Tag Archives: sam smith

Prognosis on Rose positive as All-Star guard heads to Dallas

The Bulls released the following statement regarding Derrick Rose’s injury sustained during Wednesday’s game versus the Orlando Magic on Thursday, Feb. 11 at 12:06 p.m. CT:
Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose left last night’s game versus the Orlando Magic with a bruised right hip at the 9:36 mark of the first quarter. Rose hit the floor following a foul by Orlando center Dwight Howard.
Rose underwent an MRI on his low back and right hip last night at the Rush University Medical Center. The results were consistent with the fall and showed no significant injury to the hip or low back. He will be re-examined in Dallas, Texas on Saturday by Bulls team physician Dr. Brian Cole of Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush.
“X-rays so far were negative,” Bulls Head Athletic Trainer Fred Tedeschi said after the game. “I won’t say we completely ruled out a fracture, but it looks unlikely at this point. If there’s not a great deal of inflammation, I think we can be optimistic. If there are some things going on we’ll have to deal with that.”
For more on Rose’s injury, read Sam Smith’s postgame analysis from Wednesday night.
For a full report and the latest on Bulls’ injuries, check out the AthletiCo Injury Report at Bulls.com.
Video: Bulls Head Coach Vinny Del Negro meets the media regarding Rose’s injury

Golden State’s Morrow replaces Rose in Rookie Challenge

The NBA announced on Tuesday that Golden State Warriors guard Anthony Morrow will replace Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose on the sophomore roster for the 2010 T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam, to be played Friday, February 12 at American Airlines Center in Dallas.
As reported earlier in the day by Sam Smith, Rose was excused from the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam in consideration of being named to the Eastern Conference roster for the 2010 NBA All-Star Game and his participation as defending champion in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge on All-Star Saturday Night.
Morrow, in his second season out of Georgia Tech, is averaging 11.5 points and 3.6 rebounds in 36 games for the Warriors.
Bulls rookie forward Taj Gibson will still compete in the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam, which will be televised live nationally on TNT at 9 p.m. ET and also will be broadcast live on ESPN Radio, while NBA.com will make live audio available to fans in multiple languages.

Golden State’s Morrow replaces Rose in Rookie Challenge

The NBA announced on Tuesday that Golden State Warriors guard Anthony Morrow will replace Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose on the sophomore roster for the 2010 T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam, to be played Friday, February 12 at American Airlines Center in Dallas.
As reported earlier in the day by Sam Smith, Rose was excused from the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam in consideration of being named to the Eastern Conference roster for the 2010 NBA All-Star Game and his participation as defending champion in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge on All-Star Saturday Night.
Morrow, in his second season out of Georgia Tech, is averaging 11.5 points and 3.6 rebounds in 36 games for the Warriors.
Bulls rookie forward Taj Gibson will still compete in the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam, which will be televised live nationally on TNT at 9 p.m. ET and also will be broadcast live on ESPN Radio, while NBA.com will make live audio available to fans in multiple languages.

Deng, Hinrich and Hunter named Bulls captains

By Adam Fluck
Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich and Lindsey Hunter have been named team captions for the 2009-10 season. The players voted over the weekend and an announcement was made on Monday.
Of the three, Deng is the only projected starter. He was also a captain last season. Hinrich, however, has been elected captain in six of his seven NBA seasons.
In his 17th season as a pro, not much is expected of Hunter from a statistical standpoint, but his contributions to the team are significant, serving as a mentor for Derrick Rose and the team’s other young players.
Radio broadcast changes; home games start time
Due to a scheduling conflict, the Bulls regular season opener this Thursday, Oct. 29 vs. the San Antonio Spurs (7:00 p.m. on TNT) will now air on WLS 890 AM radio.
In addition, Chicago’s road game on Sunday, Nov. 1 against the Miami Heat will air on WGN 720 AM. Both games were originally scheduled to air on ESPN Radio 1000, but conflict with ESPN Radio’s broadcast of the 2009 World Series.
All other games this season will be broadcast on the Bulls flagship station, ESPN Radio 1000. For the latest on Bulls radio, visit Bulls.com/radio.
This season, all Bulls home games will tip off at 7:00 p.m.
Bulls exercise options on Rose and Noah
The Bulls have picked up the options for the 2010-11 season for guard Derrick Rose and forward/center Joakim Noah. By exercising the respective player options, both players will be under contract next season.
Ranking the Bulls
Two power rankings of note—one from ESPN.com’s Marc Stein and the other from Sam Smith—were posted on Monday with the NBA’s regular season getting underway on Tuesday. Both project Chicago to be the fifth best team in the Eastern Conference.
“Maybe we expect too much to peg Deng for a seamless return from injury to replace Ben Gordon, but there's enough here regardless for modest improvement leading into the pivotal summer of 2010. More than enough,” writes Stein.
“They didn’t do much, and lost their leading scorer,” said Smith. “But there is much more continuity from the opening of last season with the likes of Drew Gooden and Larry Hughes in key roles and still winning 41 games. Derrick Rose has to be healthy and playing at a high level, of course. They should have Luol Deng all season, a bigger team, and a more committed Joakim Noah and motivated Tyrus Thomas to give them a good shot blocking threat and thus better defense. And then the idea is to add an All-Star in free agency and make 2011 the year to compete. Yes, more ifs. But they seem headed on the right path.”

Sam Smith hosts live chat (May 20, 2009)

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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 Bulls.com. 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.

Sam Smith hosts Live Chat

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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?
via text message
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.
Editor’s note: We’ll keep the chat going until 4:30pm CT
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 Bulls.com, 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.

Streaking Bulls. Yes! Streaking Bulls.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.
At the site of The Three Peat, which happened thanks to the Three Point Shot, this Bulls team did something perhaps as rare in its 122-111 win Saturday over the Phoenix Suns.
The win was the Bulls’ third straight, the first time since the end of the 2006-07 season—when this Bulls group was the envy of many around the NBA—that the Bulls have won three consecutive games.
“It definitely was a big win for us,” said Ben Gordon, who had 26 points along with Derrick Rose to lead the Bulls. “It feels really different. It’s been so long since we’ve won three in a row. It feels like it was a few years, back when we were a playoff team.”
Uh, Ben, it was when you were last in the playoffs.
“Oh, yeah,” Gordon said with a smile.
There were plenty of smiles to go around, finally, for this Bulls team that had been plummeting earlier this month with five straight losses to fall nine games below .500 with shabby home efforts in losses to Minnesota, Oklahoma City and Toronto.
Then came a condemnation from team Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf about the season as “embarrassing” and a “disaster.” Though Reinsdorf could be the great motivator with this streak, which includes blowouts of the Clippers and Kings. Reinsdorf Saturday at SoxFest also clarified his remarks and said he wasn’t singling out coach Vinny Del Negro for criticism and was merely referring to the overall staff coming together and was meeting with Del Negro when Reinsdorf returns from Chicago with the Bulls here through Monday.
No matter. Hey, if spring training had started or the Bears were in the Super Bowl, it may not have mattered. But this is the slowest sports time of the year in Chicago, so it was something to chew over.
But all seemed forgotten and merely an asterisk in a fiery and effective sideline job by Del Negro, some terrific clutch shooting by Gordon and a brilliant effort by Rose that even had two-time MVP point guard Steve Nash gushing praise.
Rose, after those 26 points with six rebounds, four assists, zero turnovers and several highlight slam dunks and floaters over Shaquille O’Neal and Amare Stoudemire, had to sit the last 6:42 when he took himself out of the game with a sore foot, the first time in his life Rose said he ever asked out of a basketball game.
“I never pulled myself out of a game before,” Rose said. “Never. So for me, it had to hurt.”
Scary for the Bulls and Rose, though Rose pronounced himself fit after the game, saying he didn’t need an X-ray or an MRI and would play Tuesday in Houston.
“I should be fine,” Rose said. “A little extra treatment should help me. It was on the dunks.”
The last one a two handed tomahawk on a fast break after a Thabo Sefolosha steal that gave the Bulls a 101-91 lead with just over seven minutes remaining.
“It’s been happening awhile now,” Rose noted of his foot woes and slowing at times.
And we’ve noted it as well and have been writing it off to that so called rookie wall. Though it seemed the length of the season and minutes Rose has been playing—and playing through the injury, as you would expect of him, without saying anything—is what has curtailed the explosive play we’d seen earlier in the season.
“I hadn’t dunked in a game in so long,” noted Rose. “It’s why it happened tonight. I was trying to be explosive. I’m not explosive no more like I used to be.”
But you could have fooled the Suns and just about everyone else with several of those Rose plays that just make you gasp in awe.
The first was on a Kirk Hinrich jumper in which Rose came darting in from the left side, caught the rebound with one hand and slammed the ball back through for a 46-37 second quarter lead in a game the Bulls never trailed.
“He’s a special athlete,” said Nash. “The experience he is getting with his understanding of the game coupled with his athleticism could make him a force. It seems like he may be a special kid, who’s humble, works hard and listens to the coaches and does all those things that will allow him to go from good to great and from great to one of the superstars of the game.”
But it wasn’t just Rose, who just after his highlight slam dunk in the second quarter one handed a Hinrich miss between O’Neal and Nash, got the ball back to Hinrich for another miss, though Luol Deng, with 17 points and 10 rebounds, beat the Suns inside to the ball for a follow layup and 50-39 lead.
It was typical of the Bulls efforts of late as they led the Suns in second chance points 18-4 and 12-4 in offensive rebounds and outrebounded Phoenix 42-35. Though the Suns shot 52.9 percent led by Leandro Barbosa’s season high 32 points off the bench, the Bulls were the aggressors with Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas fighting off Shaq with 18 points and eight rebounds and Amar’e Stoudemire, the latter with a meager 12 points and six rebounds and just seven shots.
I’d long thought there was no way the Suns would trade Stoudemire until they had a full season run and playoffs with he and Shaq. But Stoudemire looked lost and disengaged, and it seemed crisis time for the Suns as coach Terry Porter was long delayed for his post game session with reporters while meeting with owner Robert Sarver, and later Sarver called Nash and Grant Hill into Porter’s office for a meeting lasting late into the night.
The Suns are 25-20 and sliding, and speculation went everywhere from Porter being fired to Stoudemire being dumped to save money and fix the team’s broken chemistry.
“We don’t have a great spirit,” said Nash. “The sum is not as good as the parts. We have to find a way to fit together better. Instead of fighting, it seems we don’t really believe what we are doing. We don’t have the answers when we are out there.”
Said O’Neal: “Man (expletive, expletive) up. Excuse time is over. There’s nothing else to talk about.”
There’s plenty to talk about now for the suddenly surging Bulls, and, perhaps even a trade for Stoudemire. But, hey, Thomas got about the same production in almost half the playing time Saturday and one block on a Stoudemire attempt was like it a volleyball spike.
“The bigs did a decent job against Shaq,” said Joakim Noah, who had just four points but eight rebounds. “It’s my first three game winning streak (as a pro). Lindsey Hunter told me to act like I’d done it before. But I tried to tell him I never had.”
With that Hunter yelled across the locker room to Noah to thanks for the mention.
“It will be a good thing for your future,” Noah laughed.
It was as giddy as these Bulls players have been all season, the sweep of the Suns the first since the 1996-97 season with a season high 122 points.
And suddenly Andres Nocioni was talking about .500 and the playoffs. Not in a robotic way as the players had been doing before without much belief, but more shaking his head saying to Hunter sitting next to him, “Look at the games we lost. We should easily be .500.”
It’s not like there’ll be an award ceremony for that. But the sense seemed to be even now at 21-27 there were possibilities ahead. The Clippers and Kings rank among the league’s poorest teams, but the Bulls beat each by at least 20 points, convincing blowouts of bad teams. And whatever the Suns issues, they have far more talent than the Bulls, but clearly not near the harmony and effort displayed by the Bulls Saturday.
“We’re building something and that’s what I want,” said Del Negro.
Even a bench rotation of Hinrich, Nocioni and Thabo Sefolosha, the latter with 11 points and eight rebounds in still another hustling all around effort, all scored in double figures to support the Big Offensive Three of Gordon, Rose and Deng.
“It seems like we’re playing a lot more comfortably, making better decisions, getting stops when we need them,” said Gordon. “That’s the way we need to play.”
And that was the way the Bulls played throughout here, jumping on the Suns from the start to go up 10-4 on the first of five Gordon threes.
“I’ve been shooting the ball a little bit better,” said Gordon, who also had six assists and zero turnovers, the Bulls with just eight. “It was only a matter of time before my shot came back since I work on it so much. It’s just a matter of being more consistent.”
Later in the first quarter Noah ran out and dunked after a miss and Rose followed that with a dunk off a nice bounce pass from Aaron Gray, who does that particularly well. Though the Bulls only led 29-25 after one, it was becoming clear they were outworking the bigger name Suns.
The Bulls surged ahead to open the second quarter with something new from the Rose arsenal, a floater reminiscent of the effective shot we see most often from Spurs All-Star Tony Parker.
Rose flipped one up over Shaq to make it 37-28 early in the second in a quarter of highlights that also included a Grant Hill 1990’s moment with a stunning drive past Deng and slam dunk over Noah, though Rose would continue to hit that tear drop from most angles.
“Shaq and Amare being down there makes you take it,” said Rose. “I used to do it at Memphis and I’m starting to learn it here. I used it a lot in college, but I tended to go away from it. I had a flashback tonight.”
It also showed something else special about Rose, about how he’s already working to add to his game even as the season wears on. It’s a rare trait among young players and generally distinguishes the great ones.
Still, though, the Bulls led only 62-59 at halftime as their defense remains suspect and Barbosa was absolutely flashing by defenders at will.
Rose went out first early in the third quarter after a spectacular driving score. But the Bulls could not hold a 13-point lead and went into the fourth leading 88-83 after Thomas caught the Suns sleeping on a Gordon shot and slammed in the miss to end the quarter.
It was a lot of points, and though it is difficult to stop the Suns, still fourth in the league in scoring, I thought the Bulls were effective in constantly putting Shaq in pick and roll. Shaq doesn’t come out much, and when he does is slow to recover, likewise with Stoudemire, and the Bulls kept attacking and pulling up for open jumpers or beating them inside.
“Our execution was better,” said Del Negro. “They tried to overplay and we moved the ball side to side and we tried to get Shaq and Amar’e away from the basket.”
Rose helped the Bulls pull out to a 101-91 lead with a terrific series that included a pass to Gordon while triple teamed for a three, another floater, a jumper and that two handed slam. But it didn’t look good as Hinrich replaced Rose and had a bumpy start with a poor shot and miss and then another, which led to a Barbosa runout for a score.
And suddenly it was 105-101 with 4:48 left, and this would be a heck of a game for the Bulls to lose after leading throughout.
Del Negro, coaching back in Phoenix for the first time, was especially emotional on the sideline, constantly yelling instructions, reacting with pain when Sefolosha doubled and left Barbosa open for a three and gleefully pumping his fists when Hinrich late in the game penetrated and found Deng slashing for a three point play.
“I’m Italian,” Del Negro explained with a hoarse voice afterward, which he attributed to not chewing his normal 20 lozenges during the game.
The Suns had a chance to draw closer, but Shaq missed a reverse and Gordon with Barbosa all over him and the 24-second clock about to expire calmly sank a three.
“Ben Gordon has been doing that for years for the Bulls,” said Noah. “Ben has been getting us out of deficits and helping us stay in leads since I’ve been here. We count a lot on Ben and he came through and it was a great team effort.”
Hinrich then made that terrific pass for the Deng three-point play, Thomas hit a jumper and Sefolosha effectively wrapped it up at 116-105 with 1:32 left with an open three pointer from the top of the circle.
Yes, a three for three once again.
It was more exciting when John Paxson did it here in 1993. But the Bulls will take it now and walk away smiling as well.

Is Amare Stoudemire now available?

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.
Amare Stoudemire and Leandro Barbosa for Drew Gooden, Tyrus Thomas, Kirk Hinrich, Thabo Sefolosha and a draft pick?
Would you do it?
I’m suddenly getting the feeling the Suns might.
I’ve long thought any trade involving Stoudemire was highly doubtful until after this season, until the Suns, whom the Bulls face here Saturday, had a chance to at least play a full season and a playoff run with Stoudemire and Shaquille O’Neal.
Plus, it seems sure next season is the final one in Phoenix for O’Neal and Steve Nash, both well into their 30’s with expiring contracts. So why trade the 26-year-old All Star?
It didn’t make any sense.
But there was an interesting story in Saturday’s Arizona Republic which had me having second thoughts. It was written by Paul Coro, the longtime and plugged in Suns beat writer.
Coro noted Stoudemire’s opt out clause after next season and the chance for Stoudemire to leave as a free agent or sign a deal starting at $19.5 million. We all knew this. Coro also noted the Suns not fighting for the Western championship but to make the playoffs. We’ve noticed that.
He writes: “If the Suns are ever going to trade Stoudemire, the time would be in the coming days.”
Hello! That was an eye opener.
“Internally,” he wrote, “there have been frustrations with his inability to progress as a defender, rebounder, willing passer or even solid screener in his seventh season. There is a feeling that the Suns already have seen how far riding Stoudemire as a top scorer can take them, particularly as his game edges toward a reliance on perimeter shots with Shaquille O’Neal in his lanes. Stoudemire has never clicked in the locker room with teammates much beyond pleasantries. No big-man coach tutelage, from Marc Iavaroni to Bill Cartwright, has connected the dots for him. And while he keeps a global following, the Valley’s Suns fans have become more annoyed with his erratic play and consistent braggadocio.”
It was even more interesting because I know how beat writers work.
A beat writer has to retain access and communication with the team to survive. So there are many things a beat writer knows that he or she cannot write. A beat writer, while not generally knowing the inside workings of the team, knows from being around a team the general feelings, especially a good one like Coro.
He writes in the next paragraph a trade might make sense for the Suns as a way to avoid the luxury tax, to be a player in 2010 free agency and “boost a team battling for playoff life by removing one of the open mouths Steve Nash must feed offensively. A lineup of career featured scorers could use a selfless role player with a defensive commitment, especially if a deal brought a young prospect to an aging team.”
That suggests to me an internal scenario being created to perhaps trade Stoudemire and which isn’t so secret any more.
A lot of that squares with some things you’ve heard around the NBA, about Suns owner Robert Sarver, who is in the banking business, having some financial worries and teams not in the championship race, like Denver last year giving away Marcus Camby, making moves to get under the prohibitive luxury tax if they are no longer competing for a title.
If Stoudemire, indeed, becomes available—and there have been vague rumors for a few weeks now—it would give some team the chance to get a head start on one of the big stars of the free agency class of 2010. It’s a risk, of course, as Stoudemire could still walk in 2010, has had microfracture surgery and has proven difficult to deal with in Phoenix and an extremely poor defender.
Though how good would he look running a pick an roll with Derrick Rose?
And the chance for a big city team like the Bulls to make a strike with a player regarded as a true star in the NBA. Who playing with an unselfish player like Rose could be a major star in a major market, which seems to be what Stoudemire is seeking.
The Suns less than two years ago were refusing to deal Stoudemire for Kevin Garnett when the Timberwolves were looking for trading partners. Minnesota did get Al Jefferson, which is making that deal at least now look a bit better for them.
I figured there was a chance you could make a run at Stoudemire and some of the other big 2010 names after this season.
But the way this season has gone for the Suns, and seeing what the media writer closest to the Suns is floating, it occurs to me now that Stoudemire may well now be in play. Critics say he hasn’t won anything and the Suns have been out in the first round of the playoffs more than usual. Yet, Stoudemire has been an integral part of one of the great runs in recent NBA history and perhaps a fateful walk off the bench away from an NBA title.
Though the Suns were losing to the Spurs again this past week. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said his team still hasn’t figured out a way to stop Stoudemire, who is averaging 21 points and eight rebounds. I haven’t heard that Stoudemire is being shopped. But his calls earlier this season to be “the man” were upsetting around the Suns, and many of the internal stories you hear were similar to the ones that helped lead to the Suns trade of Shawn Marion.
This is shaping up as a huge two weeks to come in the NBA and perhaps for the Bulls.

It’s a Bulls Run in California, second straight blowout win

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.
Even Michael Jordan’s last Bulls championship team couldn’t do what this Bulls team did Friday in blowing out the Sacramento Kings 109-88.
It was the first time since the 1996-97 season that a Bulls team has won consecutive road games by more than 20 points. And in the Western Conference yet. Not one of the Bulls six championship teams of the 1990’s ever won consecutive road games in the Western Conference by at least 20 points.
Could it be the start of something big?
You’re looking in someone’s eyes and you suddenly realize…
That maybe Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas finally are getting it?
It would be something for this Bulls team as Noah had 17 points and three blocks, his third consecutive game scoring in double figures and 14 blocks in the last four games. While Thomas had 14 points and 10 rebounds, his third straight game scoring in double figures and what would have been his third consecutive double/double if not for nine rebounds against Minnesota.
“Just active,” Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said about Noah and by implication Thomas as well. “Getting more comfortable with the offense and beginning to understand things better. I think just trying to be more consistent at both ends. I tell him (Noah) to control the paint with his size and length, blocking shots and running the court. Then let Derrick (Rose) and Ben (Gordon) and Luol (Deng) run the court and make plays. It has been working better the last couple games.”
Sure, Gordon and Deng-the latter with his fourth game of at least 20 points in the last six-led the Bulls with 20 points each.
But if the Bulls can get consistent efforts and scoring from their two young big guys, well, then maybe some interesting things can happen.
Sure, it was the Clippers and Kings, the latter giving up an astounding 119 points per game in their last 10 and now having lost 20 of their last 23. I may consider voting Reggie Theus coach of the year for getting this disinterested bunch 38 wins last season and at 6-16 without their best player, Kevin Martin, before being fired in December.
“I don’t care who we are playing,” said Del Negro. “Wins are wins. We have a tough back-to-back against the Suns (Saturday). We need to build some confidence especially with the younger guys. I’ll take it.”
Still, the Bulls showed if you do not compete you can lose to anyone, as they did earlier this month in home losses to Minnesota and Oklahoma City.
The Bulls are 20-27, and the trip gets tougher from here with games against four teams with winning records before returning to the United Center Feb. 10 for the big night honoring Bulls and NBA legend Johnny Kerr.
Though I also thought I spotted something interesting about Del Negro as earlier in the day Managing Partner Jerry Reinsdorf said on Comcast SportsNet that the season has been a “disaster” and “embarrassing.”
It perhaps was a bit of a wakeup call for Del Negro as Reinsdorf also specifically praised General Manager John Paxson in the interview on the Monsters in the Morning show and declined to fault Paxson for any of the flaws with the team this season. Then Del Negro? Perhaps it could be taken that way given Paxson recently declined to comment on Del Negro when giving something of a state of the Bulls address earlier this month.
So here were the Bulls, effectively finishing off a blowout with a 90-63 lead after Aaron Gray dunked the ball on a pass from Kirk Hinrich with 10:40 remaining. But after two Bulls turnovers and John Salmons driving down the lane for a score without anyone coming to help, and despite the Bulls still up by 20, Del Negro leaped to his feet and called a quick timeout and seemed none too friendly.
The sense you got around the team much of this season was that after Scott Skiles, and players talking about a lack of communication and relationship, Del Negro has spent perhaps too much time trying to please players and develop more friendly relationships.
It’s nice to have friends.
It’s better to have wins, and you get them when players compete and don’t take you for granted.
Del Negro seemed to be suggesting that with the timeout, and after one more Kings score, the Bulls pulled it together with a pair of Thabo Sefolosha jumpers-shoot, Thabo, shoot. See Thabo shoot-Noah with a slick move in the post for a score (yes, Noah) and Gordon with a pretty pull up 20 footer as the Bulls went back ahead by 24 with some five minutes remaining.
Cedric Simmons time. And he got one heck of a follow up slam dunk after a missed Gray free throw.
“We did exactly what we wanted to do, get two wins against teams we should beat,” said Gordon. “We didn’t play down to the level of competition. That is not something we have been doing consistently.”
It was pretty much a wire-to-wire win after a shaky first half of the first period when Gordon picked up two fouls in just over two minutes trying to track down the attacking Martin, who led the Kings with 27.
But when Thomas, who had a brilliant first quarter, drove for a powerful left handed slam to give the Bulls a 14-13 lead with 6:22 left in the first, that would be the closest the Kings would get.
Hinrich lit it up with a corner three, Thomas went left again down the lane with a floater for a score, then dribbled to the free throw line for a jumper and then Noah slammed as he dove for the basket after a pick and roll with Rose, just as the coaches always have been telling him to.
Noah was relentless at that again, and it would get better as the Bulls pulled away in the third quarter, going ahead 75-57 when Noah scored twice running the court way, way, way ahead of the Kings, first for a lob from Rose for a dunk and then on a classic fast break with Deng with a rebound, throwing ahead to Rose at center court and Noah running the wing and Rose finding him for the score.
“I thought we had a good flow again and moved it well,” said Del Negro. “Luol was cutting to the basket. Tyrus and Joakim were active which really helped. We controlled our turnovers better. We didn’t hit our free throws but it didn’t hurt us like it could have. We got a little stagnant in the third, but then we put it on them and Joakim got some easy baskets running the floor. We played more unselfish the last couple games which really helps.”
The Bulls had 27 assists (11 for Rose) to a ridiculous 10 for the Kings. It was the Kings firing the ball all over the place as we’d seen the Bulls do a few weeks ago, Sacramento with 22 turnovers which yielded the Bulls 28 points.
Again, yes, it was the worst of the West. But it was the second consecutive game the Bulls held the opponent to fewer than 90 points.
Defense? Running the court? Moving the ball?
Who knew?
I also liked Sefolosha in there. Though he had just four points, he probably is the team’s best interior passer, and as the Bulls closed the first quarter ahead 34-22, he dropped off a brilliant no look on penetration to Noah for a slam dunk.
“It was a terrible effort,” said the Kings Spencer Hawes, who had eight points. “All across the board we let them come out and let them do whatever they wanted to. They got fastbreaks and dunks, and we didn’t make them pay. I don’t think there is anything good we can take out of this game. Selfish play. If that’s the way we are going to play then we are not going to be successful, especially against good defensive teams. You can’t just pass it once and expect to get a good shot. That is not how this league works.”
The Hawes-Noah battle was an interesting backdrop as the Bulls chose Noah over Hawes in the 2007 draft, and the way the Bulls team is constructed many said Hawes with a back to the basket game would be the better choice. There was a long debate and vast differences even among the Bulls staff before a decision was made, though Hawes’ history of knee operations probably swayed the Bulls to Noah.
It had been looking like a mistake, but head to head Friday, Noah was by far the better player, springier and more active, running the floor and challenging shots. He still got pushed around a bit given his small frame. But Noah looked like the player the Bulls thought he was, and for this night it was good they didn’t let him get away.
“I don’t know what to say,” said Noah, whose 17 points were two off his career high. “It was a win we desperately needed. We’re not that far from a playoff berth, we need to start making a run.”
The Bulls looked like they’d end it early with Gray looking like the better post guy with a nice power move and Andres Nocioni with a pair of scores, one a three for a 45-24 lead. The Bulls were attacking the basket better against the passive Kings and would end with a 52-36 margin in points in the paint, from where the Bulls usually recoil.
Martin helped pull the Kings within 54-43 at halftime, and the Bulls had given away big early leads like this before.
After the Kings opened the second half with a Beno Udrih 15 footer to cut the Bulls lead under 10, Rose made perhaps the key play of the game, if you can call it that in an eventual blowout and with some 22 minutes left.
Gordon got trapped and doubled and predictably threw the ball up for grabs and the Kings intercepted. But Rose stole the ball right back and hit Gordon for a layup with the Kings running the other way and Gordon rain bowed in a jumper right afterward to reestablish a double digit lead.
Again later in the third after a Deng turnover with the Bulls ahead by 13, Martin tried to tip the ball ahead. But Rose intercepted again and hit Noah for a slam dunk, and on the next Bulls possession Deng sliced in and dunked the ball for a 67-50 lead and the Kings wouldn’t get much closer as the Bulls led in the 20’s throughout much of the rest of the game.
And think how bad it could have been as the Bulls were surprisingly-for this season-poor at the free throw line, missing 12 of 27 with Noah one of five.
“I’m happy we won and to be able to be a part of it, but tomorrow is Shaq so you don’t want to get too high,” Noah said.
The Kings now are 0-21 against Eastern teams this season, and the Bulls set their season high winning margin for the second consecutive game against a Western Conference team and won in Sacramento for the first time in a dozen years. Forget getting better players. Just change conferences.

Reinsdorf talks with Mike North and Dan Jiggetts

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Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf appeared Friday morning on “The Monsters in the Morning” show on Comcast SportsNet with Mike North and Dan Jiggetts and expressed strong disappointment about the 2008-09 Bulls season, but didn’t indicate that any major management changes are imminent. Reinsdorf didn’t talk about wholesale player changes, but pointed to the need for an interior presence, which he said will be addressed.
Reinsdorf expressed unwavering support for General Manager John Paxson and noted that rookie coach Vinny Del Negro has a three-year contract, which suggests he’ll have time to begin a turnaround. Reinsdorf also likened the Bulls situation to when he purchased the team with a group of investors in the 1984-85 season and the Bulls won 38 games but had a potential star to begin building around.
Here’s the transcript of the interview as supplied by Comcast SportsNet:
Mike North: “You have a coach that has a two-year deal… Going into next year, if you do keep Vinny Del Negro, would he considered a lame duck coach?
Jerry Reinsdorf : “I think he’s signed for three years.”
Mike North: “Is one an option year?”
Jerry Reinsdorf: “I don’t think so. I don’t remember. I don’t think so.”
Mike North: “Where would you rate this season?”
Jerry Reinsdorf: “You want the grade up ’til today? What’s the lowest grade you can give? This has been a disaster. It’s embarrassing. But it will get better.”
Mike North: “With the same people?”
Jerry Reinsdorf: “Well, we’ll see. John Paxson is not going to let this situation continue.”
Dan Jiggetts: “How comfortable are you with John at the helm?”
Jerry Reinsdorf: “When you have a team that’s not performing it’s an organization failure. You win and you lose as an organization. But if there’s one person that is not responsible for what’s going on right now, it’s John Paxson. I have tremendous confidence in John Paxson. He’s really one of the best people that I know. He’s a great general manager and a great judge of talent. I just worry that he not be too hard on himself. He takes all of this=2 0very, very seriously.”
Mike North: “To say that he’s not at all responsible… he brought in the players. So are the players not being coached up?”
Jerry Reinsdorf: “I have a lot of thoughts about that but they’re not thoughts that I really can say publicly. All I know is what we have right now is not good and we have to get it better. They are playing hard in the last half-dozen or so games. We had some games where…”
Mike North: “You knew they were mailing it in.”
Jerry Reinsdorf: “They were mailing it in and I felt like standing up and booing along with everybody else. They’re not mailing it in anymore.”
Jerry Reinsdorf: “We have a great player in Derrick Rose. When I first got involved with the Bulls, we had one great player (Michael Jordan). When we won our first c hampionship, he was the only player left from the original team. We will build around Derrick Rose. Every player that’s added to this team will be a player who can feed off of him… This is not going to take changing 11 players. We do have some pretty good players on this club. Obviously what we lack is an inside presence. That’s the biggest thing we are missing and somehow we have to find it.”
Watch the interview.