Well, that was quick again. I know everyone got all misty and sentimental about those hard-working, never-give-up, hope-your-kid-is-like-those Bulls. But the reality is this: Twice out in the first round in six games and you're not that close. You need big-time players to make plays at big times, and again the Bulls didn't have that. They need that. Whether they can get that is the question and isn't going to be easy.
There are a few true stars in the NBA, and the teams they play on aren't going to give them up easily. Andres Nocioni isn't going to get to play against Antoine Walker all the time. So hold up on the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. That said, I truly believed the Bulls could beat Miami, and Game 1 against the Nets only convinces me more. It didn't happen because the Bulls still don't have a closer ,and the question is how you get one. Though in that third quarter of Game 5, you wouldn't have bet on the Heat. So now it's draft time and soon free agent time and the Bulls will have to do well. It ought to be entertaining.
Here you go, a non-Chandler trade comment. The difference between Tyson Chandler being the next coming and all this Chandler trade talk is free throws. Free throws were a major sore spot this season. If you changed nothing else but the free throws for the first three and a half quarters, when most of the end game strategy is decided, if the Bulls just improved by an average of five per game, based on their season, they would have at least won 6 of the 13 losses (either in OT or by 1 - 3 points), let alone the additional seven games they lost by 4-6 points. Chandler and Sweetney missed more than their share. With the Bulls scoring capabilities in Hinrich, Gordon, Deng, Nocioni and even Songalia and Sweetney (if he can loose weight and get quicker), everyone would be praising Chandler for the defense and energy he brings, instead of dwelling on his offensive liabilities. Now, he will never be a Wilt Chamberlain, but with the Bulls' current makeup, he does not need to be. A good 8-10 PPG, with 4-5 offensive rebounds a game will be very loved by the fans. I would be very happy with two or three Tyson Chandler type players in the middle. --Jeff, Madison, Wis.
It's always nice when Tyson's family writes. Actually, Chandler gets more than his share of blame. Though with his salary jumping to $9 million next season, I think he's OK with it all. Part of the problem is we judge everything by money. Not that it is completely unfair since what you pay one player affects what you can pay others. I believe what hurt Chandler the most this season was the loss of Eddy Curry. It was unavoidable the way things worked out last summer, but Curry was the lightning rod and allowed Chandler to just play. Chandler is too sensitive for his own good and is bothered by the criticism. I believe it's one reason he panics during games. It's the self-fulfilling prophesy. He worries about mistakes, so he becomes tentative and makes them, mostly bad shots or passes he runs away from. Curry drew defenses so Chandler was able to roam around on the weak side and get offensive rebounds or on defense block a shot as teams concentrated going at Curry. The Bulls admitted losing Curry would be a step back, and they were right. The point was the draft picks and salary cap room would give them a chance to recoup this summer, and if they can with size it will aid Chandler. As for the free throw shooting, I often think the Bulls play so relentlessly that they are tired when they come to the line and their concentration wanes.
I am a Chinese. I liked Tyson, but I think he is overestimated and overpaid. He has a disappointed season this year. He is just like an amateur. Most of Chinese professional basketball players are better than this guy. So I think the Bulls should trade him. --Neil Chen, Nanjing, China
Ouch! I don't think Tyson realizes he's not respected throughout the world. Trading Tyson could be a problem as he is a base-year player with his new contract coming in this season and thus hard to trade. I believe the Bulls will wait, see if they can get a few big players this summer and if they will work out, and then they look to deal him after next season. Though if trading him sooner will help relations and trade issues between our countries I believe the Bulls will look into it.
Regardless of the outcome, it was great to watch the Bulls play all out in the playoffs. I really like the direction the team is heading but wonder if there is a hidden gem out there for the Bulls. While it is fun to dream of blockbuster trades or the next superstar draft pick, a "value" trade, or free agent can also have a tremendous impact on a team. I am thinking of the Pistons trade for Ben Wallace whose numbers and career really blossomed when he got to Detroit or Boris Diaw who languished in Atlanta and now thrives in Phoenix. Do you have any ideas for undiscovered gems that could thrive on the Bulls? Morris Peterson from Toronto would be a great 2 guard for the Bulls. He is big, athletic, can score, shoot threes, came from MSU (a quality program) and played for Sam Mitchell, who makes Skiles seem reasonable.Separately, I have noticed that international players like Nocioni, Brezec and Diaw need a year or two to acclimate to the NBA. I am curious if you agree with this observation. Do you have any thoughts on another international player who is on the verge of a breakout as they are maturing? Perhaps Mickael Pietrus falls into this hidden gem category for the Bulls to consider though I have seen less of him than I have Peterson. --Peter, San Francisco
That's my guy, Pietrus. I think he's been underutilized in Golden State and never can get a chance with all the perimeter gunners they have. I've mentioned dealing for Jason Richardson, but I think the price will be too steep. I'd make a run at Pietrus. The Bulls considered him in the Hinrich draft for his defense and while he's not a great shooter, I think he could improve. The Raptors are unlikely to deal Peterson, whom I think would be good, but I think you can put together something for Pietrus. The Warriors probably would like to dump some salaries and I think the Bulls could go for a package with Troy Murphy, whom they've had interest in over the years.
Hey, Sam, I have just seen Chicago for the first time this season and was really impressed. I love the way Skiles has them playing. They are always moving without the ball trying to get those cuts to the basket for easy shots. But I noticed that they lacked inside presence. Sweetney looks good but doesn't have the height. I think instead of gambling on a college player were you have to wait a few years, trade the picks and maybe Chandler and Gordon for a re-signed Chris Bosh. Unless they can get Garnett, which I think they have a shot no matter what people in Minnesota say I think Bosh would be better than Jermaine O'Neal. --Michael Bennet, Scotland
And we thought all you guys did was play golf and stand on the Swilken Bridge and sing "Auld Lang Syne." I agree Minnesota should deal Garnett and probably won't, but I don't see Toronto letting Bosh go, or more so Bosh playing out his contract for two years to be a free agent. All the kids want security and I expect Bosh to re-up this summer. As for O'Neal, I believe they'll try to deal him, but will want him out of the East and for an All-Star. I believe the Bulls will try to make a big hit, but the fallback is players who can fit the rotation and contribute and I believe that's the most likely possibility.
Sam, I know you've gone over this multiple times, but can you address the Kevin Garnett rumors? Whether a trade is likely to happen, what is a realistic deal we would make to get him? Paxson certainly would not give up too much and risk losing its core. I figure Tyson Chandler has to be included to make salaries match, plus a draft pick (our first or second?), and an expendable player with value, maybe Gordon or Deng? Chandler, Gordon, and our second pick, then we draft Brandon Roy? What is the likelihood? --Mike, Downers Grove, Ill.
I believe the Bulls can make a serious run at Garnett. Look, it's nice to have a hard-working team, but I believe you need some star talent to make a move in the playoffs. I know Garnett hasn't, but if you can keep Hinrich and Nocioni or Deng and then go into free agency for one player and have one pick, you may have enough to make a move now. The East is deep only through one team, Detroit. I don't see why with one big move the Bulls can't move up to second in the East next season. But I don't see it with adding just picks and a role-playing free agent. It's nice to keep your core together and grow, but the question is just who will emerge from this Bulls group as that player. If there was one, I'd say keep it as it is. But it still looks like a good complementary core needing one player to make it work.
Hey, Sam, what do you think of us trading our two picks for Jason Richardson? Or how about going after Latrell Sprewell. I know, I know...but still! And then get Nazr or Pryzbilla for some inside size. --Shariq Shafi, Lisle, Ill.
It should help season ticket sales. You wouldn't pay to watch Sprewell and Skiles? NO chance, of course, even if Sprewell decides to play again. Golden State probably isn't going to move Richardson and if they do, it will be for an All-Star or All-Star level big man. Mohammed and Przybilla certainly are possibilities.
A lot has been written and said regarding Kobe's three-shot performance in Game 7 of the Phoenix series. Kobe and Phil Jackson claim that they wanted to win the right way, employing the pass-first mentality that won them three games earlier in the series. While Kobe's tendencies to sabotage have been well documented, I think it's unlikely that Kobe would actively sabotage things at such a key juncture in his career, having come so far this year. What are your thoughts? --A. Arain, Lombard, Ill.
This is what I think happened and it is Jordanesque. I don't buy that sabotage thing. Bryant had 23 by halftime and was on the way to 50 and the Lakers were in trouble, down 15 and going nowhere. So knowing Phil Jackson, he told Bryant the first four games they went inside and distributed the scoring and got up 3-1, that was their only chance. Kobe has been buying in and did so early in the series. So he does in Game 7 and the plan doesn't work and they're down 30 and can't guard the mop kids. It's over, so Kobe packs it in. If he shoots crazy now they lose and he's blamed for being selfish. So he shuts it down. Jordan did something similar in the 1989 conference finals against the Pistons. The Bulls were losing and the Pistons were double and triple-teaming Jordan, so Doug Collins told Jordan to move the ball and not shoot so much. OK, you think those guys can win! Jordan took eight shots in 46 minutes. Michael Jordan could get eight shots off on anyone getting off the bus. The Bulls couldn't recover and Jordan just stopped shooting. It was Game 5 of a six-game series loss. But Kobe is a villain and lightning rod too so much of the blame goes to him. I don't think he was deserving of so much criticism.
Sam, surprised no one has mentioned this, which probably means it's a real stupid question, but here it goes: Would Chicago consider A.I.? I've heard Philly really wants to move him. Couldn't Chicago use a guy that averages 30 a night and can take over in the clutch? I know there's the whole "practice" thing, but maybe he's grown up a little. If it didn't work, they could always call up Isiah Thomas and trade him for three first-rounders.--Jon, Fort Town, Fla.
Good one. I'm on board on the Bulls' character thing. It's not so much that their players would collapse if a bad guy were around, but bad character guys infect a team. Not to say Iverson is a criminal. I don't see that. It's his basketball behavior. He still doesn't practice and I'm not sure he even can any more with all his injuries and the way he plays. Plus, he monopolizes the ball and the best thing about the Bulls is the way they move and share and keep the defense off balance. Iverson is the anti-Bull and I don't even see the team discussing him.
Do you think that it's possible that the Bulls should bring back Antonio Davis because he is someone that the Bulls have been missing. If they would have kept him do you think they would have beat the Heat to advance to the second round? --Donte, Waukegan, Ill.
They might, though I'm not a big fan of the idea. To be a leader you have to play and I no longer see Davis with age and injuries to be someone who can play much and contribute a great deal. I think that leader in the locker room thing is overrated. If you don't play, guys don't take you seriously. I think it's possible the Bulls bring him back for a minimum for the end of the bench or reserved list or a spot player to eventually move onto the staff. I think the Bulls need a big man coach of some sort and I think Davis would be good at that. With Johnny Bach retiring that could be a good fit as Davis is one of the class professionals of the game.
Sam, please quit with the trade scenarios. Watching this young group play together has gotten me interested in the NBA again. Wouldn't it be best to just let the kids play, and watch them develop into one of the league's best TEAMS? --Adam, Omaha, Neb.
As I said in my lead, I'm not as convinced this is a championship team in the making. They're small at virtually every position and do not have a true shooting guard, power forward or center. What exactly are they keeping together? And what would I do all winter? Watch regular season NBA games? The playoffs are fabulous. But New Orleans in January? C'mon. Plus, what if I get one right? Maybe I can get a job with a team and won't have to answer all these letters. And then I could complain about wannabe general managers.
Hey, Sam, with his size, defense, rebounding and generally improved attitude over the past two years, do you think Bonzi Wells would be a good FA pickup for the Bulls? Odds are they'll land their 4 through the draft, and I don't see a 2 guard out there better than Wells. Any thoughts on whether or not he could mesh with this club with his newfound professional demeanor? Thanks. --Dan, Chicago
Actually, I've always had nice, pleasant talks with Bonzi, and can say I have never talked to any other Bonzis. However, Wells this season reminds me of the guy with a parole hearing coming up. Now he's such a good guy playing hard? If Wells could play the way he has the last part of the season and playoffs, I would be interested. He's strong, tough and can make a shot, though is more the slasher. He's a heck of a mismatch with his strength. But guys don't just get religion like that in the NBA often. And you don't invest when the commodity is at its high point. In addition to not being the Bulls kind of guy -- OK, our kind of people, as former general manager Jerry Krause used to say -- it's too risky to invest in a guy who wakes up in his contract season.
With all the big name players targeted by the Bulls more than likely no longer on the horizon--Wallace, Garnett, Iverson, O'Neal--would the Grizzlies trade Pau Gasol? He fits into the PF role we need and your recent column would suggest that after three years of one-and-done in the playoffs this club might be looking to move in another direction. --Brian Henkels, Plantation, Fla.
I'd doubt it. What else do they have? I thought at one time the Grizzlies would parlay Gasol into a big deal for a center and something to shake up the team. But he's become their core now around a group of role players and I see him less available than some of the others you mention. I think O'Neal is traded and, while I think Garnett probably will stay, I wouldn't put it past the franchise to entertain offers and perhaps take something if they can't add a good player to go with Garnett.
Hey, Sam, I hear this year's free agents class is slim at best. And while the Bulls are said to be in the market for a big man, I also hear a lot about Al Harrington. It seems to me that we already have two Harringtons, and I am not even talking about Othella. Deng and Noch play the same game and may even have more range than Al. Harrington may play better in the paint, but he can't play D any better than Noch. I just think with the Bulls already set at the SF, why go get another undersized PF? --Michael DesEnfants, Chicago
I agree. I'm not high on Harrington and don't see him as a player who gets you better. I think he ends up in New York as Thomas knows him from his time in Indiana. I also don't see Harrington fitting in with the style the Bulls play, though he thinks he can.
I'm originally from Chicago, and have followed the Bulls almost since they became the Bulls. With the way Skiles likes his teams to play defense, I think that Sheldon Williams from Duke would be a great fit for this team. He plays incredibly hard with a chip on his shoulder, but more importantly, he plays smart. I like the LSU kid, but we need someone that can be a force in the middle. --Errol, Washington D.C.
I'm not sure Williams is a force, but if the Bulls don't make any major trades, I can see them going for Williams with their second first-rounder. I think they end up loading up on big guys. I don't see Williams as highly skilled, but, yes, he seems like a worker and a guy who can fit and will play in the NBA for a long time.
You talk so much about how the T-Wolves need to trade KG or they're not going anywhere and how Minnesotans are content with a non-playoff team. We've only been out of the playoffs for two years out of the past decade. KG is a once-in-a-lifetime player. And I'm not just speaking of what he does on the court. If the Bulls were to acquire KG in "fantasyland" after the players they'd have to give up, they'd be about 10 times worse than the Wolves. You're just jealous cuz you don't have him and you know you'll never get him. But I guarantee you this if you did have him you would never trade him. --Dug, Des Moines, Iowa
I get a lot of emails like this and don't get it. Missing the playoffs two straight seasons in the NBA is terrible. Plus, there are teams in the West that didn't make the playoffs that are better than Minnesota, like Houston. You have no chance as a franchise if you waste your best asset, and playing Garnett until he drops gets the Timberwolves nowhere. That said, I believe they don't agree with me and will keep Garnett. The talk is they'll trade for Stephon Marbury to give Garnett a finisher as Garnett never has been a good fourth-quarter player. But where does that team go?
The Bulls should not try to get Kevin Garnett, especially for their young talent. Garnett is already old according to NBA standards. He's 30 already and look at Shaq at 34 is already sort of washed up. Even though Garnett is in better shape, I still think he is gonna start doing less and less and if they traded for Garnett they wouldn't have anyone left so they would probably become just like the Timberwolves of the East. --Jorge, Naperville, Ill.
Yes, not everyone here wants Garnett. After all, he doesn't make the playoffs much and when he does rarely goes anywhere. So how good can he be? Yeah! We told those Garnett guys! I'd still take a chance on Garnett even more so than on O'Neal. But you have hit the right issue. If the Bulls had to give up too much, Garnett wouldn't want to come to Chicago and I don't believe Minnesota would send him to somewhere he doesn't want to go. L.A. has always supposedly been the destination and you wonder if the Clippers go out in this round, would they put together a package as they have some good assets.
Hey, Mr. Smith, I love reading your articles even though for the most part they are nonsensical. The Bulls need a big athletic two guard, and a guy that I would love them to get is Gerald Wallace. Do you think a package of Gordon and our second first-rounder would be enough to get him? I think him and Artest are the only two people who can possibly guard LeBron and I'd like to have him for the next 8-10 years. --Robin, Hinsdale, Ill.
Thanks. I'm thinking of putting your first comment on my business card. I like Wallace too, and with better coaching, like Skiles, I think he could become terrific because he tends to lose concentration. But the Bobcats are sending him as their representative to the lottery, so I doubt they'd give him up very easily. It probably would be too costly for the Bulls, though they need that kind of two guard.
Hi, Sam, everyone is talking about the big free agent acquisitions, and high draft picks for the Bulls in the upcoming offseason; I am interested in hearing from you what will Bulls do with role players like Harrington, Piatkowski and Pargo. Also, if they don't bring those guys back, they will need some veteran leadership, and whom do you think would be a good fit? We lost Adrian Griffin, and he was starting for Dallas during the year. By the way, I was at Harry Carays the other day, and they, of course, had the Ryno beer, but they also had Sam Smith Oatmeal beer. And yeah, one more question, do people ever mistake you for Stephen A. Smith? --Mirza Mahic, River Forest, Ill.
I believe those three will be gone. With two No. 1 picks and free agent money, I can see the Bulls adding a half dozen new players and I believe they'll go for veterans in free agency. I think there'll be enough. They took a risk with Griffin to keep a roster spot open in case they could make a deal and nothing came of it. But you have to protect yourself. It's actually Samuel Smith beer from England, and the British would be the only ones to think of putting oatmeal in beer. As for Stephen A., it's a tough time for me. I used to be the most famous S. Smith.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times