Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 01.03.2014

Sam Smith opens his mailbag to respond to the latest round of emails from his readers

According to sources Melo would be interested in coming to the Bulls this summer. By my calculations the Bulls could get far enough under the cap to create space for a max FA. They'd have to amnesty Boozer, let Deng go and trade Taj for an expiring. Seems like a lot to just let walk, but in a star driven league having Melo and Rose could be like having Durant and Westbrook. Then fill in around them with Noah, Mirotic, Butler, Snell, Dunleavy and Augustine. Not a bad supporting cast for 2 stars.

Billy Habibi

Sam: Looks like you fell for it again. Though it’s fair to say many of your fellow Bulls fans have as I received a bunch of these “Get Melo” emails this week. Though with all the snow and cold there is the lonely madness of being shut in and thus hallucinations. I recall a few years back Anthony used the Bulls as one of his fake destinations so he could get traded to the Knicks and do exactly what since then? That said, yes, I’d still take Anthony because he’s a high level player, a terrific scorer, which the Bulls obviously lack. But your package is basically Boozer and Deng, who, yes, they could lose for various reasons. But then you trade Gibson for nothing, and when you are trying to do that to land a free agent teams know what you are up to and generally demand payment to take a player with a long term contract like Gibson’s, which would be a No. 1 pick like in the Hinrich situation in 2010. And then if he wanted to come to the NBA you’d have no money left for Mirotic. So you’re, in effect, giving up Boozer, Deng, Gibson, a No. 1 pick in this draft and the rights to Mirotic for Carmelo Anthony. Assuming, of course, now he wants to play in Chicago after blowing you off a few years ago and turns 30 this season and is leading a team with one of the poorest records in the NBA. Yeah, jump on it.

I had given up on the idea, but a New York Post story says Melo likes Thibs. Open to Chicago for marketing reasons. Since I don't see him switching from the bad Knicks to the bad Lakers. And I don't see the Clippers giving up Griffin, I think Bulls have a shot. Not sure why they won't swap Deng for Bynum to avoid luxury tax penalties when Deng can still resign next year. But maybe it’s because they're holding out to try to improve/compete. What if Knicks were willing to move on from the Carmelo experiment. Would they accept a package of Deng, Butler, Teague, Mohammad and the Bulls and Charlotte 1sts? Assuming Bulls would even offer that. Gives Bulls a chance to compete again this season and a star to pair with rose next year and beyond. Melo would have to give a strong indication he would resign too.

Mike Kay

Sam: That’s five ifs and a reliance on the New York Post. You must be working though a Harry Potter series. Yes, we’re back to the second star thing. I doubt you’re in the majority among Bulls fans with potentially giving up two lottery picks (remember, the Knicks may be a lottery team with Anthony and Tyson Chandler). And anyone who has watched New York rebuilding no matter when or with whom knows they rarely are built around Marquis Teague and Jimmy Butler and a player who can be a free agent in a few months along with draft picks. New York doesn’t do draft picks, as evidenced by essentially not having any for several years. But if the New York Post reported, who are any of us to question.

So I read on Bleacher Report that Carmelo Anthony wanted to go to the Bulls, Lakers, or Clippers if he were to leave the Knicks. Do you think the Bulls would be able to sign Anthony in the offseason? And if you do, do you think the Bulls could still have room to sign decent role players to play around Rose and Anthony?

Titi Spizzirri

Sam: I did want to point out that even if the Bulls just let go Deng and Boozer they still would not have enough free agent money for a maximum player like Anthony. That’s why in the first example the fan has the Bulls giving up so much. Although there will be changes this summer and we knew there would be no matter what happened, there’s no way of predicting even for the Bulls now given all the uncertainties of the free agents and not knowing if Mirotic wants to come to the NBA. These things despite any plans sort themselves out based on events. If I had to guess, I’d imagine the Bulls want to save their free agent possibilities this summer to see about Mirotic and deal with what may be going on with Deng. I don’t expect them to be in any high level bidding games for veteran players like in 2010. And, of course, more depends on what draft pick or picks they may have.

I just watched a Celtics game on league pass and this dude (Tommy Heinsohn) is hilarious. Screaming at refs and everything. Turns out he's a 10 time champ and a Boston legend. I was wondering if you had any cool stories involving him you could share on Friday. The day to day Bulls stuff can be a grind and it's cool when you write about the old days.

Wesley Davis

Sam: Tommy is obviously a classic as a broadcaster, the ultimate homer in the school of Chicagoans like Johnny Kerr and Ron Santo, the old veterans who are fans of the team and don’t care what you say about it. And if you’ve got a problem they’ll work it out with you. Austin Carr is like that on the Cavs broadcasts. You can criticize them for not being journalists and they are proud. But you never did it to their faces. Tommy’s had an amazing career as a Hall of Fame player and a title coach with eight titles as a player and two as a coach. And he was one of the toughest guys in an era when the players may not have been bigger but were far tougher. Tommy was if not strategic he was straight forward and one of the few guys ever willing to fight Wilt, who he often harassed to protect Bill Russell. I remember him in a beauty of a bout one time with Wilt and making Wilt so mad by fouling him so often—Wilt was a horrible free throw shooter like Shaq and Dwight Howard—that he’d lose it with all Tommy’s antics. There never was a dynasty team in American sports like those 60’s Celtics.

I've heard all the rumors of Luol Deng being traded but it seems that the Bulls brass are truly believing they can re-sign Deng this summer. I've heard they offered him between $8-9 million per season and he turned his nose up at it. My question is when do you have enough money and start to think winning is priority. If Luol Deng was serious about winning why didn't he take that offer? Is it because he felt that amount was an insult or did he just want to up his market price for this summer? He's going to decline over his next contract and he hasn't won a NBA title so why should the Bulls brass hold on to him any longer, why not trade him for picks or expiring contracts?

Stan Ross

Sam: I never hold that against players. After all, why do some people hold out for a raise from $50,000 when others are starving? Deng has every right to bargain for what he believes is fair. After all, the team is making a lot of money as well. From what I understand there was no actual bargaining and proposals exchanged as much as talks about it and the Bulls saying that while they had high regard for Deng given the circumstances and uncertainty of the season—and they didn’t even know how bad it would be then—they felt it was time to wait and see what happens in the summer. As the Heat are doing with LeBron, for example, the Knicks with Carmelo and so on. It’s not unusual anymore in the NBA and as for Deng he never truly has exercised his option to become a free agent and I believe every player should do that once to get a sense of their value on the open market.

So do you think the Pacers should tank now that they lost to the Raptors by 13? Especially after it was a back to back (for Toronto) And how about OKC after losing to at home to Portland. I don't think trading Boozer or Deng for a guy like Ross of Toronto would be "tanking."

Dean Hewitt

Sam: Actually, I was going to forward this to some fans as the Pacers could get a really good draft pick to pair with Paul George and then have a great team. A lot of people don’t understand that teams are not giving up young players, like Ross, for veterans with big contracts (Boozer) or veterans with expiring contracts (Deng). And then you also have to take back a matching amount in salaries ($14 million to $16 million), which the Bulls aren’t doing because they want to have roster flexibility this summer. It’s not that Deng isn’t a valuable player. He is. He doesn’t have a valuable contract to other teams anymore like he used to.

When is Thibodeau going figure out that D.J. should be the starting point guard and Hinrich the backup?

Tom Rowlett

Sam: Although I’m not a huge one for changing starting lineups, I can see this at some time, though I don’t believe Thibodeau will do so. He has an interesting conundrum with it and I can see it both ways. I don’t think Kirk would care one bit as he’d still get his minutes, so I don’t believe that’s an issue as it would be with some players. I’ve been advocating of late getting more shooting into the lineup at times and Augustin and Dunleavy have basically been the Bulls best three point shooters. But they are two of the weaker defenders compared to the starting five. I think you do need a shooter with that starting group. But teams tend to attack Augustin or Dunleavy when they are in, and then that changes your defense with all the help required. I think Thibodeau has done a nice job matching those two shooters with defenders during the game. Augustin and Hinrich have been splitting the minutes pretty evenly of late and Hinrich has been great lately in pressuring and shutting down point guards. I’d probably leave it as it is for now.

Are the Lakers finally at a point where they might consider moving Gasol for Boozer and Hinrich?

Stephen Fulton

Sam: Perhaps the question should be phrased about whether the Bulls are ready to take on a rental player having his worst season and being accused in local media of either faking injury and illness or refusing to play out of lack of interest and being soft for their best defensive guard and a player averaging about the same as Gasol?

I am not for this but do you think the Bulls are considering acquiring Bynum in order to cut him by January 7th? If they traded either Deng or Boozer for Bynum and cut Bynum that would clear them under the luxury tax. Highly doubt Cleveland would take Boozer but maybe if they threw in a future 1st round pick (maybe a 2016 1st rounder or something).

Rod Blunck

Sam: Am I answering or are you? Anyway, I also got a lot of Boozer to Cleveland emails as, of course, that makes no sense with Boozer having once left Cleveland as a free agent under unhappy circumstances and the Cavs having a young power forward they like in Tristan Thompson. As for Bynum, despite all you have heard I do not believe the Bulls are involved with talks with the Cavs at all.

So is it safe to assume that Kyle Korver gets invited back (finally) to the 3-point shooting contest this year?

Thomas Bonk

Sam: It would cheapen the contest—if those things are possible on All-Star Saturday night—if Korver weren’t involved this year. But he has been invited before and declined. The NBA tends to get mad at you for that and often doesn’t invite you back. A lot of times the veterans don’t want to do that All-Star weekend if they don’t make the team as the NBA runs you through all sorts of events and tires you out. The teams often quietly advise their players not to go. You cannot refuse an All-Star team invite, though. That carries a suspension if you fake injury or illness or something. Most players plan that All-Star weekend as a few days away in warm weather to get ready for the stretch run, and I certainly can understand that. Though who would want to miss doing that hour interview on Friday of the Super Bowl-like media day where you get asked your favorite color and underwear style.

I've heard a lot of fan talk about Derrick Rose's continued value and whether he can be relied upon in the future. Do you have any insight on whether the Bulls organization has true concerns about him as a cornerstone in future seasons? Do the trainers see implicit risk for his future in his style of play?

Steve Price

Sam: Anyone would have questions given three seasons of injuries. Same as the Thunder now have to with Russell Westbrook. I suspect the Bulls expect Rose to return and be a great player again. I believe he can and will be. I think they logically will expect to rely on him less so an injury won’t be such a setback. It would be, of course, as it would be for any of your top players. But all their indications from his doctors are for a strong recovery. And he did not hurt the knee where he has the ACL. Many have speculated that some of the problem is the way Rose plays with that fury like Westbrook and the body cannot stand that. Perhaps. I doubt he changes much as that’s how he sees the game. But I imagine the Bulls and the staff will talk with him about that regularly and I do expect he’ll be a bit more restrained. Magic Johnson was after his knee surgery in 1981 and it didn’t hurt his career all that much.

Who do you think the Bulls will target in the draft? I'm not asking about people but positions. Maybe a center first, then possibly small forward?

Michael Roth

Sam: You know the guy Best P. Available. It’s not exactly a loaded team and with a lot of uncertainty. If they can get a star no matter the position, I imagine they’ll find a place since we know for sure now there are no guarantees.

What are the chances of Mirotic coming next season? If he is able to come who’s game does his resemble? Would Toni Kukoc be a good comparison?

Jonpaul Gauthier

Sam: It remains unclear as he’s still under contract in Spain and would need a buyout this summer. I assume he comes at some point as he’s always said he wants to play in the NBA. He’s nothing like Kukoc though he also does shoot well on threes. He’s more a so called stretch four with a developing inside game reminiscent of Ryan Anderson, who had that great triple overtime game against the Bulls earlier this season.

I'm a little stunned at the season so far but it’s the Eastern division and I truly believe we'll make the playoffs and be respectable. My question is we've been hurt by the injury bug and now that LeBron has dual ailments, what would be our chances if everything else being equal, that a George and or West came up injured or lame and we get our guys back and finish strong with good D and adequate offense?

Tom Golden

Sam: I’d say it would look better if Millsap, Korver, DeRozan, Valanciunas, John Wall, Bradley Beal, Josh Smith and Andre Drummond also got hurt. Which, of course, is possible.

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