Sam Smith hosts Live Chat


Mar 3

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This is our second live chat on the blog, thanks for joining in, let’s get started…

Sam will the bulls make any significant moves in the ’10 free agency?
via text message

I think they are putting themselves in position to do that, that’s part of what the deadline deals were about. Even though most focused on Salmons and Miller a bigger part could be the expiring contracts they’ll have next year.

VDN definitely shows inexperience at times as a coach but why aren’t his assistants like Del Harris and Bickerstaff intervening?
Jay, Northbrook

This has been a curiosity all season. I’ve heard a couple versions of this quesiton. You can’t intervene if the coach doesn’t want you to. I think they offer suggestions but I think at times VDN wants to do things at times the way he wants to do them. That’s a head coach’s job, he takes advice but it’s his decision. It’s never been exactly clear how that relationship works but Vinny is in charge and he’s responsible for the final judgements.

Why is Deng so bad lately? He can’t jump, can’t shoot, can’t play D, can’t get to the free throw line etc. Is there any hope some team would take on his salary or are we stuck forever? On the positive he’s a wonderful human being, just an awful basketball player and what makes it worse it that he totally stopped working on his game, body, and attitude.
AJ, Chicago

You didn’t hear it, but I got a laugh out of your question. Understatement: Lu hasn’t had a terrific season. He’s suffered most trying to adjust to the way the team is playing. The Bulls are playing around Derrick Rose and Ben Gordon is going to get his shots when he’s on the floor. Early on the coaches told Lu it was his job to remain in the corner and get shots based off passes out from double teams. When Lu was at his best under Skiles, he had Lu moving and slicing and coming off screens. With his size that was an advantage and he can finish at the basket. What has compounded it is that Lu seems to have become resentful and hasn’t been as aggressive as the offense hasn’t included him as much as it should. He has also been hurt, and played well after the latest injury, but after these trades he’s lost some time with Salmons and now is hurt again. It’s been a frustrating sesason. I don’t expect him to be traded but he’s hardly untouchable, with the economics this long term contract precludes a deal most likely. The Bulls like him enough to consider him part of the core, I expect he’ll be with the team and hope the staff includes him more and he becomes more engaged as well.

Sam why doesn’t Kirk play much anymore?
via text message

I actually think he’s playing about as much as expected. For the most part he’s been playing about 20 minutes a game which is about what he should given that he’s a guard coming off the bench behind Rose. The fans, and even Paxson recently have made the point that Rose should be on the court more and at the end of games. If Gordon is playing as the scorer and now Salmons is involved there’s not a lot of minutes to go around. I think Kirk has contributed well and has been a good soldier about all this. Kirk has not pouted about playing time, he has acted like a pro and taken on more as a leader this season. He has worked with Rose to help him at his position and is maturing as a leader. The big question is whether he’ll be here after this season.

How much more better do you think the Bulls can be if (a) they gave Derrick Rose superstar time on the floor? and (b) if they started John Salmons instead of Loul Deng? I mean coming off the bench he averages more points since joining the Bulls and he is more of a complete player.
Derrick, Palos Hills, IL

I think Rose gets enough time. You don’t want to wear him out playing him 40 minutes +. Defenses have been banging him and running him through screens. He’s young but it takes a toll. He has been remarkable and hasn’t really hit the rookie wall. He just needs to be (as emphasized by Paxson) in the games in crunch time because he can create his own shot. About Salmons over Deng, this could be a question for the rest of the season and maybe beyond. My guess in the long run is that Salmons could end up at the #2 alongside Rose with Gordon’s uncertainty as a free agent and if he does return perhaps it will be as a 6th man. Salmons can play the #2 and has the size. I’m not ready to reduce Deng to a backup player and I’m not sure if you put Salmons at #3 with Rose and Gordon you have enough size.

Do you think Vinny will sit Rose again after the game against Houston? I think our best chances of winning are when Rose is attacking. When he’s in attack mode it opens it up for everyone else. Your thoughts?
via text message

I agree he has to be on the floor, I’ve been writing this since it first happened at the Miami game before the All-Star break. If you weren’t so upset about the losses that occurred it’s actually an amusing spectator sport to watch. Vinny is quite stubborn and I believe the Bulls have addressed this issue for some time. One of the traits that made Vinny an NBA player for a decade was that stubbornness. I see that as a coach, if he wants to do something he finds justifications. He talks about Rose as a rookie but in my mind you can’t treat him as one because he’s more mature. It’s like Magic, Bird, Jordan and others. He can take him out in defense situations and that’s valid but the fact of the matter is the Bulls have played best down the stretch when Rose is in making plays. Nash was the worst player in the history of the league to be MVP but you don’t take him out down the stretch for defense. I think because of all the questions Vinny has become defensive and may want to prove he’s right. A good trait that can serve you in life but maybe not to help the Bulls.

Sam, with what VDN has done so far has a first time coach do you think that he deserves to coach the Bulls next year?
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If you put it on paper I would say yes. It looks to me the Bulls will have more wins than last season, the team has competed harder than last year under Skiles and Boylan and that is usually how you measure a coach? Did they improve, did they play hard, did they quit? They have improved and haven’t quit. If they make the playoffs he would most certainly be back. Even if they don’t they will have had a better season. Derrick Rose looks to be the ROY, Tyrus and Noah are playing better so Vinnay can say he’s helped develop young players. The question would be much more subjective, does the organization feel he’s the right man to make the next step with the team? Doe they also feel that they are going to move into free agency and/or get other players. Is he the kind of coach for those players and to go to the next step? At this point I’d expect he’d be back.

If you had to do the 2008 NBA Draft over again, who would you take from 2-5, assuming Rose goes 1.
Tim, Oak Lawn

Certainly I would have Rose at #1. Brooke Lopez at #2, Russel Westbrook at #3, OJ Mayo #4, Kevin Love #5.

Who is the defenseive stopper on the big guards now that Thabo is gone? Salmons does not do it to well.
Robert, Bloomingdale

You’re right, Salmons is not great but he’s pretty good. Thabo wasn’t really a stopper on the big guards, becuase it’s hard to stop them when you’re sitting on the bench. Vinny almost never played him. Truth is Vinny is an offensive coach, this could be one of the issues that surfaces about his return. The Bulls are an offensive teams. They are better on D since the trade. The job Brad Miller did on Yao Saturday was the best we’ve seen since Skiles best of times. Salmons is a high level perimeter player. Truth is there are no more stoppers on the perimeter because of the rules changes. Thabo had some great defensive moments but given circumstances and PT he wasn’t as effective this season. I thought the Houston 4th quarter was somewhat an abbiration but a nice one to see. If the Bulls can defend like that on any regular basis they certainly will make the basis but we haven’t seen it sustained yet this season.

So far this season who do you think should be the MVP this year?
Nikhil, Chicago

LeBron James. He’s had a great season. The Cavs will have the best record in the East and that’s not a great roster. That game against Miami the other night when he had a shootout with Wade it was one of the better games to see this year. Kobe has laid in the weeds a bit to save himself for the playoffs. Wade has been every bit the MVP but guys playing for last place teams. In the NBA it comes from one of the top teams so it should be a near unanimous vote for LeBron.

Don’t you think the Bulls should be starting John Salmons instead of Ben Gordon? Gordon isn’t guaranteed to be back next year. Salmons is.
(via text message)

That question has come up with Vinny this week in the wake of the bad loss in Washington. Vinny’s preference all season has been to go with “his guys.” I think Vinny operates from a player’s perspective as a coach, and by that I mean wants his players to be treated like he felt he wanted to be treated as a player, which means not being yanked around… sticking with guys. So I think he feels that if he starts yanking starters he could start ‘losing’ players. I don’t think that would happen with Gordon, he’d be upset but wouldn’t quit on the team, he’s not that kind of guy. Because Salmons will be back and will be a big part of the future I’m sure he’s fine with whatever role he’ll get till the end of the season, he’s getting minutes and finishing games. Obviously there will be changes with the Bulls this summer so there will be plenty of time to perfect a line up after that. And the truth is when the Bulls needed to come back vs. Houston it started with Ben Gordon. They still need his scoring and he remains a valuable piece.

Why are the Bulls struggling on the road against not-so-high caliber teams?
Ripah, California

This has been the head scratcher about the season and here’s my theory. It’s something you tend to see sometimes with sub .500 teams which is what the Bulls are. When they play better teams those teams may take them for granted a little bit so you may not get their best game. Perhaps saving themselves for the “better” teams. They beat Denver, Orlando, Houston which they maybe “shouldn’t have” won but the Bulls have a lot of talent so they can win. Then they go against teams like Washington, New Jersey, Indiana, the Bulls get those teams better games because they say “Look, we can beat them, look at their record.” So you sometimes get those teams’ better games. Perhaps now the Bulls are relaxing a little bit against those teams taking them for granted. It may sound silly but it is human nature and we forget that these are very human players despite their fabulous athletic abilities. That’s my story for now and I’m sticking with it.

Do you expect the new guys, Salmons, Miller, and Thomas to still be wearing a Bulls uniform next season?
RJ, Niles, IL

Yes, because they are all under contract to do so. The question is the season after next. There’s a chance during next season that both Miller and Thomas will or could be moved. That’s the flexiblity the Bulls were looking for with those two. I’m not saying it will happen but if Bosh doesn’t do anything with Toronto over the summer but if he wants out next January and could walk for nothing maybe Toronto will take young guys, draft picks, or expiring contracts the Bulls are in good shape. I think they see Salmons as a keeper. I expect both Miller and Thomas to be here next year but not the year after. If Miller was interested in re-signing then as a backup with a smaller salary I’d be interested in doing that.

Has the NBA always had so many players traded in February? My head is spinning trying to keep track of who went where, and I’m still sad about losing Noc.
Jeanine, Lemont, IL

We all hated to lose Nocioni but it really was a good deal getting Salmons. Anyone could see Noc was growing more frustrated with the team and was too highly paid to be a back up. I hope he gets a chance with a better team than the Kings. The deadline was a bit over stated because the mentioned big deals didn’t happen. I think this was a slightly above average year for movement but not to the point where it was a game changer because the top teams pretty much stayed intact and you only now see Boston and Cleveland adding guys. I was surprised Cleveland and Portland didn’t make deals with their expiring deals (Szerbiak and LaFrentz). They had opportunities they must have passed on, especially Portland.

Who else will be a free agent in 2010, other than LeBron, Wade or Bosh?
via text message

Interesting thing about 2010 is the feeling now among NBA folks is that LeBron and Wade will end up with their own teams so there will be more talk than actual change. I also believe a lot of the other top players will also stay because of the upcoming labor agreement and players who re-sign with their own teams will be able to sign for an extra year and I think players will opt for that. That said the other big names include Ray Allen, Joe Johnson, Dirk Nowitski, Tracy McGrady, Marcus Camby, Amar’e Stoudemire, Shaq, Manu Ginobily, Steve Nash, Jermaine O’Neal and Mike Miller. For this summer the big names are Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur, and Hedo Turkoglu, Lamar Odom, Allen Iverson, Ron Artest, Shawn Marion, Rasheed Wallace, Jason Kidd, Andre Miller, Chris Wilcox, Mike Bibby, Drew Gooden, Stephon Marbury, Charlie Villanueva, Wally Sczerbiak… and of course, Ben Gordon.

Do you think the Bulls have any chance at the 6th seed?
Slim, Chicago

First off, for those of you who have known me for a long time the guy’s name I usually spell wrong is Zydrunas Ilgauskas. I’m getting a lot of snkary responses that my spellings have been wrong. I only take the blame for Ilgauskas. I have a high-level technology expert doing the typing for this chat because, as you know, I still have trouble signing onto a computer so I couldn’t handle a live chat. So you’ll excuse the occasional player mispellings although my transcriptionist I believe was the guy that explained the Internet to Al Gore. Oh, and as for basketball I do think the Bulls have a shot at the 6th spot. Philly, as we’ve seen lately have been losing, the Bucks are beaten up and if Iverson comes back it promises to ruin the Pisons. Boston, Cleveland, Orlando, Atlanta and probably Miami though if they were to lose Wade at all I’m not sure they would win another game. So it’s open after #5 for anyone who can get a run going.

Why was Rose not the rookie of the month? He had several very good games and had some games where he was just feeding the new players, but most importantly he helped this team win, the true indicator of a good player.
Aru, Chicago

Well he wasn’t the only one who did that. Brooke Lopez of the Nets (who beat the Bulls last week) and Westbrook of the Thunder just beat the Mavericks withough Durant and Green, their two best players. This is a really good rookie class. You might have noticed Rose hasn’t been in the 4th quarter lately and this is reflected in votes as well. Rose has had an up and down month, in part because of that, it wasn’t his best month so I think the awards were deserved.

Can you please try to explain why Tyrus has so much confidence in his long range jumper and why Vinny isn’t telling him to drive to the hoop instead?
(via text message)

A lot of us had confidence in the stock market this year as well. Sometimes confidence is misplaced. If Tyrus does have a lot of confidence in his jumper it is likely misplaced. I believe he has been told to go to the basket more and I believe he has been. Defenses are not stupid, they know he is more effective going to the basket and dare him to shoot. Tyrus is not yet sophisticated to pass that up and it’s hard work getting to the hoop with 3 guys in your way. He has done much better this season at this, and has been more productive. He really is barely at the end of his second season, playing-time wise and that maturity will come.

Do you think there should be rule changes about players being added on for reinforcements after the trade deadline? I don’t think it’s fair. I’m really upset that a player like Marbury is getting a chance to win a championship.
(via text message)

Yes, absolutely and if you haven’t read my Monday column on, we are in agreement. I think it’s terrible and a lot of people around the NBA agree, especially with Marbury who has done everything he can to sabatoge his previous teams. And to see him in the finals, perhaps, and would be a black eye for the league. It’s a loophole and teams look for loopholes and try to take advantage. This needs to be closed up. You shouldn’t be able to add players like this at this time of the season. It creates an imbalance allowing the rich to get richer and is not in the spirit of a level playing field that the NBA and other leagues look for. I assume it will be cleaned up in the next collective bargaining agreement. I think Marbury will help the Celtics, won’t be a problem, but it will be a problem for the league getting rewarded for his behavior.

What team do the Bulls have a better chance of beating if they make the playoffs? Boston or Cleveland? Or maybe Orlando if they can get the 6th seed?
(via text message)

I don’t believe they stand any chance against Boston because of the way they defend and because they have beaten the Bulls soundly latetly. Celveland’s defense would also give them trouble though they have dealt reasonably well with LeBron at times (though he’s had a couple of 40 pt. games vs. the Bulls this season). Orlando may be the best opportunity because of their defense and their big guys like to shoot jumpers. But as you said you have to get the 6th seed for that and that would take about 40 wins to get there. But just getting to the playoffs and a little experience would be a very positive season no matter who the Bulls play. Look at the way Atlanta (last season at #8) took Boston to seven games, anything can happen in the playoffs and it would be terrific if they could get there.

Why doesn’t Dwight Howard get any MVP consideration?
Dave, Chicago

He probably should. He’s not as glamorous to the media and ESPN. Which, unfortunately dictates a lot of this because of the higlight show that everyone watches. So even if LeBron gets only 10 points in a game you would see all of them on SportsCenter. Miami vs. Cleveland was a good example they showed only LeBron and Wade and no one else. Scorers get the attention. But Howard is having a tremendous season and is a big impact maker on a relatively weak defensive teams he has made them better than average with his blocks. I’m a little surprised with his great personality and is one of the most popular players in the world leading the recent All-Star fan voting. But he didn’t go into NY and get 50 like LeBron and Kobe did and how many times have we seen that in the news?

Sam, the Bulls play the Bobcats tonight with the way Salmons has played since joining the team do you think VDN should start him in place of the injured Deng?

I think Salmons will start. I don’t know that, but given that Deng has had physical problems lately my sense is Vinny will use that as an opportunity to use Salmons in the starting lineup without the potential to embarrass Deng. We were talking about a perhaps, season ending stress fracture, so now that Deng said he’s ready and wants to play (a good thing) this may be an opportunity to give him a game or two off, or limit his minutes and shake things up. Let’s remember Salmons isn’t exactly LeBron James. He’s a good solid swing man who wasn’t averaging as many as Ben Gordon despite playing for a bad team and for the first time in his career last season averaged more than 10 points. Career average of 7 pts./game. He has a lot of good about him but let’s not say he’s about to take the Bulls to the next level. He is a good player and can play in a few positions. When talking about bringing in a star to play with Rose it isn’t him. That said at some point Vinny will have to make the ‘who starts’ decision. I expect Deng to return to the starting lineup soon and for the rest of the season, if not right away.

Thank you for all the questions and ease off the transcriptionist, we’re going as fast as we can. I enjoy doing this, the questions are very good and I’m looking forward to another chat in a few weeks. We should get a good sense in the next few weeks (with some really interesting home games: Hornets, Celtics, Lakers, Pistons, Heat) of where the Bulls will be for the home stretch in April.

What do you think? Leave a comment below: