The playoff push is in full effect. The beat writer dog days are in the rearview mirror. I was all geared up for an exciting finish and then my 4-year-old cut off a conversation with me last weekend by saying, "You're boring me, Daddy."
So now it's time to bore you persistent questioners with as much Bulls knowledge as possible.
If the Bulls don't score this offseason with a major acquisition, what happens? Would Gar and Pax be fired? Steven V, Wilmette
Well, it's not like the Bulls are going to completely strike out. Even if they fail to land LeBron, Wade or Bosh, Ron Mercer is available--or at least his current equivalent. I touched on this topic in last week's mailbag and noted Jerry Reinsdorf's longstanding loyalty with executives. Gar and Pax aren't going anywhere.
With the disastrous injuries to DRose, Noah and Deng, do you think the Bulls would win the NCAA Tournament with their current roster? Respectfully, Al Bulls, Chicago
A lineup of Jannero Pargo, Acie Law, Chris Richard, Flip Murray and Joe Alexander would beat the NCAA champion by double digits. There's no comparison between the pro and college game. NBA players are bigger, faster, stronger, better and play a different game. College basketball, particularly with the one-and-done rule claiming the best players, is an inferior product to the NBA--good for stirring drama but not much in way of competition with the best basketball league in the world.
Do you think moving DRose to shooting guard would help his development? When I watch Derrick create offense off the dribble, it's to set himself up usually, not others. Ryan Borjs, Chicago
DRose is a point guard. Give him another bonafide scorer and you'll see him create for others. How many times did he penetrate and kick to BG last season for 3-point shots? Plenty. The reason he is creating so much for himself this season is because he has the ability to perform offensively what the game needs.
Hey, I'm not sure how to contact Gar, Pax and Jerry in their bunker under Berto Center, so could you please extend an invitation to this little foot race we have scheduled here in June? You can assure them it's for a very good cause. Benny, Pampalona, Spain
Man, you people are twisted--creative, but twisted. Keep it up.
There's lots of talk about Acie Law needing to play better defense. It seems to me that anyone with the physical skills to be a good scorer in the NBA also has to have, by default, the physical skills to be a solid defender. If they have the physical attributes to score on a regular basis, then they also have the physical attributes needed to defend. Right or wrong? And if I'm right, doesn't that lead to a rather negative conclusion about bad defenders? Finally, you don't look like Sudeikis. You look like my brother Norman, a Harvard PhD by the way. Curt, Momence
Thanks. I think. As for your question, here's a little news flash: Even the best defenders in the NBA get scored on. The offensive talent is too good and the rules prohibiting hand checking are too strict for even the best defenders not to get lit up once in awhile. But, yes, a lot of defense at this level is having a good game plan and committing to it. Remember that Skiles had people like Ben Gordon playing major minutes on teams that led the league in opponents' field-goal percentage. And the Bulls improved tremendously from last season to this with a lot of the same personnel.
I don't understand the criticism concerning the Salmons trade. We weren't going anywhere but seventh or eighth with him and maybe not even that given all the injuries. Keeping him meant we might not have been able to compete in free agency this summer. I want to see the Bulls back in contention and that requires a superstar be added to their core. Tom, Dayton
Did Gar ghostwrite this for you? But seriously, can I get an Amen? Look, Salmons clearly was the best player in the trades. But it's not like Flip Murray is a stiff. (And, yes, I know they got Murray in the other deal, but he is Salmons' replacement.) Murray is a viable NBA rotation player, albeit a gunner at times. The Bulls knew they were giving up something to get something and that something is the guarantee of being able to offer a max salary. That's a chance that, in my opinion, you have to take. Plus, if they don't experience widespread injuries, it's likely they make the playoffs while trying to achieve long-term goals.
Even though the Bulls went on that horrible losing streak, I enjoyed watching the backups play. James Johnson isn't that horrible, Acie Law is a pretty good player and Jannero Pargo still can't handle the ball or know what is a good or bad shot. But they played hard and hustled, which made the games fun to watch. Do any of these benchwarmers have a role next season? Bob, Fox Lake
It all depends on what happens in free agency. If the Bulls spend all their salary-cap space, they're going to have to fill their roster with a lot of lower-salaried players. That would increase the chances of someone like Law sticking around as a backup point guard. James is under contract so, barring a trade, he will be back. I'd doubt Warrick or Murray will return.
I saw you in the 76ers game highlight reel chatting with Jannero Pargo on the bench before the game. What were you guys talking about? Alper, San Francisco
The best part about being a beat writer is getting to know players beyond sound bites. Contrary to what some might think, beat reporters don't always just interview players. We try to form relationships so that trust is formed, and that involves, at least in my opinion, letting players get to know you a bit. Jannero long has been one of my favorite people in the league. I stayed in touch with him a bit even when he left the Bulls following his first stint. We talk often and I believe that night we were debating Chicago high school basketball since he is a product of the Public League (Robeson) and Simeon was playing Whitney Young for the IHSA Class 4A title that night. I played at Evanston, which lost to Simeon in the 1984 Class AA state title game, which I joke with DRose about often by claiming the game is still under protest.
I know hindsight is always 20/20 and I know you're a pretty big Luol Deng fan. I like Luol. I think he's pretty good. But he's definitely overrated. Do you think the Bulls regret signing him to the $71 million contract now? Rich, Phoenix
I probably come across as a bigger Luol Deng fan than most but that's more because the email I get regarding him is ridiculous. Most of the questions about Deng make him seem like he can't play at all and is a waste. Look, he has many limitations. But it's not like he's a stiff. A lot of teams would take averages of 18 points and seven rebounds from their small forward. As for your question, I don't sense any regret from the Bulls. They had two assets in Deng and Gordon that they tried to re-sign and made the choice to try to re-sign both. In lieu of being able to do that, you have to at least get one, no matter the price.
With the slow but sure improvement of James Johnson, does this spell the end of Luol Deng? While I'll never question a person's injury, I will question his desire to play. Joakim and Derrick seem to have a hard time sitting while Deng looks very comfortable. I don't believe he puts up a fight to play. Dennis, Atlanta
See what I mean about the Deng email? And isn't reading body language questioning a person's injury? Luol and I have had our differences over the years, but I'm firmly in his corner when it comes to people questioning his desire to play. You think he likes being out? You're crazy. I've covered Luol a long time and I will never forget the heartfelt interview he gave before Game 1 of the Celtics series, where he eloquently detailed how much it pained him to be sitting out. I know for a fact he wanted badly to play all 82 games this season. The guy is hurt. He may be soft at times on the court in terms of not getting to the line a bunch, but never question his desire to play. He wants to be out there.
Can we officially ask why John Salmons couldn't play back in November like he is playing now? He is shooting 47 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point land since going to the Bucks and averaging around 20 ppg. Did he just not like this team or get complacent? For the record, I was not against the trade and still think it was a good idea for cap space. Kevin Pearce, Austin, Texas
Good for you for not letting Salmons' incredible stretch with the Bucks color your view of the trade. It's important to remember that the Salmons trade wasn't for punitive or bad basketball reasons but strictly to ensure the Bulls had the ability to offer a max contract this summer. Salmons actually had recovered and was playing pretty well after his horrible start, albeit in a reserve role after losing his job to Hinrich. Nobody can explain that start. It was painful to watch as Salmons is competitive and cares deeply. I remember going up to him about six or seven times early in the season and asking, "What's going on?" He was gracious about it every time but nobody had an answer. That was one of the worst slumps I've covered.
If the Bulls make the playoffs, doesn't Del Negro deserve to keep his job? What else is he supposed to do? He would have taken the team to two playoff berths and done it with major injuries to his best players. The fact the team did not give up in the 10-game losing streak should say something about what the players think about him. Also, any talk of him not developing players is just stupid. Two years ago, you could have traded Noah for gym socks. Now he is bordering on an All-Star. Thomas got better under him. JJohnson is getting better. And Rose is among the best in the league. If people want to give Doug Collins credit for improving Jordan and Pippen in the late '80s, then VDN gets credit for Rose. For what he has had to deal with, he deserves another year. Besides, who can you hire that will do better? Steven, Equinunk, Pa.
Did Vinny ghostwrite this for you? (Sorry, couldn't resist.) You make good points. And that certainly will be Vinny's argument. Unfortunately, he doesn't get to make an argument. Management decides such affairs on its own. And I still will be surprised if he is back for the final year of his contract. Look, Collins got fired after taking the Bulls to the conference finals! I've questioned some of Vinny's game management as much as anyone, however he certainly has displayed some strong qualities for a pro coach. His consistency and upbeat demeanor are major pluses. His desire to work with young players is commendable. He loves the job and puts in the time. I do think you're giving too much credit for players wanting to play for him, although they certainly haven't quit on him and that can happen. Vinny will land on his feet no matter what happens. He's well-liked and respected around the league. I know he loves coaching and wouldn't be surprised to see him pursue that over front-office roles in the future should the Bulls make the expected change.
If you were to begin your team with one player, which one of these three would it be and why? MJ, LeBron or Kobe? Isai, Chicago
I assume you mean in their prime and not now because, last I saw, Jordan was a step slower . . . MJ, MJ, and MJ again. And not just because he's a Bull. He's simply the greatest combination of athletic dominance and mental fortitude of the three. Kobe is the closest, which is why he is close to Jordan's six titles with four of his own. LeBron is the current best player, particularly since Kobe has struggled with injuries this year. LeBron still isn't the defender Kobe is, but his physical skills are so transcendent. Jordan is a winner. That's why he's the pick.
Thanks for your questions. Talk to you next week,
K.C.Copyright © 2015, CT Now