Well, was looking pretty good about 9 p.m. Tuesday. So anyone like Tyrus Thomas? No, it's not over yet, but this first round in six thing is getting old. Let's see what Miami has if they have to play a seventh. What the Bulls have done is show the NBA they could be the next great team. Now about getting some players to actually do it.
I've thought Scott Skiles did a bad job managing Michael Sweetney this year, but I am beginning to wonder if I was wrong. Go figure. Is it just me or has Sweetney showed some improvement toward the end of the season that bodes well for him next year. --Andrew, St. Louis
I'm not convinced we'll see more than we've gotten, which is the problem. Skiles has done the tough love thing with Sweetney, which is the best way to handle him. I think Skiles does that with everyone, and more probably need it than they believe. Sweetney just never gets in shape quite enough and Skiles makes it clear if you don't perform, you don't play. Sweetney kept running out of gas a few minutes into every game, so Skiles sat him down until at least Sweetney could give a better effort, which he has. You'd figure Shaq against Sweetney would be 40 and 20 for Shaq, though I'm not too sure whether that says more about Shaq than Sweetney. Sweetney has to lose a lot more weight to be a worthwhile player, and it's up to him. He has good hands and moves. Again like with Eddy Curry, you combine him with Tyson Chandler and you have one terrific player. If Sweetney can get his weight down, he's a nice reserve to have on the team down the road.
Do you think the Bulls will make a trade offer for Kenyon Martin? How about the Bulls trade their two first-round picks, Sweetney and Jannero Pargo for Martin? --Philip, Chicago
You don't get to the Berto Center often, so you probably don't see the sign: No Bums Allowed. Not really, but it's the philosophy. And it's the right one. Martin, if healthy, which is a big if, may have more talent than the forwards who play for the Bulls, but one very bad apple can lead to an epidemic. Sorry, if this were the newspaper, I'd try to think of something more clever. But for free, you shouldn't get all the good stuff. The Nuggets will trade Martin, and I expect it will be to the Knicks. This would be perfect as Martin can stand around near Times Square and yell at tourists, "Hey, you lookin' at me! Funny? Funny how?" He's a punk and mostly unskilled even when he wasn't hurt. Are you getting the point? You'll notice you never read him in my Bulls trade proposals.
Sam, with a possible rift between Dwyane Wade and some of the other Heat players (Payton and Shaq?) I am wondering when Wade's contract is up? Would he consider coming home to Chicago where MJ could help groom him into MJ2? Could the Bulls afford him? Would he fit in with the current nucleus? --Alex Bartkus, Hallandale Beach, Fla.
Now that's an interesting thought. But too good to be true. The Heat gambled Gary Payton wouldn't be a problem and figured they could always cut him. By the time he became an issue, it was too late. Wade is the franchise's future, much more so than Shaquille O'Neal. They'll continue to build around Wade and I expect him to sign an extension this summer. The Bulls, and most other teams, would do about anything to get him, but there's no chance. And there's no nude sunbathing at Oak Street Beach. Florida has so many beaches they even name cities after them. We have East Chicago, West Chicago and North Chicago. Now how dumb is that? I know it has nothing to do with the question, but I always wondered. Nobody could think of anything else?
Kirk Hinrich really does a good job on Dwayne Wade but why is he recognized by the people? --Carlos, Philippines
I think it's the hair. They think he's Ron Howard. Oh, that recognized. Trust me, people in the NBA know. Kirk isn't much for publicity and talking to the media. He makes Harold Baines look like Don Rickles. OK, how about, he makes Mark Prior look like Chris Rock. Anyway, I hope you get the point here. Kirk is Jerry Sloan and John Stockton. Don't talk about me! I'll show you! I wished he wanted to and could have gone to the 2008 Olympics because the USA Basketball people were so excited about having him he certainly would have been among the top 12. But he had personal commitments. Coaches admire Hinrich and, unfortunately, the media votes for most awards and spends too much time watching ESPN highlights. Hinrich will be the next Steve Nash.
Do you think a package with Hinrich, NY's No. 1 and maybe a Chandler would be realistic for Tracy McGrady... I just think McGrady would be a great fit for this team - and think Hinrich would help the Rockets get more out of Yao. TMac would command fouls, double teams, he'd be guarded by the Tayshaun Prince-type guys and then Gordon, Nocioni and Deng would overwhelm a lot of teams. He's just the only guy in the class of a Kobe or a Wade or a LeBron whom I can see we have a shot at w/o mortgaging our entire team. Your thoughts? --J.D., Chicago
See, it's not just me who wants to deal. I can't stand watching McGrady play and would take Hinrich any day over him. First of all, McGrady likely has a short career tenure because of his back problems. Part of the issue is he doesn't work much on rehabilitation and it often keeps him from practicing, so it never gets better and it's hard for your team to get better. And he still hasn't even been out of the first round of the playoffs. He's a fabulous talent, way better than anyone on the Bulls. He was at his best in Toronto when he played with Vince Carter. He worked hard and defended then and with his long arms and quickness, he was amazing. But he decided to become just a scorer. He could be even better, virtually unstoppable, but he mostly runs the perimeter and shoots. He doesn't like the contact going to the basket. He's one of those players of which the NBA has too many now, more promise than reality. Hey, get me, the one who keep arguing against trades.
Sam, I've enjoyed watching the Bulls overachieve against the Heat, but it's also been surreal to watch Tim Thomas tear it up in the Suns-Lakers series. This brings up a couple of questions. First, did Thomas really have that horrible of a work ethic that the Bulls had to send him home while still paying him the highest salary on the team? Second, if the Bulls had received the production out of Thomas that he is currently providing to the Suns, could the Bulls have gone from an overachieving team that could pull an upset or two in the playoffs to a talented group that would have been a legitimate threat to the Pistons this season (especially in light of Tyson Chandler's latest injury)? --Frank Talaga, Naperville, Ill.
I get asked this a lot and this is one of those, "You had to be there" things. Look, the Bulls never wanted Thomas. They wanted the draft picks, and they could be great. He just came to fill out the NBA mathematics of the deal. They thought they'd take a look, but he was hurt and indifferent. It's the story of his career and why he was traded several times. It's not like he was in great demand.
The NBA is more of a team sport than almost every team sport. Screens, boxing out, helping on defense, passing, those so-called little things. You have to rely on your teammates. It's why you see so many dysfunctional teams with talent. Match the talent of teams out of the playoffs, like the 76ers, even Boston, Orlando, Minnesota, Houston, with the Bulls. It's certainly not less.
The Bulls established a standard of play. They practice hard and you have seen the effects on Miami. They work on offense and defense and help one another. Thomas doesn't play that way and never has. He has more talent than anyone on the Bulls, a big man who can shoot from outside and go to the basket. If he had the ethic of Chris Duhon, he'd be LeBron James. But he usually asked out of practice or ran lazily. He told players they didn't have to work hard after big games. He told the team he was a star and should be treated like one. You don't need that with a young team, and what would have gone on during the season between he and Scott Skiles? Did the Heat need Gary Payton yelling at Dwyane Wade? You're always better off with less talent and more character.
Thomas is a great rental for the Suns. They rarely practice because of the way they play, don't push for defense and were desperate for size with injuries. He was an ideal fit for them. He would have been a disaster for the Bulls. They don't want to get in a dispute bringing it up again and I don't blame them. But they did the right thing.
Sam, can you trade for a rookie under contract? I don't see any teams that trade their rookies under contract away. If it can be done, how about Bulls trade their No.1 pick plus another player for Andrew Bogut from Milwaukee? Looks like NY will be better next year and Bulls won't be able to get that Oden centre guy in the lottery. The Bulls would know how to utilize his talents better than what Milwaukee are doing now. Thanks. --Louis, Sydney, Australia
Yes, you can trade for rookies, but teams usually pick them for a reason and want to see what they have. Why would the Bucks trade a legitimate center for a chance to draft a legitimate center? I agree Milwaukee hasn't done great with Bogut, which is because they traded for center Jamaal Magloire before the season. Magloire was hurt last season and no one had seen how much he deteriorated. The Bucks hoped to get something out of him and it didn't work, which slowed the development of Bogut. The Bucks will dump Magloire in the summer and Bogut will move to center, where he can be a multiple threat player with his passing. The Bulls still have a chance to get someone like LaMarcus Aldridge in the draft and some reasonable big men in free agency, like Joel Przybilla or Nazr Mohammed.
Hi, Sam, I been reading some of your articles regarding the unrestricted-free agents after this season for the Chicago Bulls. You mention Al Harrington's name. I don't see the fascination of having Harrington if Loul Deng and Andres Nocioni are young players who display value at the small forward position. What do you see from Al Harrington in which you do not see with Deng and Nocioni? --Perry, Chicago
I don't, either. I just mention him as someone I've heard the Bulls will look at. But I don't think Harrington gets you better. I don't think he's a true power forward or small forward and Deng and Nocioni both are better. His only lure is his post scoring, but I see him as a player who stops the ball and would hurt the way the Bulls play and in the end I don't think they'll make a serious bid for him.
Just read your article on how to get a star. Please let me know if this is close to championship caliber team and if these moves are possible. Trade the Bulls second pick to the Clippers for Corey Maggette, sign Portland's Pryzbilla, sign Utah's Harpring and Draft Texas Aldridge using the Knick's first round pick. Would this team be a championship caliber team? --Ravi, Chicago
Not bad, though too many ifs for now. We'll know after the lottery about Aldridge as he could go No. 1. The Bulls could fall as low as No. 5, but not likely. I can't get a read on the Clippers and Maggette. I believe they'll trade him, but after I suggested that, I got an angry call from a Clippers' executive, who assured me they were not going to make that kind of deal and never, never for a draft pick. If that's the case, I don't see the Bulls getting Maggette.
Sam, wouldn't it make sense to move Luol Deng to the guard position? Then, we could focus our attention, money and draft picks on trading for a legitimate big man in the middle who will demand teams double him when he gets the ball. Successfully make this move, and we are one player away from being a top-tier team for years to come. And I wouldn't hesitate to include Gordon in a trade -- he's got his upside, but his sloppy style, thoughtless turnovers, and inexplicable disappearing acts are traits that are not likely to change with more practice and coaching -- its part of the package you get with this incredible spurt scorer with unique, but one-dimensional talent. --Len Jones, Joliet, Ill.
Yes, the Ben debate goes on an on. I get an equal amount of impassioned letters demanding either he be traded or they'll never, ever go to a Bulls game again or watch if he is. Ben is clearly a valuable player because he can score. If Deng moves to shooting guard, I think you keep Ben and put him in a rotation with Deng, Hinrich and Duhon. Then you work on solidifying the front line. I mention Ben in trades often, but for players like Kevin Garnett or Ray Allen. The question with Deng is whether he can handle the perimeter. The Bulls remain uncertain and have yet to give him a big chance to do so. I think they'll pursue a defensive shooting guard, and if they can't get someone they want in the draft or trade, then will experiment with Deng at the two. But I don't see him as their long-term answer, though I'd like to see how it works because he has shown a willingness to learn and develop and is still so young.
You listed Joakim Noah as your top draft pick for the Bulls?! Usually I agree with everything you say, but you are way off there. Don't you think he is the next Tyson Chandler? I like Tyson, but he is not worth the money he is being paid, and Noah is the next Chandler. He has very limited offensive skills, and scores most of his points off pure energy and hustle -- running the floor, offensive rebounds, etc. He is a good guy to have on your team, but is certainly not worthy of a top pick. Brandon Roy is the best player in the draft. Please tell me you thought about it again and agree with me. --Jim, Chicago
It seems a moot question now and the people in Gainesville are very mad at me because I said he was stupid not to put his name at least in the draft and see who gets the top picks. It wasn't personal, just business, as the wise guys say. No, he's way better. Not that UCLA was a great team, but you have to have something to dominate an NCAA finals game like that. The kid can do a lot of things and if I got the chance to be with a team on the rise in a great city for my professional career, I'd have to consider it after already winning a college title. I usually say the kids need to stay longer, but Noah is skilled and looks ready to play and clearly is a bright kid. Why not at least take a look. Anyway, I'm not completely off your Roy thinking. If the Bulls can't get a big guy they really like, I'm a believer in getting a guy who you think is going to be a really good player. Everyone seems to think Roy will be and I wouldn't care if others thought he shouldn't be drafted that high. He's a two guard and that's a Bulls need, though I think they'll be in position to draft a good big guy.
Do you think Bradley's Patrick O'Bryant projects to be a mid-first-round pick in the draft, making him a possible target for second of the Bulls' two picks? Personally I think he could be a force on both ends of the court in two to three years. --Ryan Schlanser, Valparaiso, Fla.
I do think he could end up about there in the draft, but I've seen enough project big men. With a few of the right moves, the Bulls should be a serious Eastern Conference contender next season. They should forget the development stage and that kid is a few years away from helping anyone.
With the Bulls needing a big, defensive shooting guard what do you think the chances are of a trade with Dallas for Josh Howard? I think a Chandler-for-Howard trade is possible with the Bulls throwing in a pick. Do you think Dallas would be interested? Can Howard and Deng play together or are they too similar? --Kevin, Dallas
You must be the only guy in Dallas who'd propose that. No chance. Howard is probably their second best player and best defender and isn't going anywhere.
Sam, as I've been watching the bulls play through the playoffs this year, I've been wondering, why doesn't Skiles start Nocioni in the backcourt with Hinrich? Nocioni seems like the type of player who could give Dwayne Wade fits and it seems as though it would create a defensive mismatch at that position. --Bryce T. Englin, Cairo, Egypt
Aren't we asking Nocioni to do enough already? Noce has been terrific, but he's not quick enough to play on the perimeter on any regular basis. Actually, that's the only concern I have about him. He plays with an amazing frenzy, but he could struggle against the most athletic players, who play more on the perimeter.
I've always respected your opinions but you know you are not telling the truth when you say Chandler could develop an offensive game. It will never happen. That's why he will have to get that nasty Ben Wallace streak to ever become a star in the NBA. I would shop him all day long if you think they can get some value for him. --Dave, Chicago
Tyson isn't having a good week. Perhaps I'm being too kind--there I go again being a softie--but I think if someone can get in his ear and get him to put in the work, I believe there's more there. The Bulls would consider dealing him, but like Tribune stock, we think it's going to go up and we don't want to sell at the bottom.
Sam, give up. KG isn't going anywhere. What will you do when KG retires as a Wolf? I got it! Here's a headline: "Where will LeBron be traded to?????" --Tim, Minneapolis
I get lots of emails like this and that has to be the best place to play. I've never known a community to be so constantly happy about having a non-playoff team. How can Ernie Banks not move there? It doesn't make sense for Cleveland to trade LeBron. I know it's cold in Minnesota, but you'd think everyone would thaw out enough to know they aren't going anywhere with the team they have. And they're talking about trading for Stephon Marbury? Now, there's a plan. Sometimes you have to admit it hasn't worked and try something else. They tried for a decade with KG and it hasn't worked. Why not deal him when you can get enough pieces to start putting something together? In two years you might not get much. So where are the Timberwolves going to be next season and just who are they going to beat out with KG? Can they get to eighth? If they don't deal Garnett, the franchise is going nowhere for the next decade.
You've consistently said the Bulls can't win in the long term with a small shooting guard. But with the current defensive rules, wouldn't you rather emphasize speed on the perimeter over size? Granted, both would be ideal, but given a choice, I'd take speed. I'd take Ben Gordon. --Jake K., Seattle
Why not take a shot at both? Ben is always going to be a good scorer, but there are more subtleties involved. You need floor balance and when your point guard penetrates, your other guard has to recover and protect the run-outs. Ben isn't great at that. It also forced Hinrich onto the better guard all the time, and that's no way to develop and keep your point guard. Ben is great to have, but I still think as a specialist in a rotation rather than the regular in the backcourt.
OK, Sam, so far most of my free-agent prospects you have not agreed with or were not feasible. How about Drew Gooden? I watched the Cleveland game yesterday and it seems like the team prefers Anderson Varejao over him but Gooden looked great the time he did play. What do you think? --Bo Williams, Jackson, Miss.
Not bad. I think he's possible, though as a restricted free agent the Cavs can match the offer. I think LeBron hides a mess there. They seem to like Verajeo more and seem to use him a lot to finish. That gives me the idea that he could be a cheaper replacement for them. Gooden has been traded a lot, so you always worry about that. But he's been active on defense and rebounding when I've seen him and I think he's a real possibility.
Hi, Sam, by the time the Bulls get to use their second first-round pick will there be any shooting guards available to fill the Bulls' needs. If not, would trading this pick to the Hornets for JR Smith be of any value. --Angelo Papanikolas, Melbourne, Australia
I think there'll be a rush to get him as he's flamed out with the Hornets. He's a huge talent, if a bit of a rockhead thus far. I might get involved in the bidding to see where it goes. I think the Spurs are among the best judges of talent and they went after him. That's good enough for me.
What has ever happened to Jay Williams' comeback and would he get any interest from the Bulls if he returns close to his old self? --Paul K., Chicago
He's trying, but I don't hear anything great. Jay's worth was in his quickness and explosiveness and it's hard to imagine him having that after the accident. I'm just so grateful he can walk and live a normal life. Initially, we heard he wouldn't. I think he may be able to make it back in a nice symbolic gesture, but I doubt he can regain enough to be a factor with a team. Though, as I said, we never even expected him to get this far.
You know, I used to hate your columns. Then one day I started reading Jay Mariotti and I thought to myself, "Wow, Sam Smith is really not too bad." I thank you for trading every player on the Bulls roster throughout the regular season. We're in the playoffs now. Step one! What do the Bulls need to do to get to the second round? I believe they need a player to line up next to Tyson that would allow him to use his athleticism to get rebounds. Maybe Nene; he's a big body, right? People forgot about him because of his injury. Would the Bulls shy away because of that? Fly swatters Chandler and Pryzbilla would be nice. You mentioned Jason Richardson. That's why I like you Sam, you're thinking big! I believe J Rich would push us into the second round as long as we don't lose any major pieces in that deal. If we keep the pick, Tyrus Thomas or LaMarcus Aldridge and Ronnie Brewer at the 16th spot! I'm a huge Razorback fan! --Victor Devaldivielso , Aurora, Ill.
I may have that put on my business card. "Bad, but not as bad as " Now they need two more wins. But in the next few years, they'll need size and I assume if they get one of the top picks it will be Thomas or Aldridge. If they get unlucky and fall to four or five, perhaps Brandon Roy or a trade. They desperately need size, though Michael Sweetney and Malik Allen have been remarkable and much better than I ever imagined. Again, I commend Skiles for his refusal to accept what they are and demand they be more than they believed they could be. They'll look at all the usual suspects, Nene, Gooden, Przybilla, Mohammed. I'd take a run at Richardson to see if it's possible. You never know unless you try, which is for my alternate business card. But they're not getting Richardson without giving up a lot, so that probably won't happen. But trust me, there are plenty of big names I can come up with that make sense. Sorry, though, I don't think they like Ronnie Brewer enough because of the shooting. But I'll see if they want to go with that pig chant for the pre-game intros instead of the bull.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times