I hope all you mockers are happy. I hope all you backpack-wearing lovers are happy as well. Thanks to the mad genius of inside guy Adam Caldarelli (a fellow Evanston Township grad), you guys have backpacker wallpaper.
What's funny---for those coming late to the party---is that I never have worn a backpack in my entire life except for the three weeks I was in China for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In fact, that very ample backpack sits in our bedroom, collecting dust, while my wife mocks me for traveling to road games with a computer bag and plastic Jewel bag for my change of clothes and toiletries.
That's probably too much information for you. But here's some more:
I know it's still very early in the season and Bulls aren't 100 percent but outside of some decent defensive rotation against San Antonio, the defense doesn't seem much better than it did last year. What happened to that offseason dedication to defense? By the way, backpackers are respected in the hip-hop community. You're like the Kanye West of beat writers. Marlon, Chicago
Thanks, but I think I'm more like the John Denver of beat writers--a little granola and way geeky.
All teams make an offseason dedication to defense. It's typically forgotten by about the sixth game. The Bulls will stay with theirs because it's the only way they're going to get better. The offense certainly isn't cutting it thus far.
I do think Rose, once completely healthy, will make a jump this season. Noah has looked better. And Brad Miller is still a wily veteran. Through four games, the Bulls are allowing 94.8 points per game on 46.7 percent shooting. The second number is too high, but the first isn't awful. They rank 11th as of this writing. Let's see it play out a bit more.
So I was reading today about DWade saying that he's not a fan of the tight rims at the UC and it got me to wondering about why rims appear to vary from stadium to stadium. I mean, it's not like they are manufactured by hand in some picturesque back alley in Sicily by artisans and so each one has its own unique characteristics and flaws, is it? They must be mass produced somewhere using the same metals, the same processes, etc. So why would the rims at the UC differ from the rims in Miami or LA or Boston? And if they suck so much that it keeps DWade away, I have a suggestion for the Bulls: Change them now. Oh. And beef goulash. Bill, Chicago
That beef goulash promise is going to haunt me. Wait, let me change that verb tense. That beef goulash promise has haunted me.
Indeed, the rims aren't made in some back alley in Sicily but I can tell you that players talk all the time about how rims are more forgiving in some arenas than others. Surely you know that complaining about the UC rims goes back to Jordan. Even Jay--or is it Jason again now?--Williams piped in on the issue.
The United Center rims are known as tight rims. Maybe Benny the Bulls can break out a stepladder and address that. But if you think rims are going to make or break DWade coming here, your brain is made of beef goulash.
You've written a lot about your illustrious basketball career. Can you shoot 3-pointers? Might you be an improvement to the Bulls' 3-point shooters? If not you, who? Are the 3-point woes really from Derrick Rose's recovery and lack of time for the shooters? Pargo just seems so rushed when he jacks them up so far. -- Lyn Fox, Naples, Fla.
Hard to call a career illustrious when it ended like this. True story: My last play of my college basketball career came during the 1989 NCAA Division III Tournament when I got dunked on, fouled out and the dude made the free throw for a game-turning three-point play. But, yes, I can shoot the three. That's about all I can do.
(Ed. note: Enjoy the following video chronicling K.C.'s comeback attempt.)Obviously, Pargo caught fire a bit in the Bucks' victory. But, yes, he had looked off until then. And I think lack of 3-point shooting will be an issue for this team even when DRose gets completely healthy.
We found ways to get rid of Corey Benjamin, Eddie Robinson, Jamal Crawford and other me-first players with great "potential." We surely can show Tyrus Thomas the door as well. Waiting on potential to develop cripples teams. There is a big difference between having potential and being held back by learning curves, and then having potential but not having consistent effort/concentration. Tyrus has always been the latter and the latter is inexcusable. This is in no way a guy I'd want to invest a large amount of money in. Three-plus years is more than enough time. Because Tyrus was MIA in MIA (often the case, regardless of the venue), we were playing Rose, Hinrich, Noah, Deng and Salmons for long stretches in the fourth. Deng at the 4? PLEASE. They had Haslem, O'Neal and Beasley out there and were entirely controlling the paint. Tyrus The Impostor. Cedric Benson him out of town now, for I don't care what player he becomes. Let it be elsewhere. Danka Shane
I'm still not sure which is more impressive--the use of Cedric Benson as a verb or the opening line with Corey Benjamin and Eddie Robinson in the same sentence. Sometimes, sadistically, I miss covering those teams.
Plenty to chew on here, but let's start with that fourth-quarter lineup in Miami. My only issue with it was that the Bulls never tried anything differently. I understand wanting to have Kirk on DWade down the stretch. But you're right: Miami still drove and got kick-outs at will and why not throw Tyrus out there against Haslem for a stretch to see if that slows him down?
As for Tyrus, my feeling is unless he's completely killing you at both ends, he has to play at least 30 minutes every night this season. Has to. You have to let this guy play through mistakes and see what you have. Even if it's just to showcase him until the February trading deadline. I thought Tyrus had a great offseason and was having a good preseason and I think Vinny's decision to not start Tyrus when he returned from his hip injury started the ball rolling downhill badly. Time to Sisyphus it and let the dude play. And, yes, I just used Sisyphus as a verb like you used Cedric as one.
Do you think DRose is better this year than last year? Maybe it's too early to tell. But I haven't seen any improvement in him. He looks like the same player last year: can't shoot the 3, can't get inside, doesn't get a call. He actually looks slower than last year. So far, Kirk is the best player on the team. MN, Thailand
It's too early. And Rose isn't 100 percent. And I think your analysis that he can't get inside is a little off. That's what he does best.
I know the Bulls have been looking for a post-up guy for a while now. The answer? Mr. Tad Gibson. A little more seasoning and this dude has IT! Ancel, Lake Elsinore, Calif.
I'll pass that along to, um, Taj.
I'm seeing a lot of "fortitude" developing in Noah. By the end of the season, I see him as providing a lot of leadership to the team. Your thoughts? Dennis, Ft. Worth, Texas
I think you can even take off the training-wheel quotation marks. Noah gets it now. He's one of the smallest concerns on the team, as far as I'm concerned.
What say you now about Ben Gordon? Seems to me that without the ball-hogging Gordon, the Bulls play much better. They distributed the ball and the scoring. With the balanced and potent attack they might do well this year. I know you feel committed to your August prediction, but I think you are allowed to update your prediction after the first game....but not later. So, with that in mind, how many games do you now think the Bulls will win this year? Craig Dillon
Well, this appears to have been sent after the glorious season-opening victory over the Spurs where, yes, offensive balance ruled the day. Since, offensive ineptitude has ruled. Look, I think this Bulls team will be fine overall and quietly likely will be one of those teams that gets better as the season progresses. DRose isn't healthy, John Salmons isn't this bad and they can't shoot like this all season. But the Bulls could lose a lot of games like the one they lost in Miami because they lack a stone-cold scorer like Gordon down the stretch. I always go down with the ship, so I'm sticking with 40-42.
What's with all the hatin' on T-Thomas? He's obviously worked on his jumper (that's clear by his form) and if he didn't get pulled every time he missed one, his on-the-court confidence might be a little better. Any shooter knows confidence is the most important thing. Why does Del Negro take him out against the Spurs in the middle of a hot streak and not play him in the fourth quarter? He was the game-changer in the third quarter. This is why his development has been hindered over the last few years, because the Bulls don't know how to develop young guys. Minutes are generally the best way. Small forward is the best position on the floor for him and it will be proven this year.
This is an equal-opportunity mailbag. Since we printed the Thomas diss letter, here's one supporting him. My answer above shows I lean toward this thinking--let Thomas play through more mistakes. I disagree that small forward is Thomas' best position. But I agree Thomas should've played more in the fourth quarter of the Spurs' victory.
It looks like the Bulls are going to have a balanced offense this year with nobody averaging 20 ppg but close to seven guys in double figures. Should VDN push Rose to score more? He could easily average 22-23 ppg if he took more shots. He normally passes to Noah or Miller off the pick-and-roll, but I would like to see him go around the screen and take it to the hoop or pull up for 12-15 footers. The more he looks to score, the more open Deng and Salmons are going to be on the wings, right? Has a team ever been really good without a 20 ppg scorer? Mike, Chicago
I don't necessarily disagree with your major premise though. And I do think you'll see a more aggressive Rose this season once he's fully healthy. That said, I don't think he needs to score 22 points per game for this to be fully functioning on offense. He will draw enough attention with his penetration to get away with scoring 18-20 and averaging 7-9 assists. I don't think Ben Gordon will be missed. I remember more dribbles off his foot/leg or errant passes than game-winning shots. Can some statsmaster check into his success ratio when BG was in position to close out a game? Through the preseason and the opener, our Bulls are playing a much better team game--lots of movement and effort. I forecast 48 wins for the team this year. Tom Ripley, Algonquin
I think that's a tad high, but I've been wrong countless times before. I do think this team will get better as the season moves along, not only because the schedule gets easier but because Rose will be healthier and there's no way Salmons can keep shooting this poorly. (Is there?) BG missed his share of late-game shots as well. But the bigger point is he was always a threat to burn teams near the end of games so he was one person defenses had to make sure they were guarding. Besides Rose, how many people on the Bulls can make that claim? That's the larger issue. That, and the fact that I don't have a stats master to do my dirty work for me.
Why don't the Bulls try a Stephen Jackson-for-Tyrus Thomas trade and package in somebody to make the salaries match. I think we could easily replace Tyrus' production and in turn prepare for the future with a legitimate 2 or 3 guard to play behind Deng or even start if we lose Salmons. I know that Golden State would love Tyrus in that system. What do you think? Tyrone Reeves, Hinesville, Ga.
I think unless you're talking about the NFL's Steven Jackson, you are crazy. But doggone it, Tyrone, thanks for writing.
What is the chance that the Bulls will go after Dirk from Dallas in the offseason? I think he would fit this team better than Bosh. --Steven S., Equinunk, Penn.
The general feeling around the NBA is that Mark Cuban never will let Nowitzki leave Dallas. He went down that path with Steve Nash and it burned him.
I understand that the Bulls have to vacate the United Center early in the year for the circus. But why do they always have to go the West Coast? How come that circus trip out West never becomes "that road trip out East"? Imagine if they could leave on an Atlantic trip against Charlotte, Atlanta, New Jersey, New York, Philly and Boston instead of the powerhouses in the West. Do the schedule makers just enjoy watching the Bulls get destroyed early in the season. What's the deal?? --Usman
The biggest deal is logistics. The Bulls have to play those teams out West at some point and it makes sense to do so when they have to be on the road the longest because of the circus. That said, there have been plenty of years where the trip started out West and then came back East, so it's not always as bad as you think. This season's trip ends in Milwaukee, for instance.
As a fan I hate the idea of a wasted season. Seeing as Vinny doubts this team's ability to win the Finals this season do you get the sense that the team feels slighted or challenged by Vinny's comments? The Mad Hurler
You're alluding to when Vinny went on the radio recently and asked rhetorically if the hosts thought the Bulls had enough players to win a championship this season. Even though it's not the politically correct thing to say, I loved how refreshingly honest it was. I mean, let's be serious: Does ANYBODY think the Bulls have the players to compete for THIS SEASON'S championship? Didn't think so. Vinny backtracked a bit when questioned about it because, like I said, he probably realized later it wasn't the politically correct thing to say. I wish he hadn't. And as for the players, most of them never read the papers or listen to talk radio so if any of them were even aware of the comments---which I highly doubt--I doubt they'd have an issue with them.
I see Derrick wearing an arm sleeve in the new Adidas commercial. Has he been cutting apples again? --JS, Urbana, Ill.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner for this week's best question.
KC, is it true that you like to fill your backpack with beef goulash or is that just another rumor by Sam Smith? Also, what is your reaction to Bodog giving VDN 3-to-1 odds on being the first coach to get fired this season (tied with Mike Woodson for league-worst job security)? -- Moore Paprika, Willowbrook, Ill.
At least you flavored your beef goulash with a nice spicy name.
I don't see it. Obviously, if the wheels fall off early, it could happen. But I see Vinny lasting this season. What would be the point of running him off during the season when this season, truly, is about more development? It's not like they'd go get some big-name hire during the season anyway. Speculating here, they'd likely name Bernie interim coach. So what's the point of that when you're already paying Vinny through next season? I say he finishes the season. Beyond that, there are no guarantees.
Aren't we all expecting too much from Rose? I love watching him, but last I saw his shooting and defense are still iffy. Is he even in the top five as far as point guards go in the league? Paul, Williams, Parker, Nash, Harris, maybe even Westbrook better right now? --Ken, Murrieta, Calif.
Bite your tongue on the Westbrook comment. I'd give you the others--except maybe not Harris--and add Billups and Bibby for sure and maybe Arenas and Davis when they're interested. What about Rajon Rondo? It's a fun debate.
But as for your larger point, no, I don't think we're expecting too much from Rose. Here's why: He expects that much out of himself and one thing that I was most impressed with last season is how quickly he looked like he belonged. Typically, there's an adjustment period with rookies. But because of his nature and his obvious talent, there wasn't one with him.
I think he's a top-five point guard by next season for sure.
Don't worry: I still carry a backpack around, too. What's wrong with comfortably toting belongings on your back? Anyway, with the list of Bulls key free agent signings since 1999 dismal at best --I can remember being shocked at Brent Barry, Eddie Robinson and Ron Mercer being the biggest signings of a few different years which makes me want to cry a little bit, but not as much as the drafting of Dragan Tarlac and Dalibor Bagaric---what happens if the Bulls do strike out in free agency again? Everyone says the Bulls need a scoring big man, but what big men will be available other than Boozer, Amare, Bosh and David Lee? I'd love Bosh out of those four, but the other three raise red flags. Do you think the Bulls are more likely to make a trade than gamble on free agency again given their past burns and who do you see as the most likely candidate? --Ryan, Chicago
Man, a previous question had Corey Benjamin and ERob. You have ERob, Dragan and Dalibor. I love this stuff.
Aren't Boozer, Amare, Bosh and David Lee enough? Those are a lot of options should the Bulls make it to free agency and want to pursue a big man.
Look, nobody can predict what's going to happen and anybody who says they can is lying. Last season, the Bulls weren't interested in Brad Miller six weeks before they traded for him. Things change. Situations are fluid.
I do know the Bulls want to see how this current group fares at the front end of the season. Near the trade deadline, they are in prime position to be major players should a big name surface. And then, in lieu of that, they will have salary-cap space next summer. I know that's a lame answer, but that's because nobody can predict who is going to be available.
Although the Bulls pulled out the win against the Bucks, what do we have to do to get our Bulls franchise out of the shadow cast by our big brothers to the North? Even though we had the Jordan years it doesn't look like we'll ever be able to match the Bucks in terms of their proud history, knowledgeable fan base and community support. Even their timeless uniforms make us look like an expansion team by comparison. Same thing with the Brewers and Packers compared to the Cubs and Bears. Let's face it, Wisconsin teams own us. I'm dejected and ready to throw in the towel. --Jameson, Denver
It seems fitting that this questioner is named after a fine Irish whiskey since he's clearly been imbibing.
Although the season is only a few days old, the following questions seem impossible to hold back on: First, didn't the Miami game make it clear that Ben Gordon is going to be missed horribly in the fourth quarter of every close game this year? And second, with Udonis Haslem playing like Karl Malone against the Bulls, why doesn't VDN match him with Tyrus? Doesn't it seem that Vinny coaches in a pre-set way? "Tyrus blew rotation. Tyrus no good. Me must play Salmons at three... Lu... must play Lu..." And lastly, doesn't it seem that Pargo isn't the same player he was? If he's a poor man's BG, he must have been the guy who became poor by giving all his money to Bernie Madoff! -- JD, Chicago
It's hard to add on to near perfection, but I'll give it a try. Yes, the Bulls will miss BG in fourth quarters of close games, particularly early. The Bulls' best hope is that DRose starts getting more foul calls---although in tight games, whistles get swallowed more---and Salmons wakes from his slumber.
I had never quite had Vinny's rotations put to me like that, but that is pretty good. I said on press row to a colleague that night that I thought Vinny should at least try Tyrus on Haslem, even if for a couple of minutes. How could it have hurt?
As for Pargo, this obviously was sent before the Bucks' victory. Pargo is a streak shooter. He hits more than he misses in spot duty. And I like him because he already gave me possibly the quote of the year that I haven't used yet. (How's that for a tease?) Joakim Noah's unusual shot has prompted comments from several announcers over the last few years. However, he's not a horrible free-throw shooter. I've seen him practice 15-footers in pregame warmups and hit as many as 15 in a row. What's your opinion on the "Tornado spin" on his shot and whether he should alter it? -- Steve Mueckhenhoff, Woodstock, Ill.
If it goes in the hole, it doesn't matter how it looks. Just ask Rick Barry, the best free-throw shooter of all-time. I have zero problem with Noah's jumper because a) he works on it; b) he almost never forces a shot and c) he's hitting them more often this season. Tornado onward!
Thanks for all your questions. Keep them coming to firstname.lastname@example.org
Talk to you next week,