Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 01.14.11

Sam Smith opens his mailbag to respond to the latest round of e-mails from his readers.

Looking into the future here, but let's say the Bulls end up with 52 wins and the Hawks with 53 or more. I know the Bulls would get the 4th seed on account of division title, but don't the Hawks get homecourt as a 5 seed though? Or did they change that rule?

Ashis Roy

Sam: This is much misunderstood and I even had a talk with a Bulls guy this week who didn’t have it right. The first thing is you don’t get an automatic top three seed by winning the division. So if the Bulls win the Central, and Orlando and Miami and Boston have better records, the Bulls are the fourth seed. Then, if Atlanta is five in your scenario and has more wins, they would get home court advantage even though the Bulls have the fourth seed. The theory is the league wants to do something for the division winner, but not reward a team for having fewer wins, especially because there is so little division meaning in the NBA. Going into Friday, the Bulls are third in the East, so they’d open the playoffs against sixth place New York. But they are in a virtual tie with Atlanta and only a half game ahead of Orlando, so they could easily fall to fourth seed and without home court. The Bulls do have an eight-game division lead over the Pacers, whom they play Friday.

I truly don't understand the conundrum here, the rub as you say.... if a
trade becomes available for Lee or Mayo with that Charlotte pick and Taj,
you make the trade and say thank you very much. In the NBA it never makes
sense to pass up a chance to win now, especially so you can hold onto a
pipe-dream pick. Lee and Mayo may not excite fans like Carmelo and Lebron
do, but they give this team what they are lacking without disrupting this
great core. Gives them a good shot at a 4-5 year run as an elite team
with a chance for championships. Why would anyone trade a 4-5 year run now for the possibility, if you get really lucky with the pick, to have a 4-5 year run 5+ years from now?

Matt Maloney

Sam: This, of course, remains the question of every week, the possibility of acquiring a better shooting guard and whether to use the pick from Charlotte and whether it can even get you something substantial. The way I read it now is the Bulls aren’t going to do anything unless they view it as a substantial upgrade—meaning better than Brewer and Korver—so, no Rudy Fernandez or Al Thornton or Anthony Parker type players. So maybe Mayo, but it’s not even clear you get someone like him with that pick and Gibson because, as you note, that pick may not be available for five years, and what good is that doing a GM for a bad team since he likely won’t be in the job five years from now. The latest rumors have Mayo in an Anthony deal, though I know numerous teams have inquired about him with different scenarios, so it’s really not much more than that at this point. While that Charlotte pick has value, it’s more likely it has value when it gets closer to being available. Plus, guys the Bulls are interested in like Mayo and Courtney Lee are playing for teams that believe they can make the playoffs and aren’t cashing in players for future possibilities so quickly. It’s not very easy to make a deal with draft picks as your prime asset until usually draft time in June.

There's talk about the Bulls trying to pull off a trade to upgrade the SG spot, but wouldn't it be better long term to wait and see what they can find in the draft? I look at the Spurs model. Once they got lucky in the lottery and landed Tim Duncan, they built the rest of their core through the draft, even though they weren't picking in the lottery anymore. Still, they found Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, among others. And they got several titles with that group. The Bulls have been good at picking up quality late in the draft (Taj Gibson being one example), and quality shooting guards should be easier to get late in the first round than something like a center or point guard. It'd help financially, too, getting a rookie SG for $3 million rather than paying $12 million for a veteran. And we don't need to give up assets like Taj or future draft picks. Do we have to do something now?

Carl Feldman

Sam: That would be the other side. Being fair and balanced, as Fox News likes to say, here’s the other side: The Bulls probably are not playing for a championship this season. So why give up a player and a No. 1 pick for maybe the chance to win a few more games and maybe go one more playoff round? Keep the picks when they become more valuable at draft time. Plus, come next season the Bulls will have at least five players on expiring contracts, which means they become somewhat more valuable and then you can combine them with draft picks as the Charlotte pick becomes more valuable and then you maybe can make a move for an All-Star level shooting guard, sort of in the Kevin Martin 20-point scorer model, rather than a limited upgrade like maybe a Lee or Corey Brewer or Francisco Garcia or J.R. Smith. Then you are putting on the floor five players who all can score double figures, all have to be defended and all have All-Star potential. So what’s the hurry? This isn’t the last year for Rose and Noah. This is something of the beginning. Be patient and go for something big like Miami did instead of just trying to be a little bit better now.

Instead of chanting “Scalabrine,” wouldn't it make more sense to chant "James Johnson?"

Joey Giannani

Sam: Probably. I have to admit I was surprised from a Chicago fan base to be chanting for a so-called end of the bench pet. That’s not the way I’ve seen the Chicago fan base and especially because they did in Boston. Chicago always seemed to have such a complex about being a “second city” that I didn’t think fans here would copy something they made fun of. Of course, they also booed Rodman relentlessly until he arrived. Look, Scalabrine is a good guy and, I feel, a good addition to the team. He seems popular, is always upbeat, is smart and is perfect for the role of the guy who plays once every few weeks. I’d want him on my team. Johnson isn’t that. I wish he would get a chance to play, though Thibodeau does use 10 players, which is enough, and was upfront before the season in telling Johnson he wouldn’t be in the rotation. Why, I’m not sure, but he apparently doesn’t trust Johnson yet. I’ve had some fans write asking why he doesn’t get some time in the D-League, and I think that would make some sense to get him a chance to play as the Bulls don’t scrimmage much anymore. But with just 13 players I think the Bulls want to keep him around in case of emergency. You could see the last time he went in he looked afraid to even shoot for fear of being accused of taking bad or quick shots. It’s just looking like a lost season for him, but given the team is doing so well those things happen.

In case you remember, I'm still in Afghanistan, things aren't too bad
over here. They normally show the nationally televised weekly
basketball games here on Armed Forces Network, the games are on at
like 3 in the morning w/ the time difference but whenever the Bulls
are on I make it a point to stay up and watch.. Sucks we have to play the Heat without JoNo, would love to
have seen how we measure up against the best at full strength. I hope
Rose shows he's the best player on the court and doesn't need to
recruit his friends to come play with him in order to win!

Billy Habibi

Sam: I believe the Bulls will have a good showing Saturday against Miami, given the Heat are closing a long road trip and aren’t the type of team that overwhelms you, anyway. And who know now what shape LeBron will be in with his apparent ankle sprain. But you are right. It won’t matter much until Noah returns in the next game between the teams after the All-Star break Feb. 24 on TNT in Chicago. So this Saturday is a good chance for the Bulls, with a nothing to lose game given they are missing one of their top three. It also is an interesting dichotomy to watch. The Heat decided to rest their future on three stars, or, at least two (though Bosh is quietly playing well), while the Bulls are going with one transcendent star now that it’s clear Carmelo isn’t coming to Chicago. All indications are he has told the Nuggets he doesn’t want to play in Chicago and to forget dealing with the Bulls. So Rose will be the Jordan version here and we’ll see if that works better with a pecking order or if LeBron and Wade can ultimately figure it out. It will be an interesting experiment to watch. Stay safe.

Looking at the East, it seems feasible to say that Carlos Boozer could make it as a reserve All-Star. Do you think Carlos Boozer can make the All-Star? If so, if Joakim had not gone down with an injury, he was also playing at an All-Star level, can we say we have 3 All-Stars on our team?

Rick Arcon

Sam: He has a chance. I’d dismissed it because he missed so many games. But with the Bulls’ record and Boozer up to 20/10 and the last thing you did looking more important, he’s a possibility, though it will be close. Rose, as we know, passed Rondo in the latest tally to start with Wade. Stoudemire passed Garnett for the starters, but the coaches would certainly select Garnett and Pierce as backup forwards. It depends on whether they go for a second center, either Al Horford or Andrew Bogut. If he weren’t hurt, I’m sure it would have been Noah. Horford would deserve it on the Hawks’ record. Joe Johnson hasn’t had a good season with his surgery, so the Hawks deserve at least one guy. So if Horford makes it, it comes down to a fifth forward in the East among Boozer, Chris Bosh and Josh Smith. Miami’s record could persuade coaches to go for Bosh. Boozer hasn’t been overly popular with the coaches as despite averaging close to 20/10 for the last five years he’s been an All-Star twice. So it will be close.

Have the bulls considered making a trade for Anthony Morrow and have the Bulls ever considered signing any of these Free agents/veterans Jerry Stackhouse, Michael Finley ,Flip Murray, Ryan Thompson, Rodney Carney
Earl Barron ,Bobby Simmons ,Darius Miles

Shaun Chalmer

Sam: No. I guess I could elaborate. The Bulls never were high on Morrow, and once he got a three-year deal, the Bulls lost interest as it potentially could affect their ability to sign Rose. They view Morrow as no better than either Brewer or Korver and he’s in the why bother category. As for the free agents, the Bulls don’t have any interest in any of them as they view most as done and Carney as too limited to matter much. If they make a move, I believe it will be for someone who can start at two, and there’s no one like that there.

I'm not sure if this stat is tracked, but what is the Bulls shooting percentage off of D-Rose passes? With his ability to penetrate and break double teams, he has consistently given his teammates some of the best wide open looks all season long. They seem to be knocking down the jumpers more as of late, but I feel like he should average closer to ten assists, if his teammates shot a higher percentage.

Bill Marzano

Sam: Someone probably tracks that, but I agree. I think Rose is a much better passer than given credit for as his passes come right where guys want them in their shooting motion. It’s different than with a guy like, say, Russell Westbrook, who throws passes all over the place and guys have to catch, get into position and shoot. It makes a difference and puts Rose on a far higher level than a guy who gets good numbers but doesn’t help his teammates as much. Some with higher assist numbers are like that, like John Wall and Ray Felton. If the Bulls had a high level shooting guard, Rose would easily be a 20/10 guy. I have been saying he could lead the league in scoring if he chose to and when that was brought up to him in the locker room the other night he said he’s a point guard. He is.

What does Chicago or the Bulls have to do to host All Star weekend? We havent had it in a very long time

Timothy Gilbert

Sam: Well, first thing may be to move Chicago 800 miles south. The league pretty much has committed to primarily warm cities for its February event, and given Derrick Rose looks like a regular and I have to be there I support that thinking, But the major reason is the Bulls do not want the game again. And I do not blame them. The league views the All-Star game basically as a marketing event for its sponsors and big money supporters, so they control virtually all the tickets. So if you have season tickets to the Bulls, you probably cannot go to the All-Star game. If you don’t have season tickets, you have no chance. The Bulls don’t believe the people who support the team all season should have to be second class citizens for the All-Star weekend, so they have said basically in perpetuity, thanks, but no thanks.

Is it me or is Carmelo VERY overrated? He has a terrible shooting percentage and 3point percentage and is averaging just 3 assists and 6 rebs a game career. He scores 24.7 points a game despite him shooting in the mid 40’s which means he shoots a lot! He is not unlike Tracy Mcgrady in that he has big numbers but nothing to show for it. I am so glad that the Bulls didn’t trade Noah for Anthony.

Jonpaul Gauthier

Sam: Maybe not very. If he goes to the Nets it may look like that because it’s going to be a long time before he’s with a serious contender, which, I guess, is what may be holding all this up. If I’m the Nuggets I just hold onto him and try to make a run. Then if they lose him, fine. They’re going to be lousy with every trade scenario I’ve heard. Then drop his money and you’ll be plenty under the cap to start building your way. The Nuggets have some talent. More than he’d play with in New Jersey, and maybe New York as well. Anthony basically has turned his back on the best place where he can win a title, which would be in Chicago. Which suggests he’s not about winning as much as lifestyle in the New York area. Look, that’s OK. If you have a lot of money, there’s nothing wrong with going where you want to live and having fun. But it’s also not about trying to win a title. Anthony is a great scorer. Let’s not dismiss that. He’d likely be good to have, but maybe not great. He’d likely be an improvement for a team like the Bulls, and the Bulls have been interested. But there is some belief around the NBA of your view that he is not worth the trouble. Some executives and scouts who watch the Bulls say Anthony is more a low post player who’d clash with Boozer and not the kind of player the Bulls need, more a shooting guard to spread the floor for Rose. Given the way Anthony has pretty much not cared about destroying the Nuggets franchise with his played out trade drama, you may have your doubts about him. He’s never been out of the first round of the playoffs except for one season when the Nuggets brought in a real leader in Chauncey Billups. Despite his denials, those close to him believe his wife is driving the move to New York. And he obviously isn’t that smart. If he were he’d want to go to the Bulls. If he were smart and determined to get out of Denver and still win, he’d want to stay out of the East and not have to compete with the Heat, Magic and Bulls and would stay in the West where the Lakers and Spurs are aging and there’s no one else that great. With him I could see the Bulls being the team to beat in the East. But he obviously has no interest and there’d have to be compromises from he and some of the Bulls top players to make it work. I think it could, but there’s not universal agreement of that around the league. It’s hard to consider him overrated as he hasn’t been rated that highly as he hasn’t been a top five MVP guy. He obviously believes his rating will grow if he gets out of remote Denver, but it never does unless you are a winner deep in the playoffs.

When D Rose becomes a free agent and he signs with the Miami Heat wouldn't you agree that that will be one of the best, if not the best, teams of all time ?

Scott Sutcliffe

Sam: I am tired of getting these questions from Pat Riley always using an assumed name. Yes, Pat, they could be. Of course, we in Chicago believe that isn’t possible because Rose is from Chicago and is committed to the city. Of course, LeBron James once said that about Cleveland. It is why you have to keep improving in this era and show your best players you are serious about winning. Thus far it’s difficult to say the Bulls have not done that given their full court press in the summer for LeBron and Wade and their apparent desire to still trade to try every avenue for a shot at Carmelo. Some would say they should have traded Noah, but that’s a basketball decision and Anthony hasn’t shown any more than Noah he can elevate a team to a championship. I think that was the right course to retain Noah. But Rose can be a restricted free agent after next season and then if he doesn’t sign an extension an unrestricted free agent after the 2012-13 season when, presumably, he would be the most coveted player in the NBA. Thus, it behooves the Bulls to remain serious about competing for a championship.

It makes me sad that no one has thought of a nickname for Derrick yet. If Kevin Durant is the "Durantula" then I think Derrick Rose is Spiderman. The way he leaps to the hoop or the speed that he has to travel from basket to basket is remarkable, and the ability to higher to get dunks or to get blocks, you swore he was on springs, or maybe he's on strings. Nobody knows who takes his pictures but he seems have headliner plays. He also seems to possess the spidey sense to avoid contact. And even though there may not be a Mary Jane Watson he does play with a CJ Watson.

Francis Manaloto

Sam: Actually, Bill Smith takes his pictures, but that’s beside the point. Actually, he’s already got several, like D-Rose and Pooh, but I’m willing to go over the edge and say we just call him “Derrick.”

There's talk going around that the (only) reason Keith Bogans is still in the starting line-up is because his agent negotiated a verbal/hand-shake deal with John Paxson prior to him signing with the Bulls that stipulated that he would get a minimum 50 starts which is what he had in San Antonio last year. Any truth to this?

Mark Weeden

Sam: No, but I have heard when Bogans’ agent called his voice was muffled and the Bulls thought they had signed Bogut. And where is this talk going around, anyway? I imagine you’d want to raise the doses on some of the medications among that group.