Heck of a race we've got going for the last playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. The way it's looking the Bulls could lose 12 of 15 and finish fifth. Actually, the great majority of the questions I received this week were about the future. I suspect that has a lot to do with the NCAA tournament under way, a general disappointment with how the Bulls season continues to go and the fact most fans have given up on the Cubs. Just joking, boss. Actually, I think this is a safe place to write as the big bosses are older and may not know how to get online yet. As for the Bulls, I sense a feeling of hope, that the team is a few tweaks away from being much more competitive. And the way Shaq looked against the Bulls last Saturday and the rest of the East, it may well be true. So, as Jackie Gleason used to say, "Away we Go!" And, "More pizza."
Sam, in a previous Q&A you said how you don't pitch a trade unless it betters both teams and works under the cap. Could you then please explain why you pushed so hard for the Jalen Rose trade? --Scott Seifert, Vail, Colo.
Oh, that one. I still stand by it, though it didn't work. It's like the Eddy Curry-Tyson Chandler pairing. It was the right theory, two seven-footers, one perimeter and one power. If Jerry Krause were right, the Bulls would be heading for a championship. It was bad scouting. Though, it's so difficult to tell with high school players. It's good the NBA has them out now. The league would be better off if kids stayed in school at least three years, like the NFL, or in the minors like baseball.
The Bulls gave up Ron Artest, whom they knew and were right would have issues. And they gave up Brad Miller, whom they couldn't keep while playing Curry and Chandler and whom the Pacers couldn't even afford. And Ron Mercer. Remember that big free-agent acquisition?
The idea was the Bulls needed a go-to scorer to finish games and Jalen did that in Indiana in leading them in scoring in the 2000 NBA Finals. It made sense for both teams, but didn't work for either. It happens. You have to move on and I have. Hey, Jerry West once traded for Benoit Benjamin.
What do you think about signing Al Harrington in free agency along with drafting Arkansas' Ronnie Brewer and Brazilian big man Tiago Splitter? --Matt, Mullins, S.C.
I think the Bulls will take a hard look at Harrington because he can score some in the post at power forward, which they need. Though he is small for that position. It might work with Tyson Chandler next to him. But there remain rumors of physical problems. I think if he takes a reasonable contract, there's a good chance. If he wants too much, perhaps more than $6 million to $7 million, I think the Bulls will pass and I would as well.
I like Ronnie Brewer because he seems like a prototypical defensive big guard, which fits the Bulls' style. I'm sure they're worried, though, about his shot. I believe they'll have a higher pick, though, and would go for a big man with the Knicks' No. 1 they get from the Eddy Curry deal. It's unprotected and should be top three to five. If they miss the playoffs, they could get Brewer with their No. 1. I doubt Tiago Splitter because of contract problems.
Hi, Sam, I'm a Bulls fan since Michael's first title in 1991. If you want to be remembered as the best G.M. in Bulls history, you have to absolutely push for the next draft pick: Andrea Bargnani from Benetton. Compared to when Dirk Nowitzki was his age, he's far more skilled, athletic and gives an inside-out presence. --Giammarco, Rome, Italy
And I thought the Tribune's Italian circulation was on the near West Side. I don't think the Bulls will take a chance on a European in the first round, and I believe there'll be a backlash from Fran Vasquez staying in Europe after being a Magic lottery pick last season. Being a lottery pick with the option of staying home can be too much risk for NBA teams to take any more, so I believe there'll be a hesitancy to take international players high in the draft.
The fact is most of the good, big international big men are perimeter players and the Bulls are seeking toughness as well as size. Someone could get a steal on Bargnani like the Mavs did on Nowitzki, but I see a draft this year of American players who are a bit more experienced and ready to play.
I didn't see Bradley's Patrick O'Bryant in your list of . After this weekend surely he'd be in the top 25 regardless of whether or not a player is coming out. No? --Aaron, Peoria
Yes, though maybe just barely for now. That's the power of the NCAA tournament. Though the fact that Bradley is where it is shows just how the NBA has strip-mined college. The best talent hasn't gone to college or not stayed long, thus enabling lesser universities of higher scoring to be competitive with the institutions that use education as a minor. Thus all the so-called upsets since the big conferences won't play those so-called mid majors until they are forced to.
The talent level in college now is so poor that it's getting more difficult to evaluate players, especially talented players. It's how the Bulls missed on Tyson Chandler. He was so dominant, but didn't have to do much until he got to the NBA.
With O'Bryant's big weekend, he's moved up and teams will take a harder look, though my Monday mock draft report was labeled an early look and much changes with workouts after the season. A few years back at this time, Maciej Lampe was considered a top 10 pick until everyone got a good look. The pros hadn't seen O'Bryant much since he missed much of the first month and don't believe he'll come out because they consider him too weak for now to play in the NBA. So no one even mentioned him.
In going back to talk to some general managers, they say he might be bottom of the first round now, if he came out. Similarly with Georgetown center Roy Hibbert, though they consider him too slow and probably a second-rounder for now. I'll do another mock draft around the lottery drawing in May and should have more about them then.
Are you concerned that the way the Bulls have treated Tim Thomas (and to a lesser extent Eddie Robinson) by paying them to sit home will hurt the team when it's trying to attract free agents this summer? Will players not want to come if they might get sent home? --Don Gehrich, Roselle, Ill.
Actually, I thought the Bulls treated them pretty well. They paid them and told them to take the year off. Where do you sign up for that job? This is what you have to understand about not only NBA players, but all pro athletes: They are mercenaries. I loved the line from the Seinfeld show that we are rooting for laundry. Terrell Owens now loving Dallas? Bulls fans loving Dennis Rodman after he nearly decapitated Scottie Pippen in 1991 and then was a big part of the walkout before the end of Game 4?
We all love our jobs to some degree, but if we can make more money we will usually change. So will NBA players. Nobody refuses to go anywhere because of the way someone else was treated. They look at it like an opportunity for them. Players chase money and playing time. Their agents chase money. The Bulls have money and generally are considered to have one of the league's most generous organizations regarding the way they travel and their practice facilities. Watch the parade of players coming in here this summer. And without bands at the airport.
I'm sorry, Sam, but I'm definitely glad the Bulls GM is John Paxson and not you. I think the vast majority of your trade proposals would be foolish for the Bulls. Any thought of trading Ben Gordon for an aging maximum contract player like Ray Allen or Paul Pierce is ridiculous. Where are the Sonics and Celtics with them? What you should be looking for is a big man like Toronto's Chris Bosh. This kid is coming into his own, and if he's going to shine, he needs to get out of Canada. I would like to see the Bulls offer both of their first-round picks and a quality role player like Duhon for Bosh. You always state that you like to make an offer that works for both sides. If Bosh lets Toronto know that he doesn't want to resign with them, wouldn't this be a great deal for the Raptors? They would get a quality player in Duhon and two first-round picks to build around. Plus the rookie contracts would help them financially. The Bulls meanwhile would add the post presence they're looking for without dealing their core of Hinrich, Gordon, Deng, and Chandler. Add Bosh to those four and you're looking at one of the youngest and most talented starting 5 in the league. --Scott, Palatine, Ill.
Thanks for the "sorry," at least. John Paxson is glad as well, he tells me. That's a hopeful thought, but unrealistic. Teams are reluctant to give up stars. They only will when there is an underlying reason, like when a guy wants to go like Shaq. The 'Sonics have financial problems, so I believed they could put Allen in play and still might. The Celtics' vision has generally been described as a young, aggressive, up-tempo team without Pierce. Though they keep saying they will keep him.
You're right, neither team has done much this season with them. But I like the Bulls complementary pieces and coaching staff better than those teams and believe the Bulls' missing piece is the high-level player for the complementary pieces to work with. The Raptors would give up everything including the CN Tower before Bosh. He'll probably sign an extension this summer. Why would they, with a young star, want to start over again? And in a not-so-great draft? Likewise, I think the Kevin Garnett-to-the-Bulls stuff also remains wishful thinking and believe the Timberwolves will try to add someone to help Garnett rather than trade him this summer unless Garnett absolutely demands it. He insists for now he won't.
I was wondering what ever happened to Othello Harrington. He played such a prominent role last year behind Antonio Davis and Eddy Curry. Where has he gone this year? I also am curious about the chances of the Bulls trying to work something out for Michael Pietrus of Golden State. He's a tall, athletic shooting guard who can defend. This is exactly what the Bulls need. With Golden State's plethora of swing men, do you think the Bulls even have a remote interest? --Neeraj, University Park, Penn.
I think he's doing Shakespeare in the park. Othella? His knees are very bad and it's been hard for him to move around enough the way the Bulls play to make a solid contribution. As for Pietrus, I agree and have mentioned him in some of my trade scenarios. The Bulls even thought seriously about drafting him when they took Kirk Hinrich. I can see him as the big shooting guard they need and then with Ben Gordon in a very good three-guard rotation. The Warriors do have considerable duplication and will be making some moves, but the word is they'll want to move Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy.
Could Ben Gordon play point? And if so, why not trade Hinrich because he has the most value? It's not like the Bulls would miss any player...except MJ. --Gerard, Tinley Park, Ill.
That's an interesting thought. From the conversations I have had with other general managers, I believe Hinrich does have the most value, in part because of the scarcity and great value of point guards. But I don't think Gordon is ready to play point and run a team. I've had questions about letting Chris Duhon run the team, play Gordon at shooting guard and deal Hinrich or keep Hinrich at shooting guard and Duhon at point with Gordon off the bench, which worked pretty well last season. I think the future, if it involves all those guys, is Hinrich at point, a big guard at two, Gordon as the third guard and Duhon as a fill in and emergency fourth guard. One of the Bulls' biggest issues this season, even though they are one of the top rebounding teams, has been size, especially in the backcourt and at the power forward positions. I believe that's what they'll look to address first in the offseason.
Thought only Knicks fans and writers suggested one-sided trades. Why would the Knicks give up Marbury for unusable parts of Eddie Griffin, Troy Hudson, Marko Jaric and Trenton Hassell, as you suggested last week? --Jim, New York
Are they still not showing the Knicks on cable there? The Knicks have one shot to come out of their mess: Give Larry Brown his type of team. Brown is an army drill sergeant of a coach. He needs to break down the players and have them buy in to his program of defend, pass, work the clock. Everyone has to "Yes, sir." Like in the military, he cannot have contrary thought even if it makes sense. Everyone has to respond on command. So Stephon Marbury has to go even if for nothing. They'd be better off sending him home and paying him like the Bulls did with Tim Thomas. They need a sharing point guard and a rebounding forward. They've got some pieces and talent, but they've got to get in line. Right now, it's Stripes and too many people are touching each other's stuff. Right, Francis? Err, Jim.
I've been reading you for years, and I think your columns are as informative as any NBA writer's out there. However, I don't think there's a sportswriter in America who is as consistently negative about the sports he covers than you. I've always been amazed by how little you seem to enjoy the sport you cover, and wanted to ask you about this. I'm not trying to be snarky; I honestly just wanted you to talk about the extent to which you enjoy NBA basketball. --Alex, Boston
Good question. And there's always the gratuitous compliment before the slam. I like that as well. I love the NBA. I haven't missed a Finals or All Star game in more than 20 years and have not awakened one day not looking forward to my job. That makes me more fortunate than most. Though I think the NBA could be much better. Much as I believe America can. Because you criticize the U.S. doesn't mean you hate the U.S. I've been in most of the so-called sophisticated countries and find none more preferable than the U.S. Though I differ on many aspects of foreign and domestic policy and don't always favor our leaders. Likewise, I'd love to see for the NBA: shorter guaranteed contracts, players ineligible for at least three years after high school, more palming and traveling violations, less contact in the post, no more cheap step in offensive fouls, a longer and wider court, a shorter time clock, no trade demands, no salary complaints, no trash talking, coaches who don't slow the game and call every play, players who don't scream and gyrate every time they dunk. It's still the greatest basketball in the world and the best of the sports leagues for its honesty and general decency of its players. Really. I've been around them all. You town hall New England guys should understand dispute without revolution by now.