Predict the future: What do you think will happen with the Bulls as the trading deadline passes us by? --Scott, Chicago
I'm having them post this early since Thursday is the trading deadline and my legion of assistants---we can all call ourselves Bulls' consultants---is wondering. The Bulls have been acting like they're done with the Pau Gasol possibility, though you wonder if Memphis gets to Thursday and decides to make the best deal they can. Jerry West is a big ego guy (OK, who in the NBA isn't, right?) and friends say he wants to come out of the deal a "winner" and has run up the price on Gasol. The interesting part is West never has liked Gasol much and didn't make the deal to get him there. West came after that. But Gasol remains the franchise's best piece and West hasn't exactly wowed anyone with the team he's put together there, so he could be trying to salvage that with one great deal. I don't see it. I think the Bulls make a deal, probably for one of the reserve big men knocking around on rosters.
There always can be an element of that, but I don't see it so much. I actually think the key free agent guys, Deng and Gordon, are pretty motivated in their contract seasons and have played well. The Bulls miss the other, Nocioni. But that tells you something about the depth we all---me included---thought would make up for their other offensive deficiencies in the post. To lose Nocioni and feel it that badly is worrisome. I just think the way Skiles pushes a team they can suffer a bit of a letdown going into the break and then when they see the end in March pick it up again and make a run.
Would you help settle a bet? If you took a survey of NBA players and asked which player would you most want added to your team who would win? I think Steve Nash is a slam dunk, but others disagree. --Ryan, New York
David Stern says we shouldn't be betting, and if we do, unlike Charles Barkley, keep it quiet. Nash is not the best player, but I'd agree with you he'd be the most desirable to play with. Perhaps Shaq a year or two ago. There'd be some sentiment for Tim Duncan because you win with good big guys and those guys will give up the ball. Nash seeks you out to help your game. Though I'm not sure the great individual players would be sure they'd want to play with him because players like Wade, Bryant and James like to hold the ball. It was an issue with Michael Jordan for many years before he gained confidence in Scottie Pippen. Dirk is starting to move into that realm as he's moved the ball better this year and could get MVP as a result.
Who's the leader of the Bulls? It seemed like early on the team wanted Kirk Hinrich, but he's very quiet. Ben Wallace seems quiet too. PJ Brown maybe? Deng? Nocioni is loud but it seems like sometimes the other guys are just laughing at him. I remember hearing one time Gordon is really funny -- maybe him? --Drew, Austin, Texas
It's an issue the team struggles with and I'd say Skiles remains the leader, but there remains a disconnect between a driving coach and players, which undermines the notion of leadership. The coaches and Paxson talk all the time about that missing element, but it can be rare. First, you have to be very good, and the Bulls don't have an All Star. Another issue parallels the Bulls troubles in trading. Their top players are good, but all flawed in some respect. Gordon is small and doesn't defend, Hinrich isn't a pure point guard and Deng drifts late in games and isn't a guy to go to to win the game. So who do the other players look to? The Bulls were hoping Wallace would be that guy because he has the credentials. But he's on the quiet side and still feeling his way in a city where he hasn't proven anything yet.
Hearing the rumors of Jason Kidd being sent to the Lakers in a blockbuster trade. Why does it seem like the Bulls are always left behind when it come to big trades like this? Have the Bulls ever traded for a superstar? Jalen Rose doesn't count. --J.P., Los Angeles
Not lately, though they've given up some, like Elton Brand, which is another reason they are not quick to pull the trigger on players like Deng and Gordon. The Bulls don't have a big history of player-for-player great trades. They got Pippen in a swap of draft picks and the same with Charles Oakley, who was traded for Bill Cartwright. Those two moves helped solidify the first championship team. They got Dennis Rodman for Will Perdue when Rodman was toxic all over the league and not in demand. Jerry Krause wasn't a big trader, preferring the draft and free-agent maneuvers. Some of the best deals the team made were in the early years when they traded for Guy Rodgers for Jim King and Jeff Mullins, Chet Walker for Jim Washington and Norm Van Lier for Jim Fox. The Nate Thurmond for Clifford Ray deal was big, but didn't work out. The Reggie Theus deal for Steve Johnson wasn't good, but it opened the way for drafting Michael Jordan.
I read in your recent column that Sean May could replace Pau Gasol as the "big" to round out our roster. What would it take to get May from Charlotte? Would he be a good fit? He reminds me of Michael Sweetney. --Ken B., Pittsburgh
Fans have mentioned May to me at times, but there seems to be serious injury issues with his knees; he is always in and out of the lineup and I can't see the Bulls going for him. The comparison to Sweetney probably is further evidence he'll never be a Bull.
I hate to bring up headband issues again, but I'm curious: Was the decision by Tyrus Thomas, (you can include Scottie Pippen, too) to wear a headband during Saturday night NBA All-Star festivities just taking advantage of an opportunity to wear one without team restrictions, a tweak at Scott Skiles and the Bulls for the rule, or both? --Brian, Chicago
I wondered as well when I saw that. Typically, when I asked Thomas he said he saw it laying on a stool and picked it up. He is now being very careful in what he says to reporters. Can't actually blame him for that. I do think it was a sort of statement for both since there weren't a whole lot of headbands being worn during All Star weekend. It's like with the new basketball. It probably would have been OK if they weren't told to use it. NBA players can actually be just like the rest of us.
How is it possible that Adrian Dantley (24.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.0 rpg in 15 seasons) is not in the Hall of Fame but both Bill Walton (13.3 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 3.4 apg in 10 seasons) and Joe Dumars (16.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 4.5 apg in 14 seasons) are in? --Dave Rice, Chicago
Dantley was named a finalist last week and has a good chance this time. I've been on some of these preliminary screening panels in the past and one issue that comes up with Dantley among voters is the lack of a championship, which he probably was denied when traded from the Pistons for Mark Aguirre because he and Isiah Thomas didn't get along. He also played on so many teams, which usually suggests some instability and team chemistry issues. While numbers are important and character and such issues aren't formally required like in baseball, they are taken into account and Dantley did have some ugly episodes with management, especially in Utah. That kind of stuff gets held against you for a time, but I think he'll get in.
You wrote recently that no player who has gone to the draft from high school has led his team to a championship, or has even been close for that matter. You said that players must go to college to learn the emotional difference between a win and a loss. Players also learn about leadership in college. Steve Alford wrote in his book "Playing for Knight" that it wasn't until his senior season that he finally learned how to make his teammates better. Now that many people realize these trends, do you think the league will extend its minimum college experience to two or hopefully even three years in the near future? Or will the union continue to ruin the game because of its own greed/stupidity? --Tim, Evergreen Park, Ill.
I say greed and stupidity wins. I've never fully understood the union's position on this, other than as a giveback situation knowing the NBA wants it and uses it to gain concessions in bargaining. Which is why too often I don't see the players' association operating in the best interests of the game. We hear this constitutional right argument and point to tennis with babies playing professionally. But all industries should have the right to make work rules and it seems only logical that the more maturity and experience you have the better you will have a chance to succeed. Of course, I have to reexamine my position if I am in agreement with Knight and Alford.
As amazing as Ben Gordon can be at times, I am perplexed at the number of times he is falling, flailing, tripping, slipping, all over the court. It happens so often it almost looks to be intentional. Also his defense, passing and dribbling are only average at best, and probably won't improve. Maybe he is the guy to showcase in a deal for an inside presence since there are teams that might highly value the skills he does have. --Jeff, North Hollywood, Calif.