Sadly, I never found Steve Kerr in Phoenix to ask him if he can bench press 250 pounds. However, I did drive past a roadside hut in Houston that had two signs out front: "Beer." "Ammunition." Supply your own punch line while I supply some answers.
With Jameer Nelson's injury, you've probably received a plethora of "Capt Kirk to Orlando" questions. According to RealGM, in order to make the finances of a "Kirk Hinrich for Courtney Lee" trade work, it has to be Michael Ruffin and Hinrich for Brian Cook, Tony Battie and Lee. No way anything works if Larry Hughes is in the mix. My point is, Orlando's high-paid players are very good. Chicago's high-paid players are sitting on the bench (or are at home). -- Baxter G; Fairfax, VA
Actually, you're the one and only, so congrats on that. You have a point, but not a question but I'll riff away anyway. I haven't talked to anybody within the organization about this recently, but just my gut feeling now is that Kirk will be here for the rest of the season. I know they like his leadership and ability to take pressure off Rose. He is an expensive backup and I do think he'd bring the most value in return because teams around the league like him. But I don't see anything happening with Orlando.
If Phoenix is even remotely interested in moving Amare Stoudamire, why would the Bulls not go after him and offer the Suns everyone except for Derrick Rose? Could you imagine Rose and Stoudemire together for the next 10 years? -- D.G.; Chicago
The Stoudemire and Bosh situations will be fascinating to watch between now and the Feb. 19 trade deadline. If someone told me that one would be moved for sure, my money would be on Stoudemire. The intriguing element to the recent excellent analysis piece by Paul Coro, the Suns' beat writer for the Arizona Republic, is that those thoughts about moving Stoudemire now to maximize value were his but I have to believe nobody from the organization frowned upon him writing them. Now that's not to say Stoudemire will be moved, just that there's now the impression around the league that it could happen. And if it does, the Bulls would definitely have to consider it strongly. Yahoo! Sports reported Thursday that the Suns are listening to proposals and their wish list -- expiring contracts, young talent, draft picks -- sound like the Bulls' laundry list of what they can offer. As fun as it would be to pair Rose and Stoudemire together, there are plenty of concerns surrounding Stoudemire too. He would need a huge extension, making this your one big move to lock in on and move forward. He's not a very interested defender. And he's had microfracture surgery. That's why Paxson makes the big bucks and I answer Q&As.
Andres Nocioni has been really frustrated by the selfish play. Do you think he needs to be traded, not because of his playing, but because of his level of frustration with his teammates? -- Martin; Buenos Aires, Argentina
That's not enough of a legitimate reason to trade him in my opinion, but you certainly touch on a point that regular observers of the team have noticed and discussed all season. Sam Smith, my great former colleague at the Tribune who now writes for www.bulls.com, and I have talked about this a lot. Something is up with Nocioni this season. I can tell you that he doesn't dislike his teammates and remains a locker room favorite with his self-deprecation and humor. But on the court, he has acted out often, drawing technicals, fouling even harder than usual and often lapsing into hoisting three-pointers. Nocioni has value around the league as well. So similar to Hinrich, if the Bulls make a major deal, I'd expect him to be in it.
Please tell me you have the ear of GM John Paxson and can convince him to get a big man coach? I know Yao Ming is an amazing player but he (and Luis Scola) made the Bulls bigs look like high school players. -- Marlon Tatum; Chicago
Actually, I thought Joakim Noah did an OK job on him the few minutes he played in terms of making Yao work for his points. It might be one reason Noah only had one rebound that game, because he expended so much energy playing defense (and fouling). As I've mentioned before in this mailbag, I think having a big man's coach would be great for this team. Bill Cartwright might've landed on Doug Collins' staff had that hire gone through. As it stands, I'd like to see someone hired along the lines of Mike Brown last season.
I think I've come up with the most perfect one for this Bulls team and the team they would be trading with -- the Utah Jazz. My guess is Paul Millsap because he is younger and would probably sign for less than Carlos Boozer. This would present the Bulls with a perfect opportunity to complete a sign and trade with the Jazz since the Bulls have three players who Jerry Sloan would absolutely love - Hinrich, Nocioni, and Thabo Sefolosha. -- Tristan; Garland, TX
Boozer gets hurt too much for my taste.
Why hasn't Ben Gordon ever been included in the 3-point contest? He is in the top 10 in the NBA in 3 pointers attempted and made, and he shoots 41% from beyond the arc. -- Sam; Chicago
I wrote about this in Thursday's Tribune. Personally, I think Ben should've been invited over Miami's Daequan Cook. I'm actually a little surprised he didn't since Ben also represents a major market. Ben certainly is deserving this season of being in the competition.
WIth Tyrus Thomas and Noah improving and producing more consistently, what happens when Drew Gooden is ready to come back? Would it be better to start bringing him off the bench, as long as they keep performing? -- Rich; Glenview
Man, you guys are good. I'm writing about this in Friday's Tribune. I think this will be one of Vinny's toughest decisions this season. My guess is Gooden eventually will return to a starting role and Thomas will come off the bench. I'd like to see Noah and Thomas play major minutes together down the stretch. If they remain consistent, this team finds another level.
Regarding certain player(s) not wanting to spend Super Bowl Sunday at home with Vinny, did the team put in a practice session instead? And if so, did all the coaches join that session, including Del and Bernie? -- Charlene; Granger, IN
Vinny made party attendance voluntary, the team didn't practice and everybody associated with the organization but Larry Hughes attended and, from all accounts, had a great time. Vinny's house reportedly is immaculate. I jokingly asked him why reporters weren't invited and he looked at me like I was from Mars. But he does that a lot because I ask a lot of silly questions.
Gotta say I like the backpack. How much do you see the impact of Gooden coming back and likewise what do you think of the possibilty of a Larry Hughes for Kenyon Martin swap? I believe K-Mart would be both a great addition to this team and would provide us with extra spring in our step, however it also might be best to stand pat as it seems as though Thomas is starting to play up to his potential. -- Bryce T. Englin; South Beloit
As a proud alum of Beloit College, I may or may not have visited establishments in your fair town once or twice during my college years. If I did, I definitely didn't have my backpack with me. I wouldn't touch Kenyon Martin with a 10-foot Benny the Bull tail. He's too disruptive for my taste.
Supposedly the Knicks are going to trade David Lee because they don't want to pay him and keep the money for the LeBron James/Chris Bosh auction. Is there a chance that Noah or Gooden would be interesting to the Knicks for Lee? Lee has the work ethic and hustle that we can only wish for in our big men. -- Ernest Tamura; Port Orchard
On the contrary, I've heard the Knicks are trying to make deals in order to re-sign Lee.
Who is the Bulls' all-time block shot leader? -- C. Mitchell; Sauk Village
The A-Train, Artis Gilmore, swats Michael Jordan to a rare second place on the Bulls' all-time leaderboards. Jordan is a distant second at 828 to Gilmore's 1,029. On a related note (not really), our 3-year-old son thinks "Santa Taking the A Train" is one of the silliest videos he's ever seen.
Who do you got in a game of one-on-one, Dickey Simpkins or Noah? I say Dickey in a real barn burner. On a more serious note, do you think referees are more inclined to call fouls on Nocioni because every other time he complains, flops (undoubtedly accompanied with a loud yell) or commits a hard foul? -- Jon; Lake Zurich
Since we're playing Battle of the Stars, how about Dalibor Bagaric vs. Dragan Tarlac? By the way, I've got Noah in your game. And, yes, I think Nocioni annoys the hell out of most officials.
What kind of cell phones do NBA players have? I'm assuming they have iPhones or Blackberrys. -- Tim; Los Angeles
I know you may find this shocking but most players have more than one handheld or cell phone. I've seen plenty of players with both of the products you mention. On a related note (really this time), Tyrus Thomas recently busted my chops over my circa-1999 BlackBerry. He couldn't believe I still had a model with a track wheel on the side. He told me he was going to use his own money to buy one with a mouse in the front. Then he looked at my circa-1999 wardrobe and decided otherwise.
I've been reading post-game analysis for decades now, but I've never read anything about the disparity in field goal attempts. The Bulls had 24 more shots from the floor than the former run-and-gun Suns. Is this just one of those random things I should ignore in the box score? -- Peter Moore; Emmaus, PA
Actually, it's a statistic coaches look to often. And the Bulls need to play at that pace. The stretches they had success in Houston came when they pushed the ball, picked up fullcourt defensively and played up-tempo. Even though the Bulls' halfcourt play has improved, this still isn't a great halfcourt team.
What are the dynamics between Vinny and his assistant coaches? Is there tension because his assistant coaches were picked by Pax and they might see themselves as replacing Vinny? Do you think Vinny feels like Julius Caesar just before the Senate meeting? -- IRPAX; Northbrook
No, but I love the historical reference. This story had a decent shelf life for a couple days on this trip because of what Reinsdorf said about the coaching staff. Anybody who has been around the team consistently has noticed that the staff just hasn't totally clicked at times. I know that's a general and nebulous answer, but that's because it really is hard to pinpoint and it's nothing really even that specific. It's just like teams: Some have chemistry. Some don't. This staff, for whatever reason, lacked some chemistry. But anybody who has been around the team consistently also has noticed that dynamic improving. And I can tell you for sure that there is no jealousy or animosity or tension on the staff.
Why do the Bulls wear black shoes during the regular season? Is this just due to the players' preference or is there something else behind it? I do think it takes away from it being a playoff tradition. -- J. Shah; Cape Canaveral, FL
Repeat after me: This is the last time this question gets answered this season. I get it basically every week and have answered it in previous mailbags. BECAUSE THE PLAYERS LIKE THE LOOK. As for a playoff tradition, yes, I liked it as much as the next person. But, ahem, you also have to consistently get in the playoffs for it to be a tradition.
Lately, it appears you've become a counselor for venting sessions. I cannot believe all of these questions about Cedric Simmons...could you speculate on the possibility of Marcus Fizer returning? Alas, my question: Word on the street, is that you advocate resigning Ben Gordon -- not for his talent but because you are afraid he might chew you out in the Berto Center if he finds out you've dissed him. Care to comment? -- Tom; Oak Forest
I can't tell if you're serious or not but I'll answer anyway. Here's one reason I like Ben personally as much as I do: He never changes. You can write positively about him or negatively about him, sign him to a long-term deal or not, and his demeanor -- at least outwardly -- stays the same. He's unflappable, if I may use a big writer's word. He also could crush me like a bug, but I've been cussed out by players far bigger than Ben so I'm not worried about that. I'd re-sign Ben because he can Flat. Out. Score.
I think that Derrick Rose is like Lebron. Rose creates the same problem for defenses. In two or three years, you might easily be able to mention his name with the Kobe and Lebron as being one of the top 5 players in the NBA. Do i sound crazy? -- DeAylo Elion; Chicago
Well, he's obviously not as good as LeBron or Kobe yet. His defense is below average. But I think your overall point has merit. I actually get emails ripping me for being a Rose homer, but I always respond with this: I go by what coaches and players around the league have said all season. They know talent. And unanimously, people talk about Rose as if he's not a rookie, that he already possesses a rare combination of size and speed that eventually should produce multiple All-Star seasons.
Has anyone else noticed that Mo Cheeks is currently unemployed? Let's see, Chicago kid, proven coach, good with young players, great point guard in his day. Hmm... No, lets stay with the guy who can't get his team to run a single play out of a timeout, but keeps calling them anyway. -- Tom Woodbury; Missoula, MT
I'm not as down on Vinny as most. But if I had an opening, Mo Cheeks would get an interview.
One of the arguments for the Bulls being bad is that Jerry Reinsdorf is doing it to make money. Because the UC sells out every game, he can buy cheap and inferior players/coaches, then rake up the dough. But wouldn't a team that went deep into the playoffs make more money than one that was terrible (a la "The Producers")? How far do the Bulls need to go in the playoffs to make more money for Reinsdorf than he would make as a bad team with 41 sellouts? -- Chris; Los Angeles
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Oh, sorry. I fell asleep there. I can't answer specifically how much money they make off 41 regular-season sellouts as opposed to a playoff run. (By the way, they don't sell out every home game anymore.) I can just tell you that Reinsdorf, like many owners, refuses to pay the luxury tax. And when he had a championship team, he paid championship-type salaries. I think the argument that he went cheap on the coaching hire is a valid one. But the Bulls' payroll ranks 11th in the league out of 30 teams, so I'm not sure how cheap you can call the franchise.
We need to keep BG. Where do you place his market value heading into the summer? Did he blow it when he turned down 50M over 5 years before last season? -- Offiscott; Elgin
His market value will be less than the two contracts he turned down, so, yes, you could say he blew it.
Would you mind asking John Paxson if he did or was ever able to as a player to dunk the basketball? -- James Schon; Glenview
Next time I see him, I will. I love these type of questions, which is why I promise to answer this and whether Steve Kerr can bench press 250 pounds by the end of the season.
Do the Bulls still have that stupid 'No head band' rule in effect now that Scott Skiles is gone? This could be a deal breaker in possibly acquiring Lebron James from free agency. -- Tim P.; Chicago
Congrats on the funniest question of the week. Sorry to sully it with seriousness, but remember that rule was an organizational rule, not simply a Skiles rule. Paxson and Reinsdorf liked the rule too. But I gotta figure that if they could waive it for Ben's second season in a Bulls uni, they might look the other way for King James.
Can you explain where the Bull are with regards to the salary cap for next year? Is there any room in the salary structure to get a big ticket guy? -- Steve Scuaknec; Huntington Beach, CA
The Bulls are committed to roughly $56 million in contracts for next season. Teams go over the salary cap with exceptions all the time. It's the luxury tax that the Bulls won't pay.
I generally enjoy the column. But I think you were too quick to dismiss Eric's question in your last column about Kirk Hinrich taking the ball out of Derrick Rose's hands down the stretch. It looks to me like Rose and Del Negro both are all too eager to use Hinrich's experience as a crutch. Do you think that Del Negro is giving in to the temptation to basically use Rose as a two-guard? Do you think that could slow his development? -- Nick; Chicago
You present a very reasoned point of discussion and thanks for calling me on last week's answer. I think this: The Bulls are more concerned with overwhelming Rose during his rookie season. He has exceeded everyone's expectations. But you can see in Vinny trying to drop his minutes and now giving Kirk more ball-handling responsibilities that management is aware of putting too much on his plate. So they are making sure not to. And I think it's the right call. So to answer your question, no, I don't think it can slow his development because his development is further along than I envisioned it to be at this stage anyway.
With 20/20 hindsight, how critical was P.J. Brown to the Bulls' success a couple years ago and how much of the team's dropoff is due to the lack of a tough, mature inside presence like P.J.? -- James; Chicago
It's funny you ask this one day after I saw P.J. in New Orleans. It's not just P.J. Guys like Othella Harrington and Antonio Davis and even a diminished Ben Wallace played that role before or alongside him. But, yes, I think a big reason for the Bulls' dropoff is a lack of interior toughness and presence inside, particularly defensively. I always make the case that talk of the Bulls needing a big man is less so for offensive reasons and more so for defensive reasons. Basket protection and the ability to seal off the paint and rebound is essential in this league and even more so for a team trying to utilize Derrick Rose's open-court abilities. I thought P.J. was the Bulls' best player in their second-round series against Detroit in 2007.
Thanks for your questions. Talk to you next week.