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.
Do you think the Bulls' recent struggles are related to the Gasol trade rumors? I know when I've felt like I'm about to leave a job, I check out and don't give 100 percent. Since all of the core players have been mentioned in the rumors, it's possible they're going through the same. --Alex, Boston
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.
That's why Ben is truly such a luxury for a team. He is really good and valuable the way he scores, and they do decide the winner by most points. I'm not sure all of you would have noticed that, which is why I am the NBA expert. But you can't give up too much for a player with so many deficiencies. I see him getting better and he is a hard worker and committed player, but it is difficult to overcome the height issue and the fact he isn't a natural point guard. You either anticipate guys breaking open or not. It's not something guys really learn.
If Gasol were a Bull and Deng or Gordon were on Memphis would you want to trade away Gasol for one of them? Though I, like so many, do not want to break apart the young nucleus I also know I wouldn't want to trade Gasol if the tables were turned. --Davan Sand, Chicago
It's a good way of looking at it and makes a convincing case for not falling too much in love with your players. That is an issue at times. You see your guys so much; you don't see the other guys, and you can grow fond of what your guys do. But the fact remains the only reason there's a chance to get Gasol is issues within the franchise that don't often come up. Teams don't usually give up guys like that.
Would it be safe to assume John Paxson might be a little gun shy about making a major trade after seeing the success of former players like Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry and of late Jamal Crawford? Furthermore could these players development elsewhere be an indictment on the coaching of Scott Skiles? --Nabee, Bellwood, Ill.
No. I don't think Paxson regrets any of the deals. It's not like he gave up an All Star and none of the teams has a better record than the Bulls or you can say will be better than the Bulls. Will Chandler be better down the road than Wallace? Of course. But there were plenty of internal issues with him and the organization and after two straight playoff failures, it was time to make a move, just about everyone agreed. You can't be guaranteed your moves will work, but the Bulls are trying. Not with Crawford who left sooner and still is highly erratic. But Chandler and Curry played well for Skiles two years ago when the Bulls won 47 games. Did the Bulls and Curry overreact on the heart issue? Perhaps, but there seemed no turning back once that occurred for either side.
What are the chances that the Celtics consider dealing Paul Pierce? I know they were thinking about it last year. I didn't know what they were thinking now that they are losing so bad. --Troy, Council Bluffs, Iowa
Not this week, but anything short of getting Greg Oden in the draft, and perhaps even with that. you figure there'll be talks next summer. Pierce has been sending his own message that he's tired of the constant rebuilding with comments that he thinks the Celtics should trade the pick. They won't, which means there's a chance he'll be one of the latest to ask out and probably get his wish if he does.
As a man who is a friend of the sweater vest maybe you can explain. I am beginning to wonder if maybe Scott Skiles has trouble coaching athletes. It wasn't an issue the first two years because the Bulls didn't have any. Even Luol Deng is stiff and rigid. He has to be the least athletic slasher I've ever seen. They seem to ship out athletes in place of basketball players. Which is opposite the direction the league is moving. I have this sinking feeling in my stomach that tells me the mistakes of the past weigh too heavily on the decisions for the future, that maybe the combination of Paxson and Skiles was a perfect fit to rehab the image and ethic of the team but their lack of athleticism results in an unfamiliarity with the loose hips and hanging tongue that most of the great players have. Can Pax find athletes to complement their core and can Skiles coach em up? --Peter, Skokie
It is not an unreasonable supposition, but they did opt for Tyrus Thomas, the most athletic, if not most mature player in the draft. I think they'd like to stick their toe in that direction, but the point was to get gym rats first to form a core and I think they've done that. You are right about Deng in that he does need to work constantly on stretching and flexibility and it's something you wonder about. I supported them on getting mature, knowledgeable basketball players, but it's hardly the only rule as Paxson was bent on getting Dwyane Wade and was so sure he would he didn't even have an immediate backup plan. Hinrich was a last-second compromise when the Heat took Wade No. 5 with the Bulls sitting at No. 7. Curry was athletic, but hardly the great athlet
Does Ben Wallace care anymore? Whether the cause is finally landing the big contract, or having a hard time getting up for regular season games or frustration at his slipping talents, he seems to be compounding his problems with a lack of the type of energy and passion for which he had been renowned. --Dave Porges, Pittsburgh
I think he does care, but I also think he has realized deep down he made a mistake and should have stayed with the Pistons. Buyer's remorse of sorts. You move and miss your old neighborhood. You buy a car and pine for your last one. Ben isn't the type of player who can come in and impress quickly because he can't score, and he's highly sensitive, so I think the lack of success and questions about him and issues with Skiles have set him back. We'll see if he comes out of it during the playoffs, which still would make it worthwhile for the Bulls.
Why are you so reluctant to admit that you have made some horrendous mistakes in the trades that the Bulls have made? Why not just agree that the J.R. Smith deal was a big mistake? The Eddy Curry trade was a big mistake. So, was the Tyson Chandler trade. Each trade looked good to me at the time, but I made a mistake in my support of those trades. See, it's not so tough to admit when we are wrong. Try it, you might feel better about yourself! --Mel, Sydney, Australia
They weren't mistakes! OK! I would admit a mistake if I made one. OK, I was wrong initially in buying into the Brand trade. I didn't endorse it, but accepted the notion that two seven footers given four years would be better than one 6-8 guy who worked hard. I knew that was a mistake once I saw Chandler and Curry, which is why I'm OK with the deals. You have to fit your pieces and I didn't see it working here with those guys, though less with Curry than Chandler. I wrote often last season I'd keep Chandler because he fit the profile of the Bulls with his energy. But he and Skiles clashed badly and getting rid of one was inevitable. You usually get rid of coaches, but they had to dump Chandler to go for Wallace, which seemed to make sense to everyone. Would I want Chandler back? He's doing great, but I don't think he would have here nor would have Smith.
Since Tyson Chandler has averaged almost 18 rebounds and 15 points over the last six games I suggest Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio. Obviously Skiles cannot motivate certain big-men including Ben Wallace. How about drafting Tyrus Thomas over Brandon Roy? I think Jerry Krause is smiling somewhere. --Alan Cordell, Morton Grove, Ill.
Jerry never smiles. He's like George's mom in "Seinfeld." As I've said, the Bulls took a calculated risk on Thomas. I leaned toward Roy, but did agree they had too many guards and needed some size. They still do and are looking for it this week before the trading deadline. I'm not sure Chandler becomes a Hall of Famer, but he's fitting well there. I've mentioned on occasion the idea of a big man coach, though the Bulls staff is regarded among the best teachers in the NBA. Big guys tend to be in need of more hand holding at times. Sort of the soft inside thing. I did like Roy on a three-guard rotation with Hinrich and Gordon, but I say we have to give Thomas a year or two to see where he can go. We knew after the recent events and the dunk contest he won't be going there again.
I realize Eddy Curry would have been the low-post scorer the Bulls need, but he is not the player everyone thinks. Curry averages more turnovers than assists, blocks, and steals. If he was really that good the Knicks would be well over .500. Also, I don't think the Bulls should make a big deal at the deadline. Even with a Gasol trade they are not winning a championship. --Brett Taylor, Champaign, Ill.
Probably not because the Mavs and Suns look unbeatable, and perhaps also the Spurs and Rockets with Yao. But it's time to make a move and win a playoff round or two and Gasol could be a big difference even with his lack of playoff success. The Bulls, even with a trade, have way better pieces to put around him. I hate to dump on Eddy because he is so likeable, but I agree he's not the low-post scorer they need, though he can do it on some level.
I love Scottie Pippen to death and have always stuck up for him when people said it was just Michael, but when I see quotes like this his from the All Star game about general managers wanting a player like him I just don't understand why he would say this stuff. I know they weren't best buddies, but to say that last quote like Mike wasn't an all-around player and like Mike didn't make people around him better is just stupid. --Jesse Miller, Washington, D.C.
I was standing there when Pippen offered that to my friend Harvey Araton from the New York Times. I could tell he had other questions to ask, but it was like one of those movie scenes where the shock is so great the lips move but nothing comes out. Harvey stammered and didn't know what to ask. It's also why I enjoy Pippen so much and why he's been so frustrating to so many. He always says what he thinks and feels and never worries what anyone thinks. He has long resented the notion held by many that Jordan carried him along to championships, which Jordan did little to dispute. Pippen enjoys noting Jordan has no championships without him. Was Jordan the key? Sure. Was Pippen necessary? Yes. There was the debate for a long time around the Bulls, as it's been around the Lakers, of Jordan not making others better in the unselfish way of passing. Jordan said he did it by scoring and drawing defenses, but, unlike Kobe Bryant, had a better personality to carry it off in the media. Pippen perhaps went to excess, but at least he isn't giving the political personal lie answer all the time. Is he right? Probably not. Is he honest in his feelings? That's a nice departure from what we usually get. And shouldn't the public appreciate that more than the fairy tale?
I was playing NBA 2K7 and decided to trade with Memphis. I offered P.J Brown and Luol Deng for Gasol. They countered by adding Hinrich. I didn't want to trade Hinrich so i decided to add Gordon instead and they declined. Does Memphis really want Hinrich that bad? --Sam, Park Ridge, Ill.
I think they'd do Deng and Hinrich, but I don't see that the Bulls can give up two of their three best. Maybe one with Nocioni. You can't bring in a top player and gut your team. That was always the issue with a Kevin Garnett deal, though the Bulls have assets now. Though one less if they cannot deal the expiring contracts. My guess is if it's not for Gasol, one goes for someone else.
Tracy McGrady says in your latest column that he could have played with Dwight Howard. Duh. He could have been on a Bulls team with this staring five: Brad Miller C, Elton Brand PF, Ron Artest SF, Himself SG. I am not sure who they had playing PG in those days but that team would have gone deep in the East. A lot farther than Orlando ever did. --Ralph, Boston
That was the great "what if" that could have saved Krause. If the Bulls had gotten McGrady, which they were assured by him and his agents at one time, they wouldn't have gutted it and dealt Brand and that could have been a pretty impressive team. I'm not sure Krause blew that other than McGrady saw the chance to go back home and it sounded good at the time. Orlando actually almost lured Tim Duncan there, which would have saved Doc Rivers, and if Duncan had gone, the Spurs would have been the lottery team and McGrady would have gone to the Bulls.
This team is so frustrating. They have beaten Dallas, Phoenix, San Antonio, Detroit, Cleveland, and Miami, but are just above .500. The way they are playing, I can see them missing out on the playoffs completely. I'm sure I am not the only frustrated fan out there, so what real hope can you give that will keep us believing that this team can go deep in the playoffs? Also, lately I've heard a lot of talk about Shawn Kemp trying to come back. Does he look worthy to pick up? -- Steven Schnakenberg, Waymart, Penn.
I can assure you if they picked up Kemp they would be giving up. There are no guarantees and no one said they were an elite team, just a team that could be elite in the East. But Chris Webber has done well and no one knew the Pistons could get him for nothing and it still remains to be seen what the Heat will do. The Cavs seem not as good as well as the Pacers. The way is still open, but where the Bulls have stumbled is the idea that Wallace would make their defense impenetrable, which has not happened, and their depth would wear down teams and it hasn't worked out that way yet as well. To paraphrase Scarlet O'Hara, one of the first WNBA players, the Bulls still have a chance with the good nature of friends and neighbors.
Please give me some reasonable trade scenarios between the Celts and Bulls involving Paul Pierce? --Josh Fanning, Waltham, Mass.
The Bulls were pursuing Pierce last season, but cooled this season when their priority has become inside players. Yhe Celts have put him off limits. No one is quite sure what the Celtics are doing and which direction they are heading other than seeing who they get in the draft.
Professor, I cringe when reading opinions about sending Ben Gordon and/or Luol Deng to Memphis for Pau Gasol. Gasol is a whiner and a prima donna. Skiles would rip his heart out and eat it raw. Skiles could then teach Pau to grow a new ticker, one with a mean streak. How about this: Send Ben Wallace, Tyrus Thomas and PJ Brown to Memphis for Gasol. Wallace is done. Thomas is a head case. PJ is a great guy with an expiring contract. --Rev. F., Coopersville, Mich.
If the Grizzlies were the Bulls farm team. I have seen Skiles do that and it does get messy at the practice facility and they have asked him to use gloves more often.