BaB got to talk to NBA.com writer and podcast host Sekou Smith about the Bulls season and their upcoming game against the Heat
With the Bulls slated to play on TNT/NBA TV in the next couple of games, Blog A Bull was able to talk to a very special guest in Sekou Smith. He is a senior writer at NBA.com and also hosts the Hang Time Podcast along with being an NBA TV analyst. You can follow him on Twitter right here.
Speaking of some of the Bulls future games on TNT, here are the broadcast crews slated for each game.
Bulls vs. Heat: Vince Cellini, David Aldridge, Sam Mitchell in studio
For the Bulls against the Bucks next Thursday: Brian Anderson, Reggie Miller, and Dennis Scott.
Let’s get down to the interview:
Q: What is your overall take on the Bulls so far this season? Are you surprised by how well they are doing?
A: I’m pleasantly surprised with the way the Bulls have played. I wasn’t sure about how the “3 Alphas” of Rondo, Butler, and Wade would have worked and how Fred Hoiberg would have meshed them together. But I think Hoiberg has done a really nice job of it. The trio have done a great job of adjusting to each other and not stepping on each others toes. It was a nice win over the Spurs on Thursday where Jimmy didn’t play his best but he got some great support from Dwyane Wade and the rest of the cast. You are going to need that down the stretch of the season for a team that is going to be battling for a playoff spot.
Q: Do you think Jimmy Butler is the second best player in the East and if not, who is and why?
A: I think he would be in that conversation along with Carmelo Anthony and Kyrie Irving. Maybe Isaiah Thomas, who is going to be an All-Star again this year if he stays healthy. DeMar DeRozan, Paul George and John Wall are in that bunch as well. If you are talking about just the best two way players in the NBA, Jimmy Butler is on that five man list and that’s to me as valuable or more valuable than just being a great scorer or considered a great talent. Being a guy who is good on both ends is as good as you can get. That’s LeBron, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Jimmy Butler are the first names you think about when you talk about guys who are as good on the offensive end as they are on the defensive end.
Q: Do you think Cristiano Felicio deserves more playing time? Do you see him being a part of Chicago’s future moving forward?
A: Given the position that he plays and the fact that they basically get him for a bargain price, you have to try and use an asset like that and see if you can develop him into a part of your core. The thing about him that cracks me up is that I remember the first time I saw him on the bench and I wasn’t joking when I looked over at a buddy of mine and said “man looks like Orlando Pace in a basketball uniform”. He is unbelievably huge at a listed 6’9 and 266 pounds which I want to see him get on a scale and see that thing read 266. When you are that size in a league where rim protection is still valued the way it is and having a physical force where you can use in spot situations, he’d have to be a part of my future going forward. The fact that he is an immovable object with his size and he can get up and down the floor. He’s a very inexpensive piece that can come in handy come playoff time.
Q: What do you think the Bulls should do with Nikola Mirotic moving forward considering he’s a free agent this summer?
A: I think people want more from him statistically based on what they know he is capable of and what they have seen him do in international play but he is a relatively young player in terms of him being in the league. He’s a guy with his skill set and size, depending on how you play, he can do so many things for your team inside and out. You have a roster that you didn’t flip over to go into full rebuild mode. Expectations for Mirotic have increased or expanded based on the fact that you have Rondo and Wade added to the mix and you think “All right we are going to be a playoff team and we got a chance to build a core group that has to play at a certain level”. But he (Mirotic) is still young enough in his development in the NBA that you don’t allow him to go elsewhere and you keep him as a part of your core group.
Q: In terms of their matchup with Miami, who is the one player Chicago needs to pay attention to the most defensively?
A: They don’t have to worry too much about stopping but they have to have a physical answer for Hassan Whiteside. He has been playing decent and putting up good numbers. There aren’t enough quality back to the basket big men like him running around so you try to see guys like that as often as you can. He can get you out of your sets and your principles on defense if you are not careful. The Bulls have to find a way to have a body on him at all times and don’t allow him to get going offensively and keep him from deterring Chicago’s chances at the rim because he is such a great rim protector. You want to go at him and challenge and attack him and maybe get him into some foul trouble and not let him sit there and get comfortable and control the action around the rim on the defensive end.
Q: Do you think the Heat should try and move Goran Dragic this season and try and build the franchise around Hassan Whiteside?
A: No. I don’t think the Heat have the superstar player on their roster that they can build around for the future yet. I don’t think they are in a rush to find him either. A lot of the times, that guy won’t come via free agency or trade. That’s the guy who are going to draft. So the Heat are going to have to see how their season is going to shake out. If they are not in the playoffs this year, it is a fantastic draft to have a lottery pick. It is expected to be a deep and talented. I would be very hesitant to ship anybody out of Miami before draft time knowing that there is going to be quite a big of high level talent available.
Q: Who do you think will win the battle on the glass?
A: It’s a group effort for the Bulls on the glass. Chicago can come at Whiteside with numbers and they should be able to hold their own and win that battle. It’s going to be one on three or four and you usually favor the numbers. That’s one of the things I like about Chicago’s team is that they don’t have a stat hogger or guys who are piling up those big numbers. Taj Gibson is a guy who has always played bigger than his listed size. Robin Lopez is certainly big enough to make life hard for Whiteside. You use those two guys in particular and try and keep Whiteside off the glass.
Q: X-Factors/Prediction for this game
A: To me, X-Factors always tend to be the guys who you know are going to play at a significant role most nights. Everybody is going to be watching Dwyane Wade of course given he is playing against his former team. The X-Factor for the Bulls will be Isaiah Canaan believe it or not. Reason being is that this is a game where you are matching up backcourts and he’s been a wild card for the Bulls in that backcourt. He could end up playing a significant role in this game. As far as predictions, I’m not terribly huge on game predictions in December, certainly not before Christmas. But if you are looking at who needs it the most and who benefits the most from a win, it would be Chicago. The Bulls would like to have this game for several reasons and you don’t want to drop home games to teams that are inferior to you at this time of the year. You want to put those teams away and take care of business.
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