Aggrey Sam's Monday mailbag

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Aggrey Sam's Monday mailbag

Happy New Year, everybody. For once, I don't have to make the trek from the city to the Berto Center for a shootaround -- or a much easier commute to cover a visiting team's game-day morning walk-through -- since the Bulls host the Bobcats in a holiday matinee affair, so I already have a good feeling about 2013, especially since I won't be trudging out of the United Center in the midst of all the revelry late in the evening.
Anyway, I hope everybody has an enjoyable and safe holiday. On to the mailbag:
From Jose: How do you think Derrick Rose will adjust to the new-look Bulls when he returns?
Jose, there will likely be a learning curve for both Derrick and his new teammates when he gets back on the court, but the fact that there are few holdovers on the roster -- Luol, Joakim, Carlos, Rip, Taj and Jimmy, not to mention Kirk, who Derrick played with during his first two seasons -- should help him make the adjustment.
Although it will probably take some time before Derrick returns to his previous form, his ability to push the tempo, create for his teammates and manufacture offense for himself should immediately benefit the team, particularly new additions like Marco, who will be able to spot up more, and Nate, who I could envision playing off the ball in certain situations, with Derrick defending opposing shooting guards.
But having teammates who already know his game and vice versa will be a boon for Derrick, especially as he's observed the likes of Luol and Joakim specifically raise their level of play in his absence and showcase the playmaking aspects of their respective games more with him out of the lineup. Jimmy and Taj will also benefit from his ability in transition, while Rip and Kirk, like Marco, should have easier, uncontested opportunities on the perimeter.
Aside from Marquis and perhaps Nate, who typically drives looking to score more than be a setup guy, the Bulls often struggle to get into the paint off the dribble, which just happens to be Derrick's strength, so regardless of his brilliance, it isn't as if another player on the roster duplicates what he brings to the table.
From Mario: Given the production of Omer Asik and Kyle Korver, are Gar Forman's and John Paxson's jobs in any kind of jeopardy?
Mario, not that the Bulls haven't taken notice of the season that Omer, in particular, is having, but when the decision was made not to bring back the majority of the "Bench Mob" over the summer, it wasn't as if the front office totally underestimated what they were capable of doing individually this season.
It's been well-documented that Omer's offer sheet from the Rockets, which included a poison-pill in third year of his contract, was structured in a way that put the Bulls in a tough financial position, but it's not like they didn't make any effort to keep him. I know that with his performance in Houston's Christmas Day win at the United Center, it probably seems as if they dropped the ball, especially given Taj's struggles this season, but hindsight is 2020 and an average salary of more than 8 million, let alone 15 million in the third year of his contract, is a lot of money to pay a backup center. Let's also keep in mind that Joakim is having a tremendous season and if Omer had stayed in Chicago, either we wouldn't be seeing that because his minutes would be down or Omer would be a very high-priced limited-minutes player, one who, if I recall correctly, many Bulls fans didn't believe would develop into a competent offensive threat.
As for Kyle, he was the lone "Bench Mob" member who I thought the Bulls should have held on to -- Ronnie's departure opened up minutes for Jimmy and love Nate or hate him, he's at least the equal of C.J. Watson and John Lucas III as a scorer, while Derrick's eventual return will further solidify the backup point-guard spot -- because of his elite shooting ability and while that's still not a strength of the team, Marco's emergence this month has helped improve that deficiency. Kyle has been good in Atlanta, one of the early-season surprises in the league, but I wouldn't say he's done anything out of the ordinary and I know that there were also some concerns about him physically.
Regardless, the Bulls' management won't be judged too harshly for not re-signing any of the players who left over the summer, no matter what the circumstances were, and with the current roster playing solid basketball without Derrick in the lineup, they've actually, along with Thibs for his coaching, earned some praise around the league as of late.
From Andrew: Would the Bulls package Rip Hamilton and Nazr Mohammad for Sam Dalembert's expiring contract? Maybe send Kirk Hinrich to play alongside his old buddy Skiles?
Andrew, I don't see this happening. Rip and Nazr also have expiring contracts -- Nazr is on a one-year deal and the Bulls have a team option, which is unlikely to be picked up, for Rip next season, with only 1 million guaranteed -- so I don't know if Milwaukee would be all that eager for that scenario, regardless of what seems like a bad match between Dalembert and the Bucks.
Even though the Bucks could use some size at guard, I don't know where Milwaukee would find minutes for Rip as the starting backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis plays heavy minutes, with backup point guard Beno Udrih also in the rotation to provide more of a floor-general presence. As for Kirk, I think the ship sailed on his reunion with Skiles this summer, when he chose returning to Chicago over taking more money to sign with Milwaukee.
From Mario: What is the likelihood the Bulls would pursue a trade to get Tyreke Evans to play with Rose?
Another one from Mario; I might be partial to your questions because I have a sports-fanatic uncle with the same name in New Jersey, though I know you can't be him because your inquiries aren't centered around the Knicks or Nets, let alone Giants and Jets or Yankees and Mets.
Anyway, with Sacramento's current issues -- even in the wake of Sunday's blowout win over Boston -- the ongoing DeMarcus Cousins saga, as well as other, less-publicized problems the Kings are experiencing have overshadowed the chatter surrounding the organization moving the former Rookie of the Year, who was not one of the fourth-year players that signed a new contract extension at the outset of the season.
Reading the tea leaves, it appears that longtime Kings general manager Geoff Petrie is in Evans' corner, but Petrie's job is rumored to be in jeopardy and either way, with Sacramento's ownership preoccupied with Cousins and the franchise's future home, either moving him or keeping him in the fold seems to be on the back burner for now. Still, I'm hearing that Kings have been very active in trade talks and although Evans has had injury problems and there have been issues on how to best utilize his considerable talent, he's a name that garners some interest from rival executives.
That said, Sacramento's asking price for him (and Cousins) is supposedly higher than other teams are willing to pay at the moment, and I can't see the Bulls making a move to get him that will cost them a significant piece in the middle of the season with Derrick's return on the horizon.
Now, I am intrigued by the possibility of those two, who are represented by the same agency, pairing together in the backcourt, as Evans, though he lacks a consistent outside jumper, has great size and versatility, is a natural scorer and has the ballhandling and playmaking ability to both complement Derrick and add a new dimension to the Bulls, as well as potentially developing into an age-appropriate running mate "second star," due to his youth and upside. Assuming he isn't traded this season, doesn't want to return to Sacramento, the feeling is mutual (the Kings can match any offer he receives during free agency) and a lucrative offer doesn't immediately materialize in free agency, perhaps the Bulls could be a player for him in the summer, especially if he's willing to take an O.J. Mayo-like, "show-and-prove" short-term deal for less money to be in a better position to both win and show what he's capable of doing in the right situation.
From @DaChizzzz (via Twitter): How will the protected pick from the Bobcats affect the Bulls at the trade deadline?
Now that the Bobcats, who the Bulls host this afternoon in a matinee New Year's Eve game, are again who we thought they are -- losers of 18 straight after coming out of the gates with a better-than-expected, above-.500 start to the season under first-year head coach Mike Dunlap -- that future draft pick is an increasingly more significant asset. But just like the rights to 2011 pick Nikola Mirotic, don't expect the Bulls to part ways with it unless they can bring back something significant in return.
For a team currently paying four players (Derrick, Carlos, Luol and Joakim) eight-figure annual salaries, as well as Taj's new deal set to kick in next season, a high future pick, whether they wait it out or include it in a trade before they cash in via the draft, is extremely valuable, especially when it doesn't look like Charlotte will turn things around very soon.
Of course, other teams are also aware of this, so it wouldn't be surprising if some forward-thinking front offices inquired, dangling the requisite trade bait, but if the Bulls can't hook a big fish -- and at this year's deadline, I don't know if that's how management is thinking, as Derrick's return is the primary focus -- or there's a deal to be made that's a no-brainer, I believe they're best served by waiting until next offseason or the following one to possibly include it in sign-and-trade free-agent scenarios.

Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki: Growing up 'I was a huge Chicago Bulls fan'

Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki: Growing up 'I was a huge Chicago Bulls fan'

When Dirk Nowitzki was a young teenager growing up in Wurzburg, Germany, there were only a few NBA games on TV each week. And more times than not, in 1991 and 1992, the team seen most frequently was the Chicago Bulls.

It's why Nowitzki told reporters on Tuesday at the United Center that the Bulls were his favorite team as he grew up and learned to love basketball.

"I was a huge Chicago Bulls fan. If there was any franchise I would love to play for back then, it was the Bulls. Obviously Jordan, I was a huge (Scottie) Pippen fan. Pippen was actually my favorite for a long time. Just his versatility, his shooting, his defense, his rebounding, his playmaking.

"So I was a huge Pippen guy. and then later (Dennis) Rodman, (Toni) Kukoc. They had some great, great teams. and back in the day (Germany) only showed one, two games a week, and it was usually Chicago. So, great, great sports town, great history, and it's always fun to play here."

After a successful stint in Germany, playing for DJK Wurzburg from 1994 to 1998, Nowitzki was the 9th overall pick in the 1998 NBA Draft. The Bucks traded his rights to the Mavericks, where Nowitzki has been ever since.

The future Hall of Famer's illustrious career has included an NBA title and Finals MVP in 2011, four selections to the All-NBA First Team, and he's sixth all-time in NBA in history in points. He needs just 307 more points to reach 30,000 for his career.

For what it's worth, the Bulls drafted 28th in that 1998 NBA Draft and selected Corey Benjamin.

Dirk and the Mavericks square off against the Bulls tonight at 7 p.m. on CSN+.

The state of the Bulls after the first half of the season

The state of the Bulls after the first half of the season

Who are the Bulls? The team that beat Cleveland and Toronto or lost to Dallas, Minnesota and Milwaukee?

That's the question Bulls fans are currently asking and the one Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill posed in the video above.

The Bulls have had impressive wins and shocking losses, but neither of those should be surprising at this point. The Bulls are, as Goodwill put it, consistently inconsistent.

The first half of the season has proven that Dwyane Wade still has some memorable moments left to give and Jimmy Butler continues to approach superstardom. On the downside, the drama surrounding Rajon Rondo has meant the 'three alphas' that were hyped up in the preseason haven't been the dynamic trio some Bulls fans had hoped.

Coach Fred Hoiberg doesn't have the shooters his system needs, but can he still rally the troops and get something out of Rondo?

Watch the video to see Goodwill's look back on the Bulls' first half and what could be ahead.