Ask Sam Smith

This question is not about the bulls in particular, but it is something I've always wondered about. Why do sports writers write in the style they write? For example, at the end of your article about the Bulls' loss to the Magic, you conclude with Chris Duhon tying the game with six minutes left. Why do you use this as a conclusion? It seems that sports article are always written in a way that doesn't make much sense to me. --Sean, Stanford, Calif.

This one is right in my wheelhouse, though for me that usually meant a bloop single to right. I love newspapers and hate to see the business committing suicide. I was raised in New York City when there were seven daily newspapers and we had most at home every day. I had a daily newspaper route when I was 10 or 11, delivering the World Telegram weekdays and the Daily News and Daily Mirror Sundays. I thought working for a newspaper was almost as glamorous and being a professional athlete. I know about all the technology and blogs and internet and competition. But newspapers still can do things great no one else does, and they are abandoning that as well.

Your example regards my game story on the Orlando game. You saw the first edition "running" story. There used to be multiple editions of newspapers, but now The Tribune has two. That first one is crap, sort of a space holder for the last one and it's too bad you see it. It's supposed to be for outlying areas, but I guess it was posted on the internet. Where newspapers--and The Tribune--are failing is in these editions. Newspapers have long had early editions. As a kid, we used to see the early Daily News, which came out 8:30 p.m. the night before and usually had baseball scores through the seventh or eighth inning. It was almost all afternoon games then. With the growth of so many news sources, it is easy to find information about the business and political worlds since both operate on 9-5 work hours. Sports is the late show. It's why we always would laugh in sports watching the news people congratulating themselves on election night for getting out the paper. It's election night every night in sports because of the late games, and it's invigorating.

The Tribune first edition is now due about 10:15, though sometimes earlier, like a 9:50 I had one day last week. Since the Bulls game usually ends between 9:50 and 10:00, there's no way to have 800 words written in 10 minutes when the game ends. So you write during the game about what is going on, usually through three quarters, and then top off the story when it ends with a few paragraphs. That's what you've been seeing. Then we rewrite the same game story for the later edition, usually about 11:45 at The Tribune and later at some papers. That would include quotes from the participants and usually more analysis. Even a year ago, that first deadline for the early story was 10:35, meaning I could have some quotes and post-game analysis. No more. Despite improvements in technology, these deadlines keep moving up. Thus less late information gets in the next morning's paper.

It is the one area newspapers cannot be beaten as they have reporter-specialists at every game and no one else really does. Most newspapers other than The New York Times have been emphasizing local news, which makes sense since you really cannot get that elsewhere. The TV and radio stations don't have the resources to staff sports like newspapers. And The Tribune has as deep a sports staff as any in the country. Yet with the chance to almost own an audience, because after all where else can you go to get this kind of specific information, the newspapers keep moving up deadlines, thus leaving you with questions like that and wondering what we are doing.

The trade deadline has passed and apparently the Bulls are looking forward to drafting their low-post, offensive player. Please assess who may fit this mold if the Bulls use the Knicks' pick-- Josh McRoberts, Tiago Splitter or Spencer Hawes? I personally think with his motor, McRoberts would look good in red and black. --Dale D., Las Vegas

A red and black sweater vest. Let's forget about the draft already. If you don't get Oden or Durant, and I'm not sure Durant at his weight won't get beaten up for a few years, there's not much immediate help. With the state of decline of Ben Wallace and having already invested in Tyrus Thomas, the Bulls, to me, have little use for that pick other than in trade. Those guys you mention are either years away or not very good, at least McRoberts from what I've seen. The Bulls will again look to trade, I assume.

Do you think John Paxson held off on any deals because one or more core players can be included with the Knicks' pick for the team's choice of big men coming out this year? --Staszak, Tinley Park, Ill.

I don't know for sure, but I think he felt rushed and didn't want to be chased into a bad deal. Paxson hasn't given up anyone yet he truly liked, meaning the players he acquired. Luol Deng was one, and he wasn't ready to do that. I think come summer with the exigencies of extensions he might be inclined -- also knowing what draft pick he'll have -- to be in the market.

I am glad the Bulls stood pat. West wanted two of the Bulls' core playes, which tells me a couple things: One of the best team builders sees the Bulls have some very valuable pieces and would love to have them to build around. Also, patience is a virtue. Why mortgage our future for an overpriced player who will not play D when we can potentially get a great post player in the draft? --Andre, South Korea

Other than Oden, from what I can see so far primarly is a defensive player, who exactly is that post player in the draft? I don't see him. I can understand not making a move, though seven-foot interior scorers don't come on the market often and it will be interesting to see whether the Bulls come to regret not making the move. If Deng becomes a perennial All Star, and he was the one the Grizzlies wanted and they probably would have settled for one of the Bulls main players and not two, then it's reasonable not to have made that move.

When people rehash Elton Brand, they regard it as a huge failure for the Bulls. Didn't David "the genius" Falk force the deal by stating that Brand would not re-up with the Bulls? As much as I like to rip on Jerry Krause, I don't feel he had an option. D. Mosier, Granville, Mich.

Much is debatable and long will, like Lou Brock for the Cubs. It's always easy to second guess. The theory wasn't wrong: Two seven footers, and some are saying now if the Bulls had kept Curry and Chandler they'd be better off, and at 6-8, Brand was never going to be truly dominant and his teams have yet to be great. I don't believe Falk forced anything, though he probably believes he did something because no one truly wanted to be with the Clippers back then.

With the expiring contracts of Brown and Sweetney, what do you think the summer holds for them? --Dan, Chicago

They certainly are both gone. Relations between Sweetney and the Bulls have not been good with his lack of playing time and conditioning and the Bulls had Brown strictly for trade purposes and Brown remains privately stunned he wasn't traded given that's about all he heard since he got here.

Do you think Luol Deng can play shooting guard in the NBA? If he can, that'll open up big ways for the Bulls to shake this team up in a positive way in my opinion. --Aldy Rowe, Chicago

It's been mentioned some, though I think he's closer to being a power forward with his size and length than a shooting guard. His shooting range can improve, but is poor now because he's concentrated on interior play. I agree with him that he can develop a better post game, which would fit more with interior play. I see that as his focus and the way he works the Bulls could be rewarded for not trading him.

I heard that the union is reconsidering giving New Orleans the '08 All Star game. if they do change the place, is it possible that the game could be here in Chicago? And when was the last time we had it here? --Shawn Philip, Des Plaines, Ill.

The players don't decide such things and I doubt there's any credibility, but the All Star game will never be here because of when it was here last in 1988. The NBA takes control of all the tickets for all the events. Bulls season ticket holders are still complaining about being denied tickets or put in the upper deck at that game 19 years ago. The Bulls will never have the game back and insult their season ticket base, one of the biggest in the NBA, that way.

How many countries have smaller GNP than the amount of money that past and current players lost in Vegas over the All-Star weekend? --Jim Harlan, Chicago

Canada, probably, for one. Some try to bring up gambling as a problem for the NBA with the amounts players like Charles Barkley say they lose. Michael Jordan is an equally big bettor, though now more discreet. Hey, it's legal and they have the money. So who cares. It's also why there's not much to the NBA argument of keeping a team out of Las Vegas because of gambling, especially with the league even having games by Native American casinos in the preseason. I did hear someone broke even, but can't remember who.

In looking at the upcoming draft, I am trying to figure out the fascination with Joakim Noah. I've seen a lot of his games and wonder how he translates to the pros. He's tall but can't post up, he doesn't shoot three, and his mid-range jumper is below average. --Jeff, St. Charles, Ill.

I wrote last spring the guy was stupid not to get in the draft, or at least see which picks teams had. The Bulls loved him then, as many teams did, after they won the title and I have no doubt the Bulls would have taken him second. When you stick around teams pick over your flaws and you point them out, as well. I see him dropping drastically in the draft and costing himself millions, at least initially. I'm usually for guys staying in school, but his case was a little different because I thought he was mature enough last season and didn't need the extra year.

When they occurred, I thought both the Curry and Chandler trades were in the Bulls' best long-term interest. Chandler's really blossomed with the Hornets and is statistically superior to Ben Wallace. Eddy Curry is also having a breakout season (can you say low-post scoring presence) and was on some analyst's All-Star list. In retrospect, would the Bulls be better with the Curry-Chandler combo than with the Wallace-Tyrus Thomas duo? --Dave Johnson, Chicago

I, too, thought the deals were in the team's best interest. I didn't think those two would work with the way the team was being built and still don't despite the way both have played. It's not like either's team is a heavy playoff favorite. Thomas is too raw to consider a problem yet and Wallace has been a disappointment, though he's shown some flashes of late coming out of the break. The issue I have is this Bulls management doesn't relate with some big men well. It's an excellent staff, among the best teachers in the league. But big guys are different. Most have been scared since their youth because of their size and respond better to big men. Not that Cliff Ray is some basketball genius, but big guys feel more comfortable talking with him. While Bill Cartwright had some issues as coach, Curry and Chandler gravitated to him for a shared experience. Players who were guards, like Skiles, usually think the game as a guard, and why wouldn't they. You always hear the stories about the sensitive big guys. They look tougher, but usually need a shoulder to cry on, and one their same height.

Much has always been made of Tyrus Thomas' athletic ability. Now seeing a player on TV compared to live game action is a huge difference. MJ was awesome on TV, on the court live he was surreal. Is his athleticism more impressive live and does Tyrus have the skill level to be more than a Stromile Swift type player? I'd love to see him succeed here but sometimes he looks really lost out there. --Bill, Skokie, Ill.

I think he does, but I heard talk inside the Bulls organization before the season that they didn't expect much of anything from him this season because of his youth and inexperience. And that's about what they're getting.

Let's have the All Star game even scores with six minutes left in the fourth quarter. Take whatever the lowest score is and make it 120-120 or whatever and then let's see the best of the best play it out. I could barely watch any of the final two quarters this year. I think this would allow people to see the best playmakers in a somewhat pressure situation trying to close the game out. The first 42 minutes can be fun and games but give the fans their money's worth at least in the last few minutes of the game. -- Adithya Rao, Atlanta

It's an All Star game. It's not supposed to be that interesting. Sometimes when you are at All Star weekend you almost forget there's going to be a game with everything else going on. The idea for the NBA is a tradeshow for its sponsors. I'd say watch golf the first three quarters, which would guarantee you'd be sleeping for two hours, and then watch the fourth quarter.

The other night on the pregame show while Thabo Sefolosha was making a chocolate basketball at a local chocolate factory, my wife had a brilliant suggestion for a nickname, and I was surprised I hadn't heard anyone else use it. What do you think of Thabo "Swiss Chocolate" Sefolosha? --Tom, Waukegan, Ill.

As soon as he makes a sweet move or two.

I think I'm missing something with all the trade talk. We need P.J. Brown's contract to make a deal for a big-time player like Gasol to work salary-wise. But if we wait until the summer, we don't have Brown's contract to use. To make up the difference in salary, wouldn't we then have to do a sign-and-trade with somebody from the core (Deng, Gordon, Nocioni, who are due for extensions), or trade several of them at their current rookie contracts, which would make the issue of "not breaking up the core" moot? The situation would be even worse when going after Garnett. In other words, if we don't do a trade now, how do we do it later? --Chris Feldman, Dubuque, Iowa

Bingo. You figured it out. Yes, the only way to make a deal now likely involves one of those so-called core players. Though there will be occasions with teams looking to dump salary and for draft picks and extras. But it seems like it will be difficult to keep everyone.

I love the Bulls and their new found philosophy on building on team play, not individual players. I work in sports as a coach and PE teacher and this philosophy can really help the youth of today. My girl friend, a Nocioni Fan, and I, a Deng fan, had this long discussion about the "Big Ben Bell" that rings whenever Wallace make a shot, block or gets a rebound. Doesn't this compromise the philosophy of the Bulls? I mean can you imagine if MJ has his own sound it would be like a soundtrack for the whole night. What you think about this? He is our new free agent but this is ridiculous. --PT, Oakland

It's not ridiculous. It's moronic and insulting to everyone else. Not only hasn't he played really well this season, but he's never done anything here. He hardly dominates in any way. He does seem to be trying more of late, but against bigger guys like against Orlando, he's mostly tipping balls because he can't grab them. Singling him out for the few plays a game he does make is laughable. I understood in Detroit given his status there and what he accomplished. They might as well have some celebratory acknowledgement for Khryapa.

What´s your take on Dennis Rodman? Does he belong on the Hall of Fame? --Fernadno, Buenos Aires, Argentina

No. I was never a big fan, but he made just two All Star teams and while he had some incredible rebounding numbers, he often did more, especially in San Antonio, to undermine his teams. When he was with the Bulls his first two seasons they won more games when he was hurt and suspended than when he played.

Can the Bulls afford to sign Rashard Lewis? Also, what do you think of upcoming free agents Gerald Wallace, Anderson Varejao, Chris Mihm, Melvin Ely and Darko Milicic if any of them suit up for the Bulls? --Jerry, Prospect Heights, Ill.

The Bulls are basically out of the free-agent market with the extensions they have coming up. They have their midlevel exception of about a $5 million starting salary if they chose to use it. But that doesn't get a Lewis type. I figure Cleveland keeps Varejao and tries to dump contracts, so Gooden could come on the market again in trade. Likewise with Darko, who is restricted, though could be available if Orlando decides it needs cap room for Lewis or Vince Carter.

Whose 2007 second-round draft picks do the Bulls have? I know we have Denver's pick, but I'm not clear whether we have Boston's pick (which will be at or near the top of the round) or Golden State's pick, which will likely be somewhat further back. --Peter Manis, Chicago

The Bulls gave up theirs and the one from the Knicks. They have two from the J.R. Smith deal, Denver's and one Denver has from Boston, which will be pretty high and those high seconds are valuable since they don't require guaranteed contracts and there have been some good players coming out of the second round. The Bulls could parlay that into something.

I like Deng because of his hustle and work ethic, but let's be honest: He may look like an All Star when he's cutting or curling but he can't create his own shot. From a standstill position, whether his back is to the basket or he's facing his defender, he looks like a robot. He can barely dribble. He has limited shooting range and a slow first step. I'll give Skiles credit for hiding those deficiencies by keeping him on the move, which I wish he would do for Gordon because Ben probably would be averaging 24 or 25 ppg, and Deng can work to improve his dribbling and shooting. But with his relative lack of athleticism, how good do you think he really will be? --James, Houston

It's an interesting observation because the knock on him coming into the NBA was a lack of athleticism, which is a catchall and with Deng was more about a lack of fluidity. He does work at it very hard and has to keep at it. Skiles has done a good job with him and given his size and work ethic I think he has a good chance to overcome the deficiencies.

Are you as happy as I am that the Bulls didn't trade for Gasol? I just can't see trading Deng or Gordon for a guy who's never won a playoff game. Do you think the Bulls are betting that Garnett will be available this summer? JP, Los Angeles

I probably would have taken a shot if there was a chance because big guys don't come on the market often and the Bulls' supporting cast is better than he ever had in Memphis. And they had some tough playoff series in the better West. I think the Bulls will take another run at Garnett, but without the expiring contracts and more flexibility, I don't see it happening since it probably would be too expensive and he can opt out after next season and already has suggested he might.

I like Skiles as a coach but he just completely blew the end of the third quarter against Detroit on Sunday. By not taking a timeout I was forced to spend four minutes watching Duhon, Wallace, Deng, Griffin and Tyrus Thomas attempt to put the ball in the basket. Not good times. I've seen Skiles do this on a number of occasions. Is he not aware that there is not enough offense with those guys on the floor? --Dave, Chicago

He has gotten caught in that trap a few times -- again early in the Orlando game. But both times the team came back and still had chances to win. The Bulls have defied predictions they would have trouble scoring, but without Nocioni, they are thin offensively. I think Skiles worries too much overplaying Gordon and Hinrich and there isn't much individual scoring on the bench now.

It seems all fine and well that Skiles can talk about poise and blame his players for blowing another big lead but shouldn't someone be holding the mirror up to Skiles' face? Coaches have these magical things called timeouts, which they can use basically at will. Someone should be telling Skiles that just in case he missed the memo from the NBA. Skiles should not be saving those for rainy days when his team is trying to play through a tornado of confusion. I would rather call a timeout and regroup while only giving up 6-8 points then sit around with four in my back pocket for the last 20 seconds of the game. Even veteran teams quickly can go down by 16 points -- we watched Detroit do it before getting it all back -- so maybe someone should tell Skiles to turn that introspection on himself. --Helen Dean, Gardner, Ill.

There has been some talk about this among the players. Skiles lately has been more with the Phil Jackson philosophy of letting them play through tough times because the playoffs will be tougher. It worked well for Phil, though he had Michael and then Shaq and Kobe. Skiles doesn't have one guy who can take over for a few minutes and serve as his own momentum stopper. The theory seems to be they'll lose a few games, but be better in the long run. So we'll get a chance to see in the playoffs.

I'm worried that the Bulls are topping out. Deng, Hinrich & Gordon are good but not great and Thomas is a disappointment skills-wise. Even an Oden or Durant in the draft puts the Bulls years away from challenging for a title. Is there any hope? --Ken, Chicago

They are in the East. No, they're not great, but no one is making a move it seems. The Cavs are falling, the Wizards seem a fraud, Shaq is aging, the Nets are breaking up, the Pacers are in trouble and Rasheed is going fast for the Pistons and who knows where Webber will be next season. I still feel they aren't that far away. Unless the league rezones and the Bulls go back to the Western Conference.

What if Paxson would've tried to acquire Darko from Orlando? It looks as though this slow kid seems to leave his best game for when he faces the best teams, isn't that what the Bulls need? Especially someone who can help Ben Wallace? -- Israel DeLeon, Gambrills, Md.

It's the best I've seen him play and I think the best he's played. Tough to judge after a game like that because he does disappear, and he did with two points after halftime. The guy has some skill and size, and the Pistons did see some things. I'm not sure he's tough enough to be the kind of guy they're looking for next to Wallace. If you think Gasol is too soft, then this guy has a long way to go.

I'm having a debate with a buddy of mine. It all started last month after gilbert Arenas made his comments against Team USA coaches. While Arenas may be a better individual player than Hinrich; I think (the Wizards) game was a PERFECT example of why he was chosen over Arenas. Hinrich's 12 assists, 0 turnovers to Arenas' 3 assists and 4 turnovers was really reflected in the offensive efficiencies of both teams. My buddy claims that Jamison's and Butler's career years are a result of Arenas' presence beyond just his scoring ability. My argument is that since they play an up-tempo, West Coast style of play, which helps them get 110 ppg, is a result more of their lack of defensive intensity and commitment more than Arenas helping his surrounding cast develop. --Andy, Chicago

Though I'm not sure I could take Hinrich over Arenas for my team, it did make sense for the USA team with LeBron, Wade and Carmelo. Those three guys needed the ball and when LeBron didn't have it he was lost. Arenas does as well and they didn't think he could just wait his turn. He's not good at that. Hinrich could and I felt he was the right choice and wouldn't be surprised if he gets selected again since you have to have some guys who'll move the ball or play off it.

Who is the best perimeter defender in NBA history? Some of the names I've discussed with friends: Dennis Johnson, Grant Hill, MJ, Scottie, and Bobby Jones. --Rosemary Works, Oak Park, Ill.

I'd mention Michael Cooper with the '80s Lakers. Bruce Bowen has become very good in this era. Walt Frazler with the Knicks and Jerry Sloan may have been the best in their era. Norm Van Lier was up there with Jerry West. Micheal Ray Richardson, Mo Cheeks, Alvin Robertson and Sidney Moncrief were good in the '80s as well, though no one ever could stop the great offensive players.

Who is the better basketball player, Ben Wallace or Dennis Rodman? I think Rodman was the best rebounder I ever saw, but Wallace is the better shot-blocker and passer. -- Steven Schnakenberg, Waymart, Penn.

Rodman was probably more skilled; he could shoot and do some things Wallace couldn't and even make the occasional three. But Rodman was such a distraction too often and did things often for show as much as for the team that I'd go with Wallace for his dedication to the game for so long.

Isn't it the case that the Bulls erred in last year's draft? Bearing in mind that everyone feels that Big Ben will tail off, shouldn't they have drafted Brandon Roy to win now, instead of taking a shot on TT's potential? You should always draft the best player and not for need (see Bowie, S and Jordan, M). -- Declan Conlon, Longford, Ireland

I don't think they did draft as much for need as hope. True, they felt they had enough guards and didn't want to make that decision yet. But they decided Thomas would eventually be the best player and replace Wallace. The problem they didn't anticipate was needing him to be better sooner. I'm willing to give him a chance to develop more.

I've noticed the Bulls seem to be having a real problem keeping their opponents off the offensive boards. In the off-season why don't they use, say, $15 million of their cap space to lure a Defensive Player of the Year-caliber center to come to Chicago? Is Ben Wallace available? --Craig Berry, Park Forest, Ill.

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