Can the Bulls sell on Kirk Hinrich while his stock is still relatively high, get a true point guard (maybe from Memphis, who should be looking to deal one), and use the remaining core/expiring contracts to be a desirable destination for LeBron/DWade/Bosh when or if they hit the market? --Tommy, Tulsa, Okla.
I have received a lot of questions like this one and rather than answer all will give my defense of Hinrich. He is being made the scapegoat for the Bulls' poor season by the fans and the coaching staff and I'm not fully sure why and certainly don't agree.
First of all, he's not the face of the franchise, never once said he was and never asked to be. He signed for less than Ben Gordon and Luol Deng turned down, which makes him a third or fourth option player. Had they taken their deals, he would be fourth highest paid player and perhaps fifth by next season.
What I don't quite understand is what is expected of him. He works hard all the time. He doesn't take off for injuries. He plays defense and out of position without complaint. He is not nearly the most physically talented player or an All Star. But the Olympic coaches picked him to tryout and play for the team. They didn't ask anyone else who plays for the Bulls.
Is he a classic point guard? No. He wasn't one in college. He came and did what the Bulls asked of him. He was selected in the draft by the Bulls because Jay Williams got injured and Dwyane Wade wasn't available. He isn't having his best season, but his numbers are generally on par with his career averages, just down from last season. He gets himself in some bad situations with fouls and doesn't always make the perfect pass. So if the Bulls have a better point guard they should play him.
Hinrich can make a shot and shoot with some range. He'd probably be better in a two-guard front setup, but now Larry Hughes has shown up and he doesn't want to handle the ball. Hinrich hasn't always liked the positions he's been put in, but he doesn't complain about it. He'll guard players bigger and stronger and do a decent job. You don't have to hide him on defense and the defense needs to guard him. I don't understand why Jim Boylan seems to be jerking him around and making him appear the scapegoat for the problems the team has been having with these quick benchings. It hardly seems the best way to treat a player who has been the most loyal and hard working in the spirit of what this organization has tried to do for the last few years.
No, Hinrich is not a big star and he's not going to carry a team and maybe is not the ultimate answer at point guard. But he's a competitor and skilled and a guy I'd want on my team. If the Bulls are rejecting players like that, then I think they have real problems.
It seems like you have changed your tune regarding Kirk Hinrich. Your tone used to be much more positive about his skills, now there are lots of comments like "he's not a true point guard", and other non-complimentary quotes. I realize the Bulls aren't playing well this season as a whole, but he is the same player. What's up? Something behind the scenes that we don't know? --Kim, Iowa
See above. You are right that in some sense I have been more realistic about Hinrich, especially as he's struggled with his shooting this season. He is not a classic point guard, though I hardly see that as a criticism. Neither was Danny Ainge and he had a nice career. I see Hinrich in that mold. I think the biggest problem Kirk has is the players the Bulls expected to be better haven't been, so Hinrich has been asked to be more than he is, which is when your flaws are shown. Even more so on what has been one of the league's most disappointing teams, and clearly surprising to me.
I think the smartest trade the Bulls could make would involve Luol Deng. Although he can pad his scoring stats when the game is not on the line, he folds at crunch time, missing easy shots and turning the ball over. His reputation is bigger than what he deserves and I think the Bulls could get a nice player for him. --Dalton Winship, Chicago
They probably could, though it's similar to the Hinrich conundrum. Players look worse with a bad team. You have to be careful making moves with guys when teams are down. Deng looked awfully good last season and fans were furious when I'd mention him in trade possibilities. I believe Deng has a long career with the Bulls. He also has a position, small forward, unlike many players on the team who don't quite fit a particular NBA position. I think the contract situation affected him more than most and showed everyone he is a bit more sensitive than we thought. I believe the Bulls extend him after the season and he returns to form next season.
Why can't they try to make Ben Gordon into more of a point guard? He seems like a very smart young man. Trade Kirk Hincrich for whatever or package him with someone for a trade. BG can share PG and SG duties depending on the game, personnel. --Madhu, Chicago
Repeat after me: Ben Gordon is not a point guard. I assumed we'd passed this stage already. Ben Gordon is a shooting guard. His problem is he's a short shooting guard, which hurts him on defense. He's basically never been a point guard in his life and you don't make those. Either they see the court and the game opening up or they don't. Don Nelson last season told everyone Monta Ellis would be a better point guard because he is a small shooting guard. Sorry, didn't work. No one has ever been made into a real point guard. Ben is a unique NBA player and a very good one. He is a true, rare weapon the way he scores and the lack of fear he has. I like him a lot. But he's not a never will be a point guard.
Do you still think we sneak into the playoffs? Also, with our new players do you think any different trades will open this summer? --Michael, Chicago
With a disguise? I've thought all along they'd make a run and would make the playoffs. I exchange emails and talk with Scott Skiles on occasion. He's thought from the day he was fired the team would make a run sometime. Everytime I ask him about the team, he's reasonably optimistic and has long felt they'd get better. I've felt similarly that they'd put something together, but now since the trade the parts seem to be working even at odds with one another. There's often an adjustment period when personnel changes are made, and you watch the team now and wonder if there's a split between the new guys and old guys and as Deng noted a lot of uncertainty and confusion. It seems unlikely at this point they'll make a run this way when the only thing they've been consistent about is their inconsistency. The home loss to Washington was a killer and demonstrated some of the selfish play we've seen too much of this season. But as we like to note, in the East you never know.
Do you see Scott Skiles in his Indiana basement screaming at the TV when he sees Larry Hughes chucking up three-pointers 5 seconds into the shot clock with no one under the basket or is he smart enough to be watching the Cavs-Piston game? --Jim, Chicago
Yes, we'd love to watch Skiles with Hughes. And since he is a Hoosier at heart, yes, I believe Scott is downstairs in a fake woodgrained place sitting on a plastic bar stool. Hughes is a talented player. No question. He's the big shooting guard the Bulls have longed for. When he cares to, he can defend. With his contract, I believe he'll be with the team at least another season. But I've never been a big fan for just what you see.
I think I understand what he was trying to say in Cleveland Sunday, how Mike Brown squeezes the life out of offense and falls all over himself to accommodate LeBron. Hughes became just a spare part and is a competitor. He wanted to compete. All good things. But to say he didn't care about going to the Finals and was glad to be in a system like the Bulls where he could take losses and average 20 points and get off 20 shots or more, as he usually does now, is an insult to everything the Bulls have stood for the last few years when they were the envy of many around the NBA. That mindset is the first thing the team will have to fix this summer. Hughes is capable of being the right kind of player. It remains to be seen whether he wants to be.
If the Bulls make the playoffs and get knocked off in the first round do you think they will trade up in the draft to get Derrick Rose or Michael Beasley? --Matt, Aledo, Ill.
First of all, there is no trading up in the draft. No one really ever is able to do it for one of the high picks. OK, if you have Kevin Garnett or Ray Allen, maybe a little. But the Bulls don't have the goods. If the Bulls miss the playoffs, they'll be close and likely get a pick in the 10-14 range. The way their luck has gone in the lottery, it would be a longshot to see them get lucky and move into the top three. I guess you can always hope.
Why does Boylan insist that Gordon and Hughes play together instead of Hinrich and Hughes? Gordon cannot handle the PG spot. This is ridiculous. --Stewart, Maywood, Ill.
Yes, Boylan has appeared to be punishing Hinrich for something. We all know Gordon is not a point guard. And Hughes has proclaimed he won't play the position. Ben does give it a shot and has some decent moments, but he's badly out of position and it limits his effectiveness. I don't see it occurring often.
Given the current economic climate in the NBA what is the most money Ben Gordon is going to be offered in a sign and trade situation? --Gary S., Huntington Woods, Minn.
That is the big question, assuming, of course, that is what occurs. I've felt after last fall's contract rejections, the Bulls would not bring back both. Skiles is a pretty smart guy and I remember him telling me last summer that he was concerned even if both re-signed that there may be internal jealousies about who got what. I believe the Bulls probably feel the same way now, but you cannot give away Gordon. He is too valuable a scorer and if I did, I'd want him in the West. It won't be easy because in a sign and trade he becomes base year and harder to deal. Gordon took a big risk along with Deng in turning down all that money. I think they got bad advice and I don't see either being offered quite as much as teams are cutting back and even bigger spending ones like the Mavs didn't use their midlevel exception.
Could you do us all a favor and find out what was behind the info that the nba.com computer used for pre-season rankings? I remember back in September or October, the prognosticated computer generated forecast for the Bulls for this season came up "39-43 / Did not make playoffs". I was really offended by such a prediction at the time, but it seems they might end up being right on the money. What did they know that the rest of us didn't? --Tom York, Taipei, Taiwan
It was the dumbest best prediction ever. I don't think I've ever been as wrong about a team as I have been about these Bulls. I still don't believe it and have a hard time figuring it out. They didn't make an explanation and I can't recall who they had in. I'm guessing maybe the Heat. So it probably wasn't perfect. I pooh poohed it as well and few are better at taht than I am. I'd say whomever is running that computer ought to take it to Vegas. And me with them.
Since Ben Gordon and Luol Deng will be restricted free agents this summer, could the Bulls include their rights in a draft day trade this June, or if they were moved would it have to be a sign and trade in the summer? --Chris Feldman, Dubuque, Iowa
The Bulls can't deal with them or put them in deals until July 1, though it's common to make deals and then finish them after July 1.
Trading Ben Gordon would be a mistake. You can't give your best offensive player away! What could we get for him that could help this team improve a draft pick? Who would you get for him? No team will give much for a 6-foot shooting guard, he has more value to the Bulls. Yes, the guy might only do one thing but he does it better than most players in the league! --Blake, Ringwood, Ill.
That's the issue. The Bulls will have to combine Gordon with another player, likely Nocioni, to get something and they probably can. You can see the issue developing already with Gordon and Hughes fighting for shots. It becomes like Denver with Iverson and Anthony. They have so much more talent and look where they are with that kind of situation. I think the biggest issue for the Bulls if they try to deal Gordon will be that he turned down $50 million here. That makes it his base if you want to trade him. And he'd obviously have to agree to any sign and trade. It won't be easy to do.
Who, in your mind, was the more talented player, Chris Webber or Derrick Coleman? Also, Mark Cuban took an unsolicited shot at you on Jim Rome's radio show the other day when they were discussing Vescey's assertion that Avery Johnson wanted Dirk gone. Doesn't it make you feel good that this multi multi-millionaire thinks about you so much? I think deep down he's afraid of you. --Joe Roznowski, Syracuse
Ah, my buddy Mark. It amazes even me I continue to get under his skin like I do. I know if I had $2 billion like he does, he'd be lint to me. Maybe iron filings. What I write about Cuban usually is in fun, and to set the record straight. I'm like an Obama truth squad for Mark. It did get me with all the Cubs' fans talk of how he'd save the franchise. Frankly, I always thought it was a bad idea the Tribune owned the Cubs because they never gave us tickets or even would sell us tickets. But I understood with WGN why they had to do it. Mark has his issues with NBA players and is hardly the cure all he claims to be. That's what I'm here for, though I am proud Mark likes to fight with me and Donald Trump. And while I don't have much hair, as David Letterman used to note, at least mine doesn't look like a monkey like Trump's (hair) did.
As for the basketball part, you mention two interesting names. I always thought Webber had way more skill than Michael Jordan; just no drive or desire, which really separates great players. Likewise Coleman. They could shoot, handle the ball and do about everything, in effect, five tool basketball players. Many don't recall that Phil Jackson wanted Coleman in 1995 for the Bulls. But Coleman had two years left on his deal and the Bulls wouldn't take it and said they'd take Rodman because he had just one year left. As nutty as Rodman was, could Coleman have been as controlled? I doubt it. I couldn't see a 72-win season with Coleman.
Hinrich, Sefolosha, Duhon, Gordon and Hughes. Play coach instead of GM for a change; who starts, who comes off the bench and roughly how many minutes to each guy? --Peter Johnson, Perth, Western Australia
I always do both. My lineup would be Hinrich, Hughes, Deng, Thomas and Noah. I'd play Thomas some at five and bring Gooden in at four. I'd have Sefolosha at two and three. The key would be persuading them to play tam defense, which Skiles did and hasn't happened since.
I have seen the Bulls played a couple of times this year. What shocks me is the fact that there was no fun in their basket. Seems they were running after their own shadows in a dark and cloudy atmosphere. I think that is a good year for the Bulls: they are no more the core of young players protect in their cocoon by a charismatic but stifling coach (Skiles) and a kindly GM (Paxson): they've faced the toughness of the no pity wonderland. Maybe is their feverishness the beginning of the maturity. The eye of the storm is, however, in front of the Bulls from my point of view. Would the roster be the same next season? And would baby calves become nasty Bulls? --Ali, France
Now that's an email from France. No wonder the language is so lyrical. It's interesting you mention this since I wrote about the lack of fun they seem to be having and a defeated attitude at the last exhibition game. It was one of those things that something was missing, but you didn't know what. I got plenty of emails questioning that and asking how I could say it in the exhibition season and I couldn't disagree or answer. It was interesting that I got a call from Skiles a few days later, which was rare. He didn't do that kind of thing often, but he said he could see some of the same things and was worried, but was not quite sure what to do about it. I suppose it was a harbinger as Sarte might have said. Or not.
A little birdie told me that Monta Ellis (52% FG percentage) is just itching for stardom and it just so happens that the Bulls lack a real face for the team -- a number one option. What are the chances that the Bulls cut ties with Gordon and pursue Ellis this off-season? I know he's a restricted FA. But imagine him in a Bulls uniform and pick up a decent post-player in the draft like D.J. White or Kevin Love. That would be a pretty decent lineup to compete in the East; or at the very least, put some excitement back in our team. --Robin Benjamin, Woodridge, Ill.
A little birdie told me the Bulls weren't under the salary cap to make an offer to any big free agents, that Golden State intended to match any offer for Ellis and that those of us continuing to hear birds talking had better stop saying it or those nets will be for us and not the birds.
Why is everybody so negative about Larry Hughes? I think he could be a valuable asset to the Bulls because he is a big guard who can score as well as defend. All this talk that we have done about wanting a good defense guard, well here he is. --Jai, Aurora, Ill.
Actually, I think fans are mostly positive about Hughes. It's been so long since they've seen an athletic shooting guard who can defend that it almost reminds them of someone they once knew. It's just that Hughes is so much possibility. I don't think he meant what he said about caring more about scoring and having fun than winning, but he is a career poor shooter who shoots a lot, someone noted as a volume scorer around the NBA. Meaning he needs lot of shots and takes them. He's also someone difficult to rely upon because he's one of those unfortunate players who gets hurt and misses lost of games. But his play does remind people of an actual NBA team instead of the hard working overachieving bunch people had come to like here. Hughes is more a gambler on defense than a great position player, someone who plays the passing lanes and comes up with steals rather than shutting his man down. But he can do that and has and is an improvement on defense at that spot. I think he's viewed as an upgrade with an asterisk.
If the Bulls miss the playoff and get lucky on the lottery, should they past on the superstar talent of Derrick Rose (darn, another guard) with Michael Beasley gone or draft the next best big man? --Vinnie D., Chicago
There's little real chance they'll get a shot at a top three player. Now I think their priority will be addressing point guard and then perhaps the old post scorer issue we've heard about for some time.
I thought David Falk forced the trade of Elton Brand by declaring that the Bulls would never re-sign him yet it seems that Jerry Krause takes a lot of heat over this issue. Set the record straight. Did Krause want to follow the youth movement or did Falk have a gun to his head? --MoDog, Granville, Mich.
Falk did not. That was a Krause project and as I said here previously, it would have worked if the players were, to paraphrase Dennis Green, who we thought they were. They believed they had a post scorer in Curry and perimeter runner in Chandler. Chandler has come on as a post defender and Curry remains the indifferent offensive player. Two seven footers with the skills they thought would have been dominant in the East now. Though it's no secret I never thought much of Tim Floyd. The bigger mistake was having him coach. I think it ruined the chance of those two to develop here. The theory was he was a college coach and could relate better to those guys. But Floyd didn't want to be a college coach and didn't want young players and those guys suffered and I believe regressed. The hiring of Floyd was Krause greatest mistake and for awhile we all were fooled by his good 'ol guy act.
I heard a rumor that the Bulls can switch picks with the Knicks again this year. Is there any truth to it? --Ryan, Evergreen Park, Ill.
No. The only rumors you need to believe are mine, and I don't have that one. Isiah didn't give everything to the Bulls. The Knicks have their pick and Isiah has been good in the draft and if he still has the job they'll get a good player.
Sam, perhaps my memories of Michael are becoming dim, but watching Lebron and Kobe in their recent play I'd have to say they are on par with Jordan. That is, there was no player like these two when Jordan was playing other than Jordan. Would you agree with this? Historically, how do they compare with Jordan (and even Dr. J) at this point in their young careers? --Jeff, Arlington Heights, Ill.
Your memories are dimming some, though Jordan didn't make every shot he ever took. Those guys are closer to him than many would like to admit. Once talking casually with Kobe he said no one would ever compare with Jordan because Jordan was something of an urban legend. Kobe was just kidding. But he had a point. Even knowledgeable basketball people I talk to say Jordan never took bad shots. Ask the Pistons. Jordan constantly shot into triple teams early in his career and missed a ton of last shots. Then when the Bulls were better he made a ton. Like no big man to me ever will be as good as Wilt, I doubt any so called small player will ever be as good as Jordan, but at a younger age those guys were better, especially James, and could shoot better from range, especially Kobe.
In my opnion Pax hasn't made any mistakes since he became GM. On the contrary, at that time Wallace seemed to be the missing piece, but no one could predict that he would be far over the top after one season. I really believe that Pax did all he could to get Gasol. And the deadline trade for Gooden and Hughes is a steal from the Cavs. I'm already thinking about next season because this season we should let our young players play a lot of minutes and also see if Hughes is still good enough to stay with the Bulls. I'm confident about Gooden. With the summer coming up and considering we can trade Duhon, Gordon, Nocioni, (maybe) Hughes and some draft picks, which players do you think the Bulls can afford and really need to be a better team (contender in the East) next season? -- Henk Lefevre, Belgium
I'm not sure I'd go that far, though Paxson likely appreciates your confidence. But the truth is everyone but second guessing media and fans make mistakes. Can you imagine what Steve Kerr in Phoenix is feeling now? Jerry West went out in Memphis with a bad team and bad signings. The best miss. It's that kind of job. What I hate is media people and fans who say, "They're experts. They're paid to get it right." It's a nonsensical copout. Those same writers have their stories edited constantly and the newspaper has a correction page every day. We like to say in the business we publish daily to correct the mistakes from the day before. Sure, Paxson has had some misses, but as I've said I think he still has some decent pieces in place and with a few good moves in the summer can get this thing headed back in the right direction.
Please explain why Boylan would guard Lebron James with Andres Nocioni. I know King James torches many opponents, but watching Nocioni trying to guard him in the perimeter was brutal. He could not even get a hand in his face on jumpshots and then James would blow right by him on his way to highlight jams. Why not send Sefolosha instead to guard him? Do not get me wrong, I like Nocioni (he has a heart), but do not send him out to get embarrassed. --Fausto, Quito, Ecuador
Sefolosha was hurt or he probably would have been on him. My guess is nobody else wanted to do it and Noce probably said he'd do it but someone might want to break his) leg first as he likes to play with pain. The guy is amazing. He did have some success against LeBron three years ago and bothered LeBron with his physical play and generally annoying ways on defense with his holding and flopping. But LeBron is better and Noce is, well, Noce.
If the Mavericks don't make the playoffs, do you think that their trade for Jason Kidd will be looked upon as the worst mid-season trade ever? --Leonard Boggs, Chicago
Second worst. To the Suns' for Shaq.
What do you think Joe Smith meant when said this about the Bulls: "Hopefully in the future they can solidify everybody's role and not have certain people doing certain things and have other people on another page. I think that would help everybody out." --Chris, Chicago
He meant he's glad he's in Cleveland. I think he meant with half the team now shooting guards no one quite knows what to do and everyone pretty much has decided to get his. The wonderful team concept that we all admired the last few years is gone. NBA players like to have defined roles. Few now have on the Bulls, though this is more a shakedown cruise now to see what they have, who'll stay and what they need. It's what they have to be doing now.
I thought it was really dopey for the Bulls to do the Big Ben gong for Ben Wallace's occasional blocks, rebounds or made free throws -- and demeaning to the rest of the team. Now I see that Cleveland is doing the same thing. What's with this? Do any other players have team-sponsored sound effects when they have a marginal accomplishment? --Mike Lerner, Biloxi, Miss.
Huzzah. I couldn't believe the Bulls were so insensitive to do that and it's amazing with Wallace having so much less effect in Cleveland. I can't believe it's in his contract, and if it is it's an embarrassment to him. I thought it was an embarrassment to the usually good job Bulls game management does. It seemed insulting even to Wallace since the gong guy had so little to do given Wallace's lack of production. Though when a guy asks his teammates and coach to call him "Body" as Wallace does, you never can be sure what is going on. Perhaps we all should have seen it really meant the bell would toll for Ben as well. And it did.
How could you pick Bryant over LeBron? All Bryant does is score a lot, and he isn't even leading the league in scoring. --Rob, North Carolina
I've gotten quite a bit of LeBron is the MVP stuff, and I'm quite sure he'll get plenty of votes and finish third. I'd sure he won't be MVP this season and while I missed badly on the Bulls, I'll have that one right. Having voted in this thing often enough, I know what will be held against LeBron will be his team's record and that they are in the East and still have that record.
As for Kobe, as I wrote, I believe he is deserving and generally is regarded the league's best player. Those 50 some points he got to beat Dallas Sunday were needed. This season he is not trying to score; more when he needs to, which is the change. Look, Pau is not exactly Dwight Howard or Tim Duncan. Kobe allows him to be better, which is what MVP is all about. Cleveland will have to get LeBron some better teammates for LeBron to get his first MVP. I'm accused of being anti-LeBron, and I merely hold him to a higher standard, which is the way it should be with all major stars. I wrote just this week the Cavs would win 25 without him. He's terrific; he won't be the MVP and should not be.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun