Sam Smith hosts live chat (May 20, 2009)


May 20

I hope you all have been keeping up with my NBA column on Mondays and my mailbags on Fridays. I can’t believe we’re only halfway through the NBA playoffs, I’m still exhausted from the first round. OK, time to chat!

3:00 pm
Sam, what are the chances of moving Miller and the #16 for Kaman, letting Gordon walk and keeping Hinrich?

Matt, Charlotte, NC, via web

The big problem with a guy like Kaman is you are pretty much locking yourself up with him. He has a long contract and you are almost surely taking yourself out of 2010. If I believed Kaman was the answer to the teams issues at Center I would do it, but I don’t believe he is.

3:06 pm
Why hasn’t Michael Jordan been offered the GM position, and why was John Paxson picked over him?
@IamEM8CHE, via twitter

Well Jordan has a GM position now, the big issue was the Bulls wanted a full time, working GM. Michael has made it clear (aside from his many personnel evaluations) that he doesn’t believe being a GM is a full time working position. He doesn’t scout and he’s not around the team often. Paxson is around the team, travels with the team and is around the office and practice facility. Micahel does not do these things.

3:08 pm
What are the Bulls going to do in this draft? I am very curious.

via text message

I’m curious myself. I’m fairly certain they don’t know at this point. First, they are going to see what presents itself in trades, in other words if they get a chance for an attractive player speculative example… say the Hornets want to trade David West, the Bulls could put together a package of LA native Tyrus Thomas, and expiring contract and their two first round picks. So they’ll look at those first. If nothing presents itself they’ll likely look for a PG to back up Rose and give them the flexibility to make a move with Hinrich or some protection if they lose Gordon. They’ll likely also look for a physical front court player. But it’s pretty wide open.

3:10 pm
If the Bulls were to get another 1st-round pick and then trade up into the draft’s top 10, what player would they try to get?
@nomaan, via twitter

Assuming Blake Griffin isn’t available. The issue with this draft is it’s not deep. In the 2000 draft the Bulls used all 6 picks and got not a lot out of it. There is not a whole lot of appealing talent in the top 10. The 2nd and 3rd picks don’t even make sense for the Bulls. Rubio will never be what Rose is and Thabeet is awful on offense. Some people see offensive potential in DeRozen but he’s not anywhere close to contributing. I think with this Bulls team, after the 1st round playoff run is thinking more about the next step and advancing than developing more young projects.

3:15 pm
Sam, I’m guessing you’ve seen the photos of Joakim Noah on vacation, frolicking with busty babes in the ocean? Seems like his plan to get fit and work hard on his game over the off season may be a bit delayed – either that or he’s using experimental training techniques. Your thoughts?
William, Brisbane, Austrailia, via web

My thoughts are, often I wish I were Joakim Noah. If anybody thinks that Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen and Magic Johnson, these guys have won titles become monks and starting working out immediately you aren’t paying attention. The issue with Noah is always going to be this on some level. He likes to have fun and takes basketball somewhat seriously, but not completely. The Bulls and everyone knew that. He’s serious about winning when he’s in the game, he competes hard, but I don’t think you’ll ever change his nature completely. If you remember when he got picked up by the police for an open alcohol container and I believe marijuana, his father complained he didn’t understand what the issue was. Noah comes from an obviously different background than most of us. If he can gain some weight and become a little stronger he can get better but his lifestyle won’t change a tremendous amount.

3:19 pm
Long time reader, first time writer. I wanted to know how realistic is it that Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudemire will be traded? What can the Bulls offer to be the front runners?

Irfan Merrani, Chicago, IL, via web

I think it’s a possibility with both. For now both teams are saying they have no plans to do so, but that doesn’t mean much. Bosh will be a free agent and Toronto won’t have an easy time keeping him. With Stoudemire, Phoenix is going through a big re-evaluation and there are financial considerations. I doubt they want to give him the max extension he wants. The Bullls will probably make a serious offer for Bosh and it will come down to how motivated the Raptors are. There are other teams like the Warriors that would have more to give than the Bulls. I suspect the Bulls will make some sort of offer involving picks, Tyrus, maybe a sign and trade with Gordon, but there may not be enough there. I don’t see the Bulls trading Rose, Salmons, Noah, or Deng who has no trade value coming off of injury.

3:20 pm
What percentage chance would you give for the bulls being able to make a trade for a big time name this offseason.

Darnell, Rockland County, via web

10% which means it’s not likely at this point.

3:23 pm
Glen Davis of Boston is a free agent. I’d like to see him in a Bulls uniform. Sam Smith, what are your thoughts on this?
@rkraneis, via twitter

He clearly was a surprise in the playoffs, I thought he was just a hunk of lard. If you watched the series and I told you two guys from LSU playing, one a 4th pick and one a 2nd rounder you wouldn’t have guessed between the two. The Bulls financial situation is they are not going to go in the luxury tax area. If they trade Hinrich and don’t have to take anyone back they could make an offer, but my guess is they way Davis played Boston will make him a substantial deal and he will be beyond the Bulls financial means to get him.

3:25 pm
I thought the Bulls traded Thabo Sefolosha to the Oklahoma City Thunder for their first round draft pick in 2009. Doesn’t that mean that the Bulls are selecting 3rd in the upcoming draft? What happened?
Alan J, Des Plaines, via web

From the beginning it was made clear that the trade was not for OKC’s pick, but it was for their pick they had gotten from Denver or San Antonio and the Bulls would get the lesser of the two. That turned out to be #26. The Bulls have #16 (their own) and #26 from the Thabo trade.

3:27 pm
I don’t understand the thought of going PG at #16 to allow them to move Hinrich or protect against losing Gordon. If they lose Gordon then Rose, Hinrich and Salmons is a nice trio. If they move Hinrich then they have Rose, Salmons and Gordon and the need for much playing time at backup PG would not be there.

Matt from Charlotte, NC

You have to consider finances in the NBA now. You can only pay a certain number of guys. I understand in fantasy leagues you can keep adding players and it’s about the best players and the teams would like to but the players need to get paid. Even great teams, Boston last year had 3 max salary players and the rest were minimum salaries. Hinrich is at almost $10MM per year. You cannot have a structure with backups making 8 figures. Salmons has an opt out after next season that requires examination, Gordon will be close to an 8 figure deal to keep, Rose is coming up in a couple of years and Deng as well. And you are still missing the “star” player everyone wants so you cannot build a team with a $10MM guy off the bench.

3:30 pm
I agree with you recent column, that it would be amazing to see a Kobe/Lebron Finals. But still, I cannot fight the urge to pull for Denver to pull off the upset. Is the lure of that Finals matchup really that strong for you, that you are willing to pull for Kobe, over the upstart Nuggets?

Hawk Gates, Holland, MI, via web

It was more of a curiosity for me, I actually am enjoying this Laker/Denver series eventhough only one game has been played on the sense that everyone likes to see the underdog. I know it didn’t exist in Chicago, but a lot rooted against the Bulls just as people root against the Cowboys and Yankees. The Lakers, lately, have been pretty smug without accomplishing much. Other than Kobe the Lakers are a pretty soft team, they don’t fight back a lot and I’m intrigued to see if Denver can take them out. I don’t think they have enough and frankly I don’t “root” that much but I am enjoying watching Denver beat up on them a bit.

3:32 pm
Sam, though most Bulls fans (including myself) want immediate moves, wouldn’t it make more sense to hold out from bringing anyone in? Instead, bringing in more expiring contracts?

Andy from Chicago, IL

That is one possibility. I mentioned some of this in my lottery story I wrote today on There are several teams with expiring contracts that you might be able to make deals with. Minnesota, Washington, Sacramento. Minnesota almost made a deal for Hinrich back in February. The Bulls wisely held off feeling they could make the deal after the season if they wanted. It comes down to the direction the Bulls wand to head. If you are convinced you can get a 2010 free agent adding another expiring deal would create room for two, say Wade and Bosh. But the reality is they could stay with their teams or sign elsewhere and you could be left with expiring contracts and searching desperately, like the Bulls did in 2000 when they wiffed on Hill, McGrady, Duncan and Eddie Jones, signing Ron Mercer. It’s a risky strategy. I’m not particularly a gambler so I wouldn’t go that way. I’d try to get a player now that fit with my group and unload the expiring deals on a team that needs them, but there are some Bulls management that feel they can score after next season, but the direction is unclear at the moment.

3:36 pm
Sam, if the Bulls attempted some kind of sign-and-trade with Ben Gordon, who do you think would be suitors?

Dan from Chicago, IL

I think a lot of teams would be interested. Ben helped himself in the playoffs making big shots and big moments. Teams are more influenced by that then you would think and everybody was watching that series. I even heard Stan Van Gundy that he doesn’t watch the playoffs other than his team but watched Bulls/Celtics. Teams like Philly without great outside scoring, and Phoenix with up tempo game that would love him. We focus on his flaws because we know him. Not a great ball handler or defender, sometimes questionable shot selection, over dribbling, but, shooting is a great skill in the NBA and you can never have enough of it. It’s the main reason why I’d like to see him remain with the Bulls.

3:39 pm
If this draft is as weak as everyone says it is then the Bulls first round picks don’t have much trade value and they could be stuck using them. Is the draft strong enough for the Bulls to at least get backup players that can actually contribute?

Dave from Portland, OR

Yes I think it is and the do need some backups. Obviously they didn’t have much bench in the playoffs, I’m not sure what they’ll do with Aaron Gray, Lindsey Hunter and expiring contracts that aren’t playing like Jerome James. So that’s why I would add a guard, this draft is pretty good with guys that can fill in as backup PGs pretty easily. Jonny Flynn, Mainer, Teague, Patrick Mills, Lawson… a lot of guards. There’s a possibility that a physical player like Blair from Pitt drops to them and it’s clear the PF position is unsettled. I think if the picks are used they could come up with some good backups. Drafts are measured by stars which is why this is considered weak, but as far as solid rotaional players, I see quite a few.

3:45 pm
I think that by having the Clippers and Grizzlies 1 and 2, many possibilities are opened up. We all know that a Clippers big can be had, but what happens with the Grizzlies? I personally feel that Rubio is a big step up from Conley. Do they take him and hope to get something in return for Conley, or do they dangle Rubio for a team in need?

Mike from Palos Hills

A good point. I’m not sure Memphis is that thrilled with the possibility of Rubio so the pick could be in play. There will be a team that will really want him and I see Memphis trying to make a deal. Last year they did a swap and got OJ Mayo. Their owner gets into personnel moves and he’s a star-struck kind of guy. They have assets to deal since Mayo/Gay don’t play well together so I can see them potentially packaging the pick and maybe Gay to be involved in a serious deal. Likewise either Rubio or Thabeet would fit with OKC, but you are right Memphis seems to be where the action will be. Clippers will take Griffin and try to trade one of their big guys. Probalby Camby first, and Kaman/Randolph last.

3:47 pm
How do you rate the job done by Vinny Del Negro in his first year as Head Coach?

Ryan Reade from Dixon, IL

I think it’s been adequate, there’s been second guessing about timeouts, rotations, schemes, what have you. I’m not one to offer excuses like injuries (Hinrich, Deng), disruptive players like Hughes. In the end they finished strong and competed in the playoffs and you can measure a coach based on how hard his players play and the Bulls came on strong in the East and finished strong. The lack of defensive system was noticeable. Vinny was clearly not comfortable with establishing a regular defensive system which you can attribute to being a rookie coach. He has earned himself another year on the job. At this point probably a C+ or a B- which is not bad for a first year coach, frankly, better than my high school grades.

3:50 pm
I don’t think there is any chance Lebron is leaving Cleveland in 2010, and I think Wade will sign an extension in Miami, so what is all the fuss about having cap room in 2010? Who will realistically be available?

Ron, Mokena, IL, via web

Ah there’s the rub. That’s why it’s a big gamble and there are a lot of executives around the NBA, because of the potential change of the labor agreement or a lockout, who believe some of these free agents may even re-sign this summer. Pat Riley has already spoken about re-signing Wade, the Suns are trying to lock up Steve Nash long term, so some guys could be leaving the market. The intriguing guy to me, more than Bosh, is Wade. Most people around the league think Bosh will leave, in part because traditionally the players have found it more difficult living in Canada, not just because of the language differences (joke), you have to go through customs all the time, they don’t live there in the off season and I don’t think they have ESPN, so it’s a tough place to retain your star player. The intriguing part about Wade is that he has a family base in Chicago, he bought a church for his mother and it’s one of the 3 major markest. Now it’s more appealing with a high level team and potential star PG in Rose. Wade had to extend itself completely, that roster had no business being in the playoffs. Wade can’t continue to do that and I’ve heard he’s dissapointed in the lack of maturity of Beasely and Chalmers. Their behavior has been pretty immature during the season so I’m not sure Wade wants to marry himself to them long term. So the quesiton is can Pay Riley retain him. Miami Beach is not a bad place to spend the summer but I think it’s possible to get him unless Miami can attract a star player. The 2010 market is certainly a risk. I think the Knicks are going to be dissapointed, as the Bulls were in 2000 but people keep going to casinos and playing the lottery so I don’t fully understand.

Thanks for all the questions, things will get more interesting over the coming weeks and we’ll do another live chat before the draft.


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