Ask Sam mailbag | 10.08.10
Sam Smith opens his mailbag to respond to the latest round of e-mails from his readers.
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I realize that losing Carlos Boozer for possibly 2 months is a big loss, between his frontcourt presence and the now lack of depth off the bench; however, this injury may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the Bulls. I think it has 2 benefits.
1. Resilience-With a confident leader in Derrick Rose, I think the Bulls will be built on defense and mental toughness, which is why I think they can carry their own on their western circus trip beginning this season. If they can, they will be a more resilient team when Boozer is back and all is said and done.
2. Playoff Time- When you look at the 82-game NBA season you know as well as I do that the fatigue takes a toll on you by playoff time. I believe that Boozer is actually very tough and one of the most physical and strongest players in the league, but his body breaks down later on in the year because (like an NFL running back) all the hits and excessive physicality take its toll on him. So with this early injury, I believe it might possibly save him that time for the playoffs. He'll get his rest and preparation, and will have played in less games and have less opportunities to get injured and stay durable for the playoffs.
Sam: Wow, think how great they’d be if they could lose Noah, too. I know media look back on seasons and point to stuff like that. But having lived through the Depression, or at least the depression of seeing my high school grades, I prefer to get my money’s worth. I’ve paid Boozer and the others for a full season and I’d like to get one. Also, I think the beginning of the season is important less in significance than perception of who the team is and the momentum from the community. Also, with so many new players, I’d liked to have seen them come into the season fast and begin to develop chemistry, which I didn’t think would be that much of an issue given the players seemed to have roles that were complementary. Maybe they do get through the trip on defense and Derrick, which seems to be the way they’ll have to go for now. And maybe Boozer is stronger later, as you suggest. I like your attitude and optimism. But I’d rather see Miami, Orlando and Boston follow that model now and rest some of their top players until December.
Well after an article on how Boozer was the X factor this upcoming season, now what? We knew coming in that he was injury prone, but to have an injury that will be remembered like Sammy Sosa's sneeze injury is inconceivable! Do they drop Noah to PF and start Thomas at C for the time being? Do they press harder to trade for Carmelo now? (not including Noah of course)
Sam: My sense is they will ride it out. It is supposed to be just a month of the regular season, and two guard is an issue as well with Ronnie Brewer having worrisome hamstring problems. At least they have Taj to fill in. There’s been no one who fits quite yet at two. Plus, you need to hang onto some roster flexibility with money and picks in case the Nuggets decide to cash in Carmelo. I don’t see any reason to do much until into at least the first few weeks of the season if things go badly then.
I heard a rumor that Boozer didn't fall. He actually broke it on Jay Cutler's helmet.
Sam: The conventional conspiracy suspicion is Boozer somehow broke his hand some other way with some postulating he hit something or someone. The break, some are pointing out, is known as a boxer’s break for hitting something. Boozer got hurt at home on an off day with no one seeming to be a witness. So if that’s his story, I don’t have any evidence to show it is not what happened. Even if he did punch a wall for some reason, it wouldn’t void his contract. And players have done that kind of thing many times in the past. Kareem twice missed a lot of time for once punching a basket stanchion and once Kent Benson, though they both moved about the same. The bottom line is that there is no evidence of bruises or cuts or swelling or redness on his knuckles which would be associated with punching something. So we all move on and just wait for his return and note that he is missed.
I think yesterday was one of the ugliest days in recent Chicago sports history that I can remember: The Bears are embarrassed on SNF ;Cutler goes down with a concussion ;Boozer fractures his hand while tripping over a bag at home ;The Cubs end another dismal season with a loss .I was already steaming about the Boozer incident as the Bears' debacle was about to start. I had been skeptical about Boozer's signing seeing as he's highly injury-prone. Lo and behold, preseason hasn't even begun yet, and he manages to injure himself while not even playing ball! Way to add insult to injury after striking out on the big three in free agency. Without Booze, the Bulls may very well have a weaker roster than their opening day lineup a year ago, when they had Hinrich, Salmons, and Tyrus. Replace those three with Brewer, Korver, and Bogans, and we may once again be looking at a very long Circus road trip in November! I see the Bulls 4-5 games sub-.500 once again when Boozer gets off his butt and actually plays a game.
Sam: I feel your pain… and share your concern. Not so much for the summer strike out as the Bulls did all they could and I can’t second guess how far they went. It may just have been fixed from the start. In the end, Boozer made sense and was a good fit. Yes, we all questioned his injury history when he was a free agent two years ago and there were rumors of a trade to the Bulls. But all the free agent power forwards were flawed—Stoudemire and Bosh with knee issues, and David Lee got injured this summer. So bad luck. But the result is a disappointment. Because the schedule is a tough one early and the half court offense is almost non-existent without Boozer, the team could fall into a big hole in November with all those road games against god teams. But there’s plenty of time to climb out as one of Skiles’ Bulls teams started 0-9 and still won 47 games and that was despite big injuries late in the season.
What feedback are you getting from training camp so far, in particular, Thibs coaching style and player attitudes toward the implementation of his system? Are we still going to see the Bulls get out and run in transition as much as they did last season?
Sam: First, you have hit on the key for the season, especially now. They have to run. Without Boozer, the halfcourt offense is on hold and they’re going to have to get up and down the court before the defense sets to score enough. Thibodeau seems a bit of a micromanager as he is involved in a lot, though if you sleep four hours and work on basketball the other 20 my guess is it doesn’t seem like you’re doing so much. The players seem to like and respect him because he takes the time to work individually with them all the time, which is rare among head coaches and has a lot of innovative ideas regarding the game. Players, despite what you sometimes think, want someone to help make them better. He can do that. But he is intense. Though after Vinny, that was expected.
With a new coach and coaching style in place do you think James Johnson will have more of a chance to contribute? He was fairly well regarded in the draft (he did go ahead of Taj for what it's worth). Had a good rookie summer league, but then proceeded to spend lot's of time in VDN's doghouse. He made an appearance in the playoffs as a defensive substitute on LeBron. He got called for a foul almost every time but he still showed me something.
I ask about James because I've seen him around the Deerfield golf course alot this summer. He quickly improved his game. He's apparently pretty athletic with a black belt in martial arts too? He's a very friendly guy and he got along great with all the Deerfield kids.
Sam: It’s make or break for James. The Bulls have to the end of the month to make a qualifying offer to keep him next season, and that seems uncertain. His issue has been he is having trouble finding a position. As simple as it seems, one of the more important elements to being an NBA player is to have a position. Of course, great players can plug in anywhere. But if you can’t, you have to fit somewhere. James doesn’t seem to fit anywhere. He has a lot of skill as a guy who can handle the ball like a guard at 6-8, which is what got him picked so high. But he hasn’t been able to guard on the perimeter or hold his own inside. Now, they’re using him as a backup three, but I think he might be best as some sort of hybrid four with his strength and quickness. And he should be tough given he’s a fighter. He’s a very nice guy and the only Bulls who actually played golf with sponsors at the team’s annual outing even though he isn’t that good. You have to admire that as pros don’t like to be shown up by amateurs in any sport. He’s always cooperative with media, but he needs to produce somewhere and show some court discipline. The Bulls could use him now.
In case the nuggets let melo walk next year for nothing, which im surethey are not going to let happen, do the bulls have cap space to make a run at him next summer??
Sam: Just for the record, the Bulls probably won’t have cap space this decade. Last summer was the last time. With the extension for Noah and soon to come Derrick Rose and the likelihood there’ll be some reduction in the size of the cap after the next collective bargaining agreement, the Bulls are out of the free agent market. But there are plenty of ways to improve. The Bulls have a valuable extra draft pick from Charlotte, which could be good in years to come. They also have trade possibilities.
Why would the Bulls not be willing to move Noah for Melo? At the end of the day, isn't Taj a "poor man's" Noah? Although, personally, I'd prefer them to move Deng and Boozer at the deadline, but that's a whole other issue. I just don't understand how the Bulls see Noah's 10/10 as more valuble than Melo's potential for 30+ every night.
Sam: It’s a bit more complex than that. Gibson is a poor man’s Udonis Haslem, at least for now. You don’t replace guys like Noah, which is why there aren’t many. He’s in the conversation for All Star center. The Bulls haven’t been in that conversation since Artis Gilmore. Plus, with his new deal the Bulls effectively committed to him. The Nuggets don’t want long term deals of veterans, so basically, at least for now, have no interest in Deng or Boozer. As I’ve noted before, you move Noah for Anthony, who as I’ve noted has been out of the first round once and only the year they got Chauncey Billups to take the big shots, and you’re the old Warriors with Run TMC and you are maybe a 45-50 win team and out of the playoffs in the first round every year. Best case.
Why are the Wizards still obligated to pay Arenas on his contract for the next four seasons? Do NBA teams really offer contracts without a clause that says, "If you are convicted of a felony, we don't have to pay you" or without some kind of morals clause that includes bringing guns into the locker room?
Sam: The Wizards chose not to try to void Gilbert’s contract. It’s an arbitration process, and if they lost, which many predicted they would given the nature of the offense, they feared they’d completely lose whatever value they could get out of Gilbert. They’re probably going to have to put up with him this season, but they figure if they can get a good season from him and keep him clean for a year—and he really isn’t a bad guy in the Anthony Mason genre—after the Knicks continue to mess up free agency they’ll take him in trade.
I've just read that James Johnson is currently working out with our beloved Scottie Pippen.
It feels good to hear that, but I'm not sure if it can help JJ in any way.
Scottie played a different role than Johnson, and he was more of an athletic guy than a skilled, slow-feet, good shooting PF (of course Pippen was more skilled than Johnson is).
Do you think Johnson can improve enough, especially on the defensive end
Sam: Let’s say Scottie may not want to use his work with JJ on his coaching resume quite yet.
As a lifelong basketball fan, I have developed a theory that may properly explain why there are two types of players in the NBA. While everybody undoubtedly wants to be paid a fair wage, it's not hard to point out the distinction between those using basketball as strictly a means to an end and those playing for the love of the game....i.e. those who see basketball as a brotherhood. I remember reading how Derrick doesn't want Joakim traded because '...he's like a brother to me.' I recalled some of Derrick's Adidas commercials where the moniker is 'For me and my brotherhood.' I then drew a positive correlation between the bro-ness of certain players by attaching it to their names and the results were baffling. Derrick Brose. Broakim Noah. Carlos Bro-zer. Kyle Brover. Ronnie Brower. But why limit ourselves to the Bulls? We see this with other stars around the league. Brobe Bryant. Lamar Brodom. Brojon Ronbro. LeBROn James. Russell WestBROok. Do you think there's some sort of correlation?
Sam: I think you have been listening too much to the old 60’s “The Name Game” song by Shirley Ellis. But it did have the memorable lyrics of:
Shirley, Shirley bo Birley, Bonana fanna fo Firley
Fee fy mo Mirley, Shirley!
And Arnold, Arnold bo Barnold Bonana fanna fo Farnold
Fee fy mo Marnold, Arnold!
I know I spent many a romantic night singing that to dates. And then getting dumped. I could never figure that out.