I figure we should get to these before either I get snowed in trying to fly to Boston Friday, the Bulls lose by 40 in Beantown and my inbox gets flooded with vitriol again or the Bulls pull off a shocker against the Celtics and I faint and never answer another question.

I have read where you state that the typical NBA player's non-game work day is about 2-3 hours long. How is it possible that players like Noah or Thomas cannot find time to develop the ability to hit an open 12-15 foot jumper (i.e. shoot 1000 shots a day). Can they not find the time or is it something else? I know I'm an outsider but am I missing something? --Tony Alam, Falls Church, Va.

I don't remember writing or saying that. And, c'mon, most NBA players work at least 3 hours and 8 eight minutes.

Seriously, though, I doubt there is one NBA player who only works two or three hours a day. A typical off-day practice at the Berto Center begins at 11 a.m. Most players arrive one to two hours early to stretch, get taped, perhaps watch film or warm up with individual shooting. Some players arrive as early as 7 a.m. to get individual work in. A practice can run anywhere from 90 minutes to three hours. Then, if the Bulls aren't traveling, comes more film work, work with the strength coach, perhaps a massage. I'm not saying life in the NBA is as grueling as a factory shift, but most NBA players are pretty committed people. And the Bulls are a fairly hard-working bunch when it comes to individual work.

Did Vinny Del Negro call out Noah and Thomas for lack of commitment and focus? Yes. My understanding is Noah has improved and Thomas never had an issue with work, just focus in that he kept dribbling too much and the like when Del Negro asked him to stop.

It seems to me that the biggest problem with the Bulls is their really messed up salary structure. Their four biggest salary commitments are Deng, Hughes, Hinrich, and Noce -- three backups, not one player in the top three most productive in the team. This is a serious problem that makes me want to go on an anti-Pax rant, but then I ask: How much of the blame is truly Pax's? Periodically, I read statements to the effect that the guys that get signed (Deng, Hinrich) are the ones Reinsdorf likes (Gordon does not fall in this category). How much of a role does Reinsdorf play? And please be honest. Reinsdorf already barely talks to the Trib. --Alex, Boston

Show me an NBA team that doesn't have a messed up salary structure and I'll show you a small market team that isn't competing. Well, OK, there are a couple exceptions. But the Knicks are paying Stephon Marbury $21 million NOT TO PLAY.

Let's take the contracts you list one-by-one.

Deng is making $71 million over six years, although somewhere between $10-20 million of that is deferred. (I never found out a for sure amount on this.) I didn't hear many Bulls fans clamoring to let Deng walk for nothing.

Hughes has this season and next remaining on a five-year, $70 million deal he signed with Cleveland. Most fans wanted Ben Wallace gone at any cost, and the cost of trading away a bad contract in the NBA is acquiring another one. Hughes is playing well now and will become a valuable trading chip--or salary-cap relief--next season when his contract is expiring.

You could make the argument the Bulls are now overpaying for both Hinrich and Nocioni, although both still have trade value so their deals aren't that outrageous. Teams inquire about both players often. Hinrich's injury, of course, has hurt his trade value and on this roster, he suddenly has become a $10 million backup. The Bulls signed Nocioni, during a summer Memphis wooed him, the way they handle most of their negotiations--by making a strong proactive offer and hoping the player signs it.

As for your question, I've never once heard Reinsdorf say publicly or privately he doesn't like Ben Gordon. And the Bulls tried to re-sign him in consecutive summers by making, again, strong proactive offers. So I'm not sure your theory flies.

Like any owner, Reinsdorf gets involved in negotiations because he gives Paxson the budget with which to work. But Paxson makes the basketball decisions and then works in concert with Reinsdorf on the business of basketball decisions.

K.C., can we get some Ben Gordon love in here?! Despite his heroics he's always been completely underrated by fans. He's less appreciated than Hinrich and Deng, and rarely complimented by the media. Here's a crazy stat: Ben Gordon already has made more career three-pointers than Larry Bird. If he makes his usual 150 three's per season this year he'll be in the top hundred by the end of this year even though he's only in his fifth season. He's quite a bit younger than every player ahead of him in this stat. There's a very good chance that he's going to finish his career in the Top 5 ever in made threes. Please tell me that the organization has finally decided that they'd like to keep him over Hinrich. --Farhan, Rio Rancho, N.M.

You've got some Ben Gordon love here. And I wrote in Thursday's Tribune that Gordon hasn't ruled out re-signing with the Bulls.

Look, Ben drives everyone crazy with his decision-making and occasional defensive lapses. But name me another Bull not named Rose that has truly mastered one NBA skill. Gordon has in scoring. His 18-point first quarter last week in Memphis should remind all what he's capable of when hot. If I'm management, his ability to play with Rose should make re-signing him an offseason priority.

So bring on the Ben Gordon hate mail. And given that Gordon has to give his consent for any trade this season, Hinrich could be traded before him.

What's wrong with Luol Deng? He's paid as a Top 10 small forward, but he is not playing like one. There does not seem to be any leadership or toughness about him either. He reminds me of Orlando Woolridge -- a lot of hype, not as much substance. What do you think -- is he as good right now as he'll ever be? --Richard, Stone Mountain, Ga.

Luol has prompted plenty of head scratching this season, from fans to reporters to Bulls management. It's clear he has struggled to find his role in a Rose-led offense. When Luol is at his best, he's active defensively, moving well without the ball, running the court, virtually automatic on his midrange shots. When he's not, as has often been the case this season, he's standing still, guarding more athletic players from his typically upright defensive position, etc.