First, of course, a word about the backpack.

In last week's installment, a reader chided me for wearing a backpack, saying it made me look young, childish, fan-like and geeky. In my perennially sleep-deprived state, for some reason I assumed the reader had seen me at O'Hare while traveling for a road game. I answered as such, gleefully seizing the opportunity to tweak my wife, who had suggested the backpack as opposed to the classy plastic Jewel grocery bag with which I had previously traveled.

The answer inspired a flood of e-mails reminding (and ripping) me for the backpack I wear in the very photo that accompanies this weekly feature. To which I respond: Oh. And that the photo was taken at last summer's Beijing Olympics, where an extra backpack was needed to carry media guides, shuttle bus schedules, passport, etc., that didn't fit in my computer bag.

And that, yes, actually I am a dork. Now, on to the questions.

Any thought on a Hughes and Noce swap for Jermaine O'Neal with the Raptors? It looks like the Raptors are lousy at the 2 and 3 position and it appears to be salary neutral for the first two years. Toronto upgrades two positions and can spread the floor while the Bulls get a true center who might benefit by playing with Rose and can slide Gooden back to the 4 where he belongs. We also clear a log jam in the backcourt and at small forward. Thoughts? --Kevin, Austin, Texas

My first thought is: Were you at the Toronto bar last night following the Raptors game? Wow. Over (too many) drinks with Doug Smith, the superb Raptors beat writer for the Toronto Star who has a must-read blog at, we discussed this very scenario. My second thought is: O'Neal was available for several seasons as a Pacer and the Bulls never showed much interest given his hefty salary and injury history. Granted, his deal expires at the right time. But without asking anyone in the organization about interest in O'Neal, my gut reaction tells me he'd be a bad fit with Rose. He's basically become a large perimeter player. I'm not sure how he would solve any of the interior problems.

I watched the back to back series against Washington and Oklahoma last weekend. It seemed to me that Larry Hughes and to a lesser extent, Ben Gordon were icing-out Derrick Rose at certain points during the game when he might have had a better look at the basket. Even the announcers mentioned it. Obviously Larry doesn't want to be here and the back court is crowded but is this a problem for the team? --Glen, Hyde Park, Chicago

Writers who cover the team regularly have asked players directly about this dynamic. Of course they've denied feeling any jealously or animosity towards Rose, and I can assure you that Rose's genuine commitment to winning and professional demeanor, not to mention his talent, has helped him establish respect in the locker room. I can't get into players' heads, so perhaps there is some subconscious force at work occasionally where they feel they need to get shots and if they pass more often to Rose, that won't happen. But I also respond like this: Who are we to judge a split-second decision on a fast break? Granted, a two-on-one is, as Vinny Del Negro described, a basic basketball play. But it's also a split-second decision made in real time and perhaps Hughes and Gordon thought they were making the right play at the time. In retrospect, Gordon admitted that he didn't. But that's after the benefit of watching film.

Hi K.C. Since Kirk Hinrich's return the Bulls seem to be playing with much more maturity and intensity. How much of this has to do with Kirk's presence on court? With this in mind I think those who were calling for a trade of Hinrich for someone else should now reconsider. What are your thoughts on this? Incidentally, what is the Bulls' record with/without Kirk? --Lincoln, Australia

This very topic dominated my postgame line of questioning in Toronto. And not just Hinrich but, thankfully, Luol Deng as well. Deng has been far more aggressive in attacking the basket in his first two games back from his ankle injury and his 14 rebounds are just one indicator of that mentality. As for Hinrich, granted it's only been two games, but he looks far more like the spry, active defender from 2003-2007 as opposed to the rundown player who, like everybody else from last season, was affected by the malaise that befell the Bulls. I think his defense has been active, his shot has looked strong and his presence has helped in many aspects, particularly in giving Rose a break. This season, the Bulls are 4-4 with Hinrich in the lineup and 13-18 without.

So, it's basically two separate deals, but it could work like this: Bulls remake their front line. Aldridge and Jermaine O'Neal with Noah and Thomas behind them; let's Noah bring energy off the bench and Thomas can play alongside either. We lose Deng who hasn't thrived under Del Negro, but Portland has always liked (or so I hear). But we have Outlaw, Thabo and Bargnani (more a 3 than a 4 anyway) to compete for minutes at small forward. Rose and Gordon start in the backcourt with Thabo backing up either position and Hunter getting spot minutes at the point. Relieves the logjam at guard, sheds dead weight, improves interior defense and rebounding, and gets players who will probably play better under Del Negro's system than the systems they're currently in. Or should I send this to Sam Smith at --Bradley, Chicago

You can send it to Sam as well if you'd like but I guarantee he'd say the same thing I would: Why would Portland or Toronto do this deal? Seems pretty pro-Bulls to me.

My question is regarding this guy Joakim Noah. I have a suggestion: Please tell this kid to shave his head and maybe he will be good and will have more aerodynamic to jump and think on the court. --Fritch Bayan, Aurora, Ill.

Um, OK.

I hear all the time about Chris Kaman, Brad Miller, and Marcus Camby being guys the Bulls should go after, but one guy that keeps my attention but is never mentioned is Andris Biedrins of the Warriors. I know they just signed him to a long-term deal and he is a base-year player, but with that franchise being out of whack, do you think the Bulls could get him with the right offer? Gooden, Noah, Nocioni and a first-rounder for Biedrins, Maggette and Anthony Randolph? --Andrew, Richton Park, Ill.

I can't see Golden State dealing both Biedrins and Randolph. Actually, I have no knowledge of them wanting to deal either, other than Nellie pulling his classic bully tactics with rookies in Randolph. If either were available, I'd definitely make a play, especially Biedrins. I think he'd fit perfectly with the Bulls.

I see Ben Gordon as a player who might go to play in Europe for a bigger contract if he doesn't get the type of offer he thinks he deserves. Your thoughts? With that in mind, who do you think would possibly make a decent deal with the Bulls for Ben Gordon? --Chris D., Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Having covered Ben since his rookie year, I do not see this happening. There were a couple of rumors floating around last summer about Ben possibly signing with Olympiacos, the same team that signed Josh Childress. But Ben is a very proud individual. And while he's also rational in understanding that sports is a business, my gut tells me he always wants to be in the NBA because he knows it's the best competition. But I've been wrong many times before.

I know you don't do trade scenarios... However, who is most likely on the outs? And what is Hughes' value? What can we reasonably expect to get back for him based on who's available out there? --David, Shelby, N.C.