Here's another stat where the Bulls lead the NBA: fewest tattoos. That's the real reason Paxson traded Chandler and Curry. How many tattoos do you see on Brown and Sweetney? He dumped the other guys who came along in those trades. --Roy, Meridian, Idaho
I don't exactly keep track as I haven't found it affects performance. Actually, body art has become so prevalent around the NBA, and among kids these days, that I rarely notice except when it's bizarre, like Mike Tyson's on his face or all the sayings Marcus Fizer had up and down his calves. The Bulls happen to have something of a conservative bunch of players. I'm waiting to find out if they vote Republican, which actually most players do since they believe it helps reduce their taxes. Remember, when Barkley began talking of running for office, it always was as a Republican. I don't think the Bulls purposely avoided tattooed men, but they did look for players who were aligned with good programs and somewhat serious. It's produced success in the sense of a hard working, responsible team, but it lacks the outgoing leader personality the Bulls always talk about missing.
I haven't heard much analysis about how the Bulls fared with the Sefalosha pick versus other rookies that were available with their pick or Philadelphia's. Now that the season is winding down, how does he compare to some of the other players the Bulls could have had at that spot? --Steve P., Denver
I think they will fare well in the future because you're seeing some glimpses and perhaps because of his defense, Sefolosha is the one player who might have played more this season. But the Bulls perimeter is their strength and they didn't want to upset that. The Bulls' best move on draft day might have been Sefolosha since Phoenix was among a few teams chasing him and gave up when the Bulls got No. 13 from Philly. The Suns thought they could move to 14, but dropped out when the Bulls had him. There's really no one after Sefolosha in the first round who has made much impact. Perhaps Paul Millsap in the second round has had a bigger impact for now.
Ben Gordon is the odd man out this summer. Detroit game seals it. A ball-dominating 5-11 guy doesn't fit on this team. Even more than a scoring four, they need a solid two guard. How about Ben G. for Jason Richardson? Hinrich can't play with Gordon. He's a nice guy but you can see it in his body language on the court. In the Detroit game with Gordon in foul trouble Hinrich had perhaps his most dominant game of the season with 29 points on 10-of-17 shooting and eight assists. Rich K, Roselle, Ill.
It could be, though I don't think they will move that way quickly because Gordon has been such an electric scorer and I think they'll be a bit uncertain of giving up all those points. I'm not sure Richardson works money wise and I don't know if Golden State would want another small guard, though Nellie would find space for him. My guess is the Bulls have a decent playoff run and keep those main three.
One thing has always bothered me about the general assessment of Kevin Garnett -- the implication that he's not a "winner," that he can't be considered with the elite because his teams never did anything in the playoffs. To me, it's all situational. Jason Kidd is not considered to be lacking in those areas, but that's because he became enough of a pain in the behind to get himself traded out of the West. I firmly believe some of those T-Wolves teams would have made the Finals in the East and those Nets teams wouldn't have gotten out of the first round in the West. Maybe if KG had been a coach killer like Kidd, he'd be regarded more highly in the media because he'd have been a "winner" in the East. --Craig Berry, Park Forest, Ill.
An interesting point. However, we still celebrate the winners. We don't wear locker room caps and t-shirts for the team that could have been better with a break in geography. The issue comes up about Garnett not because he doesn't play hard or isn't a top talent, but because he seems so accepting of the mediocrity there. Jordan always was outspoken in pushing for more talent, one time even deferring some salary so the Bulls could sign another player. Garnett never seems to say much or be upset with missing the playoff regularly, and even in the West, eighth is not so great. Perhaps it's laudable to be quiet and loyal like he is, but it's a short career and you have to take your shot while you have a chance and he never seems to try to very seriously. I could never see myself satisfied in that kind of losing situation. Why does he?
What determines which team gets the tie breaker assuming they finish with the same record? Can't figure it out considering the Bulls and Cavs split the season series and each won a game on the road. --Evan Garbison, Valparaiso, Ind.
The tiebreakers are head-to-head matchup, then division and then conference record. The Bulls split with the Cavs, but have the other main tiebreakers. There are more, eventually getting to points in the games they played, but the Bulls won't need them and will get No. 2 if they finish tied with the Cavs. The issue is larger because of the terrible seeding situation, but the Bulls could be huge beneficiaries. If they stay No. 2, it's likely Cleveland, Miami and Detroit will all be in the opposite bracket and have to play one another to get to the conference finals. The East remains wide open, but it seems those are the teams you would want to avoid. The Pistons really are losers for finishing first because they could get the team with the third best record (the Cavs) in the second round because of the ill-conceived idea of giving division winners top four seeds. The NBA has done a great job of confusing its fans by giving the third best record the fifth seed.
You stated that the 76ers took very little for AI. But did they really? They gave up a 1-on-5 player for a real PG that knows how to play team ball, an expiring contract and two first-round picks from a team that might not even make the playoffs. I think the 76ers came out winners. --Daniel Vazquez, London
We'll see. Yes, there were big issues with the way Iverson plays. And we've been saying for years you can't win with him. But Andre Miller, to me, is just a good guard and the picks aren't that high. I would have done the deal as well, but always teams wait too long. They probably could have had Al Jefferson last summer, a real potential post threat and big man but waited until the league knew they had to trade him. The same thing could happen with Garnett and the Timberwolves would get way less than they could have last summer. And would they have been any worse this season without Garnett?
What ever happened to Scottie Pippen's comeback? Have his skills diminished that much? --Jeff Troksa, Schaumburg, Ill.
I think it was his desire than waned. I think Scottie's whole plan was to get with Miami because he felt with Shaq they had the best chance of coming out of the East and he lives nearby in Ft. Lauderdale. When they expressed no interest, I think he became disappointed and didn't want to go through a series of tryouts.
Let's say every Bulls Fans' wildest dream comes true and that Knicks' pick lands at No 1. Who does Sam Smith take and who does Sam Smith think John Paxson takes? --James, New York
Greg Oden. Greg Oden. Everyone takes the center. Sure, Kevin Durant looks like he'll be a terrific player, but no one wants to be the team to pass on perhaps the next great big man since they come along, especially today, so infrequently. I know the rules favor the perimeter players now and hurt the big men, though I can see that changing some with a big group of young big guys coming into the NBA in the next few years. You can see with Miami, even, how much better they do when Shaq plays and Wade is out compared with when Shaq is out and Wade plays. I'm not sure even knowing what they know now, some teams still wouldn't take Hakeem Olajuwon over Michael Jordan.
I like Ben Gordon, but he doesn't seem to fit in with what the Bull's are trying to do. Skiles and Paxson built the Bulls with defense and a balanced approach to offense. Gordon at times thinks that he's the Ice Man (George Gervin for all you youngsters). -- John Napoleoni, Crystal Lake, Ill.
George was pretty good. I'd keep Ben if he'll be like that. The larger issue with Ben, I think, is going to be as the team fills out they'll want him to be a sixth man and he doesn't see himself that way. This playoff run will pretty much determine if they make any major moves.
If the Bulls end up in the 6-8 pick range, does Roy Hibbert become our pick? Spencer Hawes or the kid Yi from China? Horford had a nice tournament but he's another 6-8, 6-9 player that we have plenty of. I'm still hoping for the seas to part and the Knicks to lose the rest of season! --Bill, Skokie, Ill.
I doubt the Bulls have any idea yet, especially without the lottery drawing. We all assume they'll go for a big man and Hibbert helped himself in the tournament, but he is slow. They like fast. I assume they'd go for Horford, who seems a more prototypical four, though they were enchanted with Noah last year. I think they quietly like his hustle and potential leadership, if not his shot.
What type of player do the Bulls envision Thabo Sefolosha becoming? In the final Detroit game he played well with 11 points and 10 rebounds and held the opposing starting SF, Tayshaun Prince, to only 6 points on 1-of-5 shooting. I have heard mostly comparisons to Scottie Pippen, (specifically ballhandling, long arms, defense, and dubious shooting ability) but it seems as we compare a lot of 6-7 guards with Pippen these days? --Jireh, Calumet Park, Ill.
There are a lot of similarities, actually, with the inconsistent shooting, size and defensive ability. I say Thabo doesn't have as many issues with the general manager.
In a recent Q & A column someone mentioned the "shenanigans" A. C. Green pulled to pass Red Kerr on the Iron Man list. I can't recall what happened. --Doug Black, Cartersville, Ga.
He got injured, but would play the first minute of games after that and then come to the bench to keep his streak going. It was a joke, especially because Kerr didn't even want to stop, but was benched for some inexplicable reason at the time. I consider Kerr's the true iron man streak and another reason why he should be in the Hall of Fame and remains in of the best and most forgotten great players ever.
A lot of people are talking about how the return of Nocioni will mean less playing time for Tyrus Thomas. After Tyrus' performances the past couple weeks, I don't know how you can take time away from him. I think it's more likely PJ Brown would be the one losing out, with the Bulls going a little smaller against most teams. --Ben, Iowa City, Iowa
I think Nocioni will come back slowly for awhile, but he doesn't bring what Thomas does. I believe Thomas will see plenty of playoff time, though one thing I noticed is he tends to fall down a lot and appear to be injured. Maybe he's trying to get one of those fall down seven times get up eight commercial of Dwayne Wade, but I'm uncertain of his durability for now.
I've had this argument with a close friend of mine. Is it possible that this year's Florida Gators could defeat, or come close to defeating this year's Boston Celtics? I think Florida has no chance. What do you think? --Brent, Verona, Italy
I hear this kind of thing a lot after the college tournament and it continues to show the lack of appreciation for the NBA and the skill of the players. Yes, Florida will have several first-round draft picks this year. Check in a year and see how much they are playing. Basically, the Celtics have a bunch of high picks who have been playing in the NBA. College players have no idea what it takes to play in the NBA and how difficult it is to get your shot off. I'd say Boston by 50. Even if Michael Olowokandi plays.
Whatever happened to former Bulls assistant Jim Cleamons as a head coaching candidate? He got the one shot with the Mavs and that was it. --Tim Grishham, Arlington, Va.
Clem got a bad deal in Dallas when Don Nelson came in and it was inevitable he'd be replaced with a roster he had no chance of winning with then. He's since been an assistant with the Hornets and now the Lakers back with Phil Jackson. I'm sure he'd like another shot and would be good. But he's not one of the hot names now and it's just bad luck for him.
I know the subject of the Bulls needing a big man has been beaten to death, but please tell me they would not seriously consider Joakim Noah. He is a poor man's Tyson Chandler, with an even worse offensive game and a less effective rebounder. When he took his lone jump shot in the NCAA championship game, even my sister commented on how horrible it looked. The man is clearly overrated, because he benefited from being on a big front line in college, where guys like Michael Sweetney can dominate. Seriously, take away his hair and his annoyingly loud antics, and he would never have been noticed to the extent that he is now. Our problem is lack of interior offense, and with his thin frame, he isn't even good at taking up space. Oden, Hibbert, Horford, even a stiff like Aaron Gray, I don't care, just not this guy. --Warren Rollman, Shawneetown, Ill.
Probably not, though I still think the Bulls will take a hard look at him. It's because he'd be annoying. A lot of big men in the NBA don't like being chased and pestered like he does, like Anderson Varajao with the Cavs. True, the Bulls need more offense than that, and with all the talk they do about how quiet their team is, maybe they'll be attracted to the antics and bad hair.
You said that there's no one in the draft that would help the Bulls on short term, except Greg Oden. After watching the NCAA finals, how do you feel about Al Horford? After Oden, he's probably the most NBA ready player and he has that gymrat-work-ethic that make Pax and Skiles all gushy..The knock on him is that his post moves are very raw, but didn't people say that kinda stuff about Ben Gordon? He went from ''too small to play SG'' and ''poor ball handler'' to the only rookie that won the sixth man award. If the Bulls get a chance to draft Horford, or would they still trade that draft pick for a mediocre big man? --Ray, The Hague
Yes, but I think you'll need top five to get him. The general feeling now is if everyone comes out, Wright from North Carolina or Horford go after the top two. If the Bulls don't get lucky and move up, they'll likely be six through nine and I can see them taking a look at Hawes and maybe even a hustle guy like Hansbrough. But I don't see them going only big if a better talent slips through.
I am writing to you in hopes that you can help settle a major argument that my buddy and I have been engaged in for quite some time. The argument is that I think Kobe Bryant is one of the top 10 best players of all time. --Scott Scheid, Manchester, N.H.
I think he's getting right to the edge. If he wins a title as the main player, he moves in. I'd say now of the players in this era who should be top 50, Kobe and Duncan go in, though now I probably put Duncan ahead of Kobe because of being the main player on those championship teams. I'd probably have Kobe in the top 15 with Rick Barry, Julius Erving, Isiah Thoas and Moses Malone and probably still behind Shaq.
Is that a tattoo on Kirk Hinrich's wrist and if so, do you know if there is any meaning behind it? --Mike, San Antonio, Texas
It's a tribute to his grandfather who was close and helped raise him and died last summer.
Now that his career seems to be over, I'd like your opinion on Toni Kukoc. Did Phil Jackson, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen help or hinder his development as a player? I always was turned-off by Phil's Bobby Knight impressions on TK, although he never hesitated to call his name for the last shot in that first year after Michael retired. I felt Michael and especially Scottie never fully embraced him because he was Krause's prize. In my opinion, Toni never really received his due here. He had no flaws offensively. He was an underrated post player and excellent passer with three-point range. Steve Kerr recently called him the "X-Factor" on that 72 win team. People forget that we don't win title No. 6 without Toni. Pippen was injured for the first part of that season, and his back was hurting in the playoffs. Toni stepped up in the third quarter of Game 7 against the Pacers when Michael and Scottie were struggling and saved us from elimination. --Frederick Pfeiffe, Bartlett, Ill.
Yes, I agree Toni was somewhat unappreciated and condemned for a defense that wasn't that bad. Phil always liked to have someone to yell at, like Horace Grant before Toni, because Pippen and Jordan didn't like to be yelled at. It was Phil's way of sending messages to Michael and Scottie without embarrassing them. Phil also knew Toni was a strong individual like Horace and could take it best. Toni could have been a star player because of his passing skills and shot, but I'm sure he would prefer having been on three of the best teams in the history of the game.
What's the deal with the playoff seeding? It's insane that a team with a better record can be seeded lower than a division winner with a worse record. I thought David Stern was a visionary. --Don, Lake Villa, Ill.
He's got astigmatism on this one. But he is stubborn and it's going to take some doing to get him to give up the meaningless divisions, which caused this mess.
It seems that at times there is this uneasy tension between Ben Gordon and Scott Skiles. The relationship seems similar (but to a lesser degree) to the relationship Skiles had with Tyson Chandler. The only difference is that Ben produces which forces Skiles to leave him on the court. With that said, Ben doesn't seem to be a Skiles type of player, like Chris Duhon. Subsequently, he will bench Gordon the moment he falters rather than letting him play it out. Skiles has been quoted stating that Gordon's amount of playing time is to large extent, up to him. Though, I've seen Gordon have hot first quarters and then is put on the bench for the majority of the second. --Jorge, Tinley Park, Ill.
I think there is some unease, but Ben is a very coachable player and will never challenge his coach. While I'd hardly call them close, from what I hear Ben has discussed some of his biggest issues, like losing focus in games, with Skiles and they've talked in depth about dealing with it. A lot of coaches are not close with their players. Skiles keeps a good distance, but he doesn't isolate himself and talks to them regularly, if not that familiarly. I think what you see is the episodes when Ben begins to get into a daze and Skiles tries to shake him out of it.
Wouldn't the Bulls have been better in the future if they kept Luke Schensher over Andre Barrett? It just seems that Barrett is a drag on a roster loaded with guards when a hard-working seven-foot center could be getting lots of experience for a future in the league. --Ray Geiselman, Glasgow, Ken.
No, I think it would have hurt them financially because seven footers who don't play eat more than 5-11 guards who don't play.
Interested in your take on the Eastern Conference playoffs. I think everyone is over-valuing the Heat and I think that there are a few teams like the Bulls, Pistons and, yes, even the Raptors who could come out of the conference. What match-ups do you see as poison for the top four teams in the conference and outside of the Wizards, who do teams really want to see in their playoff bracket? -- Ralph Petermann, Guelph, Ontario
Toronto is surprising me, I'll admit that. I'm with you -- I don't see a big threat from Miami, or really even the Pistons. I think the Pistons are having issues which are growing with Rasheed Wallace and Chris Webber's lack of speed and mobility will be exposed in the playoffs. I thought Miami was fortunate last season and remain unconvinced if you come at them hard. The way it looks now they and Cleveland could be opposite the Bulls and Raptors in the brackets, meaning you only have to beat the survivor to get to the Finals. I say Miami takes out Cleveland and then gets the Pistons, which should be a heck of a series like two old boxers on their last legs. The Bulls or Raptors could have a shocking ticket to the Finals.
Do you think the Bulls are better without Ben Wallace? When Big Ben was sick for two days the Bulls played great! Big Ben comes back versus Toronto and we they looked like a different team. --Chip Dowski, Wichita, Kan.
I think he's not fully back from his illness, but now is the time for him to show why they paid him. It was about effort and intangibles at big times. Yes, when you have five scoring threats on the floor working hard it makes it look worse with Ben. But he has the playoff experience, yadda, yadda, yadda. It's a touchy situation for the Bulls because they paid him and he gets embarrassed easily and would be a problem if they sat him down in the playoffs. I don't think they'll need to because I don't think Thomas is up for the change in intensity in the playoffs yet. I actually feel Ben will be pretty good. He'll bring the toughness and want to show the Bulls didn't make a mistake in signing him in. He is a prideful guy and could be a big difference maker.
What do you think about Scott Skiles as a coach? Do you think that he is capable of bringing a seventh title to Chicago? --Rui Teodoro, Alpiarça, Santarém, Portugal
I always am amused by the way Bulls fans approach things, measuring everyone on winning a title or not. It's difficult and requires a better team than Skiles has. You also need luck and usually a great player or two. The Bulls might have the luck this season in the seeding mess. We'll see if they have a great player. I think Skiles is good enough to be a championship coach, though I recall Larry Bird once saying how a team gets tired of your voice after three years. Doug Collins was a good coach, but suffered that fate. I think Skiles is one of the better coaches and tacticians in this era, and who in 1989 would have said Phil Jackson was the one to lift the Bulls given he was a little known assistant and somewhat doubted for his iconoclastic ways. The Bulls compete all the time and don't give up. That's one big measure of a top coach, and Skiles can claim that with the Bulls for now.
I think the three-point shots hurts the game. But do you think the NBA would ever consider using the half court line as a four-point shot? It would make the end of games more interesting. If a team was down four points, they would have only one shot at the four-point play because if they missed, they could not pass the ball back over the half court line as it would be a back and forth violation. --Bob Lamb, Aurora, Ill.
I suppose it's OK, though I've never been a big fan. They actually used to score more points before the three-point shot. One thing it's led to is lower shooting percentages, which is OK given you are getting more points. But it's also led to guys pulling up on the break for a three and teams searching around for the three instead of going to the basket. I'm quite confident there'll never be a half-court four because guys like Ricky Davis will spend all their time at half court firing up shots.
I'm a Chicagoan living in DC. I still love the Bulls, and they're my team. But I've become a fan of the Wizards, mostly because I love Gilbert Arenas' rather innocent but hilarious shenanigans. But with Arenas and Caron Butler hurt, I'm left to wonder, will Wizards be the absolutely worst playoff team of all time without their top two players? Your voluminous knowledge of NBA history is unsurpassed, mostly because you're so old. --Marc Dadigan, Washington, D.C.
Ouch. Though I have to face it. The Providence Steamrollers want me to come in an emcee their 60th anniversary reunion. This is another reason why the Eastern Conference playoffs will be the worst in history and why the Bulls have a good shot at getting to the Finals. And then maybe win a game. But what a great season that would have been. Washington was fading already, and then loses not only its two best players, but its only defender. The Pistons are worse than they have been in any of their recent playoffs seasons because of the loss of Ben Wallace. The Heat is at its worst since Shaq got there because of Dwyane Wade's condition. The Cave have regressed from last season and LeBron clearly refuses to be coached and remains in love with the 25-foot fall-away. The Raptors can't believe they're even in the playoffs. The Nets look like they've moved to Brooklyn, at least mentally. I suppose you could look back at 1974-75 when the Bulls should have gone to the Finals and the West playoffs didn't have a 50-win team. But without all the expansions since, there were great players like Bob Lanier, Jerry Sloan, Bob Love, Chet Walker and Norm Van Lier on the Bulls, though it was their last run, and Rick Barry. With teams playing slow, like Detroit and Miami, and so many injuries, the East playoffs figure to be mostly unwatchable. Gilbert would have helped.
There has been much talk about comparisons between Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. However, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan's careers seem to have developed in opposite directions. Jordan achieved great personal accolades early and then learned the value of winning later in his career. Kobe was a winner early but has gone on to achieve personal accolades on mediocre teams. Both players wanted to be the best of all time but one tried to get it by winning and the other felt that they needed to be "the man" at all costs. Isn't this ultimately what will keep Michael Jordan as the greatest player of all time over Kobe? Jordan found a way to work with teammates who could help him win no matter what the personal differences were. Kobe had to be the undisputed king otherwise he would pout. --Brad, Chicago
Kobe isn't done yet. I think what will keep Kobe from the unofficial title is people, especially the media, liked Michael better. Kobe got on the wrong side of Shaq, who has been one of the most popular players among the players. So no matter what Kobe does, I believe he'll always be behind Jordan. And as someone once said to me, Jordan is something of an urban legend to today's players and media, many of whom didn't see him play. It's like he never missed a shot or took a bad one. You can't top that. You express the same point, that Jordan was somehow this unselfish, team-oriented Ghandi. The traits of Michael and Kobe were very similar. Both were demanding of teammates and didn't always have the best relationships and could pout for long periods. Remember Michael storming out of practice because he didn't like the way Doug Collins was keeping score, and I remember many playoff games in Detroit when he'd rip teammates after losses. But it's a trait of all the great players, the manic competitiveness that makes them what they are. Larry Bird often had strong criticisms of Kevin McHale. We'll see if Kobe as the best player on his team ever gets the second Hall of Famer, as Michael did. Still, I don't see people ever regarding him higher than Jordan in that unofficial ranking. But with Phil Jackson now, you have to admit he's trying.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun