the only ones, but I am glad Deng is still around. Sure it's always love-hate with a guy when several of the best players in the league play his same position, but it's like I read in an F. Scott Fitgerald book: something like, you can look around and still want other girls but at some point you realize you're not breaking up with your girl, whatever her flaws, because she's your girl, and you'd miss those flaws if you were with someone else. I feel that way with Deng. He's our guy, at this point, for better or worse. They can trade him, but not the season after they cleaned house so that I hardly recognize the team, and not with Noah at the same time so I will be cheering for a mercenary army of soul-less millionaires.
Sam: No one is more literate than Bulls.com readers, you often hear. Deng was very upbeat coming into camp and I think Thibodeau will be like Skiles for him, and back then Deng looked like a star in the making. The league GM's voted him that next season breakthrough player of the year, though you get no trophy for that. Sure, you'd have to take Carmelo for him, but good luck with that. He can get out and score on the run, he can rebound and has had a chance to work this summer on health. And he tries to get through the season and not miss games, unlike some others around the NBA. Let's give him a group hug.
At first I was with the Bulls regarding the no trade for Melo because Denver wants Noah in return, but now I am kind of having a change of heart seeing how he's reacting to this extension. The Bulls in my opinion have done everything possible to show their loyalty to him, now its time for Noah to return the favor. Its crazy how he thinks he is supposed to recieve somewhere in the area of a $10 million per year salary increase, I think by the Bulls reluctance to trade him for a "Carmelo Anthony" type player did him no good, its got him thinking he's worth way more than he's worth. The Bulls should learn from past mistakes (Luol Deng) a player should atleast make an All Star team, most improved or some type of award for a substantial [increase] as he is asking for, he at least [has to] be more of a threat on both ends. If you are listening, take the deal.
Sam: I've been surprised, and perhaps it's more a function of the horrible economy facing just about everyone but pro athletes, but the vast majority of emails I've gotten regarding Noah's extension talks have been like this, that Noah should take the deal. Usually, the fans favor the players and want the owners to pay. I'm sensing a public done with players not satisfied with $10 million annual salaries in the worst economic environment since the Great Recession. Sort of an enough is enough given no one is sure they can keep their job and if they can't where they'll get one. I've never really seen anything like this covering sports. Everyone likes Noah and the majority of emails I get are to retain Noah over trading him for Carmelo Anthony. Fans love his hustle and insouciance. But the feeling seems to be he's way out of line on this. I personally think Noah is making a mistake here and getting bad advice. No, I wouldn't trade him. He's an important piece for the team. But, at the same time, he may not be realizing he's in the perfect place for him with higher level players around him. He's terrific, a star, but a star role player. What, does he want to leave as a free agent to go to Minnesota and Sacramento? From everything I've heard and read, the Bulls talks have been in the $11 million to $12 million range. Noah's response supposedly has been in the $13 million to $14.5 million range, though I personally have no firm confirmation of the numbers. Frankly, I'm not even sure the Bulls are being smart making Noah an offer that high. Where's he going? He can be a restricted free agent after this season, meaning the Bulls can match any offer. And after this season, there'll be a new labor deal with what most expect to be lower top salaries and perhaps even NFL style franchise categories. It would be a surprise for a team to go under the cap and then invest maybe $12 million in Noah. LeBron, Bosh, Carmelo, sure. Noah? The Bulls could match and if he doesn't get an offer go still another year until unrestricted free agency. That's two more years and a history of injuries. Worth gambling for an extra million or so? And then to go where? I wish I were his agent, and not just for the commission. I wish he would see the great opportunity for him here and I would lock it in if I could. Also, you'll notice hardly anyone is getting extensions but Kevin Durant, a truly great one.
I just read an article on Hoops World that Noah's representatives are pushing for an extension worth $70 million over 5 years, and I have to say the absurdity of that number boggles my mind. Consider the following: Rajon Rondo signed an extension worth 5 years and $55 million and is considered a borderline franchise player. Andrew Bogut (borderline franchise player) signed a contract extension last year for 5 years and $60 million and is every bit as valuable to the Bucks as Noah is to the Bulls. Here are figures for some other young players who are at or close to Noah's caliber, play the same position, and signed contract extensions in the recent past: Anderson Varejao 5 years $40 million, Andris Biedrins 5 years $45 million, Chris Kaman 5 years $53 million, Al Jefferson 5 years $65 million, LaMarcus Aldridge 5 years $65 million. The highest number there is 5 years $65 million signed by Aldridge (last year) and Jefferson (2 years ago). Its fair to say that Noah compares favorably with those two considering his age, past performance, and the reoccurring plantar fasciitis injury, so the most the Bulls should be willing to pay would be 5 years and $65 million (which in my opinion is still $5 million more than fair value, but hey its just the NBA). Therefore if talks remain at a standstill and Noah's people keep pushing for an extension worth $14 or $15 million a year, (as much as I hate to see it happen) I think it would be in the Bulls' best interest to trade Noah for Melo. If there is anything we learned from the Deng negotiations, its that the worst thing you can do as an NBA franchise is overpay for players who are very good but not franchise caliber. Once a player is perceived as being overpaid, no matter how well he performs, he becomes a pariah and an untradable asset (case in point Luol Deng). Do you think the Bulls have learned from their past mistakes and will pull the trigger on a deal if contract talks turn sour and the organization is unable reach an agreement with Noah. I know the Bulls still control Noah for 2 more years, but its technically only one year, since his trade value will plummet next year because he would be only a year away from unrestricted free agency and could bolt any team that acquires him.
Sam: Clearly, my readers would do better by Noah than his representatives. No, they won't trade him. And I don't see Noah being affected by a refusal to sign a deal. He really is a competitor. But it's to the Bulls advantage to wait, and if nothing gets done I think they will be satisfied they did all they could and can sleep at night. Noah will, too, because he already is rich from growing up the son of an international star. But I think he'd regret for the rest of his life making this an issue and perhaps forcing himself out of Chicago.
There is one thing I don't understand through these negotiations with Noah. The figures I've been hearing are that the Bulls are offering 5 years $60 million while Noah wants 5 years $70 million give or take on both. Now my question is, people often talk about how contracts are not just about the money, but about the respect. It's the reason why the best player on a team wants to make the most and why players feel insulted when they are lowballed. Now what greater sign of respect is there than the Bulls refusing to even discuss Noah in a deal for an arguably top 5 player and definitely a top 10 player. Doesn't that act of loyalty on the Bulls part take care of Noah?
Sam: Players generally talk about loyalty only when they cannot get the money they want.
What Noah gives you for $4M a year is great, what he'd give you for $8-$10 million is still acceptable, but if you're paying him $12+ million then I would expect more than 55 games or so to go along with 10 points, 10 rebounds and hustle.
Sam: Maybe everyone will be making the Bulls think twice.
What we have here is a classic case of the Bulls overvaluing their young talent and no I am not talking about the Kobe rumors. In addition, we are now going to overpay Noah because we have committed to him by not trading him. His contract will look like Deng's in a few years and we will be in the same position with him as we are now in with Deng. This team never seems to learn. Again, its overvaluing young talent and being loyal to a fault. Noah is talented yes but he has a ceiling. He has chronic issues with his feet and he will miss games believe me. He is slightly overpaid at 5 years $57 million - too much long term commitment for a limited player if you ask me. At 5 years $65 mllion or 5 years $70 million - he is way overpaid and will be a bad contract in two years. I would take Anthony in his prime at 3 years $65 million any day over Noah at 5 years $65 million.
Sam: I do value him as a player and an unusually important fit with this team and urgent because of his size and general lack of size otherwise. I would not exchange him for Anthony, but many would. I think the Bulls see his value, and perhaps they are overvaluing him some given he is their pick. Fortunately for Noah, he's not negotiating with my readers.
What about taking a shot at a trade for Jamal Crawford? After all, he does want to be traded and he fills that 3 point shooting void we very much need.
Sam: Jamal makes $10 mil and feels he hasn't been treated well. And as much as I personally like the guy and am glad for his success in Atlanta and think he's a wonderful scorer, there are few poorer defenders anywhere. Exactly what they don't need. He's a perfect sixth man, though way overpaid.
Just wanted to see if you had any thoughts on the possibility that Joe Dumars may have gotten wind of the "Big Three" to Miami a year ago (2009) when he decided to sign Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon, and possibly even earlier with the Iverson/Billups trade. The signings/trade never made a ton of sense to me because they already had a SG who could play defense, and Villanueva/Iverson just never seemed like he fit the Pistons culture. It seems like they were signings made by a GM who knew his team didn't have a shot at landing any of the big free agents and figured it would be better to spend the money now, than to wait and be left out.
Sam: I think he had a sense of the collapse of the local economy, and, right, no one was going there. He could have had Boozer, but passed, which surprised me. Joe's done good things in Detroit, but I'll never quite figure those additions. Basically, I think he outthought himself. He felt the game changing with the no touch rules on the perimeter and he was right about that, but he overcompensated with offensive players, though mostly Villanueva. I think Ben will be fine as he was inured last season. But they've put too much stock in Stuckey, and McGrady figures to be a what's left of their chemistry killer. I suppose they reflect the sad mood of the city with a franchise for sale and new management over Joe who seem among the coldest and most heartless in sports.
Why aren't the Grizzlies getting any respect? The Grizzlies made a 16 game improvement last year, and if not for the AI fiasco plus blowing games in incredible fashion, the Grizzlies would have won at least 6 games more last year. It appears the national media expect the Suns, Jazz, and Thunder to be as good if not better than last year, and teams like the Warriors, Kings, and Bucks are expected to much better. But the Grizzlies are expected to regress. Why? The younger starters are back, Zach Randolph is playing for a contract, and the weakness of the team, the bench has improved from last year. The Grizzlies didn't win with smoke and mirrors last year. Why wouldn't they be a playoff contender in the West?
Sam: They are in Memphis? They are good, and you are right, if not for the owner's Cuban-like embrace of Iverson they probably make the playoffs. There's an issue brewing with Zach's extension, and there's always the question with Conley, who isn't up to being a high level point. But they have a lot of talent in a declining West and they should compete for a playoff spot. See, I'm on board.
I'm not sure why the Bullies aren't taking advantage of this Carmelo situation. It's pretty clear that Donnie Walsh is the Shaq of GMs. Had his prime a decade or so ago, but is currently second tier at best — a step up from Isaiah but not in the top half of GMs. Walsh would kill for Carmelo, so why don't the Bulls help make it happen? Bulls get Gallinari (or) Chandler.
Sam: I've heard various versions of this, of giving the Knicks a first so they can get in on the Carmelo action, perhaps with Deng moving and various combinations. There were reports Thursday the Knicks are dealing for a first to get involved. I'd still be surprised if the Nuggets deal with them. You're right. Walsh has mortgaged so much, and they likely aren't moving Gallinari. I'm no fan of Chandler, who is a three and a poor perimeter shooter, no help to the Bulls. Also, I don't think you facilitate a deal like that when there still is the remote chance you can be involved.
I've had it with the talks of Anthony coming to Chicago. I am one who believes the Nuggets will want too much. So I propose we make a trade for Danny Granger of the Pacers instead. He's just as good as a scorer and seems more readily available to the Bulls.
Sam: He's another guy I get a lot of mail about. I really hate his game. I think he's very selfish, a guy who can dominate so many matchups yet stands around firing threes. I think he's maybe the most overrated player in the NBA, and my guess is they felt that way on the USA team given how little he played. I'd stay away, though the Pacers have given very little indication they are dealing him, and if they were likely would ask for Rose given Granger was an All Star and Olympian as well.
I'm glad to hear you shoot down the Melo-to-Chicago rumors, because I'm excited for the trade deadline possibilities of this Bulls team. By then, all the free agents they signed will be elegible to be traded, and I think Charlotte will make it clear they are a lottery team. Do you think the Bulls will consider trading that pick from Charlotte, and who might be available at shooting guard at that time? My personal favorite potential trade target would be OJ Mayo, who can defend and can shoot the 3.
Sam: Mayo has generally been off limits, but you never fully know with Memphis. With the small markets and players like Randolph up for an extension, things can change fast.
I know it's old news, but why do people keep saying the Bulls struck out on free agency? Everybody keeps putting Chris Bosh on the same level as Lebron James and Dwyane Wade and trying to sell the fact that it was a "Big Three" to people. They make it seem like the Bulls "settled" for Carlos Boozer when in reality Boozer has always been a double-double player and he's done it while being the second option on a winning team in the West. Bosh has only averaged a double-double twice in his career and one of those years, he averaged about 9.7 rpg and it was rounded up. He did all this while being the main option in Toronto for a team that couldn't make the playoffs in the weak East and people say that he's hands down better than Boozer. There was no "Big Three" this summer. There was Lebron, D-Wade, and then everybody else. Bosh, Stoudemire, and Boozer are all different players but are all equal in terms of their value to a winning team. Bosh doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as those other two. The Bulls had a great pickup with Carlos Boozer.
Sam: I wrote about that Thursday on Bulls.com and am fine with the Boozer pickup as I was never that high on Bosh or Stoudemire, either. Health, obviously, is the key. I mentioned in passing at media day to Noah something about not winning in free agency, and he quickly said they did. So there! The point is the community a year ago believed if the team didn't get LeBron, Wade and/or Bosh it would be a disaster. Frankly, I never, ever hear that now despite the Bulls not getting what everyone believed was their top priorities. I sense an interest leaning toward excitement about this team and a feeling that associating with James and Wade would make you need a shower. I'm not sure if they came here people would be upset. But for now most seem excited to see just what the Bulls have.
Is it just me, or are we being overlooked? The whole basketball world seems to be focusing on everyone else but the Bulls. Analysts bring up the Heat for obvious reasons. Then, after the Heat, most analysts put the Magic, the Celtics, and finally the Hawks/the Bulls. It's hard for me to imagine how we won't be in the top 3 in the East next year. The fact that were put in the same spot, or behind the Hawks is such an insult. They should greatly benefit from, what seems to be Thib's more disciplined coaching style. Compared to Vinny's relaxed style of play, with virtually no offensive system. With Noah, Taj, and Boozer in the post the Bull's have one of the best front courts in the NBA, maybe the best rebounding front court in the NBA. And they have Derrick Rose, who I could honestly see finishing top 5 in MVP voting this year. I'm looking for his numbers to jump similar to the way Wade's did when the Heat acquired Shaq in '04. I figure a front court of Noah, Taj, and Boozer is at least as good as a 32 year old Shaq and Udonis Haslem. Boozer was right to say that anything less than a championship would be selling the Bulls short. I am really expecting at least 1 finals appearance from this team in the next 3 years, and at least 1 championship in 5. Am I setting the bar too high for the new-look Bulls?
Sam: It's always difficult to project too optimistically when you haven't seen them do it, and they don't even know one another yet. But they have some really good pieces, what seems like a good coaching staff and the chance to add a player at some point with the draft picks they have. I wouldn't dismiss the Bulls too quickly, though I'm not ready yet to predict too much.
Given that no major moves are made, what should our expectations be this season? I'm expecting 50+ wins, 4th seed or better, and at least reaching the 2nd round of the playoffs. To me, any less will be reasonable cause for disappointment.
Sam: I spoke (wrote) too soon. See, fans already may be starting to get angry.
Is Brain Scalabrine a trading piece or his is he a legit pick up? If he is a legit pickup will he fit in with our team?
Sam: For your 13th or 14th man, you want someone who might play once a week or even less and be thrilled and work hard at practice. If he makes the team, he'd be fine.
Just wondering if any of these names are signing anywhere: Michael Finley, Jerty Stackhouse, DJ Mbenga?
Sam: Not yet. With rookies and international players coming in every year and most teams reducing rosters to 13 or 14, you don't always get a seat when the music stops. It may be the end for Finley and Stackhouse, though they are the kinds who could hook on later with injuries.
I wonder what you think of the new rules regarding technical fouls and arguing with the refs. It seems to me the NBA intentionally made this more complicated and subjective than necessary. The result will be the usual inconsistency across players, time during the game, and refs. it shouldn't be a judgment call. Wouldn't it be more simple for the rule to be: No talking to the ref, ever, about anything? Only the coach can talk to a ref. Things like shouting "come on!" or slapping one's arm, or holding up one's hands in disgust at a bad call are perfectly fine they don't waste time. Every sport lets players express anger at calls. It's the arguing and complaining that are crazy in the NBA.
Sam: I wouldn't object to that, but you can't make them robots. It is an emotional and physical game. But this will only matter if they crack down on Wade, LeBron, Kobe and Duncan. They are the worst and never shut up. If they don't, it's meaningless. But the issue is the NBA doesn't want those players potentially thrown out with technicals. So my guess is this becomes meaningless and not enforced.
Jim has a three year contract. At end of 2010-11 season has two years left. 2011-12 season doesn't happen due to labor strike. How many years are left on his contract at start of 2012-13 season when play resumes?
Sam: Really, no one knows. I ran this by the NBA office recently and they couldn't say for certain. Sure, a contract is enforceable, but you can collectively bargain out the year, I guess. In hockey, they lost a season and cut everyone's salary 25 percent. I don't see that in the NBA. We'll find out the answer after the lockout, if there is one. I find it hard to believe they'll lose a season, so I suspect the question will be moot.