Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 11.08.2013
Sam Smith opens his mailbag to respond to the latest round of emails from his readers
Maybe we should just tank & trade everyone but Rose for 1-year deals and/or picks - with the deep draft we may finally get that 2nd star to go with Rose. Why pay luxury tax if we're not contending? If Thibs goes, who is the best candidate in the market? Sloan?
Sam: Do you think the Bulls are capable of losing 65 games with Rose? I don’t think anyone believes it’s time to give up on the season, but I’ll be reporting it if they decide it’s time.
I recently moved to Indiana (from Illinois) and was at the Pacers/Bulls game last night. At what point do the Bulls start considering a new coach? Thibs has a great track record with these Bulls, but I have to think that Rose would be even better under someone else. At the game last night against the Pacers, every play Rose brings the ball down, he walks back and forth across the 3pt line, while everyone else watches, and eventually passes it away. It seems like other teams have a much easier time on offense. With Rose, shouldn't it be easier for us? I don't claim to know the solution, but our offense is horrible. Is it time to start looking at new coaches?
Sam: So if I understand the coach who was coach of the year three years ago, who led the team to the best record the first two seasons and last season without Rose led the team to a tough second round against Miami with half his team injured and who recently agreed to a four-year extension and was voted among the elite coaches in the league by the top executives has lost it four games in and perhaps should be replaced? Is that your suggestion?
For the last three or four years the Bulls have had one player capable of taking his man one on one or creating his own shot. Rose and when he got hurt Nate Robinson. Every other team has 3-4 and ball rotation is much more effective when your shooter is a threat to put the ball on the floor. We don't need another superstar we need a shot of youth and athleticism. The Bulls might come back and win the division, but what happens in the playoffs when defense intensifies and Rose is rendered helpless. Rose is unselfish by nature, only since coming to the Bulls has he been forced to carry the load. The no brainer is to move Deng, although he is a very good player he is not talented enough to be a second fiddle. By the way you could have traded Teague after summer league for a 2nd round pick just to get his contract off the books, but instead you keep him sign James when you desperately need a big man. The front office is having delusions of grandeur your not winning with that team. I guarantee you if you offered Deng for Gay Toronto they jump at it, who cares how much he's owed he automatically becomes the second best player and the Bulls become a serious threat. Deng to Denver for Chandler and Randolph throw in the Charlotte pick. Why sit around and watch it crumble, reminds me of the Cubs after they lost to the Marlins. They came back with limited changes and didn't make the playoffs.
Sam: So who are all these athletic creative players on the Pacers, who suddenly are the new Bulls? Hibbert? West? Yes, Stephenson is an athlete. But he’s also been highly erratic and out of control. George Hill? Actually, who are all these great athletes in the Miami starting lineup? Bosh, who didn’t have a field goal in Game 7. Haslem? Battier? Chalmers? The Bulls had enough two weeks ago to be serious contenders according to most everyone in the NBA. Not championship favorites. But one of the group if Miami slips. I’m not trying to make excuses as they haven’t played great. They played better than the Knicks and 76ers and worse than the Heat and Pacers. But they’ve shot historically poor. That should change. Rudy Gay? Have you been watching? He’s shooting 33 percent and 28 on threes. He makes $19.3 million next season and not only would he be the Bulls highest paid player but would prevent any other move even if the team dumped Deng and Boozer. That’s the team you prefer? Or Chandler who’s been injured for two years and Randolph, the career underachiever with his fourth team in six years?
I think we should trade Mike Dunleavy. In the preseason, he was missing shots off screens all the time and missing wide open, easy shots. In the regular season, he's still at it.
Sam: Mike’s had 24 shots as a Bull and is currently the team’s second best three point shooter. Though if Minnesota would give up Kevin Love for him, I’m in.
I hate to be that guy after another blow out loss to come up with trade ideas but if Paxson and Forman are okay being a third best team than do nothing. If they want to truly win they need to make moves. What about moving Rose to 2 guard and find a true point guard? How about finding a way to get Rondo when he is healthy?
Sam: And that would be for whom? Noah? Be tough to get an All-Star point guard for Gibson or Butler. Not that the Bulls can afford to let them go, either. Sorry, Boozer at 32 this month isn’t attractive to rebuilding teams. Derrick Rose was the league MVP at point guard. He dominated Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Rondo regularly in matchups. What exactly is the point?
George Karl seems to be enjoying his new “Analyst” role for ESPN. He made a comment after the Bulls got beaten by Indiana that they must make a trade to compete with the likes of Brooklyn, Miami and Indiana. Specifically a shooting guard who can create his own shot. What’s your thought on this? I love Jimmy, however I think his play may have been amplified last year during the playoffs as every game sat on a knife’s edge. He seemed a little shell shocked vs. Indy.
Sam: So much for Jimmy as I’ve had numerous emails saying he needs to be replaced. I remember when I was being accused of not acknowledging his Hall of Fame ceiling. Which was about 10 days ago. Anyway, I believe the Bulls are fine with Jimmy at shooting guard and he’ll be there. He knows he’s pressing, and, after all, this is his first season as a full-time starter. He probably deserves a few weeks. George is a very good analyst, the best of the former players and coaches ESPN has from what I’ve heard already. George is a lot like Phil Jackson. He has trouble lying to protect his basketball buddies, which is why most of the ESPN analysts don’t give you as good a view as a guy like George. But if George has a good trade for them I’m sure the Bulls would be interested. How exactly do you come up with a high level shooting guard who can create his own offense basically when the Bulls have been looking for that kind of player for four years. And to get such a high level player whom are you giving up without substantially weakening yourself elsewhere? Marquis Teague? In this instance, George didn’t think much and gave you the frustrated, overreacting fan answer. But mostly he’s a good listen, as I think the TV saying goes.
Is there a point guard in the league with fewer assists per game than Derrick Rose? He has three proven All-Stars and Jimmy Butler, who will most certainly be an All-Star some day, but he does not give them the ball where they can score. Am I the only one who is starting to see some Stephen Marbury in his game? I hope I am wrong, but I don't see a Rose led championship team ever happening.
Michael D Mortenson
Sam: Well, that was a short title rally.
My question is why the Chicago Bulls have not gotten Derrick Rose any help, and why is the bench horrible? This can not be a championship or bust season when we do not have a championship team. Let's be honest here the Bulls are not going to beat the Heat or Pacers in the playoffs this year with the team we have right now, but its still time for trades Dunleavy and Mike James can go, Jimmy Butler is good but he should be coming off the bench like Taj Gibson. The Miami opener should have opened eyes, don't get mad at the coach for playing the players too many minutes, when he has no one else to put in the game.
Sam: This would be the most interesting part of my mail in the 1-3 start. Calls to get rid of pretty much everyone and no mention of Boozer. Stop the Booz love, enough already. So move Deng and Noah, bench or trade Jimmy, switch or dump Rose and get rid of the coach and management. It is always good to know the fan base retains perspective about the length of an NBA season.
The team has reverted back to watching (Derrick) again, this is something I felt they would no longer do after last season's success. It appears that we have two problems that can be fixed but won't be easy. First: Derrick has got to trust his teammates again; it appears to me like he is trying too hard to do everything. Second, management has to realize that they need a scorer, on the bench. They will need to invest in more cap tax to acquire this unknown person at this time.
Sam: How exactly is this Bulls team and what it is doing so different from the team that led the league in wins two straight seasons before Rose was hurt? I recall my mail with the 2-3 start in 2010-11 was to get rid of Kyle Korver and Keith Bogans and the next season to get rid of Richard Hamilton. And as for that perfect 2012-13 team that started 6-7 and was 29th in the league in scoring, what’s your point?
Four games have gone by and the fans are already up on the ledge. I'm no expert, but I would have to assume that anyone who takes a year off from anything, is going to have a period of adjustment. On top of that fact you have an entire team of players that have to adjust to Rose, while he is adjusting to them. I really don't think things are as bad as they seem. Let's all recall 1995 and Nick Anderson stripping the ball away from Jordan to eventually knock the Bulls out of the playoffs. As we all know there were brighter days ahead. Maybe this isn't the year for the Bulls. Just the fact that they have a chance should be good enough. It's a shame that the fans are so hard on Derrick, but maybe we finally understand why no stars have ever wanted to come to the Bulls. I don't think any agent is going to want to put his client into a situation where they'll be instantly compared to one of the greatest players to have put on a pair of gym shoes. I worry that Rose will eventually walk, especially if the Bulls can't surround him with enough to win it all. The reason won't be that he isn't loyal, but because the fans in this city won't accept anything but absolute greatness.
Sam: Please, no. Not perspective! It’s a good point about Michael in his return after being out about the same time, though without any injury. Michael in that 17-game stretch shot by far the worst he ever did (41.1 percent compared with 48.2 percent in his poorest full season before then), averaged fewer points than any season other than when he broke his foot in 1985, averaged his fewest assists in his previous seven seasons and had the lowest free throw shooting percentage to that point in his career. Plus making the brain dead turnover that cost the playoff series. It’s tough. He still was great in many ways, as Rose is. As for free agents, Chicago has a good fan base and if anything gets accused for being too blind in supporting bad teams. A lot of players, like Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady in 2000 and Kevin Garnett in trade were afraid of the Jordan shadow. I credit Rose for embracing it, though I think that’s mostly past. Michael has done a good bit of humanizing himself, anyway, running the Bobcats.
After watching the Pacers game, I realized that the Bulls don't have a traditional scoring guard on there entire the team. The closest thing to it is Mr. Rose. Why was Goudelock cut? He did very well in preseason.
Sam: He was part of the summer league team. He shot well early in the summer and poor late. He went to play in Russia, whose season starts before NBA training camps.
What are some similarities and dissimilarities between the 1-3 start this season and the 0-3 start in the 90-91 season?
Sam: I brought that up to try to ease the hysteria quotient. But basically none as that team came back with a healthy, motivated Jordan and lost two of the three games by a point or two. Plus the Bulls got beat by teams led by Larry Bird, Charles Barkley and Bernard King scoring 44. Not Michael Carter-Williams.
I saw on both Bleacher report and NBA TV that the front office is trying to tell Thibs who to play and decide their player rotation, so just what is the actual story with this?
Sam: Thibodeau like every coach in the NBA decides who to play and when. All team executives discuss with their coaches their preferences and interests. But no coach will let a general manager run his team. Nor should. Thibs does not. Management employs the players; the coach deploys them.
I would like to preface this question by saying I do not believe the Bulls are losing because D Rose is being treated unfairly, or that there is some mass conspiracy to ruin the Bulls because of Jordan. That being said... Can you please tell me in your honest opinion, Do you feel Rose is being treated unfairly by NBA officials? I read an article where a blogger was mocking Thibodeau for saying Rose was possibly too nice and not getting a lot of calls he deserves. Are Bulls fans wrong for expecting Rose to get star treatment because he is I don’t know a superstar. Are we expecting something because other people undeservedly getting it or is this guy being mauled 5-6 times a game without a whistle in sight?
Sam: I do not believe there is any conspiracy regarding Rose and hardly any reason why there would be. After all, here’s a kid who doesn’t complain much. He does, but not in the Wade/LeBron orbit. The interesting part is I hear fans saying all the time Rose needs to protect himself more and not expose himself to hard hits at the rim. But then when he does, and he does veer away from contact a lot which explains not getting some calls, fans then want to know not only why he doesn’t get more calls but why he doesn’t do more to initiate contact. Can’t do both. He’s not playing nearly as much and still averaging five free throws per game. That’s not bad.
That CBA sucks, it deprives team of keeping it intact. [We] should've kept Marco or Nate, we lack a sparkplug of the bench. Maybe its time to try Teague just to have different look.
Sam: Teague will get a chance, I assume. Thibs moves into the bench slowly to open the season. But you have a point about that collective bargaining agreement. The players were not in a strong position as their union was in turmoil during negotiations with law suits still ongoing. But this CBA does more than any to level the playing field and make it difficult for the big spending teams — yes, like the Bulls — to keep their teams together very long. You already see the Lakers and Knicks, for example, cutting payrolls, the Thunder already breaking up their team. The Bulls’ time is coming as well as the penal luxury taxes begin to kick in after this season.
I am just wondering if there has ever been an MVP-caliber player on a championship contender who suffered as serious an injury as Rose and missed as much time? I cannot think of an example. Would be interesting to see if any of them were truly able to return to their MVP form. Not saying he won't ever get back there, but maybe we were deceiving ourselves about how long it'll take for Rose to get back into that mental state.
Sam: That’s the point; there’s never been a league MVP with that injury. No explosive player at that level really ever has come back to that level. Bernard King was that kind of scorer and talent when he had the injury, but almost 30 years ago. He came back to make an All-Star team, but never with that explosion. I’m amazed how good Rose has been, frankly, and see more examples of increased defensive attention at a time a Bulls team in just four games now has shot so poorly around him.
Derrick's struggles to find his timing and rhythm aren't all that shocking considering he went 18 months without playing NBA basketball. My hope is that by January we start to see the Rose we are used to seeing. I'm a little more vexed at what I'm seeing from Noah, last year's team MVP, through 4 games. He seems a bit lost and without his usual passion on both ends of the floor. I'm curious, what was Joakim's offseason like? Did he mostly try to rest that foot in preparation for the season? Obviously he sat out the preseason, so I'm wondering if he's simply coming off a long period of inactivity with respect to basketball related activities. Time to wake up!
Sam: I’m not quite sure. Jo travels in the offseason, though the priority for him was to rest his foot. It’s why he upset some in his home country skipping joining the French team even as Tony Parker played. So he did the right thing for the Bulls. His foot seems fine. The only thing you’d have to say at this point was the preseason groin injury. What also doesn’t get brought up much is how little offseason work Deng was able to do still recovering from that spinal tap complication. Deng traveled a lot overseas as he does humanitarian work. But his illness was a lot more serious than he let on and he wasn’t able to work much in the summer.
I'm sure you've heard about Stephen A Smith's comments about Derrick leaving once his contract expires if the Bulls don't get him a 1A player. What is your take on that? I know Stephen was in Chicago during the Knicks game and may have heard something. Even though Stephen says it's his opinion, I think something has him saying that.
Sam: It turns out to my surprise that not all Smiths are great sources of NBA information. I’ve known Stephen since he was a kid reporter on the 76ers beat and didn’t announce his sentences. He’s a good guy. But Rose does not have an opt out in his contract, as Stephen said, and is committed to the Bulls until the summer of 2017. Certainly anyone can move on, especially in this era, but it would be pretty tough to build your team based on a player you may be able to get in four years.
So the Bulls haven't gotten off to the best start. But I think it's a little ridiculous how much people overreact. All over the media world Derrick Rose has no help, and the Bulls can't score, etc. I believe this team has a ton of talent. Is this Bulls team really not that good, or do they just need to get into their groove?
Sam: I don’t see how the talents of the players could have declined so substantially in four games. Is Noah the player of the last four years or four games? Deng? Is Jimmy Butler suddenly a marginal NBA player again as he was on draft night? Of course not. No one ever said — OK, I didn’t — the Bulls were the favorites to win the title. The feeling was they were one of eight teams with a chance. That still seems reasonable.
In the preseason, much was made of the Bulls installing a new "read and react" offense that is similar to what the Spurs run. Can you elaborate on some of the differences between a "read and react" offense and what they'd run in years past? Do you think that any of their offensive struggles in the first few games are attributable to working in a new system?
Sam: I have studied this and as far as I can figure out this read and react means Thibs having been told to read The Great Gatsby and reacting that if the guy is so great can the Bulls get him for a future No. 1. As far as I can see, there is no new system.
It seems like I keep hearing the Bulls don't have much cap space next summer, but Deng's $14MM comes off, $4MM for Hinrich, maybe $2MM for Nazr, James, Murphy and then if they amnesty Boozer wouldn't they have almost $35MM?
Sam: The Bulls without Deng, Hinrich and if Boozer were to be amnestied have on the books guaranteed for next season Rose, Noah, Butler, Gibson, Dunleavy, Snell and Teague. Their combined salaries equal about $47 million. That’s about $11 million under the cap with releasing Deng and Boozer. A top, maximum salary free agent costs maybe $16 million to $18 million. The Bulls obviously are not in competition for such a player. If they were to try to sign Mirotic from overseas, which seems to be their plan, that’s probably another $5 million or so. Now you’re down to basically a mid level exception contract without the exception. So forget any 2014 free agency.
The longer I witness the outcome of Bulls management's key draft, salary cap management and free agent decisions the more impressed I am. I remember the Bulls had scouts following the key free agents the whole season of the LeBron, Joe Johnson, Bosh, Boozer, Stoudemire, etc., free agency. It appears to me we dodged bullets by not choosing Joe Johnson or Soudemire and Boozer is arguably the best free agent choice from that class outside of LeBron. Our draft picks have been stellar. Asik, Gibson, Butler are unbelievably productive considering they were late first round picks. They aren't perfect but Bull management seems damn close to it.
Sam: Gar, is that you again? It’s an interesting point going back to 2010. I’ll admit I was for Joe Johnson, but they could not have paid him under the rules what the Hawks did. And now the Nets. But Stoudemire would have been a disaster, obviously, and while David Lee has been good he’s been no difference maker. The draft picks, especially the low ones, have been excellent, as good as anyone in the league. Bulls management has gotten a lot of respect around the league with an executive of the year award and a high finish in another season from their peers. But as we know fans measure on titles and generally have 29 teams in a tie for last.
In watching the offense, it seems that there are new sets that don't seem to be working well. I'm sure it's more of an execution issue but the ball seems more "sticky" this year. Much less reversals to the weak side, but is that by design, execution or Rose rust?
Sam: Thibs always comes up with dozens and dozens of new plays each season. The Bulls play book is maybe six inches deep. So there is some study to start the season. It does seem Deng and Butler are holding the ball more trying to make plays given their shooting isn’t going well to start. Also, giving up such high shooting percentages they’ve been in more half court sets with more deliberate play. That should change with more transition ball, which they have to work on.
Count me among the people who assumed the Bulls would start the regular season on fire, beating up teams left and right. I also believed starting too fast was not in the Bulls best interest towards the ultimate goal of winning a title. So consider me both surprised and slightly relieved to see the early season struggle. (just 4 games so far, but it has been an undeniable struggle) The relief is because it is near impossible to play at a championship level for 6 months plus playoffs. But the new concern is with Coach Thibs and his ability to handle early adversity. He is already preaching the importance of practice. How many 3 hour practices will he put the Bulls through? How will he be 25 games into the season if the team keeps this pace up? I know this is not the NFL but it is much better to peak in the spring. I worry Thibs will not accept a natural progression and instead ride the team hard now so they win the most games in December.
Sam: I don’t see that as an issue as once the season begins Thibs substantially cuts their practice schedule regarding the hard scrimmages. The long practice is rare for him. He does look to win all the games, but it would be hard to accuse him now of overworking the team with Deng leading the team in minutes at 35 per game and Rose at 32.
I’m curious about Omer and this loophole in the CBA. Everything I’m reading has the Rockets trading Omer to New Orleans for Ryan Anderson which as they say in theory helps both teams. However, my question is on the cap hit. What I’m reading is that the cap hit for him this year and next is $8.3 million. According to HoopsHype.com which tracks player salaries, he’s getting just over $5.2 million this year and just under $15 million next year. How does that equate to $8.3? I didn’t major in math in college, but I did minor in it. That’s over $20 million for 2 years which even if you split it evenly that’s $10 million per year. I can sort of understand how Houston can spread the entire salary over the length of the contract, but not how any other team can do that since they didn’t pay him the rest of the salary that equated to that average.
Sam: The NBA missed this one in the CBA, which is how the Bulls were the victims. Omer is paid close to $5 million, $5 million this season and $15 million next season for his three year deal worth about $24 million. Houston and anyone they trade him to pays him $15 million next season, which makes a trade tough. But everyone but the Bulls can carry him on the cap equalized at 8-8-8. It’s why the Bulls may have lost him. Otherwise, I believe they would have matched. If they were treated like everyone else they might have kept him, though Omer was looking for a promise to start, which the Bulls couldn’t give him with Noah on the roster. As it turns out, it held in Houston in one season. Can’t trust anyone these days.
Speaking of slow starts for NBA coaches is it time to fire the 76er coach? 3-0 is pretty much exactly what the GM did not want.
Sam: You’ve got something there. I think Jeff Hornacek in Phoenix is in some trouble as well. Might be some calls going out for Jay Triano, John Kuester, Dick Vitale, Tim Floyd, Lon Kruger, Sidney Lowe and most of the guys Michael Jordan hired for early season replacements.