Well, that was fun, huh?
Covering spectacularly bad teams and unexpectedly good teams are most beat writers' dream, and I've been lucky to do both thanks to the Tim Floyd-era, the 2004-05 Scott Skiles team and now this team. And this season has far surpassed everybody's expectations.
Beyond the winning, though, this is just a serious-minded, professional and respectful group of players to cover. Let's see how many more weeks are left to enjoy doing so.
What's your take on the significance of Noah's ankle injury? Steve Benck, Portgage, Wis.
I think both the ankle and now the sore left knee are lingering, nagging pains. It's clear Noah is tired of talking about them and dismisses basically all questions about them with, "I'm fine." I respect that. I also think he has moved much better the last couple games with increased energy. And the Bulls need him to play at a high level in the playoffs.
I know teams usually go to seven or eight guys in the playoffs with no back-to-back games but with the Bulls' depth do you see Thibodeau going to his eight to 10 guys for regular minutes? I would hate for us to lose our depth and the lift the second team always gives us. Sankat Patel, Chicago
Thibodeau has talked about the rotation being fairly set and not changing, so I read that as he will continue to use the bench. I do think the starters' minutes will increase slightly. And you might see subtle things like Kurt Thomas and Omer Asik used more situationally than permanently. However, it's clear the bench has been a huge component to the team's success and I don't see Thibodeau giving that up.
DRose is really the first guy I have seen since Jordan who not only has the skills but also possesses the iron will and laser-like focus on winning. Do you think he is a big enough guy to keep it up over a long career with regard to the pounding an NBA star can expect? Neal, River Edge, NJ
I do. Don't forget that Rose is a supremely strong player and dishes out a lot of contact as he attacks the rim as well. He's also very adept at absorbing contact, which is why he didn't get as many calls as he probably deserved the first couple years in the league. Rose is thick. I know he sometimes takes hard fouls and hard falls, but he'll be fine.
I heard you on NPR's "All Things Considered" Wednesday night. Are you going to ride Derrick's coattails to a big-time political reporting gig? Maybe cover the Democrats' tax-and-shoot offense vs. the GOP's Every Zone Defense? Matt Cooney, Huntsville
I will say as a fairly regular listener of NPR that talking to Robert Siegal was a lot of fun. I will also say that interview, to me, underscored how far the Bulls have come back on the national stage. And, yes, similar to MJ, there's a lot of coattail-riding when it comes to DRose.
I think we should name the Bulls' playoff run "Stairway to Seven." Copyright Justin Szykowny. Justin Szykowny, Palos Heights
Just be careful of the bustle in your hedgerow.
Any chance we get a whiff of Rasual Butler? Chip Washington, Lexington, KY
You got one and, obviously, you submitted your question before Wednesday's finale. Butler deserves a lot of credit. By all accounts, he has come in, accepted he won't crack the rotation even though he clearly has talent and continued to practice hard. When the Bulls signed him, he was told he is here for injury insurance and to take a cheap look at him for next season. I'd keep him. He has positional size and can shoot.
What do you think Tom Thibodeau's chances are of winning Coach of the Year? Edie Sedgwick, St. John, Ind.
I think he's the favorite. I know I wrote in this feature awhile back that the Spurs' Gregg Popovich should win, but it's impossible to deny the way the respective teams finished. Thibodeau kept his foot on the gas pedal and it proved to be the right approach for this team. Winning 21 of the final 23 is crazy good. I had a ballot for that award and voted Thibodeau first, Popovich second and Doug Collins third.
What's wrong with Boozer? The guy can't finish at the rim. He must have had four blown layups in that Knicks game. All I heard when the Bulls signed him was how great a finisher he was off the pick-and-roll with either hand. Playoffs are here and teams are going to be aggressively trapping DRose all game. If Boozer can't make teams pay for it, I don't see the Bulls getting past Orlando. Thoughts? Gabe, New Jersey
Actually, though I agree Boozer has lacked some explosiveness this season, I think he finished the year very well. He was very aggressive in that Knicks game and while he did bobble some shots and passes, players talked about the ball being slick that game. Also, he's been consistently drawing double-teams and finding the open man. I don't think he gets enough credit for his passing. As the Bulls like to say, that's easy offense.
Has Thibodeau been approached by Ricola to be their spokesman? Jeff D. Mesa, Ariz.
Ladies and gentleman, we have our question of the week.
Think back to June 26th, 2008. How close were the Bulls to calling the name of Michael Beasley? And if so, would that have been the dumbest move since some team up in the Northwest drafted that Hall of Famer Sam Bowie instead of that guy the Bulls got? What was his name, Jordan or something? Kevin, Louisville, KY
The Bulls never were close to drafting Beasley, but they went through the draft process with an open mind. And your question raises a good point. You can screw up the No. 1 pick. Look at the Greg Oden/Kevin Durant draft, although injuries have hurt that pick more than anything. Bowie had terrible injuries as well, which you can't predict, or else he probably would've had a very good career. But, no, it wasn't a Hall of Fame career like Jordan's. I remember when some people panned Orlando for taking Dwight Howard over Emeka Okafor, the proven, solid college player of the year. Again, you have to do your work, go through the process and make the best choice. The Bulls did.
It's fun to reflect on how good today's Bulls are by remembering how completely terrible (at worst) and mediocre (at best) they have been since 1999. Savoring this season like a fine wine, my friend Ed and I came up with our Most Disappointing Starting Five of the Past Decade. Here's mine: Eddy Curry, Marcus Fizer, Eddie Robinson, Jay Williams and Kendall Gill. Here's Ed's: Ben Wallace, Tyson Chandler, Jalen Rose, Jay Williams, Kendall Gill. Coach for both of us is Tim Floyd of course. Now, doesn't that make you appreciate this season even more now after reading those names? Who's in your starting five? Mark, South Bend, Ind.
I always appreciated this season. But I also appreciated those seasons. Those teams came at a good time in my career. I was younger, less experienced and all the losing offered some great training on how to develop a thick skin. Plus, most of those guys were great to deal with, including Curry, ERob, Jay Williams, Big Ben, Tyson, Jalen and Kendall. I stay in touch with several of those guys. (Not ERob, although that'd be fun.) I'd favor your team more than Ed's, since Ben Wallace was either the best or second-best player behind Luol Deng in the Bulls' only playoff series victory since the dynasty ended and Tyson played a strong role on two playoff teams. (Plus, Jay Williams' career can't be judged fairly because of his injury.) I'd definitely have Fizer and ERob on there, probably Dalibor at center and maybe Corey Benjamin and Khalid El-Amin at guard? It's a long list of candidates.
To this day, I still read and hear many Heat fans complain about the Heat-Bulls game on March 6 in Miami. That's the game in which Mike Miller shoved Luol Deng from behind, drawing a foul to give the Bulls a one-point victory. Have you ever asked Luol what he thought of the call? What are your thoughts on the call? Mikey T., Scottsdale, Ariz.
Deng told me he was pushed. And I've covered him long enough that he would've done so with a wink if he was lying. He didn't wink. I agreed there was a foul. I was surprised they didn't swallow their whistles and actually called it.
While signing Korver, Boozer and Brewer was important, what free agent has provided more bang--pun intended--for the buck than Kurt Thomas? Abe, Suffern, NY
Um, LeBron? I get your point though. Kurt has been a wonderful signing. His 29-game stint as a starter when Noah went down was critical to this season's success. At the right price, the Bulls would love to have him back, assuming he doesn't retire.
How's this for shameless self promotion: I am a collegiate senior with a 4.0 GPA, president of my fraternity and have a job on Wall Street waiting after graduation. I'd drop it all if you're looking for a partner. Any interest? I'm a great roommate and I travel light. Andrew, Northbrook, Ill.
I thought you said you had a 4.0 GPA.
Thanks for all your questions. Keep them coming to firstname.lastname@example.org. Talk to you next week.