Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 05.10.2013
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We've gotta keep Nate. How can we make this happen? No way he goes for even the mini-MLE next summer, right? I'm thinking he could command as much as $6-7 mill on the open market. Is that far-fetched? Can we snag him at a Bulls discount, something like $3 mill per for a few years? Could we trade Captain Kirk and this year's second-round pick for cap space somehow? Please tell me that GarPax is at least considering keeping Nate Robinson. He's so much fun.
Sam: I have no idea if they are considering him or not, though these playoffs have become Nate’s world. Nate was featured in a front page story in the New York Times Thursday. I could think of a lot of stories I’d have guessed first with Nate on the front page of the New York Times before one on his playoff dominance with other small guards shooting floaters. Yes, this would be the sign journalism officially is dead. After the Nets triple overtime game and the Game 1 win over Miami the pleas and prayers to retain Nate have dominated. As I’ve speculated many times, I see this as a good one-year marriage for both. If Nate gets $6 million, he’ll owe the Bulls for life. I don’t see that; perhaps half, which would be outstanding for a guy passed on by basically every team in the league. Given the Bulls' finances and the return of Rose, I still highly doubt Robinson’s return as I also don’t see him wanting to return to a role behind Hinrich. And the Bulls have no plans to move Hinrich, as their long term plan was to have a defensive guard to allow Rose to play off the ball. Nate isn’t that as much of an offensive addition as he can be. So enjoy what you have seen. You don’t have to watch a movie again for it to have been memorable.
Out of all the fouls, Chalmers' grab of Noah's neck was the most blatant and most violent, and just not a clean basketball play... Do you think he should get a one game suspension or at least be upgraded to a flagrant, even though that won't do much?
Sam: I’m glad the league didn’t overreact as the officials often did Wednesday and everyone will play. These are the most important games of the season. The league shouldn’t be legislating winners as it did when Amar’e Stoudemire was suspended in the 2007 playoffs against the Spurs. I know there was a need to curtail play that could injure. But as with most reactions in our society, it often goes too far. So many of these NBA suspensions are unnecessary, and before you do so in the playoffs, which can affect an entire season, there ought to be a truly egregious reason. Scott Williams’ suspension in Game of the 2001 playoffs also comes to mind in the league overreacting and perhaps costs a team a chance to go to the Finals or win a title.
It's scary to see fans get so close to players like the lady giving the bird and cussing out Noah (in his face) as he walked off the court. Players are human and it's a natural tendency to react to such a confrontation. Has the league ever addressed/discussed this as one can easily see an already ejected/upset player not being able to control their emotions and cause another Malise at Auburn Hills?
Sam: It’s a constant source of concern and wariness even more so in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. There were bomb sniffing dogs at the Miami games, though you know no matter how man precautions you take you never can be fully safe in our society because we have people. That said, I read about the woman, Filomena ‘Phyllis’ Tobias, the widow of former CNBC commentator and financial expert Seth Tobias, who was her fourth husband. I’d say men other than Noah might have more to worry about in Miami, though.
What's with all those empty seats in AmericanAirlines Arena? Don't they realize they have the best basketball team in the NBA who's on its way to win another championship?
Sam: It’s much easier to go to a basketball game in Chicago since the weather is much better inside. In Miami, it’s much better outside. It is a unique place in the U.S. because it really is the only tropical location, and it’s tough to park your boat with the sun coming down and go inside an air conditioned building. But South Florida also has become an area with a strong Latin influence. It hasn’t been a culture that has embraced basketball, say, as much as dance. I love going down there as so many restaurants have live music and you see families and kids in there dancing all the time. It’s a festive place to be. So when the sun goes down, hey maybe then you take in a game as the Heat has surpassed the Lakers for the latest arriving crowd. I’m not sure how into the games they are. But I know their victory celebrations are special.
As a Heat fan, I don’t like when Wade complains endlessly to the officials, but don’t you think Noah does the same? If you talk to any of the Heat media types, Wade is playing hurt, as evidenced by the explosion he showed during the 27 game win streak.
Sam: Actually, Gibson complains more than Noah, though Noah draws a lot more attention given his outsized personality. It was clear Thibodeau wasn’t too pleased with the Bulls getting caught up in the officiating, though it is something to see with Miami. I know fans used to complain about that with Jordan, but he has a better way about it as I think he put the referees in his movies. I guess Wade is hurt, but we’ve always predicted he would fall off fast because of having so many injuries spending those two seasons carrying the team while they broke it down to get LeBron and Bosh. It got them a title and perhaps a few more, but Wade does look more on a career slide down that I don’t see changing all that much.
I simply don't get your "the NBA has the best officials in the world" talk. Anytime the Bulls win against Miami, they should just play Radmanovic and Malcolm Thomas 48 minutes in the next game, because some very strange things will happen. I don't believe the referees go to a game trying to hurt the heat's opponent, but there must be some sort of pressure from the league office to protect James or whatever. I'm Brazilian and let me tell you, I know a lot about dirty players. The Chicago bulls have none of them.
Sam: It’s a bad world for basketball officials. As for James, the Bulls heard the same thing for years about Jordan and pretty much every star. It’s more that the star players have the ball so much and score and attack the basket that they’ll get more foul calls. As for never rarely called for a foul, that’s different. Though perhaps why he’s complaining so much in this series as he was called for three fouls in two games, believed to be a career high. The Bulls are not dirty. They are tough and relentless, and nobody really likes playing against that.
I was watching some of the Golden State games and have been really impressed with Curry (injury issues aside) and Thompson. Mark Jackson says he has the best shooting backcourt in the league. I'm starting to think he might be right. What's your opinion on their backcourt's ability to shoot vs the rest of the league?
Sam: It was supposed to be Joe Johnson and Deron Williams, but we saw that’s not the case. Maybe Westbrook and Durant as Durant is a guard most of the time. Ellis and Jennings if Jennings weren’t the worst shooting guard. Nash and Kobe? Ray Allen and LeBron? No, Curry has certainly elevated himself in these playoffs and Thompson is a pure shooting guard, though as we know Mark Jackson with a microphone—and he knows he’s wearing them in games—is never short on hyperbole. I know everyone yelled West and Goodrich when he said they were the best ever. But my Boston basketball conscience, Rick St. Jean, reminded me of a pretty good one in 1973-74 of Sweet Lou Hudson and Pete Maravich, who for Atlanta who averaged more than 53 combined, 27.7 for Maravich and both averaging more than 25 per game and Hudson shooting 50 percent for the season. They were something to see, and I doubt, unfortunately, Mark ever did.
If the 2011 Draft were to take place again, how high do you think Jimmy Butler would go?
Sam: It’s always fun to look back on the draft, except for the GMs who made the picks. I’d say the way Butler has come on he’d probably now be around 10 as that was the draft with Kyrie Irving No. 1. Derrick Williams still could turn out, and most teams still would go with Kanter ahead as he’s a center. Klay Thompson was in that draft along with Kawhi Leonard, Nick Vucevic and Kenneth Faried at No. 22. The Bulls used No. 23 for the rights to Mirotic, and so that draft could eventually prove a bonanza for them.
I disagree with you and think Belinelli would be a better choice for starting 2 next year. Butler is certainly a better and more valuable player, but he's the wrong type of guy to have next to Rose. Belinelli can distribute the ball and spread the floor, both fantastic assets to take pressure off of Rose. Butler has those slashing plays and is developing his shot, but with rose back, that lets the opponent clog the middle.
Sam: It is a reasonable point and I would not object to Belinelli in that role because I agree he is more the classic shooting guard who can run the plays you see Korver, Reggie Miller and Ray Allen having run. But he’s another like Nate who’ll be in demand in the summer and I suspect the Bulls will look at Jimmy for shooting guard knowing he’ll return. He has much improved his shot and knowing he’ll get a chance to start my guess I knowing his work ethic it will become much better after the summer.
The more I wonder about our chances next year of winning the title the more I seem to think that the bulls need to make some moves to win. After watching Noah develop into a all-star Jimmy Butler becoming a very solid player and knowing Deng's capabilities and watching Thibs mold this team into something greater than they really are, I think if they keep this bunch for one more year I think they have a shot.
Sam: That win in Miami sure has an effect. I believe the Bulls feel they need to improve their roster, as all teams basically do. But the whole goal of next season, like it or not, I believe has basically been to bring Rose back and team him with the other players without doing anything major and see if you have a shot. Some, including me, believed the Bulls would have won last season if Rose had not gotten hurt. Yes, Omer Asik is gone, and everyone has seen how valuable he was. But they still filled the bench nicely, and the hope is they can retain some of this season’s bench while fitting in some additions around the edge. But I expect the core to be essentially the same with the addition of Rose. And they should be in competition for a top four spot in the East with that with a chance to make a run.
How is Thibodeau not even in the top 4 of Coach of the Year voting??? I know these things are always flawed and basically meaningless, but come on. George Karl, Mike Woodson, and Popovich (who should be top 2 or 3 every year) did a great job, but Spoelstra? I’d like to see these voters explain Monday’s game then.
Sam: It’s a regular season vote. It happens every year when someone gets a run in the playoffs and the media labels them a genius. George certainly deserved it and a guy with more than 1,000 wins should win once, as Jerry Sloan should have. But he never did. As for the regular season, and it’s hardly Thibs’ fault, but the team won 45 games, barely above .500, and faded late when management shut down Noah and Gibson for health reasons when the team was doing well and had a chance at a top four spot. So it would have been difficult to say based on 45 wins the Bulls did better than projected. They basically did, but there were a lot of good candidates. Spolestra deserves credit as after all 4they got 66 wins and following Game 1 you’d have to ask how. Plus, he developed a unique small ball, spread system with varying positions that takes some innovation to try. He’s a good coach and you can see in the playoffs good work done by Lionel Hollins, as it was all season, and Mark Jackson. It was a good year or six or eight coaches. I think all the rest got fired.
I hope you are not one of the sports pundits that changed their series prediction from "Heat in 4" to "Heat in 5" after game 1. Is it that hard to believe that the Bulls are competitive and have a chance to upset the Chumps, err "champs" in a 7 game series with their tough, physical, and fearless play? I have thought from day 1 that this team is overrated. Bosh has a good jumper but ranks around Roy Hibbert for big man toughness. Wade is older and less explosive and only the 2nd best Marquette player in this series. LeBron is no doubt the most physically talented player in the league, but he lacks the heart of champions that he draws comparisons to, namely Jordan and Kobe. He clearly took the first half off in game 1 and thought he and his team was good enough to turn it on in the second half, and assumed the Bulls would back down. They didn't. And they won't. Bulls in 6, led by The Real Big 3: Nate, Jimmy, and Joakim.
Sam: Well, they did win 66 games and 27 in a row, which even the Bulls didn’t. I guess as the Bulls have a Big Three also they can stand pat. I picked Heat in 7 before the playoff began because I always have had some of the same doubts about Miami, especially if Wade isn’t Wade, and he really hasn’t been. Still, that LeBron guy is pretty good. We’d hear a lot of that during the Jordan era when the Bulls were starting Harper and Paxson and Armstrong and Longley and Cartwright and there seemed to be matchup disadvantage all over the place except for that Jordan guy. An MVP makes up for a lot of apparent weaknesses.
Which aging vets do you think will sign with the Heat this off season at a discount to chase a championship? Elton Brand? Richard Jefferson? Odom? Derek Fisher?
Sam: It happens every fall, but these kinds of players generally don’t make all that much difference and end up not playing that much in the end. Sounds good in fantasy leagues, though.
At this point, which center do you think most GMs would rather have on their team: Noah or Howard?
Sam: Howard, though it doesn’t mean they are correct. I know Noah has been terrific, but it would be tough for anyone to turn down a multiple Defensive Player of the Year who led his team to the Finals, assuming, of course, he is healthy. It was a dysfunctional season in Los Angeles, and Howard was coming off back surgery. I guess the larger question I whether the Lakers want him. I’d say they do and they seem sincere. If it were me I’d try to interest the Rockets if they could do a sign and trade, which I’m not sure they can, and get Asik and a bunch of pieces and resign Pau Gasol. But gms like big names, also, and I suspect they’d all go for Howard as difficult as he can be to have on your team.
When any player is injured, what is the benefit of estimating his return? It would seem that teams might gain a strategic advantage by saying, this player probably won’t play today, or that player is out for the season—to overestimate their time out. Then, should that player actually be able to play, their opponent has the disadvantage that they haven’t schemed for that player. Also, instead of disappointment on the part of the fans as their favorite player continues to sit out, imagine their excitement when a player thought to sit out the year comes back early. In all of the major sports coaches tend to encourage everybody to believe that the injured players still might play. The only benefit I see in this is that it may sell tickets. Is that what they’re concerned about?
Sam: The Bulls don’t need gimmicks to sell tickets and don’t use any. Yes, perhaps the Bulls could have declared Rose out to start the season and then if he did return it would be a miracle. But this as we’ve rehashed so many times has been a media/fan/internet hysteria issue. Rose obviously was hopeful of returning last fall. So the Bulls basically said at media day last October they would be cautious and Rose could be out all season but no one knew. Rose said he’d try to get back. His rehab didn’t progress as he’d hoped as how could anyone know for sure. So it’s taken longer than he hoped, leaving the team to basically leave it up to him. Which is where it remains. I’m not sure what else could have been done at the time, though our country, especially in Congress, much prefers the Monday morning quarterback second guess as if they’d known what to have done. It’s much easier after the fact to have predicted the future.
On Rose: His teammates believe in him because he believes in them, it's part of his disinclination to recruit free agents he's going to "roll" with his guys. And if he believes in them he certainly doesn't feel the kind of pressure a lot of commentators are trying to put on him to "save" this team in the playoffs. If the entire team thinks they can win, I'm sure Derrick is on the same wavelength. It seems to me the only pressure he has he puts on himself, and while I suspect that is a lot of pressure he is strong enough to stand up to it. It seems to me if you're a fan of the humble Derrick Rose, the mentally tough player who won the MVP when no one thought he could do it you have to appreciate his decision not to play in the same terms. This is the flip side of that coin. He ignored what all of the critics and commentators said about his chances to win the MVP and he won it. Now he's showing that kind of mental toughness and determination towards his rehab timetable, and he's ignoring the same critics and commentators. It seems to me you don't have one without the other so even if you disagree with his decision you have to appreciate this is part of the package.
Sam: A lot of people who were supposedly such big fans seem to have forgotten that. You’re point is valid that he is the one being most consistent. Despite the chorus of doubters from what he should have done in free agency to winning the MVP to playing now he’s stuck to his beliefs and that guides him, which suggests he’s a lot more mature than the second guessers as he has a core belief in himself and doesn’t have to gain acceptance from others to be satisfied. It’s perhaps why we liked Rose so much and what’s been forgotten. We liked him being humble and now many want him to put himself forward. I had a media person in Miami say if the Bulls won the title Rose would regret his decision and be jealous, and certainly they could not know Rose like we do. But that couldn’t be more opposite of who he is and why there has been so much affection for him. He’s about winning as much as anyone ever, like the way he put teammates forward in high school and college so they could get scholarships and be drafted instead of him padding his own statistics for individual acclaim. He could easily have like most everyone does, but he didn’t. He could have chased around and hung out with fellow stars and declared himself great, but he chose to stand with his teammates. It’s a valid point you make that Chicagoans embraced Rose because of who he was and now are mad he isn’t someone else, perhaps taking an unnecessary persona chance at individual glory and acclaim instead of running out his rehabilitation as he feels is best for the long run of himself and the franchise. There is no science to this; just humanity, and Rose is showing it going at his personal pace. It’s also why his teammates have such respect for him.
What would you have if Derrick could not repeatedly stop on a dime, change directions on a drive, not once, but multiple times, dart, fake, etc. what would you have? Another not very big guard. He has to have a perfect knee to do that. Not a "medically cleared to practice/play" knee but a fully healed knee. He also needs muscle memory so over-riding that no hesitation in his step could strain that knee in a non contact injury. Why is this so hard for the radio and TV media to understand? Their behavior is so typical of today's world. They are bullies who want the big sound bit so they denigrate, pompously proclaim their made up facts and slander all the time. It is a disgrace.
Sam: Yeah, tell them!
Is Rip still tenuous with his back or whether it's just Thibs decision not to play him. Do you have any insight as to his physical condition?
Sam: Thibodeau falls on the side of defense when he is uncertain about what to do. Hamilton has missed a lot of time and his defense isn’t, at least potentially, up to the younger legs, though he is healthy now. I’d like to see him play some as he is an exceptionally smart player with a good feel for the game and what you lose in speed you can make up some in intelligence. I still believe he bothers Dwyane Wade as he’s an aggressive, annoying type of player. And he famously has long finger nails that bothers Wade. Perhaps we’ll see some more of him, but I wouldn’t second guess Thibodeau all that much as he seems to be doing pretty well. I also credit Hamilton for being a terrific and supportive teammate. I know from talking with him he’s disappointed, but he’s always upbeat in the locker room, joking with teammates and doing a lot to occupy Nate Robinson, which is important as the two seem to hang around a lot. Hamilton has been a real pro through all this.
How does Cook get more playing time than Richard Hamilton? Thibodeau must have RIP in the dog house. This is not a good decision. RIP can gives us more ball movement on offense and he can pass to the Big’s better. He has had good games vs the Heat. He can match up with Ray Allen.
Sam: I also think there’s an issue of respect with Thibodeau even if some fans would not see that. Thibodeau doesn’t want to put Hamilton in for garbage minutes, which would be demeaning for a veteran All-Star. I haven’t heard that Hamilton has objected to playing even a few minutes at any time. Plus, Thibs sees him as a player who delivers best as a starter. And Jimmy Butler has moved ahead. It’s not a comparison with Cook. So Thibs opted to go for Cook for the few minutes instead of pushing Hamilton out after having him sit for so long. I doubt we’ll see that much more of Cook in this series. I know Thibs had a long talk with Hamilton recently and explained everything, and while Hamilton said he’d play anytime, after all, it’s tough to second guess Thibodeau now the way things have gone.
I know you get a lot of e-mails and we all hear the media go on about how Rose is sitting out these games while the other players play through their own injuries and I think it is ridiculous. Rose has shown that he is a very devoted player to the team and his toughness. The thing that I find most ridiculous though is that Rose played through numerous ailments last year all while the media said that he should be resting. I realize that playing through those injuries was not related to or a cause of his torn ACL, but do you think there is a possibility that Rose thinks there is a connection? I definitely feel like that is a possibility as I have seen many patients that have their own misconceptions despite the medical knowledge they are provided.
Sam: Simply, which no one much wants, is he simply doesn’t feel right to play. But that is an interesting point as media and fans were screaming last year for him to sit out more and some did blame all the injuries for the ACL and that he came back too soon. That’s why when you write something it’s often said if half the people like it and half are upset you’ve done well. Tough to please everyone and when you do you only hear from those who had taken the other side. Which is also a mistake teams make. Bill Veeck once had it right when he said if you listen to the people sitting in the stands you end up there with them. Leading or succeeding in any field is about having a belief in yourself, your system and your knowledge and following that and the heck with what anyone else says. You eventually are judged on the end product, anyway, and only the second guessers get it right all the time.
We'll always remember this season/Rose saga, but a year from now this hostility toward D-Rose will be long gone - no one should be questioning his decision, it's his body, his career and ultimately no one knows how he feels but him (although he's really gotta be second guessing his decision after tonight). But, trading Rose within 2 years... please tell me that's crazy talk?
Sam: That’s crazy talk basically only being entertained by the people sitting next to you in the United Center or on the couch.
The Bulls should consider signing Monta Ellis or OJ Mayo this summer as both are unrestricted free agents. Monta would give us the second scoring option/compliment to Rose that we need. Mayo would be a cheaper option and is an upgrade over Butler. The Bulls could then offer trades for Hinrich, Butler, and any other combination needed to make it work for future draft picks.
Sam: I don’t believe the Bulls are much interested in either, especially the smaller Ellis. Thibs prefers a bigger shooting guard, which also limits Robinson for the future. Mayo as we’ve seen is inconsistent and at this point I think the view is for the money—and even if he costs more—the Bulls like the player Butler has become and will be. I don’t expect given financial considerations for this summer the Bulls making any major moves and coming back with basically the same group—hopefully with Belinelli as well, as that’s the guy I’d go the extra bucks for—and a first rounder with Rose. Not a bad team, you’d think.
After watching the Bulls beat Brooklyn in 7 games and agreeing with Charles Barkley on the fact that the Bulls, talent wise, have no business being in this series. I started thinking. If the Bulls had to choose to keep either Derrick Rose or Tom Thibodeau I would choose Thibs and let Rose walk. I believe Thibs has more to do with the Bulls winning games than Derrick ever will.
Sam: I guess you gave yourself away by admitting your agreed with Charles Barkley.
Do players get paid more if they make it to the playoffs or is it all the same?
Sam: You get your contract for the regular season and then there is a playoff pool that increases for each round and then the players vote shares to divide it up after they are eliminated. Coaches generally have in their contracts bonuses for each round the team plays, though not members of Bulls.com.
Obviously there is a lot of talk about whether or not Rose should play and it is looking like he is losing some respect from the media and fans. Personally I don't think he need the respect of the media and fans so I don't think it matters. What does matter is having the respect of your teammates. You are connected to the team so I wonder if have any insight on the feeling of the players?
Sam: Obviously, Rose has the support and respect of his teammates, which became clearer as Joakim Noah after Game 1 said he was tired of all the sniping at Rose and they should shut up. Everyone likes to be liked, Derrick as well. So you’d prefer respect, but you also cannot let a mob dictate what is best for you. Rose is doing that, which is exactly as it should be.
I just listened to some comments made by John Paxson about him noticing how the player group love being together and in turn love playing together – hence the fighting qualities of this Bulls team. It is an intangible that Paxon and Gar Forman should probably receive more credit for in finding and bringing in players of good character and in turn the coaching staff for creating an environment of player accountability so previously questioned ‘character issue players’ such as Robinson and to a lesser extent Hamilton have been able to assimilate and thrive. How many times throughout this year have you heard or read Korver talk about “loving” playing in Chicago – Belinelli always talking about “loving” being with this team – and now Robinson saying the same.
Sam: Since everyone is happy and crediting, true. I mentioned that in my story about Jimmy Butler and note it from time to time. And as you say we use their comments. It’s an element of team building the Bulls have done better than many teams and is sometimes a problem with fans screaming for more stars. You add a guy like Deron Williams, who is better than a lot of players you have, but he’s a finger pointer at teammates all the time when things go wrong. Those tams rarely seem to transcend the sum of their parts. Very few teams in the league are good at team building. They try to win the press conference too often and the applause of the media and fans for “winning” a trade or making the big acquisition. Often it’s the pieces who fit better together, players who they coach can coach. No, you are not going to turn down LeBron James. But it’s not fantasy league stuff about numbers and analytics which not only a lot of fans and media play but general managers as well. It’s about merging people and how they work together as well. The Bulls have done a good job with that and it shows, also making it much more pleasant to be around the team as opposed to say the Knicks. It’s not like the teams loaded with bigger names can’t succeed. But there are many ways to succeed.
Is there a better 5-man defensive unit than Hinrich, Butler, Deng, Gibson, Noah? I can’t think of one.
Sam: Uh oh, then Thibs better get a title this season. I do like the one with Rose a bit better, however.
To me the Bulls have already won their championship this year. What's coming is a bonus. Bt what they have accomplished is truly remarkable. We have championship material here, it is up to the staff to make the right moves. The Bulls are one guy away, and this guy is hurt.
Sam: Oh, no. The pressure is really ramping up on Thibs now.