Time to give thanks for Bulls fans. As soon as I filed our first installment of "Ask K.C." last Thursday from San Francisco, my BlackBerry has been deluged with more questions. I plan to respond once a week. Sometimes, I will pick just select questions and answer each one at length. This week, I'm opting for quantity over quality because I'm so impressed with the passion of fans. Translated, my answers will be shorter to get in more questions. My wife -- who is glaring at me from across the room; something about this being a holiday -- is a little less so. But I digress.
After this season, will the Bulls be able to give Ben Gordon a similar contract to Deng's without hitting the luxury tax? If so, they should do it as quickly as they can because I believe that he is even more important to the team than Deng, considering that BG7 is our only explosive scorer. Also, I recall John Paxson saying during their contract negotiations that he will not let Deng or Gordon go for nothing. -- Philip Richards; Plano, Texas
Derrick Rose because he's a pure scorer. I thought Deng would click more quickly with Rose this season, but so far, that hasn't been the case. The Bulls have the ability to re-sign Gordon but it would prevent them from being a major player in the 2010 free-agency class of 2010.
There is a strong revulsion to Larry Hughes among many Bulls and in general NBA fans. I've always been a Larry Hughes fan, being impressed by his quickness, willingness to take the ball to the basket, and ability to "finish" with layups and dunks. What he doesn't bring in defensive prowess, he more than makes up for with his offensive game in general. Yes, he puts up a lot of shots, and sometimes those shots may be ill-advised or too early from a shot-clock perspective, but he can also has the uncanny ability to hit shots from all ranges (when he's on) and he can also get into a shooter's streak. He's a Ben Gordon with more size, speed and ball control ability. In your view, is the rap against Larry Hughes deserved? -- Richard, Arlington Heights
I tolerate Larry Hughes more than most, although I wouldn't agree with your scouting report. I don't see the ability to finish at the rim as much as during his prime. He seems to get an inordinate number of shots blocked. I also think he's a better defensive player than you give credit for, although he often leaves his teammates in bad position because he's a risk taker at that end who goes for steals. I actually think the way Vinny Del Negro is using him is perfect. He's bringing him off the bench but giving him enough minutes to keep him interested. Then again, just when you're ready to praise Larry Hughes, he goes and has a stretch as he did late in the Spurs game, where he basically resorted to never-met-a-shot-I-didn't-jack Larry.
Why do Ben Gordon and Larry Hughes bring the ball up sometimes!?!? They should have the brains to just let Rose bring it up and let him create for them, I hate it when I see Ben Gordon try to call a play and then 2 seconds later he take a wild shot. -- Shams, Chicago
I asked Del Negro about this dynamic directly earlier in the season. He said he didn't want to take that element out of Gordon's game. The cynic, of course, would respond: You mean, the drive wildly and take a forced shot dynamic? In Del Negro's defense, teams are now often trapping Rose almost immediately after he crosses halfcourt so there are going to be times somebody else has to handle the ball up top. It's why getting stops and out in transition is so important for this team.
We all know that Derrick Rose is legit, but did the Bulls also bring him in for the entertainment? Because as a fan that watches them, I always can't wait for the next game to see what Rose is going to do and who he's going to dunk on. So was the entertainment a factor in drafting him? -- Sam, Chicago
It didn't hurt. But basketball operations makes its decisions and then marketing works with those decisions. I give credit to basketball operations for never getting hung up on Rose being from Chicago. Some organizations frown upon that dynamic. I think it's fairly obvious that Rose isn't your typical player, in most every regard.
Being around the team as much as you are, how do you see the players responding to Del Negro as compared to Skiles? It's been said he's a player friendly coach but is that always a good thing? Both Tyrus and Noah don't seem to be any better on the court. -- Bill, Skokie
Players genuinely like Del Negro. (For the record, they liked Skiles, too, until the final season.) They certainly seem to be playing hard, so that's one measure of how they're responding to him. Here's a little secret about (most) NBA players: They'll take advantage of anything and anyone they can. So when they tire of Skiles demanding accountability, they tune him out. Then, when the Bulls go basically 180 degrees and hire Del Negro, they find out he won't criticize players publicly and exploit that. But I respect one thing Del Negro has done thus far: He may not criticize players publicly but he's getting his points across with playing time. There have been several games this season where a struggling player hasn't played after the first quarter. Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas are prime examples of this.
Lots of talk about Lebron, the Knicks, the Nets and 2010. Split the list of that's summer's potential free agents, and you basically have two All-Star teams. It's safe to say that the entire scope of the NBA will change. Walsh, Dumars, etc. can't be the only two GMs who realize this. I'm guessing Pax has that summer on his mind as well. Given the landscape of the current Bulls roster, and committed salaries, what kind of wiggle room do you think they'll have when that critical time comes? I'm glad Gordon didn't accept $10 mil per year on a long-term deal. It would have crippled us. Hughes will be off the books too. The Bulls are building around D. Rose. He's better than anyone could have expected. I thought the jumper was his "weakness". Ha! Two years to grow, pair him with fellow Chicago native D-Wade and off we go. Bring it Bron Bron! How bout a salary breakdown, dollars, years, and your thoughts on our cap space? -- DAK, Westmont
Actually, Walsh and Dumars are the only two GMs who realize LeBron is a free agent in 2010. Cavaliers GM Danny Ferry doesn't even know, which is why LeBron is leaving for sure. And, man, I hope sarcasm works in this forum.
Yes, every GM in the league is drooling over the possibility of this free-agent class. The Bulls currently are scheduled to pay Luol Deng $11.35 million, Kirk Hinrich $9 million, Andres Nocioni $6.85 million and Derrick Rose $5.5 million for the 2010-11 season. That's almost $33 million for four players. They have options totaling another $13.1 million for Joakim Noah, Tyrus Thomas and Thabo Sefolosha. Assuming all are picked up, they are at roughly $46 million. They would need to shed some of those options in order to offer a maximum contract, but certainly are in position to do so.
Bottom line, like most teams, the Bulls are looking to be fiscally responsible to be in position to make moves that summer.
Do you think the Bulls will make a push for Chris Kaman before the trade deadline? I think he would give the Bulls the inside player they need. It may take giving up someone like Nocioni, but it would help the lineup in the long run. What do you think? -- Jamus Geter; Albany, NY
The Bulls would be interested in Kaman and will be monitoring that situation. As of now, word around the league is the Clippers want to see how it works with Kaman, Zach Randolph and Marcus Camby. Here's a prediction: Badly. So I personally believe Kaman might be made available at some point. Whether or not the Bulls have anything to interest the Clippers is another story.
What kind of trade package can the Bulls realistically put together to get some help inside? Are there any possibilities? -- Rob Shaffer; Vienna, Austria
Since my wife is still glaring at me and since we spent part of our honeymoon in your wonderful city, I'm including your question. My wife still isn't impressed. Everybody on the roster other than Rose and, to a lesser extent, Luol Deng, is available. So, yes, they have plenty of trade options. Whether anybody is interested in their players is another story. The Bulls' players don't have high trade value around the league these days, although there is some interest in Kirk Hinrich and Andres Nocioni.
K.C. Johnson's Bulls mailbag
The Chicago Tribune's Bulls reporter answers reader questions.
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